It’s typically a good night hanging out with my great mate L. Wednesday’s mix of new music, new books and a trip to Azram’s Sheesh Mahal on Kirkstall Road LS4, for an extremely tasty dinner, was further evidence of this proposition.

It also, handily and because I was looking for it, allows me to continue the theme from The Mortal Bath’s closing piece of 2010 regarding writing output and minds trying to make sense of masses of data, with additional haunting motif supplied by a first glimpse of what looks an exciting new book, Sinister Resonances, from the consistently reliable David Toop.

L is into music. Lots of people are into music, in the way that lots of people like coffee, but lots of people only ever try the Grande Latte Semi-Wet. It even sounds like a foppish, irritating minor character in a novel about pre-revolutionary France. Anyway, L is familiar with the Grande Latte, and the continuous morphing of his heraldry in a bid to seek favour, but enjoys the company of those who choose not to vie at court for preferment.

To clamber down from this hill of coffee beans/dauphinoise analogy (and on into the fertile plane of a more general food analogy), I am describing someone who consumes music, in the economic sense and in the sense of it keeping him alive. Fuel packages arrive daily, from sound merchants such as Boomkat, Second Layer, Volcanic Tongue, Spin City, blogs like Olde English Spelling Bee, yea even digital hypermarts like Amazon, to name but a selection from the mall site map. They all bring… well, I can just about begin to describe, but I don’t want to just sit here listing links and have you riffing away when you just got here. It’s music you don’t tend to see in HMV (perhaps a lesson there, in that there are plenty of people still spending their money on music). The point for me is that it energises him, and I always come away from a meeting with my friend energised creatively. It always gets me a-wonderin’ about variety in the diet.

As well as intake, L makes and has made music for a number of years. We were in a couple of bands together – reader, hear our song! – and he has released lots and lots of recordings as part of an experimental group called Lanterns over the last five or six years. His latest incarnation, Castrato Attack Group, is ‘Dumber than a sack of hammers’. He was voicing a concern about his recent lack of output, which probably stems at least in part from the demands of his job as a full-time psychiatric nurse. He’s still a lot busier than I, who have not twanged a note in performance for some years now and am perpetually threatening to act on the feeling that it’d be ‘really great to be in a band again’.

I think the key is that he is always reading, finding, sampling, mixing flavours. It is enjoyable work to watch, as Jerome K Jerome nearly put it. I have only a fraction of the patience and attention span when it comes to rooting out sounds and looking for music in unlikely places (Spotify and digital watches both seem pretty neat ideas to me). This last point regarding music in strange spaces is something Toop, from my preliminary skim of Sinister Resonances, appears to expand on at much more impressive length. It’s as much the sounds of silence, what Debussy referred to in his celebrated quote, ‘Music is the space between the notes.’ I was listening to John Cage’s “4’33” during its charitable assault on the charts in 2010, and was, as intended, intrigued by the sounds occurring on the periphery as I listened. Music, and the act of seeking it out in its infinite forms, is a great way of entering one’s Calm zone. I am extremely glad to have a friend in someone who is such a quietly enthusiastic forager for noise.

As a word lover, I was also pleased to discover that there are now at least two senses in which people understand ‘to blog’ as a verb. Referring to the album ‘Bamboo for Two’ (see below), and further work, L said ‘You can just blog it.’ I had to take a minute to establish that he was saying ‘Look x up on a blog,’ whereas, I explained, I understood it in the form of ‘Writing about x on a blog’. His response was: “Well, you can always do both.” Thusly was the wusly.

The soundtrack:

Actress – Splaszh
James Ferraro – Night Dolls with Hairspray
Chrome – Half Machine Lip Moves
Monopoly Child Star Searchers – Bamboo for Two
Oneohtrix Point Never

…and those retail links:
Boomkat Manchester, UK
Second Layer London, UK
Volcanic Tongue Glasgow, UK
Spin City Sheffield, UK
Olde English Spelling Bee New York, USA
Amazon like, Amazon

This review is over two weeks late – I’m blaming ASH CRISIS ELECTION CHAOS distractions.

SO Tuesday 13 April 2010, to the Miller, SE1, for an evening of drone sounds, psych-rock and “atonal pointillism” with Faux Amis,  Alexander Turner, Moon unit and Chora!

Time was (a few years ago) that such a gig would have had me clutching for the pen to scribble down some fever’d cosmic visions, suggestive and suggested sci-fi snippets, some of which were subsequently published in a short-lived music zine Conductive Jelly what I wrote.  I may dig some of those out for your edification (threats!…) There were retrofuturist sparking transformers, drumkits imagined as CGI monsters, images of ruined machine-age civilisations overgrown with creepers, like Deep Thought in the Hitchhikers film.

A lot of it was meant (in my head, anyway) to be read aloud, not really as stories but word string theory excerpts, playing with the zounds as a sort of written accompaniment to the percussive/drone/abstract alinear anti-pop sort of things I was being introduced to by my pals. Luke, who played guitar in a band I was in, had started doing such sonic experimenting with Andreas (from Moon Unit). Indeed they still are doing it, Lanterns be their name, and they can be found on myspace. I did some “sleeve notes” for one of their early recordings, and very kind
of them to let me near their work it was too.

That, reader, was then. However, at the Miller, I sat watching and listening and they, the words, just weren’t there. In a little flash of insight I not only recalled the memorable phrase ‘dancing about architecture’ (and that’s a great site, by the way) but I jumped a step along and did not feel a second’s remorse for having to re-cap my pen and pocket my book and just sit there basking in the sound. Different things inspire me to write, and it clearly wasn’t meant to be the music on the night, then, but it was inspiring in a different kind of way, in that it was a pleasant realisation of having found oneself in a superb new chapter or even volume without noticing.

The writer Amiri Baraka came out with this great idea of an ‘expression-scriber’, which would allow every kick, elbow, scream grunt and itch to be recorded… It struck me, as it has many times before when at their gigs, that the ‘stick a contact mic on it’ ethos of artists like Chora, Lanterns et al comes very close to that kind of immersive total expression.

Thusly, enough of this wittery. Go to their websites and check them out, buy their CDs and records. Here are some photos from the gig (taken on my phone, I know the quality’s variable). If you really want some more words, you can click on the photos for additional commentary.

And a noiseriffic time was had by all!