HARDHOUND

David Toop and Max Eastley – Buried Dreams

Author: Colin | Published: 29/1/11

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

David Toop and Max Eastley - Buried Dreams

Artist David Toop and Max Eastley
Title Buried Dreams
Label Beyond Records
Year 1994
Design Images: Max Eastley; stories: David Toop; design: zerodesign
Music Ambient and dark, haunted sci-fi
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Notes This is the first in a very occasional series of posts focusing on ‘information-rich’ designs (at time of writing I have three further examples in mind, though there are surely many more – suggestions welcome). Graphic design and imagery can of course provide concentrated information, but here I’m referring to sleeve designs that contain texts other than the standard list of credits or the once popular liner notes. David Toop and Max Eastley’s collaboration Buried Dreams is a perfect example of this.

The CD booklet held within a standard jewel-case contains a series of brief stories and textual mise en scènes that serve to reflect, enhance and parallel the musical worlds created by David Toop and Max Eastley. The music represents the gradual accretion, sifting and moulding of sound files and sonic ideas. The fecund result is awash with samples, clanking, scraping, cries and reverberation. The back of the booklet informs the reader:

Sources: water, wind, electromechanical power, computer software, analogue and FM synthesis, bioacoustic communications, bowed Arc, guitars, pedal steel, flutes, Angklung, ambient recordings, vinyl, stones, metal, glass, digital capture and looping, distortion, EQ, echoes (note: all high frequency extraneous noises – ie track 1, track 7 – are acceptable side effects from source materials)

Such a list, almost Oulipian in extent, is delightfully resonant even in isolation. The titles are even more suggestive – two and three word koans: Decoys & Scarers; Burial Rites; Life Without Movement; Tsuji; City of Night; Ignorance of Distance; Buried Dreams; Cave of Inscription; Telematic Nomads; Rising Up Before Us Like Things. They rival even Brian Eno at his most inspired. David Toop’s fragments of narrative scattered throughout the booklet are deeply occluded, horror-filled micro-dramas:

In one direction, the suburbs, surrounded by whipping fences armed with deadly voltage. Blackened animals sat at a distance from these banshee defences and wondered why they had died. In another direction, the desert encampments, chaotic with strange lifeforms. There were legends of a subsonic boom that could paralyse snakes as it rolled across the dunes. In the encampment, pornographic raconteurs delivered circadian monologues from open-fronted shops, thin plastic microphones held delicately between thumbs and forefingers in the manner of lounge singers.

The booklet is interleaved with Max Eastley’s darkened, semi-transparent images that hint at stone totems, torture(d) spaces, alien skeletons, blurred code patterns. Image, text and music make rich pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the remaining spaces filled by the imagination and experiences of the audience.

Buried Dreams in physical format is sadly long out of print, Beyond Records folding sometime in the mid ’90s. It is, however, available as an MP3 download on Amazon. Beside Buried Dreams, the label was also notable for releasing pseudonymous work Paul Schütze and Richard H. Kirk. Only be tempted by the pre-recorded cassette version, as I was on the album’s release, if you have no other choice: it lacks the narratives and most of the graphics. Despite a recent resurgence in the medium, cassettes almost always proved to be the impoverished relative of the CD and vinyl album.

The track included below, Burial Rites, is a slight remix that was released on Isolationism, part of Virgin’s brief but impressive run of brilliantly curated compilations. Isolationism along with Jazz Satellites – Electrification was the singular work of Kevin Martin who also provided the brilliant graphic overload under the guise of The Pathological Puppy. They’ll be covered here at some point in the future. Toop and Eastley’s work found sympathetic neighbours in the likes of AMM, Sufi, Techno Animal, Raoul Björkenheim, ‘O’Rang and Thomas Köner.

If you’re unfamiliar with Buried Dreams, seek it out.

Listen
Also Review of Toop and Eastley’s 2004 follow-up, Doll Creature

Sun Ra – The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Author: Colin | Published: 22/1/11
Previous Add N to (X) – Little Black Rocks In The Sun Next David Toop and Max Eastley – Buried Dreams

Sun Ra - The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Sun Ra - The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Sun Ra - The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Sun Ra - The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Sun Ra - The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Sun Ra - The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Sun Ra - The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Artist Sun Ra
Title The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow
Label Jazzman Records
Year 2009
Design Artwork by House of Traps
Music Heliocentric
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Notes Gold and black, true colours for Sun Ra. It’s such a pleasure to play each of these singles, valuing each brief song. The liner notes are excellent. The design is wonderful. Three luminous 7″ singles, to glow in the darkness of deep space.

This post is dedicated to my mother who died last week.

Listen Sun Ra and His Arkestra – Love In Outer Space

Sun Ra and His Arkestra – The Perfect Man

Also - Celeste – Morte(s) Née(s)

Add N to (X) – Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Author: Colin | Published: 8/1/11
Previous Unframed Recordings Next Sun Ra – The Shadows Cast By Tomorrow

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Add N to (X) - Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Artist Add N to (X)
Title Little Black Rocks In The Sun
Label Mute
Year 1998
Design Unknown
Music Analogue thrills
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Notes Add N To (X) wielded their vintage analogue synths for a few years back in the late ’90s to deliver a fine mixture of bombast, sauciness, sci-fi and retro-oriented fun. This 10″ single is a hugely pleasurable thing: from its mysterious closed state, to the opening of the leaves, the hexagonal vinyl inside, the steampunk story that mixes in dashes of pop culture

“The Proud Pilot ADD N TO X enters his steam driven space ship to much applause and the fanfare of the massed marching drum machines of NASA. His mission: to enter the Black Hole and make contact with the SINGULARITY.”

right through to the music itself. The title track on the ‘A’ side is a grin-inducing blend of noise, mayhem and pounding beats while the ‘B’ side presents amusing narratives spoken through a vocoder.

Little Black Rocks In The Sun is a wonderful object that hints at an occluded past – it’s clearly paying homage to Gil Mellé’s soundtrack for The Andromeda Strain, a distinctly rare item nowadays:

Gil Mellé - The Andromeda Strain

Perhaps best known is the cover for the equally marvellous On The Wires Of Our Nerves, the sleeve that depicted Ann Shenton giving birth to a Moog synthesizer by caesarean section:

add-n-to-x

I mentioned sauciness as a key ingredient of Add N to (X)’s allure and here’s the primary evidence for such a claim, the Plug Me In video, a delightfully catchy tune that would have been number 1 if there’d been any justice in the world. Do note the Dailymotion website where this is hosted requires you to be 18 to view – no cheating now.

Listen Little Black Rocks In The Sun (edit)

Unframed Recordings

Author: Colin | Published: 1/1/11
Previous Happy new year to you! Next Add N to (X) – Little Black Rocks In The Sun

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Unframed Recordings

Artist 1-7: Richard Garet and Brendan Murray; 8-9: Phantom Limb and Earth’s Hypnagogia; 10-11: Various: Ian Epps, Kenta Nagai, Annette Krebs, Chris Forsyth, Giuseppe Ielasi and Koen Holtkamp
Title 1-7: Of Distance; 8-9: In Celebration of Knowing All the Blues of the Evening; 10-11: I/D/V 02 [guitar]
Label Unframed Recordings
Year 2008-10
Design Gill Arno; Ben Owen: letterpress
Music Minimal, environmental
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Notes Unframed Recordings’ design ethos is characterised by a cool, but never clinical minimalism. This is work that has a lovely sense of tactility achieved by the use of letterpress printing. The technique is particularly impressive on Richard Garet and Brendan Murray’s Of Distance, the lengthy red strip gradually breaking up from left to right. The inclusion in the outer cover of a small circular hole provides the viewer with a glimpse of the contents. The tactility is in evidence again on the letterpressed outer covers of the label’s 7″ vinyl releases which contain a variety of locked grooves.

Here’s an interview with label head Guglielmo (Gill) Arno conducted by Melissa Clarke in December 2009:

Tell me about your development as a sound artist…

Arno: “Music was a big part of my life since early on. Some of my earliest memories involve music, musical instruments, the image of an electric guitar on a book. Nothing extraordinary for someone who turned out to work with it as an adult. My parents sent me to piano school at the age of six, but as it turned out it was all about flute and solfeggio instead. I started over as a teenager with an electric guitar and punk rock bands. With the realization that rock music was hopelessly derivative I began searching for a new approach— as the other side of my interests was in the visual arts, I decided to try and play light as if it were music. Then it hit me: any cultural form has to be somewhat derivative. So I stopped worrying and began the ‘mpld’ project, in which I use a couple of old modified slide projectors as an electro-acoustic instrument. I find discarded slides and manipulate them. Then I play them in a live setting, transforming the projectors’ mechanical sounds into something I call music.”

Tell me about the history of sound in the arts, then more specifically the use of field recordings and other ways of collecting sound pieces that are later re-contextualized or reintroduced in new contexts …

Arno: “I took a little bit out of each from a very long list of artists and also from many people whom I’ve met in person and who are not known or relevant on an academic level. Of course I am aware of the work of the Futurists and Dadaists, Fluxus, Cage and so on. Without them my work would probably be completely different. And yet, such a list would also require a lot of distinctions and side notes which I don’t think I can discuss as in deep here as would be needed. Anyway, a lot of what I do is just the continuation of what my parents and their parents, and their parents, and so on did in their time. I often think that I am just doing what they would have done had they lived in this place and time.

Something shifted for good when I stopped looking to create something new, and instead began to look and listen to things in a new way. Like looking at the back of a tv set instead than at the screen, or finding an out of focus photograph on the sidewalk in front of a photography print lab, or closing my eyes and start to mentally disassemble the sounds in an airplane cabin before taking off, or paying attention to the overtones-rich sounds from old refrigerator and fluorescent tubes in the kitchen, after everyone has left the room and is getting ready for sleep (there is also a characteristic flickering light attached to this memory).”

Field recordings and the theme of sound journal often meet in a strive toward authenticity – a strategic resistance to the media-scape’s endemic deceitfulness. However, the approach I chose for the Sleepwalk series aims rather at engaging the subjectivity of recollection, as I find myself fascinated by how memory and perception reconstruct, distort, somehow always intervene against pure factuality.”

Where do you think this practice, or art form, is headed…

Arno: “This is a huge topic which I can only address in a few lines here, so I will bring up one single example. Just a few years ago I have started a record label that releases limited editioned vinyl records, among other objects. I did it against the almost unanimous advice from several friends who had been scrambling to keep their dance music-oriented labels going. But I am interested in a different public – I publish limited editions of records that have tactile packages, over-sized prints, hand-made impressions and so on. My reasoning is that as mainstream culture has moved more and more towards de-materialization, demand will also grow for alternative pockets. Such islands will be concerned with another type of experience – the physical and personal. They will be addressing authenticity rather than the eternally disappointing trappings of ‘modernity’. That being said, I believe that digital media is certainly useful also for the so-called experimental niche’s sake. The label maintains a little studio where people meet and where private sessions and small public events are hosted. To meet in person, to exchange in the setting of improvisation is fundamental. And then the studio extends over the internet through a blog where recordings are distributed as free files. So there is a circular dynamic, where each stage feeds the next. I have seen it grow and hope it will keep growing in the coming years. It may seem not much futuristic to bet over the survival of physical media when all major companies producing them (from Kodak to Technics) have been withdrawing. The key for me is to keep out of the mainstream – to quote Marshall Mc Luhan, once a technology has become obsolete it turns into art.”

Do you feel the sound community, especially in the collaborations and the in the relationships of the artists often work in a way that transcends market interests; and do you think this creates a better sense of interpersonal community?

Arno: “Absolutely. A conclusive negation of this would mean the end of the creative impulse.”

Do you have an interest in the history of phenomenology in the arts, or how do you feel sound is able to shape our sense of space and time as an immediate physical?

Arno: “I have an interest in the theories that surround art and communication in general, however my approach as an artist has to be empirical rather than theoretical. The relationship between an artist and the world at large is based on exchange, and yet the elements of such exchange do vary in nature, time and other relative instances. This is obvious in regards to my understanding and appreciation of hip-hop or gregorian chant or jajouka, but also significant in relation to [electro-acoustic improvisation collective] EA itself.”

Listen Richard Garet and Brendan Murray – ‘Of Distance’
- In Parallel (excerpt)
- The Tyranny of the Objects (excerpt)

Phantom Limb and Earth’s Hypnagogia
- Civil Twilight 3

I/D/V 02
- Ian Epps – Terssssss
- Chris Forsyth – A Blank Check for Richy Midnight