Paul Kendall – From The Penman Press (Cat Werk Imprint album, 2016)

from the penman press: cat werk imprint | box+cd cw010 | 07/2016
angleterror original digital release: cat werk imprint | dl cw002 | 01/11/2011

From The Penman Press by Paul Kendall is nothing short of beautiful. Housed in a minimalist brown cardboard box with simple lettering, this is a work of art – a statement – even before you’ve prised off the lid.

Inside, you’ll find unique hand printed A5 images, all monochrome and appealingly spartan, each representing a painstaking letterpress experiment by Kendall. It’s like looking at what Bridget Riley might have delivered had she focussed on designs for abstract architecture instead of headache-inducing artistic mindfuckery.

What’s all the more appealing about the starkly minimal prints is how at odds they are with Angleterror, the Paul Kendall album included within the box in a newly sparkling remastered form by AGF (Antye Greie / Antye Greie-Fuchs / Antye Greie-Ripatti). Angleterror was originally released in 2011 as a Bandcamp download, and has never been issued in a physical form. It would be somewhat disingenuous to describe Angleterror as a sprawl, but in its dense layers and skipping tendency to veer with jump-cut precision from one idea to the next – inventively, never restlessly – it is the maximalist antithesis of the artwork; the yin to its yang, even.

From The Penman Press was issued in a run of just 100 copies, most of which should have now been sold given how captivating it is. Check here to see if you can still get one.

Promotional videos for ‘Glass Eye’ and ‘Aspirateur’ can be found below. Below those you’ll find my own, newly remastered, review of Angleterror from 2011.

Thanks to Felix.

‘Glass Eye’ Paul Kendall from Cat Werk Imprint on Vimeo.

‘Aspirateur’ Paul Kendall from Cat Werk Imprint on Vimeo.

Angleterror review (Originally published 2011)


Paul Kendall will be a familiar name to any Mute fan thanks to his credit as an engineer, producer and mixer on many releases over a thirteen year period that stretched from 1984 to 1997. PK, as he was known, seemed to work with most artists on the label in one capacity or another across Mute’s electronic and non-electronic roster, and those initials on a release always seemed to mark it out as very special indeed.

Kendall as a musician, rather than studio guy, was something that wasn’t really heard in earnest until he started the Parallel Series label as an off-shoot of Mute, releasing four compelling collaborations with Andrei Samsonov, Simon Fisher Turner, Bruce Gilbert / Robert Hampson and also The Faulty Caress (under the alias Piquet), before splitting the sub-label off for one post-Mute release (a collaboration between Kendall and Olivia Louvel, Capture, as The Digital Intervention in 2003). Kendall then headed off to work with ex-Depeche Mode man Alan Wilder‘s long-running Recoil project.

Angleterror was originally released as a digital download in 2011 on the Cat Werk Imprint run by Olivia Louvel. The seven tracks presented here were mostly recorded between 2002 and 2007 when Kendall was living in Paris and find him exploring some pretty harrowing soundscape and contemporary concrète works that are every bit as un-nerving as the picture of the indeterminate creature on the sleeve.

Central to the album are four pieces – ‘Glass Eye’, ‘Betricht’, ‘Wheel’ and ‘Call Of Wild – that feature David Husser’s guitar. Husser completed the Shotgun mix of Recoil’s ‘Prey’ which was released as a download in 2008, and also recorded a version of Depeche’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with the band Y Front. For these pieces, Kendall provided Husser with a series of pre-existing soundscapes and drone templates, over which the guitarist improvised; Kendall then treated the contributions as source inputs, re-editing and re-processing the outputs into the forms presented here. What’s interesting about this approach is the fact that Kendall’s final versions exist only because they were responses to Husser’s work, which in turn only arose as a response to Kendall’s original frameworks. It’s presumably the case that the pair could keep referring the responses back to one another indefinitely, creating works that would presumably be a huge distance from the original composed source.

‘Glass Eye’ has an almost Manuel Göttsching sense of melodic repetitiveness; raw electricity bursts pass over bass clusters and almost bluesy chord changes; tense, strangled guitar sounds leap upwards and are sucked back into the noise bed that’s developed. There’s a rough beauty about ‘Glass Eye’ particularly when it coalesces into a kind of mesmerising, beatless motorik rock just after the halfway mark. In complete contrast, ‘Wheel’ starts with pockets of whining sound before veering unexpectedly into a dirty blues with a nagging, simple beat and layers of low-slung axe wrangling punctured by randomised sonic events and abrasive noise interludes. It sounds like nothing else here, and as it fades back into the drone cycles that opened the piece, you can’t help but wonder if that extended blues section wasn’t just a slightly unsettling dream.

A different approach was taken on ‘Starvation’ and ‘Aspirateur’, which Kendall describes as being built from ‘first principles with guitar gestures as their source’. The guitar on ‘Starvation’ was provided by Guy Parker, while the identity of the guitarist on ‘Aspirateur’ isn’t identified, but its scratchy cut and thrust was inspired by sorely missed improv titan Derek Bailey. ‘Starvation’ is a stately waltz-paced piece built up from clattering IDM glitch-beats that develops rapidly into a punishing bass-heavy industrial electronica with lots of distorted bass noises and fast-paced switches between channels. Even though it probably never existed outside a computer there’s a sense of patches being forced into complicity, the segments where mere tracery is left and Guy Parker’s dark, cinematic guitar shines through suggesting the software couldn’t quite cope. The final dark ambient segment is how I expect Trent Reznor might attempt a soundtrack for a new noir version of Blade Runner directed by David Lynch. Sticking with cinematic imagery, ‘Aspirateur’ opens with what feels like a transmission from an abandoned spaceship drifting aimlessly through the galaxy, possibly harbouring some sort of terrifying alien lifeform – certainly the chilling processed breathing sounds and general sense of chaos in the intrusion of various sounds do much to enforce that sonic vision. It’s very dark, in a spine-chilling sense. You know what’s about to happen; it’s more a case of when.

The final track on the album, ‘Route 1 + 2’, was produced using a piece of software called Thonk which appears to have been a program that could process source inputs using complex algorithmic functions, often taking very long periods to deliver its outputs. Kendall believes that the source material for this may also have been a guitar, allowing us to contrast a parameterised software-based improvisor’s response to source material alongside that of David Husser on the four tracks he worked on here, at least in theory – if ‘Route 1+2’ began life with a guitar, there’s little evidence of that apart from a feint hint way off in the distance. The track is a series of scrapes, juddering noises and fractured sounds that skip and squiggle evasively around your ears, a maddening inner-body soundscape laced with a dose of lurking dread.

Kendall has engineered both of Olivia Louvel’s releases on Cat Werk Imprint – 2011’s award-winning Doll Divider and 2012’s o, music for haiku – both of which are highly collectible physical releases. With Angleterror PK proves once again that his inquisitive ear for sonic exploration remains undiminished. An almost-Burroughsian sliced-up video of Kendall talking about the album can be viewed below, complete with sagely spectacles, roll-ups and swanky coffee machines.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Art Brut – It’s A Bit Complicated (EMI / Mute album, 2007)


emi / labels / mute records (marketing) | lp/cd/dl | 25/06/2007

Art Brut‘s It’s A Bit Complicated was released and marketed by Mute as part of EMI / Labels. Consisting of Eddie Argos (vocals), Ian Catskilkin (guitar), Freddy Feedback (bass), Mikey Breyer (drums), and Jasper Future (guitar), Art Brut were a band unafraid to take musical cues from disparate parts of the rock music spectrum – metal, punk, ska, emotional power rock, you name it.

Their musical magpie tendencies were fronted by the truly original Argos, whose spoken vocals are both as punk as you can imagine while also having an unerring capacity for amusing couplets, wry observation and the sort of poetic musings that rarely find their way onto records, such as using late-running trains as an excuse for sleeping in; the closing track, ‘Jealous Guy’ – not the John Lennon song, just an opportunity to rob a good song title – finds an angsty, desperate Argos trying to wake up his girlfriend because he’s concerned that they don’t have sex any longer, getting manic and jealous that the same pattern didn’t emerge when she was with her ex. I can’t think of another band and vocalist capable of such dry, detached musing.

Elsewhere, there are preoccupations with pop music on the single ‘Pump Up The Volume’ and ‘Sound Of Summer’. The latter has a relaxed, laidback sound with a chorus that talks of making mixtapes, fetishising the act of pressing play and record, a process that pretty soon no-one will remember; in less optimistic fashion, there’s also negative talk about how all pop songs are about a boy meeting a girl but that the narrator’s life didn’t turn out that way. There’s also a small nod toward false optimism with a belief that taking the tabs out of a cassette will stop it getting recorded over. ‘Sound Of Summer’ links neatly to the single ‘Nag Nag Nag Nag’ which immediately follows, a song which is much less positive about reducing a record collection down to mere mixtapes; meanwhile, the Fratellis-esque ‘I Will Survive’ (another cheekily borrowed title) includes a line about selling a record collection just to pay for a party. Further cynicism comes through on ‘People In Love’ which finds Argos getting down on the whole love thing and its futility. ‘People in love lie around and get fat,’ he says in the song’s opening moments. Musically, ‘People In Love’ has nice Sixties references mixed in with dirty guitar. ‘Late Sunday Evening’ has a tidy Dexy’s ska-punk vibe – complete with brass from The Kick Horns (familiar from their contribution to Mute albums including Erasure‘s The Innocents) with ‘Love Cats’-esque jazziness. It makes for a refreshing, truly euphoric sound.

Two clear highlights emerge in the form of ‘St. Pauli’ and ‘Post Soothing Out’. The former features heavy, prominent bass from Freddy Feedback and Franz Ferdinand-style preposterous guitar riffs mixed in with raw, unbridled energy. ‘Sorry if my accent’s flawed / I learned my German from a 7″ record‘ is one of the best lines ever committed to a song, delivered in response to the chorus about punk music which is sung in faltering German. Like some of Graham Lewis‘s best lyrics, ‘St. Pauli’ jumps from one theme to another, here being a mix of talk about family, talk about love, and then the chorus about punk. ‘The kids don’t like it / What else can we do when the kids don’t like it?‘ ponders Eddie Argos with a shrug, all delivered over snarling effervescence. ‘Post Soothing Out’ possesses some truly fantastic riffs, as well as a few handclaps, and a mood that sits somewhere between joyfulness and breakup-inspired negativity.

It’s A Bit Complicated was produced by the band with Dan Swift, who had previously worked with The Futureheads, Snow Patrol and many others. The album would prove to be their only release for EMI / Labels / Mute, which may or may not have been something to do with EMI releasing the album’s third single, ‘Pump Up The Volume’, without any discussion with the band.

Originally published 2012; edited 2016.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Barry Adamson – Brighton Rockers (Central Control International single, 2012)

central control | postcard-flexi/dl no cat ref | 03/09/2012


Barry Adamson released ‘Brighton Rockers’ on his own Central Control label in September 2012. Released as a single track download and also as a limited-edition flexi-postcard record, all profits and additional donations are donated to the charity CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, which seeks to reduce the suicide rate of men. More information on CALM, its aims and its plans to deal with the biggest killer of men under the age of thirty-five can be found at their website.

The ‘sleeve’ shows an idyllic Brighton blue sky and a pedestrian taking a break on one of the benches dotted along the promenade. The music is a nice heavy slice of solid dub reggae, all thunderous bass, staccato piano and reverb-heavy rhythms and interludes, with some authentic horns and organ lines washing into the mix at times. The inclusion of some soulful, meditative sax and tinkly jazz organ stops this from becoming too dub-derivative, creating a typically noirish Adamson take on the genre, and a hitherto under-explored area of Adamson’s musical interest. The result is something that sounds like an authentic, well-researched take on the dub template, whilst retaining an identifiable distinctly Adamson groove (and, in the title, his trademark wry sense of humour) at the same time.

The summer may sadly be all but over, but this track is just about the best soundtrack I can think of for kicking back and relaxing on Brighton’s pebble beach in the sunshine.

Originally posted 2012.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Barry Adamson – Dreams Of A Life (Central Control International album, 2012)

  
central control international | dl unknown cat ref | 10/12/2012

Perhaps it was intentional that Barry Adamson‘s music for Carol Morley’s film Dreams Of A Life went relatively unnoticed. After all, Morley’s film is a drama-documentary about Joyce Carol Vincent, a beautiful woman with a successful career in finance and early aspirations toward a pop career; someone who was well networked with lots of friends and a surprising number of interactions with celebrities like Ben E. King, Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron, even shaking hands with Nelson Mandela backstage at his tribute concert at Wembley in 1990.

The tragic conclusion to Vincent’s life is, sadly, what she will be remembered for – found in 2006 not just dead, but decomposed, on a sofa in her bedsit in Wood Green, TV still playing BBC1 and rotten food in the fridge dating her death back to 2003. Unpaid utility bills were stacked behind her door; neighbours complained about a smell, but attributed it to the bins from the shops below. That someone could have slipped completely off radar and totally out of the system – effectively disappearing – in today’s hyper-networked times seems all the more shocking, the sense that someone with a wide circle of friends like Vincent could vanish without trace improbable somehow. The cause of Vincent’s death was never ascertained; never a huge drinker and not known to take drugs, the only link to any form of foul play was that she had stayed in a women’s refuge for domestic violence in Haringay in 2001, something that friends suggested was possible given how intense some of her City boyfriends could be.

Adamson’s soundtrack appeared on iTunes in December 2012 but I only found out about it in February when I received an email from Adamson’s mailing list advising that the film would be shown on TV that evening, with a separate link to his soundtrack. Those familiar with Adamson’s work will find few surprises here. There’s the usual rich gumbo of funky basslines, glitches, dub, ice-cold electronica, gospel outpourings (‘Tell Me’), jazzy riffing (‘Profile Of Martin’), organ grooves and noir themes that sound like something from a Seventies blaxploitation flick. Opener ‘The Investigation’ has all the grim urgency of a police drama while simultaneously evoking the mournful, pained observations of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner-City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)’ from What’s Going On; that track’s main motifs crop up elsewhere on the soundtrack in various different arrangements, giving the whole album a strong sense of coherence, the guitar plucking in particular giving things a folksy, introverted quality. The grandiose ‘Mystery’, complete with ghostly tones and ominous strings, perfectly matches its title’s promise, even if the counterpart ‘Mystery Atmos’ – with far-off rhythms and atmospheric textures – has the greater air of mystique, despite only dealing in semi-audible subtleties.

‘Noir (ish)’, with a chunky, phasing beat, melancholy synths and dirty funk guitars, is the closest Adamson has probably ever got to the sound of early Portishead, a band who claimed to be influenced heavily by the noirmeister, even though there was very little similarity between his music and theirs aside from a whiff of sullen mystery; ‘Noir (ish)’ squares that circle in many ways, and is one of Adamson’s most quietly assured works to date. The moving ‘Joyce Alone’, composed for piano, has a stirring poignancy, the absence of any other accompaniment other than the instrument’s natural reverb prompting you to reflect on Vincent’s three year wait to be discovered; it’s a beautiful, but deeply saddening piece. In contrast, ‘Electro Dreams’ manages to sound like a perfect distillation of Kraftwerk’s every move, albeit covered in a murky sheen of darkness, its inclusion having an urgent car-chase quality which doesn’t necessary fit with the other pieces here, even if it does highlight Adamson’s alarming musical dexterity.

While there are some really excellent pieces of soundtrack composition here, part of me thinks that it occasionally lacks a sense of seriousness and sympathy toward the subject matter. I admit freely that this might be because I’m looking at this solely as a musical response to what I’ve read of Vincent’s life; I haven’t seen the film and so it is often hard to imagine some of these pieces in context, but they just feel a little too playful at times; Adamson has a very prominent sense of humour and I sort of hoped that the challenging subject matter of the film might have curtailed that, but it’s still there, albeit in a relatively muted fashion. There’s also something about some of the pieces here, a dry quality perhaps, that reminds me of a low-budget TV movie.

A detailed piece written by Carol Morley for The Observer on her quest to find out more about Joyce Carol Vincent’s life and death can be found here. A video trailer for Morley’s movie can be found below; Part 10 of Morley’s video diary about the film, an interview with Adamson, can be seen below that.

First published 2013; re-posted 2016

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Richie Hawtin – DE9 Closer To The Edit (NovaMute album, 2002)

novamute | nomu90cd | 2002
Richie Hawtin, outside his Plastikman guise, is a consistently engaging and exciting DJ, and has been responsible for breathing new life into techno. His individual and pioneering approach to DJing is captured perfectly here.

DE9 is ostensibly a mix album, but it could also be described as a solo Hawtin album released under his own name. Except that it is both and neither simultaneously. Like a regular mix CD, the album rolls forward with no breaks, as if it were one very long and varied track, utilising builds and breakdowns, sharp fades, EQ tweaking and edits to control the pace and keep the sound interesting and fresh. There are 31 tracks here, all in little over an hour, each running for around two minutes. This in itself would stand out as a feat of considerable DJ dexterity, except that there are in fact over 70 tracks here, and it is at this point that Hawtin’s album diverges entirely from the genre.

Hawtin has long been an advocate of bringing ‘live’ elements to his DJ sets, using drum machines and Roland TB-303s over decks to avoid being like many other DJs who simply mix tracks together; hence Hawtin comfortably straddles the DJ / live performance divide. Many others have tried this, but Hawtin’s continuing focus on techno exclusively has seen him retain a focused set of underground credentials. DE9 is the logical, yet painstaking next step for Hawtin’s unique DJing approach (‘DE’ stands for ‘Decks and Effects’).

The seventy tracks, by Basic Channel and Carl Craig among others also include a number by Hawtin himself, culled from his Minus and Plastikman / NovaMute releases. Except don’t go trying to spot them – according to his liner notes (how jazz is that?), Hawtin took extracts from tracks (‘Ranging from 1 note to 4 bars’) and created around 700 loops, which were then reassembled as new tracks, representing the 31 chapters here. Another artist may have seized the opportunity, given the heavy disguising of the source material, to pass this off as his own work. But Hawtin, the innovator, is proud of his process, and readily lists which tracks make up each chapter.

I hadn’t listened to techno for several years before listening to this, but this gives me incredible faith in the genre, and I don’t think I’ve heard such a sonically-pleasing compilation of robotic electronic music before. This is one hell of an impressive futuristic journey.

Originally posted 2004; edited 2016.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Electronic Sound #21 – Print Edition


As if I wasn’t proud already about being part of the Electronic Sound team, this month that sense of pride went up a couple of notches as the publication made the transition from being an entirely digital proposition to a fully-fledged newsstand magazine. That’s a bold move in a day and age where we’re told that everything is going in the opposite direction, but the team at Electronic Sound have undoubtedly pulled it off. You can buy copies of the print edition here.

I’m doubly proud because one of the most important features I’ve ever had the good fortune to scribe is heavily featured in the first newsstand edition – an interview with Very Records owner and one half of Erasure, Vince Clarke. The interview was conducted one extremely sticky May afternoon in Vince’s Brooklyn home studio.

As if that wasn’t seismic enough for an individual whose entire interest in music writing can be traced back to a record label flyer that fell out of the 12″ single of Erasure’s ‘Chorus’ almost 25 years ago, we were joined by Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll by Skype from his home in Brighton to discuss the Clarke / Hartnoll album 2Square. Once I’d properly decided that dance music was the place for me in the mid-Nineties, Orbital were a duo I fell for in a big way, and so getting airtime with not one, but two, idols in one go was a pretty sweet deal. I am eternally grateful to Electronic Sound for this opportunity, and also to my family for letting me duck out of part of our vacation in New York to undertake the interview.
Photography for the interview came from the wonderful Ed Walker. Ed wrote a great piece about the experience for his website, which can be read here. While you’re there, please do take a look at Ed’s surreptitious photographs of New Yorkers, which are all taken during a specific period of the day where light is particularly beautiful.

In addition to the Clarke / Hartnoll feature, I also interviewed Rico Conning for this issue. Conning will be familiar to Mute fans because of the remixes and edits he did for the label during its Eighties heyday. I had not appreciated that prior to working at William Orbit’s Guerrila Studio, Conning (and Fad Gadget drummer Nick Cash) had been in a post-punk band called The Lines. The interview tells the story of their hitherto lost third album, Hull Down, which was finally released earlier this year.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound

Mick Harvey – Delirium Tremens (Mute album, 2016)


I reviewed the third instalment of Mute stalwart Mick Harvey‘s project to translate the songs of Serge Gainsbourg from their native French to English, Delirium Tremens, which was released back in June.

Since this finally got published after a lengthy delay, Mute have announced details on the fourth volume, Intoxicated Woman – not bad going considering the twenty year gap between the second and third chapters.

You can read my Clash review here.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash