Kumo – Day / Night (The Tapeworm album, 2018)

The Tapeworm imprint has always had an unerring capacity to release interesting sounds from interesting artists, and Day / Night by Kumo is yet another fine cassette among many. Kumo is the alias of Jono Podmore, a multi-disciplinary talent known on this blog for his work with Spoon on the Can back catalogue, the book he is assembling on sorely-missed Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit, the very fine Metamono albums and the Kumo and Cyclopean releases issued by Mute over the years.

For Day / Night, Podmore began with two field recordings taken from the balcony of his flat in South East London, adding synths and theremin later to the sounds he’d captured by chance – cars starting, dogs barking, planes droning overheard, snippets of conversation and so on. One recording was made during the day, one during the night. The effect is like listening to a microcosm of urban London life, never quiet for sure, but perhaps more peaceful than one might imagine.

Podmore’s electronic responses to the field recordings vary from sinewy synth arpeggios that wobble and flutter around the ambience to spooky, dead-of-night bursts of drones, tones and bleeps that feel like the soundtrack to existential dread. There is a certain muted quality to the sounds he added to his balcony recordings, as if he wanted the two components – the organic and natural and the composed and artificial – to live in harmony with one another, and neither has the capacity to overburden the other.

Day / Night is the embodiment, for me, of what Brian Eno conceived of for ambient music when he was laid up in bed listening to classical music and environmental sounds together. Podmore’s approach has a delicateness of touch, a sensitivity to his natural surroundings and a powerfully imaginative way of electronically responding to the sounds he hears.

Tapeworm releases are always issued in limited runs – get it now from the Touch shop before it’s gone for good.

Postscript: this review was finalised somewhere over the Atlantic as my overnight return flight home from New York approached the Cornish coast. It was started on the flight to JFK earlier in the week, probably in roughly the same place but during the day. Philip from Tapeworm asked me whether ‘Day’ or ‘Night’ worked best for the night flight. My response was thus: ‘Night’ made me more edgy as we came into land. ‘Day’ made me yearn for home after the best part of a week away from my own familiar daily environmental soundtrack.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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Start To Move: A Short History Of 1970s Wire (Clash feature, 2018)

On the occasion of last week’s release of deluxe hardback reissues of Wire’s three 1970s albums, I was asked by Clash to contribute a short piece reflecting on the (perhaps overlooked) importance of those albums. Sections of the piece appeared originally on the first version of the Documentary Evidence website about ten years ago and haven’t ever gone back online; the original piece formed part of a longer bio covering the three chapters in the Wire story.

The Clash feature can be found here.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith for Clash

Electronic Sound 41

Issue 41 of Electronic Sound is out now, and if you’re quick you’ll probably still be able to get hold of the exclusive Underworld 7″ featuring two unreleased tracks that accompanies it. Underworld are the major feature in this month’s magazine, yielding yet another incredible sleeve, this time with the headache-inducing moiré patterns of a Bridget Riley painting.

Like many people back then, I got into Underworld upon the release of their 1994 album Dubnobasswithmyheadman, which did that rare thing of managing to cross-over between the worlds of dance music and rock – so much so that fhe NME, at that time so focussed on guitar music that nothing else got a look in, put Underworld on the front cover of an issue around the time Dubno… was released. I went straight down to Music Junction in Stratford-upon-Avon to bag myself a copy and it was played constantly thereafter.

For this issue my main contribution was an interview with Robert Görl, formerly of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft and whose first solo album was released through Mute (with contributions from Annie Lennox no less). The feature centred on Görl’s Record Store Day album The Paris Tapes, and recounts the story of how those tapes came to be created, taking in everything from threatened deportation out of New York, conscription, moonlight flits to Paris, car crashes and Buddhism. Erasure‘s Vince Clarke remixed ‘Part 1’ from The Paris Tapes, and his mix almost included sections of my recorded conversation with Görl, but that’s another story.

Elsewhere in this issue, I wrote reviews of Kaada’s moving rumination on farewells, Closing Statements, and a new release from Chicago’s The Sea And Cake called Any Day which isn’t really electronic at all, but which features so many guitar effects that it might as well be. I also reviewed a new interpretation of John Luther Adams’s Canticles Of The Sky by Oliver Coates and a very fine leftfield R&B album by Friends Of Friends’ Sweatson Klank which I wrote in the departure lounge at New York’s JFK. I was also introduced to the wonderful, eclectic music of the peripatetic, prolific Sad Man, who turned out to have grown up near where I now live, and who now lives near where I grew up.

Finally, I wrote a short introduction to the music of Ariwo, a Cuban-influenced group whose music crosses that fickle boundary between jazz and electronics and is among the most mind-expanding things you’ll hear today.

It’s rare that you get the opportunity to cover rock, classical, jazz and synth music for one publication, but such is the broadminded approach that Electronic Sound bring to the electronic music table. Issue 41 can be ordered here.

Spotify links:

Robert Görl ‘Part 1 (Vince Clarke Remix)’
The Sea And Cake ‘Any Day’
Sad Man ‘Slow Bird’
Ariwo ‘Ariwo’

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound

Miss Kittin & The Hacker – Lost Tracks Vol. 2 (Dark Entries single, 2018)

Artwork_MissKittinTheHacker_LostTracksVol2

“We were naive, innocent, adventurous and we didn’t expect anything in return,” is how onetime NovaMute artist Caroline Hervé described her partnership with Michel Amato, which formed after the pair met at a rave in 1996. Better known in the French dance music scene as Miss Kittin and The Hacker respectively, the duo wrote irreverent, sexually-charged music together that had techno as its foundation but which was just as influenced by the likes of D.A.F. and other early Eighties acts operating at the vanguard of electronic music.

Lost Tracks Vol. 2 compiles together four previously unreleased tracks from 1997 / 98, just before their debut EP and some three years ahead of their album releases for DJ Hell’s International DJ Gigolo imprint. On the fidgety opener ‘Upstart’, you can hear that soundclash between late Nineties techno and early Eighties synthpop with a sequenced bassline and icicle-sharp monophonic melodic clusters that sound like an offcut of François Kevorkian’s celebrated remixes of ‘Situation’ by Yazoo. ‘Love On 26’ deals with millennium angst over a bed of jerky electro and squelchy 303 hooks, while the grubby ‘Snuff Movies’ is The Normal’s ‘T.V.O.D.’ recast with the protagonist watching grim underground VHS tapes instead of Fifties road movies.

Closing track ‘The Building’ is a thudding acid house number with industrial edges, devoid of any human feeling whatsoever, complete with a spoken vocal from Hervé that’s as cloying as that deployed by Flying Lizards on ‘Money’. Truly fine lost gems from this inventive pairing.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Energy: Damo Suzuki (documentary, 2019)

Energy: Damo Suzuki is a documentary by Michelle Heighway scheduled for release in 2019. Heighway’s film follows Can alumnus Damo Suzuki as he confronts his diagnosis with colon cancer in 2014, and tries to continue his neverending tour.

The film is currently seeking crowdfunding, details of which can be found here.

A trailer for the film can be viewed below.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

White Witches – Heironymus Anonymous (AWAL album, 2018)

White Witches is a duo of Rory Lewarne, former frontman of the sorely-missed 2000s Mute act Pink Grease, and Piranha Deathray guitarist / keyboard player Jeremy Allen. For their debut album they’ve added the miscellaneous talents of ex-Art Brut drummer Mikey Breyer, Bourgeois & Maurice bassist Charlie Webb, Desperate Journalist vocalist Jo Bevan, and All Seeing I’s JP Buckle. Some six years in the making, Hieronymus Anonymous was recorded with Buckle at Jarvis Cocker’s basement studio and Dean Street studios in Soho.

Lewarne and Allen both grew up streets apart on the westernmost edges of Cornwall and describe White Witches as “dirty glam rock with a dystopian heart and a Cornish spirit”. The music here is wiry, brazen and full of nervous energy, infused with reverential flashes of Ziggy, Bolan, Ferry and the brothers Mael. Itchy guitar, clever lyrics and energetic kitwork combine together here into an album treading a tightrope between opaque fun-filled songs and seriously ominous themes, all fronted by Lewarne’s instantly familiar histrionics.

The album contains a whole host of highlights, from the theatrical melodrama of ‘Estella’ to the swirling basswork and sinewy riffery of ‘Sandcastles’, wherein Lewarne adopts a crazy falsetto amid music operating on the very edge of chaos. The title track is a strident, pathos-laden ode to a life well lived, while towering closing track ‘Savages’ blends the now-familiar White Witches sound with an undercurrent of synths and a rousing chorus amid an album of rousing choruses.

The pair claim that the album was a product of growing up in a way that being in a band like Pink Grease didn’t allow, while in Allen’s case it also involved dealing with life-limiting alcoholism; in spite of what should be, on paper, a relatively mature album, HeironymusAnonymous is bratty, irreverent, original and punk as fuck.

Listen to Heironymus Anonymous here.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Junip – Fields (Mute Corporation album, 2010)

Junip‘s Fields presented a dilemma – to review or not? This whole site has tended to focus on Mute‘s UK releases, and I’ve never quite gotten around to looking at the Mute Corporation‘s US-only records. Fields was released in Europe on City Slang, yet released on Mute in the States. I’d heard ‘Always’, a quite beautiful track released as a single, but it didn’t make me want to buy and review the album necessarily. When a Twitter friend and fellow Mute fan said that he’d been listening to Junip and suggested it had a Krautrock sound, that was the clincher. I’d downloaded a few Junip tracks, including some unreleased stuff from rcrdlbl.com and the free Rope & Summit EP but they were just gathering dust on my hard-drive. When Chris said that about the Krautrock vibe, I decided it was high time I acquiesced; when I found Fields on sale in Fopp for a criminal £3.00 the decision to review was reasonably academic, especially once I’d heard it, as it’s excellent.

First, the proposition: Junip is a trio formed of three Swedish musicians, guitarist and vocalist José González (okay, Argentinian / Swedish), drummer Elias Araya and keyboard player Tobias Winterkorn. González is naturally familiar for his genteel solo work and classical guitar playing, with a body of work that includes covers of The Knife‘s arresting ‘Heartbeats’ and doom stalwart Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Prior to Fields they’d released an EP (Black Refuge) in 2004, the year before González’s solo début.

The Junip sound is difficult to place. There is, at certain points, a very evident motorik ethic. ‘Rope & Summit’ is one example; ‘Howl’, another, is so Can that the surviving members of the band could feasibly sue Junip for the rhythm’s similarity to their ‘Oh Yeah’; ‘Off Point’ rides on a beat that Neu! may well have cast to one side whilst writing ‘Heroes’ but straps on a skiffly, country twang.

What’s possibly more evident is a more broad ‘psychedelic’ or ‘prog’ folk sound, albeit without the huge keyboard soloing (check out the very end of closing track ‘Tide’ for the closest it comes). There’s something about the way that the album was recorded which sounds like a distant echo from forty years ago; a slightly muddy sound and vaguely trippy vibe pervades, enhanced by González’s echoing, ruminatively innocent vocal. ‘Without You’ is a case in point – a beautiful song which sounds like a type of psychedelic folk, augmented by a mysterious synth that drifts in in the second half; references to nature reinforce the folk angle, as does the weathered-looking sleeve design with its geometric hippy motifs.

‘It’s Alright’ can’t decide if it’s going down the trippy folk or trippy blues route, but while we wait for it to decide, it potters along with intent on a lovely bass line, while minimal percussion slowly and cautiously nudges into view. It’s dainty, especially when the hi-hats and tinkly keyboards usher in a muted beat. ‘It’s alright’ murmurs González, which rather sells this song short; for me, along with ‘Howl’ and ‘To The Grain’ it is one of the album’s highlights. ‘Sweet & Bitter’ has a deep, clipped funk edge with fat bass sounds and an ethereal web of synth sounds, which you almost wish would dominate the track completely, prog-stylee. Toward the end it feels like we’re approaching some such freak out, but it’s far too ordered and controlled for that.

‘Don’t Let It Pass’ is a beautiful, serene ballad, González’ voice floating delicately above a sweet folksy accompaniment. The synth solo here is laced with a heart-stopping emotion, while the harmonised title is freighted with a maudlin, weary tone. ‘To The Grain’ and ‘Tide’ mine the same sound, but both are much more dramatic in many ways; examples of songs where you can’t work out whether it’s positive and affirming or filled with poignancy and regret.

I’ll let you decide.

Fields was recorded and produced by Don Alstherberg and Junip; Alstherberg also supplies bass on ‘Always’, ‘Without You’ and ‘Tide’.

Originally posted 2011 / re-posted 2018.

(c) 2011 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence