Richard Skelton – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea

Richard Skelton
Richard Skelton

Over the course of three special events in Manchester, London and east Sussex last weekend, Richard Skelton headlined explorations into experimental sound as three artists each evening introduced music for the landscapes in which they live. The music was not serene, pretty or easy listening but full of jagged edges, thought-provoking sound clashes and reverberations; and artists intent on making their audience think.

The shows were promoted as part of Saisonscape, Art Assembly’s bi-monthly series of experimental music, inspired by the seasons. Given the title Landscape, these spring shows would accordingly reflect on sound born out of, or inspired by, the land. The second of the three events was staged on Saturday 21st March 2015 in the beautiful art deco seaside building of the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea situated on the south / south-east coast somewhere between Brighton and Hastings.

Joe Snape opened the evening with a 20 minute set played in almost complete darkness. It took me a while to a tune my senses. With no visual distractions I found most appreciation by closing my eyes. Rob St. John followed with a set of songs from his forthcoming album Surface Tension. He was joined on stage by another musician and an artist creating live projected silhouettes using water, exposed film and bubbles. Again, I found that closing my eyes allowed me to fully emerge into the music and flow with, what started as a picturesque spring countryside complete with birdsong, as it turned sharply midstream into something much darker and less idyllic.

Richard Skelton was using the three shows by way of introducing his forthcoming second album ‘Belated Movements for an Unsanctioned Exhumation August 1st 1984’ under the guise of The Inward Circles and was due to sell advanced copies of the new album at the shows. However both Skelton and I were frustrated to learn that the delivery of CDs had been delayed.

Taking centre-stage, Richard Skelton quietly took his place sitting at a table to the front and centre of the large stage. He sat behind a laptop and other hardware flanked by his wife and creative partner, Autumn Richardson.

Skelton began his set of experimental electronica with a quiet looping sound. The sound became sounds as he began layering with each cycle of rhythmic noise patterns until melodies began forming. As the density of the track grew, so did the volume. The volume gave the bass reverberations depth, and the lowest of frequencies began burning their way into head. I kept my eyes closed, enjoying the trance-like cycles of this wonderful avant-garde experimentation into sound. The music became louder still and I wondered if the auditorium was going to survive the reverberating bass and metallic noises. I had thoughts of Matt Johnson’s Burning Blue Soul, the very best Plastikman AKA Richie Hawtin’s early minimal trance and as the volume increased even more, the sonic boom power and dark dreamy sound of My Bloody Valentine – all three references, all of the time with no hint of percussion or a rock guitar in sight.

When each piece had reached a crescendo it would begin its decent as Skelton slowly began dissecting the track layer by layer as the volume continued to decrease. But before the track completed its withering cycle, Skelton with seamless precision began sculpting a further wave of entwined droning sounds emanating and flowing from the hub that continued pulsating throughout. Skelton’s set was truly amazing, and one of the most powerful performances I have ever seen. He played for an hour with no breaks, no time for the audience to applaud or readjust their focus. The whole performance was an onslaught on the senses.

As the reverberating sounds became quiet for the last time, the silence was greeted with rapturous applause. I needed a few seconds to adjust. My eyes opened, blinked a few times and returned to normality; as did my head. After his performance Richard Skelton crouched on the side of the stage and when I spoke with him he appeared to be as overawed as me. The PA sounded good and played Skelton’s set at quite a volume, though we agreed this experiment in music could never be quite loud enough.

The 90 minute journey home went quickly and was worth every minute spent driving to the most beautiful venue and the most absorbing performance I have witnessed for a very, very long time.

For more information on Richard Skelton and stream ‘To Your Fox-Skin Chorusfrom Belated Movements for an Unsanctioned Exhumation August 1st 1984, Richard Skelton’s second album as The Inward Circles

Fable’s dark and ethereal new single ‘Silence Myself’

Dark, brooding pop electronica, the new single 'Silence Myself' from Fable
Fable

Dark, brooding pop electronica, the new single ‘Silence Myself‘ from Fable

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43UK3UpnRK8

Silence Myself was inspired by transcendental meditation. The single is about escaping the clutter of everyday life and stripping it down to bare and powerful silence. However, like all lyrically driven songs, there are a multitude of meanings that the listener can apply, and Fable’s emotive and enigmatic vocals, which bear comparison to a female Thom Yorke or a minimalist Portishead, leave things open to interpretation.

Originally from Devon and now based in Brighton, 19 year old Fable is a fierce new talent – forthright, opinionated, intelligent and far removed from the generic shiny pop songstresses that dominate the current music scene. Her last single, Stranger In My Head, received over 130,000 plays on SoundCloud, and she’s written alongside artists such as Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll and Bloc Party’s Russell Lissack, and will be supporting Archive at The Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 10th April 2015.

With a debut album on the horizon, as well as a host of festival dates in the Summer, Fable is set to make 2015 her own.

Silence Myself is released via 74 Music and available to buy now as a digital download.

Marconi Union re-release Under Wires and Searchlights & Distance

2011 was the year in which U2 finally got to play Glastonbury only to be blown off stage by Coldplay.  Oh…. and Steps announced they were reforming! I can’t remember if it was ‘due to public demand’ or not.

In July 2011, nine years after they formed, Manchester’s Marconi Union released their fifth album, Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Transmissions Volume 1) and the first for the Just Music recording label.

Marconi Union is Richard Talbot, Jamie Crossley and Duncan Meadows.  They formed in 2002 when Talbot and Crossley met while working in a record shop and the following year released their debut album Under Wires and Searchlights, on the Ochre Records label.  But it wasn’t until 2005 that they released a second album, Distance, this time on the All Saints Records label. The following year they played the Big Chill Festival and Eden Sessions, as well as giving their first interview.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=581X-Hs4Y1I

Further albums were released through their official website – A Lost Connection (released as a digital download in 2008 & CD in 2010) and Tokyo (2009).

Duncan Meadows joined Marconi Union on a permanent basis in 2010 and together they released Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Transmissions Volume 1). The album drifts even further in to ambient layers landscapes of serene beauty while managing to effortlessly entwine elements and whiffs of dub, electronica, glitch and even Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Westerns.  As with much ambient music the album plays out like an imaginary film soundtrack.

My favourite album is Distance which shows a moody, darker side to Marconi Union while they were still toying with lighter beats stimulating the soundscapes rather than the atmospheric purity of Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Transmissions Volume 1) that errs away from electronica and towards a contemporary classical music.

Marconi Union are making wonderfully deep, thought-provoking music that should simply be heard and appreciated by more people; which is possibly the reason why Just Music will be re-releasing their first two albums in 2012, along with plans to release a new album next summer.

Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Transmissions Volume 1) has six beautifully relaxing tracks that blend into one another leaving the listener in a sublime state of relaxation.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyBl_71beTw

Over the past nine years Marconi Union has quietly whispered their way into the consciousness of those looking to ambient music rather than X Factor 15 minutes of fame.  No fanfares. Their fan base is growing organically through word-of-mouth, without hype.  Their music is continuing to develop a style all of its own with each release.  If you haven’t already indulged your ears in the beauty of Marconi Union, make it one of your New Year’s resolutions.

Album Re-issues
On 30th January 2012, Just Music will be re-issuing two albums by Marconi Union:
Under Wires and Searchlights & Distance.

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Plant Plants debut EP blur boundaries between electronica, indie & synth pop

Plant Plants - Stuart Francis & Howard Whatley
Plant Plants

Plant Plants self-titled debut EP includes 4 tracks, each exploring different soundscapes.

Plant Plants are friends, Stuart Francis and Howard Whatley. They formed the group through their mutual love of film scores, weird guitar tunings & heavy beats, theirs is a sound which effortlessly combines the rare blend of electronica and eclectic imagery that sets them apart from contemporary comparisons.

Citing influences as varied as the Wickerman soundtrack, Wu Tang – the 36 chambers era – and L.A. based ‘beat-scene’ producer Baths, it’s no surprise their oddball electronica meets melodic music, is causing waves amongst the blogosphere.

Produced by Jas Shaw, one half of DJ and production unit Simian Mobile Disco, it’s a modern imagining on a sound reminiscent of early nineties bands first discovering electronic music, mining the fertile seam of the first wave of post-rock.

Lead track Hands That Sleep and I’m So Black fuse math rock guitars with aquacrunk synth programming and hip-hop wizardry, whilst the vocal-lead She’s No One comes over like Suede gone electronic, and final track Dandelion nods towards Sparklehorse. Trying to hang easy reference points of music this unique is essentially a fool’s errand though – although the tracks show off a wide variety of influences and styles, a coherent, individual thread runs through them all.

As proficient in the digital world as they are with traditional analogue instrumentation, Plant Plants live show is an intimate combination of hands-on hardware samplers, framed by parallel vocals, guitars, bass & a digital piano. Integral to the tight knit, 2-man setup is an array of 15+ effects pedals ranging from Voice Boxes & Woolly Mammoth fuzzboxes, to 90s Kaoss Pads -all at an arm’s length. All samples & effects are fingered & manipulated live as instruments, with not a laptop to be seen! Plant Plants prefer to build their songs from the ground up, aiming to provide something more, than the usual gig experience.

My favourite is ‘Hands That Sleep‘ which I can best describe as The Cure’s ‘Close To Me‘ sipping coffee in an empty diner with Gold Panda while Neil Tennant discusses the possibility of making The Pet Shop boys sound less synth pop and really weird.

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Moira Stewart Debut Album Finally gets a Remix Release

Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart is released on Distraction Records
Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart is released on Distraction Records.

Following the release of the original studio album in April 2008, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s finest Distraction Records release a remix album of Sweetness, Yes! by the oddly named trio, Moira Stewart.

The original Sweetness, Yes! album proved Moira Stewart’s affection for 1980’s synth pop with a nod to the sound of C86, New Order and contemporary artists like The Postal Service.  As with previous remix album releases on the label, each Distraction Records artist have remixed a track from the originally album in a style of their own, and the result is an excellent compilation of remixes from the likes of Tempelhof, d_rradio, Cathode and Dressed In Wires, among others.

Considering each artist brings their own style to Sweetness, Yes Please! the album has a remarkable and surprising continuity throughout.  The swirling synth pop electronic remixes from Keith Canisus and Tranisent, the drum machine-driven synth pop of Wroooaaar!, glitch ambience of remixes by Tempelhof, OK Ikumi, Phasmid, Orange Crush and Dot Tape Dot, the spaced-out housed of Mood4, Cathode and Spintronic, electronic dub of Dave Curle, IDM of The Matinee Orchestra and Dressed In Wires, and the feedback-dripping pop of d_rradio, Sweetness, Yes Please! is an exceptional album and will be a late entry on many ‘best albums of 2010’ lists, come the end of the year.

Favourite tracks include the glitch and dub ingredients of Phasmid’s remix of the wonderfully titled, We Still With Our Parents, the dreamy My Bloody Valentine-esque glitch of Tempelhof’s Love Drops, the squelchy space of Mood4’s In The Kitchen and the Jesus & Marychain inspired feedback and distortion-soaked candy pop remix of Give A Little Love by d_rradio.

As with the original studio album, Moira Stewart’s Sweetness, Yes Please! remix album will put a smile on your face and have you nodding your head and tapping your feet.  A perfect way to keep warm inside this winter.

Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart tracklisting:

1)    You Are The Kids (Keith Canisius Remix)
2)    Top Ten Drinks (Wroooaar! Remix)
3)    Love Drops (Tempelhof Remix)
4)    Sprinkle Glitter On My Heart (Ok Ikumi Remix)
5)    We Still Live With Our Parents (Phasmid Remix)
6)    In The Kitchen (Mood4 Remix)
7)    Give A Little Love (Orange Crush Remix)
8)    The Mr. Men Groove (Dot Tape Dot Remix)
9)    Intermission
10)    Sprinkle Glitter On Heart (Cathode Remix)
11)    You Are The Kids (Transient Remix)
12)    Stars Are Shiny (Spintronic Remix)
13)    In The Kitchen (The Matinee Orchestra Remix)
14)    We Still Live With Our Parents (Dave Curle’s Dub Remix)
15)    The Mr. Men Groove (Dressed In Wires Remix)
16)    Give A Little Love (d_rradio Chain Remix)

Sweetness, Yes Please! by Moira Stewart is released on Distraction Records.