no spoilers.

“let’s go for coffee and pie, how ’bout that?” Here’s that vaguely black lodge-y mix of creepy/beautiful soundscapes and dictaphone field notes and so on from a short while back. Only now with a helpful tracklist, and you can download it by clicking the title there too if you like –

one day the sadness will end

O – Laura Palmer Theme
Kuedo – Under the Surface
Dalhous – Methods of Elan
Puce Mary – The Spiral
Casino Versus Japan – An Ocean Dark Along a Charcoal Line
CukoO – Woodpecker
D.A.R.F.D.H.S. – Fo¨rensligandet – Sva¨lta°ren
Susanna – This – Phenomena
odi me – Open
Banabila – Awake
Casino Versus Japan – Pink Laced Glaze
Shield Patterns – On Needing
Xiu Xiu – Into the Night
Harold Budd – The Room
Best Available Technology – No Tears in Her Eyes
The Caretaker – Into Each Others Eyes
Noveller – Lone Victory Tonight
Leyden Jars – The Fullness of Light
Deaf Center – Path to Lucy
Deep Listening Band – Rain Delay
Julee Cruise – The Nightingale

 

. . . and Finally (Supersonic video clips and such)

Supersonic Festival are throwing a little thank you party tonight down in Digbeth, putting this year’s hugely successful festival to bed with a few light refreshments and some dancing. After a year away not only did this year see a bigger, better, fuller programme than it has for the last few but the organisers Capsule have since succeeded in their application to the Arts council’s National Portfolio which essentially secures funding for the next four years. We’ll drink heavily to that. Up top here is a pretty good clip of the Oxbow Choir, partly obscured but sounding incredible – Niko Wenner himself has confirmed there are high quality recordings of this one off performance that may eventually see the light, so that’s something to look forward to. For contrast here also a clip of technology failing dismally to capture the full bore onslaught of Nic Bullen‘s ‘Universal Detention Centre’ performance. There wasn’t a lot to see to be fair although Bullen is mostly obscured by a pillar in the clip. You could even argue there wasn’t that much to hear either, cetainly that translates to phone clips through laptop speakers anyway, it was more a manifestion of sound as a suffocating physical presence. Although that makes it sound a lot less enjoyable than it was. John Matthews, the guy who made both of these videos, has a bunch more on his youtube channel, generally at the better quality end and including a lot of acts I missed on the weekend that I’m slowly catching up on, I suggest you do the same. As far as ‘Universal Detention Centre’ I’m not sure there’s any plan to do anything further with it, Bullen has said he’s retiring this type of performance for a while concentrating more on his gentler electro-acousmatic stuff (And I guess, caveman hate rock combo Rainbow Grave) so this may be your only chance to get an idea of it. Turn it up to 11 and press the speaker against your abdomen or something.

Possibly we can assuage that loss and the unfortunate cancellation due to injury of Art Of Burning Water with their own ‘All Obedient Beasts Worship’. Which takes the loosely similar approach of building a set of noise jams out of samples of their band recordings. It’s free to download and scare the neighbours with. As it’s AOBW there’s at least one great title, this time ‘Feed Me With Your Hiss’. They’ve not put out a lot of information about what happened at Supersonic but happily it seems Grief is now on the mend and although they’ve had to cancel the next few shows, that he’ll recover from his injuries and return to making a racket. Pint?

Oh, also, if you went and haven’t done their little survey about it then you should go do that, only take a few minutes, share your love and so on – click on the cute little sausage doggie here . . .

Bad Seed

Did you watch any of that Glastonbury there on your tellybox? As is our wont around here we were reminiscing about the last time we went, just four short years ago, and the last thing we saw there was Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ absolutely amazing set on the Sunday evening. Much has changed since then and as they head back out on tour you’re either in the “I’m not paying that much to see them play a sports barn” camp or the  “I really wish I hadn’t paid that much and they weren’t playing a sports barn” camp. Visions of watching a tiny little Nick in the far distance having paid £6 for shoddy beer sinking hearts across the board. Inevitably a fair amount of shaky clips have popped up from the current US dates. Mostly pretty poor sound and so on. Still, check this out – incredible quality, up close footage from the third row in Pittsburgh last month. There’s a few short clips throughout the show and three full length songs, both the image and sound quality is brilliant, Cave at several points singing pretty much straight into the camera. It might be pushing it to read too much into the clip but it’s hard not to think of that story he himself tells about watching Nina Simone’s performance transform her, he seems light, set free by the music. The band are predictably great, perhaps a little looser – there are a couple of slightly comic confusions – and Barry Adamson seems to have left his seat at the organ for Ed Balls to unexpectedly step in, in all honesty though it could just as easily be footage from four years ago . . .

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ‘MURKA!!

let’s revisit an old 4th July Panic & Carousels show here, bunch of American artists and their conflicting ideas about music and US culture and so on and so forth. Loads of great stuff included from harcore punk to modern classical via plain weirdness. fun for all the family on this special day. Does not feature Yo La Tengo doing ‘We’re An American Band’ or any God Bullies. Or Fugazi. hmmm. Might be time to think about doing another one some time. D/L by clicking the handsome pic there. No Unsane! No Whores . . . does have all this good stuff though ->

Negativland – Ramones – Culturcide – Sonic Youth – Hüsker Dü – Minor Threat – Butthole Surfers – Cheap Trick – Shellac – Arcwelder – Guided by Voices – Live Skull – Oozing Wound – Pain Teens – The Melvins – Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 – Love Cup – Pissed Jeans – Guerilla Toss – Crash Course in Science – Negativland – Trans Am – Oneohtrix Point Never – Drexciya – Dan Friel – Dan Deacon – Steve Reich – John Cage – Sonic Youth – Earth – The Body – Swans – Prurient – Moondog – Tuxedomoon

Expressway To Woven Skull

Agfa Vista 200 - Mar 2017 - IMG_0023 - Columodwyer©

l-r: Willie, Natalia, Aonghus. Image by Colum O’Dwyer

 

This is the full version of an interview with Natalia Beylis from Woven Skull, conducted by email ahead of their Gateshead show in July.  I first saw Woven Skull at Supersonic Festival in 2015 and they were a highlight in a weekend full of them, leaving me stunned and mumbling to anyone who’d listen about ‘if Godspeed were a folk band’ (not an accurate description, as we’ll see later). Since then, they’ve become regulars at all the right festivals, never failing to utterly captivate the audience, and released a barrage of essential releases through various sources. I must have seen them ten times in the intervening years and drunk with them a few times too. I kicked off the interview with Natalia by asking her to tell me a little about the band’s origins. 

So firstly, can you tell me a bit about how Woven Skull came together. I know you and Willie met in the States, but how did a Ukrainian lass end up living in the middle of Ireland?

Soon after I was born my parents decided to hit the high road. We snaked through Europe, spent a few months living outside of Rome and eventually ended up in Baltimore which is where all of my memories begin. There must be a roamer’s strand on my DNA because I could never fully stay put. I met Willie [Stewart, drum and percussion] when I was living in Pittsburgh and he was on tour with his old band Bambi. A few months later, I followed him back to his hometown of Dublin. As the officer at Dublin Airport Passport Control said to me the other day “Whatever possessed you to shack up with an Irishman?” I have no real answer. Maybe he dosed me with a spell? Eventually we moved into a big warehouse space in the city. It attracted all sorts of everyone. Aonghus [McEvoy, guitar] lived with his parents up the road and used to come over with two of his friends nearly every day. They didn’t drink at the time and would just silently sit there on the couch. Sometimes they would play hackeysack. There’s a lot that drew the three of us together musically. We were all always at punk gigs. We all like Crass. We all like Smegma. Once Aonghus left the dry life behind we all found we had a common love of partying as well. Eventually the guy who owned the warehouse realized Willie and I were living there and it wasn’t just the artist studios we’d claimed it to be. We’d got so used to somewhere cheap with plenty of space that it was hard to adjust back to a cramped expensive city house. So we headed out to where there was no one to bother with all our noisemakings.”

Was there a set idea of what the band was going to be or was it much more informal than that?

The beginnings of what morphed into Woven Skull were sparse, with me writing monophonic tunes on a little bowlback mandolin, leaving expanses of space for whatever would eventually come to fill itself in. My friend Ivan Pawle was the first one I tried playing these lines of music with: Ivan on hurdy-gurdy and Willie accentuating the most skeletal of all rhythms on a frame drum. Ivan was soon called away to dig up bones so we brought Aonghus into the fold and that’s when the spaces began to swell. We were in no hurry to cement the sound of the band. We still aren’t. I reckon it will keep morphing alongside us as we go. The only thing that remains constant is that there are us three at the core. Beyond that we’re always getting stirred from playing and recording with a bunch of inspiring musicians.

Woven Skull

There’s quite a contrast between Woven Skull live and many of the releases. I believe the idea with Lair Of The Glowing Bantling was to capture something like the live incarnation (or as it was at that time) but there’s a lot more field recordings, abstract collisions, concrète elements, soundscapes and things with the tapes. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Since Willie and I live about two hours from Aonghus, we rarely have short band practices, preferring instead to get together over a few days. This gives us plenty of time to create sounds outside of those we set aside for our live gigs. We’ve played together for so long that I feel completely at ease trying any ideas out with Willie and Aonghus. Sometimes they look at me like I’ve grown arms out of my eyeballs but I never feel judged and without that rush of having a restricted time in a practice room, we can give any notion a try. Thankfully though, there’s enough honesty between us to admit when it’s going woefully wrong. When it’s going right, we record it. Our practice room is awash in noise making possibilities: bundles of seashells, a pump organ, disintegrating kids toys. They get added in, and a lot of what we end up with is delicate and abstract or calls for the kind of listening atmosphere that we aren’t trying to create with our live set. Live, I just wanna swaddle the space with everything we can push at it. The Bantling LP is the first one that we recorded with an engineer in a studio and it was an attempt to capture the songs and atmosphere of our stage performance. I think we nearly got there though it’s still got a delicacy over our live sound. Our other recordings give more of an insight into the space in which our sounds are created, into the sounds that are going on around us while we’re recording and into snippets of our writing process.

Thinking about the live band again, you’ve had various comparisons (including from me) of being like an acoustic / folk take on Velvet Underground or even Godspeed You! Black Emperor, that same sustained intensity. Do you think of the band as being at least partly rooted in folk, and what else comes into play in terms of the sound? You’re all clearly immersed in a wealth of experimental and esoteric music.

For me two things come to mind when I hear the term ‘folk music’; the first is the traditional music of a specific group of people from a specific place and the second is the music that’s evolved from the Irish, US & UK folk traditions. We fit neither of those definitions. Someone did once describe us as creating self-imagined folk music. I kinda like that idea; that we’ve invented our own country and written the traditional music for it. But we are not a folk band and we are not rooted in folk. People who come to us with that expectation with inevitably be in for an unexpected surprise; pleasant or disappointing. We’ve never played acoustically live. Even though I play an acoustic mandola and various members join us on violas, violins and cellos, everyone is amped up, often running through pedals and FXs. There’s a lot of pushing the limitations of what is conventionally done with the instruments and how loud and nasty acoustic instruments can go in a live setting.

 

Tell me a little bit about the scene / community at home – I know you’re fairly near David Colohan [Raising Holy Sparks / United Bible Studies] for example, but I have this mental image of a busy scene of drunken improvising and collaboration?

Willie and I live in the least populated county in Ireland. It’s generally very, very quiet and I often find myself communicating with the sounds of four legged & winged creatures more so than two legged ones. David is our closest musical pal living about 45 minutes away. The elusive Fuzzy Hell is about an hour away. In terms of musicians I collaborate with, those are the only ones around. There is however a fine group of general creative misfits (architects, poets, woodturners) that regularly come out to gigs at our house. Plus tons of visitors pass through. People are always up for getting out of the city to wreck some sound havoc for the weekend. That’s often when the drunken improvisation kicks in.

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David Colohan

There’s a sense of the importance of place – and time – that comes through really strongly in your music both in Woven Skull and your own work [Natalia has recorded in various incarnations, often for her own Sofia label], of things being in the moment and the location being part of the experience. Can you tell me something about that?

I had a little black cat named Pussolini (Puss Puss) (RIP). He was always trying to get something across through his ceaseless meowing. It got to the point where I wouldn’t really notice it in the present. But I’d be editing back through recordings and there’d be the Puss Puss meow: at the end of a Woven Skull track, in the midst of a field recording of the gurgling of the bathtub sink, providing vocal accompaniment to piano tracks. I like when the place sneaks itself into recordings. Audibly sterile environments make me antsy.

 

Whilst I know you’re all a bunch of drunkards and tearaways, and I’m including David in this, there’s nonetheless a vibe I get around you that I would hesitate to refer to in terms of spirituality or anything – I have no idea if any of you have any religious impulse, although Aonghus probably has a GG Allin shrine – but there is something that feels ‘other’ in some way. Maybe it’s just coming across a group of people who are working towards something so creative and powerful, I dunno. I now realise it would have been better to ask this question over a bottle of rum at Supersonic than by email but fuck it. Do you have ANY sense of what I’m getting at?!

This question made me realise that I don’t personally have a working definition of spirituality so I asked Willie how he would define it:

“Being able to put yourself in a atmosphere or headspace where you feel comfortable, confident and at ease. That could be falling into a trance while listening to music or walking through the woods.”

Through his definition, I can safely say that David spends a lot of time in the woods and Willie spends a lot of time walking the boreens around our house. Maybe that’s how they find this sense of ease?

I was at a Sufi gig recently and there was one Sufi fellow that was doing a particular dance, he was rocking back and forth and had one finger pointed up to the sky rhythmically ticking along to the beat. I realized it was, to a tee, the same dance a friend of mine used to do at punk gigs years back. There were two other Sufi lads grooving along in a way that were you to pull them out of the audience and drop them into the middle of a Sleep gig and they would have looked right at home. Would they have even noticed? It got me thinking of that film Rock My Religion by Dan Graham which intersplices footage of people dancing at 80s hardcore gigs with Shakers ecstatic trance dancing. Hmmm……where am I going with all this?… it’s all the one I guess. Whatever gets you to that place of ease without imposing yourself upon others along the way.

But you know, No Gods No Masters at the end of the day.

I know you and Willie have a BIG thing for Moroccan / North African music: how did that come about, what is it about that music that grabs you and do you think it feeds into the band? 

Every time Willie and I visit Morocco there’s just always live music everywhere: in the squares, floating above the rooftops, creeping down the alleyways. We both initially got into Moroccan music through listening to the Master Musicians of Joujouka and it’s their sound that drew us to travel there. It’s a different experience to listen to music in the place where it is written. When we got to Morocco we were inundated with Berber, Gnoua, Sufi & Chaabi music. Tapes are super cheap down there so it was easy to start coming home with recordings from all across Morocco and North Africa and slowly sorting through the sounds back at home. With Willie being a drummer I guess there’s that draw for him to North and West African rhythms. But we’re both into music from all over the lands. Eventually we’ll start making our way down and across to other places too. [Willie has a fanzine looking at his love for Moroccan music available here]

We don’t consciously feed anything into the music we write. But all the sounds I’m hearing must be mixing in their somewhere. That’s just the way it works.

N & W

Natalia & Willie DJing at Supersonic Festival 2017

 

Back to a more mundane question: you’re touring England in July, are you doing it all with $un $keletons or just Gateshead? And do you have a release / releases coming out to accompany it? If so, what?

We’re doing four shows with $un $keletons: Gateshead, Middlesbrough, Todmorden plus we’re doing an afternoon generator gig about 15 minutes south of Gateshead. It’s in a very secret location. Can you guess where it is?! There will be more info closer to the time on all the usual channels.

Woven Skull have two releases coming out for this tour. A 10-inch on Lancashire & Somerset Records which is us playing with Jorge Boehringer and Eleanor Cully. It’s noisy and free form and we let Willie use a full drum kit for it. We’ve also got a tape coming out on Cruel Nature (His Cattle Are Pets And He Goes With The Moon) which has a photo of me, my brother and my granny on the cover. It’s a more delicate and possibly more formidable release.

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The other new thing we’ll have with us on this tour is a viola player named Ailbhe! This is very exciting. She’s a shredder. Get ready.

And what next, after the tour? Any other releases or big plans we should know about?

We’re at the final mixes of a new LP. So after tour we’ll be looking for a label to take that on and we’ll be planning some big tours around it’s release. Also we’ve got a split 7 inch coming out on God Unknown Records this autumn. It’s got Thor & Friends on the other side. Plus we’re all always working away on material from solo stuff and our other bands and there’s some of that stuff coming out soon.
Thanks, Natalia

Natalia

Natalia being a minstrel at Sin Eater Festival 2016

Woven Skull play Gateshead Old Police House on July 21st alongside $un $keletons, Wreaths and Luna Del Cazador

https://wovenskull.bandcamp.com/

 

 

Compositions For The Young & Old : Supersonic Sunday

“Supersonic, are you ready to Rock?” Yes bab, yes we are. The atmosphere in Boxxed for today’s first set is pretty electric. Local youngsters HAQ123 are playing their first gig to a pretty full and expectant room. They’re so young two of the band are still at primary school. People have brought their own youngsters down to the show and Supersonic’s generally warm sense of communality has tweaked up a notch or two. They’ve an elderly bass player as well but it’s clearly a classic case of ‘in the band ‘cos they’ve got a van’. They’re brilliant. ‘Sabbath super charged on haribo’ is a fair enough description of their feisty punk doom. The faintest glimmers of any stage fright are soon banished by some foot on the monitors, pointing into the crowd, rock ‘n’ roll shape throwing. Their confidence can only grow and what we might see them bring to this stage in years to come is anyone’s guess but for now they’re huge fun and, as I’m told the youngsters say, they smashed it.

Later on The Space Lady, who is older than all of HAQ123 put together, will also charm us with all the warm feels over in The Crossing. Essentially a drug battered old cosmic hippy with an equally aged and charming casio keyboard wheezes through a selection of covers and a few originals. On paper it has ‘kitsch fun’ and ‘outsider art’ scribbled in all the margins but that’s to underplay the sweetness of her voice and miss her personal warmth on stage. By about midway through only the most embittered cynic would not have wanted to hug her or adopt her as their mom/grandma. ‘Born To Be Wild’ and “psychedelic cowboy song” ‘Ghostriders In The Sky’ are the highlights for me. At one point she even sets aside her keyboard picks up a guitar and leads us through a sing along about healing the earth. So throughly won over is the crowd that we do it. It’s like a magic trick, the song deals in the most naive and simplistic of hippy eco platitudes and yet she sings it with such openhearted sincerity, so free of the usual earnest, preachy tone that comes with that stuff that you have to go along with her. Everyone’s having such a great time that we let her do another song and she goes and spoils everything by doing ‘Imagine’. “Damn it Grandma, take yer medicine!”

Still buzzin’ from my haribo-HAQ-high I make it into the shed to see what grampa’s been building in there. Pierre Bastien creates his own amazing mechanical musical machines and teases some unique sounds out of them. The pairing with Tomaga is a genius one because the results are often not that far from their own explorations. It’s a gently captiviating set. For all that they’re machines he gets some remarkably organic sounds from them. The general feel is of a soundtrack to a lost Oliver Postgate series, maybe an aborted spin off show for The Clangers’ Iron Chicken. Lovely stuff.

The market place has a small stage tucked in the corner and flanked by shimmering cabaret curtains. It’s an oddly ineffectual performance space, a transient audience using the tea room, mooching the merch stalls or heading past to elsewhere but it hosts DJ sets and talks and such over the weekend if you grab a table near enough to pay attention. we’re gathered around debating whether it’s too soon to start drinking and listening to The Sunken Hum Tape Splice, which is Natalia of Woven Skull mixing four tape decks of found sounds and field recordings. It’s a multi-coloured ambient patchwork, there’s sounds of nature, a gloriously feisty american evangelist and a sweetly burbling child that turns out to be Natalia herself. It could do with being a bit louder but then, as the name insists, it works beautifully as an always changing, surprising, background of sunken hum. As I cave to the call of the bar I catch Mohammad finishing one monolithic slab of drone and leaning into another. En route to my frosty refreshment I pass a patron remarking “If they were playing anywhere but here they’d get fucking bottled”. He may have a point. I do love a bit of drone but, perhaps aware of the lack of onstage drama in their performance, they’ve taken to wearing cowls and wizard hats that seem to undercut rather than underline the weight of their sound. It’s like a poundshop Sunn O))). I’m also curious as to how the name has failed to cause them any grief yet. Essentially though Mohammad is not for arms folded, back of the room, ‘impress me then’ types or dilettantes popping to the bar, it requires commitment. Get in there and get lost in that giant sound or don’t. There’ll be no hooks to pull you in.

To be honest Snapped Ankles are wearing even more ridiculous stage outfits, although happily not quite as much as last time I saw them, when it was even hotter and I feared they would collapse from the heat at any moment. By rights their ‘Jack In The Green makes pulsing electro out of logs and moss’ stick-schtick should make me really want to throw bricks at them for being useless hipster twats but their music’s not bad. On today’s evidence it’s not captivatingly great either though, so let’s call it a score draw.

Casual Nun are a strikingly hirsute, double drummer powered, heavy psych-punk beast of a band. They’ve only been around two or three years but they’re really getting into their stride now. They claim inspiration from the hairier, freakier end of krautrock and similarly wild Japanese sonic warriors but the double drum churn still makes me think of The Butthole Surfers. Not the pantomime clowning and parody songs but the deranged heavy psych freak outs of stuff like ‘Jimi’. Since I saw them last summer they’ve put out a couple of records and obviously spent time honing and sharpening their sonic weapons because they are SO much better now, and they were pretty good then. About a third of the way into the set they shift up a couple of gears and from there on in it’s just immense. They’re a highlight in a festival of highlights and leave having secured themselves a raft of new fans.

Which sadly you can’t say for Princess Nokia. Beforehand excitement is tempered by a worry that hip hop artists have, well, a bit of a history of taking a half assed approach to live performance. With heart sinking, head shaking recognition we realise this turns out to be the case. She hasn’t brought a DJ, a local one is doing her best with no rehearsal playing Nokia’s recordings for her to rap over. Not working with backing tracks or loops, just straight up playing the records vocals and all. It gives weird sibilance on the S sounds and Nokia a chance to drop out on some lines although she’s bang on it, to be fair. The flipside of that is there’s no room to stretch, move or freestyle anything when you’re constantly hitting the same flow as the record. Karaoke has more room for expression. Princess has other ways to express herself though. ‘Tomboy’ is fierce and we’re collectively shrugging and rolling with it but a couple of tunes in she decides that what the programme calls an ” ambitious artist who creates a universal language that will talk to all kinds of people” is not so keen on the age range and ethnicity of the crowd she can see from the stage, that we don’t know what she’s talking about. A little hissy fit sours the mood and pointlessly gives away all her power as a performer. It’s possible she’s feeling as tired as we are, she picks a fight with the DJ, she doesn’t want to be here. Those among the crowd who stick with her try to warm the mood as things wear on but Nokia eventually leaves mid song and someone has to come on and let the DJ know she won’t be back.

Back in the big room with the grown ups Oxbow have found a way for noise rock to age gracefully. It’s no small achievement. For tonight’s show they have pulled together a local choir, with conductor, who range across the back of the stage as Eugene prowls its lip shedding his dapper outfit and rolling his shoulders. Ten years in the making ‘Thin Black Duke’ sees them add classical nods, strings, piano and allsorts to their dense, literary rock swagger. You can almost feel the dread hand of prog itching to get in but they’ve shut its fingers firmly in the door. There is no indulgent bloat, the songs are taut and keenly crafted, and the choir is beautifully integrated into the music making it all the more effective. It’s a masterful performance, not a note out of place but still living and breathing and dynamic. All this and fronted by the most authoritative, take no prisoners stage presence of the weekend. Seriously, you wouldn’t mess would you? Even some of the choir look astonished/nervous to see him in full flight. Incredible end to another incredible Supersonic weekend. Let’s not leave it so long this time.