Little things. You know what I mean, like a good cup of morning coffee on a rainy day where for once you don't have to stick your hands into overflowing eaves troughs for eight hours, or when you're on the bus and you notice the driver wave at another driver who you also happen to notice wave back, or if you're sifting through records at your local music shoppe and you stumble upon something that you've never seen or even heard of but just the sight of it hits you so hard in some deep down weirdo place that you might as well be holding the receipt for it. Yes, it's the little things. And about a month ago on a weekend trip to Seattle I found a record that I might as well have been holding a receipt for.
The record I picked out was by the Norwegian musician Erik K. Skodvin aka Svarte Greiner aka one half of textural soundscapers Deaf Center. Simply put... It's nice. A stunning high quality C-print photo glued to the cover, letter pressed insert, all within an over sized black box. There are three LPs in the series thus far put out by the enigmatic people at A Room Forever. A label that was "conceived as a physical manifestation of the "Roadside Picnic Radio Braodcast". More about that in a bit, if I get around to talking about it. Hard to say where the label is based out of. They seem to be favouring artists on the Type label so somewhere in the UK would be my educated guess. But anyway, back to the music at hand. Every ARF release is conceptually equivalent to it's predecessor featuring one side of composed music and one field recording side, a great way to encourage people to expand their listening boundaries. If reading this post is the first you've heard of the series then good luck tracking these down as each is limited to 300 copies (Try the distributors listed on the ARF site). The good news is that now you know about it and can jump on the next release. Or you can come over to my house and listen to them any time you want. Seriously, I'll even leave the door unlocked so you can waltz into my room and rummage through my belongings as you listen to my A Room Forever releases. That's just a small token of my appreciation for being interested in my blog. I appreciate you, I will do anything for you.
A. [The Music] 'Onkruid'
Joe and I are big Machinefabriek fans. The man behind the music is the Netherlands's Rutger Zuydervelt. Who's Joe you ask? Well, only the luckiest of you will ever know. Anyways, it turns out that this is not so much a collab as it is a split. Zuydervelt handles the music side and Matt Davies, who of which I know very little about except from what's on his myspace, handles the field work. The music side is very Machinefabriek indeed with Zuydervelt continuing to expand his delicate electronic palette. The guy is just really good at blurring, blending, and smearing subtle tonalities with clicks, pops and record crackle. He sticks more to the subtle drones for this release creating a slow decay of reverberated wave-like shimmer that seems to slowly build over the entire duration of the side until eventually fading away to an ethereal blanketing state of sleep that's too ominous to be a dream but too comforting to be a nightmare. I will forever hunt down your records Mr. Zuydervelt.
Reminds me of William Basinski's "Silent Night" and Looooong bus trips.
B. [The Field Recording] 'Sanctuary'
Man, If I never hear another field recording of birds again I will die a happy man. A little bitter perhaps sure, but why is it that people always choose to record birds? Is it because they have a pretty song and if they record it it's like they have recorded a remarkable score for an environmental film? or is it plainly because birds are everywhere? Yes, that's it, birds are everywhere outside, so if you record outside you will have bird sounds in your recording, case closed. Birds or no birds, this recording is what you might expect and isn't all that gripping. I do however like the fact that it sounds like it was recorded on a microcassette corder. Nice and lo-fi and warm. Captured somewhere between the city and suburbs, a place like Burnaby, perhaps.
Svarte Greiner "Til Seters" EVP-002
A. [The Music] 1.'Budeie Med Sigd' 2.'Kobbergruve, Endelig Jeg Fant'
Skodvin starts things off with a thick swelling drone that sounds not unlike a way tuned down ebowed E-string but played in a valley of the Grand Canyon with the mic a kilometer away recording every trance inducing moment*. He then expertly introduces subtle metallic scrapings that mingle and build atop one another meandering until a high pitched yet strangely subdued scree takes over. A brief silence then breaks way to an even deeper and more sublime swell, WOW, some of the best drifting, subtly pulsating drone I've ever heard. All sorts of other minor elements are interwoven but the swell is for the most part stripped down and simple and gorgeous. Perfect. Also sounds great played at 33.
*I have always found distant sounds very interesting. There is something about the way that the sounds blend into each other to create a pleasurable bliss. This record gives me the sense that Skodvin has a similar appreciation for distance.
B. [The Field Recording] 'Baandspiller I Solnedgang'
Oddly enough the majority of this side doesn't sound like a field recording at all but more like layers of record static and tape loops. I think that Skodvin's interpretation of the B side was that is would contain field recording "elements" where at about the halfway mark you can clearly make out a woman's voice. Sounds like an old TV show or Radio broadcast buried beneath the layers of clicks and pops and static drones. Really mesmerizing.
A. [The Music] 'Make Haste'
Now if this isn't the sound of an Ebowed guitar then I'm nuts. It does have more of an electronic feel however, so maybe I am nuts and he's actually using a synth to conjure up these remarkable sounds. And remarkable this is, but I guess you want to know about the man first. Holtkamp is from Brooklyn where him and his apestaartje collective/label now reside. He's one half of psych-folk-drone electricians Mountains and he'll be releasing his first proper full length under his own name on Type next month entitled 'Field Rituals'. Hopefully that album is a worthy follow up to this stunning work. Imagine if the key figures responsible for the synth drone niche gaining speed in Ohio right now collaborated with Fripp and Eno, and if they made a record that featured James Blackshaw aligning shopping carts and providing a short simple guitar part, then everyone went into the studio and seamlessly blended it all. That might sound very similar to this. Good? Good.
B. [The Field Recording] 'Free Birds'
No, 'Free Birds'? Not another one. Please no. The title is daunting, but it's not what I was expecting. This is dark, reverb soaked and absolutely awesome. At times the recording sounds like some fucked up New Blockaders jam, all sorts of rustlings and scrapings and at other times you can distinctly hear birds, but they're never calm, constantly squawking, so weird. You'd think Holtkamp was bathing them in sulphuric acid or something. Very well recorded, sounds like a cave or a warehouse or some place with a lot of space for the sound to bounce around in. A little while back I was trying to record an album entirely within the walls of a cement mixer. The project is on hiatus for now but I remember getting similar natural reverb effects. 'Free Birds' has convinced me to crawl back in there. An inspiring recording. And thus sums up the A Room Forever releases up to this point.
A Room Forever
Concept and Art Direction by Joshua Zucker
Photography by Kurt Mangum
A Room Forever
Roadside Picnic Radio Podcast
I said I would maybe talk about this a bit. Basically, it's a radio podcast that is based around themes rather than solely genre based. Joshua is the DJ and it's a pretty interesting concept. He plays some good material but some of the flow is lost on account of the genre hopping. I like it though, and have been listening to it. Please check it out. Digital streams. So here's where we eat the bread and wine and slowly walk towards the exit.