Posts

Welcome to Navel-Gazers...

Kei Watanabe: Whisperings

Image
Navel-Gazers #31 is an interview with Kei Watanabe who is going to talk to us about Whisperings . I’ve had this recent release - from the prolific Syrphe label - on constant rotation here at my flat. I tend to listen to it through speakers, rather than headphones as it seems to play nicely with the ambience of the room and the urban clatter drifting in from the backyard, almost like a friendly ghost just puttering around the place. In fact Kei’s music is described as “ghostly”… stylistically, it’s experimental for sure, singular and unique, and yet there is something… familiar about this music I can’t put my finger on. It’s like accessing a memory… almost like that feeling you get when you remember a dream you’d forgotten all about, and then suddenly it all floods in... the sounds here, which include tape machines, loop pedals, voice, various bells and other found objects and instruments, are familiar enough as well but on “Whisperings” I seem to rediscover their proper

@: Phantom Isle

Image
Navel-Gazers #31 is an interview with Ashley Tini aka “@“ who is going to talk to us about Phantom Isle . This is a real left-field production from an artist I have known personally for many years. She’s a mainstay on the scene in Philadelphia where she’s been involved in seemingly countless projects as a composer, performer and recording artist… she’s an accomplished marimbist (which is actually in evidence on ‘Phantom Isle’) and yet I’m no longer surprised to find her turning up in completely different contexts: drumming for a punk band, playing guitar under an alter-ego as an Appalachian folk-singer, or in fact producing this quaint little album. Enigmatic as this music is to me and dissimilar as it seems to those other projects, ‘Phantom Isle’ bears the usual hallmarks of Ashley’s aesthetic, and her personality: the spontaneity, the outrageous humour, the marimba of course, the resistance to all forms of pretence and grandiosity and also a spirit of homage to somewhat

Graham Lambkin: Salmon Run

Image
Navel-Gazers #30 is an interview with Graham Lambkin who is going to talk to us about Salmon Run . In the 15 years since this album was produced I seem to detect its influence - perhaps subliminally or indirectly - in so much of what people have been doing with sound recording nowadays. The way it provides a glimpse into the domestic life of the artist.. the way it blurs the boundaries between original and borrowed materials.. the way it seems to double down on its own technological imperfections.. and above all its persistent but understated celebration of the banal and the everyday as an object of concern. Maybe you could say it’s no longer the only record of its kind, but every time I listen to ‘Salmon Run’ it’s like uncovering some rare artefact of significance, almost like record collecting was in the days before the internet, when only a handful of intrepid listeners would have shared an esoteric awareness of such music. As for Graham - who was part of The Shadow Ri

Thomas Dimuzio: Headlock

Image
Navel-Gazers #29 is an interview with Thomas Dimuzio who is going to talk to us about Headlock . Mr Dimuzio is an artist whose name is synonymous to me with secret underground music and the outer limits of sound. This album, released on the Generations Unlimited label in the waning hours of the 1980s, is his earliest - at least as far as I’ve ever been able to tell, maybe we’ll learn otherwise? - and it’s a work which has loomed large in my thoughts ever since learning about it at an independent record store in Philadelphia where I was working in the early 2000s. What I love about ‘Headlock’ is that while it’s dark and ambient and it’s got all the murky, grim atmosphere of that sort of music, it’s never - even remotely - monotonous or repetitious.. the palette of sounds and the complexity of the soundscape are just staggering. These days I’m having fun reading through the list of sample sources provided on Bandcamp for ‘Headlock’ - it ranges from instruments like clarine

Freida Abtan: subtle movements

Image
Navel-Gazers #28 is an interview with Freida Abtan who is going to talk to us about subtle movements . Dr Abtan is not only a recording artist, she's a verifiable multimedia renaissance woman - her page at Goldsmiths, where she lectured for much of the 2010s, listed dozens of audiovisual exhibitions and installations, soundtracks for art pieces and short films, and solo and group performances from the past 20 years. 'subtle movements', to me is something like an audiovisual work - if you shut the lights and listen through your best headphones perhaps you'll see what I mean... are those visions? Hallucinations? The machinations of this album are certainly subtle but the effect is powerful. What's going on here? How does this work? Let's ask Freida!

Fangyi Liu: Koujie Koujie

Image
Navel-Gazers #27 is an interview with Fangyi Liu who is going to talk to us about Koujie Koujie . Every once in a while I encounter an artist who is totally unique and distinctive, and yet if I were to explain why that is, it's hard to say. The most obvious characteristic is Fangyi's voice: it's at the center of this music - in fact it's not always clear which sounds are vocal and which ones aren't, so that the whole production comes across as something of a "speech-scape" even though there are other sounds in the mix. And there's a certain textural quality to the recording as well - it often sounds analog rather than digital. I'm guessing it's a mix of both. But the real mark of distinction when it comes to 'Koujie Koujie', along with Fangyi's other work, is what another listener described to me as "undefinable" - it's some sort of energy , as though the sounds we're hearing on this record, the artist

NUM: False Awakening

Image
Navel-Gazers #26 is an interview with Milad Bagheri and Maryam Sirvan a.k.a. NUM who are going to talk to me about False Awakening . NUM - currently based in Calgary, Alberta - were formed originally in the remote city of Rasht in northern Iran. Really, both of those locations strike me as pretty mysterious! and the same could be said of ‘False Awakening’… I’ve got to say I’ve never heard anything quite like this album. Superficially speaking there’s nothing too unusual here - it’s two tracks long, soundscapes, around 15 minutes each… there’s a certain mix of electronics, instrumentation and voices which is familiar enough in the world of experimental music.. yet there’s something about the mood and intensity of this stuff which really gets under my skin. ‘False Awakening’ is something else. I’ve rarely encountered a recording so… harrowing, so imposing, unsettling… and I keep coming back for repeated listens to partake in the NUM mystery and venture back into the abyss. Of cours