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Howlround: The Ghosts Of Bush

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(Introduction): Navel-Gazers #51 is an interview with Robin The Fog a.k.a. Howlround who is going to talk to us about The Ghosts Of Bush . Perhaps the definitive work of audio “hauntology”, it’s an album whose existence seems to have emerged like a great lumbering apparition out of the day-to-day - or let’s say night-to-night - working life of its creator, who was on the graveyard shift as a studio manager for the BBC World Service in the waning hours of its 70-year tenancy at Bush House in Aldwych in 2012. Rendered onto tape using Bush House’s disused reel-to-reels in the mysterious basement studio S6, all the source sounds here - a rich tapestry of spectral crackles, murmurs and creaks - were derived from the building itself, a cavernous old structure built from naturally resonant Portland Stone way back in 1935, a time when the BBC itself was only in its infancy. We’re having this discussion behind the scenes at the British Library where Robin more recently worked as an

Ellen Zweig: Fiction Of The Physical

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Navel-Gazers #50 is an interview with Ellen Zweig who is going to talk to us about Fiction Of The Physical . This collection of experimental spoken word from the 1970s/80s era caught me completely off-guard when I was poking around on the always-intriguing Phantom Limb label. What strikes me immediately about these pieces is their clarity: the clarity of the voices, the arrangements, the textures - and, throughout it all - an indelible clarity of purpose on the part of the artist which is really unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. Perusing the liner notes, the plot thickens: apparently we’re hearing a technique which Ellen calls the “human loop”, where performers repeat a phrase over and over onto tape, culminating in a collage of voice-loops which veers off into a life of its own. As for the instrumentation, it's described using terms such as “fourth world” and “fourth wall” - all I know is by the fourth track it’s as though I’m submerged in some sort of underwat

Blanc Sceol: Follow With Your Ears

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Navel-Gazers #49 is an interview with Blanc Sceol who are going to talk to us about Follow With Your Ears . Although I’ve known Blanc Sceol - a.k.a. London neighbours Stephen Shiell and Hannah White - for a few years and enjoyed exposure to their work in the form of numerous recordings, compositions, performances, gatherings, happenings and goings-on, this latest release ‘Follow With Your Ears’ plays like a formal introduction to the duo. It’s surely the right moment to spin up a good old-fashioned, meandering Navel-Gazers, if only to do justice to that title which is as clear an invocation as we’re ever going to get. I’m more focused than usual when listening to these sounds, with the audio contents of the first track Buzz Hum so utterly arresting and bizarre that I find myself genuinely unprepared for a sudden change of scenery on track 2 , to more earthly environs. It’s a startling effect and one which is really only achievable on a recorded album, which is why I’m gra

What's Outside? - Adventures in "Feeled" Recording

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What do the following passages from Navel-Gazers all have in common? “There is a recording on the track Rooftop Gardens from the Sheraton hotel in Anchorage, in which I enter the revolving doors from the street, move through the lobby and up to the top floor with a rattling elevator. This upward movement sets a narrative in motion, entering a fictive garden with all its greenhouse technology sounding. It finally ends in a sense of elevating or evaporating into a dense cloud. When I made the record I was interested in this kind of associative narrative, that's really based on the sounds themselves, but becomes a poetic event.”  - Marja Ahti, Navel-Gazers #38 “One of the things I fell into the habit of doing during this time was making audio recordings of myself at work around the home: the sounds of the camera and of myself shuffling around and setting up different situations - sometimes there would be music on in the background, or sometimes not.”   - Graham Lambkin, Nave

Ale Hop: The Life Of Insects

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Navel-Gazers #48 is an interview with Ale Hop who is going to talk to us about The Life Of Insects . Released on the experimental Peruvian Buh label in 2020, it’s an album which grabbed my attention the moment I encountered the title, before I’d heard any of the music - after all, what would this sound like? Would it be interpretive, scientific? Would it entail some kind of storytelling, or observation, the magnification of tiny insect sounds? As it turns out, the magic of this music lurks in an imaginative interior world which seems to link the production itself - a collection of wordless, mainly electronic material - to the very much organic subject at hand. I keep peeking over at the titles while playing ‘The Life Of Insects’, and I’m reminded of a conversation in the early days of Navel-Gazers - in that same year 2020, come to think of it - about titles which serve as a “punchline” to the sounds. Well someone’s spinning yarn here… I don’t know if it’s the crickets or

Matmos: The West

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Introduction: Navel-Gazers #47 is an interview with Drew Daniel and Martin “MC” Schmidt aka Matmos who are going to talk to us about The West . This is one of those records which - even if you haven’t read the explanation of how it was created back in 1998, from Drew’s retrospective liner notes - sounds as though it must have a backstory or two. What I’ve always found special about Matmos is that like many electronic artists, they’re best known for activities such as sampling, clipping, processing and composing, rather than instrumental performance of any kind… and yet with these guys, the source material seems always to be either something they created themselves, or something tethered in some way - often a thoughtful way - to their own personal surroundings. And ‘The West’, in soliciting the participation of additional players, is a work that could be said to have externalised many of the techniques the duo had previously been using. I guess that’s the thread which keep

Mnemonists: Gyromancy

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Navel-Gazers #46 is an interview with William Sharp and Mark Derbyshire of Mnemonists who are going to talk to us about Gyromancy . Produced in Colorado in 1983, this is one of the most unusual recordings I’ve ever heard: a 40-minute, 40-year-old, towering, imposing accumulation of musique concrète which unfolds to this day like a living sculpture of sound before ones ears. I’ve always thought of the Mnemonists’ work - along with that of Mnemonists’ more prolific musical cousin Biota - as something like its very own species of sound… and there’s an explanation for that. These productions, culminating in ‘Gyromancy’, were ones which evolved organically from the use of radical and complex recording and processing techniques - ones virtually unheard of at the time of their release, and in fact perhaps even less familiar to us denizens of today’s more homogenised technological universe. I’ve been in contact with Mr. Sharp for the past 24 months and I sense a real determinatio