New Zealand born and Melbourne based, Tim Coster’s quiet instrumentals have appeared on labels ranging Albert’s Basement and his own Fictitious Sighs operation, but A Moment’s Ornament marks his first appearance on Room40. A free-to-download, digital only release, A Moment’s Ornament comprises 20 miniatures for modular synthesiser. The tracks are discrete investigations of the space between notes: glimpses of an instrument freed from the functional and allowed to emit in its own barely mediated fashion.
In this way A Moment’s Ornament feels similar in concept to Benge’s 20 Systems project from 2008, which saw the UK musician present brief and forthright textures as a means to illustrate the unpredictable and alien core of synthetic instruments. Whatever Coster’s actual goal here (or lack thereof) these sounds are beautiful. Get it here.
Contained here are six reviews: five tapes and one 10 inch lathe-cut vinyl. Scum Mecca is the name of the column, an irregular feature on Crawlspace’s schedule. Cooper Bowman writes it. This month the column covers Tim Coster, FFEHRO, Mu, Mermaids, Oranj Punjabi, Pho Band/Faux Band and Sky Needle. We’ve provided audio samples where possible, but most of the time it wasn’t possible. Sorry.
After a string of solo releases on his own Fictitious Sighs imprint, as well as numerous collabs both on FS and other labels, Ocean Liner continues the understated minimalism of New Zealand transplant Tim Coster’s previous work. The title track drifts along in a pleasantly amnesiatic state that will appeal to those with an ear attuned to the likes of Schulze’s or Shnitzler’s more subdued pieces. Here Coster deals in restrained synthesised modulations, effectively complimented with subtle keyboard tones before abruptly ending mid-drift. The second track, ‘Two Adjacent Pavilions’, comprises minimal guitar sounds, murky tape hiss and occasional bleeps, making a slightly less engaging, if decisively incongruent departure from the a-side.
FFEHRO, shorthand for Forks For Eyes Head Orchestra. The first movement is an excessively fried, too-long-in-the-sun style hallucination. Things quickly degenerate from here. In-between clatter and radio abounds. Cutlery as percussion, record warp as music, flickering melody as intoxicant. Psychedelic industrial noise. Must be heard to be seen. Really, what would you expect from Toowoomba.
Mu is a recently anointed duo comprised of Mickey (Mad Nanna, Silk Ears) and Hugh (Nun, Constant Mongrel). Rather than the more rock-based moves of their other ventures, Mu sees them both finding zen in the outer reaches of noise. Following a quick succession of untitled releases, this short affair (same track on both sides) follows a similar trajectory of experiments in pure microphone feedback, vocals and electronics. The piece begins as a steady, warped bass loop with feedback shrieks prodding in and out, before building steam and becoming fully immersive with the introduction of a Casio beat and garbled vocals. Reminds me of some of the more zoned-out aspects of the Shadow Ring combined with the production value of SPK’s Live At The Crypt. Gripping stuff.
Mermaids – Love From The Vegetable Kingdom CS (Grog Pappy)
New tape on what is easily one of the best tape labels in the cuntry. One part Cock Safari, other part Polyfox, Mermaids is a project usually reserved for cheap laughs and cheaper sounds emitted via a range of toys and abused Nintendo applications. Love From The Vegetable Kingdom sees the Mermaids paired up with Nylstoch (Unaustralians, Venting Gallery) on a rare Melbourne sojourn earlier in the year. Although elements of their toys creep underneath at times (definitely could pick an annoying siren I’ve heard used at least once before), Nylstoch’s hysterical overdriven geet and presumed later drumming mutates the Mermaids into a much more threatening beast. The animal lurches, stumbles and crashes into a heap of low-end blow-out and cymbal collapse. Grog Pappy provides what is probably the greatest insight into Newcastle you are likely to get, outside of getting your head kicked in outside The Kent. This tape’s covers are printed on paper found in one of the many derelict buildings in the Newcastle “CBD” (I use the term very loosely) before it was demolished. My copy has a list of many of Newcastle’s suburbs in its background, and I probably have a fucked story associated with every one of them. There is no love in this vegetable patch.
This is the second release for a newly formed label from Newcastle called Mazurka Editions. The imprint operates on miniscule runs (this specific tape is limited to 30) and possesses a distinct focus on the artwork which adorns them. Oranj Punjabi has roots in musique concrete due to her approach being predominantly tape-based, but otherwise there is little else I can think of to compare her to. The first of the two tracks here, ‘Permanent Vertigo’, begins with noises akin to tape being chewed outta the deck and straight down the plughole. You ever hear of that chinstroking wankfest called Liquid Architecture? This is liquid deconstruction. Really, I have no idea what source material is being used here, but it sounds like OP has somehow converted magnetic tape into a watery form and is playing with it like a small child. If Drexciya made noise instead of techno, these are the kinda submerged sounds they’d create. The flip, ‘Zero Degrees of Psychic Life’, is a journey through an uncharted locale. There are bumps and ridges along its topography, creating a thoroughly disorienting sensation. Resonance is repeatedly slowed and stopped. Occasionally the reverberations hint at rhythms, but mostly they are gradually fed through and allowed to exhale freely. The results are an astral trance of which the endpoint is (thankfully) nowhere in sight.
Pho Band / Faux Band – Barry O Cup Day / The Door 10” lathe (Greatdividing)
Greatdividing is one of the most essential features of the Australian musical landscape. There are few who appear to be appreciative of it’s rough and rewarding terrain, but those who do know the geography better than most. The two bands here are one band. Both are comprised of Exiles From Clowntown alumni, arob and sootieb. The two loose, side-spanning manifestations on offer bear much in resemblance to the disjointed and purely engaging slop-rock of the Exiles. It’s impossible to tell which is the “a-side” due to both being littered with several, seemingly unrelated numbers and sigils. In fact, the record appears to be a testament to irritation par excellence; it is a detested size (10”) assembled out of unpopular materials (polycarbonate), featuring bands that do not exist, playing music that moves an inch. But what an inch it is! I’ll go with the Pho Band first; drum and guitar walk around the room uncomfortably, run into each other, shake hands and make nice before leaving for the pub. Repetition is the key here. Two old blokes in a room, the sound of encroaching senility (or refinement). Drunk, abject, confused, where else to go but down? It’s ok, I can say that without fear of too much reprisal, arob used to be my landlord (sorry about the rug). The “other” side is similarly aimless n’ entrancing . Hypnotic guitar and what might be an organ or might not be push a rock up shit hill but never reach the top. Nor do they need to, it is the process that matters. Despite being a disreputably unreliable format, these two cuts sound bloody fantastic. If music appearing on a lathe is a deterrent for you, then you should probably sort your life out anyway.
Closely following an excellent LP on Negative Guest List earlier in the year, Acid Perm is something of a red herring on the otherwise patently electronic-geared Nihilistic Orbs label, run by Chrome Dome’s Shaun South. The title-track of this cassette features what is for me the most interesting quality of Sky Needle; almost total incomprehensibility of how the music is being created. At once it is both organic and electronic, the only distinct instrument used being drums. Otherwise, the rest of its components are difficult to determine. What is certain is that it possesses a purely unprecedented and psychedelic quality. The song is bookended by clapping, indication of its recording in a live setting followed by a brief and blurred reprise. ‘Deadshits Salon’ possesses a similar sickening lurch, albeit with Sarah Byrne’s verbal jabber as the prevalent sound employed, a lethargic male voice subtly weaving underneath and around it. To be perfectly honest, I prefer Sky Needle as an instrumental unit. Their mechanisms almost struggle at times to maintain synchronicity, the very fact that they do is what keeps me interested and it is in this potential collapse that Sky Needle’s strength lies.