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The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

The Outer Church: Position Normal

Derek Walmsley

The man (men?) in the marshes above is performing a very rare Position Normal live date at The Outer Church tonight: well worth checking out I'd say – their self-titled last album, originally released on tape, was one of The Wire's Top 50 Records of 2009. Our own Joseph Stannard will be DJing, and best of all, it's free.

And a small competition: if you can identify where the photo in the great Lila Hunnisett flyer above was taken, email myself at The Wire, and you'll get some on-the-hoof field recordings done by myself at an appropriate location.


John Wall on Glossolalia

Tony Herrington

Tune into to Resonance FM tonight, 9 August, at 23:00 to catch the latest edition of Glossolalia, a show which, according to presenter Oliver Fay, is "produced with the intention of exploring the outer limits of composition, searching for those still thrashing uncomfortably around the perimeters of genre, the outsiders of the experimental music/sonic art frameworks."

Tonight's edition features an hour long collaboration between digital composer-improvisor John Wall and poet Alex Rogers, both of whom fit Fay's brief for the show to a tee.

John's last CD release was 2005's Cpohn, which contained just 20 minutes of material, and his live performances, while they have been growing more frequent in recent years, are still relatively few and far between, so this is a rare opportunity to hear one of the most unique and advanced (non-)musicians we have. As Helena Gough put it in The Wire 318: "His work is so intense and stark, and has this absolute precision to it. I don’t hear that anywhere else.”

John has just launched a blog too, complete with sound files, video clips, software demos, and so on.

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The Wire Salon: Electric Eden

The Wire

Our monthly salon series continues with a talk by The Wire’s Editor-at-Large Rob Young based on his history of folk, folk rock, psychedelia and the British imagination, Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music (published by Faber And Faber, 5 August 2010.). The talk will be illustrated with film and audio clips and will be followed by a discussion of the book’s central themes; plus DJ Jonny Trunk will be in attendance spinning the sounds of wyrd and wired Britain. London Café Oto, 5 August, 8pm, £4.

• Read: The Incredible String Band and The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Extract from Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by Rob Young

• Read: Into The Woods. "Across folk, classical, pop and exploratory music, the sense of exile from Eden is key to the progress of British music in the twentieth century, writes Rob Young." Article for The Journal Of Music.

• Listen: Exotic Pylon podcast. Featuring conversation between Rob Young and host Jonny Mugwump. The show lasts 90 minutes and includes a selection of music from Talk Talk, Peter Bellamy, Steeleye Span, John Ireland, Dave Cousins, Archie Fisher, Mandy Morton & Spriguns, Robin Williamson and Alasdair Roberts.

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Jeff Keen: public meeting

Tony Herrington

Brighton's Lighthouse organisation is hosting an emergency public meeting to discuss how best to secure the archive of local underground film maker and artist Jeff Keen.

Keen is ill with prostate cancer, and also faces eviction along with his wife Stella from their current home in the town. This necessitates them moving into Keen's studio, which currently houses his archive, which in turn necessitates relocating the archive to another location. Any interested parties are urged to attend the meeting at Lighthouse in Brighton on 28 July, whether to show support, or to offer practical solutions.

Keen is one of the UK's pioneering experimental film makers. Three of his short films dating from the mid-1960s are currently on show as part of the exhibition Blow Up: Exploding Sound And Noise (London-Brighton 1959-1969) at Flat Time House in South London. The exhibition has been curated by The Wire's David Toop and Tony Herrington.

A DVD box set of his films, Gazwrx, was issued by the BFI in 2009.

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How To Wreck A Nice Blog

Derek Walmsley

If you haven't already had your brain rearranged this year by Dave Tompkins's How To Wreck A Nice Beach, an occult history of the vocoder from Cybertron back to the communication R&D labs of Second World War... well, you should. But if you want to try out your code-breaking skills before you buy (by the way, it's one of the most beautifully produced books I've seen in a long time) you can visit Dave's blog. Essential musings on Rammellzee's death, vocoder ephemera, an astonishing and essential mix taking in Jonzun Crew, ELO and The Human League, and many other enigmatic variations on the vocoder theme. All done by the dude above in the Luke Skyywalker jacket. Essential reading and listening... as is this completely singular book.

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Foundational text

Tony Herrington

“I was a sound recordist from the age of 11, long before Richard Kirk, Stephen Mallinder and I got together as Cabaret Voltaire,” announces Chris Watson in the new August issue of The Wire. “I was inspired by Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer and musique concrète. I also read this fantastic little yellowed paperback I still have called Composing With Tape Recorders written by an Englishman with the fabulous name of Terence Dwyer. There was a picture of a tape loop going round a jam jar on the cover. To see that as a 14 year old made me think that this was exactly what I should be doing: recording sound."

Earlier in the same issue, Anthony Child, aka UK Techno producer Surgeon, tells Derek Walmlsey, "It began with playing with tape recorders, like a lot of people do, and then taking them apart, and getting hold of an old reel-to-reel and tape editing and stuff like that. I found a book in the library called something like Composing With Tape Recorders, and I thought this was fantastic, just playing around.”

Composing With Tape Recorders was published in 1971 by Oxford University Press. It was subtitled Musique Concrète For Beginners. Chris Watson would have come across the book sometime in the early 1970s; Anthony Child at some point in the early 90s. Terence Dwyer also wrote a series of books for teachers titled, Making Electronic Music: A Course For Schools. So how many more of the UK's electronic music auteurs owe their start to this previously unknown educator?

We think he should be told...

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Tony Herrington

Martin Archer, the Sheffield based improvisor, composer and owner of the Discus label, has started an avant community choir project called Juxtavoices in South Yorkshire, and is looking for more eager voices to swell its ranks.

Choir membership is open to any singer irrespective of training, ie no previous experience of either group singing or improvising is required. The repertoire mixes simple scores and instructions with improvised elements, which often allow the choir itself to determine the shape of the music as it progresses. Rehearsals begin with workshop style exercises which are designed to encourage the choir's confidence in using non standard techniques, including improvisation.

The choir meets once a month in Sheffield, and the objective is to be in a position to perform and record in 2011. The choir currently has 25 members, including a large slice of Sheffield's leftfield music, visual arts and literary communities, but is looking to double that number.

Anyone interested in joining should contact Martin via huckleberry [at] or via the Discus site


Indomitable Lions

Derek Walmsley

Readers in the UK should run come rally to check out Babylon, the 1980 reggae drama set in South London which the BBC has got on its iPlayer for the next few days. I'd not seen this before, but it's terrific, with a young Brinsley Forde sympathetic but spiky as the deejay of the Ital Lion soundsystem which the film follows.

It feels factually a little off target (overt intimidation of one soundclash crew by another, negotiating for ages and massively upping the ante to buy a prerelease rhythm of just one single track, stealing speakers from schools), but it always manages to to feel right somehow.

There's enough grime, oil and solder to somehow make the plot stick, and the dedication, the grind, the gallows humour of keeping a soundsystem up and running is right there. It pinpoints that atmosphere of sitting in a van with jack shit to do and everything still to get done, which anyone who's ever tried to put any kind of live music event on will dig, when there's nothing to do but pisstake and fantasise about making it big(ger).

The fashion is bang on also, which shouldn't be underestimated given that at this time a red, gold and green hat was a hell of a statement about how you lived your life: Umbro tracksuits, Lonsdale vests, sheepskin jackets. London itself looks like a bombed out shell: entire blocks just fenced off squares of rubble. The racism which forms the core of the film feels very accurate, too. 1980 was a strange year in UK culture, post-punk but pre-synth pop, where things had really bottomed out. This captures that ennui brilliantly.

Trailer for the film:

A whole wealth of info on this film is on John Eden's always excellent Uncarved blog, which has everything you ever want to know about the film.