Saturday, 5 March 2016

Stone Premonitions - Three Sides Of The Circle

One of the delights of this amateur scribbling lark is receiving unsolicited music. Conversely, if the scribbler has a conscience then he or she feels a compunction to write about it, despite the impossibility of covering absolutely everything that may get sent their way.

Luckily it is a given that anything on the Stone Premonitions label is at the very least, interesting, so here I will attempt to do justice to three releases from the Cumbrian stable that landed unbidden on my doormat a few months ago.

NagMet - Water Is Conscience

First up is this strangely compelling oddity from a duo comprising American poet and and musician Daniel J. Harris, and Dutch keyboard player, producer and general tecchie whizzkid Nico Jongenelen. How they ended up on a label based in Cumbria is anyone's guess!

This is a very weird trip indeed, where Daniel's surreal poetry floats over Nico's soundtracks of found sounds, treated voices and instrumentation through a kaleidoscopic lysergically altered world. Some of the 24 tracks on this album are mere seconds long, others meld together to form avant sound suites where imagination is given free reign. Elbows On High is nearly seven minutes of sound and vocal collage that progresses from a mournful cello intro to chilled techno beats via "Living letters in milky balls, happy plans in fuzzy malls" across eerie plains, echoes all around. There is much humour to be found in here, too. iShirely chronicles a disease that creeps up from the toes to to the face. "Marching up my chest I did detest without rest dealing with my nipples was not very simple. I was doomed to a life of itching and bitching..." Sometimes there are no words, just gibberish voices reverberating around the stereo image.

The whole thing is a 50 minute continuous piece of music, there are no gaps between the tracks, which leads to all kinds of surprises. Suddenly out of nowhere, or more likely erewhon, a lovely piano melody floats by, later joined by a cello on the quite lovely Time & Less. This reverie is disrupted by Ha-PP-PP-PP-PP-PP-y (10 ways to make yourself happy), with its skittering techno beats and dislocated funk. Another highlight is The Swing, a nasty little gremlin lurching around to a kind of industrial proto-funk with a dirty synthetic guitar-like thing grinding away, and some great wordplay by Daniel: "Into darkness I yell, for I fell, for a spell, and I'm here to tell, about a swing. The chord goes on forever, not alone yet not together, until I swing."

This music is uncategorisable and quite odd. That's a couple of boxes ticked, then!

The Spectacles - Report From The Border

Far easier to get a handle on than NagMet is this straightforward and enjoyable album of modern folk songs, infused with a good-time vibe. Mixing down home country with a vaudevillian joie-de-vivre, the stripped down instrumentation aside from guitars both electric and acoustic includes banjo, kazoo, spoons, concertina, and ukelele, to name but a few items from the unplugged cupboard.

Big Screen and others have a similar feel to The Mekons' country infused songs, with Jan Croot and Penny Grennan's vocals making for a lower register parallel to Sally Timms' unaffected soulful tones. Four Hands features the two singers in acapella harmony, and the following traditional song Sally Gardens sees the two ladies joined by guitarist Andy Clarke for a three-part harmony, again unaccompanied.

There are some good songs on here, some in a trad folk fashion, some swingers like The Beck & Tarn Boys, and a fair few country shindigs. The pithy lyrics recount working life, love gone sour, the cycle of nature, and generally finding joy or sadness in the mundane, all addressed in a direct manner that complements the music.

One for the folkies!

Glodblug - Globule

Finally we have an album of Kosmische improvisations based on soundscapes left over from recording sessions by Stone Premonitions' raison d'etre, Census of Hallucinations. Globule is a 50-minute aural travelogue, ostensinsibly split into seven tracks given titles Glob 1 to Glob 7, where synth washes and sequencer rhythms, with added percussion and drum programming form the basis for guitarist John Simms to occasionally indulge his psychedelic muse with flights of liquid fret wizardry. Glob 4 is a particulalry fine example of the former Clear Blue Sky plank spanker's innate sense of melody and restraint, where our guitar hero sets off across deep space for a long trip, fuelled only by space dust and an untethered imagination, all filtered through an acid rock gauze.

The results are in a similar vein to ├śresund Space Collective, embellished with intermittent fiery Hillage-like guitar. While there is nothing particularly groundbreaking here, any lover of space rock synth ambience and languid acid-guitar is in for a treat. It works just as well played quietly as semi-meditative or work accompaniement, as it does turned up to 11, where it becomes transformative. Very nice indeedy!

All three of these releases can be found here - Stone Premonitions website

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