February 10, 2018 2:40 pm
An occasional installation project in which I mortar an mp3 device into the fabric of a structure, somewhere in the city or its outskirts. A rumination on the built environment, a discreet intervention.
This edition takes place in Miles Platting, Manchester; a nebulous terrain nudging into Ancoats, Ardwick, Clayton. A region sometimes satanic, sometimes magic. A forlorn outskirt; a seance territory. A place to which I have been magnetised time and again.
I kept coming here because I had no where else to go. Through a clump of unassuming inner city factory districts I walked, to burn out anxiety patterns and seek consolation, forming my own occult of East Manchester totems and territories, their leylines extending to Audenshaw and Ashton, sites of childhood and birth.
It seemed to offer a habitat, a place to belong. There’s an oblique but deeply felt connection and communication. Humble treasure and gleaming ruincolours, porous with industrial remnants and revenants, their supernatural transmissions still perceivable even as its terrain is changing, vanishing.
So I make my superstitious returns, Inhabitant of an internalised raggedy landscape, finding invention, transformation, reciprocity. Hear the voices of the landscape before they are scrubbed out….
January 28, 2018 8:37 pm
‘life should be full of strangeness; like a rich painting’
Such rich, strange imaginings. Could anyone have lived so vividly, so fully? I can’t pretend to be a Fall completist, or have seen a lot of Fall gigs compared to an uber-fan (somewhere between 5 – 10 times). But the albums I do have, comprised of approximately the first 10 years from Live At the Witch Trials (’79) up till about I Am Kurios Oranj (’88) – are etched into my dna.
And I believe there is more urgency, magic, and surprising twists in one 3-minute Fall song than many bands can muster across a whole career.
In its haunted post-industrial remnants, supernatural damp pennines and crouched, violent pubs Manchester provided a perfect host for MES to channel his spooks and hobgoblins, tableaux and visions, carved out like scenes from Mystery plays, occult yet contemporary, regional – so recognisably about and of Manchester.
I can’t claim I knew him, nor did I, alas, ever work with him directly (though harboured a hope I might be drafted in as a temporary (what else) guitarist one day). I have been drinking in the same pub as him a few times, and felt how the environment became entirely charged with a mischievous crackle just for knowing he was nearby. But a handful of good friends were close to Mark, and by osmosis I was always aware of what he was up to. Updates would arrive via Mancunian Hobgoblin Intelligence; I would learn the latest activity, or sighting, and all was well with the world.
These are a handful of fragments and sightings, conveyed to me over the years via those City Hobgoblins;
In everyday life, MES was always on high alert for linguistically interesting things (used to notice idiosyncratic phraseology in things like local papers/shop signs/ bumpf that came through the post). Always scribbling shit down, usually literally on the back of the proverbial fag packet…
On a trip to a Tib Street newsagent to buy some cans, MES was spied, a plastic carrier bag full of records. He asked ‘’Excuse me young man (the man in question was 30 ) – can you tell me the way to Odd (pause, strange emphasis) ….Bar?’’
He always got fully dressed every morning (including shoes and socks) to work at his table at home (‘shuffling papers’, as he self-deprecatingly described it).
He adored Italy – the food, culture, people and travelled there for pleasure a lot.
The signage for new pub/venue The Peer Hat, Stevenson Square features a hat containing an eye. The discussion about this mysterious design took place in Gullivers, Oldham Street, subjects ranging from freemasonry to the symbolism of pyramids. On the next table was MES, clearly listening with interest. On leaving the pub, he gave a conspirational nod.
The most recent, and sadly last, report I received was that MES was recording new material at The Bunker, a small studio on the Salford/Manchester border – formerly home to my own studio HQ, and neighbour to The White Hotel venue. The goblins said MES was a delight to work with.
Manchester: kaleidoscopic visions of home
His voice and visions animate the spaces of Manchester; are present in momentary scenes in pubs, streets, under bridges, in back gardens and avenues, richly evoking the many facets of my home city, in a vivid, playful, heightened cutup reportage packed with allusions and associations… nursery rhymes, history, the supernatural and so much more. Each Fall song, a new adventure, ’’full of strangeness, like a rich painting’’.
A lot of hyped shite is written about people who don’t deserve it; but not in this case. MES was a coruscating magical visionary, unique and peerless. RIP Mark Smith, thank you for the spark inside, the illuminations that will continue to violently reverberate and inspire, always.
‘the spark inside’
October 2, 2017 1:24 pm
From the murkier outer edges of post-punk emerging to alternatingly vibrant and brooding dancefloor and techno grooves…a DJ sampler from Berlin Atonal ’17.
Following my Anna Meredith ‘VapourIsED’ remix, selected by DJ Stingray for Tresor’s Kern compilation, I was booked to play a DJ set at Berlin Atonal ’17, to take place in the Kraftwerk venue in the Mitte district of Berlin, also home to the legendary techno club, Tresor.
I found myself strolling around the vast interior of a venue that seemed the ultimate materialisation of all my feverish Brutalist, industrial imaginings. As if all my wanderings before had only been intimations, digressions, preparatory visions for what was to come. Entry into the powerstation, coolly neutral on the outside, revealed a concrete-scape innerland of dizzying proportions. Monolithic pillars rise to an unseen summit. Chasms and antechambers fizzle blackly at the perimeters. Metallic fog-dust hangs cryptically in the air and lights crackle and flare intermittently, as if the structure itself was alive. Stairwells and split-level platforms high up into the apex are dotted with Christiane F and Seventh Seal type figures; they roam like transfixed citizens of this grandscale solid hallucination.
It was not a sombre place; it was inviting and exhilarating. Thrown to the lions’ den in the sweating intensity of the packed, red-lit OHM room, I commenced a 2-hour set at 3am, convinced my commitment to murky post-punk would clear the room (it was after all an electronic festival)..but it didn’t. The mood change was noted and enjoyed..the understated first part emerging to a joyful and rigorous longer second part. Fear and fatigue faded and in that red room was only uncontrived dancing among severe-looking yet entirely amicable nocturnal strangers.
I stumbled out onto the daylit street at 7am, and walked the short distance to my hotel for breakfast, energised by happy, cement-coloured visions and reverberating beats.
Tracklist: (selected from 2hr set)
Seconds Too Late – Cabaret Voltaire
Charnel Ground – Section 25
What I Wouldn’t Give – Pink Industry
Try Again – Isolation Ward
Black Honeymoon – Richard H Kirk
Alone – Colin Newman
Night Vision – Vanishing
Easy Lee – Ricardo Villalobos
Its The Mind – The Hacker
Coma – Ghost Culture
Fever(KiNK Remix) – Tiga
Discofiasco – Roman Flügel
Tease – Beserk In A Hayfield
Sabotage – Underground Resistance
VapourIsED(LoneLady Remix) – Anna Meredith
The Quarry (In The Wilderness) – Cabaret Voltaire
May 20, 2017 3:32 pm
The Visual Is Sonic
Date: some unlinear time across 2016-2017. There’s a photo of me aged around 10, in the from room of my home in Audenshaw, sitting at a small, plastic yamaha keyboard..I didn’t have music lessons as a kid but I found a lot of joy in poking around this simple, cheap instrument, picking out melodies by ear, exploring the modest 100 voice bank of sounds and the 22 present rhythms named things like ’8 beat’ ‘rock-a-ballad’ (didn’t like that one)’ ‘disco’ ‘funk’ ‘country’ and so on.
Years later this keyboard is still here, chipped and stickered with stars from the insert stickers of blank cassettes. It has been the start of my process since I started recording on a Tascam 4-track, putting out CDRs, and was a major presence on Nerve Up and Hinterland. Now it sits amid a studio family that has expanded considerably since those first days. (But it holds its own and, to be honest in a fire, I’d save that, though its worth about £30….)
Most of the time, but not dogmatically, I prefer to use older machines. I started out as a visual artist, obsessed with drawing and painting until at some point music took over, and since then I’ve never really separated the visual from the sonic, instinctively gravitating towards equipment that is visually as well as sonically appealing. Brightly-coloured dials, pots and squares. Tape reels, cassettes and 4-tracks. Hexagonal drumpads. Hardware thats is tactile, 3-D, inviting. Sounds you have to sculpt by tweaking, twisting, turning, patching, striking.
I like the idea that used gear has character and history, is a bit battle-worn, has stories imprinted in its electronic components, motes of DNA in its valve-dust, a glimmer of sentience, even.. And though I covet analogue synths and drum machines I’m also a big fan of cheapo, ‘uncool’ units and trebly, thin sounds.
Rhythm needed to be at the core of the reworked setup. My love of rhythm began with the lo-res, irrepressible bum-chink-bum-chink of the Yamaha keyboard’s inbuilt drum machine that still galvanises me into action.
New gear + interfacing labyrinths
At some point in 2016 after much research I purchased an Arp Odyssey MK ll (1976) – my first bonafide analogue synth, something I had wanted for a long time, and this model was vaguely affordable. And from early 2017 I began to accumulate more bits and pieces of gear in earnest in order to rework my studio setup and explore new processes.
But first I had to troubleshoot an endless assault of technical problems and puzzles as I set to work configuring a new studio out of machines from different eras that, as I came to discover, all had inventive, spiteful ways of not interfacing i.e. not speaking to each other.
Taking on board several new machines and processes and get all those elements to cohere has been a big learning curve. There were times I wanted to smash every piece of equipment in from of me, or tip it all into the Thames. I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but thats not a bad place to be.
While preparing a live band to tour Hinterland I had prepared a simple sampling and MIDI live setup, but a year later, after touring, this information had evaporated from my memory and I pretty much had to start again.
So I relearned simple things like how to programme a Roland TR 505 and a Yamaha RX17 drum machine. (The Roland is on loan, having originally been rescued from a skip in Salford..though ‘’rescued from a skip’’ could be a euphemism), and how to make, load and assign samples onto an MPC 500 Akai sampler, and its updated version, the Akai MP8. Simple stuff but if not reinforced the muscle memory goes.
Then – the Soundcraft desk, Doepfer sequencer , MPC500 sampler, and Arp Odyssey – how to integrate? It felt like a big move to transfer from my Tascam 8-track to an 8-channel Soundcraft 200-B mixing desk; a compact but solid desk, with attractive bright red, blue and yellow pots and faders. Given that I planned to be spending a lot of time working with/looking at this desk, this is a less superficial consideration than it seems. Cabaret Voltaire used a Soundcraft desk and that was good enough endorsement for me. And the Soundcrafts haven’t yet become fetishized, so they’re comparatively cheap to buy.
I wanted to be able to generate multiple lines of rhythm, percussion and melody in sync. To be able to generate a lot of music all at once is a bit like a replacement for band members, and a way to – ideally – generate more music more quickly. And so the Doepfer MAQ-3 Analogue Sequencer with MIDI and CV/gate became the rhythmic heart of the system.
I also wanted to reduce time spent in front of Garageband and Pro Tools and re-situate that activity away from the screen and back into the world of solid things, shaping and making musical decisions using hardware; turning dials, pushing squares, hitting buttons, patching cables.
I was kept occupied for a good while trying to get the Doepfer to interface with various drum machines, percussion pads, synths and samplers through a long process of trial and error (not helped by the Doepfer manual which is eccentrically translated from German and is full of obtuse passages), getting to grips with routing signal flows and effects though a mixing desk, and using a patchbay.
One of the few machines to work easily and straightaway with the Doepfer was the Arp, connected via CV/gate. Its malleability and tonal and textural variations are endless and it fizzles and burbles like a live animal.
I sampled my old Yamaha onto the Akai MPC and MPX8, and sifted through various recordings and sounds I had accumulated, sampling these to create a new palette of repurposed sounds, and sounds sourced from new equipment. Reworking the old, exploring the new; using new processes to create rhythm-driven sketches.
I also spent a lot of time reading manuals, watching online tutorials, reading troubleshooting forums and reading equipment reviews. None of this part was enjoyable.
Brutalist spells / don’t Write An Album
Magnetised by whatever Brutalist spells hide inside concrete I continue to be pummelled by the vagaries of being in yet another concrete room; by the impracticalities and ongoing modifications demanded by this large, harsh space I volunteered to try and tame.
Its a self-taught labyrinth of instinct + imagination + research + listening + mistakes + play + im/patience + conviction + doubt. It has often felt like a (losing) battle of Grappling With Technology Vs. Actually Writing Music ..though the two are not fully separate.
Some notes to self written on mobile phone: accept its monotonous and plough on————its too consuming to keep modifying difficult spaces————detachment from contemporaneous events is important when constructing new realities—————–the process is never completed————–don’t Write An Album; just go in and be playful
What Have You Been Doing?
I started to log what I did every day, for the process is invisible to others. I sit alone in a studio day in, day out, and when asked ‘what have you been doing in there?’, the answer never seemed to satisfy the person who asked the question, nor satisfy me. I often couldn’t remember what I had spend the last month doing, while knowing I was going into the studio 5 or 6 days a week. This troubled me..but studio time doesn’t seem to follow ordinary time..I often feel I have been in this bunker for years and yet only a few weeks.
I want to rescue all this groundwork, the new skills achieved and generating of new processes, from invisibility..to fix, if only a little bit, some of what I have been doing in here – if only for myself, so I don’t stumble, blinking into the sunlight wondering where another 6 months has gone, disturbed by not being able to articulate what I do with all those unseen days.
January 21, 2017 6:10 pm
An experimental club night celebrating urban wilderness and the repurposing of derelict space, this is an ongoing, irregular and shapeshifting event, taking place in unusual locations across the UK and beyond.
As part of her residency in the Rifle Range at Somerset House Studios, LoneLady brings the second edition of Shutters Down! from Manchester to London. Rarely accessible to the public, The Deadhouse is a subterranean space beneath the Somerset House courtyard housing a number of seventeeth century gravestones from a former chapel located on the site.
Titled ‘Transmissions From A Wilderness State Of Mind’ , LoneLady will transform The Deadhouse into an atmospheric installation, and will be playing a selection of music shaped by post-industrial landscapes.
Her guests will be JOHN DORAN (The Quietus) (DJ SET) – music writer and co-founder of influential culture website The Quietus and VANISHING (LIVE SET) – new avant-noise/spoken word project borne out of Islington Mill, Salford with a new album forthcoming on acclaimed experimental label Tombed Visions.
in a superstitious return – I fled to the luminous outskirts – to recover – in music, in landscape, in magic transformations – grainy treasures – and a place to belong
GET TICKETS HERE
bountiful collage of atmospheres and scrap / seance territory / understands / transformation of rubble / a place of grazed knees and inventions / is a land lost / a dream I have lived in / a luminous kingdom / an outpost at the edges /
disorder / the collage of broken pieces / the cordoned -off and boarded up / a retort to the functioning world / psychic life leaps from the illusory into something touchable / step out of place, purposely / the sense of a jetty hanging over nowhere /
space demarcates for unknown actions / ruin is the perfect habitat for fear and wonder, a stone’s throw from the functioning world / I can crouch where structures reshape in mutable dreamscapes / I curate a collection of of disjunctions and hanging air / my slow translations remake every day / dismantle to recover / scaffold / certain movements, internal /
rags on wire / valedictory signals / viaducts like a series of ancient caves / remoteness within / manoeuvre towards / a psyche estate, a system magic / where exile treasure / opens like an illuminated manuscript /
October 19, 2016 8:00 am
New Landscapes. Residency start date: July 2016.
Somerset House Studios is an ambitious plan to bring artists back into the spaces they have been priced out of; to establish a new collective of artists across a range of disciplines and generate a vibrant creative community right in the heart of London. I came to the attention of Studios Director Marie McPartlin, and late in 2015 we began discussions about how I might be part of this new venture.
I was more than hungry for a change of scene. Born and bred in Manchester, and having never lived any where else, I had become over-familiar with my home city; for me it is like walking around a giant living diary. It had become too much an archeology of my self; layers of memories over the years inhabiting every iota of physical and psychological space. I’d had enough.
And after a long series of meetings, sound tests, head scratching, manouvering and applying for and receiving crucial Arts Council funding – I am now here, resident of The Rifle Range, an 18th-Century Naval shooting gallery in a Grade 1-listed building in the heart of London, part of a burgeoning artistic community.
London is a blank sheet; I walk around anonymously and there are constant new beginnings and stimuli vying for my attention, I feel slightly disbelieving to be here, but I also feel I’ve earned my new landscape, with its fresh perspectives, and I’m absorbing everything, leaving my stale shadows behind for a while.
Another Concrete Room.
The space was never meant to be used this way. What was essentially a damp corridor has been transformed into a viable workspace. The Rifle Range is a long, narrow concrete room; there are stone steps and a long concrete ramp which divides the space into an upper and lower surface. I placed a blue lamp at the top; it is like a jetty leading down into an other psychic space. I think of Charon, the sense of an outpost or threshold; every morning I leave one world, and descend the ramp into another.
The ceiling is high and arched; the walls are flaking and damp. It had no electricity. I am in a reverb chamber; quite impractical. There were quite extensive modifications to the space to make it useable. There were false starts; time spent feeling awkward in an awkward room before the studio configured itself and the tetris game stopped.
This is another in a series of difficult, concrete spaces I have inhabited. Eschewing a ‘proper’ studio space in favour of one that is as much art studio or bunker as anything. Sub basement, subterranean, again. The dehumidifier that sucked the canal water out of the air in Manchester here sucks out the Thames from the stone and lets me breathe..and a studio is born.
Multiple projectors whir dancing figures and colours across the walls, animating the stone room with textured images of Cabaret Voltaire, Section 25, Ingmar Bergman films and my own lo-fi short films and animations. Studio as part-installation, part-nightclub.
My super 8, cassette tapes and tubs of art materials spill out of boxes. A box of brightly coloured graffiti paints has just arrived; I’m not sure what I want to use them for. Located in the heart of London, just around the corner from Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace is a considerable change, to say the least, from my previous studios located in the genuinely demonic darklands of Strangeways Prison and Miles Platting, Manchester.
Rhythm Is The Thing / New Gear.
At the core of what I’m interested in is rhythm, catchiness, and atmosphere. It always starts with a beat; the simpler the better..a beat makes solid things melt into thin air, into being.
Having made two albums with ‘sellotape and lego’, that is, a minimal handful of lo-fi equipment, it was time to acquire some new gear, and I could finally invest a bit of £ into this. NS10 monitors instead of £30 Sony hi fi speakers. A mixing console instead of a Tascam 8 track. An Arp Odyssey Mk II from 1976. (The cheap gear is still here and important ).
I wanted to work with rhythm in a more efficient, immediate way and introduced an analogue sequencer to the heart of the process. I acquired a Doepfer MAQ 16/3 midi analogue sequencer.
I want minimal involvement from the laptop. My process is far from laptop-orientated, but I had spent many hours every day finessing parts of Hinterland on humble Garageband, and it re-emphasized how much I dislike the static inaction of staring at a computer screen.
Assembling The Jigsaw.
I have a jigsaw in from of me – of different bits of gear, new, old, cheapo, the odd vintage piece. The scene is now set to figure how to make it all work in some kind of coherent way. To conjure beats from hard surfaces, to coax new songs into life. I start to grapple with a new space, new equipment, new processes, and the endlessly strange and challenging compulsion to make music.