A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Inertia Crocodile is Aphrodite, being born of the waves;
Inertia Crocodile is Terry Riley, jamming with the Tuvans;
Inertia Crocodile is the most recent outing from Midwich, 3-tracks of (seemingly) improvised electronics, destined to transform yr home/acoustic space into a zero-gravity workshop.
Rob Hayler, for those that don’t know, is the man behind Midwich, as well as running the radio free midwich blog. Hayler has been tirelessly furthering the cause of what he terms “the no-audience underground”: a liminal intersection of noise, academic electronics, improv, musique concrete, and basically any other form of “serious” music that no one is paying attention to.
Inertia Crocodile maintains that old-school, hands-on-the-faders feeling of classic noise. It conjures a scene, it puts you in a place. You get a sense of the creator as controller, riding the sine waves at 3 a.m., sculpting static and sine waves.
This kind of electronic document is important, as this is the kind of sound-hacking that sound-designers and producers get into, losing themselves in chained oscillators and filtering matrixes, jamming for days and weeks, before parsing out the gems, which then get manipulated into “music”.
While we have nothing but the utmost respect for the bejeweled techno constructions of studio perfectionists, these futurist sounds, inevitably, get constrained to traditional musical “forms”, the inevitable POP, that delivers what you are expecting, in a timely fashion. There’s dissonances and unexpected left-turns, to be sure, but only as a dash of arsenic, to temper the syrupy saccharine rush of being “in the know”; knowing what’s coming next, and how to react. It’s like being a seasoned veteran at a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Again, no harm or disrespect, as i have nothing but the highest regards for studio perfection, but it does not seem, to me, to be an accurate, or at least thorough, representation of the actual lives of electronic musicians.
The three tracks of Inertia Crocodile are like a field recording of an artist’s process. They seem like jams, improvisations laid straight-to-tape, that are seemingly based around the structures and limitations of analog electronics.
The title track is built-around a square wave LFO, which breathes and growls, rising and falling, as snippets of static and some ruined dub techno piano stabs gets filtered into the mix. The tones seem to radiate a sickly greenish glow, as if you were monitoring some mysterious dark shape through a sonar screen.
That’s a decent analogy, as it seems to me, the reason this document exists is to transform yr home into something out of The Quatermass Experiment. From one laboratory to another.
“Inertia Crocodile” sets the mood in a high style, setting the stage for “Piped” – a short vignette, a mere 1 minute 35. Piped sounds like the most epic game of Pong imaginable, as a flickering, dipping oscillator rises-and-falls like oily waves, as occasional ghost-notes of dislocated organ tones sound in the distance.
This could have gone on longer, as i was enjoying the RGB-video quality of my mental visions. I am born of the ATARI generation, and there is no escaping nostalgia, it seems.
This all builds towards the inevitable conclusion of “The Sure”, a monolithic 15-minute piece of organ drone and more rainbow LFO, that really got my theta-wave juices flowing in the morning. I was reminded of classic drones from LaMonte Young and Terry Riley, particularly A Rainbow In Curved Air or Persian Surgery Dervishes (minus the percussion freakouts.), as well as modern purveyors such as Mouthus.
The one thing all of these have in common is the Technicolor of the visions i am flooded with, so different from the white-noise xeroxed grayscale tone palate of the ’70s/’80s industrial underground. What makes us see the things that we do? Is it a subconscious memory of the album art? Some personal associations with the tools and instruments being used? It’s one of the mysteries of writing about this kind of art – there are things going on beneath the surface, of which we are unaware.
Consider Midwich as a meditation tape subscription service, where new neural delights arrive, waiting for you in the daily post.
Inertia Crocodile is out on the brand-spanking-new imprint Cherry Row Recordings, which is somehow linked with the wonderful Sheepscar Light Industrial, which is another meditation service i highly advise you subscribe to. Cherry Row Recordings has already released 2 recordings from laptop wizard Daniel Thomas, and is looking to be a jackpot of clinical sonic alchemy.
While Midwich may cheekily call this music “the no-audience underground”, and he’s right, it still points out something essential in the culture in which we are living. So much of our tastes are being colored and conditioned by tastemakers (which i’m aware of, which is part of why i write). We are manipulated by press cycles and flash marketing in ways that we are not aware. Even the most hardcore underground scenes fall prey to this. We all want to fit in somewhere. We all want to belong.
If you listen to enough of different kinds of music, particularly “difficult” music like noise, musique concrete, field recordings, et al. it will change the way that you listen to sounds. It will change how, and what, you hear, which raises very difficult problems about the idea of what “good” music is. Sorry, the postmodern barbarous hordes have been unleashed. We all own the tools of production, to speak our piece, and paint our own particular corner of the universe.
A lot of the factors that constitute “good” music have to do with time constraints, of being endlessly busy, and not having the time to wade through the ocean of sound. That’s why you have to take the time, make the time, to listen to the world around you. And perhaps make something out of what you hear, if you are so inclined.
Honestly, when i listen to music/sounds, a lot of times a street-level recording from Madrid, or a recording of Arctic Seals sounds as good to me, if not better, than the Top 40. They’re all coming through the same headphones, the same speakers. They all stain the air around me, and fill my head with visions. It ultimately falls upon me, my own authority, (and this is true of all of us), to decide what we want to hear.
Midwich reminds us that trve noise will never die. There will always be a place for anonymous sound art in limited editions. For people that like to have their heads filled with new sounds and visions. It may be the “no-audience underground”, but we could change that. Let’s start, here and now.
Midwich is on vacation for a couple of weeks, which leaves you an opportunity to get caught up on some of the extensive archive of Radio Free Midwich, to be waiting, slaveringly, for his return.
Radio Free Midwich