Catching Up With 2014: Woodbines & Spiders – Woodbines & Spiders (Gecophonic)
When you hear the name Woodbines & Spiders, perhaps you envision some sort of creaking, cantankerous steamwheel, maybe behind the decayed album cover. Or maybe you just think of some chainsmoking gangster. This expectation of post-industrial decay would be reinforced with song titles like “Regression Suite”, “Gas Suite”, and – my favorite – “Rotten Druid”.
What you would not expect from the name is a bricolage of glistening, stainless sterling ’70s modular sequencing and charcoal smoke Victorian voices and tape smear.
I guessed the presence of Moon Wiring Club‘s Ian Hodgson before i could cross-check the liner notes. There is no mistaking those spooky children’s records and phantasmagoric Hammer Horror vocal samples. With Woodbines & Spiders, Hodgson lends his haunted playstation and melted wax walkman to the synthwork of The Advisory Circle‘s Jon Brooks, thus completing our triptych of this year’s Brooks’ records. And while we can’t say it’s exactly a match made in Heaven, it’s more like a match made in Midwich.
W & S came together over the span of 7 years, and it was worth every second. The music doesn’t sound fussy, however, not tweaked and over-produced. It’s delightfully fuggy, as fogged around the edges as you would expect from this pair – positively warped, in fact. It’s more like the work came as an extension of their relationship, the process of trading ideas and inspiration back and forth. Woodbines & Spiders is a time capsule, a snapshot of an era, and a gloriously weird creative exercise.
As usual, W & S comes packaged in a compelling backstory. Woodbines & Spiders is a real estate agent in the fictitious town of Clinksell, MWC’s archdiocese. The song titles are listed as properties.
“Sketches Of Osram” can be had for 1.5 million pounds, and comes with a consulting witch. It does, however, have a sinister aspect at twilight.
“Regression Suite” is 4.5 mil, and worth ever farthing. It comes with 236 acres of ancient woodland, and the power of self-union, and features a triple kitchen and unnatural well.
These piss-takes, this backstory, has no bearing on the music, which is as serious, and as sinister, as a hex sign.
The bulk of the record is made up of Ian Hodgson’s signature Edwardian hip-hop, with creepy British vocals and classroom records dropped into his archaic playstation software, then further smudged and processed with delay, echo, and reverb. This beat structures are painted over with Brooks’ fizzing, meaty synths.
It wouldn’t be a MWC or Advisory Circle record without a logotone. This one has 3. From there, we launch right into the futurism of “Slow Accident”, which is not the impending tractor collision it sounds like, as Brooks does his Klaus Schulze workout, over a simple and sturdy 4/4 beat. This is noteworthy, as these tones sound distinctly mid to late ’70s, which is rather late in the first wave of the Ghost Box ripple, which has been slowly expanding to assimilate other eras. To me, this suggests our fascinations are shifting; our subconscious is shining forth.
I was frustrated by the lack of reviews, when i went to try and find out more about this record, but digging through several pages of Google results assuaged this somewhat. First up, of course, was the official Boomkat document, which stated “but it’s those extended ambient sequences, ‘Regression Suite’ and ‘Gas Suite’ that really capture the imagination, conjuring dosed-up imagery of stark Shane Meadows films as much as the atmospheres of classic shlock horrors like ‘Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’.” As usual, they got it dead right, as the two ten minute drifting opuses are the most essential of the record, and rank among the best of both’s careers.
“Regression Suite” begins with a hypnotic suggestion, only to break into some truly Burroughs-ian cut-up chaos, over some REALLY sickly drum beats. I mean, sprouting phosphorescent fungus sickly. A discombobulated tribal drum beat enters and exits, while Brooks’ synth quacks along asthmatically. A phantom breeze of strings drifts across the stereo field, as a Yorkshire lad complains of his grandfather stinking of fish. Repetitively. This clanktakerous clip-clop, surprisingly, gives way to some lave flow organ pads, like something from a Magma record – and then unravels, just as quickly, like a motheaten wallhanging. It’s a true amalgam – an alchemical wedding of the two talents.
And then there’s the micro-techno of “Gas Suite”, (a pun on Wolfgang Voigt?), with its dubby miniature edits, knocking rhythms, which slowly and elegantly give way to an orchestra, heard from a cavern 3 miles away, as percussion tracers hang like regret around the periphery. “Gas Suite” features some of the most mesmerizing, hypnotic synthwork on the record (rivaled perhaps only by “Slow Accident”), but is more restrained, warmer and more emotional. It’s like a slo-mo take on Brooks’ 52 record, also from this year, decelerated and dipped in carbonite. It’s what i called “Proustian Techno”, in regards to Mark Van Hoen’s The Revenant Diary, with beat machines and oscillators playing the role of madelines in Proust’s famous trilogy.
Like i said, i was frustrated that not more people have written about this record, but it’s inspired some good lines, like from Raven Sings The Blues, where the author dissensous wrote, “Disembodied voices ring through modulated tones and a host of laudanum lidded moments scratching at your darker consciousness. And at the Lost At Sea blog, who phrased it, “There are ghosts in these grooves. Strange noises clanging, popping, dinging, whaaaing, and voices??? The background is filled with an eerie tone like old heavy dusty drapes.”
Both artists are quite exceptional on their own, creating dense and compelling soundworlds, but together, they sound deeper, warmer. These recordings sound less like cardboard cutouts than some of MWC’s Hammer Horror Hip Hop, which is also just an indication that he’s gotten more comfortable with his kit and with mixing, as has been evidenced over his past couple of releases. And Brooks, along with his other two albums this year, sounds less fussy, looser and more organic. More emotional; more personal. He’s embodying the theories he’s researching.
Woodbines And Spiders acts as inspiration, for two very separate, but intertwined, methods of musical production. Hodgson’s involvement inspired us to take the time, to handpick those samples, to make our electronic music raw and singular, while Brooks’ modular mechanics inspires us to turn to our machines, work with them, and see what they have to teach us.
Together, they are finding the soul of the machine, or as Tiny Mix Tapes put it, in regards to Death Grips in their year end list, the machine in the ghost.
Here, at the tail of 2014, it seems that Hauntology is alive and well, expanding in new and unexpected directions all the time.
Read one more mention of W & S at the highly recommended Unsubscriber blog, in a post with a bunch of other good records.
Sadly, it seems that the Woodbines & Spiders is all gone, from all the usual places, but you’d be advised to locate the sounds. You can find plenty of other mindblasting Gecophonic Releases at the Blank Workshop giftshop.
Moon Wiring Club’s Leporine Pleasure Garden is out now from Gecophonic
The Advisory Circle’s From Out Here is out now, on Ghost Box.
Moon Wiring Club FB
Cafe Kaput Blogspot
We’re still rushing around, to keep tabs on 2014. Any 2014 records you think we should feature, or that you think more people should know about, leave us a comment! Or drop us a note on FB. Follow Forestpunk on Twitter for more music news and updates, madness and wonder.
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