srijeda, 31. listopada 2012.

Pye Corner Audio - Sleep Games + Stratus - As the Crow Flies

Snovito-ruševni tehno u ukletoj zgradi u predgrađu. Zvukovno fotografiranje mjesta koja ne postoje. Tuga cvjetanja i ushit raspadanja. Melankolija može biti radosna, gotovo plesna.

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A fresh selection of dilapidated sloth-techno and decaying witching-hour electronica from this new master of home-brewed analogue doom. His wonderful eerie sounds come replete with an austere yet comfortingly nostalgic outlook that no-one until now has quite done this way. The first track makes me think of the Dutch techno underground - it has a sort of melancholic Eurodisco electro strut with liberal splashes of that pondering wonky synth that initially made OPN such an intriguing proposition. In short it totally rules and trips right into the richly hypnotic Carpenter-esque cruise of 'The Black Mill Video Tape'.
'Sleep Games' has that real classic hazy alternate-universe groove to it, like I mentioned in a previous fawning write-up, his music really does often resemble exciting archive tape discoveries. 'Palais Spectres', situated around the middle of this multi-faceted gem of an album, has authentic drop-outs and a murky patina to the sound. 'A Door in The Dry Ice' is like early Vector Lovers pacing glumly at a funeral in the snow but about twenty times better than that sounds.
This guy, The Head Technician, somehow manages to transcend much of the potential retro cheesiness of the main modern pretenders by making this whole thing sound like he was playing this on some real crazy old bulky synths that are a hairs breadth away from malfunctioning and dissolving into dust, whilst gazing wistfully out of his eleventh-floor flat window at a bleak forgotten city being battered in the wind and rain...
By 'Into The Maze' he has gyrated and shifted his sound towards a darkly sensual take on some form of moody backroom cosmic-industrial techno. This track is fucking ace with an entrancing bubbling synth motif that comes wandering in and features brief passages of weird unnerving screeing noise just below the sound horizon making you feel a little startled.
The Ghost Box family must be quite proud to have this shadowy youngster releasing stuff on their dinky electro-nostalgic stable. He brings a considered contemporary approach along with him and adds, what they themselves say, is this kind of "post-rave meltdown" affect to their bloopy quizzical niche. Some of the synth lines scattered throughout this album are truly evocative and genuinely affecting, his brittle, dystopian sound-world featuring superb shifting drone-arcs and plenty of curious grainy alien clutter. A cosmic death disco odyssey that will delight fans of most melodic electronic music. The closest thing this country has to a downbeat lo-fi Danny Wolfers?
If you buy two electronic records this Autumn make it this beauty and the new Andy Stott album. So sad, so full to the brim with slowly blossoming life. -

Overseen by the shadowy figure known as the Head Technician, the Pye Corner Audio project has garnered a swelling following over the course of three self released editions of the Black Mill Tapes which have appeared on an annual basis from 2010 onwards. These releases deal in sumptuous filmic soundscapes that reference everything from the Radiophonic Workshop to the wronged up Detroit style of Theo via krautrock and so much more.
Pye Corner Audio found wider acclaim earlier this year when Type Records collated the first two volumes on a sumptuous double vinyl release, and subsequent to that Seattle based label Further Records issued a cassette release of Black Mill Tapes Vol. 3.
The Head Technician is no stranger to the Ghost Box imprint overseen by Belbury Poly’s Jim Jupp and Julian House, having released the Pye Corner Audio 7″ Annual Activities split with The Advisory Circle last year, but Sleep Games makes for a more in-depth representation of the Pye Corner Audio sound.
Some 14 tracks deep – or 16 if you indulge in the digital or CD edition – the label describe Sleep Games as an album that “explores the non-places of Belbury and invites you to join in a new kind of game that you will not want to stop playing”. Brief snippets of six tracks from the album are available to stream as a taste of what to expect, and revered writer and critic k-punk aka Mark Fisher contributes “a very interesting missive”. -

It was only a matter of time before Ghost Box Records and Pye Corner Audio got into bed together. Both have existed in the same universe for years - creating unsettling, out-of-date electronica - and now thanks to some manouevring by Martin Jenkins and label head Jim Jupp, they’ve come together on Sleep Games. Marrying the ambient weirdness of Pye Corner Audio with Ghost Box’s eerie school video skits, Sleep Games gives both sounds a dark, disco edge, resulting in a hybrid that feels like Johnny Jewel being allowed a seat at a séance.
In many ways, Sleep Games is everything fans of both the artist and label could have hoped for. Tracks alternate between the lurid, the psychedelic and the funky, and the bare-faced thefts from John Carpenter soundtracks. ‘Yesterday’s Entertainment’ focuses on cool, free-floating keyboards that sound like French house exiled into Belgium, while ‘The Black Mill Video Tape’ is thudding electronica built around a brass synth line that melts away into sirens. Referencing Ghost Box’s Cold War keyboards and Pye Corner Audio’s decayed pop, this album wants to keep you disturbed but in motion, and for every chiller - ‘Experimental Road Surface’, wind and screaming, a blizzard that changes chords - there’s funky, more inviting stuff like ‘Deep End’ or ‘Palais Spectres’, both of which could be an alternative Knight Rider intro.
On occasion the balance tips into double darkness, which is where Sleep Games will shed its casual listeners and retain only those who survived Jenkins’ Black Mill Tapes compilations. ‘Print Thought’ is a minute of solid static, while ‘Into the Maze’ is a keyboard program that decides midway to morph into Orbital Green-album techno. Both don’t seem to fit the possessed physics video theme that Jenkins is aiming for, but they can’t be faulted for their own power to unsettle. Neither can the icy wind of ‘A Non-Place’ or the popcorn tones of ‘Remanence’ - these give Sleep Games a hissing aura, copying the 'my cat slept on this' noise of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92.
Shapeless moments aside, Sleep Games emerges as a strong enough entry point in either Pye Corner Audio’s discography or the murky world of Ghost Box. The few middling tracks at its centre reveal an emotional final third, with ‘Chlorine’ sounding like a haunted house theme played on ice cream sirens, and ‘Nature Reclaims The Town’s sad synths crying out for Owen Ashworth to groan about girlfriends over them. Sleep Games’ crowning moment comes with the beautiful ‘Nostalgia Pills’, which could be the long-awaited high-five between Vangelis and Boards of Canada. A symphonic TV network ident played in shimmering fog, it rubber-stamps the album as a strange, inviting vision, and shows in two minutes how Ghost Box have got stronger with every release. It seems fitting that it’s taken Pye Corner Audio to realise their world fully and map it out with such care. - George Bass

Pye Corner Audio's darkling synthetic transmissions had been hovering under the radar for a couple of years before 2012's Black Mill Tapes collection on Type brought them to a wider and grateful audience. Now, Martin Jenkins finds himself equally lauded by the likes of Sandwell District's Juan Mendez and Minimal Wave's Veronica Vasicka as by the UK hauntological set - a testament to the scope and adaptability of his stygian productions. Nonetheless, this album release feels right at home on Ghost Box, and it follows Jenkins' contribution to the label's 7" Study Series last year. If The Black Mill Tapes focussed on the unheimlich but decidedly driving meta-techno side of the Pye sound, Sleep Games gives as much time to exploring its more abstract and oneiric peripheries. Nonetheless, rhythm is foregrounded throughout: from the woozy, tape-warped Boards of Canada-ism of 'Sleep Games', via the Xander Harris/Umberto-esque giallo-disco chug of 'The Black Mill Video Tape' through to the distant, dubby pulse of 'Palais Spectres' and the rolling toms of 'Underneath The Dancefloor'. Eschewing the tweeness which has arguably softened the impact of recent Ghost Box releases, Sleep Games is refreshingly drug-hazed and zonked-out yet shark-eyed, minimalist and full of post-apocalyptic, cold-wave menace: you can more easily imagine this stuff soundtracking a car ride through the deserted industrial zones of coastal America than a ramble round the Belbury parish and its bucolic environs. At the same time, this feels like a Ghost Box release through and through: 'Print Through' is a radiophonic seance right from the grimoire of Eric Zann, 'Deep End' has the school textbook sci-fi sigh of classic Belbury Poly and 'Yesterday's Enemy' the occult public service broadcasting vibe of early Advisory Circle. - boomkat

For those following the thoroughly British Ghost Box label since its inception in 2004, Pye Corner Audio’s Sleep Games won’t come as a noticeable seismic shift in the label’s direction. Though it doesn’t traffic in the mystical medieval whimsy invoked by Belbury Poly or the ’60s fetishism of Roj or the New York Times Book Review bumper music of that Mount Vernon Arts Lab reissue, Sleep Games enthusiastically invokes the spirit of the label without making its references to British science fiction as plainspoken as the rest of the roster has in the past.
More than anything, what unites Sleep Games to its brethren is a shameless love of and devotion to that once-dirty word, “progressive.” Sweeping synthesizer melodies like “Deep End” and “A Door in the Dry Ice” or the deep intergalactic pulse running through “Palais Spectres” demonstrate that Our Head Technician – the anonymous but fairly approachable guy behind the project – has a deep love of Jean Michel Jarre, Popol Vuh and assorted ’70s b-movie space soundtracks. I also hear traces of Yes and even The Alan Parsons Project in its grand scope and occasionally addicting, well-nigh friendly melodies. As advertised, John Carpenter, post-rave comedowns, and VHS copies of the original Wicker Man are also threaded throughout. You know the guys at 20jazzfunkgreats lose sleep over copping stuff like this.
Of course, if Sleep Games were that simple, we’d slap a “Moroder via Van Der Graaf Generator” tag to it and call it a day. But it’s far, far stranger than merely prog. Prog is the beating heart of the album, but Our Head Technician’s campy sci-fi synthscapes are interwoven with the dark hauntology and sinister shadows of Italo horror soundtracks, early post-punk and industrial, and musique concrète. A recent Silent Servant mix for Fact settled Pye Corner Audio right in next to Minimal Wave releases and Cabaret Voltaire, and his affiliation with the Modern Love crew and Joseph Stannard of The Outer Church is documented. So, early in the album, you get the two Prins Thomas-esque space-disco songs of the title-track and “The Black Mill Video Tape” followed by the aloof interlude “Print Through,” another melodic track in “Deep End,” the minimal thump of “Into the Maze,” and the creepy “Experimental Road Surface.” Its willingness to explore sounds that wouldn’t necessarily jive out of context is admirable.
While I’d never suggest that Sleep Games (incredibly unsettling sleep music, by the way) is about escaping that aforementioned “essential Britishness,” you can hear that the added influences make it both more and less of that mindset. I’ve tried talking about Jarre and Vangelis and Prins Thomas only to return to Demdike Stare and 20 Jazz Funk Greats and rave culture. Which is what makes Pye Corner Audio’s latest the marquee example of Ghost Box at their most distilled, their most essential: reaching beyond by reaching within. - Patrick Masterson

Black Mill Tapes Vol​.​3

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Black Mill Tapes Vol​.​2

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Black Mill Tapes Vol​.​1

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The Head Technician's Generosity

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Stratus, As the Crow Flies

Martin Jenkins of Pye Corner is also one half of the filmic, psychy, expansive sounding Stratus and their new self release album is available now on download and CD here. This is a beautifully produced and massive sounding album, that you really should check out.

Stratus, Beneath the Wheel EP (2011)

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