OTO/FENCING FLATWORM

 

JUMP TO REVIEWS

Embark with us now for a grand adventure on the high seas. 50 ports of call, each wiht its own native traditions, landsape and exportable souveneirs. Don't forget your compass and your seasickness pills, because the captain of this ship hasn't hasn't steered something this hefty before. Also, he's drunk and doesn't like being yelled at...

LABEL BACKGROUND:
Rob Hayler launched and ported oTo (ordnance, Tape only)'s 50 releases in the span of less than a year, a titanic achievement. In a music culture where every release date comes with a 1-2 month extension, Rob kept it simple, kept the submissions flowing, and didn't let niceties like "unique packaging" or "any information at all about the artists" slow things down.

With a wide variety of contributors (at least 60% pof them unknown to even the most dilligent of tape traders), this could be the most successful "bargain line" tape label yet. Not quite full albums (all tapes are one-sided and range in length from 18 to 45 minutes, which those of you who grew up under LPs might still consider the proper time for a "full-length"), oTo is like a less teasing version of the old (gone and lamented) RRR Taste Test series, and at $3 each ppd. from England, the price is even comparable.

Like all finite tape labels, oTo acts as a snapshot of a time and place, a frozen moment in a subculture that's about as fixed as mercury.

YEARS IN EXISTENCE:
From 2001 until whenever the tapes run out.

PROLIFICITY:
Off the charts! What other labels do you know (tape or otherwise) that put out 50 releases in less than 12 months?

MIGIDUM COUNT:
Styles range pretty freely from tape to tape, but it's all mostly good, solid tape-label fare (noise, drone, free rock, field recordings, klangenbangen). Tons of fun, 'specially for old guard tape traders, but nothing to put your liver in traction.

CONTACT:
R Hayler
9C Oak Road
Leeds
LS7 3JU
UK
Email: robert.hayler@ukgateway.net

AVAILABLE HERE?:
YES!(one of them, at least for now)

JULIAN BRADLEY

Julian kicks off the label with minimal fanfare. "Geologic tape loops," the type that have been occupying tape labels since the era of the cassette mythos. The flanged drum box makes me thing of TG< or better yet, a skipping copy of Cabaret Voltaire's "Mix-Up". After a while, the rat-a-tatta calms down, and we get the standard-issue "big drone" that makes me want to whistle "Dixie" rather than endure another 10 minutes of undulating non-variation. One frequency at a certain point has that "through a glass smudgely" effect that I love, but for the most part, this goes in one ear and out the other.

FORMULA GHOST IS HERE BRIGHT PREGNANT OFF TOILET SEATS EACH AND EVERY YEAR ON SPELL BOOKS, VOODOO DOLLS AND DRIED TOADS

Rob's very hush-hush about the true identity of this "Space Folk" band, but I have my theories. At the start, all the string players stubbornly play their note or chord in defiance, rather than harmony, of the commune. That makes me think of Kemialliset Ystavat, but they've seldom jammed for this long. As a harmonium enters, an Ashtray Navigations big band sound is closer, or maybe Anna Planeta, or even A Warm Palindrome in a severely unedited mood. The entrance of percussion finally leads me to conclude that this is probably some permutation of the Vibracathedral Orchestra. Unlike the bracing clatter of many bands of this ilk, the percussion leads us into "drum circle" territory, but when the strings return, the bliss is back in full force. Even this early in the project, I predict Formula Ghost will have among the most replay value of any tape.

AZIMUTH ERROR

Azimuth Error presents:
A Futurist Play In Five Acts

ACT ONE

A sky of cloudless sandpaper.

ACT TWO

The sea is now Sky. Later...

ACT THREE

A deteriorating Film of Seagulls ascending makes its final pass through the projector. Hitting a snag in the teeth, the projector falls into a prolonged stutter. Later...

ACT FOUR

All the world goes under the gas, but doesn't quite lapse into unconsciousness as its collective teeth are water pic'd. Nearby, a long piece of rubber tubing is twirled. A sprinkler can be heard. All points converge and resolve into a dull but intense nitrous headache. The pain recedes as a hand reaches (from stage right) for the champagne/Alka-Seltzer enema.

ACT FIVE

The Sea is now sea once again. Fade to black.

- END -

WEAVER

"A [DJ/Noise musician] sets off for an appointment through the sun bleached hills of the southern [England] desert. On the course of his journey he passes a diesel belching [Looping pedal] and unwittingly starts a terrifying and increasingly deadly game of cat and mouse with the unseen [source material].

This was of course [Tungsten Grasshopper alias]'s debut feature, and it could be reasonably argued that he has seldom bettered it since. I first saw this as a child in the '70s and it scared the hell out of me. Now in my thirties, it obviously no longer affects me in the same way, but it remains [atmospheric] and [unsettling]. Its effectiveness lies in its' simplicity. Most of the time we see only Dennis Weaver (just prior to his 'McCloud' days) as the harassed driver, his car, the menacing tanker and the desert. Weaver gives possibly his finest performance as a man increasingly aware that this is no ordinary spat between two [Feedback loops]. His initial frustration with the antics of the truck driver give way to fear, confusion, panic and outright terror. The scene in the diner masterfully keeps both him and us guessing as to the [Noise musician]'sidentity.

[Tungsten G] cleverly cranks up the tension as the [Tape] progresses, helped by some expert [pedal jockeying] and the barren landscape. There are no expensive pyrotechnics or trendy gimmicks here; just a simple story professionally told. It proves, if nothing else, that even without multi-million dollar budgets, [What's-his-name] can turn out a well crafted thriller when he tries."

The above review was cribbed from someone else and modified after the fact. Just like the cassette in question.

DJ GORMLESS KID

Overheard in a local club.

Excitable Boy: Hey!
Raver Rita: Hey!
EB: Whaddya think of this song? It's been going on forever.
RR: It's okay, sorta reminds me of Vapourspace. Remember him?
EB: No, never heard of him! Any good?
RR: Yeah, but only did one album. This one's kinda like that, but it just keeps doing the same thing over and over.
EB: I know, right? If you've only got one thing happening, it should be heart-stopping, right?
RR: Exactly! This isn't as good as that Expose Your Eyes tape on Spite.
EB: Wow! I can't believe you said that!
RR: You didn't think I'd know who Expose Your Eyes was?
EB: Expose your...? Oh, sorry, I thought you said something else. Wow. That would've been embarassing.

(Curtain Falls)

CERAMIC HOBS

If you've ever met me, you know that my life is built on an intricate and precarious assemblage of obsessions. Be they the recently-classified "3 Day Obsession," or those dull, aching, persistent pseudo-needs to dive deep into the psyche of Le Grande Artiste, when I get into something, I go whole hog.

For the film fanatic, solving the aesthetic murder mystery is easier than ever: internet, film books, and most recently, director commentaries on DVDs. Ah yes, doing our best to pick and poke at the undefineable beauty of great works of art and reduce them to a series of digestible comparments. Not like I'm complaining, I'm as guilty as the next guy...I guess it's just another way to approach the unapproachable.

For music obsessives, the road to elucidation is often less linear. Most musicians have the good sense to keep their yaps shut about the origins of their ideas, making it harder for us killjoys to do what we were genetically coded to do from time immemorial.

Certainly, a band worthy of obsession, 3 day or otherwise, is Blackpool's Ceramic Hobs. Their mult-layered, anti-sanity manifestos and morally complex devil's advocacies just beg for a tell-all, behind the scenes special on VH-1. Or have I misjudged VH-1's younger, hipper demographic a bit? Hell, I'd watch.

In the meantime, we do have this impressive oTo tape. Divided three ways between the groups two CD releases (Psychiatric Underground and Straight Outta Rampton) and unreleased songs, many of them covers, we get to see a less polished and, if you can believe it, more deranged side of the Hobs. Outtakes, alternate versions, pisstakes, radio show exerpts, and covers of songs you only sorta recognize, it's an ephemera-lover's dream come true. (Multiple takes of certain songs, dreams reoccuring, but not quite identical) While little if any insight into either CD (which, for all their complexities, are pretty self-contained), I still feel closer to the band in some way. Like getting a backstage pass with the guys that lasts three days.

- Tiger Beat (What color are Stan's pants this week?)
- Soap Digest (What have Simon and Jane been up to?)
- "Twin Peaks" supplement material (What REALLY happened to President Massey?)
- None of the above

KILLY DOG BOX

Beautiful low clunk, a more active and audible (not necessarily that much the better for it) version of Crawl Unit's Vs. Silence. Something about this asymmetric hovering atmosphere moves me in ways that more conventional "drone" does not. It flits into the background if you let it, but the truth is in the detailing if you squint very hard. Will most likely need a third (or even fourth!) listen for more clues.

WAGSTAFF

Nice ghosty loops hover under the sousa-like noise cadences. A melody surfaces briefly, then recedes like a dream lover. I think I heard Joy singing very low in the mix. As we go on, Wagstaff's voice (both vocal chords and style) become more prominent & bits even begin to congeal into songs. Sadly, still not in the upper 50th percentile of Wagstaff that I've heard (considering how much I love some of W's albums, that's a hard place to be!).
ADDENDUM:
Just listened to this again this morning, and it is indeed in the top 50th percentile after all! Very subtle, not a word I'd normally use to describe Wagstaff albums, but true here. Someone flipped the script here, so that reverb and tape hiss are the song, and the melodies are the special effects. About a thousand times better than comparable works by V/VM side project The Caretaker!

WAVE 7, WAVE 8, WAVE 9, UNDER

The initial glass on metal electronic sound was quite beautiful, but it soon gave way to more run-of-the-mill multi-texture drone electronics that at least partially resemble pre-packaged keyboard sounds. I hear similar cadences in Fennesz and I suspect some Remora albums sound like this. Decent, though hardly my cup of tea (I've only got one or two Tangering Dream albums too, but that doesn't mean I have none).

FRESHWATER ANGLING IN BRITAIN