ramsdale stones

ramsdale stones

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

ADVENTURES ON THE BLACK PATH


On the roadside, close to Teesport and a stone's throw away from the Black Path, stands this rather impressive electrical facility, humming to itself a song of untold voltage. I thought I'd firstly photograph it (here's the result) and then record the sound of its low thrum. Unfortunately as I aimed the camera, carefully attempting to get the 'Danger of Death' sign bang in the centre, a police car pulled up.

The policeman said he'd passed me earlier on wandering around the vicinity, and as it was an industrial area with few pedestrians, could he have my details as there was a high risk of terrorism in such an area? He also wanted to know why on earth anyone would be taking pictures of these things and he asked what was in my bag. I showed him the black boxes, microphones and wires I was carrying around and he contacted North Yorkshire Police to check out if I had any history of nefarious acts.

Explaining to the constabulary about just liking sounds for their own sake, and that the recordings might well be amalgamated into compositions which some people consider almost like music, might seem a fruitless task. To give him his due though, the chap (who said he was in the armed response team) listened, didn't smirk, and said 'its good to have a hobby'. I quite liked him. He was courteous throughout and the police car was warm and had a christmas tree air freshener in.

When he let me go on my way, I moved away from the road and onto the Black Path. Unfortunately my intention to record at the abandoned Grangetown railway station was thwarted. The gate which had previously been open was now chained and double padlocked. As if to rub things in, the batteries on everything ran out, the replacements didn't work (duff batch), so I cut my losses and drove home.

On the upside, I can now go into any police station in Cleveland and ask to see my personal dossier. I now consider myself a bona fide sound terrorist.

The Black Path near Grangetown station

Thursday, 5 February 2015

THE WANDERER

The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis is a novel, or a found manuscript, or a dream. It tells of those who have seen through rifts in the thin veneer of our superficial world and entered into a deeper, unfathomably dark meta-reality. The story (or stories, as it contains many) spans vast swathes of time, and equally traverses the geography of our globe's cities, shadows and far flung desolate spaces to tell its story of impending, unassailable terror.

The fact that the manifestations in The Wanderer are in the main very flesh and blood, solid, non-ephemeral, that they exist of matter and not some ectoplasmic, ghostly material is appalling. There is a lot of pain, viscera, fluid and bone to navigate, but all is set within tightly detailed and concrete evocations of real (at least to those of us who have never scraped the surface and seen the void) earthly places.


The work is complex, although by no means impenetrable. The writing is always interesting and has a whiff of Victoriana about it, although I can't quite put a finger on why this is. I can tell within a couple of paragraphs whether a book will get its hooks into me, and this one bore sharp barbs. Maybe it was the spattering of arcane terms or the conceit (if indeed it was a conceit) of the manuscript being found in the room of an author who had vacated this world in such mysterious circumstances.

Writhing at times with numerous unresolved threads, often fleetingly minor characters that appear trivial and unconnected reoccur at particular nodes of confluence where disparate strands meet, and a pall of eldritch machination impregnates the proceedings with deep reaching tendrils.

The Wanderer himself is bound into a purgatorial eternity of existence, and an interesting philosophical question is posed: What would it be like to live forever? Religion pushes this prospect at us and holds it up as the glittering prize for a life well lived. Infinity is the longest time you can imagine multiplied by the biggest number you can imagine, and then when you've lived that long it all starts again, and then repeats itself. Infinitely.

People regularly get bored on a dull Sunday afternoon when there is nothing much on television, so how can we be equipped for extreme longevity? Clearly our thoughts, our frames of reference, our memories, our emotions are bounded by the capacity of that grey lump of jelly in its protective, bony dome. We are not wired up mentally to exist for aeons. To see the ages stretching before us in a never ending landscape, where the horizon continues to move away at the same speed as we approach it, is not something I crave.  

This is the kind of novel that demands to be read again, and surely new aspects will then surface to delight and disturb. Who knows where I'll find myself re-reading this in the future though? In a cosy pub, on board a founded ship, at a Punch and Judy show, in Glasgow, London, or somewhere beneath them all? 

The Wanderer is published by PERFECT EDGE BOOKS

Inspired by this, I am now reading The Purple Cloud by M. P. Shiel.

Friday, 17 October 2014

ACOUSTIC METALLOBOTANICAL RECORDINGS

 3" CD containing one original pen drawing of a metal plant

Download the full PDF field guide to all known metal plants






Creating the drawings for the CD release



Sunday, 10 August 2014

THE BLACK PATH


Now they're all but gone, but at the time I had two marvellous blisters over my Achilles tendons. I've worn those boots many times in the past, but on this trek for some reason they decided to carve away at the skin, maybe a reflection of the environment we were walking through, which was nothing if not scarred. The surface of the land lay gouged and pitted where it had been scraped and scoured away by the demands of industry, an industry that was itself predicated on an ever expanding consumerist culture.



The route known as The Black Path cuts through a dystopian architecture of pipes, furnaces, coke ovens and brutalist deadspace like a green river. It follows alongside the railway line from Middlesborough to Redcar. Named after the soot from the blast furnaces that was discharged onto it, workers in the past would use it as an access route to the ship yards and steel foundries on foot or bicycle. These days it forms a dilapidated corridor through a wasteland of toxicity where nature is once again gaining a foothold.




I walked with my good friend Gavin Parry to assess the sounds of this striking environment by way of research. Something sputtered steam rhythmically behind a fence like a pressure release valve. Silent small fish moved in tiny shoals through standing water beneath a graffiti covered wall. Evidence of cable stripping lay in a concrete tunnel where the discarded insulation formed dead vines.


We attached contact mics to a railside fence and heard the grass tapping the wire. A passing train made the wire scream with agitation. Butterflies were constantly rising and settling on the grass around the path, and we found a mysterious tree, we thought possibly an olive? We ate chip butties seated on plastic chairs by a major road close to an abandoned railway station, where the act of copulation featured heavily in line drawings.


The walk ended on a bridge and a plaque told the sad story of a Lancaster bomber shot down by friendly fire and the young lives lost.

I have now purchased some new boots.



Monday, 31 March 2014

WHARRAM PERCY




Wharram Percy is a deserted medieval village site on the western edge of the chalk wolds in North Yorkshire. Its church, dedicated to St. Martin, nestles in a valley, roofless and surrounded by memorials of the dead. On this near windless January day little else moved but the reeds in the fish pond and the gently whispering ivy still clinging to the winter trees.  

On the grassy bank above are the outlines of peasant dwellings and the Norman manor house. First settled in prehistoric times, Wharram flourished as a village between the 12th and 14th centuries, before final abandonment in about 1500.

This recording was made in the shallow water at the edge of Wharram Percy fish pond where beetles swam around in the forests of submerged water plants at the base of the reeds.



Saturday, 22 February 2014

PHOTOGRAPHS OF LIVING METAL PLANTS

These photographs are of one of the metal plants in my own private collection.

Threadturnium boltii

The Northallerton Nut and Bolt plant produces fruiting bodies that gradually work their way up threaded stems until ready to pop off the top when ripe.

Predation by Spanner Weevils, which unscrew and eat the fruits before they are ripe, has caused a serious reduction in numbers. It is now registered officially as an endangered species.

The specimen pictured here has been grown in an empty can which helps to provide supplementary aluminium to the roots. If grown in a domestic setting, certain sounds played regularly to the plant will greatly enhance its strength and vitality. By placing a speaker at either side of the specimen (ideally they should be equidistant and no more than two feet away) the sound produced will acoustically create a very favourable growing environment. A scientifically constructed recording of these sounds is available to purchase as a limited edition 3" CDR, or as a free download from the link at the bottom of this page.

Also included in the download is FLORA METALLICUM BRITANNICA, a complete guide to all the thirty known British species of metal plants. It is fully illustrated and contains details of growing conditions, natural history and common pests of these fascinating organisms.

Threadturnium boltii immediately prior to ejecting one of its fruiting bodies

The exact moment that the fruiting body is ejected into the air




Tuesday, 1 October 2013

PHRAGMOCONE

I've got a new track coming out soon on  the Autumn 2013 framework radio seasonal CD alongside lots of other artists using sound as paint on a canvas of silence, so keep an eye out for that.

Artists

Petra Kaps
Sawako
David Velez
Slavek Kwi
Eric La Casa
Mathieu Ruhlmann
Tessa Elieff
Kim Walker

The whole thing is being put together as we speak by Patrick McGinley at framework radio.

This is the artwork for my track phragmocone.