What we are up to

Samizdat on Forest Swords' - Ground Rhythms *newMERCYcomission*

09/08/11 Live
by Nathan Jones

This first major commission of our Overlap programme will be the centre-piece of our Spectres of Spectacle  show with AND Festival on 29th September.

Forest Swords is working with experimental music-events producer Samizdat on a unique performative installation - a series of three original tracks based on non-places, with instrumentation split across three self-destructive vinyl cut onto xrays at Ted Riederer's Never Records, which will be archived and responded to with a new 'dirty concrete' poetry-work by Nathan Walker

Below, Andrew Ellis, AKA Samizdat, discusses the motivations behind the piece...

My love of Samizdat has been a long one, using it as a name for most of my activities for the past seven years I've spent in the city, and this project crystalises many of my motivations across this time.

The term Samizdat, introduced to me through a good friend's work, related originally to the self-publishing of government suppressed materials under a communist government. People who were so overwhelmed with the need to spread their message, their loves and their words, that they would risk imprisonment to make sure their voice was heard. Times are different now, censorship laws surrounding music, art and literature will rarely be such that anyone's free speech would be affected - but I try to retain this value of expression across my production in music and multimedia arts.

The term took on a new meaning to me as spread my passion for music and arts through whatever means available to me at any given time. Magnitizdat, the overarching name of this piece with Forest Swords and Nathan Walker, is the name given to the music specific area of samizdat. The remaining evidence of Soviet era magnitizdat is beautiful - without pressing plants and blank disks to cut to, through trial and error people discovered a new way for to diseminate forbidden musical output, cutting direct to x-ray slides, creating quickly degrading limited use copies of music otherwise unheard, onto the backdrop of broken limbs and fractured ribs.

Matthew Barnes a.k.a. Forest Swords is one of the most exciting producers and musicians in leftfield music spheres in the present day, working at the interface of various musical genres to create complex and brooding soundscapes. A Fact Mag review of his most recent work 'Dagger Paths' goes some way towards describing Barnes' output:

"It's weird, in listening to music, how easy it can it be to forget about the musicians who make it... Dagger Paths never lets you forget that. Like an old blues recording, this is physical music, with all the flesh and blood craft laid bare... the more you live with the record, the more starkly a distinctive, brutally minimalist aesthetic comes to the fore... akin to doom metal but with all the power stripped out to reveal a naked, vulnerable core... This is an overwhelmingly sad record, but at the same time a curiously hopeful one - the stunning cover of Aaliyah's ‘If Your Girl', for example, is all dying-ember drones and ghostly hums until it suddenly flutters away into an almost ecstatic crescendo.... However alien and beautiful these sounds are, you always see the guy alone in his room bringing them to life."

This collaboration looks at contextualising the death of institutions with the death of the active consumption of music. Both need preservation for the betterment of society. Three pieces will be created responding verbal histories of The David Lewis Theatre, The Overhead Railway and The Sailor's Home - three 'places' that no longer exist, from Liverpool History.

The music pieces will navigate through percussive, vocal and instrumented sections with each piece split across three disks cut onto X-rays. The x-ray, as well as providing a degrading form for the music, also representing the incisive emotional exploration of Liverpool's hidden histories, harking back to the context of magnitizdat.

In working on this project I wanted to look at the importance of active listening, in a world of muzak and an over-saturated market environment. I want to re-awaken a similar sense of importance for recorded music that was felt by those who first listened to these rare, hand cut x-ray disks in the 1930's. This intensity around the listening is what will hopefully tie together the project, as people gather to hear the only new material by Barnes' before his next release in 2012, played once only before degrading, never to be played again - like the verbal histories of the places that the music is inspired by, leaving only a shadow of itself in legend and reportage.

NB. Much of my enthusiasm for the world of record cutting is due to Ted Riederer, helping Ted co-ordinate Never Records for the Liverpool Biennial last year put me face to face with a record lathe for the first time. A Technics record deck awash with steam-punk-esque attachments allowing the machinist to turn a blank piece of plastic into sound. It's the closest thing to magic i've experienced, there is an air of the alchemists of old when working with such a machine. Ted's installation 'Never Records' focuses on communities brought together through music and the non-economic elements of record store life on a day to day basis. The second area of focus is looking to creating a tangible document through live sound akin to the archiving of American folk in the early 20th century by the Lomax brothers. The X-rays will be lathe cut at Ted's installation as part of Merge Festival in London Bridge just prior to Specters of Spectacle, with no documentation of the process and no online information regarding any having cut to X-ray in over 50 years this experimental musicology offers a true insight into the dissemination of Samizdat media and the process surrounding it. His multimedia works and Never Records recordings and documentation can be found at http://www.secretshape.com/. He will be cutting records once again in London from early September, head down if you can.