Reviews

Philip Sanderson/Hollow Gravity

Storm Bugs/A Safe Substitute

Storm Bugs/ Supplementary Benefit

Various/Snatch Paste

Philip Sanderson/Reprint

Storm Bugs/ Lets Go Outside and get it Over

David Jackman and Philip Sanderson/Terrain

Philip Sanderson/Hollow Gravity

From: the Wire magazine, September 2012 by Edwin Pouncey

Philip Sanderson, electronic musician, installation artist, co-founder of Storm Bugs and founder of underground British tape label Snatch Tapes, returns with Hollow Gravity, a beautiful slab of vinyl with laser etched labels that flicker gently on the turntable as the disc rotates and the sounds pulse. This latest solo release from Sanderson follows 2005's album Seal Pool Sounds, a melancholic portrait of zoos that was also spiced with a mischievous erratic humour.

Hollow Gravity is sombre but still playful, as Sanderson bolts together an imaginary science fiction soundtrack with his collection of analogue synthesizers, delay pedals and any other electronic junk that comes to hand from the pile. The results are zany and mysterious, occasionally flecked with a hint of menace, a sense of danger, a boiling vat of electronic music that occasionally sounds like the work of a mad scientist.

The A side carries echoes of The Los Angeles Free Music Society, kicking off with an infectious robotic dance track that could have been penned by Doo-Dooette Dennis Duck. This moves into snatches of eerie spoken sound collage, giving the mood of a sonic séance as disembodied voices crowd in and fade away on Sanderson's synthesized ethereal plane. On the second side the darkness that has been slowly brewing finally closes in, leaving the listener marooned on an alien electronic planet tense with symphonic atmosphere.

From: Aural Innovations blog by Jerry Kranitz

Puer Gravy is the vinyl only label run by Eric and Matt of Vas Deferens Organization and Philip Sanderson's Hollow Gravity is the label's second release. Let's start with some historical notes…

Philip Sanderson was in the thick of the UK post-punk DIY homemade music/cassette culture scene that enjoyed a brief period of visibility (if not significant sales) in the late 70s and earliest of 80s, with regular coverage of hometaper releases in the nationally distributed New Musical Express and Sounds, airplay by John Peel, and even some distribution through Rough Trade. It was a heady period when people believed that DIY releases could actually break the stranglehold of, or at least subvert to some extent, the major record companies.

From 1978-81 Sanderson's Snatch Tapes label released compilations, the first recordings of David Jackman (Organum), and tapes by the Storm Bugs, Sanderson's recording project with Steven Ball, which encompassed noise, soundscapes, cut-ups and collage, songs… all manner of sonic exploration. In fact, Sanderson had a leg up on most of his peers, explaining in a Sound Projector interview (issue #16, 2007-08) how he had access to the electronic music studio at Goldsmiths, University of London, the result being that Storm Bugs releases often consisted of both bedroom studio recordings and those done in the electronic music studio at Goldsmiths. In the same interview Sanderson also describes how during this brief window of time he could take Snatch Tapes releases to the Rough Trade warehouse and they would buy copies without even listening to them, and had a Snatch Tapes display in the Rough Trade shop, all pretty remarkable when you stop and think about it.

I could go on as hometaper/cassette culture history is a fascination of mine but I felt a little Sanderson background was important. So… on to the new Philip Sanderson LP, his first album of new material since 2005_s Seal Pool Sounds CD. Hollow Gravity consists of 12 tracks and Sanderson employs an arsenal of gear, including Korg Montron, Yamaha CS-15, Circuit bent Casio PT-280, Long and Short Wave Radio, Guitar, Evans EchoPet EP-100m WBL 4014, NDA Plug-ins, Soundforum Synth, SoundEdit 16, and Sound Studio 3.

The album includes an intriguing variety of electronic, spaced out, and creatively tape manipulated concoctions. Among the highlights is Prefabrication, on which Sanderson lays down a strange electro guitar-ish/percussive pattern that reminded me of a track from Goblin's Suspiria soundtrack, and indeed the music has an intense sci-fi/horror flick vibe, and even develops an oddball rhythmic groove. The titles on the back of the LP include little descriptive blurbs, and Chance Operation is described as “For circuit bent piano and cut-up Cage”, featuring a sparse piano melody, eerie soundscapes, narrative voice samples, and other effects. Cut-ups… Chance Operation indeed.

Among the more whimsical fun-with-tape tracks is the jazz band tape manipulation of Tooting Broadway, mixing wild sounds and voice samples from some old advertising or educational recording on The Secret Of The Fountain, the captivating combination of angelic ambient waves and bleepy blurpy electronics on Low Flying Branches, the fun strange spaced out bouncy electro melody of Crystal Set, and the Residents Goosebumps toy instrument style of Pickle Pin.

We've also got some really cool and off-the-beaten-path space excursions. Bodysnatcher is like early Tangerine Dream remixed to inject a melodramatic orchestral edge. Described as “A ballad for J.G. Ballard”, Hard Shoulder consists of spaced out soundscapes that starts off with a claustrophobic feel, but slowly adds layers until I felt like the sole passenger on a space station. And Spaghetti Tension has similarly spaced out soundscapes, but with more sound experimentation plus a strange and hypnotic sense of melody.

In summary, Hollow Gravity serves up a creative and often fun blend of electronics and sounds, all cleverly tape manipulated to create music covering of range of spaced out and experimental realms. Note that the LP has been released in an edition of only 100 copies and is pressed on 180-gram laser etched vinyl (which vinyl junkies will dig for sure).

Storm Bugs/A Safe Substitute

From IDWAL FISHER Blogspot

Vintage analogue synths, especially the ones made in Britain, are the kind of machines that make men of a certain age go week at the knees. Not for them the cheap thrill provided by a Korg Kaossilator or some other made in Japan box of circuits, it has to be British, preferably thirty years old and covered in lots of bakealite knobs. I have to admit that despite being a fan of analogue synth generated sounds myself I’m a total Luddite when it comes to recognising anything more specific than a Stylophone. I am not, in other words, one of those men who goes week at the knees at the sight of a WASP synth going cheap on eBay. So long as it sounds good its provenience can remain a mystery to me.

This mindset has been changed somewhat by the Storm Bugs. After years of soaking up outfits as diverse as Tangerine Dream, Mother Mallard, early Whitehouse, anything on Sähkö and even Tomi-bloody-ta it has been The Storm Bugs who’ve got me taking notice of the instrumentation being employed. Appearing in the late 70’s the Storm Bugs made good use of the VCS3. This British made analogue synth was to be found in one of the few studios in England catering for the composition of electronic music at that time. This being the late 70’s the Storm Bugs were no doubt pulling influences from a variety of new and exciting directions and thus A Safe Substitute whilst not exactly a Holy Grail of the period is still a deservedly important release.

Both sides of Substitute show what fertile times these were for experimentation. Thanks to the detailed sleeve notes a track by track break down reveals the use of tape delay, loops, the re-routing of signals and the heavy use of low frequency oscillators as well as three synths [two VCS3’s and a Synthi A]. Side two is pure instrumentation and where the VCS3 is at its most prominent. On ‘Hodge’ a shortwave jamming signal is fed through the VCS3 with the LFO chopping up the remains. The result is a thudding beat in which radio waves float in and out of hearing range, the beat becoming louder as the signal fades. ‘Blackheath Episodes’ uses three synths to produce a rhythm track in which varies modes of the beat are tweaked whilst the two VCS3’s provide background drones. Over on side one is where we find the vocal treatments. On an eerie ‘Mesh of Wire’ vocals are fed through two reel to reels, with a background of plodding ritualistic thump. On ‘Objective’ the thump becomes a slowly sequenced funeral beat with the addition of a haunting cornet and a drifting voice extolling the virtues of beans. The hard to dislodge tape murk covers the whole release like a fine film of gauze but its not a distraction. Early 80’s cassette releases will always carry with them the aura of lo-fidelity and as such this gives Substitute a patina of dirt that the passing thirty years has failed to shift. Wiping the muck of this release would be like polishing up and old master. It doesn’t really need it.

This is the first time A Safe Substitute has been reissued in its entirety since its 1980 release [some tracks having appeared on compilations in the intervening period] and immensely worthwhile and important a venture it has been. This period of musical creativity is providing a rich seems for labels wishing to stick coloured drawing pins into the slowly filling wall chart that is the UK underground scene circa 76-84 and long may they do so. Snatch Tapes, on which ‘Substitute’ originally appeared has a few other goodies lying in the vault that labels would do well to investigate.

The Storm Bugs went to ground for the best part of twenty years but are now back in business. Their primitive experimental synth works are being seen as the building blocks for a generation of electronica merchants who were probably just being born around the time that Substitute came out.

Storm Bugs/ Supplementary Benefit

From: the Sound Projector 16th Issue by Ed Pinsent

An extremely satisfying and coherent spin, this excellent LP compiles some of the finest Storm Bugs work released on vinyl and cassette during 1978- 1981. Some of the cuts have appeared on that previous CD compilation Let's Go Outside and Get it Over, but this LP scoops the prize for being more comprehensive and complete, and laying out the songs in a meaningful order. It also follows a schema of sorts – side B contains all electronic music, side A represents the 'clunky bedroom' side of the duo, Philip Sanderson and Steven Ball.

The 'Table Matters' EP was released on vinyl by Loop Records in 1980; it's five tracks of edgy, clattering mayhem, made with a combination of electronics, radios, guitars, tape loops, percussion and much more. Effectively a Sanderson solo set, this EP displays wild and rugged invention compressed into short bursts of electrifying genius; four of the cuts are only two minutes apiece. Using found spoken word tapes and warped voicings, Storm Bugs deliver something that is not so much a critique of consumerism, as a semi-nightmarish distorted view of shopping in England in 1980, replete with Kwik-Save signs, shoddy goods, and futile attempts to keep customers happy. ‘Table Matters’ is almost their Santa Dog; it's a perfect cryptic statement, almost inexhaustible in content, transpires in less than 15 minutes and leaves you feeling troubled for days. Great!

We also got both sides of the 'Car Situations' single, of which the flipside 'Tin' is something Sanderson refers to as pseudo-rockabilly using a percussion loop arrived at by very devious means. Yet 'Tin' is as catchy a pop tune as they ever recorded, with some delightful guitar riffing from Ball.

Side 2 of the LP features six examples of their work with the VCS3 synth, the Sythi-Bug, and short-wave radio; these are rescued from cassettes released on Sanderson's Snatch Tapes label, including Dark Cuttings, Gift, Storm Bugs and A Safe Substitute. Generally longer than the 'poppy' material on the first side, these extremely strange instrumentals give the impression of something infinite and endless, cautious explorations made across foggy and unknown territories. Both 'Hodge' and 'Blackheath Episode' are exceptionally strong experiments in electronic music, but by the time you're stranded in the middle of 'He Rose Up Again', you will be feeling almost dizzy with the doubt, fear and sheer bewilderment that seems to be embedded in every minute of this music. Ball's abstract scrapy guitar work on 'Hiemal (And She Blew)' is most notable, and it's a shame there aren't more examples of that metallic guitar noise combined so effectively with the VCS3 work; it's one of those rare moments when the separate contributions of the Bugs are fused together perfectly. Sanderson's edgier guitar work is demonstrated on 'Slow Along the Wire', a 90-second miniature of trembling angst.

File this alongside the estimable Snatch Paste compilation LP and we have an emerging picture of the Storm Bugs / Snatch Tapes aesthetic. There may not be much of this material available, but Sanderson and Ball are to be commended for the very inventive ways in which they explored their ideas, and they have rendered unique visions of the psychic underside of England, visions as palpable as the monochromatic photograph (by Ball) on the back cover which celebrates the horrors of suburbia with an enquiring eye.

Snatch Paste Compilation on Vinyl on Demand

From: the Sound Projector 16th Issue by Ed Pinsent
We've been hearing a fair bit from Storm Bugs over the years, so here's this welcome and timely survey of Philip Sanderson's Snatch Tapes imprint that operated in the UK in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He issued three compilation tapes (called Snatch 1-3), and some of the best contributions tothat series are now reissued here on vinyl via a selection made by Sanderson and representing the years 1979-1981.

Outside of David Jackman (who opens the comp with an exceptionally strong piece) and Sanderson's projects, all the names here are new to me. The thing that struck me was how unique and distinctive everything sounds here, yet all recognisably part of a very English cassette band scene that seems totally bound to that time and that place. I don't just mean the home-made feel, the use of primitive drum machines and basic synth programming, but the overall polite, cold and strained feelings that seem to emanate from almost all of this music. Every cut is slow and sad, melancholic with a bleached beauty. I'm already starting to get nostalgic for the harsh winter of 1981.

Three of the ten cuts are devoted to Sanderson-related projects – Storm Bugs, the Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey hoax, and a solo recording. All are excellent in ways that we have already remarked on in previous issues, with the unreleased version of 'Diamond and Ashes' being particularly stunning (true to its title, it has a crystalline beauty). And Storm Bugs' 'Dull Sound of Breath Inside a Tin' exhibits some spectacular inventions in terms of the arrangement of its simple elements, as though the creators were pushing blocks of noise around like playing cards. Jackman's 'Blues' from 1980, heard here in a two-track tape version, is a rugged experiment of cymbals and tape loops generating an embryonic form of the heavy droning that he would later mastermind as Organum.

That's pretty much it as far as 'experimental' goes on this LP, however. The remaining cuts are equally attractive, and they are in the main examples of very good UK post-punk bleakness, expressed as instrumental or song; plenty of alienation, mystery and edginess, but nothing radically innovative in the arrangements or playing, which remain grounded in rock music. I think this is true of the tracks by The N4s and Karl's Empty Body, much as I love their wayward gnarly-rock capabilities. Mannequin Moves do a great song 'The Girls You Left Behind', wherein feelings of love have never seemed so futile; their use of cold synth and plodding drum machine is inspired. Orior manages a similar chill on the instrumental 'Call', but it's an oddly pointless exercise. Only Alien Brains, with his 'Song', returns us to slightly more dangerous turf; in just two minutes, he effortlessly combines raw electronics with radio samples to create a real sense of paranoia. The riots in Brixton and Toxteth have left a ghostly but discernible imprint on this track.

A perfect 'autumnal' listen for UK music fans, although I am certain this quality music is being lapped up with relish by the fans who subscribe to label owner Frank Dommert's aesthetic and enjoy music of this vintage. The rush to explore this cassette era is somehow symbolised by the cryptic cover, but the disembodied hands so eagerly reaching for the tape box appear to be made of wax, or dummy's hands. It's slightly disconcerting.

From Aquarius Records (on line review)
An amazing and elaborately packaged vinyl compilation of tracks originally released on the infamous Snatch Tape Compilations, volumes one through three, which were first released way back in the late seventies / early eighties. Some familiar names: David Jackman of Organum, Storm Bugs, Philip Sanderson (who also put together this comp) as well as some names we've never heard or seen before: Alien Brains, The N4's, Orior and more. The interesting thing, is sonically, almost all of these tracks could be some strange cd-r micro release from two weeks ago. It's hard to believe these tracks are from more than 25 years ago. Not sure whether it speaks to the prescience of these artists, or the mighty debt today's crop of noisemakers owe to those that came before. Probably a little of both.

Needless to say, this will appeal to fans of the modern field of limited cd-r label free noise ambient sound makers, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, PseudoArcana, Digitalis, if you've been loving all that stuff, this will absolutely hit the spot.
Jackman offers up "Blues", which is indeed some sort of blues, but dense with buzzing steel strings and distant clatter, The Storm Bugs unfurl huge slabs of cavernous rumble and whir, a little Dead C, a little Organum, some wailing crooned vocals drift in and out, everything doused in reverb, Sanderson unleashes some strange alien new wave, muted drum machine rhythms, bloopy synths buried under fog horn bass rumble, primitive FX swirl and swoop, everything wrapped in a crumbling lo-fi ambience. Other tracks explore damaged synths, garbled vocals, primitive Plunderphonic soundscapes, malfunctioning electronics, and all manner of abstract lo-fi buzz.

Pressed on outrageously thick vinyl, and packaged in a gorgeous sleeve, matte finished with subtle embossing. So nice. LIMITED TO 500 COPIES, each sleeve hand numbered.

From Laut.de (on line review) (note:translated aproximately from the German)
DIY- was one of the most important achievements of Punk. The conclusion was simple; from now on everyone and anyone could be a musician. Anyone could set up theor own label. Financial success did not play a role in this calculation. Music was released on cassette tape, a medium that was quick and cheap; all that was required was a good idea. It was in this manner for instance that The Collapsing New Buildings made the first steps of their career and in Great Britain at the end of the 70's a thriving tape scene developed.

Later many of these recordings became categorised as experimental/Industrial, and as such were integrated into music history. Like all categorizations though this industrial label suppresses the variety of the artists who were releasing music at the time. The British label Snatch Tapes was at the beginning of the 80's the platform for a whole set of acts, whose musical spectrum ranged from melodic synthetic minimal wave to out and out noise.

Now, Vinyl on Demand has released a Compilation, which draws material from the first three Snatch Tapes. Among them are tracks whcih will appeal to lovers of Dark Ambient and fans of bands such as Coil, Lustmord or Current 93. David Jackman starts the LP with his track “Blues”, already here in 1981 one can begin to see him marking out the territory of what woudl later become the Organum sound.

Mannequin Moves, The N4s and Alien Brains expolre different experimental paths with often interesting results. The N4s use guitar improvisation in a manner not unlike Neu whilst Mannequin Move's “The Girls You Left Behind” has more of a New Wave feel. Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey conclude the LP with the almsot childlike Ambient number “Diamonds & Ashes”. The use of electronics pre-empts the use of loops and samples which a whole new generation of musicians would use ten years later in the 1990's. This Compilation shows who were teh true forefathers of the DJ-generation.

Philip Sanderson/Reprint

From: the Wire Magazine by Jim Haynes:
"Part shrewd marketing manoeuvre, part homage to Marcel Duchamp's alter ego Rose Selavy, DIY electronic pioneer Philip Sanderson donned the personna of Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey as two female electronic minimalists in the late 70's and early 80's. He kept up the charade long enough to land a Thomas & Vezey track on the 1980 Cherry Red compilation Perspectives and Distortion but was thwarted in his attempts to when the label discovered that Claire & Susan were not who they claimed to be. Sanderson subsequently released those recordings as the Reprint Cassette through his Snatch Tapes [actually the cassette release came first and was what lead Cherry Red to discover Thomas and Vezey], which published his other project Storm Bugs and a couple of recordings from the then unknown composer David Jackman. 23 years later the electronic din of Claire & Susan resurfaces, although the author is no longer hiding behind the pseudonym. Fortunately the music of Reprint (Anomalous NOM23) is much more than a giddy prank. Aptly described by Sanderson as 'an inverted Pop Art aesthetic', Reprint graft a grimy brutism culled from home made ring modulators and dismembered answering machines onto the sterile arepeggiations and polyrhythmic interplay of Cluster or Chris Carter's early productions. what may have been consigned to the dustbin of 1980's cassette culture turns out to be a marvellous find, as good as any of the recently recovered cassettes of recordings of Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle."

From: WFMU a review by Program Director Brian Turner:

"An odd and interesting remnant of the 1980's DIY cassette culture finding its way to CD: Sanderson (who was also half of the Storm Bugs), creates a trippy tapestry of gurgling primitive electronics and drifting voices in a raw, but appealing-to-the-subconscious kind of way. The legend has it that he initially submitted material to the UK label Cherry Red under the guise of being two women (Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey), hoping to 'market' himself in an unusual way to grab the label's attention. It worked, and he (or rather 'they') wound up on a compilation record, but the gig was quickly up when Philip was discovered to be pulling the wool. Reprint was originally a cassette under Claire & Susan's moniker, and regardless of what name is on it today it stands as a great marker on the home-brewed experimental/electronic timeline. Glad to see Anomalous brought this back to the surface."

From: Absurd by Nicolas:
"Philip Sanderson's 'reprint' cd on anomalous, would have been a release that I would have underestimated if I hadn't listened to it a third time. I have to tell you the truth that when I first heard it was a few moments after having listened to the storm bugs cd, sanderson had issued, which no matter it started as a most promising one, later & thanks to the various styles that were changing in that compilation can't say that turned to be my cup of tea. so upon listening to 'reprint' after that turned out not to be a good idea. but let's not beat about the bush. reprint is the reissue of an old tape sanderson had issued on his snatch tapes back in early 80's, back then was credited to the unknown duo of Claire thomas & suzan vezey. The release's back cover includes the original tape artwork and the cd as well includes bonus tracks. starting w/ a haunting play of decomposed eerie voices, that seemed to me that probably back at that time mr. sanderson might have been obsessed with records such as popol vuh's 'hossiana mantra' (or at least this one comes in mind now) and the voice of djon yun (or another artist) as the whole result, sounds a lot like trying to achieve such an atmosphere w/ more electronics means. the rest of the tracks & actually the ones that appeared on the original cassette, are a unique 'game' w/ loops & electronics of that time, that frankly if were issued today am sure that there are lots of people who would have classified them as beautiful lo-fi noise electronics, or is the least explanation I can find for them, as they bring such beloved stuff in mind. the final track 'under press of sail' which initially appeared in various compilations of snatch tapes, is in a somehow different mood, a bit more 'rhythmic' well, don't expect of course electronica here, instead, a unique diy electronics industrialish atmosphere, of course pure original as was made on the right place & the right time, making the whole lot a purely enjoying listening!"

Storm Bugs/ Lets Go Outside and get it Over

From: the Sound Projector, Ninth Issue by Ed Pinsent
"Storm Bugs ingeniously exploited the distorted vibrations they could tweak out of domestic hi-fi gear. With such primitive resources it's clear that there was some sharp creative judgement going on, because none of these ten tracks ever sound like two teenage herberts mucking around with biscuit tins and their Dad's stereogram. There are superficial echoes of This Heat and early Cabaret Voltaire but the skilfully layered textures of wireless interference, manipulated voices and faltering rhythmic clumps do justify the claim to a unique Storm Bugs sound. The track Window Shopping sucks you backwards through a time tunnel into the dawning Thatcher era, its clattering voices crowds of consumerist drones bustle through Oxford Street in the 1980 Christmas rush."

From: Gullboy
"Storm Bugs are an anomaly. How could such sounds, radically challenging the accepted texture of electronic music, have been recorded over 20 years ago? And how come nobody has ever heard of them? The tracks on Let's Go Outside and Get It Over... exhibit Storm Bugs' spacious, reverberating grittiness. Howled vocals shift from front to background in the midst of industrial pounding percussion loops, urgent echoing monotones and an array of tinny sound effects. The quiet moments on these songs are underlayed by disturbing mechanical creeks and muted primal thuds that evoke the cynical futurism of Fritz Lang or George Orwell. As complex and foreign as much of these recordings sound, the hand-made, DIY ethic of the group's production is distinctly present.".

From: Other Music
"I first became aware of the Storm Bugs due to their inclusion on the recent (and wonderfully dodgy) I Hate The Pop Group compilation... ...they were spiritual forefathers to Oval and today's Clicks & Cuts generation... ...I thrive on this kind of stuff and this is like uncovering a lost NWW album; my only complaint would be that these guys probably have enough material to fill five CDs."

David Jackman and Philip Sanderson/Terrain

From: the Wire Magazine by David Keenan:
In light of Throbbing Gristle finally delivering on punk’s broken promise to liberate music from "musicians", the UK’s underground tape scene became the suppository for some of the most innovative and challenging noises that followed in punk’s wake. At the vanguard was David Jackman. Between 1979 and 1983 he recorded a slew of cassettes under his own name before retreating from view under the name of Organum. Recorded in 1980 "Terrain" is a collaboration with Philip Sanderson who ran the Snatch cassette label. Constructed from what sounds like the slowly bowed bass strings of an electric guitar and looped percussion given halos of echo, it’s an understated drone piece that eventually builds to nothing. The flipside "Adrift" is much more striking. Oddly melodic is assembled from a repeating bass and an assortment of looped tapes set in a bizarre waltz time. Over a slowly seesawing backing track muzzy choral blasts rise and fall in a pattern that could be the duo’s miniature take on Tangerine Dream’s Zeit. "Adrift was originally the tittle track of a solo Jackman cassette released by Snatch in a run of 20 copies in 1981.Though Die Stadt pressings don’t exactly reach mass circulation figures either, the tracks reappearance here is as welcome as it is surprising.

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