construction & repair

‘For many, the improvised musical performance serves to create- in the midst of hierarchical social relations- a utopian space, a genuinely democratic realm full of cooperation, coexistence, and intersubjective exchange. Without established musical or social props, everything is held together by these intersubjective relationships that are as strong and as fragile as a spider’s web, and, as such, constantly under construction and repair.’

-Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, p.251-252.


2010 saw us play the grand total of one show (even if it was an excellent one: soundtracking Ballet Mecanique at Annexinema back in March)- a pretty miserable return given our hopes.

We’re optimistic, however, that this year will shine a little brighter. We’re going to put out a steady stream of releases through this site: these will be sessions with varying line-ups captured using one or two mics and given little studio treatment. They’ll be available on a creative commons license for free download (donations gratefully received) or on made-to-order CD-Rs and tapes. We’re also optimistic about getting out Plateau Suite and Crawling out of Context out through Gravid Hands: these have been given a little more tweaking during the production process, although mostly to recreate the ‘live’ sound as faithfully as possible.

We might play some shows, too. See you down the front…



We have an account! It has new stuff, and old stuff. Look…


This track will be on Plateau Suite, which is being released by Gravid Hands. We’ll get a taster of Crawling out of Context (our other forthcoming album) up there soon too.


This track was never released, and probably never will be. It’s from our pre-improv days, in case you couldn’t tell. If history had worked out differently, it would be on every BBC trailer/slow motion montage. But hey ho, you’re stuck with those Icelandic types and we languish in obscurity.

We’ll keep adding to it over the next few weeks.


Summon the criers of yr towns, for Plateau Suite will be released across the provinces shortly. Spilling forth from those of Gravid Hands like some kind of no wave krautcore behemoth, with shows to celebrate! TASTERS AHOY on our MurdochSpace.


Pre Natal Supplement: Volume 1. Does it refer to pregnancy of the South African city? WE KNOW NOT, but we have a track on it, for it is a label taster from Gravid Hands. The track (Plateau #3) is from the same session as the album (Plateau Suite) but is not on the album. It can be heard here:


Is the name of what will come after, and we are very excited. A single boomingclankingwallowingangrysadpatheticROCKING track of blackened tribal improv. This will also spew from the Gravid Hands.

Utopian Rhythmics

Some utopian rhthyms worth investigating…

Street Drummers

Oh man, this is special. Thanks to our good friend Alex for suggesting I investigate this…

Bike Bashers

Thanks to Shiri for the first link:

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra’s album to stream:

(more on this fine fine band here).

Pot and Pan Pounders

And I cannot mention utopian pot and pan bashing without reference to the Icelandic Womens’ Strike of 1975.

A Dystopian Rhythm

Rob Young has just written a fascinating post on the phenomenon of ‘rough bands’- groups who would hound people no longer welcome in their village (usually for a sexual offence) by banging anything they could get their hands on outside their residence- a practice known in Suffolk as ‘drumming a man out of the village’. Read the full post here.

As I pointed out in the comments there, this is perhaps a form of protest/direct action that could be revived for this day and age. The Downing Street railings look ripe for some paradiddles.

And to finish us off…

What kind of utopia does our music call into being?

There are two ways to answer such a question. The first is prefigurative and focuses on the political practices of our the interaction between those of us making the music. So there is a focus on the fact that our music is spontaneously and nonhierarchically generated without reference to any predefined goal. It is both immanent and immediate: a merging of utopianism (the politics of striving for a utopia) and utopia itself. Such a view rejects the possibility of ever reaching a state of perfection; constant flux is demanded in order for the utopia to avoid ossification.

The second is a variety of ‘blueprint utopianism’, with a focus on the utopia and not the utopianism and considers the affect of our music. It asks the question: when hearing our music, what worlds do you imagine? Unlike classical blueprint utopias, the utopia is created in interaction between the musicians and the listener, rather than the authority lying wholly with the author. It thus goes further in sharing the task of creating the utopia than the utopian function ascribed to science-fiction by the likes of Darko Suvin and Fredric Jameson (where the utopian vision of the text returns the reader to the present with a heightened sense of capitalism’s impermanence and forces them to engage in their own utopianism).

As Rouges Foam repeatedly points out, music is not an object to be passively observed. We ‘musick’ when we listen: interact with the sounds. Sometimes physically (dancing, tapping) and sometimes mentally. So some music makes us horny, and we contemplate fucking. Some makes us angry, and we contemplate revolution. Some makes us imagine other worlds when we hear it, or emphasizes certain locations in this world.

Some band’s whole raison d’etre is built around creating other worlds. Kraftwerk create a utopia of benevolent technology: the motorway, the express train, the computer. For the future!  There is, of course, a teutonic detachment (which can be read as irony) and allows more dystopian reading of their music. On Radioactivity that line is blurred even further, but perhaps that’s just how it seems through the lens of Chernobyl (though we must note that the live version of the track Radioactivity on Minimum-Maximum supports this view).

How do we discern this utopianism? It would take a brighter mind than mine to explain satisfactorily, but I’ll offer some suggestions. The creation and identification of these tropes is negotiated by the musician and the listener. Some favour the former, others the latter:


-Technology. Think how new, how alien, how wonderfully other the theremin must have sounded when it was invented. Think of the worlds of possibility the synthesizer beckoned. And now we are seeing a strange nostalgic utopianism: the yearning for a future never realised- a dream which looks to the past in order to look to the future. Conversely, a lack of technology may point to a primitivst utopian future.

-Onomatopoeiac sounds and sampling. Guitars that sound like space rockets. Propulsive 4/4  rhythms that call to mind an effortless cruise down the autobahn. The sampling of a babbling brook.

-Musical referencing. Drawing on the music of other cultures (or other times, as in the use of nostalgic technology mentioned above). Or perhaps on musical tropes associated with a certain kind of film genre.

-The madeleine/hauntological function. Sound involuntary unlocking memories of an imagined utopian past.

I primarily see ‘musical referencing’ in our music. Not that we seek to create a simulation of other musics, but we have clearly internalised them and create something that speaks to a communal way of life. Technology has a part to play too; straddling the boundary between the futuristic embrace and the primitivst rejection.

Enough background.  How does our utopia look?

I see a post-capitalist society. Perhaps after a climate catastrophe, a war, a virus, a revolution. Perhaps after a peaceful transition. Who knows? A reluctance to detail the method of transition is central to classic utopianism. Hence Marx and Engel’s hostility to utopian socialism. The details of the society, for me, are a little clearer. It is anarchist. People live for themselves and create their own culture. Folk rituals have emerged; communities come together to celebrate, to morn; to share in ecstatic experiences. Musicians are not just musicians: they are farmers, educators, builders. There is no division of labour, there are no full-time artists: art is not separated from everyday life. It is not something to be objectified and considered in reverent awe but something to participate in.

Traces of our present society remain in this utopia.  Our technology is occasionally utilised, but in ‘incorrect’ ways. Guitars are played out of tune; keyboards are re-wired incorrectly. Sometimes reference is made to the musics of the days gone by; a poppy melody, the faintest trace of a riff. Some recordings must have survived. Some people perhaps like them. Occasional bluesy melodies pop through. Maybe the tales of suffering retain a resonance in this utopian future. There may still be hard times for many.

This may be a dystopia to you. A dystopia, of course, is just a utopia that you don’t like. That’s fine. There was no higher complement paid to us than by a promoter who described our music as dystopian. It’s certainly dark at times. Perhaps this post-capitalist society isn’t so friendly after all. Perhaps the community uses music as a kind of therapy. Maybe its darkness just stems from the fact that the human psyche contains some dark desires.

But if Jameson, Zizek and Fisher are right and it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism then I proscribe our music to everyone. Even a dystopia shows that other worlds are possible.

Further reading:

Ben Anderson- A Principle of Hope: Recorded Music, Listening Practices and the Immanence of Utopia

Rouges Foam- The Musical Revolution will not be Released on CD: Towards a Utopian Music

Goodbye ISIS

/tips hat