A Medway Vision 2 – Spontaneous Soundscapes

Since my first article I have been absolutely overwhelmed by people recommending talented creative people to me, or people agreeing with me about the Medway independent scene.  It does indeed seem that I’m onto something here.  Medway is on the march.  So let’s continue with our list of its artistic generals.

This week I have been introduced to the sound work of a band known as Hand of Stabs.  A band?  Like a rock band?  No.  Not at all.  Imagine a soundtrack to a surreal film.  Or a soundscape to an evening walk in the woods where you THINK you’re alone but you’re not sure.  Hand of Stabs are avant-garde, yes, but don’t let that put you off by thinking that the music is impenetrable.  It has a beat, but it’s the beat of nature, the beat of darkness, the beat of Medway.  For that reason alone, this is essential listening.
Mind you, they probably won’t thank me for calling them a band.  They call themselves a ‘sound art collective’.  Hailing from Rochester their site-specific improvised work is recorded at points of significance around Kent and the South East providing a connection to sacred history and landscape. Inspired by regular, often night-time explorations through these spaces, they are creating a series of ‘aleatorical’ soundworks.  In other words, much of their work is left to chance.  Spontaneous.  Improvised.  Directly from the soul if you like.

Hand of Stabs are called, intriguingly, Captain R. Standish, Jocelyn von Bergdorff and James Worse.  Standish and Worse have both been active in a number in bands and von Bergdorff was active in the cassette underground during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The idea of playing together came together around year ago.  Their work is influenced by the writings of the historian naturalist and engineer, William Coles Finch (1864-1944), Resident Engineer of the Brompton, Chatham, Gillingham and Rochester Water Company and his vivid descriptions of Edwardian Kent in his books ”In Kentish Pilgrim Land” and ”The Medway River & Valley”.   Their sound is a reflection of the significance we place upon our surroundings.

One recent performance at the Hulkes Lane Brewery came about because their friend’s great-great-grandfather a storeman at the Brewery in 1863, hanged himself there. He had been barred from the Brewery’s social club over some minor infraction and the ignominy was too much to bear. His death meant that his wife and nine children, who lived in a two-roomed tied-cottage on Hulkes Lane, were made homeless and sent to the workhouse. The feelings that these stories evoke allow Hand of Stabs to create their soundscapes.  Less story-tellers, more mood-tellers.

Other performances so far have included, the open air at Kits Coty and at the studios of Turner Prize nominated artist Yinka Shonibare as part of an installation by Luke Otteridge.  Hand of Stabs are continually looking for opportunities to play in interesting spaces to interested audiences and are very receptive to suggestions.  Think about your favourite places and now imagine it with the emotions of the location played out in sounds.  Like a dream.  Or a nightmare.  Powerful stuff.

With two CDs already out “The Geometry of Dust” and “Aktion #2: Hulkes Lane Brewery”, this year has just seen the release of a lathe-cut vinyl LP featuring Hand of Stabs and a collaboration with Medway legend Sexton Ming in his alter-ego of Jude Hagg entitled ‘Old Bluster saw the Beauty’.

Two weeks in and we have discussed two new groups, both creating dark sounds.  Is this a theme of Medway?  Exploring the dark side of life?  It certainly appeals to me as a filmmaker.  But as I’m finding out, that’s the great thing about the Medway Vision.  It’s diverse.  The dark side of life is there for sure, but as we shall see in the coming weeks there is also a lighter side.  Keep listening because darkness needs light.

“The Geometry of Dust” and “Aktion #2: Hulkes Lane Brewery” are out now priced £10.  For more information on Hand of Stabs contact: spoon-unit@blueyonder.co.uk

Mr Young

Independent Filmmaker

www.themoontheeye.co.uk

www.twitter.com/Mr_Young

www.facebook.com/themoontheeye

Area – South East

A Medway Vision: Words and Sounds

Let me explain myself. I’m an independent filmmaker living in Rochester. Over the course of, well, however long they allow me to write these articles, I’m going to highlight one of Medway best kept secrets. One at a time I will focus on a local artistic talent within the Medway towns.

There seems to me something brewing around here. Whisper it, but it might even become a ‘Medway Scene’. Filmmakers like me, poets, musicians, visual artists, photographers, writers are busy creating. That, taken on its own, is nothing new. But there is a buzz, a real sense of artistic change in the air. The Fuse Festival is fun but this is something else.

I have lived in a few places, big places like London and Birmingham and for a little while now I have felt something unique about Medway. The art that is being made around here feels raw, exciting. It’s an independence of spirit and a DIY ethic. The NEED to create. It feels like Medway means it. It feels like Medway has something to say. A Medway Vision. Over the coming weeks I hope to prove that…

First off, let me introduce a group of beat poets I have been working with. There are three of them, they call themselves, perversely, a trinity. I can’t tell you their names. They work in secret. Determined to only write poetry and discuss nothing else, they asked me to produce their first CD of poetry. The go by the moniker of 7th Adventure Recordings and mix a surreal and dark set of words to an even more surreal and darker set of beats and noises.

I have worked with one of them before, secretive even then, he went only by the name of Polarghosts. He provided soundtracks to three of my short films. I liked his style, dark and dream-like, nightmarish really. When he told me about his interest in beat poetry my ears pricked up. He had grouped up with two others who shared a passion for beat poetry and together they wanted to redefine what poetry and beat poetry was. Beat poetry came out of the post-war USA in the 1950’s. Using music, often jazz, as a backdrop the poets usually performed stream of consciousness writing to a hip crowd. The legacy lived on but transformed and the melding of music and spoken word paved the way for rap music in the 1970’s.

Beat poetry in its own right kind of fizzled out. But the works of Kerouac and Ginsberg are still revered. 7th Adventure Recordings are presenting, what they call, beat poetry for the 21st Century. The music is still sometimes jazz in form, but it’s all electronic minimalism and has more in common with techno music. The words are not about 50’s America and the post-war lost ’beat’ generation but do share the stream of consciousness feel that those earlier poets had. Even the sub-title of the new CD ‘Poetry for the Blank Generation’ conjures images of the original beat poets but repackages it, Generation X-style, for a new generation of misfits.

Their new CD is something of an ‘EP’. 8 short poems with distinct identities, 9 minutes running time. Their words strike to your very soul. It’s like listening to a character in a dream. You can hear them and understand but you are never quite sure what they mean. Partly scary, partly uplifting, the CD is unusual in that it looks and feels like a new EP from a band including cool artwork. But it’s poetry. This really is poetry with a difference.

I have seen poetry performed a few times. It was ok but pretty dull and bourgeois. I was always attracted to beat poetry as it contained a raw energy. And who can resist the romantic image of the beat poets from 50’s America, travelling, drinking, free to create and thereby define a generation. Ok, I’m guessing that this bunch of Medway beat poets won’t be defining a generation, but if you want to explore a dark and surreal underbelly rather than listen to poems about funny people on a train or how the pretty the countryside is then this group might just become your favourite new poets.

7th Adventure Recordings seem destined to remain secretive and have no plans to perform their work live. That seems a pity, but, as with so many Medway artists currently at work, their vision is what makes them tick. Their vision is what makes them vital. Their vision is what is making Medway bubble with ideas and passion. And we wouldn’t want that to change.

Their new CD by 7th Adventure Recordings, ‘Curious Fascinations – Poetry for the Blank Generation’, has just been released and is available from www.themoontheeye.co.uk or www.7thadventurerecordings.tumblr.com priced £3.

Mr Young
Independent Filmmaker
www.themoontheeye.co.uk
www.twitter.com/Mr_Young
www.facebook.com/themoontheeye