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).
For more information visit the Puer Gravy web site at: http://www.puergravy.com
CLICK HERE for a free download of the entire Side A
Visit the Philip Sanderson web site at: http://www.psouper.co.uk
Visit the Snatch Tapes web site at: http://www.snatchtapes.co.uk (LOTS of mp3’s!)
Last but certainly not least, visit the Storm Bugs web site at: http://www.stormbugs.co.uk
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz