VA: The Outer Church
Front & Follow

What, pray tell, is The Outer Church? A performance venue established in Brighton in 2009 by music writer Joseph Stannard (The Wire, Mojo) to, in his words, allow “various forms of unheimlich audio [to] converge with moving images of a similarly anomalous nature.” A scan of some of the acts that have appeared—among them Demdike Stare, Raime, Old Apparatus, and The Haxan Cloak—offers a reliable impression of the kind of music featured by programmer Stannard on this twenty-eight-track compilation. You'll be excused if words like Ghost Box, H.P. Lovecraft, Mordant Music, hypnagogic, and hauntological enter your thoughts as you digest this wide-ranging collection of previously unreleased recordings by acts that have performed at the locale.

An early standout is “Tilda Holds a Sword and Lilies” by Grumbling Fur (Daniel O'Sullivan and Alexander Tucker), which could pass for a missing track from Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), the vocal delivery reminiscent of Eno's and the arrangement and composition likewise very much in the rarified style of that album. The song's oddball character is one shared by many another track on the compilation, which, at slightly less than 150 minutes, is comprehensive, to say the least. Another strong vocal cut comes from Hong Kong in the 60s (Mei Yau Kan, Christopher Greenberg, Tim Scullion), whose “Summer's Bird” evidences a sweet, Stereolab-like charm in its wistful pop melodies, while Angkorwat's (Niamh Corcoran) “I Hope He Had” takes its inspiration from the doomed romance of Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates in a warbly slice of electro-pop that resembles a less feverish track by The Knife.

The release includes everything from harrowing plunges into diseased soundscaping (Black Mountain Transmitter's “Drawn In Silhouette”) and spacey dub-techno (“96D” by Broken20 associates Ruaridh Law, Dave Donnelly, and Dave Fyans under the name BrokenThree) to garage-punk synth-pop (Graham Reznick's “Tomorrow in New York City”), sample-spliced stutter-funk (VHS Head's “Freight Night”), and woozy dreampop (Paper Dollhouse's “Swans”). Not unwelcome, occasional restrained settings surface, such as “Thrones of Nitre,” an astral synth meditation by The Wyrding Module (Team Doyobi member Christopher Gladwin) and “Unnatural History,” seven minutes of ghostly isolationism by the aptly christened Robin The Fog (Robin Warren).

Experimental, ambient-drone, and dance genres get mangled into new, coal-black shapes when they pass through The Outer Church's doors, as evidenced by the mutant techno of “Some Truths #24 (Edit)” by (naturally) Some Truths (Ralph Cumbers aka Bass Clef) and discombobulated psych-folk of “Melegez” by Kemper Norton. Such moments are the mere tip of the iceberg, of course, on a set that also includes pieces by Pye Corner Audio, Ekoplekz, Old Apparatus, Sone Institute, and Anna Meredith and plays at times like Syd Barrett's mental state (circa 1967's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn) distilled into physical form. If not everything here strikes one's fancy, there's certainly no shortage of material to sift through in this generous package.

August-September 2013