Research Laboratories / RL020 Cassette (2018)
New tape ‘Orphaned Works’ released on Research Laboratories, 2018. Limited edition of 30 copies. Twelve tracks.
>>> Monaural verbal stimuli of forgotten provenance <<<
“Another great collection from the current god of tape archaeology. Using similar found-sound materials as his Lend An Ear and Remnant Kings releases, Vernon here again evokes incredible emotion and atmosphere in what amounts to a diverse collection of relatively short pieces. We get of course detailed clanks and clunks amidst the sound of all manner of interior spaces along with fragments of instructional tapes, dictations, and anonymous thrift-store home recordings (somebody turned 16 on Friday, October 13th 1989, if you’re the superstitious type) among much more. Overall has an ethereal, haunted character as complimented by the 4AD-like cover art/layout. More composed than collaged, they differ from Lend An Ear while retaining a similar intimate feel. The emphasis on structure at times veers toward his work in the duo Vernon & Burns. One of the better details is the use of hyper-processed voice wizardry, not unlike Valerio Triccoli or “The Floor Above” by Mercury Hall. Vernon’s added acoustic work is of course also absolutely gorgeous and spectral. Has a distinct (by chance only, mind you!) HNAS/Heemann/Ultra vibe at times. Criminally-small edition which I understand is nearly sold-out, so visit Mark’s YouTube channel to stream it:”
“…Side one brings us glitched rhythms, distant drums, creaking doors, static walls and half-heard words from a tea room conversation. I imagine a lot of the sounds here are ‘found’. Cassettes / tapes lost in time and rediscovered lurking in the back of dusty charity shops, boot sales and the radio airwaves. Orphaned Sounds? Both sides play as one piece. On side one “Sentinent Dust (Go Thou Must)” stands alone though. A pagan banishment ritual discovered after taking the wrong turn on Summerisle.”What was the interest of Dr. Pepper”?
Side two begins carrying an air of menace. All seance and atmosphere. Concentrated mouthplay, detuned radios and clutterphonics. The approaching air of menace soon turns to whimsy with toy guitar and cat-a-waling. It all starts straying in to Nurse With Wound territory before returning to the shadows with “A Pale Pink Voice”. I am not complaining. This is my first hearing of the sound of Mark Vernon and I am intrigued and wanting to hear more.”
Steve Cammack, Remuhmuration.
…as has been reported numerous times in these pages, Vernon is an undisputed king of tape treatments, doing it in a very English and understated way, and operating in an endearing environment of found objects, cheap machines, discarded fragments, and a DIY approach that embodies all that is best about the garden-shed ham-radio amateur, a can-do make-do-and-mend attitude. If I make it sound like Vernon belongs to an earlier period in UK history, maybe he does – but I mean it in a positive way, a time when there were better manners, a bobby on every corner, and a man could smoke his pipe in peace in a railway compartment…
The tape before us today is called Orphaned Works (RESEARCH LABORATORIES RL020). Only 30 copies were pressed, a quantity which seems incommensurate with its cultural value, and there isn’t even a Bandcamp page where one could spin its delights on the PC. All the familiar Mark Vernon trademarks are here: lost, dissociated, found recordings assembled in a slightly absurd, vaguely scrambled framework that makes a mockery of linear thought, corresponding instead to the artist’s own spontaneous lines of thought and creating a dream-like interior logic that is a pure delight. Music, voices, and sound effects – pretty much the three fundamental elements in his box of groceries, but the techniques of assembly, editing, varispeeding and collage are also present, just done in his usual unobtrusive way. Vernon has never been one for calling attention to the technique, unlike the academic composers who developed musique concrète and its numerous followers, who often can’t wait to demonstrate – very loudly, if possible – their flashy skills on the mixing desk, editor, or computer suite. Mark Vernon is too close to the content and meaning of his work for that, and I suspect he would prefer to gently release hidden voices and unexpected treasures from their respective oxide traps, and inviting us to follow the butterflies as he sets them free. This is something we can only love and respect.
I will add, finally, that this particular radio-play (almost every release of his deserves to be understood and heard in that context – they are like a magical realist version of Radio 4 from a lost between-the-wars period that never existed) is not only redolent of mystery and sadness, but also hinting at the mortality of all human life, the fragile existence of the soul in a bleak and uncaring world. It does all of this by the power of suggestion, juxtaposition, and careful light-touch treatments. Vernon remains so respectful that he almost effaces himself from the compositional picture; and yet everything he does is unique, could only have emerged from his fingerprints. A delight! From 18th July 2018.
Ed Pinsent, Sound Projector.