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Longstone / Avrocar/Yellow 6 | L.I.F.E.SPAN / Live @ Ochre7 (Blackbean and Placenta / Ochre)
This fifth outing from Longstone is an ambitious and invigorating collage, coaxing sounds from the unlikeliest of sources. The work of the duo of Mike Cross and Mike Stone is often compared to the otherworldly transmissions of classic Krautrock and the contemporary electronica of Kriedler and the like, but the band's originality lies the panoramic assimilation of new and old sounds. In the Longstone scheme of things, the mischievous malfunctions of antique toys and the manipulation of found sounds are just as important as the abuse of banks of analogue equipment. The various moods of the album range from clipped motorik beats, comparable to the futuristic NYC rumbles of Ike Yard, to angry storm clouds of static, intercepted radio transmissions and 'Speak and Math' learning aids. On the occasions when conventional form collapses into electronic abstraction, something reassuringly organic will rise from the mix: witness the emotive clarinets and saxophones or the graceful keyboard flourishes which weave their way through treated percussive landscapes. Indeed, the album mix is very important, as the effortless flow between disparate compositions ensures the work is best enjoyed as a whole. With Longstone's successful patronage of multitudinous children's playthings, it comes as no surprise to discover that the duo are currently working with fellow synth boffin (and toy collector) Sonic Boom, following previous collaborations with Zoo! veterans Will Sargent and Paul Simpson, fellow members of the Ochre records collective.

The latest release from Ochre records sneaks a peek into last November's 'Live at Ochre 7' festival. Avrocar and Yellow6 were previously showcased on one of the label's 'Infrasonic Waves' compilations and both bands' sets are documented here in their entirety. Avrocar break out the fizzing synthesisers and sub-zero drum machines of 'Closer' era Joy Division, adding an invigorating cocktail of trippy FX pedals. The instrumental pieces here generate a suitably psychedelic mood. Eerie Syd Barrettesque glissando fretwork dominates both 'ahdies voice' and 'halov G'. Set closer 'soo claxae' is the highlight here, as a mesmerising introduction ushers in weightless guitar swells of which Popol Vuh's Conny Veit would be proud. Avrocar's strengths appear to lie in these linear, ambient excursions, but the vocal contributions are an acquired taste, reminiscent of the so-called Shoegazing scene of the early '90s. This is most apparent on the bizarre cover of Fun Boy Three's 'Our lips are sealed', which unfortunately remains grounded on the launch pad.

Yellow6 offer more of a cinematic proposition, which makes sense in light of Jon Attwood's musical contribution to the Channel 4 programme 'Wasted'. That Yellow6 have allowed the inclusion of their debut live performance demonstrates confidence in their abilities: most bands would run a mile at such a daunting prospect. The five tracks showcased here display a deft grasp of melody, as piano lines, reminiscent of Erik Satie in their catchy simplicity, and guitar textures carry along the stately tunes. Drum machines act as an accompaniment, gently coaxing the melodies along. And once the delayed drums finally decay into silence, in the final track 'hardwire,' one feels refreshed from the aural equivalent of a soothing neck massage.

Simon Berkovitch
August 2002