4 tracks – DLP – 70:16
Gatefold full colour sleeve with black inners
Limited edition of 1000
Compiled, edited, mixed and produced by Mike Harding & Jon Wozencroft
Cut by Jason at Transition, 16th October 2012
SIDE A 16:58
Touch 33 – Pont Saeson
Fennesz – 55 Cancri e
Bruce Gilbert – Apis
Rosy Parlane – Awhitu
Oren Ambarchi – Merely A Portmanteau
SIDE B 17:15
The Book Depository
ELEH – Over Woven
BJNilsen – The cackle of dogs and laughter of death
Nana April Jun – High And Low And Mid Plane Mass
SIDE C 18:14
Chris Watson – Brussel-Nord
Mika Vainio – Erstwhile
Carl Michael von Hausswolff – Cleansing of the Cruel Tyrants Chamber
Jana Winderen – In a Silent Place
SIDE D 17:49
Philip Jeck – Saint Pancras
Francisco López – untitled#286
Z’EV – the inreadables
Hildur Gudnadottir – Just This
Biosphere – Gryfici
“30 years and counting is an echo of a time when the world was in a critical condition, and potentially about to blow itself into oblivion at the tail end of the Cold War. As such the title is a wry reflection on the situation we find ourselves in today, where the final curtain is less likely to close, but the stakes somehow seem to be more extreme and polarised than ever.
As far as Touch is concerned, it is an expression of our youthful relationship to the work. Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft invited each of the Touch artists to contribute a glimpse of their current practice to what is effectively a group show rather than a compilation. The brief was not only to celebrate a situation, but to remind each other why we are doing it, and make a kind of documentary realism.
Some artists responded quickly with significant twists and returns to their signature sound and others left it to the last minute. The net result was that Mike and Jon mastered the LP/CD more or less as live performance in the cutting room, Transition, as an expression of the vitality of the project rather than some pre-ordained historical item.
The history is built into the cover with two images of the first computer, the ‘Colossus’, built in Bletchley Park during the early 1940s as a means of cracking the Enigma codes… Here the pressure of time is at its most compressed. Two contra-punctal images were shot only recently, backstage moments of Touch 30 situations which as historical events, pale in comparison – they are just personal, memories in a flash.
30 years and counting is a filmic/time-based response from a collective of artists who have made a distinct impression on contemporary music and the way things go. Fennesz, Eleh, Hildur Gudnadottir, Chris Watson, Philip Jeck, Biosphere… We should really list everyone. That’s what they try and do on hip-hop albums.
We started with cassettes; this project commenced as a dedication to vinyl rather than digital, a question concerning the art of recording. 30 years and counting is a manifesto after all these transformations. It is available on CD and download. The vinyl flares with the crackle of the present.” Jon Wozencroft, November 2012
Buy “30 years and counting” [DLP] in the TouchShop
Buy “30 years and counting” [CD] in the TouchShop [Now available on pre-order]
Buy “30 years and counting” [FLAC] in the TouchShop [Available later in December]
Norman Records (UK):
There are virtually no labels on this planet that are in my thoughts as much as Touch these days, I have releases in my collection by almost the entire current roster, strange news for a lad brought up feasting on various strains of indie pop and muscular guitar heroics. Perhaps my mind illicitly craved exotic textures and unnerving sound vistas over catchy riffs or punchy anthems, I know not exactly when the shift occurred but I am sure glad it did.
That they’re celebrating three decades operating from the fringes of the experimental music world, gradually positioning themselves closer and closer until they now effortlessly navigate the bleeding heart at the centre. Such is the strength and power of Touch music that all the artists concerned can contribute exclusive pieces to this anniversary celebration and despite their apparent diversity, create a seamless collage of profound moods and atmosphere-laden evocation.
As an entry point to this quiet behemoth of a label, ’30 Years & Counting’ works incredibly well, a very satisfying mix of tactile field recordings, heady twilight ambience, sparse modern classical, decaying post-rock fallout and granular tonal hypnosis. This enviable line-up of practitioners are kings or queens of their particular musical outposts to my ears – these four lengthy segments feature all the players at some juncture or other, fine innovators such as Oren Ambarchi, Chris Watson, Biosphere, Jana Winderen, Bruce Gilbert, ELEH, C. Hausswolff, BJ Nilsen, Fennesz, Philip Jeck, Mika Vainio and the beautiful work of my current squeeze, Hildur Gudnadottir. Look at that plethora of talent and weep with joy. Then buy what you can afford of their back catalogue, you’ll never look back.
The Wire (UK):
Double gatefold LP w/exclusives from Fennesz, Vainio, Jeck, Eleh, Chris Watson and so much more** Part of Touch’s extended 30th anniversary celebrations, this compilation, with a cover photograph depicting Colossus, the first computer – serves first and foremost as a survey of the extraordinary breadth of the imprint’s roster. Touch bosses Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft consider the release to be a “group show” and a piece “documentary realism” as opposed to a compilation, one which provides a glimpse into the current practice of each contributing artist. And what artists: among them Fennesz, Bruce Gilbert, Oren Ambarchi, ELEH, BJ Nilsen, CM von Hausswolff, Mika Vainio, Jana Winderen, Philip Jeck, Z’EV, Hildur Gudnadottir and Biosphere. The affinities between these disparate talents are here made gloriously explicit; it’s quite remarkable, and testament to the editorial acumen of Wozencroft and Harding, that the album – split into four long sections – feels so sonically coherent, and makes such narrative sense. It would be unwise, both aesthetically and practically, to pick “highlights” – for this is, in the end, a work designed to be enjoyed and mused upon as a whole, and in the end it functions as a celebration not only of each contributor’s solo work, but of the collective, vital, ever-influential and seemingly future-proof entity that is Touch.
Against the Silence (Greece):
Ήχοι που αναπαριστούν εικόνες, συνθέτουν μια ατμόσφαιρα προσομοιωμένη στο συνεχές παρόν. Από την μια τα νεκρά κτίρια και οι άδειοι δρόμοι της μητρόπολης το βράδυ, από την άλλη η ζωντανή και αεικίνητη φύση. Τα δυο αυτά άκρα τέμνονται όχι ως ένα μεγαλεπήβολο γιάπικο σχέδιο στα πρότυπα της πράσινης ανάπτυξης, αλλά ως πεδίο διαλόγου μεταξύ ατενίσεων, ενδόμυχων σκέψεων, ψυχογραφικών επιρροών και εξωτερικών ερεθισμάτων. «Όλα είναι ανοικτά». Ακόμη και η απόλυτη σιωπή στην δημιουργία δίνει χώρο στο έξω να εισχωρήσει μέσα και να αποκτήσει την δική του αυτοτέλεια. Η αρχή κάθε ιδέας δεν προκαταβάλλει την κατάληξη της, ούτε υπολογίζει την επόμενη μέρα. «Τίποτα δεν είναι ιερό».
Διαφορετικά κύματα νοηματοδοτούν την ίδια θάλασσα. Δεν έχει σημασία ποιο είναι το πιο δυνατό. Ο βράχος θα φαγωθεί έτσι κι αλλιώς. Ο νους θα ταξιδέψει στερεωμένος πάνω του. Ο χρόνος θα ξεχαστεί ως έννοια και μόνο τα σύννεφα θα κάνουν τα λεπτά να περνούν.
«Να που μετά από τόσα χρόνια, έφτασα να ζωγραφίζω σαν μικρό παιδί». Αυτός είναι ο στόχος. Μετά την άμπωτη η ξερή παραλία και οι σβησμένες χαρακιές πάνω στο κορμί της. Κάθε ανάμνηση όμως δεν ξεθωριάζει αλλά αδειάζει το οτιδήποτε γύρω της. Κάθε γνώση γυρνά στο σημείο που αναρωτιέται για την ίδια της την ύπαρξη. Από πού ξεκίνησα; Το απόσταγμα αυτό μας επαναφέρει στην παιδικότητα μας. Τα χτυπήματα τυχαία, οι πινελιές αυθόρμητες, οι κινήσεις ακανόνιστες. Η αντιστροφή της εμπειρίας του να ωριμάζεις, το πρώτο λευκό χαρτί που αντίκρισες ποτέ, το πρώτο άγγιγμα μιας χορδής ή ενός πλήκτρου που αγνοούσες εντελώς την φύση του. Μήπως τελικά όλα είναι κύκλοι που ψάχνουμε να βρούμε το κέντρο τους για να τους θέσουμε σε κίνηση;
Κλείνοντας τα τριάντα χρόνια παρουσίας στα μουσικά δρώμενα, από τις πρώτες punk κασέτες μέχρι τις σύγχρονες πρωτοπορίες, η Touch κυκλοφορεί αυτήν εδώ την συλλογή. Περιλαμβάνει νέες ή σπάνιες ηχογραφήσεις σχεδόν κάθε μουσικού που φιλοξένησε κάτω από την δισκογραφική της σκεπή. Το εξώφυλλο απεικονίζει μέρος της πρώτης μηχανής ηχογραφήσεων.
Fast forward 30 years, and the double album celebration of the label, consisting of 18 exclusive pieces from most of the label’s active roster, feels more like a cohesive composition rather than a compilation. With the vinyl showing no clear delineation between pieces, and the CD version indexed as four songs, it is surely no accident.
Other than the first piece, a field recording by Wozencroft as Touch 33, the remainder of the first side is the only point where who exactly is being heard can be questionable. Fennesz’s “55 Cancri e” retains his understated sense of melody, but buried amidst a low frequency layer that segues almost too well into Bruce Gilbert’s sweeping electronic and metallic groans on “Apis.” This too is a bit difficult to discern where it ends and Rosy Parlane’s “Awhitu” begins. It is only through the occasional obvious guitar scrape that Oren Ambarchi’s “Merely a Portmanteau” is obvious.
The remaining three sides pair more contrasting artists and pieces together, from the sparse piano tones and low end swells of Eleh’s “Overwoven” into BJNilsen’s London field recording “The cackle of dogs and laughter of death” and the sequenced white noise of Nana April Jun’s “High and Low and Mid Plane Mass”. Ironically, these pairings can also seem to favor one artist over another: CM von Hausswolff’s “Cleansing of the Cruel Tyrant’s Chamber” buries a rhythmic pulse under a brittle layer of noise, while Jana Winderen creates a similar ambience with “In a Silent Place” via submerged hydrophones, but knowing the organic nature of her work, as well as the other elements of the environment captured makes her contribution more compelling.
Taken independently, Mika Vainio’s “Erstwhile” is quite strong, with sounds generated via electric guitar destroyed and reconstructed digitally to bear almost no resemblance to where they began. Biosphere’s “Gryfici” somehow manages to capture the sounds of his bike’s brakes and reshapes them into an appropriately grinding, but also melodically understated composition.
The contrast of how these two albums are presented does a great job of demonstrating how the label has evolved as well: Islands In-Between is a plain white sleeve, with an unlabeled vinyl inside, only discerned by a small sticker adhered to the front. Conversely, Touch 30 is a lavish gatefold LP, beautifully capturing Wozencroft’s photography and understated sense of design. As a label, Touch has consistently impressed me ever since I heard my first work from them, which I believe was New Order’s Video 586 (which remains a favorite). As I have been following them since, there are always works I favor more than others, and these milestone releases continue that tradition.