TS08 – People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz “Withers in the Waking”

7″ vinyl only
Limited edition
Artwork and photography by Jon Wozencroft
Cut by Jason at Transition

Track list:

Side A: In the Waking 5:55 [Locked groove]
Side B: Withers in the Whist 4:27

The 8th in the series of Touch Sevens, and the first to introduce melodic narrative. Both songs are results of the WFMU podcast series “Codpaste”, in which Vicki & Ergo publicly composed a series of collage compositions, deconstructing their respective practices, and a live soundtrack to Christian Marclay’s “ScreenPlay”. The series and soundtrack resulted in the online only album “Rhapsody in Glue”, from which these two songs are alternative versions.

“Withers in the Whist” takes one of Vicki & Ergo’s current staple obsessions: the melody line of Prokofiev’s ‘Troika’ from the Lieutenant Kije soundtrack (originally used in V & E’s work during a particularly snowy sequence of the Marclay film). This treatment dispenses with sampling entirely, instead using instruments to create variations on Prokofiev’s deceptively simple melody-line, tied together with impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. It is playing with Prokofiev like a bad child who loves it’s toys.

“In The Waking” began with Ergo replaying with multitracked guitars the main melodic motifs Vicki collaged in the composition “Carmic Waltz”, with Vicki then ornamenting the guitars with splashes of colour like a real painter of sound, all blended into a pot of carnival steam with Ergo’s wordplay. It is a fantasy for the dream the fairground has when the world is sleeping, but only takes place five minutes before the carousel wakes up


Heathen Harvest (USA):

Touch is widely recognized as perhaps being one of the most eclectic and innovative independent labels of its time. Time and time again they’ve showcased the most intriguing acts from the world of experimental, industrial, ambient, and electroacoustic music. From Nocturnal Emissions and Daniel Menche to KKNULL, Oren Ambarchi, Fennesz, and the brilliant madman z’ev, the label continues to impress with every release. But it is perhaps the lesser known acts that they showcase that end up being the most overwhelming and, indeed, surprising. With “Withers in the Waking” we see the eighth 7” release from Touch’s “Touch Sevens” series, a unique undertaking that has been preluded by the likes of the aforementioned Oren Ambarchi, as well as Jim O’Rourke, Chris Watson, and others.

Touch describes their Touch Sevens series as being reflected upon the following: “7″ vinyl was the quintessential format for popular music. Today, it is an undervalued and mostly promotional medium, used as a fetishistic signpost to a time of musical authenticity and a “healthy” popular culture.” It is indeed true that 7” vinyl was once the quintessential format for popular music, but one can’t really say that it’s truly undervalued. Perhaps in the mainstream the vinyl ‘recharge’ as it were hasn’t seen quite the uprising as it has in the underground, but surely, at least in our realm, the 7” is still very much alive and appreciated. To be fair though, that is only half their argument. You can see the full extent of what they think here.

This series of vinyl 7”s are a literal middle finger in the face of the digital age. Granted, Touch has long been a label embracing it, first with their “Touch Radio” series in 2005 and last year when Touch’s archive became available for digital download, a series like this can mean a lot for the few still clinging to the fact that the physical packaging of an album is just as important as the music, and the truth is that this has been one of the biggest arguments as to why Touch is a ‘special’ label. Their packaging and artwork has long stood above the rest and to this day still retains a kind of nearly ritual flawlessness. It’s blatantly clear that releases aren’t simply music or money to this label. This is artwork in the highest degree, every clank of a loop, ever crease in the sleeve. This, however, is not a critique of Touch as an entity, but rather the expert collaborative effort “Withers in the Waking”.

This eighth undertaking is a collaboration between two artists who are no strangers to one another, People like Us and Ergo Phizmiz, the former of which has about eleven more years experience than the latter. The lines are somewhat blurred to just what these two share that keep them coming back to one another to collaborate, but the feeling is that their relationship seems more personal than their separate biographies allude to. What we have with this beautiful yet unique 7” is a cultural oddity of folk pop sung over top of found sounds and electroacoustic soundscapes. In the Waking (Forest Embers Mix) is a strange and percussive waltz into the layers of all-to-happy rhythms paired with xylophone solo and a well-performed harmonious vocal duet. A descriptive tale of what seems like the beauty that follows in the aftermath of a burnt-down forest. In this sense the track comes off as somewhat mentally unstable, insane in a way. It’s just strange that such an uplifting track should have such a strange lyrical value, though its not always easy to tell exactly what they’re saying. Whithers in the Whist (Wandering Embers Mix) follows much the same appeal of pop folk overtop of electroacoustic music though this time the found sounds are much more obvious than the previous tracks, being comprised mostly of separate sounds rather than music itself. This one’s definitely interesting and I wish I could hear the vocals better as it seems to follow the life of a butcher, perhaps standing on his head? Trembling and falling on his arse? The lyrics make no sense! But they’re oh so hilarious and quite fun regardless.

Its difficult to really have a strong-fit opinion on this release. With something this strange you never know where the serious perspective should lie, if there is one at all. However, Touch’s fans already know exactly what they’re in for and what they’re getting into. Any fan of experimental electronic music who can get into the fun side of vocal melodies should really enjoy this one.

Aquarius Records (USA):

The latest entry in Touch’s ongoing series of limited 7″s from People Like Us and Ergo Phizmiz is by far the biggest surprise of bunch so far, in that you’ll find no deep drones or abstract minimalism or delicate soundscapery, instead, as it states plainly right there on the sleeve, we get “Two new rolls of woozy dream circus lovingly cooked by two bakers of antiquity. Recorded in the ice and snow, in clay ovens, by broken down carousels.”

Which is pretty much what it sounds like. Lilting sunshine-y melodies, circusy calliopes, gentle summery strum, and lushy boy girl vocal harmonies, all spun into some sweet pop confection. Sort of like Belle And Sebastian run through The Decemberists, and indeed all woozy and warbly, playful and pretty, old timey pop. But that’s just the A side. The B side begins with a rhythm straight out of Perrey And Kingsley’s songbook, but it’s not long before the vocals come in, and again offer up a sing songy fractured doo wop duet, while the strange honk and skronk continues on beneath, along with some warm record crackle and some warped off kilter keyboards.

Definitely a weird one, and will likely rub some of the more striaghtlaced minimalist Touch music fanatics the wrong way, but it’s a pretty darn giddy chunk of high art gone low brow, which is most definitely a good thing.

Boomkat (UK):

Arch plunderphonics expert Vicki Bennett teams up with Ergo Phizmiz for what ostensibly would seem to be an administrative cock-up at the pressing plant. These two have made a 7″ that bears little resemblance to the Touch singles series as we have previously known it: the strict minimalism of Mika Vainio, the phosphorescent guitars of Christian Fenesz and the complex drones of Jim O’Rourke all seem a million miles away from the ramshackle folksy clamour of Withers In The Waking. There’s an implicit wryness in the Jon Wozencroft cover image, the colourful helter skelter hinting at the puerile delights that lie within. For ‘Withers In The Whist’ imagine Los Campesinos taking on Prokofiev’s ‘Troika’ from Lieutenant Kije while a children’s sound effects LP grinds away with squeaks and whistles in the background. Similarly ridiculous is the reinterpretation of ‘Theme From A Summer Place’ on ‘Withers In The Whist’, which could double as a folktronica parody . As ever there’s a decent helping of subversion tucked away in these grooves, and the familiar People Like Us strategy of ‘borrowing’ heavily from pop culture and well-known musical texts adds some sophisticated magpie dynamics, and a real sense of gleeful delight, to what could otherwise be very, very silly indeed…

Norman Records [UK]:

People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz finally have their lovely 7″ out as part of Touch’s highly collectable series. The two tracks here are alternate versions of the digital only ‘Rhapsody In Glue’ album that came as a result of a WFMU podcast hilariously called “Codpaste”. I remember when I was at school and I used to have packed lunches and my friend always used to have fish paste in his sandwiches. I still stand by the opinion that it is one of thee most revolting substances known to man…. And so anyone expecting the plunderphonic sampling madness of their last release ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ is in for quite a surprise. Now… you can read all about the concept and the working methods in the press release so I’ll refrain from regurgitating them at you. What you need to know is that ‘In The Waking (Forest Embers Mix)’ is a thoroughly uplifting and heartwarming tune. Their respective vocals compliment each other wonderfully over Ergo’s breezy guitar, layered harmony’s, understated beat and pretty, childlike chiming melodies. A remarkably accessible piece for this series but the label clearly recognize talent and quality when they hear it. On the flip side is ‘Withers In The Whist (Wandering Embers Mix)’ which is a far more quirky number, what with the crazy toy sounds and all. You can’t help but have a big happy smile on your face. Great stuff 🙂