Mark Barton | Losing Today
Roadside Picnic ‘s/t’ (sound holes). Essentially a sometime Justin Wiggan (DotB) solo venture sometime revolving door of guest appearances type project who I must admit appear to be something of a completists nightmare given they have this annoying knack of sneaking out all manner of releases often tastily decorated all manner of creatively acute forms - sometimes in mini knitted woollen quilts or hidden inside hulking packages that include a woman’s shirt and a note - indeed don’t ask - and always arriving in ultra limited editions without warning or fanfare on labels you’ve probably never heard of. This year alone there’s been adventures via ears to iowa, taardvaark trash tapes (which will incidentally feature late in this missive), a beard of snails and chocolate monk. Anyhow enough of that and back to the main event - this outing arrives in an unusually abundant numbered press run of 55 on the - previously unknown to us - Soundholes imprint - a tiny label who it seems specialise in melodic matters drone, out there and off the radar - who to date to their credit have put out nearly 50 releases by the likes of merit, tina turner tidal wave (whose name alone has us positively itching with curiosity), water lily jaguar and Duncan Harrison. Five stilled suites sit up this cassette release which as is typical of Wiggan’s more experimental sonic sculpturing persona explore and magnify the somewhat hidden realms and unmapped sub-strata’s of sounds micro verse and should appeal in the first instance to those who subscribed to that excellent noise and electronic multi volume anthology set via sub rosa a year or two ago for this release delves deep into the primitive processes of chamber-tronics. To trace elements informed by an industrial mindset Wiggan cuts a pathway that’s all at once unnerving, unsettling and uneasy, this is not the staple diet for party pop patrons instead much like his recent DotB and Geography of Nowhere involvements Roadside Picnic take the notion of sound as an atmosphere / a mood / a moment captured rather than a melodic configuration per se and via an intricate weaving of subterranean sonar, alien field recordings and wavering frequency manipulations. At times ’roadside picnic’ could be taken for an aborted and long since lost cult sci fi soundtrack it’s a point not lost on the ice cold desolation served up by the ominously disquieting ’grey wolf no pepsi’ which to the deathly ether shrouded procession of humming distress calls emerges something likened to a futuristic H R Giger design looms large from the darkened void whilst opening ambit ’milk teeth on the windowsill’ is cradled with an air of post apocalyptic ‘blade runner’ like finality whilst grimly tailed and traced to the slow turn of sludge slain motorik motifs which on first listening may appear darkly foreboding not unlike it should be said haunting underground rail track apparitions yet occasionally blossom effervescently into radiant sunbursts of shimmering skree avalanches. ‘chandelier in the bath’ is your quotient of ice sculptured sparsely equipped ambience fayre while odder still is the wallowing leviathan like whale cries immersed within ‘serve man’ which posits itself in what can only be described as arcane pre natural ritualistic rip tides while the delicate ice formed nocturnal purr of the hypnotically calming ‘candy tree’ playfully toys and pings to come across not unlike how you’d a troupe of Clangers on acid to sound. Recommended for closer investigation.