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Astral Social Club

by Astral Social Club (VHF)

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First generally available release by Neil Campbell (Vibracathedral Orchestra) and co's genre-destroying Astral Social Club unit, following a series of instantly sold-out limited editions. Compiled by vhf and Neil from ASC's now unavailable catalog, vhf100 is a dense mega-mix of continually peaking sound-flow. Working a tricky hybrid ground between contempo uk teams like Sunroof! and VCO, and the influence of Kompakt-style pulsating electronic "techno," ASC's music shimmers and throbs in a truly psychedelic manner. Neil and Tirath Singh Nirmala have radically re-worked these tracks to be unrecognizable from their original CDR issues, but they are instantly recognizable as part of the unrelenting ASC rainbow stream.

Neil Campbell, in his own words:
I don't avoid the obvious - I stare straight into its eyes and ride it wherever it's taking me. But I never consciously try to imitate any form of music - that just wouldnt work. Ive enjoyed some zen approaches, but Im more basic northern European pantheist pagan in my worldview. Make a pile of new records and keep on playing. They seem to be popular with some people. New primitive twenty-first century elevation sunburst music for heavy nervous systems. I like to feel wild and out of control and like Im ripping a small hole in reality when I play, so theyre the zones I aim for. Thats climax for me. I guess I naturally gravitate towards harmony rather than melody too. My kids, and I think most kids, just seem to respond to music from birth onwards. But it's the primal thing that music has that, for me, gives it the edge over other art forms - instant celestial transport, probably works as much on our physiologies as it does our aesthetics. But Im as profane as I am sacred, so I can get the same feeling from certain dance music or noise or elevated rock music or whatever. There are many routes to the top of the mountain, as the saying goes. I use any instruments I can get my hands on that sound right. I just open up and listen, and let the music take me wherever it wants to. I listen to a wide variety of music, so maybe that rubs off? But I dont stop, wait for applause then do another number. I just let it all roll together. Because of this I was never too sure about the thing as a CDR when he asked me if he could keep it available in that format - seemed like it was then elevated into something "finished" or whatever, which it was never intended as. But he still loves his nursery rhyme tapes too. That kind of neurotic approach was blighting my solo recordings for a while, so very little came out for a while because I was always wanting to do one last overdub, one last edit, one more mix, etc etc. I'd like to approach it more like a DJ set than a greatest hits type of thing, layering and smashing different pieces together to create something a bit new. But, anyway, I like to keep some of my releases a bit underground and difficult to get hold of Ive no problem with the elitism of that. Having kids has been a kick up the arse really, and I've become more productive and happier with what I produce as a result. Im old school - vinyl is still king in our house. Last time it was a total ridiculous joyous gush of idiot excitement that just seemed to go higher and higher - it was like The Ramones, only even better. I havent found musical differences a problem why should they be? I think theyre a strength. I just let it all hang out and see what happens. It seemed to take the 60s pop music I grew up listening to and gave it an extra twist. Speaking abstractly, then sure Id like to improve, but Ive no idea what this would entail, as my own musical progress suggests the best way to improve is to stop trying to do or be anything that doesnt feel right. I get my love of sustained tones and pentatonic melodies from bagpipes. Its more about feeling than intellect. I just do what I feel like doing, and like to keep the astral social jams really mixed up and incongruous. There's no intellectual "point" to my music - it's just stuff to take me, and hopefully anyone who experiences it, higher. I guess, to me, all good music gives you what Indian music describes as rapid transit elevated, joyous, intoxicating. Its that simple - thats what I listen for in music. That said, its generally ideas I have that may not have worked in the band, so it sometimes tends towards being more electronic and process-based. But I've been doing it long enough that I can just surrender myself to the music and let it do the talking. I'm often incapable of conversation after I've played. Its the raw joyous rocket lift-off starting from a simple tune. The limited editions were there because Id been a little too precious about my solo recordings, so was using the early CDRs as psychic enemas and testing grounds for ideas - I wanted to release them then forget about them, to encourage me to work more quickly and experiment with more ideas. Probably too many to remember. Totally claustrophobic and intense. He shook every man's hand before they left, and kissed all the ladies. And anyway, I think the best music is usually that which is cut quickly and without too much premeditation, so my circumstances just keep me sharp and on my toes. Ah, so much happiness. I love playing music, it really gives me a lift, and I like to convey some sort of feeling of joy through it, so I couldn't really pinpoint any one piece. But I often fall into natural structures when I play, and I dont shy away from them theyre like breathing, or birth, or the seasons. That pleases me - it's a huge clichÃ??but I do feel like some sort of conduit/lightning rod for sounds and feelings that are already out there and just waiting to be unleashed. Basic pagan worldview, with little need for late-christian/materialist "genius" crap, y'know? No idea - whatever makes life easy for you. Keep it simple. I think its great when someone can devote themselves utterly to one instrument and really perfect their style, but its not a route to the summit that Im particularly interested in. As Ive got looser and less organised over the years, Ive got better at taking musical hints as to how pieces should develop. I don't take psychedelic drugs, if that's what you mean. Beautiful monotony. I spent a lot of time sitting around talking about producing things. To me, it sounds like theyre picking up from certain places weve hit on and really moving the sound forward into higher realm alien territory. As much as anything you do can be a celebration - cooking a meal, having sex, walking the dog. There are times when the mood is so festive when I play, then others when it's more of a glorious purging of all misery and frustration. I dont understand your distinction between a musical instrument and a sound generator theres no real hierarchy there, is there? It's always been like that with me I spent much of my late teens/early 20s on the dole, hanging out, partying, being "bohemian", and producing very little of note. Whatever, I didn't argue, so he fired ahead. Strange thing is that it does prefigure my approach in Astral Social Club, where I've stopped trying to present things as "finished" and stopped worrying if the whole thing doesn't run together as a completely smooth whole. Seems like that stuff often really only comes alive on vinyl, flipping it over every 15-20 minutes, gazing at beautiful big 12" sleeves while listening. Largely, take it as it comes. Drones just resonate really well with the human body, they're really obvious pleasure-givers, spirit-lifters, ass-shakers, head-spinners. Nothing particularly esoteric. Ah, it's no big deal - there are plenty of us out there juggling all manner of other commitments with the absolute necessity of making music or whatever. Its just how my music sounds best to me. Right now our six week old son stops very still when music comes on - some of it holds his attention, some of it doesn't, but it's too early to discern any preferences. He had a great time with Basement Jaxx the other evening though. Nah, totally quotidian - whatever time to myself I can snatch. I was more interested in pure sound, but I never heard any kindred spirits for a while - I was just listening to punk bands. I use whatever amuses me and works within the sound. But the converse applies, and sometimes I may feel like I'm just coasting, or trying to find the right sound to hit the spot, but then I'll listen back to the tape and it'll sound wonderful and just right. Once I stopped worrying, and invented Astral Social Club as a "band" to be the receptacle for my solo recordings, I became much happier with them and the whole recording process. I'm so fired up for astral social action right now! Or maybe let someone else do the talking: "the year is 1632, and you are astonished to find that your lute'n'flute band has been commissioned by the king to play at his grand hog roast in two days' time. unfortunately your mate with the sitar has been staying at your cottage for the past few weeks and you've neglected to practice much. also unfortunately, you are all completely mashed on opium. No real reason for that, other than it felt right, and I may go in completely the opposite direction at any point. But I like to get myself and the listeners out of our minds/bodies, to suspend the inevitable flow of time, overload the senses a bit, so I guess that's pretty psychedelic. I just open up and let it happen. My three-year old son genuinely likes abstract noise and has been known to throw a tantrum if I try to play anything too "normal". The mighty benevolence and indifference of the city of Leeds. As for me, I have a very limited social life, don't play computer games, don't watch films, try not to waste too much time. I prioritise. I love the multiphonic sky-soaring textures. I like to foreground things like random overdubs, ridiculous processing, loops, electronic noise. Astral Social Club just lets me have full reign to indulge whatever folly I feel like indulging. Id say all of those things occur in my music. I never held with that boring "artistic" notion of the pram in the hall being the enemy of creativity anyway. Once I heard things that were a little further out, I knew there were other people out there who were making up their own rules, and that gave what I had been doing some kind of validity, made me feel as though there may be people out there who would be interested in what I was doing. I might drink a beer or a glass of wine or a whisky first, then retire to the attic room and press the record button. I love records, but I'm no obsessive collector - I'm too tight to pay big prices, and I like to keep a healthy turnover of sound in my life, so am constantly getting rid of things. Theres no real concerted effort to sound that way, or reference any ritual music, but sometimes Ill hear some religious or trance music from some far flung corner of the world and be knocked out at how its hitting similar highs to the ones I aim for. Yeah, it's got harder to find the time over the past few years, with starting a family and all that, but that just encourages me to use my time better. If you can't do something worthwhile jamming live to minidisk or a tape recorder, then maybe you shouldn't be doing music (and I'm speaking as someone who often likes to layer and process things heavily using a computer). Really? That's amusing to me, in that the thing was originally conceived as a cassette, cut out of all the left-over bits from some of my more dense workouts - backing tracks and early drafts if you like. I cant play any instrument properly. Everything is possible, nothing is permitted, yknow? No-one ever mentions that, which I guess says as much about my listeners and peers as it does about me. I dont always hit that spot, or hit it only fleetingly, but its worth it for the times when I do. I like simple melodies, rhythms and harmonics, but like to hear a slew of simple things stacked up and bouncing off each other. I knock the most things over when I play, break the most things. The others were great musicians I was either holding them back, or keeping them in check. The only thing I can't find a current use for is the songwriting seems dead to me now. It's only comparatively recently that anyone outside my immediate circle of friends has paid any attention to the music I make it's nice to get some sort of recognition, but I'd still be plugging away at it if no-one else was interested. I've no idea. But now you put it like that, any good music can be as good a vision of the eternal as we're gonna get. I just let the grooves happen, and if they dont sound much like other western forms I just accept it, no problem. That said, I work within certain tunings, have certain modes of playing and have been playing long enough to make some of my jams seem as if they may have been in some way composed. I like it best when there's the astral social tonal centre supporting me when I go right out on a limb, and I don't know what sound I'm playing, what my equipment is doing, what anyone else is doing, what my name is, nothing. That seems more like prog rock or something, really concerned with structure and progression, whereas Im just dropping my pants, howling at the moon, and letting the music take me where it needs to go. But Im constantly influenced by all sorts of things, and they maybe spring up in my sound (or maybe not!). Ive gradually become less organised, less centred, and Im really happy with this. I like file-share for my music, especially with things that go out of print, so its OK by me when people upload and download things. Not particularly. In fact, Im so indebted to the Moe Tucker stress-every-beat approach you wouldnt believe it. So the bits of the sound that are predetermined (the tunings and sustained tones) make it easier to get right out and free and, uh, "sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world". If I start with the basic premise that I'm never going to have enough time, then anything I get done is a bonus. I guess, to me, all those musics give you what Indian music describes as rapid transit theyre elevated, joyous, intoxicating. Its that simple - thats what I listen for in music. It's been a friend, a comfort, a drug, a challenger, an inexhaustible source of inspiration to me over the years, so I assume it may perform similar functions for others. Like ODB though, ooh baby I like it raw. I get a real adrenaline rush off of the thing. They're my friends and soul-brothers/sisters. I've no interest in "concepts", only "results" if it doesn't hit me on a visceral level, then I've no use for it. It began in horrible noise and drones in the late 70s/early 80s, became tempered with some loose songwriting toward the end of the 80s, then out into wide open rocking improvisation, looping electronics and more horrible noise at the start of the 90s, and then to where I am now. I liked how they sounded, so thought a cassette would be a cheap and unpretentious way of rounding them all up for anyone who was interested. In many ways, some of my modes of playing start at the energy level some bands end on, so Im at some sort of climax point from the start. I just play everything is improvised. In essence, I've found a sound and an approach, and Im often attempting to play the same piece over and over again, and it's the failures and inconsistencies that are keeping me interested and hopefully interesting. I liked to take a few more chances and dive headlong into areas that the band couldn't or wouldn't go, often ones where I felt an antipathy towards the results of most other practitioners in that that field. But then so much generic "psychedelic" music doesn't do any of that it's just polite pop music with a few period stylings whereas, for example, japanese noise or renaissance choral music or indian classical music or techno all hit that spot much more reliably. Sometimes I can remember every moment, and at others hardly anything. Music that swallows misery whole, as Iggy once described the early Stooges gigs. Purely practical we played live music, so recorded live, straight to 2-track (so no remixing or anything at a later date). The mood was just right. No idea. I just felt it was something I had to do. We never had musical instruments around the house when I was a kid, but I started recording with tape decks and kitchen implements when I was 13, in 1979. They're great spirit-lifters like that. Ive always used a range of different sorts of instruments, from acoustic to electronic, but Ive slowly moved towards a balance that is more amplified and electronic than it once was. I just plug in, tune up and play. But as soon as I bit the bullet and got a regular job that messed my life up and shagged me out, I became much more focussed and productive. Although I say I improvise, I often use certain notes and forms, so its not free improvisation. Sometimes I think Ive played terribly and people in the audience tell me its the best time they ever saw me, and vice versa. Its all subjective. I dont mind elitism, but I also have a fair few widely available releases out there. Beautiful. Fried human loop loop wah sound. Bollocks to that - I have a mundane day job four days a week, look after the kids for the rest of the time, and do music whenever else I can, and I feel like I'm at the top of my game. Y'know, look around it's not much of an overstatement to say that most music is based around sustained tones in some form, whether overt or otherwise. It may sound pretentious, but my most important instrument is the air that carries the sound. Having kids has been a kick up the arse really, and I've become more productive and happier with what I produce as a result. But, yeah, the feeling I get from playing music doesn't always transfer to the recording. I was the untrained idiot in the band, just trying to push it higher and higher. Bad music that uses drones is as dull as dull can be, but good music that uses similar building blocks really takes off for me. Nothing tangible, but it's good mental health to be attuned to your dreams, and like to be healthy. Sometimes I feel a musical affinity with absolutely no-one, but at other loads of stuff all over the place. Friends, family, friendly faces and good vibes when I play live, good food and drink, my music, other people's music, anything done with soul. I was inspired by the "anyone can do it" punk ethos, although I never played "punk rock". Not an exercise, that's too sterile. I love being in the same room as them, whether they're playing or not.


released March 3, 2017



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Astral Social Club (VHF) England, UK

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