Stefan Christensen - Cheap Things
12" | LP | 33RPM | Edition of 500 | Released 6th August 2021
TRACKLISTING: 1. Cheap Things (For Adam and Hannah) | 2. All of the Time | 3. Tributary Star | 4. Singlemindedness | 5. Wandering Gaze
In many regards, Cheap Things represents an apex of the universe Christensen has fostered over the last decade, both collaborative and highly personal. Indeed, many of the key names from the C/Site and adjacent world contribute to the record in some capacity - David Shapiro (Alexander/Center/Headroom), Kyrssi Battalene (Mountain Movers/Headroom), who takes a lead and has repurposed the final track for Headroom, Ian McColm (Heart Of The Ghost) and Rick Omonte (Mountain Movers/Headroom) sit in on drums and bass, respectively, while John Miller (formally of Mountain Movers) recorded a couple of the songs at his home studio. Cheap Things is a record labeled with Christensen's name, but it's certainly also one born of community and like-minded creative enquiry, longtime characteristics in his increasingly dense catalogue.
Though the work that comprises this catalogue has always remained engaging, there comes a sense of event with Cheap Things not necessarily present in some of the more off-the-cuff experimental cassette releases issued in both this and past years. This may be in part attributable to the time invested in recording these five songs: starting in mid 2018 and finishing throughout the various periods of lockdown in 2020, this is the longest amount of time Christensen has spent working on a record. Recording itself is an integral aspect of the way in which Christensen creates his sound, relying on the freedom of home studios, the analog limitations of four and eight tracks, and the unique results gained from tape loop manipulations. Such processes add an element of both warmth and spontaneity to the work, though one crucial difference is that much of Christensen's other work is written with, what he calls 'little pre-planning', whereas Cheap Things is defined by a much more precise and pre-formulated vision. The result does feel strangely and more obviously definitive.
There's a life to these songs beyond their recording, the roots in fact stemming all the way back to Christensen's first solo release in 2015, the record on which the title track first appeared, albeit in rudimentary form. Written in response to the death of a friend from an overdose, Christensen was motivated to re-record the song when hearing that at the start of lockdown another friend from the same circle had died in similar circumstances. Over the years the song has grown in length and intensity, and reaches its ultimate form here, an acoustic drone that pulses with a near-spiritual reverie. It's fitting testament to the people it commemorates, and sets the tone for the remainder of Cheap Things, which through its unique melding of folk, noise, experimental and avant blues traditions appears to provide a cathartic release from the various experiences of grief, illness and stress. Much like the music of Tomokawa Kazuki, Mikami Kan and Neil Young, who have informed the album in various ways, the intent here seems to be to communicate big ideas with modest means. Cheap Things, then, is unusually titled, if not expressing the infinite and the eternal, at least suggesting that in striving for the bigger ideas we might find truth, or perhaps just some piece there of.
Mosquitoes - s/t
10" | 45RPM | Mosquitoes - s/t | Edition of 300 | Released 5th March 2021 | SOLD OUT
The second of these records, recorded to tape in summer 2016 and first released as a single-sided 12" under the name MOS-002, is arguably the first true iteration of Mosquitoes. Now fittingly renamed Mosquitoes for its reissue as a dubplate-style 10" on World of Echo on 5th March, these five cryptically titled, shape-shifting tracks, see the trio embrace a near-genre-less fluidity, and in doing so express a unique combination of both freedom and intent. By design or instinct, Mosquitoes stand at their own inverted rock nexus, presenting a music that's turned inside out, and in doing so, music that twists the listener the same way.
In that sense, Mosquitoes plug into a long lineage of DIY savant iconoclasts, those outliers who would deny orthodoxy in order to excavate new languages and ideas - The Dead C, This Heat, the anti-formalism of No Wave, David Toop's General Strike. As such, Mosquitoes rely on a musical pluralism in order to take it apart - you must know how something is made before you reassemble it anew. Labelling this an EP may possibly underplay the breadth and ambition of what's on show. Later records would arguably be more cohesive, but what stands as particularly startling with this early work is their fearless and all-encompassing dive into the avant garde. Consider the anti-rockism of the scorched earth 90s re-imagined through a distinctly avant filter of free jazz and dub aesthetics. And it's the latter which perhaps shapes Mosquitoes most, dub the perfect vehicle for the articulation of such wilful anti-formalism. Make no mistake, this is music that's unafraid to be tough, to demand something of the listener and to not ask permission. And to bear witness to a rejection of formalism so aggressively pursued is to be reconciled.
Mutabor! - Two Wishes
12" | 45RPM | A. '1001 Nights' | AA. 'Treats' | Edition of 300 | Released 6th November 2020 | Sold out
World of Echo debuts on the other side of the counter with a reissue of Two Wishes, the solitary 12" by Anglo-German collective, Mutabor!. Seemingly lost to time, Mutabor! were first brought to World of Echo's attention when drummer/singer, Gary Asquith, played at the shop's first birthday celebrations while promoting one of his other bands, Rema Rema. And so the story goes...
Mutabor! emerged wraith-like from the monochromatic grit of Berlin's art punk underground late in 1981 when Asquith left London to set up temporary residence in the city following a chance meeting with Malaria's Bettina Koster backstage at a Birthday Party gig at the Lyceum earlier that year. Beguiled by the possibilities of collaboration, musical and otherwise, he was soon to make his own contributions to what was an already fecund scene. Partnering with Koster, and Gudrun Gut and Manon Duursma also of Malaria!, Mutabor! were publicly birthed via an impromptu performance at punk rock polestar the Risiko. Asquith found himself playing percussion in what would be a first, while the rest of the band ossified in front of him in typically idealistic post-punk democracy. Little documentation of the performance survives beyond that which exists in the memories of those playing - that itself shaky enough - though there was clearly sufficient encouragement for them to commit to a recording session.
Later that winter, the four booked time at Music Lab, the studio operated by Harris Johns, for what would ultimately be their only studio visit. Two songs were laid to tape, and soon after a photoshoot was to take place at Koster's flat, resulting in a handful of images that, along with the music, comprise the sum total evidence of the band's existence. 1001 Nights and Treats both found their way to Peter Kent, a co-founder of 4AD who had recently left the label with the ambition of starting his own imprint. Entitled Two Wishes, the two track 12" was to be the first and only release on Loaded. It seems that Mutabor! were to represent a series of firsts and lasts, a trend that continues now as they open the World of Echo imprint.
It's fitting to think of Mutabor! in these prescient terms given how they sounded. Berlin at that time shared a spiritual axis with New York, the conceptual & aesthetic discordance of no wave and a nascent off-beat dance culture underpinning much of the respective creative activity. There are shared signifiers, but even in that context, Two Wishes sounds oddly out of step, moving to its own unusual rhythm. 1001 Nights stutters along on a tribal beat that seems to run independent of skronking sax, spidery guitar lines and deadpan vocal incantations, the ghosts of two songs meeting in some kind of incompatible voodoo union. On the reverse, Treats slows down and dims the lights further, as Asquith sardonically recites desirous threats as an increasingly malevolent sax and guitar grinds behind him. No surprise the darkness within the music given the parent bands and the backdrop of a crepuscular early 80s Berlin, though there remains a complex compositional element to these songs that suggests a broader spectrum of emotion - desire, romance, and ultimately, infinite possibility.
Recut and mastered, Two Wishes is now presented with the original front cover artwork alongside additional imagery, including a 16 page booklet, all culled from Asquith's own archive. A brief bolt of energy at a crucial juncture in music history, Mutabor!'s story is emblematic of the mutli-verse of post-punk and the creativity its ideology necessitated.