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R.F.A.

Recorded in February 2021 specially for the RPM Challenge

 

Running Time: 35:00

Released On: Unreleased at present, as per the terms and conditions of the above

 

 

 

 

 

< 'Humane Edit' - 6:59 / Full Version - 35:00 >      

 
 

 
 

An unrelenting audio nightmare, inspired by and recorded for The RPM Challenge in February 2021. No, that's one I knew nothing about previously either. It was {AN} Eel, the Charlie Dog Records man, and the EFSPACM team he is a part of, that first made me aware of this Canadian based project with origins going back to 2006. It's an intriguing idea, first appearing both pointless and a tad disorganised, but on deeper exploration, ultimately noble. The premise is simple; they give you a target month, this year it was February, in which you record something, simply because you can. You can do a single track, an EP, or something cruelly album length like me and Skit have. How do we sleep nights, I know (the secret is gin). Basic terms are simple; it needs to be your own original work, unreleased, produced in February, do with it what you will from March 1st, that's it.

o

After 15 years of running the show, founders Dave Karlotski and Karen Marzloff have passed the baton to Elling Lien at Unpossible NL (yes, we keep wanting to correct it as well), a volunteer run arts organisation whose raison d'être is "to coordinate educational and non-competitive projects which foster creative courage, and which encourage community, equity and diversity." We liked that. So me and Skit had something of a brainstorming session and came up with the idea of "R.F.A.", the title derived from my description regarding the effect it has on your ears! If I explain that the 'A' stands for 'annoying', you can probably work out the rest! Even when it came to mastering the finished work, I had to pause it after 15 minutes and take the headphones off for a bit. Took me a further two goes after that to get to the end of the track too. When I finished, nothing sounded quite right for several minutes afterwards, it was horrible. Skit and I looked at eachother with unmitigated pride.

o

The concept isn't apropos of nothing, it's a very 'of the moment' thing. Skit and I don't mind admitting we have both been suffering terribly with depression this year so far. In my case, I think it was the false dawn presented to us here in the UK; being told we could get together with friends and family over the festive period, looking in to a New Year with hope, vaccines being rolled out (and I liked the idea that the saucer people would be able to read my thoughts when I was near a 5G mast)... then, having put Twizz to bed thinking she was at school in the morning, our PM (Boris: hands - face - waste of space) comes on the news and pulls the plug; back in to lockdown, 12½ hours before we would have been putting her on the school bus, no time to re-plan. Drop everything, Mr. Magic, as from tomorrow morning, you're an unpaid teaching assistant. Stay at home, do not pass go, do not collect £200.

o

So that's why I was feeling grim, 30 hours of my time every week, lost in an instant. And Skit felt the same coz he had to listen to me constantly moaning about it. C'est la vie. So we decided to create something that would be as hard to get through as the depressively monotonous pandemic-driven lockdown itself, et voila. The tones we used to get this effect are based on the old closedown signals from British television. Back in the 70's, in the days of 3 channel broadcasting (I know, how did we survive?), stations would close sometime around midnight. Having given you a few minutes to turn off the set (by getting up, walking across the room and using a knob, I hasten to add!), they would broadcast a pure sine wave tone at quite a horrible frequency to make sure you hadn't fallen asleep in front of the set. As a kid (I was allowed to stay up and watch the Hammer films at the weekends), I loved to sit perfectly still, square on to the TV, let the tone get 'inside' my head and see how long I could take it for! Now there was an idea...

To The RPM Challenge itself; it was all a bit vague when we originally decided to get involved, not that clear what you were actually supposed to do with your opus dominum, save for the suggestion of uploading to a platform called Alonetone, with whom they had some kind of arrangement and which we duly did. A few days later, circa mid-February (we'd originally registered to take part on the 13th, unlucky for some!), the 'submit' info finally appeared on the RPM website. There are a few other bits going on around this point; an online workshop event on Facebook, the caring social media giant happily displaying that '6 people went' for everyone to be disillusioned by (never been sure where they get these figures from, seem to pluck them out of thin air, think of a number, I'd bet there were more); there was a 24/7 radio stream running from their website (which still seems to be going a week after the big month); and they'd set up their own server on Discord to allow participants to communicate. Must admit, I'm not a fan of Discord, it's designed with gamers in mind (which I'm not) and I find it quite difficult to follow. Gypsy (well, Arzathon these days) tried this for his Citadel Of Musique Expérimentale Facebook group, valiant effort, but there never seemed to be anyone on it when I looked, so I gave up. There's certainly plenty of traffic on the RPM server, but not the kind of levels of interaction you expect on more established social media. However, we did get a message regarding our contribution from an Echo#2392; "Was listening to this on the RPM radio in the background. I've now got tinnitus." We apologised, of course.

o

The climax was The Global Listening Party on Saturday 6th March, a chance for the world to hear around 3 minutes each (that's a good length for "R.F.A.") of the 675 submissions received. This came in the form of a 'multi-room' event in 'virtual space' in an environment called Gather Town, which rather reminded me of the Roblox / Adopt Me thing our Twizz loves to pieces. But she's 8. Yeah, you'll get from my inflection there that I'm not a fan of this either. Organised by a company called Eventbrite, another annoyance was that admission required an e-ticket. Okay, they were free, but you have to bugger about registering and it wasn't all that straightforward and I'd bet that put some people off attending, in particular those who weren't participating themselves. But I made the effort because a lot of hard work had clearly gone into setting all this up, for little or no commercial reward, and I seriously respect that, it being a strong aspect of underground network culture back in the day. Disappointingly, but maybe not surprisingly, I was one of only four when I entered our chosen room in cyberspace.

o

Bizarrely, though rather sensibly broken down across 6 of these virtual rooms and the 7 hours of the event itself, thus creating 41 separate playlists (I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe), this had been achieved by means of alphabetical order of nations, rather than by any sense of genre. The end result was a rather disjointed listening experience (Slavonic folk - techno - country - experimental etc) and that the EFSPACM group could cheat their way to pole position by registering as being from Antarctica (wish I'd thought of that)! The RPM folk are following this with The REM Challenge, which is not for covers of "Losing My Religion", but rather to record something every month for a year. Whether we're participants or otherwise, it would be hard not to wish all involved well with such an ambitious challenge. Meanwhile, we have a certain challenge of our own for you...

o

LINKS:

https://www.rpmchallenge.com

https://www.facebook.com/RPMChallenge/

 
 

HAVE YOU TAKEN THE R.F.A. CHALLENGE? CAN YOU SURVIVE THE 35?

 
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