Slow Clinic, AKA James Armstrong, cites his latest work ‘Become Nothing’ as “an uncomfortable listening experience”. Track titles such as ‘My god, these vivid nightmares!’ and ‘Relapse’ do nothing to quell the feeling that his opinion may be a tad extreme. However, a few full listens of this six track album and a read of Armstrong’s beautifully honest accompanying release notes, confirms that this is a true piece of artist self-reflection, complete with a strong message regarding an important social issue.
Work on ‘Become Nothing’ began in early 2018, in response to the multiple side effects Armstrong was experiencing during changes in antidepressant prescriptions, including; vivid nightmares, auditory hallucinations and withdrawal. The album actually opens with ‘Possible side effects include’, a four minute spoken word offering which lists out all known side effects to Mirtazapine, a common antidepressant used widely by the NHS.
The result is powerful, with almost sixty minutes of music offering a stark representation of the impact of depression, with effects pedals and field recordings saying more than any spoken word could. The album was shelved in 2019 after what Armstrong describes as an ‘unforgiving relapse’, but has fortunately made it to release in the form of limited edition cassette and CD, available via the Slow Clinic Bandcamp page.
Armstrongs’ output through his Slow Clinic moniker is a journey of compelling experimentation and consistently strong productions. ‘Salt’ for example, is an improvised long form track, the result of a morning of experimenting with adding small amounts of Himalayn rock salt to his guitar strings. ‘Fără o Frelungire a Sunetului – Without the prolongation of sound’ is the result of him producing without the assistance of reverb, an effect he had confessed to have become reliant on.
Amstrong understands sound, and he understands the feeling(s) it can evoke – an evening scrolling through his varied discography was an evening well spent.
Free Improvisation three-piece Trio Ramberget have self-released a (very limited) two track eerie wonder, entitled ‘Kulturtemplet’. In a slight shift away from their past two releases (full length studio albums,available on CD) the Gothenburg-based outfit deliver a steely 20-run cassette, complete with handmade cover.
‘November’ is a beautiful piece of music, which almost seems to be preparing the listener for the winter solstice, but offers hope in the way of ‘spring-like’ trombone. Side ‘B’ sees ‘Muller’ offer almost 14 minutes of powerful drones, punctuated with sharp (almost scary) brass notes, which wouldn’t feel out of place if sound tracking a contemporary horror. Note to self – listen at home next time – a couple of minutes into my Monday morning commute saw me eyeing fellow passengers suspiciously, as if I was the only sane one. Powerful stuff!
This was my first encounter with Trio Ramberget and the two tracks only encouraged me to wile away a blissful few hours listening to their past three releases;
To begin with, a self-titled four track EP (released Sept 2016) saw probably their most stripped back work to date. Each instrument stood out, but the more complex drone-like textures seen in their latest releases aren’t very prominent – still extremely interesting and really shows off their instrumental skills.
‘Slattermyren’ (released May 2018) – 8 tracks that still feel lighter (again, when compared to later releases), as if the three piece are only beginning to find their noir groove. The accompanying image with the release (complete with blue skies and sunshine) also appears to set the tone.
‘Musik att somna till’ (released Jan 2019) – a 10-track LP that sees me be drawn to the clarinet in the first half of the release, which subsides to see the trombone become more prominent in the second half. This appears to be a much bolder release, complete with a much more textural sound and sets the scene nicely for their most recent two tracker.