Formication: The Untitled Wasdale Recordings
Harmful Records

The Untitled Wasdale Recordings is the arresting product of improvised sessions recorded over three days by Nottingham duo Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft (self-professed ‘miraculous electrical ensemble' Formication) in the heart of the Lake District in North Western England. Though sectioned into twelve tracks, the 70-minute work feels like a single, meandering nocturnal ritual that's simultaneously ancient and new, primitive and modern. The groaning cry of a wooden flute invokes long-dead spirits in “Ancient Stones Unlock” while dense masses of percussive clatter and animal chatter dominate “The Mountain Lullaby.” Radiant chords punctuate the dense forestation, imbuing the knotty foliage with a warm tint of as looping waves of sound mimic flocks of cawing birds. At certain stages of the trip, Formication plunges deep into the Wasdale wilderness: locomotive clatter intensifies into an indistinguishable blur during “Into Water and Out Of Mind” and backwards acoustic guitar slivers slither through murky swamplands in “Night in the Sanctuary of Yew.” An arm wrestling match of sorts appears to be enacted between stuttering acoustic and electronic sounds in “Sound Reflected by Magnetic Scree” while alien life-forms engage in glossolalic communion in “Screaming from the Lake.”

While the sonic alchemists' music is clearly experimental and electronic, it's at least partially generated from an acoustic pool that includes acoustic guitar, piano, djembe, and drums, a fact that helps explain the music's inviting character despite its idiosyncratic nature. A spirit of loneliness and melancholy humanizes the material too, as when ghostly chords alternate above the alien, even industrial terrain of “I Have Thoughts That Are Fed By The Sun” and “As Breath Rushes By.” Naturally, Formication's predilection for altered states may remind some listeners of Coil but, even if it does, the association hardly diminishes The Untitled Wasdale Recordings' psychotropic character.

May 2007