PFM: Pre FM Tracks

Sticker Club: Song Time Two

The Development of Shape vs. Daniel Hopkins:
Close to the Edge

Established in 1999 and originally rooted in Newport, South Wales, No Ground Processes is the name under which Dan Hopkins, Myk Thomas, and Chris Eynon (plus various associates) present live music and visual arts events. The collective's web site ( and noground-r label function as both an archive for past works and a showcase for new projects. The label's range is captured in a representative trio of 3-inch releases from PFM ('Poor Father Material' aka Myk Thomas from Newport, South Wales), Sticker Club (Rory Phillips), and The Development of Shape, here collaborating on a DVD film with Dan Hopkins.

Pre FM Tracks features three instrumental pieces Thomas created using guitars, violins, and electronics. “The Beauty of Repetition,” almost ten heavenly minutes of slowly unfurling streams of crystalline tones, makes the strongest impression. With dramatic shifts in dynamics and a stronger guitar presence, the considerably more intense and animated “Prophet Making,” by comparison, hardly qualifies as ambient at all while “My Favourite Memory” eschews ambient too for plodding guitar-driven beats and whirring noises, though smothers the listener with engulfing blur near its close.

Sticker Club seems to pack an album's worth of material into eighteen minutes on Song Time Two, with eight songs ranging between punchy guitar pop (“Happy Song (Demo)”), elegant guitar swing (“Somos Nostros Hombres?”), and various synth-pop styles in between. What Phillips gains in diversity, he loses in cohesiveness and, while it doesn't all work so well (the arcade bop of “Laptop Song” makes for a silly coda), it's impossible not to smile when the Go-Go's' “Vacation” gets a Gameboy makeover. The melancholy electro-buzz of the opener “Poorly Song” succeeds most of all though the clicking beats and delicate melodies of “Fage” are memorable too.

Close to the Edge, noground-r's first DVD release, developed out of live shows where Dan Hopkins' visuals accompanied The Development of Shape's music. In the eleven-minute piece, the Derby/UK-based instrumental duo generates slow-motion drift in two connecting songs, “Clean Billy” and “Arch-e.” Opening with a woman's voice describing Billy Martin (“one of the nicest boys in our town; he's one of the cleanest boys too”) against a black screen, the voice gradually fades, shifting the focus to a lulling guitar-drums episode accompanied by night-time photography recorded from within a moving vehicle. Frame sizes for the images mutate, abstract golden slivers bleeding into full-screen footage of nocturnal streetscapes, as the voice briefly re-appears. Blurred snatches of neon illuminations then flit across the screen as the music becomes jagged, bluesy scars. Close to the Edge reaches a peaceful close with panoramic vistas of open plains suggesting that the trip is far from over.

As mentioned, the three releases inhabit such distinct musical zones, the only thing they share (aside from an explorative artistic appetite) is the 3-inch format.

August 2005