“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest was the bassist in Dadaist handbag Irish-English indie legends Stump where the bass was literally in your face (recently themselves picked as a “song for ewe” choice by Trevor Dunn of Tomahawk/The Melvins etc). He’s also a sampling / electronic pioneer both as a member of AV punks Ticklish and solo with notable albums including “Whispering Foils” on Duophonic/Drag City in 2000 and “Stolen Jewels” on Ghetto in 1990. And if that’s not enough he is to be found slinging his bass in quirky “prog-crypto-funk” (before crypto meant currency) band Prescott.

Back with a bang, and a pleasing squelch, with a beautifully lopsided album called “Sans Noodles” on my increasingly favourite label Dimple Discs (home of Cathal Coughlan, Telefis, Keeley and more), his world is surreal and makes my brain drip like one of Dali’s clocks and makes me want to bosh something like Hieronymous. Welcome to our eponymous but anything but anonymous hero of the hour, Kev Hopper!

Last seen out walking his dog off the face of our ineffably curved earth…

Kev Hopper’s captain skronk soundwork is hard to decipher but easy to digest. Un-pin-downable if that was a word, it can veer uncontrollably from Ennio Morricone to Mr Scruff or the Denison-Kimball Trio via the paint explosion of a Pollock to the abstract facade of a Twombly.

“Sans Noodles” suggests that this album is without noodles and that is true to the extent that it’s never directionless, each song being a perfect electronically composed story with a beginning, middle and end. It may take a meander to get there, if you think of those spaghetti like mazes on kids activity sheets where you have to see how which trail allows the hero to get to the end then that’s as noodle-y as it gets.

Packed with restless energy and an effervescent Barocca orange fizz, this is exactly what I needed to get through the dark winter months and emerge blinking eyed to with a spring in the air and the step. And if you were to dissect the essence of “Sans Noodles” it would look a bit like this…

That’s my two-penneth about a solid gold album, but a penny for Kev’s thoughts on the kind of songs that appear through his sonic periscope…without further ado, this is Kev Hopper’s “song for ewe”…

“Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Bekki on Pills Part 2
Music from the TV series “Utopia”

In the violent dystopian 2013 channel 4 series, Utopia, a hapless, accidentally assembled, bewildered motley crew of internet geeks must somehow cooperate in order to save the world.

Composer, Cristobal Tapia de Veer was a perfect match for Denis Kelly’s story and the itchy, edgy, skittish energy of the TV drama with its surreal imagery and highly saturated colours…so much so it’s now impossible for many of us to think of the visuals and the music separately.

In many ways the music harks back to the early days of sampling – one thinks immediately of Holger Hiller and The Art of Noise for instance: sixties avant garde classical with its dissonant eruptions, drones, reversed sections, human voices pitched beyond their natural range and arranged in sequences…and all endowed with all the shortcomings of the nascent technology… but Cristobal Tapia de Veer has somehow managed to revisit and modernise these traits in a very personal, clever and peculiar way.

In ‘Bekki on Pills Part 2’ every sound is subtly modulated over time accentuating an organic, natural, transitional quality from the reversed vocals at inception onwards. Whether it’s low pass filtering, granular grainy synthesis, stereo positioning or some other mysterious bit-rate textural magic everything is in motion. Mellotron flutes wobble in and out of tune and are then joined by something that sounds like hissing or air expelled from a pinched balloon. At no point does the music simply rely on the usual prosaic collection of drum machine sounds or predictable, conservative beats. Instead percussion is treated as incidental/orchestral and having the character of hand-played instruments even if the original sound source is unidentifiable. This track is a good example: the rhythmic fabric with its soft, tuned percussion is enough to propel it forward.

The sounds may be other-worldly but all elements are deceptively anchored within a traditional chordal, melodic framework and aligned perfectly with the radical sonic experimentation. This provides a convenient bridge for the uninitiated listener and a way into Cristo’s World. The composer has made this process seem easy and natural but believe me, this is not an easy thing to pull off as anyone working in a similar field will know. The beautiful, startling, elongated glissando sampled voice and clipped vocal segment simply intoning ’teh’ is the unlikely emotional apex of the tune.

This is sound design and composition of huge depth and innovation with a wild, comical edge. As Tapia de Veer puts it (rather cryptically) himself ”it was more about capturing spirits on tape than organising notes”. One thing is clear: it was obviously created within the supportive atmosphere of a team of people united on a unique artistic project. It is funnier and quirkier than most soundtracks and has served as something of an enduring paradigm for me…particularly in the making of ‘Sans Noodles’.

Kev Hopper 2022

(this is listed as Bekki on Pills, but it is in fact Part 2 of the soundtrack, the music that Kev is referencing above)

THANKS SO MUCH TO KEV AND TO NICK CLIFT & BRIAN AT DIMPLE DISCS

“Sans Noodles” is out on February 25 – get it from Bandcamp here…

sample of the ace sampletastic “Aroo R.A.” (which to me sounds something like what Scooby Doo might utter) if you click on the Bandcamp link here

http://kevhopperdimplediscs.bandcamp.com/

here’s all the other Kev Hopper social linkage you might require:

Facebook  Twitter   Spotify  YouTube

and for extra homework that time that Stump was picked as an “SFE” too…

TREVOR DUNN of TOMAHAWK & MR. BUNGLE – Song For Ewe

I played “Aroo R.A.” on this episode of Velvet Sheep radio (below) and will defo be playing “A Dog Walker” and Kev’s “song for ewe” pick on a forthcoming one so keep em peeled.

VELVET SHEEP RADIO SHOW EPISODE TWENTY SIX – REPEATER RADIO