This deluxe boxed set of Graham Lambkin’s first four solo records includes an expansive 42-page book featuring unseen photos and reproductions of artworks as well as essays and anecdotal recollections providing fresh insight and divulging hermetic secrets by Ed Atkins, Mark Harwood, Matt Krefting, Lawrence Kumpf, Samara Lubelski, and Adrian Rew. Poem (For Voice & Tape), Salmon Run, Softly Softly Copy Copy, and Amateur Doubles are now remastered and finally back in print, with Salmon Run and Softly Softly Copy Copy available on vinyl for the first time.
The years between Graham Lambkin’s tenure with the legendary Shadow Ring and his more recent improvisational duos mark a distinct period of creative production within the artist’s insular career. Living with his family in Poughkeepsie, NY, from 2001 through 2011 Lambkin recorded and self-released four solo albums that valorised mundane domestic situations while revelling in the liminal spaces between the acts of listening, recording, and producing. Created through an ingenious economy of means, these solo records are as beguilingly seductive as they are uncanny. Perpetually laughing in his own duplicitous face, Lambkin breathed new life into musique concrète and sound poetry, giving outmoded forms a contemporary consciousness while setting the gold standard for a continuously unfolding canon of 21st century tape music.
'Salmon Run' is Graham Lambkin's most acclaimed full-length and it's easy to see why. The ex-Shadow Ring outsider has made a name for himself over the last couple decades with a slew of solo sets and heady collaborations (with Áine O'Dwyer, Moniek Darge, Joe McPhee, Keith Rowe and others), but few records capture his craft as effortlessly and joyfully as this one.
Here he combines narrative storytelling with outsider art, daubing classical music recordings with filthy ferric paint strokes that drip with mischievous human eccentricity. The album began as tape recordings of Lambkin listening to music while photographing himself, then these pieces were manipulated and accented with additional sounds. It makes for a more-human-than-human listening experience: we all know the feeling of listening to music alone as sounds of people laughing, running water and whatever random acts of living permeate the scene almost imperceptibly. All that is brought into the foreground: wind chimes are amplified to sound like church bells and laughs, coughs and bird chirps like horns. The reality of Lambkin's listening environment is impossible to ignore, making us think more deeply about our own ritual of listening.
Lambkin's use of the room or the situation as an instrument brings a storyline and a glorious hyperreality to the record. It's impossible to listen to "Salmon Run" and not consider our own listening habits; in making something so completely personal, Lambkin allows us to reflect effortlessly. Striking a bizarre mid-point between peaceful and chaotic poles, "Salmon Run" is a truly unmissable record and a shining beacon in an ocean of experimental DIY recordings.
The great American road trip is a tough concept to understand for those outside of the USA. Long drives across seemingly endless empty roads, pocked with occasional gas stations, McDonalds, and ominous bathrooms; landscapes that slowly evolve from flat plains to verdant mountain ranges. Somehow, British-born American-based original Graham Lambkin manages to accurately encapsulate this experience on "Amateur Doubles", an engrossing double-header of concrete recordings made from his Honda Civic on a family drive.
Each side is set to a certain piece of music, the first is Philippe Besombes and Jean-Louis Rizet's eerie kosmische "Pôle" and the second Philippe Grancher's Air-y "3000 Miles Away". Both pieces are recorded in situ, while Lambkin drives through the American landscape with air gasping through an open window and car horns and inaudible chatter pushing through the haze. Like many great experimental records, the concept is deceptively simple but the execution exceptional, bringing a deeply personal, relatable sincerity to already evocative musical cues.
Fans of Luc Ferrari's gamechanging "Presque Rien" series, Aaron Dilloway's tape-warped Midwestern underground experiments or the psychedelic dreamscapes of The Skaters' Spencer Clark should grab this immediately.
Poem (For Voice & Tape)
For 40 cranky minutes, Lambkin pitch-shifts the vocal of his bandmate Tim Goss (The Shadow Ring) to a deathly croak, set against what sounds like the chronic drip drip drip of an overflowing bath or a basement in the process of flooding, while a chamber ensemble strikes up from time to time. It’s the sort of record you could attempt to recreate at home with minimal effort, and perhaps some soggy trews, but the magick lies in the utter obstinate oddness of it all, pushing listeners to a state of discomfort with an almost psychopathic sense of purpose, only to offer glimpses of classical respite at points where it feels like we’re actually drowning in his world. As far as debut statements of intent go, it’s practically a fucking warning; approach with caution and know where the exits are located.
As both Lambkin’s solo debut in this vein, and the first release on his cultish label, Kye, ‘Poem (For Voice & Tape)’ is something of a pivotal release in the modern field, sustaining a sort of outsider art energy previously explored by likes of Lambkin’s hero Anton Heyboer in a way that somehow feels timeless and of its time. It’s arguably a landmark release that has provided a sort of lightning rod to other fringe radicals and lower case explorers such as Jason Lescalleet, Joe McPhee, Áine O’Dwyer, and most recently Bill Nace (ov Body/Head, w/ Kim Gordon), and therefore has a lot to answer for.
Softly Softly Copy Copy
Sounding every bit like wizard who lives in a bin and performs ritual experiments to magick up microcosms of life between the bin-juice and fag butts, Lambkin has our attention for this latest hypnagogic masterpiece of his. A riddle wrapped in an enigma, then crunched up, torn apart and threaded back together, it’s all typically his own confection of weasly folk strings, contact mic haptics, keys and geese and bears and whatever the fuck that just was.
If you know his stuff, one would know to expect the unexpected in a very low key, liminal way that pisses on logic and yet holds it together in quietly spectacular, peculiar form, as exemplified in this one. Approaching from the water, ’Softly Softly’ veers between plughole dynamics and folk strings that describe motorway-side cafes in slow motion, following overgrown and marshy routes of exploration that just get really odd and fragged out in a way you just can’t take your ears off, while your eyes may well be zonked. Sling the maps or apps, and let Lambkin summon the between-world, seep into your subconscious, and be your guide to absolutely chuff knows where.