I`m a big fan of Belfast-based label, Touch Sensitive. They operate unswayed by the vagaries of vogues and fashion – instead simply releasing music that they’re passionate about. From David Holmes and Brian Irvine`s poignant Ordinary Love score, to the psyche and shoegaze of Documenta.
Last year the imprint focused on two contrasting albums – the elegant, intricate ambient guitar treatments of Connor Dougan aka Deathbed Convert`s Debris Of Echoes, and the second volume of Cherrystones` powerful post-punk funk collection, Critical Mass.
Words and selections by Touch Sensitive`s Mark Reid.
Could you give me a few pieces of music, released or reissued this year, that have helped you make it through 2020?
I’ll definitely submit this and then remember a solid amount of records I’ve forgotten about! And the first one is taking liberties a bit…
Online Radio / Performances
I listen to a lot of online radio but this year really felt like a community vibe that helped me big time. Charlie Bones and the Wednesday Jukebox regulars, Zakia Sewell‘s show Questing – and its perfect way to start a Saturday, Ruf Dug‘s shout outs, Maria Somerville‘s Early-Bird Residency and chatroom hangs during her usual NTS slot, Allsorts! on Dublin Digital Radio and loads more.
The two Box Moon nights – curated by Natalia Beylis and Declan Synott – and DDR’s Four Waves festival – both featuring a bunch of Irish underground artists – were better than most nights out I’ve had in the last few years!
The Gerogerigegege / Decrescendo
The Trilogy Tapes gave this release from 2019 a wider audience. I didn’t know too much about The Gerogerigegege but it seems they are one of Japan’s most notorious and extreme noise units with some GG Allin-esque shenanigans thrown into the live show too. But this is a beautifully delicate piece recorded in a park before dawn – blending the Hapi Drum with gentle sounds of the night. TTT brought me a lot of joy this year. see also CS & Kreme, Kitchen Cynics, and the DJ Sundae tapes.
I loved the labels Boomkat and Cafe Oto created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – inviting a bunch of artists to release work throughout this period. Jonnine‘s Blue Hills was the pick of the bunch for me.
Killer reissue of this 1976 live performance for Italian television.
Cucina Povera released three great albums this year. I’d been looking forward to this track coming out after first hearing it at a jawdropping show in Belfast late 2019.
A deep and emotive mixtape of “new work / cuts / edits & extractions” in support of Black Lives Matter and a range of other non-profits. Beautiful release – can’t wait to hear what they do next.
Deathbed Convert – Debris Of Echoes / Cherrystones – Critical Mass 2
It`s a bit cheeky to include our own releases but having the Deathbed Convert album land fully formed in my inbox at the start of the lockdown was definitely a tonic. I thought it was a bit cringe to promote it as an album for “these unprecedented times” (haha!) but repeated listens definitely helped me and we rushed the release in order to share as quick as possible.
Finishing off the licensing for Cherrystones‘ second Critical Mass compilation with the label and finally getting it out there was a good buzz too. We met some really nice people – another good sense of community amongst this project.
A really smart intake of influence – 2-step, hip hop, dream-pop, dub – that leads to a super nice bunch of slow-burners.
I still don’t know too much about this Ukrainian bunch and this release – originally issued in 1996 – but it stepped in nicely where that Michael O’Shea reissue left off – especially the first track.
Part album, part travelogue – a collection of pieces Beylis recorded in various parts of the world on the piano of the venue, hostel or home she was visiting.
This will be hard to answer, but all being well what plans do you have for 2021?
Things are looking good and I’m excited. Usually – the way things go – I enter a new year with the decks cleared and it takes a few months for projects to appear. Then they don’t get released until the end of the year and I freak out that they get overlooked!
Just gonna go at it pretty hard early this year no matter how the land lies. There’s been a few things on the back-burner and COVID has pushed some projects from 2020 to 2021 – so there’s a lot to keep us busy.
We’ve got the following at the pressing plant right now – Black Bones` first E.P. of originals, a killer Autumns LP – influenced by On-U / PiL / Pop Group, and a really exciting archival project with Vox Populi! that came about when tracking down another artist for Critical Mass 2.
We’ve also got bits in the works from Elaine Howley, Natalia Beylis, Cathal Cully /Group Zero, and the long awaited completion of Documenta‘s Drone Pop trilogy!
Is there any way that I, we, others, can help and assist you in achieving these goals? Are you looking for partners for any forthcoming activities – in that sense of “if we stand together then we will survive”?
Nice one, Rob! It’s very considerate for you to ask this. It’s a tough one – I know from chats in private that a lot of folks that run labels are just about keeping their head above water. But it’s hard to discuss this publicly as a) the social media game is all about showing how great you’re doing – although maybe this has evened out a bit now we’ve nearly had a year with no photos of Rimowas in airport lounges? – and b) you sound like – and probably are – a wanker. Running a label is a privilege and a wonderful thing but it’s definitely led to a few extra grey hairs this year.
I guess just sharing if you dig something. Social media is one area – and I’m saying this as someone who is slowly trying to ease themselves out of that world. The algorithms are against us – my cat does much better numbers than any unseen, archival image I dig up from an artist – and there’s been numerous great music writers laid off – so it’s tough to carve out a bit of space at the moment. And this overloaded, instantaneous culture means releases don’t get much time to breathe. So yeah, if you dig something feel free to share – even it’s not been out in the last fortnight. You’d be surprised how much a retweet can brighten up a day! Those kind of things – and the direct support through Bandcamp – have really kept the label going this year.
You can find Touch Sensitive on Bandcamp here.