I DON’T know about you, with the vinyl revival – I mean, really, it’s a re-arrival now, isn’t it, here again for the foreseeable – that maybe the 12″ is one thing that hasn’t really had the credit it’s due in the resurgence.
For while the LP, double LP; hell even the loud-cut, 45rpm, 180gm, triple LP is fully the mode, and the 7″ never has really given its up its place in a culture that began in the jukebox, that penny-dip rush; the 12″ has flown a little under the radar, maybe.
The format that began as the ideal home for extended disco cuts, jumped the Atlantic at first as the place for (sometimes shonky) extended mixes and became an indie release staple, isn’t quite in the rude health the other wax iterations are. Although there is some lovely stuff going on 12″, with recent EPs by Andy Bell, HAAi, Rival Consoles and A Certain Ratio exploring the beauty of the four- or six-tracker, the beauty of that partway statement.
So it’s with a sad heart that we bring the news that after 24 years and 24 releases since FatCat’s Split Series 1 appeared, the very last of the long-running series will hit the racks in July – and see Ian William Craig and Kago take alternate sides. (Of course, if you’ve been following the series through from the beginning, you’ll have watched the small, hand-drilled icons roaming across the cover release by release, and notice that the cover artwork is now full).
There’s been some great and some hair-raisingly exploratory releases since the 1997 inception of the form with the accolade of the debut going to Bristol’s Third Eye Foundation and Manchester’s V/VM – crackling and howling with distortion, that one.
Since then we’ve seen further sonic extremism from AMM meeting Merzbow; off-kilter American studies, when Gastr De Sol’s David Grubbs met Animal Collective’s Avey Tare; deep textural burrowing from James Plotkin vs Pole; and more.
And it’s to the human voice that this final release turns, with the wholly otherly Ian William Craig, the beautiful singer who works with dying tape decks to bring decay to his practise, taking side A, while the little known but brilliant Estonian poet-singer Kago contributes a septet of tracks to the flip.
“Neither side here,” say FatCat, “will sound quite like anything you’ve previously heard.”
Dating to the very beginnings of FatCat, the Split Series was set up as an occasional outlet for high-quality, challenging music on 12” records that resisted easy classification and which would continually shift, keeping the listener guessing and utilising the unique qualities of the format – whether it be pitting different sounds and styles against one another, drawing out links and similarities; or simply introducing unknown artists on the flip of a more established name. Over the years the series has gained both cult and collectible status.
And so the swansong sees Ian William Craig delivering a side-long slice of visceral, tape-based electronic experimentation that flickers, sizzles and surges. He offers one awe-inducing, 19-minute track, “Because It Speaks”, in which his voice meshes deep in a cyclical, surging thrum.
You can read out review of Ian’s collaboration with Daniel Lentz from last year, FRKWYS Vol. 16: In A Word, here.
On the flip, Kago is the alias of Estonian poet, singer and writer Lauri Sommer. He began as a musician in the early ‘90s and has played punk, folk, indie, electro, sung in a church choir and studied English folk. Active as Kago since 2003, he’s released seven albums, taking in a mix of folk-blues singer-songwriter material, renditions of Southern-Estonian runic songs, dictaphone rhythms and DIY electronica, quiet piano pieces, stretched-out ambience and radio dramas.
The name Kago was taken from the leader of a group of alien travellers in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Breakfast Of Champions, and means “travelling chair” in older Japanese; and Lauri leads a reclusive life alone on his farm in the forest. He has rarely travelled or performed outside of Estonia, and his music speaks deeply of the land it springs from.
A member of the Seto ethnic grouping (a tiny, indigenous Finno-Ugric ethnic and linguistic minority in the far south-eastern corner of Estonia and north-western Russia), Lauri’s membership of male village choir Ütsiotsõ attempts to keep the Seto’s polyphonic choral tradition alive. As Kago, his songs are freer, yet remain heavily rooted in those now decaying cultural traditions, often based on a long repetition of simple vocal phrases.
You can hear an example of the technique he calls “dictaphone shamanism” on “Tetermats 2”, which we’ve embedded for you below; It contains supporting vocal lines recorded to dictaphone, played back in crudely punched on/off rhythms, over which Lauri sings.
FatCat say: “An immersive and acid-tinged slice of Eastern European freak-folk, Kago’s side neatly complements that of Ian William Craig and rounds off a killer release that we feel fits the freewheeling aesthetic of the Split Series perfectly. Released as FatCat begins celebrations of its 25th anniversary, the 24th and final Split Series 12” brings the curtain down in fine style on a long-running journey that remains resonant.”
Ian William Craig and Kago’s Home (Split Series #24) will be released digitally and on limited (500 only) 12″ by FatCat on July 16th, and is available to pre-order now, here.