V/A ~ Test Transmission

On the one hand, Pandemic Time is a terrible time to launch a journal.  On the other, people are begging for new content.  So when Blackford Hill announced the inaugural issue of Oscillations, we couldn’t help but be excited.  After all, this is the team that brought us the stellar Concrete Antenna, Soundmarks, Sing the Gloaming, and many other worthwhile productions. Then the digital-only compilation Test Transmission sent us over the moon with anticipation for all the new projects on the horizon.  Best of all: 100% of the proceeds go to The Trussell Trust, which addresses food insecurity and seeks to end hunger in the U.K. Their immediate concern: stocking food banks.

First, a note on the journal.  The 96-page, ad-free extravaganza is well worth the purchase, popping with color, crediting even the “guest typefaces” on the final page.  A wealth of articles melds sight and sound, acknowledging the difficulties of the current age while calling attention to beauty and positivity.  In these pages, readers will learn more about the imprint’s largest projects, discover an organ tower played by the sun, delve into prayer request channels, live a morning and evening in the great outdoors and much more.  The effect is rejuvenating.  Respect to Tommy Perman, Simon Lewin and the whole crew at Blackford Hill and Random Spectacular on an exemplary launch.

And now to the compilation, a prelude to Blackford Hill’s boxed double CD Transmissions Vol. 1, set for release this spring.  This is a rich, 73-minute set, laden with fascinating pieces.  One has the chance to revisit old friends and meet new acquaintances.  Rob St. John is on here, as are Simon Kirby and Tommy Perman, of course; but there’s also a new interpretation of “Sing the Gloaming” from Sam Annand and a surprise visit from Kate Carr, whose “Once Upon a Rose Coloured Time” (from 2016’s endings) seems even more suited to the current day.  Many Oscillations authors are here as well, demonstrating multi-media mastery.

Selected highlights:  Holmes & Atten Ash (the latter last heard on 2015’s The Hourglass), appear for the first time with the elegant, moody “Daphnis.”  We can’t wait to hear more!  Jake Tilson’s field recording “New Delhi, 26/11/19,” brings us back to a simpler time and offers hope of what may yet return.  An excerpt from Hanna Tuulikki‘s spinning-in-stereo (2014) calls attention to a gorgeous release that to our chagrin we missed; fortunately there is a lot more to discover, from a flurry of activity in 2020 to an early 2021 EP, Little Drum Wood.  And Arun Sood’s “The Old Dictaphone,” the gem of the batch, sent us to his Soundcloud page to find more.  A combination of spoken word, field recording and gentle music, the piece is the aural reflection of Sood’s article in Oscillations, bursting with the nostalgia of old photographs and prose memories.  We really want an album.

What more can one ask of a multi-media release?  This was a risk worth taking.  The journal and album open our eyes and ears to the beauty around us, and invite us to be ambassadors of good will by filling food banks.  As Warped Love Group intones on an album track, “S’all Good.”  Much more will follow later in the year, but for now, well done.  (Richard Allen)

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