Graham Dunning’s Fractal Meat on a Spongy Bone radio show is a constant inspiration in its tireless exhumation of new exploratory music and sound art. December 2016 marks the show’s fifth birthday and to celebrate Dunning has made all the music from his associated Fractal Meat label free to download for the rest of the year.
The label is packed full of bangers, but for a start I’d strongly recommend Mary Stark’s Summoning Ghosts of Industries Past, which mixes recordings of textile workers from now-disused cotton mills in Manchester with the growls and roars of industrial weaving machinery and Stark’s own recitals of related folk songs. The result is a powerful evocation of Britain’s industrial past, with an emotional heft that comes from juxtaposing the sounds of the heavy machinery that drove the first wave of industrialisation in the north of England with those of the ordinary men and women who operated it. Summoning Ghosts of Industries Past is an act of political hauntology, reminding us gains of industrialisation were powered by the labour of ordinary people, with their exploitation providing the impetus for the unionisation and the birth of collective bargaining. The gains that followed were hard-won, yet have proved easy to unpick as the long twilight of our post-industrial, post-Brexit, post-Trump landscape deepens. Perhaps this is why Summoning Ghosts of Industries Past is charged with so much poignancy. The possibilities of that historical moment are now as vaporous as the sounds of those dead industries. Where are we now?