Modern Aviation – ‘Rites and Rituals’

 Review and chat about new folk/electronica label with Will Salmon.

‘Some times theres mor in the emty paper nor there is when you get the writing down on it. You try and word the big things and they tern ther backs on you’ – ‘Riddley Walker’, Russell Hoban

Rites and Rituals is the latest album from Dollboy, aka prolific multi-instrumentalist Oliver Cherer, and the first release on Modern Aviation, a new cassette and download label exploring folk and electronic music.

Rites and Rituals is, by its creator’s admission, partly inspired by Russell Hoban’s post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker, but as an immersive, wordless soundscape, the listener is free to take his or her own interpretation of the material as the hallucinatory, twelve-track album casts its spell.

Although of a hauntological bent, bucolic and mystical in feel rather than the Scarfolk-esque, Radiophonic Workshop-inspired explorations of the Ghost Box stable, Rites And Rituals is more evocative of the hinterlands of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s transcendent Evening Star, and the disquieting sound collages of Basil Kirchin’s Worlds Within Worlds.

Rites and Rituals is the listener’s very own ‘stone tape’ of a stygian processional, with dissonant crackles of distant white noise (ghosts of the future?), ethereal drones, the uncanny sense of bearing witness to a solemn ritual, and awash with the resonant, organic sounds of both Celtic and Eastern inspired instrumentation: At times, recalling to this reviewer glimpses of Nico’s Lawn of Dawns, Phillip Glass’ Kyoko’s House and Bowie’s Sense of Doubt as much as the Celtic folk of Orriel Smith’s Tiffany Glass and the Owl Service’s Haul The Plough. A heady brew of organic folktronica where one could just as easily be walking in the footsteps of Wayland the Smith and the Rag Man, as Cherer’s beloved agrarian post-apocalyptic text Riddley Walker.

Modern Aviation is the brainchild of film & TV journalist Will Salmon (SFX, Total Film, Digital Spy, Star Wars Insider, Clash). We Are Cult caught up with Will to find out a bit more about Modern Aviation…

Modern Aviation: Q & A

Hi, Will. Thanks for making time to chat with We Are Cult. What was the whole mindset behind founding Modern Aviation, was there anything you had in mind that pushed you to go for this?

Thank you. The label started for a few reasons. I’ve thought about doing one for years, but it’s always seemed pretty daunting. Seeing the resurgence of small tape labels made me realise that I could do this on my own terms.

Finding a name helped. I live under the flight path of a big airport, so I hear planes every time I step out the front door. As soon as the name was in place I got really excited about the possibilities, especially for things like the design of the tapes, using plane silhouettes instead of catalogue numbers, etc. Finally, it was being quite close to the DIY scene and being inspired by the ethos of ‘just get up and do something’. Also, it was a nice distraction from my day job which can otherwise be all-consuming.

When did you first get into the kind of outsider music showcased by Modern Aviation – outsider music, experimental music, folktronica? Can you remember where you first heard these kind of sounds – Where did you first hear about it, who got you into it?

I dunno, really. I’ve always been interested in music, starting with Bowie and working through my older brothers’ record boxes which had some tasty goth and electronic stuff in there. I got into the Warp stuff and hip-hop as a teenager, especially Boards of Canada, who are pretty much a twin-headed John the Baptist of the current hauntology scene. It’s because of BoC talking about The Incredible String Band that I started listening to folk, and because of them talking about Coil that I became obsessed with that peculiar strain of occult post-industrial music. And just being curious, really. There’s great music in every genre – apart from electro-swing and chap-hop, obviously.

The Dollboy album  is quite inspired by nature and technology, the past impressing itself on the present, and draws inspiration from Russell Hoban’s post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker. Are we perhaps in the realms of hauntology with this release?

I don’t know. I think of it as a really beautiful, quite spooky instrumental folk record first and foremost. It’s perhaps not hauntology in the way that most think of it, y’know, “music for imaginary HTV shows”, or whatever, but certainly the themes you mentioned are there.

How did you approach Oliver Cherer to spearhead Modern Aviation; what’s it been like to work together to put this release together and bring it out into the world?

Oliver’s an incredibly diverse and prolific artist and when I first asked him for music, I had no idea what he would send me. I think he put out at least three albums last year, under various names and they’re all very different. I think the first thing I heard of his was a 12” on Polytechnic Youth under the name The Assistant which was just a merciless techno banger – completely different to Rites. If you like Rites and Rituals, I recommend trying his album for Clay Pipe Music next, The Green Line.

How it happened was I asked him to be a part of the next release, which was originally planned as the launch album. It’s a compilation. He gave me an album’s worth of tracks to choose from and I cheekily asked if I could have the lot. When the compilation was delayed, I decided to put Rites out first.

We’ve never met, but he’s always been incredibly helpful and collaborative, and he sent me a great book of aircraft silhouettes. He trusted a complete newbie with his music, which I’m extremely grateful for.

Although CDs and vinyl are positioned as the standard formats for physical media, Modern Aviation releases are available on as professionally dubbed cassettes made with a lot of love and care as well as digital. Beyond the fact there’s something tangible, something physical you can hold, what’s the appeal behind tapes? Is this retro?

Retro has never come into it for me, and I don’t think it’s really a factor of the wider physical media resurgence, to be honest. Vinyl is generally seen as the gold standard, format wise, but it’s also expensive to produce and for listeners to buy. Tapes are more democratic, in a way. If you’re a small label or band, you can get 200 tapes done for a couple of hundred quid, instead of it being in the realm of thousands, as it would be for vinyl. Likewise, it’s cheaper for listeners.

I would love to do Modern Aviation releases on vinyl too, of course, but that’s a ways off yet. CDs I’m not so into. That said, I may do a very limited run of the next release on CD, as well as the tape, but that’s largely because I have a load of empty slimline DVD cases that I’d quite like to shift from my house.

What have you learned so far, running a cassette tape record label?

That you can take a massive sack of tapes to the post office and the lady behind the counter will still tell you that “nobody buys cassettes anymore”. Also basic-level Photoshop.

Can you tell us a little about your next releases? What are your aspirations for Modern Aviation in 2018?

Next up is a compilation called Present At The Terminal which was originally intended as the first release, but has grown interestingly because of its delay. It features lots of people whose work I have long adored including David Colohan, Jon Brooks, Teresa Winter, Moon Wiring Club, Simon James and loads more.

It’s quite dark and almost all instrumental. That said, it’s bookended by two vocal tracks. The first is by Teresa, who put out a fantastic LP on Death of Rave last year, and is an old pal. The last is the first music from Land’s End which is a Bristol-based band – Matthew Cheney and George McKenzie, with vocals by my partner Holly McIntosh, who is in the band Snails. Hilariously, I had no idea she was on the record until I first heard it, so can dodge any accusations of nepotism there. Tape 3 is slightly up in the air at the moment, but there are ideas swimming around. There will be a full Land’s End album at some point this year, and I’d really like to do a folk compilation with some of the amazing singers I’ve met over the last few years.

I’m hoping to DJ in support of the label, too, as Foxtrot 94. Most of my previous DJing has been under my real name in pubs and the odd club. I’m hoping that this will offer some chances to play spookier, weirder music you can’t dance to at people, for fun and free beer.

‘Rites and Rituals’ by Dollboy is out now on Modern Aviation Records as a limited edition cassette (£6.00) or download (£4.00)

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