Without Season

Tate & Liles

Without Season

Year: 2005
Label: Twenty Hertz (2005) & Fungal (2015) (TH 008 & Fungal 059)
Format: CD / CDR Reissue

Without Season (Part I)
Without Season (Part II)
Without Season (Part III)
Without Season (Part IV)
Without Season (Part V)

CDR Reissue.

‘Without Season’ was issued as a CD by Twenty Hertz in 2005 and reissued in 2015 with completely different artwork on CDR by Fungal, Darren Tate’s label.

This album is dedicated to the memory of Kathleen Vance who played accordion on this recording.


Two teddy bears on the cover and a surreal statue of a fox-headed boy on a wheelchair on the back: what else could you expect from the collaboration of these two drone masters? Judging from the liner notes, Darren Tate has handed his sounds to Andrew Liles who has then structured and mixed the five untitled tracks. Some acoustic guitar plucking and a few accordion improvisations (by guest musician Kathleen Vance) are recognizable here and there (track 2 and 5), but most of the work is the perfect mix of sustained drones and natural field recordings you’d expect – which necessarily reminds of Monos’ tradition, especially the finest moments of “Sunny day…”. Brighter and almost bucolic moments alternate with powerful, awe-inspiring atmospheres – but all is graced by that sense of mystery and magic which is common ground between the two artists.

Coincidence it must be, but here’s a second collaborative release involving our man Andrew Liles, this time with one of favorite drone meisters Darren Tate, who is known for his work with Ora and his solo projects. On the cover (which I should add I don’t like: it’s combination of both Liles and Tate’s interests in pictures and these two simply don’t match. It was better to choose for either separately) Andrew Liles is being credited as ‘conductor’ and Darren Tate gets credit for ‘improvisations, field recordings and squeeze box (and one Kathleen Vance on accordion), so me thinks, reading such that Liles is the one who transforms all the recordings made by Tate and Vance. As we all know by now, Liles has a pretty surreal form of mixing his stuff, but actually he does he pretty sober job here. In some instances he leaves Tate’s playing in tact and only seems to be adding a little bit of electronic effects. In the early stages of the CD the music is rather drone based, not unlike Tate’s previous collaboration with Paul Bradley on Plinkity Plonk, yet not as deep. Only as the CD progresses he gets to do what he does best: a more collage oriented work, with piano sounds, coughing and accordion playing – but it turns out to be just the last track.
All in all this is much more drone based work, certainly when compared to last week’s CD by The Wardrobe, Liles’ work with Tony Wakeford, sober in tone but with some more action than some of his UK colleagues. So it might appeal to a lot of people, I guess. Quite nice indeed. (FdW)

I suspect this collaboration had to happen just to get that awful pun of a name out of the way. Here Darren Tate and Andrew Liles create several soundscapes that mix drones, field recordings and acoustic instruments. The slowly evolving drone of ‘Part I’ builds until the bird, insect and water sounds, that threaten to swamp it completely cease abruptly, leaving only the naked drone. ‘Part II’ sees us back in the bayou being serenaded by japanese hillbillies (which reads like an eighties slasher-movie plot). The next two parts settle us into the warm embrace of the pure drones that these two do so well on their own whilst ‘Part V’ brings an accordian into the mix for what almost, but not quite, turns into a song. At various timesthis album reminded me of both Volcano the Bear (a seemingly random approach to instrumentation) and Nurse With Wound (a seemingly random approach to everything) but fortunately what we have here is far more than the sum of it’s, maybe not influences but, contemporaries. Tate and Liles are both skilled enough to stamp their own collective identity onto the proceedings producing an album that I suspect will be haunting my player for some time to come

Despite a recent interest in solo productions collaborations suit Darren Tate. In the late 80’s Tate was a founding member of Ora alongside Andrew Chalk, Colin Potter and Lol Coxhill. Currently he continues with Potter in Monos and has also ventured into a couple of one-off collaborations such as Without Season with Andrew Liles. Here, the two have split their roles in the project in deference to their primary talents with Tate as the improviser and Liles the composer. Having recorded events in natural settings where Tate can be heard crumpling leaves and creaking hinges to the sounds of birds and draining aquifers, he passed them onto Liles who shaped the context with the help of his synthetic ambience into a elegant Gothic sensibility. On the first two tracks Liles punctuates the division of labour by situating Tate’s unprocessed haptic events against his own ominous melodic repetitions. While Liles deftly manipulates all their materials together into dreamy vibrations, Without Season is most rewarding when the synthetic and the natural are allowed to cohabitate.

Two hugging teddy bears on the cover, a cat’s face on the CD, a title called ‘Without Season’ and a plastic, or is it ceramic(?), wheelchair-bound boy with the head of a fox: Visual impressions of an album, which lists Andrew Liles as the “Conductor”. So what to expect of a recording by this busy duo of musicians with a huge output of experimental music? Well, experimental it is and let’s just put it this way: This album is definitely worth listening to.
In his garden (which must be a real heaven!) Darren Tate taped some terrific field recordings. In Part One – of a total of five on this CD – we hear running water, and its sound makes you imagine a fresh, cool spring, dashing downhill over stones, finally ending its run in a quiet pond while birds are chirping away playfully and a mild wind runs through the trees, moving their leaves in a delicate underlying swoosh. There are buzzing insects, criss-crossing around, moving close only to get away in a hurry. All that accompanied by drones that sound like one continous tone of a bell, changing once in a while, sometimes harmonious and quieting, sometimes swelling to deep, almost threatening sounds. These drones are so very effective in making the listener more and more sensible for the sounds of nature! And yet, almost unexpectedly, they fade away, almost into non-existence, but they still are of important presence, while the sounds of living creatures take over. Only a short while later to be extinct by the drones again, which conquer the field and leave the listener in a dream and mantra-like condition.
This theme goes on through the recording in various variations. Disharmonic accordion sounds come in, changing their tune with the changes in the sounds of nature. Interestingly enough, Kathleen Vance is credited for the accordion play, while Darren Tate signs responsible for the ‘squeeze box’ play. Whatever you want to make of this (or the conductor-crdedit for Liles), we also find special thanks to Mitchell, who “thought”, and Potter, who “acted”.
But let’s get back to the music. While parts three and four feature the underlying themes which we looked at before, part five is really outstanding in its introduction of (yes, that’s right!) a waltz. The accordion – or was it the squeeze box(?) – performs short-cut harmonies set in the waltz rhythm, accompanied by piano tunes, that refuse to join in the rhythm, but produce underlying, slow melodic chords. This creates a truly upflifting atmosphere, and to me it is the ultimate irony behind these recordings, which is already hinted at in the credits.
Really, this feels to me like frolicking around with the oh-so-serious approaches many people hold. This recording prooves that there is a lot of space for relaxation and enjoyment. Just let your feelings take charge and allow yourself to laugh about what you may encounter (even if it’s only you who thinks it’s funny!). This piece is great, especially in the very sense I’ve just described. Thanks to Darren Tate and conductor Andrew Liles, as well as all people envolved in producing this fine music, we all can finally smile when listening to experimental music. Fred Wheeler

Written by Lucas Schleicher
Wednesday, 30 November 2005

An incredibly fertile and industrious musical world is going on right beneath everyone’s noses. While this or that magazine is busy trying to pin down the next 10 big bands or the next big scene, musicians like Darren Tate of Monos and Andrew Liles are busy making music, lots of music, and nearly everything they release tackles some new sonic territory.
They refuse to be any one thing except consistent, producing a prodigious amount of work. Yet they don’t receive as much coverage as they should, much of their work going ignored even by those publications claiming to bring their audience the cutting edge in musical innovation.
Cinematic probably best describes the work of Andrew Liles, though a term like that fails to hint at all the nuances that make his music so intriguing and fun. Darren Tate, on the other hand, works with Monos, a group comprised mostly of him and Colin Potter. Their work reaches further into the world of drone music, populated as it is by layers and layers of dense electronic sound and warped samples. Unlike some collaborations, it is actually possible to hear the merging of these two approaches on Without Season. The notes claim that Liles was just the conductor and that Tate, along with guest Kathleen Vance, worked on most of the source material. If this is true, it just goes to show how unique Liles approach to music is. His trademark humor and strange understanding of horror are all present on this disc along with Tate’s thick sound and careful use of variation.
Everything from piano and the sound of candy wrappers unfolding to an accordion and the use of bird calls can be found on this album. Nothing is too exotic, strange, or out of place for either of these guys. Want to tie together the sound of birds, running water, a fat man moaning, and the faint ringing of crystal glasses? These guys will do it and they’ll convince you that each of these sounds are out to kill you while they’re at it. That or the distinct possibility of being suffocated will come to mind and all the claustrophobic nightmares everyone has will somehow come to life and finally deliver on their promise.
Carried out as a single piece in five parts, Without Season builds, recedes, and recycles itself without bothering to stop or take inventory of where it has been. Its 40 plus minute duration is over far too quickly, feeling as though it passed in ten. At times the record is beautifully dreamy, almost as though it were sewn together using silk and nothing more. Even the abrasive parts, especially the awesome hum that opens the album, sounds smooth and fine as it rumbles outward.
The album closes with a simple melody played out between vague environmental sounds, an accordion, and a piano and its wandering rhythms end up portraying the whole of the album perfectly. There’s a sense that Tate and Liles set out to get lost on this record and to bring back all the details no matter how illogical they all might turn out to be. This particular meeting has produced an exceptional and strange record. It stands out among many of the other collaborations I’ve heard and marks another high point for both Tate and Liles.

One of the most coherent albums to come out of Northern England, a region that has generated some of the purest electroacoustic works in the last two decades from the likes of Colin Potter, Jonathan Coleclough, Paul Bradley and Andrew Chalk, Without Season fuses the skills and the vision of two fine purveyors of egoless kneadings of therapeutic field recordings and pellucid naive electronics, in the form of Andrew Liles (whose solo work is well represented by his excellent Drone Works on this same label), acting here as a “conductor”, and Darren Tate, who provides most of the sonic material, including his trademark environmental sounds (water flowing and splendid birds on top) plus a squeezebox and various “improvisations”. Also present is Darren’s neighbour, 79-year old Kathleen Vance, whose stuttering accordion, heavily processed and accompanied by rare piano touches and synthetic waves, characterizes the final movement, a conceptual continuation of Tate’s recent Trees Kissing Trees (Fungal), on which Vance was also prominently featured. Instruments mesh with the rainbow arcs of reverberating exploration in a meeting of three solitary souls who decided to share a little of their intimacy. MR

Tate and Liles are Darren Tate and Andrew Liles collaborating on this album. Darren Tate is credited with ‘improvisations, field recordings and squeeze box’ whilst Kathleen Vance is credited with accordion. Andrew Liles is mysteriously only credited as ‘conductor’ and appears to be there to produce and balance the music. What strange and ethereal music it is too.
Darren Tate brings us some excellent field recordings that were captured in his garden of flowing water, bird song, creaking wood and insects. Set with this are minimalist electronic sounding drones, slow to develop like marsh gas rising. The music is so slow and often almost imperceptible that the listener’s attention is drawn to the field recordings. Odd digital noises that seem to be unrecognisable speech appear at times. Reverb is added to the field recordings which sound set into a landscape, bird songs seemingly both close at hand and in the distance. Electronic effects and layered field recordings grow in tension, a controlled cacophony of nature. This falls away and the field recordings fade out leaving only the surreal drones, the soundtrack to uncontrolled dreams, our minds left to wander and loop until they find reason.
On the second part, hesitant plucked string sounds and distant accordion replace the drones, a distorted squeeze box and a sound like pigs snuffling combine to disorienting impact. Small chime sounds come in towards the end. In the third part a huge accordion drone starts set in a cavern of reverb, the air moving slowly through the reeds. Reflections of accordion notes hang in the air, the original notes fading into the distance. The never ending reverb gives the accordion notes a glacial quality closer to the works of Thomas Koner than traditional accordion music. Over time the original signal is lost, only the echoes eventually remaining. By the fourth part the sound is minimal even ominous, formless clouds of sound slowly seeping into the atmosphere. Over the course the sound is processed eerily giving the music a mood like that of a 1950s British science fiction film, the land infected, the air poisoned, each person alien to the other.
The fifth and final piece is both the most conventional and also disturbing. An accordion plays a broken, strange folk melody merged with crow sounds and odd resonant processing. A piano plays dislocated notes, so few it is as though you imagined it. Over time all the other instruments are removed leaving only an the piano and a feeling of superstitious unease. This is a highly experimental album but one that reveals itself slowly with a building doomed, almost macabre atmosphere atmosphere. Your garden has never seemed so disturbing.