See also Owd Scrat Records
Song (After Nature Past)/Song (After Nature Future) by Drones and Debris
45 RPM 12″ vinyl/digital single, 12 mins, 2023.
Owd Scrat Records, OWD014.
A. Song (After Nature Past) 4:04
A. Song (After Nature Future) 8:08
Drones and Debris is a project by Paul Rooney, working with cellist Gyða Valtýsdóttir. Seal calls and other natural sounds of the Holy Island landscape – recorded by legendary sound recordist and musician Chris Watson – were transcribed into cello phrases by Valtýsdóttir and moulded into a richly layered cello composition by Rooney. This immersive sound piece was installed within Lindisfarne Castle, Northumberland, in 2022, with a darkly humorous projected text that aimed to ‘translate’ the seal song as a warning of climate catastrophe. Owd Scrat Records are pleased to present a stereo edition of the piece – entitled Song (After Nature Future), with an ambient remix entitled Song (After Nature Past) – under the artist moniker Drones and Debris (the name is a quote from the seal song). The double ‘A’ sided vinyl 12″ single record (with the poem/text ‘translation’ of the seal song presented as sleeve notes) will be launched in March 2023 for the opening of the second season of the installation at the Castle (extended by popular demand), from March to October 2023.
Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.
“A field recording by Chris Watson triggered this wry and evocative project…” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). March 2023.
“…it’s a great thing. It’s a 12″ single on Owd Scrat and it’s called Song (After Nature Past).” Michael Fenton (Fenny), On the Wire (Otwradio on Mixcloud and occasionally BBC Radio Lancashire). 4/2/2023.
“Seldom has so much work gone into something so short, but here the execution earns the attention… The end result: a feeling of sonic bonding. We have translated the seals’ cries into a third language; now what will happen when we play these notes back to them?” Richard Allen (A Closer Listen website). 1/2/2023 review.
Susan Gray (Church Times). 24/10/2022 review of the installation work.
“The songs of seals – or are they sirens luring sailors to their deaths? – haunt this fortress in a sound installation that exploits its seashore setting.” Jonathan Jones (The Guardian). 22/2/2022 preview of the installation work.
Tom Service, Music Matters (BBC Radio 3). 19/2/2022 radio feature on the installation work.
Surface Industries I and II
Two digipak CD/digital albums, 2021-2023.
Owd Scrat Records, OWD013/OWD015.
Surface Industries I tracks:
1. Hold the Line for a Moment 5:08 video
2. Stay Polite (with Jackie Oates) 3:44
3. J for Whatever 2:40
4. Words and Silence 13:21 video
5. J for Juliet 4:40
6. Don’t Throw Up On Window Sills 3:50
7. Good Morning Call (with Jackie Oates) 4:22
8. That Venus Thing 4:00 video
Surface Industries I I tracks:
1. Something Happening (Sound of the Crowd) (with Saskia Cocker) 4:36 video
2. In the Distance the Dawn is Breaking 3:20
3. Dear Guest 9:00 video
4. Open Plan 4:13
5. On This Pitch 4:40 video
6. A Million Darkened Kitchens (with Frankie Armstrong) 4:11
7. Tea, Coffee and Desserts 2:48
8. Dust 7:50 video
9. Willem van Liverpool 2:29
10. In My Head 1:41 video
11. Author’s Route Through France 3:34
12. Psalm (live at Tate Liverpool) 3:31 video
Owd Scrat Records press releases: “Rooney’s second solo album Surface Industries I is a move away from the eclectic DIY post-punk of 2017’s ‘Futile Exorcise’ towards voice, piano and electronics led skewed ambient pop. As it’s title suggests, this new album’s tracks are themed around service industry jobs (it is the first of two albums on this theme), particularly the transient vocal interactions of everyday call centre work, as well as the humanity and humour that endures through it all. The lyrics of the pieces often use interviews or texts from the workers themselves.
“Stay Polite is a deeply emotive male voiced hymn to the abuse filled day of a female taxi company phone operator, featuring a beautifully fragile lead vocal by acclaimed folk singer Jackie Oates. On the album’s longform spoken word piece, Words and Silence, softly insistent modular synth tones accompany an Indian call centre worker leaving a message – of invented personas and time-as-commodity – on an answer service, creating an extended moment of mysterious confabulation for the eventual listener (us). As well as phone interactions there are two pieces about the text based interplay of email conversations and chat-rooms. The latter, Don’t Throw Up On Window Sills, being a kind of chamber opera about a gardening chat group celebrating the return of a missing cat, imbued with the melancholy of obsolescence (the chat-room fad itself is all but extinct). The album is a poignant, reflective encounter with everyday failures, everyday battles, and everyday resistances, pertinent to our precarious times.
“The lyrics of Paul Rooney’s third solo album Surface Industries II, like it’s predecessor, are themed around service industry occupations, this time focussing on roles in retail, banking and hospitality, often using interviews with the workers themselves. The songs describe transient everyday customer interactions and repetitive drudgery, but also reveal creative moments of playfulness, mischief and vengeance. The music has a voice lead spoken word and choral focus, but it often collides real voices with synthesized, digitally processed mock/real chimes and beats that echo the laminated, wipe-clean, customer-captivating environments the songs emerge from.
Something Happening is an arpeggiated Arp re-working of Sound of the Crowd, with the words of a Sheffield bank clerk whose branch is on the site of the dancefloor where The Human League’s Jo and Suzanne were ‘discovered’ by Phil Oakey. It also features an affecting lead vocal by original Pulp member Saskia Cocker. The up-tempo, longform spoken word piece, Dear Guest, contains a hotel room attendant’s descriptions of debris left after three moments in the history of the Manchester hotel where she works, and touches on the Peterloo Massacre, a Bob Dylan heckle and a room service breakfast tray. There are pieces inspired by library staff, a nightclub singer’s lost voice, domestic kitchen work, a Big Issue seller’s favourite pitch, a hotel maid’s Pirate Jenny-influenced daydreaming, and shop workers’ sleeping dreams. The latter, In the Distance the Dawn is Breaking, mixes pitch-shifted piano with a slow-motion vocal harmony that describes a dream of flying in an eerily silent plane, a moment of haunting beauty and unsettling helplessness. The album is the second and final part of a poignant, reflective project – a sonic encounter with everyday failures, everyday battles, and everyday resistances, pertinent to our precarious times.
Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.
“Service Industries I makes strip-lit minimalist psalmodies from call centre conversations of invisible workforces… It’s a profound, political, and holy work, worth a thousand Panoramas.” Stewart Lee (The Idler magazine). Jan-Feb. 2022.
“This new album Surface Industries, his second solo album, tracks themed around service industry jobs… it really is fascinating.” Stuart Maconie, Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone (BBC 6 Music). 23/8/2021.
“These eight tracks have been created over a period of two decades, mostly using texts derived from call centre operatives. They occupy a space where folk music might have developed, up to that juncture when meaningful tradition and continuities of locality dissolved into the glacial wastes of cyberspace, global capitalism and the unsolicited sales pitch… Rooney is an unusually attentive, perceptive and responsive artist and his work salvages touchstones for human value, and seeks to fend off their erosion.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Oct. 2021.
“A track from local artist Paul Rooney’s second album, a real treasure trove of glorious computer composed hyper-pop.” George Maund, PMS (BBC Radio Merseyside). 20/8/2021.
“Curiosity was twigged by a Wire magazine review… I was expecting something far less accessible based on the review… surprisingly accessible and compelling.” Nate Champion (Thumped website and forums). 28/12/2021.
“It’s a great thing. Paul Rooney, always up to something good…” Michael Fenton (Fenny), On the Wire (Otwradio on Mixcloud and occasionally BBC Radio Lancashire). 18/9/2021.
Stolen Things (The Creeping Things Remix)
Digipak CD/digital single, 12 mins, 2019.
Owd Scrat Records, OWD011.
1. Stolen Things (The Creeping Things Remix) (12.15)
A Victorian child shoplifter on trial sings her daydreams amidst a musical collision of shimmering pop synths and rowdy courtroom shouting. Her spirit is summoned out of stolen fragments (a court report, a Jean Genet novel, memories of childhood, a Victorian hymn), and she seems all too aware of her transformation from a voiceless youth into a new entity: a sparkling self-mythologizing bad-girl teen-pop diva construct, shaped out of these ‘lying words’. Lola de Witte-Still remixes what was originally a Paul Rooney sound installation (this is his first single since Lucy Over Lancashire) to create a shiny kick-driven experimental-pop single cum mini-opera.
Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.
“Last heard from Rooney himself with his Futile Exorcise record, which was likewise an attempt to give voice to lost and forgotten souls (dead ones, in that case), so this collaboration with Creeping Things is evidently in keeping. An ingenious construct…” Ed Pinsent (The Sound Projector blog). 23/9/2020 review of the work.
“I love that, and I hope you did too, Stolen Things, new from Paul Rooney…” Stuart Maconie, Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone (BBC 6 Music). 5/1/2020 radio broadcast of the work.
“That fantastic thing was Stolen Things (The Creeping Things Remix) by Paul Rooney.” Fenny, On the Wire (BBC Radio Lancashire). 20/10/2019 radio broadcast of the work.
“… very highly crafted and beautifully done, and really challenging.” Roger Hill, The Popular Music Show (BBC Radio Merseyside). 23/09/2019 radio broadcast of the work.
“Marvellous, Paul Rooney’s Stolen Things, a remix by the mysterious Creeping Things…” Zaph Mann, In Memory of John Peel Show (KFFP Radio, Portland and podcast). 15/09/2019 radio broadcast of the work.
“Stolen Things buzzes with exuberant crowd noise, while naive unaccompanied singing blends into robotic contemporary vocals… Propelled by a youthful joyfulness, it sounds as though there’s a joyous energy in resisting authority and oppressive power structures.” Tessa Norton (The Wire magazine), May 2019 review of the original museum installation work.
L E T M E T A K E Y O U T H E R E by Alain Chamois
Digipak CD/digital single, 18 mins, 2018.
Owd Scrat Records, OWD010.
1. L E T M E T A K E Y O U T H E R E (18.44)
An 18-minute single-track homage to a snowy field near Hebden Bridge by composer and former music writer Alain Chamois. A version of the piece was first released in an edition of three CDs in 2003. This newly recorded track includes sound recordings from the field itself and from Heptonstall graveyard, along with a swirling snowstorm of ambient drones and chopped and screwed 80s pop loops, creating a kind of Vaporwave audio tour that meanders into places not dissimilar to Tim Hecker and Ben Frost’s more numbed arctic realms. The spoken word monologue, which touches on Leon Trotsky, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Ian Curtis, comic Russ Abbot, fellow Owd Scrat artist Paul Rooney’s 1990s band Rooney, and above all the landscape of West Yorkshire, is structured around the moment in 1979 when photographer Charlie Meecham takes a photograph of the snowy field in question. The photograph was later chosen by Joy Division and Peter Saville to adorn the cover of the 12″ single Atmosphere. This counts as Owd Scrat’s Christmas single, out in July (of course). Thanks to Daniel Meadows, Charlie Meecham and Steve Fortune.
Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.
“…this distillation of time/place …will convey its engaging storyline, at any given moment, to the very grid reference of ‘There’.” Steve Pescott (The Sound Projector blog). 05/07/2019.
“It makes me so happy to be able to bring you that, especially this high up in the Festive Fifty, that was Alain Chamois…” Pete Jackson (Dandelion Radio). Dec. 2018/Jan. 2019.
“…interesting music… L E T M E T A K E Y O U T H E R E is an homage to a snowy field near Hebden Bridge… combining field music and song and screwed eighties pop loops…” Stuart Maconie, Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone (BBC 6 Music). 19/8/2018.
“While death, particularly by suicide, casts an obvious shadow, the most interesting questions are around the reproducibility of something as ephemeral as ‘atmosphere’ – from winter air inhaled in a field, to photograph, to record sleeve…” Abi Bliss (The Wire magazine). Sept. 2018.
“It’s at once quite a sad work, where we are repeatedly reminded of death by war and by suicide, and an optimistic one that describes creative ventures – a band, songs, poems, photographs – that can come from small beginnings to give substance and meaning to many people’s lives.” Amelia Crouch (Other Matters blog). 19/2/2015.
“In the… narrative, the landscape is cast as location for exchanges and relations, drawing the viewer in as a participant in those exchanges.” Gregory Blair (Journal of Art For Life). 16/12/2014.
The Wire Tapper 44
Compilation CD album free with The Wire magazine 402 August 2017, 45 mins, 2017.
The Wire magazine, 2017.
Features Bay of Biscay (Lorenzo Mix) by Paul Rooney.
Free CD to all readers with The Wire 402 August 2017 issue. The Wire Tapper is a series of CD anthologies of new underground music that appear three times a year attached to the cover of all copies of The Wire Magazine worldwide.
33⅓ RPM 12” frosted transparent vinyl/digipak CD/digital album, 41 mins, 2017.
Owd Scrat Records, OWD003.
Sunday Best (2.36)
Mackenzie (Smell of the Petrol) (3.25)
Bay of Biscay (3.36)
Lost High Street (11.00) video
Father’s Grave (3.51) video
Black Ear (6.47)
The Cruel Mother (with Lutine) (2.34)
Spit Valve (6.56)
Owd Scrat Records press release: “We at Owd Scrat are very proud to present our first full length LP, in beautiful transparent ectoplasm coloured vinyl and CD digipack, which is also the first by Liverpool UK based musician/artist/writer Paul Rooney under his own (full) name. Following on (though ten years later) from his acclaimed 2007 single Lucy Over Lancashire – a dub folklore epic narrated by a Satanic sprite – this long awaited album delves even further into the demonically possessed everyday. It is an album of revenant songs, in which various dead people return from beyond the grave to visit their lover, play poker or haunt a toilet seat. The record features many collaborators including actor Gregory Cox, mesmerizing ethereal harmonisers Lutine, and has a cover image by artist Leo Fitzmaurice.”
Buy via Owd Scrat Records.
Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.
“The best album you will hear this year, which was released last year…” Slobodan Vujanovic (Mislite Mojom Glavom blog in Serbian). Sept. 2018 review of the work.
“Futile Exorcise… is arguably the Liverpool artist’s most accomplished collection to date… a richly layered sound that builds on the dubby spaciousness of Lucy… with a greater range of instrumentation, effects and, importantly, voices, both Paul’s own and guest vocalists.” Bryan Biggs (Bido Lito magazine). September 2017 review of the work.
“Futile Exorcise, the brilliant new album from Liverpudlian multimedia artist Rooney… a record to return to again and again.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). June 2017 review of the work.
“I’m not terribly adept at unqualified outlandish statements of praise so forgive me if this sounds clumsy: this is the most extraordinary album I’ve heard in at least seven years, and probably for much longer than that… It’s a work to be absorbed, laughed at, unsettled by, but above all enjoyed, over and over again.” Mark Whitby (Unwashed Territories blog). 14/5/2017 review of the work.
“Talking of acoustical experiences here is a very surreal idea, it’s by Liverpool’s Paul Rooney, it uses spoken word… from the point of view of a bit of spittle stuck inside the tube of a trombone.” Verity Sharp, Late Junction (BBC Radio 3). 18/4/2017 radio broadcast of the work.
“…reimagining Flann O’Brien’s best work as wayward post-punk. Between the kitchen sink tragedy of a cuckolded ghost witnessing his wife’s new fellah wearing his very own ‘Sunday Best’ and his final metamorphosis into the contents of a trumpet’s ‘Spit Valve’, Rooney’s transmigration is a strange and beautiful journey through the bardo realms…” Stuart Marshall (The Sound Projector blog). 31/12/2017 review of the work.
Lucy Over Lancashire
45 RPM 12″ red vinyl/digital single, 16 mins, 2007.
SueMi Records SueMi15.
B. Lucy Over Lancashire (16.27)
The ‘vocalist’ of the track is Lucy, a ‘spryte of the air’ who is possessing the grooves of the vinyl record itself. Above and amidst 16 minutes of righteous dub reggae and Lancastrian-tinged post-punk, Lucy tells of how she is damned to endlessly repeat Satanic stories about the English county of Lancashire that she has been told by the evil and shadowy figure of ‘Alan’.
The track was originally commissioned by Touchstones, Rochdale. and first broadcast on 18th November 2006 on the Radio Lancashire programme On the Wire, whose longstanding commitment to dub reggae provided one of the inspirations for the piece. The original red vinyl 12″ was released by SueMi Records, Berlin, in 2007. It notably reached the top 5 of the Dandelion Radio Festive Fifty of that year and received enthusiastic support from Huw Stephens (Radio 1), Marc Riley (6Music) and Steve Barker (Radio Lancashire) amongst others. A CD re-issue on Owd Scrat Records came out in 2014, and a CD remastered version in 2017.
Buy remaster via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.
“A re-issue of Lucy Over Lancashire… that was a fine, fine thing, it still is…” Michael Fenton (Fenny), On the Wire (BBC Radio Lancashire). 20/8/2017 radio broadcast of the work.
The 50 best reissues of 2014. FACT (FACT website). 2/12/2014.
“Rich in comic irony, the narration is nonetheless as deeply rooted as a folk ballad… [a] thought provoking 16 minute gem.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Oct. 2014 review of the work.
“It’s a masterpiece, is it not?… It is quite magnificent.” Marc Riley (BBC 6 Music). 28/5/2014 radio broadcast of the work.
“…heavy dub that could easily come from the studios of Kingston”. Calum Craig (Is This Music? website). 5/11/2007 review of the work.
“Don’t be scared, even though we in the studio are absolutely petrified after listening to that. Lucy Over Lancashire… Brilliant stuff from Paul Rooney, one of the most talked about tracks that we’ve played on this show…” Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1 FM). 3/5/2007 radio broadcast of the work.
The Topography of Chance, curated by Stewart Lee
Compilation CD album and 7″ book curated by Stewart Lee, 45 mins, 2006.
Sonic Arts Network, 2006.
Features Into the Lens by Rooney.
“Part of the continuing Sonic Arts 7” book + CD series. This excellent issue features eclectic and unexpected selections made by comedian Stewart Lee, most of which in one way or another do squeeze into his borrowed (from Fluxus) title. Only a canny civilian could make such unusual choices – so, full marks to SAN for inventive commissioning. The success of the project makes it hard to give a proper impression, but I can say that all these pieces stay close to people, eccentric sometimes, but definitely not trying to slot into the art mafia: Derek Bailey plays but mostly talks, Arthur Smith appears in a musically orchestrated stand-up routine, Tony Conrad’s two year old son anticipates sampling and scratching in 1973; there are settings of tourist brochures, slides found in thrift shops and a photograph found in a Roman street [Rooney]; Mark E Smith of the Fall reads the football results and Jon Rose plays a fence on the Golan Heights. Jem Finer, Evan Parker and a number of uncategorisable performers also appear, and the whole CD is book-ended by a couple of short found tapes, picked up in the street. The book is lavishly illustrated with all manner of maps and extracts of maps, nicely laid out. Imaginative and serious. And very contemporary.” Review from ePower website.
On the Closed Circuit by Rooney
Jewel case CD/digital album, 45 mins, 2000.
Common Culture Records, COMCD015.
1. Call Waiting (1:56)
2. White Words Scrolled On A Black Screen In Silence (4:32)
3. Albeit Without Backing (1:11)
4. Around, Between (2:58)
5. Don’t Listen (1:05)
6. Into A Mike (2:38)
7. Vocal Part (2:53)
8. Used Up (4:31) video
9. Noise Into Silence (3:33)
10. Blurred At The Edge (2:24)
11. No Time (3:41)
12. Idiot Strength (written by Lloyd/Crow) (3:32)
13. Apart From (3:36)
14. Quiet Moments (1:39)
15. Pause The Tape (4:56)
Lo-fi songs of ordinary life by the band ‘Rooney’. All three Rooney albums (1998-2000) were recorded on a minidisc 4-track recorder. The band initially consisted of Paul Rooney alone but other collaborators, notably Colin Cromer and Ian S Jackson, later became involved. The songs are about wandering down the local shops, or looking at family holiday snaps, about overlooked moments and commonplace objects. Rooney garnered much support from Stewart Lee and John Peel amongst others (resulting in a 1998 John Peel’s Festive Fifty appearance for the song Went to Town and a 1999 Peel session).
Buy via Rooney Bandcamp.
“After the phenomenal Futile Exorcise album released earlier this year and his incredible Lucy Over Lancashire track from a few years ago, I’ve gone on a search around the net and struggled to find these albums that came out under the name Rooney. And then I discovered that they had been uploaded to Bandcamp. God bless you… All 3 of these albums are, I believe, well worth your money. Though a bit different, they are essential to where Paul is at right now.” Gavin Hellyer (Bandcamp website). July 2017.
“With his 1998 debut, Time on Their Hands, Rooney established his enduring interest in words that register mundane detail…that harbour stories and sometimes spill out unexpected revelations.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Jan. 2010.
“When Call Waiting fuses medieval choral music with words about doodling on post-it notes and working in telesales it’s ironic but it’s also perplexingly memorable and moving to listen to.” Wayne Burrows (The Big Issue magazine). 1/1/2001.
Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 31/12/2000.
“Time of Day is Rooney’s purest pop moment yet, concluding with an image of a buffet trolley blocking a train lavatory door that is more touching than most singer-songwriters entire back catalogues.” Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 23/4/2000.
Reviews of other Rooney releases…
“Rooney capitalise upon an inherent folk sensibility…strongly rooted in a Northern oral tradition.” Mark Beasley (Untitled magazine). Autumn 1999.
“Without sounding at all retro this album revisits the original spirit of punk”. Rob Sandall, Mixing It (BBC Radio 3). Mar. 1999.
“Rooney is already a cult figure for his recent CD Time On Their Hands, which sets stream of conciousness banalities against some delightful low-tech techno…” Robert Clark (The Guardian). Mar. 1999.
“…the accomplished lo-fi production is no less than exceptional, an unsanitized mix of guitar, primitive keyboards and drum innovation that trancends the pull of normality — transporting the listener from Kirkby estates and daytime bars into a parallel universe of possibility…” Jonathan Bunn (Sleazenation magazine). Jan. 1999.
“…gorgeous, atmospheric guitar scores similar to Godspeed You! Black Emporer and Mogwai in half the space. Put simply Time On Their Hands is a little treasure chest. Seek it out.” Sarah Jane (City Life magazine, Manchester UK). Dec. 1998.
“That narrative ‘songs’ can work is proven by Paul Rooney’s fascinating lo-fi collection…it is never less than fascinating”. Tom Ridge (The Wire magazine). Nov. 1998.
“Walked Round The Estate is especially good…what emerges is a kind of sweet nostalgia and praise for the everyday”. Gary Valentine (Mojo magazine). Nov. 1998.
“Now that’s something special. It sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before…Time On Their Hands is one of the most refreshing album’s of the year…” Steve Oxley (The Big Issue magazine). Nov. 1998.
“Rooney works the same alchemical miracle as the ‘Sensation’ generation of British artists, making the crushingly mundane fantastic via a simple shift of focus”. Stewart Lee (The Sunday Times). 18/10/1998.
“That’s [Went to Town by] Rooney on Common Culture Records, from an EP called Got Up Late, which is really excellent I think…” John Peel (Radio 1 FM). 28/1/1998.