Old Site News 2008


Satanic Mills


  • Despite being severely climactically challenged in the summer of 2008, things moved on in practical terms. The recently purchased mini-tipi enabled me to extend the recording season from Spring to Autumn, which should give me a lot more recording time. After a long winter’s scrimping for Britain, the site and label’s finances were OK. The big bills of the summer became a black hole in my memory and my wallet. (But then the demon credit crunched at my savings. Did the paper tiger of capitalism really have to fold, just as I got some dosh together for the project?) 


  • Mount Bermo Timbo’s Lament was the first track I did on a new 8-track field recorder. This offered better quality and a lot more scope for imaginative mixes. I planned to upgrade mikes the following Summer recording season in 2009 (but I was forced to abandon recording for medical reasons, and it never happened). 


  • I was hoping to fit in a banjo and poetry mountain field album if the weather relented. Unfortunately 2008-9 is was the coldest UK winter in 30 years. Rain on my parade why don’t you, ye malignant Gods! Then I have one more projected album of songs to record after the planned banjo album, before I will have to write an album of new stuff (should I survive that long).



Facts and Anecdotes You’ve Never Wanted to Know about Mount Bermo Timbo Web Site 



The Photos (Prophet Trousered Gallery) 


I’ve used Kodachrome slide film since the late 1950’s. I usually sandwiched one slide onto another slide and printed them together to form a new, and often surrealike image.  Sometimes I used to combination print one image onto another image on the same sheet of Cibachrome slide paper. (pos pos photo paper!)  [NB you can skip the following technical section on photography by using the link here Timbo's Story


Stuff for Photo Nerds & Equipment Fetishists (or "Blokes" as they are known in the trade). Human beings can ignore this technical section!


Recently, although still working with film cameras, I have digitally scanned sandwiches and slides. I then manipulate the images with the basic Adobe Elements software bundled with the slide scanner. This has now replaced darkroom projector printing in my practice. The digital manipulations have extended the expressive range of the photos infinitely, and suddenly unattainable dreams can be made concrete without the patronage of a dodgy banker. In 2009 I've been experimenting for the first time with combination prints made mainly with digital camera grab shots.


 I've used the now defunct Kodachrome 35mm film over the years. Now I've been playing with two Olympus compact digital cameras in 2009 year for the first time. They've been a lot of fun, and I've got a couple of mini-galleries or so of digital shots done with them. My digital and film gear is summarised below:



3 New Digital Cameras!


  1. Olympus Camedia C-350 Zoom with three busy megapixies and an optical viewfinder. (This a present from my generous brother, thanks Glyn!).


  2. The one above was heavy on batteries, so I got an Olympus Camedia FE-5500 with a built in rechargeable battery good for the environment for �50 s/h. This one has 5mps but I can not spot any difference in the perfectly acceptable A4 prints I get from both these cameras. (I always process prints in Photoshop Elements, in any case. ) I've had a lot of fun with this grab shot camera, carry it with me everywhere on my belt, and took photographs up and down the Cambrian Line with it, on a photographic train travelling holiday in April. (I was trying to decide at the time, whether or not I could live with digital photography). Unfortunately it does not have an optical viewfinder, and the LCD screen is invisible shooting with strong back lighting. This one gripe aside, this little camera has been a delight to play with.


  3. Olympus Camedia E20p digital single lens reflex: this is a massive fixed lens professional bridge camera that Olympus produced at the turn of the century. It uses high quality converters to function from macro to 28mm up to 400mm. I'm slowly setting about aquiring converters when they appear s/h, but they are expensive. The lens is fast throughout the focal lengths. It only has a nominal 5mps but has manual focusing options and other professional features that produce images indistinguishable from a 14 mps camera at A4. The manual is excellent, and reads like a comprehensive introductory course on digital photography. It provides me with a camera that can do pretty much what my film OM2 system can do. I would have had to have paid �2000+ to upgrade to a modern good quality digital slr with interchangeable lenses to replace my film camera outfit, and I don't have that to spare!  The basic E20p digital system should cost me less than �300, and the quality is as good as anything else around, if you can cope with the brick like size and weight of the camera (which does demand a heavy commitment to your photography). 




Timbo’s Story of Mountain Music and Mounting Tension: Prophet Trousered Records

(ranting and rambling, more information than you think you need)



The Good


 Like many flat musicians (I am of course really round, but live in a second floor domestic box), I cannot play and record 24 hours a day without driving the neighbours crazy. (They don’t need a driver; they’re already half way there!). I live in Barmouth or Bermo, on the coast of North West Wales, with an estuary, seashores and mountains fit for earthly paradise. I decided to start recording outdoors in the peaceful mountains, free of neighbours from heaven and hell. A good plan in theory! 


 So five years ago I got a little portable four-track off an auction site. Firstly, I did a demo album five years ago. My charitable label Ragged Trousered Records distributed this in aid of Tsunami victims.  I then started the non-profit making Prophet Trousered Records label.  I’ve now done three other albums, which are on the web site. In the winter of 2008 I designed the Mount Bermo Timbo website, and started to distribute the three albums under the terms of a non-commercial Creative Commons licence.


I’ve developed the fantasy that I am making field recordings of an old ethnic musician out in the wilds. (I had loved listening to tape field recordings of “tribal” music on the radio, when I was a lad). I tried to retain a rough edged improvisatory feel to the music, and resist the temptation to over produce the final mixes to recreate a conventional studio sound. (It’s hard to do that convincingly on budget equipment, in any case). I tried for that “together untogether” sound that I loved on the old 78 blues or Dixieland records. The little digital machine produced good quality recordings to my ear, far better than the cassettes album I had previously produced circa 1985.  Thus I set off, ever and a day up the mountain with a mike, a banjo and a portable studio. The undiscovered legend of Mount Bermo Timbo was born in the total anonymity, which has proudly survived to this day.



For the first two years of recording al fresco, the weather was great, and I had a good site half way up a mountain (close to home with a foot bridge tunnel as a rain shelter). The first reasonably convincing album, Snakes or Ladders or Train Out of Time, came out of this period (circa 2006).


The Sometimes Bad



The following year the weather was poor. I decided to move to a heroic site at the top of a mountain, just off the beaten track, and set up a tent to protect the equipment. (A �40 used watertight canvas marvel from eBay!). The weather was so bad that I spent a lot of time in the tent practicing singing and playing, waiting for the wind to drop and the rain to stop, so I could record in quiet conditions. (One Tooth Carol in Sad Old Ram of the Mountains was recorded low fi in a storm). The mountain microclimate high above sea level could be quite cold even in mid summer, as the owls hooted in the trees overhead at dusk. It was nevertheless a beautiful and inspiring site, with the sound of the steam train, running water, and views of the sea and the mountains of Snowdonia.  Towards the end of August I had got to the last track. I was forced to leave a couple of banjos up the mountain in weather too foul to risk bringing them down. By the time I was able to get back to them, they had been stolen. One was a valuable vintage project banjo that was being done up, and the other one was of great sentimental value. Somewhere up the mountain there are a couple of black sheep playing mountain banjo with evil smiles on their woolly faces. 



I was devastated, not just by the loss of my beloved banjos, but by the sense that something unique had been desecrated and was gone forever. My fond innocent fantasy of a space unmolested by Man, had been replaced by the feeling that nothing on earth was safe from Man’s greed and corruption, however divine the environment. (Apologies to Woman!) 


I struck the tent and packed up. I made a final miserable journey to the site and recorded the vocal to the darkly comic destruction myth A Phantom Fiddle’s Mad Song. (This is the penultimate song on Sea Song to a Phantom Fiddler). I did the vocal tracks on one of the few fine days of the summer, so I needed no tent. The rest of the album was recorded and mixed down at home using synthesiser, electric fiddle and drum machine, in stereotypical home recording mode.



The Ugly Weather


The following summer I planned to record my remaining selection of songs, but the weather was appalling. ‘The rain it raineth every day’ … and it really did. I had a new even more remote site for my tent, which felt more secure. But like the Grand Old Duke of Record I walked all my equipment up to the top of the hill, and then I walked it down again, as I was rained off day after day. Great exercise for a young lad, but exasperating for a superannuated recording artist with a hundredweight of gear in his rucksack. In more paranoid moments, I sometimes felt the buzzards overhead were expecting me to snuff it in mid trek. I walked always onwards ever upwards with slavering buzzards dribbling on my head. Nevertheless the new site was still achingly beautiful, with a strong view of the mountain. I kept the energetic midges at bay by rubbing yeast extract (Marmite) into my face. Well protected but I smelled permanently like a 1950’s sandwich!


 The days of Summer 2008 collapsed into the months with no recording done, as soggy day succeeded soggy day. I had to build a causeway of fallen branches in front of the tent, as a marsh developed fed by the masses of water pouring down the mountain. The midges thrived and made more music than I did. I scrambled around the mountain explored, practised and pondered in bramble shredded waterproofs.  I wrote and rehearsed a new song called Mount Bermo Timbo’s Lament. I decided to place the new track at the end of Seasong to a Phantom Fiddler (2007). In retrospect by 2008 the album felt unresolved. It needed a more positive ending.


 Autumn kicked in, and it was now getting wintry cold. I realised I needed a larger heated tent that I could record in, if I was to get anything done. I pitched the new mini tipi tent in an even more inaccessible spot in the mountainside hamlet of Badgersville. The site looked phenomenal in the autumn leaves. My freshly pitched tent was cased out at night by a surveillance polecat, and by new large striped neighbours as dawn approached. Finally in early winter there was an intermission in the incessant rain, long enough for me to complete Mount Bermo Timbo’s Lament.  It was now really chilly, but I was sustained by flasks of hot porridge and warmed by my very efficient flameless tent heater, when my shoes became little fridges. At this stage to get to the recording space, I was  wading in my wellies along paths turned to temporary flood streams running off the mountain. Brian Wilson like, I had taken the whole summer and autumn to produce a single track. Enough to drive a bodhisattva bananas, Brian, and the vibrations were mixed!







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