The very first completely handmade and almost unreleased recordings of Graham Lambkin and Darren Harris under the name of Cat & Bells Club, prefiguring The Shadow Ring.
In 1992, under the guise of the Cat & Bells Club, eighteen-year-old Cheriton residents Graham Lambkin and Darren Harris self-released three tapes—two yellow cassettes and one pink—documenting their earliest musical efforts at S.H.P. studios (Lambkin's bedroom in his parents' house). The lowest of all lo-fi recordings, these tracks were laid down live, directly into a boombox with no overdubs. Relieved of their academic expectations and plunged into the workforce, the duo aspired to enter the annals of rock history, making their own primitive teenage overtures to Marc Bolan, the Incredible String Band, Whitehouse, and the Godz. Lyrically and spiritually the Cat & Bells Club had much to do with Bolan's early Tyrannosaurus Rex project, but with a hyperlocalized Folkestonian twist that nonetheless maintained his penchant for chevaline. While much of the Club's repertoire comprised freeform instrumental try-outs—untuned charity shop guitars and coffee cup drum kits—a number of songs featured Lambkin's original lyrics, read by both members of the band, dramatizing the comings and goings of anthropomorphic animals and musing abstractly on the minutiae of daily life in Cheriton (their native C-Town).
Taking their moniker from a mishearing of "the jester's bauble, cap and bells,"' a line from Incredible String Band's "The Iron Stone," the duo operated for a brief year under the increasingly esoteric influence of the Fisheye mail-order and then fledgling Forced Exposure fanzine, and from the airwaves via Radio 1's John Peel show. This collection was compiled by Lambkin in the early aughts for an unrealized release on his now defunct Kye label, but barring a few tracks on a retrospective 7″ issued by Siltbreeze in 2010, hardly any of these recordings have been heard beyond a handful of hangers-on, inner-circle drinking allies, and the most devoted of fans. The Cat & Bells Clubset the stage for what was to soon follow, when the group changed its name to the Shadow Ring—the rest is history.
Graham Lambkin (born 1973 in Dover, England) is a multidisciplinary artist/publisher whose work embraces audio, visual and text-based concerns. Lambkin first came to prominence in the early 90's through the formation of his amateur music group The Shadow Ring, who fused a D.I.Y. post-punk aesthetic with folk music, cracked electronics, and surreal wordplay, to create a unique hybrid sound that set it apart from its peers, and continues to exert an influence today. After the dissolution of The Shadow Ring Lambkin embarked on a series of striking and highly original solo releases, including the critically acclaimed Salmon Run
, Amateur Doubles
, and Community
, as well as undertaking a string of collaborative projects with the likes of Joe McPhee, Keith Rowe, Moniek Darge, Jason Lescalleet, Michael Pisaro, James Rushford
, and Áine O'Dwyer.
Lambkin's visual art explores the metamorphic properties of the drawing medium in which the abstract and the figurative perpetually shape-shift across contrasting visual planes, thereby undermining the expected categories of image content. By turns somber and celebratory, Lambkin's visual idiom explores themes of environment, ecology and decay with a poetic nuance that betrays the weight of its subject matter. These works have been shown in several solo exhibitions: Came To Call Mine
(Audio Visual Arts Gallery, NYC, 2014), Marble On The Rot
(356 Mission Gallery, LA, 2015), Moon Blows Close
(Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, 2016), Mushroom Captivity
(PiK, Köln, 2019), and Time Runs Through The Darkest Hour
, NYC, 2020). Lambkin's visual art has been documented across five hardback volumes, chiefly via Penultimate Press, London.
A similar spirit of collision between the familiar and uncanny informs Lambkin's spoken word/text-based performances and publications. The prosaic facets of life yield to mordant dream-like reflections that are at once banal and bizarre. Lambkin has performed these works internationally at such venues as The Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, The Kitchen, NYC, The Sibelius Museum, Turku, The ICA, London, Vassar College, NY, Café OTO, London, CALarts, CA, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn, NY, Fylkingen, Stockholm, and has seen three volumes of text-based work published to date.
In 2001 Lambkin founded the Kye label, which published over 60 audio editions by such artists as Philip Corner
, Gabi Losoncy, Malcolm Goldstein, Joe McPhee and Matthew Revert, as well as significant archival collections from Anton Heyboer, Moniek Darge, Henning Christiansen
, and Lambkin's own Shadow Ring.