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Markus Wormstorm

Beats as Baton

by Roger Young / Images by Dave Southwood / 07.02.2012

The stagnant, leaf filled water dimly reflects the fading light glancing off the back of the mountain. Under the unfinished swimming pool is a secret tunnel that ends in what was probably meant to be a room for some sort of electronic control devices, temperature, filtration, and the mechanism to open the doors to the underground rocket launch pad. The abandoned mansion has a whiff of ridiculously grand ideals just out of reach, it’s heart-breaking, and yet almost comically whimsical. It’s the perfect setting for Markus Wormstorm’s launch of his new album, Not I But A Friend.

The audience gathers on the concrete deck, grouped around the snacks or the bar. Few pockets wander out past the swimming pool, braving the ankle breaking overgrown lawn. For all of its glory, the location doesn’t lend itself to abandon, it’s as if we’re just biding time until the parents come home.

Markus Wormstorm

On the stage facing the house and it’s echo-ey balcony, are Brydon Bolton on cello, Inge Beckman on vocal gymnastics, Kyla Rose Smith (of Freshlyground) on violin and a guy on clarinet, arms leaking out his suit, a cartoon vampire that has the look of the recently pepper sprayed. The audience gathers and they begin. Within moments the wind has blown Smith’s pages off her music stand. Inge tosses worn phrases into the night and, against the dull background roar of the social crowd, the performance tentatively edges forward like some kind of wind-up music box, albeit one with excellent instrumentation.

Markus himself is set up to side, bobbing manically, it seems, to every note, looking every inch the manic sidekick to a Kusturica villain. Being a performance of a composed electronic score, the musicians work in sync, especially the bow swaying of the strings instruments, but remain isolated, almost like they contributing little solos, each in their every faster rotating turns.

Markus Wormstorm

This is not to say the music is fast; it’s draggy, minimal yet somehow lush. The crowd fill the gaps with chatter, it distracts, making the performance seem more anaemic than minimal. It simply doesn’t feel as layered, although this might have to do with the fact that only a few of the many instruments on the album are represented live. His rhythmic influences seem to come from the direction of 9 Lazy 9 or Funki Porcini, while the orchestral work is reminiscent of Bernard Herrman’s early scores, if they were to be arranged by John Cage. There is also a similarity to Felix Laband (particularly Thin Shoes In June) in structure and build but whereas Laband ends up being both playful and dark, Wormstorm’s elements are haunting and driving, and less ambiguous. The difficult thing, of course, with ambient electronica is that it’s neither dance-music, nor sit-down-and-pay-attention music; it occupies that strange space that allows it to easily slip into the background. This is precisely why, for me, the album works and the live performance didn’t. As beautiful and poignant as they are, often parts of the songs exist only on the edge of consciousness, and this makes it incredibly difficult to hold attention in a social space. When I speak to him a few days later and raise this, Wormstorm says, “I said it was a social event. I wanted people to celebrate my album launch with me. I don’t care much for stiff upper lip attitudes.”

Markus Wormstorm

Sitting on the lawn, watching this performance of material that gathers its power from its distinct lack of intrusiveness and it’s very slight sense of drama; I start to fixate on the multi-plugs. There are so many multi-plugs, and I think about the supposed inorganic nature of composed music, its lack of room for spontaneity, and the warm rumble of the people behind me fades, and I see the moon, good god, the moon. It’s beautiful, the wisps of clouds progress across its surface scored perfectly by the ambient swaying, the keening strings, the distant strikes of something delicate and metallic. It’s then that I wish I was on something vaguely psychedelic, that I wish I were coming down off something, and for a moment the music allows me to pretend that I am.

Not I, But A Friend is available for free download here.

*Real world stockists are listed on Markus Workstorm’s FB page.

Markus Wormstorm

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  1. syd says:

    nice flash dave x

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  2. Fish Shop Mavis from Bishop Lavis says:

    “manic sidekick to a Kusturica villain” – nice.

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  3. substar says:

    Nicely written piece! good to see you referencing 9 Lazy 9; I particularly agree with the last para.

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  4. your mom says:

    amusing how you say “Kyla Rose Smith (of Freshlyground)” as if that’s some sort of definition of credibility, yet fail to mention any of the other performing artists’ backgrounds. Playing on Markus’ pieces is probably the most credible music Kyla has played on.

    Also, Roger, instead of comparing Markus to other artists, and then carry on about multiplugs, why not write about the music you heard? All I read from this is that it went over your head.

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  5. Roger Young says:

    @your mom

    The other people don’t actually need contenxtulisation, their names are enough. So it’s the opposite of what you think I’m doing.

    As to describing the music without comparing it to other artists (or the actual descriptions of the music before those comparisons), short of providing the sheet music, how would you suggest I do this?

    Also, minimal ambient music is kinda meant to go over your head, no?

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  6. your mom says:

    No Roger, it’s not meant to go over your head, unless of course you are incredibly short, no?

    Why not talk about the kinds of sounds used, the instrumentation, compare to genres rather than other artists. Do you actually know anything about music?

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  7. Roger Young says:

    No, I do not.

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  8. Fred Durst says:

    @your mom

    Roger has never been in an minimal electronica, string and vocal performance outfit, so he has NO RIGHT to even write about this. I mean WTF?

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  9. araz says:

    i’m getting bored of personal attacks on writers expressing opinions. grow up. or write an article to express your opinions if they differ, some kind of interesting debate. please.

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  10. Just shut up. says:

    Hey Andy, do you think you could add a function where the comments are hidden until you actually click on a “read comments” link?

    Because I enjoy the articles on this site, although I often disagree with them, but these asshats are killing it.

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  11. Andy says:

    We’re busy with a redesign that’ll hopefully address some of these issues… until then you must learn to exercise patience with the asshats…

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  12. your mom says:

    @Just shut up: don’t read the comments then maybe? Same as your vagina. It’s there, you don’t NEED to play with it?

    @araz: no personal attack on roger. just his lack of ability to cover artists.

    stop crying now

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  13. Chad says:

    I completely agree with Roger on most things, most.

    And, yes, those asshats piss me off, completely.

    I hate people who take ambient stuff too godamn seriously, it wafts through you…
    that’s what it does.
    I’ve been listening to Dream Pop and stuff of it’s ilk solidly [I said solidly, not that I’ve never listened to ambient works] for over a year now and I still can hardly tell you which track is which on an album.
    It’s mood enhancing and tonal, the bricks it’s made of merely complement the whole.

    The album reminds me of what a GOOD film score can do to something or someone or an image, be there, but not, craft a mood… be ethereal.

    Like ALOT of Mike Andrews’ stuff, ala Donnie and Me and You.

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  14. Chad says:

    These pictures are great, by the way.

    Black and white for the motherfucken win.

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  15. Smokey says:

    Album sounds like a load of Felix Laband b-sides.Possibly sounds better in a live setting but this is pretty much the snoozy electronic muzak equivalent of the Parlotones. Was this not a local album nobody would give it a second listen. A bit of a fall from grace when you consider the waves that his previous peers like Waddy,Spoek and Sibot are making

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  16. Ongo says:


    Yeah, Waddy… Awesome musical integrity.

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  17. Dooki says:

    @Smokey You are obviously not the sharpest knife in the draw so I will try and keep this simple. You have no musical integrity. Markus’s album goes over your head. You are a nobody. Stop sitting on blogs making snotty comments about stuff you dont understand and go do something with your life.

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  18. Mpumi says:

    @smokey You’re only musical references are : the parlatones, sibot, felix and waddy. If you’re comparing markus’s stuff to your local musical repertoire, you shouldn’t. He’s not playing “club bangers” anymore, or “ripping it up” at assembly, he’s doing something different. Anyway, sure to see you at See You Next Wednesday! UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ

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  19. armegenonomous says:

    Dude, felix b side? Markus recorded entire orchestras. And as far as falling from grace goes, do some research; Markus has won more international awards than the number of times you have taken your shirt off at Assembly. Bottom line is Markus just doesn’t fit into your tiny little paradigm i.e. it went way over your head.
    P.s you’re probably just sour because you never get invited to these kind of events.

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  20. Felix Laband says:

    Firstly, let me start by saying that Roger has every right to review the event exactly as he experienced it….that is the point of a review. As for my artist friend Markus, I am very happy that he has finally put his energy into creating an album worthy of his talents. I just cant help however feeling a slight sense of déjà vu.

    I know my ‘classical’ album launch in 2005 may have been missed by most of the younger generation commenting on this panel,except of course Mr Brydon Bolton who helped perform with my cast of strings, cello, clarinet, xylophones and yes, you guessed it… electronics. I feel we have maybe possibly achieved our aims better due to the fact that I highly respect musicians such as Brydon Bolton. I would never be so confident as to presume that i know more than them.
    I and my fellow artist/ composer have never been classically trained… and although this is beautiful in its self, it doesn’t allow for the complexity of melody and chordal arrangement that these musicians are capable of.

    I am certain that my good friend Markus will be angry with me for criticising his valiant attempt at ‘modern classical’ but is that not what friends are for?

    What I do find rather sad though, is the fact that Markus seems to have absolutely forgotten the many years of collaboration and close friendship that we have shared together…. If Markus honestly feels that this is the first time the world has experienced this type of music…. then let him believe and pretend that I don’t exist. This all makes me pretty sad.
    Remember kids…… it doesn’t matter how many ‘International Awards’ you have won……. music is all about soul and love.

    I am very happy that Markus has put alot of effort into creating something special, and I hope he has gained alot from the experience…. I just wish that we could exist together as artists with respect and integrity in this tiny country.

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  21. Fred Durst says:


    I wish I could kif your comment a million times.

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  22. Luke says:

    Markus Wormstorm: The Led Zeppelin of South African electronica and beyond.

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  23. Mpumi says:


    No one remembers that “momentous” concert you held. Move on.

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  24. the truth says:

    FELIX LABAND is the undoubted KING

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  25. Mpumi says:

    shhh felix

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  26. no pun intended says:

    Looks like Felix is out of gear… both connotations seem to apply.
    would someone be so kind as to help him out so he can cheer the fuck up a little.

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  27. Markus Wormstorm says:

    Friends sometimes misunderstand each other when they haven’t spoken in a while. Felix and I haven’t seen each other in ages, but after spending some time on the phone today I think we’ve sorted our shit out.
    For the record I’de just like to make it clear that I respect Felix’s work. Our collaborations really meant a lot to me growing up. He should have been at the launch, it was slack of me not to have invited him.

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  28. Felix Laband says:

    i should keep my rantings and issues to the telephone ……….. i will always love and respect my friend Markus .
    I really regret using this medium to express my issues with markus as now we have to listen to all these other lovely remarks , that are just the usual predictible cheap shots …………. fuck this medium ….. would love to have these comments said to my face .

    Markus i know all the effort and insane commitment that obviously went into your album and launch and im sorry if i came across so bitter . I respect everybody that truly tries to do something special in this country and you are definatly one of them .

    I hope we can all work together in the near future and do some shows that really push our creative energys to a crazy place ………… sibot , fletcher , you and i ………. i think we could do some amazing things if we decide to work together .

    ps if anyone wants to buy me some gear that would be great !!!!!!!

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  29. chris says:

    please collaborate again dudes !

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  30. Hilary Ious says:

    Felix’s first comment to his second; Score drugs, take drugs, write
    comment, come down, write second comment.

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  31. Markus Wormstorm says:

    @Hilary lous @no pun intended @Mpumi
    Shut the fuck up…Felix has got the right to say what he was thinking. Stop being assholes.

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  32. Rob says:

    @Hilary Ious, you fool. It would actually be the other way around.

    I admire and love both of these artists’ work deeply. I have a big problem with them pandering to you thoughtless, bored people in the comments section of a little site though. They don’t owe you anything.

    Artists need to stand for their work, and die for it. No need to justify a fucking thing, ever. ALL art is stolen. Period. Who cares.

    Felix didn’t invent the modern classical concept either (not that he was saying that though). Felix’s 2005 show was groundbreaking for SA however, and it was amazing. (http://www.openrecord.co.za/felixlaunch01.html)—some pix of his show. Love the monitor btw haha.

    You cynical assholes have zero fucking right to judge an artist’s motives, habits, diet, friends or whatever else. Be thankful there are people who dedicate their time to creating something beautiful to make your life more colourful. Have some respect for these guys and get off your tired asses and do something decent for the people of this World yourselves. Markus didn’t shove his music in your faces like half of the vomit out there. He made it on his own time, and freely gave it.

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  33. Rob says:

    btw – Markus, I didn’t make it to your show either. A bergie must have gripped my invite 😉 Looked awesome though and I hope it sounded just as good mate.

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  34. Smokey says:

    @ Felix-by “ps if anyone wants to buy me some gear that would be great !!!!!!!” do you mean heroin,tik or crack or all of the above?

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  35. Rails says:

    Hey kids, let Felix’s comments be a lesson to you all. Drug abuse will turn you into an insecure and self-righteous asshole.

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  36. 12 steps says:

    funny how all of you kids aint got no more than all these pallid retorts centred around Felix’s drug addiction…. Yawn fest! Finish up your online music appreciation 101 and go and pretend to yourselves that you’re making a difference in the world and that your opinion matters somewhere other than on this post.
    Cant believe there is even a debate about this…. 1. not, I (Markus) but a friend (Felix) is truly Markus’ best album to date….but the Laband influence is there in a pretty obvious way, ((Markus, your video interviews ruined the album for me, wish you didn’t come across as such an arrogant little ponce))
    2. Felix is the KING end of story.
    Lekker slaap julle>>>>>>

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