Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Active Denial - What Dreams Are Made Of
Outsider Art. OA024. Cassette/DL
Its impossible to write a review of a Power Electronics release without referencing the original pioneers of the genre. Thus lots of this sounds like, this feels like and oooh remember that gig at the [insert name of crap venue in London that died decades ago] when the police were called and the bottles started flying.
If you’re reading this you probably have a favourite PE group or two or three and have a stack of releases that you go back to when the mood suits, I know I have. I also know its a genre that I revisit less and less frequently. One of the main reasons being that there’s only so far you can push PE before it folds in on itself and finds itself back where it started. In other words it can become staid very, very quickly. So while there may be female artists working within the PE spectrum [big cheer] there will always be those for whom the classic PE sound is where its at.
That sound being a bloke screaming over a pulsating synth throb about sex, death and Nazis his voice disguised by various electronic means so as to make it sound as if you’ve been physically assaulted. Put it in a cassette with a bit of far right politics or a grainy black and white image of a suicide on it and away you go.
Doing your best to put the dodgy politics to one side early PE produced some memorable bands, some memorable labels, some memorable music and became incredibly influential. No PE no Japanese Noise. Without Sutcliffe Jugend no Incapacitants or certainly not what we have today. Perhaps many others too. But this is 2019. 1982 is a long way away. We’ve been there and those who weren’t [me for one] have the internet and reissues to help them discover these original recordings. It’ll be there for future generations to find too which is probably where Active Denial come in.
Who have supped heavily from the Ramleh cup to such an extent that they have become drunk upon it and have given us What Dreams Are Made Of. Burcorvos Leadbeater and Jack Knife being the protagonists delivering their homage to early PE from the environs of the English South coast. My money being on Brighton. After a few listens and giving this the benefit of the doubt I dare say that if I heard it in 1982 I would be suitably impressed. It has all the hallmarks of classic PE and there’s not much more to add to it than that. Best track is the slower Wish Harm and the shared vocals are actually pretty clear with either Leadbeater or Knife having the far superior delivery. Just the four tracks; Black Sontag, Smoke, Wish Harm and Myth of Madness. Chuck in a couple of samples and away you go. Lets party likes its 1982.
Monday, March 11, 2019
Ceramic Hobs - Use Your Illusion III
Independent Woman Records. CD 010. CD + Booklet.
Simon Morris - Sea of Love
I’m thinking Simon Morris statue on Blackpool Prom. I’m thinking statue draped with used condoms, crushed and empty packets of Embassy Regal bottom half of cellophane still attached, low birthweight warnings, Ceramic Hobs song titles graffitied on to bare chest, pages torn from the works of Kathy Acker and biros with chewed ends left at the base Jim Morrison stylee, fans from around the globe arriving on the Fylde Coast in all weathers [but mainly rain] to pay their respects and have a pint in the Spoons across the road that might one day carry his name. The Simon Morris serving [eventually] bored drunks glasses of Australian brandy and non european lagers. Later a yearly festival of Hobs inspired music where singer-songwriters extrapolate Cupcakes in shutdown shop doorways while ropey bands on drugs and Lidl alcohol try to make sense of 33 Trapped Chilean Miners all this as people recite passages from Morris’s books in a mock Lancashire drawl.
Recorded at last years Tusk Festival in Gateshead Use Your Illusion III is the best live Hobs release to pass through these hands. I was there. A band that everybody was more than ready for after a day and a half of chin rubbing and musing. Morris stamped around the stage bare chested, displaying a gut of some considerable size [‘all paid for’ you used to hear down the pub while the owner of said gut stuck it out even further and patted it proudly like a man would a prize marrow]. When not sticking his gut out Morris planted one foot hard in front of the other and made as if for one killer head-butt thus helping expel his words at hurricane force. His voice is remarkable, a gnarly growly shout, his face a twisty tormented thing, his gut sticks over his black jeans like a mutant pregnancy. Rock ‘n’ Roll mate. After warbling the opening bars of a Star is Born and covering what they say is Alice Copper’s first single from 1966 [‘No Price Tag’] they fly into Shaolin Master which is still the best song about coach-potato machismo ever written [I’ll kick yer arse mate - I’m the last of the invisible white ninjas]. There’s a couple of new tracks one of which they finish with [Dog One] which is encouraging and all the hits from the ’80’s, 90’s and 2000’s’ as Morris laconically informs us. There was a new band member too, a female one playing a keyboard. The guitarist played dead when everybody else had left the stage. The rest of the band look at him as if he was daft. He probably is. When we get to ‘This Sore and Broken Blackpool Legacy’ the mood darkens and along with it a much slowed down pace. Its their longest track of the set and maybe the nearest the Hobs will get to a ‘Freebird’ or a ‘Hurricane’ except its probably about deceased band members and the putrid pull of Britain’s sleaziest seaside resort. Not that there’s ever going to be any guitar noodling here just Morris growling a moribund ‘endless’ as the funereal march makes its way down the promenade. Thirteen tracks including a killer thirty seconds worth of White Noise. Overdubbed intro includes Cheap Trick playing Dream Police [paranoia?] and an outro of what sounds like the kind of record football clubs used to make when they got to the FA Cup Final. A booklet of lyrics makes for interesting reading.
The sleeve and title are nods to Guns N’ Roses of course, a Morris obsession that provided the framework for his previous book ‘Civil War’. It being a critique of every GNR album and album track with throwaway sex and violence accompanying each review. ‘Sea of Love’ is divided in to chapters that cover the first eight James Herbert novels, except Morris has done away almost entirely with any notion that these chapters will be about James Herbert’s first eight novels, each novel being dismissed in a sentence or two before embarking on the matter of Morris’s many sexual relationships. All of who remain nameless and most of whom appear to be married except for the cute singer in the boy band who drunkenly asks him ‘are you going to fuck my face then?’ Which came as a bit of a shock as I never knew Morris was bisexual. Or is he? Are we in fact or fiction land? Does it matter? The opening tract [pre Herbert] is a very thinly veiled attack on a well known Irish experimental film maker that is very much not fictional. I can only assume that this is Morris being antagonistic, maybe even spiteful. An interlude checking the first eight Stephen King novels describes a visit to a prostitute who specializes in domination amongst other meetings of mind and flesh. Fun, fun, fun it isn’t.
As we pass through each relationship and the drink and the drugs and the endless cigarettes and the crap pubs and the very good Spanish cafes that go with them its Morris’s mind that we get to know more than anything else. On the final page he says goodbye to his Spanish girl at the airport:
‘she holds me tight and sings Sea Of Love in my ear one last
time and she likes seeing me cry but it’s so deep it’s hurting and I look
into her kind eyes and feel the softness of her breasts and her scent
against me one last time before I go through and do the shoe and bag
scan thing, and she is stood there and we can see each other and I just
stand there for a long time and so does she, staring at each other
across the distance and sometimes waving and the tears are still
falling and she says she loved it that I was just stood there like a creep
staring and eventually I have to go and find my gate in this huge
place and we made plans for another visit each way but she knew I
would find someone else and I knew she would never leave that man …'
In and amongst all that casual sex and alcohol is Morris trying to make sense of the death of one time Hobs member Calum Terras. Its a short passage but its central to the book. All that sex and alcohol is just stuff that happens. This books central theme feels as if its more concerned with death than sex and booze. That he can write with such tenderness in and amongst all this nihilism makes the book even more depressing. Like Morris’s previous Amphetamine Sulphate publications Civil War and Creepshots [apparently an ongoing Arthouse sequence], Sea of Love is a slim tome but one that carries much weight.
Independent Woman Records
Tuesday, March 05, 2019
Mark Wynn - Normal Tea
CD + Zine/DL
Desert Mine Music
We left Mark Wynn supporting Sleaford Mods at the Leeds Irish centre in what must have been 2016. A couple of Harbinger Sound LP’s crammed with Wynn’s punk-ish musings on life spurted on to the scene around the same time and then not much since. Those two LP’s, ‘Singles - But They’re Not Really Singles I Just Sent Them To The Screen And Said They Were Singles - Singles’ and ‘More Singles - But They’re Not Really Singles I Just Sent Them To The Screen And Said They Were Singles’ and that particular gig were one of the highlights of the year - I recall a bare chested Iggy thin Wynn, a grape eating Wynn, a tiny tot tiara wearing Wynn, an all over the stage one man band Wynn who sang along to a cassette player and went down well with the ‘what the fucks he on’ eager to get to the front Sleaford Mods fans.
Wynn’s one man punk-ish journeys encapsulate all that was good about the original punk scene and those lonesome troubadours who wrote songs about chip shops, ill fitting shoes, girlfriends whose breath smelt of parma violets and existential angst. And here it is in the 21st century your direct route back to when people just went and did that without worrying about what they’d look like in HD and which hashtag to use. In a world where my inbox fills to overflowing everyday I herald the arrival of a Wynn zine/cdr combo as much as I would an abandonment of Brexit.
Normal Tea [Normality?] is another one of Wynn’s self released hand written zines with a CDR stuck in the back except this one has printed lyrics to most of the songs and not much in the way of pictures of Wynn pratting around in a park in York somewhere with a parasol while gurning funny faces into the camera. All that has gone and with it the songs about girls he fancies in Age Concern and Bobby Gillespie. The set up is as before; raspy guitar, overdubbed drums or tambourine, added vocals or spoken asides, one track sounds like it was recorded by an actual band but its easy to be mistaken in Wynn World where he does a lot of talking to himself anyway, oh and the songs are bit darker. Out go the songs about charity shops and Battenburg and in comes some introspection. The songs can be equally as raw with ‘Cashmere’ apparently invoking the wrath of the digital distributor who declared it unlistenable [‘I don’t know what they’re talking about I’ve listened to it hundreds of times’]. The one real catchy tune with a recognisable Wynn like plucked chord progression is ‘Speel-Berg-Shrugs-Agen’ with much of the rest being filled with plenty of strummy guitar buzz. All twelve songs chip in at just under the twenty self explored minutes mark.
Signs that the times they are a-changing come on ‘Bent Heel Shoes’. Wynn has a conversation with a barman who asks him why he isn’t drinking ‘Markie, what’s with all this abstinence thing going on? Will it be lasting long? Any Problem? And then in ‘Normal Tea’ ‘Would you like a drink?’ ‘I don’t drink. Thanks for asking though. And I hope you didn’t read that bit in the lyric to Bent Heel Shoes’ and then ‘I want some herbal tea, I’d like a peppermint tea’. So that’s Wynn off the booze then. Perhaps the most revealing is ‘The Centre of Which is Not Here’ which has these added lines which aren’t actually in the song ‘Must I defend myself in this way? If not why am I writing this? Am I still trying to unlock me? Why have I stopped answering my questions?
His song writing is as strong as ever, as his delivery, a spoken word sing-talk thing with just the hint of flat northern vowels. Thankfully his humour and spirit lives on as with ‘Delicious’ which is a song about someone daring him to write a song with the word delicious in it. ‘No, My Love is Like a Bad Medicine’ reveals a finger picking spoken blues which reminds us that Wynn is actually a very good guitar player who has long since left that gig behind deciding instead to be Yorkshire’s Ray Davies. On tea.
Mark Wynn Bandcamp
Desert Mine Music
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Midnight Mines - Great Disturbances In Your Mind
I.W.R. CD005 2 x CD. 300 copies.
Fishschool - Live 1983
I.W.R. Cassette. 40 copies.
Witchblood - Maleva
I.W.R. Cassette. 30 copies.
I.W.R. Cassette. 30 copies.
Chow Mwng - Mollip & Reptile
I.W.R. Cassette. 25 copies.
New Zealand label Independent Woman Records came in to view when I heard they were releasing a Ceramic Hobs single and then I found out that there was only going to be a 20 copies lathe cut job. A Peter King lathe cut job of tiny quantities that I have no chance of owning. Life goes on. While down in my cups I scanned more of their desirous items via the wonders of the web and found choice items by the likes of Smegma, The New Blockaders, Kleistwhar, 8 inch lathe cuts, 12 inch lathe cuts now all happily settled with owners who aren’t me. They also do cassettes in small quantities and CD’s of larger quantities which is where this lot came in. All the way from New Zealand in a Maori inked jiffy bag to West Yorkshire.
Biggest surprise of the lot is discovering that Punctured Corpse is your scourge of the south coast actual Jason Williams. My draw dropped a degree at the discovery of this fact. You have to assume that you’re in for some Head Down No Nonsense Death Metal Scribble Backed Denim Jacketed Mindless Boogie at the sight of such nomenclature but actually its all six foot thirteen of yer man doing what he likes to do best which is making an unholy racket. A good heft of it on show here too. A C55 filled to the gubbins with lots of short tracks that include lots of bottle smashing and general all out ear racket. Some of the live tracks are actually pretty stupendous with the chaos being greeted by much audience hilarity. During one live track it appears that the venue alarm went off and its to be assumed that none of the audience could decide for themselves whether it was part of the performance or not. Legend.
Fishschool are a trio from where I know not who cant make up their minds whether they’re the Talking Heads, Slint or early Velvets. Still, it was 1983 so we can let them off. In 2019 it still sounds pretty good in an all over the shop kind of way and will prove vital fodder for those who seek out obscure bands from the early 80’s. Wherever they come from. Then I went for Witchblood which I thought might be more Head Down No Nonsense Death Metal Scribble Backed Denim Jacketed Mindless Boogie but is more aligned to what Charlemagne Palestine creates with the repetitive hammering of piano keys recorded in a lo-fi manner so as to create drones. With the addition of some much admired tape wobble I left feeling sated. Chow Mwng I’ve not listened to since risking my arm on a download a few months back and finding myself in raptures. Oh how I chastised myself and made promises not to be so harsh on the inbox. If memory serves what I got then were songs as recorded by somebody who only had access to the cutlery drawer and a bent acoustic guitar with two strings missing. This is maybe even more experimental, like something recorded in Hungary in the 1950’s by an electronic pioneer in a studio full of expensive looking equipment when in actual fact its Chow Mwng pulling sellotape, drilling imaginary holes and singing along to irritating squeaks all while surreptitiously recording his try outs in the Moog shop. Superb stuff. A man trying to make interesting sounds with whatever comes to hand and succeeding.
The release that's been played the most and the one that you are more likely to get your hands on is the double CD set by Midnight Mines. I know nothing about them except that there are two of them, Private Sorrow and Baron Saturday and that they’re described as ‘improv attacked with a primitive garage band mentality’. Apparently they record ‘spontaneous compositions’ before reworking them in the studio adding dubs, beats and the occasional synth slaver. I can vouch for their success. Disc One is a collection of their first three cassettes with Disc Two bringing unreleased material to the feast. Here you can chow down on all manner of guitar rawk beat box synth barrage burble with the occasional vocal going backwards. Like an early Ashtray Navigations going through more distortion boxes or a more rudimentary Ramleh [rock version obvs]. Vocals are few and far between and when they emerge they’re more like anguished wails than actual words which is fine by me. I found the cover intriguing; riot police breaking up a demonstration which judging by the haircuts and dress of the people involved must have taken place in the ‘70’s or ‘80’s. So why that particular image? It must have some significance for as riot police breaking up demonstrators goes its a fairly ho-um image. If you enter ‘riot police breaking up a demonstration’ in to an online image search the vast majority of returns are of recent unrest photographed up close by brave photographers not photographs taken from a building across the way like we have here. Then I saw what I think must be the reason. If you look very closely at the figure exiting the image on the extreme right they’re wearing white socks with sandals. Quelle horreur.
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Neil Campbell - Mirror Mania Ersatz Chamber
I do admire a person who dubs their tapes in real time before sticking them in a hand daubed sleeve, sending them out snail mail with a greeting written upon the reverse of a very nice postcard. Mine was Genet’s cover of his Faber book The Balcony. 1950’s. It looks gorge dahlinks in that ‘we’re not trying that hard’ 1950’s kind of way. But this is 2019 kiddywinks. Put your iPhones down for a minute and take note. All that Whatszappening, Instagargling and Faceflogging is only going to get you so far. And while Zuckerberg makes billions from selling your data to all manner of dodgy, money obsessed scum you could be doing something like this. Making something. And not just noises made with an app on your phone. This is real. An actual thing. And not available on bandcamp. Yet. Maybe never.
Repellent Music did make it on to Bandcamp. This cassette came wrapped in a sheet of paper and was from the Campbell School of Noise. It sounded a bit like a stretched out electronic growl, someone making a low ‘ahh’ sound and treating it electronically for an hour. It morphs of course. All Campbell music morphs. There may be the faintest trace of where you began at its end but during that time you’ve visited at least three musical continents, ten musical genres, two different guitars, several effects, ten noise boxes, a KAOS pad rewired to sound like a melting star, three magpies and the pounding beta sound of several crates of dance records. Maybe in another past life he was just a frustrated bell caster?
I write this the day the tape came through the door [actually now yesterday]. Its the kind I like the best; a smooth white shell with Mirror Man written on one side and Ersatz Chamber on the other but hang on, one side is blank. Has Campbell forgotten to dub a side or did he just write the title across both sides of the cassette because he didn’t have a magic marker with a point fine enough to fit it all on one? Ah well. Let it sit there. I like it as it is.
To be honest with you I owe Campbell a review. I’ve probably not written one for over a year while he very kindly sends me things without pressuring for a review. I’ll swap this for the numerous emails I get from people who never read these pages and a week later follow up with a ‘have you had to chance to listen to my Greatest Thing Ever’. You lot can all go and shite.
Mirror Mania Ersatz Chamber Jean Genet’s The Balcony Could Be On Two Sides Of A Cassette But I’m More Than Happy With One visits several continents and the insides of the Fripp/Wilcox household where Toyah bangs away on a toy xylophone as Robert winds up the acoustic guitar for some serious head down stunted riff work. Yes it morphs. Of course it morphs. And layers. And layers. And layers. I’ll rewind it once more and tell you all about it because its new and its exciting. Yes. Exciting. While it was rewinding I started listening to Repellent Music [via Bandcamp] and got caught up in that again The whole hours worth. I should visit this page more often. There’s not much more you need really. What I really need is a cassette player that plugs in because I’m burning though batteries what with this tape only being on one side and me not having the patience to rewind it with a pencil [someone please explain this to younger readers who only have smartphones to access music]. I’m in an Alpine meadow and all the cows have bovine spongieform. Hang on. This is different. Have I only reversed halfway and pressed play. Have I got my sides mixed up? You cant see in to the cassette. Sodding white cassette shells. Now there’s some carnival music. A Parisian Merry Go Round. Now the pace is considerably slower. I’ve been sucked in to the Campbell space-time continuum where your senses are not what they were when you first entered. My mind has been taken over by Campbell. An even slower pace now, an African sounding stringed instrument gently, hypnotically plucked to an effervescent background of electronic fireworks. It does have two sides. Sodding tapes. What was I doing? Whats happened? Can I go now? I think there’s a dog barking somewhere. This is blissful. I think I’m tripping. Up.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Laica- You Keep All Future Sunsets
Totes Format. TOTFORM#33
CDR/DL 20 Copies.
Excuse me while I fawn over this sleeve for a while; a laser cut, laser etched sleeve on hand painted, recycled cardboard thats been machine stitched to a clear plastic backing. Reverse of sleeve has rubber stamped info and there’s slight charring from the laser cutting giving it a worn, aged look and feel. The planetary like design fits in well with the title and sounds therein and if I think about its greatness for long enough my neck goes limp and I fall over through lack of oxygen.
A sleeve is nothing if the contents don’t match. Natch. So you can adopt all manner of packaging gimmicks to make your release stand out but if its covering a pile of poo the packaging is the only thing people are going to remember. See Merzcar, anything with bits of melted plastic on it and that Betleys release that was a cassette tied to a domestic sponge.
Mr Totes Format or GRMMSK to give him his proper name lifts all his releases from the ordinary in such ways; etched cassettes, recycled materials, handmade cassette sleeves all in limited quantities and most desirous. The obvious limitations of the limited run then offset by making the release available for free via download.
Laica are new to me. It could be Mr. GRMMSK working under another project name or it could be someone else entirely. I know not. The Lacia website is of no use as its a single page with the letters of the name all linking back to the home page, an elaborate joke perhaps? Again I know not. It matters not. After spending most of Saturday afternoon with this on repeat as I did battle with the Guardian cryptic crossword I decided to listen to it on headphones at a decent volume. Which I’m glad I did as the experience was enhanced no end. You Keep All Future Sunsets is a single hour long track that is a forever collapsing in on itself wall of noise drone, wave after wave of roaring helicopter throb that at times engulfs you, that at times peaks at such a rapture that you think you cant possibly take anymore.
The silence that follows is equally as rewarding.
Thursday, February 07, 2019
Viviankrist - Morgenrøde
Cold Spring. CSR68CD
For my troubles I end up on the Cold Spring promo list. I indulge briefly to see whats going on in there which is hard on the peepers due to it being pitch black. It doesn’t look a happy place to be. Maybe this is where I really should be though. Listening to an 80 minute Dark Folk release that was recorded in a Swedish forest at three in the morning by people with names like Cragnomort all while trying to make sense of the current uncertain global political situation. Cold Spring does tend to lean heavily towards the darker side of life but its not all doom and gloom. There is Noise and Power Electronics to cheer you up while for night lovers there’s Dark Ambient, Ritual and all those live Psychic TV albums to indulge in once more. Their website is an enormous one stop shop for all the dark things in your musical life and if so inclined and finding myself in a deeply moribund mood I could spend a lot of time there.
One thing led to another and before I knew it I was in the miserable godforsaken hell hole that is the Cold Meat Industry website. A place I haven’t been to for donkey years. I was surprised to see it at all until I discovered that the label died a death a few back and that what I was seeing was maybe a storefront of some kind. I used to listen to a lot of miserable music back in my [brief it should be noted] CMI days, lots of bands with Latin names whose releases were often described as being the very darkest Avant Garde Dark Ambient Folk Ritual that money could buy. At that time and feeling that Schloss Tegal could only get me so far I gladly soaked up lots of what Cold Meat Industry and Cold Spring had to offer and then I bought some razor blades and ran a hot bath. Thankfully I didn’t go through with it and decided instead to cheer myself up by going to the pub and starting a fight with a total stranger who was much bigger than me.
Of the promo’s that have been arriving from Cold Bath I mean Spring over the last few months nothing has really grabbed my attention but this did. It might have been the word Japanoise in the press blurb that swung it. Which this really isn’t at all. It is recorded by a Japanese person though, Vivian Slaughter or Eri Isaka if you prefer. Once of Gallhammer, a three piece ‘grating black metal’ outfit and wife of Mayhem vocalist Maniac. Both residents of Norway where its bollock freezing for much of the year. When Gallhammer went the way of all flesh Slaughter decided to pass the interminable bollock freezing Norwegian winters by disappearing in to the Slaughter/Maniac basement to record music on an analogue synth. These sessions eventually begat Morgenrøde which to these ears sounds more like Klaus Schulze than K2. There may be some ultra distorted vocals on there and some noise [last track ‘Pleasure of Confusion’ is the nearest we get to all out noise] but for the most part this is pure analogue synth burble. Tracks like ‘Cactus’ are the kind of off kilter thing Aphex Twin did so well on Selected Ambient Works while ‘Higher Minded’ is a sped up all over the shop Moroder. The title track is an eight minute minimalist head nodder, ‘Spite Spits’ all distorted beats. That time in the basement was well spent.