Monday, July 09, 2018

The Harrowing of the North




The Harrowing of the North / New Music From Yorkshire
End of the Alphabet Records. EAR 33
Cassette/DL

150 copies.




‘I was demoralised when I left Bradford for Florida.’

The above quote comes from the composer Frederick Delius who was born in Bradford and forced by his father to try his hand at growing oranges in Florida when all Frederick wanted was to make music back home. I used the quote on a tape I released a number of years ago now. Called ‘The Feeding of the 2,079,211’ [the population of West Yorkshire at the time] it pulled together the likes of Smell & Quim, Filthy Turd, Ashtray Navigations, Astral Social Club, Ocelocelot and Mutant Ape [remember him?] all of whom resided within the counties boundaries at the time.

The Harrowing of the North goes one step further than ‘Feeding …’ and extends its remit to include the whole of Yorkshire. And why not as Barry Norman used to say. Being the largest county in England [did anybody ever tell you that?] its bound to be chock full of all manner of interesting noises, sounds and musics and we’re not talking indie bollocks Pigeon Weddoes bollocks footy anthem bollocks or hair metal from Sheffield.

From ‘Feeding …’ only Ashtray Navigations find themselves making the leap to ‘Harrowing …’. Having lived in Leeds for so long now we can give both Phil and Mel honorary citizenship. They deserve it. They open it. As they should and they still sound as important and vital as ever. Its to the new names and new arrivals that I point my finger at first though. Thank you for coming and being here [and to those of natural birth for staying]; Sophie Cooper, Stuart Chalmers, Core of the Coalman, Eleanor Cully, the ethereal and esoteric Hawthonn, the visceral YOL and here for the first time the much vaunted Guttersnipe, Leeds’ most talked about but label shy band who give us a tantalizing eight seconds worth of a drumstick rattle, a scream and a ‘what for’, which is a near as you’re going to get to a ‘fuck you’ on musical terms. A couple of names are totally new to me; Eleanor Cully and Soon the Light, the former a Huddersfield based composer with one minute and twelve seconds of deep rumbling that could have been recorded from the insides of a pillow that was inside a piano when the lower register keys were being gently hit, the latter this counties answer to Amon Düül meets Yes’s trippier moments with some like deeply stoned ethereal female vocals and gently strummed acoustic guitars.      

Neil Campbell whose duty it has been to collate and supply the sleeve notes [and who along with Ashtray Navigations this compilation would seem incomplete] appears with Vibracathedral Orchestra who have the longest track here, a fifteen minute drone rattler as captured live at Total Inertia. Paul Walsh, who like Campbell was once in Smell & Quim arrives under his noisy Foldhead moniker with a particularly irritating [in a good way] blast of grating computer chatter, John Clyde-Evans, last seen wandering the hills above Hebden Bridge is joined by some friends with a cut from a concert at Greenhead college thats a sinewave getting shorter and sharper.  One half of Hawthonn is Phil Legard who with last track delivers a sublime, fog across the lake drone of the gentlest measure.

We could talk about who was left out of this comp which if I were to bore you with a list could run to quite some length. A list that continues to grow. This week I discovered a band from Sheffield called Black Slipper who work within the Industrial synth pop framework as built by the likes of fellow steelers Cabaret Voltaire, Vice Versa and The Human League. Its a big county with a diverse musical background, one that continues to impress me and give me far more musical pleasure than Florida ever did. Delius was right.

Harrowing of the North is an hour long comp released to coincide with this years Tor Fest; Experimental Yorkshire, an all day event taking place at The Trades in Hebden Bridge on July the 21st. See you there.



Trades Club + Tickets Info


End of the Alphabet


More details from The Quietus






Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Simon Morris - Civil War




Simon Morris - Civil War
Amphetamine Sulphate. 68pp

ISBN 978-1-7324039-0-1

My few brief years of Facebook purgatory were enlivened by the ever entertaining posts of Simon Morris. Irregular and often followed by an occasional ‘thats me done with Facebook … forever’ flourish he never the less re-appeared some weeks down the line with yet another short and precise, nail on the head take on the entire oeuvre of his favourite bands, writers and film makers.

Some of these ended up in 2016’s Tegenaria Press’s ‘Consumer Guide’ along with a numbing account of all the people who’d died while being in the Ceramic Hobs, Morris’s [still, just] ongoing chaotic psychedelic Blackpool punk rawk outfit. Consumer Guide also contained Morris’s sparse and often lugubrious views on fast food and alcohol, offering up sage advice on the joys of Weatherspoons, Greggs and green Chartreuse. Last years offering Creepshots [also via Amphetamine Sulphate] came in the form of an epistle detailing Morris’s state of mind while traveling through several British cities, his relationships, crap pubs and Lana Del Ray.

Civil War takes ideas from both these where the reviews and opinions found in Consumer Guide meet the sexual angst of Creepshots. I read it in a single sitting one Saturday evening while listening to various Chocolate Monk releases. Soon after I’d turned the last page I found a link to a harrowing piece of journalism by the Guardians Hannah Jane Parkinson, a disturbing view of her own mental health that left me feeling upset, impotent and glad that I am [to my own thinking anyway] on an even mental keel. Later in the evening I turned on the radio to discover Sarah Kane’s play ‘4.48 Psychosis’ getting the late night R3 treatment. Kane hung herself after suffering from years of depression and never saw this, her last and most controversial work performed. As Saturday nights go it was a memorable one but perhaps maybe not for all the right reasons.

Subtitled ‘The Ultimate Guide to Guns N’ Roses’ Morris dissects each album and each album track in his own withering style relishing in the bands self immolation, excesses, sordid lyrics and all round greatness. Each album and each track is also presaged by Morris’s recent liaisons, antidepressant use, suicidal thoughts and often violent and degrading sexual fantasies. Whether these meetings and fantasies are genuine and carried out or the result of the muse is never explained. Its the juxtaposition between this and the ‘how great is Sweet Child o’ Mine’ that makes the book genuinely shocking.

On ‘Yesterdays’ Morris writes;

‘After a brief and silly one where I sit on you and punch you while talking to allegedly important men and flirting with other women, I invite you as a terrified child to a Halloween treat in which I make you eat an apple and razor blade while dunking your head in water until you are dead. We both laugh a lot at this’


Outsider writers in for this catchy and unremarkable pop-metal song …’



Its the same juddering effect you find in American Psycho and the ‘where did they come from’ chapters on Genesis, Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis that lay cheek by jowl with the detailed descriptions of high class prostitute mutilation.

Some passages feel like diary entries or unsent letters with Morris complaining about his belly;

What the fuck am I gonna do, eating a piece of fruit isn’t going to stop me feeling suicidal’

While on the opposite page lie detailed methods of suicide;

'Fresh razor blade vertically down the prominent artery …'

And barely concealed anger;

'If it wasn’t for your nudge-wink cry for attention piece of contemporary composition last week I would have kept my patience and wouldn’t be on this diatribe while a nation coincidentally waits for a murdering parasite to marry some daft septic bint’.

Morris’s writing is imbued with a lifetimes weariness towards death, drugs and joyless sex. What humour there is is darker than a miners pocket but you keep on reading, aghast, confused, shocked and wondering if the relationship at the centre of this book is between Morris and A. N. Other or his own mind.
  
And despite all this madness, on he marches. Three books now, each one an improvement on the previous and showing the writing skills needed to capture a psyche and mindset that many of us will never know, understand or wish to. Civil War gives us a brief glimpse in to that psyche and however unsettling it might be you have to keep going, you have to keep believing and hoping that some sense will come of this.

What Guns N’ Roses fans will make of it tho is anyone's guess.


Hanna Jane Parkinson

Amphetamine Sulphate











 







Thursday, June 14, 2018

Timglaset #8
















Timglaset #8 - Lists


Found shopping lists are revealing pieces of social flotsam. If found outside a UK supermarket they may also reveal that even after decades of saturation cookery television across all channels the home nations are still filling their baskets with bottled sauces, frozen pizzas and lard.

Its all Joe Possett’s fault. He’s been posting pictures of found shopping lists on his Twitter feed which has led me to start picking up bits of scrap paper out of supermarket trolleys and off of car park floors. They’re quite revealing. In a psychologists hands a found shopping list would no doubt reveal all manner of human traits. Even the paper they’re written on can lead to exploration and explanation; backs of envelopes for the thrifty, scraps of lined paper ripped from spiral bound notebooks for the studious, post-it notes from the office worker, pre-printed shopping lists with pictures of Peter Rabbit on them for miserable joy suckers. And then there's the spelling or as is sometimes more likely the case, misspelling and then acronyms [WUL], abbreviations [POTS] and shopping lists with added doodles. Shopping lists in blue biro, blunt pencil, felt marker, the shaky handwriting of the elderly, scribble from those in a hurry and of course the items on the list itself which will more than likely tell you which social bracket the list fell in to.

What you put on your shopping list wont be found by Google but if it falls in to the hands of Joe Posset [and me and a few others] the chances are it’ll get passed around, admired, prodded, poked and generally delighted in.

Themed Swedish zine Timglaset went with ‘errors’ last time around but has taken lists as its theme for issue eight. Five long slender sections all wrapped in a Japanese like obi sash some with colour pictures, some with poems, a game you can play using a 20 sided on-line dice and lots of general good stuff in-between.

The editorial is a list. A 21 point list of things that happen when you put a zine together. David Kjellin’s list is all bullet pointed black dashes and lines and baffles me but Johannes S H Berg’s poem 'Apophatic List: finding your place w/o using GPS' contains the wonderful line ‘your 12 year old t-shirt leaves you bit by bit but the holes stay with you’. Bengt Adlers list is called ‘The List of Truths:’ and is of course two empty pages.

And so it goes. Much is baffling though especially Filip Lindberg’s ‘tider tal’ which takes up the whole of section 2 and is nothing but data and the odd bit of Swedish that even Google translate couldn’t help me with but no mistaking alcohol and a series of pictures of lots of lovely bottles of the hard stuff given to us by Malcolm Green in a piece titled ‘Curated Drinking 00 to ∞’. Michael Björn's list is a list of lists; people, places etc … Mirfield’s very own Paul Tone has a collage/diagram that is what? I have no idea. ‘Ear Training Oh Happy Day’ it says.

In section 4 Pete Spence gives a list of of 26 artists and composers all in alphabetical order [Appel to Zog] all given the first name Max with Max Ernst given a red ‘E’ for his surname. The game is in section 5 and is by someone called Ozelot and is called ‘Artistic Action Random Suggestion Table’ where upon you roll the 20 sided on-line dice and pick an action from the first column, then roll the dice and pick another action etc .. Until you have something like ‘You will ‘cut up’ ‘a post-punk’ ‘dance’ then ‘xerox’ it. Hours of fun.

Attention to detail is the thing though. On the back page of section five we find:

LAST
LIST!
LOST
LUST?

‘The List is Too Long’ as Eugene Chadbourne once sang. Or not as the case may be.


https://timglaset.com/


Monday, June 11, 2018

Jacques Demierre



Jacques Demierre - ABÉCÉDAIRE/AB C BOOK
Lenka Lente. Book + CD

ISBN : 979-10-946-22-8



Jacques Demierre describes himself as an improvisor and a composer, a person interested in the relationship between language and music. Swiss born and judging by the long list of releases, installations and publications to his name a busy man. One of life's constant workers, always touring, always recording, writing, making noises and notes.


The cover shows Demierre sat at a piano, eyes front, palms on top of thighs, a picture of perfect contemplation. Which is something he does do a lot of. This book could have been titled ‘Demierre’s Philosophy on Improvisation, Methodology and lots of other things In-Between’. His philosophy on philosophy. Roland Barthes, Zhaung ZI, Derrida are all mentioned as is the Swiss born Sinologist Jean François Billeter. Demierre obviously does a lot of thinking and contemplation. A lot of deep thinking and a lot of deep listening.

Each letter of the alphabet gives Demierre the opportunity to pass thought on things that matter to him most so ‘A’ gives us ‘A Piano Tuner’, ‘Amorous’, ‘Amity’ each piece a page or so of musings and philosophising, on everything from linguistics to Luciano Berio cooking pasta [Pasta] to his work with the LDP Trio and the DDK Trio to his method of working to his thoughts on listening;

‘The ultimate state of listening, if it exists at all, is in no doubt void of emotion, or rather it entails neither the presence nor the absence of emotion. It is a kind of evenness of mood that refers us back to ourselves immersed fully in the experience’.
   
Expand and discuss.

Demierre also give us his views on Capitalism [this after seeing someone begging outside an Armani store], his feelings of being denied access to a concert hall’s Steinway at a prestigious event [and being told that such a grand instrument would be unsuitable for such avant garde machinations] what its like to play improv under time constrictions [it takes away the need for an ending] and so forth. Its all very readable [and dual language, the first half of the book is in French] and gave me a better understanding of Demierre who becomes yet another improviser/artists/composer that was unknown to me before Lenka Lente's introduction.

The CD contains a thirty minute vocal work called ‘Ritournelle’ a work that Demierre expands upon under ‘Y’ and ‘You’ [You, yeux, eye, I. Geddit?] and within which he attempts to capture the cyclical nature of Franz Schubert’s ‘Winter Journey’ and the last ‘lied’ of that cycle ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’. Winter Journey being Schubert’s take on Wilhelm Müller’s poem cycle comprising of twenty four vocal/piano compositions.

After having listened to Schubert’s ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’ and then to Demierre’s version I wondered how Demierre could take such a minimalist, bleak, austere and haunting composition and transform it into something totally unrecognisable. Its an exhausting listen, as exhausting as it must have been to record it with each series of words emerging staccato like in a constant morphing stream, Demierre trying to gulp down air as each word transforms form one to the other before being replaced by yet another. Exhausting yes, but exhilarating with it.





   

www.lenkalente.com


http://www.jacquesdemierre.com/


 

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Skullflower



Skullflower - Werecat Powers of the Crossroads at Midnight
Nashazaphone. NP25. LP


Someone pointed out that in the last roundup of Nashazaphone releases I forgot to include even a mention of the Skullflower LP ‘Werecat Powers ...’. This may have been subliminal. I did play it. It buzzed around my head but me and Skullflower sort of kind of don’t get on. Me preferring Bowers more contemplative work with Marcia Bassett under The Hototogisu moniker and specifically that splendidly titled De Stijl triple LP 'Floating Japanese Oof!' A 3 LP set that still manages to float my oof.

Back in the 90’s I saw Skullflower at the 1 in 12 in Bradford. Bower played his guitar with his back to the audience, all knobs on 10, for what must have been an hour, which at its end was just me and Paul Harrison. I once saw him in Manchester in a room above a pub [twas ever thus] knelt on the floor in front of a set of speakers waving two microphones about creating equally damaging, swirling waves of noxious feedback [which didn’t empty the room].

So I think I’ve got Skullflower sussed. Prejudice is a terrible trait though and blind prejudice is the worst of the lot. So there’s a very big chance that I may have had my Skullflower blinkers on when I penned that last Nashazaphone review realising subconsciously that I had left it out and not caring that I did.

My respect for Nashazaphone and its founder Hicham Chadly means that I now beg all your forgivenesses and give you my most humble opinion of ‘Werecat Powers …' which despite the title I find myself warming to. I may go further. I actually deeply like it. Not love it or want to marry it but if I heard it while at a friends house I would inquire of that person as to its origins and where I could purchase a copy. I even like the Bacon-esque cover.

Here Skullflower is Matthew Bower and Samantha Davies with their ongoing part of a Nashazaphone trilogy that according to the press release revolves around investigations in to the ‘Darkness of Aegypt’ which leads me to believe the pair may have been taking succor from Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings, a book I’ve never got around to despite it getting the thumbs up from William Burroughs and being sat on my to read pile for years.

If this is what Skullflower are up to know I’m interested. All three tracks bear a similarity with the first side long track ‘We Move on Points of Shattered Mirrors’ a ceremonial like, buried deep, high end drone containing what I’m taking to be heavily processed guitars that constantly crash against each other in collapsing waves of Stygian gloom. The flip ‘Charnel Ground’, is a bass heavy throbbing oscillating drone that masks all manner of guitar skitter while last track ‘Departure Lounge’ has a more cinematic appeal, the drone surging and falling, forever being pulled out of shape to an undercurrent of soaring ritual rhythm.

How this fits in with more recent Skullflower work I have no idea but I now fear I've been missing out. I'll put Floating Japanese Oof! to one side for a while. I have some catching up to do. 

        

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Chow Mwng






Chow Mwng - Perforation Function
Self released CDR + booklet.


We left Chow Mwng at the back end of 2017 after he [Ashley Cooke] delivered one of those total left field slugs to the jaw [that almost didn’t make it because it arrived as an email and almost got deleted] that left my head ringing with the sounds of Dada improv, cassette abuse, abstract noise and all other manner of good stuff.

That was the enigmatically titled ‘ULOT-CA’ which contained songs. Yes, songs. Not ones that you could sing to, unless you were very drunk or had taken some strange kind of drug but songs none the less. I liked it because it sounded fresh and invigorating, the work of someone working quickly when in truth it probably took a lot of effort. I was glad I didn’t delete. I’m glad I have this too for it carries on in much the same vein except these aren't songs. But I reckon I could spot it as a Chow Mwng release after ten seconds such is its singularity.

Here we have a thirty minute sound collage composition the source of which was a broken cassette tape that was itself a recording of Nurse With Wound playing last years Tusk festival. The cassette in question coming from a certain David Howcroft whose instructions to Cooke were ‘do something with it or destroy it completely’. Deciding not to destroy it completely our man put it back together and constructed something that you might describe as TNB meets Jandek meets Derek Bailey meets John Cleese doing his Monty Pythons squeaky woman voice meets Ashley Cooke reciting ‘poetry’ in a maelstrom made from carnival sounds and Dada performances. With added Adam Bohman.

I think I mentioned Bohman in the review of ‘ULOT-CA'. It has that feel to it. Of anything can happen. Of joei de vivre. Esprit de coeur and lots of other things that probably need italics. What starts out like Derek Bailey trying to work out the chords to Sultans of Swing morphs through radio noise, capstan abuse, throat singing, smokers coughing and toneless chanting to ‘improvised prose’ the text of which you’ll find in the booklet.

A big part of the appeal, even if it is only for a short duration is Cookes speaking/singing voice where words like soil become a stilted ‘so-oil’, a matter of fact voice that at times is a bark and at others softens and comes down a semitone as if whispering in your ear. How much of that half destroyed Nurse With Wound tape survived on here is open to scrutiny but there’s plenty in here that is decidedly Nurse-esque; samples of ancient TV shows, lunatic accordion squeezing, plucked bridge strings, un-sourceable rhythmic loops, whether this is Nurse or Cooke I can only guess. Only the man himself will know.

As good as last years ‘ULOT-CA’ was a part of me hoped that this was going to be more than another collection of off-kilter songs. I'm happy to report that this is the case. The man has surpassed himself.



http://www.chowmwng.co.uk/  


https://chowmwng.bandcamp.com/


Monday, June 04, 2018

NWW PLAY TNB





Nurse With Wound - Changez Les Blockeurs
United Dirter. DROMLP138




Nurse With Wound reworking The New Blockaders first album provides the opportunity to  dig out the original just to remind myself of its uncanny ability to remain as fresh and invigorating as it did on the day it was released thirty five years ago. Not that I should look for an excuse. In a just world the playing of ‘Changez Les Blockeurs’ should be a yearly ritual carried out by any discerning noise fan, the pulling of the record from the sleeve with dainty fingers, the settling of the needle, a gentle, appreciative rub of the sleeve, all a preamble to playing what will always be regarded as one of the best noise albums ever made.

How it was recorded is a secret thats been carried through those thirty five years by the Rupenus brothers who created it. When played it as part of this months Wire Invisible Jukebox selection Storm Bug’s Steven Ball remarked that it sounded like someone ‘building a shed’. I myself have described it as two elephants fencing on squeaky bicycles, or something like that anyway, that it sounds like nothing else before or since is the reason why I and lots of others keep returning to it.

Back in 2004, on its 21st anniversary, Vinyl-On-Demand gave it the reissue treatment and thats the copy I go to when I need my chakra realigned after listening to too many mediocre noise albums. It puts you back to where you need to be. Its construct is simple but yet devastatingly effective; it could be two elephants fencing on bicycles and it could be two squeaky wheelchairs fighting over a slack spring, it could or an army of tin men dismantling a Jean Tinguely sculpture while bouncing around on pogo sticks in need of 3-in-1. Is this the result of hours worth of studio work or did two people really once go down to the shed at the bottom of their garden and chuck some rusty metal about for 40 minutes? We’ll never know and thats half of the appeal.

I’m informed that Steve Stapleton was the first person to hear ‘Changez Les Blockeurs’ and it seems fitting that he’s the first of several numerous notables to give us his reworking of it [a 3CD set of interpretations called Changez Retravaillé via Italian label Ricerca Sonora lies imminent] or as it says on the back of the sleeve ‘NWW Plays TNB’. So what do you get for your hard earned apart from an excellent cover by Babs Santini the back of which features someone getting a custard pie in their face, an insert that mimics the Nurse With Wound list with the bands and artists replaced by the TNB manifesto and a piece by Paul Hegarty that weaves the pair of them into the Surrealist, Dada, avant-garde ethic? You get ‘Hallelujah T.N.B.’ which sticks closest to the original and a black hole dense ‘T.N.B. Amen’.

On ‘Hallelujah T.N.B.’ the squeak, grind and groan of the original appears to have been intensified, an intensity that is eventually joined by the heavenly choir of the Latter Day Saints their angelic voices emerging from the tumult until they themselves become subsumed, morphing their way into new structures and sub-harmonies. ‘T.N.B. Amen’ is a dense lower down in the mix loop, the high end buried flat going around in an industrial dryer becoming ever more hypnotic as it progresses. In their somewhere is Changez Les Blockeurs, with all its shuffles and clangs and scrapes and screech. And that's it. Simple but effective. A palimpsest of sorts. You can’t improve on a classic though. This is a new work and should obviously be seen as such. Comparisons are futile. Nurse With Wound bring us back to the original via a much darker route. It's Nurse with Wound's main road. Raise a glass, or a hammer and give thanks.

I hope I’m still here for the fiftieth anniversary where I will perform my own personal Changez Les Blockeurs ritual once more, with the same LP I have now, maybe a slightly more worn copy by then but one still capable of revealing its deepest mysteries.
 


Dirter Nurse With Wound The New Blockaders  Ricera Sonora