Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Butte County Free Music Society Meets Chocolate Monk on a Dissecting Table.

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Casino Sordide

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Occupy Infantry

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Cavoli Riscaldati

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - The Armless Marvel

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Harvester of Eyes

Lawrence Crane - Craniostomy 1981-1987 Vol One.

The Viper - Art For Pain’s Sake

The Tenses + Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Daughter of the Boot
Chocolate Monk. CHOC352. CD 80 copies.

Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis & S. Glass - My Disgusting Heart
Chocolate Monk. CHOC353. CD 80 copies.

Receiving a well stuffed jiffy bag containing these head lifting potions makes me feel like I’ve signed up to one of those funky new subscription services whereby every so often a package appears on your doorstep containing a brand spanking new LP except that instead of a reissue of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory I’m getting eight and a half hours worth of total mind melt. Forget Life on Mars and Changes how about we put everything in a felt bag and smash it to pieces with the round end of a ball pein hammer until there’s nothing left but a million bits which we mix with glue and slather all over a Boots own brand ferric C120 blindfolded until we’ve got something that’s halfway between the five minute period after the big bang and the day John Lee Hooker bust his strings on the Oprah show.

The Butte County Free Music Society stands shoulder to lopsided shoulder with The Los Angeles Free Music Society as the standard bearers for all that is odd, wonky and ill fitting in the United States of America. Put a pen on a map and draw a line between the two and you’ll find it crosses boundaries that include primitive noise, junk yard improv, toy shop clatter, surf twang, tape abuse, music concrẻte, found sounds, pure experimentation … its an endless list. Don’t even bother trying. There’s plenty of gloop this side of the pond too but the port of entry is Chocolate Monk through whom, every so often, these jiffy bags appear.

The last gathering of BUFMS and Chocolate Monk saw me through a particularly miserable and wet Christmas period. Long term immersion in to such worlds is blessed relief from whatever is going on outdoors and its an approach I can wholeheartedly recommend. I did the same with this particular bunch, jotting down the occasional note but in the main being blissfully unaware that another hour had passed in the company of people making music like no others.

The BUFMS approach is, as ever, a meticulous one; each CD arrives in a wrap around sleeves, there’s usually some kind of ‘present’ inside; a bandage, a photograph, the unused centers from an LP pressing. The artwork is top drawer too [Karen Constance if you're lucky] all looking like its had hours rather than minutes spent on it. And then you put one in to a CD player. Which is where your head starts to go all funny.

According to the press release, the three Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble releases that are Casino Sordide, Occupy Infantry and Cavoli Riscaldati are all part of an interconnected trilogy, which means there must be some kind of link between self help cassettes and a squeaky kettle lid. When they say that the 26 minute long ‘Erika’s Last Day’ [the central track from Occupy Infantry] was recorded in a closet with the help of a credit card machine with newest member ‘Count Darkula raking a window to nowhere’ you have to believe them. That Bren’t Lewiis aren’t afraid to stretch their work out to and past the half hour mark is to their credit too. Each of these and The Armless Marvel contain works that do that effortlessly. Cavoli Riscaldati contains two tracks each a heady half hours worth of tape wobble, the sounds of revving motorbikes, plastic squeak, hum, murk and boiling fizz. The 56 tracks that make up Harvester Eyes [cannibalism a seemingly favourite BUFMS trope] are collection of spoof TV ads [Monoxidown - ‘I was enjoying my life but that had to stop’], a group of kids playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy very badly, TV show samples, multiple voices, furniture moving and approximately eight million quick edits that make this the aural equivalent of channel hopping in America while playing multiple records and cassettes. I think I even detected a snippet of Michael Aspel who must have been on holiday at the time. The half hour improv track on The Armless Marvel is ‘Panicked Alligator Gagging on a Canoe Paddle’. The last track is a collection of symbols from the character map and [Subcutaneous Mix] all recorded by The City Councilman, Lucian Tielens, The Viper, Lindy Lettuce, Tim Smyth and Gnarlos at the Residence Inn, Room 114 on the 15th of December. BLE are of course, a loose collective. Harvester Eyes sees all of the aforementioned joined by Tom Simpson, Joan of Art, Asskicker Bob, Silvia Kastel, Limphoma, Leroy Tick, Lily, Emmy Sofa, Sarah Doctor, Rob E, Babuna Virus, Lenore, Rocco, Emiko, Scott Williams and plain old Bryce. 

Lawrence Crane and The Viper are trips into the archives that are shoeboxes under beds containing cassettes that nobody has heard in a very long time. Crane is particularly interesting; discovering the delights of overdubbing while amassing an array of instrumentation such as a keyboard-less analog synth, oscillator, delay, mixer, shortwave radio, toy piano, cop scanner and the audio input of his Commodore computer [and a shed load of other stuff judging from the inner sleeve] he created a kind of unclassifiable series of melodies that by 1983 had morphed in to the sort of synth tunes as found on early Kraftwerk albums. The man became a one man cassette factory, trading and shipping his work to like minded souls until one day he decided that was enough and junked everything into a skip. A decision he still regrets to this day.

The Viper [aka Richard Sterling Streeter] goes back even further, to 1978 and an untitled track where he hits things while growling and squeaking. Sort of like busking gone wrong but in a good way. ‘Ollidamra’ is indeed armadillo spelt backward and intoned by Streeter as some kind of invocation between snippets of Bach’s organ works, reversed tapes and records spun with index fingers to ridiculous speeds. ‘Dream of Glipnorf’ is an improvised duo effort featuring violin and electric guitar that develops into a 12 bar blues because they ran out of ideas.

So far, so far out. Its a feeling that never leaves you with BUFMS. Those Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble releases have such depth to them, such a life of their own, that you feel as if you could live in them. Play them again in a weeks time and a sort of recognition comes over you and a kind of familiarity but its as if they’ve grown new limbs, morphed in to something else whilst you’ve been away. Maybe the sleeves are tainted with spores that change the zeros and ones under the CD’s plastic layers. Maybe there’s invisible ink on the sleeves that only becomes apparent when you spit gut rot whisky on to them? Maybe they do have lives of their own. And what’s with the four slightly out of shape black squares? I guess we’ll never know.

On this side of the pond we find Chocolate Monk in the mid 300’s and two releases, one of which is a ‘it had to happen’ pairing of the Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble and The Tenses. That  means you get the delightful Oblivia and Ju Suk Reet Meate sitting down and standing up and moving about with Tielens, Kastel, Leroy Tick, Gnarlos and The City Councilman. Two thirty minute-ish tracks of very low key improv with trademark Oblivia vocal samples from records, wind up toys, shakers and someone pissing in to a galvanized bucket from ten paces. Bugle parps from Meate meet tinkles from tiny bells, lonesome horns, creaking furniture, tiny sounds that come here and go there all of it creating an atmosphere that fits in somewhere between a field recording made on the Congo Delta and the lost property department of Amtrak. The second track ‘Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance’ is if anything even lower key, gentle mutterings, someone hitting a xylophone with balls of cotton wool, snatches of theremin, air escaping from the bottom of a demijohn, bicycle chains going through the gears, cymbals stroked with pieces of wire and under most of it the gentle wheeze of the lower keys of a fairground organ. All very muted and inits own strange way utterly compelling.

Seymour Glass’s hands waver over all of this like Uri Geller trying to finds the film canister with the marble in but its not until the last release here that we find his name. On paper it all sounds rather incongruous, guitar thraper/raper Jaworzyn, gob botherer Nyoukis and the ethereal Glass but rather than the mush I was expecting this is yet another fine low key slice of improv. The familiar Nyoukis brogue appears on On Dirty Owl Teat and with it some sliding about Jaworzyn twangs, we shall assume that Glass is the one mixing the pot like a witch stood at a cauldron chucking in the bats eyes and the newts tails. Last track ‘Gang Related Sneezing’ is silence/noise ying/yang the noise being snippets of reversed vocals and fuzz blurts the silence making for an odd juxtaposition. Its leaving makes for sadness. Opener ‘Frozen Tombs of Siberia’, the longest track by far of the four is Jaworzyn recorded in the room next door making a racket while fire bombs go off outside. When the Jaworzyn guitar does emerge its like Godzilla clearing his throat. When voices appear its through the haze of a UFO landing, strangled cries, muffled shouts, cows that need milking, the very faintest hint of rhythm as Jaworzyn hits a few strings that echo into the ether. These guys know what they’re doing. We should pay attention.

My time spent in Butte County has been a most profitable one. As has my time in Chocolate Monk land. Which I now see has sold out of both these items. I’m pretty sure they don’t do Bandcamp either. Adding to the mystery is the BUFMS Bandcamp page that offers its wares for stream and download but not all on yee physical format. They’re usually in 100 runs so maybe they’ve all sold out too. What price some kind of subscription service? 


Chocolate Monk

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Spaceship / Left Hand Cuts off the Right

Spaceship - A Prospect of Laughton Wood
Forged River. FRCD01. CD/DL. 50 copies.

Left Hand Cuts Off Right - Axing Body
Box Records. Cassette/DL. 50 copies.

I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a flậneur, a stroller of streets, a wanderer wandering in no particular direction, the path chosen at random, by what looks interesting over there and not some predetermined spot on a map. An empty mind, a good pair of shoes, some cash for an Earl Grey when the legs begin to ache and off you go. See you in six hours. European cities in the early morning are my preference especially in spring or late autumn when the air temperature is a modest one and the streets are still and relatively quiet. Bends in the road as laid down by city forefathers are a blessing to me and a hindrance to the tourist stood at a junction with an A-Z in their hands. I feel sorry for them. Better to just wander and let your mind wander with it.

This after just returning from a two nighter in London where the flậneuring took me and Mrs Fisher to a street market in Marylebone where Uzbeki bakers vied with a paella stall and several fishmongers and the ubiquitous knock off designer shirt merchants. And the Princess Louise of course though I cant say for certain whether falling in to that particular pub was entirely accidental.

On the train back home I read Werner Herzog’s slim volume of diary entries that make up ‘Of Walking In Ice’. These entries recount the time Herzog took it upon himself to walk from his his home in southern Germany to Paris convinced that if he did so and succeeded a friend of his laying ill in bed there, wouldn’t die. That he set off in November in terrible weather making his way through the Black Forest and over the Vosge mountains with not much more than a compass, milk and tangerines for company, says something for Herzog’s own particular brand of sheer bloodymindedness. Going for a walk taken to the extreme. 

On return I spied an email from a certain Mark S. Williamson regarding his work following the path of Loughton Brook, a stream in Epping Forest. Williamson walked it from source to mouth following it from steep sided forest valley through culverts and flood defences to its confluence with the River Roding. With him he took recording equipment that included a hydrophone. When he got home he turned his rough field recordings into something quite beautiful by adding piano, violin and synthy washes, what he calls ‘sparse instrumentation’.

Williamson has also recorded some [all, I’m not sure?] of his work in bi-naurual stereo, a form of listening that puts you at the very center of whats happening, so that when you hear those first trickles of water its as if the drops were falling through your skull. Binaural stereo makes me go week at the knees and its why even a standard mp3 stream of A Prospect of Laughton Wood sounds eerily lifelike. When he introduces mordant and heavy piano chords the scene is set for a journey that eventually finds human life, dog walkers, schoolkids and with it conversation and then heavy traffic and then the rattle of trains on rhythmic tracks. When all this instrumentation comes together in the final track your realise that your own journey through this work has been a largely melancholy and sad experience. On the last track the drifting away violin and the lugubrious chords of the piano are replaced by the squawks of birds and the distant rumble of the M11.

I’ve not listened to an ‘environmental recording’ for quite some time but I have to admit that A Prospect of Laughton Wood has taken me by surprise. When the quality of the work is this good though I feel compelled to share it even if all I have to go on are downloads and streams. Oof. No idea what the ‘Spaceship’ moniker is all about though.

Coming from an entirely different angle but achieving the same kind of feeling is Robbie Judkins with his Left Hand Cuts off the Right project and Axing Body; ‘part of a continuing process of creating sound as therapy and a distraction for coping with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety’ as he says. ‘Craved’ is the pick of the four but all have their merit with sparse lower end white key piano notes played out to various moody synth drones.’Void of Heaven’ is soundtrack material; empty motels and dirty swimming pools, blinking neons and desert panoramas. The title track contains scraping violin and a tripping over itself keyboard motif. Not sure it would work as walking material but as for therapy I’m hoping it does the trick. Worked for me.

Forged River

Left Hand Cuts Off Right


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Papas Got A Brand New Silk Screened Tote Bag

BBBlood/Posset/Stuart Chalmers - Delirium Cutlet Impaste
Crow Versus Crow. CDR/DL. 50 copies

Gavin Prior - Always Summer Somewhere
Art Print + DL.

brb>voicecall - Cloth White Skin
Muzamuza. Cassette/DL. 32 copies

Its a well worn truism that a third of all restaurants go bust within a year of opening. Not that its stops people giving it a go. I can cook they say and with that sink 50K of their life savings into a little bistro kind of place where everything is going to be just so much jolly fun. Which it rarely is.

Like running a pub isn’t just standing behind a bar drinking beer and chatting, running a restaurant isn’t just serving up food and drink. For a restaurant to work there has to be in place all manner of requisites one of them being a decent toilet cleaner and if you haven’t worked that one out then your customers are on a one trip visit. I don’t run restaurants, I eat in them and if the shit hole’s a shit hole then you can bet the kitchen’s not much better.

It always amazes me how people get such important matters so horribly wrong; the dirty toilet, the grubby menu, the clueless waiting staff [a recent trip to Leeds saw me witness a waiter trying to bend a cork out of a wine bottle], the dusty dust catchers on the wall that have been there for ten years, the drinking glass with the lipstick smear, the table that time forgot.

A recent article in the local paper alerted me to the fact that the pub up the road had recently been refurbed and was now being run by mien hosts ‘Joanne and Kevin’ and that they hoped to see customers old and new in their ‘traditional English pub with a continental twist’. The ‘twist’ eventually revealing itself to be nothing more than readily available bottled continental lagers. Me and Mrs Fisher took it upon ourselves to visit said premises one Sunday afternoon when the urge to drink a pint of Guinness came on strong. So on a bright and sunny day we made the trip up the hill  and found ourselves the only customers in the English pub with a continental twist. While the landlady glumly polished glasses behind the bar her husband played pool with their son shoving the odd 50p in to the jukebox to regale us with some shite or other. After sitting down with our drinks and appreciating the early spring sunshine the landlady left her glass polishing and began to close all the curtains until we were all in almost complete darkness. Looking at each other slightly baffled we watched in slack jawed incomprehension as the landlady brought in to life a TV screen the size of a garage door upon which she summoned the Eastenders Sunday omnibus edition. No they weren’t there come Christmas. Its a tale I’ve probably bored you with before but it paints a familiar picture and sets the scene for this ...

A recent Easter walk and drive jaunt around the Northern parts of England found us within the confines of a Spanish restaurant that had halloumi on the menu. This restaurant I will neither name or tell you the whereabouts of because the people running it [and guess what, they’re not from Spain] seemed like genuinely nice people who wanted to bring to a provincial northern town the taste of the Iberian peninsula. Or somewhere near there anyway. And there’s nothing wrong with ambition and wanting to have your own restaurant and being your own boss and so what if its not authentic, so what if its got halloumi on the menu? So what that the fishcakes are off the menu because the suppliers let them down?

Except that wasn’t all. The restaurant opens only on an evening, this in a place that is busy for eight months of the year and has visitors the year round. To contact the restaurant you have to ring a mobile number to make a reservation [‘I’m just ten minutes from the door of the restaurant love, I’ll ring ya back] and when you get there on your Saturday night the couple in question are having an argument over how loud the music should be [not flamenco obvs or even the Gypsy Kings but George Michael and various blandish soul singers] albeit in a good natured manner. The menu was short and ran to about fifteen tapas dishes and paella - seafood and chicken and £13 a head thank you very much. Tapas dishes were £4 each of which, for reasons that can never be explained, can only be ordered at a maximum of ten at a time. We sat at table near a couple with small children who were tired and cried and rolled around on the floor wanting to be anywhere but a Spanish restaurant in a provincial town in the north of England. There was a choice of about six wines and ridiculously cheap they were too. Our waitress brought us our plates and knifes and forks and placed them in front of us before issuing a cheery ‘enjoy!’ and then I noticed that she did that to everyone else in the room every time she placed something on a table; glasses, cutlery, food, bills. The wall on our side of the room looked like the inside of an IRA cell during a dirty protest, the other side was brick but had been deemed deserving enough of a coating of the same stuff. A bullfighting poster hung from one wall along with the word ‘ESPANA’. Our nine dishes arrived all at once on a huge tray and for the most part it was good. Not great, not Michael Winner historic, not even memorable, except for the wrong reasons of course and you’d have to go a long way to find a serving of clams in white wine sauce for £4. There was patatas bravas which were roasted potatoes with a tomato sauce topping, the bread was soft and white and had been drizzled with olive oil and what I’m guessing is paprika, the olives were fiery hot having been marinated in chili oil, the chorizo/green bean thing was good too but I never did work out what the melted white stuff on the top of it was. There was ‘Spanish rice’ too and Serrano ham that looked suspiciously like the stuff that comes in packets in supermarkets. But still, only £4 a pop.

With mostly empty bowls and plates in front of us and evidently having crossed the finish line the ‘enjoy’ waitress came back and placed everything on the table in a red plastic bucket and took it away. Table now empty we were given two shot glasses of clear liquid by the wife half of the team and after inquiring in to what it was we we were about to drink we were told ‘peach schnapps’.

Look on Trip Asdvisor and the restaurant in question gets good reviews; ‘lovely little restaurant, friendly atmosphere, we always call in here when we’re in town’, with just the odd grumble about the food not being that authentic and the wine being expensive [and if you think £13 for a bottle of wine is expensive you really need to just stay at home and watch Eggheads]. Which just goes to show that there a large numbers of restaurant going people in this country for whom authenticity only applies to fish and chips and beef dripping. Which leads me to Sleaford Mods and English Tapas and the unerring ability of the British to take something good and turn it into something not so good; like ‘pork pulled’ pizza on a supermarket shelf, and the bowl of noodles accompanied by roast potatoes my 80 year old father likes to eat in Huddersfield market and the curry in a giant Yorkshire he get's at the ICI Club.       

All this apropos of nothing in particular suffice to say that the week spent walking and driving and steam training around the North of England was, for the most part, music free. Apart from listening to Pop Master on the Ken Bruce radio show whilst sat in the car park gazing in to the Hole of Horcum wondering if I’d ever get the use of my legs back there was little in the way of musical entertainment for the trip. A week to clear the aural sinuses if you like. A chance to indulge upon return and listen to music on vinyl. Except most of the following isn’t on vinyl. But does that make it any less authentic?

Before leaving I was impressed by the three way Crow Versus Crow split. The triple split being an item you don’t see too much of these days. Certainly not round these parts anyway. A compilation yes but the chance to get to hear three works of about 20 minutes each is a rare one and for the label a bit of a risk. Like all comps you’re unlikely to like it all but what am I talking about, this is 2017, you can do what the fuck you like with the digital version. Press on.

Posset, BBBlood and Stuart Chalmers have little in common apart from the fact they work on the edges of the underground radar. Posset is all dictaphones, audio vérité and the odd sample, whereas Stuart Chalmers works looped samples in and around his trusty zither like instrument of choice, while the Baron [I cant help but call him that] is known for his noise work. Listening to these three works though, there’s every chance that some kind of cross contamination has taken place, the Posset track ‘What’s Going On’ is sweet mix of heavenly Albanian polyphony, dreamy Eno-esque piano, edited to death gobollalia and his daughters birthday party and is by far the best work I’ve heard from Posset. The dictaphone still looms largest of course and ultimately its this that gives Posset his now distinctive ‘sound’.

Chalmers’ begins his ‘Birth of the Bamboo Medusa’ by stretching some panpipes cassettes out of shape through the wonders of heavy duty capstan abuse. These loops slowly evolve NON style until we arrive at the eerie scrape of shovel over concrete, a Stapleton like drone, a tin whistle gone wrong and the voices of the dead trying to talk to you. Appearing incapable of recording anything like dud material Chalmers stature grows with every new release. Am I repeating myself here? The way he takes you through this twenty minute piece is a total delight and I know I keep saying this but had he been doing this in 1979 Steve Stapleton would have more competition.

The most surprising track of the three is the Baron’s. BBBlood’s ‘Absent Lottery’ is not the box twiddling noise roar I was expecting and is instead a collection of environmental recordings captured on phone and cassette and treated in the confines of the homestead. A departure then, a new direction and one that works well, for when the track eventually unfolds from its lo-fi noise and sometimes very indistinct field recordings there emerges a loop of not inconsiderable beauty. The roar does come eventually, a burning bonfire of pallets but its job is but to herald the end of proceedings and what is, I’d consider, that rare thing, an essential three way split. Trebles all round for Crow Versus Crow and all involved.

So is it Chalmers thats influencing those around him or is this just a good time be having your ear near the ground? Is it Chalmers we have to thank for The Baron producing found sound loops or is this a leaning towards more sample and looped based genre of a yet to be defined category?

Gavin Prior, the Dublin based composer, sound artist, guitarist and bottle washer has graced these pages before with what I remember being a pastoral tinged, guitar plucked ambient release featuring squeaky play swings, bird song, giddy child laughter and mooing cows. It had its moments as does Always Summer Somewhere which, with summer being just around the corner is neatly timed. This time things are more Brian Eno than Jim O’Rourke and for the most part it works. After listening to quite of bit of ambient Eno these last few weeks I get that same kind of slow moving vibe from most of these tracks; the title track itself is a descending sequence of iridescent wine glass rim rubs, the minute long Outeros sunspot radio frequency chatter and the twelve minute long ‘Life on ASMR’ a moody atmosphere that puts me in mind of long defunct German ambientists cum soundscapers Maeror Tri. Each download comes with an LP sized art print to put on your wall.

Best played in the dead of night during a cold snap in January is brb>voicecall’s Cloth White Skin. Three tracks of Industrial Ambience that is all analogue hiss, scaffold rattle and submerged beats from the recently rejuvenated label Muza Muza. Who originate from the North East of England, where such things do seem to originate and which is the perfect antidote to Gavin Priors ‘Always Summer Somewhere’. Just what I need to reset the chakra before diving into that pile of MB once again. Think dark, moody hiss and rumble and the feeling that you’ve been trapped inside the shelled out room on the cover for too long. A brick disintegrating inside an industrial drier, the groans of the damned, found sounds perhaps manipulated and added to. Too short a release by far but authentic beyond doubt.

Crow Versus Crow

Gavin Prior

Muza Muza

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Strange Case of the £3.99 Double LP and Micky Bubble's Slippers.

The Harbinger Sound Sampler
Harbinger000 DLP


Mark Wynn
Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life
Sleaford Mods
Consumer Electronics
Phil Julian
John Paul
Future Commuter
Circuit Breaker
Sudden Infant
Mark Durgan
Pain Jerk
The Urinals
The Lowest Form
Chaos UK

Mark Wynn - A Tenner? I’ll do it Myself.
Beau Travail/In a Car. 7”

If you were to purchase either of these releases [and I do urge you to do that, your life would be all the better for it] which one would cost you the most? A double LP versus a single? No contest. Except that the double LP has been released by Harbinger Sound with the words ‘Pay no more than £3.99’ on it. Words not seen on a vinyl release, by me at any rate, for about thirty five years and the heyday of certain indie/punk labels who didn’t like middle men making money out of their music and, more importantly, wanted to get their music to the fans as cheap as possible.

Record labels are businesses after all and like all businesses their aim is to make money and maximize their profit margins. That means charging as much as possible without the consumer thinking they’re being ripped off. I don’t mean all record labels of course, just those housed in shiny buildings run by people in suits who have no interest in music. In the early 90’s when the quest for CD World Domination began in earnest the sight of a new release costing £17 wasn’t that unusual. A release whose manufacturing costs ran to about 50p with the artists getting what? Certainly not as much as the record company. Now that CD’s are on their way out and vinyl is the new thing witness the ugly sight of the £40 LP.  Plus ça change.

The answer to all this of course is to put out a double LP for less than the price of a pint. And as hard as it is to believe, word reaches these ears that Harbinger Sound actually made a measly few pence profit on each copy sold, profit that no doubt disappeared instantly on advertising and beer for all those involved. If you love the music it can be done and Harbinger really do love the music. As do the people on this double LP who no doubt gave their music for free with the promise of free beer, or free records, or slots on tours ringing in their ears. Feel the warmth. Hate the £40 LP.

For £3.99 you get 20 artists and bands to listen to and investigate. Bands and artist that cover a vast sweep of Harbinger Sound from its very early days to its most up to date so you get a track from Jap noise supremos Pain Jerk, [or if you prefer PainJerk] to today's gob slobberers Sleaford Mods. So that’s everything from Jap noise to electroacoustic experimentation courtesy of Mark Durgan to Phil Julian’s modular synth work to current German Post Punk practitioners Pisse and Karies to Swiss Post Post Punk Improvisers Massicot to Steve Ignorant’s delightful [despite my earlier reservations] acoustic tunes to I still don’t like them despite everyone else liking them Circuit Breaker to vintage UK punks Chaos UK to speaker shredders Consumer Electronics to Sudden Infant to hardcore merchants Lowest Form. Punk too from Berlin screamers Toylettes and long running French outfit Frustration. York’s very own Mark Wynn has a track called ‘Michael Bublé’s Slippers’ and there’s a synth outfit I’ve never heard of before called Future Commuter who we must assume are future signee’s. Fun also in the shape of John Paul, last seen enunciating Notts style over certain Sleaford Mod intro’s with ‘Sissy and Ada [Red Version]’ and if those words mean anything to you then you know you’re in the right spot. Worth getting just to hear John Paul call Jackson Pollock, Jackson Bollocks. Harbinger faves and L.A.’s original 1978 punk band The Urinals get a slot just because their Harbinger Sound faves and not because they’ve featured on the label and that's what you can do when its your label.

Harbingers subtle aim is to introduce those who bought this release purely for the exclusive Sleaford Mods track Fat Tax [and very good it is too] to the delights of lots of other bands and genres of music they probably never knew existed. Its an excellent pressing too which makes the £4 price tag even more laughable. More please from John Paul who has the chutzpah to make it and Future Commuter whose online presence is minimal. As ever with Harbinger Sound the future looks bright.

This being Harbinger Sound though there has to be grit in the oyster and the ‘curse’ has struck once again. Not a sinking gig or a double booked venue or a busted exhaust when you've got a gig 250 miles away and three hours to make it in but a mix up in the labeling department meaning that the Durgan/Julian tracks don’t match the vinyl. Hey ho. Keeps you on your toes. There’s no download either obvs, or CD version or limited C90 for those who can't get their head around the fact that cassettes are nothing more than quirks in the space time continuum and with these all being exclusive tracks there’s bound to be some pissed off punters. Just remember this costs but four quid. If you think that's grounds for moaning you've got serious problems.

On the twice as expensive seven inch comes the Mighty Wynn with ‘A Tenner? I’ll do it Myself’ which by all accounts is walking out of German record shops unaided and gaining Wynn a wider European audience in the process. 

Wynn is the stick thin DIY punk troubadour in a child’s tiara giving you a moody stare. Stripped to the waist in skinny black jeans he sings and talks catchy existential songs that mention Dewsbury, Batley, Manchester, charity shops, Lidl and hair. Listening to the five songs here I can’t help feeling that in a different era he’d have been selling thousands and would’ve been on Top of the Pops every month. ‘Massive Song’ is one of his best [and at 3.38 one of his longest] and may be about a builder turning up to do some work one afternoon. I can see him now in a tent at Glasto winning over a small but enthusiastic crowd, his songs coming in quick burst to the accompaniment of a backing tape, making the audience shrink back and then lean forward accepting him in to their hearts. Those pubs in his home town of York might have seen the last of him.‘Sex Legs’ has a full on spazzo guitar solo, ‘Michael Makes a Phone Call’ lasts a mere one minute and one second and is an acoustic strum-a-long song about Michael making a phone call. As with every other Wynn release to pass through these hands every inch of the sleeve is covered with his own handwritten stream of consciousness thoughts as well as photos of himself gurning and posing half dressed, this time with a parasol. An instant classic. Even if it does cost twice the Harbinger comp.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Hull, Poems and Portugal.

From the Posh Crates of Lidl - Poems by Pete Coward
A5 booklet

YOL - Always Leave Them Wanting Less
Recycled cassette/DL. No label.

Panelak - Quatsch/Sunspalt
URUBU. Cassette. UUU007.
100 copies.

Diurnal Burdens - Inaction/Extinction
Invisible City Records. Cassette. ICR28.
50 copies.

They say that when your tire of YOL you tire of noise. Good job I’m not sleepy. Not even nodding yet. OK, just a bit of nodding but that came during the second side of the Panelak tape which has just landed from sunny Portugal where news reaches me of ‘cups of wine 65 cents’ the letter itself appearing on the outer packaging of a cardboard bag last seen coming out of a Portuguese shoe shop. Bastards.

These transports of delight detract me from the serious business of Youtube and whats trending on Twatter. A mixed bunch for sure with reel-to-reel recorders and Bolus manufactured equipment drones and mumbled noises from Ross Scott-Buccleuch who by night is Diurnal Burdens [was there ever a band name taken from a random band name generator that was ever actually used?] which sounds a bit like something the doctor tells you you’ve got after a heavy fall. And very good it is too, though I’ve no idea which side it is I’m listening to. A murky ride through looping pits of coal black darkness, deep sea murmurations as captured by a contact mic attached to the boots of a deep sea diver. Industrial Ambience in some respects though I doubt DB would go for that preferring something more up to date. A release that appears to be eternally crumbling away, the lo-fi medium of cassette tape adding to the grimness of it all.

But back to Panelak and Pascal who waved goodbye to Leeds and the Wharf Chambers and boarded a plane for Lisbon. Yes, I know, Leeds for Lisbon. What could Lisbon have to offer other than one of the cheapest places to dine out in Europe, a climate to feel comfortable in without resorting to thermals and cups of wine at 65 cents? Still, he’s there and I’m here with this cassette and memories of him playing the Wharf Chambers with all the enthusiasm of ten Tiggers. He liked to take his clothes off and pour beer over his head, which in the middle of winter, in the Wharf Chambers, really is quite something. His recorded solo work [what I’ve heard at least] could best be described as ‘all over the shop’ utilising everything from all out noise to disco tracks to mixers and guitars. Pascal and pigeonholes don’t sit well together. This pair of tracks aren’t what you’d call easy listening either with everything from kitchen sinks to skipfull’s of video games, shortwave static, voices, Uncle Tom Cobbley and his Dad coming into the mix but on the second side and Sunspalt where the tangent where Faust in Krautrock mode and Astral Social Club meet is the head nodding bit. A pity it didn’t ride for longer [both tracks run to exactly 20 minutes apiece] as this is easily Panelak’s best work. Put it down to the sunshine. 

I was in Hull again at the weekend. I’m becoming almost familiar with it; the 70’s shopping centre, the wind turbine propeller the size of a football pitch that seems to have landed as if from the sky and provides all the pigeons in Hull city centre with perfect perching opportunities, the Old Town which has a record shop that I’ve never found, the Spoons and the cheap car park. Its the city of Culture for 2017 don’t you know and while it may no doubt bemuse some of the locals you can’t help feeling that putting your city on the map, even if it’s only for a year, has to be a good thing. Still didn’t see any of those YOL billboards though. Which is a shame because I’m quite enamored of YOL’s distinctive Saul Bass like graphics [thats if Saul Bass had lived in Hull]. The small A5 booklet containing poems by Pete Coward has been adorned by a skull eating eye and a spilt bottle of what we shall assume is alcohol. The poems are pretty good too, my yardstick of being that if they don’t annoy me I carry on reading. I read all of these quotidian tales and while none of the lines hit me there, you know right there, I never got the feeling that I was in the presence of someone who couldn’t write. That’s praise enough from me.

Which leaves the man himself YOL and a recycled cassette which, like many an ancient recycled cassette, only plays out of one channel. A muffled channel at that but seeing as how digital stream/download things exist you can once more drop your jaw at the intensity of two eleven minute YOL performances. In which the man from Hull screams and stammers his way to a neck straining standstill. Never have the words ‘ILL FITTING MOBILITY SCOOTER’ sounded so absolutely terrifying. On ‘Hi Vis’ he backs this up with gentle bowl rings and cymbals dropped from a great height. On ‘Picking Grit’ he sounds like he’s gone and tipped a milk float over. What amazes me is that the power to shock is still there which after a few years exposure to YOL’s most singular approach is no mean feat. As ever its his ability to both shock and amuse within the space of those ten minutes that lies at the core of his work. Part stand up noise artist, part performance art, part car crash into Home Bargains, YOL is still violently and brutally effective.

 pete.coward [at]


Invisible City Records


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Merzbow v Early Hominids

Merzbow - Gomata
Hypnagogia. GO03. CD.
200 copies.

Early Hominids - 040117 Campbell + Walsh @ Mook
Zanntone. CDR

It would appear that I am now a ‘Noise Writer’. A writer of Noise, a weaver of words regarding that most uncomplicated of genres.  According to two recent publications relating to the matter that is. Times change of course and while this title may have fit once, many years ago when the genre still held me captivated and anything that rattled my bones was worthy of words, I find it now sits uneasily. The last two posts on this page have covered Irish heavy Metal and Scottish Zombie Mexican Wrestling Mask Rock and in the not too distant past I’ve written about everything from Contemporary Composition to environmental recordings to chart raiders Sleaford Mods so while I no longer write about Noise to the exclusion of everything else it would appear that I am forever to wear the colours that are those of the ‘Noise Writer’.

Given the opportunity to muse on the subject though I still relish the visceral thrill to be had from listening to an hours worth of the new Merzbow. Before giving it the now traditional kick in the teeth. It appears to be a ritual in the making; Hypnogogia take delivery of an hours worth of Masami’s latest dribblings along with a note that says ‘stick a cover on it and while you’re at it think up some track titles, I’m a busy man. Best Regards MA’. Weeks later the CD’s arrive from the pressing plant and out go the stuffed Jiffy’s to the Merzbow completists and me. I dutifully listen then make lots of disparaging remarks along the lines of ‘doesn’t he ever get bored making this shit’.

To be fair to Masami, Merzbow still manages to gather plaudits for his live outings and I dare say there are those who still buy his latest work [though I don’t know any personally]. I couldn’t make it to last years Manchester gig but reports of him making him making a not insubstantial racket aided by a Hungarian drummer were widespread. But then there’s the Sun Ra release. Big unsmiley face. The little I heard wasn’t great and the idea itself should never have gone further than the back of the fag packet it was written on. Then there’s his incessant release schedule; 389 credited on Discogs with six of them coming in 2017 alone and were still in March. One of those appeared whilst I was actually writing this.

So he has his fans and he has his detractors and whatever I write concerning Gomata isn’t going to affect Masami, his reputation or those crackpot Merzbow completists. Despite all this trash talk I still consider myself a Merzbow fan, mainly due to the heights of his late 80’s early 90’s work which is now coupled to the reissue schedule of his much deeper and varied early work. The problem I have is that I stopped caring about what Merzbow released around the time he went all digital. I'm pretty sure he's not 100% digital on this release [there's no info regarding instrumentation on the release] but the taint lingers.

For the record Gomata contains four tracks of your typical Merbowian high energy fizz and thats just about all you need to know. I’m almost at the end of track three. Was I bored? Not really. Was I blown away. No. Will I sell it on eBay? No. Last track was the best of the lot if you must know. Worth the release for that one alone. I respect Hypnagogia and Merzbow entirely but please, no more. Part of a trilogy relating to sacred cows apparently.

With a mere seven releases covering the last eight years appear the more sedate [though slightly younger] Early Hominids. This was given to me with over a glass of Fino on Saturday night and where Merzbow leaves me shaking my head for all the wrong reasons this one has me shaking it for all the right reasons.

Forgoing their recent PA smoldering exploits messers Campbell and Walsh [for it is they] go for the squidgy beats cum noise blurts as spread across nine tracks and thirty segued minutes. A noise release to some, dance music to others. Here the pair have finally found the space within which both of them can work, which in layman’s terms means they aren’t at war wiv da pedals and der synths. After all eight years is a long time and its not like they’re in each others pockets. They have other irons in other fires. These things have to be taken into consideration.

As with Campbell related releases the segueing of the tracks brings with it continuity so there’s no unwanted gaps to break things up. An important matter in such things. Gadget freaks will delight in the clarity in which each bloop, fart and swizz scans the room. Those with rhythm in their hearts will nod a head. A little like being stuck in an amusement arcade with all the machines going full bore, a malfunctioning Gameboy, a half hours worth of ear scrunch and foot wriggle that chips out on a much slower Clangers like note. That must be the Noise Writer coming out in me.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Bucky Rage

The Bucky Rage - F.Y.I. LUV U
Handsome Records/Northern Cowboy Records. LP/DL

For reasons that will never become clear it follows that after every Sleaford Mods review I post there follows a slew of emails from singer/songwriters eager for me to mull over their most earnest of outpourings. Not just any singer/songwriters though, these singer/songwriters originate almost exclusively from Brooklyn. In fact I get so many emails from Brooklyn based singer/songwriters that I’ve coined ‘Brooklyn’ as a collective noun describing a group of singer/songwriters from Brooklyn. There must be hundreds.

After posting the review for the last Sleaford Mods album the Brooklyn’s were, for once, non existent. Maybe my policy of all but ignoring them was finally paying dividends. Instead I got a full frontal assault from a group from Glasgow going by the name of Bucky Rage. Said full frontal assault came not in the shape of an email containing numerous links and biographical info but a direct Tweet saying something along the lines of ‘can we send you our latest LP? And in the meantime here’s a link to our Bancamp page’.

Well, it was late into Saturday evening, wine had been drunk and I was at the stage where focusing on anything much was becoming a chore so against my better judgement I clicked on the link and was faced with a close up of what looked like the bubbles at the top of a glass of fizzy lager. Not a good start. To make matters worse there was the album title. Twitter type message acronyms have a place but I don’t reckon that on the cover of your latest LP is one of them. And the Bucky Rage? A nod to Scotland’s favourite get smashed tipple? Yeesh. So far so bad. But like I said, I’d been drinking. So I clicked.

What happened next was nothing short of remarkable. With the Ceramic Hobs going the way of all flesh and the Country Teasers seemingly in some kind of semi/permanent dark nihilist stasis I’d given up all hope of ever coming across another UK guitar band worthy of my time. But lo. Despite my initial reservations I found the Bucky Rage to be nothing less than the freshest of Alpine fresh air. Here comes first track ‘Nine Stone Cowboy’ [ho ho ho] and a stomping guitar riff/bullhorn vocal that with my eyes tight shut could’ve been my treasured Country Teasers and there’s a theremin and a spazzed out synth locking horns, making the kind of mong racket not seen or heard since Neil Young and Devo hooked up for the totally destroyed version of Hey Hey My My.  Then along comes ‘Dr Dre USA’ with its shout along vocal harmonies and ‘Down a Hole’ with its shambling cymbal ride slack riff leaving the bass plugging away. Maybe it was the wine?

Before I knew it I’d listened to all eight tracks and was now on Youtube checking out the video action and here they all were in Mexican wrestling masks and 60’s shape guitars and military hard hats and skin masks and bent hats buggering about on the shore of a loch. If I didn’t know any better I’d have said that these four Glaswegians were actually having some all out FUN. Y’know that stuff? That stuff you used to have with guitar music before it all went Indie and anthemic and inward looking and ginger haired and Radio 2 friendly. Fun stuff. A fun ride. Iggy and mashed up 60’s beat music. Here we are again.

I started ticking off the influences in my head; after the Hobs and the Teasers I was getting Milovan Srdenovic, [a clear and direct link to that warbling vibrato Mexican wrestling mask clad son of Quim], Lightning Beat-Man [more wrestling masks], Makakarooma, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Suicide. Then came the five minute ur-thump of Chewing Gum, the aural equivalent of having your arse booted down Sauchiehall street on Saturday night, its glorious thud and deadened vocal the heart beat pulse of the entire LP.

But where the record? There was no record. After a flurry of DM’s the trail went dead and that I thought was that. Until a week later and an apology and talk of car crashes and illness. Then it arrived and when it did I discovered that its eight tracks play at 45 and that F.Y.I. I LUV U is actually a bloody good love song and that all of this sounds a 100% better coming out of the grooves of a record and not the back of a Mac; heavy bass, fucked up synth, vocodered vocals, thump, thump thump, harmonies, catchy tunes. I WANT TO SEE THEM LIVE. Music you want to play over and over again because for once there is a guitar band thats not all inward looking, lets corner the Irish market, midday Radio 2 slot, bland, bland, bland, there is a guitar band thats having lots of fun and their name is, whether you like it or not, The Bucky Rage.

Then you discover that they’ve been around since about 2005 and that they’ve got several more records to indulge in and that their live stuff goes all over the place, gloriously fucked up. Which leaves me wondering how I never heard of this lot before? It sure beats the Brooklyns.