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.
Wednesday, February 06, 2019
MK9 - Solid Waste
3” CDR. 113 copies.
The Rita / Rusalka / MK9
Neural Operations. NO 11
Cassette. C30. 126 copies.
Rusalka / MK9 - Separate Anxieties
Neural Operations. NO 16
CDR. 200 copies.
Michael Nine is one of the few active American ‘noise’ artists that I know of still making the yearly trip to European shores. While everyone else has laid low or decided to stay at home to concentrate on ousting Trump, Nine packs up his gear, prints up a few releases to sell along the way and gets on a plane. Usually in Winter which may be for masochistic tastes or may be just because he likes the feel of cold European weather. This year MK9 and Rusalka [Kate Rissiek] did the whole tour which covered the whole of November with Sam Mackinlay of The Rita dropping in for several dates along the way. And while they played three UK dates; Leeds, Birmingham and Gateshead there was no London date which I heard was due to some stink with the locals thinking they were all Nazis or some other bullshit.
Unfortunately I had to miss the latest tour due to attending ‘The Wedding of the Year Not Harry and Meghan’. Something I mentioned while reviewing the essential, also sent by Nine, four DVD box set ‘The Pain Factory’. The above is what you saw on the merch table if you happened to make it to those shows or any of the many others they played in Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Italy or Sweden. Except for the last show in Helsinki which was also cancelled but not for them being mistaken for Nazis. This time I think it was the airline that let them down.
I’ll always have an ear for what Michael Nine, MK9 and his label creates. This is the work of a serious thinker, someone capable of making you think, someone capable of unsettling an audience and not just by pulling out a loaded shotgun and pointing it at their heads. One of my favourite MK9 shows was a few years back now in Leeds where Nine showed a video of someone digging a hole in their back yard while Nine prowled the floor shouting unheard words in to a mic, except the camera had fallen over and it was all filmed sideways on so we had to watch it with bent necks. This lead me to believe that this was a clandestine recording of someone burying body parts when in fact it was just someone digging a hole. Or was it? I still think about this. Then there was the Gulf War video footage of Americans blowing up their own troops. Oh we all went home laughing that night. Not.
Of the three releases here I’m guessing that Solid Waste is the new one and the one the kids were scrabbling to get their hands on at the gigs. Solid waste might be an unintended pun here, solid waste being not only the shite you can see fly tipped on the sleeve art but the term medical staff use for the stuff that comes out of your backside. Either way its unpleasant. This is another Nine trip in to existential territory ‘we are just …’ with the dumpster showing the words ‘solid waste’, ‘what is it that separates each one of us from the other, most often nothing …’. Four tracks of ultra gloom electronics with one track ‘Tired Acceptance’ a drone with spoken word addition taken straight from either a self help book or a psychiatric report. ‘Sounding Wall’ is a rapid stream of electronic data, ‘Same’ is ninety seconds of disturbance.
The Rusalka/MK9 split from 2016 has its highlights too with MK9 giving us the darker more contemplative moments to the comparatively noisy outbursts of Rusalka which are heavy on the reverb and at times sound like a squadron of Lancaster bombers heading out to sea. Sadly for me I only got to play one side of the split tape before it seized up, my aging Walkman's defiantly refusing to turn the spools. This may be what happens when you lay The Rita on tape. After trying to loosen it by various tried and tested methods I decided it too was tired of struggling to make sense of life and gave it up as a bad job. With no downloads that I know of this is one instance of the physical format fail. Life goes on. Or does it? Ask Michael Nine and Rusalka.
Somewhwere where you may be able to get hold of this stuff other than Neural Operations.
Monday, February 04, 2019
Mattin - Songbook #7
Munster Records. MR 386. LP/DL
A concept album about the Russian Revolution? Well, I could do with a heads up on that subject. Imagine having to study it though? Jeez, you could be there a lifetime. What do I know about it? About as much as I know about Mattin. I’m glad he sent me this record though as it gives me the chance to gen up on both of them. So after half an hour with Wikipedia getting my brain fried I learnt that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was actually two revolutions. Its complicated. Basically it makes Brexit look like an argument at the check out in Tescos.
It inspired Mattin to make Songbook #7 though. Mattin is anti-copyright, pro free software and ‘against the notion of intellectual property’. His label ‘w.m. o/r’ [which on perusal has plenty to tempt the tastebuds] encourages sharing and copying. He’s from Bilbao. He’s into noise and improv. He’s my kind of guy. But still I know little of him. I do know that he’s been active since the beginning of the 2000’s and that he’s collaborated with the likes of Junko, Philip Best and Tony Conrad. He’s a very busy man.
The blurb for Songbook #7 says at its very end that ‘this is a strange record’. Which after a first listen were my thoughts exactly. A collaboration between Lucio Capece, Marcel Dickhage, Colin Hacklander, Faranz Hatam, Moor Mother and Cathleen Schuster as recorded live at the Digging the Global South Festival in Cologne at the back end of 2017. Which is almost a hundred years to the day since the second Russian Revolution of 1917.
Its seven tracks all commemorate the first seven months of the Russian Revolution and are named after the months. All of them are of about the same running time [seven minutes] except for July which clocks in at just over ten minutes. While on the cover we have the defiant stare of the anarchist Germain Berton who in 1923 murdered the director of the French far right group French Action League.
Instrumentation ranges from clarinet, drums, electronics, computer, samples and various texts spoken in German and English. The first words you hear are ‘nineteen seventeen’, presumably spoken by Mattin and from there on in its a full on weirdfest with blasts of noise, cyclical clarinet drones and computer chatter being the cracker upon which treated spoken word samples are smeared thick and heavy. Its like Kraftwerk and Costes made a noise improv album with their mates while reading tracts from books on the Russian Revolution as they got into their groove. Thats the best I can do. Its pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Which is a good thing.
There are revolutionary chants ‘There is no freedom in a normative vacuum’, the sounds of crows and garden birds, in June we get to listen to a conversation between the group; a female voice says ‘you have nothing to say?’, ‘It makes me feel really sick to see so much fascism around’ comes the reply. There are long gaps of silence between question and answer. July comes with an ever increasing volume ration and Mattin shouting ‘ELECT, ELECT, ELECT’ over it.
Each track stands apart from its neighbour giving the album a structured, songbook feel while also making it an album you’ll want to return to at a later date, if only to try and fathom it out or listen once again to the various sampled texts that litter it. Its been spun here several times, each spin revealing deeper nuance and text. ‘June’ apart its one for the noise connoisseur.
How much of this is improvised I know not. I find it hard to imagine that they took to the stage that night with out any preparation at all but then what do I know? What would Lenin have said? True revolutionaries do it noisy improv style. ELECT, ELECT, ELECT. Perhaps.
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Small Seeds. Huddersfield 24th January. 2019
Small Seeds is the kind of quirky venue you'd expect to find in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin or the Harajuku district of Tokyo, a Hobbit's hidey-hole of shrubbery and half timbered walls with an incongruous tree trunk sitting jammed floor to ceiling. Strings of bare light bulbs hang from branches, a giant carved wooden eagle adorns the bar front and the tables all look like they were made by Robinson Crusoe. I trust they have a well maintained sprinkler system. Upstairs you'll find a popular pizza shop and bar, there's flyers for yoga classes in the gents and the sound system is this side of shit hot. Here we are then, at a venue that would never have existed in this somewhat dour Northern city ten years ago, all friendly and warm with my glass of red wine on a sloping wooden mushroom.
Actually not that warm. Steve Beresford keeps his winter coat and scarf on during his entire performance and I too am feeling the nip and thus keep woolly hat firmly on head. At least we won't go hungry as David Velez and [I think] his wife Lina María Velandia Pizón are cooking actual food on the actual stage. I was lucky enough to experience a Velez installation at Huddersfield University early last year, a pitch black room full of speakers playing the sounds of kitchens, mainly noisy Far East kitchens where woks are bashed with steel spatulas and cooks shout over the din, the experience a disorientating one as the sounds come at you from different angles as your eyes slowly become accustomed to the darkness. Here he's boiling a kettle as Pizón fires up the hot plate and fries some plantain. Things fizzle and pop as Velez introduces field recordings of domesticity. The queue for food at its conclusion is lengthy and takes some time to go down but everyone seems happy with what they get and retire to eat it at tables that have never entered the thoughts of IKEA designers.
Kelly Jones kneels and pours water from one metal bowl in to another. Rather sloppily at times which is a little disconcerting as she's mere inches from her laptop and other electrical gear. She pours from one to the other then clinks them together, slops some water over herself, the floor and then gets up to give someone in the audience a rock or is it a crystal? After a manipulated spoken word emerges from the laptop she begins to process the sound of rock on slate, scraping while producing powder and atmospheres that swing between dreamy and Industrial hellish. Some of the bass tones are so deep and violent that at least one audience member clap his hands to his ears, when one sustained blast actually got louder when you thought it couldn't actually get any louder I thought the PA would blow. But it didn’t. As much a ritual as sound exploration.
There's an upright piano at the side of the sizeable tree trunk with its maintenance panels removed and in front of it a table full of cheap looking machines that look like they'll make cheap sounding electronic sounds. Which they do. Beresford starts his short set with a bout of chair shoving [a bog standard chair with steel frame not one made by Robinson Crusoe] which makes you realise that all those years at school shuffling chairs around on polished floors was you making drone sounds. He then improvises on the keys, flying up and down the keyboard like Cecil Taylor in a winter coat before going in to the guts of the thing jamming the hammers in to the strings and plucking them like an recalcitrant harp. Then the table gets it. A proper table. Various noise making things held up to two mics, a mini bullhorn which he squeaks in to and places machines to. A maddening cacophony of gibbering gadgets. A radio is turned on and plays something Mendelssohn like. Things that hum are placed on the piano keys. A ghost like glowing dome makes a 'woo' sound. A tin mouse with a rasping wire tail is brought in to the action. That is 'Part 1'. We know this because Beresford tells us its 'Part 1' at its conclusion. Then he tells us that what's coming up next is 'Part 2' which is a short work using two machines that again make all kinds of peculiar sounds.
This is the first night of two from AME both celebrating a book launch showcasing their two years of putting gigs on in the town. Except the book hasn’t made it back from the printers. AME is the acronym for ‘Art Music Experiment’. Its also the Japanese word for rain, those four little raindrops you see in the middle of the ‘m’ are from the Kanji character for rain. Outside it is cold and the streets are weirdly deserted. Huddersfield is no Harajuku. I’m glad AME are putting gigs on in the town though. The more the merrier and its quicker for me to get home from Huddersfield than it is Leeds. I can’t make it for the Friday show which is at 21 Market Place. I think I’ve been there before. I’m pretty certain I saw Adam Bohman there. It has tables that aren’t sloping mushrooms.
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Left Hand Cuts Off The Right - Purge
Fractal Meat Cuts. Cassette/DL
Released 28th of January
There’s plenty of shit flying around these days and the times they are indeed a turbulating but it could be worse; you could have had your head staved in which is what happened to Robbie Judkins. So while Trump tweets his childish tweets and Rees-Mogg does his best Softy Walter impersonation and the world turns to liquid shit around your ankles you can count yourself lucky that your head is still the same shape it was yesterday. How it happened I know not but as Judkins says in the blurb, Purge was ‘an album created during a time of reflection, recovery and listening following a severe brain and skull in injury in December 2017’ so while we were all wondering what to buy Timmy for Chrimbo Judkins was doing his best to stay alive. A sobering thought.
What I’ve heard of his work gives rise to much pause and thought. Ambient if you’d like to call it that but not of the structured Eno variety, this being more improv sounding with radios, field recordings and broken electronics seeping like a heavy mist among somberly struck lower register piano keys. Imagine Keith Jarrett on Largactyl improvising sadness with his left hand while his right tries for some throbbing oscillating sounds all recorded in the basement of an abandoned Detroit theatre during a full moon. That's not far off.
Purge has five tracks, some more sombre than others all of them guaranteed to put you in the place where Softy Walter’s fizog fades from view. I write this before its released because it fits in with a lot of the piano music I was listening to at the back end of 2018, Debussy, Glass, Greig, Satie. Second track Doubt & Worry has a subtle Eastern tinge, the two chord low register playing bass to a reflective upper register fling as a throbbing drone builds and builds eventually leaving all behind it. ‘Keppra’ is a minimalist two distant melodies looped slightly against each other, the sound degrading Basinski like as it progresses. ‘What Now’ is shorter, a reverberating Blackpool organ. The title track the most somber and bleakest of all. Purge will indeed purge you.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Broken Penis Orchestra and Le Scrambled Debutante Play Bladder Flask
Orgel Fesper Music/Twin Tub & Beaver.
CD. 100 copies.
‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ was the splendid title Bladder Flask gave to their one and only 1981 release leaving all those who heard it [including a seemingly awe struck Steve Stapleton] flat on their backs. Its two 24 minute sides of collage combines the sounds of hammered piano keys, strummed out of tune guitars, sci-fi bloops, tape splurge, crappy preset keyboard beats, guitar noise, train whistles, spoken word samples, rattled cutlery drawers, clockwork toys being wound up, wheezy melodicas, tuneless treble recorders, clanging steel pipes, flies being swatted with rolled up newspapers, records spinning at ridiculous speeds, honking saxophones, people shouting, people going mad, spoken word samples, atmospheres of utter strangeness and beguiling entropy. A sound world that up until 1981 I doubt barely existed. All of it the work of Richard and Philip Rupenus, all of it still in possession of every ounce of its vitality.
In 2018 The Broken Penis Orchestra and Le Scrambled Debutante poked about in the cardboard box of bits that is ‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ and gave us their interpretation of it. On ‘Plays … ‘ there’s also two re-workings of an unreleased Bladder Flask track called ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ which was intended as a United Dairies release but for some reason never saw the light of day.
Broken Penis Orchestra I’m familiar with due to their semi prolific burst of activity sometime ten years or so back where a splatter of releases left their mark on me [one due to sleeve art showing a hairy testicle in a egg cup] all of them of the painstaking cut and paste sound collage school. Cut and paste sound collage being the aural equivalent of ‘stop go’ animation the kind of work that take hours, weeks, months, lots of patience and plenty of skill to put together. Saying that its all probably done on computer now, a luxury the Rupenus brothers didn’t have at the time. Le Scrambled Debutante is Allan Zane of whom I know nothing.
These re-workings start out comfortably enough, the first Le Scrambled Debutante track kicking in with a scratched to buggery easy listening Ray Conniff/Mantovani swooning strings record over which detritus is liberally smeared. So far so like ‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ and then we get the two re-workings of the unreleased ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ and with it some clue as to why it might have given Stapleton an attack of the Heebie Geebies. I give you a dentists suction pump and the hacking smokers cough of a Selby miner combined mercilessly until you die. If you thought you could punish yourself by playing 90’s Merzbow at volumes designed to deafen have a go at the same volume with the last two tracks here. I double dare you. Broken Penis Orchestra ease you in by mixing in some French street sounds, warbly melodica, plinky piano, a lost Frenchman shouting through a Parisian fog and that coughing. The last track of all, a Le Scrambled Debutante 25 minute epic of endurance begins benignly enough with a loop of a newsreader corpsing over the story of someone launching a firework from their arse but slowly becomes one of those trapped in claustrophobic listens from which your only escape is the end of the disc or your own trembling finger upon the stop button. The sound of Hell is someone coughing up lumps of lung butter for eternity. This crept up on me at first and its only now after several listens that I’m fully able to ride this out. I have become attuned to its hideous deformities, like a prisoner who gets used to his gruel and daily thrashings I bore its weight with a stoic’s sense of duty.
When I recovered I went back to the beginning and Broken Penis Orchestra and its clatter of broken pianos, busted springs, badly played harmonicas, monsters eating people and lost dogs and then back to ‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ to marvel once more at its myriad juxtaposed sounds, the sheer unbridled joy of it all. An intriguing and delightful experience which at times is an unsettling one. A Stapleton fave of course and as fresh today as it was in 1981.
Lets hope that ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ eventually sees the light of day. I want to hear that coughing in its original state. We deserve nothing less.