Usurper Trio - Party Tapes
Muscle Tusk/Smear Campaign
Nackt Insekten - Countdown to Ecstasy II
Ghost of an Octopus - 19,21,23,14
[all the above are cassettes]
Serfs At Victoria Baths
Abraxxxass- Plum Slate
Saboteuse - Apercu
For those of you wanting to know what’s happening at true grass roots level in the UK then look no further than Stuart Arnot’s Total Vermin label. Raking together the best of what’s happening in Manchester, Stoke and Glasgow Arnot cudgels together a satan hot fart of Fluxus garblings, eaten away frequency discharge and teeth to the neck fret abuse.
There is plenty to admire here amongst the spattered CDR’s and day-glo cassettes.
Ghost of an Octopus is Arnot and underground leg-end Joincey strangling guitars of various types in an incessant buzz of restless careering blue bottle distortion that attacks you like a swarm of angry hornets on a hot day in Dewsbury. This is not head down mindless Solmania. It’s a different beast altogether with little direction but a focus and intent. A disturbing beast of string kill that makes Keiji Hieno sound like Les Dawson.
Usurper Trio is the weird pick of the bunch. The Fluxus ethos of not making any sense is a melody of plumbing sounds, electronic rumbles and saucepans lids used as percussion. Tupperware, kazoo abuse and swannee whistles are designed to disorientate as squealing puppies and rattling china cups are thrown in for good measure.
Arnot turns up again in his Smear Campaign guise in a split with a live Muscle Tusk track. Muscle Tusk sound like a dying elephant whilst someone kicks a kick drum at random intervals. All of it eventually collapsing in on itself into a filthy pit of nightsoil. The other side sounds like the first side recorded onto dodgy tapes which keep swimming in and out of focus Norman Collier style. Deep earth rumbles and a muted trumpet struggle to be heard.
The last time I saw Nackt Insekten he was gigging on the Glasgow Underground as part of 08’s Instal fest. It was a bizarre sight indeed as commuters got on an off to the sound of distorted switches hidden in a suitcase amplified through a couple of ghetto blasters. Like all good noise practitioners though the beauty becomes apparent with immersion. NI’s angsty, fidgety, frequency driven overloads are head buzzes that become hypnotic until a subtle phase shift alters their course. It all sounds like it should be made on huge Dr Frankenstein like machines pulsing with Telsa shocks and ball lightning but I’ve seen inside that suitcase ... which makes me even more impressed.
Serfs all too short set of guitars and trampled percussion benefits from being performed in a disused Victorian baths. Starting out softly with rattles and the odd hit cymbal the six Serfs lift off into the crumbling iron lattice work on an ever increasing drone of guitar shimmer and scream that just makes you wish you’d been there. Impressive.
Joincey reappears in Saboteuse an outfit who can seemingly turn their hand to anything from Whitehouse squeal to the simply indescribable. Here its the simply indescribable - a kaleidoscopic collection of stabbed keys, fumble fingered guitar wreckage, kamikaze plane dives and spoken word. Joincey’s spoken word contributions besides adding to the mystery of it all make you wonder if he hasn’t got a future as a BBC newsreader, something I’d pay double the license fee just to see for one night.
Only Abraxxxass’s demented six string fiddling leaves me cold but not a bad result out of seven releases.
Total Vermin’s releases aren’t pretty and with a name like that you wouldn’t expect them to be but these are worthwhile releases documenting an area of work many labels aren’t interested in or are too scared to get involved with.