Thursday, September 30, 2010


Godspunk Volume Nine - Various Artists
Pumf 672. Pumf CD and booklet. £5
Howl In The Typewriter - Judas Kiss [The Lost Songs]
Pumf 665. Pumf CDR. £4
Ray Reagan And The RayGuns
Pumf 651. Pumf CD. £5
There’s no getting away from the fact that Blackpool manages to house more than its fair share of nutters and I guess we can call Stan Batcow [or pStan as I think he likes to be known] one of them but in a nice self deprecating way of course and not a dangerous ring you up at 6am on a Sunday morning wanting to kill you kind of way. pStan has been steadily ejecting Pumf release from Pumf HQ for donkeys years and every now and then our courses collide and I actually get off on one of them. Most of these are by the Ceramic Hobs of course of which Stan has been a core member for the last 25 years until something snapped and their ways parted but the Godspunk’s are welcome and hidden within their myriad depths their usually lies the odd gem waiting to be discovered.
A cursory glance down the twenty two tracks of Godspunk 9 though finds me face to face once more with UNIT, a band that I seem to have some difficulty with. I thought I’d turned a corner with UNIT as in a previous Godspunk I vaguely remember burying the hatchet and coming out all in favour of their wonky jazz pop punk pap but once again that jarring mix of vibraphone, keyboard, sax, crap drummer with crap singer has returned to haunt me. I imagine them setting up their gear in a pub in Hendon on a wet Sunday afternoon in February, a pub peopled with disinterested punters deep into their cups brooding over a final pint before going home to a damp flat and an angry missus. Arguing over whose turn it is to get the drinks in and who’s having the best amp UNIT eventually announce their presence, skittle through ten numbers to desultory applause before piling into the back of their rusty N reg Transit only to get lost on the way home. I dare say that they’re a decent group of upstanding human beings with all the attributes that combine to make talking to them a positive social experience [their info page on the insert mentions the Angry Brigade and one of them is a spin bowler so all’s not lost] but as ever, I struggle with their music. Let us not dwell on such matters for too long though for merriment is to be had.
Godspunk’s are co-operative affairs whereby each contributor chips in a set amount of money which guarantees them a set number of tracks and a set number of copies in return. Its a win win situation as artists who may find the expense of releasing their own work on CD prohibitive are given exposure whilst finding themselves shoulder to shoulder with like minded musicians. You do get the odd sore thumb though and past comps have seen the inclusion of noise based artists who stick out like pervs in a playground but on the whole they work.
This issues outsider is The Death of the Enlightenment Project whose sub four minute ansaphone cum noise tilt sits easy on these ears but may not be as welcome to UNIT or Boxhead who’s lounge ethnic ambience appears from nowhere like the offspring of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra meets The Art of Noise. John Tree’s ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ is equally beguiling; a forties gas lamp crooner ballad that he somehow manages to manipulate into one of Satie’s Gymnopodie’s before morphing it back to its origins - eerie, unexpected and most welcome. Stan’s own project Howl in the Typewriter bookends things as is custom and then theres the usual suspects including The Taurus Board, Dimm D3ciple, The Shi-ites, Lenin’s Virulent Muscle and the Balkan ‘oiks amongst a handful of batty others. Its all harmless fun of course and I’m loathed to cast any of it in a bad light seeing as they all seem to be having such a good time but most of it is passes me by leaving nothing on the ears but a vague sense of having heard something wacky and amusing but not entirely lasting. Godspunk 9 is in need of a stand out track and the nearest it gets is John Tree. Where are The Las Vegas Mermaids when you need them? As ever, comes with a full colour booklet and lots of contact info.
Judas Kiss is a collection of Howl in the Typewriter recordings spanning 14 years. Most are culled from submissions to compilation’s that never got to see the light of day; the Vincent Price comp, the Boredoms comp and my favourite the concept album of silence to which Stan sent some silence titled ‘Uninspired’ only to see it returned seeing as it was the only submission outside of the label proprietors own. For the most part though Stan’s work with HITT spans a pop punk aesthetic mixed with synth wash, high end production, vocal samples ripped from Hollywood through to police radio all coupled to a jolly hey-nonny-no I’ve had three pints and I’m fresh aesthetic. I like it for so long and then it all feels as if your trapped in some relatives house at Christmas with your hyper ten year old cousin who wants you to play with his Tracey Island when all you want to do is nod off with the Radio Times over your head.
What I take to be one of Stan’s early bands is Ray Reagan and the RayGuns. After gathering dust in a box for over 25 years Stan dusted down the 16 track master baked it and transferred it to digital. The result is 11 tracks of what is quite clearly Stan and sadly, some rather mundane sing-a-long punky pop. Stan takes on vocals and guitar and smothers it all in his various incarnations of the above.
After these three releases I’m all Pumfed out but somehow I feel as if I’ve been strangely entertained.
Those Godspunkers in full:
Howl in the Typewriter,
the taurus board,
Laszlo Klemke,
Dimm D3ciple,
The Shi-ites
The Melodramatic Monkey
John Tree
Lenin's Virulent Muscle
The Death of the Enlightenment Project
Seven Footsteps to Satan.
Pumf Records
25 Ivy Avenue

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Ceramic Hobs

The Ceramic Hobs - OZ OZ Alice
ORB Editions LP040. CD
250 copies.

I was in Blackpool earlier this year. Its the most depressing place in England I can think of and yet the tourist board would have you believe its the nearest thing to a fun packed time you can have without breaking the law and maybe it is if your version of a fun packed time includes washing down pint after pint of overpriced lager in shit pubs. On a wet and windy day in July Blackpool felt about as welcoming as a damp slipper. Blackpool has pubs where people get stabbed just for something to do, it has a tacky fun fair and the bright lights that draw in the goggle eyed punters like zombies in a Romero film. Its a rip off dump masquerading as a fantastic fun filled bauble. It’s a cynical grockle trap. Its the place local comedian Les Dawson dubbed ‘The Vulgar Mistress’ and I hate every bit of it.
On a miserable Sunday the big pubs on the promenade had groups of desperate smoking drinkers outside all huddled together like penguins taking it in turns to face the brunt of the sleet. Odd shaped families with unruly kids dressed in recently bought leisure gear kicked balls about on a nearly deserted beach. The donkeys were nowhere to be seen. I was glad to get out of there after just a few hours but some people actually come here for a fortnight and boast that they enjoy themselves. You really should go.
The Ceramic Hobs are from Blackpool and some of the above may explain why their music is as twisted as it is. It may also explain why some of their number are well acquainted with the ins and outs of psychiatry. Under such circumstances its a wonder they actually make any music at all but when they do its a something rather special. Fluxing rock [maybe of the punk variety] with a kind of experimentalism that could only emerge from a stop/pause button on a radio cassette player it’s a world populated by the likes of Hindley and Brady, ELO, Toto, Deep Purple, 70’s confectionary commercials and local radio show phone in numpties. Some of it is played out to a background of a guitar soloing hacked out by someone who long ago sunk to his knees at the alter of Jimi Hendrix and stayed there ever since. There’s song structure and chugging chords but somehow the Hobs manage to chuck enough distortion and mayhem into it to twist it all into something that’s unlike anything else being recorded today. Its like having two stereos going at once at 1am after a night on the gravy. The Hobs are the crazy cousins of To Live And Shave in LA with Tom Smith played by a drunken Simon Morris slumped in the corner at chucking out time with his glasses hanging off his head and drool coming from the corner of his mouth - a Softy Walter on drugs made in bath tubs with a mind fine tuned to Whitehouse proportions. There really is no other band quite like them.
\There are nine tracks on OZ OZ Alice the ninth being a 35 minute segue of a previous OZ OZ Alice release [I think there was rumblings of there being a dozen OZ OZ’s before splitting the band up but I could be wrong] the previous eight are a mix of tracks that never appeared on OZ OZ 2 and 3 so this could be OZ OZ Alice 4. Nothing is ever straight forward. The rotating band membership confuse things further by adopting aliases that
would make them shoe-ins for Smegma call up - Larry Language, Kate Fear, Mr. Concrete Himself, Ging Shi-ite, Bong Ben and Ric O’Doom all lending a hand on this particular release.
Oz Oz Alice is a labyrinthine affair, as dense as a Pynchon novel and as flumoxing in parts so I feel a more detailed breakdown is required:
Irish Jew:
Starts with sample from ELO’s Mr Blue Sky before a chugging riff kicks in. Morris sings ‘I’m an Irish Jew whats it to you?’ with increasing ferocity. Wayward guitar can be heard throughout. Morris sings ‘This song is wrong’. Sample of a upper class British voice saying things like ‘where do I begin?’ Samples from 70’s confectionary advert for Cadburys Finger of Fudge.
He Thinks He Can Hear Voices:
Slow chug that contains a clip from Radio Lancashire featuring local DJ whose phone in guest fails to give the answer the question ‘Who wrote Mien Kampf’. This despite being given numerous clues - he eventually answers with Adolf Golf. May say something about people from Lancashire. Could be a song about drugs.
Bryn Alyn Ghoul Soil:
Fifty second track of things being knocked about with a barely audible monolgue.
Toto In Africa:
A song whose intro is so distorted it sounds like a record being played with a six inch nail. The Hobs are playing in the background coming in and out of focus to reveal possibly a live track. Theremins, driving beat, someone whose English isn’t his first language interviewing someone else with the same problem. Song eventually floats off on a cloud of one drum hits, roaring bass and that solo guitar over which you can hear someone playing the intro to Status Quo’s Pictures of Matchstick Men.
Shamanic noise wailings. Synth stabs. Distorts into a Clodagh Rogers song. Eventually collapses in on itself in a sea of distortion over a distant drum beat.
Fixated Threat Assessment Centre:
A submerged song fights to be heard over more distortion. Voices can be heard. Song emerges from distortion now and again. Slow tortured agony of vocals. Song appears to be slowed down in parts to make it appear as a funeral march which makes them sound like a doom metal band. Morris’ overriding monologue is long and bitter [the tattooed ‘fuck off’ on the inner lip] whilst four people have an argument - two in each channel. Wild scraping violin.
Miley Backmask:
MC5 like thump and riff over which Morris sings ‘I’m your bum slut’ - I think? Probably the most straightforward track on the album.
Deepest Shasta:
Another sombre monologue over the bones of a slow moving trudge which dissolves into a live version of Deep Purples ‘Black Night’ without ever leaving the former behind. Monologue is like darkest poetry mentioning Bebo obituaries and Moors Murders victims. Gun shots are heard. Vocal sample: ‘Only Blackpool stands between us and revolution’. Ends in live wig out of Deep Purple’s Child In Time’ with Harris giving it the full on Gillan wails making him sound like a stuck pig vomiting bile onto his shoes. Morris sings same lines from ELO’s Mr Blue Sky as at intro. By ending OZ OZ Alice with a live rendition of the opening sample The Hobs give us a Möbius strip of demented proportions but its not quite finished or as straightforward as that for there is now ...
OZ OZ Alice:
Thirty five minutes of segued material that moves between Andrew Lilles vocal treatments, strangled punk solos, jabbering voices, nth generation live recordings and Morris intoning ‘I picked him up on me fillings’ in a mock dopey voice. Its all of the previous nine tracks mashed into one and stomped into shape with a size ten Doctor Marten boot, it’s also probably the most daring thing the Hobs have done to date.
Since the departure of long time band member Stan Batcow the Hobs have replaced shiny production values and leanings towards pop punk psychedelia with a dangerously out of control beast that looks like its being held together with hastily driven in nails, soggy string and dodgy drugs. The North West, Blackpool, all its ills and vomit and cheap beer and pointless weekend violence is as inextricably linked with the Hobs psyche and its one that requires your further investigation.
Comes in an A5 wallet with bizarre artwork by Brazilian artist Carlito Juanito


ORB Editions
PO Box 35, Bangor
LL57 3ZF
United Kingdom
luminouspress [at]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Bacterium (băk-tîr'ē-əm)
Various Artists
Adeptsound. ADS100CD. 300 Copies.

Column One
Dieter Müh
Maison Close
Josef Nadek
Praying For Oblivion
The Psychogeographical Commission

Its a taken for granted piece of software these days but I still get a kick out inserting a CD into the computer and finding all the track information appearing on the media player - for someone who remembers the days when you had to get up off your arse to switch TV channels [all three of them] its like alchemy. Even the most obscure of releases seems to have been dutifully transcribed by some eager listener. Bacterium was no different but what brought a wry smile to my face was that under the column ‘Genre’ were the words ‘Unclassifiable’. Which is ridiculous of course, there is no such thing as unclassifiable any more. Every major genre of music you can think of has numerous sub genres and then there’s all the new sub sub sub genres that appear at regular intervals where ‘x’ multiplies with ‘y’ to produce a ‘z’.
But what to pigeonhole Bacterium with? I always favour ‘Industrial Ambience’ but with a push you could nail it with ‘Dark Ambience’ but then maybe thats a bit too Cold Meat Industry. Post Apocalyptic Industrial Ambience I’ve used before too but today I’m going to go with Industrial Noise Ambience With Slight Ritualistic Tendencies And A Leaning Towards Noise And Experimentation. It’s a tad clumsy I know but it may just stick.
We’ve been here before, most recently with the various artist comp Stählerne Lichter, with which this shares a number of artists, but whereas that release contained several real stinkers Bacterium’s bad contribution factor is but the merest ripples on a smooth mill pond of excellence.
Theres some unfamiliar names to conjure with first [to these ears at least] most of which would appear to be worth further investigation; Psychogeographical Commission’s eerie chatterings are sublime, Maison Close’s noise blizzard coupled with stressed female vocal sample would appear to hold much promise and Josef Nadek’s contribution will have the Apocalyptic Power Electronic genre fans going all weak and weepy. French duo DDAA’s track finds them mixing treated harmonica with electronic burbles, strings and deep throat vocals the end result sounding like a cross between Jac Berrocal and Extended Organ. Sevan_Oh veer into Illusion of Safety land with two looped vocal samples played over each other to a background of slowly morphing keyboard work and the merest hint of a trip-hop beat.
This is no reason to gloss over what is offered by the more familiar names, Dieter Müh, Column One, Schuster, N.Strahl.N, MNEM and Cheapmachines all weigh in with some prime Industrial Ambient groan, which is nothing less than I expected. The only runt of the litter is Praying For Oblivion whose three minute noise stab appears like an unwanted grease stain but that aside this is an excellent release.
My only big problem is with the packaging. Dulled out grey font on a glossy black background never goes down a storm here but it may explain why the online database has Schuster down as Chuster. It’s still doesn’t explain ‘unclassifiable’ though does it?
Comes in a digipak with 12 page booklet.