Sunday, October 31, 2010

Harbinger Sound

The Good Anna - Wolf Tickets
Harbinger Sound LP 057
Ramleh - The Hand of God
Harbinger Sound 067/Hospital Productions HOS199 12”
Defektro - Noise Army
Harbinger Sound 024 7”
Cheap Machines/Family Battle Snake
Harbinger Sound 069 Split 7”
Harbinger Sound 038 7”
Kylie Minoise/Nackt Insecten - Beyond Stellar Filth
Harbinger Sound 058 Split LP
Contact: Schmontact
Don’t look for the Harbinger Sound website. It doesn’t exist. Don’t bother looking for half these records either as they’ll be probably all gone seeing as most of em only run to a 100 copies and have either been given away or dropped off at a distro and snapped up by eager consumers. Don’t bother looking for contact info either. What do you think Google was invented for? In the case of the latter two singles you’ll have to get your magnifying glass out and look for clues in the run off groove to see just who it is your listening to and even then you’ll have to have background knowledge. Take for instance the B side of the Cheap Machines/Family Battle Snake single. FBS is Bill Kouligas. He’s Greek so the run off groove next to a plain white die cut label is etched with ‘Demis or Nana?’ If you’re still not with it then its a seven day tour of the UK in the back of the Harbinger Transit van for you laddie and don’t forget to bring some fucking beer tokens wimp. Take a close look at those release numbers too. These all appeared within a few weeks of each other but they span releases 24 to 69. As with the much delayed Harbinger triple LP comp box of noise that was ‘Vultures ...’ there were ‘issues’. In this case a dodgy pressing that got the thumbs down. Its taken a few years to surface but then what’s a few years when you’re an obscure noise project from Japan. You may have seen a Harbinger CD in your local noise store but in Harbinger world these barely count as legit releases for when it comes to actually putting something on your stereo vinyl is still very much the preferred format. So vinyl it is then.
Now lets have a look at what we’ve got here; a reissue of an heritage PE classic, some Jap junk noise, a smattering of scrape and clunk improv recorded in a church, some of the best noise coming out of England and Scotland and some sublime vortexing frequencies from Greece. Harbinger does it again. Funded on overtime and expensive foreign beers HS supremo Steve Underwood doesn’t do Myspacebook or blog he just puts out the records and lets the noise do the rest. He’s not being elitist its just that the music matters more than any fancy website or social site.
The Hand of Glory was Broken Flags first Ramleh seven incher and has since become a much sought after item by connoisseurs of the genre. Some people say it never got the pressing it deserved though and its true glory is hidden in a sea of hiss and crackle. Twenty five years on the Harbinger/Hospital axis reissue it on handsome heavyweight black vinyl thus immediately reinstating it’s status as one of the landmark power electronic releases. It’s seen the light of day via a RRR Pure CD and was originally released on cassette too but to hear this in virgin vinyl glory is a sonic subversives delight.
The four tracks; Prossneck, Squassation and The Hand of Glory [parts 1 & 2] all contain that uneasy admixture of piercing feedback, tortured souls and moaning vocals that combine to make this a still unsettling experience. Twenty five passing years has not dimmed its power to affect the listener.
The Good Anna proves that Harbinger can do more than pure noise by putting out two sides of rattled drums and scraped detritus as recorded at the Holy Trinity Church Leeds. A room full of saucepan lids being attacked by a drunk knight with a three foot sword and scurrying guitar that altogether sounds like a night in with Roger Turner and Derek Bailey with his arthritis. The acoustics are wonderful.
Defektro’s junk noise creations come courtesy of some homemade equipment and what sounds like lumps of metal. Between the three of them [two Japs and an Australian who used to be in Kunt - nice touch] they forge four tracks of dense clockwork machine racket that is equal parts head mash and gut wrench. Industrial March sounds like a cappuccino maker about to explode, Survive is a dense morass of overdriven machine beats about which swirls your washing on its final spin. Defektro are a very very good noise band and so is this single.
Its a crime that Romance’s output hasn’t extended further than a handful of releases. Since erupting in a room above a smoky pub somewhere in England about 4 years ago Dean Glaister’s solo noise work is of the highest quality. Humping around large amounts of equipment and sheets of metal Glaister makes noise in the same mode as prime era Merzbow and obvious heros Hijokaidan. Harbingers three track live single redresses the imbalance somewhat but there must be more in the tank from this North East hero surely? Blunt, visceral, throbbing below the horizon before erupting with all guns blazing Romance make the kind of noise that makes noise fans in their 40’s weep for the days when jiffy bags stuffed with Pain Jerk cassettes were celebrated more than birthdays. Miss him at your peril.
Further up and over the border Scotland has been having its own not so quiet revolution. Nackt Insecten and Kylie Minoise have been two of the most prominent names to appear through the mist and both have been producing some stella work or in this case Stellar Filth. Nackts insect screams and shifting tonal buzzes are better than trepanning and cheaper too whilst Minoise’s slow burner of a noise drone lasts longer than any of his live shows I’ve ever seen. KM’s forte for me will always be the gut punch live assault but at least a side of vinyl gives him some space to work out in. And if you want to make it last just that little bit longer why not play it at 33.
After successfully locating Family Battle Snake I discover a track thats not dissimilar sensation to having your head sucked down a storm drain. It’s by far the noisiest FBS track I’ve yet to hear - a gorging, building drone that fills the room and your shell likes with a resonance that is both invigorating and disquieting. The run off groove for Cheapmachines is etched with ‘So Solid Crew’. I really have no idea. Cheapmachines reveals his penchant for experimenting with old gear by bookending the piece with static but the filling is solid noise and damned fine it is too. It seems Harbinger brings out the best in people.
So there you have it. Black circles of plastic, interminable delays, the best noise label in England.

[part of a series of older reviews that I feel needs reposting]

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