The Lowest Forms of Music
Beaconsfield Art Centre. London. 22,23,24th October 2010
Dinosaurs with Horns
Raionbashi & Kutzelina
Bill Kouligas & Joseph Hammer
Mark Durgan with Spoils and Relics
Le Forte Four
I’m stood next to Ace Farren Ford looking at old LAFMS photos and theres one of the original Poo Bah Record shop. Ace cocks his head and with a nostalgic sigh in his voice says ‘yup, thats where it all started I guess’.
From a record store sandwiched between a sandwich shop and a gay porno theatre in a sleazy part of L.A. in the early 70’s to Lambeth in South London circa 2010 and Japanese noise nutters HIjokaidan as weekend headliners. For some mad reason it all makes sense.
At a time when the hippie dream was souring by the minute the Los Angeles Free Music Society took their cue from the likes of Beefheart and Zappa and began making music that was very much their own. With a freeform spirit in their hearts they put out records that virtually no one bought, made magazines that virtually no one read and took to the streets to play gigs. That freeform spirit became a spark though. A tiny spark that produced the flames which years down the line lit fires that amongst other things would blossom into the Japanese noise scene and would eventually spawn what became known as New Weird America. From small record stores does mighty influence spring.
So, to the Beaconsfield. Its not often you go to a three day event and see all the artists involved but with a line-up as strong as that then it would be plain stupid not to. I’ve been to plenty of three day [and four] day events of this kind and when you get into an easy half drunk conversation with someone you haven’t met for a year or so then its easy to give the next act a miss knowing that you’ll probably catch them somewhere down the line sooner or later. But Hijokaidan? How many times have they played the UK recently? And Incapacitants with the original line up? And Paul McCarthy and Tom Recchion and Extended Organ and John Duncan and The Tenses and fucking AIRWAY? Jesus, you’d have to be some kind of retard to miss any of those just because someone you haven't seen for a year is offering you another cigarette and the chance of a beer because the bars quiet. And thats what happened. Every time word got out that it was time for the next act we all made a bee line for the stage and listened and cheered and walked out with smiles as wide as our faces.
This one had been building for quite some time - two years in the planning. An aching ball sack and sleepless nights for some but for us lucky punters a chance to see why The Los Angeles Free Music Society are so influential. It was a total sell out. All three nights. The PA was perfect. The venue, a bricked archway under the Waterloo line was just the right size. The beer was cold and the faces all friendly. There was even a German bar within spitting distance that served as both a pre gig watering hole and once the final curtain fell a post gig wind down spot.
It started in the German bar on Friday afternoon and then to the venue where a feeding frenzy was taking place at the merch stall. I saw Underwood and he was smiling. It had all gone to plan. The venue didn’t sink. Flights had landed on time and the venue wasn’t double booked.
Morphogenesis began proceedings which means we got to see Adam Bohman wandering around with his Tesco bag full of detritus. Tiny plates of metal get sawed, things got twanged, maybe a pot plant got wired into something. It was hard to tell. Tom Recchion played to a film he made with John Duncan which included some ferocious drum samples that built into mini storms of chaos. Le Forte Four played spazz ur-punk with added toy ray gun noise and managed to half clear the space but those in the know knew that Japanese Super Heroes was coming and when it did I sang along in my head and when the lights went up there was Rock ‘n’ Roll Jackie with an equally, if not bigger shit eating grin than mine, giving me a double double thumbs up. It was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments. Smegma rounded off Friday and managed to earn themselves a genuine encore, not a hide behind the curtain for five seconds they know we’re coming back encore but a genuine roaring cheering hand clapping get your fucking arses back out here we waited a long time for this moment encore. Vetza sang like a siren. Ace Farren Ford blew chunks out of his pipe and the drums [who was the drummer?], battered to bits were the drums. Whipping all the way from twang 50’s rock to noise blurts to ethereal where did all the sound go moments and back to scratchy old records they flew as smoothly as they always do. It was beautiful.
Saturday night past by in an alcoholic blur. That German bar came in handy at three in the afternoon as I was thirsty after a lamb curry at the India Club and I was just getting into my stride when there’s a dash to see Mark Durgan with Spoils and Relics who I couldn’t see but it didn’t matter. They played on the floor. I could see the tops of heads. Electro-acoustic mutterings and clicks. Sublime. Extended Organ I’ve waited years to see, their improv vocal baby like moans and keyboard prods, string drangs [and if you haven’t got their CD on Birdman then your record collection is not complete]. Worth catching so at to see Paul McCarthy except I didn’t see that much of him. Small stage y’see. Doesn’t matter to me. I’d rather sacrifice poor viewing to a good PA. Imagine having the best view and the sound coming out of a blown PA the size of two Cornflakes boxes. These guys live for clear sounds. If it was McCarthy doing the vocals his next beer’s on me. Then came John Duncan who played and mixed CD’s from the mixing desk into a swirling panned PA system whilst we all talked about his corpse exploits in the bar afterward. Some people complained that they never cranked the PA for Incapacitants and they were right. All noise bands need volume to make an impact and it was a crying shame that they never got it. They were the first band to test the immaculate PA system but they suffered because of it. Still, seeing Mikawa and Kosakai jerk like epileptics is still a sight to be treasured. And then it was the much anticipated AIRWAY set. It was primitive pummel from start to finish with wailing everythings but by then the German beer had taken its toll on my sensory orbits and I stumbled out of the venue and back into the German bar to finish myself off. I could now walk between the German bar and the venue with my eyes shut.
Sunday and my sensitive brain has taken a hammering. So what I need is some smooth loops and analogue deliberations which is where Bill Kouligas and Joseph Hammer come in. Another collaboration that worked well. Saw Hammer at last years Colour Out of Space and he went on for what seemed like an age but here, with about thirty minutes to get it all in, it worked a treat. I managed to find myself at the front of the stage [almost] for Raionbashi and Kutzelina whose noise drone ritual included the elaborate washing of hands and face each time nailing the used towel to bits of wood. A low dog like growl slowly increased in volume until a whistle blow and then a double reading of Germanic text [which seemed to amuse the German speaking members of the audience but of which the only words I could detect was ‘salt and pepper’ showing just how shit my German is]. Then came the yodeling from the lovely Kutzelina and short stabs of painful static from Raionbashi the whole while the thing building into a pressure cooker atmosphere until they cut it dead.
And then some LAFMS Tom Fuckery, first with Dinosaur With Horns which I think was just Rick Potts and then The Tenses, a Smegma side project with Ju Suk Reete Meate and Rock ‘n’ Roll Jackie whose sound is a little like a stripped down Smegma with soaring tremolo guitar, run off groove static and tiny clockwork toys held aloft in one hand just that one sound playing at its conclusion. Then the appearance of Hijokaidan. After five minutes of what appeared to be them tuning up [like uh … ] main-man Jojo Hiroshige, with a tightly wound skull cap stuck to his head and Gibson SG strung around his neck pushed the button and filled the space with wall shuddering noise. With Junko [the Sheila of Shriek, the Sultana of Scream] yelping away like a hyperactive puppy with its paw trapped and Incaps Kosakai doing the electronics they soon managed to whip things up into a shit-storm of mayhem. Jojo began the mock whipping of the audience with his guitar, the drummer sounded like he’d got four arms, mic stands got chucked into the audience, bodies got thrust into the air [crowd surfing - I fear for their heads if they get dropped - me being a sensitive, caring type] Jojo actually handed his guitar to the audience and fought like buggery to get it back again, Junko’s yelping seemed to pierce my eardrums. It all sounded totally insane. The PA had done its job at last and then, for the second time in two nights, Kosakai dived headfirst into the crowd. Ta-da.
Afterwards, outside, we head for the German bar. It’s closed. 11.30 on a Sunday night in the capital and we cant get a drink. As usual I never did get to say my goodbyes, just shuffled off to the hotel with the Thames on my left and happy memories in my head.
On the final leg of my return home I’m on the bus from Leeds to Cleck and to drown out the sound of the school kids on half term chaos I turn on my mp3 player and turn up the volume and by sheer chance Japanese Super Heroes comes on and I was back watching Le Forte Four in that bricked archway in Lambeth with Jackie giving us all the double thumbs up and it all seemed so perfect. It’s a beautiful sunny Autumnal day and I’m warmed by the sun glaring in through the windows and the thoughts of the weekend just gone and I’m thanking all those involved in getting this on because it has truly been a special weekend. The likes of which we may never see again.
1 - Poo Bah Records
2- Ace in Poo Bah
3 - Flip top at Beaconsfield
4 - Exhibition space at Beaconsfield
5 - Raionbashi & Kutzelina ritual washing bowl.