Monday, November 22, 2010


Snotnosed - Cock Vomit
Second Layer Records. Cassette.

Giving Wire magazine a kick in the bollocks seems to be popular pastime these days and while its tempting to lace up the steelies and flex the old knee muscles I feel I have to admit that without it there would be a sizable gap for magazines covering the outer edges of music. That said theres a lot I don’t like about the Wire but I’m not going to sit here and type out a list of all my Wire gripes. Lets just say that that top of my list would be the fact that, for the most part, I find it an extremely dull read. [Which reminds me, I’ve just tried and failed for the third time to read Paul Hegarty’s book ‘Noise History’ - a tome so dry and professorial it makes the Wire look like Viz - and have I to mention the fact that Hegarty seems to think that Pete Best was a member of Whitehouse? Have I to? Too late].
Whats been filling the message boards recently has been the editorial for December's issue. In it Wire editor Chris Bohn takes to task todays noise/Industrial artists for failing to
further the progress made by the likes of first generation ‘noise’ artists such as Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle. What I find disturbing though is that Bohn still seems to think that todays Noise/Industrial artist/bands are obsessed with those hoary fail safes; misogyny, serial killers, autopsies, the Holocaust, sexual perversion, porn etc and that the only way to get attention is by shocking people. Of course there will always be those who continue to be drawn to extreme and taboo subject matters but does Bohn think that all Noise, Power Electronics, Industrial, Experimental artists are still wallowing in a sea of aimless transgression? How many noise artist are still using dead bodies as cover stars these days? Last time I looked Merzbow had a chicken on the front of one of his releases - and it had all its feathers on. How many noise/Industrial artists still think of themselves as controversial? How many are out there to shock just for the sake of it? How many feel the need to explain themselves with intelligent critique and self analysis? Would Bohn like to see every new Noise/Industrial/Experimental act starting out today sign some kind of contract stating that they’ll never use a cutting from Readers Wives as an LP cover?
Can’t you make noise and experiment with noise and use what the hell you want for cover art or t-shirt art without recourse to having to explain yourself [isn’t that what Whitehouse did]? Can’t you make noise and Industrial music just for the sheer pleasure of it? Because you like the sound of what you do? Because its what you want to do without having to worry about whether you're advancing the cause of Noise and Industrial music by having Doris from Newark as your cover star. Why does noise and Industrial music have to evolve and ‘work out new strategies for telling unpalatable truths’? What unpalatable truths? And whilst I’m here can someone please tell me why it is that William Bennett is suddenly so popular with Wire magazine? Having ignored him and his work for the majority of his career they now realise that he is in fact an intelligent human being with something to say, not just some knobhead sticking knobs on his releases. So it’s OK for Bennett because he’s into African drums now but its not OK for Snotnosed because they’ve got the word ‘cock’ in the title? Is that it?
What would the Wire think of Snotnosed then? Have they already been reviewed? I doubt it. Maybe they’d merit a couple of lines in Byron Coley’s whimsical ‘Size Matters’ column. Snotnosed are a Hanatarash tribute group. End of review. Maybe the Wire would pick up on the Snotnosed shock tactic of using the word ‘cock’ in the title or the inner sleeve with pictures of cocks, real puerile ones as drawn by serial killers whilst they were wanking off to atrocity porn and dreaming up ways of cutting up the dead body in the bath. [Those early Japanese noise artists loved their ‘cock’s’ and ‘dick’s’ and ‘penis’s’ {peni?}. There were some days when you just couldn’t move for Japanese noise cassettes clogging up your letter box with cocks all over them].

If you’re going to pay tribute to a Japanese noise band then it ought to be Hanatarash [or Hanatarashi - I never knew why they added the ‘i’ - or dropped it for that matter]. They were the most destructive of the lot really - existing for a brief period in the 80’s but leaving a legacy thats still felt today. Hanatarash folded due to the fact that they usually destroyed the venue thus quickly running out of places to play.
And it had to be Michael Gillham that did it. Anyone who has been lucky enough to see Snotnosed in action will have seen Gillham swing sledge hammers, break his bones, draw blood, destroy stages, light fittings, floors. Most gigs end with the audience huddled together at the back of the venue with owner stood blocking the exit, arms folded with a look that said ‘nobody gets past me till all this shit is cleared up and I have compensation’.
Cock Vomit is a constant wall of destruction. Two sides that sounds like all the best smashing up bits of a Hanatarash gig edited together to make up two sides of junk annihilation. Sleeve says ‘performed and recorded by Michael Gillham at the Creche’ and if this is indeed the result of a live performance then I’m impressed. It would have to have been an old gig though as I remember Snotnosed jacked in for the very same reason that their Japanese heroes did. Expect total mayhem, total destruction and lots of cocks of course. Gillham writhes around in his [de]construction like an eight limbed Japanese noise monster, at the bottom of the mix you can hear glass shattering, steel drums meeting their end, pipes being clattered, heavy thuds and through it all a non-stop barrage of chopped box noise hitting you behind the ear, a dislocated bombardment, a pain in the head. If anything Snotnosed sound more like The New Blockaders at full tilt which may explain why there’s a collaborative release between the two in the pipeline. Its also the best Snotnosed release to date.
I listened back to some Hanatarash gigs in the course of my duties and what you can hear is people having a good time. In-between all the glass getting chucked about and the screamed vocals and the venue being destroyed is laughter. Whilst dodging the flying debris, taking pictures [on one recording you can hear the sound of lens shutters clicking] and hoping that Hanatarash main man Yamatsuka Eye doesn’t actually kill himself, people can be heard laughing, enjoying themselves. Its called having a good time.
One last thing. The cover of this months Wire - is that the best you can do?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Astral Social Club

Astral Social Club - Happy Horse
Happy Prince. CD
Astral Social Club.
To me he’s the Bimbashi of Beat, the Doyen of Drone, the Titan of Tone, the Prince of Pulse, the Padre of Peal, the Nabob of Bob. He’s Neil Campbell, the Scotsman washed up in West Yorkshire punching out loops of droneness with his longest running project yet. And he’s still here, walking those means Mirfield streets, soaking up the vibes in a terraced palace of imagination and creativity where collaborators drop in for tea and ale armed with loops and synths and oscillators all of them willing and waiting to contribute and feel at one with the Big Bobber.
A while ago I loaded up the ipod with all the self released ASC discs. For drowning out conversation I can recommend them but just be careful you don’t develop too much of an upper body rocking motion otherwise your workmates/fellow bus passengers/shoppers will think that you’ve gone into some kind of catatonic trance and will become alarmed/think you’re mad/think you’re on drugs. So it was good to get back in the saddle with 21 and Happy Horse. Anyone putting their hand into the big bran tub of musical life and pulling these two out will have little cause for complaint.
Happy Horse contains some of the best ASC work to date mainly due to the inclusion of Horse Cortex and Lost Caustic, two lengthier tracks in which Campbell really gets into the meat of the thing. Lost Caustic’s chatter of small bleeps, slowly building rhythmical loops and steady pulsing, throbbing beat slowly evolves into a thing of true beauty - 15 minutes later it plateaus into a meditative head bob that ends with trains crossing the tracks, waves lapping the shore and crow squawks. I was all a quiver your honour. Horse Cortex is a 12 minute trawl of space gun blasts, mutating loops and drones all undercut with a pumping, driving beat. The rest is no filler either, Free Wheels er ... free wheels. Skelp is pulled from a previous single release - all of it is heavenly.
ASC 21 also has a Caustic [as does the previous ASC release Octuplex - maybe there’s some kind of erosion/scouring theme going on here]. I like the pitted surface of Duct, the lollopping fall of Lunar, the empty space of Mongoose, the Swamp Thing of squelch of Caustic, the way sounds enter your hearing range set up shop and mutate before segueing into the next track is never less than wondrous. And lets not forget the collaborators: John Clyde-Evans, Phil Smith, Paul Walsh and Aled Rees all enhancing without diversion or subtraction. ASC is a slowly evolving beast and all those self released ASC discs are worth having and revisiting.
Quite why Campbell isn’t schmoozing with Bjork and Unky Thurst though is a mystery to me - maybe its juts a matter of them getting used to his flat Northern vowels, a form of Jock meets West. Maybe its those shirts?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Little Howlin’ Wolf


Little Howlin’ Wolf - Cool Truth
Solidarty Solidarnosc Records. [sic]
Distributed by Heresee [HS75 CD]

Here’s an oddball release thats been wallowing at the bottom of the review pile for far too long. I kept trying it on but when you’re deep into a TNB/Emeralds kind of jag its jarring blues wail never lasted too long. Bit by bit it eventually grew on me though. A little of research here a few more tracks there and then it hit me.
James Pobiega, under his Little Howlin’ Wolf moniker [he has more] seems to have spent the last forty years traveling the US making his own peculiar version of the Delta Blues - its the kind of music that fans of outsider music go mad for - a primitive blues and tribal thump mix of out there vocal and sax wailings all of which sound as if it was recorded at the end of a long corridor with the instruments up front and Pobiega at the back wailing away in tongues unknown. Via his own label he’s self released about 40 singles and lingered in relative obscurity. In the mid 90’s he disappeared off the radar altogether but then we got New Weird America and the music of old timers like Little Howlin’ Wolf began to make sense. Nautical Almanac took him under their wing, collated all his singles onto CDR and let the internet do the rest.
It’s a bizarre trip. Pobiega plays all the instruments; sax, harmonica, bass, marimbas, drums, flute, electric guitar, all of it in a loose fashion. His sax wails like Arthur Doyle, the marimba appears to be randomly struck, the guitar solos are single note walks up and down e strings. Hunt Song is one minute of Wolf singing along to a single tribal drum - he sounds like Idi Amin not making any sense. Bounty Song is a one minute forty seconds of Hunt Song in a slower form. Wolf sings in a style that renders his words almost indecipherable, on Shuk Schuk Shodi he whistles and claps along like a vagrant Bobby McFerrin. The longer blues excursions are like trips into the interior, bizarre journeys where drums are pounded and voices emerge from the undergrowth in a ‘the natives are getting restless’ manner.
What makes all this an even more out there experience is the fact that all these 12 tracks have been lifted straight from single to master disc with absolutely no tweaking at all. So you get to hear all the run in grooves, the run off grooves, the scratches and jumps. During Bounty Song there’s an audible jump in the recording, Shuk Shuck Shodi ends as if someone has just lifted the needle. Rather than detracting from the experience though this actually enhances it. Even the mis-spelling of Solidarity on the back sleeve seems to fit perfectly.

Friday, November 12, 2010


The Death of the Enlightenment Project - Temple of Wounds
Pumf Records [Brown paper bag series]. PUMF679 CDR.

It took a bloody Yorkshireman to have the guts to pick Cage’s 4.33 for Desert Island Discs and what did the BBC do? Oh we cant play it all says presenter Kirsty Young ‘due to technical difficulties’ i.e. in other words if we have more than two seconds of dead air half the listenership thinks the transmitter’s gone down. But during that glorious brief period of ‘silence’ you could actually hear Ian Macmillan’s stomach gurgling and Young suppressing a giggle because, as any fule kno there is no such thing as silence. God bless Ian Macmillan, the Bard of Barnsley.
The Death of the Enlightenment Project like their natural sounds too - not that this is an homage to Chris Watson - for whilst there are all manner of everyday sounds on here [dogs, babies etc..] they’re all treated samples, all of them layered up and wrapped in an Industrial blanket as supplied by Throbbing Gristle. But lets not stop at Throbbing Gristle for I also detect hints of Illusion of Safety, guitar era Ramleh, Muslimgauze, Paul McCarthy, Andrew Liles, Steve Stapleton, John Duncan, Column One ... its not a bad bunch to be associated with.
Layering sampled sounds to create something afresh is nothing new of course but before you start you have to have the right ingredients and TDOTEP have plenty of the right ingredients. Lets start with the first track ‘Blood and Sand’ and its heavy raspy breathing, after a while there’s an American cop car siren, then a Muezzin call, barking dogs and finally, whiplashed elevator cables - the barking dogs mutate into their own rhythm underpinning it all before you come full circle and are left alone with the heavy breathing. And so it goes. TDOTEP’s only problem is that all those influences are squeezed onto one release so you have a track like ‘Slave Bait’ which sounds like the industrial version of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn with screams replacing the sounds of passing motor cars next to ‘Full of Eyes and Dead Skin’ the second section of which is comparable to Paul McCarthy vocal work in which a deep male vocal is distorted and manipulated to such an extent that it appear like an ethereal cross between a cow in distress and a moron. And then there’s the Ramleh-lite feedback and thump of Dog Pieces, the Muslimgauze near east beats of ‘Lost Child on the M62’, the Illusion of Safety abuse confessionals [a distressed female - ‘I had been urinated on’], the tubular bells, the shortwave fizz, the astronaut voices, the shotgun blasts, crying babies, CD skips - all of it layered and produced to an incredibly high standard but all of it desperately in need of some focus. For just because you have a paintbox full of paints doesn't mean that you have to use them all. Fortunately TDOTEP don’t overdo it too much, not to an extent that it detracts from the overall work but nine tracks with such differing styles is a baffling one [although this may go some way to explaining that this is a recreation of a live event]. There are cliches on here though and I’m not going to let the Charlie Manson sample pass without saying anything and those synth drums hurt.
What The Death of the Enlightenment Project really needs to do is decide which direction to take. This is the second release to come this way and if memory serves it has a lot in the common with the first. You could easily take half a dozen elements from just a couple of tracks here and build them into something really classy.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Viva Negativa! A Tribute To The New Blockaders

Viva Negativa! A Tribute to the New Blockaders Volume I: UK

At War With False Noise. ATWAR064. CD

Viva Negativa! A Tribute to The New Blockaders Volume II Europe

Auf Abwegen. AATP28. 2XCD

Viva Negativa! A Tribute to The New Blockaders Volume III U.S.A.

Important Records. IMPREC262. 2XCD

Viva Negativa! A Tribute to The New Blockaders Volume IV Japan

Uplink Records. ULR023. 2XCD

[Observant visitors will realise that volume one of this collection has already been covered elsewhere on this blog. I include it here so as to give a fuller picture].

What you have to realise is that these releases aren’t just CD replications of the original Vinyl On Demand, two boxes, eight LP’s job that appeared a few years back. With artists from the vinyl version not making it to CD and vice versa that makes these seven CD’s unique releases in their own right. Plus, the artwork is different [each release comes with a booklet crammed with Richard Rupenus’s distinctive collage work] and for those who were lucky enough to grab one of the first 250 VOD boxes [me] there’s the small matter of a seven inch single containing the collaborative work of Rupenus, Meixner and Imustak which you still need to get the box to own.

But where to begin on a set that includes 85 artists? A stripped down artist by artist, blow by blow account would test the patience of all but the most determined so lets just say this; having sat and listened to all these discs numerous times over the last few weeks I feel I can honestly say that there’s just a couple of duff tracks. Not bad considering there’s 85 to go at. This brings me to the conclusion that the cream of the noise world managed to fuck up twice over 85 tracks - not a bad return. For the cream of the noise world does live in these releases, all of them lining up to pay tribute to The New Blockaders who without doubt will always be the most influential noise group of all time.

Styles vary widely across each disc and across the set as a whole so its to each compilers credit that you don’t have to listen to track after track of harsh noise. For whilst some artists do dabble with the face melting blasts of material inspired by the likes of Live at Anti-Fest others take their cue from the more disturbing scrape and bump of Changez Les Blockeurs. From field recordings to voice cut ups, to Orb like ambient burbling to harsh noise and free jazz skronk [the latter three coming courtesy of Controlled Bleeding who I must admit had me baffled for a while - either that or there’s been a balls up at the pressing plant]. So dipping in anywhere gives immediate satisfaction. In fact if I were so inclined I’d put all these discs into a multi CD player and play them at random. For while its neat and tidy to have all these artists compiled into their own country it would be just as rewarding hearing them come at you lottery fashion.

But who stands out? Plenty of people; Runzelstirn and Gurgelstock, Emil Beaulieau, The Haters, Incapacitants, Giancarlo Tonniutti, Dave Phillips, Vom Grill, Grunt, DSM, Alexie Borisov, Zbigniew Karkowski, Aaron Dilloway, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Ideal Fire Company, Bloxus, Plexia, KK Null, Astro, Putrefier, Dieter Müh ... its a pretty long list. Vom Grill’s angst screamed glass smashing seems to encapsulate the TNB ethos entirely, ergo ‘to create you must first destroy’, R&G’s offering contains electronic squeals that are pitched at such a high register that they appear to all but disappear out of hearing range - dogs may be interested here. There’s much to admire.

Of those who sup from the Changez well Nobuo Yamada, Putrefier, Kazumoto Endo, Jerome Noetinger, Macronyhmpa and Keith Fullerton Whitman shine brightly. The pure noise merchants are in abundance too of course but its Emil who deserves a pat on the back for doing what he does best. Thats not to forget the ear pummeling as dished out by the likes of Ramirez, Grunt, Government Alpha, Astro, M.S.B.R. and K2. Voice cut-ups and vocal manipulation arrives with Sudden Infant, Kommissar Hjuler, Mama Baer [both with individual contributions] and the enigmatic Japanese artist Embudagonn 108 who introduces his ‘New Blockaders variations’ before buggering about with his radio cassette recorder [something else he also announces] and then um … singing. Then there’s the analogue merchants, the field recording specialists, the electro-acoustic gang [Christian Renou take a bow], the tape manglers ... its a varied bunch who went and got themselves inspired by The New Blockaders.

The track that stuck out on the VOD issue and appears here too is RLW’s ‘Manifesto [For The Next Generation Of Blockaders]’. An outsider piece of music concrete capturing snippets of children’s conversation, violin scrapes, random strums on an out of tune acoustic guitar and a squeaky dog toy which pans around your head like an annoying fly and then there’s the kids playing recorders ... badly, steam organs deflating and a school orchestra cum band singing a Beatles song in Flemish [possibly]. Oh, and I’ve yet to mention Prurient, Wolf Eye’s, Z’EV, John Wiese, Carlos Giffoni, Thurston Moore, Jim O’Rourke, Asmus Tietchens and God knows how many others artists and bands working in noise.

Viva Negativa! is an impressive achievement and for some will act as a starting point for further investigation but whether you’re new to this game or have been around as long as The New Blockaders have, these are still essential purchases.

[One other thing - insert the American discs into a media player and you’ll find the tracks don’t correspond to the track listing as included in the booklet. Not that I played all this on my PC, I have a stereo that will bring plaster off the walls, I just found it confusing]

Auf Abwagen

Important Records


At War With False Noise

Friday, November 05, 2010

As Loud As Possible

As Loud As Possible - The Noise Culture Magazine

It took it’s time but it was worth the wait. Two years in the making. Much head scratching, much gnashing of teeth, plenty of water under the bridge but here it is in my hands, all 166 pages in glorious black and white and with a spine you could knock nails in with.
The sight of ALAP tucked under the arms of various punters at last weeks Lowest Forms was a heartening one. In the German bar people could be hard saying ‘does it exist then?’ Such had been the continuous delays that it seemed as if ALAP was destined never to appear. But it did.
We have Chris Sienko and Steve Underwood to thank for ALAP. They’re the ones who’ve pumped their time, brains and money into it and they didn’t do it just because it seemed like a jolly wheeze. These guys have a deep, serious interest in and love of noise and have brains so crammed full of noise trivia that it needed to find a permanent home. Between them they contribute the bulk of the articles and reviews. Underwood’s piece on the highly influential Broken Flag label runs for the best part of a fifth of the mag and is the main body of the beast. Besides interviewing label supremo Gary Mundy at great length he also includes interviews with just about all the artists who appeared on the label - an undertaking that has produced fascinating results. As it stands it’s unlikely ever to be surpassed. He then turns his sights on Nigel Jacklin’s late 70’s early 80’s organisation Alien Brains, the mid 80’s fanzine Interchange, the hard to pin down UK experimenter Cheap Machines and long running UK noise project Putrefier. Each one a well thought out and executed piece of journalism. There’s also an illuminating interview with No Fun organiser, artist and label boss Carlos Giffoni which, once read, should be enough to put anyone off organising live events for life.
Chris Sienko’s forte is his ability to talk eloquently and in great depth about noise. His reviews are both well thought out, carefully balanced and entertaining. This is no sycophantic wank mag though and when the need to criticise arises he deals with it in a professional and even handed manner. His editorial, which sets the tone for the mag, shows that noise music has in its grasp an erudite and far reaching thinker and with articles and interviews with obscure outfits like Zone Nord, the progressive PE outfit Climax Denial and the tape label IDES he, like Underwood, finds an outlet for his infatuations.
In and amongst all this there’s input from Mikko Aspa, GX Jupitter-Larsen and John Olson to name but a few. The piece by GX on his early days as a Hater makes for inspirational reading and with articles like Classic Albums and the obligatory reviews section it all builds up into an essential publication. What you have to bear in mind though is that this is just the starting point. The possibility of further forays into the highly productive and influential early 80’s noise scene must also be considered. Japan and America beckon.
I have my caveats though: the article on Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock by Alice Kemp is just a tad too dry for me. I was expecting a half drunk interview with Rudolph as recorded in a scuzzy bar in Shinjuku but what I got instead was comparisons to Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty. The review section too, whilst in depth [maybe too in depth for some], is made just about redundant by the length of time it takes for the mag to come out. This is the only instance where the internet has the upper hand - releases that run to 50 copies tend not hang about too long and Sienko is wise enough to acknowledge this. But this is spilt beer in a German beer house. Where else are you going to go? Sound Projector and Wire are fine in their own right and the recently founded Special Interests fills a hefty gap but for sheer volume of information and enthusiasm ALAP has already made itself the number one purchase for any discerning noise fan. And besides, where else are you going to discover which LP it is that John Olson is willing to swap his wife for?
ALAP exists then because it had to. ALAP exists because over the years noise music has found itself ridiculed, an easy to categorise genre that can be dealt with in a cursory manner by any journo who happens to have heard of Merzbow. What noise needed was a magazine of its own where people have the room to write in depth articles about certain aspects of noise, where its heritage can be sifted through, where its practitioners can be interviewed, in depth, on paper, in your hands, in a thick wedge of a magazine that shows that there are people out there who do take noise seriously. Because noise still has a life, it continues to mutate, it isn’t stuck in a rut. Don’t believe the tripe. Buy the mag.