Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ashtray Navigations / Ocelocelot

Ashtray Navigations - Ink Clouds And Axe Revealer
Memoirs Of An Aesthete. CDR. 100 Copies
Ocelocelot - The Umbragechord
Total Vermin. Cassette
Observant Wire readers may have noticed a ‘letter’ from my goodself gracing the pages of their latest end of year round up edition. Said missive was not submitted by me via email as stated but was actually copy and pasted from this very blog after a third party brought the article in question [from whence the ‘letter’ was lifted] to the attention of Wire editor Chris Bhon. At first I was flattered, this soon turned to annoyance and then finally acceptance. At least I’ve had a ‘letter’ published in Wire magazine ran one thought and then, but why didn’t they get in touch and ask me if they could use my work? I suppose that anything published on a blog will be seen as being in the public domain and therefore open to use and abuse but still, a comment left in the appropriate place would have a earned a reply. Life goes on.
I felt duty bound to buy myself a copy of said rag and seeing as how I was due a trip to Leeds to seek out Oliver Sweeney sale items I thought I might as well kill two birds with one stone. So there I was sat in Romagna’s cafe with my bowl of pasta and glass of red flicking through the latest Wire when I all but involuntary sprayed a huge gob full of everything onto the couple at the next table. I’d arrived at the regular Global Ear column and guess which city it was covering? Yes, Leeds of course and here I am in Leeds which is just about my home town and the place where I’ve been to more gigs than anywhere else and where I like to think I know [or knew] some of the people involved in the experimental music scene and as I’m reading Bruce Davies column all I’m waiting for is the mention of Todd and Delaney and Ashtray Navigations and The Termite Club and and and nope, no, not a word. Not a fucking sausage. Todd and Delaney are like Leeds Experimental royalty and even if the Termite Club has been tucked up in bed for a while its not as if its ceased to exist completely. But no mention of any of them? Oh dear. Davies does mention those other giants of the Leeds arts scene, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth [perhaps without realising that Moore was born in Castleford and Hepworth in Wakefield both about 15 miles away] before coughing up those other predictables, The Kaiser Chiefs and the Sisters of Mercy [the former a band that ditched grunge with the emergence of Brit Pop and the latter featuring a lead singer who changed his surname to Eldritch in the hope that it would make him appear more interesting] but no Wedding Present? No Mekons? No Three Johns? Certainly no Ashtray Navigations or Ocelocleot or even a hint towards the Termite Club. Life goes on. Again.
By the intervention of some unseen force I arrived home that day to find a package from Todd and Delaney awaiting me. I gave Ink Clouds And Axe Revealer about six straight spins and then got stuck into the Ocelocelot tape. Ash Navs is Phil and Mel playing together and Ocelocleot is Mel flying solo. During Ink Clouds I was transported back to the mid 70’s and kept uttering names like Froese and Fripp and maybe even Tomita to myself. Somehow they’ve managed to squeeze in Chris Carter along the way too. The psychedelic drone is still in full effect of course with Todd’s guitar soaring away like a high voltage out of control lava lamp but for now it comes wrapped in a 70’s prog keyboard homage. At least on the second track ‘Secretaries of the Future’ it does, which is pure mid 70’s solo Froese and somehow feeds in to the current craze for all things Emeralds keyboard prog. Theres even a hint of some breathy Florian Schneider flute sounds. ‘Horn Progress Affectation’ even goes and outdoes Emeralds stringer McGuire in the melody stakes - its a dual guitar duel with high end electric guitar dabs producing notes of short star like blink quality over a bed of keyboard note melody - theres a bit of Pussyfooting Fripp in there too. Erased by Ornithology, Incorporation Pop and Faxing sit in more familiar Ash Navs territory whilst last track Sponge isn’t a million miles away from Throbbing Gristles AB/7A. A bit like AB/7A meets Walter Wanderely in fact.
These six tracks and thirty minutes worth are what keep bringing me back to Ashtray Navigations. Not a bad track, not a bad second of work, endlessly listenable, totally rewarding. An impressive achievement. I’m a fan. I’ll always be a fan. No doubt some label is queueing up the vinyl reissue already. Bring it on.
This more melodic approach appears to have rubbed off on the other half of Ashtray Navigations. Delaney’s work under the Ocelocelot moniker has often seen her deliver drones of a more abrasive nature, NoiseDrone for want of a better term, but here, using a Keytar and an Evolver, she gives us her most melodic work to date.
The metronomic burble is long enough to get your head round and would no doubt induce mild bobbing should circumstance prove conducive whilst the other is a split level slow moving drone with a sub strata of deep hertz om over helicopter blade chop - a track which reminded me in great amounts of that sublime Sand track erm ... Helicopter. Mr Froese would no doubt approve very much jah.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Bacillus - Anthracis
Cipher Productions. Business card CDR. 100 copies.
I’ve never been that much of fan of CDR business cards to be honest. They’re small, faffy and you can’t play them in slot CD players. They store very little sound and unlike a seven inch single will never become a true fetish object. Having said that this release is well put together which no doubt ticks lots of boxes in the noise world but its whats on the inside that counts too of course. I assumed that the contents weren’t of a biohazard nature so ventured in to find out. There’s a laminate text on bacillus thats been cut and pasted from the internet and a smaller, similar piece carrying various info along with all the track titles; ‘Inhalation of Weapon Grade Spores in De-Staticized Aerosol Agent’, ‘Exotoxin Production Resulting in Hemorrhage and Edema’, ‘Encapsulated For Environmental Resistance’ and ‘High Level of Antiphagocytic Virulence Factor’. And then I played it. I would have forgiven some of the above if the five minutes worth of noise contained therein had made my gonads explode but they didn’t. What I got was four short tracks of badly put together splutter and rumble that sounded like someone messing about with the pause/play buttons on an old Ramirez cassette. My head hit the table and tears of sadness rolled onto my keyboard. My limbs became limp and I felt the will to live drain from my body. Only the thought of a bottle of untouched Japanese whiskey downstairs brought me back to life.
Investigation of the Bacillus web site is obligatory too, its all part of the concept. Dispensing with regular tabs like discography, press, history etc... there’s Disease Profile, Emerging Cases, Documented Cases and so on. Obviously there’s lots of jpegs featuring rotting limbs, petri dishes and people wearing hygiene masks and for the really adventurous links to outfits like the World Health Organisation and the Foundation for Infectious Diseases amongst others. What really killed it for me was the fact that its all written in the third person.
Conceptual releases work when all the elements work together - the recent offerings from Auris Apothecary show just how much effort you have to put into your conceptual releases for them to work - this release is only a third of the way there.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Onomatopoeia - irrelevant
The 7.17 From West Wittering Is Late Again
LP. 300 Copies.
Quite why Steve Fricker’s solo project should be such an infrequent visitor to the shores of UK musical experimentation is a mystery that only the man himself can explain. You’d have to find him first though for Fricker is a man of mystery whose sightings are few and far between. The last time I saw him must have been about five years ago, he’d adopted the guise of a second hand car dealer, all slicked back long hair, Bermuda shirt and leather car coat. This was after the man with a van days where he could be found crossing the capital in his antique Mitsubishi side loader doing dodgy deals with the capitals diaspora. I first came across him in the early 90’s when he used to run Cheeses International, a pre-internet mail order outlet and label. He was the kind of person who’d lug two heavy bags of records halfway across the country on the odd chance of shifting an Asmus Tietchens triple LP to a drunken punter at a New Blockaders gig. I still miss him as do many others.
His releases under the Onomatopoeia moniker are few and far between and could easily be counted on the hand of a Todmorden teenager - and this after 20 years of experimentation. The last Onomatopoeia release was ‘A Marble Holder From Andover’ and that was seven years back - its one track ran to just twenty minutes. Onomatopoeia’s first album appeared in 1990 [I was lucky enough to find a copy in Huddersfield’s second hand market for a fiver one saturday morning - a serendipitous event that still has the ability to lift me from my cups]. Then there’s the collaboration with Smell & Quim, the vocal only experimentations on Auditory Hallucinations, a cassette that appeared on G.R.O.S.S. and ‘Interesting Train Journeys Of The West Midlands & Non-Palindromic Place Names’ - apart from the odd compilation contribution that’s it. Except for ‘irrelevant’.
It was at the recent Lowest Forms of Music festival that I spied a flyer for ‘Irrelevant’. Picking it up and squinting at its print in disbelief I think I heard myself say out loud, ‘Bugger me is Fricker still alive?’ all this while waving the flyer about as if it was evidence of life after death. I pocketed the flyer promising myself to buy a copy later.
What I’ve always like about Onomatopoeia is the surreal British humour and self deprecation; A Marble Holder From Andover has a picture of a marble holder from Andover on the cover, on ‘irrelevant’ all the track titles are alliterative and begin with the letter ‘C’ and ‘B’; Cellophane Cucumber Clamjamphire, Corduroy Croquette Clap-Clinic Cull, Blennorrhoea, Chafed Cervix Coleslaw Cum Chutney Cesspit, Bland Basingstoke, the label it appears on is called ‘The 7.17 From West Wittering Is Late Again’, then there’s the small ‘i’ of ‘irrelevant’ a stab at self deprecation perhaps? A Marble Holder Holder From Andover was dedicated to his van, each copy of Irrelevant has a different world flag glued to its cover and on it goes.
Irrelevant started life in 1997 as a cassette that ran to 70 copies. The 7.17 From West Wittering Is Late Again have reissued it on vinyl and in doing so have done us a great service. Utilising a single instrument for each track Onomatopoeia create sounds that range from the almost Industrial to pure experimentation. On Corduroy Croquette Clap-Clinic Cull a single cymbal is hit repeatedly, little rhythms building and dying away. Blennorrhoea [utilising one Piccolo] creates a ghostly ambience, Cellophane Cucumber Clamjamphire [utilising one hunting horn] is equally funereal. You get the picture. Horns cymbals, piccolos, a bass guitar and a zambomba [an African drum] all taken in some way to create sounds that become removed from the original instrument. There must be some treatments or multi tracking going on tho I’m no expert, with maybe the cymbal track coming though as the purest [and harshest] of the lot and Bland Basingstoke [utilising the zambomba] being mangled in such a way as to sound like a looped Con-Dom fill. My only slight criticism of the whole enterprise are the latter parts of the almost side long Chafed Cervix Coleslaw Cum Chutney Cesspit [utilising bass guitar] in the latter parts of which the bass guitar becomes too obviously apparent. In a track that begins with some fine two phase oscillating fizz it peters out into random bass farts that end up sounding like a poor mans Sonic Youth solo. But let us not depart Onomatopoeia waters on such a low note because for us Onomatopoeia fans any appearance is to be warmly welcomed. I for one hope that some equally benevolent soul takes up the task of reissuing those other obscure Onomatopoeia releases but for now I’m more than happy with this.
contact: 7.17[AT]