Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cock E.S.P.

Cock E.S.P. - Historia De La Musica Cock [A Tribute to Experimental Music 1910-2010]

Split release between:
Little Mafia [LM078],
Breathmint [BM330]
SunShip [Sun56].

When coming across a Cock E.S.P. release the thought often occurs to me that they’ve never played the UK. They’ve played a few European dates but for some reason the UK has never experienced their absurd, abrupt, chaotic and some may say even pointless live shows. Continual sole member Emil Hagstrom is a big man who likes to put a comedy chicken head over his own and along with his fellow band members [a varying quota depending on who isn’t injured, in jail or in hiding] destroy whatever equipment they’ve got by hurling it at each other, the walls, the floor and the audience. Writhing about in pools of beer, blood, bar stools and broken glass they produce what can only be described as noise in its purest sense. Noise as a racket, an unstructured, ramshackle blast of spew from which only the fit and the lucky emerge unscathed. Its in the live arena where they really blossom but only very briefly. Most of their shows are done and dusted in under five minutes this being the amount of time it takes them to make all their gear inoperable or lame someone so badly that urgent hospital treatment overrides any quest for noise nirvana. For some they’re still the best noise band around; loud, stupid, fun and never taking themselves too seriously. Their releases [both audio and visual] add much needed dashes of absurdist humour to a genre not entirely known for its ability to raise a smile and their ‘songs’ like their live shows are usually very, very short. The Cock E.S.P./Evil Moisture 5” single contained 381 tracks, this on a format that holds about five minutes of music. Each ‘song’ was but a series of clicks, blasts, grunts and screams [at least thats how I remember it]. I doubt that there’s a Topographic Oceans of noise lurking in Hagstrom’s mind.

Pity the poor bugger then who has the unenviable task of tapping in to Discogs all the details to the 99 tracks that constitute ‘Historia de la Musica Cock’. Billing itself grandly as ‘A Tribute to Experimental Music 1910-2010’ these 99 tracks are a series of short bursts of noise related fragmentation. Its like someone threw a hand grenade down the hole at Hospital Records and captured the sound of the debris as it landed in the street. The longest track is 44 seconds in duration, the shortest about eight seconds, the CD is further broken up into ten separate sections each being given a title [We Are the Duchampions, 4.33 Inches, Anal Fausting, Immature Ejaculation …] but here’s the deal, each track contains Hagstrom working with other people. Most tracks were recorded live between 2009 and 2010 and judging by the amount of people he worked with he’s been a very busy chap. Eighty two collaborators I made it, a disparate bunch including Blowfly, Andy Ortmann, Leslie Keffer, Ceramic Hobs, Rat Bastard, Suffering Bastard [maybe a relation?] and lots and lots of other people I’ve never even heard of including Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck [a band who can surely only dream of seeing their name in lights].

But what of the release itself. 99 tracks in 38 minutes means that the sounds come at you in a relentless switch back of noise related spazz. Track one is of course a full on blast of ear wax dislodgement there to let you know that Hagstrom really can do full on noise bit [this time with fellow Cock Matt Bacon] from there on in its like having eighty odd artists all demand your attention in a short space of time. At the time of typing track 60 is playing; ‘Betley Welcomes a Very Good Stinky Arse Fuck’ a Joincey Bastard [?] related tune which not only tips a hat to Phil Todd but Smell & Quim at the same time. Track 62 is Froggy Mountain Breakdown a 47 second Costes madrigal with distorted guitar solo and rapid string pluck. Its exhausting trying to cross reference each track so its best just to let them run over you and in this respect it manages to stand on its own 99 legs. Track 83 is 33 seconds of shamans lament, 84 is 24 seconds of some seriously high end sax squealing, track 85 comes in two parts, one part Astral Social Club shimmer the other some thrash. Track 36 is titled ‘Medley’ and manages to incorporate 14 blasts of noise within its 25 second time frame. Its around this time I began to appreciate the sheer amount of work that must have gone into this release, each track has a name, each track can be cross referenced so you can see who was working with Hagstrom, the cover art is great, the packaging shiny and fetching, you could even frame em. I kind of um … loved it in a daft sod way. Its not everyday you get 99 track noise CD’s through the post. And did Hagstrom call it a draw at 99 track because 99 was the maximum number of tracks a CD player could handle? I’d be interested to know. 

Perhaps then, the ultimate noise album to give to your ADHD affected cousin? Lots of cocks, lots of fnarr fnarr track titles and if you look really, really closely theres even a knob on the back cover. Where would we be without knobs in noise.

Contact: www.cockesp.com

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Various Artists - Second One
Hyster. Hyster09.
C60 Cassette.
100 copies. €2

I must admit to having rather a soft spot for Hyster. A tape only label for whom the word prolific has no meaning. Eleven releases in ten years. All of them on recycled cassettes and all of them damned cheap. Some people may assume Hyster to be a lazy bastard mustering the energy but once a year to spit out whatever it is lurking in the cassette deck whilst others may think ‘oh how quaint’. I fall into the latter category. Even the website is bog standard, a one page homage to basic HTML with no picshas or nuffink. One of their first releases was a live Dieter Müh affair which was damned near one of the bands best outings - I quite like the perversity in finding what could be a bands best work lying in obscurity on a recycled cassette. Besides Dieter Müh and the mighty Culver much of what appears on Hyster is a mystery to me - all of it [or at least all of what I’ve heard] seems to carry with it an air of loss and solitude, an atmosphere aided an abetted of course by the decaying nature of recycled cassettes they appear on. The last Hyster tape I reviewed was the 2009 Re-Clip affair, a slightly messy release it must be said with analogue beats escaping like loose GMT time signals, all of it dubbed onto a particularly dodgy tape - it comes with the territory I suppose.
The prosaically titled ‘Second One’ though is a real winner, a far more upbeat affair for the most part with some fine head bobbing moments and a classic track from the ever groovy Crank Sturgeon. Five tracks on one side and a side long outing on the other. Aiko kick things off with some sample madness and what sounds like photocopier noises layered on to amp buzz and a gently strummed acoustic guitar refrain. Cleavage pump out eight minutes of murky heavy duty arms out straight, jab em into the keys Emeralds like synth throb. Crank Sturgeon provides some garbled Schimpfluch lunacy in which un-synced hand claps and Dada verbals mix with someone trying to talk whilst drinking and having a piss at the same time. Re-Clip meanwhile appear to have morphed into some kind of Mego tinged slow analogue beat machine. Not bad in a swaying, meditative Midwich kind of way. Which on side one leaves Hiss Nausea and almost four minutes worth of distorted to buggery gabba beats.
This comp would have been just about perfect had it not been for the last ten minutes of the Varropas track ‘Moln pa Drift 1978’. A gorgeously fragile side of crumbling drone in which a small and recurring wobbly hit string motif is pulled through a landscape of wheezing machines and outer space burbles. Even the deterioration in tape quality at the onset adds to the all round ambience, as it continues upon its wavering path it grows in volume until the tape runs out.  If it had carried on with its miserable start to the very end I’d have been happier but you can’t have everything can you?


plaa [a] pcuf.fi

Sunday, May 15, 2011

You Are Playin' Like A Fuckin' Pub Band

Smell & Quim / Family Battle Snake
You Are Playing Like A Fuckin’ Pub Band.
Split Tape
The 7.17 From West Wittering Is Late Again.
30 Copies.

On a recent sojourn up the North East coast I found myself in Newcastle. Its one of those places that feels to me like it didn’t really like having its face scrubbed. There’s still plenty of guano covering the supports on the Tyne Bridge but all those tapas bars and bits of fancy new architecture look like they’ve been stuck there deliberately in a bid to make the place feel a bit more European, a bit more cosmopolitan, a bit more Biarritz than brown ale. There’s still a few decent pubs left [and no visit to Newcastle is complete with a jar or several in the Crown Posada] but I always leave feeling like I’m glad I don’t have to live there. Not that where I live now is anything special of course. The recent spate of stabbings [including the death of a local drug dealer] does give Cleck a certain piquancy I’ll admit, but I’m still quite happy here thank you very much.
I mention the North East as on my way back I passed through Middlesborough. A place made out of six inch piping, pumps and gantries. Its another place I wouldn’t choose to live but Michael Gillham seems to find himself there. After listening to the Smell & Quim track on You Are Playing Like A Fuckin’ Pub Band, I can only conclude that theres not much else to do there except smash things up. I’ve seen Gillham ply his wares with Smell & Quim and with his own band Snotnosed and Its an impressive sight; a tall scary bloke with a shaved head and piercing eyes wrecking pubs and venues with hammers and whatever else comes to hand. ‘More Tea Vicar?’ is a twin assault with Srdenovic laying on the industrial sludge beats and Gillham destroying all things metal and domestic. The end result sounds like a free for all with a sledgehammer in a pan lid factory. Every assured blow seems to be synced with a madman's screams while a whistling, screeching tornado of torment prevails throughout until the whole thing eventually sinks under its own weight. Impressive stuff.
There’s six of these split tapes in all with the other five featuring artists working in similar areas. Released to coincide with Record Shop Day 2011 they’re part of a wider scheme to get people to ditch their clicking on things mp3/buy it in Tesco’s habits and get them back in to record shops. I’m all for this of course but being an idle sod I rarely venture into vinyl emporiums, not that I’m tripping up over them in West Yorkshire. They were made available for one day only and you had to physically go in to the shop yourself to buy them but I got my copy sneaked out the back door. Judging by the small amounts that have found their way online I can only assume that it must have been a bit of a slack day on visit your local record shop day. But I digress.
On the flip we find Family Battle Snake in contemplative drone form. Battling Bill has produced some fine work of late. Most of what I’ve heard has been made using analogue technology; synths, reel to reel etc but what this has been made with I can barely make out. A one finger held down key drone folds out into some exploratory night sky soundtracking. Radar bleeps, shortwave blips and an oscillating waveform build up to a small tumescence of noise at the climax of which some kind of electronic violin like squawk rears its head. Both these tracks run to about ten to fifteen minutes though I didn’t time em boss. Tapes y’see. A cracking format and nice to see the The 7.17 From West Wittering surface again.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Agdam / Various Artists
Agdam Records. CD

Contact: [chortle, smirk, titter]
Agdam Records
PO Box 254

It seems appropriate that a selection of obscure recordings charting the ‘English Underground Circa 1990 And Slightly Before’ should appear on an Azerbaijani label. Try Googling the Azeri city Agdam though and you’re greeted with images of a desolate place - its not exactly somewhere you’d want to go to on your jollies. Maybe they could twin it with Mirfield and send Neil Campbell out on a diplomatic mission to create greater understanding between differing cultures. You give us some Azeri oud players going at it hammer and tongs for an hour and we’ll give you Neil Campbell, two cymbals and a bottle of whiskey. Just a thought. Or maybe this is all some elaborate joke? Has anybody been foolhardy enough to send anything to Agdam? I bet they haven’t got anything back. Research reveals that Agdam is actually a ghost town its inhabitants having fled the Armenian army, looters doing the rest. Oh ... and Agdam is Turkish for ‘white house’. Draw your own conclusions. I sense much mischief but I’m happy to be proven wrong.

The archives of ‘The English Underground Circa 1990 And Slightly Before’ [as we now have to legally call it] are ever so slowly beginning to see the light of day and not before time. They’ve been appearing in fits and starts but of late seem to be gathering pace. Agdam appears only weeks after the Walden brothers Strolling Ones lunacy hit these ears and with the press release mentioning several unreleased LP’s out there it would be logical to assume that plenty more of these kind of documents stand stage left awaiting their big day.
But its to the A Band that we are drawn. They appear to be emerging from their ever so slightly eccentric shell and why not. Its taken them a while but the clamor to hear more of their freewheeling, spontaneous music seems genuinely warm. They actually get invited to things these days. Maybe they really were ahead of their time? The A Band embrace non-conformity, improvisation and fun by having an ever changing line up and creating a different name for each performance. The A Band are the A Band but only in name and never on paper. Each live performance has to begin with the letter ‘A’ too and that's what the band’s called on the day. Too damned clever for me.

There’s dozens of A Band members scattered about the UK most of them crawling from the wreckage of the 80’s. Some of them, I dare say, supped from a fountain that spurted industrial culture, Krautrock, mad jazz, Fluxus, Japanese noise, Folk music and English comedy. Its no surprise to anyone at all that the results are akin to an explosion in a saucepan lid factory, a wild and uncontrollable ride through improv land unclassifiable to all but the likes of Dave Keenan and earnest scribes alike [as an aside this release won the coveted Dave Keenan’s Volcanic Tongue ‘Tip of the Tongue’ award. I’m a fan of alliteration though and wish Keenan would make use of the ‘K’ in his surname and give his reviews ‘K’ ratings like they do in Kerrang, which would make this a Keenan Klassik KKKKK].
Agdam begins in 1986 and ends in 2007 with a reformed [after 15 years hiatus] A Band performance and some of it is very good and some it is utter nonsense and a bit of it drove me to the drinks cabinet. But its the utter nonsense and its ability to annoy that I actually came to find the most appealing. The ability to annoy is all part of the madness of course. ‘Well Crucial’s track recorded in 1986 is a rolling snatch of two second 80’s synth pop sample intermingled with gormless DJ chatter and words spoken by Martin Walden. Its so annoying I actually began to like it for its ability to annoy. The other Walden, Stewart, begins proceedings with ‘Mmmmmorning’ a 1990 piece of Dada Casio plod in which Walden bemoans the fact that he cant stay in bed all day, all delivered in a convincing, yawning gremlin fashion. ‘Walden/Campbell/Plaistow’ don various hippy gear to run through an acoustic guitar tinged Ash Ra Tempel fling called Moron [‘its easy to have fun when you’re a moron’] with all three of them taking at once [about each other I think] over a gentle six string melody whilst a moan wanders around in the background, this in 1990. ‘Sepopeplel’ is Stewart Greenwood and Minty Cracknell captured at the 13th Note in Glasgow 1998 -  five minutes of accordion wheezes and tunnel noise. Gay Animal Women dish out 23 minutes [oh naturlich] of PTV inspired cod reggae as recorded live in Nottingham in 1989. Cut from a longer hour long show its a genuflecting reverbed to hell pean to all things Genesis P Orridge and not something I found myself warming to despite numerous attempts. Filling in but two meagre minutes of space comes Neil Campbell with a snatch of live celestial shimmer drone from 2004, a period when his involvement with Vibracathedral Orchestra was coming to an end and his solo work with Astral Social Club was just beginning. All too brief.

The whole disc sits on its best track. A 30 odd minute A Band romp going under the title of Afterclap as captured live in Warrington in 2007. Twelve individuals took part including a certain 14 year old Megan Fletcher-Cutts who played in the last previous A Band performance as a six month old baby.  Joincey also took part, a man whose own meanderings not only sound very similar to what Stewart Walden was doing in 1990 but who should be included on merit alone seeing as how he’s an equally peripatetic form who  has several solo modes coupled to several band projects constantly on the go. A Band stalwarts Sticky Foster, Neil Campbell and Stewart Keith [nee Stewart Walden] join forces with Dylan Bates, Dave Higginson and Jon Larder amongst others for a rawk-fest that begins with the introduction of band members and ends with a twanging jaws harp. In between it somehow manages to sound like a dodgy metal band with a trumpet player instead of a singer deliberately doing it all wrong before collapsing in on itself in utter chaos and hilarity. I can hear swannee whistles [or electronic equivalents thereof], parps and squeaks, crap guitar solos, unidentified horns, vocal noise, strange strings being plucked, scraping. The first half is pinned to a barreling heavy footed thud stomp before it disintegrates into true ‘we don’t know what we’re doing but we’re enjoying it’ A Band style um ..mess.

Afterclap is a rollicking beast of musical insanity and for sheer freedom of musical expression its up there with the best. I loved it. More archive digging please.