Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lea Cummings

Revelations From The New Silence - Volume III - The New Astrology
Kovorox Sound. Kovo-062. CDR

Revelations From The New Silence - Volume IV - Human Potential Movement
Kovorox Sound. Kovo-063. CDR

There seems to be a big push from the electronics giants to get us to buy all manner of new fangled TV technology. It would appear that if by now you haven’t got a 60” plasma 3D HD Sky Box TV Plus wall mounted monster of plastic and glass then you are indeed living in the dark ages. Black and white tellies? 12” portables with bent wire coat hangers for ariels? Not quite but here at IFHQ we still make do with a hand-me-down CRT that comes complete with a busted vertical hold - all is well until you watch a rugby match and then the posts look like bananas. You get used to it though. It may be big, it may be bulky but when we sit down on a night to watch Breaking Bad it still all makes sense. Which had me wondering if these advances in visual technology are worth bothering with? Eraserhead is a classic film that no amount of TV wizardry could improve and I’m not hearing a big clamor for Laurel and Hardy to get the 3DHD treatment.

I would personally prefer advances in listening technology but there doesn’t seem to be a market for it. Most people seem to be quite happy listening to their music through anything they can get their hands on, a pair of tiny plastic ear plugs, the speaker on their mobile phones and for those modern sophisticates the the ipod docking station, a sterile piece of audio equipment that has pushed the barriers of sound quality about as far as the Mongolians have modern dance.

I’m no hi-fi buff but I know a decent sound when I hear one. I still use the main bits of a hi-fi system I bought nigh on thirty years ago. Its ugly and bulky but it still kills mp3 players dead in their tracks. When I crank it up all the tiles on the roof rattle and neighbours three doors down have to turn up their TV’s to compensate. Its the reason why I like to listen to most, if not all my review material on it at least once just to get that full effect.

Which brings me to Lea Cummings latest round of drone works which for some inexplicable reason sound better on a pair of PC speakers than that 30 year old hi-fi. I generally familiarise myself with review material on the PC before transferring it on to what Gary Simmons liked to call his ‘big one’, but for some strange reason the transition was a poor one. I’m fairly certain that when I listened to the first two volumes of this series my ears were in rapture but through which mode of digital transport I’m at a loss to remember. Either way, digitized through PC speakers equals good. Hi-fi bad. Shows what I know.

With 11 tracks spanning these two releases Lea Cummings takes a further break from his Kylie Minoise noise shenanigans to hold down synth chords in varying patterns thus building up drone works that wouldn’t seem out of place on Polish film soundtracks. Its all very filmic indeed and having just scoured my notes for the first two volumes I can’t help but concur with myself. Elixir Vitae sounds like a monged out Charlamange Palastine let loose on the organ at Cologne Cathedral, others rumble along like Arctic tumbleweed all cold and desolate. Shining Dream of Possible Reflection is the mirror image of a William Basinski shortwave piece - the  resemblance is uncanny. But its the filmic quality that lingers. My only small gripe is that I feel drone needs more space to work in and with these eleven tracks coming in at under ten minutes a piece they’re just getting going when the their times up. JLIAT created drone work similar to these and wasn’t afraid to let them run to over an hour in some instances. Maybe Mr. Cummings needs to spread his wings somewhat.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

You Are Playing Like A Fuckin' Pub Band part II

You Are Playing Like A Fuckin’ Pub Band [2]
The 7.17 From West Wittering Is Late Again
Cassette. 30 copies each.


Dylan Nyoukis/Ryan Jewell

Onomatopoeia/Sudden Infant

Dieter Müh/Balinese Beast

Cheapmachines/Concrete Violin

BBBlood/Emil Beaulieau

To buy or not to buy? That is the question. Whether it be nobler to make holes in ones bank account on the off chance that what you’re buying will be listened to more than once or take solace in the fact that it might be worth a few bob on eBay in ten years time. I have to admit that I haven’t been spending much moolah on recorded medium of late. In fact I don’t think I’ve bought anything from my preferred retail outlets this year and to them I give my condolences. I don’t even download stuff anymore. I just don’t have the time to soak it up. It’s one of the reasons I jacked in the printed zine game. Lots of people want to see their name in print and will happily bung you their latest wares for review but after a while you end up floating in a sea of procrastination, anxiety and self doubt. That ever growing pile of review material becomes a monkey on your back. You end up not listening to things and when you do, not listening to them properly. One spin and a few words and its off to the next. After a few years of this you wonder where the joy went in actually receiving review material. That big fat package from America is now a lead brick that means you don’t get to go out of the house on Saturday [your only free day] and instead of soaking up some summer sunshine you find yourself in a small dark room trying to think up interesting things to say about the umpteenth noise release to cross your path this month. Since the demise of the paper wing of this venture review material has trickled to a crawl and for that I am  honestly grateful. It now means I can concentrate more on what I do get. The fact that I don’t buy that much material anymore means I can go back to what I used to buy and this time really listen to it. Because when you start treating music as background or as something to fill a space I feel it loses its potency. It becomes just another commodity. And I like to take my music seriously. This is an ongoing rant by the way, you’ll find different versions of the same whinge in previous posts.

If I’d have bought these upon release they would have cost me a tidy sum and I did consider coughing up the necessary nuggets but that anti-spendthrift jag digs deep so I decided to let these pass. After a previous post in which I commented that it was quite possible that an artists greatest work could lie in obscurity on a ridiculously limited release I did wonder if any of this lot had submitted a hidden magnum opus just for the sheer perversity of it. I think Onomatopoeia did.

For those that missed the boat there were six of these cassettes, all released for one day as part of a movement to get people back in to record shops. You could only get them in the shop on the day but by the miracle of reviewland the rest of the set arrived marked as ‘black copies - private collection’. I couldn’t have been happier. After careful perusal I don’t think that there’s a hidden classic but it did shine some light on to that enigmatic English project Onomatopoeia who after years in the wilderness has emerged with something quite startling. The rest veer from ‘I want to hear that again pretty soon’; to ‘I never want to hear that again’. One side has a UK based artist the other from shores afar. I’ve reviewed the Smell & Quim/Family Battle Snake so heres the rest:

Dylan Nyoukis/Ryan Jewell:

Nyoukis has been fraternizing with vocal deformity for a while now. I’ve seen him share stage with the likes of vocal juggler Phil Mintion and its a joy to behold. His shrine to Jaap Blonk fills an entire room. Here he sounds like someone with Down Syndrome straining to pass a hard turd. Its pretty funny. I hope the facial gurns matched what I heard. This is a positive review by the way.

Ryan Jewell attempts something similar to what Nurse With Wound did with ‘Rockett Morton’ in that a phrase of dialogue loops back on itself becoming slightly phased along the way. Oh hum.

Onomatopoeia/Sudden Infant:

Has Onomatopoeia been hankering for an IRCAM place? Has he been brushing up on his 50’s Stockhausen? We last found Ono Man resurfaced on another West Wittering release, a vinyl stretch of an old cassette where odd instruments became something else entirely. Ono Man is now all sonic swoops, analogue burbles, dreamy star dreaming, all Daphne Oram, all Astro, all spacey lost in space, floating in space, watch this space. We need to hear more of this new Onomatopoeia as it all sounds very promising.

Sudden Infant go all Jacopetti soundtrack on us but its still unmistakably a Sudden Infant track. A weird knocking of drums that could be a mock African tribal beat with car horn, scratchy records and a nice lady loosely tied to a tree in a leopard skin bikini going ooh ahh oh no you brute etc… mock live applause for and aft.

Dieter Müh/Balinese Beast

No mistaking the Mighty Müh. Ominous Industrial loop churns, unsettling atmospheres, malevolence hanging in a thick oppressive atmosphere. Even the audio limits imposed on cassette dubs cant hide the fact that the production levels here are of a distinctly high quality. Another one to add to the stupidly hard to get hold of DM catalogue.

Balinese Beast are new to me. A Greek. No doubt a friend at arms with Family Battle Snake Bill Kouligas. What’s it sound like?  Sounds like Jap noise screams, box abuse, jack socket destruction, silence, Evil Moisture, sonar beeps, gabba vocals, feedback, synth farts …

Cheapmachines/Concrete Violin

Cheapmachines by name cheap machines by nature. Phillip Julians project garners much praise and deservedly so. Here he comes over all TNB junk scrape but the Industrial whirr is never far away. A series of short excursions [on a series of tapes that aren’t very long to begin with] that showcase Mr. Julian’s penchant for experimental noise of a machine based nature.

Not heard much by Concrete Violin before. In fact this could be a first for me which seems odd since this American solo project has been around since 1999. Cue French dialogue and then lots of straight on noise coupled rather oddly to bird song, aircraft taking off and voices. I can’t say it set my heart a-skip but it was alright in a kind of luddite noise fashion.

BBBlood/Emil Beaulieau

I’m pretty sure BBBlood used to be Baron Bum Blood which links well with Emil Beaulieau’s alter ego Ron Lessard and his RRRecord label/shop/empire. Though what the two R’s in RRRecord stand for I don’t now … maybe Right Royal? Ripped Rectum? Regal Reginald? Robotic Ruminant? Real Round? Maybe Ron had a stammer? Both do noise of course. BBBlood chugging along quite nicely thank you with some found sounds and junk scrape coupled to a droney thing. Emil Beaulieau does cardigan noise. Would we have it any other way?

Like I said some of these tapes are on the short side, maybe C15’s or even C10’s. A gathering of their work on CD release wouldn’t go amiss somewhere down the line either.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Merzbow - Kamadhenu

Merzbow - Kamadhenu
Hypnogogia CD. GO01.
350 Copies.

To Dusseldorf to sup ale and meander along the Rhine footpath smoking cigars all the while wondering how vegetarians manage to feed themselves in a country where meat comes on every plate. I wonder where Masami eats when he tours here? What does the biggest veggie name in noise eat when he’s in sausage land? Does he bring his own pack up? And which are his better years? The analogue or the digital? I dare say that digital era Merzbow has its fans but those analogue releases seem to have more going for them. There’s more happening, more intent, more balls, more shock, more variety, more pain, even the covers were better. Now all we get are pictures of animals and noise made using Merzware. I imagine a Masami built software program that lets you create a noise work in real time - no editing, no mixing, no need to listen to it again - there’ll even be a track name generator. All of it designed to increase the productivity and decrease the involvement.

I can remember when I really used to like Merzbow. Some of his early works are amongst my favourite listens  - Batztoutai With Material Gadgets, the split 7” with Lasse Marhaug. Green Wheels is a classic even if the CD half of my release is buggered due to a fault a the pressing plant meaning it hits a recurring loop about twenty minutes in … actually, maybe thats an improvement. I even get a kick out of listening to the split with Ladybird - Japanese karaoke squawk in one channel and Merzbow squiggling away in the other. Where did all the fun go Masami? When I got to see Merzbow play for the first time he was already into the laptop as musical instrument and with the introduction of the laptop the beginning of the end of my interest in his work. At the 2007 No Fun Masami picked up a junk guitar and thrashed along with his laptops but for me it was too little too late. The laptops, the incessant release program, the way that labels line up to put out every last second of his Merzfarting leaves me feeling totally ambivalent towards Masami and his Merzbow outings. And whilst I’m here whats all this Merzbient ambient thing going on? Yours through for just £102.49p.

When I was in paper mode Blossoming Noise used to send me Merzbow box sets to review and I gave them a fair crack of the whip. Whilst listening to them I tried to pick out the samples of chicken noises and found myself being drawn in and enjoying his work once more. The sounds were distinct, identifiable, most tracks coming with that great Merzbow underchug of throb with all manner of swirl and chaos laid on top. But I didn’t find myself going back to them. I eventually got tired of seeing them doing nothing and flogged the lot on eBay [I don’t do much eBaying but I reckon I’ve sold more Merzbow product on there than any other artist - there seems to be no lack of people willing to buy it either].

Kamadhenu is my first chance to catch up on Merzbow since those Blossoming Noise days and I can’t say I’m all that enthused. My first mistake was to play this through the PC. For Merzbow you need plenty of wallop [which makes the Merzbow iTunes page even more laughable] so to the stereo and volume please maestro. And after several spins only mild interest was detected. For this is noise by rote and only briefly engaging. In fact you’d be hard pushed to call it noise, for the most part it sounds like a 70’s sci-fi movie in which the the main computer room goes tits up, imagine lots of tape spools going jerkily backwards and forwards until smoke comes out of them. Hey ho.

I sincerely hope that there are ‘interesting’ Merzbow records out there but I have neither pockets deep enough nor time enough to discover them for myself.