Monday, August 22, 2011

The Digitariat

The Digitariat - Breaking Glass
CDR. No label
50 copies.

I have to admit to a slight penchant for vinyl abuse. Those Youtube clips of Christian Marclay throwing vinyl hither and thither whilst keeping five turntables going never fails to amuse.  AMK, Dennis Duck, even TNB material showing smashed records adorned with rusty screws lifts me from my cups. There’s something in the act of destroying a record to make another record which I find immensely appealing.

One person I thought would never turn to vinyl abuse is Paul D Knowles. His Digitariat outfit is more generally known for noise of the electronic variety and its here I have to declare an interest. For me and Knowles have a history of sorts. I saw his first ever live outing where [then working under the Dachise moniker] he supported Smell & Quim and Con-Dom at the 1 in 12 Club Bradford. We used to communicate via the post dhalinks, he used to live not far from here in posh Harrogate and his Dachise single for a nascent Tochnit Aleph label was a release that pulled me back from a noise abyss. At a time in my life when I felt like giving up on noise, this particular single [Sugar Path], dragged me back in. Having ditched Harrogate and Dachise for Berlin he now finds himself ferreting his time away in London with The Digitariat.

Breaking Glass is a departure from all his previous work, the bits of it I’ve heard at any rate. For it Knowles has created a cast of Hazel O’Conners Breaking Glass soundtrack LP and used it to create a 42 minute piece of loops and general chaos. There’s a sliver of the cast included with every copy [thereby instantly lifting this release from something mundane into something far more interesting - CDR labels take note] which gives you some idea of how fragile the cast must have been when it was in one piece - think lightweight anorexic flexi disc.

The sounds he creates with it are similar in playback to AMK in particular, things kick off in a fairly rambunctious fashion before settling in to a series of locked grooves, glitches and snatches of garbled vocal, some of them seeming to go in reverse which has me wondering if this record was so thin it could have been played on both sides. It does have its moments but at 42 minutes I found my patience being seriously tested. Its not all noise though, melodic moments appear fitfully but for the most part this is fairly harsh in a ‘I can’t take it no more’ fashion.

I guess that with hitting the 42 minute mark Knowles is angling for a vinyl version somewhere down the line and I dare say there’d be takers for it. Potential buyers will have to have plenty of patience though for this does grate at times. I still got something out of it though, even if it was for short periods. The last five minutes are probably the best but by then I fear that even the most ardent of listeners will have moved on, no doubt digging out that sterling AMK flexi cut-up Pinch-A-Loaf release.

I emailed Paul asking him how he actually made the glue record. Here is response:

'A few years ago I turned the TV on late on a Sunday night and there was a documentary on about Toyah. It was a faith programme and I couldn’t really understand what her religious faith was, something “new age” and seemingly unspecific. I wasn’t interested in that subject, but the old music and videos were great. The 80s revival stuff seemed to have completely missed out on the Toyah treasure trove, perhaps it was just beyond the pale. This week I went to some second hand record shops and bought most of the Toyah LPs for 10p each and for the same price I got a copy of Hazel O’Connors ‘Breaking Glass’.

The film ’Breaking Glass’ is hard to find on DVD at a fair price, my memories of the film are from when I was in my pre-teens. It used to be on Channel 4 late at night between Xmas and New Year holidays. The music, which was supposed to be punk or post-punk, certainly had a naff stage-musical feel to it. Very overdramatic.

I had first happened upon the process of making a cast of a vinyl record many years ago. I was experimenting with old records after reading the liner notes of a C C Nova CD which described use of burning, scratching, use of masking tape and glue on a record before playback. With the glue, I found that glue stuck to the vinyl of a record lifted easily once dried. Lifting the dried glue from the record, you can see how fine it picks up the details of the grooves.

What would be the inverse of the grooves lifted inside the cast? The idea that the cast would be the exact opposite of the grooves of the vinyl doesn’t exactly follow, rather than sounding like something completely opposite and other it actually sounds like a ghostly version of the original. Of course, the spiral runs from inside to out which makes it a backwards record, but inverted grooves should be more complex that that, and I’m sure there is something else other than a reverse. The glue also makes bubbles and their disturbances help the needle to jump around to a random point without any manual guidance.'

Monday, August 15, 2011

Must Die Records

Nigel Joseph - Radioactive Snuff
MDR013. CD

MDR Sampler
MDR004. Comes in circular tin with badges, stickers etc. 50 Copies.

Various Artists
MDR019. CD [Not pictured]

Ignorance - Language and Labyrinth
MDR012. CD

Like most people who pass through the Ceramic Hobs Nigel Joseph has had his runs ins with the Psychiatric wing of the National Health Service. I once interviewed him at the fag end of a particularly drunken day in Blackpool and his recollections of some of the drugs he’d been proscribed made heroin look like sherbert dip. As is usually the case though, he seemed far from mad. Maybe it was the beer. I’ve been a bit of a fan of Mr Joseph since he began sending me his home made noise releases back in the 90’s. These shoddy CDR affairs usually contained basic rock tracks in which he distorted everything to maximalist  buggery. There was something in the immediacy of this approach which appealed to me at the time, noise for making a noise sake pure and simple. He once threatened to release the ultimate noise release - a hundred noise cassettes sewn into a dead dog, released for one minute, on one day and then deleted forever [ … about that mad bit again]. There’s also been the Nervous Breakdown zine,a chaotic mess of newspaper cuttings and genital drawings and involvement in other west coast acts, besides the Ceramic Hobs theres the mysterious power electronics influenced Ambulance Chasers and the ridiculously named Heffalump Trap.

After playing Radioactive Snuff a couple of times I can only begin to wonder if all those mind numbing drugs have finally done the trick. Forget noise, this is nothing but an hours worth of head nodding chill out muzak for the heavily sedated. Its not that away from what Astral Social Club achieve but whereas ASC will use a loop and a 4/4 thump as the first stages of a joyous trip to ear nirvana Joseph never pulls out of first gear.  ‘Chlorpromazine Dreams’ [the first track] tells you all you need to know, Chlorpromazine is Largactyl by another name, a powerful antipsychotic. Thump, thump, thump  ‘Vaginal Snot’, twenty minutes worth of thump guitar neck wringing. Thump, thump, thump. ‘Born Dead Too’. Thump, thump,thump. And so it goes. I reckon that you’d have to be on the same drugs as Mr Joseph to get even the tiniest bit of anything out this.

Its a problem I had with both of the comps too. I don’t know what it is they’re putting in the water in Blackpool but through MDR there seems to be an outlet for hours worth of cheap chip set cod reggae spliff muzak made by people with names like Mindrocker, Lava Surf and Nipper. The two spoken word outings by Miles Hadfield and the Must Die Sound System appeal most because they’re quite obviously not cod reggae dub step chip set head bobbing drug music. Both are wry and despondent observations on decaying suburbia written in poetic language and delivered in a flat voice [with a bit of programmed beat in the background it has to be said]. Marvelous. Elsewhere Variable Phantom provide some found sound static but spoil it by putting what sounds like moaning vocals over it and Bad Suburban Nightmare’s 16 minute magnum opus sounds like one of Ashtray Navigations more raga like outings. Think Derek Bailey playing swamp music. Apart from that its all pretty depressing. A bit like Blackpool.

Which leaves Ignorance, who from their cover art would lead you to believe they’re a bunch of dark metallers getting their hands mucky in the devils work but who on first listen display nothing more than prosaic noise flutter, amp buzz and what I like to call Norman Collier noise. Thats the kind of noise you hear when the wire to one of your speakers has become frayed and the signal drops in and out. Amusing for the first minute or so but after five you want to kill somebody.

Must Die Records are a not for profit label whose motto is ‘love music, not money’. Entirely honorable sentiments and if you go to their website you can listen to most of this stuff for free. Its seems churlish then to criticise a label with its heart in the right place but when you don’t like the music they put out what can one do eh? I dare say that there’s an audience for this kind of thing but not at number 17.
info [at]

Monday, August 01, 2011

Sex Lies and Magnetic Tape

Sex Lies And Magnetic Tape
C60 Cassette. 20 copies.

Thanks to the new craze for robbing copper wire from sub stations I’ve been without the internet for a week. The one that caused the power surge here caused half a million pounds worth of damage [not half a million at number 17 of course but in the surrounding area] and all for £50 worth of copper. They caught the person responsible so about now he’ll be tucked up in a comfy cell with an x-box and a flat screen TV to stop him getting bored. At his trial he’ll be offered an equally comfy chair to sit in whilst social workers try to fathom out his Oedipus complex or some such other bollocks. Talking of bollocks, thats what I’d do to him. Cut them off, fry them in a little butter and force feed them to him - fork in one hand gun in the other.

Day one was the worst. ‘No internet’ I said to myself, ‘what am I going to do instead’? By day three I was a little less worried. I’d caught up with some DVD’s, ripped some music on to the PC and almost written a letter. By the time I’d bought the modem, returned it because it was a router, bought a modem router, plumbed it in, managed to configure it, worked a 54 hour week and caught up on some sleep I was less worried. I can get by without the internet I thought. It can be done.  I may not be able to order online from Second Layer and Amazon anymore, I’ll have to rely on the phone and letter writing for keeping in touch, I wont be able to download any more free music, i wont be able to listen to the radio online, no Youtube, no Cricinfo, no more Thursday night RL games on dodgy far east websites, no blog … but I will be able to live without it.

During this internet interregnum I also listened to Sex Lies And Magnetic Tape and when getting back online discovered I’d been listening to Doomstep. There’s the internet for you. Without it I was listening to a tape and with it I was listening to Doomstep. Praise be.

On first listen my spirits were immediately lifted by the sound of some promisingly Dieter Müh-ish ritualistic industrialness but this initial enthusiasm soon waned when I realised I was listening to what I now find is commonly called a ‘mix tape’. Someone, quite cleverly I’ll give you that, has mixed and segued [you’ll have to forgive my ignorance of technical terms here] some of their favourite bits of music into two larger thirty minute pieces of music. I’m probably some way off the mark here but I detected hints of Column One, Muslimgauze, The Orb’s dubbier moments, Godflesh, Tortoise, Primus, Ministry and what I fear was some neo-folklike tambour banging All About Eve wailing. On the second side a curious piece of bachelor pad Moog music appeared and then the whole thing ended with some good old fashioned death metal -  or whatever it is they call it these days.

All well and good if you like that kind of thing and I’m not averse to the dubbier, ritualistic moments that some bands experience. But the more I thought about it the more non-plussed I became. None of the artists involved are given any credit, presumably so as not to draw any kind of legal attention, no label info, no contact info. Someone please enlighten me.

No idea of how many copies exist but they do come with some ridiculously over large, though well prepared, A4 artwork.

And with my trusty modem by my side I shall now embark on a mission to catch up on all the sub genres that may have been invented in the last week.

Contact: [downloads available]

An exchange of emails reveals the following tracklisting for this release: