Sunday, February 26, 2012
Growing up in the early seventies I’d see curtain-sided wagons pass me by with the words ‘Idwal Fisher’ writ large upon their sides. I thought the words a slightly odd pairing not realising that Idwal was actually an old Welsh Christian name and that Idwal Fisher was a retired rugby league player running a fruit and veg business.
I mention this for two reasons; one, that people often ask me where the name Idwal Fisher originated and the other because Idwal died last month at the age of 76. Its only fitting that I pay tribute to him on the blog that carries his name.
Idwal was a Welshman who played Rugby Union for Swansea in the early sixties. Warrington must have seen some potential in this big second rower and signed him up bringing him north to play in the rival ‘League’ code. I never saw him play as I was too young but years later I saw his brother Tony coach a Doncaster side into the top flight. During his playing career Tony had a fearsome reputation as a hard as nails number nine and his features were a testimony to that position, a position that existed when contested scrums were still the norm. If Idwal had the same characteristics as his brother he must have been a formidable presence.
As I grew older I became more and more enamored with Rugby League. The honest toil of a simple game played in mainly northern towns appealed to provincial tendencies. After years of throwing my money away on a football team full of fanny dancers the switch to RL was an epiphany. Its a game often described as ‘chess with muscles’ an analogy which isn’t too far off the mark. Its a game played by tough men for a discerning crowd on terraces where fans mingle and trouble is rare. Its a game that I never tire of watching and one for which I have the utmost respect for players both past and present.
Midwich - Cut Flowers
Memoirs of an Aesthete CDR.
Midwich - October in Yorkshire
Zanntone. 3” CDR. 50 Copies.
Midwich - Faraday Cage
Matching Head. Cassette. [C90] MH176.
According to Rob Hayler’s account of the evening everyone had a marvelous time at the recent Midwich return to live action gig. The dusting of snow that was enough to keep me in front of a roaring log fire ten miles away wasn’t enough to deter other, more hardened, punters from heading into West Yorkshire for the gig of the year thus far. Including intrepid traveller Simon DDDD who made the 500 mile round trip from Southampton and a few others who crossed the Pennines and trailed up the M6 with little or no hope [I presume] of retuning to their beds that night. All huddled in an camaradic embrace of alcoholic warmth they droned and made noises at deafening volumes until the bar staff chucked them out into the cold and crispy night at closing time.
But I don’t do regret. It eats away at you like a disease. Instead I take great satisfaction in the fact that Mr Hayler was kind enough to forward me the fruits of his most recent labours in the shape of the above. Armed with these three releases I was able to recreate, in the comfort of my own sitting room, what it would have been like to bob my head surrounded by the good and knowing of the ‘Northern drone scene’ [©] with a glass of Malbec by my side.
What’s interesting here [apart from the re-emergence of Midwich after a few years hiatus of course] is Zanntone. This being the newest label to appear from that hotbed of West Yorkshire experimentation - Mirfield. Whether the world needs another small run 3”CDR label is a question that can only be answered with the appearance of further releases but its not a bad start; the second track on ‘October in Yorkshire’ [Silver Lining] being an absolute stormer of the no nonsense head down mindless boogie, thumbs in belt loops, fractured beat bust that takes a simple keyboard motif, layers it with a drone and cranks it up until it scatters into a thousand digital fragments that dissolve like dying Alka Seltzer.
Having listened to quite a bit of Midwich material over the years I detect a game of two halves; one being the breaking apart head nodding trancelike repetitive melody as fingered on a tiny keyboard and as witnessed on Silver Lining and the other being the overhead passing prop plane drone with all manner of layered nuance for company. In both, subtle shifts in harmonics occur which act in a drug like fashion putting the listener into a soporific eye rolling stasis. All these releases contain examples of the two and if you know your labels you’ll know that the Matching Head release will be suitably grimy and that the Memoirs one will be suitably deteriorated. With new label Zanntone seemingly putting a price on production values you can now listen to Midwich in whatever form of reproduction value suits your mood.
A more detailed look at ‘Cut Flowers’ will see a 47 second opener that you might be able to dance to [First Impressions], a fourteen minute prop plane droner [Mitigating Circumstances], a seven minute head bobber [Queen Olive] and a bow out track that runs to twelve minutes worth of shimmering drone that drifts across your vision like fag smoke in a tap room.
Matching Head appear to have got up to release number 176 with nothing more complicated than a tape duper and a photocopier for company. In a world becoming ever more dominated by all things digital its the Luddism of labels like Lee Stokoe’s that are the ones standing out from the crowd. No emails, no web site, no CDR’s just cassettes and black and white photocopies covers. Faraday Cage contains three longish trips of barely shifting, mesmeric, drone. Its dirty and hypnotic and its perfect for the label, me and hopefully you.
Without any shadow of a doubt, Mr. Hayler is one of the most wonderful people ever put on to this spinning globe of muck and water. I say this with hand on beating heart for I know it to be true. His reemergence on to the Leeds music scene has only heightened the emptiness caused by his recent [too long] absence. Lets hope he’s here to stay this time, here to fill our lives with his music and his words [for he can write too, his blog is a wondrous and charismatic map charting that most nebulous of genres, the ‘no audience underground’]. If you see him at the bar he will be the one smiling the widest, give his beard a playful tug and tell him that Idwal sent you.
Rob's blog and portal to all manner of wondrousness
Memoirs of an Aesthete
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Apophallation + Nxfxtxex - True Stereo Split
Shit Music For Shit People. SMfSP 30. CDR. 5 copies.
Gravhund - Caffeine Overkill
Shit Music For Shit People. SMfSP 37. 3” CDR. 20 Copies
Zebra Mu - Broken Creative Manifesto
Shit Music For Shit People. SMfSP 35. 3” CDR. 20 Copies
It would appear that every time I get a noise release to review these days I find myself pondering questions that lie beyond the more immediate ‘is this a good noise release?’ This basic question is down to personal taste anyway of course, what worries me now is that I’m asking myself a much deeper question; ‘what has noise got left to offer me?’
There was a time when any noise release that came this way was greeted with open arms and given hours of unadulterated indulgence. Anyone who comes across noise for the first time will know this feeling. And then complacency sets in.
Unless you are one of those people whose taste in music never deviates from the stuff listened to as a teenager [these people are usually the ones seen buying their music along with the weekly shopping] you are probably of an inquisitive nature and constantly on the lookout for that something new and a bit special, something original, from someone who’s twisted this and torn that out of that and mixed it with the other and there’s that German with the unpronounceable name whose teamed up with the Argentinean cymbalist who’s put out this amazing double album that’s like Sun Ra collaborating with Macronympha and its on SPUNK records out of Albania and for once theres someone actually doing something that makes me want to buy it. Unfortunately for me that feeling comes rarely these days.
Which makes me wonder whether noise has lots its sparkle or whether its me whose lost mine? Maybe thats why I spend so much of my time rooting about in the past either familiarising myself with what has gone before or wondering whether I should investigate the Klezmer section on Amazon.
Noise will be around forever of course. Once a musical genre becomes established its there for good so you might as well get used to it. Its here where you take your noise release, review it and tell it like it is because although a noise release may no longer be the earthshaking event it once was its still a noise release and maybe, just maybe, it contains something earth shattering.
Alas there were no moments of earth shattering epiphany here. Shit Music For Shit People is a label name that says it all. They’re not here to stretch peoples imagination or fill their lives with thought provoking and genre bending releases, they’re here to have a good time and who can deny them that?
Gravhund wallow in their incompetence and admit as much on the sleeve. Twelve tracks in 23 minutes worth of sped up and slowed down Loony Tune cartoons, with coughing fits, barking dogs, pedal abuse, keyboard prod, vocals fed through make-you-sound-dumb- effects and of course flat out noise. Not a billion miles away from Evil Moisture in delivery and for that alone worthy of attention.
Perhaps the best effort here is the one truly all out noise affair. Zebra Mu is Michael Ridge who uses contact mics, metal and various pedals to produce noise of a bludgeoning nature so beloved of your 90’s Jap noister.
One of the the things I still like about noise is the practice of labels releasing things in ridiculously limited editions. The Apophallation/Nxfxtxex release mentioned here exists in just five copies. Never mind that its the weakest release of the three, there's just five people in the entire world [thats five people out of almost seven billion souls], who besides me, the label owner, the two people involved and just one other lucky person has a copy of ‘True Stereo Split’. The truth of the matter may be that one of those five souls may listen to this six minutes of split channel noise parp no more than once before chucking it in a box never to see the light of day again but don’t let that put you off tracking this down on Discogs and eBay in a futile attempts to complete your Shit Music For Shit People collection. Which is another thing I like about noise; dumb noise label names; Smell The Stench, Alcoholic Narcolepsy, Total Vermin, Harbinger Sound. And the format? Noise labels are at the forefront of keeping dead formats alive in a number of colourful ways; cassettes filled with dirt, cassettes attached to oversized sponges, records filled with locked grooves and here, a small circle of digital information at the center of five inches [or if you prefer 12cms] of clear round plastic. If nothing else you could show this to your friends and explain to them what it actually is. So you see, noise hasn’t given up the ghost yet.
I think that my biggest failing in this dip of interest in noise of mine is in trying to read more into it than what there is. There’s enough room in noise for the chin strokers and the good time boys and the amateurs and the hippies and drunks and the sad bloke tapping keys trying to think up things to say about it all. It is what it is and its here and there's no getting away from the fact.
Sunday, February 05, 2012
Nackt Insecten - Reality Bridge
Blackest Rainbow Records. LP
For the English a snow storm lasting thirty minutes is enough to trigger apocalyptic headlines and a shortage of rock salt deep enough to give local councilors a restless nights sleep. Its snowing outside as I write and I know that even a depth of an eighth of an inch is going to be enough to stop me from seeing Midwich play in Leeds tonight. A journey of around 10 miles laid waste by a flurry of snow. I know I’m pathetic and that I should pull on my stout walking boots and head out of the door chin first into the tumult like Scott of the Antarctic but when given a straight choice between a night in with a bottle of Rioja, some glowing coals, a Porter Wagoner LP, today's Guardian, some freshly made vegetable soup, crusty bread, butter, salt, pepper, the cat, Mrs Fisher against the chance of being stranded in Leeds then … sorry Rob.You wait years and years for the return of the mighty Midwich only for the first significant snowfall of the year to bomb it like an avalanche. Bugger.
Tonight then I shall drown my sorrows in front of the glowing coals with the help of a bottle of the aforesaid Rioja and [after the Wagoner] another luxurious infusion of the latest Nackt Insecten LP.
I’ve been indulging in the new Nackster for a couple of weeks now and to say its pulled me out of a moribund hole is something of an understatement. Its as if I’ve been acting the Terry Waite part for ten years when along comes the jailor and chucks me the keys to a DB8 and says ‘here you go lad take her for a spin’. And deep, deep down I’d been hoping that this was going to be a drone album and a drone album it is. With massive knobs on. Not that I disliked Nackt Insecten’s past noise works [and not being familiar with the previous Quantum Odyssey] but having heard the droning contribution to the recent Pjorn comp I was secretly hoping that what I held was an LP’s worth of an extension of that work and so it proved.
I bumped into Mr. Ruaraidh Sanachan Nackt Insecten in Brighton recently. He’d made the long trip from Scotland and told me he’d been working for WFMU which as jobs go is up there with the best of them [helping out a New York freeform radio station versus sticking your finger up a criminals bum ...] that trip must have had an effect for out goes the noise and in comes the drone. But its not just the drone itself, its the manner of delivery: kissable vinyl, a sleeve that reeks of late 60’s psychedelia, a Led Zeppelin font. Its a nostalgia trip for sure but after getting all grumpy over the last two uninspiring review offerings this has come at just the right time.
There are no duds on this album. There are no dead minutes, no areas of murky limbo where your attention wanders. From the first it grips like a warm wet blanket. ‘Solar Plexus Skyscraper’ is all organ swell and dirty granulating overdubs of random key stabs that erupt like volcano plops. ‘Deathcatcher’ is an eastern tinged collaborative affair with finger cymbals, shruti box and twanged tambura. ‘The Atomic Age’ sees more organ swell but this time with disintegrating top end key abuse that breaks down and dissolves only to emerge again and again. ‘Suicide Overdrive’ is the choicest cut of all - a chugging Motorik monster of a driving beat complete with layered high fret guitar wank that has me in mind of Neu!, Chris Carter, Tangerine Dream and the lords of Leeds, Ashtray Navigations. Its incessant beat never deviating, a relentless beast that lolls round until its eventual and unwelcome collapse.
Easily the best release to pass through these hands this year and the one most likely to be still being played when the snows return in November.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Wonderyou CD. WNDU006
Still in Japan, still pointless. Whats with the Japs? Has all that radiation gone to their heads [feet,arms,internal organs?]. The Orient used to be a place of mystery and intrigue, now it seems like the home of half baked ideas and ill thought out processes.
Kufuki are a Japanese trio using traditional instruments, treated vocals, analouge synths and electronics. The results sound like the sort of aimless early 90’s overproduced, dub beat, ethnic farts as churned out by rote from the likes of Future Sound Of London and The Orb. To make matters worse somebody thought it would be a terrific idea to include messages of support from Kufuki fans around the globe so in between every other track there's someones recorded message - the first of which is delivered by some hyperactive teenage Japanese girl whose over enthusing was so painful to my sensibilities that it made me shout SHUT UP at the speakers. Lots of fun for Kufuki, not so for this listener. One track in particular stood out as being particularly awful [a triumph itself on a release littered with awfulness] - it sounded like a Japanese version of the Tom Tom Club’s ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ with the lyrics spoken by a Japanese robot while a zillion squiggly electronic effects swarm all over a moronic dum dum dum beat.
Its quite possible that this maybe one of the worst releases I’ve ever heard in my entire life and I don’t see how sitting here thinking up different ways to abuse it is going to make me feel any better so its best that I just stop now. Another one for the box [see previous post].
All of this makes the inclusion of an Astral Social Club remix all the more baffling. Its the last track and I dutifully sat through this muck in order to get to it. Was it worth it? Was it fuck.