Tuesday, January 22, 2013

BBBlood / Core of the Coalman / Ap Martlet

BBBlood - N 51°33' 0'' / W 0°7' 0''
Sheepscar Light Industrial. 3”CDR. SLI 010. 50 Copies.

Core Of The Coalman - 12 Lines
Sheepscar Light Industrial. 3”CDR. SLI 011. 50 Copies.

Ap Martlet - Pyrite
Sheepscar Light Industrial. 3”CDR. SLI 012. 50 Copies.

With Sheepscar Light Industrial running Striate Cortex close in the fetish item de jour stakes it comes as no surprise to discover that as physical objects these three little beauties all found homes weeks ago. But fear not sonic adventurer for the world we now live in means you now no longer have to bung your mate a Boots C90 and wait six weeks for him to get back to you. For you dear reader the task is but a simple one; a few clicks to the SLI website and there by the magic of the interweb aural gratification awaits.

OK, streaming quality isn’t the best in the world but high quality downloads are available in a myriad of formats; FLACS, OBS, 320’s, DOGS and CATS you name it. Its the shiny bright connected world we live and isn’t it all just amazing. After extolling the virtues of cassette tape in my last review I now find myself warming to the world of downloads. Well, warming might be pushing it but if I was to give these three releases ecstatic reviews and urge you to seek them out its not like you have to start rooting about on eBay, Discogs or digging about in a drawer for a blank tape is it?

And do you know what. I do feel like giving these three releases ecstatic reviews. Its the warmth I feel coming from SLI. The fact that its such a good label with a solid roster of reliable names on it, a generic packaging style thats easy on the eye and a steady trickle of releases [about three a month, all in one go] thats enough to keep you happy and eager for more.

I’ve seen SLI cheese Daniel Thomas at WC gigs, he’s a steady hand on the tiller, a reassuring presence, the kind of person who gives you a friendly smile as he blackens the back of your hand with a magic marker squiggle after having taken five pounds off you. His label reflects these qualities.

Ap Martlet and Core of the Coalman are both new to me. From these two offerings I deduce that they like to work in the drone arena. Ap Martlet with a spectral piece of drift that resonates with much clarity down my grateful shell-likes. A slight ringing buzz, a collapsing squeeze box pushed together and taken apart by someone with all the strength of a Netto’s value tea bag, a huge steel ball rolling around an empty warehouse. In its last dying five minutes things become quieter as a solitary tone threatens to disappear into the very centre of your soul. At twenty minutes its a perfect ride and I’d be amazed to find anyone for whom this kind of drone doesn’t work. Its clear, harmonious, comparable to Charlemagne Palestine’s work of a similar nature [not his old joanna banging of course], a sheer delight.

Core of the Coalman is the slightly unusual moniker as taken up by the multi talented  American composer, musician, designer and artist Jorge Boehinger. According to various Wikibits his instrument of choice is the viola, though he’s known to dabble in the electro-acoustic field as well as using his voice and ‘various other instruments’. On 12 Lines I’m guessing he’s using both the viola and gadgets of an electric nature. Here again a deep and sonorous 20 minute blow, a vibrating, humming thing that ebbs and flows and hits new key shifts to lift and heighten the experience. Another rewarding twenty minutes worth.

Meanwhile, back at the Barons cage we have Paul Watson keeping the capital alive with his highly rewarding noise constructs. Its a pity there hasn’t been more of BBBlood through these gates for what I hear impresses me - this isn’t all head down, thumbs through belt loops, shoulder swinging, hair swaying drongo noise y’know, there’s a great deal of thought goes into what he does and it shows. During ‘Marseille’ I’m treated to the sound of an oak tree being snapped in half, the splinters ripping across my skull in all its panned glory. I’m sure there’s field recordings in there too, especially on the first track ‘Obscurantism’ which sounds as if it was recorded on the buffet car of the London to Leeds East Coast express. An all out blast appears in due course and when it arrives you know about it but its the way in which Watson arranges his sound that impresses me most. He’s an erudite chap and his compositions show and yes I did mean compositions. The way in which these two tracks are structured, the way in which various elements appear and disappear, the continuous flow of ideas and sounds all point towards a daring and highly enthusiastic mind. I dare say that the Baron has laid his offerings at the TNB alter too for there is the scrape and a rusty bike wheel being slowly spun, its rotations coming to an end with an ear squealing orgasm. Factory hum, that glorious wood tearing .. I believe we may have some kind of mini classic on our hands here. To the downloads.



Sunday, January 20, 2013

Inverted Nepal / Panelak / Mouth Worker

Inverted Nepal - Unverted
Waterpower. WP030. C40 Cassette. 50 Copies.

Panelak - Arnica Eyebright
Crater Lake. CL002. C30 Cassette. 50 copies.

Mouth Worker
LF. LF027. C30 Cassette. 10 Copies.

I think just about every tape review I do these days is prefaced with a few words regarding how cassette tapes shouldn’t actually exist in 2013. But here they are still living and breathing and defying the digital age with all their tight wound, capstan sticking, little felt pad disappearing charm.

To someone who’s never seen a cassette tape they must seem like relics from a bygone age. Tell your friendly neighbours teenage offspring that cassettes can only hold about 90 minutes of music [C120’s seem to be truly a thing of the past] are inherently unstable and take up lots of room and they’ll probably point to their palm sized gadget of choice and its unlimited application capacity and think you’re some kind of simpleton. Who in their right mind would truly want to keep something as ancient as cassette tape alive?

These people obviously.

I’m still a fan of cassette tape. I still have a cassette player in the car and will happily buy them in chazzas usually to find that Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits plays both sides at once until eventually sticking halfway through ‘Dreams of the Everyday Housewife’ going one way and ‘Witchita Lineman’ going the other. But what do you expect for ten pence? Some of them do play though and I often find myself being nostalgically taken back to the time when department stores had huge racks of them on display. The mere sight of a Black Sabbath cassette is enough for this to happen. Back in the early 80’s Vallance’s in Bradford must have had thousands on display. Never mind that your cassette version of Monty Pythons ‘Instant Record Collection’ didn’t fold out into a box or that Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’ cassette had a plain j-card insert whilst the LP version came in a brown paper bag, five different inner sleeves and an inner, inner sleeve that you could dab water on so that the colours came out. There were drawbacks but people still bought them.

These two releases are unlikely to get the continued use that resulted in the death of many a cassette back in the day. That's not to be unkind to any of the people involved in the production of these releases, its just that I’m unlikely to play Panelak’s cassette as many times as I did the one that Gavin Walker did for me in 1975 that had Led Zeppelin ‘III’ on one side and Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ on the other [I still have it]. Today's cassette based label, noise artist cum sonic adventurer use cassettes as aural marking posts, statements of intent and are quite happy to post links to the digital version but would much prefer you to buy the actual item and experience for yourself the charm of the antediluvian plastic shelled beast - unless you are semi-Luddite like Waterpower [there are plenty others] who only post teasers of their work online or [for the truly hardcore] no web presence or online identity at all [Matching Head we salute you].

So what of these three? Inverted Nepal is the work of Pete Cann and Paul Walsh, the dad and lad of the Leeds noise scene whose spastic outbursts of teeth rattling noise bring to mind the kind of tumult that used to come regularly out of Japan before the introduction of affordable CD burners. The dynamics are dulled by the format but that comes with the territory. Its a full on head down no nonsense mindless noise boogie of course. Whistling eardrums at dawn territory. Whistling up the garden path territory. About as subtle as a house brick through the window and as cultured as a Millwall fan at chucking out time on a Saturday night.

More noisy Leeds based shenanigans come courtesy of Pascal Ansell, a suave, debonaire good looking and enthusiastic young chap who rattles about on campus at Leeds University with the drummer Paul Hession making a bit of, what I can only describe as, a racket. The cassette format works its magic once more reducing Hession’s drumming to that of the sound of mice with clogs on running down a flight of wooden stairs and Ansell’s electronics to submerged squiggles. Its still a short fun ride though with Ansell introducing German spoken word samples, twanged open string shapes and a spot of vocal howling for good measure. Its all a bit unfocused if truth be told but I’m here to encourage and if he buys me a pint next time I see him I’ll say he’s the next Stockhausen. You never know.

I should really save Mouth Worker until I review all the LF releases I got sent but it seems to fit with what has passed already, so here goes … and what do we have ... but more noise of course. Only ten copies though so you better get moving. And will you be wanting to track this down in twenty years time to reissue it on your resurrect long forgotten noise cassettes on 180 gram vinyl double gatefold sleeve label? Probably not. But don’t let me put you off. If blunt, muddy synth noise on ridiculously limited cassette runs are your thing then be my guest. Short examples are digitally available but you cant beat the real thing.

Which leaves five cassettes from Johnny Scars Mantile label, but that's for another day.

[I'm reliably informed that there is no Paul Hession presence on the Panelak release whatsoever. An oversight on my part that I am more than happy to correct]





Saturday, January 19, 2013

Small Cruel Party - An Accident Of Substance

Small Cruel Party - An Accident Of Substance
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger053. 3CD.

If only there were more people like Key Ransone. Who, after about ten years or so of releasing material under the Small Cruel Party banner, decided that a career in French cuisine was more up his cul de sac. Bye bye Small Cruel Party, hello legumes.

Its still a sizeable body of work, maybe ten albums, the last of which saw the light of day in 2002 plus a smattering of singles and comp contributions. An Accident Of Substance collects these singles and comp tracks putting them in chronological order over three CD’s so that you can hear the transformation from the ten minutes of found sound building site brick abuse to the delightful one minutes worth of a bucket full of water being hit with a stick.

Of course I have no idea how Ransone came to create any of these 27 tracks and I’m all the happier for it. The melancholy drift of the second track ‘Some Movements’ appears to include a lonesome two note bird call, two tons of ceramic tiles being dumped a mile away and a raging forest fire. Its at once The Haters, Fransisco Lopez and John Cage. ‘Wind On Jets’ sounds like a sniffer dog searching for drugs inside a vast tumble dryer. ‘Micromelistmata’ is a simple humming drone. ‘Seminal Brainpan’ is built around the sound of a reversed once hit kettle drum, rummaging noises, scattered timpani and Evil Moisture epidermal squiggles leaving you with Nurse With Wound circa Merzbild Scwhet and another huge ‘what the fuck’ moment. And you’re still only halfway through the first disc.

Any serious sonic adventurer could do a lot worse than to begin their journey here. If you’ve ever been turned on by fridge hum then start here. If you like the sound that underground trains make when entering a station start here. Rain, mud, underground reservoirs, traffic, running water, buffeting winds, drums rolling down a hill, birds, vocal tics made close to the microphone, wind chimes, a drinking glass being ground into a stone floor … they’re probably all here too. In all kinds of combinations, permutations formulated for the sheer joy of hearing pure sounds. Then there’s the feel of it all. The screaming, whistling, atonal scrape of ‘12 Breaths On Shore’ aside the rest of the material gathered here appears as if from a moist hole in the ground. This is an ethereal, calm and mysterious body of work, captivating and grand, enlightening and joyous all at the same time.

Most tracks are made of but a few elements. Maybe three at most. Most tracks begin and end in the same fashion. A few introduce new elements during their course. There's little in the way of stylistic shift from the first disc [which begins in 1992] and the last [which ends in 2001]. That there isn’t a duff track [nay, a duff second] anywhere on these three discs is a testament to Ransone’s ear for sound and his ability to compose sounds from a non musical origin.

Dip in anywhere and you will find delight. After you’ve done that start making a list of those who you’d wished had done the same as Ransone and quit whilst they were at the top of their game. It’ll be a long list.

Monday, January 07, 2013

A Band / sepopepLel / The Y Bend / CK Dexter Haven / Usurper/Nyoukis/Greenwood

The Y BEND/CK Dexter Haven/Usurper - Live Cuts
No label CDR. 50 copies

sepopepLel - Viking Soul Music
No label CDR. 200 copies

The A Band - Greatest Hits 1990-2000
Must Die Records - 2xCD
MDR 024

After listening to the Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble all last week it seemed only natural to extend the experience by reviewing this lot. Plus it gives me the chance to see how many ex-members the A Band have amassed since the last time I looked. Must be about 50 by my reckoning.

One of them is Stewart Greenwood who along with Karen Mitchell is a member of sepopepLel and there he is playing with Usurper and Nyoukis on one of them there 'Live Cuts'. He’s also there on The Y Bend because thats him introducing himself [I think?] and I have no doubt that he’s a part of CK Dexter Haven too. So he plays on everything then.

But what does he do? Make a lot of noise is, I suppose, the easy answer. Its what A Band members do best. In a nice terribly British way of course. Perhaps the noisiest example of his work is that as captured live in Edinburgh on the the 29th of March 2012 in which a farting low hertz rasp [as conjured from an analogue synth maybe?] rumbles along aided by some whispy swirls for the best part of a quarter of an hour. Plain and simple noise.

The same venue pays host to The Y Bend (A Band, Y Bend, geddit?) who start out all TG bass fuzz before bringing in squeaking doors and a wheezing accordion. But its the 22 minute Usurper, Nyoukis and Greenwood collaboration thats the best thing on here. As you’d imagine its a stumble about the stage, scrape and thump, someone going mad on a typewriter while a cuckoo clock goes off at clocking out time at the tin whistle factory electro-acoustic fest, Nyoukis gets to moan, the Usurpers to parp and frot and Greenwood … well I’m not sure what he does but it all works wonderfully.

Viking Soul Music kicks off in tremendous fashion courtesy of a wild track involving lots of things being smashed, a little like a wild night in a Greek taverna recorded on to a dodgy Boots C120. Here we have Greenwood and Mitchell going under the aliases of Stewart Griftwood and Mint Kracknell. After getting the crockery/glass smashing out of their system theres a rather ropey 20 minute live track from 2004 [their last apparently] which involves lots of bell ringing and a muffled roar. The rest of the tracks are self explanatory: ‘Bells and Tap Dancing’, ‘Derelict Piano by the Sea’, ‘Organ and Button Accordian Duo’, ‘Hair Drier, Spoons and Bongo Drums’ all of which are rather lovely and listenable in a ‘isn’t that the sound of someone tap dancing to the sounds of hand bells being rung’ kind of way. I became a fan of ‘Derelict Piano by the Sea’ and the Cage like way in which it was tackled but ‘Wine Glass and Humpty’ put my teeth on edge. I have no idea who Humpty is either [the soft toy from Playschool perhaps?]. There’s 80 minutes of the stuff to go at too, thats a double album in old money, a tad exhaustive but worthwhile.

The A Band need no introduction of course. Already guaranteed a place in the English Underground Music Scene Hall of Fame all they have to do now is sit back and wallow in the glory.  As ever with the A Band everything is not what it seems; ‘20 Greatest Hits’ only contains nine tracks with tracks 5-15 of the second disc being taken up with excerpts from an interview given by two members of the band for a French radio station [OK there's some musical interludes but nothing is named] and I’m pretty sure that Richard Youngs '171 Used Train' Tickets never saw the light of day until 2004 although it may have been performed earlier than that.

There’s lots on here to admire and I’m a huge fan of surreal outings like ‘TV Sets From Winter’ and ‘Walkmans for Precious Antiques’. The former coming across like a collaboration between Sun Ra and Vivian Stanshall; a rambling, sprawling mess of a track with marching drums, squeaking sax and a vocal that just never stops. The latter is someone retelling the tale of a traveler who swapped his Walkman for you know what as a shambling band of twanging out of tune guitars wails away, plus lots of smashing and bashing things of course.

In ‘171 Used Train Tickets’ Richard Youngs reads out the last 171 train tickets he’s used which means lots of trips between Beeston and Nottingham. Performed in front of a lively audience the joy comes from Young's rapid delivery and the way in which he involves the audience, getting them to not only guess the next destination but to applaud the mention of Sheffield. One of the most memorable of A Band tracks and a piece of English sound poetry cum performance art worthy of comparison to Bob Cobbing.

Long serving member Stewart Keith holds things together with a distinctive voice that appears on most of the stuff here, the shopping list of 'Washing Powder', the spoken word duet on a 'TV Sponge King' - a fifteen minute track in which swanee whistles, melodicas, trumpets, hand bells (Greenwood again?), bongos and twangy strings provide a soundtrack to a Gilbert and George like twin recitation of various oddball statements e.g. "the sponge king comes from my house actually".

For me the A Band’s appeal lies in their spontaneity and the way in which they channel surreal British [English?] humour through a musical form in which very little in the way of humour exists.

The last 15 tracks are where you really want to start if none of this has made any sense so far. In an interview with a French radio presenter two members of the A Band Give a potted history of the band explaining a lot of the mystery that will forever be associated with them. There's clips of various tracks too but well worth hearing just for the reaction of the interviewer when she realises exactly what Anusol is. Much hilarity ensues. Its a big part of what the A Band is all about. Having fun.


[Apologies for not having any contact details for Y Bend and sepopepLel, I'm working on it]. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Bren't Lewiis Ensemble / Blood Stereo

Blood Stereo - Palatine Arches/Tape Hiss for Brainwash/The Gither
Chocolate Monk CDR. choc.224

The Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Time Lady Rangoon
[The Well Spliced Breath - Volume 2]
Chocolate Monk CDR. choc.241
60 Copies. Sold Out.

The Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Out Paitence

Dylan Nyoukis may have got involved with the Albert Hall and all things John Cage centenary celebrations but I still cant shift this image I have of him singing like a Saturday night drunk at last years Rammel weekender. Someone should have recorded it and stuck it on a Chocolate Monk release. Maybe they already have? The passers by certainly liked it and it would have sat nicely with the first track on this here collection of Blood Stereo rarities; ‘Drawl of Lund’ sounds like it was recorded in the aftermath of the Battle of Flodden where the moans of the dying hung in the damp air. The sight of a drunken Nyoukis stumbling through the mud and the blood singing into a Dictaphone would have been a sight for sore eyes and what if Seymour Glass had been there to join in? Think of the possibilities.

Out Paitence has been kicking around for a while here. It turned up last year with a package that included the memorable and sadly overlooked Glands of External Secretion double album ‘Reverse Atheism’ [and if you haven’t heard that little beauty then you really are denying yourself a major treat].  Recorded at the Bell Memorial Union building California in 1984 it captures the sound of Lucian Tielens, Tim Smyth and someone going by the name of Gnarlos picking up various objects and dropping them to the floor. There's also the sound of them playing a pinball machine, spouting gibberish, plunking toy pianos, smashing pie tins, dropping wrenches, whirling ribbed tubing, wheezing into harmonicas, whistling, chanting, singing and probably about three hundred and two different things besides whilst constantly moving around an echoing huge airy hairy space. Its a sprawling listen of course but not one without merit or significance. Tidbits of this have appeared before but now we have it in all its 47 minutes continuous, ramshackle, chaotic, glory.

Gnarlos and Tielens, [along with several other participants including Lindy Lettuce, Amoeba Man, Common Eileen and Sidney Africa] turn up on ‘Time Lady Rangoon’. This being a collection of early works pulled from a late night 1983 radio show and a backing tape that was used by The Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble during their headlining set at the 2011 Colour Out Of Space fest. Its all madness of course but immense fun with it. On ‘My Down Booties Were Eaten By Pat’s Dog’ someone repeats the title whilst a pianist plays various pieces including the funeral march and the wedding march back to back over the sound of a party in full swing. ‘Hand Satanizer’ is a collection of vocal tics, poetry and random words mixed with TV noise, Herb Albert’s trumpet and a 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll radio station that keeps losing its signal. Someone recites dialogue in a voice that would lead you to think that there was a definite absence of testicles and then there’s the screams, the political speeches and is that the sound of someone being strangled? ‘Palsy’ [also recorded in 1983] sounds like it was recorded in a lunatic asylum whilst a Hammer Film flickered away to the inmates. Small dogs bark, a baby cries and a female soprano wails away in reverse on a loop. The new stuff remains true to to the old. Almost thirty years may have passed but we’re still in Palsy territory with ‘In Search of Christy Bacon’. You can’t beat a bit of quick editing to quicken the pulses. Think Mixed Band Philanthropist, Broken Penis Orchestra but way more freeform and loose. I dare say the odd beer was consumed.

Blood Stereo meanwhile float in a kind of genre defying sac of amniotic fluid. Here we have electro-acoustic twiddle, fiddle and scrape, mong voiced moanings and heavy breathing as captured during an outre cottaging session in Brighton town center.  On ‘The Bland Miller’ [from Palatine Arches] there’s baby singing, baby gobollalia and an ethereal female voice going ‘whooo whooo’ through the wet trees of a dense Scottish forest while the chickens settle down for the night. Think of Constance channeling Jay Clayton through a haze of wine and fag fumes whilst Nyoukis watches on like a proud Cage-ean father. Its that weird.

‘Non Wretched Drone, No Blooze’ [from ‘Tape Hiss’] loops a church bell ring onto a field recording in which Nyoukis tries to pull a cheap anorak over his head. There could be an army of small people moving bricks about in a pit, there could be a box of pot dogs being loosely carried, it rains, it fizzes but only ever so quietly, it definitely drones and there’s Dylan dragging a gammy leg through the damp leaf mulch. When the violin scrape comes in at the halfway mark my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I found myself uttering invocations to the drone gods, ‘Please let this continue a while longer’. When it suddenly cuts and stops I felt as if I’d been robbed. ‘The Tape Has Natural Voice’ is all snore edits, guttural gurgles, deep sea diver breaths, amphibian croak. ‘The Gither’ writhes about in an analogue bath of Kagel like making, all bubbles, burbles and babies, tape gone mad, tape out of control, tape wound round Brighton sea front balustrades blowing in the salty breeze.

Nyoukis, Constance, Glass, The Butte County Free Music Society, The External Glands of Secretion and the Common Eileen’s of this world make our lives richer with these releases. That these have been pulled from obscurity is a blessing. That they will be reach a wider audience remains to be seen but these are gems that need polishing, nuggets that need discovering, drinks that need imbibing. A fine way to start the new year.

Two last thing; I’m still no wiser as to why The Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble releases have those four black squares on them and where’s Dylan’s beard gone? I still miss it.


Chocolate Monk

Bren't Lewiis Ensemble