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]. 


kevin said...

The '171 used train tickets' 10" is a glorious ride. I picked it up in Sheffield when I was living with someone form Beeston. They'd done their fair share of those train rides and could feel the vibe.

Stewart said...

Those missing song titles during the interview section of the A Band CD are listed here:

Dr Lenty said...

Hee hee, I am Stewart Greenwood (not...) :-)

The Green Winged Insect said...

No, "I'M" Stewart Greenwood.