Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nacht Und Nebel - W>A>S>P>S> - Lea Cummings - SCKE//

Nacht Und Nebel/Lea Cummings - Split

W>A>S>P>S/Nacht Und Nebel - Split
SCKE// - Ornaments
MEIR 2004/KIKS/GFR 2012
7”. 300 copies

What is this mixture of acronyms, German language and angle brackets you ask? It’s enough to drive a reviewer batshit. What does it all mean? And who uses angle brackets in-between CAPS these days anyway? This jumble of CAPS, >’s and //’s has me yearning for simplicity, clarity and clean lines, but fear not, all is not lost for when I actually make my way through these three releases I find that there’s life in a small label..

Like with that Lea Cummings, the purveyor of the horribly monikered but you got to like him for it anyway ‘Kylie Minoise’ [who may now be defunct anyway]. Putting aside his Minoises he lays down a warm drone made from an unchanging set of held down keyboard keys.  Cummings is no stranger to the drone having released a number of such compositions under his own name and on his own label but I feel this track has a deeper purity and is all the better for it.

Nacht Und Nebel deliver stuttering sub wooer fart PE like atmospherics where the screams of tortured souls are replicated by circuit board abuse. A brooding atmosphere of uncertainty for those who like their nights in to have a darker edge. This is true of the split with Cummings and to a certain extent the flip of W>A>S>P>S but overall I feel that Nacht Und Nebel have yet to make the most of the grit in their oyster for once in a while a sound emerges that puts the teeth on edge has you squinting out of one eye hoping that there’s isn’t another one around the corner. Still, both N&N performances here hold enough promise to make further adventures into dark ambient industrial territory worthy of attention.

W>A>S>P>S meanwhile delve in to the Whitehouse back catalogue and emerge with a remixed b-side from 1981 where the synth buzz of bent circuitry leads to a constant barely shifting drone of amp crackle and jack socket abuse. Played at 33RPM and at a loud volume its drone like effects and unbending nature are stimulation enough. Like Power Electronics without the histrionics.  

Which leaves SCKE// and two sides of glitch electronica. Described on the website as ‘2 X gritty loops and piercing feedback over warm undulating tones’ I found it to be anything but - which just goes to show you how two people can hear the same thing and give completely differing views. I found harmonics and yes, loops, but of a Harry Partch strings hit with water balloons kind of thing. The treated sounds of an analogue phones engaged signal that loop into rhythms in a Penguin Cafe Orchestra kind of way, only with PCO playing Otomo Yoshihide’s table top gear instead of detuned cello’s - if that makes any sense.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerk


The Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerk
Must Die Records. MDR032 LP. [Includes download code]

The last time I was in Blackpool I was with the Hobs main man Simon Morris. At ten a.m. on a sunny Saturday summers morning we were sharing Blackpool’s famous ‘Golden Mile’ with some seriously psychotic Scousers. They looked like they’d been up all night and were intent on making the buzz last that bit longer. Loud, feral and oblivious to passers by they seemed to be teetering on the edge of some wild chasm that would either see them fast asleep for two days an hour hence or fighting off the attempts of several police officers to arrest them. The pubs were just opening up and day trippers were appearing, some of them already with enough ale in them to see the day out but with an eye on getting plenty more down before trying to find their B&B’s or their coaches for the trip home. Simon told me that his abiding image of Blackpool was of seeing a fat lass spewing into the street at eleven in the morning whilst being comforted by her equally fat friend who told her that if she got it all up now she’d be able to get some more down later.

Tales of Blackpool drinking excess are ubiquitous amongst Northern pub frequenting types. I had a workmate who on a day trip to Blackpool decided to sleep off his afternoons drinking on the beach only to find himself dragged back toward the prom, minus toupee as the tide made its inexorable return journey. Back in the 80’s when pub trips to Blackpool were de riguer you’d all fall off the bus at ten thirty in the morning, already half cut after having been drinking since eight in the morning and drink until three in the afternoon, [before the pubs shut and you got chucked out, as they did in those days] before descending on the Fun House where you’d throw each other at the dizzying rides and slides that were aimed at kids but seemed much more fun to adults, especially those with about eight pints in them. Night times in Blackpool were perilous, hungover adventures spent trying to avoid getting your head kicked in whilst trying to get off with equally drunk females. Quiet back street pubs were sought out leaving those huge pubs on the front, the Manchester and the Foxholes, to those who preferred fighting for their beer and their manly, drunken pride. Shirts were torn and vomited on, people got lost and never made it back, women pissed in the street and black eyes were sported the morning after. On one half remembered trip I found myself venting the bladder for the last time before boarding the coach home and spotted the figure of one of our group looking the worse for wear in the corner of the Gents. Deciding it was only right to help him back on the bus I got some fellow drinkers to help me get him upright but as we neared him the smell of what can only be described as an accident in the trouser department entered our nostrils. The three of us immediately took a step back and said it would be better if he was just left where he was but one good Samaritan took it upon himself to get him back on the bus. And that he did. And whilst shitty pants slept all the way back to Gomersal in the middle of the bus the rest of us were crammed for and aft with the windows open spending a long cold journey trying to get some sleep.

Then you throw in the poverty, in a recent survey of 31 English seaside towns researchers discovered that Blackpool, despite having more visitors than any of the others on the list had the worst poverty of them all. Then there’s the anti-depressant prescriptions, the alcohol abuse, the casual violence, the fading guest houses offering bed and breakfast for £15, the shit and overpriced watered down lager served in plastic pots, the ‘doormen’ who gladly take two pounds off you for the privilege of entering their establishment. Its against this backdrop that the Hobs have created Spirit World Circle Jerk. Perhaps their best album. Perhaps the best we’ll hear this year.

At the time of writing there are eight Ceramic Hobs some of whom have escaped the grip of psychiatric help and some who are in a constant battle trying to keeping it at arms length. There’s a guitarist in his teens [I think] and in and out member Nigel Joseph who is now famous for playing the Hoover and who when I saw them once sat stage front with a guitar, his nose so close to the fret board you had to wonder whether he was playing it or sniffing it. For Spirit World they’re also joined by the likes of Large Veiny Member, Calum Terras, Lee Stokoe, Kakawaka and Jason Williams some of whom are familiar and some of whom are either complete nutters or just joining in the fun for the day.

Spirit World Circle Jerk is probably the the Hobs most complete work. Coming on the back of a series of confusing releases all called OZ OZ Alice, Spirit World at least feels cohesive in the sense that its a record with some tracks on it that all have names.

Here we have African witchcraft, German nursery rhymes, Scientology, the theme from Cheers, easy listening, The Reverend Gary Davis covers, drunken Scotsmen singing ‘I Belong To Glasgow’, people who claim to have been through stargates, Led Zeppelin lyrics, celebrities, the landlady of the Hobs local singing ‘Smile’ and obscure references to the musical Grease.

The Hobs obsession with cults posing as religion and celebrity is shown to best effect in the sing-a-long ‘The Hong Kong Goolagong’. Nut case extraordinaire and leader of ‘The Family’ David Berg’s coughing fits rendered as words brought forth the word Goolagong [an aboriginal hitchhiking demon who killed Christian missionaries] a ‘fit’ that felt to him like being smothered in female breasts and then “I’m Angelina, you Jennifer’.

The first words we hear on Spirit World are of an African; ‘in accordance with the Bible witchcraft is a reality’. Before Morris’ belts out ‘say no to the devil’ against a background of fizzing high end guitar twiddle and chugging chords. The whole thing collapses into a squeal of guitar abuse and drum rolls whilst Morris wails into a spacey echo-y end before that African voice comes back with, more bizarrely, a disco track.

Its these juxtapositions that give Spirit World its fucked up what-the-fuckness. As the two minute riff monster ‘Falling Down The Stairs’ collapses into screams ‘The Hong Kong Goolagong’ begins with a straight lift from a YouTube video of a larger than life American female trying to get us all to sing-a-long to ‘I’m John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’. Which collapses and thence the screams and stuttering drums that are the start of the two minute  ‘Glasgow Housewife’ that includes the theme from Cheers speeded up to nonsense values.

The tile track is a James Barclay Harvest acoustic guitar strum-along, first as background with Morris talking about who knows what before it leaps into the foreground all ringing clear with wind chimes, chiming chords and high falsetto Amon Düll hippy chants.

T.A. Death is a straight forward 12 bar chug that sez its ’33 Trapped Chilean Miners part four’ 33 Trapped Chilean Miners was their last single on MDR and the precursor to all this.

But its the side long Voodoo Party that sets the hairs on end. The Hobs are no stranger to the longer track workout but never has the results been so mind boggling. A twenty minute track that at its very beginning of beginnings is a short burst of musical box tinkle, the Pearl and Dean intro via some African shamanic shaker bells before a loop of some descending four step easy listening intro music and two conversations going on at once, one from a woman who claims to have been through a star gate and the other between two blokes who may be talking about sex and then the whistling, the whistling of a happy Dean Martin, hands deep in pockets, not a care in the world whistle. Then a Burt Bacharach type composition that opens with a horn section before the voices disappear and we get the tribal drum meat of the side - the nearest the Hobs will come to the Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ with the massed Hobs singing ‘Voodoo Party’ as if dancing half naked around a large cooking pot containing the tied figure of a white missionary. At its end Morris speaks in a creepy guttural voice. There’s some live applause and Orb-ish beats, general disorientation and Morris singing ‘If it keeps on raining the levee’s gonna break’ and then the line from Eddie Grant’s reggae pop hit Electric Avenue whose ‘the feeling is bad’ has a completely different meaning when plonked in the midst of whats going on here. A rinky-dink piano section runs into samples taken from American TV newsflashes giving info on the James Homes shootout at the premier of the Batman film, the Sandy Hook shootings and the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. As the Hobs landlady sings ‘Smile’ theres a Beatles-esque crescendo of ‘Day in the Life’ proportions before everything goes very quiet indeed.

Like all great releases this has a depth that surpasses mere rock record. Even after a casual first time listen most Hobs fans, and music fans in general I hope, will realise that there's more going on here than first meets the ear. And I recommend you do investigate because once you get the bigger Hobs picture there may be some small chance that some of this will eventually make sense. Not total sense, that would be asking too much and maybe even impossible, but for a while you will be in Hobs World, in Blackpool, lost in witchcraft and cults and religion and rock music like no other, all of which need to be experienced.

Comes wrapped in 250 differently coloured silk screened covers courtesy of fellow East Coast misanthrope Dr. Steg. An essential item.

Further Reading

Must Die Records

Hong Kong Goolagong

David Berg

Angry Gay Pope

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lobster Priest - Crucial Trading

Lobster Priest - Crucial Trading
Fuckin’ Amateurs #72. LP

To the the North East and Viz and Gazza and the Angel of the North and Newcastle United and Earl Grey, Jackie Milburn, Richard Rupenus and those doll like girls who look like Oompah Loompahs and go ‘eeee fookin’ hell I’m proper pissed me’. I saw them on a recent BBC3 program about shop staff at the UK’s biggest retail outfit which is in Gateshead, two typical North East lasses with blond hair extensions, black smudges for eyebrows and orange skin sitting in the Metro centres champagne bar bitching about how hard life is when one of them said, arms all a-fling and in all seriousness ‘I am not materialistic … but I do like materialistic things’. 

To the North East and Gazza giving gunmen much needed refreshments and Chester-Le-Street and The New Blockaders and Toon fans who’d rather see their families go hungry  than not buy a season ticket. Whats not to like? The people are friendly [except for the gunmen] and the beer is particularly good. Should you find yourself in Newcastle I heartily recommend the Crown Posada down by the Tyne Bridge as a place of refuge not just for the fact that the beer is impressively good but that the landlord is the most miserable twat you could ever wish to meet.

We go up every year to spend a week walking along the empty beaches of Alnmouth and Bamburgh. Its heavenly and I urge you all to visit and tidy up after yourselves.

And then there’s Lobster Priest who I must admit to having never head of before. My loss. Tales abound of dressing up like the Sun City Girls and Peter Gabriel when he was in Genesis, hitting drums in an animal Muppet Show way and thrashing guitars in a Rallizes Denudes way before ingesting large amounts of alcohol and just going for it. Its what you do in the North East.

Judging by the cover these guys are soaking up the faded druggy American East Coast scene replacing ‘Ludes with Newcastle Brown Ale and lithe tanned, uber gorgeous stoned groupies with Oompah Loomphas that go ‘eeeee fookin’ hell’. The vibe is twin faceted with side two giving us a more near eastern tinged Muslimgauze wig out replete with Muezzin call, doped out ethnic beats and radio Ethiopique. This is ‘Live in Harran/Free Radio’ and as good as it is it doesn’t beat the monumental stoner dirge that is ‘Suzie Fuckin’ Q Death Trip’ a track that marries the desert waste space of Jodorowski’s ‘El Topo’ with the kick ass riffage of many a Jap psych outfit. The snatches of 50’s B-Movie gives us a Cosmonaut Hail Satan groove and anchor points from which to grip the armchair more tightly as you venture further in. ‘Suzie Q …’ travels a path that is its own trip, probably improvised or jammed, a riff taken out for a long trawl through the Bigg Market at 2.a.m. on a Sunday morning, all leery laddish drunken bonhomie and lasses freezing their tits off in teeny tiny outfits during a freezing gale.  Part of its appeal is the recording quality which sounds as if its all captured through one mic, everything overloaded and rupturous, boiling to molten metal levels before crashing and burning one more time.

A mysterious group this Lobster Priest. A five piece made up of bits of other groups like ‘Bong’ and others of a similar dirge-ish bent. By the sounds of it they’re all having an amazing time. I’m a north easterner at heart and you should be too.




Monday, August 05, 2013

Sheepscar Light Industrial 16,17,18

Tuluum Shimmering - Inside The Mountain
Sheepscar Light Industrial.
SLI/016 - 3” CDR

Daniel Thomas and Kevin Sanders - Transit Times Variations
Sheepscar Light Industrial.
SLI/017 - 3” CDR

Plurals - Glands Extraction
Sheepscar Light Industrial.
SLI/018 - 3” CDR

It would appear that me and Daniel’s schedules are now completely out of whack. Daniel does exactly the right thing by releasing three releases every three months and I do one review a week ... If the sap’s rising and the winds blowing in the right direction.

So it seems entirely predictable that just as Sheepscar Light Industrial release its next batch of groovy three inchers I find myself, only at this very late juncture, getting to grips with the last lot. Not exactly fingers on pulses but better late than never I suppose.

The wait has been worth it though. Far from running out of steam and offering up mates rates deals SLI continues to deliver quality material for the enlightened connoisseur. Three, three inch CDR’s usually works out to around an hours worth of entertainment, that when backed up with stark, generic, black and white covers and an easy to navigate website leaves everybody and me going home happy. SLI’s continued success means that each 50 run release disappears faster than the free money at a broken ATM but don’t worry there’s always the downloads. Its the quality of the sounds on offer that keeps the punters coming back. A reflection not only on label cheese Daniel Thomas’ keen ear but no doubt his own highly eclectic tastes too.

And just when you think you’ve got a grip on a label and you can put them in a box along with A,B and C they throw you a curve ball so devastating it takes the legs from under you leaving you with a cracked skull and eyelids full of dancing stars. Tuluum Shimmering are the surprise package this time around. No, I have no idea who they, he, she or it are but what they make is meditative, peaceful, gamelan, bamboo stick, Indian violin saw, flute and moaning devotional raga of a sort that had me deep in an ashram with the scent of joss sticks staining my clothes wanting to get all mystical and devout [its probably the nearest I’ll get]. ‘Inside The Mountain’ could have been made in a dope stinking squat in West Germany in 1974 or Ladakh in 1960 when a keen amateur sound recordist stumbled upon a group of Buddhist monks chanting at 4.30 in the morning just before sun up. Its effect is enough to make me want to play this ad nauseum thus extending its soporific head nodding effects into my own personal oblivion. If I’d have adopted a lotus position and joined in with some finger clinking cymbals of my own I reckon I could have been halfway to being a Hari Krishna devotee by now.

Things return to a considerably more familiar territory with the final two releases. The Plurals with a track that ends with some fine guitar neck banging in a oh-lets-see-what-happens-when-I-turn-this-thing-up-all-the-way-to-ten-and-bash-the-buggery-out-of-it kind of way but not before first emptying the sense with the echo of empty factory spaces and the electronic burbles of various gadgets as triggered by the touching of things with other things. There’s moaning too but I’m guessing it comes from whatever was poked on the table and not from someone with a spiritual thought in mind. When the clatter begins its impressive with the guitar being unleashed from its perambulatory proddings to do what guitars really do best - make a howling racket. At times it sounds as if the player is actually doing battle with the instrument, face to face, strings being scuzzed over with ten bob bits ruining fret board and fingers alike before it all becomes too much and collapses into a series of prop planes warming up before take off.

When Thomas teams up with that other West Yorks habitue Kevin Sanders the results tend to end up with lots of space in them. Literally.  Transit Times Variations ended up getting a mention from NASA after the pair titled one of their works after a NASA mission that shared a name with a group of streets in downtown Sheepscar … or something like that. Floaty, nether effervescence, electronic dust motes, calming and reflective, droney and captivating. You can let this wash over you or you can concentrate, trying to pick up where this is all coming from and, like me, probably failing. From a muffled lo-fi beginning things develop at about the same pace as a weak pulse until in its final death throes a throbbing thud makes it presence felt. Highly enjoyable. All of it. Here’s to 19,20 and 21.

[I even got a sew on patch for my denim jacket. Now all I need is a denim jacket.]


 Sheepscar Light Industrial

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Yol - Cordless Drill Faces Separation Anxiety
Self released CDR.

Cordless Drill Faces Separation Anxiety finds Yol in a far more serene state of mind. Yes, I know, where’s the abused mop bucket and the spittle flecked tourettes utterances, the scraped along the floor dustbins, the clatter of sheet metal and feral barks? They’re still here, don’t worry, but in shorter quantities and, gulp, in a more refined manner. it feels that within the span of but a handful of releases our man on the east coast has already matured from all out one man whirlwind of manic energy into something far more subtle.

Take ‘Rain Gutter’. An echoey empty space where the sound of passing vehicles and distant chatter play foil to a series of uncoordinated knocks and our man gurgling, as if in some twisted way, to his own offspring. A lullaby of sorts but one as administered by an Incubus slobbering over the trapped frame of some innocent cherub. Its the incongruity that appeals.

Previous Yol outings have had the same effect as sonic grime dislodgment machinery. Pointed in the right direction they were capable of dislodging plaque, flaky brickwork or precariously balanced ornaments. With his trusty mop bucket and a vocabulary made from short syllables and grunts the effect was enough to make this listener make involuntary backward head movements, the chin slowly dipping towards the chest, eyes opening wide in genuine shock and then the faintest of smiles.

Here we have seven shorter tracks that have the feeling of being, well, thought out. How else to explain ‘ilver’ and its slave boat rhythm beat, soon to be joined by squeaky metal, the clanging of bright steel and Yol rubbing a bastard file over his mop bucket. And only then do the vocals come in, the word ‘ilver’ expanding until it becomes ‘silver foiiiiiiiiiugggghhhhhl’ and then ‘no trolls under bridge’ in clipped tones by way of amusement.

‘what is’ is one of those tracks that I presume Yol records in his own space. Here the delivery is more frantic and more representative of his recent past - a constant blur of  stream of consciousness against dragged and scraped metal.

‘eco’ even has a squeeze box on it. Two of three wheezy chords against which Yol utters nonsense words. A sea shanty. A dying mans lament.

‘short horses’ is contact mics in the mop bucket noise, plus various small bits of metal getting chucked about as light percussion. Yol: ‘two crashed cars over two days’ [repeat a few times quickly] followed by horrible noise and then ‘short horses’ in a breathless manner before retching sounds and squealing feedback.

‘thumbed’ sounds like it has one of those African thumb pianos on it.

‘forked tongue’ is squeaky bike seat time with an asphyxiated Yol slowly passing out on the floor.

The man has energy in spades and his recordings show it. His delivery is infectious and the way he’s matured over these seven tracks is remarkable.

Cordless Drill Faces Separation Anxiety shows that Yol isn’t just a one trick pony with a mop bucket and a contact mic. I doubt a concept album will ever appear but in the meantime long may he utter.