Saturday, May 24, 2014

SPON 40/41/42 and Decadence Comics

Story Simon Harris Art Dr. Adolf Steg
 A4 comic.

In Memory of Nigel Joseph CD

The Mark Ritchie Pocket Poetry Edition.
A6 booklet. 30 copies.

ADAMAO by Stathis Tsemberlidis
Decadence Productions 2011
A5 comic.

Aaaphide Spenk Comik - Stories by Shaun Odor and Dr. Adolf Steg.
A5 comic

We left Dr. Steg outside Gullivers in Manchester at past midnight in the pouring rain his golden masks in Ikea bags surrounding his feet like golden beetles. He cut a forlorn figure, damp to his very soul, the drink having taken its effect many hours earlier when he decided to usurp whatever it was that was playing across the corridor by staging his own anti-concert. This consisted of throwing to the floor just about anything he could get his hands on whilst waving about dangerous looking gold sprayed knives and crosses that he’d brought along as Smell & Quim props. Somewhere down the line the rather benevolent staff took it upon themselves to tell him in no uncertain words that if he didn’t stop playing silly buggers he’d find himself on the street rather earlier and damper than he anticipated.

And there he is on stage with Smell & Quim not too long after, wearing one of his masks, drunk as hell shouting and screaming in to a microphone alongside someone who up until that afternoon had never heard of Smell & Quim.

The noise world could do with a few more loose canons. It certainly adds to the tension at gigs.

It seems that my premature announcement of the death of Dr. Steg’s SPON project caused a bit of a stir amongst friends of the the good doctors work. It turns out that I was half right and half wrong all along. SPON will cease after its 42nd incarnation but word reaches me from Steg’s very own pen, this very day of our Lord the 22nd of May 2014 that the project will continue as a collaborative one under the SPOONGG banner.

If the two collaborations here are representative then the future looks long and brown and Jimmy Savile cigar shaped. Thats a good thing in Steg’s world and in ours too. Having delighted, amused, baffled and [some may say] outraged those of us who have come across his work since emerging via the Fylde Coast it would be nothing short of a national tragedy to see him hang up his knife, pen, scissors, glue, spray paint or whatever it is he chooses to create his work with.

Steg’s right eye bulges with healthy disdain when it comes to trying to make sense of this ball of muck and water that spins beneath our feet. If his work offends then I dare say he’d be chuffed to bits. The recent jailing of various 70’s DJ’s, entertainers and celebrities for sex crimes is manna from heaven for one such as Steg. What was once cuddly and TV friendly and to be found adorning the walls of unknowing cherubs turns out to be the very thing they should have be afraid of. The world turned upside down. Chaos in pink rooms with Baba Papa wallpaper and David ‘Kid’ Jensen on the radio.

Lets start with what I think is the most delightful item here; a small A6 [?] booklet with a braille, paint smudged cover, lots of Steg’s bright and colorful abstractions and lots and lots of poems as culled from Mark Ritchie’s Hiroshima Yeah! zine. Ritchie puts out the cynical, world weary, drink soaked, fuck you cut and paste HY! zine on a regular monthly basis and is a much anticipated and welcome arrival here, as it has been for what must be over ten years now.  Most of the poems are Ritchie’s own but there a few from HY’s other contributors all of them suffused with huge amounts of drollery and apathy. I’m no massive poetry fan myself but I cant help but admire Ritchie’s work especially a two line poem like ‘Fanxiety’ that both nails the trivial ridiculousness of the ever expanding modern cultural lexicon whilst giving us a chortle along the way:

'The definition of fanxiety is:
worrying about your teeth'.

Or on existentialist philosophy:

'I shite,
Therefore I am'.

A treasured item that I hope will become as sacred as Bukowski’s early pamphlet ‘Crucifix in a Deathhand’. I shall carry it and submit to memory its most memorable words, reciting them to somber drunks in The Duncan. A willing audience if ever there was one.

The Happy Christmas issue sees Simon Harris’s OZ OZ Alice blogspot entries used as text for a host of Steg’s twisted creatures. A meeting of Blackpool minds with the Ceramic Hobs mainman’s observations [a curious mixture of the mundane and the unsettling] finding a voice via many a Steg deformity.

The most poignant artifact here is the tribute to Ceramic Hobs guitarist Nigel Joseph who died earlier this year. ‘Nigel Joseph 1 2 3’ contains his last ever noise release under that name and the Hobs gig as recorded after his funeral. I actually reviewed ‘1 2 3’ two days before Joseph’s death, the news of which spooked me no end. My initial reaction was that I hope he didn’t commit suicide over what I wrote [my review was hardly enthusiastic] which in the cold light of day appears ridiculous but this is the Hobs we’re talking about here. That review appears here. The gig at his wake is a typically wild and shambolic Hobs affair presaged with five minutes of people ordering drinks at the bar before a guitar gets plugged in and things go suitably haywire. I dare say drink had been taken.

The rest of what you see here are various bits of detritus that accompany Steg missives and two comics from Decadence Comics which Dr Steg assures me is worthy of your attention. From what I’ve seen here I’d agree wholeheartedly. Aaaphide Spenk Comik contains stories by Shaun Odour and Steg whose images appear to be rips from French outfit La Dernier Cri, bits of letters from Jason Williams and various other cut and paste robbed ephemera, the centre spread is reproduced here in all its magnificence. ADAMAO baffled me no end but its minimalist style certainly appealed in a dystopian fantasy kind of way.

One more and SPOONGG’s away then.
World of Steg

Decadence Comics

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gorges - Our Throats Like Valleys

Gorges - Our Throats Like Valleys
Abandon Reason. ABRE001
Cassette [100 copies] + DL

I’m In The Abyss!
Abandon Reason. ABRE000
DL + Art Prints.

Setting up your recording equipment in environments conducive to echo is no new thing of course. The recent unearthing of 1984’s ‘Curfew Recordings’ where a bitumen tank 10m tall and 26m wide was utilized by various members of the early English Industrial/Noise scene to create some seriously ritualistic resonant waves sent me scurrying down internet holes to seek out further examples of delightful echoey reverberation. I found Pauline Oliveros who with her Deep Listening Band one day descended 14 foot underground to an enormous disused water cistern in Washington State to record the seminal album Deep Listening. Fellow band member Stuart Dempster returned to the same space with several fellow explorers to recorded massed drones using trombones. I dare say you could fill many a page with saxophone players who have utilized the insides of churches backed by the Hillard Ensemble alone but its the urban, concrete and steel environments that I find more rewarding.

Not for our intrepid heroes the welcoming sight of a medieval church and the smile of an obliging cleric or a professional sound recording crew, Oliveros and her gang had to wade through the muck that was left in that cistern, the Curfew crew recorded in the middle of the night, surreptitiously so as to avoid arrest, all the while slowly sinking in to the bitumen residue. Gorges stick to this ethos by recording in a disused underground car park in Galway Ireland. Three of them, equipped with various instruments including two harmoniums, two toy horns, a trombone, a nefar [an African horn I think] and their own voices.

Our Throats Like Valley’s is, as you would expect from something recorded in a dank, candle lit, disused car park within spitting distance of the west coast of Ireland, seriously dark, droney and moody. The sounds reflect the space it was recorded in perfectly. I’m assuming all these eight tracks are improvised too [the download actually works better here as the tracks are reduced to side A and B thus making the track titles redundant]. Moving from ghostly moans to all out trombone abuse, the mood shifts from folky moans to to Pharoah Sanders-esque drones with suitable ease and if the noisy stuff drowns out the reverberations somewhat, who am I to complain?

All this highlights what is beginning to look like a developing Irish ‘scene’ - a disused underground car park in Galway may find itself at the center of it all. Gigs have been played here despite the darkness and, I’m assuming, the overall unwelcoming nature of the place, with punters stumbling around in the dark following candles as markers whilst trying not to step in puddles of sea water. A compendium of works recorded here exist through ‘I’m in the Abyss’, a primer of sorts highlighting the ways different artists treat the space and how the space responds to folk music, sheet metal bashing and bells being thrown around [amongst other things]. Somewhere in that lot I heard a violin sawing that's was as near to a Steve Reich piece as its possible to get without being Steve Reich. I wonder if Reich ever performs in car parks? Perhaps not.

All of this coincides with Bang The Bore’s up and coming Twelve Tapes project at Bristol's Arnolfini; a composition for 24 car parks, a sine wave, twelve C60 cassettes and any number of performers.

Car parks, its where its all happening.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Midwich - The Brunt

Midwich - The Brunt.
Download only 30 minute single track album.

For whatever reason I took myself away from the computer for long periods of time over the last few weeks. The most I could manage was about half an hour in one sitting and then I stood up and walked the grounds, poked about in the Rhododendron's and wondered if it’d be worthwhile getting the drive re-graveled now that the weather’s taken a turn for the better.

Mrs. Fisher put some new curtains up in the writing room. This room here where I tap these words now. Said curtains are very thin and the light comes through them. Unlike the ones they replaced, which I preferred, which were thick and heavy and blocked out the light making it easier for me to see the monitor, the one I’m staring at now. The trouble with these new curtains is that they reveal a room which has largely remained unchanged for about the last 18 years. Thats about the same amount of time I’ve been writing reviews and publishing zines and it got me to thinking; if those curtains hadn’t been changed, would I still be sitting in this room 18 years hence tapping out the same kind of reviews behind those same dark curtains?

To be honest I was beginning to feel I’d hit a rut, a not entirely uncomfortable one it has to be said but one from which I was getting bored of bumping along in. My audience knew me and I them and what a lovely world it is we all live in. The days when I’d receive a jiffy bag full of crap tapes from someone I’d never heard of who didn’t mind if I said they were all totally shit are thin on the ground now. I used to get zines from exotic countries [until Steg arrived and then I got them from Blackpool] and hand written letters from African’s asking me for money. I used to get DVD’s of Italians flashing their knobs to a background of loud and discordant feedback and one sided noise LP’s with paste on covers made from recycled record sleeves. Envelopes with nothing in them but a letter saying ‘here’s five euros for the last two zines’ were quite common, I think I must have kept a light fingered postie in fags for many a year.

I’ve been in these ruts before, when everything sounds same-y and the world does nothing but pump out generic music bubbles that pop like the watery suds on the top of a crap pint of lager. It eventually passes. A release comes along that sort of makes sense of the situation.

Is ‘The Brunt’ that release? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it is rather lovely and the perfect antidote to whatever lassitude it is that ails you. Its the kind of Midwich drone that effortlessly floats by, a warm breeze on a summers day that makes you feel glad to be alive, a pint of beer that hits the spot perfectly, the smell of a field full of oil seed rape as you pass by on the way to somewhere special in an open top sports car. But what I like about The Brunt the most is that it exists only in a digital format. After eyeing downloads suspiciously since their inception I now realise that, in some circumstance at least, they have their uses.

I wouldn’t for instance pay iTunes a £125 for the Beatles box set [box set here being somewhat of a misnomer seeing as how it only exists digitally]  or £100 for the AC/DC Complete Collection, I do prefer hard copy over download but there comes a time when a download is all you need. As evinced by the recent Tom Carter Benefit Release where a hundred artists gave their work for free so that you the punter could donate money to the ’Get Tom Carter Back On His Feet’ fund without the hassle of the people involved having to waste money and time making hard copies that would cost even more money to send in the post for you to listen to and leave on a shelf when you’ve done with it. The Brunt is a benefit track too. A pound is all thats asked for. That pound will help Rob Hayler fund his Barrel Nut micro zine and other Radio Free Midwich adventures. One measly English pound.

All this ties in nicely with my thoughts on the continued clear out that began several months ago. Mrs Fisher’s mantra ‘The more shit you own, the more the shit owns you’ is one to live by. Less is more. Ditch the shit or have someone sort it out once you’ve pegged it. The continued clear out sees the classical vinyl collection [minus the avant garde stuff] disappear down the chazza along with a further thinning of the kind of crap that I bought just because I thought they had nice covers. LP’s with nice covers and crap music can go live in Oxfam. Discogs sees a small trickle of once thought good items that I bought because Julian Cope told me to and the work of several electronic artist who I now realise have more time, money and sycophantic label bosses than is good for them.

And whilst I’m here ... box sets packed with ludicrous amounts of detritus. It gets worse. Recent favourites and prime examples of the genre are the first three Oasis albums, now all getting the 20th Anniversary treatment, bloated up to include 3CD’s, 2 LP’s, a 56 page hardback coffee table book, a 12 x 12” print, a tote bag, an enamel keyring, a set of badges, 5 postcards and an exclusive 7" single, all yours for a £110. Not to be outdone Neil Young’s new release has a box set version containing this lot; a standard LP, a “direct feed from the booth" audiophile LP, seven 6" clear vinyl discs, 1 standard CD, 1 DVD, one 32-page book, a 12" x 12" book, and [of course] a download version. This also retails at a £110 meaning that if you spent £220 on these two box sets you will have parted with a sizeable amount of money for two albums. Forget all the crap that comes with it, thats £220 for two albums worth of music. You can buy a lot of curtains for that kind of money, or 220 Midwich downloads. I know which I prefer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Saboteuse - Harsh Whelm

Saboteuse - Harsh Whelm
Feathered Coyote Records.
Cassette. DL.

For what seems like decades Joincey and Jarvis have created, via Jesus Christ knows how many labels and projects, a list of work that if reproduced here would involve a very long scroll down the page. Two of the longest running members of the ‘No Audience Underground’ from the days when it was just the plain old underground. Without them the place just wouldn’t be the same.

Saboteuse then, an intermittent project where Joincey and Jarvis run free and wild within song structures of an experimental nature creating all manner of oddities, ranging from late Whitehouse like breathy menace to all out Wyrd English Folk [if there is such a thing] and plenty of more inbetween.

Having ‘Harsh Whelm’ stuck in my mitt at the Crater Lake fest by the ever suave Andy Jarvis made my black little heart skip a tiny beat. So enamored was I with Harsh Whelm that I took to digging out a couple of their previous efforts that just happened to be at arms length. The first being ‘Worship The Devil’, a continuous 40 minute tranche of rapid guitar thrape, controlled feedback and drum rattles that appeared on Phil Todd’s Memoirs of an Aesthete label back in 2006 and then, from the same year ‘About So Much “More” Than What Its About’ on the Belgian label Audiobot. Here’s where the songs come in. There’s more afoot I’m told. Don’t believe everything Discogs tells you.

Some people wouldn’t call these songs songs of course. Hearing Joincey recite surreal stream of consciousness shopping lists to a background of Jarvis’s primitive industrial rumblings [Stray’d] wont get them in the charts but they are still songs when all is said and done. They’re short too, 16 of them in total and heres the best bit, they’re all remarkably different in construct. How many artists working in the same field can you say that about?

The opener ‘Diet of Glass’ has some Sonic Youth like bald guitar noodling before we get the first instance of Joincey’s instantly recognisable tremulous voice. Joincey’s singing voice is a wavering fragile thing at times dreamy and wistful, staring out of a window blank dreamy thoughts, at times wheedling and sometimes dare I say it, damned well grating. ‘Suggestable’ finds Jarvis playing Mario Brothers circuit glitch with some runny drum rums and sleigh bells as Joincey moans odd words. ‘Paracetamol and Bandages’ could be their next single; a droning guitar chug that is Saboteuse’s very own Helter Skelter replete with whistling feedback ending. ‘You Can Use it Again and Again [Fly Robin Fly]’ is wheezy organs and bird calls, Joincey pronouncing odd words before going silent on us leaving whats left to run free. ‘A Fighter’s Hand’ is Spanish guitar with more moaning. ‘Dead Piano Eyes’ has the Grand Prix intro bass guitar on it along with some mad trebly electric guitar and more Joincey spoken words, we’re venturing into Trout Mask Replica territory here, improv heaven, the A Band on the day when only two of them turned up. The last track is electro noise.

An eclectic release. A wonderful release. The two J’s at the height of their powers. No one even gets near.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Michael Flower and Neil Campbell - Wharf Cat

Michael Flower and Neil Campbell - Wharf Cat
Golden Lab Records. Rowf 40. 7” + CD + 20 page silk screened book.

What joys. A flying visit to the Wharf but no beer as the limo awaits but home soon enough with this beauty in hand sipping Rioja and a fine end to a fine weekend and even Mrs Fisher is digging the psych groove, from the cheery beery banter at the beginning of track one to the seagull goodbyes and bovine moans that are backward tapes bowing out at the end of track three.

Flower and Campbell make for a fine duo. Flower with guitar in hand spitting dots of electricity over everything, mingling his fuzzed out spurts with Campbell’s plug it in and see what this does man mantra. A day release from Vibracathedral Orchestra and for my money shoving them in to second place in the psych head bob stakes.

I’m thinking Reed [Lou not Austin] and Fripp’s searing runs on Swastika Girls, the way Flower gets his guitar to dissolve on track three is nothing short of down on your knees miraculous, a Yorkshire Young [Neil not Angus] but with better drugs in his veins [Sam Smiths] letting the chords wash over Campbell’s dense thicket of electronic mush, a warm of static that eventually gives out to bovine moans and the gentle trickle of bridge strings.

The single is pure Velvets, a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug.

One side of it at any rate. The single is brief, an aperitif, an amuse bouche an added dimension to the stunning booklet that this comes wrapped in with Manchester artist Lucy Jones artwork wot she did whilst listening to this.

But its the CD and those three live tracks as captured at the Wharf Chambers when I wasn’t there, that gives them room to breathe and journey into the psychedelic undergrowth.

Each track runs in at around the 20 minute mark, each capturing a different mood. First track is more head expanding, full on. Flower's string frots are wows of bended notes, string hangs that help build sustain whilst behind him Campbell throws everything he’s got into a shuddering, climaxing wall of ever increasing, destabilizing, off kilter, she’s gonna blow, lids coming off, duck for cover, head between your knees orgasm of the century. Second track kicks off with a louche Hendrix lick that mutates as Campbell feeds in stabs of electronics. A slower piece that initially finds Campbell in Keith Emerson mode before moving in to Sun Ra territory with some all over the shop dappled synth dabs. The way it grooves out on a sea of Fripp-esque motes is truly beautiful. And the slowest of the lot is the last. Perhaps they just couldn’t maintain the tempo, the beer kicking in, sweat running down backs, vision blurring. Perhaps the crowd rushed in clamoring for autographs, grabbing equipment for souvenirs, tearing at shirts and hair [Mick’s not Neil’s] for this is joyful stuff, a whiff of incense and buzzing amps and swirling notes which begins with wobbly ASC-ish off kilter rhythms before Flower’s guitar moves in with a TG blast of deadened strings.

So that's Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Sun Ra, Robert Fripp, Throbbing Gristle, The Velvet Underground and ELP all coming to mind within one release and I dare say that if you listened to this several more times you’d unearth several more influences.

Such is the state of play in Leeds as of 2014, a continuing psychedelic hotpot of drone and noise quietly bubbling away on nothing much stronger than Pale Ale.

According to the Golden Lab Records website their last outing here sold out within an hour of being announced. If any of these still exist I urge you to purchase immediately. One of the best things I’ve heard in months.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Smell & Quim, Black Leather Jesus and some other noise bands Manchester May 10th 2014

Smell & Quim, Black Leather Jesus and some other noisy people

Gullivers, Manchester, 10/05/2014

Simon Morris is having a skull covered maraca shoved up his arse by Kate Fear which she then mock shags. Kate Fear is hacking off Stewart Keith’s hair with a gold spray painted kitchen knife that is all but blunt. Simon Morris is covered in what looks like shit but which turns out to be melted chocolate. Smell & Quim are wearing white t-shirts and matching oversized Granddad underwear with words like ‘CRABS’ and CHLAMYDIA’  and ‘SHIT’ written on them. Some members of Smell & Quim are wearing golden masks made by Dr. Steg that are covered in barbed wire and bits of broken razor blades, crosses and lights which nobody can really see out of and nobody can really see through. They are also very heavy. There’s somebody in Smell & Quim who’d never heard of the band until that afternoon when he saw Steg, Morris and Fear at a Keith Dellar book reading in Salford and wondered what the masks were for. He spends the entire set wearing a mask stood next to Dr. Steg screaming his lungs out until they both run out of energy and collapse on the floor like deflated balloons. Steg, Morris and Kate are blind drunk by the time they get there and Steg nearly gets chucked out for turning the Green Room in to an Anti performance by chucking cans of beer and food everywhere. He’s waving a knife about in an alarming fashion and telling Dave that if he hits someone over the head with this cross that he’s made it will definitely draw blood. Dave tries on one of Steg’s masks and cuts the back of his head blood running down his neck. Smell & Quim are all stood on stage drunk and the equipment isn’t working so they all start singing something about buckets of piss. When it does kick in there’s squeals of feedback and a resonating boom as the skull covered maracas are bashed together in quick fashion. Everybody is getting sweaty and the smell of rank lager is strong. The chocolate is melting on Morris’s back and running down into his underwear. He picks up a children’s Top of the Pops annual from the 1970’s and mock wanks to it with is back to the audience. Kate Fear pulls down his underwear and he holds the book in front of his crotch to avoid a Jim Morrison moment. Dave Walklett and Dr. Steg are drinking from a bottle of red wine that they have to lift their masks up to get to their mouths. They then bash their heads together like rutting stags, the barbed wire and the bits of razor becoming entangled. Stewart Keith is kissing all the audience. He’s unrolling a huge sheet of paper that the audience rip to shreds. Rubber gloves are thrown about. A huge THUD THUD THUD emanates from the speakers and continues unadorned for the rest of the thirty minute set. Stewart Keith tries to say something to Dave and gets his face stabbed by Dave’s mask. Outside its coming down like stair rods. Downstairs a drunk is singing along to the Ramones ‘Hey Ho Lets Go!’ to which the landlord shouts ‘Fuck off then’.

There were some other noise bands on too.

Gullivers has had a make over since Smell & Quim played there last year. The pub across the road has bought the place and ripped out the upstairs room, replacing all the quirky furniture and wall plastered posters with nothing. Just a big empty room with a stage at the end. They’ve even ripped out the DJ boothr downstairs and replaced it with chairs to sit on.

Con-Dom and Brut have cancelled earlier in the week and have been replaced by friends of friends and Germ Seed who also cancels. Its all a bit chaotic and the first few bands pass in a blur [I miss the first band, acoustic guitars are mentioned], Now Wash Your Hands with a mock P.E. set is genuinely funny. Someone out of Black Leather Jesus makes a noise, someone out of the Barbarians bashes a roadwork sign and makes some noise but its not until we get to Svartvit and the black leather gloves and the truly monstrous sound of a small analogue synth that pounds the walls and see’s Svartvit drag members of the audience around that the gig really seems to take off. Black Leather Jesus I can not see but theres three of them sat on the floor and the noise they make is full on, barely changing, thick, heavy, sludgy but good and honest and very, very loud and at around the 15 minute mark perfectly judged.

All of that was but mere preamble to the drunken cavortings of Smell & Quim. You will hear about what happened last night in the days to come. Smell & Quim gigs pass in to legend like folk lore via by word of mouth. By next year Simon Morris’s rectum will have been invaded by a full length arm and the ghost of Jimmy Savile will have been seen in the piss stinking bogs, the rain will have permeated the rotten roof and Dr. Steg will have been arrested at the entrance to Piccadilly Station for wearing a mask that is a danger to the public.