Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adam Bohman - Music and Words 2

Adam Bohman - Music and Words 2
Paradigm Discs. PD30. CD

There’s a guy walks around Cleckheaton covered in huge Kylie Minogue badges who mutters to himself. He’s never without a carrier bag the contents of which are numerous holiday photographs which he’ll gladly show you. He stands at the bar drinking out of his Leeds United pint glass and with typical unimaginative provincial humour gets called Stevie Strange.

The first time I saw Adam Bohman at a gig I thought of Stevie Strange. Bohman arrived at the gig and wandered about with numerous carrier bags in hand looking like a lost soul in search of the Mission. His carrier bags contained not photographs [well ... you never know] but various items of detritus with which he and the rest of Morphogenesis used to produce some rather wonderful electro-acoustic improv.

On ‘Music and Words 2’ we find Bohman capturing his every waking moment on a dictaphone. An accumulation of thoughts and observations. I doubt he can move around without it in his hand. Here we have his observations recorded in London, Southend and Wiesbaden, ‘The time is just after 9 a.m. and I’m in the Acre Lane Coffee House egg bacon sausage and fried slice tipping down with rain outside then I’ll walk down to the tube station and then to Heathrow for the flight to Frankfurt airport’ all recited in Bohman’s own splendidly lugubrious tone.  At times he becomes more animated, adopting a Cockney accent to regale us with the delights of Southend sea front, ‘Rockettes, Thursday night laser disco karaoke …’ he edits as he goes along utilising his pause button with gay abandon ensuring that what you get comes in a seemingly random fashion with words disappearing mid sentence whilst others appear in similar fashion.

Humour is his greatest asset. I can’t think of any other artist working in the avant-garde who can reduce a listener to laughter. On ‘Barry on the Blower’ Bohman rings up the chart phone line [this was the early 80’s] ‘I wanna hear Barry Manilow’ he says in a childish voice before Barry appears down the crackly line. On ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ Bohman joins in a traditional rendition of the song with what sounds like a rubber car horn.  ‘Hectomaneous Masturbation’ is a punk influenced affair, an off his tits Viv Stanshall thrashing away at a Desperate Bicycles b-side. ‘Ordnance Survey’ sounds like the music from Trumpton with Bohman coughing his guts up [‘Ordnance Survey, yuk, yuk, yuk’]. ‘The Unfortunate Demise of Sammy Slug’ is a one minute drama recounting the demise of Sammy the Slug. Perhaps the most mirth inducing moments come during ‘The Lost Islands’ where Bohman uses his TV set as sparring partner making animal noises to a wildlife programme and farting noises to a musical box. ‘Is there anyone there’ says a TV character ‘NO!’ shouts Bohman at his television set. He joins in with dialogue and accompanies a theme tune as would a drunk Derek Bailey on a guitar with only two strings left on it, both out of tune. ‘When a Man’ finds Bohman [along with someone called Kenny] sparring words at each other in gruffer and gruffer voices. 
And then theres the tape compositions, ‘Screams of the Undead Earthworms’ where tapes go to and fro over abused capstans as Bohman groans and gurgles into the mic like a deranged Michael Bentine. ‘Among the Twinkling Stars’ is a series of cut ups and edits culled from TV programmes replete with squished edits and more heavy duty use of the pause button. 'Galactic Radio Storm' appears to be short wave radio recordings given the pause/play treatment. ‘Music for Metal Pipe and Guitar’ is just that.

His greatest achievement is in making the mundane appear remarkable. His is a world where everything is remarkable, from a restaurant menu, to the contents of his fridge, to the synopsis of a TV programme, to the noise that a spring makes. Entering Adam Bohman’s world has all the benefits of a week in a remote cottage without contact to the outside world. He will realign your chakra [whatever that is], he will ying your yang. He will remind you that the world you live in is indeed a very special one. The man moves amongst us like no other. The recent exhibition of his art at London’s Cafe Oto has lead a step nearer to his beatification.

Twenty eight tracks and almost eighty minutes that span the early eighties right up until 2010 all expertly compiled by Clive Graham and culled from Bohman’s own cassette masters.

All this comes in a rather spiffing fold out digipak, one picture of which disturbed me no end; the picture of Bohamn with that toilet in the background. Is he in the same room as the toilet or was the door to the toilet left open? Did he and his three friends [I can see three plates, nothing gets past me] think not to shut the door? And the toilet lid has one of those hideous 70's fluffy covers. Very strange.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Merzouga - Live at Fluc / Prinzip Nemesis - My Name is Assumption

Merzouga - Live at Fluc
Attenuation Circuit Concert Series. ACC 1013. CDR in DVD Case.

Prinzip Nemesis - My Name is Assumption
Attenuation Circuit Concert Series.

Seeing as how we were about to see an improv performance by the Vibracathedral Orchestra at the WC, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, I asked Phil Todd if he’d had the email that was going round wondering if there were people interested in restarting The Termite Club. After nearly spraying his beer all over me I took it that he hadn’t.

The Termite Club was one of the few organisations in the country that dared to dirty its hands with Improv and the chances of it reforming are slim indeed. The reason it eventually died a death was mainly down to the fact that gigs of an improv nature were nearly always poorly attended. After Derek Bailey went to join Elvis they became even less well attended. An improv gig in Leeds was the fiscal equivalent of setting fire to tenners. You could be virtually guaranteed to lose money, along with, as is more likely, your sanity, friends and musical associates.

But I do like a bit of improv. When its done well it can be the most rewarding of musical experiences creating sounds that appear as if from nowhere, sounds that you’ve never heard before, that moment of sheer rhapsody that emerges in the midst of a 30 minute scrummage between guitar, drum, sax and electronics. In its myriad forms it can and does delight, but, and heres the rub, just as easily infuriate. For when improv goes bad it goes bad like little else. Its very nature demands that there will be as many, if not more, lows than highs. Its comes with the territory.

If the Termite Club ever does reform I wouldn’t mind seeing Merzouga on the bill. Merzouga are the German duo of Jano Hanushevsky [prepared electronic bass] and Eva Pöppelin [electronic sounds]. They’ve graced these pages before, working their improvised sounds into field recordings and wax cylinders with equally joyous and stunning results.

On ‘Live at Fluc’ they’re on their own as it were with a 40 minute performance as given in Vienna in 2012. The pairing of prepared bass and electronics is an inspired one at once linking a physical wood and steel instrument with a massed produced piece of technology, the results being far more organic than anything produced entirely via lap top or similar. The seemingly endless array of sounds Hanushevsky teases out of his instrument is quite stunning, everything from frotted strings to plucked strings to sawed strings, to vibrating strings, hammered, drilled, knocked, bashed whatever but always seemingly in control weaving his instrument through the effects as produced by Pöppelin, be they chirping insects, sine waves, ringing glasses or as in one particularly memorable instance the inside of an effervescing Alka Seltzer glass whose sudden leap in volume is nothing short of magnificent. The mood is often sombre and austere, at times thoughtful, chin stroking but never for an instant boring. Quite an achievement.

On the other side of the coin we find Prinzip Nemesis and their awful ‘My Name Is Assumption’. A car crash of musical styles that would only appeal to people with Attention Deficit Disorder and FDW over at Vital Weekly [he said after a quick internet search].

From the press release: ‘Prinzip Nemesis are wise enough to know that sounds do not always speak for themselves, so to tell a story with sounds you still need words - and music, in this case a kind of goth/rock/electro-pop/ambient hybrid style …. ’

Quite possibly one of the most hideous and misguided releases ever to cross this desk. Not even the Termite Club would have had them.

Attenuation Circuit


Friday, July 18, 2014

Vowinckel / Kutin

Antje Vowinckel - Terra Prosodia
Gruenrekorder. Gruen 125. CD/DL

Peter Kutin - Burmese Days
Gruenrekorder. Gruen 132. LP/DL

The Tower of Babel. A convenient Biblical story created to explain the existence of the multitude of languages we share. But what if we all spoke the same language? Wouldn’t it be much easier? If only we hadn’t pissed God off all those years ago with that silly tower.

I love languages. I may not speak some of the European ones very well but I like to have a go when given the opportunity. And when the that fails there’s always finger pointing and sign language. Its all part of the fun and you usually get there in the end. Its not like I’m involved in foreign diplomacy here, I’m usually trying to buy a meal or get a bus somewhere. Travels abroad used to be a lesson in how much schoolboy French you could remember but now that everyone speaks English its less of a thrill.  When working abroad in the 90’s I did have to resort to ordering food in rural Chinese restaurants by pointing at several items on a menu covered in characters I couldn’t understand hoping that some of it would be edible, but by adding the Chinese word for beer, I at least got a drink. Some of the food turned out to be pretty good too.

Languages continue to die out as the world shrinks ever smaller. I read recently that the Danes are worried that their children now find Danish harder to learn than English. The single commonplace French language is also a fairly modern concept after the 17th century French government of the day realised that a nation that didn’t speak a common tongue was virtually ungovernable and deliberately eradicated numerous local tongues. The list of extinct European languages alone runs into the dozens.  

Antje Vowinckel’s release Terra Prosodia collects several European languages that are in danger of dying out so that we can hear what they sound like ourselves; Romansch, Gutamal, Wallis-Deutsch and a couple of obscure ‘French’ examples are reproduced for our edification. Its an educational undertaking and one of which I wholeheartedly approve. If only it stopped there. By adding pointless bits of noodling electronica to these voices [twanging rulers anyone?] Vowinckel [a sound artist] actually detracts from them. I obviously don’t understand what the speakers are saying but I’d like to hear what they do have to say without a cat taking a walk along a synth. I’m at a loss as to why anyone would think this would be a good idea at all.

Peter Kutin’s excellent Burmese Days does a far better job than Vowinckel’s by keeping things simpler. Here, a collection of eleven field recordings are segued into two wholes [unusually for Gruenrekorder this comes as a vinyl release] with the voices of the Burmese, where ever they appear along this wonderful release, given a clarity they deserve.

Kutin visited Myanmar in 2012 shortly after 60 years of military rule gave way to a democracy of sorts. With journalists now given free reign to wander where they wish Kutin returned with, no doubt, many hours of field recordings which he then used to capture the feelings he experienced whilst there. Having listened to my fair share of field recordings I’d say he’s done a fantastic job. Typing this in a muggy room late at night as the UK reaches its first heatwave of the summer means those insects and forest sound are far nearer Myanmar than Leeds.

This is a ‘journey’ work capturing many aspects of his trip, insects, forests, bowl rings, the imam’s 5.a.m call, street markets, work places, train journeys, gongs ... the lone male singer on ‘Train to Rangoon’ is a happy one, the sound of the train wheels on the rickety track adding its own rhythm, the insects that open the piece are nearer pure electronics than cicadas, the bowl ring that rides out the last five minutes is spine tingling.

Kutin is aided by Viennese turntablist dieb13 who had a hand in mixing it and Brendt Thurner who added various gongs and metallophone sounds. Their contributions augment and enhance the work.

This is the only field recording album I’ve heard of that instructs the listener to play it back at high volume with good bass response. At times it does feel like you’re listening to glitch electronica or a Pan Sonic album but this only adds to its mystery and longevity.

Burmese Days is a work worthy of many repeated plays. A true gem in the Gruenrekorder catalogue.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Smell & Quim

Smell & Quim/Onomatopoeia - 'Live At Kirkstall Lites - Brutalist Mix'
Cipher Productions [Sic 82]. CD

Smell & Quim - Quim De La Quim
Stront. Cassette. [C90 in A5 wallet with two inserts]

The Smell & Quim tour bus is full of rotting corpses watching animal porn. Rolf Harris steering the 254 Huddersfield to Leeds Arriva to the Kirkstall Lites, a neon lit fun pub where the tearful souls of attendees are tormented by long haired skeletons in shell suits bearing an uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Savile. The conductor is Cyril Smith. A midget troupe of Black and White Minstrels sing a capella versions of Brown Girl In The Ring whilst pumping helium into tired wheels that show their webbing. Chuck D swings his oversized alarm clock in homage to Jimmy Clitheroe and Ken Dodd tells jokes. How tickled I am.

The recent rectum invading Gulliver’s gig in Manchester added yet another page to the already notorious Smell & Quim live action dossier. See them at all costs. They’re on fine form. There are no substitutes. For none are drunker. None more chaotic or unstable. None will leave the venue, themselves or you in a more disheveled state. You may fear for your ears and your eyes, your Farah slacks and your carrier bag carrying that days charity shop pickings but you will leave a better person. You will have been anointed in the best possible way.

Alas I wasn't at the Kirkstall Lites gig that night in Leeds in the early 90’s but I hear it was a good one. Wet fish may have been involved. Of the several Smell & Quim collaborations with Stephen Fricker's Onomatopoeia in the 90's I saw, alas, none.

Fricker is now forever known as the forgotten man of the English noise scene. Disappeared, just like that. But what a man. I once saw him tottering around the Red Rose on Seven Sisters Road, glass in hand, like a magician about to show you a magic trick - the trick being trying to keep the beer in the glass before it made it to his mouth. A fine fellow in a loud shirt and a greasy overcoat. Arthur Daley on cheap drink looking like he needed a good nights sleep. If you’re reading this, have one for me Mr. Fricker.

One of those live outings was at that shitty 'Kirkstall Lites'. An edge of Leeds 'fun pub' where all the 'fun' was to be had in paying over the odds for shit beer beneath piss poor murals featuring John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. It captures 18 brutal minutes worth of pure, exhilarating noise that appears to have been run through a mixer and shows that when it comes to making noise in its purest, most basic, nihilistic form Smell & Quim can live with the best. I still wish I’d been there.

Quim De La Quim's three studio tracks hark back to a previous Smell & Quim age. Constructed by Srdenovic and Gillham it brings to mind earlier releases such as ‘A Sods As Good As A Wank To A Blind Arse’, early 90’s Smell & Quim where the Industrial parp and scrape of rusty axles bring to mind huge female bottoms pounding old fashioned bicycle saddles down cobbled streets. ‘Anal American’ contains premium rate porn chat smut as background to all manner of tree felling and ballon rubbing hideousness. There’s a Beatles-esque Day in the Life never ending chord smash and the hand drier in The Grove blaring away and at its very end with a spittle flecked ‘CUNT’ is the maestro himself Milvoan Srdenovic. For just in case you’d forgotten what it was you were listening to. As if you could.

The more attentive amongst you will have noticed that all the tracks on Side A are the reverse of Side B [in a fashion] which is exactly the effect upon playback. Rather than this render the B side a predictable experiment in reversed noise it actually creates a unique listen in itself.

Last track ‘Killer Cunt’ is Smell & Quim at their pounding best. A juddering juggernaut of skull shaped maracas beaten together at a pulse quickening rate, a pounding beast of a thing, an explosion in a bottling plant, a scrap yard gone mad, concrete going around your new Bosch washing machine.

And again maestro, this time in reverse.