Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taming Power

Taming Power - Selected Works 2001.
Early Morning Records. EMR Promo CD 002. CDR.

Taming Power - For Electric Guitar and Tape Recorders
Early Morning Records. EMR 10” - 009.
200 copies.

Taming Power - Meditations For Radio
Early Morning Records. EMR 10” - 012
220 copies.

Taming Power - Twenty One Pieces
Early Morning Records. EMR 2 X 12” - 018
329 copies.

It was earlier this year that Campbell thrust a copy of Taming Power’s ‘Selected Works 2001’ into my hands. With an evangelical zeal not seen since the Methodist came to town he then recounted of how there was this Norwegian guy called Askild Haugland who’s this total outsider who’s been releasing his work for years and nobody has bought it because nobody knows who he is and its like the finding the motherlode of totally out there noise and drone and its just like … fuck.

Since then word’s got around a little. Here in West Yorkshire there’s a Taming Power Fan Club brewing. The Bearded Wonder over at RFM got the proselytizing treatment too and wrote about the aftershock as well as the six page letter that Campbell sent him detailing how he came across Taming Power and about just how amazing these recordings really are. Read it and feel that proselytizing power.

So here’s this guy from Norway recording for his own amusement sounds he makes with electric guitars, shortwave radios, cassette recorders, tape recorders, field recordings, singing bowls and ritualistic Tibetan instruments. A steady trickle of releases, mainly 10” and 12”, once or twice a year to total indifference and he’s been doing it since around 1987. And even though some of his stuff’s been released in editions as little as a 100 its all still available. Uh?

In hindsight ‘Selected Works 2001’ wasn’t the best place to start for me. I have to admit to wondering what all the fuss was about. A slim line CD case, the mere sight of which is enough to bring back memories of horrid noise crap from the 90’s. With no sleeve notes to go on bar the track titles, these being the dates they were recorded [all Taming Power track titles are the dates they were recorded] I was left wondering how Askild had created … what? Turns out this is tape recorder feedback. Which to start with is a mundane throbbing noise. By track seven though, after you have adjusted your hearing and come to terms with it, it’s mutated in to a spacey, rolling, head swaying out of body journey, by track eight it’s a shamans blessing. It was around then that the Taming Power light bulb went off in my head. I emailed Askild asking him if he had any Taming Power vinyl for sale especially that Twenty-One Pieces that both Hayler and Campbell were raving about. To which the answer was of course, yes.

Which is where my journey really started. Twenty-One Pieces utilizes all of that above instrumentation creating feelings of desolation, melancholy and morphine like bliss. Everything is played at a funeral pace as guitar strings are randomly plucked and swooned upon, spacey motifs are played out on Casiotone’s, there’s dingsha’s [Tibetan cymbals], Drilbu’s [Tibetan hand bells], singing bowls, a harmonica, a handsaw and Haugland’s own voice in there. These he treats [I know not how] to create works that, it has to be said, are simply stunning in their simplicity and execution. The slow pace at which these four sides unfold and the  atmospheres Haugland creates is down entirely to his distaste for digital recording techniques and digital equipment. This is what gives Taming Power its ‘feel’. This being a feeling that everything was recorded at the side of a frozen lake under an overcast winter sky in Tromsø. In whatever permutation he chooses [there’s a detailed list of which instrument appeared on which track] you’ll find that same eerie, detached atmosphere.

Haugland titles his releases simply so that you know what you’re getting, hence: ‘For Electric Guitar and Tape Recorders’ and ‘Meditations For Radio’. Amongst his back catalogue you will find, ‘For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders’ amongst numerous ‘Selected Works’ that span all the way back to 1987. Some lucky people will have the seriously limited cassettes that he put out and where Early Morning Records took its first steps into the world. 

Of the rest I have here ‘Electric Guitar and Tape Recorders’ sounds not uncannily like TG’s slide guitar moments with added tape fudge. The atmosphere is one of Lynchian dark planet surfaces, thick, dirty landscapes where the playheads have been slowed to a virtual stop their content released as a primordial breakdown of analogue sludge.

Meditations For Radio is as equally otherworldly with shortwave static giving way to a babble of voices.

What makes Early Morning Record releases even more esoteric are the handmade covers, the handwritten sleeve notes and the hand drawn record labels and actual photographs as taken by the man stuck on the sleeves as cover art that nobody is buying because nobody knows about him. Which hopefully wont be for much longer.

earlymrecords [at]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sleaford Mods - Retweeted

Sleaford Mods - Retweeted
Salon Alter Hammer & Anker. Gatefold DLP. 1000 copies and no repress in sight.

I was taken to task by a reader who said that my review of the Sleaford Mods second album Divide and Exit wasn’t their second album at all. He was dead right. There were five albums before Divide and Exit and its precursor Austerity Dogs exploded all over the broadsheets. Long before journos with shoulder length hair got whiff of Austerity Dogs and Divide and Exit the Sleaford Mods had released an album called Wank along with four others all of them appearing between the years 2007 and 2012. I first spied Wank on Underwoods coffee table in Notts. The word 'wank' superimposed onto a picture of a bag of chips. Yeah, funny I thought. That night at the Rammel Club I saw the Sleaford Mods live for the first time in what is now their current incarnation; Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn. Williamson in a t-shirt with a neck wide enough to get two people. Fearn bobbing about like he's loosening up for a limbo in his trackie bottoms.

The past was just that, from now on it would all be about the future.

 So there’s a year zero thing going on. Best to start afresh. Delete all the back catalogue and put the best bits of it on a double album. Can’t re-release all that back catalogue stuff mainstream because its chock full of samples that’ll see them in court, Sex Pistols and The Yardbirds and plenty of other punk and 60’s R&B bands.

Long before Jobseeker had a munt synth backing courtesy of Fearn it had The Yardbirds ‘For Your Love’ rolling along its length. The Mekon has the riff from ‘Pretty Vacant’ looping on and on and on. And on. And on. Williamson ranting over loops and samples of the musical past.

What you take from these four sides are Williamson’s observations, jokes and piss takes, the sex, the mundanity, the dole, the shit jobs, the coke and the Stella, the conversations. We are inside Williamson's head and its full of lager fumes, class A residue and confusion.

You look like Paul Weller
Fuck off

Wanking his bird off, wanking himself off, [Jason Stop Wanking], getting paid to shag someones wife on Trixie:

‘Trixie what are you gonna do, that double-ender’ll be the death of you’ all retold in an eerie high pitched speeded up voice that makes his revelation even more surreal.

First track ‘R&B Paul’ starts with a parody on Dre’s ‘The Chronic’

'This is dedicated to the wankers that were down from day one' and then ‘You’ve got some upduck in yer hair’. Upduck? Whats up duck?’ From American west coast gangsta rap to a Nottingham school yard in the width of a record band.

Then there’s the deadpan one liners:

The path to enlightenment doesn’t exist anymore, you’ve got to get the bus

Pearly pearls of wisdom. Four sides full of them.

Just as I was getting the nod from Underwood on the Sleaford’s I went digging around on Youtube and found ‘Double Diamond’. It blew me away. The promo for it was filmed in Nottingham city centre in a crepuscular light that showed Williamson in a three quarters length overcoat talking to who knows who swaying his arms to the loop of a soul track in which you get to hear a female vocal sung over and over again. The effect is hypnotic. Williamson gives one of his best performances screaming spittle into the face of a non existent drug dealer who wont bring him what he wants. Lost at first he thinks aloud, stream of conscious mutterings;

These early mornings just fuck me up ... I don’t like puddings ... I got a fish bone hanging from me gob like a matchstick mate ... I want a big bum hole to suck me up ... WHO GOES THERE! … I still don’t know what the fuck I’m on about duck ... Minimum cage, maximum cage.

Even with all that has passed since its one of his finest moments.

Not everything works though. Chop Chop Chop may contain Joycean leanings towards bowel movements, shagging, fighting and drugs but at just over eight minutes and with nothing but a chugging punk riff for company it stretches matters somewhat but this is small beer that needn’t be spilt over four sides of what has to be said is, a goldmine of Williamson gems. It did make me wonder whether this really is the best of the past or just a quick trawl that leaves further gems waiting to be uncovered though. 
I guess time will tell.

Retweeted has long since disappeared off the shelves and now goes for north of £50. Thats still cheap for what you’re getting. Retweeted also shows that the only thing that Williamson needed for the Sleaford Mods to achieve take off velocity was bumping into Andrew Fearn. On such happenstance greatness is made.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Aeolipile - Glut/Paused Pregnancy
Foolproof Projects. 7”

The semi-detached house of suburban jazz has many rooms, but if you want to find the one with improv in it you’ll have to take a walk down the garden path to the potting shed whereupon you’ll find three people and their instruments squeezed in between the old paint tins and the smelly paraffin heater.

Having come across the Amazon jazz forum during my recent jazz tinged travels I came across a thread mentioning European Improv. Its the jazz sub genre, the mere mention of which, is sure to give promoters and certain jazz purists a sleepless night or two. It comes with a reputation you see. That of cold skronking jazz played in black and white television studios to an earnest looking, slightly bored looking audience attired in clothing that has only been in fashion once. Happily this has nothing to do with what follows.

Seeing as how we’re in a jazz mood here it seems sense to take in Aeolipile. A three piece jazz improv/skronk/parp outfit that features amongst its members, the towering presence [both figuratively and literally] of a certain Jason Williams. Jason is know to us and that we can be sure of. Jason Williams is agent provocateur for the south coast of England, a noise in search of a home. In Aeolipile, he plays sax, along with Andy Pyne [drums] and Tom Roberts [bass]. Together they make the kind of improv/skronk/parp jazz noise that you kind of knew they would.

And very good it is too. Not that I know anything about it as you’ll have gathered from the above. [Whilst typing this I’ve been listening to Frank Wright’s ‘Unity’ that's not a name drop its just whats been happening of late during the recent autumnal jazz period].

Aeolipile aren’t Borbetomagus, the configurations wrong for a start. Neither are they sonic terrorists. They’re jazzers. Perhaps a derogatory term but it will have to do. Jazzers of an 'out there' nature coming in somewhere between Albert Ayler and New York New Wave. On ‘Glut’ Tom Roberts bass sounds ‘chunky’, the drums and the sax do battle gamely. On ‘Paused Pregnancy’ they do the same. Jason Williams sure does make that sax honk, squeal and whine though. At times he makes it sound like a dog being strangled, others it just blows a guttural deep honking sound as a series of rapid notes splutter and splatter. There’s no doubting that these guys have the ‘chops’ as someone once said.

The bigger question here is, is there space in this world for a seven inch jazz improv/skronk/parp single? For which the answer is a positive yes. Why not? We may not be breaking new ground here but its fun to hear and no doubt fun to play and whats wrong with that?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Early Hominids

Early Hominids
Self Released. CDR.

Early Hominids - Palpate
Zanntone 000. CDR.

The great musical journey continues. As ever this is mainly down to friends recommendations and as is the mode via travels around the internet. Whether Apple’s ‘Genius’ works I know not and care not but if you want to put your musical edification in the hands of algorithms then thats up to you. I prefer friends recommendations preferably in the pub after a few ales accompanied by exclamatory remarks such as ‘I have to do a copy of it for you its fucking unbelievable your brain will fucking melt I shit you not’. Or something along those lines.

[Which is where I have to declare an interest here. I should declare an interest in all the releases I review where I know the artists personally but thats pretty much all of everything I review so it seems a bit pointless].

Early Hominids are Paul Walsh and Neil Campbell and it was with these two I spent last Friday evening in a busy Flower Pot talking bollocks whilst sinking a few cherry Timmermans [Me, Neil] and Duvels [Paul]. Its usually around halfway through the evening when the vocal chords have been lubricated that William Burroughs [Paul] name crops up and then, eventually and welcomingly Jazz [not for Paul though, Paul hates Jazz]. After Miles Davis’ name came up I admitted to owning two of his albums, one is Kind of Blue and the other is On The Corner, two Miles albums that are as far apart on his creative spectrum as its possible to get without going into the finer details. I bought On The Corner after someone told me it was the most fucked up Miles record there was [it isn’t, try listening to his two live in Japan releases Agharta and Pangaea], I bought Kind of Blue because its one of the best selling jazz albums ever and even if it does turn out to be the jazz worlds Dark Side of the Moon its still a thousand times more satisfying.

So Campbell tells me he’s winging some Miles my way as I’d like it and for good measure an Ornette Coleman comp thats sure to blow the fug from my brain and send me straight to Planet Jazz. And I think OK I’ll give em a whirl because when Campbell recommends something you know its going to be good.

Then I remembered I had a copy of Colemans ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’’ and I didn’t like that one either but thought it best not to say anything at this stage.

Its not that I’m a jazz Philistine. I take great delight in looking upon many an LP and CD of the great and the good of the jazz world here at Idwal Towers its just that the wilder sides of Miles and Ornette hadn’t made that good an impression on me and I’d thus dismissed the pair of them. All of it. What a stupid thing to do.  According to Wiki, Miles has 48 studio albums and 36 live albums to his credit. According to Discogs Ornette has a combined total of 53 albums to his name. I’ve heard but a thimbleful of what they’d recorded and I was dismissing them out of hand. What a stupid thing to do.

So here comes the Miles. ‘Big Fun’, a double LP from the early 70’s and ‘In a Silent Way’ a slow and loose limbed release that was his goodbye to the 60’s before diving headfirst into Planet Rock leaving an army of jazz critics stroking their chins in bewilderment. This much I know.

What happened next was quite extraordinary. Had I now grown old enough to appreciate Miles and Ornette since my last dabblings? Had I forded the great river of maturity and emerged soaked on the other side my jazz tastes now in check? I guess I had an epiphany of sorts. I played Big Fun all night on repeat and ripped all the CD’s for transportation purposes. I spent the next night listening to In ‘A Silent Way’ on repeat whilst flicking about the internet looking at Miles releases wondering why I didn’t have these masterpieces on vinyl. I went on to the official Miles Davis website where I discovered you can buy Miles Davis box sets that come in trumpet cases and contain dozens of CD’s and cost hundreds of pounds. I watched videos of Miles performing at the Isle of Wight Festival and Berlin in the 70’s. It was like a new world had appeared before my eyes. And then I thought I could become one of those jazz bores. I could give everything else but the jazz to Oxfam and concentrate slowly on building a jazz library that would be the envy of the Wharf Chambers. I’d work on my pointy beard and buy a hand knitted skull cap from someone who once went to see Charlie Parker at Birdland. I’d take to smoking thin, hand rolled cigarettes with exotic substances in them whilst scattering my vocabulary with words like ‘cat’ and ‘motherfucker’ and then I thought it’d be best just to sit back and enjoy the music and not get too carried away with myself.

So what does a band thats one half jazz enthusiast, one half jazz hater sound like. Noisy of course. We’ve been here before with the Early Hominids. A meeting of minds after a meeting on Mirfield train station platform where an incredulous Neil Campbell walked up to Paul Walsh and said ‘Are you Paul Walsh’? By some bizarre act of geography two ex members of Smell & Quim had found themselves living but not a couple of miles apart from each other whilst sharing a train to Leeds most mornings.

Early Hominids sound like one half Astral Social Club and one half Foldhead which are the respective solo projects of messers Campbell and Walsh. As if you didn’t know. ‘Palpate’ also sees the eventual arrival of Walsh’s Zanntone label [my moneys on a WSB reference].

As you would expect things get quite noisy quite quickly with Weevils spiraling out of control throwing starburst fireworks into the air as all manner of pedals and Kaoss pads get prodded and poked. The two tracks on the untitled piece are live cuts as laid down at the Wharf Chambers the latter ‘No More DT’s’ proving to be the spacier more ‘out there’ of the two which ends with a loop of a harpsichord stuck in a rut and some shortwave static.
Palpate has ten tracks and runs to an albums length 44 minutes. Here tracks like Tang, Melt, Roc, Lift and Teet jump about the improv noise scene like a kid given half of Tandy’s on xmas morning. Early warning systems are sounded, things buzz, fart, rasp, detonate and pulse in many and wild a manner. Gape does all of this while carrying you off on a bed of neurotransmitter blip and data overflow. Its all good, transcendental in its own spasmodic kind of way.

The Ornette Coleman comp blew my tits off too.     

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Mantile 26 + 27. Stephen Cornford and Culver

Stephen Cornford - SWF
Mantile 026. Cassette/DL 50 copies.

Culver - Prophecy of the Black Spider
Mantile 027. Cassette. 50 copies.

Johnny Scar said to me ‘Give em a spin. See what you think’. Not at a gig but in an email. Just give them a spin and see what you think. But of course I can’t but help write about them. Not just because they’re good listens but because its my lifes mission to champion labels like Mantile thus saving the world from drowning in mediocrity.

Labels like Mantile are tape only labels that release esoteric noise, drone, experimentation, electro-acoustic outings anything of that bent with little in the way of fanfare or sought out recognition. They know that what they’re doing is good and worthwhile and they don’t need to shout about it. The people in the know know and if they know then nobody else needs to know. You know. If you get my drift.

Like all good labels Mantile has a strong aesthetic; stiff card inserts of a tactile texture coming in varying pastel hues litho printed [I think], sometimes in deliberately obtuse ill contrasting colour-ways as is the case with this Culver release - black print on purple card that you have to hold up to the light at a certain angle to decipher. Its a perfect fit. Not just for Culver but for anyone that ventures on to Mantile.

Lee Stokoe’s Culver needs no introduction. Its drone. Here its drone. It will always be drone.  Listening to ‘Prophecy of the Black Spider’ is like sitting on the wing of a prop plane as you fly across the Atlantic late at night for hours on end until the drone from the engines propellors has embedded into your skull to such and extent that when you get off the plane you can still hear it for hours afterwards This is what Culver does and everybody likes it and don’t say they don’t. Both side virtually identical except for a slight deviation at the start of one side. Perhaps. Perhaps I too had succumbed to the prop plane drone syndrome. Things happen in a drone. Not just Culver drones any, drone.

Stephen Cornford is new to me. He likes shortwave patterns. Here he gives us two twelve minutes tracks of ‘unprocessed stereo recordings of shortwave interference’, the results sounding like an early Grey Wolves outing minus the shouting. As any fule no the shortwave bands are a treasure trove of found sounds, not just static but exotic foreign radio stations all of them continually shifting and fading. If you’re really lucky you could come across a ‘number station’ or the cops or military communication, radio hams having conversations about plum brandy. Or if you’re Stephen Cornford you could use the static to make some rather interesting noise.

Having listened to SWF I turned my trusty Roberts Traveler on and spent a happy hour flitting around the ionosphere. I should do it more often. So should you.


[In true antediluvian Culver fashion 'Prophecy of the Black Spider' is available as a cassette only release and is not available to download].

Monday, October 06, 2014

Dave Phillips, YOL, Aming Liang. Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 3rd October, 2014

Its not often I leave the Wharf Chambers shell shocked but I did on Friday. What began quietly with me being the first punter there ended with the audience leaving slack jawed and stunned after witnessing Dave Phillips remind us all just how dumb an animal humans can be.

Somehow I’d managed to put to the back of my mind just how visceral Dave Phillips is when he's in this mood and had a feeling that we’d get something totally different from what we saw in Birmingham last weekend. There he flattened us all with some all out noise whilst his erratic movements triggered motion sensors that briefly lit up the pitch dark room. When the projection screen behind him goes blank at the end of tonight's second and final set he disappears behind the left hand PA stack to let everything sink in and the audience doesn’t know whether to applaud or lay siege to the nearest MacDonalds.

But first to Aming Liang who’s soundchecking his guitar. I ask promoter Pete Cann where he found him. 'Busking' he says. I assume he's joking. If he does busk then he's just become my favourite busker of all time thus beating hands down the asinine Oasis/Simply Red/Bob Marley regurgitatators who clutter Leeds shopping thoroughfares with their felt hats and jokey banter. A wet weekend to them all.

Liang sits hunched over a black semi bodied electric guitar and at times plays it with a violin bow processing the sound through various pedals that sit on a chair opposite. Strings are pulled and open chords are rung out making for some seriously heavy noise. It’s not Solmania but it’ll do for a quiet Friday in Leeds. Not having heard guitar abuse for some time the results are spectacular to my shell likes with deep visceral lunges parrying high skree and at times almost silence as Liang tickles the strings with his fingers. That he coaxes so many different sounds from his guitar during his short set leads me to believe that this is a deep well of talent. As his set ends he stands his guitar against the PA only for it to slide off making a hideous clanging sound. We all cheer.

Dave Phillips first set sees him channeling his own field recordings through a mixer. Mainly insect sounds and frogs with flies buzzing and growls and snarls and thunderstorms rumbling away, pure field recordings with volume giving them an impact. Phiilips field recordings are precise renderings and all enveloping. As the final buzzing sounds hang low in the air he rises from his chair to distributes important information to every single person in the audience. When he gets back to his seat he flicks a switch and then silence. Its the first part of his message. The second wont be as easy to digest.

Yol gives Phillips some breathing time with a cathartic set made from but the barest instrumentation. That's if you could call a galvanized steel mop bucket an instrument. Amplification isn't needed. Doubled up over his mop bucket he rattles the handle and scrapes it across the Wharfs tiled floor making a hideous racket whilst ranting common banalities about the weather and supermarket value lines. The jangle of a string of closed bells and the scraping of a fork and a razor blade onto the inside of the bucket adds to the scope of the sounds but its the rabid, veins sticking out on the neck intensity of Yol's performance that grips. And its all over in less than ten minutes. Rarely do you get to experience such an intense and personal performance, its brevity only adding to its impact.

When Dave Phillips takes to the stage for his final set the projection shows a close up of an elephants eye that then leads on to images of rivers clogged with garbage, gulls covered in crude oil, dead seabirds whose rotting bodies display discarded plastic debris. When you see the overhead shot of a nuclear bomb being detonated the accompanying sounds reflect it. Phillips mixes almost subliminally quick snapshots of slaughterhouse abuse and distressed lab animals with stark thought provoking messages [‘A clever virus never destroys its host’, Truth is invented by liars’] and lightning quick bursts of noise which he triggers through various pedals and handheld devices. He paces the stage manically jabbing at pedals and flicking his wrist and arms as if in the throes of an epileptic fit. As his set goes deeper and deeper in it gets louder, distressed animal sounds enter the mix and the accompanying sequences get longer until a final sickening ending and a stunned into silence audience. When applause does eventually begin its almost apologetic and embarrassed.

Its shock tactics all right but far more effective than sitting in a circle singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’ or listening to Bongo telling us all how fucked up Africa is. Another Wharf Chambers evening that will live long in the memory.