Monday, February 09, 2015

More Yol and the never ending death of the underground.

YOL - This Item Has No Scrap Value
Beartown Records. Cassette

YOL - Extraction
Self Released. CDR

So is the underground dead or not? Dave Keenan says it is and the only thing that can save us is the work of an internet hating sociopath with a suitcase full of mind blowing noise.  For Keenan, the ubiquity of social media and too many rounds of jolly old back slapping has left the underground in a perilous, if not dead, state. He has a point. Circle jerking your mates latest 80 minute noise CD only serves a very limited purpose. Mr. Keenan says that what the world needs now are critics unafraid to say it how it is, point people in the right direction preferably using a direct language that everybody can understand without the need to check out eight obscure bands on Youtube before proceeding to their bandcamp page and downloading something that you listen to just the once before duly forgetting about it forever until one day it pops up on shuffle play while you’re on the train back from London.  And still its shit. How true.

Keenan takes to task static performers, artists and noisemakers who sit behind tables staring into laptops, stacking up cassette tapes, mixing eight track doodles into a mixer as tea lights gutter around their feet. Where all the jumpers and screechers sayeth he? Lets see somebody break sweat.

Let us not forget though that it was only a few years ago that Mr Keenan was thrusting Hypnogogic Pop upon us. A genre whose very definition gave the impression that this was either falling asleep or waking up music. An insipid style of muzak usually played by those purveyors of bum crack drone, west coast muddle heads and vintage synth bores whose whimsical nonsense born from 80’s Yawn Rock now exists mainly on rarely played Youtube videos and once enthused, now forgotten releases.

The thing that annoys me about the whole ‘is the underground dead’ argument is that its a redundant one. Unless you’re a music journalist looking for ‘new music’. The music press is constantly looking for new things to write about. Its one of the reasons the music press is virtually dead and why in its place we have monthly magazines dedicated to Prog and Classic Rock. Mainstream press music journalists now find themselves farmed out to other departments and file copy relating to the new Nissan Leaf or the Conservative Party Conference. Off you go lad and don’t forget those thousand words on the new Prince album by Friday, cheers. There isn’t enough happening to keep a music journalist in full time employment. Unless they want to sit down with the latest 27 disc King Crimson box set. Thats the Wire’s job. Or Prog’s. The boundaries blur.

The ‘underground music scene’ is both music you haven’t heard yet and something thats never been done before. The latter is becoming harder to define. As the future spreads out inexorably before us so the past stretches out ever further behind. The past is just as exciting a place as the present. In America in 2014 and for the first time, iTunes sales of ‘old’ releases outsold new releases. For the entire year. Not just a bit of it. All of it.  The past has never looked so rosy and the music industry knows it. Hence the 27 disc King Crimson box set and no sign or sight of anything that even smells of originality unless you’re Yol.

Because after tens of years of listening to all kinds of muck I’ve found Yol to be that rare thing; refreshing, exhilarating, noisy and capable of making me wince in pain during playback of his releases and cheer out loud enthusiastic during his live performances. And unless anybody can point me in the direction of some obscure Fluxus artist thats treading the boards in a similar manner then Yol is, for me anyway, the most exciting thing to have emerged from the non existent underground in donkeys years.

Yol’s live deliveries appear to be born from a dysfunctional ability to express rage at planet Fuck Up. Part Tourettes sufferers spastic squawks, part scraped fork tine on rusty pipe, part mop bucket clatter. To see him live is to see his neck tendons stretch to Deirdre Barlow proportions whilst screaming seemingly stream of consciousness words at a 90 degree angle to the floor.  Bent double he attacks bits of tin and kitchen utensils with a rabid intensity that makes you wonder if he is indeed in the midst of a convulsive fit.

This Item Has Little or no Scrap Value captures that intensity with four short live outings and a longer studio cut. At each turn I found myself with finger hovering over the stop button finding the intensity of the performance hard to bear. On Bird Feathers he snarls and gurgles, tries to spit out words, pants like a dog before eventually the words ‘bird feathers’ emerge stuttering from his tortured frame. He moans, sounds like he’s in pain, drops stainless dog bowls to the floor, shakes chains, clatters pots and pans with sharp boings heading off into the distance. Its like The New Blockaders finally found themselves a vocalist.

A Medium Experience has Yol intoning ‘this    item    has   little    or    no    scrap      value’ over a ‘bring out yer dead’ muted bell dong and a cow horn, something lifted straight out of the opening sequences of a Hammer Horror film with the mist clearing off a muddy turnip field as the opening credits run.

‘Trapped in Portland Works’ finds Yol doing battle with party blowers, something that squeals like a mouse and a band playing rock and roll numbers bleeding in from somewhere within the same building. Here his utterances are nonsense garbles, the party blower adding an absurdist element to it all.

And then there’s the distinctive black shaped skeletal forms and crows and hands and ladders that cover all YOLs work and bring to mind Saul Bass and his Hitchcock posters. For Yol exhibits too. He may offer up the odd tweet but not for him a constant logorrhea of trivialities but finely crafted messages of edification.

Whether Yol can maintain this level of intensity remains to be seen. A sign of things to come arrives in the shape of ‘Extraction’. Which is basically a tongue in cheek riposte to Rob Hayler’s championing of ‘Extraction Music’. In which Yol records the sound of an extraction fan, [naturlich] twice, the first track being fifteen minutes of said extraction fan gently humming over washes of feedback, the second being a much shorter three minutes  of the same with Yol retching his way through the word ‘extraction’ in an excruciating fashion until a kitchen timer sounds and the thing fades out.

This isn’t just me circle jerking. This is here and now and relevant and, if you care for such things, the underground.


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