Thursday, December 08, 2016
Bagatellen de Martin Küchen/CIFRA 01 - 08 de Johannes Heuer
Lenka Lente. LKL - EB3
CD in debossed box w/ five sheets of poetry by Martin Küchen + eight visual objects by Johannes Heuer.
Lenka Lente are the French publishing house with a penchant for poetry, philosophy, jazz and Nurse With Wound. Their little books of poetry, philosophy and short stories are sometimes accompanied with 3" CD’s that contain the sounds of Bill Nace and Nurse With Wound. I think Lenak Lente are big Nurse With Wound fans and have of late branched out into Andrew Liles territory. Those Nurse With Wound tentacles are still spreading. These small and delightful books are avenues of discovery where Italian anarchists rub shoulders with obscure Portuguese sound poets, outsider artists, Moondog and William Wordsworth.
The Portuguese sound poet was Alberto Costa Monteiro. His ‘Anima’ release for Lenka Lente came in an debossed box with 37 individual cards on to which was printed his poetry, words of short syllables in French slaloming their way down the page. It was a thing of beauty and a beguiling to listen boot. And he’s not just a poet but that's another story.
As with Monteiro so with Küchen and Heuer except I don’t have the full release here just odd bits that Lenka Lente have sent me knowing that such material would cheer my day. And I’m glad they did as I now have two more names to conjure with. One being Martin Küchen, a Swedish sax player with a penchant for improvisation and the other the artist Johannes Heuer. The forty three tracks on Bagatellen each run to around the minute mark all of them having track titles like ‘M.U. Entrepreneur’ and ‘O.H. Factory Owner’ which make me think we may have some kind of concept album here. But aren’t concepts just ideas anyway? Joseph Beuys would know. Küchen plays his sax in conjunction with a radio and an electric toothbrush and appears to be taking has sax apart and putting it back together again while eating a fish supper, a creative act I’ve applauded ever since I saw Alan Tomlinson do something similar with a trombone in the upstairs room of The Adelphi. This makes it sound like Küchen’s sax is actually a Henry vacuum cleaner or a distant train or fourty one other sounds that you’d probably not think were emanating from the end of a saxophone. Track sixteen [L.J. Entrepreneur] is a matchbox full of needles being shaken about, track thirty five [picked at random and running to twenty three seconds natch] is Küchen blowing down a reed free sax and taking deep breaths in between, track thirty nine has bird whistles, the track that follows it sounds like Küchen giving up his last breath.
The word ‘bagatelle’ can be translated as 'a frothy or light piece of music', not something you’d normally associate with improv but it does exist and this is further proof. I saw Steve Beresford the other week, I’ve seen Alan Tomlinson they both prove improv doesn’t have to be hard work. Küchen does the same. Don’t ask me about his poetry though as it’s all in Swedish.
Johannes Heuer is an Austrian artist. That’s all I know.
This combining of the arts in Lenka Lente releases continues to be a rewarding one. Long may they continue.
Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Taming Power: Selected Works 1996-97
EMR 7” - 001. 100 copies.
Taming Power: Selected Works 1995-97
EMR 12” - 002. 150 copies.
Taming Power: Selected Works 1989-98
EMR 12” - 003. 150 copies.
Taming Power: Selected Works & Fragments 1987-97
EMR 12” - 004. 100 copies.
It seems perverse that we should end our relationship with Taming Power where Taming Power began. With the first four Early Morning Record releases that despite me Campbell and Hayler raving about them still exist. Or do they? Askild Haugland sent these through a few months back where they’ve been receiving ready spins ever since. Maybe the glowing reviews have worked and Mr. Haugland has now, eventually, after years of sitting on these treasured platters finally found a home for them all. I hope he has.
For those still not familiar we have in Taming Power the ultimate motherlode of outsider drone experimentation. For years Haugland has been self releasing his work from his home in Norway into a void of virtual indifference. Until Campbell mentioned him to me and Hayler who in unison, though miles apart, both wept tears of unfettered joy. His music has that effect on people. Those of a nature who appreciate drones and sounds that can be achingly beautiful, austere, atonal, harsh and charming all within the same same release. His later work created using guitar and reel to reel feedback have a devastating simplicity to them. Its not something you come across often and to discover that someone had been creating all this in total isolation made the discovery all the more remarkable.
And so it goes with these much earlier releases. Which as Haugland points out, are lo-fi and fragmentary in nature but none the less as beguiling and compelling as any of his work.
Selected Works & Fragments 1987-97 has no less than fifteen tracks on it, most of which are short interludes [August 96 being just eight seconds in duration] all of them primitive constructions recorded using a Casiotone MT-36, acoustic guitar, harmonica, recorder, voice, percussion and a tape recorder. Wheezy and distant melodies of a whimsical nature, each track imbued with a covering of back of the cathode ray TV tube dust. Delightful in their innocence, crude but joyous.
Haugland’s most challenging work comes with the arrival of the Tandberg tape recorder. A piece of equipment with which he creates feedback and with it a test of endurance for even his most ardent fans. On Selected Works 1989-98 he utilises the Tandberg in conjunction with an electric guitar the results swinging between mellifluous and terrifying. Barring two minutes of radio on the final track of Selected Works 1995-97 the whole of the album is given over the Tandberg and as with the previously reviewed Selected Works 2000 this proves to be his harshest work. At times its not pretty with certain tracks containing nothing but the screaming of subjugated circuitry but its austereness does have its own perverse appeal.
The very first Early Morning Records release gives us no clue as to its instrumentation but from its ghostly grooves we can assume that those Tandbergs weren’t far away. Feedback plays its part on side A again building in volume over a background of scorched earth while the flip contains some bowl ring and reversed tape sounds. All very basic, all very welcome.
Above all Early Morning Record releases are very personal recordings, not only do they contain Haugland’s own compositions they also contain his artwork, the labels are in his hand as are the glued on track listings. Whether this is the last we shall see of him or his label remains to be seen but all is not doom and gloom, videos have recently appeared on his Youtube channel and Winebox Press have recently released a twin cassette collection of his work. Watch this space as they used to say.
Taming Power Youtube Channel
EMR Web Presence
Saturday, December 03, 2016
Libbe Matz Gang/Coldsore
Cassette. 50 copies.
Cassette. 15 copies
RST - Haikus
Cassette. 15 copies.
Cold Sore - Pollutant
Cassette. 30 copies.
Tapes come and go in the room where I type out these words and when I’m done with them I put them in a box. Sometimes I pass them on or, if I’m feeling devilish, I take them down the chazza where no doubt ladies of a certain age pick them up and look at them with a curious squint before asking a colleague if they still sell cassettes or not.
For the last few weeks and months these four cassettes from the Finnish label Totes Format have been whirring away in the background, clicking over from one cassette to the other via the wonders of a trusty twin cassette deck. If I’m concentrating on something computer wise I can often hear the same two sides of the same two cassettes all evening and when I’m hearing sounds as enigmatic and captivating as these I sometimes feel as if I’ve been held in some kind of a trance. Some people have streaming media players and suggestion algorithms, I have recycled cassettes from Finland and a JVC twin cassette deck.
What makes this all the more compelling is that I have no idea who any of these people are. I’ve had Totes Format releases through these hands before and excellent they were too with GRMMSK [I have a feeling the label head here] running around bald, naked and painted white within bridge structures making along the way some amazing sounds with a homemade string instrument and a drill. That was about three years ago now which judging from their website makes for a very steady release program. Editions don’t run to many numbers and as you see we’re in hand made recycled territory here with hand stitched, reclaimed material sleeves and the use of old circuit diagrams as seen in previous TF releases. Its a stance to be applauded.
Out of this dark sea of ambience and dark electronic sounds the last track of three by German artist Kemia got to me the most. It might have been artistic judgement, kismet or a recording made on an inspiring day when the sun just about rises over the horizon and the temperature barely budges above zero but ‘untitled 3’ [never has a track of such beauty been given such a mundane title] did for me like a Novocain shot in a dentist’s chair. A dreamy and blissful decay wrung from an only dreamt about Basinski/Prince collaboration where a series of underwater detonations reverb out to coda on bed of dreamy muffled voices and celestial treated harp. Hypnogogic pop eat your heart out. The preceding two are bleak low hertz blasts and nocturnal ritualistic electronics and something I need to investigate further but track three … let me play it just one more time.
On the flip comes Ollijohanna and two tracks of stunning black industrial ambience. Here is all cavernous drones and desolate electronic skree, hollow roars and stripped wastelands, the sounds of distant explosions and their aftermath.
Coldsore appear twice each time creating dark and foreboding atmospheres that focus on both depression and pollution. On the Libbe Matz Gang split ‘0+0=0’ there’s mention of Largactyl and a quote by Wittgenstein and it is of course suitably wrist slitting. Pollutant’s four tracks contain various synth atmospheres accompanied by sampled dialogue, the odd disguised PE vocal and air raid sirens all leading me to think that these tracks were recorded by someone who hadn’t been listening to disco for a while. Depressing, sombre works no doubt recorded in the depths of a Finnish winter at three in the morning.
‘Under the Chemical Cosh’ is where we find Libbe Matz Gang and a short side of swirling flanges and lower key synth blurp that would no doubt pop the woofers on cheap paper cones. A fitting flip to the Coldsore track. While RST’s ‘Haikus’ consists of two live tracks as recorded this year, the first a constant stream of low end flutter and tundra storms perforated with granular crumble, dark, random pulses and eerie ritualistic melodies, the second an empty room filled with angular resonating electronics.
Putting these releases in a box seems criminal and the chazza is definitely out. Perhaps I’ll leave them on display for a while before giving them another outing on the JVC.
Friday, November 25, 2016
|Daniel Löwenbrück & Marcellvs L Löwenbrück|
Colour Out of Space - Brighton 18th, 19th, 20th November 2016.
W Mark Sutherland
Matthew P Hopkins
Anghard Davies & Lina Lapelyte
Clappy Shandy Dads
Daniel Rozenhall & Sten Backman
Daniel Löwenbrück & Marcellvs L Löwenbrück
Olympic Shit Man
Steve Beresford, Tania Chen & Stewart Lee
Iancu Dumitrescu, Ana-Maria Avram w/ Yoni Silver, Alex Drool Yonovic, Cosmin Postolache
Can this be the only festival on the planet where the acts are announced by the ringing of a bell? A big hand clapper bell that scares the bejesus out of you if you're within five foot of it and all the more surreal for it being rung by one of several children who could be the offspring of the Nyoukis’s or the Langan’s. At one point the bell rings and its for a performance by the kids themselves who stick their heads up inside a display cabinet much to the amusement of those who thought they were on their way to see some Swedish performance art. Never have I seen kids so happy. I haven’t seen kids so happy outside a sweet shop with tenners in their hands. Something special must be happening.
Where to start with a three night bill that covers everything from Cage to avant noise to cassette muck to modern vocal composition? People ask me ‘are you writing this up’ and I say ‘do you see me taking notes?’ I don’t take notes. I’m not a reporter. I’m the one in the kebab shop at one in the morning, the one around the table on Sunday evening with Tyfus, Kreffting and Younger with his cellophaned arm and the Australian girl whose name I struggled with. I’m the one up the i360, that most recent piece of tourist engineering that allows you to rise 500ft in the air in a huge steel donut so that you can see Storm Angus making its way across the channel. And then up the road and quite by chance a midday performance art cum Fluxus action in Oxfam courtesy of Plastic Containers of Nothing where they’ve taken some boxes of donations destined for the skip and made something out of them. The pair of them don’t play records very well and tear up newspapers while cutting lumps out of their clothing. Their strange masks are masks of themselves, the stiff movements all too much for my recently just got down from 500 foot brain. And then to the Komedia for a film about Tony Conrad and when we get outside its dark and Storm Angus is upon us so to the pub for wine and beer and then eventually to the Sally Bennis and the days go like this and there’s a good crowd on Sunday people crammed into the Old Church to hear yodeling courtesy of Doreen Kutzke and Myriam Van Imschoot and theres Nick Cave in a pastel blue cashmere sweater down the front. Aine O’Dwyer starts off behind a blanket on the church organ and tumbles her way down until she’s hitting a piano and twirling around until she falls into one of the assembled and isn’t it hot for a church on a Sunday afternoon in November.
To be honest I hadn’t heard of around 80% of the line up and two of those on it that I really wanted to see were no longer playing. But I did see it all barring one act on Sunday night when for once the bell did not toll. You kind of got the feeling things were going in the right direction after the very first act in which W Mark Sutherland ended his short set with some Russian Futurist nonsense words which he carried on shouting until he was well outside the auditorium and probably at the bar ordering a drink. Of the five COOS I’ve attended this was by far the best and the Northern League of Kebab Konsumers, with whom I traveled down with, declared it their best too.
A lot of Friday was people sat at tables, which may not be the most exciting sight in the world but the Sally Bennis has chairs with which you can lounge on. Some people choose to flake out on the floor. One particularly keen attendee, who turned out to be Cassis Cornuta, stood stage front for everything until he got on stage himself and stood in front of his eight, yes eight, Korg synths which did burble and bobble and make sounds that for eight synths made you wonder if all of them were plugged in. Clappy Shandy Dads was a one off collaboration between Dylan Nyoukis, Julian Bradley, Luke Poot and Alex Drool all of them doing things with small things and making more noises than one of them on their own would have done. Anghard Davies and Lina Lapelyte stand back to back like shy swans making Pärt like noises out of violins, slowly turning around to face each other and then back to back again and if you know Arvo Pärt this is bliss, huge sweeps of the bow in cracked scraping arcs. Matt Krefting sends us all back to our penthouse suites with half an hour of sublime tape mulch produced on a pair of cassette players, one a cheap looking twin side by side job the other a 70’s flip top affair, one hand constantly on the twin concentrating, feeding tapes, the results a dreamy, decaying thirty minutes worth.
Saturday morning arrives and with it blue skies and a brisk wind. All this before Storm Angus hits. A particularly virulent kind of Scottish storm by the sounds of it which I can see from the top of the i360. It doesn’t look good and the takings are going to be down in steel donut land. There’s time for food and a glass of something before the Tony Conrad film at the Komedia which if you haven’t seen it I strongly recommend. The roofs leaking in which doesn’t augur well and sure enough its hammering it down upon exit. At the Sally Bennis there are brave groups of smokers embracing the elements and rumour has it that Leif Elggren has taped a corner off and claimed it as his own. Saturday night is Fylkingen night and Kent Tankred manages to fry the bottom end of the much improved Sally Bennis PA with his homemade circuitry. Tankred looks around from his small table in search of the PA guy, he has a look that must be the nearest thing that Sweden has to panic but it still sounds good to these ears and from one Bald Head of Noise the accolade of the best performance so far. There’s noises and computer generated images that make you feel like you’re disappearing down an never ending tunnel courtesy of Daniel Rozenhall and Stan Backman. KOEFF is Johanna Rosenqvist with her Henry vacuum cleaner and masked vocals, nearly PE but with a much softer edge. WOL are Wenche Tankred and Lovisa Johansson who enter the Bennis floor with armfuls of two inch [50cm Sweden] Sellotape which they carefully build towers with before forming a circle and making bunches of flowers with them, miles and miles of the stuff peeled off. Marja-leena Sillanpää sets up a boxy looking multi channel radio, flicks it to shortwave and lets go a mighty bottom end roar that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a noise gig. She stands stage back and admires her work letting the equipment perform unaided. For sheer theatrics Johannes Bergmark has us all open jawed, firstly by swallowing a contact mic and shortly after it popping candy and a can of fizzy drink and then remarkably, by strapping himself into a rig of his own making that sees him suspended from the ceiling by two taught wires with two other coming from his contraption to his legs which he rides like stirrups, flexing his knees to get them tight and then slack, then stroking them with bows and then hitting them with sticks, first his leg wires and then his ceiling wires letting go huge DONGS and then high pitched scrapes. Tonight we leave for Sweden.
Sunday morning brings with it an exhibition by Stephen Cornford at the Phoenix and after it a climb up the north face of the Eiger or Southover Street, as the locals call it, for Sunday lunch and more wine, about twenty of us in some kind of two sided last supper in the upstairs room of the Southover itself. Cornford as last seen down the Wharf Chambers with some TV set cross channel feedback abuse, here with a wall of half empty PC frames from which optical drives spit out three inch CDR’s and spirals of copper wire. An array of CD Walkman’s have misfiring shards of CD disc spinning in them, some have cameras peering down on them which show whats happening in close up on a series of ceiling mounted monitors. In the back there’s a Blood Stereo exhibit but the monitors busted so we trail off instead. After the pub we tumble down the hill and into the Old Church for the yodeling and piano bashing and then to another pub and then for the last time to the Sally Bennis where Daniel Löwenbrück & Marcellvs L terrify us with deafening pig squeals, strobe lightning and hand powered air raid sirens before they finally fill the venue with dry ice setting off the smoke alarm in the process. Phantom Chips has the audience pulling her strings and making sounds with them, I’m sure they’re not strings and I’m sure she had a word for them [Tara Pattenden that is] but they make wonderful electronic zinging sounds. She tries to get on stage but loses her connections. She’s wearing what looks like a Technicolor octopus around her waist and when she squeezes its legs it makes a sound. Or sounds. Lots of sounds. All of them beetling and buzzing. Stewart Lee, Tania Chen and Steve Beresford perform Cage’s ‘Indeterminacy’ with Lee making sure Chen gets her own round of applause seeing as how she’s come all the way from San Fransisco. Its the first time I’ve heard Indeterminacy and Lee’s mundane talking voice is perfectly suited to the task of reading out the fourty [randomly picked by an audience member] cards that contain Cage’s sometimes banal observations. Beresford plays his novelty electric guitar toys, drops things on a huge drum, Chen knocks ping pong balls off the table. A piano is hammered. Cage would no doubt have approved. Sitting between the high art of Cage and Dumitrescu lies the murky world of Olympic Shit Man. A rare outing for the now cross channel project and to cries of ‘smile’ the pair take us on a thirty minute electro-acoustic improv session built around Andy Bolus’s tampered with EMS synth boxes and Mark Durgan’s well oiled noise gadgets. Those who were expecting a knock about noise fest were disappointed but not me. Then at around 11pm comes Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram and the Hyperion Ensemble and after a short piece featuring huge drums and a the longest wind instrument I’ve ever seen Avram sits at the side of the stage, legs crossed in thigh high boots singing, or to be more precise vocalising while Dumitrescu alters her output from the mixing desk, leaning over it like he’s trying to keep it all for himself, concentration levels on max, peering out of the top of his eyes on Avram. There was something that followed but my concentration levels were waning.
|Constant Linear Velocity / Stephen Cornford|
At the nights end I ventured for the final time into the cold and rain lashed November night. A familiar kebab shop across the flooded road became a beacon of light and life. Then up and past the Prince Albert, turn left at the top by the train station and bed. I left some behind to dine once more on that slowly revolving column of forced meats, to once more rest their weary bottoms on the busted furniture that passes for indoor eating area, to say their goodbyes to two now familiar fast food vendors. Turning up the temperature in my hotel room I flaked out. I’d not read my paper, not done the crosser, my hangover was singular and slight and I’d seen everything at the Bennis except Birgit Ulher. A memorable weekend all round.
|Plastic Containers of Nothing|
So this Brain Turner gets in touch, says he DJ'd all weekend at COOS and who am I to argue? Can't say I saw him spinning his platters. Maybe he was in a room somewhere with a coffee and a packet of Chesterfields doing the Nightfly cover thing? I remember hearing music between sets but as I wasn't in the performance space that much between sets explains why this has passed me by somewhat. But help is at hand; Brian has gone and recorded some of his DJ'ing [including a track by David Sylvian which makes it worth seeking out for that alone] along with live sets from Clappy Shandy Dads, Matt Krefting, Matthew P Hopkins and Daniel Lowenbruck/Marcellus L. This also gives you the excuse, not that you need one, to spend some serious quality time with one of the best radio stations on the planet.
Many thanks to @zanntone for the Bergmark image.
Monday, November 14, 2016
Limbs Bin - Bliss Tech
Follow Me Into The Laser Eye/Moon Machination. MMR009
7” flexi/DL. 275 copies
$13.50 to post a felix disc from America to the UK? $13.50? If ever an exclamation mark were needed. What’s going on over there? Have they had a revolution? Thats almost £13.50 in proper money. To send a slither of plastic and some paper over a bit of water, when the music it contains is up on Bandcamp to listen to for nothing? So I become an instant Limbs Bin fan even before I put the square of flexi on the turntable [or click on the link on Bandcamp which I sometimes do out of laziness because I have to alter the turntable speed manually now which seemed suitably Luddite when I bought the thing but now turns out to be a pain in the arse]. Or I could just play it at 33rpm which is the turntables default speed? Maybe it does play at 33rpm? Goes away to check Bandcamp link. Actually it does play at 33rpm. Its hard to tell on first listen such is the rapid delivery of these blisteringly short 15 songs. That could in certain circles pass for Power Electronics, think plenty of screaming distorted electronic machine gun blasts of crude noise delivered in a manic style by a young male of American birth. Fifteen tracks though. Fifteen and all of them with lyrics too, proper songs except ‘S.U.V.I.R.I.A.L. [sic] which is an instrumental, all of them done and dusted in less than a minute, in fact all of them done and dusted in less than 20 seconds, each track blurring in to the other with no respite until you’re spat out at the end feeling like you’ve been cornered by a madman in a shabby launderette at the wrong end of town.
Nearest approximations would be the 1,2,3,4 hell for leather madman skree of Tokyo Anal Dynamite era Gerogerigegege except this is America not Japan and 2016 not 1990 whatever, and Limbs Bin are yet another American noise band that I know nothing about. Thats if they are a noise band. Such is the way noise mutates these days I dare say people of a young age, teenagers perhaps would chuck this in with a hardcore sub-genre say or Noisecore, which is what it says on the Youtube showing of Bliss Tech.
I’m not going to get involved in the whole download/stream versus artifact mode here. You know where my heart lies. Each has its advocates but I feel for those who aren’t drawn to such magnificent objects. Well worth that $13.50 Mr Bin.
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Fight Your Own War - Power Electronics and Noise Culture
Editor: Jennifer Wallis.
PB/HB + exclusive download
It was at Birmingham’s Shards of Ordinance gig a few years back that I saw Jennifer Wallis handing out flyers asking for contributors to write articles for a book about Noise and Power Electronics. I did my bit and passed some around, did the Twitter thing and finally a couple of years down the line a book has appeared. There’s not that many books about Noise and Power Electronics doing the rounds so anything that adds to the printed canon has to be welcomed. But with caveats.
Headpress big cheese David Kerekes must be a fan of Noise and Power Electronics, or one of them, or both. I saw him at the same gig but not down the front when Smell & Quim were on. Kerekes and Wallis had already got their heads together and decided that a book needed to had. With certain criteria and stipulations in place perhaps? These being that the book had to mirror zine style [which it does] that it had to use multiple authors [it does] that it had to capture what makes Noise and Power Electronics tick [it does], and that the transgressive nature of Power Electronics and to some extent Noise, be discussed [it does]. Fight Your Own War does lots of these things and large parts of it are worth your time but like plenty of Noise compilation albums there’s the ones you go back to and the ones you skip. Nick Nihilist’s [I kid you not] puff piece for his own band Deathtripping should have been spiked at birth and as much as I agree with what Sonia Dietrich writes and her feminist stance, reading her nine page skreed felt like I’d been shouted down for ten minutes. Maybe that was the point.
Some readers may be surprised to discover that Fight Your Own War isn't all Noise and Power Electronics either although vast chunks of it are; d foists chapter on the still missed Leeds Termite Club has enough jazz & improv anecdotes in it to scare off many a jazzophobe [but not me, I found it one of the best chapters, mainly for the humour, mainly because it reminded me of some great gigs I attended years ago] and The Bongoleeros aren’t exactly a noise band either even if they often appear on bills with noise acts.
The book is divided into three parts; ‘Scenes’, ‘Experiences and Performance’ and ‘Readings’ and contains articles from about twenty contributors. Some are familiar to me and some are new. More notable contributions come from Ulex Xane and Mikko Aspa who give detailed accounts on the rise of Noise/PE in Australia and Finland respectively, Phillip Taylor and Scott E. Candey do the same for the UK and the US. Clive Henry’s detailed report on the state of Harsh Noise Walls was worth reading just to discover that HNW’s have themes, a fact that had passed me by what with me being about a much a fan of Harsh Noise Walls as I am of poking myself in the eye. Richard Stevenson gets himself a whopping six inclusions including a decent one regarding zine culture within the genres.
Littered amongst these chapters are one off homages to albums that changed peoples lives; Tom Bench’s appreciation of The Bongoleeros Fat Arse’d Report album is magnificent as is Clive Henry’s [him again] dissection of Dave Philips ‘6’, Hijokaidan, The Grey Wolves, Maurizio Bianchi and Consumer Electronics all get the waxed lyrical treatment and these small chapters/reviews/homages do a good job of breaking up the text as well as planting signposts to the curious. If a book appears containing nothing but such work I’d buy it.
The best writing comes from those who really can write though: Spencer Grady’s rumination on humour in noise [or to be exact, the lack of it] and Jennifer Wallis’s learned look at the hoary subject of the transgressive nature of Power Electronics and certain Noise elements are both standout pieces as are Stephenson’s and Jack Sargeant's contributions.
The book certainly looks good, it even feels good [I have the paperback version here], the cover’s in keeping with the feel of the genre, white noise static cum de-tuned TV, and its zine like lay out lifts this from mere humdrummery.
Am I the only one wishing that William Bennett or Phillip Best would write their autobiographies though? Which makes me think that's its not going to be until these early pioneers start putting their fingers to the keys that we’ll get the book these genres deserve.
Friday, November 04, 2016
Sleaford Mods - T.C.R.
Rough Trade. CD/12” EP/DL
Sleaford Mods - Live at SO36
Harbinger USA 001. LP
Sleaford Mods - S.P.E.C.T.R.E
No label. CD.
Sleaford Mods - The Mekon
No label. CD.
I nearly didn’t bother getting T.C.R. A five track e.p. on their new label Mister Rough Trade. Bye bye Harbinger Sound hello Rough Trade. Five tracks? Whats the matter? Not enough material for an LP then? Muse left behind in a pub in Notts. Can’t write about the shitty job no more cos he ain’t got one and the stuffs bound to be watered down what with Geoff Travis running a beady eye over proceedings.
I went to see them twice last week. Leeds and Liverpool with the Scousers being by far the more voluble probably with it being a Friday, parabolas of beer carving the air as the dregs of plastic pint pots splattered the backs and heads of those who dared to creep forward to see what trainers Jason was wearing. I stood back, as a gentleman of my years should, in awe and with a big stupid grin on my face. It’d been over a year since I’d seen them last but they still had it. No, they had even more of it. Whatever ‘it’ is. That indefinable essence that makes a band what it is: the gestures, the lyrics, the beats, the sleeve art, the tats and the coughs and rasps, the wanking gestures, the constant ear cuffs, the head wobbles, the screams into the mic and the little walks between songs, a small circle where we end up back in front of the mic and heres a new one ‘BHS’ with which they end the set. They should put Phillip Green [minus his ‘sir’ thank you very much] on the next album cover because there’s no Tory voters in here tonight. Highly unlikely that we’ll get a Tory leader picking Jobseeker as one of their eight on Desert Island Discs now is it? I was singing TCR for a week after Liverpool.
Somewhere, something clicked and in the last couple of years two blokes with a lap top no longer means half a Kraftwerk gig. Instead there’s an hours worth of killer tunes and a sweaty Jason Williamson barking and burping and ner ner-ing his way through the new ep and an increasing number of crowd pleasers. On this particular shortish tour they finish up with the triple hit of Jobseeker, Tied up in Notts and Tweet, Tweet, Tweet. Fearn sucks on a beer for the last time before shutting his laptop while Williamson goes to change his sweat soaked t-shirt. Last time I saw them they were chipping out with the slow beat of Tarantula Deadly Cargo, a personal favourite, someone said it was about unwanted smells on the tour bus but it could be about economic migrants, I could be wrong on both parts but such are their riches now it doesn’t even make the set. Neither does ‘I’m Shit At It’ which has become something of a works anthem down the old baked bean factory.
Forgive me my presumptuousness but I thought the bubble would have popped by now. I like being wrong here though. It gives me great pleasure to announce that the bubble is still very much intact and that the duo of Fearn and Williamson have now furnished upon the surface of the earth more songs of note that, after first hearing Austerity Dogs a few years back, I could have ever hoped for. The pair are supping from a deep well and if their muse is fleeting then so be it but lets not beat about the proverbial here because they have already done more for my own, and no doubt plenty of others personal well being, than any band in the last thirty years. For all I know they may be shitting this stuff out in their sleep but I very much doubt it. Williamson’s lyrics are deep, comical, obnoxious, daft, clever, topical and his delivery is that of a drunk on the bus with a voice designed to be noticed. Fearns beats are simplistic dance Martin Rev minimalist funk punk drilled into your skull where they make some kind of connection with your feet and your knees and then your shoulders start going and before you know it your gurning along like a good un.
Listening to the old stuff on Live at SO36, as recorded in Berlin in June 2015, I still get a tingle up the trouser leg at the intro to No One’s Bothered or when you think Jason’s going to lose it on Fizzy. The intro to Routine Dean contains a rant about health and safety in the workplace which must have had some of the Germans in the audience completely baffled or maybe they were still picking each other up off the floor after Fizzy. Similar when Jase has a pop at someone smoking stage front ‘I’m not fucking Roy Castle’. Who the fuck is Roy Castle goes a room full of Germans. ‘Thank you very much, keep the money rolling in’.
‘Its all so fucking boring’
‘I woke up with shit in my sock outside the Polish off license’.
Live albums come and go, contractual fillers, something to tide the fans over while the real work goes on behind the scenes. And a live album seemed inevitable with Harbinger Sound no doubt now under some kind of Rough Trade fatwa. A new label and hence a live album. It was all worth it fellas. Added cheering and ad-libs do it for me. Now all you need to do is pour beer over your head and barge the missus off the settee for that Sleaford Mod gig atmos.
The new stuff took a while to impregnate my somewhat reticent skull but now when I hear the tinny beat intro to TCR I know its good. TCR is Total Control Racing, a kids track racing kit from the 70’s, Scalextric’s sworn enemy and a bloke whose life is going round in circles and he goes down the pub to have a good time only to realise the pub is shit and he's going nowhere their either. It could be autobiographical. I don't really know. So you write this dark song about existentialism and you put a jaunty beat to it and a promo video of you both playing racing cars. Excuse me while I go and sit down a while. ‘You’re a Notts Head’ presumably taking the piss out of the locals and no doubt getting played tonight at Rock City. ‘I Can Tell’ with its faltering chorus. The rest is decent too. Deece if you like.
Of interest to those that made it to the gigs [and Sleaford Mod’s fans in general obvs] are a couple of pre Fearn releases that for obvious copyright reasons will never be commercially available [although some of that early work made a brief appearance on the now much sought after double album ‘Retweeted’]. This is down to every song being built around loops nicked from the work of other artists hence Jobseeker has the intro to the Yardbirds ‘For Your Love’ running its length, The Mekon is built around the intro to the Pistols ‘Pretty Vacant’ and I’ve no idea what loop High Noon uses but its the only Sleaford Mods track I’ve heard that has Williamson actually singing in a way that Steve Wright in the Afternoon might recognise. You also get to hear Williamson giving a rendition of ‘The Stripper’ on ‘Trixie’ but what these two releases really are is Williamson half way there. It took a chance meeting with Andrew Fearn to get to where we are on TCR. I’m glad I bought it. I'm glad I went to the gigs. I'm glad Geoff Travis didn't pull it for the swearing, instead he gave it a big rubber stamp seal of approval and released it in to the world so that we could all enjoy it. See you at the back behind the mixing desk.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
CAM - True or False?
There was a time in my life when the words ‘Danish Improv’ meant a shiver down the spine and a flick of the page and I get the feeling that there may be those amongst you who are feeling that same way right now but don’t go, please, this is special. Very special.
CAM is an acronym made from the first letter of the Christian name of each member of the group; Claus Poulsen, Anders Børup and the magnificently monikered Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau. Yes they are Danish, yes they have a background in noise, experimentation, field recordings [and in Børup’s case with ‘rocket launch orchestras’ - you learn something new everyday] and yes they know their way around a studio.
Which is where these eleven tracks were recorded between November 2014 and January 2015. Now remember it gets very cold in Denmark during the winter months and although these gentlemen are no doubt used to the drop in temperature there may have been something that kept them in that studio those three months and it may have been the cold outside or it may have been that they knew that they were on to something for these are remarkable recordings and not of the kind I come across too often.
Maybe this is because CAM are blurring the boundaries between improv and composition? If I didn’t know any better I’d say that these tracks weren’t improv at all which makes the results all the more remarkable and no they’re not using a drum, piano, sax set up: Poulsen is credited with samples, controller, guitar, trumpet, records, bass, Børup with vocals, computer, drums, harmonica, Paluszewski-Hau with bass, clarinet, electronic feedback, sampler and kalimba [thumb piano] and when they put all this together you get tracks that weave the work of Brighton dance absurdists Wevie Stonder, cut up merchants Broken Penis Orchestra, Jap synth god Tomita, Jim O’Rourke, Smegma and late era Kraftwerk.
The mood is definitely European in its sensibilities. The sheer swathe of samples and the cool air of ‘yeah we know what we’re doing’ couldn’t have come from anywhere but. On ‘Mirror Confrontations’ a languid bass guitar and the electric whip of the wind outside are the framework upon which Børup intones vocoder like, a sea of burbles and bleeps meandering through and around, a track that feels like a confession made from the bottom of a well crammed with studio gear. Drum & Bass samples are littered throughout, ‘Ghost’ has some turntable scratching, a wonky sax solo and a lolloping rhythm that is part Bonzo’s. The title track carries all manner of American 50’s samples relating to sex, ‘Coming to America’ is where they show off their noise credentials with guitar feedback and wild drums, ‘Jean Palle’ the track that follows it has that floating in space feel, Tomita swooshes, Space Invader kills, an empty milk bottle getting knocked off the doorstep and Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote. The KLF couldn’t have done it any better.
And this is all improv of course. This is what you have to keep reminding yourself.
Every time I revisited ‘True of False?’, mainly on the LP, because, y’know, just because, I felt both recognition and delight in the welcome of something new. Such is the myriad of samples and nuances you could listen to this for hours, days, weeks and only then would you have worn it out. Who could resist a band that puts out an album of delicious improv, with a great sleeve art and a track called ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’? [‘rock n roll is popular with the teenagers’ said in English by a lady from Japan against some skittery, doomy d&b]. Not me.
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Venusian Death Cell - Collection of Horror
No label CDR.
If there is such a thing as Death Metal Improv it lives within the confines of Venusian Death Cell and its one man creator David Vora. For whatever mental image you have in your head when you think of Heavy Metal it would not be like this. This is Metal played by a junked up Derek Bailey, a Tony Oxley with one arm tied behind his back and only Quality Street tins for percussion, a Samuel Beckett on croaky vocals [sorry ‘Vokills’].
David Vora is the man and the only man, behind Irish Metal project/band Venusian Death Cell. He’s been sending me his work on and off for years, always with the same hand drawn covers on lined notepaper, all with track titles like ‘Choking’ and ‘Solid’, all of it sounding like it was recorded straight to condenser mic on a 1970’s Hitachi radio/cassette player. He’s been quiet of late. Not heard from him in nearly ten years. And then this turns up and its just like every other Venusian Death Cell release I’ve received which in case you were wondering, is a good thing. Just as I rate the Bongoleeros as the worlds best Rock ‘n’ Roll band I rate Venusian Death Cell the worlds greatest Heavy Metal band. Or Death Metal band, or Death Metal Improv band or whatever it is. This isn’t easy you see. There’s nobody else sounds like Venusian Death Cell. The man is unique.
Previous VDC outings has seen Vora sing the word Halloween over and over again on the a cappella track ‘Halloween’, he’s been known to use samples from horror films and failed to edit out the stop/start sounds that the tape player he was using makes. He sings in a mournful Irish accent usually against a clatter of jagged sounding rough guitars and drums that contain but the merest hint of rhythm. It is wonderful.
Top tracks here are ‘Hearty’ in which a discordant battle takes place between instrument and vokills, ‘Suffocation’ in which a discordant battle takes place between instrument and vokills and ‘Squander’ in which a discordant battle takes place between instrument and vokills. Not every track is a discordant battle between instrument and vokills though, the track ‘Schizo’ sees Vora read out the various synonyms relating to schizophrenia straight in to the microphone with just a hint of echo. His lyrics are quite touching too and not something you’d normally associate with Metal. There are but eight tracks though and its all over in twenty minutes.
Vora credits himself with: ‘LYRICS, VOKILLS, HELLBEATS, AXE, PRODUCTION’ before telling us to ‘BEWARE OF THIS COLLECTION OF HORROR!!! It was Halloween yesterday after all and with that thought lingering I search Youtube for rare Venusian Death Cell outings and hope that the next release isn't as long in arriving.
Contact: davidvora10 [at] hotmail.com
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
The Sounds of the Underground: A Cultural, Political and Aesthetic Mapping of Underground and Fringe Music - Stephen Graham
University of Michigan Press
So there is an underground then? I’m sorry I was all confused. This mainly due to a piece written by David Keenan in 2014 entitled ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ in which he defiantly stated that the underground is no more and if people don’t get up from behind their table full of gadgets and start jumping around there’s going to be nothing worth writing about. He even asked Thurston Moore if the underground was dead and he said ‘yup’ or something similar, before adding prophetically ‘but something will come along, it usually does’. So there is hope. Rest easy now.
In an early chapter of Stephen Graham’s studious and at times stimulating book he asks the question ‘what exactly is the underground?’ before coming to the conclusion that its a bit of vague term that's hard to pin down. There’s a diagram that shows it existing slap bang in the middle of a ‘fringe’ buttered sandwich with popular music and contemporary composition as the crusts.So that's where it is but If there isn’t an underground does that mean that everything else is overground? Its all a matter of how deep you dig I suppose. I work with people who’ve never heard of Neil Young and think Bruce Springsteen only ever recorded the one song you hear on Radio 2 everyday [Dancing in the Dark obvs]. For them Throbbing Gristle would be a difficult concept to get their heads around but in 2016 you can be never be further than a few clicks away from something that's just been created on the desktop studio on the other side of the world by someone whose just heard Whitehouse for the first time and has decided to form their own solo project and after several days of experimentation with some software they downloaded for free, has a release that's ready to go. But they’re not jumping around to it. So maybe that's not the underground at all? If you upload that work to Bandcamp or Soundcloud or your Facebook page and wait for someone to rate it is that the underground? Or do you have to play some gigs and jump around and get to know some people and network and hand out some homemade cassettes first? If you’re part of a small nexus of creative minds who meet up once a month in a small gallery in London to play improv are you the underground? Or does the underground cease to exist once music critics become tired of writing about it or waiting for something new to happen? You see, its a tricky one.
Graham’s book is divided into three parts: ‘What is the Underground?’, ‘The Political and Cultural Underground’ and ‘Listening to the Underground’ with each section further divided into sub-sections covering topics such as ‘The Politics of Underground Music and Noise’. ‘The Digital Economy and Labels’, ‘Artists and Music, Improv and Noise’, ‘Festivals and Venues’, ‘Noise as Concept, History, and Scene’ before ending with, rather oddly I thought, a chapter on ‘Extreme Metal’.
As you’d expect from someone who is Lecturer of Music at Goldsmiths University London the language Graham uses isn’t of the kind you’ll hear at your local noise gig which for someone brought up on Bukowski can make for heavy going. But then Graham is no Lester Bangs but then this is no Carburetor Dung. This is a serious study and as such uses the kind of language more likely to be found in the lecture hall than the upstairs room of The Fenton. Hence ‘anintermediated’; a term Graham introduces to describe the lack of boundaries inherent in the underground as opposed to the more inherent ‘disintermediation’ that prevails in the mainstream where major record labels and the media do their bit to shape and channel consumer taste. I can get my head around that one but ‘esemplastic nominal improv’ I had more trouble with. Of course there were others but on I merrily went.
Good sense is written though and not all of it needs a dictionary. I like what Graham has to say about the magical quality of lo-fi recordings, the contradiction that lies at the heart of those who take the funding cheque but rail against capitalism, the importance of the Los Angeles Free Music Society. I found myself disagreeing rarely but we were bound to fall out at some time. This happens when he falls into the same trap as the oft quoted Paul Hegarty, the man whose virtually unreadable ‘Noise/ Music: A History’ has Phillip Best down as Pete. Graham commits a similar noise crime by referencing The New Blockaders throughout with the lower case definitive article thus denuding them of their powerful TNB acronym and their true nomenclature. It may seem a small point but its a telling one. When writing about noise artists who are ‘forced to take day jobs’ to fund their work Toshiji Mikawa and Fumio Kosakai of Incapacitants are mentioned, both of whom are well known salary men, both of whom I have no doubt see what they do within the Incapacitants framework as vitally important to their creative wellbeing but nevertheless something that will never take the place of their day jobs. After seeing em live I doubt they could repeat what they do every night in a regular gigging band kind of way anyway. Not every noise artist suffers hours of toil to fund their label/project/gig cycle.
There are interviews with improvisers, noise artists and organisers, people like Steve Beresford, Vicky Langan and the man behind Colour Out of Space Michael Sippings. Carlos Giffoni relates how he organised the first New York No Fun Fest with just a couple of credit cards, all while holding down a day job. Mattin features heavily and at its end you know that Graham has indeed gone to the gigs and got his ears blasted and got his hands dirty at the merch stall. He is a fan and is work is readable but this a mere scratching of the surface of the thing that is the underground. A study of all underground musics would no doubt end up being a lifetimes work.
Of the books I’ve read regarding the underground and noise music in particular Hegarty’s aforementioned tome and David Novak’s Japanoise, Graham’s ‘Sounds of the Underground’ makes the most sense. Until somebody comes up with something better this looks like being the definitive work as we stand at the fag end of 2016. Now for the really bad news; it don’t come cheap. Readers of a nervous disposition may want to look away now - £53 via Amazon for the hardback and £50 for the ebook [other outlets are available of course]. At those kind of prices this is a book destined only for the hands of the most deeply committed. If anybody wants to borrow of my copy drop me a line.
After making my way through to the very end of this book one sentence stood out and its this one; ‘A final point to note here is that overreading is certainly a real danger in writing about this music; let me just note that, in many cases, noise simply provides listeners with pleasing aesthetic experiences’. As a fan of the odd noise release I couldn’t agree more.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Neck VS Throat Volume 3
I’m afraid I wont be able to make it to this weekends Tusk fest in Gateshead. As much as I enjoy visiting the North East it was after much thought and consideration that I decided Brighton and Colour Out of Space was my weekend festival of choice for 2016. A tough decision I know: the friendly, intimate warmth of the Geordie welcome versus the knit your own hummus, five pound pints of beer south coast. But then rare outings from Romanian avant-garde heavyweights Dumitrescu & Avram and splatter noise junkists Olympic Shitman made the decision for me. A tough call but there you go.
I’ll be missing the first visit to these shores of the Mexican guitarist and RFM idol Miguel Perez who along with Yol [or YOL, I never know which] make up the occasional long distant duo Neck vs Throat. This is their third release and the first to see the line up expand and take in North East-er Dictaphonist par excellence Posset and Pascal Nichols who gets to sit in on drums for one track. I dare say that at some stage [or on some stage] this weekend there’ll be some kind of Neck vs Throat session.
Posset’s presence certainly fills out the sound with spool swirls and pause/plays getting it on with Perez’s dirty, lo-fi background Bailey-esque scribble but its hard to shift Yol from his stand out prominent position even if this release doesn’t carry as much metal scrape and metal on metal clanging as previous Yol outings. On ‘Expensive Taps’ he retches his way through ‘buying expensive taps stops police brutality’ delivering his exasperated lines like someone tired of explaining themselves to a roomful of murderous people. Its the juxtaposition of the sometimes banal lyrics coupled to the extreme delivery [needing virtually nothing in the way of profanity or crudity for emphasis] that still manages to startle. On ‘One of Your Five a Day’ his delivery is like that of a dying vampire with Perez’s guitar and Posset’s tape squirts complementing each other like a squeaky leather shoe and an awkward shopping trolley. Perez does his best improv scratch bit on ‘Slow Hand Clapping’ whilst on ‘Gather’ there’s a much fuller improv feel thanks to Pascal Nichol’s drumming while Yol’s lyrics give way to the sound of strangulation.
An argument could be made for Yol doing his bit within improv circles; a more fearsome Phil Minton, a wilder Trevor Wishart and I’ve not even mentioned his junk metal abuse which for the most part here has taken a back seat but could quite easily fit within a more traditional improv set up. Likewise Perez and Posset.
The most startling appearance is ‘Sunny Day’. A track that is unlikely to trouble the playlist selectors on Radio 2 but the nearest thing we’ll get to Yol actually singing. Hearing Yol almost sing ‘its such a sunny day we shouldn’t be arguing inside’ in such a demented style is both funny, unsettling and a dichotomous. And I don’t get to say that very often. In fact there may be cause to celebrate Yol’s lyrics, perhaps in a small samizdat publication where ‘its such a sunny day we shouldn’t be arguing inside’ can join ‘The lamp post is full of rats, that explains the squeaking’ and others of a similar vibrant ilk.
Comes in a three panel fold out card sleeve with Yol’s distinctive cut out graphics. If you see one in Newcastle, buy it.
neck vs throat bandcamp
Monday, October 10, 2016
Where to start with this one? Described as an ‘Anglo/German occult radish ritual cinematic noise record designed to fill a gap in the music market’ by the man behind Noisferatu [as seen in one of his amusing self promoting Youtube videos] this record comes with a little sachet containing thirteen radish seeds and virtually no other information bar the artists names and track titles. So ‘Anglo/German occult radish ritual cinematic noise’ it is.
Noisferatu is Carl from the south coast of England who likes radishes and has collaborated with Simon Morris on the projects Ceramic Nose and Basic Concept both of which involve Morris talking/singing stream of consciousness lyrics whilst Carl [sorry, I forgot your surname] makes some noises with beats in them. Carl [sorry I forgot your surname] also ‘vlogs’ on Youtube under the moniker ‘dullbedsitblogger’ and makes some highly watchable and very well made videos some of which show Noisferatu in the live situation playing as an expanded three piece with lady dancers, everybody dressed in black, wearing masks and throwing radishes in to the audience. This is also the first release to come this way that has its own promotional video as made by Carl [sorry I forgot your surname] adopting the persona of Humphrey Pobison who, with ridiculous false mustache attached, tells us all in glorious posh tones about this up and coming new release. Which, as you will have already gathered, has lots to do with radishes. At least on one side. Why the radishes? You’ll have to ask Carl.
The two tracks on the Noisferatu side are called ‘Radish Trinity’ and ‘Thee Radish Invocation’. On which you get the feeling that this really is an occult radish ritual cinematic noise record. Except its not that noisy, more ambient really with moaning, singing, chanting and the deep sonorous dong of a distant church bell. Things sort of swirl around a bit and a speeded up voice can be heard saying ‘All hail the radish’ in an attempt to create some kind of unsettling atmosphere. The lonesome call of Curlews adds to the eerie feel of things.
Question is, why all the radish? If this came with Dennis Wheatley name-checks, naked ladies laid inside floor chalked pentagrams, people in hooded cloaks, candles, goat skulls etc, etc, you could have a seriously good occult soundtrack, instead we have people singing abut radishes which may seem like the funniest thing since bouncing jelly but left me scratching my head somewhat. That’s Anglo/German occult radish ritual cinematic noise for you I suppose.
Maybe Fjørd can enlighten us? Their side long track ‘The Manifest’ is a mixture of droning Black Metal guitars, drum and bass samples, dark ambience and speeded up tapes, a bit like a more experimental Godflesh I suppose. And very good it is too, even though I rarely listen to such things and don’t have much to compare it to. No sign of any radishes though. No sign of any contact info either. I can’t even tell you what label its on. I do have some radish seeds though.
Noisferatu: noisferatuhailtheeradish [at] gmail.com
Fjørd: antidotrecords [at] googlemail.com
Thursday, October 06, 2016
Acrid Lactations & ‘Jointhee’ - Chest
Tutore Burlato 10. Cassette.
I’ve been reading this new book by Stephen Graham called ‘Sounds of the Underground’ and in it I came across the term ‘esemplastic laminal improv’ which meant absolutely nothing to me. Then I wondered if the term could be used to describe what Acrid Lactations & ‘Jointhee’ create because whatever it is they do it defies categorisation and I kind of like the sound of ‘esemplastic laminal improv’ even if I don’t know what it means.
For the uninitiated Joincey [or in this instance ‘Jointhee’] is the peripatetic originator of a multitude of solo projects and the member of more bands that if printed here, would make this paragraph seriously unmanageable. I saw him on Saturday at the Tor Fest, clean shaven for once which kind of threw me and asking where the chips had come from. His singing voice has a flat vaguely northern property to it which can at times ascend into a highly recognisable wavering warble. That's when he is singing because the way he does sing is really talking. On one of the tracks here he starts off by singing ‘Imagine Morrissey singing this’ and I do but not for long because I’d much rather have Joincey singing it.
Acrid Lactations are Stuart Arnot and Susan Fitzpatrick who when this was recorded lived in Glasgow but have seen sense and have now moved to York [I saw Stuart on Saturday too but only fleetingly and feel compelled to use this opportunity to apologise to him here for not tracking him down and asking him how he was] and who one day had Joincey turn up whereupon they made some tea and recorded some songs. Twelve of them. Each one having a different resonance each of them giving me that esemplastic laminal improv feel.
Whilst listening I wrote: the Stokie Shaman, gut ache improv, Sun Ra skronk, stories told by someone pretending to be a witch, silence, taut Hitchcock-ian soundtracks, spoken word question and answer sessions, running water, people talking in deliberately affected voices as puppies whine in the background, sax honk and Moroccan snake charmer capstan abuse. The songs are all written by Joincey and appear to be either stream of consciousness observations or random thoughts. Whether these lyrics were then improvised upon or are actual compositions is where esemplastic laminal improv comes in for in truth I haven’t got a clue. Vocal duties aren’t all Joincey’s domain either with Arnot’s Scottish brogue coming through on a foreboding track which sounds like he’s recounting a ghost story in a scary voice to a room full of terrified infants as a wheezing two chord keyboard refrain huffs in the background. Strings are scratched as Fitzpatrick [maybe or maybe even Joincey] goes all falsetto. One track lasts for about three seconds.
It matters not what you call it though. These twelve songs are all highly singular and timeless creations that emerged from a room in Glasgow, where once upon a time someone knocked on a door and tea was made and music was made. All making for some rather extraordinary and solidly unclassifiable music.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Chris Goudreau - Ultranegative
Elm Recordings. RLM-11
C40 100 copies.
Chris Goudreau - Odd Monsters
Kitty Play Records. KPR23
C24 100 copies.
SELF/OMEI - It Never Ends Well
Circle of Shit. C.O.S.28
2 x C34, 5 x business cards, 1” button badge, sew on patch & sticker in hessian bag.
I don’t suppose its easy being a noise artist. With very few exceptions making a living from it is virtually impossible and even if you’re Mr. Shit Hot shifting those units is a hard work. Release something new every month and even your most ardent fans become jaded, release something once a year and you’re hardly doing your profile any favours. Gigging involves lots of travel and plenty of discomfort with little in the way of recompense and there’s always the possibility that putting your equipment on the airline check-in scale could be the last you ever see of it. And then mixer guy starts pulling faces because he thinks its too loud and the turnout’s in the low twenties.
At a gig in Birmingham I once saw Chris Goudreau take to the stage, outside, in November at around one in the morning to perform before a small group of mainly drunk people who by that time would have struggled to notice the difference between Whitehouse and Sparks. For this he had traveled on a transatlantic flight, with all his equipment and all the hassle that comes with trailing through airports for approximately ten minutes of noise making. That those ten minutes were of the highest quality was no doubt lost on that small group of inebriated merry makers but for those who had braved the cold and had managed to stay clear of the John Barleycorn the results were nothing short of visceral bliss. To his credit Goudreau did his duty with the utmost magnanimity and where others might have stomped about complaining about their being brown M&M’s in the bowl or the lack of fluffy white bath towels in the dressing room, he just got on with it. Even though he’d traveled thousands of miles, even though it was bollock freezing, even though the crowd had dwindled to the drunks and the intrigued and those few who knew they were in for a rare treat.
Its why I’ve always had a lot of time for what Goudreau creates. He takes what he does seriously. He’s a serious noise artists. He’s seriously good too. First with Sickness, a solo noise project that saw him explore the frailties of health and later with his side project Omei where he gets to explore the quieter side of things. Like other noise artists before him Goudreau has now begun to release music under his own name and like other noise artists before him this has resulted in a maturing of output. Out go the full blown noise sets and in comes a more measured, less frenetic response.
The two live tracks on Odd Monsters, both clocking in at around eleven minutes, are Goudreau in hunched over modular synth mode creating a juddering sequence of juxtaposed growls, pops, stops, starts, sustained drones, snatched samples of panicked conversation, message dings and with it wild fluctuations in volume that make you wonder if the next three seconds are either Contemporary Composition or the full blown roar of a noise artist getting in to the swing of it. Brevity plays its part and its to Goudreau’s credit that he can pack such a considerable punch in such a brief space of time. Oblique and somewhat troubling liner notes lead me to believe that this is the break off release for Goudreau and that his future lies more in this direction and less in that of Sickness.
The title track on Ultranegative carries on in the same vein with plenty of glass being chewed between back molars for that full on granular feeling whilst its neighbour ‘After Image’ contains as much silence as noise. On the flip we find ‘Piano Sonata For The Untalented’ and a side long noise drone feedback work which I struggled to fully engage with. The troughs and peaks it goes through work fine enough appeared at times to be meandering and in need of sharper focus.
Anyone who’s ever been to a Goudreau/Sickness show will no doubt have bumped into [quite literary] John Balistreri. With his nihilistic Power Electronics project Slogun he’s as often as not down the front reveling in the fact that there’s a small crowd of people intent on knocking the shit out of each other and whoever happens to be standing within in elbows reach. It comes as some surprise then to discover Balistreri has a side project called SELF that delivers the kind of ultimate muscle relaxant ambience that you thought only Brian Eno was capable of.
‘It Never Ends Well’ really has been a revelation of a release with both artists delivering two sides of pure ambient drone bliss. SELF with a looping two chord wheeze through which are scattered the echoes of cars passing through tunnels and then a lo-fi drone roar with machine hum, the clanging of elevator cables, a heavy smoker struggling for breath, distant conversations and a send off that appears at the sound of solemnly struck plague bell, OMEI with two slowly moving, cycling drones and a steel mill forge hammer for balance. A truly haunting and beautiful release.
Those five business cards give further clues as to the direction these two are working towards here; images of self harm, blood from cuts and photographs of peeling and torn bill posters and decay as taken by Balistreri. These releases go deep but that makes getting lost in them all the more pleasurable.
Slogun/Circle of Shit