Monday, January 25, 2016

Dieter Müh

Dieter Müh - Hanging the Blind Dog.
Hanson Records. HN257

Dieter Müh - Live at Gängeviertel
Soundholes. Live #005.

There’s always been an air of menace to Dieter Müh releases; the unsettling atmospheres, the Yorkshire Ripper victim confessional slowed to such a degree that you think the hammer must have done more damaged than originally thought. And no rolling of the eyes at the back please, Dieter Müh are an industrial outfit, an ‘Industrial Ambience’ outfit if you like [I have no idea if its in operational use but its the one I prefer] and as such are entitled to use such samples with impunity. It comes with the territory and the fact that Dieter Müh use transgressive material such as this to powerful effect is because the source is heavily disguised, this is no gay porn fisting video at a Power Electronics gig, this is subtle and as such cranks up the gravitas, its chewing your ears up without you even knowing it.

The Dieter Müh sound has altered very little over the 20 odd years its been coming through this door. Which is somewhat surprising when you learn that from three original members there now survives just the one; Steve Cammack. And while Dieter Müh releases may not arrive with the regularity they once did, the one thing you can be sure of is that when they do, they don’t lack quality. A testament to Steve Cammack and his impeccable quality control.

These two cassettes contain three live performances from a couple of years back one of which is, I’m pretty certain, the 2012 Rammel Club Festival set. Its the one that begins with the Maureen Long interview her voice slowed down to such an extent that it becomes a hideous slur and then a sudden eruption, a pounding rhythmic pummeling and you're off. I was there, the room moved from silent attention to heart thumping rush within a second. Its what Dieter Müh do. Its what they’ve always been capable of, holding audiences rapt with gently unfolding rhythms before unleashing a barrage of rhythmic fury at the end of which you'll sometimes hear a menacing voice intoning the words ‘we’re not happy, ‘till your not happy’. The flip begins with dolphin squeals, a bowl ring drone and a gently unfolding, overlapping, enveloping rhythm that develops into an ever more out of control monster, until the tapes cuts it and then silence.

‘Live at Gängeviertel’ repeats the same both sides, a single twenty two and half minute track that moves through two distinct phases starting with layered vocal samples and somebody whispering ‘nobody’. Buried voices appearing out of the silence, voices appear for one word and then disappear, panicked radio communications with an Eraserhead-esque Wurlitzer organ playing out some 1920’s ditty in the distant background, the ‘nobody’s’ get louder, a blizzard make itself heard, drunken WWI soldiers sing, Enochian recitations. Mysterious atmospheres, darkness and unease. Dieter Müh at their very best.     



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ceramic Hobs / Disco Mental

The Ceramic Hobs - 50 Shades of Snuff/Welcome to Malaysia Airlines
Disco Mental - Never Can Say Goodbye
Smith Research SRV21. 7”

I’ve been digging through my singles of late, spinning a few and wondering why I still keep those that I either don’t like anymore or have no idea whats on them. I’m not the worlds biggest single fan but I do have an abiding admiration for a format that is unmistakably of itself. Its a single. It has a single on it. Once upon a time, in a dark and miserable past, they contained a track taken from the album and a b-side that was the instrumental version, a cheap and shoddy way for uncaring record companies to pump product on to an uncaring and easily pleased consumer base. At their best they’re visceral slices of a moment in time, the perfect piece of plastic that for a few minutes is the best thing in the whole world.

Over the years I’ve accumulated several Ceramic Hobs singles including one that I had a hand in [read; sent Steve a cheque and six months later received a hundred singles in return] which’ll be Shaolin Master, which I still claim to be one of my all time favourite seven inchers, there was that flexi on Pumf’ ‘The Stoat Rides Out’, the lathe cut with Greasy Walter and the Razors [who were probably just the Hobs under another name and who sang a Neil Young song to a Led Zeppelin tune], ‘72 Hour Drink Binge Alco Pop Madness’ and more lately ‘33 Trapped Chilean Miners’. There’s no doubting that Ceramic Hobs singles have certainly got darker around the edges as the years have passed.

Which is hardly surprising. Their guitarist Nigel Joseph died of a drug overdose in 2014, various members have seen the insides of psychiatric units and one peripheral member was found washed up on the Fylde coast, drink is a constant, sanity seems as far away as Mars but still they make decent records. It must be the Blackpool sea air that does it.

There is no instrumental on ‘50 Shades of Snuff’. There’s no b-side either, for this is a split single, one side of which is Disco Mental; a one off collaboration between Hobs man Morris and the recently departed John Several who between them do an almost straight cover of Never Can Say Goodbye. A song most famously given a disco backing by Gloria Gaynor but here given a cheesy synth drum preset 4/4 beat by Several with Morris singing over the top [in more than one sense] though tons of echo, a performance that disintegrates and becomes ever more tortured as the needle progresses. So we have a dying John Several, a man whose name you thought would never end up in the same sentence as word ‘disco’, recording a disco track thats being sung, almost as in eulogy, by the singer of a band who have either all been sectioned or who are dead? As black humour goes this is as dark as its possible to get.

The doom factor is further in evidence on ‘50 Shades of Snuff’ a track book-ended by recordings made at the inquest into former Hobs guitarist Nigel Joseph’s death from a drug overdose [here given his real name Keiron Wilmot]. Both tracks finds the Hobs staring into a black mirror whilst chugging out stop, start, cracked riffs. Morris’s vocal delivery is, as ever, a thing apart, a raw vibration from the diaphragm, a fag smoked patina hoarse shout, the sound of vocal chords being gripped by pliers. What ‘Welcome to Malaysia Airlines’ is all about I have no idea, apart from the obvious. Morris says at its onset ‘Acid’s groovy’. Lets leave it at that.

I get the feeling that however many of these singles exist have now all been covered in Dr Steg artwork and sent out to loving homes. My copy arrived bearing a postcard I’d sent to Dr Steg many years ago. I slide it in next to ‘33 Trapped Chilean Miners’ and wonder how much darker the Hobs can get before they eventually collapse into a Blackpool sized black hole?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mark Wynn - Singles

Mark Wynn - ‘Singles - But They're not Really Singles, I just sent them to the Screen and said they were Singles’.

Harbinger Sound. Harbinger158. LP + 20pp A4 Zine. 500 copies.

Its not often I see the names of those I’ve reviewed getting a mention in the local paper but there was Mark Wynn’s name next to Burts Trad Jazz Band at The Wickham Wednesday night 8.00pm as appears every week in the Spenborough Guardian's ‘Whats On’ column. This, not long after he’d sent me one of his CDR/zine releases packed to brimming with two minute guitar strum avant punkish wit, everyday observations, one sided conversations and a cut and paste zine the likes of which I thought had died out forty years ago.

I did my research for that release and discovered that Wynn had a previous life in which he fingerpicked blues and country songs, the sort of thing that would appeal to those who attend Heckmondwike’s Comrades club and their once a month Crown of Lights acoustic night. The sort of evening where people sit around candle lit tables listening to wannabee Suzanne Vegas, Billy Braggs and Noel Gallaghers. So me and Mrs Fisher went along knowing full well that Wynn had left behind his fingerpicking past and was now supporting Sleaford Mods and was taking to the stage with a ghetto blaster that played his pre-recorded songs to which he sings/talks whilst stripped to the waist, an emaciated Jaques Tati on mind bending drugs, Iggy Pop from York, a deranged, bare chested Frank Spencer.

After a Suzanne Vega and her partner had chimed their way through 20 minutes of heartfelt whimsy as written in a Welsh cottage on holiday in the middle of winter 2010 and Billy Bragg had channeled Joe Strummer with a maraca tied to his left foot it was Wynn’s turn. As he plonked his ghetto blaster on the stage I heard one of his friends shout ‘where’s your guitar?’, a comment which was soon drowned out by whatever it was Wynn had recorded which could have been the energetic ‘ She Fancies Me That One In Age Concern’. As is the norm the whip thin Wynn stripped to his waist within three minutes of taking, not the stage but the floor, and was posturing his way around the scattered punters blowing out each of their tea lights in turn to which many stood up and beat a hasty retreat to the snooker room. By now me and Mrs Fisher were rolling around in mirth hoping he’d keep this up for the rest of the night but no, it was all over in about ten minutes. Wynn pressed stop on his ghetto blaster and told his audience that that was his last song to which there was a smattering of polite applause and a very audible ‘thank fuck for that’ before he shouted ‘ONLY JOKING’ and pressed play once more regaling us all with his instant classic, ‘Rip Off The Fall’. Our amiable Irish host took to the floor with his radio mic and tried to make light of what had just happened by saying something along the lines off ‘well, you never know what to expect from Mark Wynn do you, oh oh oh?’ It was a night I shall never forget.

The next time I saw Wynn was September last year supporting Sleaford Mods at the Irish Centre in Leeds. Same sort of get up but this time he’s even thinner and is sporting a child’s tiara. He’s got all his gear set up on a small table to which he occasionally sits and twiddles something as he eats grapes before leaping up and walking around the stage delivering songs in rapid fire succession in what feels like an almost stream of consciousness delivery.

I get the feeling that he’s an artist incapable of stemming the constant flow of ideas racing through his head. Take the cover of his latest ‘Singles’ LP which is in part a letter to Harbinger Sound supremo Steve Underwood apologising for not offering up a proper cover.  All handwritten in caps and worrying about whether  Rowntrees should have an apostrophe and whether ‘color’ should have a ‘u’ in it. There is of course the obligatory photos of himself staring into the camera [he’s made for the camera], shirtless of course and with a picture of his grandfather on the reverse for good measure.

Wynn takes his cue from the Versatile Newts, the Popticians, the TV Personalities, Desperate Bicycles, a very English kind of DIY punk aesthetic but right here and now in 2016. Think Patrick Fitzgerald having an urge to write songs about Battenburg and Bukowski. An unstoppable force of creativity. I dare say you could put Wynn in a white room with five objects and before the night was out he’d have the beginnings of a new album. 

There are 18 songs here [not all singles of course that was Steve’s idea as you can read about on the cover] and have titles like ‘I Just Don’t Understand Nick Cave’, ‘Real Sausages Made by a Real Butcher’, ‘The Girl Who Looked Like Bobby Gillespie’, ‘Your Nan is Not an Invalid’, ‘She’s My Baby And She Makes Me Die Inside’.  ‘I Just Don’t Understand Nick Cave’ begins with a hard strummed electric guitar and Wynn shouting ‘I’m not even that drunk’. Its probably all over in less than a minute. Most songs are just the retelling of things that happened accompanied by handclaps, tambourines and primitive drums and did I say they were catchy? His songs are as catchy as ebola. He sings in a talking voice. Listening to him is like catching a conversation across a table in a greasy spoon. Some nifty guitar work on ‘Houses on the Green Grass’ give away his previous incarnation in a song that is about … about what? I have no idea but its as catchy as hell and mentions Leeds. ‘Your Nan is Not an Invalid’ mentions New Earswick and Halifax. I’ve heard songs of his that mention Batley. I saw him in Heckmondwike. I doubt I’ll get the opportunity again. ‘John Tries To Buy Some New Tappers - A Movement in Three Parts’ is about his friend going to work in his socks because he has no shoes. ‘Battenburg’ is about Battenburg and has Wynn shouting ‘MULL OF KINTYRE’ in it. ‘Knee Socks’ … you get the idea. ‘She’s My Baby And She Makes Me Die Inside’ sounds like the Stooges with Wynn singing through a bullhorn. And its all utterly brilliant and as fresh as a newly opened packet of GV.

All 18 tracks on 'Singles' were culled from the last two years worth of Wynn's numerous self released CDR's, so what I suggest is this; buy 'Singles', play it to death and whilst you're at it buy up all those CDR's because you're going to need those too.  

Mark Wynn

Harbinger Sound

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tactile - Deep Immersion Electronics

Tactile - Deep Immersion Electronics
Sentrax Corporation. 2XLP with download code.

This stunning looking double LP white vinyl set finally arrived at Idwal Towers after spending a month in a neighbours house whose kids had taken it in and duly forgot about it. And then I had to dismantle the Hi-Fi because new gear was purchased and then the new rack didn’t arrive for a month so for all this time I was playing the MP3 version, which I now realise, after hearing the vinyl for the first time this week, is like trying to appreciate Stockhausen’s Hymnen through a partition wall. Once installed, the new system made me appreciate the fact that music of this nature, electronic music of a droning nature [in fact most music in general it has to be said] is far superior on vinyl to that of MP3 or any of its variants. Don’t argue. You lose. A marvelous object and a beautiful listen. I’m cheering you all the way.

John Everall’s Tactile project has lurked in the undergrowth ever since its inception, as befits someone whose name has been attached to the likes of Coil. His name usually crops up in conversations along with the words Sentrax Corporation, the label he started in the early 90’s that became home to God and people like Justin Broadrick, Mick Harris, James Plotkin. And then in 2014 John Everall [now known as Several] passed away making Deep Immersion Electronics his posthumous release.

Not being too familiar with John Everall’s Tactile project, I relished the chance to fully indulged in his twin synth drones and supped heartily from his droning cup. A listen that when coupled to the fact that he was working on this up until his death, added a certain poignancy to the proceedings.

So we have nine tracks, all numbered, all created from twin cycling analogue synths giving, not surprisingly, a very deep electronic immersion; gently throbbing pulses, sunspot transmissions, data churn, beetling emissions over which sinewy oscillations weave their way across an all encompassing spectrum. At nine minutes in length the longest tracks here ‘D.I.E. VIII’ and ‘D.I.E IX’ go for that deep, deep churn, the relentless onward march of a robot army with but a single fluxing synth note weaving its way across it. Immersive music for immersive people.

My only qualm is that these tracks aren’t immersive enough, at nine minutes I’m just getting in to it and those three minute tracks are but mere tasters, the amuse bouche. I’m thinking triple album here with a track each side. I’m not saying Several hasn’t done his job but the chance to explore these themes further is tantalizing but lost. 

This was Several’s sixth Tactile release and my first. A release that had me exploring corners of Youtube that I don’t normally get to. Another door opened.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Pascal Nichols Leaves Leeds

Has as been kindly pointed out me, I’ve gone and got my Pascal’s mixed up in the below review. Pascal Ansel is a Tiggerish young man bursting with enthusiasm, youth and energy, he’s the one whose leaving Leeds for Lisbon. Pascal Nichols is the gentleman who plays in Stuckometer. This much I now know. I leave the review as is, a monument to an aging brain and testament to my continuing ability to not get even the simplest of facts right. I like to think of myself as the John Peel of reviewing, always playing records at the wrong speed, always getting my facts wrong but not really caring that much and still happy in the knowledge that I have the ability to engage brain and hands from which words appear on a screen. Here’s to old age.

Stuckometer - Rainbow Beads Excretion
Total Vermin 60. CDR

Luke Poot/Lovely Honkey - Shame 3
Angurosakuson 008. CDR

So farewell then Pascal Nichols. You gave us lots of memorable noisy live performances like when you stripped to your knickers and poured beer over you head in the Wharf Chambers. You were making some godawful racket that sounded like Stock Aitken and Waterman channeling Whitehouse and it was grrrrrrreat. Your enthusiasm gave those of us with flat batteries an unexpected recharge, you even took up the improv baton in Leeds while those around you looked to their shoes and mumbled words like ‘thats the night I wash my hair’ and erm ... ummm ... you run a label with an unpronounceable name [unless you're Japanese and then it makes a lot more sense] and now you leave Leeds for Lisbon which makes us sad.

Having listened to these two releases over the last couple of nights I cant help get the feeling that Nichols feels most at home with his improv cap on. I mean making noises in your underpants is a good way to pass a Sunday afternoon on but improv has a certain gravitas to it which Nichols fits comfortably well.

Rainbow Beads Excretion sees Nichols join David Birchall and Karl Sveinsson for two approximately thirty minute-ish tracks of outrageously good guitar, bass and drum flail. Coming in at the more cerebral end of the improv spectrum this is no Unky Thurst send them all packing at midnight last act on lets see hows many’s left when the lights come up teeth bared molten lead earbleed-a-thon, even if it does have its Keiji Haino moments. Which is where we begin but things soon plateau so as we can experience the rub of bass, the scratch of bridge strings, the rattle of drum, the wheeze of keyboard feedback, the clang of chord. All I ask of improv of this nature is for to be carried along, to be not bored, to not think that oh that bit sounded a tad cliched, I think they were running out of ideas, they were bored, they fell asleep. I felt none of that with this. Second track ‘Fill Fill Fill’ begins with jack plug abuse, squeals of metal against metal, tiny bells, the clang of tubular bell-like things and distant whoops. An austere atmosphere that feels like the soundtrack to a difficult avant gard film form 1950’s France thats punctuated twice along its length by two mighty buffets of improv storm.

Who Luke Poot and Lovely Honkey are I have no idea but just to hear once again that mildly racist term of abuse as last seen in the 70’s sitcom Love Thy Neighbour has raised my spirits no end. I hear Scottish accents and the first track is all muffled mutter words and shouting, drunk people calling to each other across a public park while trying to get a noise gadget to work. There then follows three live segments as recorded for On North Manchester FM in which Mr Poot affects emphysema, wind and baby gurgles while playing  snatches from a cassette that contains samples taken from Match of the Day including David Taylor saying ‘do I not like that’. I’m assuming that the producers at On North Manchester FM have sympathetic producers and are used to people coming in to their studios and shouting ‘STREPSILS’ as people have their breath sucked out of them. Last track ‘Happy, Yeah?’ is another live one, three odd minutes worth of odd sounds, film dialogue, scuffling, squeaking but mainly film dialogue which makes me wonder what Poot and Honkey were up to all this time? Watching the films? Were they displayed? We need to know. For whats coming at me now makes about as much sense as freezing lettuce. At least the audience liked it. And Pascal.

Total Vermin [not been updated for a couple of years]


Sunday, January 03, 2016

Grim Enema

Grim Enema
Must Die Records. MDR 38. CDR

We must look forward by first looking back. Unless you’re the Italian driving an open top Ferrari in the 1976 film ‘The Gumball Rally’; a no hold’s barred, totally illegal road race that starts in Time Square and ends up thousands of miles later when the road runs out at the Pacific Ocean. In it, the Italian looks to his co-driver and intones the immortal words ‘First rule of Italian driving; whats behind is not important’ before ripping off the rear view mirror and chucking it on to the back seat.

I didn’t see Nigel Joseph in any of the end of the year lists of those we have lost. I did see Lemmy and Philthy, Ornette Coleman, John Renbourne, Chris Squires, Rod McKuen, Demis Roussos, Mick Lynch, Edgar Froese and plenty of other musicians including Ward Swingle who you really must search online for but no mention of Nigel Joseph.

He didn’t have any hit singles, or write any classic tunes. He was in the Ceramic Hobs though. He used to play the Hoover or more conventionally the guitar, even if he did play sat down at the front of the stage. I’ve written about his solo releases on these pages before and retold tales of how he used to send me letters regarding news of his latest noise release including one that was going to be a one off of a hundred tapes sewn into a dogs carcass and when I got one [not the one in the dog obvs as that was only released for one second on one day and then went away for ever] it was just a distortion of a blues cassette which sounds really cheap and crass but was actually quite good in its own raw way. I interviewed him once too. Another tale I’ve told before but one that I like to mention because I don’t like interviewing people as I don’t like asking intrusive questions but Joseph was quite happy to answer questions regarding his fragile mental state and the amount of spine numbing drugs he was taking. For someone who was supposed to be ‘mad’ [a word I’m not happy using but its the one that was bandied about most when talk moved to Joseph] he seemed a lot saner than some of the idiots I have had the displeasure of sharing my working time with.

I think Grim Enema arrived just before Nigel Joseph died which was in the middle of 2015. It seems appropriate that it appears on the totally un-ironically named Must Die Records, a local Blackpool label that also found room for his migraine inducing un-danceable drug music release 'Radioactive Snuff' and of course the still tragically underrated Ceramic Hobs LP 'Spirit World Circle Jerk'. And on the same week that I take delivery of the new Ceramic Hobs single ‘50 Shades of Snuff’ [which I dare say features Joseph in some way or another] I thought it about time I paid my respects by highlighting Nigel Joseph’s Grim Enema.

Except its not just him. A scribbled note mentions the name Ben Stephenson which means nothing to me. So its a collaboration. A full blown band maybe. The MDR website has no further info but it does include, as does the CD, a list of around 30 or so books which I took the liberty to search for online. Its a list that swings all the way from erotic fiction to knot tying manuals to the Koran to Irish politics to the properties of concrete and if I didn’t know better then I’d guess that its a list of books as found on Nigel Joesph’s bookshelf.

But what of what we get to hear? Thankfully for me its not the monged out drug induced beat fug that was Radioactive Snuff, neither is it the throwaway noise of ‘1,2,3’ what we do have is jumbled mass of Sunn O))) type guitars as recorded in a drafty Blackpool bedsit when the tide was out and the drugs were in. Endlessly reverbing chords of heaviness, the Cocteau Twins on Largactyl minus Liz Fraser. Three tracks and forty odd minutes worth of lo-fi  Blackpool drooooooooooong with a Dr. Steg cover and a juxtaposed list of books. As a goodbye statement from Nigel Joseph, one time Hob, one time filler of dead dogs with noise cassettes its seems perfectly pitched.