Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nuen Recs + Bruces's Fingers

Manfried Wender - 2015³
Nueni Recs #006.  CD

Kulakantu - Oier Iruretagoiena
Nueni Recs #005.  CD

Hession/Stefani - Concretes
Bruce’s Fingers. BF 128. CD

Thanks to the Bearded Wonder over at RFM I now have two releases from Nuen Recs to listen to. Or not as the case may be. Two releases that were deemed unsuitable for dissemination at RFM due to the fact that the Bearded Wonder declines to put the boot in anymore, something to do with positivism and preservation of the id. No fear, where Beardy fears to tread I done my welders clogs and start jumping around in broken bottle glass. Fortunately for me the Campbell bunged me a Hession/Stefani release that did more than enough to reverse the damage.

Things didn't start well with cursory listens revealing most of the Wender release to be nothing but silence.  Not absolute silence as recorded in an anechoic chamber of course. No, no no, that would be too easy. But I'm an attentive listener these days and with the new hi-if still tickling my eardrums I decided to put aside a precious Saturday afternoon to get to the bottom of what was actually going on here. Now I'm no stranger to silence in the area of recorded music and have great affection for people like Bernhard Günter and Francisco López, musicians who have chosen to work at the very bottom of the audible scale [my eternal memory of Gunter is a picture of him cupping a dried leaf to his ear as if listening intently to his slow desiccation, but I digress]. 2015³ is a work by the Swiss minimalist composer Manfred Werder as interpreted by the Swedish duo Regler. Something to do with Werder giving them a line of text by Walter Benjamin and telling them to get on with it. The results are a 40 minute track that for the first ten minutes sounds like someone setting up a drum kit and for the next thirty minutes is nothing but virtual silence. The inside cover shows someone asleep at the drum kit and someone asleep on the floor in front of an industrial lamp [all part of the interpretation kiddoes]. I can only assume that the recording is that of the drummer setting up his kit so as not to awaken his partner before turning on the lights at 40.00 resulting in this conversation:

‘I tried not to wake you during the recording’
‘It's ok I'm a heavy sleeper’
‘We've done. I’ve pressed stop’
‘Did it work?’
‘I think so’

Things aren’t much better in Kulakantu land where silence also exists but in my opinion not in nowhere near enough quantities. Four tracks of electronic cerebral cak that is cold and detached and exists for the kind of person who sits at home wanking over their Milton Babbitt vinyl. One track sounds like a toy airplane going overhead its engine cutting out intermittently, another is electronic cicadas and then silence, electronic cicadas, silence, electronic cicadas, silence. And so it goes. 

Sweeping away this depressing mix of chin stroking intellectualism is ‘Concretes’; a collaboration between the percussionist Paul Hession and Ewan Stefani. With Stefani processing via his own software and synthesising whatever it is that Hession has created. The results are a never ending panoply of sounds as brought to us by Hession’s drums, sampler, ring modulator, echo machine and Hubback gongs. For 56 minutes and eight gloriously individual tracks I delighted in all manner of rattles, riffs, prods, bumps, burbles, scrapes and samples of old films. First track ‘Rindade Insult’ is a whirr of quick edits, each one chopped into its own tiny epic of improv heaven, ‘Vermeer Kankare’ is more subdued, a glass orchestra, ‘Nja’ at almost fifteen minutes is the longest and most rewarding outing with the sounds slowed down to almost drone like proportions as beebling electronica wheedles away in the undergrowth before mutating into drum and bass like structures.

Simon H Fell's production is of such a quality that listening to this eternally spewing forth mass of sounds is like manna from heaven. I could ravish this release for the next ten pages, run my tongue over its fold out cover and around the edges of the disc itself all the while reveling in the fact that it was recorded in West Yorkshire and that Simon H Fell’s initials are the same as Milovan Srdenovic’s Stinky Horse Fuckers label. That and the fact that the only silence that exists on this release are the two seconds between each track.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Staraya Derevnya

Staraya Derevnya - Kadita Sessions
Self released cdr. 60 copies.

There’s not that many genre defying releases make it through the door here these days and the days when I get them in hand felted pouches are even rarer so here’s to Staraya Derevnya who’ve managed to do both. Cheers.

The man behind this genre defying release and someone who I feel has the mastery of the studio at his fingertips is Gosha Shtasel. A man who has somehow managed to create a work that takes in elements of Ghédalia Tazartès Einstürzende Neubauten, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Belgian experimental rockers Deus, World Music and lounge muzak.

Before we go any further though here’s a list of some of the instrumentation as credited on the rather fabulous fold out CD cover:

Marching band kazoo
Shruti box
Chello [sic]

And a choir of six people. And cries and whispers.

What the objects are I have no idea. They could be anything because inside this release lie all manner of sounds and instrumentation all of it bringing to my ears the kind of aural delight one comes across all too rarely.

Track one ‘Hram’ kicks off with a blood curdling Tarzan roar before going hell for leather in some kind of Siberian knees up, a demented breakneck race for the finish line where all the participants fall around spent and pissed. Track two ‘Mem’ kicks off with the sound of a skip full of milk bottles being dropped from a great height. A sound that continues through its course as two people, one speaking Russian, the other Hebrew [I think] talk to each other from either side of my headphones each. Track three ‘Chastity’ has the shruti box, someone scraping stones together, the feedback and a head down pean to someone’s God as sung in Hebrew.

And so it goes. Each track a beguiling mix of sounds, voices, languages and styles, a journey, a testament to the producer’s skill and a joy for the listener. I’m taking in the Kazoo right now. I like Kazoo’s. I don’t hear enough Kazoo’s. With it the some Ethiopian jazz courtesy of Hailu Mergia. In a moment there will be some Turkish funk and a splattered keyboard solo where the player rests all his hands on the keys going for the big Sun Ra cluster buster. It all ends with a conversation. Maybe in Russian. After which I put it back in its felt pocket and give thanks to man called Gosha Shtasel.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Taming Power

Taming Power - Autumn Works 2002
Early Morning Records. 014 LP
220 copies

Taming Power - Three Pieces
Early Morning Records. 015 10”
111 copies

Taming Power - Six Pieces
Early Morning Records. 016 10”
110 copies

The Golden Road [To Limited Edition] - A Compilation of Experimental Music
EMR Comp 7”. Split label release.
4 x 80 copies

Sonorotiés de la vie de Bohème - A Compilation of Experimental Music
EMR Comp 7”. Split label release.
4 x 75 copies

Who’d have thought that an obscure Norwegian drone artists could have such an effect on a small community of listeners in West Yorkshire? Mention the words ‘Taming Power’ at the next noise gig down the Wharf Chambers and you will see several balding, unshaven men of a certain age go visibly weak at the knees. It’d be a good time to stiff em for a drink as they’ll be drifting away on some recent memory of a night spent in spinning Taming Power vinyl, the woes of the world banished by drones capable of sending you into mindsets and moods that you thought were only achievable through designer drugs of a William Burroughs nature. Five stoup's of your finest mead stout landlord and he’s paying.

What makes the Taming Power experience all the more mind boggling is that these records still exist and are available to buy 15 years after they were pressed and that Mr Taming Power himself Askild Haugland, is still pulling out the odd copy to send to acolytes such as myself, Neil Campbell and Rob Hayler. All this while Record Store Day 2016 morphs into an excuse to offload expensive reissues of the kind of crap you can still buy on Discogs for pennies. Its enough to make a balding, unshaven man of a certain age cry into his mead.

Over the last couple of years several Taming Power packages have made it all the way from Norway each and every one spun into infinity, each listen bringing with it, amongst other things, a head shake of disbelief. For it is in disbelief that works such as these aren’t being more widely lauded. Still. Thanks to Campbell I’ve been pushing Haugland’s work for a couple of years now, this after a cheap CDR of his more abstract feedback/noise work was shoved into my hands in an Heckmondwike boozer. Little did I know that this slim promo disc would result in a number of packages arriving here containing vinyl that not only takes up pride of place on my groaning vinyl shelving but is now cemented as being amongst my most prized possessions. In my head I keep rewriting the list of things I’d save in a house fire and if I had a steel box that could hold 50 records all of the Taming Powers would be in it. Especially the ten inch vinyl which is where Taming Power seems most at home.

Haugland’s ability to conjure up such devastating and sublime work lies not only in the simplicity of his instrumentation but in the simplicity of his handwritten, glued on photo sleeves and the continued use of recording dates as track titles. A recipe that gives his work a unique quality that mass production can never replicate. ‘Autumn Works 2002’ again employs the electric guitar going through a distortion/relay set up before being fed into a 4-track recorder to skin tingling effect. A simple set up that is enough to create drones that range from the wildly ringing to the bleakly austere and haunting. On ‘Three Pieces’ and ‘Six Pieces’ Haugland once agains finds himself among the singing bowls, metalophones, field recordings, cassette recorders and tape recorders and with them gives us the side long B-side ride to ‘Three Pieces’ thats a looping, unforgettable sunrise across an blasted Arctic tundra. On ‘Six Pieces’ you will find comparisons to Nurse With Wound’s ‘Soliloquy to Lilith’ and with it the deathly moans of Haugland himself, there’s a school bell that rings out too perhaps telling me that its time to put my Taming Power records away for a while. Its not going to be easy.

The singles meanwhile are but an amuse bouche, the small glass of amontillado before a sumptuous meal. They feature the work of Bruce Russell, the ubiquitous Sindre Bjerga, Taming Power and  some people I've never heard of who have no doubt gone on to other things since. Fragments to get you in the mood. To Planet Haugland then with mead in hand.  

Taming Power/Early Morning Records

Monday, April 18, 2016

Basic Concept

Basic Concept - Live in Salacious Sussex
Concrète Tapes. 20 copies.

I was going to review the latest Black Leather Jesus/Smell & Quim collaboration but the damned thing refuses to play in the computer. No CD player upstairs you see. The one downstairs is the dogs bollocks. You can hear it halfway down the street when the valves have warmed up and the neighbours aren’t in [I’m considerate to fault I’ll have you know] but not in here right now. I’ve played it a-plenty when in the comfort of the Poang, crosser to hand, Saturday afternoon drifting by as I flit in and out of sleep awaiting the results and cocktail hour. But not tonight. Defeated by a CD so its to cassettes I turn. The ever trusty cassette to which I was so unkind not so long back. I’ve had more cassettes sent since I slagged them off than anything else. That’ll teach me.

So I put my hand in the velvet review bag and pull out ‘Live in Salacious Sussex’ by the totally unknown to me Basic Concept and then I remembered that it came with the last Ceramic Hobs single and that I’d played it a few times before and that Basic Concept was in fact Simon Morris on vocals and some bloke called Carl Anderson who mucks about with electronics and goes by the name Nil By Nose. So Simon Morris, who is not only the mainstay of the long suffering Ceramic Hobs and the mighty Smell & Quim and is now also a published author [I saw him signing copies of his book at my list visit to the WC] is now a rapper. Yes, a fucking rapper.

Then I remembered that I’d watched a video made by Anderson which recounted two German dates they played in 2013 and I searched for it on youtube but to no avail. Its one of those ‘hey, we’re off on tour and here we are in the bar at Manchester airport having a drink before we get on the plane’ followed by wobbly footage of people wandering european cities slightly pissed. So I played the thing again, slightly remembering this time that I kind of liked its drug induced slowed down techno type vibe with Morris rapping/singing all over it. And I still like it.

Two live tracks, one recorded in Brighton and the other in Worthing, both of about twenty minutes or so in length and both containing the kind of music that I wouldn’t normally rush to take with me on my holibobs; i.e slow thudding beats with someone rapping over them. But it works dammit.

What lifts this from the mundane is Morris’s vocal delivery and his, yes, rapping. When Morris raps [I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words] he appears to be having a conversation with himself, a dark moan at times, a wounded soldier shouting for help in a muddy trench, a Fylde Coast 50 Cents. Just don’t ask me what he’s rapping about. I think I got references to tin foil and drugs and at one point he tries on ‘Warm Leatherette’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’ for size but for the most part I’m guessing its all stream of consciousness. It’s all a larvelry larf innit with Anderson’s ‘treatments’ [shall we call them], synth fucking about-ness then, morphing through different phases so that Morris’s delivery isn’t all thrown on to the same background. Daft thing is this, Morris and Anderson suit each other like a shitty seaside town and cheap alcohol. They were meant for each other. It bloody well works, which surprises nobody more than me.

Physical copies still exist and even if they don’t you can listen to it all via the wonders of broadband.


Saturday, April 09, 2016

L'eclipse Nue - Negative

L’eclipse Nue - Negative
Dorei Recordings. DOR 021CD

It’s not a good start is it? The cover art I mean. If you were out for a browse on a Saturday morning and you picked up ‘Negative’ by L’Eclipse Nue would you buy it or would you think ‘what the fuck is that’? For a moment I thought we were back in Venusian Death Cell territory, that mysterious one man Irish death metal band whose covers depict Satanic rituals drawn in a childish scrawl on lined note paper. But no, this is Daniel Sine, a one man band ‘industrial, experimental, noise’ unit based in Tokyo and it was his friend who painted the cover. A picture that portrays a nude model, a woman who sat nude for artists before ‘offering herself’ up to them and now she’s back as a ghost with a mission and now you know as much as me.

So far so bad. But let us not get bogged down in the sodding cover art or we’ll be here all night. This has been with me a while now. I played it upon arrival which is my usual modus operandi and thought my usual thoughts when faced with an industrial, experimental, noise album of this nature. That being that the we could be in for a rocky ride. For while L’eclipse Nue and Sine may cal this industrial, experimental, noise I’d say it has more in common with Power Electronics with very little in the way of experimenting going on. And as enee fule no Power Electronics straddles a thin line between parody and tediousness. When its good theres nothing else like it, when its bad its awful. There are those who manage to stay on that line forging artistic careers that gain respect with the passing years and then there are those who make middling PE/Noise albums and I’m classing this as one of them. That's not to say that a middling PE/Noise album cant have instances of greatness within itself, its just that sometimes you think maybe the quality control button came off in his hand.

As if the cover art wasn’t enough of a distraction there’s the track titles to contend with; ‘Prying Open the Manhole Cover to the Tunnel of God’, ‘Transitioning Into the Next Dimension’, ‘Facing the Gaping Jaws of Infinity’ and my favourite ‘Dial Emergency’. But still I listened and somewhere among the blasted dystopian landscapes I found moments that I genuinely liked. There’s plenty of that deep low end rumble going on, the distant roar of a radioactive dust storm stripping the barren earth of its last vestiges of useful minerals as seen in a sci-fi film starring Matt Damon. Then there’s tracks like ‘A Promise In Hell’ which is ten minutes of that rumble with Beelzebub in the background no doubt muttering dark somethings. Which is followed by a hideous squeal with leaden low end synth key throb and a strangled, ethereal female vocal [‘Revenge Of A Dead Model’].

Things start off so well though with ‘Humiliation On Film’ going for that full on cathartic roar with a menacing disembodied voice telling you to ‘turn around’. Third track ‘Poisoned by the Yellow Spines of a Hundred Greedy Slugs’ [my second favourite title] reminded me of Italian PE outfit Iugula Thor with a rattling wasp like synth lead and equally disaffected vocals. At two minutes its noisy perfection. Put it on a single with a decent cover and god’s your manhole cover.

Sine has worked with Toshiji Mikawa, Hiroshi Hasegawa [amongst others] and gigs regularly in Tokyo. Maybe he should ask Mikawa san to do the next cover.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Consumer Electronics - Wharf Chambers 04/04/2016

Consumer Electronics
Circuit Breaker

Leeds, Wharf Chambers, Monday, 4th April, 2016.

There was a time when the mere thought of driving to a gig in Leeds passed through my brain in nanoseconds. Drive? And come home sober? Not have a drink? Like really not have a drink?  And then one day I went to a gig in Leeds in the car and it wasn’t actually that bad. In fact I even preferred it. So now I go to lots of gigs in Leeds in the car. It saves me £20 in taxi fares and no hangovers. And if I go to a gig in Leeds in the car and I get a parking spot outside the Wharf Chambers I can be home in little more than 20 minutes should the traffic lights and inner city Leeds ring road gods be on my side. Then there’s the bonus of listening to the radio. Something rather special about listening to late night radio in the car when you’re on your own. Radio 3 or 4 where they usually have something cerebral on; ‘Late Junction’ or ‘Hear and Now’ with their atonal modern classical and nose flute players from Azerbaijan.

Last night I encountered the writer WIlliam Fiennes telling an audience at the Wellcome Collection’s reading room of his experience of Crohn’s disease; an essay on the inflammation of the intestines, splashes of blood in the toilet bowl, the unpleasant world of fistulas, ulcers and stomas; that surgical procedure where you get to say hello to a bit of your bowel through a hole in your side. Fiennes used words like flatus, anus and shit and fantasized, in his anesthetic haze, of the nurse kissing the end of his bowel and inserting her fist into the stoma to massage his inner organs.

Phillip Best’s speaking voice sounds not dissimilar to that of William Fiennes. Maybe its the gig playing tricks on my mind but the ride home felt like a continuation of the gig. Consumer Electronics didn’t do an encore [maybe they did but I left soon after] but I got my own personal one in the car driving home. I wouldn’t have got that in a taxi.

Augmented by Russell Haswell and Sarah Froelich Consumer Electronics have emerged as something of a hot ticket with the usual five bald heads and the bloke behind the merch table now being augmented by the next generation of thrill seekers including women, something of which I heartily applaud. The mixed bag of old and young, male and female was a healthy one for a Monday night and although I bet no one went home singing the refrain from ‘Murder Your Masters’ I don’t doubt not one of them went home disappointed.

At the back end of an almost 30 date tour you’d think their voices would’ve burnt out by now but thats not the case. Froelich’s voice is as searing as a blow torch and the nearest thing you’re going to get to having weld spatter in your face at a gig. Its a phenomenal instrument and one you can only marvel at. If there’s a woman that can emit the word ‘fucking’ in song with any more venom than Froelich I want to meet her. But this is not all swearing and full on noise. Consumer Electronics have shifted gears in the last few years and are unrecognisable from previous incarnations. As Haswell noted before the gig, ‘this isn’t Industrial or Power Electronics’. I’d call it pop music. Phillip Best’s pop music for a supposedly proud nation thats nothing but a thin skin covering a mass of rotting flesh. Suck it buttercup.

Best opens his shirt to squeeze his tit but the offer to the audience isn’t coming. He shakes his fist, he sings and rants off mic genuinely lost in the moment. ‘Let’s get fucked up’ he says before we head off again into the dystopian distance. Haswell leaves his post to check out the sound and deems it not loud enough and the already considerable volume is inched even further. Back at his post his gaze never leaves his equipment. There a genuine chilling moments too especially when Best intones the last verses of ‘Colour Climax’

This is it
The bare life
It feels like love
Doesn't it?

Its a shifting set with Froelich and Best sharing singing duties, at times duetting in some twisted Eurovision Song Contest way. They move through gears that Consumer Electronics haven’t used before with pounding beats, high end synth squeal and relative silence. Copies of Dollhouse Songs were seen to be shifting from the merch table. Always a good sign.

What went before has left me baffled. Circuit Breaker are the next big thing from Harbinger Sound but their take on late 70’s synth moan has me baffled. A duo with synth and synth guitar [I think] with a singer who looks like he’s doing his best with an ill fitting set of dentures. I heard his style described as ‘mannered’ which is being kind. I’d prefer strangled with the words appearing only after they’ve been pressed through is gums. The songs are plodding, depressing affairs all of which sound incredibly similar. They have their fans though, it’s just that I’m not one of them.

Knifedoutofexistence was one man, a chain, some distorted vocals and a disintegrating tape loop. I liked it.

And then I drove home.

William Fiennes - The Bowel


Saturday, April 02, 2016

David Keenan - England's Hidden Reverse

David Keenan - England’s Hidden Reverse
Strange Attractor Press

A long Bank Holiday weekend saw me finally to get to grips with the dead weight that is England’s Hidden Reverse. Having foolishly missed out on its first print in 2003 I was genuinely excited to be able to read Keenan’s words without recourse to auction sites and resale prices designed to make my eyes water and my bank account go into hiding. And by dead weight I mean the sheer size of the damned thing. I don’t know how big the original was but the reprint is a 400 page plus house brick made of paper, if you have weak wrists go and by the e-reader version. If such a thing exists.

So was the wait worth it? Yes and no. After spraining my wrists for a weekend I found my admiration for Steve Stapleton growing by the hour while my dislike for David Tibet even further compounded. Having Keenan drool all over David Tibet for 400 odd pages left me with the urge to play nothing but the Ramones for a week. I have problems with Tibet you see and the main problem is his voice. And his maudlin delivery and his whimsical songs and his fucking Noddy obsession. In fact I have a problem with ‘obsessing’ altogether in this book. Just about everybody in it is obsessing over something or other. Tibet especially who obsesses over Noddy, Shirley Collins, Austin Osman Spare, Crowley, Tiny Tim  and a never ending stream of Victorian Gothic horror writers. For instance; there’s the time Tibet, having been made aware of the obscure writer Count Stenbock, is told that Edwin Pouncey has an impossible to find copy of his best work, he immediately rings Pouncey and tells him to name his fee, which he does and which is ‘pretty huge’. When Tibet eventually gets hold of the book its a slim tome which ‘vibrates in his hand’. And on it goes. One obsession after another desiccated for all its worth before being passed up for the next obsession.

I have the same problem with Coil. Being synth knob twiddlers I should have been all over them but my ears have been ravaged by covers of Tainted Love and that was enough for me. I find their music tedious in the extreme, the result of too many drugs and visits to gay nightclubs that don’t open until five in the morning that play nothing but ear bleed techno which they then go in to the studio to replicate. Much to the disgust of Stephen Thrower who’s switched Wakefield for London just so that he can get better sex and be in a cool band. I know they have lots of other strings to their bow but its just never going to happen between me and Coil. Even if they covered the theme music for 70's BBC comedy 'Are You Being Served' in a slightly camp ambient ritualistic way would I ... hang on a minute.

The main reason I bought this book was to find out more about Steve Stapleton and William Bennett, who are perhaps, the only two sane people in it and the only two people whose music I still buy to this day. Tales of riotous early London Whitehouse gigs and disastrous Nurse With Wound European dates [where Stapleton tries cocaine for the first time and spends the entire set screaming on the floor] are well worth recounting. 

Its Stapleton’s partner Diana Rogerson who we should all be giving thanks to and is for me the unsung hero of the book. Sick of seeing him finish his job of work and head straight for the studio Rogerson gives him an ultimatum; London or the west coast of Ireland. If not for the will of a strong woman the story here might have ended earlier than expected. I then discovered that Stapleton composed Soliloquy for Lilith by using a chain of effects pedals that he played like a Theremin. I also learned that when Tibet stayed with Stapleton for a recording session he ended up in a B&B down the road due to an infestation on the farm, thus ruining Tibet’s already fragile artistic temperament. I also discovered that John Balance began life as plain old Geoff Burton. I love trivia such as this. I discovered lots of things including the fact that I don’t have nearly as many Nurse With Wound albums as I should have.

Having said all that the book is a bit of a plod. Chapters are bolted together interviews coupled to the chronological running of things with little in the way of solid critique and a lack of Keenan’s obvious enthusiasm for his subject. Maybe the answer to this lies in the fact that Keenan began writing this book in the late 90’s, going on for twenty years ago now when his pen wasn’t as sharp as it is now. The newly included preface ‘Crime Calls for Night’ [actually the name of a talk delivered by Keenan in response to Attractor Press republishing his book] is where Keenan is now and although it may not entirely suit the tastes of Mr. Hayler over at RFM it does at least show a genuine love for his subject and a bite that the original text lacks. My other main beef is the fact that Death in June, Douglas P and Tony Wakeford escape free in to the night without having to explain their dalliance with fascism with Tibet making but a passing mention of Douglas P’s ‘fascination with the Second World War’. And lets not leave here without mentioning Keenan’s intensely irritating habit of shortening Current 93 to ‘Current’ and in one instance simply ’93’.

Stapleton deserves his own book, one with critique running through it and lots of artwork, album sleeves etc.... something capable of capturing Stapleton’s sense of humour and the singular uniqueness of his music. A biography if you like.  A big heavy book even. I dare say he’s had plenty of offers but as far as I know this is as good as we’ve got and its going to have to do for now.

I haven’t actually finished this yet, I still have a few pages to go but with any luck I wont come across anymore pictures of a soppy eyed David Tibet. If I do I may have to fling the thing across the room. If my wrists are still capable that is.