Thursday, July 28, 2016

Butte County Free Music Society and the Chocolate Monk People.

Blood Stereo - The Lure of Gurp
Chocolate Monk 320. CDR
50 Copies

Seymour Glass & Fleshtone Aura - Amplified Teacup
Chocolate Monk 316. CDR
50 Copies

Serious Problmz - Nervous Youth
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS38. CDR
100 Copies

Serious Problmz - 369 1/2
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS50. CDR
100 Copies

Felix Mace - Boundary Situation
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS51. CDR
50 Copies.

Idler Arms - Kubelik Unbugged
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS39. CDR
100 Copies

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Hard Molt
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS58. CDR
100 Copies

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Gloria
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS49. CDR
100 Copies

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - Rupture Piles
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS48. CDR
100 Copies

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - The Thirteenth Century German Poet [And Who Can Forget Him]
Butte County Free Music Society - BUFMS55. CDR
100 Copies

Christmas 2015 saw me and Mrs Fisher in the North Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough. Unlike last year there were no bracing frosty morning walks along Marine Drive or cosy nights in in front of a three bar electric fire as the plumbing rattled and groaned around us. For this was the winter of 2015 where it rained every minute of every day for what seemed like forever. And I don’t just mean normal rain, this was Bible Rain. The sort of stuff driven by howling winds, rain that swept bridges, businesses, homes, pubs and people away with terrifying ease. The weather was so bad we left Scarborough a day early deciding that we’d had enough of listening to the windowpanes rattling and the downpipes gurgling so off we sped down a wet and slippeddy A64 past the flooded fields of Tadcaster and back to Cleckheaton where even here their’d been a flood warning issued.

Our stay, or should I say mine, was made slightly less miserable by the addition of these ten releases. Deep in a book, half way down my eighth glass of port and with the velvet curtains doing their best to keep the elements at bay I took myself off to the strange worlds inhabited by America’s Butte County Free Music Society and Brighton’s Chocolate Monk-ers. Once there I reminded myself that it is quite possible to forget that you are in a rain lashed guest house in Scarborough in the middle of winter and instead that you have somehow managed to stumble across a motherlode of weirdness that is six miles deep, four football pitches wide and more than capable of rendering the outside world meaningless. At least until the port runs out.

I thought this as I listened to these releases once more, this time in July 2016, where the climate is somewhat more amenable. At least the rain’s warmer. My notes of the first experience are a jumbled mess, mainly due to port consumption, containing as they do various references to cricket and the England v South Africa Boxing Day Test match and notes on the players taking part. I also wrote ‘Tories; soft downy cheeked arseholes’ something else that the port made me do. For Idler Arms I’d written ‘like the Sun City Girls warming up as captured on a dictaphone with the last track being an outtake from the Eraserhead soundtrack’. For Blood Stereo I had written ‘snoring’, ‘Chinese radio broadcasts’ and ‘In Toto’ which is Latin for ‘complete’ and must have been something to do with the crossword I was doing at the time. In other words I had written nothing of value or worth, except for the bit about Idler Arms which I still stand by.

So, seven months on I start again this time thinking I’ll try and be clever and attempt to compare the  obvious worlds that both BUFMS and Chocolate Monk both inhabit. But maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew here? On first listen a lot of what passes for aural entertainment in the worlds of BUMFSCHOC would appear to be nothing more than ‘people fucking about’. An uneasy term but one that I think people of a more base nature can connect with.

In this world there are people running around a school gymnasium picking up whatever instrumentation comes to hand, the shouting of silly words, typing sounds, drunken utterances ‘my chicken looks like you, my horse looks like you, my pig looks like you’, all in Redneck shit kicking accents, a rock band of sorts [Serious Problemz], a loop of the intro to ‘Up, Up and Away’ layered with demonic voices and heavy metal guitar [Felix Mace], straight to dictaphone SCG improv homages [Idler Arms]. So far so odd but then there’s the four Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble discs which is where we sink to the very bottom of those six deep, mad miles.

The Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble smear whatever musical boundaries exist into blurred meaningless nonsense. Spending a day with their sounds, with their music, is like slipping in to a dimension where your sense of hearing has been temporarily altered so as to make it perceptible to sounds its never heard before. BLE are the eyes and ears of a channel hopping care home resident pumped full of calming drugs. ‘The Thirteenth Century German Poet [And Who Can Forget Him]’ contains a five minute track pulled straight from the dialogue of a natural history programme on jelly fish, there’s a jaws harp convention meets erotic Satanic ritual, drunk people trying to form words as a jogger tries to warm up with bricks tied to their feet, there are slowed down voices, the slurring of words and Fozzy Bear shouting.  ‘Gloria’ has someone with a flat North of England accent matter-of-factly translating anti-American North Korean propaganda, someone reciting random words and a 12 minute track with lots of things to do with Gloria including the warbly bits from ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo’ and lots of people, lots and lots of people [some of them with Dalek like voices] repeating the letters G-L-O-R-I-A ad nauseum. And lets not forget the last track which is 42 seconds of almost silence at the end of which someone says ‘nice music buddy’. So far so good but then there's the CD inserts; gauze pads, flyers, tales of cannibalism, A&E horrors, spoof album covers and even though each release is, in most cases, but a 100 run they all have fold out covers and track listings and things to feast your eyes on. These are releases of unfettered joy.

I could go on of course. At the moment I’m listening to 'Hard Molt' which for the most part is mainly lo-fi rumblings, bits of Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtrack and shortwave meanderings. But I think you get the idea. 

If I had to pick one of the above to take with me on a desert island trip, or a wet winter week in Scarborough, it would be Blood Stereo’s ‘The Lure of Gurp’. That’s not to say that all that BLE and BUFMS do isn’t worth a second or third bite, it is,  but for me the ‘The Lure …’ has been the one that's won the repeat play of the year award. From ‘Gob & Soupy’ where Nyoukis recites words of unknown origin at the entrance to what sounds like a building site to the harmonium wheeze/Einst├╝rzende Neubauten lite of ‘For Unk, from the two chord organ drone of ‘Fake Utensils Keep’ to the zonked out Dada nonsense of ‘The Troglodyte Jig’ all life is here. And then you look at the cover and crack a smile.

What Nyoukis and Constance are doing in England with Blood Stereo and their label Chocolate Monk and Seymour Glass [and probably lots of other people whose names I don’t know] are doing in America with BUFMS is making remarkable music out of the detritus of others. As I listen to the last of these releases, ‘Amplified Tea Cup’ a collaboration between Glass and Fleshtone Aura, I find its two twenty minute cuts are flooded with a seemingly never ending supply of everyday sounds edited together to form a new and thoroughly engaging whole. Now that's my kind of flood.

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