Friday, July 08, 2016

Stuart Chalmers, YOL and the Brexit Miasma of Confusion and Despair.

Stuart Chalmers - Imaginary Musicks Vol 5
Invisible City Records. ICR 22. Cassette

Stuart Chalmers - Poetry of Decay
Strange Rules. RULE-111. Single sided cassette.

Stuart Chalmers/YOL - Junk Seance
Quagga Curios Sounds - QCS_090. CDR
30 Copies

YOL - Is it Acceptable
LF Records. LF056. CDR

I’m in a bit of a slump what with all this Brexit shit flying about. After doing my best not to get involved and thinking I’d wake up on June the 24th with a ‘oh wasn’t all that waste of time’ thought before getting on with the rest of my life, I now find I live in a country where nothing makes much sense anymore. ‘Ever feel you’ve been cheated’ is a phrase that comes to mind. Three weeks in Japan followed by a couple of weeks of media avoidance meant I’d managed to miss the likes of Johnson and Farage spreading the kind of scare stories more normally reserved for children who wont eat their vegetables or go to bed when asked. I mean did people really think that the entire population of Turkey was going to come to the UK to sign on the dole/take all our jobs? The morning after the deed had been done I was asked at work ‘when do we start to get the money then?’ a reference to the £350 million we wouldn’t have to give to the EU on a weekly basis [I know, I know]. One clueless soul hadn’t even bothered to get any euros for his two weeks in Lanzarote, a holiday booked for the end of June. Another took a pen with him to vote because he’d believed the rumour going around that Government charged minions were rubbing penciled in Leave crosses out and changing them to Remain crosses. This same person likes Nigel Farage because ‘he likes a pint and a fag and he says what he likes’. I bet the fork lift truck driver and the privately educated stockbroker would no doubt get on like a house on fire should the opportunity arise. Except he’s quit. What a tosser. As did Boris, as did Cameron. Dodgy Dave without whom June the 24th 2016 would have been just another day. What an absolute fucking mess. May they all have blood in their stools for ever more.

Its at times like these that I find the review box a little taxing. Pretty much everything I get sent is of the ‘difficult nature’, or as some people like to say ‘unlistenable’. I work with people [Brexiters mainly] for whom Bryan Adams Greatest Hits is there go to apres pub CD of choice so what they’d think of YOL is something worth considering. What I need right now is something to take my mind of things not make it any worse.

Fortunately for me Stuart Chalmers is in a rich vein of form, in fact I don’t think he’s ever been out of form. His rapidly expanding Imaginary Musicks series is now up to volume five and each one has been a liquid morphine carpet ride through cotton wool clouds and blue skies. Well almost. We’re talking tape manipulations, decay and loops here which in some hands can be turned into maelstroms of confusion and in others temporal trips of delight [obligatory reference to William Basinski here]. Chalmers has the skills to transform mundane sound samples into things of absolute beauty. Field recordings of crowds are taped and then manipulated in such a way as to make you feel as if you’re listening to a crowd of slowly shuffling zombies, one track appears to be a keyboard solo mutated into an ethereal other with layered lowered organ keys slathered, one track is a honking sax solo a la Nurse With Wound complete with squeaky capstan fuzz and spin. A ritualistic Column One style loop rises out of a jungle clearing and with it the mournful sigh of a wounded beast, mumbled conversations and a cavalcade of spits, farts and buzzes.

Basinski and his decayed loops are more prominent in Poetry of Decay, seven tracks on a singled sided cassette that once again transform the mundane into the unearthly. It could be a brass band recording, Matt Monroe, or the Wurlitzer at Blackpool Tower but its been slowed down to such a lethargic Largactyl like speed that its nothing but a mournful lament, a wade through treacle, the wind lashed frozen tundra of an alien landscape.  Chalmers career in soundtracking sci-fi movies or the works of David Lynch should be assured.

Discovering that the sublime Chalmers had collaborated with the the din merchant YOL came as something of a shock. They’re an unlikely pairing to say the least and I was wondering if they were too far apart for it to make any sense. And then there was the post Brexit blues weighing down on me. And apart from a couple of tracks where its YOL barking and choking on his words it is a fair old mismatch. Of the seven tracks by far the standout was ‘Rusty-Rats’ where to a background of tape swirl YOL stutters and shouts such lines as ‘The lamp post is full of rats, that explains the squeaking’ and ‘Sausages made with meat from people who died at the fair’, lines are both absurd and disturbing at the same time. Of the rest only the last and more subdued ‘Best Shot’ leave any residue.

Putting on my bravest face and deciding that entering the post Brexit age had to be done at some time or other I placed ‘Is It Acceptable’ into the slot with a face like that of a man touching a bare electrical wire not knowing if its live or not. While it spun I admired YOL’s design work; a blazing car superimposed onto a Primark paper bag and knew that I was finally ready for it. I need not have worried. I knew I was in safe hands. Of the four tracks I reveled in the reversing lorry sounds, the now trademark strangulated delivery, the sound of YOL squeezing the life out of himself like no other I know. Its still a startling thing to hear even after so many releases. By far the strongest track on here though is also the quietest. ‘Soz Hard’ is a stripped down YOL; metal chains, an empty space, tin cans, YOL trying to spit out the words ‘The Winner of … ’ repeatedly, dribble running down his chin, exasperated exhalations of breath, the tinkle of nuts and bolts in a hub cap, shimmering bells. In its own strange way its rather beautiful. The last track is YOL at his visceral best.

And now I’m cured. Back on track. From Stuart Chalmers to YOL in one review. Whodathunkit?  

Invisible City

Stuart Chalmers Bandcamp

LF Records

YOL Bandcamp

Strange Rules

Quagga Curios Sound

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