Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Merzbow v Early Hominids

Merzbow - Gomata
Hypnagogia. GO03. CD.
200 copies.

Early Hominids - 040117 Campbell + Walsh @ Mook
Zanntone. CDR

It would appear that I am now a ‘Noise Writer’. A writer of Noise, a weaver of words regarding that most uncomplicated of genres.  According to two recent publications relating to the matter that is. Times change of course and while this title may have fit once, many years ago when the genre still held me captivated and anything that rattled my bones was worthy of words, I find it now sits uneasily. The last two posts on this page have covered Irish heavy Metal and Scottish Zombie Mexican Wrestling Mask Rock and in the not too distant past I’ve written about everything from Contemporary Composition to environmental recordings to chart raiders Sleaford Mods so while I no longer write about Noise to the exclusion of everything else it would appear that I am forever to wear the colours that are those of the ‘Noise Writer’.

Given the opportunity to muse on the subject though I still relish the visceral thrill to be had from listening to an hours worth of the new Merzbow. Before giving it the now traditional kick in the teeth. It appears to be a ritual in the making; Hypnogogia take delivery of an hours worth of Masami’s latest dribblings along with a note that says ‘stick a cover on it and while you’re at it think up some track titles, I’m a busy man. Best Regards MA’. Weeks later the CD’s arrive from the pressing plant and out go the stuffed Jiffy’s to the Merzbow completists and me. I dutifully listen then make lots of disparaging remarks along the lines of ‘doesn’t he ever get bored making this shit’.

To be fair to Masami, Merzbow still manages to gather plaudits for his live outings and I dare say there are those who still buy his latest work [though I don’t know any personally]. I couldn’t make it to last years Manchester gig but reports of him making him making a not insubstantial racket aided by a Hungarian drummer were widespread. But then there’s the Sun Ra release. Big unsmiley face. The little I heard wasn’t great and the idea itself should never have gone further than the back of the fag packet it was written on. Then there’s his incessant release schedule; 389 credited on Discogs with six of them coming in 2017 alone and were still in March. One of those appeared whilst I was actually writing this.

So he has his fans and he has his detractors and whatever I write concerning Gomata isn’t going to affect Masami, his reputation or those crackpot Merzbow completists. Despite all this trash talk I still consider myself a Merzbow fan, mainly due to the heights of his late 80’s early 90’s work which is now coupled to the reissue schedule of his much deeper and varied early work. The problem I have is that I stopped caring about what Merzbow released around the time he went all digital. I'm pretty sure he's not 100% digital on this release [there's no info regarding instrumentation on the release] but the taint lingers.

For the record Gomata contains four tracks of your typical Merbowian high energy fizz and thats just about all you need to know. I’m almost at the end of track three. Was I bored? Not really. Was I blown away. No. Will I sell it on eBay? No. Last track was the best of the lot if you must know. Worth the release for that one alone. I respect Hypnagogia and Merzbow entirely but please, no more. Part of a trilogy relating to sacred cows apparently.

With a mere seven releases covering the last eight years appear the more sedate [though slightly younger] Early Hominids. This was given to me with over a glass of Fino on Saturday night and where Merzbow leaves me shaking my head for all the wrong reasons this one has me shaking it for all the right reasons.

Forgoing their recent PA smoldering exploits messers Campbell and Walsh [for it is they] go for the squidgy beats cum noise blurts as spread across nine tracks and thirty segued minutes. A noise release to some, dance music to others. Here the pair have finally found the space within which both of them can work, which in layman’s terms means they aren’t at war wiv da pedals and der synths. After all eight years is a long time and its not like they’re in each others pockets. They have other irons in other fires. These things have to be taken into consideration.

As with Campbell related releases the segueing of the tracks brings with it continuity so there’s no unwanted gaps to break things up. An important matter in such things. Gadget freaks will delight in the clarity in which each bloop, fart and swizz scans the room. Those with rhythm in their hearts will nod a head. A little like being stuck in an amusement arcade with all the machines going full bore, a malfunctioning Gameboy, a half hours worth of ear scrunch and foot wriggle that chips out on a much slower Clangers like note. That must be the Noise Writer coming out in me.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Bucky Rage

The Bucky Rage - F.Y.I. LUV U
Handsome Records/Northern Cowboy Records. LP/DL

For reasons that will never become clear it follows that after every Sleaford Mods review I post there follows a slew of emails from singer/songwriters eager for me to mull over their most earnest of outpourings. Not just any singer/songwriters though, these singer/songwriters originate almost exclusively from Brooklyn. In fact I get so many emails from Brooklyn based singer/songwriters that I’ve coined ‘Brooklyn’ as a collective noun describing a group of singer/songwriters from Brooklyn. There must be hundreds.

After posting the review for the last Sleaford Mods album the Brooklyn’s were, for once, non existent. Maybe my policy of all but ignoring them was finally paying dividends. Instead I got a full frontal assault from a group from Glasgow going by the name of Bucky Rage. Said full frontal assault came not in the shape of an email containing numerous links and biographical info but a direct Tweet saying something along the lines of ‘can we send you our latest LP? And in the meantime here’s a link to our Bancamp page’.

Well, it was late into Saturday evening, wine had been drunk and I was at the stage where focusing on anything much was becoming a chore so against my better judgement I clicked on the link and was faced with a close up of what looked like the bubbles at the top of a glass of fizzy lager. Not a good start. To make matters worse there was the album title. Twitter type message acronyms have a place but I don’t reckon that on the cover of your latest LP is one of them. And the Bucky Rage? A nod to Scotland’s favourite get smashed tipple? Yeesh. So far so bad. But like I said, I’d been drinking. So I clicked.

What happened next was nothing short of remarkable. With the Ceramic Hobs going the way of all flesh and the Country Teasers seemingly in some kind of semi/permanent dark nihilist stasis I’d given up all hope of ever coming across another UK guitar band worthy of my time. But lo. Despite my initial reservations I found the Bucky Rage to be nothing less than the freshest of Alpine fresh air. Here comes first track ‘Nine Stone Cowboy’ [ho ho ho] and a stomping guitar riff/bullhorn vocal that with my eyes tight shut could’ve been my treasured Country Teasers and there’s a theremin and a spazzed out synth locking horns, making the kind of mong racket not seen or heard since Neil Young and Devo hooked up for the totally destroyed version of Hey Hey My My.  Then along comes ‘Dr Dre USA’ with its shout along vocal harmonies and ‘Down a Hole’ with its shambling cymbal ride slack riff leaving the bass plugging away. Maybe it was the wine?

Before I knew it I’d listened to all eight tracks and was now on Youtube checking out the video action and here they all were in Mexican wrestling masks and 60’s shape guitars and military hard hats and skin masks and bent hats buggering about on the shore of a loch. If I didn’t know any better I’d have said that these four Glaswegians were actually having some all out FUN. Y’know that stuff? That stuff you used to have with guitar music before it all went Indie and anthemic and inward looking and ginger haired and Radio 2 friendly. Fun stuff. A fun ride. Iggy and mashed up 60’s beat music. Here we are again.

I started ticking off the influences in my head; after the Hobs and the Teasers I was getting Milovan Srdenovic, [a clear and direct link to that warbling vibrato Mexican wrestling mask clad son of Quim], Lightning Beat-Man [more wrestling masks], Makakarooma, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Suicide. Then came the five minute ur-thump of Chewing Gum, the aural equivalent of having your arse booted down Sauchiehall street on Saturday night, its glorious thud and deadened vocal the heart beat pulse of the entire LP.

But where the record? There was no record. After a flurry of DM’s the trail went dead and that I thought was that. Until a week later and an apology and talk of car crashes and illness. Then it arrived and when it did I discovered that its eight tracks play at 45 and that F.Y.I. I LUV U is actually a bloody good love song and that all of this sounds a 100% better coming out of the grooves of a record and not the back of a Mac; heavy bass, fucked up synth, vocodered vocals, thump, thump thump, harmonies, catchy tunes. I WANT TO SEE THEM LIVE. Music you want to play over and over again because for once there is a guitar band thats not all inward looking, lets corner the Irish market, midday Radio 2 slot, bland, bland, bland, there is a guitar band thats having lots of fun and their name is, whether you like it or not, The Bucky Rage.

Then you discover that they’ve been around since about 2005 and that they’ve got several more records to indulge in and that their live stuff goes all over the place, gloriously fucked up. Which leaves me wondering how I never heard of this lot before? It sure beats the Brooklyns.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Venusian Death Cell

Venusian Death Cell - Sick Songs
Self released CDR

Venusian Death Cell - Fines of the Other World
Self released CDR

A recent Twitter convo led to the revelation that a certain Bald Head of Noise had no Heavy Metal records in collection whatsoever. Not a single one. Then I wondered how many I had and when was the last time I bought a Heavy Metal record and listened to it and the answers were, four and a long time ago. I remember buying a Bolt Thrower LP because Peel played a track that I liked and then one day I realised I hadn’t played it for 20 years so I sold it on Discogs for about £50. The rest is Sabbath of course.

I was thinking earlier today that the time was right to delve once more into the world that is that of the Irish Heavy Metal band Venusian Death Cell and David Vora, its one and only long standing member. Vora has been sending me his music for many years now and they’ve all remained constant and of a kind. That of the outsider Metal artist recording his music onto what sounds like a cassette recorder using either a guitar or drums or [as it sometimes seems] upturned buckets. His vocal style swings between tortured scream and devilish whisper but his main draw is that he sounds nobody else at all. Not just in the world of Metal either, I’m talking anywhere.

So I arrive home and there’s a padded envelope from Ireland on the mat and I know instantly that its another Venusian Death Cell release. Which it is but whats this? A cover definitely not from the hand of Vora and a staggering twenty tracks that run to a full thirty minutes. What soon becomes apparent is that as well as his cover art changing so is his over all sound and direction. 'Fines of the Other World' [the one that came today] contains much more acapella work than previous releases and three, [count ‘em] three busking sessions. Busking outings that contain works of such originality that two of the tracks have little in the way of music on them at all but instead lots of Vora having conversations with passers by as recorded by someone fifty feet away. At one stage Vora asks with genuine astonishment ‘did you put some money in there?’, to someone else he sings Happy Birthday to someone else he proclaims that he’s in ‘one of the biggest bands in Ireland’ and on the last he strums his guitar until he busts a string. Rock And Fucking Roll. And don’t forget Halloween a song in which he repeats the word Halloween in a demonic kind of voice [its an oldie but a goodie]. Of the tracks actually recorded in front of a condenser mic there’s lots to consider but instant fave is 'Hellground' which has more in common with trash noise as Vora spits out his lyrics to a trash racket. There’s the lyrics too, Vora always includes some lyrics, lyrics that have been hand written, photocopied, sized down and reproduced on the inner sleeve for our delectation;

‘Angel has left the path of birth,
Now her arms stretch in pain’.

From ‘Angel in Pain’   

'Unlearnt' has poignancy, a plea to the world to sort its shit out against TV static. Last track 'Created Creature' is Vora hitting a solitary drum while leaving lots of space in-between the beat like he’s following someone on Youtube with the sound turned down.

'Sick Songs', the VDC release I’ve had for a while, is all over and done with in fifteen minutes. 'Screaming Babies', 'Deathspell', 'Angel, Angel' and a track called 'Leopards' which has Vora hitting guitar strings and shouting the word Leopards at its end [and if you look on the inner sleeve there seems to be some kind of rudimentary tablature so that you can play along at home]. Instant classics the lots of them, including the Slayer cover 'Piece by Piece'.

From his Dublin home Vora gives me what my music collection lacks; more Metal.

Rock on.

davidvora10 [at] hotmail.com 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Afterworkpopsongsforchildsoldiers v/a comp

4th World - Afterworkpopsongsforchildsoldiers
Zaetraom. Zaetraom  016. Cassette w/ A5 booklet
250 copies.

Once upon a time international tape comps used to be all the rage, I must have had one a week come though the door. Some of them were good, some of them were very good and some of them I still look upon with a fond sense of nostalgia. An international tape comp was your gateway to other worlds, they gave you an idea of what was happening out there in the big bad world of noisy racket. With a few IRC’s and a hand written letter you could make contact with a new discovery and soon become the recipient of new sounds. And so your musical world would expand. Then the internet came along and nothing was ever the same. 

‘Afterworkpopsongsforchildsoldiers’ isn’t a noise comp per se but it does give me the feeling of one: A5 colour booklet with a page devoted to each project, a dozen artists from all corners of the globe, slightly disturbing subject matter, in fact the only thing thats really missing is the contact page from where your musical world would slowly expand. The internet really has put paid to that particular ritual.

So we use the internet to search for Fred and Luna because this is what you do to find their online presence or maybe some youtube footage which is how I come across David E Williams who seems to be the most unlikeliest video star judging from his sulky walk around a summer garden with his black trench coat on. William’s songs are fraught affairs wrung from strangled guitars with strangled vocals. Because this isn’t an all out noise album or a PE album even if the words I keep writing down are ‘Industrial Ambience’.

Even that term doesn’t cover what Fred and Luna create, that being gentle Electrokraut with unabashed nods to Kraftwerk and Neu! Dogpop are angular minimal synth merchants, all austere like a moody D.A.F. Genevieve Pasquier, also from Germany, doesn't fit the bill either with her ethereal euro pop melodies. Which leaves me wondering why I kept writing down the words ‘Industrial Ambience’? Maybe it was the only UK contributor Salford Electronics with a suitably grim slice of urban rot or the intro’s and outro’s containing disturbing field recordings of riots and speeches in African tongues? You know where you are with Pain Nail, Grunt and Am Not though. Am Not contributing the most memorable track with a not too succinct PE dirge that sounds like it was delivered by the devil himself. Grunt is on top form as ever with a track that chips out in full on TNB style. Deathpanel also find themselves within the confines of the Power Electronics family. Ill are just ill, murky drones and muffled vocals.

A rare treat then and for such an eclectic comp there’s barely a dud minute. Somebody at Zaetraom has good ears.

zaetraom [at] t-online.de


Friday, March 03, 2017

Sleaford Mods - English Tapas

Sleaford Mods - English Tapas
Rough Trade. cassette. rtradmc92

There’s been a regime change at work recently. A fifteen year radio fatwa came to an end when the outgoing MD [a man with a degree in Stalinist purges and a penchant for Mao like struggles] gave way to a benign duo of pointers and prodders who don’t care one way or the other whether radios are played or not. After fifteen years of radio silence the chummy tones of Ken Bruce can once more be heard drifting across the shop floor. And then one morning last week, in the department in which I work, a small CD/Radio appeared.

‘It’s got an iPod docking station too but who’s got one of them anymore?’ said the bringer of the said Bush CD/Radio.

‘I have. Have you heard of Sleaford Mods?’


So I played him ‘Bunch of Cunts’ and watched the smile on his face get wider by the second. And then a passing voice joined in, ‘BUNCH OF CUNTS!’ BUNCH OF ABSOLUTE FUCKING CUNTS! Ken Bruce has got some competition.

One of my biggest fears is that one day I’ll have to write the ‘they’re not very good anymore’ Sleaford Mods album review. My other fears are whether Donald Trump will incinerate us all in a nuclear war, Brexit and climate change so as seen in the bigger scheme of things Sleaford Mods turning out a duff album would appear to be small beer but everything is relevant. These things are important. And thankfully this is definitely not a duff album.

Their one album deal for Rough Trade could’ve resulted in a middling affair containing a decent single and a handful of songs that wouldn’t looked out of place on their last couple of albums, the rest made up from studio workouts or reworked older tracks, thank you very much, its been a laff, ta for the cheque, see you on the Calder Hebble, goodnight Vienna. But no. English Tapas is as up to date and relevant as the latest UKIP excuse, its an album that captures the zeitgeist, the whiff of excrement floating across the nation. As other bands see their days out on daytime Radio 2 Sleaford Mods have struck like burglars in the night, stealing whatever credibility todays magnolia says its got while leaving a stinky turd in Ed Sheeran’s kitchen on the way out.

English Tapas as seen on a sandwich board outside a pub by beat man Fearn. A reminder of the British trait that is taking a good idea and ruining it; pizzas topped with curry, full English in a panini, chicken tikka masala. English Tapas; a quick scan of the Red Tops, hatred buried in tittle tattle, despair as the norm and five pound family holidays in Rhyll. 

Those that think this is all sweaty shouty swear words and rants may be surprised by ‘I Feel So Wrong’ the last track of the twelve in which Williamson warbles vibrato in what is um ...  er …  a song and because they work quickly they can knock out a single like B.H.S. in the time it takes the unacceptable face of capitalism to get his hand in his pocket. The stripped down hammering beats and wiggly bass lines are still there and you will be singing along to ‘Moptop’ and ‘Just Like We Do’, well all of ‘em really. ‘Dull’ contains the line ‘try scrolling down the website of the NME without laughing’, ‘Drayton Manored’ the line ‘a trip to Spar is like a trip to Mars’ and ‘have you ever wondered why you wonder why? in ‘Messy Anywhere’ the equally profound ‘you’re stuck in moments that have grown out of themselves’. This album is full of them and like their last three albums will still be revealing itself to you weeks and months after your first fix.

They’re off to the States and Canada soon. I wish them every success and hope that they come back with lots of ideas with which to make another album. An album I can play on the shop floor on that cheap CD/Radio. The one that keeps Ken Bruce in check.

[This review taken from the cassette version of English Tapas that has as its b-side the entire Sleaford Mods Dismaland gig from 2015].