Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Amphetamine Sulphate

Jason Williamson - Slabs from Paradise
Amphetamine Sulphate
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-5-0

Simon Morris - Creepshots
Amphetamine Sulphate
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-0-0

Phillip Best - Captagon
Amphetamine Sulphate
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-3-6

Gabi Losoncy - Second Person
Amphetamine Sulphate
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-2-9

Samantha Davies & Matthew Bower - Talisman Angelical
Amphetamine Sulphate
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-1-2

There can’t have been much of a gap between Phillip Best extolling the virtues of a reprint of Pierre Guyotat’s ‘Eden Eden Eden’ and the announcement of his own publishing imprint Amphetamine Sulphate. Here was a Guyotat fan [they do exist] somebody who actually takes pleasure in reading Guyotat’s onslaught of grubby, gruesome sex and violence [imagine de Sade writing The 120 Days of Sodom in the style of Finnegan’s Wake and you have some idea of where we are here] and was urging us to buy the handsome German hardbacked reprint. I declined. I bought a paperback copy of Eden Eden Eden when Creation republished it in the early 90’s and gave up after an hour feeling like I’d received the literary equivalent of a bloody nose. So I sat down with Best's first five and put my bravest, hardest face on. It felt necessary.

Here is a man whose doctoral thesis ‘Apocalypticisim in the fiction of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Thomas Pynchon’ actually made sense of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow before the internet was awash with all those helpful GR guides. The man who I saw screaming over a WASP synth in Bradford in 1995, the man who I’ve seen snarling his way through crazed, amped up Consumer Electronics sets. I knew these five weren’t going to be Penny Vincenzi primers. I knew this was going to be tough. After reading the first few pages of the Davies/Bower collaboration I also knew that I may have to resort to tearing a 36 page book in half using my bare hands but more of that later.  

Of the six authors I’d read Simon Morris before. As far as I know this is Jason Williamson’s first foray into short story writing so barring his work with Sleaford Mods this is another new one. The Best thesis apart I’d not ready any of his work either. Gaby Losoncy was also new to me as was the writings of Davies and Bower.

So where to start? Perhaps with the physical and the fact that these are nearer to book-lets than perfect bound books. Its no criticism. Its what they are. The covers are cloth bound and the pages clean. Then there’s the fact that if you live in England and buy them straight from Best in Austin Texas the US Mail will anally rape you whilst emptying your wallet in front of your eyes. If I was Best I would be looking at some kind of European/Australian/Far East distro so as to ease the pain of those not within Trump's grasp.

Of the five I enjoyed Simon Morris’s Creepshots the most. Having read his Consumer Guide last year I know the man can write and although the biggest chunk of CG was cut from his numerous Facebook posts [containing quick guides and critiques of various bands and authors oeuvres], the first section ‘Mergers’ dealt with the deaths of various members of the Ceramic Hobs and Morris’s continuing struggle to cope. Creepshots carries on in that vein, the whole work an epistle, a 32 page letter that begins ‘Dear Ecka’ and is a candid self assessment of his current state of mind that collates his thoughts on joyless sex, crap pubs, drink and Lana Del Ray with whom Morris seems to have some kind of fixation. Trips to Skye, Halifax and Brighton [amongst others] bookend a section that cuts up corporate promo material for hotels and art galleries with news stories regarding the social cleansing of homeless people in Manchester. An affecting and direct way of highlighting a disturbing political trend.

Morris knows his shit as they say and can wax knowledgeable on most subjects, especially Dworkin, Acker, Lana Del Ray, Austin Osman Spare, Crowley and The Fall. That he can rustle up a threesome from nowhere and can exchange tittle tattle with Una Baines and write about it with casual insouciance is a regular delight. The sex scenes are the best I’ve read since Brett Easton Ellis and that's the highest compliment I can give him.

Jason Williamson has also been published [a book of Sleaford Mods lyrics from the same house as Morris’s Consumer Guide] but these are [as far as I know] his first forays in to short story writing. It seems a natural extension for Williamson who since establishing Sleaford Mods as this country’s saving grace has also tried his hand at acting. His five short stories are, as you would expect, full of the kind of language designed to give Daily Mail readers a serious attacks of the vapors. Five short stories peopled with those for whom causal sex and sniff are the the ultimate driving forces in their lives. ‘Tony’ is a Facebook warrior lacking social nous, ‘Wrong John Silver’ is one half of a gay couple addicted to the sniff, drink and sex in public parks, ‘Southcrampton’ finds Mark the builder in some kind of bizarre relationship with a pole dance, ‘Fuckin Nora’ isn’t an exclamation but an admission and easily the best of the lot, ‘Mad Carol’ is the girl at the cracker factory with no nickers on getting her skirt lifted above her head and shrink-wrapped to a pallet. Surprisingly I found the dialogue Williamson attaches to his creations to be as one dimensional as the characters themselves. Most of them appearing as blank faced ciphers, cunting and fucking their way through another miserable day. Maybe too nihilistic. Maybe that's the point? But when he chucks in the odd description he can instantly bring them to life, Boner has ‘a skull dented like a potato’. Its all you need. The blurb on the back cover captures Williamson at his best;

‘It’s a wanker’s hell, a nothing, with everything wrong in it. Civvy life is a fucking boredom cruise across the dead med. Fuck that. Responsibility isn’t for animals on drugs and when the sharpened core emerges, the green twisted wart, the wicked witch; then you go for it big time, open your legs, fuck them, let them fuck your face, become the god and don’t feel bad about it either.’        

Words taken straight from a Sleaford Mods rant. Williamson may yet give us something more substantial but for now these five short stories feel more like works in progress.  

Best’s book is the longest of the five here. An almost weighty 60 pages. It contains 73 entries, each one written in a different location, a list of which can be found at the back of the book.

An authors note explains;

‘Captagon is a composite text of my own imaginings interspersed with appropriations, rewritings and in some occasional instances outright thievery from the printed sources listed below. Other borrowings from film, television, magazines or whatever music I happened to be listening to when writing have not been listed’.

There then follows a six page bibliography of which about 90% is alien to me. Familiar names such as Samuel Beckett, James Herbert, Peter Blatty and Mick Wall find themselves listed among writers published only by universities none of whom are Stephen Hawkins. From this we ascertain that Best has a healthy appetite for philosophy, horror and a fascination with the ability of human beings to inflict upon themselves the kind of psychological and physical damage that makes you wonder if we’ll ever fully evolve.

Some pieces read like reports pulled from war zones. Prescription drugs with exotic sounding names are scattered like the pills themselves. ’55’ written in La Honda CA, has this; ‘Don’t examine your feelings. Never examine your feelings. They’re no help at all’. The end result of being fed all this seriously depressing material is that you yourself become depressed. I read this in one sitting and at its end blew my cheeks out and muttered something like ‘and you think you’ve got problems’. Almost every entry has been stripped of punctuation, barring full stops, which somehow manages to make things even bleaker. Work that one out.

Where Best’s writing takes over from that of the aforementioned authors I cant tell. I detected no Mick Wall and his Black Sabbath biography or the writings of James Herbert. It matters not.

Of course I was expecting death, doom and misery and I got it by the page. Captigon [aka 'chemical courage', the brand of speed made by ISIS] does at times feel like a drug trip. A bad drug trip of course. A drug with an exotic plastic sounding name made by Rhone-Poulenc.

Gaby Losoncy’s Second Person is ‘a sort of guide, a replicable guide for other people to direct their thoughts and feelings that are or feel worthless into a manifestable material substance’ and is [I think] a deep and personal outpouring of her existential philosophy. And is a work I found very difficult to connect with. Or ultimately gain anything from.

Losoncy writes; ‘I speak a lot in abstract because there is no proper language to describe what is attained by proceeding like I have’ which may have been my problem. Some pages contain just the one line,

‘The more of you there are, the better off we are’

Some pages are left blank, whether this was intended or a printers error I’m not sure. Towards the end of the book she gathers a head of steam and gets deeper into her subject but completely loses me along the way. At the back of the book is a short chapter entitled ‘Show Piece for Neutral. March 2017’ and reads like a speech Losoncy gave. She is obviously a very deep thinker. But far too deep for me.    

Which leaves us with Samantha Davies & Matthew Bower which I’m guessing has been written in a dual narrative style a la Mark Manning and Bill Drummond but with far less spectacular results. To be honest I couldn’t tell them apart although one narrator mentioned cats and dreams a lot. Having read all the books written by Crowley, Spare and Lovecraft our heroes write alternating chapters with titles like ‘Innards Fasten’d for Light’ and ‘Rais’d Aloft With Scorpion Heart’ mostly written in a ‘magick’ spelling style no doubt adopted so as to channel the dark lords words. For the biggest part its all tosh of course but I did read it all the way through and found at its end that I somehow, in some strange way, had rather enjoyed myself and thus decided on the spot not to rip it in half.

My mind was changed by the mention of Arvo Pärt;

‘Pärt is infected by the black butterfly wing of Britten. Shivering strings brush his face. Britten was depraved like me. Pärt constructs a Black Noise Ornament [cantus for B.B.] out of the sickness: Bell, x2 speed violin, x1 speed violin, half speed cello: Revolve slowly in space.’  

So they’ve listened to ‘Cantus, In Memoriam of Benjamin Britten’, one of Pärt’s most profound and deeply moving compositions and written that. I forgive them everything.

Where Best takes Amphetamine Sulphate next remains to be seen but I doubt it'll be anywhere sunny.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Daniel Thomas - Keep The Red Kites Flying

Daniel Thomas - Keep the Red Kites Flying.
Cherry Row Recordings. CRR 010. Black CDR

I’ve been reading David Toop’s book ‘Haunted Weather’ mainly in a futile attempt to make myself more familiar with the nether regions of this [and Toop’s] musical planet. The pages did turn and the lad can write, as easy on the eye when extolling the virtues of people like sound artist Akio Suzuki or the 70’s improv scene in England or Pan Sonic and then, just when I’m getting a grip on him the words ‘stochastic resonance’ spill from the page and I’m once more the thick kid in the maths class chewing the end of his pencil, brain gone to mush when faced with, what for everybody else, is the answer to a simple maths question with brackets in it.

Still, I quite like the sound of stochastic resonance and now that I’ve seen it on the page and know that its a ‘thing’ I plan to use it whenever the opportunity arises; ballads about the sea sung by retired fishermen, ambient Merzbow releases, the new YOL, the possibilities are endless. Stochastic resonance even has a Wiki page and according to it its an ‘area of intense research’. What it actually is ‘is a phenomenon where a signal that is normally too weak to be detected by a sensor, can be boosted by adding white noise to the signal’. Theres more to it than that of course [why else would it be the subject of intense research] but for the uninitiated [me] I see it more as fiddling around with some buttons until a sound appears.

Can I use stochastic resonance in regards to what Daniel Thomas produces? Why not. There’s loads of it or, as is more likely the case, none at all. It makes no odds, its still one of his best releases.

I’ve not been the cheeriest of champions towards Thomas and his Cherry Row imprint of late. The last couple have been distinctly below par and I was beginning to think he’d blown his wad creative wise. I gave him my version of a mercy killing by not reviewing them. But like the solid citizen that he is he doesn’t take his bat home and instead carries on sending me them. This pays off in dividends when after what must be many a month since its initial release, I finally get the to invest in Red Kites the time it deserves and find within its black frame three tracks of contemplative sci-fi spaceship beating heart mainframe electronics that just about pops my socks and gets the five repeat max treatment.

I’ve seen him play live a few times but not recently. Mainly down the Wharf, each time creating atmospheres where time slows to a sludge pace, a crawling soundtrack containing movements that move at a glacial place that may or may not have been once upon a time termed ‘extraction music’ by the Bearded Wonder.

The best track on the album is ‘Enjoy Defiance’ a broken down analogue signaling machine emitting random sunspotted ‘toks’ to a steady 4/4 snare [or the electronic equivalent of] that puts on weight and density like a bodybuilder on steroids. Not unlike the aforementioned Pan Sonic with Leeds and its suburb Sheepscar standing in for Turku and Tampere. A far remove from earlier DT works and the not to be mentioned Cherry Row release that I fear contained some stuck out like sore thumbs 50’s movie samples. No doubt there are labels dedicated to such electronica but I couldn’t tell you the name of one of them. Thomas deserves to be on one of them though. His work has matured and judging from ‘Kites’ its worth you and other labels, seeking out.

‘Float’ and ‘Construction’ are no fillers either. The former a Forbidden Planet outtake that you could almost dance to, a subtle drone underpinning mutated ethnic rhythms before various fizzing ectoplasm's emerge. The latter a lone drive home through Ballardian underpasses, TG like grime smearing the windscreen, cars passing in the opposite direction leaving behind glowing tail light flares.

The online dictionary definition for stochastic reads thus; ‘having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely’. Resonance I know. I could have turned a corner here. I quite like the sound of the both of them. Literally.

Cherry Row Recordings

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Vokera Fan Bearing

Culver - Negative Gate
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 182. Cassette
50 copies.

VOM - Initiation
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 188. Cassette/DL
100 copies.

Vampyres - Astral Sacrifice
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 189. Cassette/DL

Schlaken - Veneration of Relics
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 186. Cassette/DL

BRB>Voicecoil - Containment
Muzamuza. 18. Cassette

BRB>Voicecoil - Reconfigure Moments
Muzamuza. 19. Cassette

Expose Your Eyes - Disintergration
Dokuro. DK67. - Cassette/DL

I’m not one to get sentimental about inanimate objects but after 21 years of trusty service the sight of our old boiler getting chucked in the back of a van was a sad one. Not just because it gave us 21 years of trusty service but because of the noises it made. The new boiler makes no sound at all, except when its making hot water, the rest of the time its a white box on the kitchen wall with copper pipes coming out of it. The old one, for the last two years of its life had a worn fan bearing. A worn fan bearing that drove ‘Alan the Boiler Man’ almost to distraction ‘you can hear that fan bearing halfway up the street’ he would say as he entered the house with his compressor and rolls of tackle preparing for its yearly service and I would say ‘yes it sounds rather nice’. A response which, judging from the look on his face I can only assume he found rather baffling. But I did like it. Both me and Mrs Fisher liked it and now when I come down for my breakfast the kitchen is deathly silent. Its just not the same.

The old fan bearing sounded a lot like Vampyres, a steady drone noise that if listened to closely alters pitch and wavers a little before settling down to a steady bearing grating hum. A simple hum and one which seems to mirror the house’s own circadian rhythms. Coming up the street now all is silent. I have no worn fan bearing to greet me just the squeak and grind of a metal gate as its bottom strut scrapes against concrete. Which sounds a little like brb>voicecoil and a little like TNB. Maybe I’m replacing the sounds of the house with this pile of tapes that sits in front of me? Maybe I’m hoping for a band or noise artist to replicate the sound of the old boiler fan with its grating bearing and welcoming hum? I think the Bearded Wonder may have beaten me to it. To be honest Vampyres are far noisier than the worn fan bearing and chuck in plenty of cold feedback in their bid to make lo-fi noise for Generation Z. I’m just making the comparison because pretty much every noise/drone outfit I’ve ever come across did at one time sound like the worn fan bearing. Its an easy analogy to make but one that bears repeating.

Vampyres are Martyn Reid and the Lee Stokoe, he who sits aloft on the throne of drone, he for whom no bad words have ever been written. I much preferred his Culver release here though. ‘Levitational Pull’ is a three track drone recorded seven years ago and scheduled for an LP release. The mad fools never put it out. So its another Culver release you say, and I say whats wrong with that? Have you heard a bad one? No. There is a lot of them but each one is like having Newcastle brewed laudanum poured down your ears. Genuflection is the only response. Best track here is ‘Negative Gate’ with a chiming, shimmering heatwave chord progression coupled to a cycling drone thats pure menacing horror film soundtrack territory. ‘Levitational Pull’ is the close up sound of sledge runners being dragged across frozen lakes at breakneck speed.

The house actually sounds more like brb>voicecoil. Especially from the outside where most of ‘Containment’ appears to have been recorded. The wind whipping against various man made objects to the accompaniment of passing traffic, meshed fences rattling in a buffeting breeze. There’s nine ‘containments’ here each one exploring a different sound, some are early TNB-ish, mystery sounds, shuffling, clatter, hard to pinpoint sounds which makes for an intriguing listen. And no after recording dabblement either. These are the sounds as captured, pure raw sounds; ‘The recordings capture natural reverbs, clipping distortion and phasing as a result of mic placement within and around subject matter’. This means you get the scrape of shovels, the tinkle of broken tiles, crows, skylarks and that natural reverberation. On one track it sounds like the mic has been dropped in to a huge empty vessel and after it rocks and sticks the resulting echo and clang being glorious and noisy. Top stuff.

‘Reconfigure Moments’ is a ‘collection of audible time frames cut - manipulated - reset - reprocessed’ and contains in last track ‘Refine’ a moment of indelibly great industrial rhythm. This appears amongst a sea of decaying structures, silences, decomposing electronic matter and all out general knock your ears off electroacoustic greatness. Much better when listened to on the download so as to capture the crispness of the recordings, the detail, the leaf mulched footsteps, the bag of marbles being gentle fondled, the gasp and flutter and wow of the artist at work. Who is Kev from Newcastle. Thats all I know. Its all you need to know.

VOM are early Cocteau Twins without the vocals. A three piece with a drum machine doing their best to keep the early 80’s vibe alive. Bauhaus even. Well almost no vocals, I did detect a smattering of electronically adjusted moaning but its wasn’t enough to get me too excited. Same for Schlaken and ‘Veneration of Relics’, a post apocalyptic, dystopian soundtrack as wrung from an electric guitar and many effects. Like dark clouds gathering on the horizon it filled my ears with dread. Sturm and Drang. Black and grey. Music to fill your bombed out house with.

Expose Your Eyes has filled this house with sounds for many years now. More years than I care to think about. Unusually for EYE ‘Disintegration’ has found a home on a label. Most of Paul Harrison’s work usually arrives here in clumps of CDR’s, hand painted jobs, hand stamped, the result of no doubt intense passages of creative energy after which he goes all quiet and hibernates or makes films that recapture what its like to walk around Yorkshire Sculpture Park off your tits on acid. His latest delivery contained just the eight CD’s [of which more later] and this cassette which is pure EYE; thirteen tracks of mangled noise, slowed down voices, road drills, swirling psychedelica, looped shortwave transmissions, pounding rhythms and, of course, grating fan bearings. As primitive as noise gets. After that, everything goes quiet again.