Sunday, December 30, 2018
Max Nordile - Grey Material
No Label. Cassette.
Max Nordile - MONK/Solstice
Independent Woman Records. Cassette.
Vol - 2
No Label. Cassette.
Nothing Band - Descension/Digestion
Decoherence. DECO-09. Cassette/DL
Nothing Band - Anarchy 99
F 32. Cassette.
Breeze - Fresh Whiffs/The Guilty Baby
No Label. Cassette.
Uzi Rash - We Live on Trash
Freedom School Records. 12”
Uzi Rash - Coreless Roll Can-Liner
1234 GO! LP/DL
Wet Drag - Work Drag
Wacky Wacko. WW08. 7”
Arriving just before Christmas 2018 this pile of goodies from Max Nordile may not only be the second best Christmas present I got it may be the reason I keep this blog from turning in to a digital mausoleum.
Yes, while in my cups I have intimated to those close at heart that 2018 may well be the last year that Idwal Fisher continues in its present format. I’ve been doing it for ten years now and will soon hit 500 posts and while I still enjoy hearing new music I was becoming just a tad bored of spending the start of most evenings politely responding to emails containing press releases and links to Drop Box saying thanks but no thanks. A part of me will forever be Old School and all that digital gubbins is nothing but whisps of smoke and ephemeral mirrors. Its there but its not there and besides I fancied putting some ideas down on paper and writing me some fiction. One problem; I have no ideas and to be a writer of fiction you need ideas. I’ll leave all that up to Mrs Fisher who seems to be doing quite well with it.
Six cassettes, an LP, a 45 RPM 12” and a seven inch single, in a box, from California at an eye watering cost to Max Nordile of nearly $40 blows all those Drop Box links into last weeks food waste bin. Nordile has done this to me before but never at such a cost and so extensively. I feel humbled and rejuvenated. For now the fiction’s on hold. Here comes more weird stuff.
Another big plus is that Nordile just sends his work out of the blue, no email before hand [which I’m sure he has access to] or dreaded Drop Box link, just a dashed off hand written note explaining what he’s sending and that's about it. It doesn’t get any simpler. Press play, enjoy.
So instead of ruminating about whether to jack the blog in I spent the days between Christmas and New Year, those indeterminate, indistinct days where the quality of daytime television improves only ever so slightly and no bugger knows what actual day it is anyway, soaking up the Nordile vibe.
All of the above contain Nordile in some shape or form, from Uzi Rash and Wet Drag [both on the verge of mutant punk like emissions and defunct since 2012/13] to his now more recent solo experimental/improv explorations and collaborations. Solo stuff like Grey Matter which is Bailey-esque scratchings and MONK/Solstice [the Solstice side being a live recording from earlier this year], pure experimentation and improv par excellence with guitar, sax, shakers and tin cans all getting a look in, the atmosphere being a mesmeric one of constant rolling guitar trash flux, jitter and roll. Weirdly engaging.
Vol. is Nordile sparring with Morrison Magic with two live sets of guitar/sax improv the length of each bout on the Burlington side determined by the setting of a kitchen timer that goes off regularly at around the sixty second mark much to the amusement of those gathered. The Live at Octopus side is more of a full on shriek-a-thon with added shouting but no kitchen timer.
Breeze is Nordile collaborating with Jackson Blumgart with Blumgart adding deeply busted and buried rhythms and TNB like scrapings to Nordile’s blustery sax. All this recorded to one very far away condenser microphone. That’s Fresh Whiffs, The Guilty Baby runs to two sides and appears to be a live track again recorded to a single mic this time kept under a thick woolen blanket for the occasion. Here spacey vocals and theremins find themselves wandering into all out noise territory and all to good effect.
The Nothing Band is actually Nordile alone but under a band moniker. Why not? On Anarchy 99 he ups the sax skronk with some truly wondrous vibrations while filling out the sound with trumpets and saucepan abuse not forgetting the slide and swipe of his electric guitar. Its that sax sound on side two that shows Nordile really getting to grips with the thing producing squeals within the notes that somehow sound unreal. And the sneezing. Nordile [or someone in there] sneezes a lot. Whether this was intentional or not [or maybe it was whiplash] I guess I’ll never know.
All this growing from the ashes of Uzi Rash who appear to have been some kind of floating collective that started out [at least on this evidence] playing tribute to Doo-Wop, the Monks and Jonathan Richman before morphing into a harder edged ur-punk outfit and an LP on Oakland punk label 1-2-3-4 GO! Records [the first side of which has the most dead wax I’ve ever seen on a record - a good half at least]. There’s evidence on Youtube of Uzi Rash playing sweaty twenty minute sets that end with Krautrock like versions of The Doors ‘Break on Through’, this when Uzi Rash were down to three; a drummer, bass player and Nordile on nasal-y vocals and mini keyboard. The pick of the two here is ‘We Live on Trash’ from 2010, an A4 insert for cover and six tracks with titles like Turn on Yr Love Lamp, I Saw U, Maypole and I’m a Trash Bag, some of which may be covers such is their likeness to 50’s and 60’s vocal groups and erm The Country Teasers. ‘Coreless Roll Can-Liner’ is what you might call more normal. Nothing wrong with that but a testament to how far Nordile has come in his mission to break free from the shackles of structured musics in to more experimental and improvised areas.
Tracking this stuff down is the hard bit. Nordile has a Bandcamp page:
And a Big Cartel page:
He could be on Facebook. I’m not.
You can find the New Zealand label Independent Woman Records here:
Independent Woman Records
And Decoherence here:
Discogs has a few copies of the We Live for Trash 12" going for a very reasonable few bucks. But then there's the postage. Steel yourself.
In the meantime I’m still here. Post number 498.
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Howl in the Typewriter - Manifest [A Universal Declaration of Indespendence]
Pumf. Pumf 777. CD
I like Stan Batcow. I really do. I have lots of reasons to like him one of them being that he managed to survive a stint in the Ceramic Hobs which, when you learn that Stan never touches a drop of John Barleycorn is nothing short of remarkable. He’s quietly run the Pumf label for many, many years now with little in the way of recognition and he used to send me his Godspunk compilations until he either a) got fed up of my negative reviews of them or b) got fed up of me. I haven’t heard from him in a very long time and thought that maybe he’d fallen out with me which, with hindsight and knowing Stan a tiny bit, is very un-Batcow-ish of him. How silly of me. Howl in the Typewriter is Stan’s also long running with little in the way of recognition solo project. I remember listening to a Howl cassette on a train going somewhere a long time ago and marveling at Stan’s ability to weave samples of TV commercials and humdrum conversation in to his songs, something that he’d bring with great effect to at least two Ceramic Hobs albums.
After listening to Manifest I now realize that me and Stan have even more in common; a genuine loathing of advertising, consumerism, Capitalism and greed. For Manifest is Stan’s rock opera cum concept album regarding the nefarious ubiquity of advertising, consumerism, Capitalism and greed and probably lots of other things too. The way such things pervade and sully our quotidian experience, the way such things reduce everything and everybody to a marketable commodity.
Advertising is hard to ignore and easy to hate. Personally it makes commercial radio and television unbearable for me, it makes news media websites a pain to load and while technology has led to more tailored and specific advertising I still think all those hours of having sat through Tampax and Head and Shoulders adverts are hours I have wasted and could have spent more creatively. Top of the Grinding My Gears List comes car advertising. Do people really see an advert for a car and think to themselves ‘you know what I think I’ll go out tomorrow and spend 15K on the new Golf’ and why do adverts for cars always show happy people driving around deserted streets on their way to the shops or pulling surf boards off the roof rack in deserted coves when the reality is the roads are full of potholes and psychotic meatheads trying to overtake you in a 30.
I’m sure Stan feels the same way. Over the last several years he he’s been compiling all the songs that make up Manifesto and has finally in 2018 put it all together into one big long track. And while I applaud his sentiments entirely I found sitting through this hour long magnum opus a bit of a tough listen. This mainly due to all manner of people contributing what becomes the theme of the release; the of repeated mantra
We don’t fucking want
What your trying to fucking sell
Shove it up your fucking arse
Then fuck off and go to hell
Which is hardly Bob Dylan but you get the sentiment. Stan’s guitar playing is all buzz and saw, many tracks are built on a drum machine pattern and are littered with samples of mundane television adverts for breakfast cereals, detergents, fabric softeners, buy one get one free offers, he sings/talks about the uncaring nature of big business and every heartfelt bit of it resonates with me but as an item of listening pleasure I found it tough going.
Stan’s biggest problem is that without advertising he’s struggling to spread the word. Oh the irony. I’m here though and I’l tell you that for £5 [including p&p] you get a delightful gatefold CD sleeve with booklet and two stickers one of which is a picture of a burning cigarette with the word ‘idiot’ running through it. Stan’s next project perhaps?
On Saturday morning I entered a deserted Brighouse Post Office to post two items one of which was a jiffy bag going to the Republic of Ireland that Mrs Fisher had entrusted me with. I approached one of two female counter staff who were sat next to each other and was asked to put my first item on the scale, this being the local weekly newspaper that I send my mother. This passed with no remark. It wasn’t until I placed the package bound for the Republic of Ireland on the scale that I entered a bizarre nether world where commonsense has been replaced by random dice thrown diktat dreamt up by persons unknown who no doubt command large salaries and have never sent a package to the Republic of Ireland in their lives.
Counter Staff Person 1: What’s in the package love?
Me: I’m not sure. Some earrings I think.
CSP 1: If you’re not sure we can’t post it.
Me: They’re definitely earrings.
[CSP 1 now begins to feel package with both hands kneading it like its putty in need of restoration before passing the package on to CSP 2 for her opinion. Whilst all this is going on I offer to ring Mrs Fisher and ask her whats in the package. My call goes straight to message].
CSP 1: You see love if its jewelry you cant post it to Ireland.
CSP 2: [While doing the putty revitalization thing] There’s two boxes in here, it could be earrings.
[Package now goes back to CSP1 who picks up the hand held slot device that determines whether the package for posting is a letter or a parcel. The package fits through the letter slot.]
CSP: Put it back on the scale love I’ve forgotten the weight.
[I put it back on the scale].
CSP: Because it goes through the letter slot it can go letter rate so it doesn’t matter whats in it.
Me: This country is fucked.
Thursday, December 06, 2018
The Pain Factory
Influencing Machine Records & Spastik Visuals.
4 x DVD. 350 copies.
Thanks to Michael Nine Christmas has come early this year. I may have had to miss his Leeds show with Rusalka due to attending the wedding of the year [clue: not Harry and Megan] but this 4 DVD, 13 hour trip down memory lane [and several other releases that I’ll come back to later] has more than made up for it.
The Pain Factory was a public access TV Noise show and the work of Michael Contreras. It described itself as ‘A Live Experimental Noise Television Program’ and was broadcast out of the San Fransisco Bay Area area from 1995 to 1997. For me these were the golden years of noise. A time when I was getting in to noise in a big way, soaking up as many names and releases I could get my hands on. Lots of those names appear on these discs.
Calling it The Old Grey Whistle Test of Noise, Industrial and Experimental music wouldn’t be too far off the mark; a couple of live performances in the studio with the odd [literally] experimental film, footage of live performances, band videos and idents that feature the words The Pain Factory cut into a forearm with a razor blade. No Whispering Bob though, for that we can only be thankful.
Because these were the days when noise came all wrapped up in anything death, sex, blood and violence related we have bands like The Amputease, a trash noise group whose live set is littered with all the gory bits from once banned video nasties and Nihil one member of whom gets his bare back whipped raw by a dominatrix, then there’s the clips of Harvey Kietel shooting up in Bad Lieutenant, or autopsy footage. Flyers for The Pain Factory contain images of severed heads. Those were the days.
Not that I’m familiar with every single project/band/noise artist on these discs. Plenty are unfamiliar to me but when I see the words Killer Bug my knees go weak and even weaker at the sight of a very young Kazumoto Endo working a table top of noise boxes, whipping himself into a frenzy while doing so. There are so many highlights its hard to know where to start and seeing as I’m only halfway through this set there will be plenty more to come but so far we have; Macronympha destroying everything in sight with one half naked female band member visibly distraught at the process and having to leave the performance, The Haters doing the stapling CD’s to a car tyre thing, Crawl Unit using cassette tape and radios to make some wonderful noises, Fin with an aerosol can taped to his foot and masking tape over his mouth, Rotten Jesus an improv noise band making a hell of a racket with a drummer wearing a ‘Kill Everyone’ t-shirt and an as ever unsettling Death Squad video with a straight lift from some Gulf War military comms where an armed helicopter pilot kills his own troops. Most enlightening for me is the first sighting of long running San Fran pranksters and anti-art visionaries Bige City Orchestra with a puppet show noise set piss take complete with a talking cassette guide.
The Pain Factory ran to 13 episodes all of which are here barring episode eight which was a straight showing of the notorious [supposedly] Japanese snuff film ‘Flower of Flesh and Blood’ which brought the station the not unexpected torrent of complaints, something they appear to have reveled in. According to the blurb Michael Contreras is the only person on earth with extant tapes of The Pain Factory and has spent the last two years digitizing it. Apparently none of this has appeared on the internet before making seeing this for the first time like coming across the mother lode of noise and weird shit. I love it. If only I could have picked up The Pain Factory in West Yorkshire. My life would have been complete.
This being the mid 90’s the studio special effects are primitive compared to today's technology, blue screens and two cameras giving us overlaid images of burlesque dancers, Chinese martial arts films and gore but if anything this only enhances the feel of the period and despite the rare horizontal hold/VHS flicker the picture quality is superb. Contreras’s work has not been in vain. I for one take my hat off to him and you should too.
Half way through disc three I got to wondering what a 2018 version of The Pain Factory would look like? It would no doubt look very different. Times have changed considerably in Noise World and while there’s still plenty of people making weird noises the transgressive and sometimes confrontational nature of Noise [and with that I’ll lump in Power Electronics] has all but disappeared. We live in more enlightened times, your autopsy footage is old hat and belongs in the past, your footage of a vet giving a horse a nasal probe is meaningless [this courtesy of Dr Crystal Mess ... yes, me neither]. Female Noise/Experimental artists are thin on the ground over these four discs [I think I’ve counted three so far] but much more common now. Go to a live experimental/noise gig and the chances are that half the performers and half the audience will be female. That doesn’t mean we cant enjoy what has gone before. There’s over 13 hours worth here to explore and explore you must, whether its as a nostalgic or as someone curious as to what was happening in Noise in the mid 90's.
After all this I’m getting that itch again. I might even dig out some Macronympha and give that a whirl. The ideal Christmas present as they say at this time of year.
Monday, November 26, 2018
Candura - /I
Grensun Records. GSR032
Me and Mrs Fisher were in Lisbon in October watching wheezing American pensioners coming to terms with Lisbon’s ridiculously steep and narrow streets while in search of custard tarts because there’s nothing more rewarding than a custard tart in the sweltering heat. We stayed in an apartment near the Gulbenkian where we went one night to hear Mahler’s First Symphony being performed. We ate salt cod, drank excellent Douro wines and watched Happy Valley on a big fuck off telly because we could. I love Lisbon.
I mention this because today I’ve been sent an email by Pedro who is one half of a band called Candura. They’re from Lisbon and they describe themselves as 'Black Metal/Noise' and while I’ll not normally go anywhere near anything with ‘Black Metal’ in the title I will if its got ‘Noise’ in it. So while I caught up on my emails Candura droned on in the background and then in the foreground as they caught my attention.
Is it ‘Noise’ or is it ‘Black Metal’? This was the thought going through my head as I typed up catch up emails. Or is it another Sunn O))) tribute band? Sunn O))) and their ilk do nothing for me and if I ever want my flares flapped by waves of infrasound for three solid hours while standing shoulder to shoulder with lots of long haired males doing the slo-mo head bob I’ll let you know. But this intrigued me.
I have to admit to not listening to much Metal these days, in whatever shape or form it comes in but when its been mangled to sound like its halfway to a noise/drone set then I’m all ears. Of the two tracks on this cassette/dl I much prefer the longer almost half hour workout which is a guitar climaxing over a constant wash of fuzzy noise. With lots of screaming/anguished wailing that in itself becomes part of the constant wash of fuzzy noise. But is it Metal or is it Noise? And does it really matter? Comparisons with Ramleh [in either PE or Rock mode] wouldn’t be wide of the mark either. So maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it.
Whether I’m supposed to listen to this while typing catch up emails or laid naked on a black granite slab with a recently dead chicken on my chest is another question altogether.
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Robert Ridley-Shackleton - Stone Cold Crazy
Crow Versus Crow. CVC010
Cassette/DL 50 copies.
I saw Robert Ridley-Shackleton at Tusk and yet I didn’t see him. I saw him because you can’t miss him, he’s like a night shift Dave Lee Roth in Versace. I didn’t see him because he performed in one of those little pod things that can only fit five people in with any degree of comfort but I did hear him. I was having a cup of tea in the foyer when over a violent blast of electronic noise I defined the odd ‘fuck’. By all accounts [The Bearded Wonder’s] his performance was one of those life enhancing experiences that makes you see the world differently from there on in but that might have been the tea or the view or the camaraderie which were there in abundance. I’ve heard some of his work before; wonky songs sung into a Dictaphone, lots of scuzzy lo-fi noise, lots of stream of consciousness and lots of cardboard. Why the cardboard? I have no idea. Its his thing, that's why they call him The Cardboard Prince. He sent me some of his cardboard once and it was very cardboard-y, torn bits with Cy Twombly dashes on them. I liked it/them. I liked the spontaneity of it/them. I like the spontaneity of Robert Ridley-Shackleton. He’s very prolific dontcha know. Bits of cardboard with Cy Twombly dashes on and noise. Its a winning combo.
On paper he’s the Filthy Turd trying to get his head around a song as heard through a gramophone horn playing a very scratched and cracked Edison cylinder. The six tracks on Stone Cold Crazy are all mini classics of a sort in a Robert Ridley-Shackleton world where there’s lots of Robert Ridley Shackleton to go around. Stand out track is ‘Bury Me’ with its Harlem Shuffle Honky-Tonk piano which is probably a toy piano getting the one finger on each hand hammer treatment amidst a blizzard of white-ish noise. Not all is sung though, not all is Prince [via the cardboard]. At the start of ‘Yol 4 President’ [best song title this year] you get a sarky ‘pardon me for bloody well breathing’ and a one sided conversation about video games, all to a background of whirring noise and cutlery drawers being rummaged.
While I don’t doubt that The Cardboard Prince does write actual songs I’m more than happy living with what I’m assuming are reams of stream of consciousness lyrics/thought processes pinned to noises generated by broken bits of electronic gunk, V-Tech’s and Dictaphones. Its a winning combo.
How much of this you cant take in one go is up to you. Its not exactly easy listening but it does involve you. You cant help but feel you’re a part of someones world when hearing this. A cardboard world full of Cy Twombly dashes and songs to make your ears ache.
Monday, November 19, 2018
Ramleh - A Return To Slavery
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger161. LP
I don’t know why but last week while in the midst of minding my own business, the urge came upon me to listen to some early Whitehouse. There I was aimlessly watching some cat videos or something when my hand went to Cream of the Second Coming [all my Whitehouse CD’s are within easy reach] and into the slot it went. As it was going in to the slot I tried to remember the last time I played it and and I couldn’t but it must have been a very, very, very, very, very long time ago.
Cream of the Second Coming was the first Whitehouse release I ever bought and at the time it scared me to death. It felt like it shouldn’t be legal what with all that hideous squealing and talk of anal sex. Now I think it’s hilarious. My Cock’s On Fire? Carry On meets Norman Wisdom.
If you’ve read this far you must be at least a bit of a fan of early Power Electronics. For some the mere sight of the words Whitehouse, Ramleh or Sutcliffe Jugend are an immediate turn off; leather trench coats, concentration camps, serial killers and songs about coming up your arse. Its all you need to know they say. Ugh. Put em on once in ’95. Bunch of twats. And I have to admit, if you’re not in the mood for such as this then you might as well not bother. Its why I felt a little weird going for that Second Coming CD. What am I doing? This is horrible. Its meant to be horrible. That’s the point.
I’ve not listened to Ramleh since the 2012 Ramleh/Harbinger Sound release ‘Awake!’ An eight CD behemoth that I dutifully listened to and made notes on and put away for my retirement fund. I’ve just dug it out now and blown the dust off it. Its quite the very thing; poster, badges, sumptuous booklet, artwork signed by Phillip Best and hours worth of horrible noise. There’s not much else you can add to that really, unless you’re talking about the ‘rock’ Ramleh which is an entirely different thing altogether. This is the horrible noise Ramleh as recorded in 1983 which is now a very, very, very, very long time ago.
There’s no point in talking about ‘tests of time’ and does it still ‘stand up’. You’re either a fan or you’re not. Strip away the history and A Return To Slavery is horrible noise whichever way you look at it. It’s just that, horrible noise. For the record [literally] side one is horrible noise as recorded during a torture session held in a grubby room of a country you never knew existed until yesterday and side two is horrible noise as recorded at a political rally circa 1936. Side one is a reissue of one side of an album that came out in blah, blah, blah but you don’t need to know that. All you need to know is that its horrible noise and some people like horrible noise.
Thursday, November 15, 2018
[The] Mudguards - On Guard
Horn of Plenty. HOP1. LP
Hey, hey we’re the Mudguards! Said nobody ever. Maybe because [the] Mudguards were an obscure politically motivated Art Noise duo working out of London’s East End whose mantra was ‘the commodification of dissent’ and not some goofy Yank pop quartet with perfect teeth and a TV show to their name. This being ‘81 to ’93 and greed is good and the miners strike, Greenham Common, The Falkland’s war, the Poll Tax riots and all manner of social unrest and upheaval. This being Thatcher’s Britain and Reagan’s America. A miserable time that resulted in many an effective cultural response.
[The] Mudguards being a collective built around Nelson Bloodrocket and Reg Out who drew influence from ‘quintessential English working class entertainment’ hence tracks like ‘Any Old Irony’ that sounds like The Residents after six pints in The Old Bull and Bush. They built kinetic sound sculptures from scrap metal produced sounds from vintage audio equipment and circuit bent electronics [long before ‘circuit bent electronics’ became a household name] and collaborated with noisemakers [information is hard to come by], they appropriated [squatted?] empty housing in which to perform and I’ve never heard of them.
Probably because they never released anything. Horn of Plenty [the label that used to be Vittelli] have done a sterling job of collating an albums worth of material as recorded between 1983 and 1988, expect bleak proto Industrial bleat, speeded up spoken word samples, tape echo, electric guitars going through reel to reel tape decks, rockin’ synth blurt. The two longer tracks on side two is where they work best with the bleak Industrial landscape that is Theme From The Big Trigger sitting cheek by grotty jowl with On Guard, an absurdist spoken word parp-a-thon anthem of sorts with added dog barks courtesy of an analog synth. I’m quite liking the fact that the Cockney sing-a-long classic Any Old Iron becomes a morose ur zombie-esque reverse knees up [knees down?] and that Birthday Smile is all grubby Industrial churn with heavy nods towards Throbbing Gristle who I suppose we have to make comparison with even if only tenuously.
How the Mudguards have escaped my attention all these years is bugging me. Obscurants obviously and covered in a shroud of secrecy that evades even the depths of several internet search engines. Maybe their activism ran deeper than covering old music hall songs and hosting the odd sound installation [the inside sleeve shows a particularly interesting example of this with a pair of ghetto blasters atop a pair of forward facing ladders, a sound horn on a turntable of sorts atop two tables separating them] maybe they got erm ... involved? The sleeve notes by Johnny Cash-Converter are good and helpful but we need to know more. And hear more.
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Rovar 17 - Csonkolt Tündér
Unsigned Label. US046.
Is there still room in my life for music such as this? This being Industrial Ambient Noise Dance as made by very competent musicians in Hungary who go under the names ‘MaN’ and ‘Stadlmeier’ and ‘Syporca Whandal’ - these being the collaborators in this release. It would appear that there is, though my appetite is never really a healthy one anymore. At the moment I’m very much an after dark R3 kind of person; shellac discs of obscure folk musics, Jim O’Rourke’s latest and the odd drama should I find myself in the mood. I caught the last half hour of R3’s Through the Night programme on Monday morning as the car warmed ready for the short journey to work, John Shea played Debussy’s first two Preludes and for a few moments there was just me, Debussy, the hum of the car engine and not much else. It reminded me of the story Peel used to tell about him hearing Roy Orbison coming out of a workshop radio while he stood on a train platform waiting for the last train, ‘Only the Lonely’ drifting across the damp winter night air and almost bringing the man to his knees with it.
Needless to say, Csonkolt Tündér [‘Truncated Fairy] didn’t have that effect on me, though I dare say there are people out there who delight in all manner of heavily processed Dance Noise [as that is what I shall call it]. Side one has five tracks and side two one long track that runs to just over the half hour mark. The shorter work on side one bears an uncanny resemblance to the longer work on side two which is [I’m sure you’re pleased to know] a live outing as recorded in Augsburg earlier this year. The title track comes first and is all fast beats and swooping noises like the soundtrack to a Japanese film where all the action takes place inside an upright video arcade game. Second track ‘Violation of the Taboo of the Forbidden Places’ is like a noisy Orb track where the rhythm gets nicked from a rampaging Aphex Twin outing before getting shoved through all kinds of mutations to make it sound like its coming out of your diaphragm. Next track ‘No Longer Metaphysical Spirit’ is moe of the same with the rampaging beats being obliterated by gallons of noise. And on it merrily goes.
I get the feeling that Rovar 17 started out as a Techno outfit until one day they got bored and decided to give Noise a go. Its all very well done and through a decent sound system it will punch its weight but its not Debussy and its not Roy Orbison is it.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Felipe Otondo - Night Studies
Sargasso. CD. SCD28082
I’m absolutely certain that I sent the very nice man at the Sargasso label a very polite email explaining how I’d be much happier thank you very much if you didn’t send me any more of your CD’s for review as I’m very busy between now and 2030 which is when I’m hoping to retire. Then another CD turns up which I dutifully listen to and oh this one’s by Felipe Otondo who does things with gamelan structures and is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Acoustics at Universidad Austral in Chile [I think he was in Lancaster once upon a time] and has won numerous awards from impressive sounding bodies the world over. He’s very good don’t you know. He likes sound. Who doesn’t like sound? Or sounds. I reviewed his last release for Sargasso and that was very good. Looking back at my words [something I’d rather not do and something I take no pleasure in] I found myself gushing all over it and having to mop up my dribbled on Sargasso CD with a freshly laundered Paul Smith hankie that has a picture of a monkey on it and which I keep at my side for such events.
Night Studies is called Night Studies because Otondo must have recorded them at night because he was very busy being Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Acoustics at Universidad Austral Chile during the day, which as you can imagine, must be a very taxing but rewarding position. The press release compares this work to that of Jon Hassell and the collaborations of Holger Czukay and David Sylvian. It’s also described as ‘a very personal and unified collection of shifting, cinematic sonic night-cruises’ which is press release-ese for ‘very relaxing’. Which it is but not as relaxing as Flux & Mutability by Czukay and Sylvian which has been my go to ‘nod off’ album for many years now.
I should stop being glib at this point and tell you that Night Studies comprises of three parts that run to about thirty minutes playing time and are equal parts ambience and equal parts treated gamelan, the ambient parts being er ... ambient-y and the gamelan parts being of the kind that you recognise as being gamelan after having certain electronic treatments fired at them. Its hard to describe what actually is going on which is why I’m being so glib. Its a nice release which isn’t a nice thing to say, ‘nice’ being a word used to describe something you like but don’t like that much or struggle to generate too much enthusiasm for. Still, at least I reviewed it.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Antonin Artaud - Ci-Gît
Nurse With Wound - To Another Awareness
Book + 3”CD
ISBN : 979-10-94601-25-9
Nurse With Wound - NWW Play Changez Les Blockeurs
Dirter Promotions. CD
Antonin Artaud is best remembered as the man who created the Theater of Cruelty. Having decided that what the world of theatre really needed was a good shake up he wrote a play called Les Cenci in which a man rapes his daughter who then subsequently hires a hit squad to track him down and kill him [this play was also the first to employ electronic instrumentation in the score with the use of the Ondes Martenot], it ran for seventeen nights and then closed. As a commercial venture it was an abject failure but it made his name. After that he went to Mexico to try his hand at peyote. He wrote essays and poetry, acted and with Germaine Dulac made the first recognised surrealist film ‘The Seashell and The Clergyman’, a film which inspired Buñuel and Dalí to make ‘Un Chien Andalou’. There’s an excellent restored version of ‘Seashell …’ on Youtube should you wish to familiarise yourself with it - I did and its marvelous. He died in 1948 aged 51 having spent much of his life a heroin addict and an inmate of various asylums.
In 1937 he took it upon himself to return to Ireland a knotty walking stick he believed had been owned by St. Patrick, Lucifer and Jesus Christ. He tipped up in Galway which is [as far as I’m aware] the still current residence of Steve Stapleton which makes the togetherness of these two in this book all the more apposite. Having spent several days and nights not making himself understood and generally being a bit of a pain in the arse, the Irish authorities eventually lost patience with him and put him on a boat to France. Minus his knotty walking stick which he lost in Dublin.
‘Ci-Gît précédé de La Culture Indienne’ is all in French of course and may be a reprint of a slim volume that first saw the light of day in 1947. ‘La Culture Indienne’ contains some intriguing lines, a poem he no doubt wrote in Mexico while and under the influence;
‘Cafre d’urine de la pente d’un vagin dur’,
Ci-Gît contains some remarkable Schwitters-like word play;
Its first line is;
‘Moi, Anton Artaud, je suis mon fils, mon père, ma mère’
Which leads me to believe its autobiographical but then I’m no expert.
Nurse With Wound’s contribution to the proceedings, ‘To Another Awareness’ is one of those incredible 15 minute soundscapes that Steve Stapleton seems to knock out with nonchalant ease; the slow swell of an increasing in volume, increasing in tension cyclical drone that is aided and abetted by mouth sucking sounds and the passing flutter of night insects. I think I’m right in saying that its unavailable elsewhere either.
NWW Play Changez Les Blockeurs has been reviewed in LP format before but here comes the CD version and with it a track simply called ‘AND’ which swims in the same waters as ‘To Another Awareness’ but if anything ratchets up the tension and mesmeric capabilities another notch. I sat and listened to it while alone in the house, the volume at a sociable level designed to give me aural pleasure without annoying the neighbours. Such is the tracks barely audible level at start up I turned up the volume which was fine for ten minutes until I realised it was beginning to get quite loud. What had begun as a panning left to right cymbal ring sample was now a quite strident panning left to right cymbal ring sample with lots of depth. Then I realised that I didn’t know the running length of the track and worked out that I could be sat here for the next 40 minutes which if the track did run for such a time meant that playing volume would be audible over the jukebox in the pub at the bottom of the road. Then I decided that in an act of self flagellation cum experimentation I would ride the track out without turning down the volume just to see what happened. After another ten minutes or so [its hard to judge the passing of time when in the grip of such a journey] I felt like Pete Murphy in that old Maxell tape advert and was anxiously looking out of the window and checking my phone to see if I’d aroused any unwanted attention. By now ‘AND’ was the Nurse With Wound equivalent of an out of control sixteen wheeler with a bouncing payload of Paiste cymbals. Then something remarkable happened, ‘AND’ came to a stop and at the exact second it did Mrs. Fisher came through the door. The shock of which caused my heart to skip a beat. No really. It jumped and so did I. The silence at AND’s end coupled with the opening of the door giving me one of the biggest frights of my life. Artaud would have loved it.
Pete Murphy in the Maxell advert
The Seashell and the Clergyman
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Tusk Festival 2018
Sage Gateshead October 12-14.
I didn’t think I’d be adding Terry Riley and his son to my ‘Chuck ‘em in the Tyne’ list but there they go. Kersplash. Gurgle gurgle. Scream.They can count themselves lucky, at least they didn’t join the ‘Chuck ‘em in the Tyne and Hurl Bricks at them from the Millennium Bridge’ list which is a special subsection list I created for the handful of artists who appeared on Friday night and shook my tender patience to its very core. And there’s me in Newcastle, my favourite UK city with its friendly folks and best local accent and stunning industrial architecture. Whodathunkit. Not that I expect or have ever expected to like every single performance at a weekend event of adventurous music.
This years Tusk was an eclectic one of a very eclectic nature and thats to be applauded; Bhanghra courtesy of the Hameed Brothers Qawwal and Party, free jazz courtesy of Irreversible Entanglements, drunken splat rock from the Ceramic Hobs. In-between you could fill your days from morning until morning with panel talks, the best that the No Audience Underground has to offer, rare films, workshops. If you really wanted to you could arrive at the Sage on Saturday morning and carry on until 5 a.m. Sunday morning filling your brain with all manner of sonic wondrousness. Because there wasn’t just things happening at the Sage there were fringe events where you could see the likes of YOL scream his lungs out to passing drink addled students in a corridor somewhere in Gateshead. Not that I ever made it to any fringe events. I’m getting too old for all that late night malarkey. Besides, some of the performances I was looking forward to were on in the early afternoon; Limpe Fuchs, a sprightly 80 year kicking iron balls around the stage, a huge xylophone made of slabs of stone [slate?], bent steel tubes suspended from huge drums that when plucked sounded like amazing synthesizers. After she’d finished she asked the audience if they wanted to hear her rusty iron cable tidy and we all shouted ‘yes’ in unison. It sounded like The New Blockaders and it was magnificent. Adam Bohman and Lee Patterson were another early afternoon slot that paid dividends with an hours worth of table-top scrapings, whirrings and twangings. Equally illuminating was the short film about Bohman as made by Cathy Soreny which if you ever get the chance to see you must. In a just world Adam Bohman would be the recipient of major awards and be a National Treasure but here he is in Newcaslte with his trusty horsehair bows and smudgy wine glasses. For the likes of the people gathered in homage to this performance at Hall 2 on Sunday the 14th of October 2018 midday it was another rare chance to wallow in the amazing sound world as created by two of the best in the business. There was lots to do and see.
So why the grumpiness? After seeing Pinnel [Lindsay Duncanson] create some wonderful vocal loops we shuffled next door to see Historically Fucked which after about thirty seconds I soon renamed Historically Fucking Crap. Any band that begins their set by giggling at the mention of their name or who begin a song by saying ‘we wrote this when ...’ are never going to find me in their fan club. I think they’re really a hardcore punk band trying out improv but are failing on so many levels its not true. Baby talk? Unplugged thrashings? After they’d been playing for three quarters of an hour they appeared lost for something to do and the guitarist asked if they should play on, one solitary voice in the audience shouted ‘yes’ and I hated them for it. The guitarist faces the singer, the bassist faces the singer, the singer faces the guitarist and then turns around to face the bass player. They appear to be having a good laugh at everybody’s expense. Not long after I was subjected to Chaines which appeared to be a long forgotten solo concept album about Hobbits as recorded by Jon Anderson in 1971. A single person sat stage right looping guitar melodies that are then overdubbed with clarinet, keyboard and, I’m not making this up, treble recorder. As if this reverbed to buggery, breathy vocal, dry ice monstrosity wasn’t enough my eyes were assaulted by the projected back drop visuals which appeared to be a role playing game with the player stuck in one room going round and round for ever more in a burning flame hell. And then a black clad woman started moving very s-l-o-w-l-y in front of me, so s-l-o-w-l-y that I thought it might be someone on drugs whose brain had been affected by the godawful wailings coming out of the speaker and then I saw her again further down suddenly stop and shove one hand in the air, holding the pose for some seconds before shoving the other hand in the air. Much to my amusement two younger gentlemen with plastic pint pots of beer in their hands joined in with much mock enthusiasm. That was as good as it got. Towards its finale confetti was dropped on the audience from the above seating. I could have wept. Probably the biggest atrocity on European soil since the Somme. Things didn’t get much better with Craig Leon who may have recorded a couple of influential albums in the early eighties but who now makes the dullest of dull beat driven plod. Quite why the string quartet were there is anyones guess seeing as how they added only the odd flourish. Leon introduced a rhythm which plodded on for a bit before a complete change of direction and tempo and up popped another rhythm which plodded on for a bit before … zzzzzzz. The list grew longer.
All this happened on Friday night which despite the above had Lucy Railton whose looped cello, synth swirls and samples of glass being smashed filled the high ceilinged Northern Rock Foundation Hall with all manner of glorious sounds, the best of the night with those languorous cello scrapes kicking in like the heaviest of of Industrial dirges and American free jazzers Irreversible Entanglements whose female vocalist stared at us hard and urged us all to get down the front. She recited lyrics which she seemed to glean from a book and were all about not forgetting the horrors of the past as the drummer really went for it, shit, they all really went for it, some calm about midway but the storm soon built again. A visceral performance and a good a way as any to eradicate the memory of some of the guff that had gone before.
With such a vast array of things to go see, watch and hear and with some workshops overlapping with other events its impossible to get to everything and then there’s Weekend Festival Tiredness [WFT] which some suffer from more than others depending on alcohol consumption and sleep deprivation. With only limited seating available its a tough one on the legs too. Luckily for me I’ve long learnt that getting shitfaced on the first night of a three night festival is the best way to ensure that you have no enthusiasm for much of what follows, thus I’m up early and looking towards the nearby Baltic for early morning cultural sustenance or for a bracing walk along the quayside or maybe three hours in the breakfast room of the Ramadam Encore watching England beat Sri Lanka in the cricket downing endless cups of tea from the buffet bar as gloits drink Strongbow Dark Fruits out of cans. Oh Newcastle how we love you.
I miss all the ‘pod shows’ too, Chow Mwng and Robert Ridley-Shackleton who by all accounts are rather good, I catch a little of Chow Mwng’s set while having a cup of tea on the Sage concourse where the bleed from his performance can be plainly heard ‘YOU FUCKING BASTARDS’ or somesuch over a wad of feedback which has a number of the cafes more gentler clients lifting their heads skywards wondering if their senses are playing tricks on them.
Saturday night kicks off with Saboteuse who are playing only their second gig in thirteen years. A real treat as Joincey and Jarvis are joined by a long bearded, baseball cap wearing bassist who looks like something out an American trucker movie. Jarvis plays electronics and guitar, Joincey on vocals and helping out elsewhere. His voice is key though, a love it or hate it voice, a sing/talk voice crack voice in proudest Stoke-ese. They play songs that have been turned inside out, songs in name only, on one of them the drum kit is hit with a slave ship rhythm, the bass is played ever so gently, Joincey recites. Their last track is called ‘Worship The Devil’ which gets a laugh and is almost an instrumental with Joincey coming in at the end. Marlo Eggplant is all heavy Industrial Drones from Leeds via Baltimore and rubs her torso with contact mics for added noisiness.
Saturday nights highlight arrives with the Ceramic Hobs who seem a tad out of place in such salubrious surroundings no doubt feeling much more at home in a squat or someones front room. They appear to be down to five members now with the all over the shop baby headed theremin rubbing clown nowhere to be seen but still with Simon Morris of course, the long suffering original without whom there would be no Ceramic Hobs. He storms on stage after everybody else has started up, shirtless and with a thirty five years in the making beer gut hanging over his black jeans and sensible shoes, he flails about like a drunk looking for an argument in a shitty pub but the voice is still there, an incredible thing that by rights shouldn’t be coming out of such a body but out it does come, a roaring monster perfectly suited to such driven demented hammerings. Second track in is ‘Shaolin Master’ and never have the lines ‘I might look like I lie around on me couch all day’ never sounded so hollow, ‘50 Shades of Snuff’ gets an outing as does ‘33 Trapped Chilean Miners’. The room is virtually full with punters reveling in having an actual band to bounce around to. And bounce they do. And smile. And have fun. The guitarist, whose wearing a dress [too young to be born when the Hobs set off thirty odd years ago] sprays playing cards in to the audience and collapses on the floor at the sets end. Morris wanders off bathed in sweat after having delivered the last lines from ELO’s ‘Mr. Blue Sky’. Its all over in double quick time but not before we’ve heard a new song as a finale. They’re remarkably tight as a unit despite one false start and seem to be getting better as they go on. I may have been saying this for years. There may be life in them yet. Its not as chaotic as your usual Hobs gigs but they make up for that on Sunday afternoon with a ‘talk’ that soon runs out of steam and descends into Morris stood on stage singing ‘Raven’; I’M GONNA FUCK YOU UP THE ASS TONIGHT!
|Joincey asks the Ceramic Hobs a question.|
The rest of Saturday night passes in a blur. Something is wrong with my insides and my legs. Maybe I’ve been stood too long. Maybe it was that pint in the Crown Posada. I have vague recollections of Lea Bertucci and I definitely saw the first turntable half of Otomo Yoshihide’s set which is the first in which we’re offered ear plugs but after that it was back to the Ramadan with no thought given whatsoever to a fringe event that by all accounts ran until five in the morning. There was plenty to savor and the thought of seeing Lee Patterson and Adam Bohman play at midday Sunday sent me sweetly in to the arms of morpheus.
The keener amongst us were in the Sage at 11 a.m. for a Chow Mwng set that was later described to me as being the best wake up call they ever had. Too early for me, instead I found a seat for Patterson and Bohman an hour later. Rarely have I spent such a pleasant hour. The last time was in Brighton a few years ago where Adam and his brother Jonathan played a similarly timed set in Brighton library as part of Colour Out of Space. Patterson has more electronics on his table, pick ups maybe and a thing that whirls around whose speed he alters and some nuts of an unnamed nature that he sets fire to [no doubt to the consternation of the Sage staff as the flames did at one point reach a terrific six inches in height] and springs and Alka Selzer and crackly popping candy and at his side the assembled drinking glasses, bits of metal rods, light bulbs, tins and a fork whose tines Bohman plucks and plays with his horse hair bow. Its a perfect pairing and the hour passes in what seems like minutes. The need for food drives me over the Tyne and soon its eight o’clock and time for us to enter the main hall that is Sage One where the Hameed Brothers Qawaal and Party are sitting down stage front. Bradford lads of course. I saw them a few years back there and they went down a storm. I think theres six of them playing two harmonium’s and a pair of tablas, the rest joining in on vocals and handclaps. I think its Punjabi bhangra, I’m not sure, but whatever it is its infectious. If only it had lasted another hour. Instead we got Terry Riley and his lad noodling about. Riley senior on grand piano, Riley junior on electric guitar. Me sat at the back in tears. Rarely have I felt so disappointed. Not that I was expecting an hours worth of Riley’s greatest hits set to a Jive Bunny clap-along backing track and t-shirts on the merch stall for a tenner thank you very much. The man is in his eighties. I’m guessing we should be grateful he’s still touring but to hear Riley junior play actual, and this is true I swear, fucking wolf whistles on his guitar is shameful. Then Riley senior stood and Riley junior went quiet. Riley senior set a synth going and played a melodica along to it. I perked up. It sounded wonderful. It lasted five minutes. I crumpled. I started drawing up my list. My ‘Chuck em in the Tyne list’ my biro cutting in to the paper like a knife, my writing looking like that of madman.
If I’d had the energy I could have taken in Dale Cornish and at 11.30 on Sunday night Konstrukt and Otomo but I hadn’t the energy. The Bald Heads of Noise retired to the Ramadan’s bar and talked over what had been for the most part a very enjoyable weekend.
The Sage is a world class music venue whose sound system is the best I’ve ever heard. Its capable of capturing the nuance in a Bohman fork twang and the racket generated by the Ceramic Hobs and everything else in-between with ease. The staff are marvelous, the organisers know what they’re doing, there’s toilets everywhere [v. Important] and bars selling beer where you don’t have to queue for long and a cafe and a restaurant and everything. The weekend ticket is a ridiculously cheap £70. Its in Newcastle. I’ll be back next year.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Caught In The Wake Forever & glacis - Version & Delineation
Crow Versus Crow. CVC009
I’ve been listening to a lot of piano music of late: Debussy, Satie, Philip Glass. I find the empty spaces and the weightlessness of their more melancholic work the perfect riposte to a crazy world. Me and Mrs Fisher were lucky enough to see Philip Glass perform his solo piano ‘Mad Rush’ in Verona this year - an evening concert in an outdoor amphitheater, the threat of rain subsiding, the warm air perfectly still and the audience spellbound. Even now, months after the event, the sheer weight of emotion that Glass managed to put into his performance hasn’t lost any of its force. It’s been played here endlessly ever since with barely any loss of its magnificence.
Version & Delineation works in almost the same way [though I’m in no way putting the creators of this work on the same platform as those aforementioned greats] except that these six tracks have been improvised and have had crud smeared all over them. In the nicest possible way of course, noise crud with a small ‘n’ like it says on the press release. Here you can hear children shouting, birds squawking, creaking floorboards, digital grit, strange whirrings as if from active lab equipment, brooms sweeping floors like a jazz drummers snare brush. The piano sounds like it was recorded from down the hall, all distant, sad and forlorn. I listened many, many times and found myself drifting in to that same Satie/Debussy/Glass like world.
A release made by two people; the magnificent sounding Euan Alexander Millar-McKeeken who uses iPhone voice memo software to record the spontaneous piano compositions and Fraser McGowan with an Akai sampler and software to capture those ‘snapshots of domestic minutiae’. Six ridiculously short tracks that are all wrapped up within the space of fifteen minutes.
The cassette itself is all a-glitter like an asteroid belt on a clear night up a mountain, the sleeve that surrounds the cassette is made of recycled card and the insert of tracing paper. I found all of it a salve capable of easing my weary bones, a balm for my battered brain.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Sudden Infant - Buddhist Nihilism
Harbinger Sound. 189CD/LP
When the Great Big Bumper Book of Noise eventually gets written, Joke Lanz will no doubt have a chapter all of his own. In the same chapter there’ll be mention of the fact that Lanz was once an integral cog in the Schimpfluch Gruppe and that his artistic talents also seep in to the visual arts. He plays turntables too, a veritable Dave Double-Deck.
After almost three decades of sonic mayhem Sudden Infant expanded from being a solo Lanz [with the occasional collaborator] to a full blown three piece band now aided by the phenomenal bass player Christian Weber and the Jim Keltner like Alexander Babel on drums. Their first release was 2014’s Wölfi’s Nightmare and much to my chagrin I didn’t like it. I thought maybe this was something that Lanz needed to get out of his system, something he needed to work though or try out just to see if it worked. I felt that he’d brought too much of his previous sound in to the group format and that it jarred. There was too much going on and Roli Mosimann’s production made them seem like a halfway house between Sudden Infant and Marylin Manson. Not my cuppa char old bean. Those almost trademark noise jolts that Lanz had used to such good effect in his solo outings were plastered all over Wölfi’s Nightmare like random shots from an elephant gun. I flinched, cowered down and hoped it would be over soon. Lots of other people liked it and the reviews I read were positive so I put it down to me and moved on.
Four years down the line and Buddhist Nihilism arrives and with it reservations of my own. Its now obvious that this is no short term three piece project and after a first listen its also obvious that the sound is in a different league. Out go the random electric noise jolts and in come twelve tracks of quotidian observation, introspection and a Cat Stevens cover. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Don’t worry there’s no tinkly piano. But there is humour. As in ‘Tourists’ where Lanz loses his patience with Berlin’s aimless zombie tourists and ‘George Clooney’ a track complete with Whacko Jacko ‘hee hees’ and a list of shouted out names, surely the only track ever written that mentions Underwood, George Clooney and Martin Luther King in the lyric.
The set up is simple; Babel’s laconic drums, Weber’s irresistible bass while Lanz’s vocal delivery, which for me at least, has always been a big part of Sudden Infant. It may seem an obvious thing to say but his spoken voice, that perfectly executed English coming from a Swiss national gives his words and delivery an appeal all of its own. He can obviously sing but the spoken word delivery is what does it for me, that pointed finger, those dead set eyes, that lawnmower haircut ...
Weber and Babel take each song in several directions at once with quick stops/starts and driving punk inspired rumbles and even though these twelve tracks are structured as songs this is no verse, chorus, verse type of release. Chuck in some Lanz electronics and you have a release that will appeal to both the noise head in your family and the one who likes something to whistle along to while cruising down the autobahn. That Cat Stevens cover is a defining moment with Lanz deconstructing Stevens original delivering the vocals like a maniac, Weber and Babel going at it like an improv duo with a seven second snippet of the original at its end just to remind you of what it once sounded like.
‘100 Word Mantra’ is the one I’d like to see Sudden Infant on Top of The Pops with, this in which Lanz intones a mantra while dancing like a Tuvan round a campfire, the rest of the band joining in as the pace picks up only to break into a litany of fashion brand names. I was hoping that ‘228’ was going to be a pean to an as yet unscheduled Metro bus service that runs between Cleckheaton and Basel,
‘228, its never too late’
but it wasn’t, like ‘100 Word Mantra’ the meaning is a deep one: existentialism, the scourge of materialism, all the important stuff.
Some call it Dada Punk, some call it Dada Noise Rock but I wouldn’t know about that. I know I like it though.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Noseholes - Danger Dance
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger183.
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger180.
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger181.
What you have to remember is that at heart Underwood is a punk. Anything that sounds like it came out of the seminal years of ‘76 to ‘84 is enough to get his salvia glands dripping like leaky taps which is why all of the above sounds as if it was recorded in a shabby recording studio in Rochdale sometime around 1980. Noseholes and Muscle Barbi probably got lost on the M62 making their way there while on a weekend trip from Berlin to Liverpool to check out Ringo’s old local. Structure are from Brighton which is three million miles from Rochdale so it might have taken them a little longer to get there but you get the idea.
Along with bands such as Toylettes, Massicot, Pisse, Heavy Metal and Karies, Harbinger Sound are giving bands with a punk aesthetic/ethic a decent home and with it some much deserved attention.
All music after 1984 was shit anyway wasn’t it? Except for just recently when certain bands, bands who have been digging around in the past for inspiration, have decided that thats what they want to do. Its a little like going to a Dada appreciation night and then going home to cut up all your Stephen King books to make new poetry.
As someone who lived through those aforementioned years I feel I have perspective on my side. Being force fed indie guitar pop during the late eighties and when that died a death, druggy dance music from Manchester and when that died a death whatever because I stopped listening to the radio and caring, I find a lot of what Harbinger Sound releases of this nature makes me feel that music made by people with guitars and drums can really make a difference once again. At the stub end of 2018. Whodathunk that one? Because we can look forward now. Not just back. Because bands like Structure and Muscle Barbi and Noseholes and all those mentioned above are important and not just to those of a certain age with a nostalgia for such things.
Being of the John Peel generation I played the first of this lot at 33rpm because if you are of a certain age faced with a 12 inch platter with several tracks on it you assume its an album but no, they all play at 45rpm. Muscle Barbi has 12 tracks on it, Noseholes seven tracks only Structure with six two minute-ish tracks could be glimpsed as a proper twelve incher. Its the punk answer to subverting what is [was?] Rock’s stomping ground.
Having said that Noseholes sound pretty good at 33rpm, you should try it. At 45rpm they have a funky punk bass, swirly electronics and a female vocalist who sings/talks with a modified voice effect, all this going towards making them sound like a European James Chance and the Contortions only with a trumpet instead of a sax and an angular sensibility. Or the Flying Lizards with catchier tunes and a better bass player. ‘Ex Driver’ is a manic two minutes worth where dogs are ‘barking shit machines’, ‘Bed Smoker’ has an Egyptian tinged keyboard riff, the title track is a get your arse up off the floor stomper, ‘Aspirin Nation’ is a crazy instrumental where parpy trumpet and synth do battle.
Sounding like Sham 69 is never a bad idea either. Muscle Barbi do this in buckets full of spades with perhaps a harder edge, with perhaps a grafting on of certain Sun City Girl cartoonish samples, with perhaps enough punk energy to power a small town. Not that you can make out much of whats being sung bar the track titles and I doubt they wear brown leather jackets and Union Jack sleeveless T’s. Twelve absolute banging tracks with just the handful daring to stick their head above the two minute mark. I came out the other side wondering what it would be like to be down the front at a punk gig, all sweat and moldy beer. A three piece Austrian outfit with twin attack vocals who are almost impossible to track down online due to them choosing a name that has inks to female body building.
With the same three way set up come Structure, here with a more rolling drum, twangling trebly guitar, cranking bass approach, vocals split between bass and guitar, male and female giving them an early Cure meets Gang of Four sound only with much shorter track runs.
Killer track is Disco;
‘I wanna go to the disco/I wanna get out of my head’
A song that begins with a nervous bass and clattery drums before razor sharp guitar slashes kick in and with it the room lights up. An existential angst mini classic that condenses Satre into a two minutes worth of agit, a song that captures wasted life and a rare kind of energy all wrapped up and spent like a quickly sucked fag. Karen Constance artwork too.
You never know, 2019 might just be the year punk finally broke.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Consumer Electronics - The Weight/Hostility Blues
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger 180.
This latest single by Consumer Electronics is a nasty black stinking wound that's gone to green and purple and oozes deathly puss when prodded. Its the essential soundtrack to a sick planet. Its brevity is a weapon of Ebola proportions. I swear it tried jumping off the turntable when I played it, as if the cartridge was actually repelled by what it was hearing. Play it to a room full of ECM heads and I swear half of them would drop dead. Just like that.
This as preamble and amuse bouche for the double vinyl as soon to be released by Harbinger Sound. This as a black slug crawling from the corpse of Power Electronics. This as proof that Philip Best may be just about the only person alive who can deliver such music with the gravitas it deserves.
Ever since the introduction of Sarah Froelich on vocals [and when was the last time that word didn’t carry the weight it deserves] and Russell Haswell [here also credited with production] Consumer Electronics have become ever more relevant. The sound is now one of sick, twisted electronics. Like someone tried torturing a Korg with a cattle prod. Dark, dark sounds. Froelich’s voice is that of a manic Rosa Klebb. It will make you flinch. Its the perfect accompaniment to Best’s belligerent incandescent tirades. His lyrics are often disturbing without you knowing exactly why, you just know that something creepy’s going on. On The Weight Best stamps all over whatever it was The Band recorded with his take on whatever it was The Band were singing about. Froelich sandwiches Best with a series of character references all of whom need the weight taking off them but when she opens up Hostility Blues with the line ‘I’m that once-a-month bleeding bitch’ the immediate response is an unprompted sotto voce ‘fucking hell’.
Soon to be followed by;
‘I’m that every day fucking seer
Of the open legs / and wet bed smear
Chomping my jaw like I’m on ecstasy’
Soon to be followed by;
‘and its my delight on a starless night to bomb the bourgeoisie’
Because there has to be some light in there. You may feel secure hiding behind Emergency Kitten feeds and isn’t nature great but deep down Consumer Electronics know that you’ll have to venture outside one day. I think that's what they’re getting at anyway.
Thursday, September 06, 2018
M Jarvis. A Jarvis - From the Altar Screen
Feathered Coyote Records. FRC54
Dirty Swords - Dirty Words
Death Slap. Death Slap 01.
Dirty Swords - Date Night Terror at Desperation Falls.
A series of remarkable coincidences and unexplained phenomena continue to leave me and Mrs Fisher completely baffled. The latest incident occurred in that most accommodating North Eastern town of Morpeth. As we approached their relatively new and shiny brick and glass shopping emporium Mrs Fisher asked me who I thought officially opened the building and after giving it five seconds of thought I said ‘Joanna Lumley’.
‘How did you know?’ she said, a look of genuine disbelief upon her face. ‘Did you see the plaque?’
I hand’t seen any plaque but what had put Joanna Lumley’s name into my head was the last programme we’d watched the night previously, the programme you come across by flicking the channels in the vain hope of catching something interesting because you’ve only got about thirty minutes of life left in you after all that sea air and a rather large whiskey. The programme concerned the comings and goings of the five star Mandarin Oriental Hotel as found in Hyde Park London. Expensive hotels are one of my passing fascinations, I see them as places where people with lots of money go so as to avoid coming in to contact with working class scum, unless they happen to bump in to the chamber maid or accidentally have to speak to someone to order a £20 club sandwich or make a complaint about the bed not being comfy enough. At the Mandarin there was a reception for Jilly Cooper, the posh writer who writes about posh people shagging each other and horses though not both together [I don’t think, I’ve never read any of her books] as the programme passed by in haze of whiskey and half sleep Mrs Fisher commented that ‘the only two posh people I can bear are Jilly Cooper and Joanna Lumley’ and with that we switched off and went to bed. So the morning after when asked who I thought opened Morpeth’s shopping arcade in 2009 I rejected Cooper as being too ridiculous [I doubt she’s been no further than North London in her entire life] and plumped for Joanna Lumley. Which was the right answer but not the one Mrs Fisher was expecting from the person stood at her side whose brain has been filled with a lifetime of celebrities, actors, sports stars and BBC weather presenters.
Sometimes things in life just don’t make sense and its best just to let them go otherwise you end up making videos telling anyone who’ll listen how the Royal Family are all reptiles and that the American Government are putting chemicals in the water in an effort to turn everybody gay. So we walked through the Sanderson Centre pausing in Paperchase to peruse the pens and thought back to the time in Slovenia where we bumped in to the American couple we’d met in Japan the year previously. Which is if you think about it is just too bizarre to make any kind of sense. What made the encounter all the more ridiculous was the fact that we had but fifteen minutes to spare before we had to get on a bus to take us to the airport and our conversation was a rushed one of disbelief and meaningless jabber.
Mikarla Jarvis has spent time in Japan too, you can tell this because she sings in Japanese. This in its self is not proof of personal visitation but I remember her brother Andy Jarvis telling me this fact many years ago and it arousing deep feelings of envy within me, feelings that would only be reconciled ten years hence. The Jarvis siblings have recorded before but not for a long time now, they’ve also been integral cogs in the short lived and long gone avant song outfit Sculptress. They seem unable to make a sound that isn’t worth your time. Gifted people. From the Altar Screen has been kicking around unloved for a number of years now, no doubt making friends with dust bunnies under the bed of someone who once upon a time promised to make it their next release. It was worth the wait for this is a mini classic. With only five tracks and a running time of 22 minutes they’ve managed to exhume the ghosts of lush string era Nick Drake, 70’s Vashti Bunyan and experimental mode Jim O’Rourke while giving the similarly staffed male/female Japanese acoustic duo Tenniscoats a run for their money. This is like coming across one of those ‘Holy Grails’ that certain European labels seem to reissue every week except its here now and you can have a copy too because its still available. A Jarvis’s electronics add shimmer to the hand percussion and acoustic pluck of ‘Kuru Ka’ where Jarvis M [or Mika de Oliveira as she’s now called] sings like an angel as she mixes in Japanese and English lyrics, when the cello kicked in I swooned. ‘Revenir’ is a cello plucked, clarinet blown, skittering drums almost instrumental affair with Mika singing ghostly wordless harmonies. ‘Lembranca’ at a mere minute and a half is a ridiculously catchy acoustic pop song, ‘The Wave’ is unadulterated Robert Fripp worship and if you think the juxtaposition kills it you’d be wrong. The fit is perfect. ‘Yomi’ brings us full circle with another of those delightful acoustic pluck/cello instrumentals which with the added eastern exoticness of the Koto gives this a leafy Cafe Penguin Orchestra feel.
One of the releases of the year for me and the perfect antidote to a lot of the noisy shit that makes its way between my ears. Anybody out there looking to press a single sided LP with groovy etching on the flip need look no further. Holy Grail status guaranteed.
Dirty Swords is in a different field all together. This being the work of Jarvis A and I’m guessing, Marky Loo Loo, or is it the Filthy Turd or whatever guise Filthy goes by these days, Dai Coelacanth? If this was the Filthy Turd there’d be garbled vocals in here, more cut ups, more sex, more horror and it may be called Vile Plumage which was the last pairing of the two. As its stands you can put these two releases in the experimental noise corner, noise with a small ‘n’ as in noisy not blow your walls down but just noisy as noisy, chatter of machines noisy, flashing lights on an analogue computer, trim phones, ticking clocks, omm-ing monks and Raymond Scott scoring a sci-fi film noisy. On the eponymous Dirty Words the longer tracks work best as in ‘A Void’ as there’s more to get your teeth in to, more to get your head in to. The eight and a half minute track that is the entirety of the three inch CDR grumbles around in similar territory, a territory scattered with broken gadgets and dirt making objects, the sounds emitted from the backs of busted radios and Jodrell Bank.
There’s an excellent cheese shop in Morpeth too.
Cheese shop in Morpeth
Tuesday, September 04, 2018
Evan Parker - De Motu
ISBN : 979-10-94601-23-5
I found a City Lights publication in Barter Books the other week. Have you been to Barter Books? No? Well darlings, you’re missing out. You simply must. Its in Alnwick in Northumberland, housed in what used to be the town’s railway station and its one of the biggest second hand book shops in Britain with open fires, a cafe and a miniature railway set that runs around the tops of the bookshelves as Jaques Brel warbles away about how he misses his old umbrella. We go every year and if you have books of interest they’ll take them off you and offset the price of anything you buy. Its all rather wonderful in a fuck off Facebook kind of way.
The book in question was written by the Italian author Italo Svevo, a close friend of James Joyce and contains a lecture given by Svevo in Milan 1927 concerning Joyce and his work. Its a small book that could easily fit in to a coat pocket and be read in little less than half an hour by even the most ponderous of readers. From there I discovered the City Lights ‘Pocket Poet’ editions and the fact that these small and delightful publications were inspired by a series of French poetry books called ‘Poètes d'aujourd'hui’. So did the inspiration for Lenka Lente’s small books arise from City Lights or ‘Poètes d'aujourd'hui’ and does it really matter? Probably not.
Evan Parker’s De Motu is a small book too as are all Lenka Lente books. This one is in French and English and contains the commission Parker submitted as part of a project called Zaal de Unie which took place in Rotterdam in 1992. In it he talks of the Instant Composers Pool, the technique required to master circular breathing and the challenges of improvisation amongst other improv related matters.
I can’t admit to being a big fan of Parker’s but I did find myself watching some of his more recent gigs via Youtube and found myself being helplessly sucked in to that thrashing vortex of his. Like Albert Ayler before him he may eventually grown on me.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Venusian Death Cell - Desolate Wastes
Venusian Death Cell - Thy Time
Venusian Death Cell - Place of a Skull
Regular readers will know that I hold the work of David Vora in high esteem. This one man Irish Metal outfit has been sending me his music for many years now and while to some it may sound like an unlistenable racket made by someone resembling the offspring of Stevie Vai and Derek Bailey I find his rawness and honesty a refreshing antidote to the Metal by numbers bands that haunt the black t-shirts of this world. You don’t need to be Stevie Vai to make a good record. Or Derek Bailey for that matter.
Vora records everything straight to tape; electric guitar, vocals [vokills] drums, a drum machine, the results being a deconstructed outsider lo-fi Metal, the sleeves decorated in Vora’s own hand, usually with lyrics attached, usually with a track about Halloween, this being [I think] the John Carpenter film about which Vora seems to be obsessed.
Little has changed over the years, in fact now that I think of it nothing has changed, the buzzy guitar is still there as are the rattling drums, his scream/shout vocals/vokills, the lo-fi straight to cassette sound, the Halloween track, the bit about religion, all instantly recognisable, most welcome and definitely Venusian Death Cell. Amongst these three releases though lies a change that I never saw coming.
For the first time Vora has chosen to sing about his schizophrenia. Its not something [unless I’ve been blind and missed it] that he’s chosen to open up about before.
On Place of a Skull you’ll find ‘Schizophrenic’:
Lack of motivation, life diminished
Constant distress, turmoil and unease
Awkward relationship to others
Madness or reality?
Extreme fear of germs
Constant body, hand and item washing
Physical and mental pain
Under duress, lack of talent
Overeating, cannot properly exercise
Seldom the disease and
Extreme distress abates
Extreme paranoia uncured
No love of life, hoarding
And ‘Emptied’ which has lyrics in a similar honest and distressing vein. This changes everything of course turning Venusian Death Cell from a curiously interesting outsider Metal outfit in to a band tackling the far deeper and darker waters of mental heath. The honesty cuts deep and its hard to read those lyrics and hear these songs without feeling empathy for Vora and what he’s going through. The Ceramic Hobs are the obvious comparison here and while they’re apart in style musically they’re both doing the job of highlighting mental health issues. They know, they’re the ones that are suffering.
This seriousness of such subject matter doesn’t mean we should dismiss the rest of what we have here as more of what has gone before. On Thy Time Vora covers Pull the Plug by Florida band Death which if anything maintains the mood while on Desolate Wastes Vora pulls off an incredible whacked out version of The Corrs ‘So Young’ while tackling the Scorpions, Black Sabbath and Poison along the way. Cover version abound across both Desolate Wastes and Thy Time but its the rawness of Place of a Skull [Golgotha, the place where Christ was crucified], the majority of which written by Vora that’s the stand out release. All bar one of the ten tracks comes in at under two minutes the first and title track being a blistering drum machine blur of arms, strings and vocal chords, Destroyer has to be heard to be believed. He’s also taken to introducing songs at length [Spoken Word - its an actual track] and in one instance stretching them out past the five minute mark with a guitar only cover of Asphyx’s Forgotten War. Halloween VII continues the Halloween obsession and was suitably recorded on Halloween 2017. It contains the lyrics ‘Halloween seven’ and it is magnificent.
You can contact David at davidvora10 [at] hotmail.com