Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Year Punk Broke.

Noseholes - Danger Dance
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger183.

Muscle Barbi
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger180.
12” [LP?]

Harbinger Sound. Harbinger181.
12” EP

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

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

Meet the Jarvis's

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.
No label.
3” CDR

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.

Feathered Coyote

Dirty Swords

Cheese shop in Morpeth

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Evan Parker - De Motu

Evan Parker - De Motu
Lenka Lente
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

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] 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Magyar meets Suomi

Stigmatic Destruction Meets L*mbik - Emotional Blackmail
Unsigned. US043

Totesformat. Totsform31.
20 copies [CDR version - 10 copies]

Download codes for cassettes are a bit of a bonus, especially when you have a cassette of uneven running time or the tape itself is one of those ultra thin C120 Boots jobs that you used to get. Those little bits of paper that label bosses cut off of printed sheets of A4 and stuff in to their etched smoked cassette shells. I call it musical confetti.

Hungarian label Unsigned did me a favour by including a download code of a release different to the cassette they’d sent me. So instead of downloading Stigmatic Destruction Meets L*mbik [or L*mbik  Meets Stigmatic Destruction depending on which bit of the sleeve you read] I was met with Messed up Loves by Rovar17. Which I should have guessed because thats what it said on the bit of paper.

Messed up Loves by Rovar17 is an hours worth of processed samples, heavy on the Japanese porn [I think] all wrapped up in a gale on a steamship. Tasty but not as more-ish as a Fruit Pastille. Stigmatic Destruction Meets L*mbik [or L*mbik  Meets Stigmatic Destruction depending on which bit of the sleeve you read] is a mass of lo-fi beats, noise and general destruction. Maybe the lo-fi bit is the tape’s fault. I have no way of knowing. Lets pretend it is lo-fi because I like the way this works as lo-fi with its mass of samples leading to a post apocalyptic landscape type feel of desolation and broken machinery. First track side two is Pacemaker Firmware and a nod towards Chris Carter’s thumping TG beats with vocal samples as taken from Hollywood films or some such. The rest isn’t too shabby either if its Industrial Murk you’re after.

The ever enigmatic Finnish label Totesformat delivers another winner in the shape of Sleepmassk and not just because the cassette and the cassette box itself are etched. Yes, etched. Have you tried etching a download? It may seem mere novelty but it does do its bit in going towards making this another exceptional Totseformat release.

Totseformat or GRM to give him is proper name, lives in a forest in Finland. I know this because I’ve seen pictures. GRM isn’t his real name of course. I have no idea what his real name is and there’s about three projects running under the one label which could all be the work of the same person. GRMMSK, Coldsore and now Sleepmassk which is credited as the work of Kek-W and GRM.

What we have is an hour long dub noise Industrial drone groan journey in five parts as begat by the experimental wing of Godflesh meets David Lynch. Imagine a later Godflesh album stripped of everything except the feeling of being incarcerated in a damp cellar in Prague in the middle of winter and you’re there.

What starts out as deeply foreboding slab of depth charge wasteland wash ends with a sawing like drone, all cast so as to bring forth a very dark and disturbed sleep. That's them there on the cover putting on your sleep mask. One to listen to on a cold night with the covers pulled up tight after watching something particularly disturbing on TV. A nightmare, or a ‘WAKEmare’ to misquote one of the tracks. This being the second which begins with stuttering machinery before folding in on itself to the sound of muffled heartbeats and the steady, wailing groan of lost souls.

I’ve also seen pictures of GRM’s equipment which he keeps in his shed in the forest in Finland. Analogue synths and homemade gear by the looks of it. I know nothing. Lots of wires and flashing lights and knobs. An electrical fire looking for a home. What Kek-W contributes I’m not sure but the pair work seamlessly. Last track ‘sleepMASS’ is a throbbing 16 minute drone of all fingers holding down the keys proportion, a broken Harmonium gasping its last, the pitch wavering as its journey finally comes to an end.

A crying shame that so few copies exist.




Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Shug Hanlan and Kerfuffle Press

Kerfuffle Press

Kerfuffle Press

How I came across Shug Hanlan is lost in the mists of recently passed time. It might have been a video on Youtube. I go down the Youtube wormhole quite easily seeing as how I’m easily distracted.  Like just then. I went on Youtube to find Shug but had no success. He has a Facebook page but I’m Facebook intolerant so I can’t link you said video but if you’re not Facebook intolerant like me you can find him quite easily.

In said video Shug is sat in one of a pair of Poangs reading from one of his books. He cued his reading by playing a snippet of music using a remote control to start and stop it, something he did a little clumsily which endeared me to him and this was before I’d read a word.

Shug is a grey bearded Scot who lives somewhere in Scotland that is possibly on the coast and could be Grangemouth. A town thinly disguised in his books as Chungymouth. A town that is socially sealed, ‘as tight as a planktons pish flaps’ where people who don’t make their living from the sea are treated with suspicion.

Xploration is the name of oil rig worker Andy Hayman’s prog band. Who finds helicopters of a certain size conducive to composing music and writes a tone poem called ‘The Knight of the Faerie Parachutes’ while aloft in a Sikorsky S-61, Faerie Parachutes being ‘a thrilling knotty instrumental piece describing an abortive Green Beret rescue mission’.

Andy sets up the Prog Rock Detective Agency after deciding to track down ace missing organist Mike Silverside [‘a man designed by a firm called Von Daniken, Himmler & Crowley’ and leader of the self styled Silverside] who went missing one night after a 1969 gig at the Anstruther Arts Centre.

‘As the 1970’s began, interest in Mike Silverside’s whereabouts didn’t dwindle, it grew. If he’d gone walkabout somewhere otherworldly like the Mojave desert or the Australian outback that would have been end of story as far as most people were concerned but since this was the East Neuk of Fife all sorts of stories sprung up about possible sightings. At the 19th Hole night club, located just off the Old Course at St Andrews word got out about an unusually gifted boogie-woogie pianist who once accompanied Lee Trevino in a rowdy version of ‘Wooly Booly’ an organist in a nearby Kirk, whose off-the-wall improvisations on Listz’s contrapuntal complexities caused some dissenting members of the congregation to call for the banning of neo-baroque, and at shows in Crail the guy manning the fairground organ began frightening children by wedging sharpened pieces of cutlery into the music rolls’.

In Ship-rex a pirate radio station called Reefer Radio is going through something of an upheaval. Kinky Ken and Seasalter Syd are at loggerheads at which direction to take the station in. Late night DJ Seasalter Syd wants to introduce a more eclectic set list and play music by bands like Inflammable Couscous. Kensington Ken wants to stick with the housewives favourites. Things quickly go plop in the night when up pops Jan Van Dram with his Focus Fuels company and from there on in the plot thickens.

And on it goes. In short paragraphs like these.

Some of them oddly spaced.

With a deadpan wit thats deader than a deep fried skate wing [‘the bat of the sea’]. As written by someone who is so obviously a fan of prog and has worked on the rigs and decided that writing stories about the goings on of small town coastal Scottish towns is a more constructive way of passing the time than getting blind drunk, fighting or gambling away your wages.

These are slim volumes readable in a single sitting. I read them when they arrived but cant remembers what happened at the end.

I’ll have to read them again. I think the two books are linked somehow but I’m not sure. As I said I’m easily distracted.

I like Shug and his writing. Its funny in a knowing way and his descriptions of working on the rigs make me glad I’ve never had to step foot on one. I like the way he said someone was a victim of a ride by scalping and the use of Scottish vernacular. I like James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, two other very fine Scottish writers and now I like Shug Hanlan who might not be in the same bracket as Kelman and Welsh but is still worthy of your time.

As an added bonus there’s even a few short, short stories in the back of each book and some humorous cartoons about cunts.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Chocolate Monk

Moth - Scintilla
Chocolate Monk. Choc.408
CDR. 75 copies.

Jonnie Prey - Life on Bob-Lo Island
Chocolate Monk. Choc.407
CDR. 75 copies.

The Negative Kite - Gone all to the Down
Chocolate Monk. Choc.405
CDR. 75 copies.

Sick Llama - Snake Code
Chocolate Monk. Choc.404
CDR. 75 copies.

Amanda R. Howland - Mona Cost Returns to Canton
Chocolate Monk. Choc.402
CDR. 60 copies.

Psychonic Imaging - Time Vaccine
Chocolate Monk. Choc.400
CDR. 60 copies.

The Chocolate Monk 25th Anniversary Fest Love-in at Cafe Oto last week was described on the Oto website as being ‘two evenings of sound and chunder crunk’. I wish I could have been there. Not only because I’m quite partial to a bit of chunder crunk [I’ll let you in on a secret, its my favourite musical genre] but because I’m also a big fan of sound, my second favourite musical genre. I really like sound. It makes me go all funny in the same way six pints of Guinness or a mini earthquake does.

I’m being a little disingenuous here. Trying to capture the world that is Chocolate Monk in a punchy sentence to sell gig tickets is like describing James Joyce in words of one syllable. There’s not much point.

I listened to all six of these Chocolate Monkers in a one-er. It can be done and you can gain great pleasure from doing so. I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint of heart or those with the attention span of a hyperactive ten year old but for someone of advancing years who likes both sound and chunder crunk it can certainly improve your day. As an aid to finishing off the Guardian Saturday crosser it proved invaluable. Total immersion in Chocolate Monk World also gives you the opportunity to experience what it feels like to live in a velvet curtained dusty room where things of an indeterminate gravity and shape move slowly of their own volition bumping in to moldy furniture while falling through the rotten floorboards taking the damp Axminster with them. Its that kind of world. Hard to describe.

These are not so much musical releases portals into another sound world where musical parameters are of no use to you, where sounds, those lovely sounds that we all love and cherish, take forms that shift and morph and shape and leave you feeling bewildered. The untutored listener with no signpost as where to go next gives up and goes back to scratching his plaid clad armpits while pondering which beard oil to buy next. Except you go to the next ChocoMonk release of course. There’s hundreds to choose from and they’re not exactly expensive and if you’re lucky they’ll have some Karen Constance artwork on them too. This latest batch have seen a boost in the print quality, with paper sleeves replaced by fold out printed card. More colour, more weirdness, more sound, more chunder crunk.

If I was to tell you that I found little to upset the stomach during this nigh on five hours worth of aural delight I wouldn’t be lying. I enjoyed them all and thats no lie your Honour. If I had to pick a favourite it would be Negative Kite because it sounds like nothing else I’ve heard in a while which is what Chocolate Monk are good at. A single forty odd minute track of uncategorizeable sounds as recorded by a deep sea diver with lead boots and a shortwave radio in his helmet. Underwater omm-ing of the highest order. A thousand empty crisp packets crumpled through a thousand filters. A steam engine starting up as heard through a pinhole in a cardboard wall an inch thick. A collection of crumbling sounds the origins of which lay buried in black silt a foot thick. Drones of a sort but dirty greasy ones, ones that settle on your skin like a filthy polluting layer.   

Sick Llamas are in similar territory with four disjointed, blaring elbow sharp drones of glitching, jarring, jitter noise. Jonnie Prey too in parts with thirty minutes worth of roller coaster field recordings, barking dogs and drinking straw noise, somewhere therein lies buried the theme music to Appointment With Fear, the end result being the preferred take on the Jeff Bridges going to sleep album. Is Jonnie Prey his real name? Do we care? Is Amanda R. Howland a real name? It sounds more plausible. Described on the ChocoMonkeycruncher website as ‘euphoric earshred’ and as by me as ‘all fingers, wrist and forearm on the keyboard noise’ or the theme from Zelda melted on to an early Whitehouse record. There’s some LAFMS contribution to Pyschonic Imaging in the shape of Tim Alexander who’s here to collaborate with Cody Brant in a series of short tracks [22 in all] that encompass 8-bit video game clunk as seen through the coloured plastic bits as found in the bottom of a kaleidoscope. Reverse tape, background chatter and metal scrape improv are the soup de jour with track 21 ‘Five Dimension Fly’ [they all have titles] sounding like someone trying to escape from their recently interred coffin. Alexander is also Moth which is all space bloops and synth swirls, Moomin music and crackle box boogie, a glockenspiel on speed, an off its tits zither, drifting synth sounds for mother and rabies.

It must be something in the south coast air that does it for them. All them vegan burger pop-up caravans and mountains of salad. I can think of no other explanation. It matters not. Crunk me baby.

Chocolate Monk

Thursday, August 09, 2018

845 Audio

Frans de Waard, Takuji Naka, Tim Olive - False Mercury
845 Audio. CD. 845-8

Jin Sangtae/Tim Olive - naar/voor
845 Audio. CD. 845-7

Jin Sangtae makes noises with old hard drives. I’ve watched videos of him performing at his annual dotolim festival in Seoul and as you’d expect its rather noisy in the way that digital noise can be, none of that low rumble, bowel loosening, pleasurable noise of roar yore. And this is through youtube where its not exactly gig space volume levels or hi-fi Ortofon stylus playback mode. I got to watching more of his videos, not becoming obsessed or anything, but intrigued and got to thinking again as to the pleasure to be had in listening to noisy music in all its innumerable ways. Be still my beating noisy heart.

In a video posted in 2012 Sangtae sits at a table with Choo Joonyong who plays an innards exposed VCR and Otomo Yoshihide who scrapes various bits of plastic along a slowly revolving turntable. Sangtae, who may have not yet reached his recycled computer hard drive phase, is seen blowing into a parping car horn [from which the rubber bulb has been removed] a car horn topped with biscuit tins and sheets of thin steel assembled in various unstable formations that teeter ever more out of control before the whole lot crashes across the floor making for one almighty clang. Yoshihide rubs and scrapes, Joonyong adds his indecipherable electronic jitter. And while it all looks deadly serious, its not without its humour.

False Mercury finds de Waard, Naka and Olive in a basement in Nijmegen making sounds with modified cassette players, contact mics, magnetic pickups, lo-fi electronics, hand made string instruments ... hours worth of recordings. This release being the distilled result of those hours mixed and polished for our edification and described in the press release as ‘a single 31 minute dose of subterranean cough syrup-vibe goodness’.

Being partial to a bit of capstan rub and syrup-vibe goodness all went well for the thirty one minutes. After a quite opening the threat of noise lingered in the background like an approaching storm only to subside and be replaced by the gentle whirr of those modified cassette player motors and electronic hum. From the video evidence I’ve seen its Olive with the hum courtesy of a hand made Heath Robinson like guitar neck which he threatens but does not touch with vibrating tuning forks and magnets. There’s the chirrup of toys winding down and steam trains building up a head of steam though thats not the source of course.

On naar/voor Sangtae’s hard drive explodes like distant stars, their countless shattering fragments dissolving like crackling R Whites fizz. It’s not all out war by any means though, Olive compliments with his magnetic pickup/Heath Robinson string neck filling out the sound and making this a win/win collaboration. Track one begins in such a way then descends in to near silence, the only sounds audible being monitor buzz and the muffled chatter of information channels before the flickering emergence of shortwave radio stations. The second track rattles like a broken washing machine giving you the opportunity to hear Sangtee’s broken hard drives close up and while it never reaches the extremes of his solo work [what I’ve seen and heard at any rate] the sounds are intense in their own way with enough space and clarity for eager listeners to pick out every tiny detail. Which is pretty much how the last track goes too, a fluttering glitch ridden ride where digital meets analogue, the crunching of ones and zeros, whoops and spirals, high hertz sparkle that disappears into emptiness.

Some of these these people have been making noises for a while now, some of them very long time. They know what they’re doing.  All this on Tim Olive’s 845 Audio label as run out of Kobe where he mingles with like minded souls and issues his releases in recycled cardboard sleeves with Japanese rubber stamps on them all doing their bit in lifting these releases from the mundane whilst highlighting green issues.  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Max Nordile

Vol. 1

Nothing Band - Veteran Factory

Reefers Records

Its impossible for me to review anything out of America without commenting on the eye watering amount of postage dollars it costs for anything to escape those Trumpian shores. It happened with the last clump of Nordile cassettes and its happening again now because, because, because, because having $14 dollars taken from your wallet for the pleasure of having two tapes cross the pond feels like someone had to suffer the humiliation of having their pants pulled down at post office counter. Its an outrage of some sorts and if I were using the US Mail on a regular basis I’d be seething blood at the iniquity of it all.

It was with a sense of camaraderie that I looked at that $14 dollar postage sticker and decided to do what I rarely do and review straight off. Its the least I can do for someone who has taken the time and effort to fill out a USPS ‘Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note’ after trailing down to his local post office to have their pants pulled down. Max Nordile does this to me now and again. A couple of cassettes right out of the blue. Never any letter or message, just the meat and perhaps a couple of cassettes. No download code because it doesn’t exist, no limited number edition, no slip of paper with a bandcamp yum code, no email littered with url’s, no info packed pdf, not even a whiff of menstrual blood. And I know what a lot of you are saying right now, ‘but the internet is the easiest way to get your work out there and reach people’. OK, good point and who can afford to blow $14 dollars every time they want to send a couple of cassettes to someone in another country? It’ll soon add up. But still ...

Nordile doesn’t believe much in contact info either. Which can be infuriating at times but also leaves just a hint of the mysterious and the unattainable. In this age of instant everything I quite like the fact that all I have here are two tapes and the music therein. If I want to go any further I have to start digging. Which I do and uncover Reefers Records in Seattle which has some info on their new Nordile/Nothing Band release ‘Composure’ but no mention of Veteran Factory. Hey ho. The mystery deepens.

Vol.1 has little in the way of sleeve art either unless you count a handwritten ‘Vol. 1’ in the corner of a slip of pink paper as stuffed into the cassette box. Inside it says Marissa Magic and Max Nordile Oakland CA 2018, something so basic it gives me great hope, the ‘we’re so busy creating music that we haven’t got time to do a cover’ ethic. No label either, or run details. Just the cassette. Just the music. Lets listen like its 1979.

Inside are two live improv jams. The A side ‘Active Music Series’ is the wilder of the two; Coltrane parps meets electric guitar wronk with guitar strings tugged from the neck and let go twang, the sax blowing and blaring the same two notes until spent. Added tin sheet bashing and shaken bells make for a raucous night out. Side B is ‘Tunnel Jam’. Taking a Pharaoh Sanders subterranean tunnel like workout where the natural echo and reverb does funny things to your head. In a short track Nordile and Magic blow a sax apiece to fluttering and wavering highs. Fingers constantly on the move, notes emerging like flocks of starlings.

As the Nothing Band Nordile fills out his sound world with drum improv, found sounds such as traffic and street chatter, machine loops, amp hum, more sax skronk, more guitar wonk, live outings that sound like TNB outtakes, scrapes and horrible noises shoddily recorded and sounding all the better for it. There’s unidentifiable Harry Bertoia rattlings and even a  Goon Show sample of Harry Seacombe over a moribund piano motif. Try putting a sticker on that one.

Two random blasts from over the pond that as much as anything else act as a healthy reality check. Which is good for me and good for you. In terms of aesthetics and attitude only the work of the Filthy Turd [or whatever guise he’s working under at the moment] springs to mind, which is a shame. The world needs more Max Nordiles. It needs more unidentifiable madness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Experimental Yorkshire

Experimental Yorkshire.

21st July 2018. Hebden Bridge Trades Club.

Gloomy Planets
Noel Meek and the Slowest Lift
Mel Delaney and Anna Peaker   
Cherry Styles
Bridget Hayden
Richard Youngs and John Clyde-Evans
Ashtray Navigations







Following Guttersnipe was never going to be easy but YOL just about pulled it off. With a rusty Victorian garden rake, a cymbal and a piece of thin tin YOL created another one of his short visceral bursts of modern day observational exegesis that saw him strain and lose balance, scream, wail, spit and fall over, a performance that rendered him spent and wasted. The glitter ball that accompanied him appeared surreal as if this most personal of performances had taken place in cheesy seventies disco after two hours of disco and ABBA.

The Trades Club is no cheesy disco but I cant remember them ever having staged a full day of experimental which may have gone some way to explain the grumpy faces behind the bar and the bemused sound guys, one of whom I saw pick up YOL’s contact mic’d rake and study it with total miscomprehension. We’re here because the yearly Tor Fest, ten miles up the road in Todmorden, cant take place in its usual venue due to concerns about the noise and the crowds from the locals. Which is a pity as I prefer Tod to Hebden, those ten miles of tarmac acting as I kind of strainer where the knit your own yoghurt merchants and the croc wearing hippy families give way to a more down to earth folk, the constantly shifting border it sits on making the people there a lot more open. Plus there’s a Spoons.
Eleven acts meant it was always going to be a long day but those in charge have selected wisely and thus we have an afternoon of Dad Nod with a back screen of psychedelic bacteria, the evening being given over to the projector-less.

Gloomy Planets are a late edition and given the unenviable 1.30pm start slot. Taking up a comfortable pew on well worn seating I take in the afternoon with nary a budge while indulging at least two of my senses. Gloomy Planets are a trio from Leeds and make droney experimnetia, one of them has odd socks on, very short long trousers and flails around with a small child recorder making high pitched noises that appear unamplified. The bass player runs a hand up and down its neck, the one in the middle makes some noises. They are all sat. They appear happy with their work. Noel Meek and the Slowest Lift are here after playing Birmingham the night previously which is a quick turn around in anybodies book. Meek is upset with his violin and throws it down, Cooper and Bradley pick up guitars at various stages, Cooper sings haunting unknown words. It gels eventually and when it does there’s that essence of something working that is both hard to define and grasp. Which also describes what Mel Delaney and Anna Peaker create which despite some technical issues is also other worldly, Delaney on gadgets maybe, Peaker on a keyboard. Cherry Styles creates grinding loops of industrial dirt on a laptop which she then layers with squeals of atonal grit as writ from a flat guitar played with cutlery which after a good few hours sat on my arse I find particularly nod worthy. The backdrop is of a woman washing her long hair in a pond full of tadpoles.

Having a noise artist on at five in the afternoon is fine by me but its obvious that the sound people at the Trades have different ideas so after a five minute Foldhead soundcheck [everybody is having to soundcheck as they go along - so it goes] which some people seem to think is the set, our man from Mirfield lets go with a classic noise box screamer that whoops and chugs in the lower register before flying off in to stelar directions and dying like a busted firework. The volume audibly dips about two seconds in which is a shame as the sound system is easily good enough to cope and the volume would have lifted it no end, as it was conversation could be heard and had and this is coming from someone sat next to one of the PA stacks opposite the people in the Hawaiian shirts getting steadily pissed on Scruttocks who would still be there come going home time and who seemed to be having such a lovely time thinking me and Philthy Phil were a power electronics outfit.

Seeing as my arse was numb and hunger had come in to my thoughts I decided that fresh air was required so it was that I found myself in a micro brewery and then for a fish butty and to mingle with the locals most of whom resemble the bastard offspring of Sideshow Bob. When I return I catch the back end of Hawthonn who have filled the place with dry ice for their ghostly esoteric rituals. A duo that I get more out of each time I see them. Not that I’m much of a fan of ghostly esoteric rituals with field recordings and fox skull rattles but there’s something about Hawthonn that gets to me. Bridget Hayden meanwhile sits stage front apologising for forgetting something or other delivering breathy 21st century folk songs accompanied by an overdriven electric guitar which she picks at and down-strums. Richard Youngs & John Clyde Evans appear as if from nowhere Youngs asking for the disco lights to be replaced with bright white lights which are all the better to scare the audience with. There then follows a long introduction concerning cul-de-sacs or somesuch before Youngs starts blowing honking deliveries on a long flute he’s brought for the occasion. Evans stand by his side matching Youngs seemingly random peeps and threeps with grating lap top glitch. As ever when Youngs on stage you never know what you’re going to get but things being as they are we’re spared the two hour number recitations as recently seen at Cafe Oto.

Guttersnipe is where its at though. Easily the most talked about band of the day, this year and last. Having seen them several times now this expanded set, taking in what seemed like more freeform experimentation has lifted their them from a bloodcurdling short and sharp ten to fifteen minutes to something approaching the more ecstatic half hour mark. The pair make for unlikely warriors, both as thin as breadsticks with Gretchen on guitar a formidable presence, half shaved head, multicolored strands of hair, head back and writhing like she’s been machine gunned, he drummer [sorry I don’t know your name] a tenticled flurry of electrified limbs. Both share vocals and triggered noises, the drum kit mic’d so that it sounds like its disintegrating, the guitar played fast and from top to bottom in milliseconds and sounding like hell melting. ‘What do you even begin to call that’ someone asked? The answer to which is ‘whatever you like’. There are no genre tubs to dump Guttersnipe in. They’re like the best noise band ever except they’re not a noise band and the Metal kids’ll struggle because there’s nothing to hook on. The nearest approximation would be Lightning Bolt who by comparison sound like Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Which leaves Ashtray Navigations who have been brought out of what seems to be semi retirement such is the length of time its been since we saw them. Delaney taking the stage for the second time today along with the Toddmeister without whom etc … Four or five shortish tracks of pumping monolithic synth beats with added neck ringing.

I’m tired now though. Its been a long day. I hope there’s another one next year.

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Harrowing of the North

The Harrowing of the North / New Music From Yorkshire
End of the Alphabet Records. EAR 33

150 copies.

‘I was demoralised when I left Bradford for Florida.’

The above quote comes from the composer Frederick Delius who was born in Bradford and forced by his father to try his hand at growing oranges in Florida when all Frederick wanted was to make music back home. I used the quote on a tape I released a number of years ago now. Called ‘The Feeding of the 2,079,211’ [the population of West Yorkshire at the time] it pulled together the likes of Smell & Quim, Filthy Turd, Ashtray Navigations, Astral Social Club, Ocelocelot and Mutant Ape [remember him?] all of whom resided within the counties boundaries at the time.

The Harrowing of the North goes one step further than ‘Feeding …’ and extends its remit to include the whole of Yorkshire. And why not as Barry Norman used to say. Being the largest county in England [did anybody ever tell you that?] its bound to be chock full of all manner of interesting noises, sounds and musics and we’re not talking indie bollocks Pigeon Weddoes bollocks footy anthem bollocks or hair metal from Sheffield.

From ‘Feeding …’ only Ashtray Navigations find themselves making the leap to ‘Harrowing …’. Having lived in Leeds for so long now we can give both Phil and Mel honorary citizenship. They deserve it. They open it. As they should and they still sound as important and vital as ever. Its to the new names and new arrivals that I point my finger at first though. Thank you for coming and being here [and to those of natural birth for staying]; Sophie Cooper, Stuart Chalmers, Core of the Coalman, Eleanor Cully, the ethereal and esoteric Hawthonn, the visceral YOL and here for the first time the much vaunted Guttersnipe, Leeds’ most talked about but label shy band who give us a tantalizing eight seconds worth of a drumstick rattle, a scream and a ‘what for’, which is a near as you’re going to get to a ‘fuck you’ on musical terms. A couple of names are totally new to me; Eleanor Cully and Soon the Light, the former a Huddersfield based composer with one minute and twelve seconds of deep rumbling that could have been recorded from the insides of a pillow that was inside a piano when the lower register keys were being gently hit, the latter this counties answer to Amon Düül meets Yes’s trippier moments with some like deeply stoned ethereal female vocals and gently strummed acoustic guitars.      

Neil Campbell whose duty it has been to collate and supply the sleeve notes [and who along with Ashtray Navigations this compilation would seem incomplete] appears with Vibracathedral Orchestra who have the longest track here, a fifteen minute drone rattler as captured live at Total Inertia. Paul Walsh, who like Campbell was once in Smell & Quim arrives under his noisy Foldhead moniker with a particularly irritating [in a good way] blast of grating computer chatter, John Clyde-Evans, last seen wandering the hills above Hebden Bridge is joined by some friends with a cut from a concert at Greenhead college thats a sinewave getting shorter and sharper.  One half of Hawthonn is Phil Legard who with last track delivers a sublime, fog across the lake drone of the gentlest measure.

We could talk about who was left out of this comp which if I were to bore you with a list could run to quite some length. A list that continues to grow. This week I discovered a band from Sheffield called Black Slipper who work within the Industrial synth pop framework as built by the likes of fellow steelers Cabaret Voltaire, Vice Versa and The Human League. Its a big county with a diverse musical background, one that continues to impress me and give me far more musical pleasure than Florida ever did. Delius was right.

Harrowing of the North is an hour long comp released to coincide with this years Tor Fest; Experimental Yorkshire, an all day event taking place at The Trades in Hebden Bridge on July the 21st. See you there.

Trades Club + Tickets Info

End of the Alphabet

More details from The Quietus

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Simon Morris - Civil War

Simon Morris - Civil War
Amphetamine Sulphate. 68pp

ISBN 978-1-7324039-0-1

My few brief years of Facebook purgatory were enlivened by the ever entertaining posts of Simon Morris. Irregular and often followed by an occasional ‘thats me done with Facebook … forever’ flourish he never the less re-appeared some weeks down the line with yet another short and precise, nail on the head take on the entire oeuvre of his favourite bands, writers and film makers.

Some of these ended up in 2016’s Tegenaria Press’s ‘Consumer Guide’ along with a numbing account of all the people who’d died while being in the Ceramic Hobs, Morris’s [still, just] ongoing chaotic psychedelic Blackpool punk rawk outfit. Consumer Guide also contained Morris’s sparse and often lugubrious views on fast food and alcohol, offering up sage advice on the joys of Weatherspoons, Greggs and green Chartreuse. Last years offering Creepshots [also via Amphetamine Sulphate] came in the form of an epistle detailing Morris’s state of mind while traveling through several British cities, his relationships, crap pubs and Lana Del Ray.

Civil War takes ideas from both these where the reviews and opinions found in Consumer Guide meet the sexual angst of Creepshots. I read it in a single sitting one Saturday evening while listening to various Chocolate Monk releases. Soon after I’d turned the last page I found a link to a harrowing piece of journalism by the Guardians Hannah Jane Parkinson, a disturbing view of her own mental health that left me feeling upset, impotent and glad that I am [to my own thinking anyway] on an even mental keel. Later in the evening I turned on the radio to discover Sarah Kane’s play ‘4.48 Psychosis’ getting the late night R3 treatment. Kane hung herself after suffering from years of depression and never saw this, her last and most controversial work performed. As Saturday nights go it was a memorable one but perhaps maybe not for all the right reasons.

Subtitled ‘The Ultimate Guide to Guns N’ Roses’ Morris dissects each album and each album track in his own withering style relishing in the bands self immolation, excesses, sordid lyrics and all round greatness. Each album and each track is also presaged by Morris’s recent liaisons, antidepressant use, suicidal thoughts and often violent and degrading sexual fantasies. Whether these meetings and fantasies are genuine and carried out or the result of the muse is never explained. Its the juxtaposition between this and the ‘how great is Sweet Child o’ Mine’ that makes the book genuinely shocking.

On ‘Yesterdays’ Morris writes;

‘After a brief and silly one where I sit on you and punch you while talking to allegedly important men and flirting with other women, I invite you as a terrified child to a Halloween treat in which I make you eat an apple and razor blade while dunking your head in water until you are dead. We both laugh a lot at this’

Outsider writers in for this catchy and unremarkable pop-metal song …’

Its the same juddering effect you find in American Psycho and the ‘where did they come from’ chapters on Genesis, Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis that lay cheek by jowl with the detailed descriptions of high class prostitute mutilation.

Some passages feel like diary entries or unsent letters with Morris complaining about his belly;

What the fuck am I gonna do, eating a piece of fruit isn’t going to stop me feeling suicidal’

While on the opposite page lie detailed methods of suicide;

'Fresh razor blade vertically down the prominent artery …'

And barely concealed anger;

'If it wasn’t for your nudge-wink cry for attention piece of contemporary composition last week I would have kept my patience and wouldn’t be on this diatribe while a nation coincidentally waits for a murdering parasite to marry some daft septic bint’.

Morris’s writing is imbued with a lifetimes weariness towards death, drugs and joyless sex. What humour there is is darker than a miners pocket but you keep on reading, aghast, confused, shocked and wondering if the relationship at the centre of this book is between Morris and A. N. Other or his own mind.
And despite all this madness, on he marches. Three books now, each one an improvement on the previous and showing the writing skills needed to capture a psyche and mindset that many of us will never know, understand or wish to. Civil War gives us a brief glimpse in to that psyche and however unsettling it might be you have to keep going, you have to keep believing and hoping that some sense will come of this.

What Guns N’ Roses fans will make of it tho is anyone's guess.

Hanna Jane Parkinson

Amphetamine Sulphate


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Timglaset #8

Timglaset #8 - Lists

Found shopping lists are revealing pieces of social flotsam. If found outside a UK supermarket they may also reveal that even after decades of saturation cookery television across all channels the home nations are still filling their baskets with bottled sauces, frozen pizzas and lard.

Its all Joe Possett’s fault. He’s been posting pictures of found shopping lists on his Twitter feed which has led me to start picking up bits of scrap paper out of supermarket trolleys and off of car park floors. They’re quite revealing. In a psychologists hands a found shopping list would no doubt reveal all manner of human traits. Even the paper they’re written on can lead to exploration and explanation; backs of envelopes for the thrifty, scraps of lined paper ripped from spiral bound notebooks for the studious, post-it notes from the office worker, pre-printed shopping lists with pictures of Peter Rabbit on them for miserable joy suckers. And then there's the spelling or as is sometimes more likely the case, misspelling and then acronyms [WUL], abbreviations [POTS] and shopping lists with added doodles. Shopping lists in blue biro, blunt pencil, felt marker, the shaky handwriting of the elderly, scribble from those in a hurry and of course the items on the list itself which will more than likely tell you which social bracket the list fell in to.

What you put on your shopping list wont be found by Google but if it falls in to the hands of Joe Posset [and me and a few others] the chances are it’ll get passed around, admired, prodded, poked and generally delighted in.

Themed Swedish zine Timglaset went with ‘errors’ last time around but has taken lists as its theme for issue eight. Five long slender sections all wrapped in a Japanese like obi sash some with colour pictures, some with poems, a game you can play using a 20 sided on-line dice and lots of general good stuff in-between.

The editorial is a list. A 21 point list of things that happen when you put a zine together. David Kjellin’s list is all bullet pointed black dashes and lines and baffles me but Johannes S H Berg’s poem 'Apophatic List: finding your place w/o using GPS' contains the wonderful line ‘your 12 year old t-shirt leaves you bit by bit but the holes stay with you’. Bengt Adlers list is called ‘The List of Truths:’ and is of course two empty pages.

And so it goes. Much is baffling though especially Filip Lindberg’s ‘tider tal’ which takes up the whole of section 2 and is nothing but data and the odd bit of Swedish that even Google translate couldn’t help me with but no mistaking alcohol and a series of pictures of lots of lovely bottles of the hard stuff given to us by Malcolm Green in a piece titled ‘Curated Drinking 00 to ∞’. Michael Björn's list is a list of lists; people, places etc … Mirfield’s very own Paul Tone has a collage/diagram that is what? I have no idea. ‘Ear Training Oh Happy Day’ it says.

In section 4 Pete Spence gives a list of of 26 artists and composers all in alphabetical order [Appel to Zog] all given the first name Max with Max Ernst given a red ‘E’ for his surname. The game is in section 5 and is by someone called Ozelot and is called ‘Artistic Action Random Suggestion Table’ where upon you roll the 20 sided on-line dice and pick an action from the first column, then roll the dice and pick another action etc .. Until you have something like ‘You will ‘cut up’ ‘a post-punk’ ‘dance’ then ‘xerox’ it. Hours of fun.

Attention to detail is the thing though. On the back page of section five we find:


‘The List is Too Long’ as Eugene Chadbourne once sang. Or not as the case may be.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Jacques Demierre

Jacques Demierre - ABÉCÉDAIRE/AB C BOOK
Lenka Lente. Book + CD

ISBN : 979-10-946-22-8

Jacques Demierre describes himself as an improvisor and a composer, a person interested in the relationship between language and music. Swiss born and judging by the long list of releases, installations and publications to his name a busy man. One of life's constant workers, always touring, always recording, writing, making noises and notes.

The cover shows Demierre sat at a piano, eyes front, palms on top of thighs, a picture of perfect contemplation. Which is something he does do a lot of. This book could have been titled ‘Demierre’s Philosophy on Improvisation, Methodology and lots of other things In-Between’. His philosophy on philosophy. Roland Barthes, Zhaung ZI, Derrida are all mentioned as is the Swiss born Sinologist Jean François Billeter. Demierre obviously does a lot of thinking and contemplation. A lot of deep thinking and a lot of deep listening.

Each letter of the alphabet gives Demierre the opportunity to pass thought on things that matter to him most so ‘A’ gives us ‘A Piano Tuner’, ‘Amorous’, ‘Amity’ each piece a page or so of musings and philosophising, on everything from linguistics to Luciano Berio cooking pasta [Pasta] to his work with the LDP Trio and the DDK Trio to his method of working to his thoughts on listening;

‘The ultimate state of listening, if it exists at all, is in no doubt void of emotion, or rather it entails neither the presence nor the absence of emotion. It is a kind of evenness of mood that refers us back to ourselves immersed fully in the experience’.
Expand and discuss.

Demierre also give us his views on Capitalism [this after seeing someone begging outside an Armani store], his feelings of being denied access to a concert hall’s Steinway at a prestigious event [and being told that such a grand instrument would be unsuitable for such avant garde machinations] what its like to play improv under time constrictions [it takes away the need for an ending] and so forth. Its all very readable [and dual language, the first half of the book is in French] and gave me a better understanding of Demierre who becomes yet another improviser/artists/composer that was unknown to me before Lenka Lente's introduction.

The CD contains a thirty minute vocal work called ‘Ritournelle’ a work that Demierre expands upon under ‘Y’ and ‘You’ [You, yeux, eye, I. Geddit?] and within which he attempts to capture the cyclical nature of Franz Schubert’s ‘Winter Journey’ and the last ‘lied’ of that cycle ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’. Winter Journey being Schubert’s take on Wilhelm Müller’s poem cycle comprising of twenty four vocal/piano compositions.

After having listened to Schubert’s ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’ and then to Demierre’s version I wondered how Demierre could take such a minimalist, bleak, austere and haunting composition and transform it into something totally unrecognisable. Its an exhausting listen, as exhausting as it must have been to record it with each series of words emerging staccato like in a constant morphing stream, Demierre trying to gulp down air as each word transforms form one to the other before being replaced by yet another. Exhausting yes, but exhilarating with it.


Thursday, June 07, 2018


Skullflower - Werecat Powers of the Crossroads at Midnight
Nashazaphone. NP25. LP

Someone pointed out that in the last roundup of Nashazaphone releases I forgot to include even a mention of the Skullflower LP ‘Werecat Powers ...’. This may have been subliminal. I did play it. It buzzed around my head but me and Skullflower sort of kind of don’t get on. Me preferring Bowers more contemplative work with Marcia Bassett under The Hototogisu moniker and specifically that splendidly titled De Stijl triple LP 'Floating Japanese Oof!' A 3 LP set that still manages to float my oof.

Back in the 90’s I saw Skullflower at the 1 in 12 in Bradford. Bower played his guitar with his back to the audience, all knobs on 10, for what must have been an hour, which at its end was just me and Paul Harrison. I once saw him in Manchester in a room above a pub [twas ever thus] knelt on the floor in front of a set of speakers waving two microphones about creating equally damaging, swirling waves of noxious feedback [which didn’t empty the room].

So I think I’ve got Skullflower sussed. Prejudice is a terrible trait though and blind prejudice is the worst of the lot. So there’s a very big chance that I may have had my Skullflower blinkers on when I penned that last Nashazaphone review realising subconsciously that I had left it out and not caring that I did.

My respect for Nashazaphone and its founder Hicham Chadly means that I now beg all your forgivenesses and give you my most humble opinion of ‘Werecat Powers …' which despite the title I find myself warming to. I may go further. I actually deeply like it. Not love it or want to marry it but if I heard it while at a friends house I would inquire of that person as to its origins and where I could purchase a copy. I even like the Bacon-esque cover.

Here Skullflower is Matthew Bower and Samantha Davies with their ongoing part of a Nashazaphone trilogy that according to the press release revolves around investigations in to the ‘Darkness of Aegypt’ which leads me to believe the pair may have been taking succor from Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings, a book I’ve never got around to despite it getting the thumbs up from William Burroughs and being sat on my to read pile for years.

If this is what Skullflower are up to know I’m interested. All three tracks bear a similarity with the first side long track ‘We Move on Points of Shattered Mirrors’ a ceremonial like, buried deep, high end drone containing what I’m taking to be heavily processed guitars that constantly crash against each other in collapsing waves of Stygian gloom. The flip ‘Charnel Ground’, is a bass heavy throbbing oscillating drone that masks all manner of guitar skitter while last track ‘Departure Lounge’ has a more cinematic appeal, the drone surging and falling, forever being pulled out of shape to an undercurrent of soaring ritual rhythm.

How this fits in with more recent Skullflower work I have no idea but I now fear I've been missing out. I'll put Floating Japanese Oof! to one side for a while. I have some catching up to do. 


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Chow Mwng

Chow Mwng - Perforation Function
Self released CDR + booklet.

We left Chow Mwng at the back end of 2017 after he [Ashley Cooke] delivered one of those total left field slugs to the jaw [that almost didn’t make it because it arrived as an email and almost got deleted] that left my head ringing with the sounds of Dada improv, cassette abuse, abstract noise and all other manner of good stuff.

That was the enigmatically titled ‘ULOT-CA’ which contained songs. Yes, songs. Not ones that you could sing to, unless you were very drunk or had taken some strange kind of drug but songs none the less. I liked it because it sounded fresh and invigorating, the work of someone working quickly when in truth it probably took a lot of effort. I was glad I didn’t delete. I’m glad I have this too for it carries on in much the same vein except these aren't songs. But I reckon I could spot it as a Chow Mwng release after ten seconds such is its singularity.

Here we have a thirty minute sound collage composition the source of which was a broken cassette tape that was itself a recording of Nurse With Wound playing last years Tusk festival. The cassette in question coming from a certain David Howcroft whose instructions to Cooke were ‘do something with it or destroy it completely’. Deciding not to destroy it completely our man put it back together and constructed something that you might describe as TNB meets Jandek meets Derek Bailey meets John Cleese doing his Monty Pythons squeaky woman voice meets Ashley Cooke reciting ‘poetry’ in a maelstrom made from carnival sounds and Dada performances. With added Adam Bohman.

I think I mentioned Bohman in the review of ‘ULOT-CA'. It has that feel to it. Of anything can happen. Of joei de vivre. Esprit de coeur and lots of other things that probably need italics. What starts out like Derek Bailey trying to work out the chords to Sultans of Swing morphs through radio noise, capstan abuse, throat singing, smokers coughing and toneless chanting to ‘improvised prose’ the text of which you’ll find in the booklet.

A big part of the appeal, even if it is only for a short duration is Cookes speaking/singing voice where words like soil become a stilted ‘so-oil’, a matter of fact voice that at times is a bark and at others softens and comes down a semitone as if whispering in your ear. How much of that half destroyed Nurse With Wound tape survived on here is open to scrutiny but there’s plenty in here that is decidedly Nurse-esque; samples of ancient TV shows, lunatic accordion squeezing, plucked bridge strings, un-sourceable rhythmic loops, whether this is Nurse or Cooke I can only guess. Only the man himself will know.

As good as last years ‘ULOT-CA’ was a part of me hoped that this was going to be more than another collection of off-kilter songs. I'm happy to report that this is the case. The man has surpassed himself.