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
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Stigmatic Destruction Meets L*mbik - Emotional Blackmail
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
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
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.
Thursday, August 09, 2018
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
Nothing Band - Veteran Factory
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.