Thursday, April 12, 2018

Silver Dick + Saboteuse



Saboteuse - X
Crow Versus Crow. CVC008
Cassette. 50 copies.

Silver Dick
Feeding Tube Records. FTR 335LP
LP [including DL code]. 300 copies.





The above two releases have been causing a bit of stir of late. Silver Dick with a glowing review courtesy of Byron Coley and Saboteuse courtesy of The Bearded Wonder who was seen to be visibly shaking with excitement when the subject arose during last weeks Silver Dick gig at the Wharf Chambers. They are good though. Both of them. I’d go as far as to say that the Saboteuse release is one of those only-comes-along-once-in-a-while genre busting releases that you continuously listen to with a mixture of awe of rapture. And then you play it again.

The common theme is Joincey, that ever present constantly working underground figure who seems to have been around since the year dot. With Silver Dick he’s behind the drums while in Saboteuse he’s opposite long time collaborator Andy Jarvis with whom he shares the same initials. I’m liking the synchronicity. I’m also liking the sleeve written in Joinceys distinctive small case hand and that all the tracks begin with ‘the’ except for the last track ‘ROMMET’. Recorded in 2014/15 its only seeing the light of day now for reasons I can’t fathom. I can’t believe that something as wondrous as this has failed to find a label for three years.

Maybe its because its the harshness of the opener ‘the comedian’ and its moans in one ear and cries in the other, a machine in constant collapse and Joincey’s distinctive spoken word vocals that at times bring forth both Genesis P-Orridge and Mark E Smith both of whom would have been born a not too long a car drive away from Joincey’s place of birth. Next track ‘the drive’ opens a capella and then in the background a washing machine drum descending stone stairs with a brick in it. ‘the bloodhound’ has reversed tape EVP and a guitar being hit with a bottle, a silent movie soundtrack going in reverse. I made notes on each track here, all ten of them before it struck me that each has its own distinct style, Joincey’s voice is moody and effect laden, when its bare its revelatory, when he mentions Rochdale I think of MES. On ‘the crossbow’ there's the panning sound of the wind and Joincey speaks/sings ‘parakeets fly over the bridge that looks cool’. AJ one is ‘the stalker’ AJ two is ‘the painter and decorator/the executor, the executioner’. Andy Jarvis fills this wonderful world with loops and noises and spazzy guitar and riffing bass thumps. ‘The devil’ opens up with swirling noises, its noise/pop like what The Jesus and Mary Chain would have sounded like if they came from Stoke-on-Trent. ‘the thumbnail’ is glitch, ‘the umbrella’ drone noise, last track ROMMET finds a multi tracked Joincey singing/talking ‘the flowers don’t smell’. The last words you hear are ‘do you feel anything’.

I most certainly do.

Saboteuse have been spitting out the odd release for the last ten years or so now but none have them have given me the goosebumps like this one. Previous releases have been more in the improv vein [to these ears at least], noisier, edgier, rougher but ‘X’ is it. Its easily the pairs best release yet and for two people with such vast back catalogues and such a depth of experience working and releasing within what passes for the underground these days, its easily one of their best.

That ‘X’ is limited to 50 copies and only available on cassette and download is laughable. Feeding Tube have done an excellent job with Silver Dick and I urge them with every tiny fibre of my being to give this the vinyl treatment too.

Actually I was lying about Joincey being the common factor between these two releases, Kate Armitage appears on them both too, as a ‘thanks’ on ‘X’ but as a full blown member of Silver Dick where she is credited with guitar and vocals, as is Martin Greenwood, all of them blowing in to things and singing, the sounds being off kilter improv pop with a Joincey on drums, vocals and ‘other’.

Whether its improv or not is open to conjecture. Seeing them play in Leeds last week I kind of recognised some of the songs once I got the vinyl and listened to it from the comfort of my own Poang. But the road to Improv heaven is not a primrose lined path strewn with scented petals, its more of a weed sprouting stretch of freshly laid thin Gypsy tarmac upon which you try your best to keep a hold of your senses. Improv is not for the feint of heart and can lead to fist fights in the gutters of Leeds city centre. Some people find that anything that wanders beyond the remit of Radio 2/Classic FM to be improv in that it all sounds like people making it up as they go along anyway. Its a tricky subject, where does improv end and structure begin? I’ll ask John Zorn the next time I see him in Tescos.

The eponymously titled Silver Dick has six tracks the longest being the opener ‘Reps’ that stretches all the way to 13 minutes and pretty much encapsulates all that is good about Silver Dick; mumbled vocals from Armitage [think someone singing after eating glue and being asleep for two weeks], battered rim shots, scraggly guitar, stretches of not much happening and wild racket. The see-sawing guitars of ‘Roman’ are head swimmingly swoony while second longest track ‘A Horse With No Opinion’ ventures the nearest to song structure with a recognisable slowed down naked strummed guitar chord progression and singing that emerges as if from the depths of a coal cellar. ‘Caul’ sees Armitage singing as if a small child trying to memorise a nursery rhyme by repeating it over and over again all this to a background of blown pipes and spidery notes plucked from high on the guitar neck. As a trio they fit perfectly with the wonk and bend somehow suggesting form before tearing it up and shoving it into toot filled rooms full of scrabble and dink.

Byron Coley calls it the ‘new, new thing’ which is good enough for me.

Crow Versus Crow

Feeding Tube Records








 










 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Xann 4 - The Final Countdown



Primitive Knot



Xann 4 - The Final Countdown



Primitive Knot
Silver Dick
Hawthonn
La Brea Pulpit

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, March 23rd, 2018.


The 254 leaves Cleckheaton at 18.41 and the last one back is 22.30. Seeing as how Leeds bus station is but a five minute walk from the Wharf Chambers this gives me about three hours within which to get some Sams Smiths down me and enjoy some bands as put on by that Mr Zanntone mister.

I’ve been going to Leeds gigs in the car of late. I can park up cheap in the Trinity car park and be home within twenty minutes of getting in the car. If I’m lucky I can get a spot outside the Wharf Chambers and if I’m really lucky I can go home with both wing mirrors intact and no parking tickets from over zealous traffic wardens but for some reason I fancied a few beers. So I went on the bus.

But first the illness. For the last three weeks a dreaded lurgi had descended into the very marrow of my fibre rendering me a weak and useless bag of bones. I ached the aches of a thousand men and awoke every morning feeling I’d done ten rounds with Kendo Nagasaki. I had to take time off work and spent two days wandering around the house a morose and defeated figure looking out of the window wondering what it would be like to be normal again. Then one day I did feel normal again and realised there was a gig I could go to and seeing as how I hadn’t a drink in a while I could go to the Wharf on the bus and drink some Sam Smiths. Oh frabjous day.

That last bus is a killer though. For reasons that I’ll never fathom the ever reliable 22.30 double decker last bus out of Leeds had for some time been replaced by a shuttle bus usually driven by a psychotic 17 year old speed freak. The normally staid ride down the dark roads of the A58 dropping off happy drunks a short walk from their homes became a torrid snow globe of people. Passengers clung to upright supports as if their lives depended on it and gingerly dismounted the bus looking visibly shaken, tottering the first few pavement steps like sailors losing their sea legs.

Still, if I’ve had a few bottles of Sam Smiths Imperial Stout 7% ABV £3.00 for a 330ml bottle thank you very much the pain of being involved in a serious road traffic accident would be lessened somewhat. At least for the first hour or so. So I went on the bus.

With two bottles of Sam Smiths Imperial Stout 7% ABV in my hand I made my way to the venue proper where I was met by Mr. Zanntone who immediately went for a pint leaving me in charge of the door where I scratched Zorro like zeds on the backs of peoples hands with a very sharp sharpie all the time apologising profusely in the hope that I wasn’t hurting them or giving them blood poisoning and thus becoming the subject of litigation.

The Wharf eventually became full of the wonderful characters it attracts, there was a bloke with a beard who held his mobile phone two inches from his nose and laughed like a lunatic into it, when La Brea Pulpit began a young slip of a man appeared from nowhere and began to vigorously shake his head and dance the dance of a thousand loons. He was really into it. Man. La Brea Pulpit being a duo of Gretchen from Guttersnipe and Pete Cann whose resemblance to a young Duane Allman grows stronger every time I see him. They mad a noise racket which sounded like a noise record with rhythm in it from which the rhythm had been stripped which meant it was fractured and disjointed but equally engaging. There should be more noise duos.

Catching the last bus meant I wouldn’t see Manchester’s Primitive Knot’s headline set but at least I see them soundcheck as I scratch zeds on the backs of peoples hands. A three piece with guitar, synth, laptop and masked vocals making pounding ritualistic dark anthems of a pagan nature or suchlike. Its hard to get a grip after only hearing one song but they appear to be worth investigating and are creating quite a stir amongst the various bald heads.

What came next surprised me no end. The Leeds duo of Hawthonn. The married duo [I’m assuming] of the Legard kind who between them held those assembled rapt with their whispered folk like field recording electronica. After ten minutes of this most mesmerizing of musics most people in the room were swaying like corn stalks in the breeze, me amongst them. With sounds assembled from bird song and the treatment of various bone rattles they took it in turns to whisper breathy vocals creating an atmosphere in the Wharf that I’ve never experienced before, a dreamy, featherlight atmosphere of drift and calm. A little bit of 21st century Paganism brought in to the heart of Leeds city centre.

The headliners for me would be Silver Dick. An improv trio featuring your man Joincey on drums and two electric guitars peopled by Kate and Martin who said at its end ‘you’ve had your fun, now fuck off’. Charming. As with most of what Joincey gets involved with its a compelling listen and for some in the room a trip down memory lane and the Termite Club and improv where pluck and parp were the order of the day. Joincey hit some finger cymbals with a stick, hit a drum, Kate pulled on guitar strings and blew down a pipe that may have been a small section of plastic tubing. Martin blew down a small section of what could have been plastic tubing and pulled his guitar strings. They all blew down sections of small plastic tubing and made wonderful wonky improv and along the way a rhythm may have grown in to something quite wonderful. A wonderful wonky improv that I’m struggling to compare but that sounds like a load of pop records and a load of improv records smashed together in a bag with a ball pien hammer and then glued back together again where they fit best. Which is a good thing. Sadly I took no notes. I never do and I’m writing this three days after the event so all I have is the memories of this and the queue for the beer and the scratchy zeds and the chat and the last bus home which wasn’t a shuttle bus driven by a seventeen year old speed freak but a proper double decker. A cracking night out.










  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Whiteness & Pinkness

















Ex-Crown - 646 592 3423
Cassette. C10. Whiteness & Pinkness #1
70 Copies.

Three Resurrected Drunkards - The Dagger in the Flesh
Cassette. C72. Whiteness & Pinkness #2
100 Copies.

Various - Whiteness and Pinkness
Single sided flexi. Whiteness & Pinkness #10
250 Copies.

Moffarfarrah - Primo
Cassette. C45. Whiteness & Pinkness #19
20 Copies.

PVA in Hair - Sumptuary Law
Cassette. C5. Whiteness & Pinkness #62

Whiteness & Pinkness
A4 Zine + Badge.



There are weird labels and there’s Whiteness & Pinkness. A label so far out there in Weirdsville Australia they put YOL and Filthy Turd in the definite mainstream. Try that one on for size.

I like Whiteness & Pinkness because they don’t try very hard. I don’t like labels that try too hard, are too earnest, that flood my inbox everyday with entreaties to follow the link and download the press release and if you could spare but five minutes of your time ... I like labels that just get on with it, small numbered runs and that great feeling of being detached from whatever it is that passes for normal in your kitchen. Whiteness & Pinkness do that and thats what I like.

I like this Tom Smith/Pit Noack tape I’ve been playing for the last hour. Thats them in the Three Resurrected Drunkards disguise a-warbling and a-singing their way through two sides of Las Vegas crooner meets the muck inside a forty year old flip top school cassette recorder thats playing a recording of a 1940’s pinball machine doing Hugo Ball impersonations. This is thick loam. You can grow weighty taters in this shit.

What Whiteness & Pinkness have done is send me a smattering of their back catalogue for my perusal. Its a direction I encourage all other labels to follow as its a good way of getting a feel for the label over a short period of time, plus its a good way of getting rid of those releases that have failed to sell out.  Its also a jiffy bag from Australia rammed with goodies and not a link in an email. Its my favourite kind of communication.

Whiteness & Pinkness released the YOL/Filthy Turd double cassette extravaganza cassette back in 2013, I got one of the 20 measly copies that were made available [no download or Bandchump for you] all on recycled cassette, all glorious, ground down to magical noise dust. Twenty copies. The madness of it all. And it is mad. I’m still in Smith/Noack territory here so bear with me and then the thundering of subway trains and electronica that could be the ultra-distorted sound of electric guitar strings being twanged.

Lets start at the very beginning with a pink cassette in a white box and ten minutes of Ex-Crown [Miles Pflaz] ringing various pay phones in and around the New York City area and getting not much in reply but answer machine messages, number not in service robot responses and the scream of fax data for his trouble. What makes it work is Pflaz’s flat monotone vocal delivery and his actual shock when someone does answer, which I think was once. On the flip he tries to bamboozle the telephone companies voice recognition software by giving it ridiculous commands such as ‘bring me oysters in a half shell’ and ‘I have a gun, empty the register’ all of which illicit the response, ‘sorry no match found please try again’. As one sided conversations with robots go its all rather wonderful.

On a sickly yellow cassette we have Moffarfarrah and the abuse of vocal chords as spat out through the speeding and slowing capstans of various cassette players. Dictaphones maybe? The voice a ah-ahing and growling, dog like and then holding the note. The full Minton. Mouth held close to condenser mic gobcore with just the added soupcon of treatments giving it the ghostly feel of an unmade horror flick as recorded on a new school Nokia 3310. When the voice is slowed to absolute sludge is where it works best.

The shorter the tape the bigger the box hence the PVA in Hair release appears in a 7x7 box with a blob of hardened green PVA  on it [I’m guessing]. Side one is two males having a conversation about a TV actress and a straight cut from an American comedy/TV commercial replete with gales of canned laughter. The flip continues the conversation interspersed with cuts from Australian TV chat shows. This could be something deep. This could be something shallow. It could be the kernel from which an Australian author finds the urge to write the greatest Australian novel, the Australian Ulysses, The Ozzie Moby Dick. We will never know. One side is titled Shabby Chic Mania, the other Hydrogen Peroxide.

Which leaves the flexi and the zine and the outsized button badge which I will never wear.
The zine is a shiny cut and paste typewriter job, maybe laser printed and double stapled on the flat thus making the folding out of the pages a difficult task. Its a catalogue of sorts with info on the first 13 W&P releases including a review of the zine and the flexi which is weird. There’s an interview with Miles Pflaz and Always and reviews of suitably outre material tucked in at the back. Due to the nature of the stapling, the shiny surface and the numerous crossings out it makes it hard to read which is what comes with zine territory and seems fitting in Whiteness & Pinkness world. The flexi contains tracks by Always, Sneak and Mackle Jackle and is prime weirdo material with a musical box accompaniment to a recital as to what someone is going to do to someone else [Always], the Australian Smegma meets Butte County in a homemade ethnic instrument kind of way [Sneak] and life in Stoke as seen through night vision goggles [Mackle Jackle].

For those of you of a digital bent there exists a Whiteness & Pinkness Soundcloud page. It consists of a 14 minute track by Mother’s Breast which is a conversation between two young girls and one side of the Ex-Crown release. I’d be much happier with the flexi or any of these releases to be fair, they seem to reflect the world as it is. The mere sight of a flexi in a world of downloads and links, made me go all weak at the knees. Its a mad world for sure. A mad, mad, mad, mad world and like the film of the same name it makes this spinning orb of crud a much better place to stand on.
 
 
Soundcloud


Discogs

 



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Murray Royston-Ward












My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors Near my House
CDR + 2 x A5 Booklet.
80 Copies.

Language is a Virus
CDR + A5 Booklet.
30 Copies.

Improvisations 2014
A5 Booklet.
50 copies.

Murray Royston-Ward - Dissolution Matrix in Afterthought of Skies
CDR.

The Sons of David Ginola - Blood Too Thick Symptoms
3” CDR + Booklet.
50 copies.




There are times when I feel as if I should get to grips once more with a ‘difficult’ novel. I become intrigued by them and the polarised reviews they garner on Amazon and Goodreads and once more think myself ready to tackle something by William Gaddis or Alexander Theroux. And when the book arrives I get about halfway through it and think to myself ‘well ... maybe I’ll pick up something by Bukowksi and come back to this later when my brain has sorted itself out’. My current obsession is with William Gass and while I’m tempted by his first novel ‘Omensetter’s Luck’ and the it-took-almost-thirty-years-to-finish ‘The Tunnel’ I think I’ll hang on until June when there’s a compendium of his work out. At the moment I’m reading ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ which is the sort of novel that demands your attention and could easily be described as ‘difficult’ but that's mainly because its written in an 18th century style and deviates more than a drunk Italian driver. At least its got some laughs in it.

Unlike reading listening doesn’t demand total concentration. Few are those who can sit and listen to an LP or a composition and give it their 100% total concentration. You can listen to music while walking, running, shagging, washing the car and doing the shopping but you cant do any of those while trying to fathom the intricacies and the sub plots of Gravity’s Rainbow [unless you’ve got the audio book - which might make the weekly trip to Lidl slightly surreal/more interesting - somebody please do this and report back. I’d do it myself but I find wandering around in public with things jammed in my ears rather disconcerting].
       
All this apropos of nothing much other than leading in to what Murray Royston-Ward creates which might be described in certain circles as ‘difficult’ and in others as Sir Richard Bishop jamming with some audio verite tapes.

Described on one of his two websites as ‘Material flows and internal communications from the amateur avant-garde’ Royston-Ward collects field recordings some of which he works into improvisations of his own making others of which are left unadulterated. As in ‘My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors Near my House’ which comes with two books, one titled ‘Bangladesh Listening Notes’ describing the noise levels in various parts of Dhaka and Royston-Ward’s attempt to find ‘quiet sounds’, something he eventually loses interest in due to the constant noise pollution. The other book is called ‘Gasworks Fellowship’ and describes his month long residency at the Britto Arts Trust in Dhaka and his increasing vulnerability as the rise of Islamic extremism results in the deaths of several  foreign nationals. The accompanying CD is a collection of disparate sounds ranging from the slaughter of cattle, to conversations with locals, to locals singing all mixed in with bowed cymbals, the inevitable traffic noise and Royston-Ward wandering around the Britto gallery space sucking on glass doors. The results being spacious, loose and liminal.

‘Language as a Virus’ as you’d expect draws from William Burroughs concept of the same name and details the work Royston-Ward’s wife did in an Ebola holding center in Sierra Leone. The booklet is a collection of photos as taken by Holly Royston-Ward alongside text describing the situation there. The CD is a single 28 minute track that is a series of rapid radio and tv samples [some relating to Ebola] over which Royston-Ward recites tracts of text [taken from news stories?] also relating to the subject. Its a tough listen with each sample and tract of text ending abruptly with a violent slap/stop as if Royston-Ward is hitting the stop button on his cassette player with a lump of wood.

The two stand-alone releases highlight Royston-Ward’s penchant for sounding like Sir Richard Bishop and the hitting of pipes and steel wires. The Sons of David Ginola release ‘Blood Too Thick Symptoms’ is a collaboration with Kevin Sanders and contains many a lo-fi rumbling, humming, squeaking, squelching Alvin Lucier homage while ‘Dissolution Matrix in Afterthought of Skies’ sees Royston-Ward mix wind flutter, chair scrapes and pub chat with electric guitar frottage and tape wobble. Like Jim O’Rourke playing pool with a guitar swinging from his neck. Track six ‘Loose Women’ sounds like a Sonic Youth rehearsal as a conversation in Esperanto goes in reverse.

All of the above comes highly recommended, even the Ebola related work should you have the stamina for it. Royston-Ward also utilizes recycled paper for his books, ‘archival inks’ [whatever they might be] and environment friendly plastics for their packaging. So all is good. Not quite. Why the Bangladeshi project had to come with two separate books I cant fathom while Bangladeshi Listening Notes also contained notes from Brighouse [just down the road from me] London and Edinburgh. The use of acronyms also bugs me, its why I never joined the army, I have no idea what CNG’s or SPL’s are, Sound Protection Levels? Cars Not Guns? Cocks Not Glocks? There’s also a series of pictures taken from an unexplained exhibition visit, one displaying the mutilated corpse of a child, oh what fun and a cut up poem which I couldn’t skim through quick enough. The Improvisations 2014 book would have been of far more worth had it come with a CD of the sounds created or links to the net where the sounds could be accessed. As a stand alone book detailing the time, place and instrumentation, its only of passing interest.

Having said all that the sounds herein are eminently worthwhile and show that Royston-Ward has the ear for the juxtaposition of disparate sounds, his prose is crystal clear too. At least they’re both here to tell the tale. After having survived the threat of ISIS and Ebola I doubt that me being a tad disparaging is going to upset them. Now where's my book.            

http://thehouseorgan.xyz/


http://mroystonward.bigcartel.com/


            




Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Doggy Bag







The Verboden Boys [Belfast Chapter] - Band From Reality : The Complete Demos.
Doggy Bag. DL

The Unseens - Shut In/Leper

Doggy Bag. DL



Doggy Bag is an online only label because they’re skint and I’m feeling kind of sorry for them because they’re skint and all of this is good and worthy of your attention. Its non genre, non pigeon hole for me lads and lassies and here am I, the miserable sod who doesn’t do reviews unless he has a hard copy in his hands. But if enough of you put your hands in your pockets and buy something from Doggy Bag then you will get to hear The Verboden Boys and The Unseens coming out of your speakers via the glory that is a vinyl record. Or maybe a CD.

The Verboden Boys are like Smegma meets The Gerogerigegege. This fifteen track LP has eleven tracks which clock in at under a minute, five of which clock in at under ten seconds, the shortest being a mere two seconds. One track is called ‘Ultraeczema OK’ so maybe they’re Tyfus fans. Another song is called ‘Is Sex Still Illegal in USA?’ The last track is over ten minutes long and a meditative affair featuring a high pitched whistle and the loop of a pebble being rolled around the bottom of a 45 gallon drum and is unlike anything that preceded it. I like them.

According to the blurb The Unseens are Glasgow’s most reclusive Dolewave band and this single is the only surviving material of theirs after a series of unbacked hard drives went tits up, an ‘as yet unexplained experience’. Which is either a convenient story or a crying shame or both. ‘Shut In’ is all echoey dub effects and door bells, the flip is a random beat generator on a cheap keyboard played against more dub effects with the neighbours drilling holes in their walls in protest. It reminds me of Milk From Cheltenham in a ‘we just went in to a room with some gear and this what it sounds like’ and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or any of this.


https://doggingbag.bandcamp.com/








Thursday, February 22, 2018

Laura Steenberge / Taming Power






Laura Steenberge - Harmonica Fables
Nueni #007. CD

Taming Power - Selections For Fort Evil Fruit
Fort Evil Fruit. FEF63. Cassette/DL
100 copies.




By its own admission the Bilbao/Berlin based label Nueni Recs goes in for ‘risky’ music. They also adopt an ‘anticopyright’ stance meaning you can share at will. Its a stance I wholeheartedly applaud and with music of such a difficult nature it should be encouraged. If you’re in this game for the money you’re in the wrong game. The audience is tiny here it needs all the encouragement it can get.

According to her online bio Steenberge’s work is ‘a study of nonsense and the boundaries of knowledge’, medieval Byzantine chant plays a part too. That doesn’t sound too difficult does it but then here comes Harmonica Fables.

Which is Steenberge blowing up and down a harmonica. Not that this is an hours worth of Larry Adler does Bob Dylan on drugs but the first two tracks ‘Ritual for Harmonica’ and ‘Chant - Harmonica’ are the hardest to endure [and for the most part I did endure] both being lengthy explorations in to the sonic vibrations created when lips meet instrument and deep breaths resonate with reed plate. With ‘Ritual for Harmonica’ Steenberge alternates lengthy rasps on the harmonica with breathy incantations, the much longer [twenty minutes worth] of ‘Chant - Harmonica’ is a connected series of shorter blasts where Steenberge combines breathing and harmonica creating a dual pitch drone that depending on your bent is either aurally stimulating or just plain annoying. I have to admit to being drawn in to it at one point but trying to key in to its abrasiveness is a difficult task. There are two further sections; three ‘Spheres’ where the blowing and breathing is sweeter and four final tracks that are the nearest we’re going to get here to melody. ‘The King’s Ears’ ventures in to Laurie Anderson territory with an eruption of wordless tones to compliment the sawing while last track ‘Rip Van Winkle’ is, as its title suggests a lullaby. After all that gone before its a welcome relief.


Comparisons with Norway’s Askild Haugland and his mighty Taming Power project are worth considering with several Taming Power works verging on the unlistenable. His work for feedback-ing reel to reel tape recorders and the over amplified clanging of guitar harmonics are the kind of sounds designed to empty rooms of people of a nervous disposition, the latter managing to create that not really sought after trapped inside a grandfather clock feel.


'Selections for Fort Evil Fruit' is what it says on the tin. This is only the second time this has happened with everything else coming through his own Early Morning Records imprint. Not all of it is unreleased but by its nature its hard to come by and will for most people be a first time listen.

As ever all the track titles [and there are 14 of them] are the dates on which they were created with the first three tracks all composed in the year 2017 all three being thee most exquisite melancholic electric guitar pieces, each note a delicately struck and rung tremulous thing of ectoplasmic beauty. They have the making of a soundtrack to a film about Norwegian winters, or a Nordic road movie where nothing much happens. As we go further back [and we go as far back as 1998] the mood takes a darker turn with the emergence of reversed tape loops and primitive electronics with their frozen lo-fi drone blasts. Some tracks veer in to experimental territory with the ghosts of what was recorded being laid to rest on the magnetic strip in a cloudy swirl of echo. 

Haugland’s work under the Taming Power moniker is instantly recognisable. He's managed to create his own soundworld and by the sound of it he's happy doing that with little in the way of feedback or interaction. Here’s someone working in isolation and relative obscurity with little in the way of influence to guide you and little in the way of a web presence. Its partly why his work has such impact. It comes at you as if from nowhere while leaving behind it the vividest of memories.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to have most of the Early Morning Records back catalogue through these doors. Its a motherlode of vinyl delivered as if from a higher being. We can only watch and listen and hope he carries on recording. For now though this collection of his work, one of the few available online, is where those who’ve been slow to the show can start playing catch up.




 
Fort Evil Fruit


Nueni Recs







Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Oskar Panizza/My Cat Is An Alien - Le Jardin De Vréneli



Oskar Panizza - Le Jardin De Vréneli
My Cat Is An Alien - Le Jardin De Vréneli

Lenka Lente. Book + CD. €9
ISBN: 979-10-94601-19-8



Oskar Panizza was an avant-garde German author best known for his work ‘Das Liebenskonzil’ [The Love Council]. Published in 1894 its blasphemous contents earned Panizza twelve months in jail. The book is set in 1495 and documents an outbreak of syphilis, seen here as God’s vengeance on sexually hyperactive creatures. Especially Pope Alexander VI. God is portrayed as a senile fool, Christ dimwitted, Mary a slattern. Thats why he ended up in jail. I wouldn’t mind reading it myself but it would appear that while Panizza has been translated in to French he’s yet to be translated in to English.

Le Jardin De Vréneli is an essay maybe or an hallucinatory short story or homage to Richard Wagner. I’m not certain. I read the occasional sentence feeling the avant-garde coursing through the tips of my fingers whereupon I come across this line;

Quoi? Vous avez des vache?

Panizza’s life story is an interesting one; as well as being incarcerated for blasphemy for ‘Das Liebenskonzil’ [93 counts] he was charged with crimes against the state for the 97 poems he wrote about the German Emperor Wilhelm II and had his trust fund taken from him for good measure. Having been declared insane the charges against him were dropped. Later in life he became paranoiac, suffered from auditory hallucinations, spent time in mental asylums and the last sixteen years of his life in on the outskirts of Bayreuth in a health clinic. Author, poet, publisher of magazines and thanks to Lenka Lente someone who I am now at least aware of.

The three inch CD contains music from the Opalio brothers from whom I haven’t heard in a very long time. I have an LP of theirs that came out on Starlight Furniture Co in 2000 and which probably hasn’t been played since then. I had no idea they were still going. They obviously are. This twenty minutes worth of their take on improv, or as they term it ‘spontaneous composition’ is remarkably similar in style and tempo to Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Weeping’. With its echoing guitar treatments and ghostly wailings its an ethereal and haunting listen. Whether Panizza would approved we can only summise.

There’s something about having such a slim volume in your grasp that appeals to me so [all the Lenka Lente books I’ve had measure 10cm x 15.5cm]. A book to slip in to the pocket to help pass on the thirty minute commute or the slack time in a doctors waiting room. Put your phone away for once. Delightful to have and to hold.





http://www.lenkalente.com/
 






Thursday, February 15, 2018

Heavy Metal - LP III



Heavy Metal - LP III
Harbinger Sound 177. LP/DL


With few exceptions there’s very little of what I might term ‘guitar music’ worth listening to these days. Ever since 1984 went into the history books there’s very little coming this way that gets the dander up. I’m dismissing just about everything that comes under the Heavy Metal banner, anything that Heavy Metal spawned, Indie bollocks, Rock yawn, Pop wank, vast swathes of it are nothing but regurgitation, its all been done, its tedious. Those exceptions are rare and you probably know them already; The Fall, Ceramic Hobs, The Country Teasers and if pushed I could probably drag a handful more out of the grey recesses but for the most part guitar music has been going around the hamster wheel for the best part of thirty years now with little sign of anybody jumping off and doing anything original.

So I play Heavy Metal’s third LP and think to myself who would call their band Heavy Metal? Its like calling your band Reggae or Rap or Contemporary Classical. Try Googling that one. Its like calling your band Fish Fingers. Their first two albums were called LP and LP 2. They’re based in Berlin, I think they’re English but its hard to tell, you try getting any info on them. It seems they like their anonymity, the working from the inside, corrupting the body from within. The insert says there’s three of them; Sig Vishnu, Gibby Vortex and Steele Reynolds and with them some instructions on how not to put your underpants on courtesy of a blank faced safety first character.

Theres a track called ‘Hacked by the Russians’ thats a great big sloppy almost five minutes worth of Sig [Gibby? Steele?] shouting HACKED BY THE RUSSIANS amidst a flurry of radio and TV static with Sig [Gibby? Steele?] rolling that Russian ‘R’ until its almost a sneer, there’s a Russian girl talking backwards and the riff becomes a loop that drills in to your sorry head. First track is called ‘Motherfuckers in the City’ and begins with a lengthy sample of kids saying how they hate Heavy metal before a killer guitar riff rips in and Sig [Gibby? Steele?] screams an exaggerated MUTHA-FUCK-AH. Next track is a drum loop with Sig [Gibby? Steele?] singing ‘gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme diphtheria’ and then ‘use your skull as a fucking ashtray’ that ‘fucking’ delivered with a nonchalant venom. ‘Crispy Rat’ shows their humour and a starter sample of a mother and son discussing ‘dead people and vampires’ and what about that time we went in to ‘Marks and Spencer's? End result being a vicious 90 seconds worth of flailing, frazzled guitars. Apparently each album has a cover version and LP 3’s is Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ or as it is here in German ‘Wort Ab’ with Sig [Gibby? Steele?] filling in for Larry Blackmon with a surprisingly not totally out of place version of the 80’s floor filler.  ‘Homo & a Headbutt’ has the urgency and stripped guitar sound of late 60’s Beefheart. ‘Like Two Sheds in One Garden’ has a ukulele intro and a xylophone solo. The former passes in one minute ten the latter in one minute twenty five. Some songs flash by but others linger and the groove gets you. Like last track ‘Tighter Than a Seagull’ [which also has a xylophone solo] and then a locked groove because you can. On glorious golden vinyl too. Oh what joys and not a duff track amongst the twelve

I see Heavy Metal as the sneering bastard offspring of Alex Harvey meets the Cockney Rejects in the sampling department of the BBC. They’re fun. They’re punk. They make me want to jump about. They make me wish I could still get down the front at gigs and go home with all my clothes sweaty. They make me feel young again and there’s not much that come through these speakers over the last god knows how many years thats made me want to do that.

Guitar bands are piquing my interest once again. Is it anything to do with Harbinger Sound? Noseholes, Pisse, Massicot, Nachthexen, Karies, Toylettes, Structure [of which more soon] are all drinking from the well of punk and post punk and producing some genuinely exciting music. Away from Harbinger I’ve taken a liking to the wildly magnificent Idles. Maybe there’s something in the air? Anthemic Indie landfill begone. Rock pap begone. Its time for some Heavy Metal. 

     

Heavy Metal.


Harbinger Sound






Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kiss of Life - Remembering Robert Dellar































Kiss of Life - Remembering Robert Dellar.
Ce Acatl Publishing. 188pp



Robert Dellar was an author, an activist, a publisher of zines, a campaigner on mental health issues, a gig promoter, one of the founders of Mad Pride and for a lot of people a beacon of hope and friendship in a shitty world that made little [if any] sense. He was probably lots of others things too and judging from some of the eulogies and reminiscences in Kiss of Life I’m guessing all of them were positives. His passing in December 2016 has had an obviously profound effect on those around him and those who knew him. His absence still keenly felt. 

I didn't know him personally and it's only now after reading this short but highly readable and affectionate book that I realise he touched mine too; he used to send me the Southwark Mental Health News zine/magazine that he put together. Which arrived at semi regular intervals along with the odd [literally] Mad Pride related release.

Kiss of Life has been put together by Lawrence Burton who I came across via his ‘An Englishman in Texas’ blog who was once in a London band called UNIT and who appears to be on the radar of the Ceramic Hobs who I’ve just reviewed and who now lives not that far from Phillip Best who put said Ceramic Hobs album together. Small world.

Dellar's books include the autobiography ‘Splitting in Two - Mad Pride and Punk Rock Oblivion’ and a collaborative novel ‘Seaton Point’ as set in the tower block of the same name [‘An inner-city tale of magic, mayhem and gratuitous sex scenes’] that I will have to get my hands on some time. Kiss of Life also includes three short stories of Dellar’s my favourite being the one about the bloke who gets a new motorized disability scooter and decides to go for spin in it along some of London’s busiest thoroughfares. Then there’s the one about the constantly eating, drinking, pill popping, virgin shagging Elvis Parsley and the toff turned crusty who gets his comeuppance from his own faithful ‘razor-fanged pitbull werewolf’.

The tributes and reminiscences are written with a great tenderness and give you some idea of the lengths Dellar would go to help people. They come from old school friends, those who hadn’t seen him in decades, those who tried to cadge twenty quid off him and those who were there at his funeral. Like Ted Curtis whose eulogy is produced here and whose contribution is amongst the rawest and most open.

All proceeds from this book go towards the funding of the Mental Health Resistance Network, the group that grew out of Mad Pride and who help raise awareness of the failings of mental health care in the UK.


Ce Acatl

Where to buy

MHRN

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Neil Campbell







Neil Campbell - Crows, Swallows
CDR/DL

Neil Campbell - Think Not Of The Glasses, But Of The Drink
Chocolate Monk. Choc.377. CDR
60 Copies.


‘Think Not of the Glasses …’ was one of those pushed across the table in the Flowerpot releases. It came with a well oiled laugh along with the words ‘Virgin Prunes’. The Virgin Prunes. A band that passed me by. With hindsight I think I might have got lucky. They had a drummer called Pod, were mates with Bongo and had a singer who was in to corpse paint way before the metal hordes picked up on it. I watched some of their videos in an attempt to link up what Campbell has created as homage to the band to what I was hearing via the Prunes and came up with absolutely nothing. Maybe there’s more to the Prunes than meets the eye.

What I like about Campbell releases, the ones that carry his name as opposed to Campbell releases where is name is hidden within the band/project [Astral Social Club, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Early Hominids, A Band … ] is that he makes full use of his vocal chords. There’s more of his voice in them. A voice that like most of his music has a drone like timbre to it, a voice  containing as it does the merest hint of a whats left of his mellow Scottish burr. A flat baritone of a voice, a voice that works for him and the sounds he creates. Richard Dawson has nothing to worry about but that doesn’t mean Campbell cant sing folk songs.

Which is what he does on ‘Crows, Swallows’ singing about ‘the dog shitted alley, the spring coming early’ his voice a capella, eventually multi tracked and joined by those familiar electronic squiggles and soaring zooms. A single thirty minute composition that increases in complexity as it unfolds bringing in to the mix spoken words, the sound of sticky palms on plastic, a riotous snort, a heady up there in the clouds drone that eventually leads to calmer waters, gulls and that voice once more this time intoning the words ‘the bridge over the river Calder’ as a valley bottom ritual of sorts.

Back in Virgin Prunes territory there’s Political Problems and a loop of him reciting something over more of those bleeps and fizzes, the phrase ‘like a crazy singer in a band who’s lost the words’ becoming ever more prominent, the recitation more layered, new words coming in, sounds becoming ever more dense and dare I say it, threatening so that by its climax its a cacophony of voices. No Clouds Were in the Sky is a pean to summer with a picked and strummed acoustic guitar, his voice wavering, chanting, talking, again layered to produce a chorus effect until the whole thing becomes swamped in a blizzard of fuzz guitar. The track in the middle, ‘Red Metal’ has no voice at all but it does have the biggest, slowly building buzz of the three. A shimmering loop of something that may have once belonged to a Virgin Prune, a drone riff, a see-sawing, two way head sway.
    
I first encountered Campbell’s singing voice on the 1997 Fusetron LP ‘These Premises Are No Longer Bugged’ where a cover of the Ronettes classic ‘Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love?’ resided. Which wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the man who’d just left Smell & Quim. Oh, he sang a Motown song on his new record. Well, why not? Having just checked both Discogs and the Chocolate Monk website I can report that ‘Think Not of the Glasses …’ is sadly sold out but copies of ‘These Premises …’ are cheap and freely available. As are great swathes of the Virgin Prunes back catalogue. Treat yourself.

Neil Campbell

Chocolate Monk



Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Rovar 17 I.N.R.I.












Rovar 17 - I.N.R.I.
Unsigned. US038 CDR/Booklet
66 copies.


In the not too distant past there existed a time when it seemed impossible to release something of a noisy nature without it coming in something outlandish and outrageous. The soon to follow reviews then began with gushing praise for the outstanding nature of wooden box/metal ingot/compressed dustbin/dead dog that the release came in the sounds therein meriting a few passing lines. 

The Hungarian label Unsigned have resisted the temptation to adorn their releases with anything other than what passes for normal [at least with what they’ve sent to me] but for some reason have gone all Shroud of Turin on us with the cover to Rovar 17’s release I.N.R.I. Over the top packaging isn’t something I’ve experience for a few years now and to some extent I’d forgotten it existed [and with hindsight haven’t missed it that much at all], so I have to admit to being a little shocked when I saw on the mat peering out of what was left of its jiffy bag, a lump of wood covered in red and black paint splattered cloth. The lump of wood measuring about six inches by eight, the cloth glued to it then extended to act as a wrap around. There’s a little red ribbon to tie it all together too. The CD itself is found in a clear DVD style inner that's stuck to the lump of wood all of which must have cost a sodding fortune to post and put together. 

Then there’s the A5 booklet of black and white photos featuring a Japanese looking person as captured in various artistic poses. The theme being a Biblical one of course; a crown of thorns, a catapult, er … a pair of scissors, a cats cradle. According to the blurb the album was written in response to the booklet but what the booklet is about I can only guess at with references to Adam and Eve and God Dymo printed and cut and pasted hither and thither along with other fonts of a typewriter nature.

Artwork, songwriting and vocals are credited to Syporca Whandal with the sounds being composed and mastered by Kálmán Pongrácz. The results? Have they been worth waiting for. Actually yes. But only just. Four tracks of eerie, atmospheric, industrial groan littered with angst ridden, buried in the mix Hungarian vocals [I’m assuming]. Vocals that to these ears sound like the Wicked Witch of the West casting spells into a bubbling black pot of frogs and eyeballs. Which I’m guessing wasn’t the intention. Tracks are IESVS, NASARENVS, REX and IVDREORVM. Which must mean something to Syporca Whandal but to me look like Latin anagrams.

Was it worth it? All that splattering of paint and gluing not to mention the time involved and the cost? To the artist I hope the answer is yes. For me I’d have been happy with a little more explanation and something a little less outlandish.


https://havizaj.bandcamp.com/album/i-n-r-i













 


Sunday, February 04, 2018

Land of the Laps. Totesformat.











Totstellen - Mein Licht Beleuchtet Nur Abregunde
Totes Format. Totform10. CDR/Booklet.
50 copies.

GRMMSK/Neuvoksi - Punk on Kuollut
Totes Format. Totform06. DVD

Concrete/Field & Coldsore - Losing Ground
Totes Format. Totform24 Cassette.
25 Copies.

Cluny - Coffin Surfboards
Totes Format. Totform25. Cassette.
25 copies.


I’m not sure if Mr GRMMSK and Mr Totstellen are the same person or not. Lets say they are, it makes things so much easier. I think he’s German and now lives in Finland, in a wooden hut, in the middle of a spruce forest, in the middle of nowhere where he makes his own synths and noise boxes and when time allows recycled cassette releases. This information partly gleaned from the regular posts that appear on his Twatter feed. I’ve had Totes Format material through these hands before the highlights of which were by GRMMSK [field recordings made inside bridge supports] and some dub influenced ambience by an outfit going by the name of Kemia that blew me sideways, a Basinski/Prince collab if you can imagine such a thing. There were others too but these were standouts. Well worth seeking out, thats if you can get hold of them. Short runs, homemade covers. These things tend not to hang around for long but there are exceptions.

With two new releases to foster on us Mr. GRMMSK also sent me a couple of his back catalogue that were no doubt in danger of rotting away in the leaf mulch. The DVD being a mixed bag and the one with the long German title being a near lost epic. The DVD is a tour DVD and after trawling through raw footage of the local drunk in a Lapland roadside cafe and a road movie made up of quick edit dash-cam footage of the monotonous never changing tree lined Finnish countryside, the differing sounds of the engine providing a chopped up rhythm of sorts, made me wonder why the entire Finnish population isn’t addicted to chemical stimulants. The GRMMSK footage appears to be some kind of poetry reading where one reader just looks at his book and plays a recording of what sounds like James Baldwin reciting his work while the other stumbles around in braces, his head covered in bandages, writing words on huge sheets of paper with a chisel marker. All this to a punk soundtrack with the lyrics superimposed on to the screen in BLOCK CAPITALS. At least I discovered Neuvoksi, a guitar and drum duo, she with an amp on her head, he with a drum on his head creating raucous ninety second blasts of punk racket that are a cross between a Finnish Ramones and Lightning Bolt. A half hours worth of about four stuck together gigs, one taking place in a shop window. Its the same couple who were talking to the drunk in the Lapland roadside cafe. Neu and Voksi. Finland is a strange place.

The Totstellen release ‘Mein Licht Beleuchtet Nur Abregunde’ is a near perfect collage of field recordings, found sounds, loops, unsettling atmospheres and multiple voices as recorded on a road trip through various European countries undertaken ten years ago. I made some notes; a bus starting up, geese, ducks, talk, hard wheels over cobbles, a loop of a buskers violin, a gentle breeze, trains, running water, rain on a tin roof, thunderclaps, barking dogs, a knife being sharpened on a whetstone, a distant storm, a sliding door shutting/opening, dogs panting, mechanical diggers, footsteps in the snow, unlubricated metal on metal, squeaky gates, someone struggling with a huge sheet of plastic, chainsaws, a skipping CD, ethnic music and silence. The silence makes all the difference. With so many sound sources coming at you, you need the break to make it all come together and while some of the sound sources are hardly original the clarity of the recordings and the production overall lifts it from the mundane. Stand out track is ‘Fuer Die Noch Lebenden Toten’ [For the Surviving Dead] which begins with an ear rattling foghorn blast before stretching out into rather darker territory, the tapping of pipes, a deathly funereal beat and eventually a solemn voice reciting a litany of everything that is dead. The silk screened  CD sleeve has been hand stitched as has the booklet of black and white images taken from the trip. This remarkable release is around ten years old and still available.

So much for the old stuff what about the new stuff? The Concrete/Field & Coldsore split is, for the most part, heavily indebted to the kind of industrial ambience Throbbing Gristle created, all groaning machinery and grinding rhythms. The Coldsore track going for the humming glow lamp drone in a Pan Sonic/Einsturzende Neubauten kind of way. The Concrete/Field track is a slow moving piece of Industrial rhythm where a sample of someone making noises with the back of their throat is mistaken for Dieter Müh. 

Cluny meanwhile are described as ‘creepy-crawl basement hip-hop’. Lets leave that there. Both cassettes are hand etched and looking good as they say somewhere trendy. The former is even available as a free download. I like Totes Format.


GRMMSK

Totesformat