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.

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.

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


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Neil Campbell

Neil Campbell - Crows, Swallows

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.


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.