Friday, March 30, 2018

Xann 4 - The Final Countdown

Primitive Knot

Xann 4 - The Final Countdown

Primitive Knot
Silver Dick
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 For reasons that I’ll never fathom the ever reliable 22.30 double decker last bus out of Leeds had for some time been replaced by a shuttle bus usually driven by a psychotic 17 year old speed freak.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.



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

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.