Monday, July 30, 2018

Max Nordile

Vol. 1

Nothing Band - Veteran Factory

Reefers Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Experimental Yorkshire

Experimental Yorkshire.

21st July 2018. Hebden Bridge Trades Club.

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Harrowing of the North

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

150 copies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trades Club + Tickets Info

End of the Alphabet

More details from The Quietus

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Simon Morris - Civil War

Simon Morris - Civil War
Amphetamine Sulphate. 68pp

ISBN 978-1-7324039-0-1

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

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

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

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

On ‘Yesterdays’ Morris writes;

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

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

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

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

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

While on the opposite page lie detailed methods of suicide;

'Fresh razor blade vertically down the prominent artery …'

And barely concealed anger;

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

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

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

Hanna Jane Parkinson

Amphetamine Sulphate