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
Cassette/DL

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