Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Shug Hanlan and Kerfuffle Press

Kerfuffle Press

Kerfuffle Press

How I came across Shug Hanlan is lost in the mists of recently passed time. It might have been a video on Youtube. I go down the Youtube wormhole quite easily seeing as how I’m easily distracted.  Like just then. I went on Youtube to find Shug but had no success. He has a Facebook page but I’m Facebook intolerant so I can’t link you said video but if you’re not Facebook intolerant like me you can find him quite easily.

In said video Shug is sat in one of a pair of Poangs reading from one of his books. He cued his reading by playing a snippet of music using a remote control to start and stop it, something he did a little clumsily which endeared me to him and this was before I’d read a word.

Shug is a grey bearded Scot who lives somewhere in Scotland that is possibly on the coast and could be Grangemouth. A town thinly disguised in his books as Chungymouth. A town that is socially sealed, ‘as tight as a planktons pish flaps’ where people who don’t make their living from the sea are treated with suspicion.

Xploration is the name of oil rig worker Andy Hayman’s prog band. Who finds helicopters of a certain size conducive to composing music and writes a tone poem called ‘The Knight of the Faerie Parachutes’ while aloft in a Sikorsky S-61, Faerie Parachutes being ‘a thrilling knotty instrumental piece describing an abortive Green Beret rescue mission’.

Andy sets up the Prog Rock Detective Agency after deciding to track down ace missing organist Mike Silverside [‘a man designed by a firm called Von Daniken, Himmler & Crowley’ and leader of the self styled Silverside] who went missing one night after a 1969 gig at the Anstruther Arts Centre.

‘As the 1970’s began, interest in Mike Silverside’s whereabouts didn’t dwindle, it grew. If he’d gone walkabout somewhere otherworldly like the Mojave desert or the Australian outback that would have been end of story as far as most people were concerned but since this was the East Neuk of Fife all sorts of stories sprung up about possible sightings. At the 19th Hole night club, located just off the Old Course at St Andrews word got out about an unusually gifted boogie-woogie pianist who once accompanied Lee Trevino in a rowdy version of ‘Wooly Booly’ an organist in a nearby Kirk, whose off-the-wall improvisations on Listz’s contrapuntal complexities caused some dissenting members of the congregation to call for the banning of neo-baroque, and at shows in Crail the guy manning the fairground organ began frightening children by wedging sharpened pieces of cutlery into the music rolls’.

In Ship-rex a pirate radio station called Reefer Radio is going through something of an upheaval. Kinky Ken and Seasalter Syd are at loggerheads at which direction to take the station in. Late night DJ Seasalter Syd wants to introduce a more eclectic set list and play music by bands like Inflammable Couscous. Kensington Ken wants to stick with the housewives favourites. Things quickly go plop in the night when up pops Jan Van Dram with his Focus Fuels company and from there on in the plot thickens.

And on it goes. In short paragraphs like these.

Some of them oddly spaced.

With a deadpan wit thats deader than a deep fried skate wing [‘the bat of the sea’]. As written by someone who is so obviously a fan of prog and has worked on the rigs and decided that writing stories about the goings on of small town coastal Scottish towns is a more constructive way of passing the time than getting blind drunk, fighting or gambling away your wages.

These are slim volumes readable in a single sitting. I read them when they arrived but cant remembers what happened at the end.

I’ll have to read them again. I think the two books are linked somehow but I’m not sure. As I said I’m easily distracted.

I like Shug and his writing. Its funny in a knowing way and his descriptions of working on the rigs make me glad I’ve never had to step foot on one. I like the way he said someone was a victim of a ride by scalping and the use of Scottish vernacular. I like James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, two other very fine Scottish writers and now I like Shug Hanlan who might not be in the same bracket as Kelman and Welsh but is still worthy of your time.

As an added bonus there’s even a few short, short stories in the back of each book and some humorous cartoons about cunts.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Chocolate Monk

Moth - Scintilla
Chocolate Monk. Choc.408
CDR. 75 copies.

Jonnie Prey - Life on Bob-Lo Island
Chocolate Monk. Choc.407
CDR. 75 copies.

The Negative Kite - Gone all to the Down
Chocolate Monk. Choc.405
CDR. 75 copies.

Sick Llama - Snake Code
Chocolate Monk. Choc.404
CDR. 75 copies.

Amanda R. Howland - Mona Cost Returns to Canton
Chocolate Monk. Choc.402
CDR. 60 copies.

Psychonic Imaging - Time Vaccine
Chocolate Monk. Choc.400
CDR. 60 copies.

The Chocolate Monk 25th Anniversary Fest Love-in at Cafe Oto last week was described on the Oto website as being ‘two evenings of sound and chunder crunk’. I wish I could have been there. Not only because I’m quite partial to a bit of chunder crunk [I’ll let you in on a secret, its my favourite musical genre] but because I’m also a big fan of sound, my second favourite musical genre. I really like sound. It makes me go all funny in the same way six pints of Guinness or a mini earthquake does.

I’m being a little disingenuous here. Trying to capture the world that is Chocolate Monk in a punchy sentence to sell gig tickets is like describing James Joyce in words of one syllable. There’s not much point.

I listened to all six of these Chocolate Monkers in a one-er. It can be done and you can gain great pleasure from doing so. I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint of heart or those with the attention span of a hyperactive ten year old but for someone of advancing years who likes both sound and chunder crunk it can certainly improve your day. As an aid to finishing off the Guardian Saturday crosser it proved invaluable. Total immersion in Chocolate Monk World also gives you the opportunity to experience what it feels like to live in a velvet curtained dusty room where things of an indeterminate gravity and shape move slowly of their own volition bumping in to moldy furniture while falling through the rotten floorboards taking the damp Axminster with them. Its that kind of world. Hard to describe.

These are not so much musical releases portals into another sound world where musical parameters are of no use to you, where sounds, those lovely sounds that we all love and cherish, take forms that shift and morph and shape and leave you feeling bewildered. The untutored listener with no signpost as where to go next gives up and goes back to scratching his plaid clad armpits while pondering which beard oil to buy next. Except you go to the next ChocoMonk release of course. There’s hundreds to choose from and they’re not exactly expensive and if you’re lucky they’ll have some Karen Constance artwork on them too. This latest batch have seen a boost in the print quality, with paper sleeves replaced by fold out printed card. More colour, more weirdness, more sound, more chunder crunk.

If I was to tell you that I found little to upset the stomach during this nigh on five hours worth of aural delight I wouldn’t be lying. I enjoyed them all and thats no lie your Honour. If I had to pick a favourite it would be Negative Kite because it sounds like nothing else I’ve heard in a while which is what Chocolate Monk are good at. A single forty odd minute track of uncategorizeable sounds as recorded by a deep sea diver with lead boots and a shortwave radio in his helmet. Underwater omm-ing of the highest order. A thousand empty crisp packets crumpled through a thousand filters. A steam engine starting up as heard through a pinhole in a cardboard wall an inch thick. A collection of crumbling sounds the origins of which lay buried in black silt a foot thick. Drones of a sort but dirty greasy ones, ones that settle on your skin like a filthy polluting layer.   

Sick Llamas are in similar territory with four disjointed, blaring elbow sharp drones of glitching, jarring, jitter noise. Jonnie Prey too in parts with thirty minutes worth of roller coaster field recordings, barking dogs and drinking straw noise, somewhere therein lies buried the theme music to Appointment With Fear, the end result being the preferred take on the Jeff Bridges going to sleep album. Is Jonnie Prey his real name? Do we care? Is Amanda R. Howland a real name? It sounds more plausible. Described on the ChocoMonkeycruncher website as ‘euphoric earshred’ and as by me as ‘all fingers, wrist and forearm on the keyboard noise’ or the theme from Zelda melted on to an early Whitehouse record. There’s some LAFMS contribution to Pyschonic Imaging in the shape of Tim Alexander who’s here to collaborate with Cody Brant in a series of short tracks [22 in all] that encompass 8-bit video game clunk as seen through the coloured plastic bits as found in the bottom of a kaleidoscope. Reverse tape, background chatter and metal scrape improv are the soup de jour with track 21 ‘Five Dimension Fly’ [they all have titles] sounding like someone trying to escape from their recently interred coffin. Alexander is also Moth which is all space bloops and synth swirls, Moomin music and crackle box boogie, a glockenspiel on speed, an off its tits zither, drifting synth sounds for mother and rabies.

It must be something in the south coast air that does it for them. All them vegan burger pop-up caravans and mountains of salad. I can think of no other explanation. It matters not. Crunk me baby.

Chocolate Monk

Thursday, August 09, 2018

845 Audio

Frans de Waard, Takuji Naka, Tim Olive - False Mercury
845 Audio. CD. 845-8

Jin Sangtae/Tim Olive - naar/voor
845 Audio. CD. 845-7

Jin Sangtae makes noises with old hard drives. I’ve watched videos of him performing at his annual dotolim festival in Seoul and as you’d expect its rather noisy in the way that digital noise can be, none of that low rumble, bowel loosening, pleasurable noise of roar yore. And this is through youtube where its not exactly gig space volume levels or hi-fi Ortofon stylus playback mode. I got to watching more of his videos, not becoming obsessed or anything, but intrigued and got to thinking again as to the pleasure to be had in listening to noisy music in all its innumerable ways. Be still my beating noisy heart.

In a video posted in 2012 Sangtae sits at a table with Choo Joonyong who plays an innards exposed VCR and Otomo Yoshihide who scrapes various bits of plastic along a slowly revolving turntable. Sangtae, who may have not yet reached his recycled computer hard drive phase, is seen blowing into a parping car horn [from which the rubber bulb has been removed] a car horn topped with biscuit tins and sheets of thin steel assembled in various unstable formations that teeter ever more out of control before the whole lot crashes across the floor making for one almighty clang. Yoshihide rubs and scrapes, Joonyong adds his indecipherable electronic jitter. And while it all looks deadly serious, its not without its humour.

False Mercury finds de Waard, Naka and Olive in a basement in Nijmegen making sounds with modified cassette players, contact mics, magnetic pickups, lo-fi electronics, hand made string instruments ... hours worth of recordings. This release being the distilled result of those hours mixed and polished for our edification and described in the press release as ‘a single 31 minute dose of subterranean cough syrup-vibe goodness’.

Being partial to a bit of capstan rub and syrup-vibe goodness all went well for the thirty one minutes. After a quite opening the threat of noise lingered in the background like an approaching storm only to subside and be replaced by the gentle whirr of those modified cassette player motors and electronic hum. From the video evidence I’ve seen its Olive with the hum courtesy of a hand made Heath Robinson like guitar neck which he threatens but does not touch with vibrating tuning forks and magnets. There’s the chirrup of toys winding down and steam trains building up a head of steam though thats not the source of course.

On naar/voor Sangtae’s hard drive explodes like distant stars, their countless shattering fragments dissolving like crackling R Whites fizz. It’s not all out war by any means though, Olive compliments with his magnetic pickup/Heath Robinson string neck filling out the sound and making this a win/win collaboration. Track one begins in such a way then descends in to near silence, the only sounds audible being monitor buzz and the muffled chatter of information channels before the flickering emergence of shortwave radio stations. The second track rattles like a broken washing machine giving you the opportunity to hear Sangtee’s broken hard drives close up and while it never reaches the extremes of his solo work [what I’ve seen and heard at any rate] the sounds are intense in their own way with enough space and clarity for eager listeners to pick out every tiny detail. Which is pretty much how the last track goes too, a fluttering glitch ridden ride where digital meets analogue, the crunching of ones and zeros, whoops and spirals, high hertz sparkle that disappears into emptiness.

Some of these these people have been making noises for a while now, some of them very long time. They know what they’re doing.  All this on Tim Olive’s 845 Audio label as run out of Kobe where he mingles with like minded souls and issues his releases in recycled cardboard sleeves with Japanese rubber stamps on them all doing their bit in lifting these releases from the mundane whilst highlighting green issues.