Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sudden Infant

Sudden Infant - Buddhist Nihilism
Harbinger Sound. 189CD/LP

When the Great Big Bumper Book of Noise eventually gets written, Joke Lanz will no doubt have a chapter all of his own. In the same chapter there’ll be mention of the fact that Lanz was once an integral cog in the Schimpfluch Gruppe and that his artistic talents also seep in to the visual arts. He plays turntables too, a veritable Dave Double-Deck.

After almost three decades of sonic mayhem Sudden Infant expanded from being a solo Lanz [with the occasional collaborator] to a full blown three piece band now aided by the phenomenal bass player Christian Weber and the Jim Keltner like Alexander Babel on drums. Their first release was 2014’s Wölfi’s Nightmare and much to my chagrin I didn’t like it. I thought maybe this was something that Lanz needed to get out of his system, something he needed to work though or try out just to see if it worked. I felt that he’d brought too much of his previous sound in to the group format and that it jarred. There was too much going on and Roli Mosimann’s production made them seem like a halfway house between Sudden Infant and Marylin Manson. Not my cuppa char old bean. Those almost trademark noise jolts that Lanz had used to such good effect in his solo outings were plastered all over Wölfi’s Nightmare like random shots from an elephant gun. I flinched, cowered down and hoped it would be over soon. Lots of other people liked it and the reviews I read were positive so I put it down to me and moved on.
Four years down the line and Buddhist Nihilism arrives and with it reservations of my own. Its now obvious that this is no short term three piece project and after a first listen its also obvious that the sound is in a different league. Out go the random electric noise jolts and in come twelve tracks of quotidian observation, introspection and a Cat Stevens cover. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Don’t worry there’s no tinkly piano. But there is humour. As in ‘Tourists’ where Lanz loses his patience with Berlin’s aimless zombie tourists and ‘George Clooney’ a track complete with Whacko Jacko ‘hee hees’ and a list of shouted out names, surely the only track ever written that mentions Underwood, George Clooney and Martin Luther King in the lyric.

The set up is simple; Babel’s laconic drums, Weber’s irresistible bass while Lanz’s vocal delivery, which for me at least, has always been a big part of Sudden Infant. It may seem an obvious thing to say but his spoken voice, that perfectly executed English coming from a Swiss national gives his words and delivery an appeal all of its own. He can obviously sing but the spoken word delivery is what does it for me, that pointed finger, those dead set eyes, that lawnmower haircut ...

Weber and Babel take each song in several directions at once with quick stops/starts and driving punk inspired rumbles and even though these twelve tracks are structured as songs this is no verse, chorus, verse type of release. Chuck in some Lanz electronics and you have a release that will appeal to both the noise head in your family and the one who likes something to whistle along to while cruising down the autobahn. That Cat Stevens cover is a defining moment with Lanz deconstructing Stevens original delivering the vocals like a maniac, Weber and Babel going at it like an improv duo with a seven second snippet of the original at its end just to remind you of what it once sounded like.

‘100 Word Mantra’ is the one I’d like to see Sudden Infant on Top of The Pops with, this in which Lanz intones a mantra while dancing like a Tuvan round a campfire, the rest of the band joining in as the pace picks up only to break into a litany of fashion brand names. I was hoping that ‘228’ was going to be a pean to an as yet unscheduled Metro bus service that runs between Cleckheaton and Basel,

‘228, its never too late’

but it wasn’t, like ‘100 Word Mantra’ the meaning is a deep one: existentialism, the scourge of materialism, all the important stuff.

Some call it Dada Punk, some call it Dada Noise Rock but I wouldn’t know about that. I know I like it though.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Year Punk Broke.

Noseholes - Danger Dance
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger183.

Muscle Barbi
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger180.
12” [LP?]

Harbinger Sound. Harbinger181.
12” EP

What you have to remember is that at heart Underwood is a punk. Anything that sounds like it came out of the seminal years of ‘76 to ‘84 is enough to get his salvia glands dripping like leaky taps which is why all of the above sounds as if it was recorded in a shabby recording studio in Rochdale sometime around 1980. Noseholes and Muscle Barbi probably got lost on the M62 making their way there while on a weekend trip from Berlin to Liverpool to check out Ringo’s old local. Structure are from Brighton which is three million miles from Rochdale so it might have taken them a little longer to get there but you get the idea.

Along with bands such as Toylettes, Massicot, Pisse, Heavy Metal and Karies, Harbinger Sound are giving bands with a punk aesthetic/ethic a decent home and with it some much deserved attention.

All music after 1984 was shit anyway wasn’t it? Except for just recently when certain bands, bands who have been digging around in the past for inspiration, have decided that thats what they want to do. Its a little like going to a Dada appreciation night and then going home to cut up all your Stephen King books to make new poetry.

As someone who lived through those aforementioned years I feel I have perspective on my side. Being force fed indie guitar pop during the late eighties and when that died a death, druggy dance music from Manchester and when that died a death whatever because I stopped listening to the radio and caring, I find a lot of what Harbinger Sound releases of this nature makes me feel that music made by people with guitars and drums can really make a difference once again. At the stub end of 2018. Whodathunk that one? Because we can look forward now. Not just back. Because bands like Structure and Muscle Barbi and Noseholes and all those mentioned above are important and not just to those of a certain age with a nostalgia for such things.

Being of the John Peel generation I played the first of this lot at 33rpm because if you are of a certain age faced with a 12 inch platter with several tracks on it you assume its an album but no, they all play at 45rpm. Muscle Barbi has 12 tracks on it, Noseholes seven tracks only Structure with six two minute-ish tracks could be glimpsed as a proper twelve incher. Its the punk answer to subverting what is [was?] Rock’s stomping ground. 

Having said that Noseholes sound pretty good at 33rpm, you should try it. At 45rpm they have a funky punk bass, swirly electronics and a female vocalist who sings/talks with a modified voice effect, all this going towards making them sound like a European James Chance and the Contortions only with a trumpet instead of a sax and an angular sensibility. Or the Flying Lizards with catchier tunes and a better bass player. ‘Ex Driver’ is a manic two minutes worth where dogs are ‘barking shit machines’, ‘Bed Smoker’ has an Egyptian tinged keyboard riff, the title track is a get your arse up off the floor stomper, ‘Aspirin Nation’ is a crazy instrumental where parpy trumpet and synth do battle.

Sounding like Sham 69 is never a bad idea either. Muscle Barbi do this in buckets full of spades with perhaps a harder edge, with perhaps a grafting on of certain Sun City Girl cartoonish samples, with perhaps enough punk energy to power a small town. Not that you can make out much of whats being sung bar the track titles and I doubt they wear brown leather jackets and Union Jack sleeveless T’s. Twelve absolute banging tracks with just the handful daring to stick their head above the two minute mark. I came out the other side wondering what it would be like to be down the front at a punk gig, all sweat and moldy beer. A three piece Austrian outfit with twin attack vocals who are almost impossible to track down online due to them choosing a name that has inks to female body building.

With the same three way set up come Structure, here with a more rolling drum, twangling trebly guitar, cranking bass approach, vocals split between bass and guitar, male and female giving them an early Cure meets Gang of Four sound only with much shorter track runs.

Killer track is Disco;

‘I wanna go to the disco/I wanna get out of my head’

A song that begins with a nervous bass and clattery drums before razor sharp guitar slashes kick in and with it the room lights up. An existential angst mini classic that condenses Satre into a two minutes worth of agit, a song that captures wasted life and a rare kind of energy all wrapped up and spent like a quickly sucked fag. Karen Constance artwork too.

You never know, 2019 might just be the year punk finally broke.    

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Consumer Electronics

Consumer Electronics - The Weight/Hostility Blues
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger 180.

This latest single by Consumer Electronics is a nasty black stinking wound that's gone to green and purple and oozes deathly puss when prodded. Its the essential soundtrack to a sick planet. Its brevity is a weapon of Ebola proportions. I swear it tried jumping off the turntable when I played it, as if the cartridge was actually repelled by what it was hearing. Play it to a room full of ECM heads and I swear half of them would drop dead. Just like that.

This as preamble and amuse bouche for the double vinyl as soon to be released by Harbinger Sound. This as a black slug crawling from the corpse of Power Electronics. This as proof that Philip Best may be just about the only person alive who can deliver such music with the gravitas it deserves.

Ever since the introduction of Sarah Froelich on vocals [and when was the last time that word didn’t carry the weight it deserves] and Russell Haswell [here also credited with production] Consumer Electronics have become ever more relevant. The sound is now one of sick, twisted electronics. Like someone tried torturing a Korg with a cattle prod. Dark, dark sounds. Froelich’s voice is that of a manic Rosa Klebb. It will make you flinch. Its the perfect accompaniment to Best’s belligerent incandescent tirades. His lyrics are often disturbing without you knowing exactly why, you just know that something creepy’s going on. On The Weight Best stamps all over whatever it was The Band recorded with his take on whatever it was The Band were singing about. Froelich sandwiches Best with a series of character references all of whom need the weight taking off them but when she opens up Hostility Blues with the line ‘I’m that once-a-month bleeding bitch’ the immediate response is an unprompted sotto voce ‘fucking hell’.

Soon to be followed by;

‘I’m that every day fucking seer
Of the open legs / and wet bed smear
Chomping my jaw like I’m on ecstasy’

Soon to be followed by;

‘and its my delight on a starless night to bomb the bourgeoisie’

Because there has to be some light in there. You may feel secure hiding behind Emergency Kitten feeds and isn’t nature great but deep down Consumer Electronics know that you’ll have to venture outside one day. I think that's what they’re getting at anyway.


Thursday, September 06, 2018

Meet the Jarvis's

M Jarvis. A Jarvis - From the Altar Screen
Feathered Coyote Records. FRC54

Dirty Swords - Dirty Words
Death Slap. Death Slap 01.

Dirty Swords - Date Night Terror at Desperation Falls.
No label.
3” CDR

A series of remarkable coincidences and unexplained phenomena continue to leave me and Mrs Fisher completely baffled. The latest incident occurred in that most accommodating North Eastern town of Morpeth. As we approached their relatively new and shiny brick and glass shopping emporium Mrs Fisher asked me who I thought officially opened the building and after giving it five seconds of thought I said ‘Joanna Lumley’.

‘How did you know?’ she said, a look of genuine disbelief upon her face. ‘Did you see the plaque?’

I hand’t seen any plaque but what had put Joanna Lumley’s name into my head was the last programme we’d watched the night previously, the programme you come across by flicking the channels in the vain hope of catching something interesting because you’ve only got about thirty minutes of life left in you after all that sea air and a rather large whiskey. The  programme concerned the comings and goings of the five star Mandarin Oriental Hotel as found in Hyde Park London. Expensive hotels are one of my passing fascinations, I see them as places where people with lots of money go so as to avoid coming in to contact with working class scum, unless they happen to bump in to the chamber maid or accidentally have to speak to someone to order a £20 club sandwich or make a complaint about the bed not being comfy enough. At the Mandarin there was a reception for Jilly Cooper, the posh writer who writes about posh people shagging each other and horses though not both together [I don’t think, I’ve never read any of her books] as the programme passed by in haze of whiskey and half sleep Mrs Fisher commented that ‘the only two posh people I can bear are Jilly Cooper and Joanna Lumley’ and with that we switched off and went to bed.  So the morning after when asked who I thought opened Morpeth’s shopping arcade in 2009 I rejected Cooper as being too ridiculous [I doubt she’s been no further than North London in her entire life] and plumped for Joanna Lumley. Which was the right answer but not the one Mrs Fisher was expecting from the person stood at her side whose brain has been filled with a lifetime of celebrities, actors, sports stars and BBC weather presenters.

Sometimes things in life just don’t make sense and its best just to let them go otherwise you end up making videos telling anyone who’ll listen how the Royal Family are all reptiles and that the American Government are putting chemicals in the water in an effort to turn everybody gay. So we walked through the Sanderson Centre pausing in Paperchase to peruse the pens and thought back to the time in Slovenia where we bumped in to the American couple we’d met in Japan the year previously. Which is if you think about it is just too bizarre to make any kind of sense. What made the encounter all the more ridiculous was the fact that we had but fifteen minutes to spare before we had to get on a bus to take us to the airport and our conversation was a rushed one of disbelief and meaningless jabber.

Mikarla Jarvis has spent time in Japan too, you can tell this because she sings in Japanese. This in its self is not proof of personal visitation but I remember her brother Andy Jarvis telling me this fact many years ago and it arousing deep feelings of envy within me, feelings that would only be reconciled ten years hence. The Jarvis siblings have recorded before but not for a long time now, they’ve also been integral cogs in the short lived and long gone avant song outfit Sculptress. They seem unable to make a sound that isn’t worth your time. Gifted people. From the Altar Screen has been kicking around unloved for a number of years now, no doubt making friends with dust bunnies under the bed of someone who once upon a time promised to make it their next release. It was worth the wait for this is a mini classic. With only five tracks and a running time of 22 minutes they’ve managed to exhume the ghosts of lush string era Nick Drake, 70’s Vashti Bunyan and experimental mode Jim O’Rourke while giving  the similarly staffed male/female Japanese acoustic duo Tenniscoats a run for their money. This is like coming across one of those ‘Holy Grails’ that certain European labels seem to reissue every week except its here now and you can have a copy too because its still available. A Jarvis’s electronics add shimmer to the hand percussion and acoustic pluck of ‘Kuru Ka’ where Jarvis M [or Mika de Oliveira as she’s now called] sings like an angel as she mixes in Japanese and English lyrics, when the cello kicked in I swooned. ‘Revenir’ is a cello plucked, clarinet blown, skittering drums almost instrumental affair with Mika singing ghostly wordless harmonies. ‘Lembranca’ at a mere minute and a half is a ridiculously catchy acoustic pop song, ‘The Wave’ is unadulterated Robert Fripp worship and if you think the juxtaposition kills it you’d be wrong. The fit is perfect. ‘Yomi’ brings us full circle with another of those delightful acoustic pluck/cello instrumentals which with the added eastern exoticness of the Koto gives this a leafy Cafe Penguin Orchestra feel.

One of the releases of the year for me and the perfect antidote to a lot of the noisy shit that makes its way between my ears. Anybody out there looking to press a single sided LP with groovy etching on the flip need look no further. Holy Grail status guaranteed.

Dirty Swords is in a different field all together. This being the work of Jarvis A and I’m guessing, Marky Loo Loo, or is it the Filthy Turd or whatever guise Filthy goes by these days, Dai Coelacanth? If this was the Filthy Turd there’d be garbled vocals in here, more cut ups, more sex, more horror and it may be called Vile Plumage which was the last pairing of the two. As its stands you can put these two releases in the experimental noise corner, noise with a small ‘n’ as in noisy not blow your walls down but just noisy as noisy, chatter of machines noisy, flashing lights on an analogue computer, trim phones, ticking clocks, omm-ing monks and Raymond Scott scoring a sci-fi film noisy. On the eponymous Dirty Words the longer tracks work best as in ‘A Void’ as there’s more to get your teeth in to, more to get your head in to. The eight and a half minute track that is the entirety of the three inch CDR grumbles around in similar territory, a territory scattered with broken gadgets and dirt making objects, the sounds emitted from the backs of busted radios and Jodrell Bank.

There’s an excellent cheese shop in Morpeth too.

Feathered Coyote

Dirty Swords

Cheese shop in Morpeth

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Evan Parker - De Motu

Evan Parker - De Motu
Lenka Lente
ISBN : 979-10-94601-23-5

I found a City Lights publication in Barter Books the other week. Have you been to Barter Books? No? Well darlings, you’re missing out. You simply must. Its in Alnwick in Northumberland, housed in what used to be the town’s railway station and its one of the biggest second hand book shops in Britain with open fires, a cafe and a miniature railway set that runs around the tops of the bookshelves as Jaques Brel warbles away about how he misses his old umbrella. We go every year and if you have books of interest they’ll take them off you and offset the price of anything you buy. Its all rather wonderful in a fuck off Facebook kind of way. 
The book in question was written by the Italian author Italo Svevo, a close friend of James Joyce and contains a lecture given by Svevo in Milan 1927 concerning Joyce and his work. Its a small book that could easily fit in to a coat pocket and be read in little less than half an hour by even the most ponderous of readers. From there I discovered the City Lights ‘Pocket Poet’ editions and the fact that these small and delightful publications were inspired by a series of French poetry books called ‘Poètes d'aujourd'hui’. So did the inspiration for Lenka Lente’s small books arise from City Lights or ‘Poètes d'aujourd'hui’ and does it really matter? Probably not.

Evan Parker’s De Motu is a small book too as are all Lenka Lente books. This one is in French and English and contains the commission Parker submitted as part of a project called Zaal de Unie which took place in Rotterdam in 1992. In it he talks of the Instant Composers Pool, the technique required to master circular breathing and the challenges of improvisation amongst other improv related matters.

I can’t admit to being a big fan of Parker’s but I did find myself watching some of his more recent gigs via Youtube and found myself being helplessly sucked in to that thrashing vortex of his. Like Albert Ayler before him he may eventually grown on me.