Monday, November 19, 2018


Ramleh - A Return To Slavery
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger161. LP

I don’t know why but last week while in the midst of minding my own business, the urge came upon me to listen to some early Whitehouse. There I was aimlessly watching some cat videos or something when my hand went to Cream of the Second Coming [all my Whitehouse CD’s are within easy reach] and into the slot it went. As it was going in to the slot I tried to remember the last time I played it and and I couldn’t but it must have been a very, very, very, very, very long time ago.

Cream of the Second Coming was the first Whitehouse release I ever bought and at the time it scared me to death. It felt like it shouldn’t be legal what with all that hideous squealing and talk of anal sex. Now I think it’s hilarious. My Cock’s On Fire? Carry On meets Norman Wisdom.

If you’ve read this far you must be at least a bit of a fan of early Power Electronics. For some the mere sight of the words Whitehouse, Ramleh or Sutcliffe Jugend are an immediate turn off; leather trench coats, concentration camps, serial killers and songs about coming up your arse. Its all you need to know they say. Ugh. Put em on once in ’95. Bunch of twats. And I have to admit, if you’re not in the mood for such as this then you might as well not bother. Its why I felt a little weird going for that Second Coming CD. What am I doing? This is horrible. Its meant to be horrible. That’s the point.

I’ve not listened to Ramleh since the 2012 Ramleh/Harbinger Sound release ‘Awake!’ An eight CD behemoth that I dutifully listened to and made notes on and put away for my retirement fund. I’ve just dug it out now and blown the dust off it. Its quite the very thing; poster, badges, sumptuous booklet, artwork signed by Phillip Best and hours worth of horrible noise. There’s not much else you can add to that really, unless you’re talking about the ‘rock’ Ramleh which is an entirely different thing altogether. This is the horrible noise Ramleh as recorded in 1983 which is now a very, very, very, very long time ago.

There’s no point in talking about ‘tests of time’ and does it still ‘stand up’. You’re either a fan or you’re not. Strip away the history and A Return To Slavery is horrible noise whichever way you look at it. It’s just that, horrible noise. For the record [literally] side one is horrible noise as recorded during a torture session held in a grubby room of a country you never knew existed until yesterday and side two is horrible noise as recorded at a political rally circa 1936. Side one is a reissue of one side of an album that came out in blah, blah, blah but you don’t need to know that. All you need to know is that its horrible noise and some people like horrible noise.


Harbinger Sound

Thursday, November 15, 2018

[the] Mudguards

[The] Mudguards - On Guard
Horn of Plenty. HOP1. LP
250 copies.

Hey, hey we’re the Mudguards! Said nobody ever. Maybe because [the] Mudguards were an obscure politically motivated Art Noise duo working out of London’s East End whose mantra was ‘the commodification of dissent’ and not some goofy Yank pop quartet with perfect teeth and a TV show to their name. This being ‘81 to ’93 and greed is good and the miners strike, Greenham Common, The Falkland’s war, the Poll Tax riots and all manner of social unrest and upheaval. This being Thatcher’s Britain and Reagan’s America. A miserable time that resulted in many an effective cultural response.

[The] Mudguards being a collective built around Nelson Bloodrocket and Reg Out who drew influence from ‘quintessential English working class entertainment’ hence tracks like ‘Any Old Irony’ that sounds like The Residents after six pints in The Old Bull and Bush. They built kinetic sound sculptures from scrap metal produced sounds from vintage audio equipment and circuit bent electronics [long before ‘circuit bent electronics’ became a household name] and collaborated with noisemakers [information is hard to come by], they appropriated [squatted?] empty housing in which to perform and I’ve never heard of them.

Probably because they never released anything. Horn of Plenty [the label that used to be Vittelli] have done a sterling job of collating an albums worth of material as recorded between 1983 and 1988, expect bleak proto Industrial bleat, speeded up spoken word samples, tape echo, electric guitars going through reel to reel tape decks, rockin’ synth blurt. The two longer tracks on side two is where they work best with the bleak Industrial landscape that is Theme From The Big Trigger sitting cheek by grotty jowl with On Guard, an absurdist spoken word parp-a-thon anthem of sorts with added dog barks courtesy of an analog synth. I’m quite liking the fact that the Cockney sing-a-long classic Any Old Iron becomes a morose ur zombie-esque reverse knees up [knees down?] and that Birthday Smile is all grubby Industrial churn with heavy nods towards Throbbing Gristle who I suppose we have to make comparison with even if only tenuously.

How the Mudguards have escaped my attention all these years is bugging me. Obscurants obviously and covered in a shroud of secrecy that evades even the depths of several internet search engines. Maybe their activism ran deeper than covering old music hall songs and hosting the odd sound installation [the inside sleeve shows a particularly interesting example of this with a pair of ghetto blasters atop a pair of forward facing ladders, a sound horn on a turntable of sorts atop two tables separating them] maybe they got erm ... involved? The sleeve notes by Johnny Cash-Converter are good and helpful but we need to know more. And hear more.  

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Rovar 17

Rovar 17 - Csonkolt Tündér
Unsigned Label. US046.
50 copies.

Is there still room in my life for music such as this? This being Industrial Ambient Noise Dance as made by very competent musicians in Hungary who go under the names ‘MaN’ and ‘Stadlmeier’ and ‘Syporca Whandal’ - these being the collaborators in this release. It would appear that there is, though my appetite is never really a healthy one anymore. At the moment I’m very much an after dark R3 kind of person; shellac discs of obscure folk musics, Jim O’Rourke’s latest and the odd drama should I find myself in the mood. I caught the last half hour of R3’s Through the Night programme on Monday morning as the car warmed ready for the short journey to work, John Shea played Debussy’s first two Preludes and for a few moments there was just me, Debussy, the hum of the car engine and not much else. It reminded me of the story Peel used to tell about him hearing Roy Orbison coming out of a workshop radio while he stood on a train platform waiting for the last train, ‘Only the Lonely’ drifting across the damp winter night air and almost bringing the man to his knees with it. 

Needless to say, Csonkolt Tündér [‘Truncated Fairy] didn’t have that effect on me, though I dare say there are people out there who delight in all manner of heavily processed Dance Noise [as that is what I shall call it]. Side one has five tracks and side two one long track that runs to just over the half hour mark. The shorter work on side one bears an uncanny resemblance to the longer work on side two which is [I’m sure you’re pleased to know] a live outing as recorded in Augsburg earlier this year. The title track comes first and is all fast beats and swooping noises like the soundtrack to a Japanese film where all the action takes place inside an upright video arcade game. Second track ‘Violation of the Taboo of the Forbidden Places’ is like a noisy Orb track where the rhythm gets nicked from a rampaging Aphex Twin outing before getting shoved through all kinds of mutations to make it sound like its coming out of your diaphragm. Next track ‘No Longer Metaphysical Spirit’ is moe of the same with the rampaging beats being obliterated by gallons of noise. And on it merrily goes.

I get the feeling that Rovar 17 started out as a Techno outfit until one day they got bored and decided to give Noise a go. Its all very well done and through a decent sound system it will punch its weight but its not Debussy and its not Roy Orbison is it.