Sunday, December 08, 2019

Stuart Chalmers and Taming Power

Blue Thirty-Two - Stuart Chalmers and Taming Power
Blue Tapes. Cassette/DL
50 copies.

Let us cast our minds back a few years to a Friday night in the Old Hall, Heckmondwike. Built in 1472 this magnificent, exposed timbered Sam Smiths pub is the kind of place capable of weakening the knees of any passing American tourist. Admittedly thin on the ground around these parts but still, its a building thats a pleasure to drink in and one that has you marveling as to how its survived for over 500 years when all around it has changed beyond measure. It was here that on that momentous evening Neil Campbell, for tis he, passed from his hand to mine a Taming Power release. A release he passed with a missionaries zeal, extolling the virtues of a man in Norway who made this incredible music that nobody had ever heard because it never got any further than sodding Norway which is where this enigmatic person called Askild Haugland, who was Taming Power, lived. Except for the odd release that found its way to New Zealand of all places and then Mirfield, West Yorkshire.

This Taming Power release I took home and played and wondered as to what the fuss was all about. Squally walls of feedback? What was this? Surely not some feeble Power Electronics release? But when Campbell tells you somethings good you better pay attention. So I went back and slowly, slowly the beauty began to reveal itself. It was a revelatory experience. They don’t come often.

That release contained Taming Power work from as far back as 2001 and was the result of two reel to reel tape decks feeding back on each other. What lay beneath that seemingly ordinary slim case CDR and piercing feedback was a wondrous back catalogue of almost exclusively vinyl releases, a mother-lode of barely heard outsider music of such stunning originality and beauty and it was doing little more than gathering dust under Haugland’s bed.

When those Taming Power releases started filtering through it was with awe that I sat and listened to them. Haugland was creating sounds of a ragged, haunting purity using nothing more than an electric guitar and a pair of reel to reel tape machines and then to a lesser extent radios, glockenspiels, singing bowls all of them coming together to form landscapes of emptiness and loneliness that I had never experienced before. Ever. And here it was, all on vinyl with sleeves covered in Haugland’s own enigmatic photos and drawings and labels designed and drawn by his own hand and every single track recorded given nothing more than the time and date it was recorded on. Mind blown.

Fast forward to a few weeks back and to a gig where I went to see Stuart Chalmers and Claus Olson collaborate. Chalmers isn’t as reclusive as Haugland. He doesn’t live in Norway, he lives in West Yorkshire. I’ve been a fan of his work since I first heard him so was eager to hear of how this release had come about. That it did come about was one of the most exciting bits of release news I’d heard all year. Two of my favourite artists in collaboration. As far as I’m aware Haugland has never collaborated before. He’s not exactly putting himself about either and by all accounts had to be tracked down and threatened with lump hammers … gently prodded in to seeing the benefits of working together.

Blue Thirty-Two [I’m assuming all Blue Tapes releases get a number for a title] begins with Haugland gently fingering a few notes on his guitar and looping it in to Apocalypse Now soundtrack territory before Chalmers comes in with his swarmandal and it all goes gorgeously light headed and dreamy and woozy in a slow, limpid whirl of effortless serenity. Its a thing of outstanding beauty and charm and had me in need of some kind of moral support as I struggled to confine my joy to the four walls that I sat between. It would have been easy for them to keep this is up for the entire release and there are those amongst us who would quite happily sit through an hours worth of such sublimity but instead they insert a track between the three that has a much more abrasive edge. ‘SCTP - 028’ uses tape recorders and ‘FX’ with Haugland’s feeding back tape recorders and Chalmers tape splurge and electronic-y warbles merging to push you deep down into pulsing, info chatter territory before eventually washing you ashore on a pebbly beach filled with radio white noise. The last track brings the release back full circle emotionally but this time with Chalmers playing a bowed swarmandal thats rasping off notes and gentle squeaks against Haugland’s increasingly frenetic guitar playing.

You don’t need me to tell you that the collaboration works. Such riches and with the track titles being; ‘SCTP - 030’, ‘SCTP - 028’ and ‘SCTP - 026’ we have to assume that there is more where this came from. I’m betting its all of an equally high standard too.

There can't be many [if any] of the fifty cassettes remaining but the digital will still take you there. Its a special place. A bit like the Old Hall.

Blue Tapes

Stuart Chalmers Bandcamp

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Kevin Boniface

Round About Town - Kevin Boniface

ISBN 978 1 910010 18 1 


“I see the waxwings again. This time they are in the tree by the flats where the skinny Asian man with the grey jeans and studded belt is trying to gain access by shouting Raymond.”

“I can see a figure lying face down on the pavement up ahead. I get a bit closer and I see his right arm move. He rolls briefly onto his side and back on to his front, where he lies still again. He’s wearing new, clean clothes: plaid shirt, dark blue denim jeans, and expensive-looking trainers. As I pass, I ask whether he’s okay. He rolls onto his side again. He’s young, mid-twenties, dark curly hair. ‘I’m just bored’, he says. ‘Oh, as long as you’re okay?’ I say. “Have you got a spare cig?” “No”. “Okay”, and he rolls back onto his front.”

The last time I was out of work I sat the Royal Mail aptitude test. I had this idea that I’d become a postman in the hard drinking and writing Charles Bukowksi mode. The truth of the matter was that I was desperate for a job and in the late 90’s there wasn’t that many kicking around. While waiting for the results I found myself some temporary work in a local factory and when I got the news that I’d passed the aptitude test for the Royal Mail I decided to stick out my temporary job with the hope of being offered a full-time one. Which is why I’ve still got the same job now twenty years hence and why I don’t throw a postman’s sack over my shoulder every morning.

I only live about ten minutes walk from the local sorting office and the 5.30 a.m. starts didn’t fill me with dread. I tried looking at the positives: lots of exercise, fresh air, a chance to meet people and pretend that I was Charles Bukowksi. I imagined myself walking down the gravelly paths of big houses, the householder already at the doorstep waiting to greet me with a cheery smile as I handed over their post on a crisp spring morning.
‘How are you this fine morning young Postie?’,
‘Oh, fine thank you and what a wonderful day it is to be alive. Here’s your leccy bill.’ 

I’m guessing that the reality is very different. A couple of years back Mrs Fisher had us delivering flyers for the Cleckheaton Literary Festival. We did a couple of Sunday afternoons in the surrounding streets and it gave me an insight in to what postmen and women have to put up with; letterboxes at the bottom of doors that you have to bend down to get to and when you do the spring on the flap is so stiff it takes you five goes to get anything in, doors with cages over them that makes the letterbox virtually impossible to get at, garden paths littered with dog shit, garden gates that you cant open, garden gates that crumble in your hands, doors hidden by overgrown vegetation, houses that stand on their own and take you an age to get to and get back from. And this was on a fine sunny summer Sunday. Imagine it on a cold February morning with a heavy bag over your shoulder and untreated frost and ice underfoot.  

Then there’s the dogs. The cartoon postman being chased down a garden path by a vicious dog, letter’s flying from his bag and into the air behind him like oversized confetti while the owner looks on unconcerned. Kevin Boniface comes face to face with lots of dogs. And pensioners. And fake lawns with their cement ornaments. And geese and jackdaws and bikers and the man who wears waterproof clothing all the year round whatever the weather. Because Kevin Boniface is a postman. And an artist and a writer.

Kevin works his round out of the Huddersfield sorting office and when he gets home he writes a few lines about what he’s seen and heard. Round About Town covers seven years of such observations and together they form a picture of everyday Huddersfield life.

Life at pavement level. In and among the dog shit and the boy racers and Mr. Briggs in his Suzuki Carry and the drug dealers and the weary shop owners and workers stood at bus stops with Tescos ‘bags for life’ and people in black tracksuits with white piping, of which there seems to be a lot of in Huddersfield.

Over the course of these seven years and hundreds of observations a picture builds of the area, the countryside and the people who live in it. There is no linear narrative. Unless you count Mr. Briggs and his Suzuki Carry, the man who dresses in waterproof gear whatever the weather and various bored shop owners.

And he can name all the plants and the birds and notes when the buddleia is blooming and when the cotoneaster has been viscously pruned. He can be poetic, comparing a group of jackdaws pecking a field to forensic police officers combing for clues. Boniface has Alan Bennett’s knack of picking up dialogue too:

"On and up into Audi country: “Has anything changed since your last visit?” asks the dentist’s receptionist. “I’m drinking much more wine” says the woman in the quilted jacket."

Accompanying the text are monochrome photos as taken on his round. Which when coupled to the text highlight what a crap, gloomy and moody place Huddersfield can be. Pub signs abound; ‘What’s on … June 21st … Elvis’ and my favourite ‘Saturday 9.30 PM A Night With Daz!’ both quickly chalked on to weathered blackboards. Then there’s the fly-tipped sofas and wheelie bins, rotting garages and boarded up houses, misty moors and birds on telegraph wires. An image showing the impression left by a birds feet in thin melting snow is particularly poignant. 

Think Smokie covers bands, fake lawns, cement owls with solar panels that light up the eyes, the guy who paved over his paved garden and didn’t cement it in, Xmas parties advertised in May, the advertising board on wheels that says ‘MEGA CHEAP CHEESE IN FRIDGE’. The crushing mundanity, the boredom, the shitty-ness of it all, the unintended hypocrisy:

"The house that was built on the field where I used to race my BMX has a poster in the window: “SAY NO to greenfield development. SAVE OUR GREENBELT”.

"I pass a house with the tiny cluttered garden: children’s ride-on toys in faded plastic, dog shit and a fallen over gravestone: “Mum Gran Sadly Missed”. 

Boniface’s skill is not only in documenting all this but for getting you to see the world in a new light, making you more aware of your surroundings. Since reading this book I’ve been taking more notice of my own streets and the people on them, making mental notes as to what they’re wearing, what they’re carrying, what they’re saying. Last week while in Scarborough I passed two men on the high street one of them telling the other in a loud booming voice how crap the special effects are in the new Terminator film and an hour later I passed the same two men at exactly the same spot, the same man still talking in his loud booming voice and I thought Boniface would love that.

Uniform Books

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Shoving Noise Down Peoples Throats. The Temp Versus Rupert and Bertrand Burgess.

Rupert and Bertrand Burgess Meets Mixed Band Philanthropist - When Anti Meets Electronic It All Ends Up As Nothing.
Obskyr Records. LP. OB003
100 copies w/ insert
+ various limited editions

All the temps have gone and the leaves are brown. Its that time of year. The work’s dropped off and all the temps have buggered off with it. Temps being temporary workers. The flotsam and jetsam of factory life which means that one day you’re working alongside a recently made redundant 60 year old mechanic whose only aim is to spin his time out before retirement and the next you're working with an ex squaddie with a thing for Stone Island goggle beanies who hasn’t had his PTSD diagnosed yet and reeks of beer every morning. These are the things, these are the things, the things that work life is made of.

About six weeks ago a fresh faced young temp was introduced to me. He was exactly 40 years younger than me, polite, hard working, conscientious and as I was to discover keen on music. I’d gone from the usual grunting, zero interest in anything except beer, football and Netflix to someone I could talk music to. Rather excitedly I took it as my duty to introduce him to all kinds of bands and musical styles that I thought would widen his musical tastes and maybe lead him on to greater musical appreciation because being just 17 years old [and even though his father was in to music too] there were lots of gaps in his musical knowledge. I put myself in his shoes and imagined how I’d feel if I met someone with forty years experience of going to gigs, buying records, meeting people but I soon got the impression that I was perhaps, maybe, no definitely boring him to tears. After introducing him to the delights of Japanese Noise, The Incapacitants and Merzbow I gave him a few Noise related CD’s then raved about Throbbing Gristle being the best starting point for anyone interested in getting into the weird stuff. Then immediately wished I hadn’t and thought that I’d pushed him too far too quickly and left it at that. It didn’t help that in a sudden rush of enthusiasm I dug out my iPod and via the dusty radio/CD player subjected him to one of the Deutsche Elektronische Musik comps that Soul Jazz put out a few years ago. After about an hour of Faust, Can and D.A.F. I saw him close up to the radio and wondered if he was looking at the display to see which artist it was that was playing and that maybe he was going to ask me a question as to who it was and did I know anything about them but he just wanted to turn it off. ‘Its doing me head in’ he said.

We stuck to Radio 2 after that.

As the days and weeks passed the chat about music was never far from the surface. Ken Bruce’s ‘Popmaster’, that mid-morning excuse to put the kettle on and skive for 15 minutes/have a well earned rest became a regular feature with both us surprising each other with our pop chart knowledge, him post year 2000 me pre year 2000. And so it continued for several weeks.

He said he’d recently bought a turntable so I brought him a few records in and told him he could keep them. Middle of the road stuff that I’d probably never play again. I told him that I had a copy of The Who’s ‘Live at Leeds’ and that if you were in to The Who then you really needed to own a copy and that he could have it but that night at home I searched in vain and wondered what did happen to it so he ended up with some Devo and a Sonic Youth ten inch that had concentric grooves on it which he seemed more than happy with anyway.

On the day before he was told that his services were no longer required I got the iPod out again. Ken Bruce, the repeated plays of the current Children In Need charity single featuring Rod Stewart and Robbie Williams and someone singing karaoke for 24 hours had driven us both to the limits of our patience. By now I’d scrubbed the Deutsche Elektronische Musik and replaced it with a selection of albums that I knew we’d both enjoy including some Joy Division and New Order but when I turned it on the first album that came up was a disc from the Lee Scratch Perry box set Arkology and I went with that. As soon as it started it our moods lifted. Bye bye Rod and Robbie hello Lee Scratch Perry. He'd heard of Lee Scratch Perry which cheered me up no end and with a skip in our step we carried out our onerous task with renewed energy and vigor and the rest of the day flew by with little in the way of conversation and much in way of appreciation of the music.

I never told him I write this thing or that I pass judgement of musics of an obscure nature. I’d troubled him enough and with hindsight doubt that the handful of Noise CD’s I’d given him would gather no more than five collected minutes of his baffled attention before spending the rest of their lives in a dark forgotten corner.

How would I explain to him the world of 80’s experimental Industrial England and Nurse With Wound, The New Blockaders and Whitehouse? ‘Well, some blokes who were in to weird music decided to make some weird music of their own and even though they couldn’t play any instruments they went in to a studio and made some sounds and some of them became famous and some notorious and some less famous and for them obscurity and footnotes to a time that is now seen as a bit of a golden period for experimental music in this country’.

Rupert and Bertrand Burgess fall in to the obscure category. As Dada Duo they released a cassette in an edition of ten copies called ‘An Overloaded Dope-Dealer Suckers in Benches of Religion’. This was 1980. One of these ten copies fell into the hands of Richard Rupenus who liked what he heard. Rupenus suggested rereleasing the cassette on LP but Bertrand Burgess suggested rerecording some new material and so entered IPS studio in London [where Nurse With Wound recorded The Sylvie & Babs Hi-Fi Companion] to record two tracks for it. Dada Duo entered said studio but after recording one track the funds ran out and the LP was aborted. Fast forward thirty odd years and picture Richard Rupenus rummaging around in his garden shed looking for a rusty bicycle wheel when he comes across the master tape for ‘When Anti Meets Electronic …’ .

So what does it sound like? This thirty year old lump of early English Industrial Experimental Noise? It sounds exactly like a thirty year old lump of English Industrial Experimental Noise; battered cymbals thrown to the floor, garbled vocals, squealing train brakes, a nigh on unceasing barrage of noise from needle drop to needle lift. Hammers were used and saws and tapes and electronics. Richard Rupenus is credited with sledgehammer amongst other things but whether he was actually there or these were added later I know not. Another piece of the jig-saw then. Another piece of obscurantism with which to whet the appetite. Something to scare temps with.

There’s another side to fill up though and no Dada Duo track to fill it with so we have two tracks from Mixed Band Philanthropist: ‘Fat Family Meets The Unbreakable Smile’ and 'Polyhymnia And The Philanthropenis Witness The First Act of Spontaneous Human Convulsion'. Expect a cornucopia of noisy juxtaposed rapid cut an shut edits including screams, random dialogue, porn grunts, shuffling sounds, telephones ringing, syncopated jazz bands and eventually those lovable Carry On-esque innuendo samples; the laughing Geordie DJ talking about his penis pump and someone stumbling over the word clitoris. All good harmless razor blade and tape edited family fun. 

Would the temp like it? I think he’d much rather listen to Lee Scratch Perry but you never know. 

Obskyr Records


Monday, November 11, 2019

Neil Campbell meets Morton Feldman

Neil Campbell - Cloud Drag 1979

As given to me by the man himself in time honored fashion at the St Paul’s Church in Huddersfield on the occasion of Phillip Thomas's triumphant rendition of Morton Feldman’s 90 minute epic ‘Triadic Memories’. Which turned out to be one of the highlights of the year. It was a first time visit for me to St Paul's too. A de-consecrated church that sits on the town center ring road at the periphery of Huddersfield University campus. It has banked seating that gives impressive views of the church insides and Thomas as he slowly works his way through this most elegiac of Feldman’s compositions. As the work progressed time seemed to loose all meaning. I purposely kept my watch covered and phone turned off and the only way I knew that time was passing was that my arse began to ache. People shuffled in their seats, I spied one person checking their phone but most of us, those I could see anyway remained motionless, rapt and enveloped in what we were experiencing. The venue, situated where it is, leaked extraneous sounds throughout the performance; emergency services sirens, rain, traffic, Campbell unscrewing the cap of his whiskey flask and kindly offering me a drop which I have to tell you I declined and at one instance someone presumably connected to the venue who could be heard clanging and banging through several ancient church doors before appearing stage front as it were, us as shocked to see them as they were to see us. Thomas stopped playing, his hands hovered stasis above the piano keys and as the door slowly and quietly shut resumed where he’d left off.

I bumped in to Bald John before the gig and we went for a drink in The Commercial. I’d come on the bus due to a flat car battery and had missed the earlier evening performance because of this but John had come in his car and was kind enough to give me a lift home, or drop me off near home which was good enough for me. As we left the venue the heavens opened to such an extent that the roads became more like rivers. As John edged his car through the dark floods Radio 3 became less and less audible. The talk changed from Morton Feldman to I cant hear the radio to ‘I’ve never seen rain like this in my entire life’ and then to silence as we both tried to concentrate and make out where we were going. John took what I considered a circuitous route which at one stage was actually taking me away from where I wanted to be and I wondered if the rain and fear of crashing, or getting drowned or disappearing down a hole in the road that shouldn't be there had somehow shook his senses. He dropped me at my old school which was near enough in the circumstances and I walked the rest of the way home in full-on drowned rat mode. A memorable night.

‘Cloud Drag 1979’ contains seven humphing, pumfing tracks of the Gallopatter machine going full blast, rubber belts flapping round a six foot diameter drive wheel that's slightly out of orbit and threatening to spin off its axle and through several roofs of Nunroyd Mills variety. Tracks three is all off-kilter crunchy presets with crazy guitar, a sort of lolloping galumphing thing, track four is a John Carpenter track dragged through Lions treacle, track five is a Gameboy soundtrack for a game about Bauhaus instrumental b-sides. I know, I know. Its crazy to think of it like this but its all true. CD stamp says ‘recorded by neil campbell late summer 2019 synth - percussion - toy guitar - radio’. The cover's a square of textured paper that's been smeared with paint.

This is my 485th Neil Campbell review.

And here I must mention the 5 CD Morton Feldman box set from the Sheffield label Another Timbre that people were snapping up on the night. My copy has been on an almost permanent rotation since I bought it with the full version of Triadic Memories [arriving via flac from the label - too big for CD obvs] a constant companion during my nightly PC travels. Every home should have one.   

NC Bandcamp

Another Timbre


Sunday, November 03, 2019

Crazy For Nuts.

Enragés Fou Noix
Various Artists

One of the best books I’ve read this year was Sue Prideuax’s magnificent biography of Friedrich Nietzsche; ‘I Am Dynamite!’ Nietzsche could debate for ten hours at a stretch, fancied himself as a composer, was a close friend of Wagner [they eventually fell out], hated Christianity, loved Jews when it was fashionable to hate them, was nearly blind, suffered all his life with terrible intestinal medical complaints and spent his last eleven years on this planet a bedridden madman reduced to drinking his own piss and howling like a dog. His sister and mother [whom he hated] had the good fortune to benefit from his work which started to sell just as Nietzsche found himself clinging on to a starving horse's neck in Naples begging the owner to spare it from further harm. As his health, both mental and physical deteriorated further, his sister and mother displayed Nietzsche as little more than a curiosity allowing visitors who came to pay homage to this most gifted of men embarrassing glimpses of the bedridden wreck. Life can be real shitty at times.

Enragés Fou Noix is a fundraiser for the Mental Health Resistance Network. Madness, or whatever the medical term is [I know nothing of the terminology in regards to mental health] is still with us. As much in Nietzsche’s life as in our own. It will never go away. But at least we know a lot more about it now. Nietzsche’s own ‘softening of the brain’ as it was diagnosed [which was probably the result of a syphilis infection he got while visiting prostitutes, prostitutes he visited on the instruction of his doctor so as to ‘get the monkey off his back’ so to speak - as an aside its also worth noting that Wagner help spread the rumour that Nietzsche’s bad eyesight was a result of excessive masturbation, who needs friends eh?] is now a lot more understood and ‘softening of the brain’ lives in the same recycling bin as balanced humors, the application of leeches and electro-shock therapy.

I have Kelly Reader to thank for this comp. Thanks Kelly. Its been lurking in the inbox for a while and I’ve been dipping in to the Bandcamp version on and off for weeks but it wasn’t until Vicky Langan pointed out that the Disco Mental cover version of Donna Summers ‘I Feel Love’ is the best thing since Hipster rye sourdough that I really took notice and realised I owed it to Kelly and the Mental Health Resistance Network to tell the world about it. And yes Disco Mental’s cover version of Donna ‘Summers I Feel Love’ IS the best thing since Hipster rye sourdough and yes I did play it over and over again too marveling at the way as to how Simon Morris sings like a pub singer with ten pints in him slurring the words as he makes his way to the gents with Several’s synth beat backing bleeping and blopping along as he sings/slurs. Disco Mental being Simon Morris and the now late John Several who in the last days and weeks of his life managed to create at least two [that I know of] of the most outrageous disco cover versions I know, the other being the flip to the Ceramic Hobs Fifty Shades of Snuff single and a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’. One can only hope that theres more in the archives. I am forever greedy for such things.

Lets not stop there though because this gets better. There’s a Homosexuals track on here that reminded me of just how good the Homosexuals were. Are. ‘3AM [Pink Pony]’ is a sing-a-long, grab your mates by the shoulders life affirming slice of pop taken from their 2016 ‘Important But True’ digital only album. Thats why I missed it. And there’s an exclusive Guttersnipe track of such ferocity it’ll leave you rolling around on the floor clasping your eardrums and a Danielle Dax track from her 1983 debut LP thats the epitome of English Folk and makes me wish I had the LP with its cover of rotting testicles and weeping eyes.

OK they’re my favourites but there’s still plenty to admire here; Hawksmoor Brood which is Several again in classic synth sequencer mode with Jowe Head supplying vocal samples, Salford Media City who sound like a loose Half Man Half Biscuit cum The Fall with whistling and shortwave radio, Silver Dick with two minutes of parping improv and Joincey vocals, a fearsome spoken word piece by David Hoyle accompanied by portentous rumbling thunder and in-between all these eighteen tracks the lovely Carol Barton dispensing words of wisdom and witticisms ‘Mental health difficulties is what you get if you’re honest with a psychiatrist’.    

I’m tempted to write ‘you’d be mad not to buy it’ but thats just cheap. Just buy it instead.

Saturday, November 02, 2019


Fluxus - +/- : Quentin Smirhes / Samuel Beckett by Kommissar Hjuler 
Psych.KG 491
LP. 100 copies

Turritopsis Nutricula: Laurent Fairon / Cody Brant & Kommissar Hjuler und Frau / Magnús Pálsson / Louis Jucker / Paul Fuchs & Zoro Babel / Mama Baer
Psych.KG 439
LP. 65 copies.

John M. Bennett & C. Mehrl Bennett / Bryan Lewis Saunders & Kommissar Hjuler und Frau
Psych.KG 403
LP. 75 copies.

Widerstand zu Zeiten Schwarzer Pädagogik: Family Fodder / Kommissar Hjuler
Psych.KG 463
LP. 100 copies

Die Zwei Gefässe: Louis Jucker / Jeroen Diepenmaat / Kommissar Hjuler & Mama Baer
Psych.KG 421
LP. 100 copies.

The European Impro Facism: Goodiepal + Pals + Kommissar Hjuler + Mama Baer = Penis Pals
Psych.KG 487
LP. 48 copies.

Die Anerkennung Als Beleuchtungstraeger:  Goodiepal & Pals / Family Fodder / Jonothan Meese / Kommissar Hjuler und Frau
Psych.KG 471
LP. 71 copies.

Fluxus in the Bathroom: Family Fodder / Kommissar Hjuler
Psych.KG 381
LP. 75 copies.

Homemade Universe: Clemens Schittko / Louis Jucker / The Spyon / Jeroen Diepenmart / Kommissar Hjuler & Mama Baer.
Psych.KG 427
LP. 100 copies.

Franz Kamin / Kommissar Hjuler und Frau / Tentatively, a Convenience
Psych.KG 359
LP. 100 copies.

Fluxus +/- : Peter Ablinger / Bill Dietz / Kommissar Hjuler und Frau / Sven-åke Johansson
Psych.KG 373
LP. 75 copies.

Possessed Anticipation of the Generalized Other: Anla Courtis & Kommissar Hjuler und Frau / Steve Dalachinsky & Nicola Hein
Psych.KG 481
LP.  81 copies

With Shelter Gone: Steve Dalachinsky & Eighty-pound Pug / Politi-Inspector Hjluer w/Polit-sang Kor Flensborg
Psych.KG 405
LP. 100 copies

Science Fiction: Terrible Lizards / Daniel Svandberg Bør / La Scrambled Debutante / Richard Ramirez / Mama Baer
Psych.KG 489
LP. ? copies

Of the many Kommissar Hjuler videos on Youtube my favourite is the one which shows Hjuler playing the split LP he made with Milan Knizak [Psych.KG 181]. In this short two minute video Hjluer guides us through the workings of the anti-player they’ve made using a copy of Morton Feldman’s LP ‘The Early Years’. The cover of the LP is used as the base, the stylus is a small branch with a nail driven though it while the record itself is the actual Feldman release shaved down to around seven inches [“I didn’t measure’]. Turning the disc by hand by way of a small peg drilled into the label the stylus emits a few scratchy sounds. And thats it. As the video ends Hjuler looks straight at the camera and a broad smile emerges.

Psych.KG is a label that I’ve only recently come across. To call it just a label is doing Psych.KG a disservice though, its like calling Picasso a bit of a painter. We’re talking more art outlet for those with heavy leanings towards Fluxus, Dada, Art Brut, Performance Art, Absurdism, Surrealism, Anti-Art and anything that floats around within these spheres. A vinyl only label where the limited runs you see above are only the tip of the iceberg with many releases getting their own art edition that can run to anything from Morton Feldman Anti-Players to light sensor synths to handmade cassette players and beyond. The covers are your guide with most displaying the handiwork of the Kommissar and his wife: Barbie dolls in bondage, homages to rock band Kiss, randomly placed typewriter keys, syringes, plenty of glue, heroin chic, a baby fist with a nail driven through it and Quentin Smirhes standing in a dilapidated greenhouse in his underwear. 

The Smirhes side of Psych.KG 491 is as good a place to start as any seeing as how this was the first side of the twenty eight that came via DHL that I played. What I wasn’t expecting from a pile of Fluxus related LP’s with used condoms and chopped up babies on the covers was an eerie glass harp, clockwork and bass recorder version of Satie’s Gnossienne #1. But that's what I got from Quentin. Playing this record was a mistake of sorts though as it meant I fell in to a Youtube wormhole of Smirhes proportions from which it took me many days to reemerge. When I did I emerge it was with the knowledge that Smirhes is the creation of film maker Sean Reynard and that all the tracks on his side of Psych.KG 481 are audio versions of his short, surreal, Vivian Stanshall like Youtube channel videos. So you get ‘Quentin Has Stern Words With The Naughty Egg’ a version of Betjeman’s ‘This is the Night Mail’ and ‘Quentin’s Worm Helmet’ the accompanying video of which shows Smirhes walking around a cricket ground in shorts and Argyle socks while wearing a skull cap from which twirls a worm. All this set to the soundtrack from a BBC 60’s kids TV theme [rather annoyingly I couldn't place it]. While on the flip I got Kommissar Hjuler reciting Samuel Beckett in German while squeeze boxes were squeezed and Sun Ra clusters were struck on keyboards. All of which sounded as if it was recorded en plain air the final section in a noisy car with no brakes going too fast down a big hill. Reader I was in Fluxus heaven.

I dutifully made notes. In fact I started a scrapbook of sorts and doodled as I listened. I internet searched too. I learnt about the NO!art Movement and Boris Lurie. I discovered the amazing American poet Steve Dalachinsky who with the guitarist Marc Campello [Psych.KG 405] did a suicidal Derek Bailey homage in which Dalachinsky repeats the words ‘Go away or I’ll kill myself’ as Campello outdoes Bailey in the frotting department. There's similar on Psych.KG 481 where Dalachinsky teams up with Nicola Hein to pay homage to Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler with some impressive electric guitar improv performance poetry.

But where to start. For I haven’t really started at all. I’ve barely scratched the surface. A better writer than I would be guiding you through the inner workings of the Fluxus movement and how the sounds Joe Jones creates with his machines has parallels with the recitation of a publishing contract as performed by Family Fodder [Psych.KG 471] or how Jospeh Beuys inspired Jonathan Meese to compose something that sounds like someone going mad in a public toilet to a Casio beat [also Psych. KG 471] but I can’t.

Besides the label a lot of these people are new to me: Peter Ablinger, Bill Dietz, Sven-åke Johansson, Franz Kramin, Clemens Schittko, Louis Jucker, Jeroen Diepenmart ... which when you couple to a label that's also new to me means there’s still a lot going on out there that I still don’t know about. What I do know about is Kommissar Hjuler und Frau who appear on many of these releases and are the glue that I feel holds all this manic mixture together. Some of their contributions are culled from live performances including the incredible, exhausting and terrifying ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ [Psych.KG 359] in which the Kommissar shouts his lungs raw with an incessant barrage of ‘wimoweh’s’ until he no doubt collapsed on to the floor of the venue in a fit of shivering madness. Or ‘Copenhagen Magazines’ [Psych.KG 427] in which Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer [I’m never sure where Kommissar Hjuler und Frau begins and Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer ends seeing as how they’re the same people] perform the soundtrack to an absurdist production in which the same piano key is hit repeatedly until the lid comes down with an almighty crash.

There’s not just one version of Satie’s Gnossienne #1 on here either. On Psych.KG 381 Family Fodder’s reggae version raised more than one eyebrow and then there’s their nod towards The Slits and The Raincoats while on the flip Kommissar Hjuler gives us a bizarre piece that includes a reversed edited female vocal loop that could actually be someone doing what sounds like a reversed edited female vocal loop that ends in the sounds of bombs falling. Its maddening, insane, hypnotic and I’m wondering if I can put in to words what 14 LP’s worth of sounds, poetry, Fluxus events, bondage Barbies with nails in their eyes, Eric Satie, glue, wood, erect penis’s and Morton Feldman Anti-Players all means but I cant. I have failed Psych.KG but in my own way I have worked my way through these releases and come out of the other side a more well informed person. I now know Psych.KG. I now have no more room for anymore records. I do have an idea though.

I feel as if I should make my own Anti-Player. Fourteen of them to be exact. Each one of them carrying its own accompanying video ending with me displaying the finished item with a big grin on my face. Then I'll take them to Huddersfield for the start of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and leave them lying about the various venues for people to play. I’m sure Psych.KG would approve.

PsychKG on Discogs

Monday, October 21, 2019

Did They Pay With Buttons

Coelacanth - Ghoul Town Tales
A5 chapbook.

After a series of Dictaphopne Gabba dispatches as recorded from the greasy cushion seat of a faded flammable sofa in Stoke on Trent, Dai Coelacanth has turned his talents to authorship and delivered to us a tale involving Suzi, Tony, Daphne, Geoff and maybe a sci-fi movie called ‘Pagan Satellites’. Expect lots of slugs, skulls, tins of scabs, Spanish milk and the mysterious ‘gheng’. Don’t expect structured sentencing, punctuation, capitalization, character development and anything at all resembling a plot. I left satisfied on all counts.

I’ve been reading a lot more of late. I feel I’m qualified to pass judgement on such work after picking up and putting down the novels of Samuel Beckett and a collection of William H Gass’s writing over the last year. I’m also finding the solitude required for reading what some might regard as difficult writing the perfect escape mechanism from Planet Shit Storm. There’s something to be said for sitting in a room for hours on end with only a book for company. Blaise Pascal’s dictum that “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone” is one I’ve often aligned myself to and one I wish certain people with enormous ego’s who just happen to have the most important jobs in the world would too.

Its gotten to the stage where I now find myself searching not for record shops but bookshops. I find record shops rather tedious places [unless they happen to be in Japan where they become joyous emporiums of heavenly delight but thats another story]. They’re not even record shops anymore. They’re half coffee shops full of tedious blokes with beards and sleeve tattoos telling anybody within earshot just how important David Bowie’s last album was and how they got the see-through flexi disc version of which only 500 were made. Record shops tend to be badly laid out, have meagre stock that never shifts and racks crammed with records that you have to bust a sciatic nerve to sift through. Bookshops, and here I’m aiming mainly at independent bookshops are worlds of discovery run by enthusiastic bibliophiles. A good independent bookshop is a beautiful thing and worthy of your patronage. 

But back to D. Coelacanth and his Ghoul Town Tales which I never expected to have anything as mundane as a beginning, a middle and an end. What you get are a series of paragraphs that read like a cut up novel where people do curious things of an uncertain nature all written in a very readable language thats littered with some killer one liners. Its like Coelacanth wrote this on a PC then copy and pasted certain lines dropping them in at random so that they appear like mantras throughout the book; ‘the shemp had a market stall and all they sold was out of date glue’ is but one such example. So you read but you never really get a grip on whats happening or where its going because the sentences have all been cut and double spaced but you can read it and carry on reading it because the writing is kind of delirious and fascinating all at once:

‘look at the sky, what’s wrong with it  are you a growth  we just need to make it to tomorrow the computerized voice came from a small plastic skull on the shelf I’ve never been interested in it I pushed my hands in deep into my shoes  some of them were on fire  I’m feeling romantic’

Like the worlds biggest spelling mistake that is Finnegan’s Wake you can dip in and pull out sparkling words of imagination:

‘lung of the nightmare fruit’

‘her forehead a collection of exaggerations’

‘hyphen dippers’

‘on a sunny day rats love gravy’

‘the mayor was a giant slug eight feet tall’

We can compare to Burroughs and Gysin of course and thats not bad company to be in but did either of them do the Dictaphone Gabba shake?

You can sit and read this in a room on your own, or on a bus, or in the doctors waiting room as you wonder what will become of your lumps. It’ll take you about an hour. As you reach the enlarged, defiant and only full stop of the book your head will be full of strange imagery and the urge to bark stream of consciousness words in to a Dictaphone will be upon you. Ghost Town Tales is coolest thing since Bob Dylan’s Tarantula. I await the Faber and Faber volume with bated breath.

Sunday, October 06, 2019


House Sparrow Settle Back - Embla Quickbeam, Natalia Beylis & Neil Campbell.
Crow Versus Crow. CVC014
Cassette, A5 insert and badge/DL
100 copies.

A Crow Versus Crow tape appears and it coincides once again with the finishing of another Benjamin Myers book. This time its ‘Under The Rock’ and Myers move from London squats to Calder Valley and Mytholmroyd and eventually a house at the foot of Scout Rock. A looming presence that casts a near permanent shadow over those who choose to live under it.

Me and Mrs Fisher were up there the other day perusing the selections in Hebden Bridge’s independent book shop and afterwards for a mediocre meal and then to look for organic black pudding nduja with quinoa crumbs and hemp strands as hand made by the descendants of canal diggers. On the way there we sat in traffic for what seemed an age so as to accommodate the ongoing flood protection work ongoing in Mytholmroyd. Myers mentions the Calder Valley floods of Christmas 2015 in Under The Rock and the instance where he finds himself waist deep in flood waters, in the middle of winter trying to help out those stuck in their homes and meeting a wheelchair bound man in his living room up to his neck in water who sees Myers and says ‘I’ll be reet’.

Its a great book though I’m not sure of the poetry but then I’ve never been a big fan of poetry so don’t let that put you off. What I didn’t expect to find in it were mentions of Edward Wadsworth [born in Cleckheaton], Throbbing Gristle, Jimmy Savile or Harold Shipman but there they were in and amongst the ever present Ted Hughes. Shipman because he had a GP’s surgery up the road in Todmorden, Savile because he seemed to spend a lot of time in the area and Throbbing Gristle because Genesis P-Orridge and Monte Cazazza liked to drop in on Paul Buck to peruse his much coveted colour plated pathology manual. Buck, another Mytholmroyd resident is remembered for his 70’s literary magazine ‘Curtains’ and for giving a voice to emerging French avant-garde writers as well as Kathy Acker, Paul Auster and of course GPO. Some issues of Curtain came with cassettes that contained poetry and performance pieces and thus via a commodius vicus of recirculation back to back to Crow Versus Crow up in Sowerby Bridge and Andy Wilde's most welcome tapes.

If you follow the river Calder for long enough it’ll take you past Campbell’s hometown of Mirfield so there’s some kind of synchronicity at work here. Where Embla Quickbeam and Natalia Beylis live I’ve no idea but I’m hoping it somewhere near the river too like Tod or Brighouse, Dewsbury even.

There’s two lengthy tracks here both featuring Beyliss in collaboration with the other two. First in with Quickbeam at a gig given at the now defunct [I think?] second hand clothing, book and record shop Magic City in Todmorden and lastly with Campbell at a gig recorded at Chunk in Leeds which is nowhere near the Calder.

The Quickbeam/Beyliss collab is the more floaty of the two. A gentle canal barge ride down the Calder and Hebble Navigation as someone breaks up a rusty coal bucket to the sound of birdsong and mumbled chatter. I’m thinking its Beylis who provides the samples here; self hypnosis guides, snatches of conversation that are treated and looped and cast into bucolic field recordings and electro-acoustic scratch and pluck so that at times it feels like you’re driving a barn owl to Bacup while trying to clear your mind of all thoughts thanks to a cassette you found in Hebden Oxfam. Meanwhile in Leeds the tempo shifts up a gear thanks to Campbell introducing various beats so that at times it feels like we’re almost in Ricky Lee Jones/Orb territory. But fear not for it soon passes. There’s samples of Native American rituals and livestock auctions as drones, pulses and swirls and noises fill the room. With both tracks approaching the half hour mark there’s plenty of time to get your head in to it so to speak. Plenty of room to stretch out your legs and enjoy the scenery. As the Leeds side develops into a collapsing tumble of rocks, drone and wind-chime clatter I wondered which Myers book I’d read next and if I’d ever find black pudding nduja in the Calder Valley.


Monday, September 23, 2019


Hobocop - Hungry Freaks in the Data Mine
Headcleaner Records. Cassette/DL

Anything that comes in the post from America goes straight to the top of the review pile and it will always be so. Mainly because I feel deeply sorry for the person who sent it having to go into the Post Office to have the counter staff laugh in their face when they’re asked to hand over $14.25 to send a small plastic box in a jiffy bag weighing 42 grams across the pond. Using an on-line currency exchange convertor that works out to about £11. E-L-E-V-E-N P-O-U-N-D-S. If its come in the mail from America I’m in danger of beginning all reviews like this but £11? Really.

According to the j-card insert Hobocop are a duo comprising of Owen Long John ‘Cleaner’ Business Man and Cody Blanch Du Bois ‘Clam’ Jumbo Jack Flash. The link to why someone forked out $14 to send this to me may be Max Nordile who’s sent me things in the past and who gets a mention in the ‘special thanks’ section alongside Jhog Nobun, Henry Hal Lannan, Paddy O’Shaw, Will Sprot, Kephera Moonbeam, Pete Slovenly, Danz Z, Ben/Bto, Shannon Shmah, Nate Moman, Lillian Maringing, Bazooka Jah and Peroni Cloutier all wonderful sounding people and no doubt all upstanding members of the American musical community maybe, if my intuition is right, in Oakland California where there seems to be something going on outside of any parameters thats happening here in Brexit stricken Britain. Discogs is where I tracked down Cody Blanch who also goes by the name of Cody Blanchard who also aliases as King Lollipop who after deeper investigation turns out to be a kind of Jonathan Richman for people who like weird drugs, one man doo-wop and American kitsch. There’s a smart picture of him stood to startled attention in his braces, check shirt and black bowtie, a pencil thin mustache setting the whole ensemble off perfectly. Then there’s Shannon and the Clams who sound like they’ve spent a lot of time paying homage to 60’s girl guitar bands but this is going deeper than needs be. The label - Headcleaner Records appears to originate in New York and has no footprint on Discogs unless they’re hiding under the guise of a Greek Thrash Metal band. Facebook may get you there but thats somewhere you’ll have to go without me.

Pulling back from all that Hobocop themselves sound like the they’ve been digging around in the DIY punk racks of the late 70’s and early 80’s with maybe a hint of the quirkiness of The Residents and a heavy dose of Devo. Its all fairly lo-fi and urgent and punky with doubled up reverbed vocals that sound like the were recorded in an empty room and trashy guitars with more than a touch of The Country Teasers in them. Tracks like ‘Nauseated’ and’ I’m a Troll’ having the energy of a synth-less Devo, minor miracles of raspy punk joy ‘I’m a troll, no self control’. Slower tracks conjure visions of the Desperate Bicycles and when they up the sing-along quota The Homosexuals. ‘Ambient Abuse’ gets a mention because the title itself brought a smile besides having a killer bass/keyboard riff. Fourteen tracks in all. Just the thing you need to put a spring in your step. Go and buy it.
After discovering that Hungry Freaks in the Data Mine is available on Bandcamp my new found admiration for Headcleaner Records hit heights I’ve not reached since I got that 14LP box of records in the post two months ago. Which reminds me, I must be going.

Headcleaner Records

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Smell & Quim - The Yellow Album

Smell & Quim - The Yellow Album           
Total Black. Cassette + 5” single.
100 copies.

Its been a good year for Smell & Quim what with the release of the delightful Quimtessence, the reissue of Atom Heart Motherfucker and news reaching these ears of a first time vinyl reissue for Cosmic Bondage that most essential, quintessential, quimtessential [?] slice of mid 90’s Smell & Quim muck. Its the Smell & Quim release in its original format that I don’t have and there I was back in 1995 at my first ever Smell & Quim gig at the 1 in 12 Bradford and there they were on the merch table, a Barbie doll in bondage with a cassette tape hung around her neck. Why didn’t I buy one? Shame on me. There’s been an overseas gig too. Back in March a three piece Smell & Quim played Berlin and in December they’re going to the States for the first time and will be playing the all day/all night Hospital Fest in Brooklyn. Will our intrepid heroes ever return? They came back from Berlin, or at least I think they did, I’ve seen none of them in flesh since but words gets around, sightings in Lidl, propping up the bar in the Barge and Barrel, books published. Getting back from Trumpton Town could prove to be a stern logistical challenge involving unfamiliar underground systems, shuttle buses and taxis driven by Mexicans with no idea of where they’re going. A challenge, especially for those who have supped from the John Barleycorn cup. It could get messy as they say.

The best bits of that thirty minute Berlin gig appear on The Yellow Album in a perverted Stars on 45 medley stylee but thankfully sans clap-a-long 4/4 beats. The video for this unholy section of the North of England meets Germany via Graceland begins with a heavy bout of floor tom pounding before a tired and emotional Srdenovic replete with curly black wig collapses behind his table of gear after a vigorous bout of shaker shaking, only to wake, as if nudged by some inner mechanism towards the sets conclusion with a sloppy grin. Dressed in their Elvi Napoleonic collar outfits long running Smell & Quim members Gillham and Morris [for tis they] carry on the performance, Gillham pounding the floor tom while Morris screams into a microphone with that most remarkable voice of his. Lyrics include straight lifts from the notorious ‘I’m Jack’ letter that threw the West Yorkshire police services off the trail of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe for many a year and ‘I’m a dirty bastard, I’m a Shakespeare cockroach’. At its end Milosevic is thrashing away a version of Pig Stealing Man while the audience howls approval as Morris tries to explain to one of them that its ‘Doddy’s Cock’ he’s singing not daddy’s cock, ‘He’s a comedian from the North of England’ he bellows.

On the cassette there are four versions of ‘Twat Out Of Hell’ and ‘More Piss, Vicar?’ on one side and the live stuff and ‘THWAK! on the other. ‘THWAK!’ being some kind of perverts manifesto or the transcripts of an interview with Our Pete or some other misguided soul who isn’t getting enough and should have bought a copy of Razzle on the way home so as to better relieve their frustration. All this set to the sound of steadfast marching military feet no doubt a lift from some Leni Riefenstahl footage. There then follows the enigmatic ‘HH PP [Abuse Your Allusion] AOBTD’ which is all drum machines, weird beats and unexplained acronyms. Expect noise, the sound of pissing and the destruction of Gillham’s bathroom on the four ‘Twats’ with some exceptionally vigorous noise that slowly builds in volume and tension before more pissing. The sound of someone pissing into a galvanized bucket is a running motif here as is Peter Sutcliffe [last track is ‘Ripper Remix’], all famous [infamous?] Smell & Quim tropes and fingerposts to where you need to go if you like your noise low down dirty and smeared with grisly Northern humour.

What of the five inch single though. An unusual and rarely seen format due to automatic return turntables struggling to play them and the number of pressing plants willing to press them being rarer than blind art dealers. I did have but two in my possession; the one that came with Merzbow’s ‘Green Wheels’ and the Evil Moisture/Cock E.S.P. split that has an incredulous 381 tracks on it. Now I have three and with it the fifth installment of ‘Twat out of Hell’ and ‘Braun Stains’. Braun of the Eva kind, those are her knickers you can see on the cover as recently sold at auction to a ‘collector’. Two tiny tracks on a thick slab of die cut vinyl that contains about thirty seconds each side of the good work above. The last words you hear [depending on which side you play first of course] are the computerized Speak and Spell words detailing the soiling of ladies underwear. Twat-tastic.


Youtube clip


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Vibracathedral Orchestra Meets The A64 and Junction 26 of the M62.

Vibracathedral Orchestra - Squeezes The Lids Through Coming Window
Oaken Palace Records. LP clear red vinyl.
300 copies.

Neil Campbell - Filthy Masters/Rainbow Vespers
50 copies.

While driving I tend not to listen to my own choice of music preferring instead the comfort of the spoken word of R4 or the classic hit of R3 [as long as there no howling Brunhilde going at it] and if that doesn’t work there’s always the off switch and recurring thoughts about how the majority of people who drive high powered German cars are almost without exception absolute tossers. Daytime R2 is only there for the traffic news, R1 I never visit due to it being incomprehensible to me and local radio is the lunatic asylum full of moronic chatter about sports teams you don’t care for and Doris from Shelf complaining about her bins not being emptied. 

A couple of years ago I hit heavy traffic on the M62 while driving to Manchester airport and turned on R2 only to discover that Steve Wright in the Afternoon, a man for whom the word ‘annoying’ had been invented had been playing Edgar Winter’s synth funk prog monster ‘Frankenstein’. I caught about the last minute of it and wondered if we’d driven though some kind of black hole over Saddleworth Moor. As I looked at the slowly moving traffic and the sodden bleak moors around me I thought to myself Steve Wright is playing Edgar Winter. Steve Shite in the Afternoon is player Edgar Winter and I’m in danger of missing a flight. Annoying Steve Shite in the Afternoon is playing Edgar synth slung around his neck Winter? Life is full of surprises.

On Friday afternoon I dropped Mrs Fisher off in York and having the drive back on my own and not wanting to listen to Steve Wright in the Afternoon just on the off chance that he might play a ten minute prog epic I took the above two discs. I know, I know but I was in the mood and felt that I’d been neglecting the review pile of late. So I thought throw caution to the wind and blast some Vibracathedral Orchestra on the return journey and to hell with Edgar Winter and the afternoon play on R4. Listening to drone at a high volume while in the car on your lonesome can be an exhilarating experience and its one I don’t often get the chance to experience. So why not. At this point you have to bear in mind that I don’t drive a Bentley equipped with a NAIM audio system. I drive a small hatchback with a whatever it is audio system that doesn’t sound too bad but is never going to overcome the road noise generated by a 1.2 liter car doing 70mph on bog standard tyres and springs. Then you have to factor in that I’ve been having a bit of ear trouble. The left ear to be precise. I’m not sure whats causing it but after having poured various chemist bought unctions down it it has cleared up somewhat but I’m still suffering from random deafness. It come and goes and I’m hoping its one of those things that goes away on its own me not wanting to burden an already burden NHS with a ‘oh I’m having a bit of a problem with this ear here and can you stick your torch down it and see if you can see anything’ complaint.

Ten seconds after dropping Mrs Fisher off at York University Exhibition Centre I stuck in the Vibracathedral Orchestra disc and let it rip all the way back home. Ten seconds after inserting the disc my ear went all funny again. Then I hit the A64 and put my foot down. All this while blasting Vibracathedral Orchestra as loud as I could stand it. I reckoned that I could take this volume all the way home which I’m proud to say I did. A journey of about forty miles that I concluded before the fifty minutes of this disc had elapsed. And then I got to wondering how long I’d been listening to Vibracathedral Orchestra and reckoned it must be twenty years now. Can they have been going that long? I may even have been at their very first gig which was in a gallery space in Leeds where Smell & Quim played one of their worst ever gigs. Once upon a time you couldn’t go to a gig in Leeds without Vibracathedral turning up. Noise gigs, drone gigs they’d usually be half a dozen of them leant on the bar with their equipment round their feet, toy pianos, electronic gubbins, drums and shaking things, electric guitars and fiddles. All of them looking for a gap in the bill or a no-show and off they go sawing and fiddling and banging and crashing and moaning and shouting like people possessed. Its quite a sight. And sound. 

By now I’d passed York Racecourse and my ears were starting to buzz. The left one at a slightly lower hertz tone. What happens to Vibracathedral Orchestra at 70mph on a busy road with the sun hitting you in the face on a Friday afternoon is that any nuance is replaced by a piercing whistling noise. Listening back at home under normal circumstances I realized that this was in fact a treble recorder [or some such similar instrument of torture] being played as if by a drunken busker on the Edinburgh Mile. Its not all like that of course. There’s a moment on the first track that sounds like a police siren  and someone clapping two halves of an empty coconut together but then again this might have been the conditions under which I was listening. Which caused me a moments worry but no fear.

‘Squeezes The Lids Through Coming Windows’ is a two track album, ‘Squeezing The Lids’ on one side and ‘Through Coming Window’ on the other’. Its an LP but I have a burn thanks to Campbell who knows I like to be kept abreast of such things. The first track, depending on your mode of listening, is the grittier one, the one that sounds like Vibracathedral Orchestra at the back end of the night when they’ve had too much beer and its all falling apart. In a good way of course. I’m pretty certain its a live track too and if not live then live to tape. The second track hits the tarmac running and soon comes together with various bits of Eno-esque synth droning and those coconuts halves. This is where they find their ecstatic groove. The groove that cant be written down or taught or noted. That groove is a joyous thing full of moans and groans and bashing and twanging and electronics that squiggle and blurt swirl all of it coming together and lifting and falling. I guess you just have to listen to it yourself. Or go see them. They’re still kicking round.

Meanwhile, back at the the ranch, I took in the Campbell disc under conditions that I’d consider more suitable to audio pleasure. Though I did once spend a week in Corsica with the glovebox of the hire car stuffed with Astral Social Club discs and used them as aural calm while the locals did their best to run me off their mountainous roads. Where Astral Social Club ends and Neil Campbell begins is something you’ll have to ask the man himself though because I have no idea. I find that his work under his own name is much more freeform, less beat orientated, more organic, more open to experimentation. Take ‘Rainbow Vespers’ in which Campbell transforms loops of some rock drumming and a grungy arm swung electric guitar chord into a rolling mass of turmoil that eventually opens out into something far more beatific. A rolling wave of crashing drums and a never ending guitar chord thats forever dissolving into something else until ultimately it becomes a gently plucked acoustic guitar that drops off the edge of a ledge with a silent plop. The flip has more in common with Terry Riley Poppy Nogood era than sampled rock riffs and after one of those synapse bursting starts where a tin plate is hit with a spoon and a table full of electronics explodes into firework like bursts, there’s piano and hand drums and a thing that goes TWANG before it all opens up into droney bliss land and oh well you know delight and all that.

Oaken Palace

Campbell Bandcamp


Saturday, August 31, 2019

(((vlubä))) - A-Mu-Kia (fur Future)
Nashazphone. NP-29. LP. Green vinyl.
300 copies.

I have no idea how to pronounce it either. Maybe ‘flubber’ with a thick Slavic accent? Why don’t you practice saying it now ... floobar. It came from Argentina via Egypt that much I do know and that I don’t have the luscious green vinyl itself but a download file which has me slightly baffled as the first track, the title track itself, a crazy cosmic drone where Alejandro Jodorowsky meets Phil Todd after two toots on a bifter and six halves of barley wine, is a thirty minute mind melter that by rights shouldn’t fit on one side of vinyl. Has Nashazaphone chopped it in two? Have they let it run over two sides. I cant tell you. I can tell you that it burnt my neurons to frazzled black lumps and that the hairs in my ear canal are now cheerleaders for all things wonky. But then weren’t they always. 

(((vlubä))) are a long running project with 45 albums to their name. All of them released without me knowing of their existence. Müriscia Divinorum and Aphra Cadabra, for it is they, are composting [on this outing at any rate] the kind of out there unidentifiable, uncategorizeable, genre defying leaf mulch from which grew the seeds of Nurse With Wound. It must be quite some feat to get 45 albums in and still sound as fresh as that.

That momentous title track, that thirty minute monster ticks all the cosmic drone boxes you care to mention: reverb-ing chains of gadgets, tick, wheezing shruti boxes, tick, sawing violins, tick, tinkly bells, double tick and this is just the start, from here ‘A-Mu-Kia’ pulls over to the side of the road and picks up all kinds of weirdos including the guy who mumbles, the person who begins to scratch quill on parchment, the hand drum banger, the ringer of tiny bells and the whistling tuneless treble recorder player. As the ride picks up miles and dust and dead bugs on the windshield someone opens a bottle of something that must be stronger than Mescal and takes a stiff drink. This is the point where you start to wonder if the person in control of this vehicle [in this case two people - Divinorum and Cadabra] are the same kind of people who take hitchhikers home to get drunk. When you wake up in the morning the sound you hear is of someone trying to get ketchup out of a bottle by thumping it with the flat of their hand. Indeed.

The other four tracks, if nowhere near as long or mind-bending are equally as weird; ‘Flower Vimanas’ is another spacey drone of sorts filled to the brim with squeaky pipes and scratchy electric guitar, ‘Grape Nation’ is a floating in aspic song sung by someone with a years supply of Largactyl in them, ‘DlenQnnerv Ffwd!’ is a lolloping, locked groove in which a crisply struck finger cymbals is an accompaniment to someone extracting juice from a melon. ‘Mü Camel’ is Martin Denny for bad drug people, a subterranean Tiki bar crawl through a swamp full of people looking for their bamboo xylophone, a voice ‘sings’ like a witches ghost and casts spells that turns eyeballs into runny jelly and ears in to dried banana.




Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Chocolate Monk

Richard Youngs - Bad Words
Chocolate Monk. Choc 436

Blood Stereo - Two Drams
Chocolate Monk. Choc 437

Dan Fröberg - The Common Error of Ordinary
Chocolate Monk. Choc 438

Mike Dilloway - Any Old Time Tastes
Chocolate Monk. Choc 439

Todd W. Emmert - A Serpentine Summer [2019]
Chocolate Monk. Choc 440

Laugh Stains - Gaze Into The Drain
Chocolate Monk. Choc 441

Mr. Duke Pinch - Mud Hen, Prick And Green Belt
Chocolate Monk. Choc 442

Music comes in lumps these days. Like rice in Japanese restaurants. Seven albums from Chocolate Monk that once transferred to playable form got so jumbled I became a tad confused. And some people say that it makes things easier for them. At least the Richard Youngs tracks were easy to spot seeing as how the titles all came in caps and had swear words in them: FUCK IT, HE’S A BASTARD, PISS_FUCK_WONK [and no thats not a spelling error] and my favourite GOBSHITE [EXTENDED VERSION]. A track that goes on for what seems like three days but is in fact a tad shy of the twenty five minute mark. Whats happening here is that Mr. Youngs, a man whose penchant for testing the limits of his listening publics patience has recorded himself swearing. ‘Bad Words’, should you have the stomach for it, is a constant pitch tweaked multi-tracked babble of profanity that should not be played within hearing distance of a vicarage or sheltered accommodation. Smell & Quim fans will love it.

Chocolate Monk has been one of the most eclectic, out there UK labels for many years now, constantly pressing out ur skronk of a standard that makes other labels look like they aren’t even trying. Plenty of it defies categorization. How to describe five tracks of Easy Listening Pop classics knocked out on what sounds like either a tiny player piano or a zither courtesy of Mr. Duke Pinch? I have no idea. When Mr. Duke’s imperious version of The Last Waltz started it was all I could do to stop myself getting to my feet and cod waltz an imaginary partner. These schmaltzy classics [Crazy, Quando Quando Quando are my other faves] are the last thing I’d expect to hear from Chocolate Monk but that makes me like the label even more. And there’s only five tracks which leaves us all [well me at any rate] begging for more. Todd W. Emmert meanwhile has eleven tracks of far out repetitive, ramshackle, mainly acoustic guitar, keyboard instrumentals that are some kind of crazed Amon Düül outtakes. Work that one out.

From here on in you get the impression that we’re back in Kansas or at least somewhere near Brighton. It goes without saying that there’s some twisted tape manipulations in here, thats Blood Stereo’s name you see up there ain’t it? But first Laugh Stains who swing from electronic gabba to all out Faust with a stunning track called ‘Scanning Bulbous Ruminations’, think tortured howling vocals over slave boat thump and howling sax. ‘The Rhubarb Man’ is someone telling the story of The Rhubarb Man, a local weirdo by the sounds of it, to a background of a wind-up street organ and someone hitting empty milk bottles with a stick.

Dan Fröbergs composition ‘The Common Error of Ordinary’ steers us towards calmer waters with a gentle 47 minute long melding of collaged drones that weaves into its weft a gentle piano and a recurring organ blast that sounds like Keith Emerson’s been at it with a carving knife. Tapes go in reverse, loops are built from stuck records and the mood, despite the stabbed organ is one of serene melancholy.

Further in we find Mike Dilloway and two ten minute tracks of similarly edited sound collages. One track is a weird Eraserhead like loop of muted, oscillating tubular bells, cymbals crashing in reverse and plasterboard being riven from walls with a claw hammer. The next is all ultra lo-fi res underwater burble and lonely piano with taped vocals going v v v v slowly backwards, a decomposing tape fest of sizeable proportions. Mike Dilloway is a collaboration between Aaron Dilloway and Mike Collino. So now you know.

Blood Stereo’s release ‘Two Drams’ is, in another world, a cassette. And a badge. The Richard Youngs release has a badge too. It has the words ‘Fuck It’ on it but then it would wouldn’t it? The Dan Fröberg release comes with a book. I only know all this because I’ve been looking at the Chocolate Monk website which is where I should have been at the start of this trip. I also now know that some of these are sold out. Tough busters baby. I don’t see no Bandcamp page. ‘Two Drams’ is two ten minute truffle hunting tracks of rattle, parp, squidge and moan. This is a squeak. This is a firework display. That is a sneeze. Those are two empty milk bottles getting knocked together. There’s the walk home from the pub at midnight and all the voices and scrapes and shuffles. This is a an alter boy recoding his heavenly voice in an underpass. This did happen. This is weird even by Blood Stereo standards.

All that remains now is for you all to buy a £6 pint of Brighton beer and raise it aloft intoning the words; ‘without Chocolate Monk this world would be a sadder place’. Repeat ad nauseum, record it and send it to them. You never know.

Chocolate Monk