Wednesday, August 14, 2019
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 
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.
Saturday, August 10, 2019
Pierre Loti - La Chanson des Vieux Époux
Quentin Rollet & Vomir - Vengance
Lenka Lente. Book + CD.
ISBN : 979-10-94601-30-3
Describing Pierre Loti as obscure author may be doing him a disservice. The French government did afford him a state funeral after all. He was born in the 1850’s and joined the navy as an officer. No doubt to pass the long hours at sea he began to write novels, short stories and essays on his travels. He married in to wealth and had opulent tastes. His house in Rochefort [now a museum should you ever be in town] was decorated in the style of the many places he’d travelled and contained a fountain surrounded by the coffins of five desiccated corpses. You don’t see that in Laura Ashley do you?
His most famous work his Madame Chrysanthème which pre-cursed Madame Butterfly and Miss Siagon as a novel regarding Japanese relationships and manners. La Chanson des Vieux Époux [The Song of the Old Couple] is a short story about an elderly vagabond Japanese couple called Toto-San and Kaka-San. He’s blind and she cant walk so he pulls her along behind him on a small cart that holds all their possessions while silently begging for food. My schoolboy French isn’t needed to interpret the moral of the story but [spoiler alert] it doesn’t end well.
How this relates to Quentin Rollet and Vomir you’ll have to ask Lenka Lente. All you need to know for now is that Vengance is an eleven minute Apollo 5 take off noise blast that mutates in to a shamanic honk and howl session courtesy of Rollet’s not inconsiderable honking skills. The way he flays those notes around suggests that he struggled to keep both feet on the floor at the same time while recording this and that he was knackered afterwards, Rollet having done all the lung busting hard work while Vomir [Romain Perrot - known for making walls of noise with a black bin liner over his head] stooped over a table belting the shit out of some noise boxes.
Its perhaps only through Lenka Lente that you will find an obscure French author, a Wall Noise artist and someone who has blown sax with the likes of Nurse With Wound and Eugene Chadbourne all in one small CD and book combo. Its this kind of juxtaposition I like. It keeps Loti’s name alive and gives curious readers the chance to indulge in some all out avant skronk noise that they would otherwise be unaware of. Win win.
Friday, August 09, 2019
Anne-F Jacques & Tim Olive - Tooth Car
Intomena. int020. CD
Doreen Girard/Tim Olive - Boro
845 Audio. 845-12 CD.
Tim Olive/Martin Tétreault - Faune
845 Audio. 845-11 CD.
I like to think of listening to electro-acoustic sounds as the aural equivalent of looking down a powerful microscope, the revelatory detail becoming more apparent the deeper you go. But this is the important bit, you have to pay attention. I know I’ve banged on about this before but what we have here is the perfect antidote to too much commercial radio and inane DJ blather this is your go to genre for escaping from the chaos of the modern world. Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and Montiverdian vespers have their part to play just forget all that Goan Chill Out Volume 6 the Panjim Mix shite and Classic FM Relaxing Moods CD's, get yourself some improvised experimental electro-acoustic sounds. Its the place to be.
The beauty of it only becomes apparent with much concentration. With extraneous sounds banished. I prefer headphones and a little above normal volume settings. I’m not advocating booking an hour at your local universities anechoic chamber, just pick a quiet time of day when your mood should suit and prepare to have your ear channels filled with all manner of fascinating sounds. I’m not advocating full on Fransisco López immersion here either [though maybe that would be no bad thing] just stick your head in the bag and inhale deeply now and again. Its good for the soul.
The Anne-F Jacques/Tim Olive collaboration came courtesy of a kindly soul who realised I didn’t have enough Tim Olive collaborations in my life. Tooth Car arrives on a Russian label that's new to me and comes in a splendid fold out slip case designed by St Petersburgh noise maker Ilia Belorukov that's covered in the striking black and white lines of the notorious/infamous Canadian comic artist Julie Doucet. Anne-F Jacques is credited with ‘rotating surfaces, objects and mastering while Olive is of course on his ever present magnetic pickups. Its two tracks are taken from live performances as recorded in 2015 in Washington and Boston, its where magnetic pickups working with rotating surfaces and objects makes for an ever revealing listen, its like having an army of ants crawl all over you as slowly melting glaciers grind up giant granite boulders. Gentle loops of degradation weave in and out of the grime and there's tension and within that tension calm and if that sounds like a contradiction then so be it. The second outing is much more subdued with tiny scratching and scraping though this is no less gripping and there’s gaps, yes actual gaps, silence that slowly becomes filled with the looping sounds …. of what? Who knows? Thats a major part of the appeal.
Tooth Car was released a couple of years back but according to the Intomena website is still available. Please feel free.
The two releases on Tim Olives 845 Audio label are more recent and still available via Bandcamp and hopefully in hard copy. I urge you to investigate but only if you have the time and patience. Yes, yes, yes, I know, shut up with the patience thing. We know we’re not here for a beery sing-a-long. This time around Olive collaborates with Martin Tétreault and Doreen Girard, or vice-versa if you prefer. Tétreault working with turntables and electronics and Girard on prepared tsymbaly, that's a dulcimer in case you were wondering [I was].
On Boro’s single 26 minute track this results in a wash of scraping, droning, twanging, frotting, tink and howl as Girard tugs, shoves and maybe for all I know breathes across her strings creating a crumbling world of zings and crashes. Faune [recorded in 2013] is full of skree, tiny machine sounds, throbbing drone. Loops from Tétreault’s turntables speed up and slow down, gentle knocks and rumbles and through all this Olive works his magnetic pickups, strings are pulled through guitar strings, tiny wire brushes are deployed, coils, violin bows, tuning forks maybe circuit boards from dusty PC towers were crushed between weighted palms? All marvelous.
So why the collaborations? Why not fly solo? I suppose the answer to that is to see what happens when two [or three or more] get together and start making sounds that have never been heard before. These are collaborations of pure improvisation of course. Its alchemy on the hoof and extremely rewarding.
Friday, August 02, 2019
Royal Hungarian Noisemakers & Fixateur Externe - Split
Unsignedlabel US060. Enhanced CDR.
Dai Coelacanth - A Condemned Debtor Does Not Recognise The Horse
Crow Versus Crow. CVC013. Cassette/DL
Art That Came From The Artist Chandor Glöomy Who Runs The Coma Kultur Label.
Venusian Death Cell - Holycaust
Attila Vlad is a portmanteau name that like Marylin Manson and Fred Boycott sounds better than the names it was derived from. Sort of. I imagine Attila Vlad to be the sort of person who signs fan autographs with a quill dipped in red ink. Maybe he signs important documents in the same way? Ah Mr Vlad so pleased to see you, we have a few papers for you to sign, I see you’ve brought your own quill how marvelous. Maybe Attila has another name, a name that he was born with that doesn’t fit within the framework of a noise project and he decided to change it to make himself sound harder? Maybe his real name is László Moholy-Nagy and he didn’t want to be confused with the Hungarian artist of the same name. These things happen.
Attila Vlad is all over the Royal Hungarian Noisemakers & Fixateur Externe release as is Rovar17 [real name Marcel Lajos Breuer]. This being a multimedia release we have an MP4 video showing a reel to reel deck and lots of ants doing what ants do to a soundtrack of noise and vocals that may well sound like Fred Dors doing what Fred Dors does best, or was it Diana West? I forget. What these mangled vocals and searing noise blasts do sound like is Costes. A Hungarian Costes then. Sort of. The first three tracks are all versions of ‘Anyu: kád = ki-o-káá’ and these are the three noisiest tracks on the disc. Not bad either with that lunatic vocal getting stretched, looped, slowed down and Daleked over various elements that include clanging metal and machine gun noise. For whatever reason the last three tracks take a detour into more sinister territory ‘Der Hund’ has a low volume thump covered in distant voices, radio comms delivered at a barely audible level, ‘Elég Volt A Látomásból’ passes in a similar style and sounds like the conversations heard in the control room at Chernobyl just as all the dials started going full melt. Last track ‘Isten Szeme’ is almost Faust-ian with a distant honking sax and Hungarian voices slurred into one big Goulash. All tracks recorded live. Unicum may have been involved.
Dai Coelacanth. Half Welshman, half prehistoric fish. The last time we met was on a Greek Island. It all seems so long ago now. I found the tape at the side of my pillow in the morning. A delivery from the Milk Tray man of Dicta-noise. There was a piece of paper inside the cassette box that said ‘greasy space’, the words were written in pen twice over and then again with orange highlighter. A piece of paper inside the box said ‘don’t lick it’. Glued to the inside of the insert were scraps of a found shopping list [swoon], the cassette itself had once belonged to Earl Hines but had been recycled which is a must for Dai or Canthy as he’s known to his mates. It was indeed a greasy space. But is it a he? Or a She? Or a them? We have a thousand dodgy Dictaphone edits each one half a second long and culled from outdoor situations where the bleed through of buffeting wind sounds like a fireman's hose directed straight in to your ear canal. Snatches of words appear and budgies and announcements in foreign tongues, radio broadcasts are destroyed, conversations between people with middle England accents come and go, whistles and oh the madness. On yet another piece of paper there comes a type written story in which Nancy at Wiggly Green gets a ray gun or something. My brain was fried by now. That Radio 4 New Weird Britain programme never called at Dai Coelacanth’s door. A missed opportunity for both parties. Maybe they just couldn’t find him. Her. Them.
Gallooner I like to think of as a mild form of derision, as in ‘you gallooner’ something you get called when you’ve spilt egg down your shirt, a little bit like ‘you fucking gloyt’ which is the one I use at work. Gallooner is Gateshead based Graeme Hopper and is charged with constructing ‘heavily layered and complex sonic evocations and excavations’, words, which after listening to Chlorine, I agree with wholeheartedly while simultaneoulsy nodding my head ever so slowly. Where to begin? There’s Industrial Techno Noise and wide open spaces filled with dry strummed electric guitar, delightful tape squelch, Nurse With Wound creaky oddness, dogs barking and me trying to think up words to describe this disparate release. Apart from the rather abrupt ending of track one which made me think that this was edited with a machete to fit this is an engaging and eclectic gathering of sounds that leads me to believe that Mr Hopper has yet to find the groove he feels most comfortable with. This is no complaint. The long honking repetition of ‘Confessions of a Broken Temperament’ had me returning many times.
What of Chandor Glöomy [would that be one umlaut or two sir?] who sends me paper from the Netherlands that includes a little A5 black and white art book full of treated photographs, a small plastic bag with an all-seeing eye and a two inch button badge containing a geometric image that looks like Bridgette Riley’s take on the Stars and Stripes and decals [stickers to you] but no music so I go searching his Bandcamp page and find a Glöomy/Paul Harrison project called Hairs Abyss and an ep called ESP which is the first thing I’ve heard from Paul Harrison in quite some time [and if you’re reading this Paul I still have ALL those CD’s you bunged me that time in Dirty Dicks in Halifax that time and I swear to god I’ll listen to them all one day]. Mr Glöomy is an artist, a net label and a zine printer. He’s a busy Netherlanders by the looks of things and has collaborated with all manner of people including Adam Bohman, Andy Jarvis, Smell & Quim and lots of people I’ve never heard of. The Hairs Abyss ep is all subatomic electronica with patients in American hospitals being interviewed by their doctors which is no doubt taken from a disturbing 1950’s documentary about the effects of LSD. A definite retro noise feel which is no bad thing.
Last but definitely not least comes David Vora with Venusian Death Cell’s latest pean to all that is black and ungodly; ‘Holycaust’. This is where Irish Heavy Metal meets Hasil Adkins meets Wild Man Fischer meets whichever outsider one man project you care to mention. David’s been releasing his idiosyncratic brand of Heavy Metal for what seems like a very long time now (twenty five years at least) and I’m honored to have been there all the way and to witness how little his sound has altered during that period. VDC is David and a drum machine and sometimes real drums and samples from horror films, David’s vocals which are sometimes ‘vokills’ and David’s electric guitar which for the most part thrashes about like a mad thing but on ‘Holycaust’ appears to have taken on an almost Derek Bailey-esque turn. Heavy Metal Derek Bailey style played directly into the condenser mic of a 1970’s Hitachi cassette/radio and on to a wafer thin Boots C120. I’m quite sure that David hasn’t been dipping in to the Incus back catalogue but there it is at the back end of the opening track ‘Curse’ a song written in response to an unkind email, all twanging and wanging and sounding like no other guitar I know. He puts himself into his lyrics too, you can read them on the hand written insert. ‘Revenge of the Witches’ almost goes full on experimental as the drum machine goes drunken Robby the Robot as Vora’s guitar goes all tremolo-y and out of control. ‘Popeslaughter’ leaves me thinking I need not add anymore ditto ‘The Inverted Cross’. ‘No Human Cross’ is a mini classic of existential angst and a search for inner peace. They tend to be over and done with rather quickly these VDC releases and this is no different, eight songs all done and devil dusted crusted inside twenty church hating minutes. The covers are hand drawn as they always have been as are the lyrics. This time around I even got a hand written press release. I feel honored. This is the 32nd Venusian Death Cell album.
Crow Versus Crow
davidvora10 [at] hotmail.com
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Various Artists - Changez Retravaillé
Ricerca Sonora. RS7. 3 x CD
The New Blockaders - The Pulp Sessions
Menstrual Recordings. LH17. LP on clear vinyl.
Changez Retravaillé is the three CD, thirty track compilation that pays homage to The New Blockaders first and most influential 1982 album ‘Changez Les Blockeurs’. Its also the one that Howard Stelzer took displeasure with in a review that appeared via Vital Weekly. Stelzer’s unhappiness stemming from the fact that we’ve had enough TNB tributes already and that some of the contributions either sound too much like the original source material or too much like themselves, Nurse With Wound being the biggest culprit for offering up a contribution, hot on the heels of an an entire LP’s worth of the same, that to his ears sounds exactly like the original. Stelzer has a point but only up to a point and this is certainly not a ‘pointless’ release. I’m not sure what the remit was here, maybe it was just to ‘retravaillé’ that being to rework or maybe there wasn’t a remit at all but we all know why we’re here, even if it doesn’t mention it on the sleeve, this is a tribute.
Then you have to remember that some of those contributing can punch their weight; Merzbow, Thurston Moore, Jim O’Rourke, GX Jupitter-Larsen, this isn’t ‘My Best Mates and his Best Mates Knocked Together in Three Weeks Tribute to Changez Les Blockeurs 3 x cdr Wrapped in a Beethoven Symphony Manuscript Box Set Limited to 50 copies Chucked Together Piece of Shite’ and while not everybody has a slot on a shelf in Tower Records Shibuya all are respected artists. Talking of which I quite like the fact that Thurston Moore’s five minutes of string scraping and musical box twanging is one of the best tracks on here but that doesn’t mean I don’t like Nurse With Wounds track any the less for it not being a mind bending slice of outré sonics thats the best thing they’ve done in thirty years. Chances are that if you like any of the 30 artists/bands appearing here then there’ll be very little that disagrees with you.
For my own amusement and self satisfaction I divided these 30 tracks into four loose categories:
1 - Those that sound like the original recording.
2 - Those that sound nothing like the original recording.
3 - Those that sound like the original recording has been worked in to the contribution.
4 - Those that try to recreate the original recording.
That means that The Prestidigitators offer up a haunting track of leather oar strap twisting, groaning and contracting materials that would be a ‘4’ on the list. The New Movement [obvious TNB acolytes and a shoo in for this comp] who I reckon had thee most wonderful time trying to recreate the sounds of ‘Changez ..’ in their own inimitable style, i.e. lots of junk getting chucked around. Another ‘4’. [That nobody has yet to ascertain the true ‘instrumentation’ used on ‘Changez …’ and that nobody has yet managed to recreate its disturbing, fearsome sounds is something to ponder here]. K2, Toshiji Mikawa, Veltz and Merzbow are all saved for an ear splitting finale that sounds just fine and dandy to these ears. Daisuke Suzuki sifts through a wooden box full of knitting needles while those weird howling sounds from ‘Changez’ are heard in the distant background. Veltz’s contribution of atonal scraping and noise is undeniably Changez ...’ like but its been percolated through a few decades of Japanese noise and whats wrong with that? And where would noise in Japan be without ‘Changez …?’ We’ve just come to pay tribute maaan. Arigato gosaimasu.
A tri-fold out sleeve on textured card with an insert full of glowing reviews and praise, info on TNB and an interview that first appeared in C/U/N/T magazine a couple of years back in which it is revealed that ‘Changez …’ was indeed recorded in a garden shed may go some way as to explain why Italian label Ricerca Sonora had difficulty in getting this out there. For this reviewer at least it was well worth the wait.
Derek Jackman is a name sadly missing from ‘Changez Retravaillé’ but through Organum and his label Aeroplane Recordings we have a single that has become almost, if not ‘as’ influential as ‘Changez’. A collaboration between Organum and TNB the 1984 single ‘Pulp’ is a more mystifying slice of what was going on back then. I don’t have a copy of course. No surprise there and what they’re asking on Discogs for copies it seems it will remain that way but I was once in a room where a copy was produced and as Tristan Tzara is my witness I swear that people drew breath at the sight of it.
‘The Pulp Sessions’ are the extended workings from which ‘Pulp’ was realised. The results being not that far removed from ‘Changez Les Blockeurs’, in that we have two sides of constant churning, clanging, squeaking, stamping, shuffling and destroying sounds of an indeterminate nature that could have been recorded with various items of metal junk in a shed in the North East of England during a rain shower some time in the early 1980’s. Though whether Jackman ever made the trip to that shed in the North East or TNB visited Jackman’s shed is unknown to me. These are more austere recordings, denser with Organum filling out the sound. But with what? Who knows. Maybe whats missing is the shed itself. ‘The Pulp Sessions’ wont carry the same gravitas as ‘Pulp’ which we can put down to the passage of time but these two twenty minute tracks are still a reminder that way back in the early 80’s a brave few were making noises that’s still reverberate today.
Ricerca-Sonora on Discogs
Friday, June 28, 2019
Posset/Ulyatt - A Jar Full
Crow Versus Crow. CVC012.
Cassette/DL. 70 copies.
Back in the 18th century the bleak moors that run out of Halifax along the Calder Valley were home to the Crag Vale Clippers. A group of men who ‘clipped’ coins of their gold to mint new ones. A bit like an 18th century version of Bitcoin carried out by hardened men in remote, windswept cottages with one big exception, back in those days you could expect to get your head in a noose for your troubles. These moors are the bleakest of the bleak, the kind where grass struggles to grow, inhospitable places where according to legend even Satan feared to tread. An area then populated by people who saw themselves as living apart from the rest of society and who chose to ignore the laws of the land when it suited them. Coiners cottages were deliberately set apart on the very tops of the moors the better to spy unwanted arrivals, farm animals would disappear into their soggy black bogs, people got lost never to be seen again and bags of shiny, newly minted coins were secretly buried.
Benjamin Myers novel Gallows Pole is as bleak as the moors its set on and tells the story of King David Hartley, a rough and ready Robin Hood like character, the leader of the Crag Vale Coiners, a hardened drinker, a man of the land who needs no clock or learning book. His descendants still live in the area and may even use ApplePay or contactless. How times change. The moors themselves are just as inhospitable but now there’s restaurants with tasting menus up there, holiday cottages to rent, along the valley bottom lies Hebden Bridge, a veritable tourist destination with one of the best live venues in the country, up the road in Todmorden you cant help but trip over vegan cafes and people making things out of dried sticks, Heptonstall attracts those wishing to find Sylvia Plath's gravestone while decrying Ted Hughes birthplace just down the road in Mytholmroyd while in Sowerby Bridge we find Crow Versus Crow.
And Joe Posset and Charlie Ulyatt. Posset works with Dictaphone and tapes but you knew that already. Charlie Ulyatt is new to me. He improvises on the cello. They did something crazy and met up two hours before a gig to collaborate in the live situation having never previously met or collaborated before. This meeting took place at The Angel pub in Nottingham and is what you can hear on side two of this most excellent release. Its like Keith Jarrett at Cologne when he turns up knackered and the gigs late in starting because the venues being used for another performance and the pianos not the one he’s been promised but some out of tune workaday thing and despite the adversity something magical happens. I’m not saying that ‘A Jar Full’ will go down as the improv Jarret live in Köln but its not far off. A seemingly unworkable coming together of two disparate entities makes for an absorbing listen. Ulyatt’s frotting, shaking and rubbing of the cello and Posset’s deft tape manipulations are suitably at ease with each other. A little like an austere Webern string composition into which someone has sneaked the gargling ultra squeak of tape voices and tape squelch. It last but a mere fifteen minutes but is tense and rewarding and no doubt seen by all involved as an unqualified success.
What surprises me is the depth. You’d think that two people, one working a Dictaphone and the other a cello would run out of ideas pretty quickly but that isn’t the case. On side one you find three tracks that were recorded after the event with each improvising over the others work without further editing. Here Posset slathers on the tape wobble as his fingers deftly feather the Dictaphone keys producing an ever changing vista of interrupted voices and tape squiggle, Ulyatt draws long drones, random raspy staccato attacks and at times there’s silence, each letting the others work stand alone for your delectation.
Tape labels releasing tape/cello improv don’t feature in Gallows Pole. I suppose Myers found it hard to work it in, especially seeing as how only the cello bit had been invented. Still, its a gripping read. Crow Versus Crow meanwhile have once again chosen wisely. A quality release all round. Find it on the moors. Or through Bandcamp.
Crow Versus Crow
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Arme Nüss Volume 1
Bladder Flask / Kommissar Hjuler
Psych.KG 477. LP
Arme Nüss Volume 2
Bladder Flask & Broken Penis Orchestra / Kommissar Hjuler & Family Fodder
Psych.KG 485. LP
Bladder Flask & Broken Penis Orchestra / Wolfgang Kindermann & Magda Starwarska-Beaven, Dino Felipe & Kommissar Hjuler und Frau.
Psych.KG 483. LP
Three LP’s of mind boggling Fluxus, Dada, Improv, Sound Art and cut up queasy lunacy as culled from anywhere between the early 80’s and the present day has just landed and its like nothing else matters anymore. Put down your puny instruments of normality and breath in the frenzied fungal spores of Bladder Flask of Family Fodder of Kommissar Hjuler, of Broken Penis Orchestra of Wolfgang Kindermann & Magda Starwarska-Beaven where one speaks in German while the other translates into English to a soundtrack of found sounds recorded from a busy street window.
This gets complicated but bear with me: ‘Arme Nüss Volume 1’ is Bladder Flask’s ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ which was a track that never made it as a United Dairies release [long story]. On ‘Arme Nüss Volume 2’ you have a reworking of ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ by Broken Penis Orchestra and on ‘Arme Dornröschen’ a Broken Penis Orchestra reworking of Bladder Flask's ‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met & Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ [originally issued as an LP by Orgel Fesper Music in 1981]. Got that? I think I have. Just. My mind is fried after all this. You try descending into this world and leaving it with your senses intact.
What works for me is the coupling of Dada-esque Bladder Flask cut ups with the Fluxus improv of Kommissar Hjuler. The Kommissar has been off my radar for a while but appears to have spent the intervening years releasing material at a rate that makes Merzbow look a slouch. Hjuler, whether solo or mit frau are artists, multi-media artist and by that I don’t mean they use crayons and watercolours on the same bit of paper. Performance artists, sculptors, makers of anti-turntables, improvisers, provocateurs. Just look at those covers, looks like Hjluer’s work, Lego people watching a Kiss cassette concert, dismembered Barbie dolls [Arme Dornröschen translates as ‘poor sleeping beauty] covered in melted candle wax, Arme Nüss [poor nut] and cashew nuts strewn among the Barbie limbs. I once saw Hjuler und Frau play Colour Out of Space with a performance that made most of everything else that weekend seem like stale ready salted crisps in comparison.
This is the world of German label Psych.KG where Fluxus meets Dada meets Anti-Art on a Hans Belmer landscape shaped from bits of twig and frayed bits of string. Take the coughing fits of ‘Groping Fingers …’ here we have the mysterious sound of out of tune pianos, French dialogue and from Broken Penis Orchestra the introduction of American spoken word samples and with it an intensifying of the general weirdness that the work generates. Listening back to back to the original for comparison what we now have is a far heavier, much weirder drug trip, an old zinc top Parisian bar where the punters are stoned and slumped, where the gaslights emit ether fumes and the accordion wheezes a sad lament, an unsettling atmosphere cut and edited to achieve remarkable levels of unease. Out of tune pianos are a common theme here appearing as they do on ‘One Day I Was So Sad …’ along with snatches of dialogue, fierce kazoos, clackety-clack machines, parping trombones, spooling tapes and uncontrollable bagpipes.
On side two of ‘Arme Nüss Volume 1’ Kommissar Hjluer thrashes around on a forest floor while trying to cut his binds with a junior hacksaw, reducing himself to sobbing piteous tears as he does so. On ‘Das Streben Nach Aberkennung’ it sounds like he’s taking his kitchen out using a lump hammer. Rhythmically. ‘Blue Orchid’ is a White Stripes cover banged out on an upright piano with two voices one of which is a deranged Pee Wee Herman the other being an officious German. All recorded to condenser mic. ‘Jazz Stuck’ is improv of the rawest kind, piano and sax with cut edits of the same put to tape and squelched to death. When collaborating with 70’s freaks Family Fodder we get six tracks of piano tinkling while someone chops up wood, pipes are clanged down deep mines, theres female French spoken word to the accompaniment of electronics, traditional French folk tunes squeezed out of accordions and on ‘The Kommissar Will see You Now’ a track that has an almost Residents feel.
Unfamiliar to me are Wolfgang Kindermann & Magda Starwarska-Beaven. Starwarska-Beaven describes herself as a ‘multi-disciplinary artist’ who works mainly in sound. Wolfgang Kindermann is an Austrian poet. ‘Who/Wer’ is the audio taken from an installations of Starwarska-Beaven in which she translates the text read by Kindermann to the sound of passing cars and general street noise and on ‘Daswessender’ manipulates vocals to the sound of angry machines.
Now for the bad news. All these highly desirous LP’s are pressed in small numbers. If I’ve got this right there’s only 48 of each with the 48th copy made in to an unplayable art edition. No downloads of course. What were you even thinking. There are copies available but be prepared to dig deep.
News reaches these ears that Steve Stapleton is reworking Bladder Flask material as I type. This could complicate that second paragraph even further.
All three releases available here.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Smell & Quim - Atom Heart Motherfucker
Wonderland Media. LP
Smell & Quim - Quimtessance
Total Black. Cassette.
Two Smell & Quim releases that originally appeared on Juntaro Yamanouchi’s Vis a Vis Audio Arts label in editions of ten. Yes, ten. Unless you are Juntaro or Milovan Srdenovic or married to him or are someone very lucky you don’t have a copy in your house. Which is a pity as I consider Atom Heart Motherfucker to be one of thee best Smell & Quim releases. Up there with Jesus Christ in the Quim canon as far as this humble scribe is concerned.
I reviewed Atom Heart Motherfucker via a download that Lawrence Burton made available on his most wonderful Ferric Archeological website. Thanks to some incredibly astute American people person with superb taste in music we can now wallow in an 180 gram vinyl version. It really is the very thing, a thick black slab of black heavyweight vinyl capable of lopping off toe joints should you drop it. Juntaro may have a cassette copy with a poo smeared man on it but I have it on 180 gram vinyl.
In case you missed it Atom Heart Motherfucker is piss and shit pub toilet noise as narrated by someone with a thick West Yorkshire accent who isn’t Peter Sutcliffe. That would be Milovan then. ‘Fuck it, kill it, eat it’. The Quim war cry. A madman let loose on a hotel reception desk bell. The noise is deliriously powerful and wonderfully wrong in all the right ways, ‘Wrong Hole in One’ is a blistering re-entry into the West Yorks environs with a pint of Websters Green Label in each hand, there’s Michael Gillham destroying his bathroom in ‘Careful with That Axe Michael’ and the new mantra ‘Bucket Fulla Piss’ which has Milovan and Simon Morris screaming ‘BUCKET FULL OF PISS’ until their lungs rupture. Listening back to it again you cant but marvel at Srdenovic’s technique in putting all this together. Smell & Quim make noise albums that aren’t just one play shelf fillers, they’re some of the best noise records you will own. You can read the original review here.
Quimtessence arrives in one of those folded A5 pieces of card that has a cut and paste collage cover showing a grainy picture of someone having a good time/suffering for their cause. A form of release that I haven’t seen in many a year and produced in me not exactly a Proustian Madeleine moment but certainly a small twinge of nostalgia. All this thanks to German label Total Black who judging from their Big Cartel page may have already sold out. Or maybe they just haven’t got around to putting it up there? No info on how many of these exist but I’m guessing there’ll be more than ten.
Here we have four essential Smell & Quim tracks with a blistering live version of Bucket Fulla Piss as recorded in Lisbon 2016 in which Morris and Srdenovic take it in turns to make the words ‘bucket full of piss’ sound like someone trying to exorcise demons. The bladder emptying frolics continue on side two with the sound of a bucket filling with piss and god knows what else [Pissypoo] while both the title track and ‘Noize on Feel The Cum’ are the kind of full on grinding noise blasts that do you actual good.
All this Smell & Quim activity had me digging around YouTube where I found their most recent Berlin gig and the band still in fine, chaotic, drunken form. Gillham, Morris and Srdenovic in Elvi suits, cock and balls strapped to the fore, Srdenovic collapsing to the floor where he spends the rest of the set behind their set up until he eventually surfaces, alone on the stage, with the most euphoric grin you’ve ever seen. Long may they reign supreme.
Friday, June 14, 2019
Simon Morris - Watching The Wheels
84pp. Perfect bound.
The accompanying blurb on the back cover of Simon Morris’s latest Amphetamine Sulphate publication compares Morris to Philip K Dick and Thomas Pynchon. Dick I’m not so sure about [I’m no big fan to be honest] but Pynchon? That’s a big claim to make. He’s been cropping up with unnerving regularity of late. Pynchon that is. I was in a pub in Halifax a few weeks back, a gathering of the Bald Heads of Noise, when Morris walked in and dropped on the table Christopher Hitchens memoir ‘Hitch-22’. ‘If anybody wants this they can have it’ he said and being partial to a bit of Hitchens I took it home and read it. In it Hitchens mentions Pynchon in relation to the ‘Rushdie Affair’; Pynchon rings Hitchens, confirms that it can be only he and a conversation ensues. At the conversations end Hitchens asks Pynchon if he can have his number to keep him updated to which Pynchon laughs down the line and hangs up. No 1471 in those days.
After I’d finished reading ‘Watching The Wheels’ I picked up my dropping to bits Penguin Classics Deluxe Version of Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ with its deckled edges and V2 artwork to peruse a few lines of the mans most difficult book. That was this morning. I read a few lines and marveled once again at how a writer could even begin to put together such a tome. A few hours later I found myself stood in Mirfield Co-op in need of sustenance and after exiting the check out stood perusing the charity book sale where Pynchon’s ‘The Crying of Lot 49’ sat there looking like a fish out of water. I have to admit that no small amount of pleasure ran through me at this point and wondered if ‘dark forces’ were at play. This for a book that I’ve already read. Its not like the mans keeping Dan Brown off the chazza shelves is it?
Pynchon appears twice in Watching The Wheels. In the final chapter ‘Putting The Record Back In The Sleeve: Greatest Hits USA Edition’ Morris admits that he’s feeling deadline pressure ‘for his next book’ and gives us a minute by minute account of how his evening is panning out, including the temptation to hit Lidl for a bottle of gin and cancelling the gardener [?] all while entering in to an online conversation with someone who asks him;
“Tell me a favourite writer of yours. And be honest if it’s fucking Rowling. I enjoyed one of her Galbraith crime novels.” 22:45
“Thomas Pynchon.” 22:46
“Fuck, you serious?! Have read every word. Many of which I didn’t understand fully but I tried.” 22:47
Copying and pasting online conversations in to your manuscript when deadlines loom is never going to get you a contract with Faber and Faber but in a non linear work like this it fits like a stiffy in a featherlite. And is entirely in keeping with the way Morris writes. I get the feeling that Morris spends a lot of time on online forums; sex forums, Queen forums, G N’ R forums, conspiracy theory forums and forums where only the bravest [or desperate] dare tread.
This is the fourth book of Morris’s to have appeared through AS and like the previous volumes weaves Morris’s existential angst, suicides of past friends, drugs, relationships, both sexual and platonic and childhood years in to the back catalogue, not of Guns N’ Roses this time but Queen. Starting with their ninth studio album ‘The Game’. Which was recorded at Musicland in Munich, a building linked to many suicides. Blackpool, Hoylake, Liverpool, Manchester and Bolton go toward making up an anarchists ‘A’ of a leyline of sorts. Hoylake being a one-horse town on the Wirral peninsula where Morris is convinced this is all going to end one day. Somehow this all mirrors with the movements of Mark Chapman in the run up to the murder of John Lennon. Lennon used to holiday in Blackpool as a child and married Cynthia who came from Hoylake. You see?
In Watching The Wheels Morris writes about his childhood, his drunken parents, looking up girls skirts and losing his virginity. He takes one of his fathers sleeping pills just to see what would happen [he falls asleep], there’s a flirtatious encounter with an aunt, a fetish for nylon is revealed, inspired by punk he forms childhood bands using ice cream tubs for drums and drawing pins for studs, fire extinguishers are let off. Blackpool landmarks the Magnolia Cafe and The Purple Penny arcade are frequented, a cherubic young Morris is chatted up by gay men on Blackpool seafront. A whole childhood of novelty joke mugs, pale ale, orange crush and sexual frustration scattered among the Queen back catalogue.
At the beginning of book Morris admits that:
‘Sex is just something I don’t understand, swear to God’
A sentence that not only encapsulates Watching The Wheels but the entire Morris oeuvre. Sex. And death. The big two. They haunt Morris’s work. And madness of course. True madness. Not just a bit bonkers madness but madness madness, the stuff that drives people to drink and drugs and sexual humiliation and suicide. The casual references to drugs and porn are still here and continue to unnerve but at its core Watching The Wheels is Morris looking in to his childhood for answers.
The comparisons to Pynchon are relevant in that both he and Morris litter their work with numerous characters but then so did Charles Dickens. I think Morris is far nearer to Brett Easton Ellis in style and delivery and while that particular author appears to have left his best days behind him, this one seems to have his best ones in front of him. Like his other books its not an easy read. Not if you’re squeamish or easily offended that is. His matter of fact writing style, openness and erudition bely the fact that for years he fronted the Ceramic Hobs, probably the most unstable band in Britain. Now that The Hobs have gone the way of all flesh [after thirty odd years - we can forgive him] we can only hope that Morris continues with the pen. Or the copying and pasting. I'd be more than happy with either.
Friday, June 07, 2019
Dieter Müh - Mutus Lieber
EE Tapes. EE40. CD
Dieter Müh - The Bjørn Tapes
Force Majeuer. Force009. LP. White Vinyl.
Dieter Müh were one of the first bands, if not thee first band that I got to know personally - the mists of time can play tricks on the brain but they’re definitely up there if you don’t count the scroats I used to knock about with in pubs when I left school. The first time I met them they were playing the Fenton on a Sunday night when I had to be up at 4.30am the morning after to start a new job [I turned up to work half pissed, hungover and had to endure a tedious and never ending twelve hour shift but it was worth it]. I once went to London to see them play a gig in a church and missed them because I’d got my dates mixed up. That one still hurts. I saw them play a pub in Manchester with Con-Dom and The Grey Wolves and was one of about three people who’d paid to get in. I may be exaggerating there but we were thin on the ground. I once drove to Lincoln, where they were then living, and spent a memorable sunny summer Saturday getting slowly pissed in crap pubs, talking music, books and films. All memorable days and gigs. They’d once been a trio but by the time I got to know them they were down to two and then Dave Uden did a Reggie Perrin leaving Steve Cammack at the helm. He’s still there now with almost thirty Dieter Müh years under his belt. Tempus Fugit and all that.
Back in the mid 90’s I was soaking up any kind of ‘weird’ music I could get my hands on. I’d just discovered Whitehouse and had a thirst for the noisy and weird stuff that my bank balance took a battering for. One thing led to another, a flier here, a meeting at a gig there and before you could say RRR 10LP Box Set I began to get know the people who made those noises. Happy pre-computer days where letters and jiffy bags came on an almost daily basis and where every night was a night spent playing tapes and discovering new music. A new world.
I took to Dieter Müh because they provided me with a link back to Throbbing Gristle. In another life I’d have pursued my TG likings and met Dieter Müh side on so to speak and not at a crossroads having spent many a year listening to music that I now realise was very much of its time and is best left there. This was all part of ‘The Great Immersion’. A year zero of musical taste when pretty much all that had gone before was consigned to the chazzas and new battle lines were drawn. Which is where Dieter Müh come in.
If you’re in your mid twenties and you don’t have parents that are in to Ritual Industrial Ambient Noise then there’s a every chance you haven’t heard either of these. Both of them are reissues which is OK by me as I don’t have Mutus Liber and this is the first time for The Bjørn Tapes on vinyl too, sumptuous white vinyl at that. Mutus Liber contains work from the early 90’s and was given away as a cassette in 1995 to like minded souls, The Bjørn Tapes originally appeared on Yasutoshi Yoshida’s superb Xerxes label in 1999. Those where my Great Immersion years.
I’m not sure if Ritual Industrial Ambient Noise is actually a ‘thing’ but its the words I’ve been using to describe Dieter Müh’s sound over these last … gulp ... twenty years. Proudly wearing button badges of an obscure nature they took all the dark bits of TG and SPK and made them their own. Heavily electronic with occasional bass and samples they create a music that is sparse, repetitive, ritualistic, disconcerting, certainly Industrial and forever unsettling. As the years went by they refined these qualities but Mutus Liber especially captures them at first flush when they still had that rawness about them. Tracks like ‘Ibrukin’ sound like they were recorded in empty grain silos, the droning and brooding live track ‘Introjection’ [the only track to feature original member Tim Bayes on tape machines] is a low down dirty drone that teeters on the abyss of an overloaded bass guitar. In later years sampled voices became more prominent and were used almost as rhythm but here they linger mainly in background as on 'Introjection' where a school playground is barely audible as the track enters its dying stages. Fast forward a few years and we find The Bjørn Tapes and Dieter Müh live in Nottingham where their sound has already become sparser, more ritualistic, more subterranean - if it could be such a thing. The highlight here is the side long ‘Aghor’, a transmission from somewhere deep within a Cold War bunker where information is given out over small wall mounted speakers as the echoes of small electronic machines bounce off the concrete walls. A bass riff of P-Orridge like proportions tries to escape these confines all while trying to carry you off to an uninviting, lonely, dark place where empty rooms contain broken wooden chairs and the evidence of torture. On the flip we have ‘Low Feed’ and a dense vortex of distorted military comms and Herma. All grist to my fevered mill.
Everybody now, those were the days my friend ...
Info [at] eetapes
muhmur.radio [at] gmail.com
Friday, May 31, 2019
Consumer Electronics - Airless Space
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger 200. CD/2LP
With the prospect of quiet solo Saturday night ahead of me I decided to spend it taking in the new Consumer Electronics long player. After visiting the wine cellar and making a suitable choice for the evening I pressed play and settled down to what the fuck was I thinking of? This is ridiculous. After four tracks I couldn’t take it no more and turned it off. Taking a long slug of what turned out to be a rather sumptuous Gewurtztraminer I began digging around for an Art Garfunkel album whilst cupping my ears to check for damage. I’d made the mistake of taking Consumer Electronics lightly. You don’t do quiet nights in with Consumer Electronics. You have to prepare yourself. Its like inviting the Stasi round for tea. Is it one lump or two and excuse the mess, we’ve been busy hiding the typewriter. Oh shit.
Philip Best says that he thinks this is the best Consumer Electronics release to date and there’s me thinking that Consumer Electronics previous outing Dollhouse Songs [also on Harbinger] was that perfect amalgam of disquiet and bang up to date late 2000 and teens electric fear and loathing. What impresses most during playback of Airless Space is that Best is probably right. Consumer Electronics go from strength to strength. While his previous partner in chime Mr Bennett fleshes out his CV with almost danceable tosh we take pride in the the fact that one of the original purveyors of Power Electronics [now aided by Sarah Froelich and Russell Haswell] still manages to create songs that are a rusty dagger to your guts.
Its the twin prong attack that gets you. Best delivering his lines with malevolent relish while Froelich does her best to rupture her vocal chords. Hers is a delivery capable of reducing nuns to tears. They ease you in, if thats ever the right phrase, with a vocal track each. Each track built around a stripped down beat, each track equally unsettling. On the opener ‘Body Mistakes’ Froelich’s deranged vocal delivery gradually dissolves into a sea of digital static while on next track ‘Carnage Mechanics’ Best delivers his spoken word lyrics in an increasingly fevered state while reveling in his favourite subjects; self harm, drug abuse, emotional instability, exhibitionism, war zones, death, sex ...
'Would you act differently if the cameras were off?'
As the beat morosely and relentlessly thuds on.
The thirteen minute long ‘Murder of JJ’ has Best’s vocal coming at you as out of the ether, as a ghost, a cipher with an accentuated emphasis on each word, again the spine is a relentless dull thud beat and when Froelich emerges she’s singing about ‘living down here with the dogs’ and then Best comes in and the pair of them are delivering the weirdest of harmonies as Best goes to the floor frothing at the mouth singing ‘its love and light and its forever’. In some ways it could be a love song.
Sitting through an hours worth of such derangement is like sharing a therapy session with a group of emotionally damaged people charged with making music out of broken synthesizers. Its like reading a repulsive book thats doesn’t make much sense but which you find morbidly fascinating. Its like putting your hand in to a dark hole and feeling something cold, mushy and wet. Unsettling is the word that keeps coming to mind and I’m all for that.
Russell Haswell’s production gives Airless Space exactly that but within that vacuum lies a dark malignant growth that no amount of Alsace’s finest could ever make cheery. Some people just like it that way.
This release is Harbinger Sounds 200th and as such deserves a special mention. Let us all raise a well charged glass in Mr. Underwood's general direction.
[If you can please do buy the double album so as to get the lyric sheet. This will enable you to not only follow the lyrics with your finger but to better understand the inner workings of the Best/Froelich partnership].
Friday, May 24, 2019
Astral Social Club + Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra - Plasma Splice Trifle
VHF Records. VHF147. LP
Released 7th June
Soundcloud has its uses but the comments people leave during certain points of track playback make me think that its users have vocabularies that aren’t shall we say, overdeveloped. ‘Nice’ and ‘#poetry’ are two that pop up during Grumbling Furs collaboration with Charlemagne Palestine. An album with a ridiculous title that I shan’t reproduce here and could only have been created by someone sitting on a keyboard. And by that I don’t mean one you’d find on a Bosendorfer.
I don’t do much Soundclouding what with Bandcamp stomping over everything Godzilla like but Campbell’s been raving about Grumbling Fur for years now and to be honest the name put me off, a bit jokey, a bit proggy, a bit Blodwyn Piggy. I’m sure that the duo who make up Grumbling Fur; Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan are the loveliest of people alive and help old ladies across the road whenever the opportunity arises but I’d never heard a single second of what they’ve ever done because I’d been put off by the name. My bad as the kids say. And seeing as I’m as familiar with what Campbell does as the pot holes in the roads around here it would be unfair to delve in to this collaboration without first hearing what it is exactly that Grumbling Fur sound like.
So I went to their Bandcamp page because that's where Godzilla goes. This is where they’re flogging/promoting their latest album Furfour. You can leave comments here too but instead of Bay City Roller fan vocabulary you get more considered opinions, maybe from Wire readers. Those opinions having Grumbling Fur in the Brian Eno vocal compositions camp which after a few tracks of Furfour I totally get; twin vocal harmony pop for grown ups with lots going on in the background showcasing the duos talent for mixing and overdubbing. I like Brian Eno, I like Brian Eno’s singing, I like Grumbling Fur and Furfour. Forget Blodwyn Pig.
Plasma Splice Trifle has harmonies and vocals and spoken word and when they appear its like a dreamy Dream Machine with pretty pictures flickering against your shut eyelids. Patient reader I was transported. The four tracks as a whole flow seamlessly. I was at one with the bob. I was grooving with the VHF crew. I imagine the VHF crew rolling a fat one [on the already printed LP sleeve of course] and DM-ing all those involved immediately upon hearing the results of their labour with a series of cap locked YESSES. I’d have done the same.
Grumbling Fur and Astral Social Club are a match made in, not heaven exactly that would be too corny but maybe somewhere in the Eno-sphere. Campbell’s sawing violin is there as is the electronic staccato shudder and the pumping beats. The sawing violin is no wild, folksy, moth eaten jumper, cider reeking mad jig either, its a beautiful soaring thing that lifts you cloud-ward, all this as on second track ‘Three Years Apart’ but first we have Campbell reciting from what we have to assume is a book or a poem, something about sperm and going back to the egg, all this over a muezzin call, a small child calling and shortwave static. As an entry to the album it draws you in and is soon followed by trademark ASC head bob beats and further multi tracked Fur/ASC jaw jabber thats buried deep, deep, deep within the mix.
The cherry on the cake is ‘Ozone Antifreeze Intelligence’ and a beatific, melodic piano riff thats the floaty ying to the vocals of the three of them’s yang. Grumbling Fur vocals drift in and out and under as Campbell speaks, electric guitars hold back feedback and things burble and bibble as the piano chimes its funereal chime. The riffing bass on last track Toejam Boxdrum is the riff to carry you all the way back to its intoned beginning.
I get the feeling that all parties involved are chuffed to mint-balls with what they’ve created here. Plasma Splice Trifle is a work of great depth created by two parties which I imagine have a lot of common ground between them. The more you listen the more it gives. I’ve had it clamped to my head for the last few days and now that I’m totes familarz with it I’m getting all evangelical. I’ve no idea what that covers all about though. Looks a bit Blodwyn Piggy to me.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Preening - Gang Laughter
Digital Regress. LP/DL
Max Nordile - Got To Sleep, Fool
Digital Regress. DR29. Cassette
Dolphin - Breezebather
Out of sheer curiosity and having nothing better to do with my life for the next 90 seconds, I decided to check out what was happening in the UK Top 40 these days. It’s been a while. About twenty five years give or take a year. The singles charts are now as irrelevant to me as adverts for tampons, TV channels selling jewelry and shampoo. When singles were just that, small rounds of vinyl with a song on each side, they carried a certain weight. Now they are literally weightless. Since 2005 the Top 40 has included downloads and brought streaming under its aegis in 2014 [to qualify as a streaming single its length must not exceed 15 minutes and cost no less than 40p. So now you know].
In 1981 Laurie Anderson got to number 2 with ‘O Superman’, an eight minute single of an avant garde nature featuring electronically manipulated repetitive vocal phrasings that paid homage to Jules Massenet’s opera Le Cid. At the time I was living in a pub and after consultation with the people who put the records on the jukebox it was decided that in everybody's sanity it was best left off and given to me. I still have that copy. O Superman was denied the top spot by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin with their cover of ‘It’s My Party’. Thats the same Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin who played their part in the Canterbury scene via Stewart’s band Hatfield and the North. Whats filling the top two spots now? I can hardly bring myself to defile these pages with the words but I give you Ed Bieber, Justin Sheeran with some collaborative guff that you file under ‘had to happen’, and Lil Nas X. Lil Nas X, I’ve just discovered, being famous for his crossover country rap breakout single Old Town Road. Country Rap. Maybe Mel Brookes can use it in his Blazing Saddles remake. I know that this is going to make me sound like an old curmudgeon but to be honest I'm far past caring.
So when exactly did mainstream music become so teeth grindingly dull? There’s always been dull music in the charts of course. At least up until I stopped listening. But the dull stuff was clustered around interesting stuff.
Here’s another chart from 1981:
1 - The Specials / Ghost Town
2 - Stars on 45
3 - Bad Manners / Can Can
4 - Imagination / Body Talk
5 - Whacko Jacko / One Day in my Life
6 - Motorhead / Live EP
7 - Tom Tom Club / Wordy Rappinghood
So I’ll keep 1, 6 and 7 and you can melt the rest on your three bar electric fire in bedsit land. Its still a decent return and that's just from the top seven.
Seeing as how most of the charts are now full of people I’m unfamiliar with I’m assuming that they’re either mediocre singer/song writers, bands with a modicum of talent stretched so thinly that you can see their genitals, female singers who think that howling like an ululating hyena will get them compared to Janis Joplin and country rap crossover stars. Its all v v v v depressing and something I care not to linger on. So without further ado I give you Oakland California’s Max Nordile whose been invading these pages with his improv skronk for the last couple of years now.
Nordile also prints zines that are black daubs opposite hand written upper case musings:
SOMEONE WHO IS DEAD
THEIR MEDIA PROFILE
BOOMING OUT FROM UNSEEN
Issue 30 is described as an ‘Art and Humour’ publication with the art being there for everybody to see and the humour being buried somewhere deep in Nordile’s mind.
Which is all well and good and a decent outpouring of creative activity and while the improv skronk tapes are most welcome [‘Dolphin’ is yet another Nordile improv attack vehicle while ‘Got To Sleep, Fool’ is Nordile wandering around in his own soundworld] it was the LP that blew me away this time. Last time it was via Uzi Rash and a couple of 12 inch platters that sat astride the Country Teasers horse only with more whisky and a liking for The Doors. This time its a 12 track 45rpm knock you sideways, I didn’t think people were making music this good these days, pure shot of mezcal straight in to the cerebellum, instant classic. Its like Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band made a record with some Ethiopian jazzers in a New York basement circa 1977 before they went out and blew The Ramones off stage at CBGB’s because they weren’t zeitgiesty enough. This is the music of the future coming from the past via all kind of jazzy, punky, improvisational wormholes that is like a lot of what I’ve heard before [all the best bits] baked into a cake and covered with glistening dark joyful listening cherries. It is life affirming stuff.
Preening is Alejandra Alcala, Sam Lefebvre and Max Nordile. Theirs is a stripped down sound with Alcala’s bass running wiggle worms around Lefebrve’s post-punk drums as Nordile skronks and honks in and amongst. Nordile and Alcala do vocal call and response harmonies like Don Van Vilet arguing with The Raincoats and all of it sounds like nothing I’ve heard in years. Opening track ‘Dogtown Top Ranking’ is a tumbling James Chance like rawk with the chorus nicked from Althea and Donna’s greatest hit. ‘Flotilla’ has that Egyptian vibe and its here where you get to hear Nordile’s vocals disappearing into a higher register yelp before collapsing in on itself. Put it down to too much sunshine. ‘Slabs’ is Preening paying tribute to Albert Ayler. ‘Work Policy’ is a song about dress codes. ‘Red Tape’ is an instrumental with guest laughing, people laughing like lunatics as guest cornettist ErAl does the Ornette Coleman thing. The title track is a piece of improv featuring Alcala on piano and then gamelan and the sounds of cars as heard through the open window of wherever they recorded this open heart surgery on my musical lassitude. I could do the whole dozen like this but you really need to hear it for yourself.
There was a time when you could just wait for the next musical genre to come along and give your jaded tastebuds a car battery like jump start; out with the Punk in with the Post-Punk, out with the Indie in with the Rave. Now everything in the mainstream seems like so much mush. Corporate mush at that. Unless you get digging of course. Digging is where you get to find the real gold. Preening are unlikely to ever bother the likes of the Top 40 but that means you cant dig. Dig?
Monday, May 13, 2019
The New Blockaders - Live at Sonic City
Cold Spring. CSR261CD. CD + DVD
The most astonishing footage of this forty minutes and exactly no seconds bout of TNB destruction comes at its very end; as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata escapes from a very battered and out of tune piano we get a slow-motion close up of [presumably] that very same instrument. A claw hammered finale that is a slow blow after blow after relentless blow that disintegrates the key cover into plumes of dust and countless fragments of wood. Its a controlled performance but no wild, smash it to bits bout of pissed up artistic indulgence on someone else’s expense sheet. This is The New Blockaders slowly and methodically going about their work, banging out a head syringing noise with a hammer in each hand, feeding a cement mixer with self made detritus, sawing and hammering and generally reducing everything in sight to splinters and misshapen metal.
Using several cameras and overlay effects you get to see the dust vibrating out of that upright piano, the cement mixer being fed with a gramophone horn as the gramophone itself plays records in a way that its makers never intended it do. The backdrop shows the flickering static as created by a blank VHS cassette with TNB instruction words like ANTI, NOTHING, REJECT, appearing. A table contains a mixer and small metal boxes that have turning handles on them. One Blockader studies a small reel to reel recorder with an intent that's almost disturbing. The resultant noise is of course suitably intense, destablazing to the senses and offensive to those of a weak nature.
The biggest benefit from having this live footage is that you can get as close as the front row did without having to inhale the dust or suffer hearing damage. It also shows how in control the performers are. This performance being enacted by two Blockaders, a Rupneus and a Niemand, though which Rupenus remains unexplained or Niemand come to that. Each methodically going about his work; rubbing metal on to that cement mixer, throwing metal rods in to a galvanized rubbish bin, hammering said galvanized bin in to a useless shape.
The CD part of the package is the soundtrack to the DVD. While on the DVD the soundtrack doesn’t match the action on stage. This leads me to believe that the audio may have been put together in the studio. Moonlight Sonata is not seen being played either at its beginning or its end, there’s also audience chatter during the rare quieter moments which seems hard to believe and synth-like sounds, none of which you can pick out in the DVD. This detachment gives the visuals an arty, cinematic feel.
Of the live footage that exists on the internet none compares to what we have here. That live show at the Broken Flag Festival? A drunken riot. I’m guessing that The New Blockaders wanted something that truly represented what its they’re trying to achieve. This is it.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Duncan Harrison - Nothing’s Good.
Index Clean. IC-011. CD
Duncan Harrison - Preamble to Nihil
Duncan Harrison - Life Is Not A Succession of Major Events
Duncan Harrison - Something Approaching Zero
I’ve never met, spoken to or otherwise had anything to do with Duncan Harrison but I still feel I know him. Not that I’m in constant contact via the DM’s or the PM’s. Such is the social media world we live him his name crops up all the time and I think I may have even seen him play live in a charity shop once as part of the Colour Out Of Space fringe. After visiting his Soundcloud page I can adjudge that he’s a vegetarian who works in a vegetarian restaurant in Brighton, this because the first two tracks on his Soundcloud page are of Harrison phoning his local radio station to talk e-coli in salad and how to spot when an avocado’s ripe. I’m making an assumption here, he may be a meat eater who works in a vegetarian restaurant, this is Brighton after all. Then again … no.
The fact that the fist two tracks on Harrison’s Soundcloud page are of him phoning his local radio station to discuss food related issues impresses me immensely. That another track on there is a drunken recording of himself and Dylan Nyoukis wandering the streets of London looking for alcohol is another ten pound sledge-hammer through the floor of common sense. Its saying ‘yes I have a Soundcloud page [and a Bandcamp one too obvs], doesn’t everybody, but the first things you’re going to hear is me and ultra charm local radio DJ talking e-coli in salad and then me having a good time in the Cafe Oto toilet with Mr Brotzmann. Not like that you’ll understand, just a little bit of good time gurgling and skronking. Put that in your organic pitta bread halloumi wrap with chia and cress and shove it where the monkey shoves its hickory smoked almonds.
The real dirt comes from the hands of the man himself; an A5 booklet containing prose and poetry, two cassettes and a CD that you could easily put into the hands of someone wanting to know more about where noise is at in 2019 and say ‘here you go, it’s all there, just apply brain and go enjoy yourself’. If I were to place these on an Olympic finishing podium ‘Life Is Not A Succession of Major Events’ would get bronze, ‘Preamble to Nihil’ the silver and the CD ‘Nothing’s Good’ the clear winner with the awardee reciting words from the ‘Something Approaching Zero’ while putting on all three gongs on a hopping about Harrison head.
In Harrison’s sound world ‘Life is Not a Succession …’ is the one where he records the Rupenus brothers taking his house apart while he sits at the top of the bare staircase throwing cricket balls through the front door and out into the street as seagulls squawk and cars go by. ‘Preamble to Nihil’ meanwhile is where things become a little more eclectic, where amongst a myriad of other sounds, he impersonates a dripping tap, skronks on a horn, blows wildly down a tenor recorder, chops up tape edits of his own voice, loops clanking noise and offers up field recordings of church bells and church organ music that had me in such a melancholic mood that I had to keep telling myself that this was the same person who started the tape. There was noise too, noise that sounded like it was recorded at an expensive, totally exclusive French recording studio with Iannis Xennakis at the controls.
By now we not only know that Harrison has intimate knowledge of e-coli in salad ['wash, wash and wash again'] and the toilet at Cafe Oto but that his world, his soundworld, encompasses everything from Dictaphone-iste gabber to full bore noise works. Thanks to these few tapes and his website [whose first page shows a photo of Harrison outside the gates of Strawberry Fields in Liverpool but turned 90 degrees left and chopped so that you only see half his head] we can also deduce that he’s quite happy listening to Sergeant Pepper as he is knocking up vegan wraps as he is getting drunk with Nyoukis while extolling the virtues of the sound glass marbles make while rolling them around the palm of your hand.
Which is what you get to hear on ‘Nothing’s Good’. Three very different tracks that feel like total compositions in their own right. The first of which involves the detail to be found in Dictaphone mouth squelch, the second, a lo-fi noise movement of sorts where a rusty bucket passes for a Tibetan drone bowl before all the crockery left over from the jumble sale gets smashed to pieces in it, and then all the keys on the keyboard held down while moaning a Brighton mantra before chipping out with a hacking cough. At times it sounds like Harrison is firing a high pressured jet of water into that rusty bucket while expertly manipulating the sounds so that they sound like mini stars exploding and reverberating into the English Channel, like TNB with a vegan vibe. The final, shorter track is book-ended by Harrison reading his poetry whilst in the middle of it all appears a gentle drone made from stuck stylus fluff and a gentle looping. All this thrown under the wheels of a microphone struggling to cope with the noise generated by a blizzard.
Harrison is one of those people for whom sound is found everywhere. It’s the John Cage quote about the world having an abundance of free music, you just have to stop and listen to what’s around you to appreciate it. Harrison adds to this soundworld by recording himself moaning about his neighbours constant playing of Metallica, by recording marbles going around in his hand, by blowing wildly into a treble recorder, by listening intently to the barely audible click of a stuck needle in a run-off groove. I bet he makes a mean bean burger too.