Sunday, January 27, 2019

I Put my Glass of Wine on a Wobbly Mushroom

Small Seeds

Steve Beresford

Kelly Jones

David Velez

Small Seeds. Huddersfield 24th January. 2019

Small Seeds is the kind of quirky venue you'd expect to find in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin or the Harajuku district of Tokyo, a Hobbit's hidey-hole of shrubbery and half timbered walls with an incongruous tree trunk sitting jammed floor to ceiling. Strings of bare light bulbs hang from branches, a giant carved wooden eagle adorns the bar front and the tables all look like they were made by Robinson Crusoe. I trust they have a well maintained sprinkler system. Upstairs you'll find a popular pizza shop and bar, there's flyers for yoga classes in the gents and the sound system is this side of shit hot. Here we are then, at a venue that would never have existed in this somewhat dour Northern city ten years ago, all friendly and warm with my glass of red wine on a sloping wooden mushroom.

Actually not that warm. Steve Beresford keeps his winter coat and scarf on during his entire performance and I too am feeling the nip and thus keep woolly hat firmly on head. At least we won't go hungry as David Velez and [I think] his wife Lina María Velandia Pizón are cooking actual food on the actual stage. I was lucky enough to experience a Velez installation at Huddersfield University early last year, a pitch black room full of speakers playing the sounds of kitchens, mainly noisy Far East kitchens where woks are bashed with steel spatulas and cooks shout over the din, the experience a disorientating one as the sounds come at you from different angles as your eyes slowly become accustomed to the darkness. Here he's boiling a kettle as Pizón fires up the hot plate and fries some plantain. Things fizzle and pop as Velez introduces field recordings of domesticity. The queue for food at its conclusion is lengthy and takes some time to go down but everyone seems happy with what they get and retire to eat it at tables that have never entered the thoughts of IKEA designers.

Kelly Jones kneels and pours water from one metal bowl in to another. Rather sloppily at times which is a little disconcerting as she's mere inches from her laptop and other electrical gear. She pours from one to the other then clinks them together, slops some water over herself, the floor and then gets up to give someone in the audience a rock or is it a crystal? After a manipulated spoken word emerges from the laptop she begins to process the sound of rock on slate, scraping while producing powder and atmospheres that swing between dreamy and Industrial hellish. Some of the bass tones are so deep and violent that at least one audience member clap his hands to his ears, when one sustained blast actually got louder when you thought it couldn't actually get any louder I thought the PA would blow. But it didn’t. As much a ritual as sound exploration.

There's an upright piano at the side of the sizeable tree trunk with its maintenance panels removed and in front of it a table full of cheap looking machines that look like they'll make cheap sounding electronic sounds. Which they do. Beresford starts his short set with a bout of chair shoving [a bog standard chair with steel frame not one made by Robinson Crusoe] which makes you realise that all those years at school shuffling chairs around on polished floors was you making drone sounds. He then improvises on the keys, flying up and down the keyboard like Cecil Taylor in a winter coat before going in to the guts of the thing jamming the hammers in to the strings and plucking them like an recalcitrant harp. Then the table gets it. A proper table. Various noise making things held up to two mics, a mini bullhorn which he squeaks in to and places machines to. A maddening cacophony of gibbering gadgets. A radio is turned on and plays something Mendelssohn like. Things that hum are placed on the piano keys. A ghost like glowing dome makes a 'woo' sound. A tin mouse with a rasping wire tail is brought in to the action. That is 'Part 1'. We know this because Beresford tells us its 'Part 1' at its conclusion. Then he tells us that what's coming up next is 'Part 2' which is a short work using two machines that again make all kinds of peculiar sounds.

This is the first night of two from AME both celebrating a book launch showcasing their two years of putting gigs on in the town. Except the book hasn’t made it back from the printers. AME is the acronym for ‘Art Music Experiment’. Its also the Japanese word for rain, those four little raindrops you see in the middle of the ‘m’ are from the Kanji character for rain. Outside it is cold and the streets are weirdly deserted. Huddersfield is no Harajuku. I’m glad AME are putting gigs on in the town though. The more the merrier and its quicker for me to get home from Huddersfield than it is Leeds. I can’t make it for the Friday show which is at 21 Market Place. I think I’ve been there before. I’m pretty certain I saw Adam Bohman there. It has tables that aren’t sloping mushrooms.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Left Hand Cuts Off The Right

Left Hand Cuts Off The Right - Purge
Fractal Meat Cuts. Cassette/DL
70 Copies.

Released 28th of January

There’s plenty of shit flying around these days and the times they are indeed a turbulating but it could be worse; you could have had your head staved in which is what happened to Robbie Judkins. So while Trump tweets his childish tweets and Rees-Mogg does his best Softy Walter impersonation and the world turns to liquid shit around your ankles you can count yourself lucky that your head is still the same shape it was yesterday. How it happened I know not but as Judkins says in the blurb, Purge was ‘an album created during a time of reflection, recovery and listening following a severe brain and skull in injury in December 2017’ so while we were all wondering what to buy Timmy for Chrimbo Judkins was doing his best to stay alive. A sobering thought.

What I’ve heard of his work gives rise to much pause and thought. Ambient if you’d like to call it that but not of the structured Eno variety, this being more improv sounding with radios, field recordings and broken electronics seeping like a heavy mist among somberly struck lower register piano keys. Imagine Keith Jarrett on Largactyl improvising sadness with his left hand while his right tries for some throbbing oscillating sounds all recorded in the basement of an abandoned Detroit theatre during a full moon. That's not far off.

Purge has five tracks, some more sombre than others all of them guaranteed to put you in the place where Softy Walter’s fizog fades from view. I write this before its released because it fits in with a lot of the piano music I was listening to at the back end of 2018, Debussy, Glass, Greig, Satie. Second track Doubt & Worry has a subtle Eastern tinge, the two chord low register playing bass to a reflective upper register fling as a throbbing drone builds and builds eventually leaving all behind it. ‘Keppra’ is a minimalist two distant melodies looped slightly against each other, the sound degrading Basinski like as it progresses. ‘What Now’ is shorter, a reverberating Blackpool organ. The title track the most somber and bleakest of all. Purge will indeed purge you.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Bladder Flask

Broken Penis Orchestra and Le Scrambled Debutante Play Bladder Flask
Orgel Fesper Music/Twin Tub & Beaver.
CD. 100 copies.

‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ was the splendid title Bladder Flask gave to their one and only 1981 release leaving all those who heard it [including a seemingly awe struck Steve Stapleton] flat on their backs. Its two 24 minute sides of collage combines the sounds of hammered piano keys, strummed out of tune guitars, sci-fi bloops, tape splurge, crappy preset keyboard beats, guitar noise, train whistles, spoken word samples, rattled cutlery drawers, clockwork toys being wound up, wheezy melodicas, tuneless treble recorders, clanging steel pipes, flies being swatted with rolled up newspapers, records spinning at ridiculous speeds, honking saxophones, people shouting, people going mad, spoken word samples, atmospheres of utter strangeness and beguiling entropy. A sound world that up until 1981 I doubt barely existed. All of it the work of Richard and Philip Rupenus, all of it still in possession of every ounce of its vitality. 

In 2018 The Broken Penis Orchestra and Le Scrambled Debutante poked about in the cardboard box of bits that is ‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ and gave us their interpretation of it. On ‘Plays … ‘ there’s also two re-workings of an unreleased Bladder Flask track called ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ which was intended as a United Dairies release but for some reason never saw the light of day.

Broken Penis Orchestra I’m familiar with due to their semi prolific burst of activity sometime ten years or so back where a splatter of releases left their mark on me [one due to sleeve art showing a hairy testicle in a egg cup] all of them of the painstaking cut and paste sound collage school. Cut and paste sound collage being the aural equivalent of ‘stop go’ animation the kind of work that take hours, weeks, months, lots of patience and plenty of skill to put together. Saying that its all probably done on computer now, a luxury the Rupenus brothers didn’t have at the time. Le Scrambled Debutante is Allan Zane of whom I know nothing.

These re-workings start out comfortably enough, the first Le Scrambled Debutante track kicking in with a scratched to buggery easy listening Ray Conniff/Mantovani swooning strings record over which detritus is liberally smeared. So far so like ‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ and then we get the two re-workings of the unreleased ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ and with it some clue as to why it might have given Stapleton an attack of the Heebie Geebies. I give you a dentists suction pump and the hacking smokers cough of a Selby miner combined mercilessly until you die. If you thought you could punish yourself by playing 90’s Merzbow at volumes designed to deafen have a go at the same volume with the last two tracks here. I double dare you. Broken Penis Orchestra ease you in by mixing in some French street sounds, warbly melodica, plinky piano, a lost Frenchman shouting through a Parisian fog and that coughing. The last track of all, a Le Scrambled Debutante 25 minute epic of endurance begins benignly enough with a loop of a newsreader corpsing over the story of someone launching a firework from their arse but slowly becomes one of those trapped in claustrophobic listens from which your only escape is the end of the disc or your own trembling finger upon the stop button. The sound of Hell is someone coughing up lumps of lung butter for eternity. This crept up on me at first and its only now after several listens that I’m fully able to ride this out. I have become attuned to its hideous deformities, like a prisoner who gets used to his gruel and daily thrashings I bore its weight with a stoic’s sense of duty.

When I recovered I went back to the beginning and Broken Penis Orchestra and its clatter  of broken pianos, busted springs, badly played harmonicas, monsters eating people and lost dogs and then back to ‘One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I Was Whistling’ to marvel once more at its myriad juxtaposed sounds, the sheer unbridled joy of it all. An intriguing and delightful experience which at times is an unsettling one. A Stapleton fave of course and as fresh today as it was in 1981.

Lets hope that ‘The Groping Fingers Of This Vulgar Intruder Have Strummed The Toppling Byzantine Organ Of His Mind’ eventually sees the light of day. I want to hear that coughing in its original state. We deserve nothing less.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Grey Park

Grey Park - Olic banquet
Hyster Tapes. Hyster26.

Its been a while but here’s another release from Grey Park on the ever reliable, open to trades, analogue only, recycled Finnish cassette label Hyster Tapes. I’ve just been perusing their rudimentary, two page, not changed since the year dot, perfectly formed website and most of the reviews on it appear to come from me and the Bearded Wonder with a smattering of Vital Weekly and Tape Gods thrown in for good measure. This made me realize that I write a load of old shit at times and repeat myself ad nauseum. Hey ho.

Grey Park releases have been passing through these hands for many years now and I’ve never heard one that disappointed me. Packaging has always been a highlight with one release arriving in an inside out coffee bean bag, the artwork stenciled in red onto the shiny once inner, now outer surface. Olic banquet arrives in a slip of white paper with the twelve track info typewritten in glorious not computer font old typewriter font. The cassette is of course recycled and runs through most of one side most of what is, I’m assuming, a C90 before the news in Finnish kicks in. The flip is still blank and there for you to use should you choose to.

We find Grey Park on the Experimental Industrial Ambience floor of the Sound Building of Life, their sound that of someone sweeping the floor of an abandoned factory while listening to a distant 1940’s German shortwave radio thats had its last working speaker kicked in. This is best captured on the second track, a ten minute live outing from 2013, a succinct and oddly beautiful trawl through dead frequencies but let Olic banquet wash over you and you will find yourself subjected to; Chinese language tapes being stretched over capstans, the neighing [and trotting] of a horse looped in to rhythmic structures, the click of a run-off groove buffeted by lo-fi rumblings as a female voice drifts in to the ether, the clang of a dead steel triangle hit metronomically as a record is spun backwards at a ridiculously fast BPM. And on and on. A veritable panoply of odd sounds, murk and delight.

Todays news revealed that cassettes sales have gone through the roof, mainly thanks to certain popular artists making cassettes part of their release schedule. From being the dominant format 27 years ago they now account for a paltry 1% of total physical sales. Tiny numbers that will no doubt stay tiny long after a new generation of people who cant quite believe two plastic shells holding sellotape with iron filings on them can actually carry sound, has long since worn off. A part of me still likes cassettes though. I have a great affection for them and despite their obvious flaws that will remain so. And while Kylie might shift a few of her latest on cassette I find pop music a total flirt capable of living quite happily on any format with mobile phone being perhaps the mode of choice these days. In contrast, I find experimental music thrives on cassette. Find a cassette player with automatic reverse play and you can listen on a loop, the gentle click of the tape swapping side your only reminder of the outside world. Let it ever be so.

Hyster Tapes 


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

See You Next Tuesday

See You Next Tuesday #2
A4 zine w/CDR
100 copies

See You Next Tuesday #3

A4 zine w/CDR
100 copies

In the strange days between Christmas and New Year I bought three Kate Bush CD’s in Oxfam in York which turned out to be the most played music over the 2019 festive period. Me and Mrs Fisher played them in the car while coming home from York and while coming back from Scarbados a few days later. At home we sang ‘rolling the ball’ to each other while rolling our ‘rrr’s’ and theatrically mimicking Kate’s rolling of the ball as seen on Top of the Pops circa some time in the 1980’s. Oh what fun. After the 2017 festive period was written off due to both of us coming down with the flu, all we hoped from 2018 was that we both stay lurgi and hangover free and enjoy what time we had reading, listening to music and making our way through the second series of the Handmaid’s Tale. And lo it came to pass. I read Anna Burns terrific novel Milkman over the first few days, not an easy ride but a novel that makes plenty of other contemporary novels appear mundane by comparison and then I started in on my William H. Gass ‘Reader’. A man for whom Finnegan’s Wake provides light reading.

Its back to work tomorrow so I might as well gird the loins and return to the coal face by relating what happens within the pages of the above. The above being the house organ of Loxley Tapes as found in Blyth in the North East of England. I think I recounted my drive though Blyth when issue one of the above landed earlier this year [or last, as it is now] and told of the joys to be found within the North East Vibe and how the North East of England has the best people and the best countryside and the best coast in England.

Of particular interest to readers of these pages will be the TNB bootleg recording of their Termite Club gig of 2003 as recorded by a certain Michael Gillham - which you will find in issue 3. The official release of this gig - 20th Antiversary Offensive - came via Hypnogogia and sounds very different to what we have here. Which is bereft of any nuance and sounds like it was actually recorded outside the venue with the recording device held deep within the inside pocket of someones duffel coat. This does not mean that this recording is without its merits for there is something to be said in the defence of the poorly recorded noise gig, the main one being that it recreates the feeling of having gone for a piss halfway through the set as you seek respite from the onslaught.  Issue 2 contains an interview with Richard Rupenus and an appreciation of TNB’s first release Changez Les Blockuers. Not something you come across everyday.

Issue 3 contains an interminably long interview with Manchester band Cabbage and more pertinently to these pages Xazzaz. Issue 2 contains an interview with the guitarist from original Sunderland punks The Rebels whose rare as rocking horse shit single is to be found on the accompanying CD alongside a single called Drunken Christmas by a band called Red Alert which actually isn’t that bad and is definitely going to be the last Christmas single I hear until around the end of November when no doubt the opening chimes of Slade’s So Here it is Merry Xmas once again chokes the airwaves. The highlight for me has to be the three tracks by Posset that shine like shiny baubles on a xmas tree bereft of needles. Alas, due to a big gouge on the disc I was only able to rip two of the three Dictaphonic mini-classics tracks to mon computer. Quelle horreur. The CD with issue 3 also has a number of tracks by Fowl who sound not entirely dissimilar to Idles.

Someone called Arthur Peverell contributes an endless supply of stories and poems to both issues all reproduced in his own handwriting as written on lined A4 notepaper. Here’s  an example:

I was taking a bath it was raining,
My bathroom tiles are creme
The radio was playing ‘doctor Feelgood’
I couldn’t decide ‘the colour of the steam’
‘undecided by the colour’
I was looking at a fanny magazine
There is a lot of this and a lot of Cabbage and a lot of photos of Cabbage on stage and back stage and in the pub. There’s also a photo of a shady character stood outside a menswear shop in Amble besides lots of other stuff that I may have passed by while flicking for truth be told I found these two issues a bit of a trawl. These are big fat things, a hundred pages or more, held together by a staple in the top left hand corner. 

Now here’s the weird bit; you can only buy them through eBay. I have no idea why this should be so. Search for eBay seller mich6greg though and you will find a page where you can buy both copies of these zines, that for some inexplicable reason come with a complimentary/compulsory box of tea bags, for £11.50 each plus £5 postage.

Happy New Year.

As an aside; although the TNB recording is a bootleg it does have official status.