Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Neil Campbell - Mirror Mania Ersatz Chamber
I do admire a person who dubs their tapes in real time before sticking them in a hand daubed sleeve, sending them out snail mail with a greeting written upon the reverse of a very nice postcard. Mine was Genet’s cover of his Faber book The Balcony. 1950’s. It looks gorge dahlinks in that ‘we’re not trying that hard’ 1950’s kind of way. But this is 2019 kiddywinks. Put your iPhones down for a minute and take note. All that Whatszappening, Instagargling and Faceflogging is only going to get you so far. And while Zuckerberg makes billions from selling your data to all manner of dodgy, money obsessed scum you could be doing something like this. Making something. And not just noises made with an app on your phone. This is real. An actual thing. And not available on bandcamp. Yet. Maybe never.
Repellent Music did make it on to Bandcamp. This cassette came wrapped in a sheet of paper and was from the Campbell School of Noise. It sounded a bit like a stretched out electronic growl, someone making a low ‘ahh’ sound and treating it electronically for an hour. It morphs of course. All Campbell music morphs. There may be the faintest trace of where you began at its end but during that time you’ve visited at least three musical continents, ten musical genres, two different guitars, several effects, ten noise boxes, a KAOS pad rewired to sound like a melting star, three magpies and the pounding beta sound of several crates of dance records. Maybe in another past life he was just a frustrated bell caster?
I write this the day the tape came through the door [actually now yesterday]. Its the kind I like the best; a smooth white shell with Mirror Man written on one side and Ersatz Chamber on the other but hang on, one side is blank. Has Campbell forgotten to dub a side or did he just write the title across both sides of the cassette because he didn’t have a magic marker with a point fine enough to fit it all on one? Ah well. Let it sit there. I like it as it is.
To be honest with you I owe Campbell a review. I’ve probably not written one for over a year while he very kindly sends me things without pressuring for a review. I’ll swap this for the numerous emails I get from people who never read these pages and a week later follow up with a ‘have you had to chance to listen to my Greatest Thing Ever’. You lot can all go and shite.
Mirror Mania Ersatz Chamber Jean Genet’s The Balcony Could Be On Two Sides Of A Cassette But I’m More Than Happy With One visits several continents and the insides of the Fripp/Wilcox household where Toyah bangs away on a toy xylophone as Robert winds up the acoustic guitar for some serious head down stunted riff work. Yes it morphs. Of course it morphs. And layers. And layers. And layers. I’ll rewind it once more and tell you all about it because its new and its exciting. Yes. Exciting. While it was rewinding I started listening to Repellent Music [via Bandcamp] and got caught up in that again The whole hours worth. I should visit this page more often. There’s not much more you need really. What I really need is a cassette player that plugs in because I’m burning though batteries what with this tape only being on one side and me not having the patience to rewind it with a pencil [someone please explain this to younger readers who only have smartphones to access music]. I’m in an Alpine meadow and all the cows have bovine spongieform. Hang on. This is different. Have I only reversed halfway and pressed play. Have I got my sides mixed up? You cant see in to the cassette. Sodding white cassette shells. Now there’s some carnival music. A Parisian Merry Go Round. Now the pace is considerably slower. I’ve been sucked in to the Campbell space-time continuum where your senses are not what they were when you first entered. My mind has been taken over by Campbell. An even slower pace now, an African sounding stringed instrument gently, hypnotically plucked to an effervescent background of electronic fireworks. It does have two sides. Sodding tapes. What was I doing? Whats happened? Can I go now? I think there’s a dog barking somewhere. This is blissful. I think I’m tripping. Up.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Laica- You Keep All Future Sunsets
Totes Format. TOTFORM#33
CDR/DL 20 Copies.
Excuse me while I fawn over this sleeve for a while; a laser cut, laser etched sleeve on hand painted, recycled cardboard thats been machine stitched to a clear plastic backing. Reverse of sleeve has rubber stamped info and there’s slight charring from the laser cutting giving it a worn, aged look and feel. The planetary like design fits in well with the title and sounds therein and if I think about its greatness for long enough my neck goes limp and I fall over through lack of oxygen.
A sleeve is nothing if the contents don’t match. Natch. So you can adopt all manner of packaging gimmicks to make your release stand out but if its covering a pile of poo the packaging is the only thing people are going to remember. See Merzcar, anything with bits of melted plastic on it and that Betleys release that was a cassette tied to a domestic sponge.
Mr Totes Format or GRMMSK to give him his proper name lifts all his releases from the ordinary in such ways; etched cassettes, recycled materials, handmade cassette sleeves all in limited quantities and most desirous. The obvious limitations of the limited run then offset by making the release available for free via download.
Laica are new to me. It could be Mr. GRMMSK working under another project name or it could be someone else entirely. I know not. The Lacia website is of no use as its a single page with the letters of the name all linking back to the home page, an elaborate joke perhaps? Again I know not. It matters not. After spending most of Saturday afternoon with this on repeat as I did battle with the Guardian cryptic crossword I decided to listen to it on headphones at a decent volume. Which I’m glad I did as the experience was enhanced no end. You Keep All Future Sunsets is a single hour long track that is a forever collapsing in on itself wall of noise drone, wave after wave of roaring helicopter throb that at times engulfs you, that at times peaks at such a rapture that you think you cant possibly take anymore.
The silence that follows is equally as rewarding.
Thursday, February 07, 2019
Viviankrist - Morgenrøde
Cold Spring. CSR68CD
For my troubles I end up on the Cold Spring promo list. I indulge briefly to see whats going on in there which is hard on the peepers due to it being pitch black. It doesn’t look a happy place to be. Maybe this is where I really should be though. Listening to an 80 minute Dark Folk release that was recorded in a Swedish forest at three in the morning by people with names like Cragnomort all while trying to make sense of the current uncertain global political situation. Cold Spring does tend to lean heavily towards the darker side of life but its not all doom and gloom. There is Noise and Power Electronics to cheer you up while for night lovers there’s Dark Ambient, Ritual and all those live Psychic TV albums to indulge in once more. Their website is an enormous one stop shop for all the dark things in your musical life and if so inclined and finding myself in a deeply moribund mood I could spend a lot of time there.
One thing led to another and before I knew it I was in the miserable godforsaken hell hole that is the Cold Meat Industry website. A place I haven’t been to for donkey years. I was surprised to see it at all until I discovered that the label died a death a few back and that what I was seeing was maybe a storefront of some kind. I used to listen to a lot of miserable music back in my [brief it should be noted] CMI days, lots of bands with Latin names whose releases were often described as being the very darkest Avant Garde Dark Ambient Folk Ritual that money could buy. At that time and feeling that Schloss Tegal could only get me so far I gladly soaked up lots of what Cold Meat Industry and Cold Spring had to offer and then I bought some razor blades and ran a hot bath. Thankfully I didn’t go through with it and decided instead to cheer myself up by going to the pub and starting a fight with a total stranger who was much bigger than me.
Of the promo’s that have been arriving from Cold Bath I mean Spring over the last few months nothing has really grabbed my attention but this did. It might have been the word Japanoise in the press blurb that swung it. Which this really isn’t at all. It is recorded by a Japanese person though, Vivian Slaughter or Eri Isaka if you prefer. Once of Gallhammer, a three piece ‘grating black metal’ outfit and wife of Mayhem vocalist Maniac. Both residents of Norway where its bollock freezing for much of the year. When Gallhammer went the way of all flesh Slaughter decided to pass the interminable bollock freezing Norwegian winters by disappearing in to the Slaughter/Maniac basement to record music on an analogue synth. These sessions eventually begat Morgenrøde which to these ears sounds more like Klaus Schulze than K2. There may be some ultra distorted vocals on there and some noise [last track ‘Pleasure of Confusion’ is the nearest we get to all out noise] but for the most part this is pure analogue synth burble. Tracks like ‘Cactus’ are the kind of off kilter thing Aphex Twin did so well on Selected Ambient Works while ‘Higher Minded’ is a sped up all over the shop Moroder. The title track is an eight minute minimalist head nodder, ‘Spite Spits’ all distorted beats. That time in the basement was well spent.
Wednesday, February 06, 2019
MK9 - Solid Waste
3” CDR. 113 copies.
The Rita / Rusalka / MK9
Neural Operations. NO 11
Cassette. C30. 126 copies.
Rusalka / MK9 - Separate Anxieties
Neural Operations. NO 16
CDR. 200 copies.
Michael Nine is one of the few active American ‘noise’ artists that I know of still making the yearly trip to European shores. While everyone else has laid low or decided to stay at home to concentrate on ousting Trump, Nine packs up his gear, prints up a few releases to sell along the way and gets on a plane. Usually in Winter which may be for masochistic tastes or may be just because he likes the feel of cold European weather. This year MK9 and Rusalka [Kate Rissiek] did the whole tour which covered the whole of November with Sam Mackinlay of The Rita dropping in for several dates along the way. And while they played three UK dates; Leeds, Birmingham and Gateshead there was no London date which I heard was due to some stink with the locals thinking they were all Nazis or some other bullshit.
Unfortunately I had to miss the latest tour due to attending ‘The Wedding of the Year Not Harry and Meghan’. Something I mentioned while reviewing the essential, also sent by Nine, four DVD box set ‘The Pain Factory’. The above is what you saw on the merch table if you happened to make it to those shows or any of the many others they played in Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Italy or Sweden. Except for the last show in Helsinki which was also cancelled but not for them being mistaken for Nazis. This time I think it was the airline that let them down.
I’ll always have an ear for what Michael Nine, MK9 and his label creates. This is the work of a serious thinker, someone capable of making you think, someone capable of unsettling an audience and not just by pulling out a loaded shotgun and pointing it at their heads. One of my favourite MK9 shows was a few years back now in Leeds where Nine showed a video of someone digging a hole in their back yard while Nine prowled the floor shouting unheard words in to a mic, except the camera had fallen over and it was all filmed sideways on so we had to watch it with bent necks. This lead me to believe that this was a clandestine recording of someone burying body parts when in fact it was just someone digging a hole. Or was it? I still think about this. Then there was the Gulf War video footage of Americans blowing up their own troops. Oh we all went home laughing that night. Not.
Of the three releases here I’m guessing that Solid Waste is the new one and the one the kids were scrabbling to get their hands on at the gigs. Solid waste might be an unintended pun here, solid waste being not only the shite you can see fly tipped on the sleeve art but the term medical staff use for the stuff that comes out of your backside. Either way its unpleasant. This is another Nine trip in to existential territory ‘we are just …’ with the dumpster showing the words ‘solid waste’, ‘what is it that separates each one of us from the other, most often nothing …’. Four tracks of ultra gloom electronics with one track ‘Tired Acceptance’ a drone with spoken word addition taken straight from either a self help book or a psychiatric report. ‘Sounding Wall’ is a rapid stream of electronic data, ‘Same’ is ninety seconds of disturbance.
The Rusalka/MK9 split from 2016 has its highlights too with MK9 giving us the darker more contemplative moments to the comparatively noisy outbursts of Rusalka which are heavy on the reverb and at times sound like a squadron of Lancaster bombers heading out to sea. Sadly for me I only got to play one side of the split tape before it seized up, my aging Walkman's defiantly refusing to turn the spools. This may be what happens when you lay The Rita on tape. After trying to loosen it by various tried and tested methods I decided it too was tired of struggling to make sense of life and gave it up as a bad job. With no downloads that I know of this is one instance of the physical format fail. Life goes on. Or does it? Ask Michael Nine and Rusalka.
Somewhwere where you may be able to get hold of this stuff other than Neural Operations.
Monday, February 04, 2019
Mattin - Songbook #7
Munster Records. MR 386. LP/DL
A concept album about the Russian Revolution? Well, I could do with a heads up on that subject. Imagine having to study it though? Jeez, you could be there a lifetime. What do I know about it? About as much as I know about Mattin. I’m glad he sent me this record though as it gives me the chance to gen up on both of them. So after half an hour with Wikipedia getting my brain fried I learnt that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was actually two revolutions. Its complicated. Basically it makes Brexit look like an argument at the check out in Tescos.
It inspired Mattin to make Songbook #7 though. Mattin is anti-copyright, pro free software and ‘against the notion of intellectual property’. His label ‘w.m. o/r’ [which on perusal has plenty to tempt the tastebuds] encourages sharing and copying. He’s from Bilbao. He’s into noise and improv. He’s my kind of guy. But still I know little of him. I do know that he’s been active since the beginning of the 2000’s and that he’s collaborated with the likes of Junko, Philip Best and Tony Conrad. He’s a very busy man.
The blurb for Songbook #7 says at its very end that ‘this is a strange record’. Which after a first listen were my thoughts exactly. A collaboration between Lucio Capece, Marcel Dickhage, Colin Hacklander, Faranz Hatam, Moor Mother and Cathleen Schuster as recorded live at the Digging the Global South Festival in Cologne at the back end of 2017. Which is almost a hundred years to the day since the second Russian Revolution of 1917.
Its seven tracks all commemorate the first seven months of the Russian Revolution and are named after the months. All of them are of about the same running time [seven minutes] except for July which clocks in at just over ten minutes. While on the cover we have the defiant stare of the anarchist Germain Berton who in 1923 murdered the director of the French far right group French Action League.
Instrumentation ranges from clarinet, drums, electronics, computer, samples and various texts spoken in German and English. The first words you hear are ‘nineteen seventeen’, presumably spoken by Mattin and from there on in its a full on weirdfest with blasts of noise, cyclical clarinet drones and computer chatter being the cracker upon which treated spoken word samples are smeared thick and heavy. Its like Kraftwerk and Costes made a noise improv album with their mates while reading tracts from books on the Russian Revolution as they got into their groove. Thats the best I can do. Its pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Which is a good thing.
There are revolutionary chants ‘There is no freedom in a normative vacuum’, the sounds of crows and garden birds, in June we get to listen to a conversation between the group; a female voice says ‘you have nothing to say?’, ‘It makes me feel really sick to see so much fascism around’ comes the reply. There are long gaps of silence between question and answer. July comes with an ever increasing volume ration and Mattin shouting ‘ELECT, ELECT, ELECT’ over it.
Each track stands apart from its neighbour giving the album a structured, songbook feel while also making it an album you’ll want to return to at a later date, if only to try and fathom it out or listen once again to the various sampled texts that litter it. Its been spun here several times, each spin revealing deeper nuance and text. ‘June’ apart its one for the noise connoisseur.
How much of this is improvised I know not. I find it hard to imagine that they took to the stage that night with out any preparation at all but then what do I know? What would Lenin have said? True revolutionaries do it noisy improv style. ELECT, ELECT, ELECT. Perhaps.