Monday, September 23, 2019
Hobocop - Hungry Freaks in the Data Mine
Headcleaner Records. Cassette/DL
Anything that comes in the post from America goes straight to the top of the review pile and it will always be so. Mainly because I feel deeply sorry for the person who sent it having to go into the Post Office to have the counter staff laugh in their face when they’re asked to hand over $14.25 to send a small plastic box in a jiffy bag weighing 42 grams across the pond. Using an on-line currency exchange convertor that works out to about £11. E-L-E-V-E-N P-O-U-N-D-S. If its come in the mail from America I’m in danger of beginning all reviews like this but £11? Really.
According to the j-card insert Hobocop are a duo comprising of Owen Long John ‘Cleaner’ Business Man and Cody Blanch Du Bois ‘Clam’ Jumbo Jack Flash. The link to why someone forked out $14 to send this to me may be Max Nordile who’s sent me things in the past and who gets a mention in the ‘special thanks’ section alongside Jhog Nobun, Henry Hal Lannan, Paddy O’Shaw, Will Sprot, Kephera Moonbeam, Pete Slovenly, Danz Z, Ben/Bto, Shannon Shmah, Nate Moman, Lillian Maringing, Bazooka Jah and Peroni Cloutier all wonderful sounding people and no doubt all upstanding members of the American musical community maybe, if my intuition is right, in Oakland California where there seems to be something going on outside of any parameters thats happening here in Brexit stricken Britain. Discogs is where I tracked down Cody Blanch who also goes by the name of Cody Blanchard who also aliases as King Lollipop who after deeper investigation turns out to be a kind of Jonathan Richman for people who like weird drugs, one man doo-wop and American kitsch. There’s a smart picture of him stood to startled attention in his braces, check shirt and black bowtie, a pencil thin mustache setting the whole ensemble off perfectly. Then there’s Shannon and the Clams who sound like they’ve spent a lot of time paying homage to 60’s girl guitar bands but this is going deeper than needs be. The label - Headcleaner Records appears to originate in New York and has no footprint on Discogs unless they’re hiding under the guise of a Greek Thrash Metal band. Facebook may get you there but thats somewhere you’ll have to go without me.
Pulling back from all that Hobocop themselves sound like the they’ve been digging around in the DIY punk racks of the late 70’s and early 80’s with maybe a hint of the quirkiness of The Residents and a heavy dose of Devo. Its all fairly lo-fi and urgent and punky with doubled up reverbed vocals that sound like the were recorded in an empty room and trashy guitars with more than a touch of The Country Teasers in them. Tracks like ‘Nauseated’ and’ I’m a Troll’ having the energy of a synth-less Devo, minor miracles of raspy punk joy ‘I’m a troll, no self control’. Slower tracks conjure visions of the Desperate Bicycles and when they up the sing-along quota The Homosexuals. ‘Ambient Abuse’ gets a mention because the title itself brought a smile besides having a killer bass/keyboard riff. Fourteen tracks in all. Just the thing you need to put a spring in your step. Go and buy it.
After discovering that Hungry Freaks in the Data Mine is available on Bandcamp my new found admiration for Headcleaner Records hit heights I’ve not reached since I got that 14LP box of records in the post two months ago. Which reminds me, I must be going.
Sunday, September 22, 2019
Smell & Quim - The Yellow AlbumTotal Black. Cassette + 5” single.
Its been a good year for Smell & Quim what with the release of the delightful Quimtessence, the reissue of Atom Heart Motherfucker and news reaching these ears of a first time vinyl reissue for Cosmic Bondage that most essential, quintessential, quimtessential [?] slice of mid 90’s Smell & Quim muck. Its the Smell & Quim release in its original format that I don’t have and there I was back in 1995 at my first ever Smell & Quim gig at the 1 in 12 Bradford and there they were on the merch table, a Barbie doll in bondage with a cassette tape hung around her neck. Why didn’t I buy one? Shame on me. There’s been an overseas gig too. Back in March a three piece Smell & Quim played Berlin and in December they’re going to the States for the first time and will be playing the all day/all night Hospital Fest in Brooklyn. Will our intrepid heroes ever return? They came back from Berlin, or at least I think they did, I’ve seen none of them in flesh since but words gets around, sightings in Lidl, propping up the bar in the Barge and Barrel, books published. Getting back from Trumpton Town could prove to be a stern logistical challenge involving unfamiliar underground systems, shuttle buses and taxis driven by Mexicans with no idea of where they’re going. A challenge, especially for those who have supped from the John Barleycorn cup. It could get messy as they say.
The best bits of that thirty minute Berlin gig appear on The Yellow Album in a perverted Stars on 45 medley stylee but thankfully sans clap-a-long 4/4 beats. The video for this unholy section of the North of England meets Germany via Graceland begins with a heavy bout of floor tom pounding before a tired and emotional Srdenovic replete with curly black wig collapses behind his table of gear after a vigorous bout of shaker shaking, only to wake, as if nudged by some inner mechanism towards the sets conclusion with a sloppy grin. Dressed in their Elvi Napoleonic collar outfits long running Smell & Quim members Gillham and Morris [for tis they] carry on the performance, Gillham pounding the floor tom while Morris screams into a microphone with that most remarkable voice of his. Lyrics include straight lifts from the notorious ‘I’m Jack’ letter that threw the West Yorkshire police services off the trail of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe for many a year and ‘I’m a dirty bastard, I’m a Shakespeare cockroach’. At its end Milosevic is thrashing away a version of Pig Stealing Man while the audience howls approval as Morris tries to explain to one of them that its ‘Doddy’s Cock’ he’s singing not daddy’s cock, ‘He’s a comedian from the North of England’ he bellows.
On the cassette there are four versions of ‘Twat Out Of Hell’ and ‘More Piss, Vicar?’ on one side and the live stuff and ‘THWAK! on the other. ‘THWAK!’ being some kind of perverts manifesto or the transcripts of an interview with Our Pete or some other misguided soul who isn’t getting enough and should have bought a copy of Razzle on the way home so as to better relieve their frustration. All this set to the sound of steadfast marching military feet no doubt a lift from some Leni Riefenstahl footage. There then follows the enigmatic ‘HH PP [Abuse Your Allusion] AOBTD’ which is all drum machines, weird beats and unexplained acronyms. Expect noise, the sound of pissing and the destruction of Gillham’s bathroom on the four ‘Twats’ with some exceptionally vigorous noise that slowly builds in volume and tension before more pissing. The sound of someone pissing into a galvanized bucket is a running motif here as is Peter Sutcliffe [last track is ‘Ripper Remix’], all famous [infamous?] Smell & Quim tropes and fingerposts to where you need to go if you like your noise low down dirty and smeared with grisly Northern humour.
What of the five inch single though. An unusual and rarely seen format due to automatic return turntables struggling to play them and the number of pressing plants willing to press them being rarer than blind art dealers. I did have but two in my possession; the one that came with Merzbow’s ‘Green Wheels’ and the Evil Moisture/Cock E.S.P. split that has an incredulous 381 tracks on it. Now I have three and with it the fifth installment of ‘Twat out of Hell’ and ‘Braun Stains’. Braun of the Eva kind, those are her knickers you can see on the cover as recently sold at auction to a ‘collector’. Two tiny tracks on a thick slab of die cut vinyl that contains about thirty seconds each side of the good work above. The last words you hear [depending on which side you play first of course] are the computerized Speak and Spell words detailing the soiling of ladies underwear. Twat-tastic.
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Vibracathedral Orchestra - Squeezes The Lids Through Coming Window
Oaken Palace Records. LP clear red vinyl.
Neil Campbell - Filthy Masters/Rainbow Vespers
While driving I tend not to listen to my own choice of music preferring instead the comfort of the spoken word of R4 or the classic hit of R3 [as long as there no howling Brunhilde going at it] and if that doesn’t work there’s always the off switch and recurring thoughts about how the majority of people who drive high powered German cars are almost without exception absolute tossers. Daytime R2 is only there for the traffic news, R1 I never visit due to it being incomprehensible to me and local radio is the lunatic asylum full of moronic chatter about sports teams you don’t care for and Doris from Shelf complaining about her bins not being emptied.
A couple of years ago I hit heavy traffic on the M62 while driving to Manchester airport and turned on R2 only to discover that Steve Wright in the Afternoon, a man for whom the word ‘annoying’ had been invented had been playing Edgar Winter’s synth funk prog monster ‘Frankenstein’. I caught about the last minute of it and wondered if we’d driven though some kind of black hole over Saddleworth Moor. As I looked at the slowly moving traffic and the sodden bleak moors around me I thought to myself Steve Wright is playing Edgar Winter. Steve Shite in the Afternoon is player Edgar Winter and I’m in danger of missing a flight. Annoying Steve Shite in the Afternoon is playing Edgar synth slung around his neck Winter? Life is full of surprises.
On Friday afternoon I dropped Mrs Fisher off in York and having the drive back on my own and not wanting to listen to Steve Wright in the Afternoon just on the off chance that he might play a ten minute prog epic I took the above two discs. I know, I know but I was in the mood and felt that I’d been neglecting the review pile of late. So I thought throw caution to the wind and blast some Vibracathedral Orchestra on the return journey and to hell with Edgar Winter and the afternoon play on R4. Listening to drone at a high volume while in the car on your lonesome can be an exhilarating experience and its one I don’t often get the chance to experience. So why not. At this point you have to bear in mind that I don’t drive a Bentley equipped with a NAIM audio system. I drive a small hatchback with a whatever it is audio system that doesn’t sound too bad but is never going to overcome the road noise generated by a 1.2 liter car doing 70mph on bog standard tyres and springs. Then you have to factor in that I’ve been having a bit of ear trouble. The left ear to be precise. I’m not sure whats causing it but after having poured various chemist bought unctions down it it has cleared up somewhat but I’m still suffering from random deafness. It come and goes and I’m hoping its one of those things that goes away on its own me not wanting to burden an already burden NHS with a ‘oh I’m having a bit of a problem with this ear here and can you stick your torch down it and see if you can see anything’ complaint.
Ten seconds after dropping Mrs Fisher off at York University Exhibition Centre I stuck in the Vibracathedral Orchestra disc and let it rip all the way back home. Ten seconds after inserting the disc my ear went all funny again. Then I hit the A64 and put my foot down. All this while blasting Vibracathedral Orchestra as loud as I could stand it. I reckoned that I could take this volume all the way home which I’m proud to say I did. A journey of about forty miles that I concluded before the fifty minutes of this disc had elapsed. And then I got to wondering how long I’d been listening to Vibracathedral Orchestra and reckoned it must be twenty years now. Can they have been going that long? I may even have been at their very first gig which was in a gallery space in Leeds where Smell & Quim played one of their worst ever gigs. Once upon a time you couldn’t go to a gig in Leeds without Vibracathedral turning up. Noise gigs, drone gigs they’d usually be half a dozen of them leant on the bar with their equipment round their feet, toy pianos, electronic gubbins, drums and shaking things, electric guitars and fiddles. All of them looking for a gap in the bill or a no-show and off they go sawing and fiddling and banging and crashing and moaning and shouting like people possessed. Its quite a sight. And sound.
By now I’d passed York Racecourse and my ears were starting to buzz. The left one at a slightly lower hertz tone. What happens to Vibracathedral Orchestra at 70mph on a busy road with the sun hitting you in the face on a Friday afternoon is that any nuance is replaced by a piercing whistling noise. Listening back at home under normal circumstances I realized that this was in fact a treble recorder [or some such similar instrument of torture] being played as if by a drunken busker on the Edinburgh Mile. Its not all like that of course. There’s a moment on the first track that sounds like a police siren and someone clapping two halves of an empty coconut together but then again this might have been the conditions under which I was listening. Which caused me a moments worry but no fear.
‘Squeezes The Lids Through Coming Windows’ is a two track album, ‘Squeezing The Lids’ on one side and ‘Through Coming Window’ on the other’. Its an LP but I have a burn thanks to Campbell who knows I like to be kept abreast of such things. The first track, depending on your mode of listening, is the grittier one, the one that sounds like Vibracathedral Orchestra at the back end of the night when they’ve had too much beer and its all falling apart. In a good way of course. I’m pretty certain its a live track too and if not live then live to tape. The second track hits the tarmac running and soon comes together with various bits of Eno-esque synth droning and those coconuts halves. This is where they find their ecstatic groove. The groove that cant be written down or taught or noted. That groove is a joyous thing full of moans and groans and bashing and twanging and electronics that squiggle and blurt swirl all of it coming together and lifting and falling. I guess you just have to listen to it yourself. Or go see them. They’re still kicking round.
Meanwhile, back at the the ranch, I took in the Campbell disc under conditions that I’d consider more suitable to audio pleasure. Though I did once spend a week in Corsica with the glovebox of the hire car stuffed with Astral Social Club discs and used them as aural calm while the locals did their best to run me off their mountainous roads. Where Astral Social Club ends and Neil Campbell begins is something you’ll have to ask the man himself though because I have no idea. I find that his work under his own name is much more freeform, less beat orientated, more organic, more open to experimentation. Take ‘Rainbow Vespers’ in which Campbell transforms loops of some rock drumming and a grungy arm swung electric guitar chord into a rolling mass of turmoil that eventually opens out into something far more beatific. A rolling wave of crashing drums and a never ending guitar chord thats forever dissolving into something else until ultimately it becomes a gently plucked acoustic guitar that drops off the edge of a ledge with a silent plop. The flip has more in common with Terry Riley Poppy Nogood era than sampled rock riffs and after one of those synapse bursting starts where a tin plate is hit with a spoon and a table full of electronics explodes into firework like bursts, there’s piano and hand drums and a thing that goes TWANG before it all opens up into droney bliss land and oh well you know delight and all that.