Sunday, March 29, 2020

The COVID-19 Diaries. Week 2

Monday 23rd

I’ve got ninety minutes until Boris Johnson addresses the nation. Its a Monday night and today hasn’t been a pleasant one. By rights it should be. Spring is my favourite time of the year and there’s one week in particular, the week before the clocks go forward when my 6am commute to work coincides with the sun coming up over Spen Valley. It might not sound much but after driving to work in the dark for nigh on six months the sight of the sky getting lighter in the east is one that presages good things to come. Then the clocks go forward and its gone for another year. This morning the sun was a huge red disc in a perfectly clear blue sky. It was bollock freezing and I’d had to scratch the frost off the car but I knew that as I drove along Windy Bank Lane the sun would be there to greet me and the year could begin in earnest.

Except its not. Which made going to work this morning slightly bizarre. After spending the last three days indoors [barring a food trip to Tescos to gaze at the empty shelving and nipping down the street to Luigis for two Sunday night takeaway pizzas] scraping frost off the car and going to a job of work didn’t seem like the right thing to do at all. Its not like they’re busy at work or that they make anything that could be of use in a time of crisis. And so it was that due to illness, self isolation and staff leaving for sunnier climes, I got roped in to making some underlay for outdoor cricket wickets. In the height of a pandemic I was involved in the making of a material that would be sat in a bag, outside on a pile, for months and months and months.

A part of me felt that I should be at home, a very small part of me thought that maybe carrying on as normal was part of the process. There were times that I forgot there was a pandemic going on but those moments were few and far between. At times I thought that maybe I was panicking too much, digging myself deeper into a self prophesying Twitter filled hole of CORVID-19 despair, from which it was impossible to escape without anything other than an impending sense of doom. Tempers amongst shop floor staff were frayed.  Everybody was asking ‘whats happening’ to which we got shrugs and the promise of more information as the day went on. None of which appeared. Small talk didn’t exist because shop floor topics of conversation, i.e. that weekends football/sports results and going to the pub, didn’t exist anymore. The only talk was of the virus and how long it would be before we were all sent home to see this thing out. After first break a rumour went round that there was to be a board meeting, Boris Johnson was making an announcement at eleven o’clock. My mood lifted. I’d soon be home. 

Nothing happened. There was no eleven o’clock press briefing. There was no announcement. The underlay continued to be made and my mood got fouler and fouler. When I left at four-thirty the staff car park was completely empty. They’d all left so as to work from home.

Heading to the car I took off my coat and sweatshirt. Two layers off for the first time since the end of last September. I picked Mrs Fisher up on the way home and as I waited in the car I wound down my window and listened to the radio, the suns rays fell across my face making me all sleepy and wishing things weren’t as shit. The traffic was almost non-existent. As we passed Cleckheaton bus station there was someone stood outside wearing a face mask.

Tuesday 24th.

I arrive at work and there’s several of us stood in a near deserted yard, all two meters apart asking each other what the fuck are we doing here. Johnson’s address to the nation has caused more confusion than clarity amongst those of us who deem making carpet non-essential. Don’t make unnecessary journeys. Don’t go out unless its to the shops or for exercise or to administer life saving potions to elderly relatives. What about making carpet? Having still had no word from the upper echelons of the company there’s a great sense that we’re all coming to work just to get ill or make someone else ill. By break time another one leaves after getting a text from the NHS telling him he’s in the vulnerable 1.5 million. This means I get moved from my own solitary, twenty meters from anyone job into a department with people in it with which I’m expected to work. My mood immediately goes from bad to murderous. I feel a very dark cloud descend. After an hour of this I have to stop myself wanting to grip the Village Idiot by the throat for dancing about to the Macarena and when the Sales Prevention Officer passes and brings something to my attention that I have so obviously missed I’m struggling to remain civil. I want to  say ‘Have you heard of the corona virus? Its in the news a lot at the moment’ and I start to feel all clammy and sweaty. I become convinced that this is the start of it and pick up my phone and stained mug and say I’m going home, I’ve got a fever, and just as quickly put it down again and make myself act like an adult and not some whining teenager. The bloke I’m working with hasn’t been there that long and doesn’t know me very well. He goes very quiet, doesn’t make eye contact and says nothing to me until I return from lunch break. It all seems so futile and pointless.

At break time I look at my phone to see I’ve received a supportive text from Mrs. Fisher whose in much the same boat as me. Then there’s the news that the sack of shit with a knot in the middle of it that is Tim Martin, has laid off 40 thousand Wetherspoons staff with no pay, and told them all to apply for jobs at Tescos. This makes me realise that there’s plenty worse off than me and that being a wimp and feeling sorry for myself never won any battles. This energizes me somewhat and for the first time in days I feel that dark cloud lifting. Being a twat isn’t going to get me anywhere I tell myself. Moaning about shit isn’t going to change things. Giving people grief for singing and for doing their job isn't on either, so I decide there and then to be much more positive. If this virus is with us for the next three months, for the next six months, the next year, then I’m going to see it out and come out of it the other side a better person for it.

At the fag end of the day I’m back at my own job and loafing around near an open fire exit. The warm spring air has a sweet smell to it that winter does its best to make you forget and I realise that its only because of the lack of traffic and pollution that its there at all. The sky is blue and the machine to the back of me does its pre-programmed thing. When it stops the silence is eerie. I work near a busy ‘A’ road that passes above my head unseen, the hum of traffic, ambulance sirens [the local hospital is only about two miles away] is a constant. As is the troop of school kids twice a day and those who like to hurl encouraging abuse and throw empty drink cans into the mess of brambles that encroaches on to the shed I work in. I’m given a start by the rat catcher who appears as if from nowhere to see if his contraptions have caught anything. ‘They’ve got you working too have they’, I say. ‘Aye, waste of bloody time, every where’s shut’. Except for here.

Wednesday 25th

Imagine if the corona virus had struck at the beginning of winter? A hideous thought. This got me thinking; the first decent spring weather of the year coincides with a statement from the government asking people to stay at home. Thousands of people ignore the plea and take off for Skeggy, Snowdonia and public parks all to have a jolly time in the sunshine spreading around an easily transmitted and deadly virus for which we don’t yet have a vaccine. If it had pissed it down that weekend nobody would have gone out and Monday nights speech by Boris Johnson would have happened a week later.

Its strange how in a time of crisis I soon find myself back in a routine. Things become normal to a certain degree. I get up and go to work. I come home cook some food sit in front of the PC for a couple of hours and then go to bed to do the same again tomorrow. My morning commute takes me ten minutes and the roads are never busy at that time anyway but the return journey can be hellish for such a short one. If I pick Mrs. Fisher up on the way home I have to pass through two sets of traffic lights after merging right on to a busy ‘A’ road. A journey of less than half a mile can take anything up to fifteen minutes. After picking up Mrs Fisher there’s the main traffic lights in Cleckheaton to navigate, traffic lights that can produce tailback queues that can take another fifteen minutes to get through. All gone. I can pick up Mrs. Fisher and drive straight to the lights and be first in the queue like its 4am Sunday morning. Except its hot and sunny. The balmy spring air, the stillness, the lack of traffic noise, the lack of people, the increase in bird sound and the feeling that things aren’t going to get back to normal any time soon.

My main job of work is put on hold so I can help out in other departments. I ask for a face mask to give myself more protection as there’s very little going on in the way of social distancing. The beard is going to have to come off so that its more effective. Last Friday morning I went to Tescos to do some shopping and it was only later in the day that I realized I’d been in the store during pensioner hour. Maybe I could glue a false one on? I wonder if you can get them on eBay.

Thursday 26th

Another stunning sunrise but its downhill from thereon in. Thankfully I’m left to my own devices for the day and catch up with a backlog of jobs. I’ve worked on my own for the last six years now and after working in pairs or in other working groups for most of my working life I’ve come to the conclusion that its the best working option there is. Especially when the virus is in town.

Thursday being the end of my working week I treat myself to a fish butty from the chippy across the road, which by some miracle is still trading. There are signs on the counter providing information as to queuing and payment. One server gets the food, the other takes your money while the fryer fries away. There’s only one customer in the shop so I wait outside in the sunshine where I’m soon joined by a bloke whose just got out of his car. He’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt and a protective mask and stands two meters away from me. ‘Its shit innit mate’ he says, arms folding looking at the empty road. The road that separates work from the chippy is virtually empty, some days you can be stood there five minutes waiting for a gap in traffic before eventually risking life and limb by half crossing the road while judging a gap in the traffic. There are three customers and three servers and I cant see this kind of operation lasting long. ‘Its good that you’re still open’ I say with what I hope is an encouraging smile, one of the servers looks at me coldly and says ‘Not for much longer’.

As the day progresses my mood swings from buoyant to downright depressed. This is not helped by the sight that greets me upon clocking out at 3.30pm, when a shift change out of the Keystone Cops book of organisation leaves six people virtually tripping up over each other as they do battle with several rolls of carpet. Not so much social distancing as social interaction. As the days go by there are more and more stories emerging of companies of a definite non-essential nature, determined to carry on trading during the current crisis with little or no regard as to their employees health. That’ll be me then.

Driving home my mood becomes even fouler as I pass dozens and dozens of people all out for a leisurely stroll in the spring sunshine. In theory they’re taking their allowance of daily exercise, in reality they’re ignoring the request to stay indoors so as to take advantage of some cracking weather. It seems one half of the country is towing its nuts off while the other goes on an extended holiday. 

Before getting in the shower I shave off what has become a rather large beard leaving a porn ‘tash for my own amusement. I’ve not had a bare chin for as long as I can remember and when I go back out in the car to pick up Mrs Fisher the feeling of fresh air upon my fizog is a strange but oddly invigorating one. I make a decision to grow a full on Nietzsche soup strainer for the COVID-19 duration.

Friday 27th

Seeing as how I don’t work Friday’s I decide to make it the day I go food shopping. The thinking behind this being that at least it’ll be a bit quieter than the weekend. Which I then realise is a stupid idea as hardly anybody is at work anymore. Its another beautiful sunny day so I decide to go for an early morning walk. Mrs Fisher deciding against it I walk at full pace up the cliff face that is Moorside. My thinking being that If you can walk up Moorside at pace then theres nothing wrong with you that will prevent you from going shopping and fighting off panic buyers. Its not yet  nine o’clock and there’s very few people about and very little traffic either, the occasional Fed Ex van, DPD, all the delivery drivers that are still out there bringing people that dress they order on ASOS while pissed up. I don’t pass anybody until I’m walking over the bridge that spans the M62 when I see a woman in the distance. As she approaches I walk as far to the kerb as I can, this is a wide pavement, more than two meters wide but as I get nearer she stops dead and pulls a tissue out of her pocket with which she quickly covers her face. ‘Morning’ I say as I March past but I detect no response.

When I get to Scholes I call in the Co-op to see if they have a paper. Which they do and which for some daft reason cheers me no end. I also buy a packet of Co-op own brand oat crackers because it seems the right thing to do. There’s some gaps on the shelves but they have fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and lots of milk. There are some two meter markers on the floor so I take my place behind the bloke whose being served and wait my turn. When I get to the till the woman shouts at a bloke whose just about to come in the door and I realise there’s a one in one out policy in place.

This is the same policy that Sainsbury's have adopted which is my supermarket of choice today hoping it will be a little less busy than the other two supermarkets in Brighouse. If it is quieter than elsewhere there’s still a queue which takes about twenty minutes to go down but once I’m in the shop its all fairly calm and again there’s plenty of fresh fruit and veg. There are gaps on the shelves where pasta, tinned tomatoes, toilet roll, flour etc used to be but I get pretty much all I came for and leave thinking that if this is as bad as its going to get at least we’re not going to starve. I drop my disposable gloves in the bin and wonder how long this is going to be the new norm.

Saturday 28th

I take my government endorsed exercise early again and walk down a deserted Westgate in a chill wind. There’s a few people outside Collins butchers and a man steps down a side street so as not to be near me. A fat man in flip flops and jogging pants gets out of a car outside the Nisa and walks in, probably fags or beer. As I approach town I could easily walk in the middle of the road and come to no harm such is the lack of traffic. I look in Tescos and they’ve cordoned off a section of the car park so that people can queue up with their trolleys but I decide against going in and visit the newsagents and the Pound Shop which has a spectacular amount of toilet paper on display but no old man with funny beard whose probably doing the right thing and staying indoors. Last week you could hardly see the shelves for people in here but today there's only one other person in the shop, a solitary bloke whose managed to fill about ten carrier bags with various produce that means he cant open the door, so I open it for him and realise the handle might be contaminated. I score a nine pack of three-ply, a bottle of Fairy Liquid and head off home feeling like I’ve found a wallet stuffed with tenners. Such riches.

In the afternoon I receive a text message from work telling me that Tuesday will be the last day of work for a month and that all wages will be paid in full. Now all I need to do is get Mrs Fisher home safe and sound.

At around ten o’clock I realise that I’ve not seen the news today and before going to bed flick on the 24 hour BBC news channel for an never ending doom and gloom update. A reporter is in Moscow telling us how the Russians are dealing with the virus. He interviews two women leaving a church service. ‘Aren’t you worried about catching the virus?’ he asks them, to which one replies, ‘Of course not, this is a house of God, the virus can not hurt us here’. He then tells us that this woman is a doctor.

God Pussy - Análise do Principo Informativo

Have you seen the footage of Brazilian President Bolsorano doing push ups in front of an adoring group of young and fit looking acolytes? It really is the very thing. He’s proud of being an athlete you see, its one of the reasons he says he’s not going to catch the virus. So he turns up with a couple of his people and they’re facing off towards this group of young lads all kitted out in matching shorts and vests and someone must say ‘hey, lets all drop and do some push-ups to prove how fit we all are’ so thats what they do and everybody is down doing them except for Bolsorano who’s just flexing his elbows slightly while his arse goes wild and his head goes up and down like its attached to his body with a length of rubber piping. And people take him seriously. Right now he’s raging against city governors who are urging people to stay indoors to stay alive saying that they’re deliberately wrecking the economy so as to make him look bad. There are bell-ends and there are bell-ends and then there’s Bolsorano.

Anyone up for four CD’s worth of Brazilian Noise? Whaddyamean no? There’s never been a better time to settle down with a four CDR noise set than now. Get yourself in to self isolation and purge those ear drums. Forget about the news for an hour, OK a couple of hours at least, put the apocalypse to the back of your mind and roll back the clock to a time pre C-virus, about 1995 maybe where this kind of noise was waiting for you at every turn. You couldn’t move for the stuff back then. If you laid out all the noise releases I received in a week they’d stretch from here to Collins butchers. Which makes me all nostalgic. Remember when you could walk in to a supermarket and get all the things you needed without having to risk your life? Oh happy days.

Sunday afternoon then. A beautiful sunny day. The warmest of the year so far, Spring has sprung and here am I in a darkened room listening to some noise made by God Pussy. Up until about thirty minutes a go I never knew this existed but an Instagram message meant I could drown out my day with some prime mid 90’s noise. Think prime era Merzbow, Pain Jerk, a table full of noise boxes and a passion for noise.

Hits - Sediment Seen
Paisley Shirt Records

After you’ve been transported back in time to the golden age of noise you can transport yourself further back in time to the late 70’s and bands like The Raincoats, Kleenex and singers like Honey Bane and Poly Styrene where the sound was as basic as a beans on toast and as pure as a nuns thoughts.

Hits are an Oakland trio fronted by Jen Weisberg and its her vocals, a Shaggs-like plaintive sing/talk that sends this back to 1978. That and Max Nordile’s bass that has only two strings and Brian Tester’s drums of which there are but three, all of which sound much better for being on cassette. Especially the one I got which had a bit of stretch making for a slight wobble for proper late 70’s authenticity. ‘Bottom Feeder’ comes drenched in Weisenberg’s tremulous electric guitar and its to the fore too on ‘Cash Only’. Everything here sounds like it was recorded in an empty warehouse in Macclesfield during the dark days of 70’s industrial strife which is no mean feat for something thats originated in California in 2020. The instrumental ‘Human Sacrifice’ sounds like a Bauhaus b-side.

Look I’ve no idea whats going on in Oakland, I’ve never been further west than New York but something is happening. I’m here to relate the story. You know where to go.

Grey Park - Railroads/Fight Fire With Rifle
Recycled cassette/DL
10 copies

I wonder how they’re getting on in Finland? There cant be a shortage of bog roll over there surely? Imagine being surrounded by ten billion trees and running out of bog roll. If they do run out they can always wipe their bums on moss, or snow, or old copies of the trashy tabloids that seem to proliferate over there. I’m sure they’ll be fine.

Grey Park has been a favourite here for many years now and seems to have been doing the dictaphone, cassette thing for longer than most. I have no idea who’s behind the project, not that it matters, but about once a year, maybe twice a year a cassette or a CDR arrives, usually wrapped in something outrageous [I have a Grey Park release that comes wrapped in an inverted coffee bean bag] but this time a good old fashioned cassette with paper insert. And now a web presence via Bandcamp where but two Grey Park releases reside. Time to get listening.

Here then two all too brief twelve minute-ish tracks of joy with enough reverse tape squish and loop lunacy to keep your average Dicta-naut happy for the best part of a decent lockdown. First track ‘Railroads’ is a reworking of the Clangers theme tune as found going backwards through a filter of pots, pans and synths made from margarine tubs, a Kaossilator with the batteries running down and then there emerges, on a lolloping breeze as fresh as mountain air, some ultra slow tape mulch before a two second African funk loop of something Fela-Kuta-ish takes over. ‘Fight Fire With Rifle’ is a loop of a sixties sounding up beat pop song, just the bass line that pumps over and over again until it disappears and you’re left with tinkling and an old man speaking very softly in Finnish which morphs in to tribal chanting which morphs into an instrumental reggae loop like Dandy Livingstone or somebody like that.

Matt Robidoux - Brief Candles

Before the world turned to squishy shit I played this Matt Robidoux tape a couple of times and made a note in my notebook that said ‘Matt Robidoux is the new Jim O’Rourke, lots of tracks that sound like intros that never get going, decent improv and catchy tunes’. After listening to it again a couple of times more, from sanctuary of my self isolating back room of course, I can add wild Faust like honking jams, 60’s melancholic pop, shortwave buzz, somewhere approaching Pavement and with ‘Sunny Rain’ a gloriously upbeat single thats on a par with Kevin Ayers first single ‘Singing a Song in the Morning’, in which Robidoux sings nothing but the words ‘sunny rain’ over and over again to tune thats as infectious as certain viruses. As a joyous pick-me-up it did more to lift my spirits than the sight of shelves full of toilet rolls.

The way Robidoux mixes his improv with actual strong structure gives Brief Candles a cherished ‘infinite number of plays’ status. His involvement with Sunburned Hand of the Man and the underground noise and improv scenes of Massachusetts may have something to do with this. Maybe he’s moving from this background into pure song writing and Brief Candles is the release that finds him midway on his journey. Either way I wish him luck. Anybody that can put a smile on this face at this time of year deserves some support.

Reflection Space has a driving Neu! like beat to it with a drop-out filled with squealing sax, Robidoux’s vocals are a yearning flat wail that fit perfectly. ‘Lime Green’ is the dreamiest he gets to O’Rourke with a languid, spacey almost Gong like sax, guitar fest and then ‘Sunny Rain’. Ladies and Gentlemen I have been transported.  


God Pussy

Paisley Shirt Records

Grey Park

Matt Robidoux

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The COVID-19 Diaries. Week 1

Dave Phillips - Post Homo Sapiens
Attenuation Circuit
ACU 1017.
CD/gravel encrusted cassette/DL
500 copies.

On Friday morning I set off on a mission to buy some food and to assess the damage. Cleckheaton, I had convince myself, would by now be full of dazed people wandering the aisles of Tescos buying things they’d normally never buy. All of them wondering if they could make something to eat from a packet of Ainsley Harriot’s Mediterranean cous cous, a three-pack of Sharon fruits, some pickled gherkins and half a pound of mince. To my surprise the town was fairly civilized; the butchers was open, as was Greggs, the bakers too but plenty of shops were shut and will remain that way for a long time to come. Corona had done the damage. Nobody was going to forget these crazy days and quiet nights for as long as they lived. Those shelves did look desperate though, like a horde of Vandals and been through ten minutes earlier raiding everything they could get their hands on, except for the Tio Pepe and the Ainsley Harriot stuff.

I parked just down from the Pound Shop and went to drop my prepaid mail off at the Post Office. When I got back to the car the Pound Shop was taking delivery of two pallets worth of Velvet three-ply toilet rolls. Toilet rolls now having a value that would have seemed unimaginable two weeks ago and overnight have risen from being a humdrum personal hygiene staple commodity into something worth killing for. I wondered if I should buy some myself but decided against it, what with Me and Mrs Fisher being well stocked in that department and deeming further purchases at this moment tantamount to panic buying. But I entered the shop anyway just to see if they had anything I could use. Inside was a queue that lead away from the counter right back in to the inner sanctum where the pet food and the car accessories lie. Each person in that queue clutching a nine-pack of Velvet to their chest like it was a long lost and recently returned pet. The man who runs the shop, along with his sons, is of Pakistani origin. He has a strange beard that is some kind of chin strap that leaves a very clean upper and lower lip. I find it a remarkable accoutrement and never fail to have a good gawp at it when I’m in there. He’s a small, quietly spoken man, slightly reserved in his comings and goings but this morning he was in panic mode. He had a shop full of people and was behind the till looking desperately for help and finding none. The Velvet had just come off the back of his van and hadn’t been priced up. ‘I can’t sell Velvet as I don’t know price’ he shouted so that the entire shop could hear him. But not his sons who’d gone AWOL. The queue continued to stand and clutch silently. They weren’t going anywhere without their toilet rolls.

All this the result of people wanting to eat bats in China. Which seems to be the best held belief at the moment. The result of cramming animals together in environments where they should never be crammed. Bringing species in to contact with each other, spreading pathogens where they shouldn’t. Or maybe you think the Corona virus is all a big hoax, nothing more than influenza with muscles, an excuse for governments to exert more control over their citizens, something that will be all over by July and off to Lords we go to jolly well watch the cricket.

As if. Things will never be the same again after Covid-19. There will be pre COVID-19 and post COVID-19 and what did you do during self isolation mummy. Why, we made you dearest.

At least its easier for us all to keep in touch now. There’s e-gigs too. Last night I watched a Graham Dunning and Viktor Zeidner gig, cast it to the TV and lapped up every deranged minute while buzzing on G&T’s. In the afternoon I’d become more acquainted with some people I know on Bandcamp, who’d waived their usual fees in a bid to put more money in peoples pockets at time when they need it most. Step forward Ashtray Navigations and Foldhead. I’d have bought more, wanted to tuck in to some Vibracathedral Orchestra but the site crashed.

I’m still at work [just] as is Mrs Fisher [just] but we’ll both be spending a lot more time at home. Seeing as we both spend a lot of time at home already this isn’t the end of the world for us. It’ll be more difficult for some than others though. Families that don’t get on. Families that do get on to start with but are at each others throat after three days. People with dependents. People who are ill. The confused, the angry and those who don’t give a shit and were still in the pub last night at midnight getting as much beer down their neck as they could because this could be the last time for a long time. I have a very active 84 year old father who seems utterly bewildered by whats happening and has just seen his summer of sport disappear down the same tube as his nightly two pints down the club. Once the snooker went that was him finished.

So thats where I’m at. Still sat in front of a computer thinking up words to describe sounds that people are kind enough to send me as the world goes to shit outside. I’ve decided to post weekly, probably on a Saturday. It will still be about the music and sounds but it will also be a kind of diary; whats on the shelves [or not] in Tescos, Skype conversation of the week, what happened at work of note and whether the old boy in the Pound Shop ever did find a price for that Velvet.

I wrote this Dave Phillips review last week but never got round to posting it due to being in mild shock as to what was going on. It seems more pertinent now than seven days ago, which is some indication as to how fast this thing is moving. I couldn’t concentrate then by any degree and instead spent my time on Twitter watching Donald Trump make a bigger cunt of himself than anybody ever thought possible, or on YouTube watching people mend things. The Ying. The Yang. As ever. See you next week.


For anybody affiliated with the Bald Heads of Noise, Dave Philips stands as a Demigod. He of the permanent cue-ball noggin, he of the deep and serious stare, he of the visceral, stomach-churning noise sets. A seriously committed noise artist who for the last several years, [maybe longer, I haven’t been keeping count] has devoted himself to highlighting the important role insects play within nature and their symbiotic relationship with us, homo-sapiens. We who seem to make life extremely difficult for insects, paying them little attention, except when they annoy us. Let us not call them bugs and do them a disservice let us recognise their importance and let the fact sink in, as Dave Philips starkly reminds us on the sleeve notes, that nature doesn't need us.

If you’ve seen a DP live set in the last few years, the chances are that you’re still reeling from it. Be it sitting at a mixing desk blasting field recordings of insect sounds or stalking the stage like a maniac to an ever increasing crescendo of dog barks, whispered vocals, heavy breathing, squealing pigs and hammered piano keys. The last time I saw him in Leeds he gave this very kind of performance as an unsettling back projection of environmental disasters and animal abuse played out. It was the kind of performance that gets people setting up direct debits for PETA before they leave the building, while swearing never to go near sausages again. Its almost like he’s defying you not to. Its a powerful message and using noise as a weapon means you’re struggling to ignore it.

I disappeared down the DP wormhole a while back after a casual mention of his name on social meeja hit me like the heel of my hand to the forehead. A big ‘duh’, like why haven’t I listened to any Dave Phillips for a while? So you go right back to Fear of God and the hardcore stuff and then a little Schimpfluch Gruppe because who doesn’t like a bit of noise absurdism and then through the noise and field recordings before coming out the other end a day later with wobbling jowls. 

These latest recordings span November 2018 to June 2019 and have to be played loud and in one continuous session as per disc printed command. Which I duly did. The volume I get but not the insistence that I listen to it in one sitting seeing as how there are six tracks each with their own voice. I don’t think there’s any kind of continuity unless the command is there purely so that you pay attention. Which it probably is and we do need to pay attention. So pay attention.

All six tracks are woven around insect and animal sounds; chewing termites, cicadas, chattering seagulls, crowing crows. All six tracks bear DP hallmarks; hammered piano keys, a leap in volume that gets the heart pumping, a noise drone built from insect sounds that become ever more menacing. You also get what sounds like a bout of post-coital [pre-coital?] giggling at the end of the first track ‘Biosemiotics’, a call and response run up the high piano keys with Luzia Rasu on ‘Phytognosophysiology’ [something to do with plants] and something that wouldn’t look out of place as background to a spot of Edgar Allen Poe perusal, this being ‘Metamorphosis’ with its crows, creepy plucked strings and menacing spoken words. The bowl-ring, up close chewing sounds and sonar sounds of birds unknown make ‘Hydrotropism/Heliotropism’ a far more relaxed affair, when those creaking oar straps come in and someone starts bonging the side of a very big, very empty vessel you could be within the comfort of your own home, or out on the transvaal with DP.

Post Homo Sapiens isn’t just a reminder that Dave Phillips is out there, its a reminder that planet earth is in dire need of some healing hands. You have to listen. Maybe not all the way through in one go but listen you must.

Monday, March 02, 2020

The Sound of Microphones Being Boiled.

The Stone Tapes - Revolutions in the Head
Attenuation Circuit
ACU 1015. CD/DL
300 copies.

Doc Wör Mirran - Hominine Parts 1 to 3
Attenuation Circuit
ACU 1018. CD/DL
100 copies.

Elizabeth Millar/Tim Olive/Craig Pedersen - Charm Point
845 Audio. 845-13.
CD/DL 100 copies.

Cristián Alvear/Tim Olive - Telquan
845 Audio. 845-14.
CD 100 copies.

Talk at a recent meeting of the Mirfield branch of the Bald Heads of Noise revolved around the usual subjects: Noise, Drone, Wagner, Lou Reed, Nietzsche, gear, gigs, Burroughs, early Whitehouse, how useless Labour were in the last election, Russian literature, MOR, Goths, what a wanker Morrissey is and a YouTube channel called ‘the Vape’.

You might think ‘the Vape’ is a YouTube channel devoted to alternative tobacco products but it isn’t, its a channel devoted to the manic ravings of a noise maker the likes of which we’ve never seen. Said person is called Petr. He speaks in a tongue unknown to me. He looks like he’d easily fit in to an early 80’s Motorhead line up, wears a leather car coat that John Shuttleworth would be envious of and makes a shed load of noise with instruments of his own making. Most video’s are recorded in a crammed room resembling an annex of the Steptoe wing where, we must assume, after hearing Changez Les Blockeurs for the first time, he decides to devote the rest of his life to making a shit load of noise out of empty beer cans, broken keyboards, sheets of metal and anything else he can attach a contact mic to. A typical video has Petr sat in his cramped room two feet away from a constantly feeding back Fender amp, shouting his explanation as to what it is he’s doing while giving the camera an occasional sideways, wild eyed lunatic grin that gets wider every time an eruption of noise bursts forth. He also makes kinetic noise machines and noise boxes that have skulls carved in to them. He goes for winter walks in the forest and swims naked in icy rivers.  A homage to his grandmother involves him constantly dropping and picking up an array of metal pots and pans while stood on stone stairs in a video that is part Spike Milligan, part Dada art performance. Its all joyously bonkers and utterly life affirming.  When I switch off and go back to whatever it was I was doing pre VAPE the world seems a much quieter place.

It never is silent though is it? The noise is constant, its just the volume that changes. The Bearded Wonder brought this up recently and I join him, as no doubt do a lot of you, in being a part of that small group of people for whom the noises of everyday life are ceaseless source of enjoyment; the gurgle of a washing machine draining, fan hum, the chug of machinery, the suck of a beer pump, the twitter of birds, snatches of conversation … why people walk around with music in the ears drowning it all out is a mystery to me.  

Dragging myself away from ‘the VAPE’ I find I’ve amassed a small number of releases that you could loosely file under the electro-acoustic improv label. Doc Wör Mirren have been around since God was a lad and according to Discogs have already released 1,562 albums. Or somewhere near that figure. To offset the fact that I don’t have any of these albums, nor have I ever heard a note they make, I’ve taken to evening bouts of self flagellation in a bid to atone for my sins. Without having ever heard a note I sort of know what they’re all about anyway. Like an arty Morphogenesis maybe? Presumptuous moi? Yes. Guilty as charged. A multi-disciplinary, revolving collective then. Improv, sculpture, art, sound. The core collective here joined on Hominine Parts 1 - 3 by saxophonist Adrian Gormley whose tooting, parping and skronking weaves its way through these three pieces. Frans de Waard and Sascha Stadlmeier work in sound effects, radio noise, processed voices and all in all it makes for a meditative, loose, airy and at times tuneful 45 minutes worth of improv, a place where the crinkling of dried leaves meets sax honk meets the tinkling of pipes. A bit like Jan Garbarek wandering in to an electro-acoustic improv session. I can’t say it set my world on fire but neither was it that bad that I wanted to turn it off.

Finding itself in similar territory we have The Stone Tapes where the ubiquitous Frans de Waard joins dAS, Edward-Ka-Spel, Ninah Pixie and Philip Knight in an improv session from which the edited tracks here are the end result. Philip Knight’s analog synths give us big dollops of heavy Schulze wash, Edward-Ka-Spell introduces sampled found voices, de Waard cassette tape manipulations, Ninah Pixie a broken Crumar organ, dAS feeds his computer with the looped sounds picked up by his contact mics. All eight tracks have something to offer and are again, meditative, soothing even and worthy of many repeat spins. ‘A Thousand Decimal Faces’ becomes a nocturnal swamp walk with the sound of rain, distant thunder, a lonesome foghorn, ‘Groundbyte’ is warmer and more uplifting, ‘Crystal Maths’ [geddit?] is awash with radio swill and gaming soundtrack doom, perhaps my favourite of the eight is ‘Shaking Down Bourbon’ with its heavy and doughty drone with tinkling milk bottles thats a thredony to deflating ballast balloons.

845 Audio has been bringing much improv cheer to these shores for some while now. Label boss Tim Olive’s collaborative releases are fertile breeding areas and for those whose addiction to fridge hum and found sounds knows no bounds, is a major stopping off point. Of these two latest releases I found Charm Point to be the more rewarding. Perhaps because it had more going on within it, which is to be expected when there’s another person in the room. Petr would be more than happy with Elizabeth Millar’s self-made instruments, sound generating boxes and amplified clarinet, Tim Olive is a constant with his magnetic pick ups and the various objects that come to play upon them, the trio completed with the arrival of Craig Pedersen and his amplified trumpet. As recorded in Kobe in 2018 where each participant compliments the other, where no sound becomes too dominant, where the flow is as even and as easy as a punt down the Cam. A major achievement when you consider theres no overdubs and minimal editing. There’s the whir of clockwork things on strings, buffeting, underlying drones, wheezing, Dalek jabber, surgical pumps, the last track sets off on a grinding drone that teeters on the edge of feedback as a thunderous noise roar appears.

The collaboration between Olive and the guitarist Cristián Alvear is a more stripped down affair thats akin to a Bailey-esque harmonics-fest in which Tim Olive gainly tries to gain a foothold on proceedings with the hum and buzz of his magnetic pick-ups. Which he eventually does but this is too heavily weighted in one direction for it to work for me.

My VAPE viewing continued in and amongst this and after viewing a totally silent forty minute post called ‘twenty-five compositions for the SILENTIZER’ and one in which he boils a microphone, I discovered that his full name is Petr Válek. This led me to a twenty-four minute live video, as recorded in June last year of a much more composed and serious Válek performing an electro-acoustic set of sheer brilliance. Start here and work backwards. 

Attenuation Circuit

845 Audio

the VAPE

Live Petr


Friday, February 21, 2020

A Hole in the Hand.

Sexton Ming’s Porridge Van / Cromlech Shadow
Coma Kultur.
CDR 40 copies.

Dirty Swords - The Devil’s Paste

Dai Coelacanth - Pterodactyl Bunker
Chocolate Monk. Choc 451.
CD 60 copies.

Dylan Nyoukis - Nothing to See Hear.
Chocolate Monk. Choc 470
CD 50 copies.

Neil Campbell - Displacement Activity Terminal 2019
Chocolate Monk. Choc 466
CD 50 copies.

Cody Brant - Scratch Music
Chocolate Monk. Choc 467
CD 50 copies.

Cloak + Cloaca - Croak
Totes Format. TOTFORM36
5CM CDR 30 Copies

Cloak + Cloaca - A Common Cavity
Totes Format. TOTFORM37
CDR/postcard/insert. 40 Copies

Rene Kita - Stille Nacht
Totes Format. TOTFORM36
5CM CDR 30 Copies

Caroline McKenzie - The First Snow From Soon
Totes Format. TOTFORM36
CDR 25 Copies

Carnivorous Plants - Mammon
Crow Versus Crow. CVC015
CD/DL. 50 copies.

There’s an unwritten law that states; if you work in a factory environment for long enough you’ll sustain an injury. And if you’ve ever worked in a factory environment you’ll be working alongside people with missing digits, missing ends of digits, missing lower limbs, scars, wheezing lungs, bumps and dents and tales of misfortune that range from the hilarious to horrific. After spending most of my working life in factory environments I’ve escaped relatively unscathed. This continued until Wednesday the 6th of February came around.

I arrived at work to find that during the night my mug had somehow managed to suffer a broken handle. I must state here and now that this mug is of the perfect size, bigger than your everyday mug but slightly smaller than the daft things big enough to boil pasta in. I’ve broken the handle before and successfully glued it back together. We have a history. The handle lay in two pieces from where I must have thrown it too viciously into its overnight drawer. Having an abundance of superglue to hand I first glued the two broken pieces together and once they had hardened I applied glue to all four remaining surface and with piece in place I applied pressure when disaster struck. The piece slipped and my hand hit what was remaining of the handle, a very sharp and unmoving bit of hardened pottery and enamel for which my tender flesh was no match. My initial reaction was, ‘oh thats going to hurt a bit’ and after sticking the wound in to my gob and sucking it, I turned on a cold tap and ran it under that while simultaneously gobbing out the sticky red stuff that my mouth was now full of. On first look the cut seemed manageable, about an inch long at the base of the index finger of my left hand, but it was deep, and this was my downfall. I stuck a plaster on it, bandaged it up and carried on with my work. About half an hour later I just happened to bump in to the first aider and waved my bandaged and bloody hand at him. ‘Your first aid box has been opened’ I told him [all first aid boxes are now sealed with an easily broken plastic tie wrap so as to prevent the casual pilfering of medical supplies], ‘Oh what have you done?’ said he, whereupon I showed him the wound. We both looked at very deep cut and what was obviously a hospital visit and after mild protestation from me, mainly brought on by visions of a morning wiped out at A&E off we went.

First Aider assured me that A&E would be quiet and that I would be back in no time and he was right, the place was deserted. ‘We don’t open ‘till nine love’, said the woman behind reception who’d taken my details and booked me in to the system. I took a seat. After sitting for no longer than five minutes my name was called and I found myself in front of a nurse who looked at my injury, and after careful consideration said ‘thats too deep for me flower, you’ll have to go to Pinderfields and see the hand specialist’. My heart crumpled. And so it was that I found myself at a bus stop outside Dewsbury District Hospital, my arm in a sling and a packet of antibiotics in my pocket, awaiting the arrival of the transfer bus that would take me to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

Pinderfields is half an hour away, I spent my time on the bus texting Mrs Fisher to tell her my tale of woe and realized that it was now ten o’clock and that I’d had nothing to eat since 5.30. that morning. Neither did I have any money on me. I had my phone, some paperwork, some antibiotics and that was it.

Arriving at Pinderfields I introduced myself to the correct department, handed over my paperwork and took a seat. I then assessed my miserable situation: I was still dressed in my works overalls and steel toe-capped boots, I had my arm in a sling, I was hungry, thirsty, without money and had a throbbing left hand that was going to need treatment. I was a tad pissed off that after 20 years of working with sharp knives and having suffered nothing more than superficial cuts I’d managed to end up in hospital after having tried to mend a sodding tea mug.

My name was called and I met a surgeon who looked at my injury. ‘How did you do it?’ he said while pulling apart the opposing flaps of skin and looking deeply in to the gap I‘d created. I told him the story of the mug. ‘So you work in a carpet factory with all those sharps knives and …’ ‘Yes, its hilarious isn’t it’ I said not laughing and trying not to think about where this was going to end. ‘You’ll have to see the specialist’ he said and with that I was whisked back in to the waiting area.

By now it was well past two o’clock and I was very hungry and very thirsty. One of the questions I’d been asked numerous times during the past few hours was ‘when did you last eat?’ and when I told them 5.30 that morning they nodded and said ‘thats OK then’. It now dawned on me that this meant they could operate today as I could handle the anesthetic.

Ten minutes later a nurse passed and took me in to her office. She took some details. I had a plastic bracelet fitted that contained a barcode, my date of birth and various other important information. About an hour later I was called again and this time I saw someone wearing a lanyard, who produced a form and began filling it in, ‘This is a disclaimer form’ she said ‘just in case anything goes wrong during the operation’. I nodded blindly. I was going to be operated on. ‘The surgeons are deciding on whether to administer a local anesthetic or a general one. They need to assess the damage. Are you OK with that?’ I looked up from my seat and nodded silently. A nurse came in and gave me a hospital robe and a flimsy carrier bag that said ‘Patients Belongings’ on it. Again I was asked to go and sit in the waiting area.

A nurse appeared. ‘Good news’ she said, ‘they can operate this afternoon’. I tried to smile even if it was just to convey how happy I was that she was happy, but deep inside I was monumentally pissed off. I waited some more. I looked at my phone with disinterest. I finished a Ballard story on Kindle that I’d totally forgotten about and tried to forget that no food or drink had passed my lips for eight hours now. Misery descended and refused to budge.

My name was called again and this time I found myself with the surgeon and the Hand Specialist. The Specialist shook my good hand, ‘So you’re the bloke who cut his hand on a mug?’ We all laughed. I felt stupid for wasting their time. The surgeon sat next to me and took hold of my injured hand. ‘Can you feel this?’ he said as he ran his index finger up and down the side of my index finger. ‘Yes’. ‘Can you make a fist?’ I made a fist. They looked at each other. ‘How do you feel?’ I wanted to say that I could eat a soggy mattress and drink what gathered in rain puddles but all I wanted to do was get out of there. ‘I feel fine’ I said. ‘I’ll take it really easy and promise not to make my injury any worse so long as you set me free and let me go home’. Actually I didn’t say any of that. The Hand Specialist said ‘It looks like you haven’t damaged any major tendons or nerves and if you take it easy for a week or so it should heal up by itself’. I felt blessed. My injury was attended to and I was allowed to go home. Or back to work to report the damage and wolf down two bananas and an energy bar before gingerly driving home without having to use the handbrake. I had the beginnings of a headache but I was looking at a week off work minimum.

This results in me having lots of free time on my hands. Well, my right one at least. Time to spin little shiny discs during the hours when I should be at work, watch three hour documentaries on iPlayer, shower with a rubber glove on and if it hadn’t have been for the nauseating effect of the antibiotics it would have been all the more enjoyable.

Where to start though? A not inconsequential pile of review material has been building over the last month or so and while I play something virtually every night of the week the words haven’t been forthcoming. I peruse but prevaricate preferring instead to watch restoration videos on YouTube with the sound down. Its amazing what people can do with worn out shoes and old pistols.

Totes Format got a mention last time around when a few of their cassettes got involved in a cassette review session. Along with those cassettes came releases by Cloak + Cloaca, Rene Kita and Caroline McKenzie. Cloak + Cloaca are a trio consisting of Kek-W, Matt and Totes Format head cheese GRM. ‘A Common Cavity’ is the far superior work and not just because it comes in a laser etched, hand sewn, recycled tar paper cover with postcard and manifesto based around the concept of accepting frailties, limitations and when to give up as the basis towards liberation. ‘Croak’ is good even if at times it sounds like Consumer Electronics having a coughing fit but ‘Cavity’ is the real meat. A full hours worth of Industrial Machine Malfunction Drone Dub Electronica with ritualistic undertones and just the merest hints of Spacey Techno Ambience. It really does have it all. If you’re in to that kind of thing of course. Rene Kita is the Finnish based artist whose mission it is to draw one million faces before he dies. You can follow his progress here: one of his faces comes with Still Nacht [I have number 224,390]. It appears on a small slip of paper as accompaniment to a black cdr of manipulated noise that sounds like it was made from processed gabber. Like a multitude of Phil Mintons doing the noise thing. Far more stille nacht is Caroline McKenzie whose dreamy synth soundscapes help with her ongoing insomnia problems. Its the first time I’ve encountered McKenzie’s work and I’m impressed. Think Eno at his droney best, a simplified Emeralds, drones that develop, morph and help calm the troubled soul. Three tracks that come in at just under an hour with the twenty-two minute third and last being the one on which to point the good ship Silent Night. Whether this is representative of all of McKenzie’s work I shall have to find out for myself. It seems I have some catching up to do.

My notes have Sexton Ming’s Porridge Van as sounding like God listening to Classic FM while having a bath as someone in the next room throws steel pipes out of the window. Listening back now thats exactly right. God droning on about his trip to the supermarket and how shit the weather was, washing up with R1, talking to himself about washing up as jazz records spin. Totally unclassifiable. Sexton Ming’s Porridge Van is Sexton Ming and South Coast agent provocateur Jason Williams, a man for whom the moniker No Audience Underground is completely irrelevant.  By track seven we’re in to Cromlech Shadow territory. Here we find lo-fi noise, groaning bones, dying mammoths, glass harps, stylophone squeaks and TNB junk-outs, wheezy drones, the jingling and a-jangling of trinkets and ankle bells. After some digging around I discovered that Cromlech Shadow is the collaborative work of Andy Jarvis and Chandor Gloomy who both sent me a copy such was their determination that I have one. If anyone wants one, drop me a line.

Dirty Swords is Andy Jarvis and Marky Loo Loo. Two who make noises in various bands and projects but come together here to make two tracks that are then put in plastic a sleeve with cardboard artwork as cut from a larger piece of artwork as maybe made by Jarvis issue. I’m guessing. Here we enter the experimental, improv noise arena once again. Stoke-on-Trent that is. It houses a handful of hardy souls who can see no other way than to create these noises. To purge the soul, to do what others fear. The two tracks on The Devil’s Paste are quite soothing in a not very Caroline McKenzie way. Maybe she could try this for her insomnia? ‘Kazaki Neptus III’ becomes a continual throb of murk, a rumbling grumbling noise, an invocation to the Gods of Beetling, dirty bubbles, dirty grubbles, a-slithering and a-sliding thing. It segues into the second track, ‘Masters of Seas [The Lung Worm]’ and the kind of noise as created out of the back of broken radios where circuit boards are explored with strips of bare metal and divining rods, where the noise gets louder and more ecstatic as it progresses and ends up sounding like the Yakuza shooting up a noodle kitchen. I wrote ‘ A house is falling down and a record player is spinning Japanese Noise records that haven’t seen the light of day in 20 years’ and thats how it sounds.

Fast forward a few days and I’m back at Dewsbury District Hospital to have my wound looked at. I find myself sat in a too hot waiting area of the old hospital where R2 and Steve Wright blasts at a too loud volume to me and a bored looking couple and a man who’s waiting for his son. I divest myself of various items of clothing so as to become accustomed to the temperature as Talking Heads become the first track on the Golden Oldies section. I’m led to a curtained off area where a spotty youth asks me lots of questions I’ve already answered many times before, the answers to which he dutifully records with more concentration than seems necessary. My grubby bandage is cut off by a chatty man who tells me he’s had his tyres slashed by angry residents and that there’s a four year waiting list for a car park permit at Pinderfields. A small, clean plaster is applied and I’m back outside waiting for the 268 with a sick note in my pocket.

When I get home there’s been a Chocolate Monk delivery. It seems appropriate to follow on from all that Stoke noise by mentioning Dai Coelacanth first. That’s if he is from Stoke. Greece has been mentioned. Nobody knows. Smoke and mirrors. No promotional material for us just the raw sounds therein. This one runs for an hour and is the best one I’ve heard yet. It begins with Dai shouting the word ‘rabid’ numerous times before disappearing into a vortex that is the audio equivalent of being shouted at by a loony in the bus stop queue. Dai amasses this hours worth of audio from Dictaphone recordings and in the process gives us Milovan Srdenovic channeling Adam Bohman through Hasil Adkins whose sat at home playing his Mixed Band Philanthropist records. Dai shouts, he growls like a succubus but the shouting’s the best, things like ‘Dog Glue!’, ‘Mutant Queen Terror Baby!’, Rat Baby!’, Venus Creeps!’, ‘All I’ve Got Is Coffins!’ all this Tourettes like jabber coming at you between blasts of lo-fi noise, slowed down pop songs and general audio verite noise. At times there are fumbling stabs at getting the riff to The Ace Of Spades right on an out of tune acoustic guitar, ultra decayed tape mulch that once contained easy listening music, at times it just Dai repeating the word ‘worms’ over and over again, there are songs, sort of and mantra’s like ‘Lost my shirt in the meaty fumes’. The sheer glory of it. Nobody comes close. I am in awe.

Follow that I said to Dylan because he was next up. In a plain cardboard sleeve too, eschewing the recent beefed up, all colour, fold-out cards that Chocolate Monk have been adopting with much success of late. ‘Nothing to See Hear’ seems to be a pun thats been too long coming. The wait was worth it. Do we have a South Coast voodoo ritual then? A Homage to Adam Bohman perhaps? I hear his voice coming to me through the looped miasma, through the grubby tape and slurred vocals, the warbling oddments that are the results of dubs over dubs over dubs over dubs, a smeared window that can only give you an idea of what lays behind it, the palimpsest of a Dictaphone addict. Nyoukis weaves his creation with a skilled hand, his voices, or whats left of them becoming a series of inchoate babbles. We finish with simultaneous boos and applause and someone striking a match. There’s a message in there but I’m damned if I can work it out.

I wonder if Cody Brant has ever cut his hand? Maybe he cut it while making Scratch Music? Maybe he scratched his hand and this led him to make Scratch Music? A scratch is not a cut though and I definitely have a cut, or is it a puncture wound? Maybe I have a puncture wound? Whatever. Cody Brant comes to mind when I think of the Bren’t Lewiss Ensemble and Seymour Glass and all those glorious oddball musical geniuses who make music out of unicorn breath. I think they could be linked. Not by an umbilical cord but by the same kind of thinking and reasoning. About making music. About making noises and noise which is what Brant does here with twelve tracks of noises that may be some use to him as therapy. On ‘Repressed + Inhibited’ you can hear him [just] saying ‘I’m so goddamned inhibited I can’t believe I’m talking in to a cassette recorder’ but maybe this isn’t him? I found it hard to get a hold of Scratch Music. It flits and flirts. At times its a noisy Pan Sonic at others radio noise, at others highly processed digital techno noise, at others amp buzz, as on Holy Crap! when someone is heard saying holy crap! There’s a live track of droning sounds [at least it sounds like it was recorded in the live situation] thats decent enough but it feels like an oasis.

One man who’s no stranger to drone is the Munificent Mirfield Maestro himself Neil Campbell, here with four tracks as recorded at the fag end of last year. ‘Jingle Fucking Bells’ is the last and slowest of the quartet on offer; a wheezing, struggling to get going sample of bells that sounds like Ornette Coleman trapped inside a Grandfather clock chiming midnight. If you listen to them in reverse order the drones get more hectic with ‘Displacement Mood’ having an almost Hare Krishna-like vibe in and amongst the Stylophone gone bust squiggles and shaker shaking. The first two tracks are unmistakably prime NC though; ‘Albion Terminal 2019’ is a five minute gem of shimmering vibes and a looped electric guitar while ‘First/Last Blast’ is a shoulder rocking, head nodding, lolloping joy, filled with sparkly-ness that soars and glows and flows and roars and lifts the mood no end

The wound is now a scar. The flesh may still be a bit mushy beneath the skin and I doubt I’ll be twisting the lids off any stubborn jam jars for a while but this is now nothing. I have traversed the field of pain, fought terrible battles with rubber gloves and the nauseating effects of penicillin. A surgeon has rubbed my finger and I have escaped surgery. I am whole again.

My time off work coincided with the arrival of two very destructive storms within the space of a week. Each of them bringing misery for many. Particularly the residents of the Calder valley. Crow Versus Crow finds itself in close proximity to these storms and floods they created, yet as far as I know has managed to escape unscathed. Its a wild place at the best of times never mind when a full blown storm hits town. I’ve been listening to Carnivorous Plants release ‘Mammon’ with increasing curiosity. Its been around since pre-wound days. Blurb on the CVC Bandcamp page tells us that this release came in to being as a request from CVC to Carnivorous Chambers to record something with Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in mind. Apparently this is something that Owen [Carnivorous Plants] Chambers has done before, i.e. record a pair of tracks for a limited number of people using a predetermined theme. Here this becomes three tracks, two of heavy drone with a piano interlude of a most delightful and pretty hue, as if the grandson of Debussy himself recorded a light air, en plein air with birds chirruping at the onset of dawn on a warm spring morning. Giving it the title ‘Pandemonium’ is tongue in cheek of course. Its sandwiched between ‘The Second King of Hell’ and ‘Blood Orange’ with the latter starting like the opener but soon opening out to envelop a keyboard drone within its grungy arms. In-house artwork by CVC is as beautifully crafted as ever.

I look at my scar. I look outside at the trees bending in the wind. Its been an interesting week or so.

Coma Kultur

Chocolate Monk

Totes Format

Crow Versus Crow

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Lenka Lente

Hanns Heinz Ewers - Sorcière Ma Mère
Nurse With Wound - The Top of the Left Ear

Lenke Lente. Book + CD
60 PAGES. 10 X 15⋅5 CM
ISBN : 979-10-94601-31-0

Hanns Heinz Ewers has been described as the German Edgar Allen Poe and the reason you’ve probably never heard of him [that includes me until this dropped through the door] is that few of his works have been translated into English. His books began to appear in the early 20th century and with them numerous [and notorious] short stories, there were plays, critical essays, poetry, librettos, and a correspondence with lifelong friend Aleister Crowley. Hitler commissioned him to write a biography of Nazi martyr Horst Wessel, something he might have regretted had he known Ewers was a philo-semite with homosexuals tendencies, but hey, whose perfect?

Intrigued by Ewers, I sought out a translation of Sorcière Ma Mère [My Mother the Witch] and found one courtesy of Frans de Waard. An online PDF translated by fans of Ewers perhaps, and those keen to read his works in English. Its a curious short story in the form of an epistle written by the strangely named Dr Kaspar Krazy Cat to a rarely seen brother begging him not to get married. His reasoning being that if they have children they will become witches, assuming that the witch gene misses a generation. What follows is the doctors evidence that his mother is a witch; she cures warts, has poisoned mushrooms in her garden, has a closet full of brooms and curses those who cross her, literally and usually with terminal effects. These observations go further to enforcing his suspicions, which culminate in him seeing his mother transform in to a cat and receive an injury from a dachshund while in a graveyard. When she wakes up in the morning in human form the injury is still there and its this that makes him write the letter. There’s a twist in tale too, albeit a slight one. 

That injury occurs at the top of the left ear which is where Nurse With Wound come in. I’ve been listening to a bit of Nurse With Wound of late, especially Soliloquy For Lilith which I took to the stereo while full of lurgi over the festive period. There really is something to be said for being so ill that all you can do is put one CD after another in to the player. You may be ill, but on the plus side it is possible to soak up hour after hour of drifting, droning music all without having to move hardly a muscle. ‘Top of the Left Ear’ is a gamelan-esque twenty-minute exactly Nurse drone where finger cymbals ring out amid scythe like cuts, digital jibber-jabber and someone sharpening a knife on a whetstone in rhythmical fashion. It’s eeriness makes a good match for the story it comes wrapped in and runs to around the same time it’ll take you to read it.

A match made in hell? Hardly, but another suitable obscure author/Nurse With Wound match from Lenka Lente.

Thursday, February 06, 2020


Claus Poulsen & Stuart Chalmers - Fictions in the Age of Reason
Aphelion Editions.APHELION014 - K7

Abattoir & Satori - Megaloschemos Live
Unsigned. US058
Cassette/DL. 50 copies.

Rovar17 Vs Xpldnglke - Miracles of Orbanistan
Unsigned. US053

Max Nordile - Primordial Gaffe
Paisley Shirt Records. PSR24

Max Nordile - Confusion Deodorant

Olliojohanna / Coldsore
Totes Format. TOTFORM40
20 copies.

Coldsore - Pollutant 3
Totes Format. TOTFORM37
30 copies.

There are those who claim that cassettes were just getting into their stride when the CD came along and stomped to death the living daylights out of them, vinyl, Minidisc, eight-track and whatever other format dared stand up to it. As the ever greedy recording industry geared up to make even more money than every before by dazzling us with shiny little discs, cassette duplication went from analogue to digital and the leap in sound quality was remarkable. Nobody cared though, we’d all fallen in love with the shiny discs and the record industry sat back and watched their bank accounts grow fatter by the second. That they cost a small fortune didn’t seem to worry us. We happily shelled out £15 for each and every one of them and when 2 for £20 came along it was a good excuse to max out the credit card. They wouldn’t scratch, jump or crackle and you could play both sides without having to get up off your arse and change the record, or flip the cassette over. Entire symphonies could be heard from beginning to end without interruption. You could skip tracks that you didn’t like and if you could be bothered, programme the CD to play the album in any order you liked. The LP record went on to life support with the cassette on the bed next to it.

Fast forward twenty-five years and by some quirk in the space time continuum cassettes and vinyl are still with us and its CD with its head in the noose. Cassettes live on as addendum's to hip rock stars release schedule, as a way of giving their fans a taste of ‘this is what it was like back in the day kids’, as the physical side of a digital release. They nearly snuffed it but thanks to a few die-hards they managed to limp along into the 21st century.

All this because I seem to keep getting lots of cassettes. They just keep on coming. Its like CD never happened. I have no room for them anymore, and a cull must come as sure as night follows day, but let us leave that for another day and the thought of one lucky punter, who just happens to be in Cleck Oxfam on the day they put out a box of cassettes marked ‘50p each’.

December sees the appearance of the Best of Year lists and a glut of articles written by people eager to tell the world which releases gave them the most aural pleasure during the previous twelve months. I don’t do those lists, but if someone said to me ‘choose a favourite release or you’ll have to spend January in a room with Katie Hopkins’, I’d choose the Claus Poulsen & Stuart Chalmers release, ‘Fictions in the Age of Reason’. Mainly because its the most gorgeous, achingly beautiful, fill me with helium and let me go two sides of tape I’ve heard in a very long time. 

I saw them collaborate on a wet and windy night in Bradford a few months back and it was obvious from the off that they were at ease with each other, Chalmers with his swarmandal, cassettes and FX, Poulsen with tiny keyboards, sax and sawed cymbals. ‘Fictions …’ is the proud echo of that evening. Its first track begins with an Alan Lomax field recording, of what appears to be children bathing in a river and shouting to each other joyously in foreign tongues, there’s a short reversed loop of a strummed intro over which comes an Eno-esque drone of sheer majesty, over which comes the breathy key flaps of Poulsen’s sax and on it goes, folding in on itself and expanding, bringing in older elements and reshaping them anew, until all we are left with are vistas of a shimmering heat-haze and in it Poulsen’s dying sax’s last breath, birdsong and children, stillness and peace. After picking myself up off the floor, and walking around the house open mouthed for an hour, I pressed play and carried on. ‘Earth Dance’ where the multi-tracked gentle plucks of Chalmers swarmandal are joined with the tuneless and random plucks of some other unidentified instrument and the result is dizzying and mesmeric. ‘Eclipse’ is sullen, the swarmandal hit into a giant bell as Poulson does his best to resurrect the ghost of Chet Baker, the whole edifice becoming ever more dreamy as heavy duty tape swirl is introduced. There are but four tracks, the last being a low key drone which on someone else’s release would be the standout track, but here works as gentle balm before you flip and dive in again.

After such gorge-iosity I must ying the yang and subject myself to some full on noise. Which is where Megaloschemos come in. Megaloschemos being the collaborative work of Lorenzo Abattoir [Abattoir] and Dave Kirby [Satori]. Two blokes sat at a table in front of a mountain of gear that must have cost thousands, making a shit load of noise. Whats not to like? Crunching blasts of detonating depth charges, Godzilla footsteps, burning Stukas falling out of the sky at volume one hundred, deep throat singing. As recorded live in Budapest. Via the same label comes more wailing and gnashing of teeth courtesy of a collaboration between Italian noise merchants Rovar17 and Xpldnglke. A single sided five tracks worth of Industrial landscapes, brooding menace, drone, dub-like reverb and the scattered flotsam, jetsam and detritus that you’ll find in many a noise related release. Both players are credited with ‘electronics’ which tells me nothing. Some of it is self-indulgent and wearying and I don’t recall having a  moment where my knees went weak or I felt the urge to break open the thesaurus, but it passed on a pleasant 40 minutes or so.

Max Nordile’s frequent blasts of improvised racket continue to draw breaths of admiration and not just because he’s willing to brave the outrageous prices charged by the US Mail. Two releases here, one that appears to have come from Nordile’s own hand and a thin blue xeroxed paper insert in which a recycled, sprayed on cassette lies. All the sounds therein are explained by the track titles, so ‘Sax’ is Nordile honking like his lungs are fit to rupture and ’10 Bells' being the sound of ten bells but with all the clappers taken out. I like Nordile’s knock ‘em out style. Get it recorded, get it done. That’ll do for a cover. What are we messing around at here. Lets get it out. ‘2 Bolts’ is two bolts being rolled around inside a biscuit tin, ‘Control’ I have no idea but it sounded like a violin being played with a guitar as Nordile sings ‘Control, it fits, it fits, it fits’. ‘3 Drums’ is a tribal rhythm, just the same unchanging rhythm that goes on for about 30 seconds, ‘CD’ is another Nordile song sung over some exploding electric guitar improv. He sings in a talking voice and the only comparison I can make to this kind of thing is early Joincey. If you like early Joincey this is where you need to be. ‘Primordial Gaffe’ like a more out of control Smegma, like Nordile [sometime accompanied by five of his friends, including someone called ‘Snake’] howl and stomp and frot and squawk through eleven tracks of delirious improvisation. I say improvisation but there are lyrics here. Let us suggest that Nordile has the lyrics and improvises over the top of them, mainly with a swirling, jagged, hammered to within an inch of its life electric guitar and then with band on tracks like ‘Decaying Tab [with mirror]’ where you can not help but intone the words ‘SCREAMING DEATH PARP’. Glorious, life affirming stuff. Like if Husker Dü took the wrong pills and got sectioned and were given busted instruments to play on. Where you track down Noridle’s work I know not. I believe both Nordile and Paisley Shirt may be on Facebook.  Say hello to Zuckerberg while you’re there. There’s a Paisley Shirt Bandcamp page but much of what Nordile releases seems to be elusive and digital free. Its part of the appeal.

That Paisley Shirt cassette gets a shiny silver J-card insert too. It beefs the release up somewhat. Totes Format do the same thing while adding small, desirous items of handmade-ness to lift their release out of the ordinaire. There’s recycled cassette cases too so as to fit with the labels environmental ethos.

Totes Format releases have always gone down well here and these two are no exception. The Coldsore/Ollijohanna split has two tracks of heavy drone based on the theme of anti-gravity. The kind of slowly shifting, low-hertz thrum that sounds as if it was recorded inside the ventilation duct of a future city on Mars. The Ollijohanna side is full on drone while Coldsore introduces bowl-like ringing and space-y synth like bombs and drones, and at midpoint, a spoken word movie sample, which I thought slightly jarred, and whose only purpose in being there seemed to be its mention of anti-gravity. The third installment of Coldsore’s ‘Pollutant’ series finds a number of processed environmental sounds as recorded in the fallout zones of Russia's nuclear power plants. Rain features heavily. And heavy rain, rattling on a tin roof like a ball-bearing attack. There’s that eerie, echo-y sound of water dripping in an empty building and the roaring sound of, of what? That’s ‘Acrid Reigns’, on the flip lies ‘Pollination [of a corpse]’ and bee sounds writhing amongst a disorientating swirls of an analogue nature. This is much in line with what Dave Philips is achieving and a reminder that without bees we’re buggered.

Cassettes then? It looks like they’ll be with us for a while longer.          


Stuart Chalmers

Claus Poulsen


Paisley Shirt

Totes Format

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Snowflakes are Text-Sound

Text-Sound - Snowflakes
Sham-Repro. SR-001. CDR

Chicory Tip’s 1972 number one hit ‘Son of my Father’ sounded good even through the shitty little speaker of my three band Hitachi transistor radio/cassette player with built in condenser mic and carrying strap. That synth riff did it for me. It was the song that introduced me to synthesizers, even though I’d no idea that it was a synthesizer I was listening to. The song was co-written by Giorgio Moroder and the synth was a Mini Moog. Moroder released his own version of it a year earlier where it did nothing to trouble the charts and would have probably died a death until Chicory Tip’s manager suggested they do a cover version of it. On such moments careers are built. You should check out the primitive video of Moroder singing his version in a barely disguised ‘lets get this all over and done with as quick as possible’ fashion, all while sporting the most enormous and unruly black mustache seen in pop history until the emergence of the Village People. Something to aim for there. Then you can go and look at Chicory Tips version as filmed on the seafront in Southsea. Did synth pop begin this far back? It probably did.  

Three years later Japanese synth wizard Isao Tomita released his album of haunting Debussy covers, ‘Snowflakes Are Dancing’. Which at the time cropped up regularly as incidental music on Radio 1. I seem to remember Dave Lee Travis having a liking for it, though this would probably have been a few years further down the line. When I eventually got my own copy of ‘Snowflakes ...’ it not only piqued my interests in synths further but in Debussy too and then on to piano music itself. Wins all round. Thank you Tomita and DLT, or as he’s know around these parts, the man who got a three month sentence [suspended for two years] for indecent assault during Operation Yew Tree.   

So imagine my surprise to receive in the post, totally anonymously, without a word of warning the above CD with the Tomita’s fizog on the cover. I recognized him immediately as the image is taken from the back of the Snowflakes LP. The person taking in applause on the flip I didn’t recognise at all, but a reverse image search came back with Sten Hanson, an obscure Swedish experimental poet and composer. Sten Hanson released an album called Text-Sound and what you see is its cover minus some of the wording.

The CD lasts for twenty minutes and is the first side of Snowflakes with various sounds layered over it. These sounds range from irritating animal squeaks to vocalisations to electronic burbles. After listening to some Sten Hanson via YouTube, including a live performance recorded in Essen in 2004 where sounds such as these exist, I’m making the assumption that this CD is Hanson and Tomita layered over each other. The result is that rare thing, something virtually unlistenable. I really struggled to finish it and all the while kept asking myself, why? Who would do such a thing? I’ve tried searching online for this release but have come up with nothing. Then I realised that the word ‘snowflake’ has more than one meaning these days and that this may be a wind-up. I really don’t care. This may be a complete waste of resources and twenty minutes of my time, but it introduced me to Sten Hanson and got me listening to Chicory Tip again. So all together now SON OF MY FATHER dee dee dee di di di di dee.