Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pjorn 72 comp

Various Artists - Songs About Dying
Pjorn 72 CDR. PjornCD0023

I was amused by a survey in which 3,000 of Greggs customers were asked a number of questions relating to the festival that is Christmas. Ten percent of those asked ‘What is Christmas?’ thought that it was an invention brought about so that we could all give each other presents. Others thought we ate turkey at Christmas because thats where Mary and Joseph were born and another large portion of up to date, finger on the pulse human beings thought that the first day of Christmas was the 1st of December. And on it went. The true meaning of Christmas disappeared a long time ago and with each passing year gets buried deeper and deeper under a man made mountain of Argos ads, well worn Xmas singles and celebrity chef programmes. If you want to find the true meaning of Christmas these days head to your local out of town shopping center or sit glued to your 50 inch plasma TV for two weeks.

Like most people I’m just glad of the break at this time of year. Its a chance to overdo it on the wine and victuals without having to worry about an alarm clock going off and theres always the prospect of a bracing mid afternoon walk with a nip of whisky to warm you along the way. Of course the telly is shite. The TV companies would have you believe that Christmas time is two weeks of televisual bliss, fun for all the family, a televisual feast the likes of which we haven’t seen since the year before and when you switch it on its just a turd with a bit of tinsel on it.

I prefer to spend Christmas in the kitchen cooking meals to a background of contemplative Bob with the odd Harry Smith comp thrown in for counterpoint. As the wine works its way into my system the songs become more familiar, the vocal accompaniments more heartfelt and the food more forgotten. And then its to the Poang for an evening of Late Bottle Vintage Port and the review pile which I must admit has, in general, been of an outstanding quality this year.

I think my audience knows what I like by now and word has got round. You could argue that this is a bad thing - giving me what I like in the expectant return of praise - it could make me complacent. I prefer to see it this way - I could be wallowing in a sea of self indulgent, underworked, badly copied CDR’s with lousy art work, work that has little in the way of edification and has about as much chance of entertaining me as the Strictly Come Dancing final and the Hairy Bikers Christmas Special all rolled into one. I prefer the former.

Songs About Dying slips into the former category, but only just. The artwork doesn’t do much for me, theres nothing in the way of information and the CDR is badly recorded - it has those annoying digital clicks that curse many a rushed CD job [I overcame this by playing it at a low volume on the PC].

Fifteen artists then with most of them chipping in with something worthwhile - not a bad result for any comp really. Those that can hang their heads in shame though are UFO Antler Band with a contribution that sounds like a PE track recorded inside a Space Invader machine and Incest Whore who sound like a thrash doom band recorded in a paper cup. The rest brings much delight, especially the Nackt Insecten track with its slowly drifting seven minutes worth of organ drone purity [when did the Nackster drop the noise baton?]. Other highlights include Dead Labour Process who sound remarkably like Milovan Srdenovic, Andy Jarvis with a luscious keyboard/guitar drone thats more than a match for the emeraldic Mark McGuire, Usurper with a recording of a board game in progress, Jazzfinger, the ever wonderful Culver, Blood Stereo and Grant Smith.

Without going to the trouble of Googling all the artists involved here I’m pretty sure that they’re all UK based. Pjorn, for whatever reason they deem fit, have put this out into the world with little in the way of information. Pjorn must assume that the listener, with a PC and internet connection, will do the leg work for them. In pre-internet days [dons grumpy old bastard stance] you provided contact information for the benefit of the artists and listener alike but with social networking the norm this is leading to laziness and in my mind an impression of another release out of the way, let the buggers do it for themselves.

As a snapshot of whats happening in the UK today [again I’m assuming this is a fairly recent release] you’d gather that theres some people dabbling in drone, some in Dada like Schimpfuckery and some in deconstructed thrash but without recourse to a computer you'd be left pretty much in the dark as to anything but the track listing.  Still, it beats watching the Hairy Bikers.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christopher Hitchens and The New Blockaders

The New Blockaders - Simphonie in X Major
Hypagogia. Cassette. PN03. 200 copies.

I first became aware of Christopher Hitchens earlier this year in an article written for the Observer newspaper. The article in question was written by his long time friend and author Martin Amis, in it you discover that Hitchens was a polemicist, an atheist [or as he would have preferred ‘an anti-theist’], an intellectual, a journalist, a writer, a documentary maker, contrarian, a thorn in the side of hypocrisy and the kind of person who would never suffer fools [The article is offline now but theres the great story of Amis and Hitchens enjoying a restaurant meal at the height of Thatcherism. As they were eating their meal a group of yuppies arrived one of whom decided to take it upon himself to arrange the tables to suit his liking. It soon became apparent to the pair that this fop haired product of materialism would need their table for his own devices. The man dropped to his haunches beside Hitchens and said ‘I know you’re going to hate me for this ..’ to which Hitchens cut in ‘you’re wrong, we already hate you’]. I don’t normally buy a Sunday paper but we were on holiday in Northumberland and with a lazy day stretching ahead in front of me I bought the Observer and read every word of Amis’s piece until  somewhere deep in my skull a sticky went up with ‘buy some of Hitchens work’ written on it. It wasn’t until a few months had passed that the sticky popped up in my head and I bought ‘God Is Not Great’, where Hitchens, with his subtle humour and giant intellect, dismantles religion and in the process left this humble reader wondering why I had wasted so many years not reading Hitchens. Not that there are many writers like Hitchens.

Hitchens passed away on Friday the 15th of December after succumbing to a cancer no doubt brought on by his huge appetite for whisky and cigarettes. At the time of his dying I was reading a collection of his essays [Love, Poverty & War], when I opened his book on Friday morning this was at the top of the next page:

“The moral superiority of atheism … is often less stressed than its intellectual superiority. The intellectual advantage hardly needs elaboration: we do not normally accept unprovable assertions at face value, however devoutly they are maintained, and we posses increasingly convincing explanations for matters that once lay within the province of the supernatural. Skepticism and inquiry and doubt are the means by which we have established such a civilisation as we posses, professions of sheer faith are a hindrance to investigation both moral and material.”

Its typical Hitchens and the kind of thinking that gets even the slightest inquisitive mind fishing about for a drive gear.

In the same book you find this:

"[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."

And in 'God Is Not Great' this:

"My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either."

The really sad thing about Hitchens passing is that he had reached the time in life when he was just about able to sit and bask in the reflective glow of his body of work.

I could go on for a while here, theres the dismantling of Henry Kissenger, The Clintons, Mother Theresa, his shift of political stance after 9/11, the heavy drinking, his verbal battles with lumps like George Galloway and numerous American TV news show presenters .. its best that you investigate him yourself. May he rest in peace.

Simphonie in X Major is another TNB release getting the 20th anniversary treatment from Hypnagogia and the only thing thats running through my mind is how much reissue treatment can one man take? Its worth remembering that once upon a time things used to get deleted forever but in the 21st century you’re nobody until the carcass of your back catalogue has been picked over, remixed, enhanced, put on the latest format and [in the case of Pink Floyd] shoved in a box with a bag of marbles, a scarf and some coasters. Not that I’m comparing the picking over of the the Pink Floyd corpse with a cassette reissue of a noise classic from 1991. I’m still certain though that any self respecting TNB fan will already have a copy of Simphonie in X Major be it on the original Hypnagogia LP or as part of the 4CD Gesamtnichtswerk. To have it on cassette is worthwhile though. Its two twenty minute-ish tracks contain all that is good in the world of TNB and by extension the noise world at large. Listening back to it on headphones is an aural delight that takes in massive amounts of junk scrape, reversed tapes, buckets of nails, cutlery wars, medieval catapults being drawn taught all of it harnessed into a framework of surroundsound tumult. I do recommend headphones for this by the way - there are moments on first movement when the sounds panning from ear to ear leave a gorgeous space of wasteland somewhere just about where your nose should be.

Seeing as how the obverse to X Major has already been dealt with by Harbinger Sound its a shame that O Minor will probably not now see the light of day on cassette which is a shame. Hiss or crackle? You decide.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Smell & Quim - Lavatory

Smell & Quim - Lavatory
Paleolist Press. CD + Booklet. 200 copies.
Published by the Smell & Quim/Milovan Srdenovic Appreciation Society [Russia]

Its no secret that I’m a big Smell & Quim fan. Maybe its because I walk the same streets, maybe its the drink, maybe its just a Northern thing but to tar them with a wide generic noise brush is to dismiss them without gaining an insight into the delights of their inner workings, because for me they’re one of the few bands working in the noise arena whose work is truly unique. As with last years return to form Powerfuck, theres enough noise to lift the slates of any humble abode but if you dig beneath the surface you’ll find that theres more going on than would at first seem apparent.

Take ‘Fishy Flirting’. Fishy Flirting [The Children of God Vs The Clit Hero Mix]; five minutes of coughing, abusive language, plucked strings, rifle shots and the word Hitchcock looped into a line until all thats left of it is the word cock repeated ad nasueum. Rumour has it that Alfred Hitchcock forever carried around with him the smell of fish. The title itself is corruption of Flirty Fishing. This being the practice advocated by ‘The Children of God’ founder David Berg whose female members were encouraged to use sex as a proselytizing medium. ‘Clit Hero’ refers to the diminutive Jimmy Clitheroe, a variety theatre and radio star of the 40’s famed for his schoolboy looks and cheeky humour. ‘The boy who never grew up’ committed suicide at his home in Blackpool aged 51 on the day his mothers funeral.

Serial killing stalwarts and public hate figures like The Moors Murders Hindley and Brady and The Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe continue to inspire but I feel this is more out of geographical proximity rather than any appreciation for their particular beliefs or sadistic bent. Peter Was A Truck Driver [Getting Wood at Garrards Mix] refers to Garrards, the wood yard in Huddersfield where the body of Sutcliffe’s eighth victim Helen Rytka was discovered. The reference to porn slang ‘getting wood’ in conjunction with a timber yard which is then connected to the killing of a prostitute is typical Smell & Quim word play. The track itself is two minutes of noise pummel interspersed with a Filthy Turd like dictaphone interlude in which a cloaked figure rings a plague bell whilst intoning the words ‘I am Deltar’ [I think] The sound of a truck engine revving and a clip from the infamous ‘I’m Jack’ tape is of course included at its conclusion.

MnM’s [Myra’s Shovel/Maxine’s Car M62 J22 Mix]; Maxine Carr the then girlfriend of Soham killer Ian Huntley. Carr was found guilty of perverting the course of justice by providing an alibi for Huntley and was sentenced to three and half years in prison. Junction 22 of the M62 takes you to Saddleworth Moor where Hindley and Brady buried the bodies of their victims. Again you can hear a truck engine revving and then a surprising 4/4 beat that eventually gets swallowed by mountain of noise detritus.

‘Frau Koma Is Coming [KKKarcher Spraydown Mix]’ takes us further afield. In 2009 a 17 year old schoolboy from Winnenden, Germany called Tim Kretschmer posted this message in an internet chat room: "I've had enough. I'm fed up of this pointless life. Always the same. Everybody laughs at me. No one sees my potential. I'm serious. I have weapons and I will go to my old school in the morning and have a proper barbecue. Maybe I'll get away. Listen out…’ This was picked up on and reported to the police. ‘Frau Koma is coming’ was the codeword broadcast over the school tannoy to warn teachers that the threat was real. Kretschmer killed nine pupils and three teachers before being shot by the police. Koma is of course amok spelt backwards. The track is a storm of feedback that begins with some exasperated ‘fuck’s’ and finds space for the softly intoned promise that ‘Frau Koma is coming’.

Its on Lavatory's live track ‘In The Brown Girl’s Ring Piece’ where you get to feel the power that Smell & Quim are capable of -  Boney M’s 70’s chart hit is mangled into a loop of the title that sits alongside a raft of reversed disco-ish off kilter beats and of course lots of tumultuous noise. Only five minutes long though.

This wouldn’t be a Smell & Quim release without the odd porn sample either and at times it feels as if some tracks were pulled straight from a degrading dogging video made by people with tourettes in car park near Scammonden Dam [Huddersfield].

Lavatory picks up where 2009 Powerfuck left off. Gone though is the stylized Barbarella artwork and DVD packaging to be replaced by a booklet written in Russian that contains images that include various naked members of Smell & Quim, convicted pedophile and ex glam rocker Gary Glitter [as an aside - a couple of years ago it was reported that Glitter was looking to buy a house in the Saddleworth Moor area] Leeds born playwright, actor and writer Alan Bennett, Kretschmer, Jimmy Clitheroe, Hindley and Brady [and some of their victims], long time Smell & Quim member and inspiration nonpareil Diz Willis, some live photos including the cover showing the blood spattered drum that was the result of a particularly lively show in which drummer Michael Gillham failed to notice his injured hand and a picture of someone with a fish. Altogether it adds up to another prime slice of Smell & Quim. And I haven’t even mentioned Sniff Your Fucking Pee Pee, the sign off monster track in which the lyrics are spat out at such a vitriolic rate that you can almost feel the spittle.

Of course there are still mysteries to solve. I can hear the word Bennett during Fishy Flirting but whether this is a reference to Alan, William or [the last of the Moors Murders victims] Keith Bennett I know not and who’s the guy with the fish?

The track listing is worth repeating in full:

Frau Koma Is Coming [KKKarcher Spraydown Mix]
Peter Was A Truck Driver [Getting Wood at Garrards Mix]
MnM’s [Myra’s Shovel/Maxine’s Car M62 J22 Mix]
Cocks To The Left [Northern Arsehole Mix]
Dreamfucker [Pissed Off Mix]
Muff-Diving Accident [Shit, Shave & Haircunt 100 Mix]
In The Brown Girl’s Ring Piece - Live at Hondenkoekjesfabriek [DisRespectable Reconstruction Mix]
Fishy Flirting [The Children of God Vs The Clit Hero Mix]
Sniff Your Fucking Pee Pee

philmonopolka [at]

Smell & Quim appear on the Swinefest 3 bill in Leeds this coming Saturday 17th of December 2011.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Storm Bugs

Storm Bugs - A Safe Substitute
Harbinger Sound LP

Harbinger 096

Vintage analogue synths, especially the ones made in Britain, are the kind of machines that make men of a certain age go week at the knees. Not for them the cheap thrill provided by a Korg Kaossilator or some other made in Japan box of circuits, it has to be British, preferably thirty years old and covered in lots of bakealite knobs. I have to admit that despite being a fan of analogue synth generated sounds myself I’m a total Luddite when it comes to recognising anything more specific than a Stylophone. I am not, in other words, one of those men who goes week at the knees at the sight of a WASP synth going cheap on eBay. So long as it sounds good its provenience can remain a mystery to me.

This mindset has been changed somewhat by the Storm Bugs. After years of soaking up outfits as diverse as Tangerine Dream, Mother Mallard, early Whitehouse, anything on Sähkö and even Tomi-bloody-ta it has been The Storm Bugs who’ve got me taking notice of the instrumentation being employed. Appearing in the late 70’s the Storm Bugs made good use of the VCS3. This British made analogue synth was to be found in one of the few studios in England catering for the composition of electronic music at that time. This being the late 70’s the Storm Bugs were no doubt pulling influences from a variety of new and exciting directions and thus A Safe Substitute whilst not exactly a Holy Grail of the period is still a deservedly important release.

Both sides of Substitute show what fertile times these were for experimentation. Thanks to the detailed sleeve notes a track by track break down reveals the use of tape delay, loops, the re-routing of signals and the heavy use of low frequency oscillators as well as three synths [two VCS3’s and a Synthi A]. Side two is pure instrumentation and where the VCS3 is at its most prominent. On ‘Hodge’ a shortwave jamming signal is fed through the VCS3 with the LFO chopping up the remains. The result is a thudding beat in which radio waves float in and out of hearing range, the beat becoming louder as the signal fades. ‘Blackheath Episodes’ uses three synths to produce a rhythm track in which varies modes of the beat are tweaked whilst the two VCS3’s provide background drones. Over on side one is where we find the vocal treatments. On an eerie ‘Mesh of Wire’ vocals are fed through two reel to reels, with a background of plodding ritualistic thump. On ‘Objective’ the thump becomes a slowly sequenced funeral beat with the addition of a haunting cornet and a drifting voice extolling the virtues of beans. The hard to dislodge tape murk covers the whole release like a fine film of gauze but its not a distraction. Early 80’s cassette releases will always carry with them the aura of lo-fidelity and as such this gives Substitute a patina of dirt that the passing thirty years has failed to shift. Wiping the muck of this release would be like polishing up and old master. It doesn’t really need it.

This is the first time A Safe Substitute has been reissued in its entirety since its 1980 release [some tracks having appeared on compilations in the intervening period] and immensely worthwhile and important a venture it has been. This period of musical creativity is providing a rich seems for labels wishing to stick coloured drawing pins into the slowly filling wall chart that is the UK underground scene circa 76-84 and long may they do so. Snatch Tapes, on which ‘Substitute’ originally appeared has a few other goodies lying in the vault that labels would do well to investigate.

The Storm Bugs went to ground for the best part of twenty years but are now back in business. Their primitive experimental synth works are being seen as the building blocks for a generation of electronica merchants who were probably just being born around the time that Substitute came out.


Storm Bugs

Snatch Tapes

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Bren't Lewiis Ensemble

Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble - A Real Nice Clambake

Some people will never understand John Cage’s philosophy or the fact that you can make music from cacti. For certain brains music has to have beginnings, middles and ends, it has to have a form that is recognisable as what is deemed to be music, it has to be something you can dance to, shag to, be the background to something being sold, it has to fill the dead air on car journeys, it has to fill the ears whilst walking, it has to lift one from the drudgery of the everyday with nothing more than a memorable beat or line, it has to have a face that feels comfortable and a form that is connectable. Nothing wrong with any of that of course but if only the imagination could be stretched a little further.

To your average Joe The Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble are a bunch of people fucking around in a room and nowhere near likely to fill in any of the criteria listed above. Get them to listen to one minute of any of ‘A Real Clambake’s’ fifty odd or so and they’d probably tell you that this definitely isn’t music. OK, there’s a bit of the Isley Brothers singing ‘Who’s That Lady?’ but its only the chorus and its on a loop and its very feint and the sound in the background is a droney whoo and theres a bit of backward tape in there too .. and probably something else I can’t quite put my finger on.

I felt the same way myself. When I first listened to A Real Clambake I thought it was a mess of ideas cast adrift with little or no thought given to its conception and I’m the kind of person who likes to think has a wide taste in a variety of musical genres. But then I listened further and deeper and it started to work on me. It was like re-reading a particularly difficult book and finding it wasn’t just a jumbled up mess of sentences and weird words.

It was to Seymour Glass that I gave those extra listens. He handed me a copy of Clambake whilst in Brighton before teaming up with fellow BLE-er Lucian for a Saturday night headlining slot. You don’t take a CD from the creator of Bananafish and dismiss it after a couple of throwaway listens, you take deep and careful lungfuls and dive in for endless hours. And then you look at the history of the Butte County Free Music Ensemble and find that they’re a loose collective of music freaks with LA Free Music Society connections who formed in the mid eighties and then went to ground for a while, for a long while actually. Eventually it all begins to make sense.

In Brighton the BLE were down to two; Seymour and Lucian but judging by the Clambake insert it could have been anything up to a dozen of them, all with ludicrous monikers: Musclebutt, Joan of Art, The Good Trish, Thor Heglund, Montana Swisher. As Headliners they crawled under a large sheet of black and white cloth and made sounds from who knows what. Party poppers were popped in brief glimpses of flesh [a Cage homage perhaps?] but apart from that it was a mystery as to what sounds came from what.

It put me in mind of Clambake though, an hour and four tracks worth where nothing sits still for long; the twang of guitar, a hell-fire Baptist ministers sermon, gurglings, snatches of dialogue [Have you seen those Japanese tampon fetishist magazines?’] the buzzing of amp sockets, a solitary ‘ah’, indistinguishable groans, cassette tape being fast forwarded, the slowly encroaching breaths of a dangerous wild animal, people going ‘eeeehhh’, specks of electric guitar, flutes playing randomly, a loop of someone saying ‘first’, bursts of organ, a cello, shrieks, oddball Tv samples, radio trawls and there you have a very brief glimpse of whats going on [If I was to type all the things I can hear in Clambake it would be a long scroll down to the bottom of this page]. All of these sounds have been culled, mixed, layered, and edited from hours and hours of worth of sounds made back in 1987.

This is rich loam and every spin feels different. Its an easy comment to make but I do feel as though I’m being transported during its course. Clambake gives you the feeling of being in someone else’s thoughts and ideas. Somehow I feel I know Seymour Glass better from listening to this. Because it is so obviously music and not the accompaniment to a commercial, it has no beginning, middle or end or face or easy to attach label. Pushing it further I could take these tracks apart with software and build new libraries of sound, enough to fill ten libraries. Deconstructed it could furnish many a jaded listener with new listening possibilities.

I only had brief, half drunk conversations with Seymour and Lucien [the curse of the middle night of a three night experimental festival] and I was even stupid enough to ask Seymour why he’d wound up Bananafish [‘no time’ being the obvious answer] but still, I got this CD out of it. I feel theres a whole world out there I knew very little of. LAFMS and Smegma were my beginning BUFMS will be my continuation.

I recommend total Immersion over the Christmas period. As a way of escaping the onslaught to come it could be easier than hiding down the cellar. You could try it with other kinds of music of course but I feel that BLE would be the perfect antidote to Slades’ ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ and the Argos ads.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

[4] Bob Hallucinations

[4] Bob Hallucination
Dog Hallucination. 3” CD
50 Copies

Thanks to Peel playing their 12”’s that went on for 20 minutes I did have a soft spot for The Orb [Andy Kershaw took him to task over such indulgence of course] but for me, at a time when things were going tits up music wise, their music was as welcome as a found fiver in an old coat pocket. Their trippy ambient beats filled with quirky samples floated from my speakers like mind melting ether and then they teamed up with Mike Oldfield and Steve Hillage and it all went horribly wrong.

The Orb were the first band to spring to mind whilst listening to all 23 minutes [natch] of [4] Bob Hallucinations. Bob Hallucinations may not like it but thats what you get for sending your releases to someone who used to listen to The Orb. The production is pristine, the guitars layer and fall like glistening slivers of icicle melt, the field recordings are sublime and well positioned [a nail factory by all accounts], the beats [when they eventually appear] are all Muslimgauze-y and when put into one whole it should work but with it being so overly polished I find it as gratifying as overfeeding on Quality Streets.

Perhaps Bob Hallucinations would prefer it if I mentioned them in the same breath as Column One which I would do if only they’d lay off the hours of mixing and editing and pruning and making sure it all sounds just right. Stripped down and raked out into an hours worth of material there’d be enough sounds in here to keep me happy for many an alcoholic afternoon but as it stands now I find this too condensed and overworked. Pretty when ugly is needed.


ESP Kinetic / Astral Social Club

Astral Social Club - V.E.N.U.S [For electronics and guitars, October 2011]
No label CDR

Astral Social Club - Generator Breaker
Dekorder LP.  Dekorder 055

ESP Kinetic - ‘Want Some Of This?’
Harbinger Sound LP.  Harbinger75


astralsocialclub [at]

Eleven PM on a Saturday night is always a good time to grab some merch from the nodmeister. At the recent Ramleh gig he was chucking records about like confetti at a wedding. ‘Anybody not got one of these?’ says Campbell waving his arms about like a plane parker on acid. And all of a sudden it was like who cares about the Sabbath party band Campbell’s giving away records. Fortunately I’d scored the ESP earlier from the Underwood but the Dekorder and VENUS were received like golden tablets and carried home in the taxi like a new born baby.

I probably owe Campbell about sixteen gallons of beer by now and the upcoming tour of Cleck hostelries may redress the balance somewhat but In the meantime I’m still trying to link the stylistic bridge between Campbell’s first band ESP Kinetic and his current Astral Social Club project. There’s no point in trying of course. ESP Kinetic are early eighties Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV/Genesis P-Orridge acolytes, all orange hair, mascara and black finger polish banging away on drums to heavily reverbed vocals in grotty pubs in Northampton whilst ASC emit celestial drone via a network of arteries that flow between the hearts of dance, techno, motorik, drone, noise and pure experimentation.

Following on from last years unearthing of Fleck Nor comes ‘Want Some of This?’ The moronic come on of every pissed up football hooligan in England seems an odd choice of title for an ESP Kinetic release and its hard to imagine our GPO loving troupe clad in Lacoste shell suits hiding around terraced corners waiting for the other crew to turn up but there you go. Its primitive stuff of course. Even more primitive than Fleck Nor which at least had the sense to veer toward early Fall like riffage and MES like delivery now and again [when they weren’t genuflecting GPO’s way of course]. ‘Want Some of This?’ has Casio poke industrial instrumental ditties and early TG carnage all sharing space on muddied straight to Memorex recordings. Theres a live side and a ‘at home’ side with the punch coming from the ‘home’ side most notably on the longer outing ‘Two Faces Collide’ in which a driving bass riff is the backbone to ranting muffled vocals and spacey keyboards all combining to produce a raucous tumult. It’s what Gen would’ve wanted.

Fast forward twenty seven years and we have Astral Social Club. Since leaving the Vibracathedral Orchestra to their own devices about ten years ago Campbell’s work under the ASC moniker has blossomed into an ever flowing, multiplying body of work. An increasingly important and welcome body of work it is too and unlike some artists whose work appears with all the regularity of a well oiled turd, ASC’s prolific offerings are to be sought after and welcomed.

Generator Breaker’s seven tracks begins with a vibrating four chord descent from which we find shimmering guitars and vibrating electronica emerging. ‘Wishaw’ has a four to the floor thump that shares groove space with glowing heat lamp drones. Somewhere in there are the speeded up samples of European classical music. When the frenetic insect drone rumble of ‘Splashdown’ segues into the final track ‘Breaker’ the beats dissolve to leave a  you adrift on a receding idyllic tide. This last, slowed down, ebbing away of residual drone and the final silence that follows had me flipping the damned thing numerous times.

Its hard trying to convey the sheer pleasure to be had from listening to Astral Social Club. After suffering a not inconsiderable amount of tosh in Brighton recently it was to something close to ASC that the weekend badly needed. Something beatific, life affirming, glowing, huggable, off your tits, nod your head drone. But its not all nod your head mindless boogie. Around the twenty minute mark on V.E.N.U.S a church organ like drone emerges from the beats thats precede it. For the next ten minutes it carries you off before breaking up into its constituent keyboard parts. Like this years earlier ASC release 'Scudding' this is a lengthy single.  And whilst not hitting the hour mark its half hours worth are further essential Astral minutes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Razzle Dazzle

Glue Pour - Telepathy Shots/Preslav Literary School - Sonuna
Split LP. RzDz15. 300 Copies

Rouse Poussin - The Christmas Shots
CD. RzDz16. 80 Copies

Rubén Patiño - Eleven Stereo Moments
Cassette. RzDz17. 40 Copies

Michael Barthel - Noch Mehr Hölen
Cassette. RzDz18. 40 Copies


I told Johnny Scar that I wasn’t going to mention Darksmith’s performance at this years Colour Out of Space fest but then my hurried answer was just as petulant as the performance we’d just seen. How could I not mention the fact that Darksmith, [Friday nights headline act] threw the teddy out of the cot five minutes into his set and spent the next twenty minutes or so exchanging ‘fuck you’s with the audience? Whilst stamping his feet, throwing his equipment about and drinking from a 2 liter plastic bottle of industrial strength cider he ranted, tore at his t-shirt, threw his chair about and generally behaved like a stroppy teenager whose just been grounded for a month. As acts of petulance go it was up there with the best John McEnroe moments but to see it unfold before my very eyes on the first night of a weekend of experimental music took some taking in. Some people said they enjoyed it but not for the sounds produced of course, which were intermittently interesting but on the whole so obviously chaotic.

And then there was the salad. I have this theory that the further south you go in England the more prevalent the green stuff on your plate. By the time you hit Brighton you need a machete to get through it. There must be thousands of rabbits starving to death due to the fact that the eateries of Brighton deem it compulsory to heap five handfuls of the stuff onto everything you order. I’m surprised its not used as a garnish with coffee. It was what probably pushed Darksmith over the edge to start with.

Colour Out of Space put me in the mood for Razzle Dazzle and a series of releases that cover electronica, tape experimentation, sound poetry and lap top bleep. I did play some of this to Phil T when he was here two weeks ago. It arrived on the same weekend of the Ramleh show. We sat and listened to Rose Poussin and what emerged from the speakers was a panning throb disguising various conversations. ‘Illusion of Safety’ said I. ‘Throbbing Gristle’ said Phil. ‘I bet the voices coming from beneath that panning throb are serial killers and sadists’ said I. But they weren’t. We were tricked into thinking this was homage to old school Industrial but when the voices became clear they talked about chess and the best way to hang a mirror. Disappointed we headed to the next track, another live one, this time a drone built on amp buzz and hiss. French voices appear. It ended. We left for Leeds.

Fortunately for me things improved in remarkable fashion when I played Michale Barthel’s Noch Mehr Hölen. Its a short trip but during it I heard voices as quiet as a mouses trot play with Clanger like voices, vocals mimic the exploding of a dirty bomb and a farmers field at five in the morning. On one track it sounds like they’ve gone down to the local Mental Institution and told everybody within mic reach to make daft noises. Some of it is so quiet that you really have to strain to make the most of it but that only adds to its surreal charm. Wonderful.

Rubén Patiño’s release is subtitled ‘stereo movements for a concert without performer’ and there is a certain air of detachment to these sounds. Most are single notes, test, tones, panned and pitched. Theres an air of 50’s electronic avant-gardism about it all giving the work a nostalgic feel which the format certainly benefits from. The two seconds of mock applause at its end shows that Patiño isn’t bereft of a sense of humour either.

Razzle Dazzle is a Berlin based label. Berlin becoming the emerging capital of experimental music. With the apartments of old East Berlin providing cheap rent for aspiring experimenters its no wonder that theres a plethora of artists and labels emerging from there. New York and London may have its fans but its to Berlin we head first. Preslav Literary School’s Adam Thomas and Glue Pours Benjamin l. Aman are both emigré sound artists working in Berlin. PLS’s work is cassette based, on Sonuna a pure church organ drone provides the basis for a layering of sounds that include child like voices, bird song and massed choirs. Such is the skill in mixing all this degraded sound that the end result becomes one amorphous globule of ghostly ethereal delight. Glue Pour’s end results lie in the same area but I guess that they arrive there via a different route. Telepathy Shots drone is one of electric current, held in check fizz, lost in space wilderness and while it didn't engage me as fully as PSL it still has enough depth to hold its own.

To Berlin then and no salad when we get there please.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The New Blockaders - Antimonia II

The New Blockaders - Antimonia II
Dot Dot Dot Music 7”


I’m not the only writer in this house you know. Mrs Fisher also dabbles with the keys, her chosen subject being travel. And whereas I amass records, CD’s and cassettes for my troubles Mrs Fisher amasses memories of travel. Since the advent of Ernest [the preferred name for her laptop] Mrs Fisher has been entering various travel writing competitions and the results have been rather welcome. The rewards for all this tapping of keys, besides various mentions in the Guardian Travel Tips pages, has been an iPad, a digital camera, £200 in foreign currency and two luxury breaks in the hotel of our choice. The luxury breaks are for next year and have already been booked. One is a night in the Devonshire Arms near Bolton Abbey North Yorkshire on the 30th of March and the other is two nights at the newly refurbed Marriott Hotel situated in Seven Dials central London the dates being the Bank Holiday weekend of May the 5th and 6th.

Observant TNB watchers will already be familiar with these dates. On the 31st of March TNB will play in Berlin along with Vagina Dentata Organ. On the weekend of the 4th to the 6th of May TNB will, at some point, play at the Broken Flag Festival in Tufnell Park London. You see my dilemma. With news that Jet2 are introducing flights from Leeds/Bradford airport to Berlin next year there is the very slim chance that there may just be a flight on the Saturday of that date that will get me to Berlin in time to see the TNB/VDO show [I could fly from Manchester but I could do without traversing the M62 as part of my escape]. With the London dates my chances are a little better. We’ll be there for the 5th and 6th but which night are TNB playing? We have a freebie dinner chucked in with the prize but which night to book it? Of course Mrs Fisher isn’t so cold hearted as to deprive me of at least one night at the BF Fest [attending both would create a permanent schism] but which one to attend and which night to book the dinner? Maybe they’re playing the Friday night and I’m screwed anyway? Its all finely balanced but at least there is hope.

In the meantime theres the slow trickle of quality TNB material to revel in. Antimonia II is two sides of prime TNB scrape in which the Rupenus brothers battle it out with seconds from seizing jet engines, lengths of rusty scaffolding pole, boxes of nuts and bolts and a pair of ball-peen tinning hammers. If anything these two short sides of primitive junk noise are even more visceral than the recently released early live works of which they share a great deal in construction. Perhaps then the seven inch vinyl single [an attractively flecked one too] is the perfect way to hear noise at this level of destruction? As ever its to The New Blockaders that we turn to for quality noise nihilism.

Not sure how many of these exist but the chances are that if you want one you’re already going to have to track down a copy at an inflated price to experience a further, essential, TNB thrill.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Protagonists of David Gadson

Protagonists of David Gadson - First Edition
no label CDR


God is not Great

To the Wharf Chambers in Leeds to dish out ALAP badges like communion wafers. Which got me thinking. Funny thing religion. People eating bits of other people, babies having their genitals mutilated, animal sacrifice, Papal indulgences, suicide bombers. Of course you can do anything in the name of religion. I’ve been reading Christopher Hitchens splendid book ‘God is not Great - How Religions Poisons Everything’ and when you look at religion in the cold light of day, as you should, it all begins to unravel. Hitchens makes this unarguable point: if you or I were to cut the foreskin off a baby boy and suck the damaged member we’d be incarcerated but if you’re a Jewish ‘mohel’ you can cary out his procedure with the states backing. I could go on at length of course but then you’d never know what Ramleh were like. Buy the book for yourself and discover more.

Ramleh certainly thinned the crowd down at Wharf Chamber and this was the three piece ‘rock’ Ramleh not the two piece Power Electronics Ramleh. For the majority of the audience Ramleh’s three chord rock chug wasn’t their thing and at an hour I must admit to having my patience tested but this was my first time, the legendary Ramleh, who play very few gigs at all, Gary Mundy, in the flesh and then the Sabbath party band came on.

After the event I tried to reconcile my inner differences. Did I like it? Not really. In parts they sounded like an instrumental U2. At times they really hit a defiant stride and took you with them but it was only later that I realised that all my favourite Ramleh rock records have Phillip Best on them and tonight there was no Phillip Best. It left a gap that was the reason I couldn’t fully engage with them. At least we got see Early Hominids blast out a twenty minute piece of ultra throb. Early Hominids are beginning to hit their straps now and glueing big beats to the kind of bass throb that Merzbow excelled in is a direct way to my non religious black little heart. And due to a Manchester Skullflower gig being cancelled we got a last minute Voltiguers appearance in which Bower and friend whipped up a ten minute twin guitar wall of thrape. A perfect way to quick start your evening.

As ever, a pre gig snorter was arranged in the Duck and Drake. Shuffling homeless scruffs rubbed shoulders with shuffling home owning scruffs and as ever CD’s swapped hands. One such was given to me by someone called Jonas who had long hair and wore a brown storemans coat. He described the contents as mock jazz but I’d describe them more as quintessential English colonialist surreal humour in a Vivian Stanshall meets Diz Willis kind of way. Which seems pertinent as Diz’s name cropped up regularly during the late afternoon swiller.

Protagonists of David Gadson is four tracks of spoken word observations over backings of sax squawl, urban jazz and Jelly Roll Morton on a loop. I was particularly smitten with ‘Doom Radio with Reginald Ffolks’, in which someone with a plummy, lispy, English accent reminisces about his old records [Vera Lynne] and his Teddy Bear over the aforesaid Jelly Roll loop. The deadpan estuary English delivery and living in the city observations of the proletariat getting pissed and vomiting cheered me no end but it was all over too quick. 26 minute including silence leading up to the hidden track in which we get to find out that Steve’s favourite chord is D minor is way too short. More please.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bad Suburban Nightmare

Bad Suburban Nightmare - Highways I
Must Die Records. CD. MDR 018

Two days of blissful wandering along the Rhine in the autumnal Dusseldorf sunshine had to have its downside and it arrived on the flight home. Crammed into the back of a 737 with the boisterous remains of a hen and stag ‘do’ desperately trying to make a pissed up weekend spin out until last orders we jointly gritted teeth and gave thanks to the fact the flight lasted less than an hour. The half dozen beers I’d had earlier in the day did the trick and I somehow managed to doze off leaving Mrs. Fisher to suffer the knob jokes, the shrieking laughter and the sounds of cans of beer being popped all to her good self. Before I dozed off I heard one of the stag party say in a loud and authoritative voice ‘I’m rounding the weekend off in style lads … I’m having a Stella’. Stella Artois being that essential watery anesthetic so beloved of those wishing to attain drunken nirvana in six easy steps. This, coming from someone who’d just spent two nights in one of the best brew cities in the world. Its enough to make you weep.

I didn’t take any music with me this time. I usually do but for once I’d thought I’d clear my head of the stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Soft Machine lately you see [and Kevin Ayers of course] and I needed to cleanse the palette, start afresh, give the old shell likes a rest. Which is what I did. And then today I thought I’d give Bad Suburban Nightmare a spin and my ears came back all shiny and new.

BSN is one man and his guitar, [barring a few loose drum hits and the odd plonk of piano] who creates a desolate sound that flits between Ry Cooder, Keiji Heino, Neil Young, Phil Todd, and late era John Fahey. Armed with an electric guitar and the odd pedal or two BSN watches the tumbleweed go by to an accompaniment of whammied strings, lonely notes and harmonic strum. The sparse use of notes and the laid back atmosphere of it all gives the release a supreme sense of desolation. The maudlin vocals on the first and last track which become nothing more than mumbled nothings by the time of the third add further dust to an already windswept release. The longest track on here is the one that gets the Ry Cooder comparisons, ‘Rollerskate Highway’ is pure sun bleached lizard territory and not far from Ry Cooder’s Paris Texas soundtrack only with more distortion and added eeriness. ‘Thee Angels + Th Dark’ is where the Heino comparisons come in, lots of wailing upper neck frot and chin back angst. Its to the bookends of this release where it really sinks its hooks though. In a voice that makes Bob Dylan sound like choir boy BSN sings/moans/wails about death and dead bodies and the fit is perfect.

I don’t normally go in for introspective guitar noodling but this works. I found myself being strangely hypnotized by it all. Maybe I listened to too much American guitar based music as a kid and this has dragged me back to a time when anything American sounding was to be lapped up. Whatever, no more Soft Machine for a while though.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Amniotic - Unlover/Let The Dogs Erode
Caul Imprint. 2XCDR

Amniotic - Unit 63
Caul Imprint. 3”CDR


Amniotic is the work of solo female artist Johannah Henderson who, if I’m not mistaken, was last seen working alongside Jase Williams in the chaotic noise/rock/improv outfit The Mothers of the Third Reich. Here she ditches the random drum bashing of MOTTTR for a far more personal project involving birth. The results of which, in parts at least, are quite a revelation.

Hendersons songs are ghostly affairs, most of them featuring murky bass guitar runs as backbones upon which she layers guitar frills, apocalyptic spoken word prose, piano motifs and field recordings. But its Hendersons haunting vocal delivery and the blurred recording technique which leave the most memorable and affecting memories. Singing lyrics that only rarely appear she buries her voice deep in the mix so that it emerges at times either like a lost soul or a bewitching lorelie. Match this to songs which are at times stripped bare to nothing but single instruments and you have a very effecting delivery.

Its not often I get to review material such as this so this has been a salve of some sorts. I have to admit to fearing for the worst upon opening Johannah’s jiffy bag, Anybody who’s reviewed as many noise releases as me will know only too well the feeling that arrives with the emergence of hand painted CDR’s. I like to be proven wrong now and again though, it keeps you on your toes.

But back to the music.

I was lifted from my cups. I found myself humming certain bass riffs. I downloaded the 27 tracks onto the ipod for midweek consumption [all these tracks, as seems the norm these days, are available for download]. I pondered becoming some kind of Svengali figure taking Henderson from her south coast roots to transport her to worldwide stardom but I fear the reality is that a lot of people just wont get this music and entreuprenuriship doesn't sit easy with me either. These track work because the construction is experimental in approach with the results being entirely listenable in an across the board fashion. Give this to someone trying to wean themselves off indie pap and you have instant success. It works on many levels. The  blood red artwork, torn piece of birth certificate and snippets of paper all go towards making these three releases parts of one birthing whole.

On ‘The Number E’ [second track on UNIT 63] to a background of photocopier noise she bangs away like The Shaggs whilst moaning sweet, mumbled nothings. The track ebbs away on a sweet drooping bass guitar run. ‘The Valley of Wine’ is a simple song with a simple two chord strummed acoustic guitar run with a vocal sample that ends ‘come and see the blood on the streets’ the voice emerges from the murk with an eeriness that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The three instrumental triptychs on Let The Dogs Erode sound like a cross between Alan Bishop guitar twang and one of Tom Waits weirder interludes. The title track on ‘Unlover’ is built on a sample taken from some lolloping machine upon which she plays a dainty guitar refrain and sings, moans, whispers unintelligible sweet nothings. Its quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. All of it is recorded in a murk that makes you wonder if the masters have been dipped in some special ‘make it all sound like its been recorded in a strange space’ formula. And lets not forget the instrumental ‘Industrial’, a four minute slice of muted roar and stretched leather strapping that wouldn’t look out of place on a Column One release. ‘Kamikaze Citizen’ contains vocal work comparable with the Cocteau Twins Liz Fraser and just for good measure theres some seagull squawks and a beautifully melodic fiddle to drowse along to. Its mind boggling stuff.

But I try not to get too carried away with myself. On repeated listens I wondered if I’d tricked myself into thinking that this was better than it was and sure enough some of the tracks on ‘Unlover’ drop below the quality bar. Some tracks contain a certain naiveté that lightly scars the better work but this is small beer. There are times when Henderson’s vocal delivery seems to teeter on the edge of Japanese opera too especially on the track ‘Soliel’ but I can forgive her these slights because so much of whats on here is of such inventive quality.

Its not everyday I get to come across a talent at such an early stage of development. I feel as if I’m at the beginning with Johanna egging her on to produce more quality work but even if she never releases another thing she’ll have left us with these enigmatic jewels

[Let The Dogs Erode contains a video work but such is the nature of hand painted CDR’s that I fear placing them in a PC that I rely daily on - its not available on the download either. A vital missing part for which I can only apologise].

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Sudden Infant - Noise In My Head

Sudden Infant - Noise In My Head [The Actionist Music and Art of Joke Lanz]

Published by Marhaug Forlag. Hard cover. 160 pages [16 colour].
300 copies
ISBN 978-82-998765-0-6

A quick plug for Lasse Marhaug’s new publication venture Marhaug Forlag. Noise In My Head is a collection of essays and an interview with Joke Lanz coupled to numerous photos of Sudden Infant actions, Lanz artwork, concert posters and flyers. Theres also a visual discography and pictures of fans wearing Sudden Infant t-shirts. What more do you want? With only 300 copies out there though I guess there’s going to be a lot of disappointed Sudden Infant fans. Get one while you can.