Sunday, September 23, 2012
Ramleh - Awake!
Ramleh - Awake!
8CD Box set including booklet, poster, artwork and 2 x button badges.
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger054
You have to be in a particularly good mood to listen to the noisy side of Ramleh, or … maybe a very bad one. I can’t say that I have listened as intently to all of these CD’s with the same intensity as that which I listen to most of my other review material mainly because I couldn’t decide what mood I was in whilst listening to it all. Over the last few weeks and months I’ve inserted each disc and let it play while going about my domestic business to find that what emerges from the speakers alters very little throughout its eight disc course. There will be those who argue differently but for all intents and purpose the fuck you racket created by the first incarnation early 80’s Ramleh was about as sophisticated as a slug. It wasn’t until I got to CD number eight and the last three tracks of that particular disc that it dawned on me that Ramleh didn’t just do screaming noise mixed with the odd neo Nazi speeches, no, there was experimentation and a view to the future that involved a very definite change of stance, its just that it took me seven and a half CD’s to get there. It was then that I discovered that these last three tracks were amongst a number that didn’t make it on to the original Broken Flag 1985 Awake! six cassette box set and have been added to give a bigger picture. Thanks to the obsessive nature of Harbinger Sound those six cassettes have been scraped clean and stuck on to CD’s with all the loving care a noise afflicted junky can give them [imagine the fearsome screech that emanated from the originals] back in the mid 80’s this was all part of the appeal though; the raw sound, the nefarious imagery, the provocative track titles, the violent gigs, the thrill of being in the knowledge that here was a band who weren’t afraid to release something on the anniversary of Adolf Eichmann’s death and have him as cover star to boot, a band who released recordings of speeches made by the American neo-Nazi George Rockwell [with added Ramleh experimentation of course], a band who collaborated with and shared stages with Phillip Best, William Bennett, Richard Rupenus and through founding member Gary Mundy have not only someone who was more than willing to shake up the status quo but originate Broken Flag, perhaps the most influential label to emerge from within the UK in the early 80’s.
There are differences in sound of course. ‘31/5/62/82’ [the one with Eichmann on the cover and the first Ramleh/Broken Flag release] is a home recording made by Mundy and then Ramleh partner Bob Strudwick. Using a Casio keyboard, a Wasp synth and and two mics run through an echo box they produced a barrage of squealing feedback noise in which barely decipherable screamed vocals are emitted with the insane intensity of a spittle flecked ranting lunatic. Any hint of professionalism towards proceedings disappears with abrupt endings and an urge to get the thing over and done with inside six tracks and thirty minutes.
Two years and six CD’s down the line we have ‘The Hand of Glory’ seven inch EP and a sound thats still immediately Ramleh but a Ramleh working in a far more controlled atmosphere. The vocals are still as raw and rough and mangled but the feedback comes at you like a knife, along with a dangerous undertow of rumbling noise that continuously pummels the hearing.
I still keep coming back to those last three tracks on disc eight though. They were in fact recorded at around the same time of ‘31/5/62/82’ but never released. They show Ramleh in a highly experimental mood all swirling keyboards and looped backwards vocals. The very last track of all is entitled ‘Towards A Better Future’. It contains the cut and looped sound of what appears to be an extract from a Saturday afternoon wrestling match. Make of that what you will.
Ramleh appeared at a time when Gary Mundy thought the mainstream world of music was staid and boring and in need of a shake up. By the time the first incarnation of Ramleh spilt in 1984 he was right, from then on the mainstream world of music has slid inexorably downward on a spiral from which it has rarely, if ever slowed. What I find slightly saddening is that we need Ramleh now more than ever. If Mundy thought that the early 80’s music scene needed shaking up I shudder to think what he thinks of it in 2012.
The enclosed booklet is a delight containing as it does images of flyers, hand written lyrics, distro lists, early reviews, gig posters, Broken Flag sleeves and masses of information about who was on what and which tracks have been salvaged for inclusion and then there's the signed Phillip Best artwork and the pin badges. That's plenty to go at for your money.
Awake! is a tiring listen but then I expected nothing else. An in depth review of all 8 CD’s is beyond me and judging by a trawl of the internet beyond other scribes too. As I’ve said before, lots of this has passed me by in a swirl of primitive noise cum power electronics but its been an enlightening experience all the same. Harbinger Sound have done a tremendous job in putting all this together and along with everybody else in this project deserve great credit.