Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tim Olive

Tim Olive + Alfredo Costa Monteiro - 33 Bays
845 Audio. CD.

Kikuchi Yukinori + Tim Olive - Base Material
TestToneMusic. TTM-011. CD

Before we all decamp to Bristol for the Schimpers Fest theres the small matter of the review pile. I’ve not been ignoring it honest but these last few weeks have been turbulent to say the least and my mind has wandered. But I have been listening. Take these two releases that came my way via Tim Olive, a Canadian now resident in Kobe, Japan whose electro-acoustic diversions have recently provided me with much aural entertainment. It wasn’t until I checked one of my alternative email addresses the other day that I cast my eyes over one of FdW’s ‘Vital Weekly’ columns to find these two releases garnered less than glowing reviews. Which I found a little unjust and only half half right - if you see what I mean.

33 Bays is one of those delightfully erudite electro-acoustic experiences that has the listener nodding their head in approval as the sounds make their way from 00.00 to end. Its a collaboration that works perfectly; Tim Olive making good use of a one stringed guitar whilst Monteiro plays ‘electro-acoustic devices’, results being plenty of those ear tickling moments where you’re not sure if a wire brush has been gently plucked whilst an amplified cat purrs close up to your ear drums or the backs come off the telly and the dust is burning or there’s an army of a thousand Airfix soldiers making their way across the Axminster or someone’s trying to eat tinfoil. Press release mentions ‘sharp transitions and gradual transformations’ which is fair enough but I prefer scrape and buzz, small silences, jack socket static, steel bars rolling across an empty foundry floor at midnight. The depth and quality of sounds on offer here is quite exceptional and after numerous plays I’m still being rewarded. Compare this to a fine French wine, not exactly a Paulliac but certainly better than a three for a tenner offer from the corner shop and a ringing hangover come the morning.

The collaboration with Kikuchi Yukinori is a different beast altogether. Upon first entering this release you may be forgiven that you have strayed into Industrial Ambient territory. Deep rumbles more closely associated with Dieter Müh or Archon Sartini fill the void and its pretty murky from there on in which comes as a surprise considering Olive is using guitar pick ups and analogue electronics. My only assumption is that this collaboration has been commandeered by Yukinori and his computer electronics, which doesn’t necessarily make for a poor listen just a baffling one after what has gone before. Taken at face value this is a decent enough excursion into some black and gloomy atmospheres but it sounds too much like one artist stifling another. Eight tracks coming in at a jaunty 27 minutes also means that these are relatively short-ish excursions most of which end abruptly suggesting edits of larger pieces cut at salient points for the editors [Yukinori’s] satisfaction.

Anyhow, Bristol. See you there.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sudden Infant, Astral Social Club, Spoils & Relics, Door.

Sudden Infant
Astral Social Club

Sudden Infant, Astral Social Club, Spoils & Relics, Door.
Wharf Chambers, 22, November, 2012.

Before we all decamp to Bristol for the Schimpfluch Love-In there’s the small matter of a few Sudden Infant warm up gigs to attend. Its been a while since we saw Sudden Infant in Leeds, if my memory doesn’t fail me it was at the Fenton about four years ago, at a time when you could still put gigs on at the Fenton without the management Googling you first to ascertain whether you filled their criteria [i.e. indie landfill]. That night he sparred with Bill Kouligas and despite having a heavy cold still managed to produce a set of industrial metal clanging pummel sing-a-long-a-Schimpers that still has the ability to linger long in the memory.

Joke Lanz’s long running Sudden Infant project is one that never leaves an audience dissatisfied. Over the years I’ve seen quite a few fall under his spell, including most memorably the night in new York when he silenced a crowd of beer filled boisterous American noise freaks with a story about an old women in a wheel chair. In front of a crowd who wanted another set of ear filling noise he stilled them with a set that could be traced all the way back to the Cabaret Voltaire.

Lanz stands in bare feet, a wild clump of hair stuck like up sore fingers, home made tats, black toe nail polish, exaggerated facial expressions accompany his [I assume] stream of consciousness stories. Tonight's concerns a small boy locked in the room of a tall building, to accompany it there's a contact mic that acts as percussion, Lanz holds it to his throat and gurgles/screams, hits his leg with it, hits a key and a pummeling beat has the audience wriggling like eels and then a silence and lips up to the microphone kissing it each sound crystal clear, head butting it, headbutting the microphone out of its stand and on tot he floor. At the end of his short set there's a ‘song’ about a girl who kills herself and the refrain is one long cathartic scream accompanied by a blizzard of noise. When he’s finished there’s people who are genuinely in awe and want to shake his hand. Roll on Bristol.

Before that we saw Campbell at his energetic best. Whether it was the Sam Smiths or he’d won the lottery I know not but for some reason the spirit was with him and for about 30 minutes he howled like a banshee, no he really did howl like a banshee, head back open mouthed from the pit of the stomach roars that he fed into a machine that made them come back in echoing waves as he applied the beats via a couple of Kaoss pads and some gizmos that he flung wildly about. And then he kicked his guitar around, pulled some strings off it and thrashes the living daylights out of it before collapsing all over his equipment like a marathon runner on his last legs. Impressive stuff. Campbell isn’t known for his sat down laptop email checking sets but this was enthusiastic even by his standards, a triumphant triptych of squiggling beats and searing drones that bashed against our ears like the disco next door gone awol.

Even further back came the electro-acoustic men. You can’t seem to move for them in Leeds these days and for that lets give thanks. Door are Leeds newcomers and have some problems with their equipment but still show enough promise to indicate that their best days are in front of them; an upturned cymbal and a couple of Walkmans played through a mixer appeared to be the meat of it and after a sludgy start they manage to create some delightful crystalline, out-there sounds coming through the murk.

Which leaves Spoils & Relics who always seem to deliver a thoughtful chin rubbing set. Three of them hunched over a table lit only by the LED displays of their equipment, a subtle flowing set, I couldn’t see what they were using, too dark, all part of the mystery for me though.

Wharf Chambers seems to be becoming my second home. Tonight its Vile Plumage, Truant, Hagman and the Early Hominids. More electro-acoustic, drone, noise weirdness and with the promise of an alfresco Filthy Turd as pre gig entertainment its to the bus stop for me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sleaford Mods - Austerity Dogs

Sleaford Mods - Austerity Dogs
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger 106. LP

‘You’ve got to be able to sell yourself so I stuck my life on eBay. £25 mate.’

Its about time that these shores had some decent working class music to cling to. Proper working class music with an edge and a vitality, a wit and wisdom all of its own. Something that those stuck in a hopeless job can relate to and use as inspiration, something to shove right up the gaffers arsehole. This rampant consumerist, downtrodden, tits up, coalition led, recession stuck nation needs the Sleaford Mods like no band that ever went before. Really needs them. 

‘Do you think riding around on a BMX is going to make me feel intimidated?’

I saw them play in March earlier this year. In Nottingham of course which is where they have now settled and from where they rarely venture. Jason Williamson writes the lyrics, Andrew Fearn mans the lap top, the pair of them share vocals with Williamson getting the lions share. Its a simple set up stripped to the basics, a hammering bass riff coupled to a series of rapid programmed beats. Its all you need. Everything is in the delivery though, lines are delivered in the northern vernacular, each line spat out in rapid succession, each song starts and ends the same, once the bass loop is there it pummels away until the song ends and then in a split second the next one takes its place. Fearn chips in with the odd line, there's the odd three note keyboard solo to fill in the gaps and that's about it.

‘Moving up in the world don’t mean using the lift mate’.

‘Austerity Dogs’ is [I think] a gathering together of cuts from several earlier Sleaford Mod releases with a few new tracks thrown in for good measure. Twelve tracks in all, each one destined for greatness. ‘Urine Mate, Welcome To The Club’ sets the tone with a rap intro by local Forest lad John Paul that mentions the ‘the cunts in the armed labelled coats, looking at me like they want to slit my fucking throat’ … ‘anyway I’m enjoying mesen’ before it all kicks off with the single word ‘Spectre’  which will mean absolutely nothing to anybody living outside Britain, there are no apologies to those who can not unravel the inner workings of the northern working class language, this is as raw as its possible to get, no concessions are made, its one of their greatest strengths.

‘Another pub burnt to the ground, I hated those fucking Motown nights anyway, its like Jive Bunny meets Lucy fucking Pinder … on ice’. 

And there has to be wit of course because when you’re at the bottom of the pile you have to be able to laugh.

‘Brian Eno what the fuck does he know? with his alien haircut’.

By now I’m trying to think of comparisons, maybe the delivery of John Cooper Clarke, Steve Ignorant, Ian Dury, the pumping bass riffs of The Fall, the cheap synth beats of The Normal [as heard on Five Pound Sixty] but its the richness of the lyrics which linger. Some of it makes no sense at all, stream of consciousness, words repeated, ‘wobble, wobble, wobble’ 'I don't like puddings' and then gems like this on ‘Fizzy’ spat out at a rapid rate:

‘The cunt with the gut and the Buzz Lightyear haircut calling all the workers plebs, you better think about your future, you better think about your neck, you better think about the shit hairdo you got mate, I work my dreams off for two bits of ravioli and a warm bottle of Smirnoff under a manager that doesn’t have a clue, do you want me to tell you what I think about you cunt? I don’t think that's a very good idea do you? You pockmarked shit fitting shirt, white Converse and a taste for young girls, don’t send me home with a glint in my eye I told my family about your wage rise ……

 … and then a tourettes like burst of the single word ‘fizzy’ delivered as if to a dog that’s just shat on the laminate.

I want to wax lyrical about it all, about how its filled me with the realisation that there's still a rich stream of truly creative people making music that represents the working class, about how this release has cheered me up no end, about how its put the North back on the map, about how tracks like My Jampandy, McFlurry, Shit Streets Runny, The Wage Don't Fit and Don't Wanna Disco Or Two will all become classics. But I fear I'm not up to the magnitude of the task.

One of the few bands worth following. Clasp them to your hearts for they are your only saviors.

Not sure when this is officially available [I have a test press to go on - Second Layer will no doubt get copies when it arrives] but in the meantime there’s plenty of Sleaford Mods on the web. This is 'Double Diamond' which isn’t on this album. Its all kicking off in Notts ...


Previous releases

Second Layer

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Tenses - Conform

The Tenses - Conform
Harbinger Sound LP.  Harbinger 91. 100 Copies.

In true Harbinger Sound style this was meant to see the light of day twelve months ago during the Lowest Forms of Music weekender in London. As the world gathered to wallow in all things Los Angeles Free Music Society related these 100 platters were subject to some kind of pressing plant high jinks - maybe the pressing plant burnt down or there was a terrorist attack, or maybe they had all their vinyl diverted in to the making Nicki Minaji 12inchers, an everyday delay is entirely unlikely.

The Tenses are Ju Suk Reete Meate and Oblivia, who also happen to be the core duo of Smegma, that long running [40 years] LAFMS unit that's a rolling, coming and going, loose collective of individuals whose names sound like characters from a surreal drug induced Disney movie [my favourite being Dr. Id and Dr. Odd]. They also make some of the freest, most out there rock music ever to come out of America and if by any chance you are unaware of the greatness that Smegma are capable of then may I kindly suggest that you plug that gap immediately with Pigs For Lepers, or Glamour Girl 1941 or Rumblings or indeed any other Smegma release for that matter. I’ve yet to hear a bad one.

Comparing The Tenses to Smegma seems obvious but there are subtle differences. Without a drummer, sax and various loons talking in to the mic what The Tenses create is a more meditative experience. Oblivia spins and manipulates spoken word records of her own making whilst Meate parps on a bugle before whacking out a few loose Link Wray riffs by way of diversion. Oblivia’s disc spinning throws up detached voices that appear like EVP phantoms, a locked garbled gibberish, some tracks, there are five in all, build repetitive, deranged loops that are capable of limitless transport [a locked groove on the actual record would’ve been perfect]. The pair of them perform like an octopus picking up things that squeak and tinkle, whoop and whirr, make chicken sounds and the kind of noises you hear coming out of a cradle, maybe a shortwave radio in there, a theremin, a device for sending Morse code, whatever, all of it a perfect delight. For the most part its a therapeutic and soporific ride capable of creating the impression that you’re stuck inside the Wizard of Oz movie only with a weirder soundtrack. I guess we’re not in Nicki Minaji country any more.

White labels, paste on covers and no doubt rarer than hens teeth by the time you read this. You could get lucky and score a copy from Second Layer but you’ll need to get your skates on.

Second Layer

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Hairdryer Excommunication

Daniel Thomas & Kevin Sanders - Transit timing observations from Kepler
Hairdryer Excommunication. CDR. 50 Copies.


Petals - I saw the sunshine behind the clouds
Hairdryer Excommunication. Cassette. C15.


It would appear that you can’t walk through Leeds these days without tripping over a drone release. I’m not complaining though. After a few lean tumbleweed years the growing number of artists, labels and venues popping up in Leeds is a heartening one. Much better a birth than a dearth and besides Phil and Mel were getting lonely. Its something I keep coming back to when material from up and coming Leeds labels appear but its still worth repeating.

Daniel Thomas’ Sheepscar Light Industrial label is one of the new crop as is Kevin Sanders Hairdryer Excommunication. Like most labels Hairdryer Excommunication began as an outlet for Kevins solo project ‘Petals’ [which I keep getting mixed up with Petrals and the Staple Singers but thats another story] and who judging from his website has a penchant for drone and field recordings.

The field recordings loom large on ‘Keplar’ particularly during the thirty minute ‘For Lincoln Green’ which begins with a retreating thunderstorm whose dying rumbles are joined by the unmistakable spatter of heavy rain. Both tracks are slow moving industrial affairs which entirely befits the fact that both protagonists have lived in an industrial part of Leeds [Thomas continues to do so]. Anyone who has ever passed an industrial part of a northern city on a wet and windy weekend in February will know the feeling of emptiness and loneliness that permeates them: empty car parks, rattling chain link fencing, derelict and crumbling factories, long gone pubs, steel cladded buildings filled with working people that become morose and foreboding sentinels come the weekends. Its all captured here perfectly with two decaying drones whose muted roars of distant machinery shift imperceptibly through different droning gears to forge two compelling listens. Sanders adds bird sounds to the first track [‘Greenhead, dark’] which if anything, makes the work even eerier but its the longer second track that sucks you further in. After the rains have ceased a heavy dirge-like oscillating drone becomes the focal point around which overhead planes come in to land and a number of [I’m guessing] synth led pokes reach the surface. A melancholy work of Industrial brilliance.

The industrial roar as heard on ‘I saw the sunshine behind the clouds’ is not an entirely different beast. One side is a cavernous blast, an unyielding beast that feels like it emanated from the front of a fifteen foot fan rotating at a seriously dangerous speed, not a million miles away from one of my favourite noise releases that being Aube’s G-Radiation in which Nakajima used only glow lamps as sound source. The flip is more ethereal and flighty, a dreamy affair in which swirling keyboards are planted on to other more droney swirly keyboards.  All housed in a rinky-dink oversized cassette box the sight of which made my heart leap with joy. Nothing like Petrals at all really.