Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Petals - Magnates Agus Drochthoradh
Hairdryer Excommunication

Petals - Scamail Le Focail
Hairdryer Excommunication

A short while ago Rob Hayler caused a bit of a stir by admitting that he didn’t like the new Astral Social Club album 'Electric YEP'. Coming from a friend of Campbell’s, a collaborator of Campbell’s and champion of Campbell’s music since the year dot this statement came as a bit of a shock. Knocking Campbell? It just doesn’t happen. I theorise that the Bearded Wonder’s words were the result of the opening track on YEP, 'Snow Clouds', a heavy doper outing that felt like wading through two foot of treacle at 16rpm. As openers go its a little like being given a large glass of Largactyl as an aperitif before been asked to join in the Hokey-Cokey. As far as I know Hayler and Campbell are still the best of friends. And so they should be. Rob said he didn’t like Neil’s album not his face. It wasn’t a personal attack and while some critics are stupid enough to incorporate the two there's also the person who thinks that an attack on their art is an attack on them. There’s a difference.

Any artist worth his salt must be prepared for negative criticism and be able to handle that negative criticism without taking it personally. It comes with the territory. If you take negative criticism badly then you’re in the wrong job.

Criticism has to be carefully weighted though. When coupled to constructive criticism it can even have benefits. A badly written negative review [‘your noise CD is shit’] wont win you any medals or friends down the WC. A badly written negative review with no constructive criticism also wastes the readers and the artists time whilst diminishing whatever respect the reader has for the reviewer in the first place. Just don’t go there. Its not worth it. If you’re going to knock something be prepared to say why and explain why. Its common courtesy. I’ve banged on about this before but its worth repeating.

After saying all this I guess Kevin Sanders of Petals is now fearing the worst. But fear not.

I’ve been happily listening to Petals ever since Sanders appeared in Leeds a few years ago. His minimalist electronic drones and general experimentation with tape loops have produced some decent results but after the first play of ‘Magnates Agus Drochthoradh’ I could hardly believe my ears. A single forty minute work it reminded me of my own failed doodling’s in the world of electronics from 20 years ago after discovering that rubbing a metal rod on the back of a circuit board made for an interesting buzzing sound. Memories of me listening to such failed nonsense for hours on end came back to me with a vengeance. At first I thought my experiments ‘interesting’ and filled many tapes with its buzzing telling myself that there were nuances in there that were clearly of mind altering capabilities. It must have been the whiskey. I drank lots of whiskey in those days. When I sobered up I chucked the tapes and sold the four track.

Listening to ‘Magnates Agus Drochthoradh’ makes me think that Petals isn’t any better than I was in 1994 and I know this cant be true. I don’t delve into what people experimenting with noise and electronics use to make their sounds, it takes all the mystery out of it for me, but to hear Sanders release something that sounds like me 20 years ago made me feel like I’m going round in circles and that can’t be a good thing.

That buzzing sound washes over pretty much all of the 40 minutes on here with various drones and wooshing sounds going on, off and around it for company but ... that … buzzing … sound … I cant get it out of my head. It ultimately annoyed me. I persevered. Maybe it was me? Had I had enough sleep? Were my trousers too tight? Did I have some unconscious problem whirring around my head? Nope. It was the buzzing.

I’m happy to say that there’s little trace of what I was up to 20 years ago on ‘Scamail Le Focail’ [I have no idea what these titles mean, Latin anagrams? Magma track titles?]. Here again a single 36 minute piece of simmering electronics and deteriorating drones of a very languid nature that move slowly through many phases, some featuring held down synth keys [I’m guessing] that gently throb in a graceful and effortless manner, others a tad sharper and dare I say it of a buzzing nature.

Coming hot on the heels of the Sanders/Thomas collaboration ‘Four More Cosmic Jams’ in which Industrial hum carried me in mini raptures to my bed for days on end, was I perhaps expecting too much?

Onward ever onward.

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