Midwich - The Swift
Altar of Waste. CDR. 15 copies.
TJ Cuckoo - Vox Object
Hairdryer Excommunication. 3" CDR. 15 Copies.
Inseminoid - Vanessa Howard's Night Light
Sheepscar Light Industrial. SLI.022. 3" CDR. 50 copies.
Daniel Thomas - Codeine
Sheepscar Light Industrial. SLI.023. 3" CDR. 50 copies.
The Zero Map - Psychic Glass Dome
Sheepscar Light Industrial. SLI.024. 3" CDR. 50 copies.
Daniel Thomas - Revolution #21
Cherry Row Recordings. CDR. 25 copies.
Andy Jarvis/Filthy Turd - The Cattle are Ill, The Beer is Sour.
Angurosakuson CDR. AS#005 35 copies.
BBBlood - No Religion at the Salad Bar
Angurosakuson CDR. AS#006. 35 copies
You’ll find the word ‘Leeds’ running right through every one of these releases like Blackpool rock, be it label or artist. For these are fertile times in the city that brought you Marks and Spencers, The Sisters of Mercy, Jake Thackery, Mel B and er .. Jimmy Savile. It seems that you cant walk the streets these days without tripping up over a noise artist or a drone label that limits its releases to 50 copies or less.
Gone are the dark days when the noise/experimental/freak/drone scene spent many a waking hour looking for somewhere to rest its head after the Brudenell decided it wanted to attract bigger names and had had enough of French performance artists mock defecating melted chocolate on to its punters. The Fenton went all student indie, The Adelphi went, just went, working mens clubs on the edges of Middleton and other far flung outposts were left to die in puddles of their own spilt beer until one day the Wharf Chambers opened its doors. I have to admit to not having heard of the Wharf Chambers until the fateful day when Smell & Quim got the all dayer at the Royal Park Cellars chucked out and a deflated Phil Todd announced that the ‘Wharf Chambers have said we can use their space’. What could this place be I wondered? A venue that at a moments notice could take under its wing a rag taggle mob of punters and artists all carrying large bags of equipment and chips. Its been mentioned on these pages before but without the Wharf Chambers the Leeds noise/experimental/freak/drone scene would be struggling. Its between its walls that labels and artists like those assembled above can flourish.
So with the Crater Lake Festival still fresh in the memory lets take a look at what Leeds has to offer.
The first thing that needs to be said is that all these releases fulfil the no audience underground criteria as laid down by Leeds resident Rob Hayler [Midwich, Radio Free Midwich blog] perfectly. The Swift, Midwich’s 65 minute long drone piece featuring field recordings of accelerating motorbikes, the wife, dinner plates being cleaned and of course lots of swifts, all over a continuous, barely changing, rolling throb of a drone that eventually plateau's around the hour mark before coming in to land on what I think is called the chill out zone, exists in an edition of but 15 copies with no afterlife as a download either. To add further to the woes of Midwich fans in Leeds and the UK this release came out on an American label where postage rates are priced at levels designed to make grown men weep. Don’t worry though, these have all long since gone - I have copy number one, a fact which, for some reason, makes me feel ridiculously proud.
In another limited to 15 copies release we find examples of the kind of cross pollination that occurs between artists traversing this no audience underground. Using his nom de plume TJ Cuckoo we find Rob paying homage to Humberside’s premier scrape and scream merchant Yol. ‘Vox Object’ finds two vocal exercises book-ending a deep furnace like rumbling that is, lets face it, a flat out noise track. On the first track words are uttered by a brain that only half remembers them, a Dictaphone is kicked around a stone floor amidst a coughing fit. In the last a toy box is rummaged through, a track that is Rob imitating his young son and enjoying himself immensely whilst doing so. Coming from someone who used to create delightful melodies via a box with knobs on, Vox Object was as big a curve ball as you could have ever chucked me. Its existence gladdens my heart no end and is a fine example of what happens when one artist becomes influenced by another thus finding themselves gripped by a creative energy that impels them to destroy the usual recording parameters and record things when awoken at 3.40 a.m. by the nipper.
Also in Leeds, Daniel Thomas continues to build on the already firm foundations of Sheepscar Light Industrial with another timely trio of three inch CDR releases. Inseminoid’s ‘Vanessa Howard’s Night Light’ is all gloomy murky atmospheres aided by bursts of gloomy doomy guitar noise. A bit like Ritchie Blackmore trying to detune his guitar in a wind tunnel. Thomas’s own ‘Codeine’ is a single 20 minute throbbing drone pulled from various analogue gadgets no doubt recapturing the withdrawal of pain killing drugs after having a wisdom tooth pulled. An experience Thomas has recently undergone. The last five minutes are a delicious fade out where the barest of rumblings slowly recedes. Like the pain no doubt. Thomas’s offshoot label Cherry Row Recordings has already given us a belter with a collaboration between himself and Hairdryer Excommunication label cheese Kevin Sanders, a gorgeous mix of field recordings, drone and Industrial rhythms. His second release ‘Revolution #21’ is five tracks of subdued resonance and suburban drone with ‘Injunction’ being passing HGV's on wet roads as an aside to some thick droning snyth. The sixteen minute ‘Two Halves’ is all muffled choppy helicopter rhythms and smeared sci-fi debris.The mood is brooding and austere, perfectly reflecting the suburban atmosphere of Sheepscar itself.
I used to call The Zero Map, Zero Crap but that was only in my head and it didn’t really work anyway as it suggests they don’t do duff drone. Which they do, did, have and which I didn’t thank them for. Judging by this release those duff days are seemingly gone. We now have Psychic Glass Dome and three six minute pieces full of dreamy nuance, reverby, echo-y guitar [maybe a tad too soundtrack Cooder-esque but I’ll let that pass] over swirly synthscapes. The last track containing field recordings of dicky birds is heavenly.
Leeds resident Pascal Ansell’s Angurosakuson label seems to be picking up speed with a couple of recent releases, one that smears its face in dirty noise protest and another that wears its noise credentials as loudly as a bad shirt. The Andy Jarvis/Filthy Turd split ‘The Cattle Are Ill, The Beer Is Sour’ sees Jarvis deploy destroyed tape shenanigans with some dark, claustrophobic, chain clanking suction sounds that are littered with tiny squeals of feedback. An ugly noise if ever there was one.
Whats to be said of the Filthy Turd that hasn't already been said though? If you're down with the Filthster you'll know what to expect but as ever there are still surprises to be had. Here we get an almost Milovan vibe with chugging guitar rhythms coming out like an Hasil Adkins obsessed Strangulated Beatoffs fan, slurred words acting as lyrics of a sort. Don't worry tho fokes, the sampled Italian tenor and gargled horror voices are never far away, as are a slew of Dictaphone recordings that sound like they were recorded under the sink with rusty spanners.
Which leaves us with this pages purest noise release. Paul Watson, aka BBBlood, who the last time I saw him was wild drunk and extolling the virtues of Leeds and mulling over whether he really should shun London for the North. ‘No Religion at the Salad Bar’ is two tracks of the noise makers art which if left unchecked have the capability to involuntary spasm the spine into wide eyed erectness. Watson’s live shows have been of the highest order and a testament to the noise artists craft, with ‘Collapse, Decay, Descend’ he may begin with some TNB fumblings but once he it hits his strap you know about it - full throttle, seat of the pants, hanging on to the edge of a table for dear life blasts of thundering noise. ‘Zagreb’ origins are equally squally and there are breaks for you to catch your breath in which small boulders can be heard being crumbled but once that noise burst hits you its like having your face pitted with iron filings in a blizzard.
The no audience underground exists in these tiny editions because the audience is in itself tiny. Paul Watson said to me [whilst in an empathetic mood no doubt brought on by several bottles of something alcoholic] ‘why cant we all be nice to each other? We need to give each other as much encouragement as we can’. I may be paraphrasing somewhat and he’s right but that doesn’t mean I have to encourage vanity projects and lost causes. There are no lost causes or vanity projects here though, only people who are serious and passionate about what they’re doing and this is only a bit of it, the list of people producing exciting and challenging work in Leeds is an ever growing one.
Micro run releases are there to entice, some may be available as downloads, some are definitely not, these are the real tease. Entry is via a shared enthusiasm or a bottle of Sam Smiths. I can never remember which.
Altar of Waste
Sheepscar Light Industrial
Cherry Row Recordings