Saturday, February 28, 2015

Panelak, Core of the Coalman, Bongoleeros, Ceramic Hobs WC 27th 2015

Panelak, Core of the Coalman, Bongoleeros, Ceramic Hobs
Wharf Chambers 27th February 2015

It started badly when the glass of the drivers side mirror fell out and shattered all over the tarmac in Tesco’s car park. I’m off to Leeds tonight I thought and need to get it replaced otherwise I’m in danger of ending up in the side of a wind up rocket I mean taxi.

So I got the glass and fitted it and set off to Leeds where the Wharf Chambers is heaving with young things with beard growth. In the venue part its not so heaving but  still quite busy and still plenty of beard growth and the laughing woman.

Panelak Pascal doesn’t strip naked but he does sing songs in various homemade dresses. His equipment is old and battered, a Korg covered in tape, an iPod that gets dropped on the floor, various pedals and wires everywhere, some of it works and when it does he introduces a song and then sort of sings it getting carried away in the moment head back eyes shut running on the spot in his bare feet where his jeans have landed mic in hand knocking over the lamp stand. Its Dada meets Donna Summer. Pascal picks up scraps of tatty paper in-between songs either in a bid for inspiration or to check out his lyrics. He gets carried away and opens two bottles of beer, one with the other which explode into life splattering everybody. Its now Whitehouse meets Dada meets Donna Summer. He douses himself with one of the bottles, drinks half the other before singing a bit more, barefoot in the beer puddles.

Core of the Coalman does battle with his equipment. Knelt on the floor he gets everyones attention by laying on a violin drone riff and once he’s got it he introduces various effects, kneeling on pedals, standing up to pluck said violin, flicking cables, kneeling on gadgets, messing with a dusty laptop. At its peak its a huge noisedrone but the earthing problems rob him of his chance to really get going. But its still sounds pretty good.

The Bongoleeros are scattering various detritus around the WC floor; bits of metal bar, tin cans, trumpets, tambourines with skulls drawn on them, a length of blue rope, battered Yorkshire pudding trays, flattened cymbals, guitars with horse brasses nailed to them, the top of a composting bin. They don hand painted jackets, pull ladies stockings over their heads and disappear out in to the street to begin their set. One Bongoleero has a pair of purple ladies tights over his head with bells in each foot thus making a jangling sound as he walks, falls, rolls, crawls around the WC floor. They sing of the strongman and dirty drawers and the laughing woman. There’s mention of the mythical Yorkshire town of Pitchley before thy start in to the best version ever of Alvin Stardusts. My Coo Ca Choo with one Bongoleero showing the leather Alvin glove that must be adored. They lift tiny metal bars in to the air, intone strange mutterings and it all feels like a revivalist meeting invaded by drunken lunatics. At one stage a bottle of Bogo Juice is handed out to the audience and they drink deeply of the draught. Bongoleeros go missing in the audience but there’s three of them tonight so theres always two up front waving their arms around singing songs of madness, deep rock and roll as it should be, stripped bare of excess and refined to rawness. They all kneel down and pray to Carl Perkins before a Bongoleero takes off one of his silver boots and holds it aloft for the audience to pay their respects. A blue suede show of sorts. It’ll do. When not twanging and banging they sing a capella side by side before disappearing out the door to mess with the young beards heads and out in to the street and gone forever.

Its now ten thirty and I have a decision to make. The car park I’m in shuts at 11pm and by the way the Ceramic Hobs are shuffling about it hardly looks as if their going to get going by then never mind finished. I spy the street outside and theres room for one car right at the end. I dash off to the NCP and drive the short way back to find the space still free. I roll it in and reverse back not noticing the telegraph pole near the kerb edge and smash my wing mirror clean off. I then get mad and reverse back too far and hit the car behind me. At least its free parking at this time of night. So when I get back inside my mood has soured and I feel as if the Hobs aren’t doing it for me. The last time I saw them here they were on top form, with Morris screaming his lungs off, the band gelling and the songs sounding like they meant something. They were tight and coherent and lunatic in all the best ways. A guitarist new to me in tatty England shirt knocking out the riffs. Tonight they seem as if they’re going through the motions and with Hob stage right playing the baby head gadget being charged at by guitarist stage left. The pair of them like rutting stags rolling about on a beer swilled floor. Morris is waving around a pair of angels wings made from white bird feathers that are either on his head or up his back or on the floor, his snake skin skirt hangs below his beer belly and they all seem like they want to be in different rooms. But maybe thats just me and my bad mood.

Its the Crater Lake Festival next week. I’m going on the bus.

Monday, February 09, 2015

More Yol and the never ending death of the underground.

YOL - This Item Has No Scrap Value
Beartown Records. Cassette

YOL - Extraction
Self Released. CDR

So is the underground dead or not? Dave Keenan says it is and the only thing that can save us is the work of an internet hating sociopath with a suitcase full of mind blowing noise.  For Keenan, the ubiquity of social media and too many rounds of jolly old back slapping has left the underground in a perilous, if not dead, state. He has a point. Circle jerking your mates latest 80 minute noise CD only serves a very limited purpose. Mr. Keenan says that what the world needs now are critics unafraid to say it how it is, point people in the right direction preferably using a direct language that everybody can understand without the need to check out eight obscure bands on Youtube before proceeding to their bandcamp page and downloading something that you listen to just the once before duly forgetting about it forever until one day it pops up on shuffle play while you’re on the train back from London.  And still its shit. How true.

Keenan takes to task static performers, artists and noisemakers who sit behind tables staring into laptops, stacking up cassette tapes, mixing eight track doodles into a mixer as tea lights gutter around their feet. Where all the jumpers and screechers sayeth he? Lets see somebody break sweat.

Let us not forget though that it was only a few years ago that Mr Keenan was thrusting Hypnogogic Pop upon us. A genre whose very definition gave the impression that this was either falling asleep or waking up music. An insipid style of muzak usually played by those purveyors of bum crack drone, west coast muddle heads and vintage synth bores whose whimsical nonsense born from 80’s Yawn Rock now exists mainly on rarely played Youtube videos and once enthused, now forgotten releases.

The thing that annoys me about the whole ‘is the underground dead’ argument is that its a redundant one. Unless you’re a music journalist looking for ‘new music’. The music press is constantly looking for new things to write about. Its one of the reasons the music press is virtually dead and why in its place we have monthly magazines dedicated to Prog and Classic Rock. Mainstream press music journalists now find themselves farmed out to other departments and file copy relating to the new Nissan Leaf or the Conservative Party Conference. Off you go lad and don’t forget those thousand words on the new Prince album by Friday, cheers. There isn’t enough happening to keep a music journalist in full time employment. Unless they want to sit down with the latest 27 disc King Crimson box set. Thats the Wire’s job. Or Prog’s. The boundaries blur.

The ‘underground music scene’ is both music you haven’t heard yet and something thats never been done before. The latter is becoming harder to define. As the future spreads out inexorably before us so the past stretches out ever further behind. The past is just as exciting a place as the present. In America in 2014 and for the first time, iTunes sales of ‘old’ releases outsold new releases. For the entire year. Not just a bit of it. All of it.  The past has never looked so rosy and the music industry knows it. Hence the 27 disc King Crimson box set and no sign or sight of anything that even smells of originality unless you’re Yol.

Because after tens of years of listening to all kinds of muck I’ve found Yol to be that rare thing; refreshing, exhilarating, noisy and capable of making me wince in pain during playback of his releases and cheer out loud enthusiastic during his live performances. And unless anybody can point me in the direction of some obscure Fluxus artist thats treading the boards in a similar manner then Yol is, for me anyway, the most exciting thing to have emerged from the non existent underground in donkeys years.

Yol’s live deliveries appear to be born from a dysfunctional ability to express rage at planet Fuck Up. Part Tourettes sufferers spastic squawks, part scraped fork tine on rusty pipe, part mop bucket clatter. To see him live is to see his neck tendons stretch to Deirdre Barlow proportions whilst screaming seemingly stream of consciousness words at a 90 degree angle to the floor.  Bent double he attacks bits of tin and kitchen utensils with a rabid intensity that makes you wonder if he is indeed in the midst of a convulsive fit.

This Item Has Little or no Scrap Value captures that intensity with four short live outings and a longer studio cut. At each turn I found myself with finger hovering over the stop button finding the intensity of the performance hard to bear. On Bird Feathers he snarls and gurgles, tries to spit out words, pants like a dog before eventually the words ‘bird feathers’ emerge stuttering from his tortured frame. He moans, sounds like he’s in pain, drops stainless dog bowls to the floor, shakes chains, clatters pots and pans with sharp boings heading off into the distance. Its like The New Blockaders finally found themselves a vocalist.

A Medium Experience has Yol intoning ‘this    item    has   little    or    no    scrap      value’ over a ‘bring out yer dead’ muted bell dong and a cow horn, something lifted straight out of the opening sequences of a Hammer Horror film with the mist clearing off a muddy turnip field as the opening credits run.

‘Trapped in Portland Works’ finds Yol doing battle with party blowers, something that squeals like a mouse and a band playing rock and roll numbers bleeding in from somewhere within the same building. Here his utterances are nonsense garbles, the party blower adding an absurdist element to it all.

And then there’s the distinctive black shaped skeletal forms and crows and hands and ladders that cover all YOLs work and bring to mind Saul Bass and his Hitchcock posters. For Yol exhibits too. He may offer up the odd tweet but not for him a constant logorrhea of trivialities but finely crafted messages of edification.

Whether Yol can maintain this level of intensity remains to be seen. A sign of things to come arrives in the shape of ‘Extraction’. Which is basically a tongue in cheek riposte to Rob Hayler’s championing of ‘Extraction Music’. In which Yol records the sound of an extraction fan, [naturlich] twice, the first track being fifteen minutes of said extraction fan gently humming over washes of feedback, the second being a much shorter three minutes  of the same with Yol retching his way through the word ‘extraction’ in an excruciating fashion until a kitchen timer sounds and the thing fades out.

This isn’t just me circle jerking. This is here and now and relevant and, if you care for such things, the underground.