Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Glands of External Secretion - Reverse Atheism
BUFMS. BUFMS32. 2 X LP
Before I listened to Reverse Atheism I never knew that Edgar Winter had made a record with lyrics supplied by L Ron Hubbard, I never knew that in 1973 The Osmonds had made a philosophy of life concept album with a track on it called ‘Last Days’:
Nations take up their battle stations
Patrons of zodiac revelations
Lustations breaking family relations
Litigation allowing shoot up sensations
That's what they said, someday it would be
Now just look around if that's what you see
It's gotta be the last days
Gotta be the last days
I never knew that Andy Partridge had written a song highlighting his dissatisfaction with God, I never knew that there was a Canadian Jesus rock trio called New Creation who sound like a slightly more competent Shaggs only with added God, I’d never heard of off the scale whacko Dan Ashwander either, a man who claims he has scientific proof that he is both Jesus Christ and God combined. Alongside these revelations I found Hugo Ball rubbing shoulders with Nick Cave, the Hippocrattic oath sitting cheek by jowl with Alejandro Jodorowsky, the 23rd Psalm bisecting David Crosby and God’s Gift. I also found a fold out poster that reproduced images of everybody involved and an enlarged American one dollar bill printed on which was a Biblical quotation and the words 'Ronald  Wilson  Reagan [6'] and if all this wasn’t enough there’s also a colour by numbers Last Supper should you fancy getting your crayons out.
Barbara Manning and Seymour Glass have taken songs, tracts of text, Psalms and the odd Dada poem to construct a pean to the follies of religion. Helped along the way by a mass of Butte County volunteers [including Bruce Russell, Dave Gulbis, Ukuzuna and Alistair Gilbraith, to name but a few] they dismantle and reconstruct until you end up with something as bizarre the 23rd Psalm delivered pub singer style followed by a reading of one of Elizabeth Clare Prophets’ anti rock music sermons in which waling tortured souls are to be heard against some backward tape and a warbling vocal.
Songs like XTC’s ‘Dear God’ spell it out plainly enough but in case you still haven’t got it by side two there’s Gods Gift and their none too subtle ‘No God’. By side four we’re into more oblique territory and a cover of Hank Williams ‘I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive’ followed by a morbid and decidedly creepy version of the The Birthday’s Party’s ‘Mutiny In Heaven’ [a song that carries the memorable line - ‘From slum-chuch to slum-church, ah spilt mah heart to some fat cunt behind a screen’].
Side three is the deepest and darkest of the four; a sublime series of segued spoken word tracks all helped along by Glass’s treated tape manipulations and Manning’s deft electric guitar work. ‘We Have Control of The Mind’ is taken from a Dan Ashwander tract in which he claims these words, as spoken by John F Kennedy, were directed specifically at him. Its a matted thicket of voices, tape loops, odd sounds, twanged guitar; repeated phrases mention secret societies, electroshock therapy, telepathy and then a Jesus rock group singing hallelujah to the sound of manic laughing. ‘The Hippocratic Oath’ exists amidst a background of lo-fi squeaks, whistles and scratchy violin with various bodies revealing talk of pessaries and abortion, as the side progresses tracks dissolve into each other leaving this listener in a state of warped discombobulated bliss.
Glass’ tape manipulations warble and churn, voices are looped, snippets of music come and go, a distant voice, an odd bell sound, the singing of monks, a myriad of sounds, numberless in measure. Manning’s guitar work is subtle, sometimes Bailey-esque pluck, at times a shimmering strum, her vocals are a crumbled distortion sounding like someone singing down a dodgy long distance telephone line, an ethereal disconnected voice that is both eerie and hollow [in a good way that is]. Each track is imbued with immense depth so that repeated listens reveal deeper and deeper layers of nuance. And then there’s the numerous collaborators who flit in and out of this release leaving their voice or their trademark scrape as evidence of their being there.
And then there's the philosophy that lies behind all this. Something I feel less than qualified to write about but which points a big dirty finger at religion, theology and most probably existentialism. One day somebody will disseminate this remarkable double album and its true greatness will be revealed. As for me I’m still digging around in Jodorowsky’s background and wondering how Roald Dahl ended up getting credited on the same album as L. Ron Hubbard. The Glands have given us an album that continues that great tradition of taking an experimental approach to popular music and infused it with a religious health warning. Not something you come across everyday.
What saddens me about Reverse Atheism is that its greatness has yet to be recognised. I’m not sure how long this has been on release but a cursory scan of the internet reveals that little has been said in its support. As an intelligent listener the least you can do is buy a copy and find out what’s going on for yourself.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
The Zero Map - Live @ Spirit of Gravity 2011
It must be all the salad in Brighton that does it. That or the profusion of coffee shops selling five pound cups of artisan civet shit encrusted mocha. The last time I was there the arrival of some late, late Autumnal sunshine lifted the spirits somewhat but the set meal on offer at the Colour Out of Space fest, the reason of said visit, rarely rose above the ordinary.
If I was The Zero Map I’d be tugging on Colour Out of Space organisers shirt sleeves and asking for a spot on this years bill. A night of melancholy drone, drifting tones and plucked strings would do me nicely. Which is where The Zero Map come in. Inhabiting that dreamy droney world where [judging from this twenty minute slice of live action at least] they flit like birds trapped in a church, from multi-struck zither like instruments to ethereal sounding organ keys that emit sounds reminiscent of a 1930’s radio orchestra coming at you through decades of static. As this piece progresses sounds emerge of a disguised nature that had me wondering if they’d duct-taped someones mouth in order to make their breathing more difficult, bead filled maracas beat insect like whilst wailing ghosts make their presence felt. Swannee whistles sit cheek by arse with tingly bells and ever so slight Theremin-y things emit small but wondrous ear tickling noises. An absolute charmer.
A delightfully melancholic trip from Messrs. Chloe Wallace and Karl M V Waugh, who I’m led to believe are sometime A Band dabblers. Next time in Brighton let me buy you a drink, not a five pound cup of coffee of course.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
A5 Zine. 25 copies
Must Die Records / Sampler
The observant amongst you will notice that my last review came via Headpress. I used to buy Headpress magazine back in the early 90’s when its coverage of all things transgressive appealed to my inquisitive tendencies. Its strap line in those days read ‘Sex, Death, Religion’ and if those things don’t get your taste buds going then there really is no hope for you. I went on the Headpress website to discover that they’d been happily bobbing along without interference from me ever since the day I stopped buying it and had even expanded their empire to include all manner of interesting looking books. Even better, the magazine itself is now available as a free e-zine. It was there that I discovered that the venerable Dr. Adolf Steg had been given mass coverage with added Stan Batcow interview footage for good measure.
When Dr. Steg began sending me his deranged Spon zines I was heartened by the fact that there was still someone out there printing and mailing out madness. Letters arrived that made little or no sense. Spon 15 arrives with a window card containing a squashed fly whilst written inside, in a spidery hand, were the words ‘Sympathy for the Brevil, Dr. Adolf Steg [Swastika] 23x23’. You cannot replicate such industry on internet social networking. You could lump Steg in with the ‘outsider artist’ gang and I guess that would work but as ever I’m uneasy about using such generic tags. His artwork grows out of comic book manure but also includes mixed media work including a marvelous Marylyn Monroe whose visage has been enhanced with various bits of circuit board and wiring. Eat your heart out Andy Warhol.
Spon 15 is a slim A5 comic wrapped in a sleeve that highlights the case of 2000AD, DC Thomson artist Ron Smith who was charged with sexually abusing a 13 year old girl. A curious and upsetting case that took donkeys years to come to light and fell apart the moment it hit court. Inside Steg has cut and pasted all manner of different comics and styles to make his own. Whether this is homage to Smith or Steg just trying to get something out of his system I don’t know. Another baffling entry into the Steg book of work. Not a million miles away from what Evil Moisture’s Andy Bolus has been doing but here replacing disturbing with comic book surrealism.
Somewhere down the line Adolf Steg and Must Die Records must cross paths. Whether they are one and the same remains to be seen but there’s definitely some MDR promo stuff stuck into some of Steg’s work and I dare say that seeing as how they both originate from Blackpool environs that cups of tea and trips to the shops have been shared.
Of the 13 tracks on the MDR sampler the bands to take note of are the Ceramic Hobs, Smell & Quim and The A Band. Thats not to say that the rest is trash; ‘Variable Phantom’s’ shortwave pulse with broken radio transmissions gets the thumbs up as does ‘Uncle Paul’ who sound remarkably like Harbinger Sound faves the Sleaford Mods. ‘Left Hand Cuts Off Right’ chucks out some primitive industrial noise pulses and seeing as how I’ve had a soft spot for chipset music since its inception I can’t let this go without mentioning ‘Archie Wah Wah’. The Hobs sing about beating up baby seals which’ll go down a storm on Rainbow Warrior outings and S&Q give us two tracks in one, the first being a spacey outing called Xanadon’t and the other a short thing of a capella beauty called ‘Desperhardon’. Perhaps the most surprising track of all comes from the A Band who could possibly be the last band I’d have thought of to turn up on a MDR comp. A near 15 minute romp of parping bash and stomp in which the titular words ‘TV Sets From Winter’ give way to an almighty racket of Nihilist Spasm Band proportions. The longer it goes on the more out of control it gets until it ultimately sounds like a marching Sun Ra Arkestra going round the Rose and Crown picking up other peoples drinks and downing them with merry gusto. Lets hope that something from the A Band appears on MDR soon.
I wont dwell on the stuff that didn’t interest me [think thrapy guitars and guitar noodlings from Bad Suburban Nightmare] but I will dwell on the fact that sticking one of your promo decals onto the front of a plain CD card isn’t what you’d call taxing the art department. But then I get the feeling that this is a cheapie for trades kind of thing and as such should be pushed into the harsh glare of the stage lights for all to see.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Propaganda, Politics and Paranoia
David Ray Carter
Paperback edition 288pp.
[also available in hardback].
The World Trade Center was destroyed by the New World Order to facilitate the opening of a stargate. Operation Desert Storm was a false flag event that enabled the Illuminati to seize genie bottles containing demons. JFK was assassinated by the CIA, the KGB, the Mafia, the Illuminati and people who wanted to lower world oxygen levels. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated by the Memphis Police, the FBI, the US Army, the Mafia and a bar owner. Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a double. Princess Diana was an Illuminati sacrifice. The British Royal family are shape-shifting lizard like aliens and man never stepped foot on the Moon. According to one film Carter reviews here Jay-Z is an occultist with his eye on world domination.
Everybody loves a conspiracy theory, from those of us who think that traffic lights are against us to car manufacturers deliberately fitting parts that wear out quickly. In David Carter’s book we meet filmmakers with much more important things to get off their chests. By its end you will be familiar with false flag events, the ever present but hard to track down Illuminati and what must be about 250 conspiracy films, including those made by David Icke, the man who thinks the Royal Family are those shape shifting Illuminati aliens. Or something like that anyway. Due to the number of conspiracies flying around Carter’s book my head was spinning somewhat but I certainly knew my Illuminati’s from my New World Order's by its end.
David Ray Carter has sat through hundreds of hours worth of conspiracy films, a tremendous task when you take into account that most conspiracy filmmakers produce works that regularly run up to several hours in length and contain material that is regularly regurgitated. Carter even watches works that are tangentially attached to the genre so as to give himself a bigger and more informed picture, as in the case of the ten hour, five DVD marathon that is ‘Hell’s Bell’s - The Dangers of Rock and Roll’, a film that only gets mentioned in passing but which I feel impelled to watch. With Carter in charge we have the perfect guide to the steady explosion of conspiracy cinema now emerging both within the mainstream and the internet.
Carter’s review style is plain, logical and more importantly, impartial. Rarely does he outright recommend something, but when he does you take notice. The inept and the bigoted are rightly named and shamed, but he doesn’t stoop so low as to give them a critical beating. He merely states that he finds their views lack evidence, or are just plain obnoxious. Praise is given when he feels it’s necessary, and by keeping this praise in check you get the feeling that you are in the hands of somebody whose opinion you can trust.
What I found intriguing about Conspiracy Cinema, and the thing that kept me going to the end [of what is basically a critical reference work], was the sheer depth of the subject, something of which I have to admit I was mostly unaware of. Once you’ve got past the big conspiracy events [JFK, RFK, 9/11, Martin Luther King Jr, Waco, the Moon landings, the Oklahoma bombings], Carter moves on to the ‘Grand Theories’ where you encounter the big daddies of the conspiracy world; the Illuminati and the New World Order. In the final chapter, ‘Lesser Conspiracies’, we find media, politics, religion, police states, surveillance, health, the environment, finance, HIV/AIDS, the weather, chemtrails and HAARP [a radio transmitter in Alaska blamed for earthquakes and Gulf Syndrome amongst other things]. There’s plenty others to choose from too, most of them ranging from fascinating to the just plain bizarre. It was these latter chapters that had me scribbling the most notes and the one that got me watching the first of Carter’s recommended films: Kevin Booth’s ‘American Drug War: The Last White Hope’. Booth argues that there’s a drug problem in America because the Government wants there to be one. A strong argument for which there’s plenty of evidence.
My criticisms are small but I think pertinent. I was unsure as to which films are freely available for download [except when mentioned in the review]. Some of the filmmakers mentioned here are more than happy for people to redistribute their work for free, as in the case of the most famous 9/11 conspiracy film to date ‘Loose Change’, but I feel that others would prefer to be paid for their work. A list of related websites would have saved me a Google trawl. That's not me being lazy that's me wanting to be pointed in the right direction.
As it stands I’m now more familiar with the big names in conspiracy circles than I was about three weeks ago; Alex Jones - Infowars, Chris Everard - Enigma TV, David Icke - reptiles and turquoise tracksuits. What I worry about most is that some of them might even be telling the truth.
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Attending the last night of the Broken Flag weekender felt a little like gatecrashing a party in its last death throes. By all accounts the previous two nights had, for the most part, divided opinion with Consumer Electronics getting more mentions than most with a typical performance during which the audience were called a bunch of cunts. For some it was the highlight of the weekend so far and encapsulated BF perfectly; a blunt instrument to the face, whilst others thought it was nothing more than juvenile crowd baiting performed by an overweight man drooling onto his tits. Con-Dom and Grunt were raved about, others less so. I’m sad to have missed the best bits but then three nights of full on noise related antics was always going to be more of an endurance test than a weekend of joy and as things conspired against me it was taken out of my hands anyway. For some, three nights weren’t enough with the night preceding it offering the delights of a full-on PE gig in Dalston. The offer was taken up by some and you could tell who they were come Sunday night.
Six hours was enough for me. By 11.15 Ramleh had completed a shambolic rock set and with one eye on the clock, an aching back for company and several pints of Guinness inside me I decided to head for the last tube rather than endure a TNB performance that would have given me a headache for a week. With no seating available at the Dome [the shitholes actually had more seating than the venue] I was creaking badly from about Club Moral on. The sight of people sticking their heads in the bass bins during the Ramleh rock set did lighten my mood somewhat but it wasn’t enough to save me the hassle of having to fork out a taxi fare back into central London. In true rock gig style the volume leapt 50% for Ramleh and the sound improved no end. The bass sounded particularly impressive, its just a pity that what was being played on it didn’t match what the drummer was doing. At one point Mundy unplugged his guitar and took a walk across the stage to no doubt ask his fellow band members just what it was the fuck they were doing. Best added some electronic noise, sang some of the vocals and rounded things off by telling the audience that they’d just played a cover version of Close to the Edge, I think. By this time Mundy had already put his guitar down and walked off stage leaving rest of the band unaware of his departure.
Club Moral didn’t do anything for me either. Tall thin bloke shouting into a bucket of water whilst female band member stage left produced electronic squiggles on her laptop. And then he began to hit himself in the face with some flowers. This was after he’d eaten a few of them and spat the chewed up remnants into the audience. If they'd have been roses it would have made it much more interesting. My biggest problem with Sunday night was that I arrived thirty years too late. If I’d have been around when Gary Mundy began mailing out his duped cassettes in 1982 then it would have been a more rewarding experience, as it was seeing Danny Devos eat flowers meant nothing. Some would call it performance art.
At least I made the connection with Sigillum S who deeply affected me in the early 90’s. Their's was a performance that took me back to the days when each doormat laden jiffy bag contained almost illicit thrills of joy. A unique mixture of grating electronics, screamed vocals, industrial rhythms, ethnic instruments and deep bass pummel that when matched to a queasy back drop depicting death, viscous dogs and earthworms added up to a spine tingling performance and one that saddened me only because I wish I’d have seen them before tonight. Its got me digging out their old releases which is what 30 year anniversary shows are all about, connecting with the past, celebrating the past and hoping that there’s a future too.
At least the Dome is a decent sized venue with a decent sized PA. Giancarlo Toniutti did his best to hammer everyone's eardrums into submission with it by producing a dense rumbling hum upon which he chucked in all manner debris. Playing from the back of the venue facing the stage, he used a set of speakers behind him to augment the PA and for what seemed like half an hour battered everyone senseless. I saw people lie down so as to be able to take it in a more relaxed fashion and wondered if their backs hurt too. The quieter segments of the Putrifier set were drowned out by audience-propped-on-bar chatter which was a shame as those quieter acousmatic/electro-acoustic/analogue moments are as integral as the louder ones. Everyone seemed eager for more noise.
Earlier in the evening we had Vortex Campaign whose guitar/laptop axis rarely rose above ‘quite interesting’ and show opener Tommi Keränen who after a short pedal noise orientated set left the stage shaking his head in the time honored 'noise artists equipment fails again' fashion.
Reading the forums it would appear that TNB were either all half pissed or part taking part in a carefully executed anti-performance; equipment fails, dropped gadgets, slapstick ... with hindsight I wish I’d have stayed to cheer them on but hindsight's a wonderful thing when you’re rested at home 48 hours after the event.
Pietro Ripabelli - Three Days of Silence
Gruenrekorder CD. Gruen 102
Three Days of Silence is described by its composer as being ‘a phenomenological experience’. ‘Phenomenological’ meaning: ‘the detailed description of conscious experience, without recourse to explanation, metaphysical assumptions, and traditional philosophical questions’.
Pietro Ripabelli recorded his phenomenological experiences at the Sanctuary of La Verna, a remote church in Tuscany built on the site where St Francis of Assisi was reputed to have received the stigmata. As you would imagine Ripabelli’s field recordings are exquisitely austere and relay the contemplative nature of the building and its surroundings with a deft touch. But as well as the vespers and the church organ we get more natural sounds such as bird song, bees, the scrubbing of floors [at least thats what it sounded like to me], heavy doors being opened and closed, the turning of ancient keys, a steel bucket being dropped to the floor, hand bells being rung, the recordings are so melancholic in parts that it took me a while to get through it in one go without nodding off, a problem [of the good kind] I’ve had with previous Gruenrekorder releases.
Ripabelli divides the work up into three days with each day having an interlude; ‘Stillness’, Duration’ and ‘Aletheia’ [the spirit of truth]. The main triptych range from pure field recordings to compositions made from sound sources and I suspect a mixture of the two [the sleevenotes describe the third day as a ‘short diary of the experience’]. Whatever Ripabelli has done with these sound sources the results are pretty stunning but it was only after I’d downloaded the original sound sources [via Gruenrekorder] that I got a better understanding of what the final work encapsulates. I was mistaking those throbbing drones for Pirabelli’s work when these are in fact of the Basilica itself - on first listens a major stumbling block when I was of the mind that I would have much preferred these recordings to be have been left bare, me being in the less is more camp. But after much contemplation of my own I found myself warming to this release. The interludes are finely crafted short pieces with ‘Aletheia’ sounding like a lo-fi TNB gig played in a wind tunnel, all scraping floors, shuffling and desolation. ‘Duration’ is a small drone, squeaky doors met with low end farts, flutters and glitches found only at electro-acoustic gigs. ‘Stillness’ is sonar bleeps, sweeps and arctic bleakness. The main parts of the composition provide even further fulfillment: ‘First Day’ where the friar’s vespers are accompanied by that stunning low Basilica hertz hum as it frazzles along besides an increasingly powerful organ run. ‘Second Day’ begins with a drone this time accompanied with dripping water, birds, bells, the drone fades into the background leaving ghostly vespers and eerie floating organ keys. ‘Third Day’ sounds like the most processed of the three and is perhaps the weakest with its pulsing and rapidly vibrating electronic drone masking much of what goes on beneath it.
It goes without saying that you don’t have to be religious to enjoy music of a religious bent, not that is in any way a religious release. The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is probably the only composer alive whose sacred music is enough to move me emotionally whilst Richard Dawkins, now the most famous atheist in England, chose Bach’s ‘St Matthew’s Passion’ as one of his choice cuts on Desert Island Discs. I myself have sat in Barcelona Cathedral whilst Mass has been performed and enjoyed the purity of the ceremony whilst more recently I found myself listening to an organist run through his repertoire as I sat outside his North Yorkshire church making the most of the weak spring sunshine. Ripabelli’s compositions might not be potent enough to get me join forces with the Franciscan’s of La Verna but whilst listening to 'Three Days of Silence' I felt that I had at least, been with them in spirit.