Sunday, September 30, 2012
David Michael - The Slaughter House
Gruenrekorder. CD. Gruen 104
V/A - Sounds Like Silence - Cage/4’33″/Stille – 1912–1952–2012
Gruenrekorder. CD. Gruen 116
Artificial Memory Trace - Ultrealith
Gruenrekorder. CD. Gruen 110
Those of you expecting to be traumatized by David Michael’s ‘The Slaughter House’ will be relieved to hear that this was and never will be PETA fodder or a campaigning hammer for animal activists. Mainly because for the most part, this is two people going about their job as hired slaughtermen, in a very matter of fact way, with very little in the way of histrionics or uneasiness.
The slaughter house in question is a father and son business run out of Birmingham Alabama in which animals are slaughtered one at a time to order, via a single gunshot between the eyes. Hysterical screaming and the sadistic sounds of knackers being kicked there is none. There is though the sounds of hydraulic lifts, water splashing on tiles, hand saws, electric saws, pig squeals and most importantly the dialogue that runs between father and son and recordist David Michaels who obviously knows his place and answers questions from the pair with direct and swift ‘yes sirs’ and ‘no sirs’ and if I was sharing a room with two men with guns and lots of blood and meat floating about I’d do the same.
These men obviously know their job and take great pride in their work, the father ushers in a beast with a series of ‘c’mon girl, c’mon girl’ and after a few minutes of ushering there’s the sound of a single shot. Several beasts are slaughtered during the course of this release none of them being dispatched with anything near the calamity that many people assume comes as standard in such places. But as interesting as all this is the actual sounds generated [the reason we’re all here I assume?] are hardly riveting. Whilst ‘Head Comes Off, Innards Come Out’ may lead you to believe that for the next twelve minutes you’re going to be subjected to some kind of disturbing sonic extremity the reality is anything but; two men sawing through bones and chatting as a fan buzzes merrily away. And whilst sawing and swilling and chatting are OK the real joy comes from the banter found between father, son and Michael’s whose demeanor throughout is deferential and whose voice fails to hide a slightly nervous disposition. After a pig has been dispatched in ‘Hogs Arrived’ the son solemnly asks Michael’s ‘are you alright?’ It can’t have been easy for any of them.
‘Sounds Like Silence’ is a straight lift from a radio program broadcast via Deutschlandradio Kultur on the 24th of August this year. In case you were unaware 2012 sees the hundredth anniversary of John Cage’s birth and there’s been various performances, exhibitions and radio programs to help celebrate this fact [I spent last Saturday night catching up with the various Radio 3 broadcasts devoted to Cage and enjoyed pretty much all of it but discovered only after the fact that Nyoukis and Constance were part of the Proms tribute to the man - bugger].
It goes without saying that Cage’s 4’33’’ is one of the 20th centuries most important compositions and remains one of the few works with the ability to divide an audience like no other. Its a great litmus test too, ask someone what they think of Cage’s 4’33’’ and if you get a dumb answer you can be pretty certain that the person you’re addressing has no imagination at all and should be excluded from the next round. Barnsley poet Ian Macmillan recently included 4’33’’ as one of his Desert Island Discs and had to virtually beg the host to play just a bit of it, the BBC fearing, as it does, that even a smidgen of silence will lead bemused listeners to tune away to other channels. But as stated here, the two seconds of silence that follows the last bong of Big Ben that signals the start of the BBC 6 O’Clock news is perhaps one of the most potent silences on the radio, the silence being heavy with portent.
The CD is divided into six rooms, in each of which 4’33’’ is approached in a different manner. ‘Room One’ contains various versions of 4’33’ as recorded by Cage and the introduction to the studio recording of Cage Against The Machine’s anti-single. ‘Room Three’ contains silences as broadcast on the radio including an extract from Marinetti’s ‘I Silenzi Parlano Fra Di Loro’ and the silences heard during various remembrance ceremonies. And so it goes, David Allen, Gruenrekorder’s own Lasse-Marc Riek, People Like Us, Nam June Paik and Cage himself of course. The last track on ‘Room Six’ comes courtesy of Einstürzende Neubauten and an excerpt of their track ‘Silence is Sexy’ which is all very arty and Teutonic and fitting which is probably why there’s no sign of Simon and Garfunkel’s mawkish ‘Sounds of Silence’ or The Tremeloes ‘Silence is Golden’. No sign here either of the two minutes silence as observed at Princess Diana’s funeral which was later released as a seven inch single and my other two favorite ‘silent’ tracks, Whitehouse’s ‘Birthdeath Experience’ and The New Blockaders ‘Symphony in O Minor’. All the tracks included are excerpts of course.
The presenters of the show speak in both German and English but theres enough English included to make this but the smallest of stumbling blocks for non German speakers
Cage also appears in Ultrealith. This being the name Slavek Kwi gives to his collection of ’electroacoustic sound paintings’ as recorded under his Artificial Memory Trace moniker. Cage appears on track five, a two minute piece entitled ‘Monochrome ’ in which multi tracked loops of Cage’s voice produce a dizzying babble of voices with just the odd snippet of clarity revealing a certain phrase or a single word.
Cage would no doubt have approved highly in the way Kwi mixes the sounds of insects as found in several different countries to make one unique sound. Or the way, in the space of one track, he takes a recording of an inmate of a lunatic asylum strumming an acoustic guitar and singing, a game of table tennis, the Perth Metro, a coffee shop in Singapore and some leaf toads in the Amazon. It may look like a bit of an had hoc chucked together misshapen mess on paper but the results are stunning, its like Reynols got it together with Francisco Lopez.
There’s plenty to admire here. I am in awe. In the hypnotic 13 minute opener ‘Meadow [for Paul Coenjaarts]’ you’ll hear a pleasantly burbling stream, a straight to the center of the brain bowl ring, bird chatter, random ticking, a female voice that says ‘what do you think?’ and a low hertz industrial throb that appears and then slowly disappears. ‘Insectin’ contains the sounds of insects recorded in the Amazon, nocturnal birds from Zanzibar beneath which lies some fine electroacoustic crackle. These are sounds that caress the ear, some recorded underwater, some existing on the very edge of human hearing.
My only regret [and I think I’ve voiced this before with Gruenrekorder releases] is that I don’t have the reproduction equipment to match the quality of these recordings. These are some of the most vibrant, exotic and delightful sounds I’ve come across in many a year. I sincerely hope that one day I come across one of Kwi’s installations. I shall walk and listen in open wonder at his fine achievements.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Normal Man - That Joyless Vibe
Horrible Injury Records. STAB001
Cassette. 200 copies
Brown - Ride the Lightning
Horrible Injury Records. STAB008
CDR. 40 Copies.
Legion Of Swine/Brown - Split
Horrible Injury/OJUD STAB009.5/OJUD001
Cassette. C30. 50 Copies
You’ll Learn - Live At Test Space
Horrible Injury Records. STAB003
CDR. 25 Copies
Noah Brown is the person whose name links all these titles. He’s the person who shoved the tatty carrier bag containing all this plus his comics in to my drunken arms as I slid down my chair at a recent Wharf Chambers gig. There was a lot to take in [the comics can be seen here] and I’ve taken my time which I’m glad for because what we have here is some marvelous solo experimentation, some super sloppy thrashgrungewailgunk courtesy of Normal Man offset with some rather duff improv.
Seeing as how the review pile was teetering out of control and I had a ten day trip coming up I decided to download and rip what I could of the above and use it as aural defence/stimulation when traveling on trains in bits of foreign lands where normal chatter is proved meaningless by it being spoken in languages I did not understand. It worked a treat.
Like the bearded wonder over at RFM, I have trouble finding bands with which to compare Normal Man to. All my references are years out of date, twenty years out of date at least so with my totally out of touch reviewers hat on here's what I heard; the guitarist plays heavy riffs that sound like Tony Iommi’s [especially on opener 'The Barrel' and 'Fucked With a Bone'], the bass player sounds like the bass player in Primus, the singer sounds like Iggy Pop [I imagine him strutting and posturing to the audience] and Brown drums like er ... I dunno but its good drumming. Stand out track ‘The Black Hitler’ sounds like The Strangulated Beatoffs, some tracks sound like The Happy Flowers and while I haven’t listened to anything remotely like Normal Man for donkeys years I find myself enjoying it immensely whilst digging out records by the aforementioned to relive those days when I nodded my head to something that wasn’t Astral Social Club. I look forward to the day I can see them play live and become the oldest person in the audience.
Browns experimentations under his own name [and you have to admit that using a surname as ubiquitous as Brown for your work is something of a masterstroke] are the real delight here. Ride The Lightning as a title didn’t fill me with anticipation but the hours worth of delightful sonic experimentation did. Brown uses his own voice and those of sampled others and mixes them with various electronic treatments to create atmospheres that sound like soundtracks to mentally disturbed patients getting electroconvulsive therapy treatment. Indeed ‘Grease Slit’ sounds like the mumbled incoherent double tracked vocals as heard coming from the mouths of those weird sisters who seemed to speak in a language that only they understand, this after a gruff Yorkshire voice can just about be heard saying ‘av smacked meslef int cunt’ a voice that carries on its looped verbiage through various bits of the tracks length. There’s audio verite of a street culled nature, some of which are used as background to a series of cut and pasted vocal tics and half sentences that come around like looped tourettes utterances. ‘Snake Guns’ makes use of Brown’s drumming ability in which he monotonously hits a solitary snare drum to the accompaniment of a typewriter bell and various electronic squiggles. The standout track here is the last and longest, ‘Doctor Office Featuring Mouse Mouth’ drifts serenely on a bed of synth wave beginning with a metronymic Geiger counter blip and a voice slowed down to such a degree that it sounds like a pig hunting for truffles, or maybe it is a pig hunting for truffles? What irks me most is that Brown has chosen a blurred image of a suburban back garden for sleeve art and a naff title. Having seen and admired his handiwork with a drawing pen its hard to understand why on both accounts. This is a work that would interest labels as diverse as Mego and Gruenrekroder and here it sits the last of 40 copies that will probably slide in to anonymity. Lets hope not.
After such highs, Brown’s solo work on the Legion Of Swine spilt comes as a bit of a disappointment. Six short tracks of dumber than dumb noise that I suppose acted as some kind of catharsis for Brown. At least it matched the 12 minutes worth of spastic information loss noise found on the flip.
Which leaves You’ll Learn, a three piece improv outfit for which Brown also drums. Along with two electric guitars and mic feedback they manage to build up various heads of steam that blow and calm down along its thirty minute route but with seemingly little in the way of interaction there's little to please either.
Still, lets not get too upset. Mr. Brown has lots of fingers in lots of pies and I’m sure one of them will become the dominant force eventually.
Contact: Horrible Injury
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Ramleh - Awake!
8CD Box set including booklet, poster, artwork and 2 x button badges.
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger054
You have to be in a particularly good mood to listen to the noisy side of Ramleh, or … maybe a very bad one. I can’t say that I have listened as intently to all of these CD’s with the same intensity as that which I listen to most of my other review material mainly because I couldn’t decide what mood I was in whilst listening to it all. Over the last few weeks and months I’ve inserted each disc and let it play while going about my domestic business to find that what emerges from the speakers alters very little throughout its eight disc course. There will be those who argue differently but for all intents and purpose the fuck you racket created by the first incarnation early 80’s Ramleh was about as sophisticated as a slug. It wasn’t until I got to CD number eight and the last three tracks of that particular disc that it dawned on me that Ramleh didn’t just do screaming noise mixed with the odd neo Nazi speeches, no, there was experimentation and a view to the future that involved a very definite change of stance, its just that it took me seven and a half CD’s to get there. It was then that I discovered that these last three tracks were amongst a number that didn’t make it on to the original Broken Flag 1985 Awake! six cassette box set and have been added to give a bigger picture. Thanks to the obsessive nature of Harbinger Sound those six cassettes have been scraped clean and stuck on to CD’s with all the loving care a noise afflicted junky can give them [imagine the fearsome screech that emanated from the originals] back in the mid 80’s this was all part of the appeal though; the raw sound, the nefarious imagery, the provocative track titles, the violent gigs, the thrill of being in the knowledge that here was a band who weren’t afraid to release something on the anniversary of Adolf Eichmann’s death and have him as cover star to boot, a band who released recordings of speeches made by the American neo-Nazi George Rockwell [with added Ramleh experimentation of course], a band who collaborated with and shared stages with Phillip Best, William Bennett, Richard Rupenus and through founding member Gary Mundy have not only someone who was more than willing to shake up the status quo but originate Broken Flag, perhaps the most influential label to emerge from within the UK in the early 80’s.
There are differences in sound of course. ‘31/5/62/82’ [the one with Eichmann on the cover and the first Ramleh/Broken Flag release] is a home recording made by Mundy and then Ramleh partner Bob Strudwick. Using a Casio keyboard, a Wasp synth and and two mics run through an echo box they produced a barrage of squealing feedback noise in which barely decipherable screamed vocals are emitted with the insane intensity of a spittle flecked ranting lunatic. Any hint of professionalism towards proceedings disappears with abrupt endings and an urge to get the thing over and done with inside six tracks and thirty minutes.
Two years and six CD’s down the line we have ‘The Hand of Glory’ seven inch EP and a sound thats still immediately Ramleh but a Ramleh working in a far more controlled atmosphere. The vocals are still as raw and rough and mangled but the feedback comes at you like a knife, along with a dangerous undertow of rumbling noise that continuously pummels the hearing.
I still keep coming back to those last three tracks on disc eight though. They were in fact recorded at around the same time of ‘31/5/62/82’ but never released. They show Ramleh in a highly experimental mood all swirling keyboards and looped backwards vocals. The very last track of all is entitled ‘Towards A Better Future’. It contains the cut and looped sound of what appears to be an extract from a Saturday afternoon wrestling match. Make of that what you will.
Ramleh appeared at a time when Gary Mundy thought the mainstream world of music was staid and boring and in need of a shake up. By the time the first incarnation of Ramleh spilt in 1984 he was right, from then on the mainstream world of music has slid inexorably downward on a spiral from which it has rarely, if ever slowed. What I find slightly saddening is that we need Ramleh now more than ever. If Mundy thought that the early 80’s music scene needed shaking up I shudder to think what he thinks of it in 2012.
The enclosed booklet is a delight containing as it does images of flyers, hand written lyrics, distro lists, early reviews, gig posters, Broken Flag sleeves and masses of information about who was on what and which tracks have been salvaged for inclusion and then there's the signed Phillip Best artwork and the pin badges. That's plenty to go at for your money.
Awake! is a tiring listen but then I expected nothing else. An in depth review of all 8 CD’s is beyond me and judging by a trawl of the internet beyond other scribes too. As I’ve said before, lots of this has passed me by in a swirl of primitive noise cum power electronics but its been an enlightening experience all the same. Harbinger Sound have done a tremendous job in putting all this together and along with everybody else in this project deserve great credit.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Pornoa Ja Verta
P A Manninen
Published by Lempo Kustannus
Slasher 6666 [8+10]
Published by Dumb Cunt Comics
I’ve been a lover of comics for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t until the arrival of Marvel Comics in the early 70’s that that things really took off. Before Marvel there was the Dandy, Beano, Whizzer & Chips some football mags like Score and Shoot and girly mags your sister read in which a never ending number of schoolgirls romped about on horses or did gymnastics. You read them because everybody else did, they were cheap, easily available and offered plenty of laughs for you pence. I liked action comics too, Commando and Warlord, hastily drawn strips in which great battles and engagements of various wars were rendered into heroic cartoons where Germans and Japs and various other unwanted elements were shot down and blown up for juvenile entertainment. With the arrival of Marvel came The Hulk and Spiderman superheroes who made Desperate Dan look a bit parochial and whilst Dennis and Gnasher were good fun and ever so slightly risque they’d never be a match for Spiderman who had to do battle against the likes of Doctor Octopus and the Goblin. Imported DC comics came with exotic looking shiny paper covers that cost mega pocket money but gave you the adventures of Batman and Superman, whilst trips to the east coast for short holidays meant the exotic availability of American horror comics such as Eerie and Creepy. And there was always the satirical MAD magazine which seemed terribly sophisticated to a spotty youth with a zip up cardy and NHS specs growing up on a housing estate in West Yorkshire.
In the late 70’s my appetite for such material waned only to be rekindled in the early 80’s by the appearance of the eye weepingly funny Viz. I had a friend whose brother attended Newcastle University and whose return to West Yorkshire saw the first copies of a comic that was to pass around the tap room until it became nothing but a bunch of loose sheets. [As an aside I thoroughly recommend Viz creator Chris McDonald’s revealing biography in which he traces the rise of Viz as linked to his decline into depression].
When Viz started to fade in the late 80’s I once again left comics behind until I discovered Sverre H Kristensen. A review in Headpress alerted me to a Norwegian cartoonist whose deliciously depraved material reached its zenith with the arrival of the one and only issue of Sewer Cunt. A comic that not only praised serial killers and went for the jugular in more ways than one but reviewed hardcore porn films and most importantly carried some of the sickest and most incredibly drawn cartoons I’ve ever seen. SHK begat Mike Diana and Boiled Angel, a comic so depraved it put Diana in jail and whilst I’m here lets not forget Art Speigelman whose Maus tipped the comic world on its head upon publication.
Back in the early 90’s one of the first zines I ever printed up [about 20 copies using a dodgy HP printer that for the most part refused to play ball thereby necessitating the hand feeding of individual pages in to the damned thing] found its way in to the hands of a Finnish cartoonist called Pekka Allann Manninen. Pekka gave me a desirable review in a Finnish magazine resulting in a steady stream of correspondence ever since. Pekka is known in Finland mainly for his Captain Gangrene [Kapteeni Kuolio] creation, a strip that charts the adventures of his battles against enemies such as the Black Pope and various Finnish mythical beasts. He draws for Finnish newspapers and puts together a compendium of Finnish cartoonist via the publication that is Sarjari. Not once in the last 15 or so years has he made me think that he was ever going to upset the apple cart and then last month ‘Pornoa ja Verta [Porno and Blood] landed on the mat. Within its 80 pages was plenty of well, porno and blood. I must admit to being a little shocked at first but eventually felt admiration for someone who can turn his hand from Finnish superheroes to a cartoon called ‘Sexdeath’ without a single battering of one single eyelid. I recommend his work to you all. What it all means or the purpose of its existence [or origins] I’m not entirely sure but there’s nothing like rocking the boat to shake you out of your stasis.
Noah Brown shoved a carrier bag full of items into my possession during a recent Wharf Chambers gig. In it were CD’s and cassettes of experimental sounds of his own making, tapes by a band called Normal Man [who he drums for] and CD’s from his own label ‘Horrible Injury’ [more on the sounds later]. Then there were the comics, three were mini comics made of a few folded pages and stapled together with the hurried put togetherness of someone who doesn’t like hanging about. For the most part these are crude drawings produced by someone who doesn’t like to have nothing to do with his hands for more than five seconds. Slasher 6666 comic is the more substantial offering, each mag is A4 and comes with a ‘noise’ CDR. Slasher 6666 is loose and ramshackle and contains things like the full page outing of a Cunterpillar [‘Yum Yum - shit tastes good today!’ hence joining the circle that began with Viz’s Raymond the Caterpillar ‘He’s so big we cant fit any words in!’]. There’s a wonderful photomontage strip called ‘Adventures of Hooligan Head’ in which the head of a baby gets grafted on to that of a West Ham fan who then goes on lots of adventures that include killing hippies, getting John Peel beat up and having a drink with an American tourist. Then theres the untitled strip in which someone who looks incredibly like Nick Griffin comes home to find his boyfriend being buggered by a big black man. Madness abounds of course, as does social awareness [Nescafe and powdered baby milk], conspicuous consumerism [Slaves For Bullshit], workplace politics [I Work With An Arsehole]. Plenty to admire and pass on. Like all good comics Slasher is a vehicle for personal expression so while the drawings may well be crude in certain areas its never delivered with less than heartfelt expression. The CD’s are worth a listen too; highlights on 8 include two WWII veterans bickering at each other and ‘Brown and Benbow’ doing a John Shuttleworth, 10 is as equally entertaining with a variety of styles courtesy of the raucous Drunk In Hell [‘I’m an Arsehole’], faux disco with Piss Disco [‘Turkish Desire’ with the curious shout out for BBC Ipswich?] and the entirely appropriately named British Football Hooligans [I wonder if they have trouble getting gigs?]. Noah Brown is proving to be another vital cog in the wheel that is the Leeds ‘scene’ Putting on gigs, drumming, drawing, painting, experimenting with sound. I owe him a pint.
Which leaves Spon and the outpourings of Dr. Steg. Spon 20 is a collaboration between Dr. Steg and Andy Paciorek the results of which consists of a series of highly detailed black and white creations most of which carry little in the way of dialogue but plenty in the shape of those whom Dr. Steg and Paciorek admire and loathe, thus plenty of mentions for the Ceramic Hobs, Alvin Lucier, Stan Batcow, Must Die Records, Donlon Books, Covers 33 and Hiroshima Yeah! The art is of such detail that you could spend many hours trying to find these and the names of those who have fallen foul of Dr. Steg including possibly the greatest comic artist of our time Brian Bolland. Black ink on white paper does it for me and while this may only be two pieces of A3 folded and stapled in the middle its actual depth goes much deeper. Spon 20 also comes with a Fes Parker CD. Parker, the still sadly missed Godfather of Blackpool Post Punk, is a Fylde Coast legend, a massive influence not only on the Hobs but many a punk growing up on the west coast of England.
Contact: Lempo Kustannus
Contact: Slasher 6666
Sunday, September 09, 2012
Finglebone - Voorpwerp
Armed Within Movement. AWM002
Cassette. C20. 40 copies.
Sea of Palms - Aino Tytti
Armed Within Movement. AWM003
Cassette. C26. 40 copies.
cM nG/Spoils and Relics
Armed Within Movement. AWM004
Cassette. C60. 40 copies.
I’ve never been on one of those holidays where you get to relax on a white sandy beach as attentive staff bring you a never ending supply of exotic looking drinks served in half a coconut. All well and good and no doubt selling like hotcakes to those who can afford it but I fear I’d eventually get bored with all that pampering. Somewhere down the line I’d hanker after a cup of Yorkshire tea brought to me in a cracked cup by someone looking like Bella Emberg or a black cloud to drift overhead scattering the locals, something to remind me that I was still in the real world and that one day, in the not too distant future, I’d be once again be getting out of bed at 5.30 am to make my way to that sorry place of employment I call work.
For this years cultural edification me and Mrs Fisher took off on a ten day trawl through three European cities. At the height of summer and in temperatures when you really should be doing nothing but lounging about having drinks stuck in your hand we experienced the delights of having to drag our suitcases down streets where tourists were never meant to drag suitcases. Along the way we saw some impressive sights with the retina burning image of two tramps fucking in a piss stinking underpass near Keleti station in Budapest being amongst the best [or worst should you think that way]; tramp clothing hung on the bits of concrete left bare where wall tiles had become dislodged, trickles of freshly vented urine made its way across the floor, the air was fetid and disgusting and still two people thought it the best place to get their rocks off. They might even have been gay, it was dark, I wasn’t hanging about, two pairs of feet aft and two short haired heads to the fore going at it like a Singer sewing machine on speed. This, after negotiating various other underpasses along Rákóczi Avenue all the while getting the nagging feeling that the excruciating pain that is sciatica was making a most unwelcome return to my left leg. Then there's the time we dragged our cases up to Bratislava’s main train station to be met by vomiting drunks and gangs of young toughs doing their West Side Story bit complete with simulated oral sex and hand guns tucked in belts. Lets not forget the Slovak taxi driver who seemed to be able to say in perfect English the words ‘sixteen euros and ten cents’, the laughable amount he charged for a five minute ride and probably the same amount he charges all foreign visitors no matter where they go. Then we got lost trying to find our hotel in Vienna, it was the fold in the map that did us, by the time we reached The Savoy [no not ‘that’ Savoy] we were hot, sweaty, hungry and very, very thirsty … and still facing two flights of steps and a check in procedure hosted by a man who we had no choice in calling Herr Flick. After chucking our things on the floor, showering and changing in to some clean clothes we headed for the nearest bar where we ordered lager and food and experienced the nearest thing we’ll ever get to that moment in Ice Cold in Alex where they all stare at a cold beer for two seconds before necking the lot. Then there was the time we managed to find ourselves the only people standing between drunken PAOK Salonika fans and several hundred heavily armed members of the Viennese constabulary. There’s the time we went in to a dimly lit Viennese establishment, hungry and thirsty, only to realise that the menus were written in Vietnamese and German, a situation that needed two pairs of spectacles, one upside down and two feet in front of the other and the deciphering of the German bits. The William Burroughs exhibition at the Viennese Kunsthalle was probably the most bona fide highlight of the trip, one of those magical moments when you turn a corner to be met with a poster of Bill taken in Paris in the 50’s and the words ‘on until September’. On a Tuesday morning at the back end of August 2012 we had the place to ourselves. And then we came back home.
Seeing as how I was so behind in the review pile I decided to take along some of it as aural stimulation. It turned out that drone really does help the journey along [as does the mental racket as made by Normal Man, a release that on more than one occasion proved to have been be recorded loud enough to drown out the moribund chatter of my fellow travelers]. CD’s were easily ripped and thanks to the wonder of the modern age I was able to take a number of cassettes in MP3 format. Armed Within Movement having taken the correct precaution in making all their releases available as downloads to those who’ve bought the things in the first place. This means that I got to listen to Finglebone, Sea of Palms and Aino Tytti on the train from Budapest to Bratislava and cM nG/Spoils and Relics on a hotel bed late at night after too many wines. There were others too including a new batch from Gruenrekorder, the latest from Sheepscar Light Industrial, Noah Brown, The Plurals, La Cose Bianche, Culver & Karst and Cathal Rogers, all of which more later. Alas I didn’t find the time to rip the whole Ramleh box set which is a shame because if I’d have been playing it whilst passing those rutting tramps it would no doubt have enhanced the experience no end.
After getting back in the saddle I notice that the bearded wonder over at RFM has already listened to and dissected just about all of that list. Our review piles seem to be almost perfectly matched these days, as are our observations. cM nG really does not engage the listener at all - too many random noises that fail to connect. Improv should have something to carry it along and whilst there is a touch of scrapey TNB-y sounds to the proceedings the sounds that enter and leave the fray are often nothing more than annoying; sharply resonating finger cymbal like clang that enter deep into the ear canal and ring in pain, tampered tape manipulations, sporadic rim shots, radio sounds … a very flat and dull affair as recorded live in Manchester by the duo of Michael Walsh and Andy Jarvis. Its hard to put your finger on why a different group of people working in the same environment and creating the same kind of feel should produce something that is so completely different and totally captivating but this is whats happened on the other side with Spoils and Relics. Although not a live recording the sounds here come and go at regular intervals leaving you wondering what it was you actually heard. The joy to be had from improv works of this nature is that the source sounds remain utterly out of reach, you could be listening to a ventilator shaft fan humming away, the abandon ship alarm, electronic insects, the small nurdling sound that somehow creeps inside your ear becomes utter bliss, drill bits at work, generators, the list is endless and a credit to the people working within Spoils and Relics.
Finglebone’s droney guitar noodling proved to be the most therapeutic way to watch the Hungarian countryside pass by. I should have made a video of the blurring greenery and used Adam Varney’s melancholy pluck as background. Merging drones and field recordings with his echoing guitar work Varney creates pieces that evoke atmospheres more usually associated with Ry Cooder [and maybe even the more recent Bad Suburban Nightmare]. These are melancholy pieces in which Varney’s slightly struck electric guitar strings reverberate into the ether helped along the way by the sound of rushing water and large hums. A hint of Cocteau Twin, a smattering of Jim O’Rourke, somehow veering towards New Age but having enough originality to stop it falling in to that category. All very relaxing and contemplative.
Aino Tytti and Sea of Palms also use field recording and were part of that same journey. Sea of Palms mean streets of Birmingham mixing with guitar work thats not entirely dissimilar to Varney’s. A work that breaks down in to three distinct sections the middle one containing the most delightful of motifs and something the likes of which John Fahey wouldn’t have minded putting his name to. Tytii is more full on celestial choir. Angelic voices made from home made synths that ebbs and flows and rises to crescendos to crash again like waves on a cold Finnish coast, that depending on your mood or stomach for such material, could go on for hours, days even, at least until you reach the end of the line.
Now for the bad news, All these are already sold out at the label. Googling the artists various web pages may produce results but I dare say that these releases will surface at a later date sooner rather than later.