Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The Harbinger Sound Sampler
Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life
The Lowest Form
Mark Wynn - A Tenner? I’ll do it Myself.
Beau Travail/In a Car. 7”
If you were to purchase either of these releases [and I do urge you to do that, your life would be all the better for it] which one would cost you the most? A double LP versus a single? No contest. Except that the double LP has been released by Harbinger Sound with the words ‘Pay no more than £3.99’ on it. Words not seen on a vinyl release, by me at any rate, for about thirty five years and the heyday of certain indie/punk labels who didn’t like middle men making money out of their music and, more importantly, wanted to get their music to the fans as cheap as possible.
Record labels are businesses after all and like all businesses their aim is to make money and maximize their profit margins. That means charging as much as possible without the consumer thinking they’re being ripped off. I don’t mean all record labels of course, just those housed in shiny buildings run by people in suits who have no interest in music. In the early 90’s when the quest for CD World Domination began in earnest the sight of a new release costing £17 wasn’t that unusual. A release whose manufacturing costs ran to about 50p with the artists getting what? Certainly not as much as the record company. Now that CD’s are on their way out and vinyl is the new thing witness the ugly sight of the £40 LP. Plus ça change.
The answer to all this of course is to put out a double LP for less than the price of a pint. And as hard as it is to believe, word reaches these ears that Harbinger Sound actually made a measly few pence profit on each copy sold, profit that no doubt disappeared instantly on advertising and beer for all those involved. If you love the music it can be done and Harbinger really do love the music. As do the people on this double LP who no doubt gave their music for free with the promise of free beer, or free records, or slots on tours ringing in their ears. Feel the warmth. Hate the £40 LP.
For £3.99 you get 20 artists and bands to listen to and investigate. Bands and artist that cover a vast sweep of Harbinger Sound from its very early days to its most up to date so you get a track from Jap noise supremos Pain Jerk, [or if you prefer PainJerk] to today's gob slobberers Sleaford Mods. So that’s everything from Jap noise to electroacoustic experimentation courtesy of Mark Durgan to Phil Julian’s modular synth work to current German Post Punk practitioners Pisse and Karies to Swiss Post Post Punk Improvisers Massicot to Steve Ignorant’s delightful [despite my earlier reservations] acoustic tunes to I still don’t like them despite everyone else liking them Circuit Breaker to vintage UK punks Chaos UK to speaker shredders Consumer Electronics to Sudden Infant to hardcore merchants Lowest Form. Punk too from Berlin screamers Toylettes and long running French outfit Frustration. York’s very own Mark Wynn has a track called ‘Michael Bublé’s Slippers’ and there’s a synth outfit I’ve never heard of before called Future Commuter who we must assume are future signee’s. Fun also in the shape of John Paul, last seen enunciating Notts style over certain Sleaford Mod intro’s with ‘Sissy and Ada [Red Version]’ and if those words mean anything to you then you know you’re in the right spot. Worth getting just to hear John Paul call Jackson Pollock, Jackson Bollocks. Harbinger faves and L.A.’s original 1978 punk band The Urinals get a slot just because their Harbinger Sound faves and not because they’ve featured on the label and that's what you can do when its your label.
Harbingers subtle aim is to introduce those who bought this release purely for the exclusive Sleaford Mods track Fat Tax [and very good it is too] to the delights of lots of other bands and genres of music they probably never knew existed. Its an excellent pressing too which makes the £4 price tag even more laughable. More please from John Paul who has the chutzpah to make it and Future Commuter whose online presence is minimal. As ever with Harbinger Sound the future looks bright.
This being Harbinger Sound though there has to be grit in the oyster and the ‘curse’ has struck once again. Not a sinking gig or a double booked venue or a busted exhaust when you've got a gig 250 miles away and three hours to make it in but a mix up in the labeling department meaning that the Durgan/Julian tracks don’t match the vinyl. Hey ho. Keeps you on your toes. There’s no download either obvs, or CD version or limited C90 for those who can't get their head around the fact that cassettes are nothing more than quirks in the space time continuum and with these all being exclusive tracks there’s bound to be some pissed off punters. Just remember this costs but four quid. If you think that's grounds for moaning you've got serious problems.
On the twice as expensive seven inch comes the Mighty Wynn with ‘A Tenner? I’ll do it Myself’ which by all accounts is walking out of German record shops unaided and gaining Wynn a wider European audience in the process.
Wynn is the stick thin DIY punk troubadour in a child’s tiara giving you a moody stare. Stripped to the waist in skinny black jeans he sings and talks catchy existential songs that mention Dewsbury, Batley, Manchester, charity shops, Lidl and hair. Listening to the five songs here I can’t help feeling that in a different era he’d have been selling thousands and would’ve been on Top of the Pops every month. ‘Massive Song’ is one of his best [and at 3.38 one of his longest] and may be about a builder turning up to do some work one afternoon. I can see him now in a tent at Glasto winning over a small but enthusiastic crowd, his songs coming in quick burst to the accompaniment of a backing tape, making the audience shrink back and then lean forward accepting him in to their hearts. Those pubs in his home town of York might have seen the last of him.‘Sex Legs’ has a full on spazzo guitar solo, ‘Michael Makes a Phone Call’ lasts a mere one minute and one second and is an acoustic strum-a-long song about Michael making a phone call. As with every other Wynn release to pass through these hands every inch of the sleeve is covered with his own handwritten stream of consciousness thoughts as well as photos of himself gurning and posing half dressed, this time with a parasol. An instant classic. Even if it does cost twice the Harbinger comp.
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
From the Posh Crates of Lidl - Poems by Pete Coward
YOL - Always Leave Them Wanting Less
Recycled cassette/DL. No label.
Panelak - Quatsch/Sunspalt
URUBU. Cassette. UUU007.
Diurnal Burdens - Inaction/Extinction
Invisible City Records. Cassette. ICR28.
They say that when your tire of YOL you tire of noise. Good job I’m not sleepy. Not even nodding yet. OK, just a bit of nodding but that came during the second side of the Panelak tape which has just landed from sunny Portugal where news reaches me of ‘cups of wine 65 cents’ the letter itself appearing on the outer packaging of a cardboard bag last seen coming out of a Portuguese shoe shop. Bastards.
These transports of delight detract me from the serious business of Youtube and whats trending on Twatter. A mixed bunch for sure with reel-to-reel recorders and Bolus manufactured equipment drones and mumbled noises from Ross Scott-Buccleuch who by night is Diurnal Burdens [was there ever a band name taken from a random band name generator that was ever actually used?] which sounds a bit like something the doctor tells you you’ve got after a heavy fall. And very good it is too, though I’ve no idea which side it is I’m listening to. A murky ride through looping pits of coal black darkness, deep sea murmurations as captured by a contact mic attached to the boots of a deep sea diver. Industrial Ambience in some respects though I doubt DB would go for that preferring something more up to date. A release that appears to be eternally crumbling away, the lo-fi medium of cassette tape adding to the grimness of it all.
But back to Panelak and Pascal who waved goodbye to Leeds and the Wharf Chambers and boarded a plane for Lisbon. Yes, I know, Leeds for Lisbon. What could Lisbon have to offer other than one of the cheapest places to dine out in Europe, a climate to feel comfortable in without resorting to thermals and cups of wine at 65 cents? Still, he’s there and I’m here with this cassette and memories of him playing the Wharf Chambers with all the enthusiasm of ten Tiggers. He liked to take his clothes off and pour beer over his head, which in the middle of winter, in the Wharf Chambers, really is quite something. His recorded solo work [what I’ve heard at least] could best be described as ‘all over the shop’ utilising everything from all out noise to disco tracks to mixers and guitars. Pascal and pigeonholes don’t sit well together. This pair of tracks aren’t what you’d call easy listening either with everything from kitchen sinks to skipfull’s of video games, shortwave static, voices, Uncle Tom Cobbley and his Dad coming into the mix but on the second side and Sunspalt where the tangent where Faust in Krautrock mode and Astral Social Club meet is the head nodding bit. A pity it didn’t ride for longer [both tracks run to exactly 20 minutes apiece] as this is easily Panelak’s best work. Put it down to the sunshine.
I was in Hull again at the weekend. I’m becoming almost familiar with it; the 70’s shopping centre, the wind turbine propeller the size of a football pitch that seems to have landed as if from the sky and provides all the pigeons in Hull city centre with perfect perching opportunities, the Old Town which has a record shop that I’ve never found, the Spoons and the cheap car park. Its the city of Culture for 2017 don’t you know and while it may no doubt bemuse some of the locals you can’t help feeling that putting your city on the map, even if it’s only for a year, has to be a good thing. Still didn’t see any of those YOL billboards though. Which is a shame because I’m quite enamored of YOL’s distinctive Saul Bass like graphics [thats if Saul Bass had lived in Hull]. The small A5 booklet containing poems by Pete Coward has been adorned by a skull eating eye and a spilt bottle of what we shall assume is alcohol. The poems are pretty good too, my yardstick of being that if they don’t annoy me I carry on reading. I read all of these quotidian tales and while none of the lines hit me there, you know right there, I never got the feeling that I was in the presence of someone who couldn’t write. That’s praise enough from me.
Which leaves the man himself YOL and a recycled cassette which, like many an ancient recycled cassette, only plays out of one channel. A muffled channel at that but seeing as how digital stream/download things exist you can once more drop your jaw at the intensity of two eleven minute YOL performances. In which the man from Hull screams and stammers his way to a neck straining standstill. Never have the words ‘ILL FITTING MOBILITY SCOOTER’ sounded so absolutely terrifying. On ‘Hi Vis’ he backs this up with gentle bowl rings and cymbals dropped from a great height. On ‘Picking Grit’ he sounds like he’s gone and tipped a milk float over. What amazes me is that the power to shock is still there which after a few years exposure to YOL’s most singular approach is no mean feat. As ever its his ability to both shock and amuse within the space of those ten minutes that lies at the core of his work. Part stand up noise artist, part performance art, part car crash into Home Bargains, YOL is still violently and brutally effective.
pete.coward [at] gmail.com
Invisible City Records
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Merzbow - Gomata
Hypnagogia. GO03. CD.
Early Hominids - 040117 Campbell + Walsh @ Mook
It would appear that I am now a ‘Noise Writer’. A writer of Noise, a weaver of words regarding that most uncomplicated of genres. According to two recent publications relating to the matter that is. Times change of course and while this title may have fit once, many years ago when the genre still held me captivated and anything that rattled my bones was worthy of words, I find it now sits uneasily. The last two posts on this page have covered Irish heavy Metal and Scottish Zombie Mexican Wrestling Mask Rock and in the not too distant past I’ve written about everything from Contemporary Composition to environmental recordings to chart raiders Sleaford Mods so while I no longer write about Noise to the exclusion of everything else it would appear that I am forever to wear the colours that are those of the ‘Noise Writer’.
Given the opportunity to muse on the subject though I still relish the visceral thrill to be had from listening to an hours worth of the new Merzbow. Before giving it the now traditional kick in the teeth. It appears to be a ritual in the making; Hypnogogia take delivery of an hours worth of Masami’s latest dribblings along with a note that says ‘stick a cover on it and while you’re at it think up some track titles, I’m a busy man. Best Regards MA’. Weeks later the CD’s arrive from the pressing plant and out go the stuffed Jiffy’s to the Merzbow completists and me. I dutifully listen then make lots of disparaging remarks along the lines of ‘doesn’t he ever get bored making this shit’.
To be fair to Masami, Merzbow still manages to gather plaudits for his live outings and I dare say there are those who still buy his latest work [though I don’t know any personally]. I couldn’t make it to last years Manchester gig but reports of him making him making a not insubstantial racket aided by a Hungarian drummer were widespread. But then there’s the Sun Ra release. Big unsmiley face. The little I heard wasn’t great and the idea itself should never have gone further than the back of the fag packet it was written on. Then there’s his incessant release schedule; 389 credited on Discogs with six of them coming in 2017 alone and were still in March. One of those appeared whilst I was actually writing this.
So he has his fans and he has his detractors and whatever I write concerning Gomata isn’t going to affect Masami, his reputation or those crackpot Merzbow completists. Despite all this trash talk I still consider myself a Merzbow fan, mainly due to the heights of his late 80’s early 90’s work which is now coupled to the reissue schedule of his much deeper and varied early work. The problem I have is that I stopped caring about what Merzbow released around the time he went all digital. I'm pretty sure he's not 100% digital on this release [there's no info regarding instrumentation on the release] but the taint lingers.
For the record Gomata contains four tracks of your typical Merbowian high energy fizz and thats just about all you need to know. I’m almost at the end of track three. Was I bored? Not really. Was I blown away. No. Will I sell it on eBay? No. Last track was the best of the lot if you must know. Worth the release for that one alone. I respect Hypnagogia and Merzbow entirely but please, no more. Part of a trilogy relating to sacred cows apparently.
With a mere seven releases covering the last eight years appear the more sedate [though slightly younger] Early Hominids. This was given to me with over a glass of Fino on Saturday night and where Merzbow leaves me shaking my head for all the wrong reasons this one has me shaking it for all the right reasons.
Forgoing their recent PA smoldering exploits messers Campbell and Walsh [for it is they] go for the squidgy beats cum noise blurts as spread across nine tracks and thirty segued minutes. A noise release to some, dance music to others. Here the pair have finally found the space within which both of them can work, which in layman’s terms means they aren’t at war wiv da pedals and der synths. After all eight years is a long time and its not like they’re in each others pockets. They have other irons in other fires. These things have to be taken into consideration.
As with Campbell related releases the segueing of the tracks brings with it continuity so there’s no unwanted gaps to break things up. An important matter in such things. Gadget freaks will delight in the clarity in which each bloop, fart and swizz scans the room. Those with rhythm in their hearts will nod a head. A little like being stuck in an amusement arcade with all the machines going full bore, a malfunctioning Gameboy, a half hours worth of ear scrunch and foot wriggle that chips out on a much slower Clangers like note. That must be the Noise Writer coming out in me.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
The Bucky Rage - F.Y.I. LUV U
Handsome Records/Northern Cowboy Records. LP/DL
For reasons that will never become clear it follows that after every Sleaford Mods review I post there follows a slew of emails from singer/songwriters eager for me to mull over their most earnest of outpourings. Not just any singer/songwriters though, these singer/songwriters originate almost exclusively from Brooklyn. In fact I get so many emails from Brooklyn based singer/songwriters that I’ve coined ‘Brooklyn’ as a collective noun describing a group of singer/songwriters from Brooklyn. There must be hundreds.
After posting the review for the last Sleaford Mods album the Brooklyn’s were, for once, non existent. Maybe my policy of all but ignoring them was finally paying dividends. Instead I got a full frontal assault from a group from Glasgow going by the name of Bucky Rage. Said full frontal assault came not in the shape of an email containing numerous links and biographical info but a direct Tweet saying something along the lines of ‘can we send you our latest LP? And in the meantime here’s a link to our Bancamp page’.
Well, it was late into Saturday evening, wine had been drunk and I was at the stage where focusing on anything much was becoming a chore so against my better judgement I clicked on the link and was faced with a close up of what looked like the bubbles at the top of a glass of fizzy lager. Not a good start. To make matters worse there was the album title. Twitter type message acronyms have a place but I don’t reckon that on the cover of your latest LP is one of them. And the Bucky Rage? A nod to Scotland’s favourite get smashed tipple? Yeesh. So far so bad. But like I said, I’d been drinking. So I clicked.
What happened next was nothing short of remarkable. With the Ceramic Hobs going the way of all flesh and the Country Teasers seemingly in some kind of semi/permanent dark nihilist stasis I’d given up all hope of ever coming across another UK guitar band worthy of my time. But lo. Despite my initial reservations I found the Bucky Rage to be nothing less than the freshest of Alpine fresh air. Here comes first track ‘Nine Stone Cowboy’ [ho ho ho] and a stomping guitar riff/bullhorn vocal that with my eyes tight shut could’ve been my treasured Country Teasers and there’s a theremin and a spazzed out synth locking horns, making the kind of mong racket not seen or heard since Neil Young and Devo hooked up for the totally destroyed version of Hey Hey My My. Then along comes ‘Dr Dre USA’ with its shout along vocal harmonies and ‘Down a Hole’ with its shambling cymbal ride slack riff leaving the bass plugging away. Maybe it was the wine?
Before I knew it I’d listened to all eight tracks and was now on Youtube checking out the video action and here they all were in Mexican wrestling masks and 60’s shape guitars and military hard hats and skin masks and bent hats buggering about on the shore of a loch. If I didn’t know any better I’d have said that these four Glaswegians were actually having some all out FUN. Y’know that stuff? That stuff you used to have with guitar music before it all went Indie and anthemic and inward looking and ginger haired and Radio 2 friendly. Fun stuff. A fun ride. Iggy and mashed up 60’s beat music. Here we are again.
I started ticking off the influences in my head; after the Hobs and the Teasers I was getting Milovan Srdenovic, [a clear and direct link to that warbling vibrato Mexican wrestling mask clad son of Quim], Lightning Beat-Man [more wrestling masks], Makakarooma, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Suicide. Then came the five minute ur-thump of Chewing Gum, the aural equivalent of having your arse booted down Sauchiehall street on Saturday night, its glorious thud and deadened vocal the heart beat pulse of the entire LP.
But where the record? There was no record. After a flurry of DM’s the trail went dead and that I thought was that. Until a week later and an apology and talk of car crashes and illness. Then it arrived and when it did I discovered that its eight tracks play at 45 and that F.Y.I. I LUV U is actually a bloody good love song and that all of this sounds a 100% better coming out of the grooves of a record and not the back of a Mac; heavy bass, fucked up synth, vocodered vocals, thump, thump thump, harmonies, catchy tunes. I WANT TO SEE THEM LIVE. Music you want to play over and over again because for once there is a guitar band thats not all inward looking, lets corner the Irish market, midday Radio 2 slot, bland, bland, bland, there is a guitar band thats having lots of fun and their name is, whether you like it or not, The Bucky Rage.
Then you discover that they’ve been around since about 2005 and that they’ve got several more records to indulge in and that their live stuff goes all over the place, gloriously fucked up. Which leaves me wondering how I never heard of this lot before? It sure beats the Brooklyns.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Venusian Death Cell - Sick Songs
Self released CDR
Venusian Death Cell - Fines of the Other World
Self released CDR
A recent Twitter convo led to the revelation that a certain Bald Head of Noise had no Heavy Metal records in collection whatsoever. Not a single one. Then I wondered how many I had and when was the last time I bought a Heavy Metal record and listened to it and the answers were, four and a long time ago. I remember buying a Bolt Thrower LP because Peel played a track that I liked and then one day I realised I hadn’t played it for 20 years so I sold it on Discogs for about £50. The rest is Sabbath of course.
I was thinking earlier today that the time was right to delve once more into the world that is that of the Irish Heavy Metal band Venusian Death Cell and David Vora, its one and only long standing member. Vora has been sending me his music for many years now and they’ve all remained constant and of a kind. That of the outsider Metal artist recording his music onto what sounds like a cassette recorder using either a guitar or drums or [as it sometimes seems] upturned buckets. His vocal style swings between tortured scream and devilish whisper but his main draw is that he sounds nobody else at all. Not just in the world of Metal either, I’m talking anywhere.
So I arrive home and there’s a padded envelope from Ireland on the mat and I know instantly that its another Venusian Death Cell release. Which it is but whats this? A cover definitely not from the hand of Vora and a staggering twenty tracks that run to a full thirty minutes. What soon becomes apparent is that as well as his cover art changing so is his over all sound and direction. 'Fines of the Other World' [the one that came today] contains much more acapella work than previous releases and three, [count ‘em] three busking sessions. Busking outings that contain works of such originality that two of the tracks have little in the way of music on them at all but instead lots of Vora having conversations with passers by as recorded by someone fifty feet away. At one stage Vora asks with genuine astonishment ‘did you put some money in there?’, to someone else he sings Happy Birthday to someone else he proclaims that he’s in ‘one of the biggest bands in Ireland’ and on the last he strums his guitar until he busts a string. Rock And Fucking Roll. And don’t forget Halloween a song in which he repeats the word Halloween in a demonic kind of voice [its an oldie but a goodie]. Of the tracks actually recorded in front of a condenser mic there’s lots to consider but instant fave is 'Hellground' which has more in common with trash noise as Vora spits out his lyrics to a trash racket. There’s the lyrics too, Vora always includes some lyrics, lyrics that have been hand written, photocopied, sized down and reproduced on the inner sleeve for our delectation;
‘Angel has left the path of birth,
Now her arms stretch in pain’.
From ‘Angel in Pain’
'Unlearnt' has poignancy, a plea to the world to sort its shit out against TV static. Last track 'Created Creature' is Vora hitting a solitary drum while leaving lots of space in-between the beat like he’s following someone on Youtube with the sound turned down.
'Sick Songs', the VDC release I’ve had for a while, is all over and done with in fifteen minutes. 'Screaming Babies', 'Deathspell', 'Angel, Angel' and a track called 'Leopards' which has Vora hitting guitar strings and shouting the word Leopards at its end [and if you look on the inner sleeve there seems to be some kind of rudimentary tablature so that you can play along at home]. Instant classics the lots of them, including the Slayer cover 'Piece by Piece'.
From his Dublin home Vora gives me what my music collection lacks; more Metal.
davidvora10 [at] hotmail.com
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
4th World - Afterworkpopsongsforchildsoldiers
Zaetraom. Zaetraom 016. Cassette w/ A5 booklet
Once upon a time international tape comps used to be all the rage, I must have had one a week come though the door. Some of them were good, some of them were very good and some of them I still look upon with a fond sense of nostalgia. An international tape comp was your gateway to other worlds, they gave you an idea of what was happening out there in the big bad world of noisy racket. With a few IRC’s and a hand written letter you could make contact with a new discovery and soon become the recipient of new sounds. And so your musical world would expand. Then the internet came along and nothing was ever the same.
‘Afterworkpopsongsforchildsoldiers’ isn’t a noise comp per se but it does give me the feeling of one: A5 colour booklet with a page devoted to each project, a dozen artists from all corners of the globe, slightly disturbing subject matter, in fact the only thing thats really missing is the contact page from where your musical world would slowly expand. The internet really has put paid to that particular ritual.
So we use the internet to search for Fred and Luna because this is what you do to find their online presence or maybe some youtube footage which is how I come across David E Williams who seems to be the most unlikeliest video star judging from his sulky walk around a summer garden with his black trench coat on. William’s songs are fraught affairs wrung from strangled guitars with strangled vocals. Because this isn’t an all out noise album or a PE album even if the words I keep writing down are ‘Industrial Ambience’.
Even that term doesn’t cover what Fred and Luna create, that being gentle Electrokraut with unabashed nods to Kraftwerk and Neu! Dogpop are angular minimal synth merchants, all austere like a moody D.A.F. Genevieve Pasquier, also from Germany, doesn't fit the bill either with her ethereal euro pop melodies. Which leaves me wondering why I kept writing down the words ‘Industrial Ambience’? Maybe it was the only UK contributor Salford Electronics with a suitably grim slice of urban rot or the intro’s and outro’s containing disturbing field recordings of riots and speeches in African tongues? You know where you are with Pain Nail, Grunt and Am Not though. Am Not contributing the most memorable track with a not too succinct PE dirge that sounds like it was delivered by the devil himself. Grunt is on top form as ever with a track that chips out in full on TNB style. Deathpanel also find themselves within the confines of the Power Electronics family. Ill are just ill, murky drones and muffled vocals.
A rare treat then and for such an eclectic comp there’s barely a dud minute. Somebody at Zaetraom has good ears.
zaetraom [at] t-online.de
Friday, March 03, 2017
Sleaford Mods - English Tapas
Rough Trade. cassette. rtradmc92
There’s been a regime change at work recently. A fifteen year radio fatwa came to an end when the outgoing MD [a man with a degree in Stalinist purges and a penchant for Mao like struggles] gave way to a benign duo of pointers and prodders who don’t care one way or the other whether radios are played or not. After fifteen years of radio silence the chummy tones of Ken Bruce can once more be heard drifting across the shop floor. And then one morning last week, in the department in which I work, a small CD/Radio appeared.
‘It’s got an iPod docking station too but who’s got one of them anymore?’ said the bringer of the said Bush CD/Radio.
‘I have. Have you heard of Sleaford Mods?’
So I played him ‘Bunch of Cunts’ and watched the smile on his face get wider by the second. And then a passing voice joined in, ‘BUNCH OF CUNTS!’ BUNCH OF ABSOLUTE FUCKING CUNTS! Ken Bruce has got some competition.
One of my biggest fears is that one day I’ll have to write the ‘they’re not very good anymore’ Sleaford Mods album review. My other fears are whether Donald Trump will incinerate us all in a nuclear war, Brexit and climate change so as seen in the bigger scheme of things Sleaford Mods turning out a duff album would appear to be small beer but everything is relevant. These things are important. And thankfully this is definitely not a duff album.
Their one album deal for Rough Trade could’ve resulted in a middling affair containing a decent single and a handful of songs that wouldn’t looked out of place on their last couple of albums, the rest made up from studio workouts or reworked older tracks, thank you very much, its been a laff, ta for the cheque, see you on the Calder Hebble, goodnight Vienna. But no. English Tapas is as up to date and relevant as the latest UKIP excuse, its an album that captures the zeitgeist, the whiff of excrement floating across the nation. As other bands see their days out on daytime Radio 2 Sleaford Mods have struck like burglars in the night, stealing whatever credibility todays magnolia says its got while leaving a stinky turd in Ed Sheeran’s kitchen on the way out.
English Tapas as seen on a sandwich board outside a pub by beat man Fearn. A reminder of the British trait that is taking a good idea and ruining it; pizzas topped with curry, full English in a panini, chicken tikka masala. English Tapas; a quick scan of the Red Tops, hatred buried in tittle tattle, despair as the norm and five pound family holidays in Rhyll.
Those that think this is all sweaty shouty swear words and rants may be surprised by ‘I Feel So Wrong’ the last track of the twelve in which Williamson warbles vibrato in what is um ... er … a song and because they work quickly they can knock out a single like B.H.S. in the time it takes the unacceptable face of capitalism to get his hand in his pocket. The stripped down hammering beats and wiggly bass lines are still there and you will be singing along to ‘Moptop’ and ‘Just Like We Do’, well all of ‘em really. ‘Dull’ contains the line ‘try scrolling down the website of the NME without laughing’, ‘Drayton Manored’ the line ‘a trip to Spar is like a trip to Mars’ and ‘have you ever wondered why you wonder why? in ‘Messy Anywhere’ the equally profound ‘you’re stuck in moments that have grown out of themselves’. This album is full of them and like their last three albums will still be revealing itself to you weeks and months after your first fix.
They’re off to the States and Canada soon. I wish them every success and hope that they come back with lots of ideas with which to make another album. An album I can play on the shop floor on that cheap CD/Radio. The one that keeps Ken Bruce in check.
[This review taken from the cassette version of English Tapas that has as its b-side the entire Sleaford Mods Dismaland gig from 2015].
Friday, February 24, 2017
The Lowest Form - Personal Space
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger 153 LP
Kinski Uncut - The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski
A couple of years back I found a copy of Fitzcarraldo in the chazza and took it home and watched it with ever mounting incredulity. Of all the movies Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog made together Fitzcarraldo is the biggest, bonkers one of the lot. If they’d filmed it in 2016 there’d have been a team of clued up computer geeks making the best of what CGI had to offer but back in 1982 Herzog did indeed pull a three story steamship weighing 300 tons over a 40 degree hill in the Peruvian jungle using nothing but a complicated set of pulleys and the local Aguraruna people. Given the conditions they were working under it was no surprise that Kinski lost his infamous volatile temper, losing it to such an extent that the now increasingly pissed off locals [a gentle and timid people unused to such manic behavior] approached Herzog with the offer of bumping him off. An offer that Herzog must have been severely tempted by seeing as how they were three days in any direction from civilization but which he dutifully refused. This thought no doubt prompted by the fact that he’d already begun shooting Fitzcarraldo once before with the American actor Jason Robards and Mick Jagger as leads only to see Robards go down with dysentery and Jagger bugger off on a Stones tour. He wanted to see his movie finished and he knew he couldn’t do it without Kinski.
Kinski is one of the thee greatest film actors. IMDB credits him with 140 films. Kinski himself professed to involvement in over 200. Some of them are total shite but the ones he made with Herzog are true classics and both their life stories make for interesting reading. If you believe everything you read in Kinski Uncut though you'd have to be the stupidest person on the planet. Kinski Uncut is basically 300 pages of Kinski putting his dick in anything female including his own family. In a pattern that eventually becomes monotonous he meets a woman and three lines later he’s fucking her. In Pakistan [where he’s taken by taxi to meet a seven foot tall giantess], in bushes, on planes, in cars, beds, toilets, you name it he’s fucked in it, name a country he’s fucked somebody in it, if he's some place where he can get his dick out, he’s using it. Then there’s the sleeping rough, the busted marriages, the lousy films he has to make so as to make money to pay the rent, the endless cars [he sells one car after discovering the electric windows don’t wind down fast enough], the numerous houses, the endless parties, the shitty directors, especially Herzog whom he despises more than any human being on earth. The movies barely get a mention.
This has nothing to do with The Lowest Form who I know nothing about barring the fact that Luke Younger plays bass. Luke Younger who you will know from Helm whose ventures into electronic composition are worthy of investigation and whose recorded output I’m the proud owner of. He plays bass in a London based Hardcore group.
What I know about Hardcore could be written on the back of a postcard using a bingo dobber so this is going to be short. I do like their enthusiasm though. The intro to ‘Star Slammers’ sounds uncannily like William Bennett in late Whitehouse mode and listening to all of this in one go is like having a dose of smelling salts run under your nose. The inner sleeve is heavy duty, the font is all Gothic script and the black and white imagery of a park looks suitably Geneva before the First World War. Kinski would no doubt have hated it.
Monday, February 20, 2017
Pisse - Kohlrübenwinter #1
Beau Travail BT - 12/Phantom PHNTM15. 7” 4 track EP/DL
Pisse - Kohlrübenwinter #2
Harbinger Sound 162/In A Car 004. 7” 4 track EP/DL
Discovering that ex German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s surname translated into English as ‘cabbage’ was a defining moment in my continuing education. Since then I’ve always referred to him as Helmut Cabbage although I must admit that the opportunity to use this in conversation is somewhat limited now. The surnames of German chancellors have always interested me, other favourites include the charismatic Willy Brandt and of course the redoubtable and first ever chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, a man whose surname translates as 'accident in your keks'.
Pisse is the German word for piss. No surprises there. The surprise is that these eight tracks of shouty German hardcore punk mixed with 1930’s film samples, whipping vids and speeches [not Hitler but someone with a shouty voice] had me wishing it was 1983 all over again. 1983: a watermark year for those in the punk industry seeing as how some deem it the year punk finally chucked its scribbled on leather jackets and 16 hole DM’s into the cupboard under the stairs.
To be honest I don’t listen to that much German punk hardcore anymore. I don’t listen to that much punk full stop. Me being nearer retirement age than getting excited about Friday night age I find my punk excitement comes in very short spurts but when I’m introduced to a band as exciting as Pisse I have to bend my head slightly forward, turn it to the speaker and announce that yes, if I had enough beer down me, I would be one of those jumping up and down on the beerhall table.
They work best when the drummer is giving it the military medium, the guitar a choppy rasping thing but its not all like that; Dienstleistungsgesellschaft [oh the beauty of the German language - Service Society] is a mellower affair with a slowed down distorted vocal giving us the title as Pisse singer warbles in a high falsetto as a synthy keyboard wanders all over the end of it. Shit, these kids have got it all. The rollocking opener on #1 Fahradsattel [Bicycle Saddle] comes complete with whips and a chug-a-long Container Drivers-esque beat call and response all over and done in 1.49. Vernissage has a trebly high end bass and so nods to Hooky, the weedy synth gives it a Units feel.
The smattering of samples; wolves, whips and old films, give Pisse a depth that many punk bands lack and while these two singles [complete with fold out sleeves, lyrics and grainy design] are two stand alone singles they work well as an album and an album of punk tunes that keeps me interested is a rare thing indeed. I must be a fan.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Andrew Liles - Très Chère Mère [Mother Dearest]
Lenka Lente. 5cm CD + Book
ISBN : 979-10-94601-11-2
Guillaume Belhomme/Daniel Menche - D’entre Les Morts
Lenka Lente. 5cm CD + Book
ISBN : 979-10-94601-13-6
The last time I saw Andrew Liles name was as it passed me by on the end credits of Peter Strickland’s superb 2012 film ‘Berberian Sound Studio’. Anyone who hasn’t seen it and has an interest in sounds, gobcore and 70’s Italian horror should go straight from here and watch it. In it Toby Young plays the sound effects guy brought in from England to work his magic on a maverick Italian producer's shock horror production. A film, it soon transpires, that Young’s character as very little interest in and is very much against, him much preferring to be in the shed at the bottom of his garden or wandering around the rolling hills of his home counties town. Screams in sound booths, kitchen knives in cabbages, splatted melons, torn radish stems for hair being ripped out and a blink and you miss it appearance by Adam Bohman. What more could you ask for?
Like Steve Stapleton, Liles is a man capable of creating sounds from seemingly nothing. A sampler par excellence, a weaver of magic, a man capable of making interesting sounds from a dishrag and yesterday’s newspaper. Not just any old sounds though, not rulers twanged on tabletops, not lollipop sticks stuck in bike wheels but sounds that leave you in awe, leave you wondering how they were actually made. I listen to Liles and wonder how he actually made what ever it was that just went down my ear canal.
I have a small smattering of his vast recorded output here with releases ranging from outings with Dannielle Dax to [appropriately] horror sound effects to tributes to Hans Bellmer [Aural Anagram - a queasy ride filled with eerie drones and manipulated female vocals that would fit easily enough besides some of the best Nurse With Wound material] but never before his writing.
Très Chère Mère [Mother Dearest] is an uneasy modern day folk tale with a gruesome ending and while its written competently enough I doubt he’ll be giving JK Rowling any sleepless nights. Criticising Liles for the odd clunky line seems churlish though, like giving giving Picasso a hard time because his book of short stories were no match for Hemingway. At least its in English. Lenka Lente have received a certain amount of criticism for printing their works mainly in French but its not a criticism I share. They're the publisher and they can print in whatever language they want. Here the story comes in both English and French so somewhere someone wont be moaning.
The disc accompanying Mother Dearest is all mumblings, pizzicato strings, harps, creaking leather oar straps and cello. A bit like a SNES soundtrack to a role playing game with a Japanese theme which may or may not have some kind of connection to the story. Its unlike anything I’ve heard from Liles before which makes me wonder just how far the Liles tentacles reach.
Daniel Menche is equally as talented. The single track on D’entre Les Morts overlays several different soundscapes to a juxtaposed but ultimately harmonious effect. There's TNB garden shed clatter, the inside of a grandfather clock, a drone, continuous pink noise and a length of steel wire dronged into eternal oscillation. Menche’s skill in combining these differing sounds is worthy of note. He’s no slouch. Listening in on headphones is a rare audio treat and one you shouldn't deprive yourself of. Whether there's any link with the text is also unclear to me.
The book itself is written by Lenka Lente lead man Guillaume Belhomme and is entirely in his native French which, baring the odd word, makes about as much sense to me as a book written in Latin. I’m quite certain it’ll be dead good though.
Thursday, February 09, 2017
Con-Dom - How Welcome is Death to I Who Have Nothing More to do but Die
Tesco 102. CD - fold out digi-pak with booklet. DLP box set with etching.
Dr Adolf Steg - Dead Mothers Blood
Multimedia artwork. Edition of 10
If you’ve ever been inside a nursing home you’ll know that they’re not exactly a day out at your local health spa. They’re where people go to die. And in the main we’re not very good at death and dying and coping with it. Death is for other people to worry about when the reality is exactly the opposite. We make jokes about it and invent religions to give it meaning but really, we try not to think about it too often. Unless we’re reminded of it by a dying relative or friend or the news of a passing celebrity or a politician its best left unpacked, something for other people worry about, something that's not going to happen to us for a long time anyway. We hope. But in the end death is just that. The End. There is no escaping it.
Lots of us will spend our final days in a care home or a nursing home. Most of those days will be spent in an overheated communal room that smells heavily of disinfectant and urine, a wall mounted TV blaring Escape to the Country, overworked and underpaid staff doing their best under the circumstances handing out weak tea in childproof plastic beakers. Or perhaps in a cot like bed with the sides up, a rubber under blanket to protect the mattress, bleeper around the neck, photos of loved ones arranged on a nearby table, oblivious to the world, reliant on others and waiting the inevitable.
Power Electronics often dabbles in death but I don’t think any artist has ever gone as far as taking the death of their own mother for inspiration. The results are a brave and ultimately harrowing release and one that will no doubt have a deep effect on those who make their way to the end of it.
Its a release that works on two levels; the first are the sounds themselves which as you’d expect are despairing, haunting and unsettling. The second is the imagery, the strength of which I found so upsetting that I had to cover it up or hide it side on while I listened. You can cover your PE releases in all manner of dismemberment, torture, necrophilia, sadism, gratuitous porn and right wing propaganda but the sight of an old woman slumped in a winged back chair her face covered in the bruises of a fall, chills me to my very core. The cover is we must imagine, the face of death itself.
Neither do I think that there has been a Power Electronics release that has as its opening track a sample of the Clive Dunn single ‘Grandad’. This saccharine 70’s pean to an aging grandparent is the sanitized portrayal of growing old, the well worn slippers and the pipe in the pocket. What Dando offers us is the exact opposite; the adult nappies, the shit, the piss, the stink, the dementia, the wailing, the futility of it all, the waiting to die.
There are three key tracks: ‘Living Death’, Chocolates’ and the exasperatingly blunt ‘Just Fuckin’ Die’. There are samples of toilets and communal rooms, screams and in a series of shorter tracks we find the likes of ‘Wee’ and someone being asked by a carer if they want to go for one. Sarah I & II is a resident shouting. ‘Chocolates’ is a brooding 13 minute loop of cycling hum over which Dando recites a letter as written by someone with serious health issues who wishes to end their life [the chocolates are there to disguise the bitter taste of the lethal dose of barbiturates]. Which brings us to euthanasia which is essentially what ‘How Welcome is Death …’ is all about. ‘Just Fuckin’ Die’ is a ten minute loop of churning distortion which eventually reveals its brief and frustrated only sentence. ‘Living Death’ a slightly phased vocal over screaming turmoil, a collection of conversations between Dando and his mother, the misery, frustration and helplessness created by those who can no longer look after themselves. Power Electronics and death appear to be suited like Country & Western and lost horses, Pop and love, House and dance, Punk and spit. Could any other musical genre carry a message with such force and such honest brutality?
The very last track is the natural matching bookend to Clive Dunn’s Grandad; the equally saccharine schoolkid choir sing-a-long ‘Grandma [There’s No One Quite Like …]’. A song you are unlikely to hear sung anywhere near a care home.
After a lengthy hiatus in the studio Dando may well have produced his most profound work since 2001’s ‘Colour of a Man’s Skin’ and just maybe the work with which he will be forever associated. A standout release of the genre and a work guaranteed to haunt you until the end of your days.
Whether Dr Steg’s mother has died we can only guess at. This arrived with no information at all but the man has previous; he once sent me a button badge upon which were glued the ashes of his recently passed father-in-law. So we can assume that what we see is what it says on the tin. Or in this case the plastic grip lock bag. The contents are a bloodied strip of toweling, a bloodied, torn and creased piece of paper containing random words and squiggles and several pieces of broken glass. I really don’t know what to add to this. I’m no art critic. I only know that this week [this month, this year, last year] has been a depressing one. These objects, these works remind us that our time here is of the limited variety. Best make the most of it.
Friday, February 03, 2017
Suffering Profusion - Auditory Hallucinations Unkn
Nothing Band - Close to the Past
Neil Campbell/Campbell Kneale - neil campbellcampbell kneale
Don’t Fuck With Magic
Culver - Fells
Invisible City Records
Stuart Chalmers - In the Heart of Solitude
Constellation Tatsu. PURR 077
Stuart Chalmers - In the Heart of Wilderness
Was Ist Das?
Stuart Chalmers - Loop Phantasy No.3
Stuart Chalmers/Z. Zsigo - Untitled
Strange Rules. RULE-119
TLON - Chapter II
Aphelion Editions. Aphelion 001-K7
There’s a lunatic on the loose in America and he’s doing all this crazy stuff like sending tweets with exclamation marks in them and banging on about building a wall thats going to cost like $75 bazillion. I’m sure he’ll get locked up soon and we can all go back to what we were doing before everything went totally tits up but until then I can’t seem to think straight or get my shit together maan. You know like do what I did before the Tangerine Nightmare dominated my quiet-sit-in-front-of-the-PC-write-some-words-about-music evenings. I now find myself scrolling apocalyptic blogposts written in alarming tones about how the Orange Overlord is nothing but a puppet for a right wing cabal whose thinking seems to revolve around the politics of the Fuck You variety. These are uneasy times.
My duly sapped creative juices have left me a desiccated wreck, left me seeking solace in the familiar and well worn: Bob, Neil, Van, Robert and yes, Art. When I reach for Art I know I’ve reached rock bottom. Not because I don’t like Art Garfunkel’s music, I love him dearly, its just that his music is the soothing-ist of soothing balms, the music I reach for when my fevered mind can’t take anymore. His music is a comfort blanket, a friendly arm around the shoulder, a familiar face in a strange town, a safe room when the loonies are knocking at the door. The review pile doesn’t get much of a look-in in such desperate times.
The loonies have been knocking louder and louder these last ten days. Its getting so that each news item becomes ever more incredulous: can you actually do that?, is that for real, alternative facts, whose on notice again? One day soon I’m going to wake up and it’s June the 23rd 2016 all over again and there’s been an important referendum and its gone the way I wanted and the most insufferable human being on the planet has been shot by someone who himself has been shot but a few hours later. I’ll have my MP back whilst I’m at it as well. Preferably alive.
The tide has to turn eventually though. I think I’m over the worst of it. Recently I’ve been flipping these tapes again. Going round and round on repeat in the twin deck as I scroll the the pages looking for good news. Its a good sign. Things will improve. I know it. Cassettes of wonderment as effective balm. Why not?
I wonder what the Orange Overlord would think of Power Electronics? I wonder what he thinks of music in general? I doubt he has the time for music. Too busy striking a deal to relax with a Mantovani album. I doubt he has any culture in his life full stop. Up to his nuts in money and power. The twin gods of those who care for nobody but themselves. Given the opportunity I’d put the Orange Overlord in a bare white room and play him Suffering Profusion at a volume guaranteed to give him permanent tinnitus. There’d be a CCTV camera in the room relaying his reactions to me as I peruse a selection of nibbles that include toasted almonds, a ripe Epoisses and a lightly chilled Alsace Gewurtztraminer [preferably a Hugel though such would be my good humour I wouldn’t be too fussy on this matter]. There’s only four tracks to annoy him with but they’re of such high PE standard I imagine he’d be screaming for mercy after about 15 seconds. We have full on roar and distorted vocals, no need to go into details, its not a complicated matter and nor is PE when its as base as this.
Suffering Profusion are American [is an American] I hope he’s not a fan of the long tied, short fingered Orange Overlord but with PE you never can tell. One person who I doubt very much is a fan of the Carotene Cretin is Max Nordile of the Nothing Band who is capable of stretching the boundaries of where songs begin and end. On the eleven minute ‘A Good Dog’ we have Nordile in Srdenovic mode singing along with a bullhorn while a giant ogre stomps all over his house, his voice emerging as if from the back of whats left of the rumble room. Some tracks are short minute long things in a Residents vein and even though you cant actually sing along to his songs I have an urge to do so to rid myself of these gloomy apocalyptic thoughts.
Maybe I could try the Carrot Tinged Twat with a smidge of drone? Two sides of a Culver tape perhaps? Who doesn’t like a spot of Culver? Well, one person obviously. ‘Fells’ is Culver in bass heavy drone mode that moves to melancholic bass motes and on the flip something that does it in reverse or continues the thread if you follow. Maybe this is one continuous piece divided over two halves? Maybe this is the face of the Orange Overlord getting pulped? You don’t need me to tell you about Culver.
Talking of which, the winner of the 2016 ‘Stokoe Cup’ [as awarded to those leaving in their wake a cohesive, well loved and totally fantabulous body of work as awarded by the Bearded Wonder over at RFM] was Stuart Chalmers. To say I’ve become a fan of the mans work is true to the mark. I buy whatever he puts out and that recommendation is enough for you. Over the last couple of years his work has moved from mainly sampled based loops to the inclusion of, along with effects pedals, the swarmandal, a type of zither originating from the sub continent. He gets the most out of it on works like ‘In the Heart of Solitude’ and ‘In The Heart of Wilderness’ where the more esoteric edges of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra are mirrored or how about the strangely ethereal guitar parts of the Cocteau Twins. He can be jarring as on ‘Loop Phantasy No.3’ another loop based sample set but when he sets sail for those distant shimmering horizons the results are enough to induce warm feelings of well being and banish all thought of the Fanta Faced Fool.
There’s the collaborations too which is where, as you’d expect, the sound changes. The short but fun Ecstatika takes a page out of the Astral Social Club book and is all bubbling rhythms and energy. ‘Untitled’ with Z. Zsigo is the lonely church bell as heard drifting across a mist covered graveyard in a 70’s Hammer horror that opens out in to a vista of descending church organ and empty building melancholic piano notes. The flip is a shamans rattle, electronic burble, a rumination on the shortwave dial, looped church bells morphed into gamelan. TLON sees Chalmers working with Liam McConaghy for an albums worth of soundtrack like material that is parts ambient, spacey and perhaps the least gripping of this collection but nonetheless a worthy and still essential SC related release. If you like Schulze or the beat-less parts of Tangerine Dream this is where you need to start digging.
After all this do you think Trumpa-Lumpa would dig the almost palindromic Neil Campbell/Campbell Kneale collaboration? Perhaps the name would confuse him? Don’t give him a tin of OXO or wash his duds in OMO then [‘old man out’ - as found on the window ledges of lonely sailors wives]. Two live outings, one a freak beat-fest of mutated lollops the other taking its time to emerge from the miasma before it gets its NC dusted rhythms and KN [I assume] feedback. A joyous thing, just don’t ask me which side is which.
OK I think my chakra has been realigned. I’ve removed everything orange from the house. I’m rationing my Twitter visits. I’m reading good books again. Got to stay focused and channel that good energy. Fuck Trump.
All of the above are cassettes of course and are of extremely limited numbers. If the above haven’t sold out of their physical editions downloads and streaming are available.
SC - Heart of Solitude
SC - Heart of Wilderness
SC - Loop Phantasy No.3
SC/Z. Zsigo - Untitled
TLON - Chapter II