Wednesday, November 15, 2017
YOL - ON/OFF
Cassette. 75 copies
YOL - Hand of Glory
ON/OFF arrived with a disturbing hand written note from the man himself stating that the first track I will hear was an attempt to drive the audience from the venue by subjecting them to walls of hideous feedback, noise and trademark YOL screamed utterances. We must assume here that YOL is in the midsts of some kind of system purge. A cleansing act. An act of purification maybe? To purge himself of some unwanted inner id. He can do it of course. Make a noise I mean. When he wants to he can make some truly horrendous noise but on this occasion it wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t be would it. Only a few audience members decided to call it quits.
Without delving in to the ‘noise as entertainment’ dialogue too deeply its a well worn fact that some people are drawn to such things; head in bass bins at the Motorhead gig, sat on the bus with earbuds going full bore, hour long 90’s TNB sets. In the live situation the visceral thrill of actually feeling the noise is all part of the appeal and if part of that live situation just happens to involve a bald man from Hull screaming and stuttering, bent double, retching his very lungs out then all the better.
Except that YOL doesn’t have to go down this route. We know he can make a racket just by using the barest of equipment; eating forks, bits off a tractor, finger cymbals, chains, galvanized watering cans, with the most mundane of everyday items he can make some ridiculously painful noise. Its his delivery, his voice and his blacker than coal black humour that sets him apart.
Watching YOL live is like being in the same room as someone with deep psychological problems. Someone who is having problems with the neighbours and its been building for years and today just might be the day it all goes pop but instead I’ve come to this small gig space with a bag of junk and a contact mic and for your delectation I’ll deliver lines like ‘ITS SAD THAT NOBODY IS SINGING ABOUT STRAY DOGS AND GLUE SNIFFING ANYMORE’. As brought from the very pit of the stomach and deposited from the mouth with such venom, such ferocity that it makes you wince. And then you realize what he’s just said and you want to laugh. Oh shit, what do I do? Laugh? Wince? Leave the room? My emotions are all over the shop. What am I witnessing? Who is this man?
The YOL back catalogue is an ever growing one and as it grows our man in Hull looks for different ways to express himself. Hence the full on roar of ‘Just Fire’ and then after it the tape collage as background noise of ‘Two Dogs’. Thats the ‘ON’ side. ‘OFF’ is without power but no less effective, so we have YOL with scratchy violin on ‘Protest Wig’, ‘Faded Ghost Letters’ sees an acoustic guitar get the treatment. ‘Crazy Paving’ sounds like it was recorded on our squeaky back gate. Its still has the same effect on the listener. Be it all out noise or YOL with a mop bucket, the effect is still disorientating.
‘Hand of Glory’ [no its not a Ramleh tribute] sees YOL put an upright piano through its paces. The track is of course ‘Knees up’.
But its to YOL’s delivery and his observations writ large that we are drawn to. That strangulated scream, the silence that follows and the words he invokes;
TWO FAKE PLASTC ROTTWLEIERS GUARDING A STORAGE UNIT
ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET IN CASE SOMEONE INSULTS YOU FROM A PASSING CAR
On ‘Trachea’ he’s duetting with an out of control food processor and an unravelling five meter tape measure as he screams /growls/retches ‘I’M A SURGEON NOW’.
‘Knees Up’ is a live track with that piano and unknown squeaky things. YOL sings ‘AT THE END OF THE DAY THE BILLBOARD PROMISING SOUP IS LEAKING’ and you hear the faintest of titters and muffled laughter. As the keys tinkle randomly you hear laughter. Thats what keeps me coming back to YOL and why even after several years of self flagellation his work is still so damned rewarding.
Hand of Glory is seven tracks all done and dusted in less that 25 minutes. I’m thinking it could be YOL’s most complete release yet.
YOL - Bandcamp
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Soft Issues EP
I was in Leeds the other week to see Sleaford Mods at Beckett University. The yearly pilgrimage to catch up on Underwood in Peter Grant mode in the brief five minutes spare he has between flogging t-shirts and trying to work out which city he’s in. Looking around the sold out Beckett University gig space mid Sleaford Mods set, from my vantage point of stage left just a bit in behind the bloke who was bigger than me but at least stood still, I reckoned I was the second oldest person there. It was noisy of course and good fun but I got knocked around like a pinball and I think I’m getting too old for it now. At one point someone making their way back from the bog or the bar tripped over the person behind me and hit me full on in the back. It was an accident, the guy was apologetic, he wasn’t drunk but it made me realize that going to gigs of such nature was best left to those who don’t mind going home covered in beer spray.
The week previous I was in Leeds to see Charlemagne Palestine and Ryhs Chatham at the Howard Assembly Rooms. And to see Campbell get his Astral Social Club vibe on in support too. This is much more my kind of gig now; comfy [ish] chair, bar outside without a massive queue where you can get a drink in a glass, no knobheads shoving you in the back and Campbell was on form as was Charley and Rhys though its a pity Rhys had feedback problems and they had to cut the set short. At least we got to see them do a duet with squeaky teddy bears. If there’d have been no feedback there might not have been any squeaky teddy bears.
An email from Soft Issues leads to the discovery that there’s a new Leeds ‘harsh noise/drone’ band in existence and that of a new venue; Chunk, which is on Meanwood Road and is the home to lots of bands that I never knew existed. This is all good news of course and I dare say that Chunk is the kind of venue where gentlemen of a certain age aren’t shoved in the back by people returning from the bar [they don’t have bar anyway its bring your own].
Soft Issues EP is a five track download only offering at the moment but is due for cassette release through Concrete Block Records. I’m waving my physical review rule only once again to bring you news of exciting developments in the world of Leeds noise. Yes, genuine excitement. Its been a while since I reviewed anything of genuine noise content but here it is and its in Leeds and its noisy.
The people responsible for Soft Issues are duo whose names are unknown to me. It matters not. What matters is that I’ve just discovered a truism in that anyone from Yorkshire who shouts over walls of noise sounds like either YOL or Dave Walklett. On the first two tracks its like Yol and Walklett twinned up with William Bennet in the dying days of Whitehouse. The similarity is uncanny. This may put some people off or decry them as copyists but I couldn’t care less. When things eventually do slow down with ‘The Thrill of Seeing Your Friends Fall’ its to a cavernous five minute long two key drone with a spoken word dialogue that you can barely make out that sounds like someone reading from the works of Sigmund Freud. ‘Degloving’ is the first two tracks again, hammer hard speeded up electronic rhythms, screaming, shouting before the chip out track ‘Hetchell’ and more wasteland washes and the screaming of tortured lost souls.
Is it drone? Only just. Is it noisy? In parts yes. Is it from Leeds. Most definitely.
As far as I know this is their first outing. Maybe I’ll catch them at Chunk one day. I'll have a chair please.
Thursday, November 02, 2017
Ross Bolleter - Du Piano-Épave - The Well Weathered Piano
ISBN : 979-10-94601-17-4
Ross Bolleter plays ruined pianos. Ruined as in ruined by the elements. In most cases the elements of Western Australia which is where Bolleter resides with several ruined pianos, most of them in his kitchen, the rest in the laundry room. I trust he has sympathetic neighbours. The climate in Western Australia proves especially conducive to ruining pianos which may go some way to explaining why ruined pianos aren’t a big thing in the UK and Northern Europe where a couple of harsh winters and a soggy summer would no doubt see a piano reduced to wet wood and oblivion. Scorching Western Australian summers along with the occasional flood are the perfect climactic conditions for turning once proud instruments into rats nests, frogs homes and quite possibly the ultimate improv tool.
The distinction between ruined and its poorer cousins devastated and neglected is important here; the piano has to have spent some time out of doors naturally degrading rather than being the subject of violence [a lounge piano in a war zone perhaps or a physical attack] or plain old neglect [a piano left to its own devices in a room no one visits anymore].
If you have enough of them you can create your own ruined piano sanctuary. You can visit it yourself. At the last count there were forty ruined pianos scattered about Kim Hack's and Penny Mossop's olive farm near Perth, all of them slowly returning to the earth, soundboards cracked, veneer flaking, keys swelling and shrinking, broken hammers clacking, drying and crumbling and along the way making the most incredible sounds.
I have to admit to not having heard of Bolleter before this book arrived and in a blinding epiphanic flash realised just how capable a ruined piano could be in the improv stakes. Once taught bass strings slapping against cracked wood, rotten felt hammers hitting rusty piano wire, thuds where once lived ringing overtones, plinks and plonks and what Bolleter calls ‘clicks, doks and tonks’, sounds that to him are as interesting [if not more interesting] than the sounds the instrument was originally made to produce.
The book is at its best when Bolleter and his collaborators recount tales of finding ruined pianos, describing with uncontrolled glee the states of decay they find them in. One is found in the flooded lower floor of a Prague gallery, the room pitch black, the keys wedged together, the sounds from it barely audible. Bolleter travels to abandoned mining towns to play pianos that have been left in derelict hotels, roofs fallen in, fireplaces halfway up walls. Pianos that have been abandoned by sheep farmers are seized upon by Bolleter who sets about coaxing sounds from them.
Over twenty one short chapters Bolleter covers the history of the ruined piano in Australia [and uncovers the amazing fact that when the population of Australia stood at 3 million there were over 700,000 piano's in the country], the way he works, the people he collaborates with, his exhibition for ruined panos in Perth [Piano Labyrinth], his wittily titled label WARPS [World Association for Ruined Pianos Studies], its numerous releases and his forays in to ruined accordions.
Having spent a couple of evenings listening to Bolleters work I find that he can create sounds that move between melancholy and outright bedlam and most places in-between. Situated between four pianos he moves around like an improv Rick Wakeman kneeling down to strike and pluck exposed strings or hit ruined eye level keys. It's fairly obvious he's mad keen for the ruined piano, obsessed even.
Lenka Lente’s Guillaume Bellhome has translated Bolleter’s words in to French, including some of his poems, a discography, bibliography and a filmography. The first half of book is in French, the second in English. There are also numerous black and white photographs of many a suitably ruined piano as found in its natural surroundings. Its a splendid book, a splendid looking book, it even feels good and is printed on the kind of paper that smells strongly of paper. My favourite kind of paper. As a printed outlet for all things obscure, improvised and poetic Lenka Lente goes from strength to strength. Their status is assured.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Jason Williamson - Slabs from Paradise
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-5-0
Simon Morris - Creepshots
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-0-0
Phillip Best - Captagon
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-3-6
Gabi Losoncy - Second Person
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-2-9
Samantha Davies & Matthew Bower - Talisman Angelical
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-1-2
There can’t have been much of a gap between Phillip Best extolling the virtues of a reprint of Pierre Guyotat’s ‘Eden Eden Eden’ and the announcement of his own publishing imprint Amphetamine Sulphate. Here was a Guyotat fan [they do exist] somebody who actually takes pleasure in reading Guyotat’s onslaught of grubby, gruesome sex and violence [imagine de Sade writing The 120 Days of Sodom in the style of Finnegan’s Wake and you have some idea of where we are here] and was urging us to buy the handsome German hardbacked reprint. I declined. I bought a paperback copy of Eden Eden Eden when Creation republished it in the early 90’s and gave up after an hour feeling like I’d received the literary equivalent of a bloody nose. So I sat down with Best's first five and put my bravest, hardest face on. It felt necessary.
Here is a man whose doctoral thesis ‘Apocalypticisim in the fiction of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Thomas Pynchon’ actually made sense of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow before the internet was awash with all those helpful GR guides. The man who I saw screaming over a WASP synth in Bradford in 1995, the man who I’ve seen snarling his way through crazed, amped up Consumer Electronics sets. I knew these five weren’t going to be Penny Vincenzi primers. I knew this was going to be tough. After reading the first few pages of the Davies/Bower collaboration I also knew that I may have to resort to tearing a 36 page book in half using my bare hands but more of that later.
Of the six authors I’d read Simon Morris before. As far as I know this is Jason Williamson’s first foray into short story writing so barring his work with Sleaford Mods this is another new one. The Best thesis apart I’d not ready any of his work either. Gaby Losoncy was also new to me as was the writings of Davies and Bower.
So where to start? Perhaps with the physical and the fact that these are nearer to book-lets than perfect bound books. Its no criticism. Its what they are. The covers are cloth bound and the pages clean. Then there’s the fact that if you live in England and buy them straight from Best in Austin Texas the US Mail will anally rape you whilst emptying your wallet in front of your eyes. If I was Best I would be looking at some kind of European/Australian/Far East distro so as to ease the pain of those not within Trump's grasp.
Of the five I enjoyed Simon Morris’s Creepshots the most. Having read his Consumer Guide last year I know the man can write and although the biggest chunk of CG was cut from his numerous Facebook posts [containing quick guides and critiques of various bands and authors oeuvres], the first section ‘Mergers’ dealt with the deaths of various members of the Ceramic Hobs and Morris’s continuing struggle to cope. Creepshots carries on in that vein, the whole work an epistle, a 32 page letter that begins ‘Dear Ecka’ and is a candid self assessment of his current state of mind that collates his thoughts on joyless sex, crap pubs, drink and Lana Del Ray with whom Morris seems to have some kind of fixation. Trips to Skye, Halifax and Brighton [amongst others] bookend a section that cuts up corporate promo material for hotels and art galleries with news stories regarding the social cleansing of homeless people in Manchester. An affecting and direct way of highlighting a disturbing political trend.
Morris knows his shit as they say and can wax knowledgeable on most subjects, especially Dworkin, Acker, Lana Del Ray, Austin Osman Spare, Crowley and The Fall. That he can rustle up a threesome from nowhere and can exchange tittle tattle with Una Baines and write about it with casual insouciance is a regular delight. The sex scenes are the best I’ve read since Brett Easton Ellis and that's the highest compliment I can give him.
Jason Williamson has also been published [a book of Sleaford Mods lyrics from the same house as Morris’s Consumer Guide] but these are [as far as I know] his first forays in to short story writing. It seems a natural extension for Williamson who since establishing Sleaford Mods as this country’s saving grace has also tried his hand at acting. His five short stories are, as you would expect, full of the kind of language designed to give Daily Mail readers a serious attacks of the vapors. Five short stories peopled with those for whom causal sex and sniff are the the ultimate driving forces in their lives. ‘Tony’ is a Facebook warrior lacking social nous, ‘Wrong John Silver’ is one half of a gay couple addicted to the sniff, drink and sex in public parks, ‘Southcrampton’ finds Mark the builder in some kind of bizarre relationship with a pole dance, ‘Fuckin Nora’ isn’t an exclamation but an admission and easily the best of the lot, ‘Mad Carol’ is the girl at the cracker factory with no nickers on getting her skirt lifted above her head and shrink-wrapped to a pallet. Surprisingly I found the dialogue Williamson attaches to his creations to be as one dimensional as the characters themselves. Most of them appearing as blank faced ciphers, cunting and fucking their way through another miserable day. Maybe too nihilistic. Maybe that's the point? But when he chucks in the odd description he can instantly bring them to life, Boner has ‘a skull dented like a potato’. Its all you need. The blurb on the back cover captures Williamson at his best;
‘It’s a wanker’s hell, a nothing, with everything wrong in it. Civvy life is a fucking boredom cruise across the dead med. Fuck that. Responsibility isn’t for animals on drugs and when the sharpened core emerges, the green twisted wart, the wicked witch; then you go for it big time, open your legs, fuck them, let them fuck your face, become the god and don’t feel bad about it either.’
Words taken straight from a Sleaford Mods rant. Williamson may yet give us something more substantial but for now these five short stories feel more like works in progress.
Best’s book is the longest of the five here. An almost weighty 60 pages. It contains 73 entries, each one written in a different location, a list of which can be found at the back of the book.
An authors note explains;
‘Captagon is a composite text of my own imaginings interspersed with appropriations, rewritings and in some occasional instances outright thievery from the printed sources listed below. Other borrowings from film, television, magazines or whatever music I happened to be listening to when writing have not been listed’.
There then follows a six page bibliography of which about 90% is alien to me. Familiar names such as Samuel Beckett, James Herbert, Peter Blatty and Mick Wall find themselves listed among writers published only by universities none of whom are Stephen Hawkins. From this we ascertain that Best has a healthy appetite for philosophy, horror and a fascination with the ability of human beings to inflict upon themselves the kind of psychological and physical damage that makes you wonder if we’ll ever fully evolve.
Some pieces read like reports pulled from war zones. Prescription drugs with exotic sounding names are scattered like the pills themselves. ’55’ written in La Honda CA, has this; ‘Don’t examine your feelings. Never examine your feelings. They’re no help at all’. The end result of being fed all this seriously depressing material is that you yourself become depressed. I read this in one sitting and at its end blew my cheeks out and muttered something like ‘and you think you’ve got problems’. Almost every entry has been stripped of punctuation, barring full stops, which somehow manages to make things even bleaker. Work that one out.
Where Best’s writing takes over from that of the aforementioned authors I cant tell. I detected no Mick Wall and his Black Sabbath biography or the writings of James Herbert. It matters not.
Of course I was expecting death, doom and misery and I got it by the page. Captigon [aka 'chemical courage', the brand of speed made by ISIS] does at times feel like a drug trip. A bad drug trip of course. A drug with an exotic plastic sounding name made by Rhone-Poulenc.
Gaby Losoncy’s Second Person is ‘a sort of guide, a replicable guide for other people to direct their thoughts and feelings that are or feel worthless into a manifestable material substance’ and is [I think] a deep and personal outpouring of her existential philosophy. And is a work I found very difficult to connect with. Or ultimately gain anything from.
Losoncy writes; ‘I speak a lot in abstract because there is no proper language to describe what is attained by proceeding like I have’ which may have been my problem. Some pages contain just the one line,
‘The more of you there are, the better off we are’
Some pages are left blank, whether this was intended or a printers error I’m not sure. Towards the end of the book she gathers a head of steam and gets deeper into her subject but completely loses me along the way. At the back of the book is a short chapter entitled ‘Show Piece for Neutral. March 2017’ and reads like a speech Losoncy gave. She is obviously a very deep thinker. But far too deep for me.
Which leaves us with Samantha Davies & Matthew Bower which I’m guessing has been written in a dual narrative style a la Mark Manning and Bill Drummond but with far less spectacular results. To be honest I couldn’t tell them apart although one narrator mentioned cats and dreams a lot. Having read all the books written by Crowley, Spare and Lovecraft our heroes write alternating chapters with titles like ‘Innards Fasten’d for Light’ and ‘Rais’d Aloft With Scorpion Heart’ mostly written in a ‘magick’ spelling style no doubt adopted so as to channel the dark lords words. For the biggest part its all tosh of course but I did read it all the way through and found at its end that I somehow, in some strange way, had rather enjoyed myself and thus decided on the spot not to rip it in half.
My mind was changed by the mention of Arvo Pärt;
‘Pärt is infected by the black butterfly wing of Britten. Shivering strings brush his face. Britten was depraved like me. Pärt constructs a Black Noise Ornament [cantus for B.B.] out of the sickness: Bell, x2 speed violin, x1 speed violin, half speed cello: Revolve slowly in space.’
So they’ve listened to ‘Cantus, In Memoriam of Benjamin Britten’, one of Pärt’s most profound and deeply moving compositions and written that. I forgive them everything.
Where Best takes Amphetamine Sulphate next remains to be seen but I doubt it'll be anywhere sunny.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Daniel Thomas - Keep the Red Kites Flying.
Cherry Row Recordings. CRR 010. Black CDR
I’ve been reading David Toop’s book ‘Haunted Weather’ mainly in a futile attempt to make myself more familiar with the nether regions of this [and Toop’s] musical planet. The pages did turn and the lad can write, as easy on the eye when extolling the virtues of people like sound artist Akio Suzuki or the 70’s improv scene in England or Pan Sonic and then, just when I’m getting a grip on him the words ‘stochastic resonance’ spill from the page and I’m once more the thick kid in the maths class chewing the end of his pencil, brain gone to mush when faced with, what for everybody else, is the answer to a simple maths question with brackets in it.
Still, I quite like the sound of stochastic resonance and now that I’ve seen it on the page and know that its a ‘thing’ I plan to use it whenever the opportunity arises; ballads about the sea sung by retired fishermen, ambient Merzbow releases, the new YOL, the possibilities are endless. Stochastic resonance even has a Wiki page and according to it its an ‘area of intense research’. What it actually is ‘is a phenomenon where a signal that is normally too weak to be detected by a sensor, can be boosted by adding white noise to the signal’. Theres more to it than that of course [why else would it be the subject of intense research] but for the uninitiated [me] I see it more as fiddling around with some buttons until a sound appears.
Can I use stochastic resonance in regards to what Daniel Thomas produces? Why not. There’s loads of it or, as is more likely the case, none at all. It makes no odds, its still one of his best releases.
I’ve not been the cheeriest of champions towards Thomas and his Cherry Row imprint of late. The last couple have been distinctly below par and I was beginning to think he’d blown his wad creative wise. I gave him my version of a mercy killing by not reviewing them. But like the solid citizen that he is he doesn’t take his bat home and instead carries on sending me them. This pays off in dividends when after what must be many a month since its initial release, I finally get the to invest in Red Kites the time it deserves and find within its black frame three tracks of contemplative sci-fi spaceship beating heart mainframe electronics that just about pops my socks and gets the five repeat max treatment.
I’ve seen him play live a few times but not recently. Mainly down the Wharf, each time creating atmospheres where time slows to a sludge pace, a crawling soundtrack containing movements that move at a glacial place that may or may not have been once upon a time termed ‘extraction music’ by the Bearded Wonder.
The best track on the album is ‘Enjoy Defiance’ a broken down analogue signaling machine emitting random sunspotted ‘toks’ to a steady 4/4 snare [or the electronic equivalent of] that puts on weight and density like a bodybuilder on steroids. Not unlike the aforementioned Pan Sonic with Leeds and its suburb Sheepscar standing in for Turku and Tampere. A far remove from earlier DT works and the not to be mentioned Cherry Row release that I fear contained some stuck out like sore thumbs 50’s movie samples. No doubt there are labels dedicated to such electronica but I couldn’t tell you the name of one of them. Thomas deserves to be on one of them though. His work has matured and judging from ‘Kites’ its worth you and other labels, seeking out.
‘Float’ and ‘Construction’ are no fillers either. The former a Forbidden Planet outtake that you could almost dance to, a subtle drone underpinning mutated ethnic rhythms before various fizzing ectoplasm's emerge. The latter a lone drive home through Ballardian underpasses, TG like grime smearing the windscreen, cars passing in the opposite direction leaving behind glowing tail light flares.
The online dictionary definition for stochastic reads thus; ‘having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely’. Resonance I know. I could have turned a corner here. I quite like the sound of the both of them. Literally.
Cherry Row Recordings
Saturday, October 07, 2017
Culver - Negative Gate
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 182. Cassette
VOM - Initiation
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 188. Cassette/DL
Vampyres - Astral Sacrifice
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 189. Cassette/DL
Schlaken - Veneration of Relics
At War With False Noise
ATWAR 186. Cassette/DL
BRB>Voicecoil - Containment
Muzamuza. 18. Cassette
BRB>Voicecoil - Reconfigure Moments
Muzamuza. 19. Cassette
Expose Your Eyes - Disintergration
Dokuro. DK67. - Cassette/DL
I’m not one to get sentimental about inanimate objects but after 21 years of trusty service the sight of our old boiler getting chucked in the back of a van was a sad one. Not just because it gave us 21 years of trusty service but because of the noises it made. The new boiler makes no sound at all, except when its making hot water, the rest of the time its a white box on the kitchen wall with copper pipes coming out of it. The old one, for the last two years of its life had a worn fan bearing. A worn fan bearing that drove ‘Alan the Boiler Man’ almost to distraction ‘you can hear that fan bearing halfway up the street’ he would say as he entered the house with his compressor and rolls of tackle preparing for its yearly service and I would say ‘yes it sounds rather nice’. A response which, judging from the look on his face I can only assume he found rather baffling. But I did like it. Both me and Mrs Fisher liked it and now when I come down for my breakfast the kitchen is deathly silent. Its just not the same.
The old fan bearing sounded a lot like Vampyres, a steady drone noise that if listened to closely alters pitch and wavers a little before settling down to a steady bearing grating hum. A simple hum and one which seems to mirror the house’s own circadian rhythms. Coming up the street now all is silent. I have no worn fan bearing to greet me just the squeak and grind of a metal gate as its bottom strut scrapes against concrete. Which sounds a little like brb>voicecoil and a little like TNB. Maybe I’m replacing the sounds of the house with this pile of tapes that sits in front of me? Maybe I’m hoping for a band or noise artist to replicate the sound of the old boiler fan with its grating bearing and welcoming hum? I think the Bearded Wonder may have beaten me to it. To be honest Vampyres are far noisier than the worn fan bearing and chuck in plenty of cold feedback in their bid to make lo-fi noise for Generation Z. I’m just making the comparison because pretty much every noise/drone outfit I’ve ever come across did at one time sound like the worn fan bearing. Its an easy analogy to make but one that bears repeating.
Vampyres are Martyn Reid and the Lee Stokoe, he who sits aloft on the throne of drone, he for whom no bad words have ever been written. I much preferred his Culver release here though. ‘Levitational Pull’ is a three track drone recorded seven years ago and scheduled for an LP release. The mad fools never put it out. So its another Culver release you say, and I say whats wrong with that? Have you heard a bad one? No. There is a lot of them but each one is like having Newcastle brewed laudanum poured down your ears. Genuflection is the only response. Best track here is ‘Negative Gate’ with a chiming, shimmering heatwave chord progression coupled to a cycling drone thats pure menacing horror film soundtrack territory. ‘Levitational Pull’ is the close up sound of sledge runners being dragged across frozen lakes at breakneck speed.
The house actually sounds more like brb>voicecoil. Especially from the outside where most of ‘Containment’ appears to have been recorded. The wind whipping against various man made objects to the accompaniment of passing traffic, meshed fences rattling in a buffeting breeze. There’s nine ‘containments’ here each one exploring a different sound, some are early TNB-ish, mystery sounds, shuffling, clatter, hard to pinpoint sounds which makes for an intriguing listen. And no after recording dabblement either. These are the sounds as captured, pure raw sounds; ‘The recordings capture natural reverbs, clipping distortion and phasing as a result of mic placement within and around subject matter’. This means you get the scrape of shovels, the tinkle of broken tiles, crows, skylarks and that natural reverberation. On one track it sounds like the mic has been dropped in to a huge empty vessel and after it rocks and sticks the resulting echo and clang being glorious and noisy. Top stuff.
‘Reconfigure Moments’ is a ‘collection of audible time frames cut - manipulated - reset - reprocessed’ and contains in last track ‘Refine’ a moment of indelibly great industrial rhythm. This appears amongst a sea of decaying structures, silences, decomposing electronic matter and all out general knock your ears off electroacoustic greatness. Much better when listened to on the download so as to capture the crispness of the recordings, the detail, the leaf mulched footsteps, the bag of marbles being gentle fondled, the gasp and flutter and wow of the artist at work. Who is Kev from Newcastle. Thats all I know. Its all you need to know.
VOM are early Cocteau Twins without the vocals. A three piece with a drum machine doing their best to keep the early 80’s vibe alive. Bauhaus even. Well almost no vocals, I did detect a smattering of electronically adjusted moaning but its wasn’t enough to get me too excited. Same for Schlaken and ‘Veneration of Relics’, a post apocalyptic, dystopian soundtrack as wrung from an electric guitar and many effects. Like dark clouds gathering on the horizon it filled my ears with dread. Sturm and Drang. Black and grey. Music to fill your bombed out house with.
Expose Your Eyes has filled this house with sounds for many years now. More years than I care to think about. Unusually for EYE ‘Disintegration’ has found a home on a label. Most of Paul Harrison’s work usually arrives here in clumps of CDR’s, hand painted jobs, hand stamped, the result of no doubt intense passages of creative energy after which he goes all quiet and hibernates or makes films that recapture what its like to walk around Yorkshire Sculpture Park off your tits on acid. His latest delivery contained just the eight CD’s [of which more later] and this cassette which is pure EYE; thirteen tracks of mangled noise, slowed down voices, road drills, swirling psychedelica, looped shortwave transmissions, pounding rhythms and, of course, grating fan bearings. As primitive as noise gets. After that, everything goes quiet again.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2
Sofia Records. Cassette. 100 Copies.
Jorge Boehringer & Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh - Swiss Barns + Queef! - Live at the Monk and Nun.
Sofia Records 005. Cassette. 100 Copies.
I was at the bike racing in Scarborough last weekend. No, I do not have any great interest in bike racing but me and Mrs Fisher were given a pair of gratis paddock tickets and it was a nice morning so off we went. Judging by the accents in the paddock it would appear that half of Ireland was there with us too. I never knew the Irish were so keen. And where the Irish go the Guinness is never far behind. Story has it that the Irish were so fed up with having nowhere to go for a pint of Guinness on the Oliver’s Mount circuit that they decided to build their own bar. So one year two van loads of building material and men turned up and they went and built one. Friendly people too the motorbike crowd. Just not much racing going on. In what must have been a jinx on my part there was a serious accident on our arrival whereupon a rider went through the fence and in to the crowd. After another hour or so after the visit of two Yorkshire Air Ambulances and a brief resumption of racing, the same thing happened again, in exactly the same spot. Meeting abandoned. I’ll be back next year though.
I seem to be at one with the Irish of late. And why not, as Barry Norman would say. After doffing my cap to Dublin’s Venusian Death Cell last time around its now the turn of Sofia Records. I’m not sure which bit of Ireland Sofia Records resides in but I know its run by Natalia Beylis who releases short run cassettes containing sounds created ‘by the people around me’. She also makes all the covers and puts bits of dirt and dead leaves in them. At least she did on the latter of the above two releases but more of that later.
Natalia has of lots of friends in distant parts of the globe; New Zealand, Japan, Germany, England and Austria to name a few of them. This explains ‘12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2’ the culmination of the collation of 24 separate field recordings. The following is taken from the Sofia Records Bandcamp page and explains things far more clearly than I ever could and shows Baylis’s apparent liking for numerical symmetry:
I am asking people to record 2 minutes of whatever sounds are happening around them on 14th December 2016 at 18:20 (6:20 pm) their local time. The idea is to capture the sounds happening around you at that exact time rather than create specific sounds during that time.
Why this date? (Because numbers make nice patterns)
In the US the date is written MONTH DAY YEAR so this date was 12/14/16.
In military time 6 pm is 18:00 and 20 past 6 in the evening is 18:20.
A two minute recording starting at 20 minutes past the house will end at 22 minutes past the house so; 12/14/16/18/20/22 = 2
24 people did recordings for this in total. 12 on Side A (24 minutes of sounds). 12 on Side B (24 minutes of sound). Equaling a total of 48 minutes of ...
Twenty four individual examples of Musique Concréte then? Depending on your bendy definition of the term. I prefer found sounds. Sounds as you find them. Which here means someone preparing a meal in Finland with the radio/tv on in the background, someone in TNB mode in their back shed/garage [lots of keys and squeaky doors], kids on buses speaking foreign tongues, traffic, footsteps, birdsong, onboard train announcements in Flemish, a drum and guitar improv band tuning up, the BBC news, a Japanese amusement arcade [maybe] and in one of the more ear popping segments someone playing with their dog its toenails clattering on the hard floor surface its half growls making for a distinctly Schimpfluch-ian like recording. I soon lost track of who’s who on here [Tom Smith, Andie Brown, Elkka Nyoukis, The Doll …] but that hardly matters as this is best listened to as a whole anyway, thus reminding you that everyday sounds are never boring. A concept release then but for once a concept release that works in spades.
Its the Jorge Boehringer/Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh/Queef! release thats filled with bits of dirt, leaves and other crumbs of detritus and the reason why I’m leaving it intact and listening to the download. Sacrilege I know but I have my best keks on and I’m not getting the Hoover out again this week.
Both tracks are recorded live at the Monk & The Nun Festival August 2016 in Leitrim. The Boehringer/Oireachtaigh being a weaving twin violin/fiddle fest that begins in sparse and sombre Arvo Pärt territory before going all improv and beautiful on us. Not so much dueling banjoes as rutting stags. Its a quiet affair for the most part with each player responding to the other as they weave their way through a near perfect 20 minute piece. Running to silence in places the pair lean in to each with great tenderness before climaxing with a full on rasping riff apiece. Not unlike a Tony Conrad scrape only much shorter and far more edifying.
Queef! Meanwhile begin their side with a traditional far eastern melody as knocked out on a Xylophone or some such before going all electroacoustic with rubbed finger cymbals, wind up toys, bubbling liquids, old car horns, the ticking of a clock and much rumbling of a distinct and murky nature. With just the merest hint of music box melodies creeping in to the background this lifts it from its Adam Bohman-esque frottings to something that feels and sounds far more endearing. If such sounds can ever reach such heights. Only the fart of a crackle box shatters the peace.
The detritus is to remind us of the venue. Maybe. I have the urge for a Guinness.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Venusian Death Cell - Venus
No label. CDR. 11 copies.
Venusian Death Cell - Athair Spawn
No label. CDR
David Vora is to Heavy Metal what Hasil Adkins is to Rock ‘n’ Roll. He’s what the Ceramic Hobs would sound like if there was only one of them left and that person, probably drunk, possibly half crazed with drugs and rotting brain decided to make a career from playing nothing but Punk/Metal with a broken Gibson SG copy and a Bontempi organ.
VDC are a one man Irish Metal outfit [insert specific sub genre here and good luck with that] who has graced these pages for many years now. His unique take on all that is black, tattooed and ‘uuuurrgghh’ has made slim jiffy bags from Dublin the pride of the doormat. His is a world of crude hand drawn covers on ruled notepaper, guitars that sound like malfunctioning wood chippers, everything recorded straight to one microphone in David’s home studio. No mixing. No editing. Pure raw Irish Heavy Metal as heard through a tatty paper cone pumped straight in to your deaf lug earholes. Which to these ears is the best that Metal can offer. It’s heartwarming [check out his pean to Irish woman and search for a girlfriend in ‘Fines of the other World’], splenetic [thirty second one note guitar solo tracks] and raw in the rawest of raw forms. You may get off on Metallica riffing Anti Nowhere League and shoving your head in the bass bins down the local gig space but give me some of Vora’s stripped back condenser mic growling and I’m happier than a Metal fan on Metal Day. If such a thing exists which it probably does.
On' Venus' Vora throws the proverbial curve ball by ditching the drums, the horror film samples and recordings of him busking in Dublin, replacing them with heavy reverb and a whammy bar. Just Vora and his guitar playing either simple single note instrumental tunes that run to less than half a minute or Metal classics like the eponymous ‘Venusian Death Cell’ or the raucous ‘Moons’ with its painful guitar solo and lines like;
‘Moon is high
I say bye
I see its glare
On her hair
Moon makes me mad
Because I’m still bad
Exonerate her soul
I fuck her whole
Now a child is born’
‘Athair Spawn’ may yet prove to be Vora’s masterpiece. Back come the drums and the rawk and yes can it be true, do my ears deceive me, songs sung in Italian [‘Petrarch 189’] and Gaelic [the title track as played on an un-amplified electric guitar with a sloooow kick drum back beat and a solo made from five notes]. We get everything from full on growling vocal thrash to freeform guitar churn. ‘Jewish Blaspheme’ shows Vora’s distaste for animal sacrifice, ‘Dark Gold’ may include drum patterns as found on John Shuttleworth’s keyboard and is as wonky and blissful as anything I’ve heard since I put that Chow Mwng release away.
Eight tracks done and dusted in fifteen minutes flat.
I looked up VDC on Encyclopedia Metallum. At the bottom of the page there’s a link to ‘similar artists’ and when you click on it it says ‘No similar artist has been recognised yet’. That's because VDC are unique. They [he, David Vora] may never sell out stadiums or get to chuck tellys out of hotel windows [do they still do that with 50” 4K jobs?] but to a small number of fans he’s the best that Ireland has to offer.
I rest my [Motorhead stenciled] flight case.
davidvora10 [@] hotmail.com
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
Royal Hungarian Noisemakers - Don’Trump / Chillary. The Remixes
Unsigned Label. USO35. Cassette/DL. 48 Copies.
Royal Hungarian Noisemakers - Overdoes
Poor Little Music. PLM150. Cassette/DL. C48. 26 copies.
My memories of Budapest are of walking across the Charles Bridge early one summers evening only to hear the the doleful wail of Bonnie Tyler singing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ from atop Buda castle across the Danube. A festival of 80’s rock pop in full throng, the locals swilling beer and singing along with gusto. Oh what fun. This also explains the flyers for Jethro Tull and if it’d have been that pile of shite atop the hill I’d have walked back to my hotel room, jammed a toilet rolls worth of tissue in each ear and gone to bed for the night. Its not nice having your night ruined like that. They should warn you.
Filthy Turd once played a gig in Hungary but apart from that I know of no noisemaking activity from the country itself. There must be some. Everybody’s at it. Anywhere where there’s a plug socket there’s bound to be a noise merchant plugging things in, making noises, banging things together or seeing if their cheaply bought and long forgotten Spanish guitar can be adulterated in some way so as to get an interesting sound out of it.
I also lost 10,000 forints in Budapest. Well, not exactly lost, more gave it to a barman thinking it was a 1000 forint note. Mistook it for a 10,000 forint note and probably told the barman to keep the change. The pain will leave me someday.
The rather grandly named Royal Hungarian Noisemakers are therefore by default, my first exposure to Hungarian noise and very good it is too. I don’t know what I was expecting, perhaps an hours worth of full on rattle, some Merzbow wannabee chancing their arm with a couple of cassettes to the UK for online dissection by gnarled old noise hack but these two releases are far, far more nuanced than what I was expecting. Shame on me. Maybe what I was expecting was the result of too much plum brandy and cheap cigarettes? Instead I have the results of active minds with discerning tastes. ‘Overdose’ lives, for the most part, in noise/drone territory and kicks off with a six minute example of their sound as recorded live at Karolyi’s Crypt, perhaps too short for those who like to go for the full on head down amp melt but the way those cycling drones take off is well worth hearing. ‘National Women’s D Day’ evolves through its thirteen minutes gaining volume and added nuance with Clanger like vocals appearing amid its churning, roaring finale. But this is merely the entree.
Some of these tracks are then remixed on an American election themed release, one side Republican, the other Democrat. Track titles like ‘Golden Showers’ and ‘Trumpillary’ give you some idea of what’s going on here. Who the remixers are I have no idea but they have names: Pol Mod Pol, RHN, Noisesculptor and the more prosaic Chris Sidgell who all get two tracks each, one on each side. If anything there’s more space on Remixes, more clarity, more going for it, thus the empty spaces of Zoviet France [or Soviet France if you must] are to be found amongst the drone roar of ‘Atom for Korea’ while Unit Moebius like panned and disorientating rhythms are applied to the chopped up noises of ‘Trumpet of Deafening Truth’. ‘Time Machine’ has that ambient Aphex Twin feel complete with psychedelic swirls and dying beats as beaten from a rotting, termite infested log. This time around ‘Chillary’ has even more drone, more noise with only the lo-fi nature of the cassette robbing me of the high fidelity my body so eagerly craves at this time of day. I’m sure the downloaders and streamers will hear improvements.
According to Discogs the Royal Hungarian Noisemakers are Attila Vlad and Kálmán Pongrácz. With these two releases they’ve put Hungary on the noise map [for me at least] and that can only be a good thing. All together now ‘Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely ….’
Poor Little Music
FB for RHN
Friday, September 01, 2017
CHOW MWNG - ULOT-CA
CDR/DL. 25 copies come in handmade box with booklet. NWSAS C2017
Described in the accompanying booklet as ‘D.I.Y. found sound dysfunctional guitar cracked electronics weird wordplay tape music sound collage noise avant-garde abstract improvisation industrial’. Which if you’re in to that kind of thing is quite a find. Fortunately for us CHOW MWNG have somehow managed to make sense of these accumulated genres, mixed them and used them as they [he, Ashley Cooke] sees fit. Its an astonishing achievement. Something that in lesser hands would have become a horrible mishmash, a smorgasbord of disjointed, juxtaposed sounds. Instead, we have one of the most remarkable dozen songs this year. Shit ... any year.
Think 90’s era Joincey and any of his myriad solo projects spitting out songs at the rate of one a minute, think Mark Wynn, YOL, Adam Bohman, Hugo Ball, Smegma, Blood Stereo and the gurglecore crew, think The Residents fronted by an acid crazed Bob Dylan whose been reading too much Lewis Carol, cutting up the lines of his poems and gluing them on to random columns of the TV Times. Think songs sung in a spoken voice by someone who [on Tara of Banana at least) sounds like a cross between HAL and Genesis P Orridge and on others like a laconic Mark E Smith. Hear stunning lyrics like ‘Beyond the north where electricity grows on dead trees’ and smile your widest smile.
Think Stylophones, think clinking clang, think feedback, clatter, struck zithers, the bleep and bloop of malfunctioning speak and spell machines, think Dada, think outsider songwriting par excellence:
‘Use your sense of smell to attract representatives of the musical establishment’
‘Baby son coated in alien bears’.
‘Never, never, never have a plan. Be on the non plan plan’.
‘No one wants to change the world anymore it seems, we all want to be on Marc Riley’s Radio 6 music show’
Pig Head appears to be a story. Albeit a surreal one accompanied by a random banging loop. Loops appear on Shark Attack USA where Cooke is in conversation with a child, a snippet of the conversation looped to the sound of hit pots and pans.
On we Stole Your Soul While You Slept’ Cooke delivers his lines as if straight from an instruction manual, all above a racket created by a hundred wind up toys; chattering teeth, Duracell bunnies, the lot. Beneath it the gentlest of melodies.
Stop Feeding Me Emoji is the killer with a killer last line, ‘Sod off’. It shows the humour that runs through ULOT-CA [whatever that means].
We’ve even got a manifesto:
‘For me music/visual art & poetry have always been about how far a piece of work can be pushed outside of its expected boundaries and about finding new ways to experiment using found sounds/images and minimal means to produce work that draws upon the immediate world around me’.
Not since the days of those myriad 90’s Joincey one-off projects have we heard the multifarious outpourings of one man and a thousand instruments put to song. Twelve of them, each one as unique as a knobbly carrot suffused with sapphires mounted on the Queen’s carriage; Kong Replica, We Stole Your Soul While You Slept, ULOT-CA, Crum Surplus Sequence, Screed, Pig Head, Shark Attack USA, Stop Feeding Me Emojis, Pop Music is Dead, They Moved to the Cities, The Sound of Skin, Tara of Banana. I include the track titles here because for once they’re worth repeating.
This is pop music for 2017. The future of pop music. Cooke has done for pop music what Pop Art did for art. Its been under your nose the whole time. Noise. Tunes. Pop music. Its what we’ve all been waiting for. Pause your Taylor Swift Spotify stream for just one minute, look up from your smart phone, cast your eyes over the booklet of lyrics. Randy Newman just shat his pants. Give CHOW-MWNG a chance.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Salford Electronics - Communique 2
Tesco. Tesco117. CD
I decided to take a couple of noise tapes on holiday with me. If the mood is right I have been known to do some reviewing whilst putting the feet up and have indeed written screeds on Putrefier and Ashtray Navigation whilst enjoying the hospitality of the people of Rajasthan, but with hindsight taking two Hungarian noise tapes with me to a small cottage by the side of the sea, in a small hamlet of about fifty people, was a daft idea all round.
Its not like its the first time I’ve been. We go every year, me and Mrs Fisher. We enjoy the quiet and the vast almost empty beaches and the seafood and the accents and the locals. Its the first holiday we book and if you’ve not been to Northumberland before I urge you to do so.
Which got me to thinking that noise has its place and its definitely not in a cottage in Boulmer. We may have been an hours drive north of Newcastle and the home to many a noise outfit but for all intents and purpose we might as well have been on the edge of the Arctic Circle [if I’m permitted the exaggeration].
So best to listen to Salford Communications within suburban confines. Which is what I’ve been doing this last few weeks or so. And while Cleckheaton is hardly Salford I feel that there does exist a similarity between these vast swathes of semi urban lands that sweep the north of England. Salford, Leeds, Bradford, Batley and Eccles. Prime noise territory. Forget Boulmer.
Salford Electronics is the project of ex Grey Wolves man Dave Padbury who, as you’d expect lives in Salford and while I’ve been following his sporadic digital only releases on Bandcamp this is the fist time I’ve had something physical in my hands. Communique 2 finds itself on the venerable Industrial label Tesco. We are in deep Industrial Ambience territory here, its where things tend to get interesting, where shades of simple 4/4 Panasonic beats are the pulse to shamanic Tuvan throat singing, where in-flight drone evokes dark sombre moods. The moribund gloom moves over these ten tracks like mustard gas on a killing field. Its perfect for Salford.
Through isolated moorland towns that are forever cast against sleet filled skies and tracks like ‘Prestwich’ with its street talk and footsteps on pavements and traffic and samples of military communication. ‘Cease To Function’ is a downward spiral of shortwave radio static and doom. ‘Broken Shadows’ is the empty aircraft hanger with Eraserhead playing on a 12 inch black and white portable in the corner, spatial, empty and decidedly unwelcoming. ‘This Sickness’ a diseased smear of industrial grind and rhythmic groan. A darkly flowing black and stinking Manchester ship canal full of knotted shopping trolleys and dead cats. You music de jour for your trip across the North’s equivalent of the Styx.
Its only recently that I’ve realized just how personal a release this must be for Padbury; Prestwich, Cease to Function, Getting the Fear, This Sickness. A brave record in some ways and one that fits in with the coming dark days. Just don’t take it on holiday with you.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
John Wall & Mark Durgan - Contrapt
Harbinger Sound CD. Harbinger164.
I had to wait for the ears to clear before entering once more the world of Wall & Durgan. Its a world where Durgan mans the synths and Wall the computer. Durgan I’m familiar with. He doesn’t seem to release that much these days so any release with his name on that come this way is warmly welcome. John Wall not so, but according to the sleeve notes he’s credited with ‘computer/editing/arrangement and composition’, Durgan with ‘modular synthesiser and signal processing’. Contrapt being the distillation of three years worth of free improvisation between the two. Wall is, by all accounts, known for the severity of his editing. A man for whom the words ‘spare seconds’ have been eradicated from his vocabulary. Thus the results between the two are what you might call action packed. Action packed computer edited modular synthesizer signaled processed sounds. It's the only place to be.
Not having perfect hearing in both lug holes makes listening to the likes of this a waste of time. Its like walking around an art gallery with shades on, like reading only the even pages of Gravitys Rainbow, you kind of get the idea in both instances but not the true picture. Or sound. You might as well put your head in a washing machine and have someone hit it with hammers. Which is something that Durgan might well have done at some point but not on here. I realised things were going south hearing wise while listening to The Fall track ‘Bombast’, Hanley’s bass reduced to an impatient foot tap, weak and meagre gruel where once stood a stand pie and pickle. And then there was improvement. Did I tell you my ears were fucked? Oh yes. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. To use an optical metaphor. At first a light crackling inside the skull. Like eating popping candy with your mouth shut, sounds traveling up through the head. Light relief. Air escaping. A bit like Contrapt.
So I’m not going deaf after all. A slight tinnitus that becomes apparent when I sit in total silence. I’ve Jazkamer to thank for that. Its something I can live with.
I can live with Contrapt too. Each track a slowly dwindling set of letters ending in ‘Pt’ that are of a whole. Each track seeming to move on organically, one from the other. No large shift in sound from ‘Ntrapt’ to ‘Apt’. Tracks that are filled with the flutter of tiny bubbles, digital chatter, the processed sound of bicycle chain being dropped in to a Quality Street tin. ‘Trapt’ leans towards the noisier end of the scale with digital tape rapidly spooling by, exploding flash bulbs pops and the squiggle squirt of almost rhythm.
Being familiar with Durgan and not with Wall stands me in good stead, I can hear what Durgan’s doing and what Wall is doing to Durgan. If you pardon the expression. Durgan’s brushing of springs and coils signal processed and then no doubt processed again by Wall. All this processing means that most tracks flit by in a flurry of micro sounds. On ‘Rapt’ nothing sits for more than a second, whizzes, burrs, chirrups and electronic groans, with only last track [and longest at 12 minutes] ‘Pt’ finding some space and with it the most reflective, contemplative outing.
This convergence of modular synth and computer generated sounds has me rapt. An endlessly fascinating, revealing and rewarding listen. Especially if you have good ears.
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
The Warp/The Weft - Mapping an Absence
Admirable Trait Records
I have friends who are fans of a band called Mostly Autumn. They play a kind of proggy folky sway in the breeze female singer never ending guitar solo rock that is the bastard offspring of Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd. Depending on which side of the fence you sit on its either inspiring, uplifting, soulful, dreamy folk rock, or the most turgid, soul destroying cliched crap ever recorded by human beings. Guess which side I sit on. Those in the know call them Mostly Awful. I pray I never hear them again. Each to their own though. If we all liked the same thing blah blah blah blah blah blah. But still, it has to be said, there's plenty of shit out there in the big wide world.
For some reason vast megabits of it makes its way in to my inbox. Should the mood take me I investigate and if the label or the outfit sounds interesting or its of a style or genre that appeals I’ll take a cursory listen. If it has the words ‘rock’ or ‘folk’ or Jethro Tull or Pink Floyd in it I delete it instantly.
This week I got an email from The Warp/The Weft and in their press release were the words ‘chamber folk rock’. What the fuck, went my musically overloaded brain, could ‘chamber folk rock’ sound like? I couldn’t begin to make sense of it. So I did something I now regret. I followed the link in the email.
I saw a recent Twitter conversation in which Campbell [amongst others] bemoaned the lack of negative music reviews. Examples of excoriating reviews that were much the norm in the weekly music press back in the 80’s were given as evidence. The music press in the 80’s having a reputation of building bands up only to slag them off mercilessly should they dare to do anything other than play pubs to audiences of thirty people in provincial towns you were only vaguely aware of. Most of it was personal and unnecessary but it made good reading. The example given by Johnny Cigarettes was typical of the time and its something that not just me still misses.
The Bearded Wonder over at RFM has long since given up with the negative review, arguing that his creative energies are better employed extolling the virtues of all that is good in the world. Leave the rubbish to die its own natural death. Why waste time sticking it to the crappy noise CDR when you can be waxing lyrical about that gorgeous drone cassette that comes wrapped in a dried maple leaf, tied up with string, wax seal, ten copies only, filled with love and warmth. He has a very good point but then I clicked on that link and thought why the fuck not. Bands should think carefully before sending promotional emails to those they don’t know very well.
I’ve not written a negative review for as long as I can remember. Along with the Bearded Wonder I gave them up too. Plenty of good stuff to be writing about. Why waste my time. But then I clicked on the link in that email.
So for the most part I ignore emails that begin with the words ‘Hey Idwal check out my new album. It contains ten songs that I wrote on the steps of a brownstone in Williamsburg on a battered guitar that I got in a thrift store for ten dollars and its classic singer songwriting songs with a Northern Cambodian twist’.
The email from The Warp/The Weft began with these words:
‘We write to introduce you to “Mapping an Absence,” a new album by The Warp/The Weft, a Poughkeepsie, NY-based band. The songs range from chamber folk rock to dark, haunted ballads, to sparkling psychedelia—all led by the riveting vocals of singer-songwriter Shane Murphy.’
So I went to the Bandcamp page where you can listen to Mapping an Absence and after about five seconds of a guitar picking intro a voice appeared the like of which I’ve never heard before nor ever wish to hear again. It sounded like someone reciting 16th century Italian poetry in a falsetto faux Irish accent. Imagine such a thing? The track in question was the opening track ‘A Welcoming of Owls’. Imagine such a track title. Can you even believe such a thing exists? As much as I hate Mostly Awful I’d rather sit through their entire discography on headphones with the volume on full, strapped in to a chair with no means of escape or toilet facilities than to suffer ever again the hideous thing that is the song about owls. I’m still not sure if this was the chamber folk rock song though. It was definitely not the sparkling psychedelia one. I’m guessing it was the haunted ballad. Its haunted me ever since.
What makes this all the more sad is that it is quite obvious that I have never and will never review such material. A cursory glance at the pages of Idwal Fisher will reveal to the casual reader a leaning towards the outer edges of our musical planet. The noisy bits that fall down the back of the settee if you will. Nowhere does it say ‘chamber folk rock reviewed here’. Its why The Warp/The Weft will probably never see this review. And yes I did listen to it all the way through, mostly with my jaw on my chest, shaking and jibbering like an idiot. Writing it all down and dissecting it may tip me into a foul mood the escape from which may take weeks. So I'm not even going there. I need to listen to something loud and hard and fast. Each to their own. Blah blah blah blah blah.
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Vampyres - Century Scars
Invisible City Records. ICR 34. Cassette/DL. 50 copies.
Death in Scarsdale - Ruminations
Invisible City Records. ICR 33. Cassette/DL. 43 copies.
Three Eyed Makara - Moonmilk Roof
Crow Versus Crow. CVC06. Cassette/DL. 100 copies.
Colony - Alocasia gardens
Crow Versus Crow. CVC05. Cassette/DL. 50 copies.
Stef Ketteringham - More Guitar Arrangements
Crow Versus Crow. Cassette/DL. 50 copies
I’ve just returned from the doctors having being told that I’m partially deaf in both ears. Which goes a long way to explaining why everything’s been sounding shit for the last month or so. The deafness is temporary. An accumulation of hardened earwax, a thin veneer of catnip accumulated after being given some bad advice r.e. ear wax and aural canal hygiene. Don’t put anything bigger than your thumb in your ear I got told. Ears are self cleaning. The wax is there to protect your ear drum. And then I woke up one morning and couldn’t hear anything at all out of my left lug. A disorientating feeling. Like someones banjoed you round the head and your face has gone all numb. Two years ago I got an abscess in my left ear. I’m ear cursed. For someone who likes listening to music I fear that my dotage will be filled with ear trumpets and large print books. The eyesights going too. Television with subtitles. All my music on eBay to help fund a bath chair. Don’t get old. Don’t get ill.
Some would say that having a thin veneer of hardened wax snug to your eardrum would be of benefit when listening to noise. Especially on cassettes. And it is. A medium not known for its fidelity [though the digitally copied mass produced cassettes that appeared just as cassettes were dying out are an exception] is one of the best for listening to noise. So long as that noise had no fidelity to start with. Immersing yourself in a C90 of bad noise can have its benefits but that noise still has to have something about it. Something that passes for no-fi hippy noise trippy head mong psych noise. Something that you can travel with. Smell the Stench released lots of noise cassettes in this manner and though I hated most of them at the time [cheap covers, poorly dubbed, dozens arriving all at once, all total dumb noise overkill] you cant help but think that this approach has its merits. A certain punk-ness that a lot of todays noise orientated labels lack. Now its all 200gsm screen printed J-card inserts using four colour natural vegetable dyes and an instant link to the labels Discogs page. Mind you, all those shitty old Smell the Stench cassettes have long since gone the way of all flesh [except the Emil Beaulieau one] and the cassettes I get now have a certain uniform appeal. You can line them up on your shelf and in some instance you can even read the bands/project name on the spine. There’s something to be said for the clean lines of a bog standard two piece cassette box.
Vampyres are all lo-fi noise. Either that or the medical grade olive oil running around inside my head is ruining things. I doubt that Vampyres would benefit from higher fidelity. This works just fine. Old Skool Noise with a bit of drone thrown in for good measure. Four tracks, some of which are of the polar storm variety, some of which are of the screeching gadget box variety. I have no idea who Vampyres are but I’d stand in front of their table at one of their gigs with my thumbs in my belt loops and nod my head vigorously with no thought for my hearing at all.
Death in Scarsdale is the perfect moniker for a band/project making no-fi murk where nothing much happens in two times twenty minute bites. I imagine Scarsdale to be like it sounds; taps dripping, people talking in a barely audible mutter over murky crumbling drones that, on one side at least, appear as if they’re continually on the brink of collapsing into a mess of magnetic cassette crumbs. Birds are heard on side two, or a budgie in a cage, the domestic living room rendered dying room. Everything dead, breaking twigs, the crackle of a bonfire, damp leaf mulch underfoot. I swear I felt an involuntary shudder across my shoulders once each side. Perfect for that soggy October evening when the thought occurs to you that the weathers going to be shit for the next six months at least.
Those two releases were from Invisible City Records which is based in Newcastle and has given us the likes of Culver and Stuart Chalmers and Anla Courtis. All cassettes too if I’m not mistaken. Crow Versus Crow are based in Sowerby Bridge which isn’t too far from where I type this, its also the same place where Smell & Quim used to live and record. Must be something in the air round these parts. Crow Versus Crow is also a radio show and a podcast and a design studio and a place where you go to buy a dog on a string. Or maybe not. Some of their releases take time to put together are not of the Smell the Stench xeroxed bit of paper with rubber band around them variety. Its the reason I don’t see any of them. I cant blame them. Instead I listen to the download which as you know, is not my preferred mode of listening pleasure but with these ears will it make any difference? A lo-fi cassette tape, a download through dodgy ears? Whats the difference?
So we have Alocasia Gardens which is leaning towards electronic compositions with one track full of portentous keyboard swirl and dramatic noise bursts like the end credits of an Italian horror film. Best track is also the last and one like nothing thats gone before, ‘Last Light’ is something out of the Froese songbook, a two chord ebbing and flowing synth movement. Suitably drift like and all too short.
Deaf ears are good for improv too. Three Eyed Makara come on down. With your scraping and frotting and fiddling you make scratchy sounds and take an age to get going but when you do its not too bad at all in a lets hit everything at once kind of way. I have to admit that I don’t know that many people who get anything out of this kind of music. They must have beards though, long beards and they probably live in holes and wear odd hand knitted jumpers and mismatched shoes, they must eat nothing but mushrooms and live in houses with grass on the roof. Its my least favourite kind of music when its in this mode. I’m not improv averse per se but there’s nothing happening here to make me want to listen to it again. I don’t want my ears to get better. I like it like this. Track one eventually picks itself up off the floor but I’d already gone looking for the olive oil by then.
Stef Ketteringham’s ‘More Guitar Arrangements’ is nine tracks of improv guitar with an odd track of guitar noise stuck on its end. Its not all Derek Bailey grumpy Yorkshireman fingers stuck in f holes crap either. Ketteringham moves in sweeter arcs especially on tracks like ‘Killing Flaw’ which have more in common with Jim O’Rourke’s guitar work than Baileys. There’s more melody than Keith Rowe too but not its still not quite straightforward enough to ring like Leo Kottke. His improvisations around melody are where he works best and not having listened to any guitar improv for quite a while I found myself coming back to this. There’s something within these ten shortish tracks [30 minutes running time] that lifts them from the ordinary. Kreffting uses a battered Stratocaster, bits dropping off it, bridge built up high, busted strings, his guitars aren’t objects to be polished or worshipped, they’re there to be played and knocked about and even with these mutton ears it sounds like something rather special.
Invisible City Records
Crow Versus Crow
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Julian Bradley & Neil Campbell - For Lila O
CDR/DL. No label.
Stuart Chalmers and Neil Campbell - In the Vicinity of the Reversing Pool.
CDR/DL. No Label.
Have you heard the Scott Walker/Sunn O))) collaboration? Did they do it just do it to fuck everybody off? Did any serious Sunn O))) fan think Scott Walker was the man to take the band in a different direction, give them a new lease of life? Was there a Sunn O))) fan who’d ever heard of Scott Walker? Is Scott Walker a Sunn O))) fan? Maybe he likes nothing more than listening to Sunn O))) thinking to himself, ‘you know what I’d love to make an album with these guys ... and if they’re not available I’m going to ask Boris or Diamanda Galas or Robert Wyatt’. Maybe Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson are big Scott Walker fans? Fans of warbling in a ridiculous voice that makes no sense? Maybe they wanted to do an album with Truman Capote but he was dead so they went for the next best thing.
Collaborations [or ‘feat’ as they call them in the singles chart these days] can be hit and miss affairs and not just in singles land. Stuart Chalmers recent collaboration with YOL
didn’t exactly run through the gears; a one man Tourettes machine hitting and clanging things coupled to someone more at home with loops, samples and swarmandals. But you kind of new that the destined to happen Campbell/Chalmers collaboration was going to be a far more settled affair.
My only fear with collaborations is that one artist occludes the other or the styles don’t mix [see above] an oil and water situation. Instead of an emulsion you have bits floating about and nobody likes bits.
There are moments on SC/NC when you get the feeling that SC is doing his best to be heard but thats a small complaint from whats a stonking meeting of minds. Chalmers use of looping samples [Reversing Pool. Gedditt?] are to the fore on second track ‘Deep in the Reversing Pool’ with Campbell’s clattering beats holding together the cacophonous reverse loop of a sample of snatched vocal. Think Nurse with Wounds ‘Rockette Morton’ given a blast with the Kircher. Pick of the bunch is ‘Slipping Slipping’ with Campbell’s trademark electric guitar going backwards forming lumps of molten lava that trickle all the way down the mountain of Chalmers looping loop of someone singing ‘slip, slipping away’. The fit is perfect, the mood one of being wrapped in a morphine drenched blanket. Next track ‘Detritus of an Old Bank’ clangs along like a Joe Jones machine, a-clapping and a-flapping and a-banging, an out of control fight to the death between people armed with teaspoons, knitting needles and finger cymbals. ‘Migrating Dirge’ is just that, wheezy Melodica, coughing, clanking, someone speaking in voices. A match made in heaven or Leeds or Bradford.
Bradley and Campbell have collaborated before but its so long ago I cant remember what it sounded like. I have one of them here, buried in a box somewhere. No doubt recorded in Leeds or Brighton after too many beers when the peak was peaking and the mood was just right.
Apparently commissioned by John Olson who was heard to comment that there wasn’t enough Campbell/Bradley collaborations on the planet ‘For Lila O’ weaves between full on two chord organ swirl jams to early sunrise beatific orgasms to gentle guitar strum. The two key tracks lie in the middle of the thing; ‘Giants in the Electric Nativity’ and ‘How to Wear a New Watch’ are ten minute drifts, sonorous and deep away with the fairies music, heady vibes. The first a loose warp on the chip out to the Stones ‘Sympathy’ as played by Sun Ra with his hands tied behind his back, Richards wonky guitar solo replaced with key clusters and wooing sounds. The latter, an eternal lift off, an ebbing tide of softly strummed electric guitar, the gentle burble of electronic streams. I doubt there’ll be any complaints from Olson. The rest aint too shabby either with ‘Budget Fashion Holiday’ sounding like the credits to a 60’s BBC programme about electronic music and ‘Cosmic Looking Twin’ two minutes of random fizz. Chip out track ‘Now and Future Drenchings’ is the calmest of waters, a bucolic English countryside with birds and breezes and more gentle strumming and burbles. The perfect antidote to anything Scott Walker get his hands on.