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