alien currency: valuing stuart chalmers, robert ridley-shackleton, spoils & relics and the piss superstitionMay 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
Tags: chocolate monk, drone, hissing frames, improv, julian bradley, kirkstall dark matter, lf records, new music, no audience underground, noise, robert ridley-shackleton, spoils & relics, spoils and relics, stuart chalmers, tapes, the piss superstition
Stuart Chalmers/Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Blunders (tape, Hissing Frames)
Spoils & Relics – Angels Trumpet Over Moonbeams (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.252)
The Piss Superstition – Vocal Learning (CD-r or download, Kirkstall Dark Matter)
Recently my heavyweight cultural commentator status was leaned upon by that talented noise scamp Duncan Harrison. He wished to pick my brains in an email interview and then use my powerful insights to inform his MA dissertation, thinking, correctly, that my involvement would guarantee him top marks. His subject, a fascinating one, is the construction of value in noise. I won’t rehearse too much of what I said to him as a) much of it was culled from previous interviews and blog posts that can be found here or nearby and b) I don’t know what stage he is at in the project or if he intends to publish it himself. Suffice to say it was a pleasurable business which got me thinking about a difficult subject that I’ve long been nervous about.
To put the question as simply as possible: when faced with two noise performances or recordings what, if anything, makes one better than the other and what allows the listener to make that judgement? I have been mulling over the implications of this thought whilst enjoying these three releases. I’ll use the excuse of the reviews to chuck in a bit of light philosophizing too.
A month (or so – sorry: taking care of a baby seems to shrink the calendar) ago, Stuart Chalmers generously sent me a copy of the split tape pictured above and his CD-r Daydream Empire on rock-solid noise label LF Records. I was especially keen to hear the latter as Uncle Mark over at RFM’s sister blog Idwal Fisher had already lavished praise upon it. Stuart’s blistering collages are constructed with care, dedication to detail, a dry wit and sense of rhythm. There is an admirable fluidity to the craziness which suggests hidden narratives beneath the surface froth. It is delicate and nuanced in places, gibbering bonkers in others. The recording is immaculate, the package very smart. In fact, I can’t think of an ‘objective’ measure of quality on which this release doesn’t score highly and yet… I’m sad to say that I didn’t like it. Over the course of several benefit-of-the-doubt re-spins I found my attention wandering, unable to latch on. It is clear to me why others like it and why I ‘should’ like it myself, but knowing that doesn’t help. Most perplexing – it feels like my fault somehow.
The split tape Blunders, however, despite being ‘less accomplished’ (and I realise that using phrases like that is not helpful when the nature of ‘accomplishment’ is the point being discussed but, hey, I’m not the one writing a dissertation) is great. Stuart’s side begins with a groaning cassette player, low on battery power or suffering from finger-on-the-capstan syndrome which accompanies Stuart sorting out his recycling, clearly in a bad mood. There is an appealing physicality to this section – I like to hear things chucked about. The following sequence is simplicity itself: a short loop is augmented with various clatters and allowed to rise and fall as rhythms emerge and are subsumed in the growing crescendo. This cuts abruptly and is replaced with some ghostly, chittering squiggletronics layered in overalpping spirals sat atop an uneasy moan. Effective and gratifying. Robert’s side begins with a tooth-loosening trebly whine. This isn’t something I would usually warm to, but it is subject to occasional and semi-rhythmic disruption which proves hypnotic. Like watching the cool, even flow of a melt water stream disrupted by a child bringing odd shaped muddy objects to wash in it. The dreamlike atmosphere is continued with a strangely breathy middle section and compounded by a final sequence that feels like lying on a beach listening to light aircraft pass overhead, well, until a smearing of the sound suggests this may be something slightly more sinister – an imposed memory perhaps. So what of ‘quality’? Are there such things as objective measures? If the attributes I list in the previous paragraph are examples then in a ‘tick list’ exercise the CD-r wins out over the tape. However, as I far prefer the latter to the former, it seems that exhibiting all these virtues does not necessarily lead to a release being ‘good’.
Which brings us to the next point: is saying something is ‘good’ anything over and above saying ‘I enjoyed it’? Is saying ‘this is better than that’ just a way of saying ‘I liked this more than that’ couched in pseudo-objectivity? Can I get away with saying, for example, Angels Trumpet Over Moonbeams by Spoils & Relics, volume 4 in Chocolate Monk’s ‘The Well Spliced Breath’ series of releases, is better than all-but-one of the other items on the review pile? Well, I’m going to…
Spoils & Relics are much loved here. Their collages of found sounds, unfathomable scrapings, radio twittering and cultural detritus are superficially similar to many other releases that come my way but they seem to add an extra layer in-between their sources and results that others don’t. Before being recontextualized, the causes they have collected get abstracted and uncoupled from their usual effects. Elements are recognizable, of course, and some of the filters used are obvious (tapes sped up for humorous effect etc.) but everything is coated with an oily film of, for want of a better word, magic. Perhaps because the group is a trio the sense that some kind of rite is taking place is more pronounced than it would be with a solo artist. I dunno. Never mind: this is 24 minutes well spent. I was entranced, amused, fascinated. It weathers repeat listens – the twinkling cragginess becoming more characterful each time around.
Whilst stopping short of claiming my judgement has an objective grounding, I might have a go at a kind of appeal to authority: my own. I recognize this gambit has no logical force behind it but I have spent thousands of hours over more than two decades listening to and thinking about certain types of experimental music, and many of those hours/years have been spent engaging with this type of noise. I’d like to think that I’ve developed a certain connoisseurship during that period. I have a historian’s feel for context, and a fellow practitioner’s (I hesitate to call myself a ‘musician’) appreciation of the methods of construction. Thus if some ne’er-do-well challenged me to justify my assertion that this CD-r is excellent I would put a friendly arm around their shoulder and calmly explain that I have put the hours in. Experience allows me to appreciate depth, nuance, texture and/or take joy from immediacy and the unexpected. Basically: if I know about anything, I know about this.
Which brings me neatly to the pay off. For the reasons given above, I am well placed to appreciate and savour anything genuinely remarkable and unique that happens along. Hang on a minute, the sceptic might say, didn’t you just assert that your trustworthy aesthetic judgement was based on a bedrock of accumulated precedent? If so, how do you account for something unprecedented? It’s a fair point. I think I’d try and wriggle out from under it by saying that my experience has taught me that novelty has a value in and of itself and that finding something unclassifiable is usually a good reason for close further attention. I love those ‘what the fuck am I hearing?!’ moments. As I said to Duncan: in a scene where anything goes you have to be prepared for anything going.
The Piss Superstition, that is Julian Bradley and Paul Steere, is just such a proposition. My bromance with JB is over-documented elsewhere on this blog so I won’t go into that again. Suffice to say I cry uncontrollably whenever I remember that he has deserted Leeds for that Manchester. Still, we’ll always have the music…
Vocal Learning comprises three tracks totalling approximately 26 minutes and comes on a sleek, black playstation-style CD-r in the nicely designed, minimal packaging pictured above. It is the second release on Dave Thomas’s microlabel Kirkstall Dark Matter and effortlessly betters the inaugural release by yours truly. I’m honoured to be in such company. The music suggests systems gone wrong, like some guy pushed in a punch card upside down and then went to lunch leaving everything running. Yet heavy, juddering electrics describe arcane symbols as they spiral through the iterations of this garbled instruction set. Something truly wierd is being revealed. The serrated buzzing suggests saw mill equipment escaping its moorings and consuming itself as one bladed machine vibrates into the path of another. But again, there is nothing random about this movement. All is being conducted by an unfamiliar intelligence for some unknowable purpose. In the end though, all metaphors, similes, superlatives and whimsy just slide off this band or, at best, get caught in the gears and mashed – such is the beauty, mystery and power of their output. They do not sound like anyone else and yet, somehow, it turns out that this sound is exactly what I wanted to hear. Its value can only be calculated by fumbling with an alien currency, glinting strangely in my palm.
Thus: Vocal Learning is the best album of the year so far. Why? Because it is – I said so.
Tags: daniel thomas, dead wood, drone, electronica, iversen, korg ms-10, l.c.b, mark bradley, michael clough, new music, no audience underground, noise, phantom heron seas, pulse, sindre bjerga, small things on sundays, striate cortex, tim newman, urlich uhrlich
Ürlich Uhrlich – Kosmotron II (2 x 3″ CD-r in handmade package, Striate Cortex, S.C.58, edition of 50)
Various Artists – SCFREE (CD-r, promotional compilation, Striate Cortex, S.C.FREE 1, edition of 50)
Great to see Andy Robinson’s mighty Striate Cortex back in the conversation. The multi-zellaby-award-winning label has been quiet of late due to Andy having to concentrate on those tangled processes that exist outside of music (I believe they are referred to collectively as ‘life’) but the wait for his return has been worth it.
Kosmotron II by Ürlich Uhrlich is a double 3″ CD-r (truly the format of champions) housed in an example of the exquisite handmade packaging that Striate Cortex is justly famous for. The CD-rs are ‘on body’ printed and housed in windowed paper envelopes. These are held against the cover with sashes, behind one is a pro-printed insert containing (very minimal) release details. The cover is a gate-fold constructed from handmade card and held shut with its own painted sash. A remarkable object.
Ürlich Uhrlich is one of several mysterious aliases adopted by Michael Clough. This guy’s invaluable contribution to the underground scene in Leeds, prior to his treacherous decamping to that London, has been documented elsewhere (see here, here and here, for example). Nowadays he will be better known to readers of this blog for recordings under his own name and as one third of synth/psyche supergroup Truant (with Phil Todd and yours truly making up the trio).
However, he also has a long history of creating pastiches, homages and oddities and making them semi-available under assumed identities, often with meticulously plausible back stories for the ‘long lost’ artist now ‘rediscovered’. Nowt has been said (to me at least) about Ürlich Uhrlich so I’m tempted to have a go myself: I’m imagining a German Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and went on to become a pioneer of electronic music, a genius sound engineer and a shadowy but influential presence both in the foundation of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and in the New York ‘Downtown scene’ of the 1960s…
Andy reckons the music could have soundtracked Tron and, yeah, I can hear that, but I’m tempted to go much further back. The tightly wound, relentless back-and-forth of these analogue throbs and pulses suggest a kind of teeth-grinding, cheek-chewing, speed-freak non-narrative: ‘and then, and then, and then, and then…’ Perhaps it should accompany Warhol’s Empire? Or maybe a time-lapse film of a giant copper clad cathedral dome oxidizing and being encrusted with livid green verdigris?
We could even get a little more active. How about multi-limbed sport-bots thwacking a dozen basketballs at once to each other across an empty floor of an underground car park? Or, especially during the bibbling sections of the second track, angry artificial intelligences throwing packets of information around in the hope of winning a competition the rules of which our pitiful brains could not begin to grasp? Yeah, as good as that.
Also worthy of note is the ten track various artist compilation SCFREE. This artefact is not for sale but will be supplied free of charge alongside paying orders made to Striate Cortex until the edition of 50 is extinguished. Andy invited submissions stipulating they be about five minutes in length and ambient(ish) in nature. The idea being to both encourage business and to promote the work of worthy artists with a connection to his label. Slick. No midwich track due to, y’know, ‘life’, but there could well be something from me on volume two.
Anyway, even without me it is pretty much all good. Everything has the chance to engage, nothing has the chance to outstay its welcome, most leaves you wishing it was twice as long. My favourites are the four tracks that top and tail the album. The opener, Tim Newman’s ‘Park Page is Empty’, is a lovely, guitar-led see-sawing throb. The second track, Mark Bradley’s ‘Sacred Musics’ is a Vangelisian curve of precious metal, slightly discordant to keep its edge serrated (a prime example of what an ex-girlfriend of mine used to call ‘wob-wob’ electronica). At the other end of the compilation, the ninth track, Daniel Thomas’s ‘Heavy Density’, is the kind of refried physics you might hear whilst lying in your garage-constructed time machine, resisting the temptation to crawl out of the box, at peace, trusting the math and waiting for the cycle to conclude. The final track, ‘Moonship (Phase One)’ is a live piece by Small Things on Sundays which suggests a desert camp fire scene on a sandy planet. Huge, docile pack animals purr and buzz as they sleep nearby, ornithopters flap overhead, some radio chatter is ignored as the explorers relax. Beautiful.
Tags: ben morris, drone, improv, joe murray, lost wax, new music, no audience underground, noise, sandy milroy, shareholder, tapes, visual art, winebox press
Shareholder – The Backwards Glance Vol 1, 2 & 3 (self-released, 3 x cassette)
Lost Wax – ‘My Sore Daad Heap’d’ (cassette, Winebox Press, edition of 77)
OK then, Ladies and Gentlemen, a message from the editor: as promised, here is the first piece by RFM’s official new contributor Joe Murray. BEWARE! This hep cat is far too jazz to use paragraph breaks so take a deep mental breath before diving in. Over to Joe:
Hey there no-audience underground! Delighted to spill my beans all over in frantic excitements. You got time to listen? Today I’ve got a bunch of red-hot tapes for you from rare solo projects; Ben Morris’ Lost Wax and Sandy Milroy’s Shareholder.
Blimey! This is a mammoth document from Shareholder. Sandy’s been doing hard time with gruntcore dinosaurs Muscletusk for ages, dragging a screeeee guitar round the yeasty pub scene causing buckets of lightning to implode. But it’s his Shareholder disguise that I’ve been digging this past few weeks. The Backwards Glance is ten god-damn years of recordings all wrapped up in beguiling drawings, elastic bands and creepy collage work. Sandy has taken the Faust approach and jams are cut-up hard against each other so you lurch between approaches, styles, themes and moods. The last bunch of Shareholder CD-Rs I have heard were delightfully guitar based. But this is so much wider in focus. Things kick off with a faux-eastern style keyboard motif and pretty much chop & change at random over the next six 45 min sides. That’s a lot of ground to cover so I’ll start with the signature Shareholder sound: very fucked, distorted guitar, swooping though soft arcs of ‘waauuuuuhhhhh, waauuuuuuuhhhh’ like an eiderdown chock full of downers. At times there’s a harsher edge; like a Sonic Youth guitar breakdown, then things might spruce up like a flavour bud living or a flinty acoustic ramble. All good yeah. But added to this pot is a gravy of dark ambient groaning like some Supersilent workout, generous dumplings of radio play tape chatter, some real-time guitar versus drums jams, silent corridor creak and atmospheric crunch. A staggering amount of styles are covered. I think tape 2 (Alice?) hits the sweet spot from the word go with some jumble-under recording and some real classy sample work. Single phrases are looped until all meaning has been destroyed via senseless repetition. If this was London, people would shout ‘Hype Williams’ and draft an over-written essay on consumerism and modern culture…but as this is Edinburgh it’s all undercut with a Ned-ness lope and knuckle-head knock. The radio interview/play aspect comes to the fore with a beautiful, beautiful tape/speech/keyboard piece. I can’t tell where this starts and ends (no songtitles to help neither) but for 10 mins or so a perfect and poignant set of interviews, phone messages and gloomy keys float out the speakers with a cheeky wink. ‘Proper’ songs poke at that Velvet itch, bombastic news idents screech out at random and there’s even eight bars of some 2-step boogie. I could go on but this would just turn into a long, long list of the different snippets that amuse and startle. And I’m guessing different bits would jump out for you depending on your mood or appetite. My advice is to block out a few hours in your schedule, settle yourself in your preferred listening area and drink this special brew in deep. As in the dog-eat-dog world of high finance the Shareholder is always looking for a unique selling point. This USP for these clever little tapes is their god-damn addictiveness! The Backward Glance was originally a private, ‘trades to mates’ kinda deal. But such is the power of RFM that Sandy has agreed to dubbing a super-limited run of 10 (editors note: I suspect this is seriously overestimating our influence, but good on him! – RH). You too can marvel at Shareholder’s brave vision by sending £10 (inc P&P) to firstname.lastname@example.org clearly marking your mail BACKWARD GLANCE in big letters so it don’t get missed. Oh yeah…trades are very welcome.
Ben Morris has been treading the boards with what some nameless observer described as ‘the only decent band in London’, Chora. This is his first outing as Lost Wax, with the cryptically titled ‘My Sore Daad Heap’d’ on cassette. Right, first things first. This little tape comes out via the Winebox Press so you’re in for some nifty & challenging packaging. ‘Sore Daad…’ comes nailed to a piece of wood (once a comfortable futon by all accounts) and bound up in elastic bands and brown paper, making it all the more special. With only 77 other handmade brothers & sisters around in the whole voyald you’re going to have to net this sucker soon. It might just be a little thing to you but seeing all this hard work, inventiveness and sense of fun tickles my laugh lines from the off. Sheesh…if I’m gooning over the packaging what’s going to happen when I slam this baby home? Ok…stereo on…tape in…press play. The anticipative hiss of a really warm recording shifts into a fly-blown world as hot and high as a Cement Garden. Golden memory shimmers like tissue paper and drags things like a summer holiday that never gets to the end of the six week fug. ‘M1Jet’…a hissy and fizzy guitar, tape, rusty trumpet (?), organ and field recording struggle in a frothy brew of ever-changing colour and texture. Waves slap against the jetty and a single bell rings as a pregnant coda. ‘Brackish Lung’ takes tiny bell drone/ringing sounds layered over the unmistakable gurgle of piss flowing warmly into a thin tin funnel. Other elements of warm fuggy huff get folded in until these gentle waves climax in a gushing golden shower of trucker’s Tizer. ‘Afternoon Mesh’ summons one of my favourite immersive sound environments…rain falling on a nylon tent. An homage to Maya Deren perhaps? This makes beautiful the art of doing nothing much at all. Rolling hiss and gentle rumble are punctuated by tent-zipper ‘whhoooossshhh’ and the everyday pyrotechnics of a close miked match (or something). The listener is at the core of these intimate soundscapes and this gentle humming is as meditative as a giant gong’s enveloping reverberations; but writ in miniature, tiny cogs ticking away to silence. ‘Clogged & buttered’ takes the rhythmic ‘whump’ of the bilge pump and outboard motor and overlays a peasant guitar, mulchy walk, chunter and Geiger counter crackle to pull together the whole liquid theme. This draws me to the ocean, like an aquatic ape…there is a naturalness and timelessness to this little tape. A 1960’s Ladybird book come to life with clear and precise illustrations. The art of composition is more of a lopsided collage for Lost Wax; see-sawing between clammy-fingered catgut pluck, natural woody drone and high performance field recording. The lessons of Lambkin are applied making this a serious contender for tape of the year. Want it? £6.50 plus packaging costs from Winebox Press my friend.
Tags: dictaphonics, half an abortion, improv, joe murray, memoirs of an aesthete, new music, no audience underground, noise, pete cann, posset, tapes, total vermin, vocal improvisation, yol
Yol – cordless drill faces separation anxiety (CD-r, self-released)
Half an Abortion – Drowsy Seepage (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, MOA 2013-1)
Posset – The Glistening Fist (tape, Total Vermin, #81)
As well as being art worthy of contemplation in and of itself, all that dreamy psychedelia and rumbling noise-metal I listen to serves a valuable purpose. When my disposition is knotted and tangled (thus: most of the time) a dip in this universal ego solvent is most therapeutic. It isn’t suitable for every occasion, though. Sometimes I need music brimming with angry energy or anarchic humour to slap me out of a fug or compliment a brash good mood. Sometimes I want to laugh on the bus, in wide eyed appreciation of the spiky, ludicrous and invigorating. Thus, in certain circumstances a briskly cold shower is of more use to me than a luxurious warm bath. Here are three excellent examples of this type of cathartic racket.
The latest self-released CD-r from Yol, cordless drill faces separation anxiety, comes packaged in his usual stark, bleakly humorous graphics entirely appropriate to the stark, bleakly humorous contents. These seven tracks, totalling a tight 19 minutes, comprise perhaps the most accessible (at the risk of stretching the meaning of that word to breaking point) set that I’ve heard from him yet. There is some clipping and distortion, of course (how on earth do you set the levels for this?), but that is an integral part of the Yol sound, much like tape hiss is for Culver. In the main though the recording is clean and tidy, the lyrics are decipherable and a couple of these pieces include elements that could even be described as *cough, splutter* musical.
‘eco’, for example, has a harmonium accompaniment that suggests an unholy attempt to reanimate Ivor Cutler gone nightmarishly wrong (sorry Cutler fans. Too soon?). It also begins with seagulls cawing which gives the track a very odd, drowned, sea shanty vibe. The usual sound palette is also evident throughout so don’t panic about our man going soft. Dropped metal clatters, scrapes and spins on its axis as it rattles to a halt. Yol’s voice tears through a canine repertoire of yelps, roaring insta-crescendos, syllable-snapping gulps and retching spits. His is a complete, unique vision expressed with absolute commitment. Just fucking great.
The guy still no internet presence as such, just his YouTube channel and an email address (email@example.com) that you can use to arrange a trade or sale.
Drowsy Seepage by Half an Abortion, the unfortunately named solo project of tyke Pete Cann, is a six track CD-r released by Phil Todd’s boutique concern Memoirs of an Aesthete. It comes packaged with the screen-printed cover pictured above. Now, the illustration isn’t entirely clear, and I hesitate to guess what is going on for fear of what it reveals about my imagination, but it sure looks like a King Kong style giant ape ejaculating hard through a torn up skyscraper. The sounds contained within aren’t as gonzo as this image suggests they might be, but there is a level of nihilistic exuberance and darkly surreal humour. For this is tabletop electronics: down, brutal and discombobulating when it needs to be, light and evasive as a winged insect the rest of the time.
My favourite track is the second, ‘A Lucky Strandage’: a rolling, squealing clatter like a saboteur sneaking along a factory production line of industrial robots, tasering each one as they pass, just to see them spasm. The best track, though, is the fifth, ‘Too Ripe to Drive’. Imagine skipping forward a few years and visiting a grindcore guitar hero now in his twilight years, infirm, faculties eroded by age, hands palsied and shaking. Not unhappy, but perpetually befuddled. Now imagine his mischievous grandchildren arriving with a guitar, a practice amp and a bunch of effects pedals, plugging them into each other in a haphazard fashion, handing the instrument to the confused but clearly delighted old man and chanting: ‘shred, grandad, shred!!’ This is what the result sounds like.
Visit the Memoirs of an Aesthete Bandcamp site to purchase.
Finally, we have The Glistening Fist by Posset, the solo guise of RFM’s North East co-correspondent Joe Murray, released by Stuart Arnot’s excellent tape label Total Vermin. What could the title refer to? Perhaps the charming developmental stage Thomas the Baby has just reached now that his saliva glands have been activated and coating his hands in drool has become a favourite pastime. Or could it be a video of a grotesquely perverted sexual act that has escaped from the quarantine of its ‘specialist’ audience and is now surging around the internet? Let’s hope the former, eh kids?
Joe’s trademark dictaphonic squigglecore is not front and centre this time around. Instead we begin with some bogman blues, reminiscent of Filthy Turd in a contemplative moment, which is cut short by (what I think is) Joe being called in for tea by his daughter. This sets the scene for a very entertaining tour of lo-fi cassette culture tropes filtered through his own shaggy joie de vivre. We are presented with a home-brewed concoction of grunting vocal improv, some hilariously treated to sound like gremlins dealing with a nasty bout of food poisoning, field recordings (gulls make an appearance here too at one point, coincidentally – I approve – more seaside noise please), groaning, shuddering loops and unfathomable clattering. It is charming, engaging and breathlessly pulls you through its short duration with the promise of even more weirdness around the next corner.
Visit the Total Vermin blog to find out how you can get this and other tremendous tapes for silly cheap.
Tags: ap martlet, aqua dentata, bbblood, daniel thomas, drone, eddie nuttall, hagman, hairdryer excommunication, improv, kevin sanders, live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground, noise, paul watson, petals, sheepscar light industrial, the compass points north, these feathers have plumes
I will no doubt plug this again nearer the date but for those readers who have busy lives and, y’know, ‘keep diaries’ here’s a chance to get an unmissable gig scribbled on the kitchen calendar.
I have been tempted out of fatherhood-induced-semi-retirement by Dan of Sheepscar Light Industrial with the simple lure of a curry dinner and the prestige of playing with such a monumentally talented line-up. My set will be the usual 20-25 minutes in length but will be entirely new, possibly based around tracks created for my upcoming release on We’re Gonna Get Fucking Drunk Tonight Boys, possibly featuring ‘field’ recordings of a snuffling infant. Who knows? All I can guarantee at this early stage is that by the night itself my performance will be finely honed, rigorously rehearsed and solid gold.
Anyway, add the fact that Uncle Mark Wharton of RFM’s sister blog Idwal Fisher has appropriated this as his birthday party and there is simply no reason not to come. Over to Dan for the links, details and whatnot:
Sheepscar Light Industrial presents an evening of celebration, with things to watch and listen to. Featuring performances from;
£4 | 7-11pm | Saturday 22nd June 2013 | Wharf Chambers, Leeds
| Aqua Dentata |
As Aqua Dentata, Eddie Nuttall has been garnering some well deserved praise of late. Some great releases on Beartown Records, SLI & Feral Tapes, complimented by gigs where the audience “just shuts the fuck up and listens” (Rob Hayler), has meant that an invite back to Leeds was always on the cards. Expect to be consumed by sounds conjured from synths, tapes and bowed miscellany; shimmering, beautiful, throbbing and fizzing…
| BBBlood |
Paul Watson, aka BBBlood, is a maestro of noise. Predominantly operating at the harsher end of the spectrum, the depth and consideration in Paul’s approach will have warming to the embrace of even his harshest roar. Following on from a stand-out performance at Pete Cann’s excellent Crater Lake Festival, I’m delighted it won’t be too long until he’s back up in Leeds…
| Hagman |
Daniel & David Thomas (no relation) are two men with lots of wire. The wire connects pedals, short-wave radios, oscillators, drum machines, synths and home-made Tupperware-tronics. Debut album on Striate Cortex coming in the Spring. “Hagman drift sublimely along a path of beautifully nuanced drone” (Idwal Fisher).
| Midwich |
Midwich is Rob Hayler: head honcho of Fencing Flatworm Recordings and Radio Free Midwich‘s longest serving blog-jockey. Having (only very) recently entered fatherhood (congratulations!), Rob is claiming to have re-entered semi-retirement but, after the cracking live sets of the last twelve months and new releases on Kirkstall Dark Matter and We’re Gonna Get Fucking Drunk Tonight Boys (the latter coming soon!), I can only imagine that he’ll be itching to return. Augmented field recordings, deep electronic drone, head-banging.
| Petals |
I’ve been attempting to get Andie Brown, who performs as These Feathers Have Plumes, to record something for SLI or play in Leeds since the label began to function. Hence, it goes without saying how pleased I am that she’s joined the line up for this gig. Look forward to deep, textured drones, with contact mic accompaniment and occasional field recording forays. Oh, and wine glasses.
These Feathers Have Plumes
These Feathers Have Plumes live in Nottingham, March 2012
SLI.0?? – These Feathers Have Plumes – ???
Oh, and here’s the usual bumpf about Wharf Chambers:
Wharf Chambers is a members’ club; you need to be a member, or the guest of a member, in order to attend. To join, please visit wharfchambers.org. Membership costs £1 and requires a minimum of 48 hours to take effect.
Awesome. See you there.
Tags: bells hill, bells hill digital, black leather cop, joe murray, posset, scott mckeating, the quietus
Radio Free Midwich is delighted to announce the arrival of two new members of staff.
Yes, currently sharpening their pencils are cub reporters Scott McKeating and Joe Murray. You’ll know the former as the head-honcho of the critically-acclaimed (by me) micro-label Bells Hill and perhaps for his excellent column documenting the outer limits which illuminated The Quietus. You’ll know the latter as dictaphonic explorer Posset and perhaps for his epic end-of-year round-ups in which tens of thousands of words pickling the year’s musical highlights are emailed to a select elite and then hidden from the general public by being posted on myspace. You’ll know both as the indescribable doomphonics duo Black Leather Cop. What I’m saying is that their credentials are impeccable. They are even both based in the North East. Perfect.
Some may mourn the passing of the ‘single voice’ era here at RFM but I’d like to reassure my dear readers that the carefully honed aesthetic of this blog is just being augmented, not replaced. Despite being able to complete a surprising amount of blogging in these post-Thomas-the-Baby times (see opening paragraph of previous post), a hand with the heavy lifting will be much appreciated. Guest posting was trialled at Christmas with reviews from Joe and then again a couple of weeks ago with Pascal’s account of the Crater Lake Festival and both experiments proved a success.
Having the three of us posting will keep the tempo up and allow us to map some new contours. I trust you’ll come to appreciate our differing tastes and styles. Look out for Scott’s account of a returning guitar hero, now self-releasing analogue electronics, Joe writhing in appreciation of Winebox Press and pieces I have planned on Yol, Half an Abortion, The Piss Superstition and new stuff on Striate Cortex. I may even have time to muse up some no-audience underground theory as well, if you are very lucky. Much joy to come.
wired for sound part 37: claus poulsen, lord cernunnos, ronzilla, left hand cuts off the right, bad suburban nightmare, the zero mapApril 24, 2013 at 11:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: armed within movement, bad suburban nightmare, claus poulsen, drone, improv, left hand cuts off the right, lord cernunnos, matching head, new music, no audience underground, noise, ronzilla, tapes, the zero map, triangle tapes
Claus Poulsen – Electric Lobby (tape, Matching Head, MH192)
Lord Cernunnos / Ronzilla – Death Cap Drones (tape, Triangle Tapes, TT#5)
Left Hand Cuts Off The Right / Bad Suburban Nightmare (tape, Armed Within Movement, AWM007)
The Zero Map – Distant Storms (tape, Armed Within Movement, AWM010)
A couple of readers have asked me how I’ve managed to keep the blog posts so regular whilst working full time and sharing baby-raising duties with my awesome wife. To be honest, I’ve surprised myself. The first thing to say is that I definitely don’t turn to my blog when I’m bored at work. No, I’d never do that, obviously. Never. Secondly, on examination, I appear to have cut away everything extraneous. I hang with Anne and Thomas the Baby whilst multitasking domesticities, I do my best to keep up with family and friends, I go to work and I think about music. All the other silliness with which I filled my time has fallen away. I am knackered, of course, but in a way it has been an invigorating few weeks of priority realignment. It turns out that this blog, my contribution, is profoundly important to me. So on with the show, eh?
The tapes pictured above are the last of the review material that arrived around the birth of my son. Apologies to the artists and labels for the, I hope, understandable delay.
I raised an eyebrow at the discovery of a release by Claus Poulsen on Matching Head. Now, my love of Lee Stokoe’s legendary label is well documented and its quality could only be doubted by the cloth-eared. However, even I have to admit that it is a fringe concern and that his tape-only, black-and-white aesthetic is for the hardcore. Readers of this blog will be more familiar with Claus from his ‘prestige’ projects for Striate Cortex (solo and as half of the duo Star Turbine with Sindre Bjerga) and the duo Small Things on Sundays with Henrik Bagner. The last time they were mentioned here I was talking about vinyl, no less. Would the rough kids over at Matching Head beat him up and nick his lunch money?
No. I needn’t have worried. Although similar in tone to some of his other work, the new context makes perfect sense and the tape hiss just adds another layer of varnish to the puzzle box. The Electric Lobby in question is described by an unreliable narrator. It is furnished with FAX style brooding electronics, which are in turn upholstered with carefully detailed noise textures and discretely lit with loops of what may be field recordings of various human endeavours. It has an expansive, unreal air of not-quite-convincing artifice. At one point an unintelligible voice makes an announcement to the suspiciously robotic guests. It’s as if, just after you sat down next to a guy who looks exactly like Philip K. Dick, the whole hotel is replaced by white space and a slip of paper with one word on it: ‘HOTEL.’ Very good indeed.
Death Cap Drones is a split tape shared between Lord Cernunnos (Andrew Erickson) and Ronzilla (noise scene veteran Ron Rice) and was sent on spec by the charming Marc Roberts of analog evangelists Triangle Tapes (slogan: “Analog rules. Keep it reel”). It is a beautiful package: oversized ‘audiobook’ box with separate plastic holder inside to stop the cassette rattling about. The J-card is a stylish silver-on-black design. A lot of work for a mere fifty copies – I approve wholeheartedly of this show of commitment.
The Lord Cernunnos side is a series of tracks with a kind of At the Mountains of Madness feel – like excerpts from an audio account of exploring an ancient, ruined alien city, knee deep in snow and rubble, only to find some of the machinery is still warm and working to a forgotten purpose. At one point a member of the expedition leans against the wall and inadvertently sets off a recording of a strange percussive pattern – like hollow bamboo logs being struck. I like this very much, the ominous atmosphere of non-specific threat is successfully maintained throughout. As if to prove it is bad voodoo, I was listening to it on my walkman on a packed commuter bus yesterday morning and no-one would sit next to me whilst it was playing (and, yes, I had washed before leaving the house – har, har – you smartarse).
The Ronzilla side comprises two ten minute tracks of pupils-as-pinholes peaking. A low end throb jostles with teeth-loosening treble as you try and keep the shivers in check and convince yourself that the red light apparently shining behind the closed eyelids of your sleeping friend Chris is nothing to worry about. Just the drug – deep breath, ride it out. This is intense, fried (to use a current favourite word on this blog) and, I suspect, not for everyone but I’ve found myself compelled to return to it several times. The sort of oddity you want to poke with a stick, just to see what happens.
Finally, we have two tapes from Adam Beckley’s label Armed Within Movement. The packages are standard: tapes in cassette boxes with black-and-white illustrated J-cards, but no less pleasing for that. The AWM collection has a satisfying shelf identity.
The music of Left Hand Cuts Off The Right, known to his mum as Robbie Judkins, reminds me of the cassette culture underground that I first came to know and love in the late 1990s (Rob Galpin’s ‘Sunny Days Out’ springs to mind, for example). Tracks seem to be composed by accumulation of elements, or to coalesce around a sound or an idea – like an egg poaching in boiling water – and we are presented with a snapshot of where the process had got to when Robbie leant on the record button with his elbow. As such, some of it feels a bit sketchy but it is never less than charming and repeat listens reveal it to be finely balanced, constructed with a chef’s understanding of its ingredients. A whimsical reaction is hard to resist but doesn’t feel quite right so I’ll limit it to this: the track ‘Habibi’ sounds like an increasingly frantic colony of budgerigars attempting to perform a tune by hovering over a marimba and dropping nuts on it.
The side by Bad Suburban Nightmare, a solo project of Dan Hrekow, begins with ‘Drone Heartbreak’, a slow-picked, desert guitar meditation. Its minimalism and discipline provide the grateful listener with a contemplative space, cocooned inside a soulful, emotionally resonant atmosphere. The second of the two tracks, ‘Alchemy’, is genuinely strange: a series of distant explosions take their own sweet time to devastate the next valley over, or perhaps it is the first track again but heard underwater, Ben Braddock style, at the deep end of a swimming pool, or perhaps, given the title, this is what the chemical reactions might sound like if we had molecular microphones and could record lead transmuting into gold. Mesmerising.
Finally we have Distant Storms by The Zero Map. I notice that Uncle Mark over at radiofreemidwich’s sister blog Idwal Fisher was grumpily dismissive of this tape a few posts ago. I can only assume that his faithful manservant had allowed Mark’s glass of Manzanilla to warm to room temperature and the resulting fury led to this lashing out. ‘Rudderless’ indeed, I ask you! Alas, it falls to me to set the record straight. I am a fan of Chloe and Karl’s work and I remain so after hearing this because the fact of the matter is: it is good.
The side long ‘Champagne Awakening’ opens magisterial – all raspberry dawns over the Nile as drug-addled dignitaries take river cruises in opulent barges. The atmosphere of decadent possibility is tainted when the Pharaoh takes one drink too many and has a vision of the mechanised future. The air remains full of spices and aromatics but the scene is now, in her head, overwhelmed with searing noise and engine rhythms. Out of this a tropical guitar emerges and ties it all up with a foot-on-the-monitor feedback conclusion. Rock!
Side B features four tracks that slide into one another so I’ll treat them as a whole containing different movements. We begin with some agitated, swirling, popping electronics accompanied with some plucked acoustic guitar and non-verbal vocalisations. The plucking becomes more purposeful and is augmented with some filtered… what? The other instrumentation is hard to place: horns, keys, violin? I can’t tell, it’s hypnotic. This builds into an improv raga fury over a spiralling, descending roar until we get to a passage of totally balls-out (sorry Chloe – you know what I mean) psychedelic noise. A low-end engine rumble revs up into a fuzz whine over skittering electronics, sometimes spacey, sometimes subterranean. There is a calm eye within the maelstrom which we see glimpses of occasionally as the storm tears holes in the clouds. I imagine Chloe and Karl (and Peter Herring who features on two tracks) sitting there, cross legged, facing each other but with eyes closed, just willing all this into existence. Cool, eh?
Tags: comix, dr. adolf steg, mail art, no audience underground, spon, visual art, zines
Dr Adolf Stegs Spon 25 The Late Christmas Present Issue
Spon 26 The It Came From Across The Pond Issue
Spon 27 Dr Adolf Stegs Pocket Sized Survival Kit
Who doesn’t love the post, eh? An unsolicited parcel is one of life’s simple joys and, despite knowing that it takes an insane amount of energy and the exploitation of a gigantic workforce by a class of numbskull management idiots, it still seems magical that a stamp and a pillar box are all you need to teleport your object to a handwritten destination.
The mysterious Dr. Adolf Steg (perhaps not his given name), the artist and compiler of Spon, is fully aware of these pleasures and possibilities. The items he troubles my postman with have mutated from eyeball-challenging neon coloured zines into intricate collections of detritus and slices of personal history, all re-figured into letterbox sized bundles. What, for example, would you make of coming home from work to find a parcel encased in jolly, celebratory wrapping paper that contained this:
Front and back pictured. It is one of those plastic boxes containing little compartments that ‘handy’ people have fuses and bolts in and sick people have on their bedside table full of pills. This one, in contrast, is rich with the rubber letters from a John Bull printing set, a shoelace, a dog biscuit, rawplugs, various plastict trinkets, bottle caps, tiny tubes of unguent and so on. It is an unnerving, strangely personal object, brimming with voodoo power. Oddly moving, very funny too. Somehow this comprises Spon issue 27.
The previous dispatch was no less impressive:
Spon 25 (which also arrived wrapped) is an A4 plastic wallet containing Spon 26…
…an augmented reprint of American zine-review-zine Media Junky #17, plus a badge, a Smell & Quim CD-r, and various items appropriated from the Steg archive: ink drawings, watercolours, comix, a lino print, letters, the Christmas card that heads this post and other paper oddities. Given that most of these articles are originals, each of these ‘issues’ must have been unique. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Here are some highlights:
…and, as they used to say in adverts, much, much more. Extraordinary. All sent unannounced, unsolicited and at his own expense. It blows my mind. Perhaps you should contact the chap and see about getting yourself onto his mailing list? Visit World of Steg and drop him a line.
Tags: agorafobia, black leather cop, colectivo n, culver, drone, enoc dissonance, grindcore karaoke, improv, indian lady, joe murray, la mancha del pecado, lee stokoe, matching head, miguel perez, molotov, new music, no audience underground, noise, oracle netlabel, pordiozero, posset, scott mckeating, tapes, the skull mask, wehrmacht lombardo, witchblood, xazzaz
La Mancha Del Pecado & Culver – Collaboration One (tape, Matching Head, MH191)
Witchblood – Eponine (tape, Matching Head, MH193)
Indian Lady – Help Wanted Female/The Creeper (tape, Matching Head, MH194)
Culver + La Mancha Del Pecado – Collaboration II (CD-r, molotov 18)
La Mancha Del Pecado/Xazzaz – La Fetichista (CD-r/tape, molotov 17/agoraphobia 20)
The Skull Mask – Delbene (tape, agoraphobia 21)
La Mancha Del Pecado – Cadaveres Exhumados (CDr, Ruido Horrible, rh54)
Enoc Dissonance/Pordiozero/ La Mancha Del Pecado – 3 Way Split (CD-r, agoraphobia 22/El Canzancio Records 01)
Wehrmacht Lombardo/Black Leather Cop – Stars Extinguished, Black Sky (download, Grindcore Karaoke)
Xazzaz/La Mancha Del Pecado – La Esquina Roja (download , Oracle, ORE90)
As I sit here listening to Thomas the Baby enter a particularly blood-curdling, screamy phase of the vocal improv set he is currently honing (provisional title: “The Aptamil Variations”), I find myself pondering the question ‘what is it to be a conscientious reviewer?’
Some context. The submissions pile at RFM never gets totally out of hand. It is currently about 20 items (the oldest received two-and-a-bit months ago) and that is as big as it gets. I am not complaining, of course, as being given artefacts, or pointed at downloads, is an inexhaustible pleasure for me. Having learnt a few lessons from the Termite Club/Fencing Flatworm days, I also have provisos in place to stop me getting swamped and/or frazzled. See the submission guidelines on the ‘about me and this blog’ page – basically, I am allowed to take my time and say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ if I like.
That said, the pile can still induce a kind of overloaded, guilty numbness occasionally. One of the meanings of ‘no-audience’ in my tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘the no-audience underground’ is that there are few passive consumers round these parts, everyone is involved in the scene in some way. So I ask myself: what do I owe in return for this generosity? How much work counts as ‘doing my bit’? The question feels sharper than usual at the moment because new-to-fatherhood-tiredness has sorely eroded my powers of concentration.
What, for example, should I do with the several hours of roar recently bestowed upon me by the gentleman Lee Stokoe and his Mexican cousin Miguel Perez? An intriguing body of work for aficionados of the darker, metal-infused side of drone music, no doubt, but there is a fuck of a lot of it. The answer came to me as I lulled Thomas the Baby to sleep with Cherry Vampire by Culver the other day, or rather I was reminded of a tack I have taken before. When there isn’t time to put life on hold for musical appreciation, what you can do is just use the music to soundtrack life and live inside it for a while. Thus, for a couple of weeks I have been listening to the releases above on my commute, on lunchtime strolls, when changing nappies in the middle of the night and so on.
This approach seems especially fitting for these two artists. Both are exploring the nuances of a haunting and enveloping aesthetic. As such, releases are like a series of landscape photographs that build up into an atlas of a bleak, windswept country, beautiful in its desolation. Thus they can be enjoyed en masse, at length, repeatedly and in pretty much any order. The more you breath in their atmosphere the more acclimatised you get and the more sense it all makes. Details emerge as your eyes get used to the dusk, collaborations offer new angles on the scenery.
A word about the covers. Apart from the noteworthy exception of those designed by Mike Xazzaz for his label molotov, they pretty much all feature pictures of women in states of undress and/or duress. I can’t help feeling this is a bit teenage and distracts from the impact of the music, but I am also aware that I’m unlikely to convince anyone of this. Lee has wryly raised an eyebrow at my prudishness before (I insisted there be no tits on the cover of faraday cage). He just shrugs and points over my shoulder at the totally sexualised depravity of popular culture nowadays. At least he and Miguel are aficionados of schlock images and use them in a way which acknowledges the history and context. I suspect I’ll just have to continue grumbling in my quaintly 1980s-style feminist way. Anyway, the quality of the music makes it possible to ignore the dubious packaging illustration…
There is indeed much to engage and satiate. Collaboration One is a single track documenting a primordial scene: distant landslides bury forest, volcanoes steam menacingly, giant lizards hiss in desperation as they sink into a tar pit. It smells of animals rooting in hot soil. Collaboration II is a good place for a newcomer to start. ‘Graveyard Kiss’ features a trademarked Culveresque melancholy loop rotting into mulch and coloured with Miguel’s metallic, echoing chang. ‘Funeral in Black Stockings’ (see what I mean about schlock?) is a gloriously elongated crescendo of low end rumble and crackling heat haze. It is a natural, fluid partnership of artists clearly in sync with each other.
Witchblood is a duo of Lee and Lucy Johnson (of Smut etc.) and Eponine is made up of several tracks presented on a one sided tape. There is an elusive shimmer to this, rising through the murky recording like silver carp just below the surface of a muddy pond. Delicate piano lines are partially submerged in clockwork loops, burbling water and overamped hiss. It’s like the accompaniment for practice at a ballet school for ghosts. Indian Lady is, y’know, a ‘proper’ band featuring Lee on bass. This tape contains two lengthy jams presented apparently unedited. Rumble is to the front and centre with a satisfyingly fried psych/metal guitar grooving its own way behind. I imagine teenage, stoner dragons listening to this whilst picking their teeth and relaxing after a huge meal of peri-peri hobbit.
The split album La Fetichsita finds Miguel and Mike (of Xazzaz and molotov records) on a war footing. Miguel shows us billowing clouds of metallic noise and the machine growl of giant tanks advancing whilst foot soldiers (presumably, given the title, in rubber skin suits with high heels and ‘sexy’ gas masks) finish off the wounded. Mike gives us Sabbath as played by an ill disciplined battalion of mechanical trilobites then later joins Miguel on the choking battlefield to supervise the collection of the corpses. Yes, this is pretty dark.
La Esquina Rosa is the return leg: one twenty minute track each from the same two acts, this time made freely available to download via Oracle Netlabel. Miguel’s track is a satisfying, viscous drone. Imagine filling an indoor swimming pool half with syrup and half with ball bearings then chugging backwards and forwards in a little dinghy on the surface using the outboard motor to churn the mixture up. Of you could just bounce your Casio through some filters if that proved too messy… Features a two minute long surprise towards the end unique to Miguel’s drone work.
Mike’s track begins with the sound of the listener being locked into a shipping container and the situation remains heavy thereafter. Scything, arcing, guttering electrics – as lithe and unnerving as mating snakes – and some punishing guitar feedback makes me concerned for his health and safety. Exhilarating. Mike’s stuff is so good I feel a little embarrassed subsuming it within a review headlined by others. My apologies Mike – next time you’ll get the prominence deserved.
Enoc Dissonance, a duo with Oracle netlabel collaborator Pablo Mejia, and the solo Wehrmacht Lombardo are the most balls-out-total-noise of Miguel’s various projects. Stars Extinguished, Black Sky is a split featuring the latter and Black Leather Cop, a collaboration between Scott McKeating (of Bells Hill) and RFM’s North East Correspondent Joe Murray (of Posset). The Wehrmacht Lombardo track is a very convincing, satisfyingly panic-inducing tale of a gathering hailstorm. It eases off around the twenty minute mark briefly so we can hear Miguel torture his guitar as he kills time hiding from the weather in his cave. Otherwise: you wouldn’t want to be out in it. Black Leather Cop present an almost indescribable gumbo of doomy noise/metal and discombobulating, scrabbling, dictaphonic collage. It might be awesome – I can’t tell – which means it probably is. I suspect it of being unholy at the very least, if not downright satanic. Freely downloadable from the wonderfully named and breathtakingly prolific Bandcamp label Grindcore Karaoke.
3 Way Split is comprised of tracks by Enoc Dissonance, Colombian electro-noise act Pordiozero and La Mancha Del Pecado and is co-released by Miguel’s agoraphobia tapes and Pordiozero’s El Canzancio Records. The Enoc Dissonance tracks are full-frontal racket. Fans more knowledgeable than me get the hump when I use the term ‘harsh noise wall’ because I often do so inappropriately, but surely this is pretty close. It’s like getting into a very, very hot bath or a very, very cold shower – bordering on painful at first but then strangely invigorating. I admit I don’t listen to this end of the noise spectrum often but a blast every now and again is a welcome brain-rinse.
Pordiozero provide two central tracks of agitated, restless electronics. Sub-genres of hard dance, industrial and synth based noise are smeared over one another, squeezed flat, then discarded and replaced. Vocal snippets, crunching rhythms and increasing distortion create a atmosphere of disaffected alienation.
I’d had a copy of the La Mancha track ‘She is Misery’ on my hard drive for a while prior to this being released and it is good to see it finally available. It has a dystopian, science-fictional feel to it that could well make it an appropriate soundtrack to the shenanigans pictured on the cover. Ah yes, the cover: this album is notable for its very professional looking packaging and insane artwork. A pro-copied CD-r is housed in a properly printed digipak featuring photos of some kind of post-apocalyptic alleyway in which gas-masked, pseudo-military, fetish-zombies threaten each other with guns. The mind boggles.
Anyway, here is your chance to do your duty for the international noise underground by buying one of these. It isn’t the best release in this round up but I know it cost a fair bit to produce and it would really help out our Latin American cousins if you got busy with Paypal. I know times are hard but, if it helps, you could consider it payment for all the stuff you can download for free.
Finally, we have two key releases by Miguel’s major solo guises: La Mancha Del Pecado, as already encountered several times above, and my favourite of his incarnations: The Skull Mask.
Cadaveres Exhumados by the former is a full length, five track CD-r presented in a grey digipak by Ruido Horrible (stick that label name into Google translate for an example of truth in advertising). It is an ambitious and accomplished noise album that almost scuppered this ‘fortnight with…’ idea by hogging the time available for repeat listens. There are quiet, elegiac passages of bells, pipes and slow picked guitar that balance the roaring crescendos, lend an air of mournful seriousness and indicate the level of care and sophistication taken in its construction. The noise itself is forceful and thick as bitumen in places (the final track, ‘Renuncia al silencio’, is HNW until it breaks at the end) but thoughtfully layered and throughout most of it there is space to think and appreciate what you are hearing. Its scope is impressive. Fans of the kind of metal-infused, heavy psychedelics typified in this country by the North East noise scene (from Culver to Jazzfinger to the various Mike Vest projects) should really track this down because they would dig it. High praise from me.
A word about the ‘chur-chur-chur’ sound that can be heard high in the right channel on many La Mancha Del Pecado tracks. I suppose it is an artefact of one of the filters he uses, or perhaps a result of knackered recording equipment. It would distract me occasionally at first but now it seems like a signature – like the bubbling electric jug noise that is all over those 13th Floor Elevators records.
The Skull Mask has an intensely personal vibe. It is Miguel’s shamanistic response to his experience of the Mexican wilderness. He draws on folk traditions from around the world to construct dizzying ragas and desert improv using almost nothing but acoustic guitar. Whilst the influences are sometimes clear, it has a core identity that is Miguel’s invention alone.
The tape Delbene is perhaps more varied in style than previous Skull Mask releases. Side B is definitely more hard-picked than the seasoned Miguel-watcher would expect. It shares the spiky, Bailey-esque, rawness of the pieces he records under his own name. Side A, though, is pure Skull Mask: a swirling incantation, calling up dust devils to whip the desert sand into the air. As well as his usual loose fingered virtuosity on the guitar there is some mysterious instrumentation (trumpet?!) adding to the impression that a rite is taking place. Great, as ever.
OK, I think my ‘bit’ might be done for now. Links below, folks.