wired for sound part 8: synth history, drone collage

December 18, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 6 Comments
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sm14 Port Said – live in NYC 1-14-83 & 9-03-82

What we have here is a C60 containing two live shows by Port Said from the early 1980s, nicely recorded in New York venues.  The synth duo of Stefan Tischler and Keith Keeler Walsh (now sadly deceased) is perhaps only remembered by connoisseurs of the genre.  Sanity Muffin is doing its bit to keep the flame flickering.

Billy describes this as ‘dark and minimal’ and I’ll agree up to a point – bits of it have the bite you might expect from, say, Sheffield electronics produced a few years earlier.  However, much of it has a similar feel to the travelogues of Autobahn era Kraftwerk.  The synth lines share that delicate, utopian, futurism and the simple percussion patterns have the same bobbing motorik groove.  That this is a live document adds to its charm: levels are all over the place and are adjusted on the fly, parts fall in and out of time, the mc encourages the audience to buy a record at the end of the set.  My only qualm is that Anton Tibbe, the guest guitarist, is allowed far too free a reign and  that his art-rock/tropical noodling sometimes overwhelms the more interesting lines underneath.  That’s it though, and the rest is lovely: a message from the unquantised past.

The excellent cover, designed by Ryan Heath, is cooly evocative of the vibe.

Buy it here.

sm12 Recyclebull – HQ

Recyclebull is duo of Robert Kroos, of Torture Corpse – also featured on the label sampler, & Frans Friederich.  The first thing that hits you about this tape is the mind-screwing cover by Tokyo design genius Hideyuki Katsumata (see also Yubisumo!).  Judging by this you might be expecting a cartoon rave version of metal machine music.  But no…

HQ is a C60 with one long track on each side, each of which contain different movements.  The content is a collage of drones, field recordings and intriguing instrumentation that builds into a meditative travelogue (that word again).  There is skillfully layered fuzz, accented with keyboard twinkles, that is utterly ego dissolving when heard through headphones.  A folksy guitar loop, running water and bees humming transition cleverly into more sweeping dunes of tone.  The second track slowly adds layers, shot through with submerged percussive thumps, only to subside and allow a vocal sample some breathing space.  An airy, golden drone takes over and shifts into a collage of chirruping, heartbeats and other elements suggesting a strange journey.  I picture myself walking through a tropical forest only to reach a glass wall and realise I am on the spaceship from Silent Running.  This is a high-end production, beautifully levelled to make the most of tape’s strengths as a medium. Very ambitious, very classy.

Buy it here.

Finally, I got to musing and I’d like to finish with an aside on the name ‘Torture Corpse’.  It gets a bit grim so, if squeamish, feel free to consider the post finished at the end of the paragraph above.

Wanting to hear more by Mr. Kroos & Co. I trotted off to Myspace and, as I listened, got increasingly perturbed at his choice of band name.  Torturing someone to death is the worst thing that a human being can do to another.  Thus, almost by definition, a torture corpse is the most horrifying thing imaginable.  Picture a dead toddler, covered in cigarette burns, a dead woman who has been suffocated during a gang rape, a dead man with welts on his genitals, teeth pulled and no fingernails.  I’m sorry to do this to you, gentle reader, but the point I’m making is that this is a very, very serious concept.  And don’t give me that ‘oh, it’s a reference to the decadents, Octave Mirbeau etc.’ bullshit.  Living in the same world as Abu Ghraib, these flights of fancy are no longer available to us.  We all know what torture really means.

So what kind of person decides to trivialise it by making ‘Torture Corpse’ the name for their dark-ambient-noise-collage project?  I suppose they could be suffering with a severe type of Asperger’s syndrome which makes it impossible for them to empathise with others.  If this is the case then they have my sympathies and I will make an effort to understand where they are coming from.  If not, then the appropriate attitude to take towards them is bewilderment.  In my humble opinion, for a clinically ‘normal’ artist to say ‘I’ve called my band Torture Corpse’ is roughly equivalent to saying ‘I am misguided, childish or perhaps shabbily insensitive.’  OK, rant over, deep breath, remember how good the tape is…

Edit: I am delighted to learn from Billy that Mr. Kroos is in fact a sweet and thoughtful guy, well versed in traditions of compassion, so have voluntarily tempered the tone of that final paragraph whilst retaining the point.  Now I’m totally confused as to what he is up to…

Further edit: not so confused now – see comments.


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  1. Here a short reply from Robert ‘Torture Corpse’ himself:

    I understand your response to the name Torture Corpse and without any clear explanation from my part its easy to make all kinds of assumptions. In a way that is on purpose because the name Torture Corpse easily creates all kinds of expectations and it refers to all the cliche’s of the noise and metal scene with their themes of evil, hell n such.

    The music of Torture Corpse is inspried by the world as it is today and the wrathful energies of vadjrayana buddhism. Its like the buddhist thanka’s of terrifying protectors. To see them as one’s best possible friend, requires deep experience in practice and a level of devotion to one’s Lama which is based on real experience.

    Torture Corpse is a friend to all those practitioners who value the destruction of hidden areas of cherished narcissism.

    For now I leave it at this. Wish you all the best:


  2. P.S
    Considering me having Asperger’s Syndrome or being misguided, childish or perhaps shabbily insensitive leaves not much room for respect and mutual understanding.

    • Dear Robert,

      Many thanks for taking the time to reply. Having studied the fundamentals of Buddhism during a Masters degree I have a basic idea of the four noble truths and the annihilation of self, so I see roughly where you are coming from. I will look up the terms I don’t recognise in your comment above so as to get a more nuanced understanding of your position. Thanks again for the informative comment.

      As to your P.S.: firstly, I specifically stated that if you did turn out to have Aspergers then I would make an effort to sympathise and understand. So, proper respect offered in that situation. Secondly, regarding my accusations of childishness etc., well, I’d argue that calling your band Torture Corpse is what does the damage. How much room for respect and mutual understanding does your choice leave me? It is like someone screaming ‘fuck you, fuck you’ into my face and then claiming the moral high-ground when I decide I don’t like it. As you admit yourself in the comment above, using that name invites these assumptions and that ‘in a way this is on purpose’. You can either keep it ambiguous and take the flak (like my blog post) without complaining or spell it out and make respect and understanding at least possible. Can’t have it both ways.

      Thanks again and compliments of the season,
      Rob H

      • P.S. I see you have put a link to this review on your website which is magnanimous of you. Much obliged.

  3. Hi Rob, apologies for commenting here off topic, just wanted to say thanks for your lovely e-mail, i did reply but got some out of office auto message, please pass on another email address so I can reply again. Andy x

    • Hey Andy, no need to worry – got your email and will reply shortly. Apologies for tardiness… R x

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