julian bradley and the piss superstition

April 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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the piss superstition – a themepark for whatever happened before

8 tracks, 12″ vinyl lp, memoirs of an aesthete, moa lp 5

As mentioned in previous posts, the best thing about writing this blog is that it has led to me rekindling contact with ol’ comrades from the no-audience underground milieu.  The latest is the chap above, although this was done in a lengthy and circuitous manner entirely in keeping with our later relationship.

Back in the heady, decadent days of fin de siècle Leeds, I saw a lot of Julian.  I trotted around after Vibracathedral Orchestra, loudly proclaiming them to be the best band in Britain, and at some point made the transition from fan to friend.  This ramped up when I moved into a slug infested hovel around the corner from where Julian was living.  He was spending his time recording, fending off burglars and recovering from a heart-rending change in his personal circumstances.  Understandably we were both keen to get out and spent a fair amount of time in pubs or at gigs together.  Our styles complimented each other – him: dryly comic, me: over-exuberant and ridiculous.

The solo stuff he was creating at the time, self-released on tape with hand crafted covers, is amongst my favourite ‘experimental’ music: a sparse, muddy cocktail of mechanical groaning and post-industrial hiss.  If you are imagining Alan Splet’s soundtrack for Eraserhead then you aren’t far off.  Very, very high end stuff with packaging that perfectly mirrored the off-kilter sensibility.  Covers below:

He was the one that convinced me to go ahead with the ludicrous/magnificent oTo tape project and ’twas he that travelled up with me and my then girlfriend to the legendary 2002 gig hosted by Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe at the Cumberland Arms in Newcastle.  A flyer he produced specifically for this gig contained the first mention I saw of his urinal credulity:

So what happened?  Well, our friendship faltered as I got ill and took a short break from music and music people that somehow stretched into years.  This falling away was not helped by the totally lackadaisical attitude the man has towards keeping in touch.  Seriously, if Julian hasn’t spoken to you in three years don’t take it personally – he’s just grooving his own way and will get around to it eventually.  Though you may have to wait until you bump into him at a gig – which is what I did a few weeks ago.  The meet-up which was mooted that evening took several more weeks to arrange but was worth the wait.  I was delighted to discover that Julian retains his place in the Leeds demimonde, drinking until closing time at the Brudenell Social Club and speed-smoking duty-free roll-ups.  We poked the embers of our bromance with a stick and it flared up nicely.

In a happy coincidence, the release of the record above (on Phil Todd’s label Memoirs of an Aesthete) fell between meeting one and meeting two.  First thought: wow, a vinyl lp.  I listen to vinyl so rarely nowadays that I almost have to make an appointment to do so.  Still, as I was saying about 12″ singles, it shows a faith in the work and demands a level of concentration that more portable formats can dodge.  This is wholly appropriate.

Norman Records have a decent stab at describing the sound:

…this gives the impression of somebody having turned the gravity off in a psychedelic garage band’s practice space with all their equipment turned on so all the effects, guitars and amps float around, collide, interact and feed back off each other in consistently delightful ways…

I love the image, and I think it gets across the idea of the space that Julian’s music contains, but I’m tempted to go the other way and focus on the heaviness.  For me, Julian’s work has always called to mind machinery, often on an unimaginable scale, working to some forgotten purpose, on the brink of being overwhelmed by entropy and halting altogether.  Listening is like being one of the humans sucked up into the vast, sentient machines in Pohl & Kornbluth’s classic novel Wolfbane.  It is an absolutely brilliant way of conveying the devastating effort it takes to feel something, anything in this alienating world we live in.

Repeat listens bring these structures into focus.  An example: the opening (title) track is, at first listen, pretty harsh.  This was a surprise as Julian’s stuff, whilst challenging, is rarely punishing.  The second time I heard it, and knew what to expect, I was so tuned in that it felt like a completely different track – I thought I’d put side B on by mistake.  Yes, the album works on a visceral level but is also full of layers and reveals to reward the careful consumer.

Have I said enough?  Do I even need to mention that this is a criminally limited edition sure to be sought after in future?  I would seriously consider acquiring a copy if I were you.

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  1. I too was glad to see Julian back releasing music, his tapes, as you so accurately describe, were like wonderful, muzzy soundtracks to half remembered films. I saw him play live as A Companion As Glamourous As Sleeping On Wheels (does this guy have a way with words or what?!) and it was literally Julian, his 4 track and a gtr, cues carefully noted on paper, it was well thought out and precise as you’d expect, almost like eavesdropping on him recording in private at home. When I got to meet him on my first trips to Leeds with Phil (then still traveling up from Stoke before his move in 2001), I have to admit I was a little awestruck after listening intently to his duo tapes with Neil C. As it turns out he was a stand up chap, generous, self deprecating to a fault but always quick to give praise. I always enjoyed bumping into him on my trips to Leeds and wondered what he was up to from time to time, with the this LP it seems, I now know.

    • Hey Andy – cheers for taking the time to make a thoughtful and lengthy comment. Yes, JB has been missed and I’m glad that there has been much nodding and smiling at the appearance of this record. Love, Rob H P.S. looking forward to the Sculptress album – 2011 shaping up to be a good year out on the fringes!


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