artifacts of the no-audience underground: infinite exchange label review part one

May 27, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Infinite Exchange Records, run by the improbably named Waz Hoola out of sunny Blyth, has spent the last five years or so handcrafting an intriguing catalogue of drones, improv and stoner rock.  All releases come on black playstation style discs, which is a clever unifying touch, and are housed in nicely designed sleeves.  The overall impression is of an enterprise with class and purpose.  In an attempt to assuage my shame at not having heard of ’em before I hereby present a short label overview in two parts, three reviews in each.  My punishment for not being more attentive is that I have missed out on all the early releases, an impressive number of which have sold out.

To buy this stuff drop Waz a line at theinfiniteexchange@hotmail.co.uk and he will cut you a deal.

Jazzfinger – The Metal Eggs (IECDR016)

Let’s start with a something a bit special.  Imagine a decaying, apparently abandoned, 18th Century tall ship, becalmed and lolling drunkenly in the lagoon of a rocky atoll.  Lying sun-scorched and spread-eagled on the deck is the last remaining sailor.  Now we are in his head, staring sightlessly upwards and listening to a hypnotic drone, roaring then lulling.  It has no external source – it is a dehydration-induced figment of his delirium.  The drone is augmented by flutes, by cymbals – an imaginative reconstruction from the sound of torn rigging and broken equipment slowly moving around the deck.  This release is an audio diary of the ship’s last few days afloat.  If you like, it is the precursor to the final hour documented by Nurse With Wound’s Salt Marie Celeste.  Or perhaps it’s a soundtrack to the creepy wierd tale Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson (try it out: here’s an excellent reading courtesy of Librivox).

OK, so the sample from Lost Highway in the final track bursts my nautical bubble but the effect remains unnervingly sublime…

Mechanical Children – Convictual Tongue (IECDR020)

…to the ridiculous.  More from Ben Jones and Sarah Sullivan of Jazzfinger.  I know I said in the submission guidelines post that I wasn’t going to write about stuff I didn’t like but this release angried up the blood.

However, I will first praise the lovely package.  This is a double disc set, housed in a mini-gatefold sleeve, with each disc snug within its own matt black inner sleeve.  The artwork, by Kevin E Anderson, features exquisite drawings of trilobites or rather, I suspect, portmanteau creatures constructed from segments of several species.  Intriguing and beautiful, it sets the expectation level to ‘very high indeed’.

Unfortunately, the content doesn’t do it justice.  First a technical point: several of these tracks are considerably louder in one stereo channel than the other.  I did a bit of troubleshooting and the problem is definitely with the recording.  Fah, you might think, who cares?  Well, if, like me, you do most of your noise appreciation via headphones it makes the music unlistenable.  To have the business end screaming in one ear whilst a distant kitten farts gently in the other is discombobulating.  What’s infuriating is that it is so easily rectified: a track can be dropped into Audacity and the channels balanced in less time than it takes to boil a kettle.  Humph…

And what of the music?  Mainly lumpy, undifferentiated, unedifying noise.  What changes of pace we are treated to appear at random whenever someone finds a new preset to play with.  This has the feel of a demo tape of someone tinkering with unfamiliar kit.  It isn’t all bad though: the Children finally hit their stride in the final twenty minutes of the final track, ‘Joined by Shine’.  If the whole release had been trimmed down to a 3″ CD-r containing just this bit then I would be urging you to buy.  As it is: nah.

Bong – Bethmoora (IECDR015)

…and a quick one to finish.  Check out the band name, the cover, the inverted cross that forms part of the logo.  What do you think this is going to sound like?  How about if I tell you the album comprises two twenty minute long tracks and a bonus disc includes an even longer cover of ‘set the controls for the heart of the sun’?  C’mon man!  The title is taken from a Lord Dunsany story!  Yes, without hearing a note you know this is gonna be doom/sludge/stoner metal – basically very slow and very heavy.  Being a single-minded exercise in replicating the genre tropes, it doesn’t disappoint on either count.  If you dig this sort of thing, which luckily I do very much, then you are going to dig this.  Not brimming with crossover appeal though.

Posset, The Zero Map and Eyeballs to come in part two…

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