black and white noise, part one: new from agorafobia

May 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Miguel Pérez – Vouyerismo/Fetichismo (Agorafobia 011, tape)
  • La Mancha Del Pecado – Espectros Del Despeńadero (Agorafobia 012, CD-r in DVD case with artwork by Matthew Bower)
  • La Mancha Del Pecado – The Nylon Stains (Agorafobia 013, tape)
  • The Skull Mask – Macabra (Agorafobia 014, CD-r)

Quick question for you: historically, what item of technology has done the most to help in the production of the artifacts (as I insist on spelling it) of the no-audience underground?  I’m not talking about the internet now, I mean physical things: tapes, CD-rs, zines, flyers, gig posters and so on.  With nods towards the home computer and the CD burner, I am tempted to answer: the photocopier.

Exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of this chugging machine with its intoxicating smell (mmm… ziney!) has led to a recognizable d.i.y./punk/noise aesthetic.  It’s one I like very much.  Not only that, but this marvel put the means of quick, cheap, ‘mass’ production into the hands of the worker.  Literally in some cases: I imagine the office machine has been used many times to slyly run off a few (or not so few) copies when the manager is out at a meeting.  I’ve never done it, of course, and I’m sure you are all blameless too.  I’m just saying that some consider stealing from work to be a legitimate form of political protest.  I’m just saying, that’s all…

Those lucky enough to work somewhere with, say, a Konica contract will have noticed that photocopier technology has kept pace with our aspirations.  Most new machines will cough out photo quality colour copies or scan into any number of formats and proudly email you the results.  Some will even generate a withering 1000 word critique of any improv CD that is pushed into the slot under the little tray for paper clips.  So why do a few labels still insist on rockin’ it old-skool monochrome?  I’m guessing a combo of three main reasons: a) they are punk as fuck and/or b) they have built a ‘look’ around it and/or c) having no money means having to make the most of necessity.

I think the packaging of Miguel Pérez’s Agorafobia label falls largely into category c) with heaped tablespoons of a) and b).  Firstly, this guy has had no luck with digital equipment recently and a series of misfortunes has only exacerbated a lack of resources.  From what he’s told me about broken computers etc. the dude appears to be a walking electro-magnetic pulse weapon.

In one sense this is heartbreaking.  For example, the artwork for Espectros Del Despeńadero is by Matthew Bower of Skullflower, a hero of Miguel’s, and was secured with an international barter.  Yet due to circumstances beyond Miguel’s control he has no choice but to present it in black and white via the photocopier (though a colour scan can be seen on the La Mancha Del Pecado blog).  I’m sure dozens of oligarch patrons of the arts must read this blog – could one of you send this guy some money?  Cheers.

In another sense it is kind of invigorating.  The ragged, black and white artwork, inexpertly compiled, exactly mirrors the raw, emotionally charged music and the driven, impulsive, unmediated way it was created.  Too much gloss would be dishonest.

Listening to this music I was green with envy, once again, at how Miguel is able to tackle his themes from so many different angles using solo guitar and almost nothing else.  I was also struck by the thought that a grounding in metal – Miguel grew up musically in that milieu – is a terrifically useful tool.  Metal is sometimes derided for its daft content or teenage sensibilities but once you can hold your own in that crowd you can use the skills to do anything.  Think I exaggerate?  Another example: a well known no-audience underground acquaintance of mine, rightly famed for his psychedelic style, sheepishly admitted that without the influence of Motörhead he would probably not be a guitarist today.  So there you go: established scientific fact.

Fittingly, I suppose, given the artwork, Espectros Del Despeńadero does sound a bit like Lee Stokoe era Skullflower.  Three long tracks of Culveresque roar with the aforementioned metal guitar submerged and abstracted in the mix.  It sounds like the howling of animals, tethered at some distance from the camp.  Imagine the furious, terrified, soon-to-be-gutted, dog pack in Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (or, if you like, the similarly doomed dogs in John Carpenter’s The Thing) struggling to make themselves heard over the Antarctic wind.  Best of the three tracks is the last one, ‘Vale Menos Que El Polvo’, which over its seventeen minute duration reaches an intensity that wouldn’t be out of place on a release by Enoc Dissonance, Miguel’s balls-out total noise incarnation.

The second La Mancha Del Pecado release, The Nylon Stains, is very different.  Totalling a tight twenty minutes it starts, to my great surprise, with a beat.  Steam-powered mechanical sailors on shore leave jerk arhythmically as laughing, plastic geisha automata dance around them.  We then sink through the floor and this scene is replaced with a field recording of the workshop below where the geisha bodies are injection-moulded, repaired and the nylon stains of the title are hosed off.  We sink further still and end up in the cyclopean furnace room that fuels the whole port.  A hypnotic recording that invites repeat listening.

The psychedelic thrash of The Skull Mask is always welcome around these parts and has been a big influence on the fuzzed out direction I’ve been taking with midwich recently.  However, Macabra is something a bit different.  Taking inspiration from the Day of the Dead celebrations (the cover features a woman in a magnificent Catrina costume) and from revolutionary Mexican folk music, Miguel has reined in the ragas and dampened the delays.  The energy is still crackling, of course, but now it is focussed rather than deliriously expansive.  It feels like Miguel taking conscious control of a lucid dream.  The second of the three tracks, ‘Con Respeto a la Señora’, even features a riff so catchy that it has been an earworm burrowed into my head for days…

To conclude we have Vouyerismo/Fetichismo, a double sided tape of harshly-lit carnality.  It is appropriate that this release carries Miguel’s own name as these recordings contain nothing to hide behind.  This is solo improv guitar at its most exposed – no effects, no overdubs, clinically recorded.  There’s just you and the hard fact of the matter.  Vouyerismo is one long track in several movements and evokes a surreal, lanquid eroticism not unlike that of Shinya Tsukamoto’s A Snake of June.  However, in Miguel’s recording the participants have been driven crazy by the Mexican winds rather than the Japanese humidity.  Fetichismo is more pornographic: fifteen short tracks of completely naked plucking, fingering and scrabbling.  Even sustain is ruthlessly muted.  A series of Polaroid photos it is impossible to tear your eyes away from.

Agorafobia releases are, initially at least, only available as physical objects for trade so contact Miguel via lamancha@rocketmail.com, get some stuff into a jiffy bag and wait – the Mexican postal system seems more or less reliable but they take their own sweet time about delivery.

More black and white noise to come from Matching Head and Fuckin’ Amateurs…

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: