artifacts of the no-audience underground: popular radiation

July 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Popular Radiation – PR1 to PR5 (self-released CD-rs)

  • PR1 Space Argument
  • PR2 Magnum Hopeless
  • PR3 Ariel Bender/Fart Inhaler
  • PR4 Erotic Misery
  • PR5 I Remember Every Day Of My Life

I’ve heard it said that you should never meet your heroes and I suppose that if your idol is, say, a Premiership footballer or a big name contemporary artist then this is probably true.  The experience is unlikely to be edifying.  However, down here in the no-audience underground the notion is total bollocks.  I am in the enviable position of being friends with many of my heroes and can report on their qualities as human beings as well as their creative talents (see here for an explanation of why we are all so wicked awesome).  Always good to meet a new one too…

…And so it came to pass that before the recent Ceramic Hobs/Jazzfinger gig in Leeds I received an email from Joe Posset, RFM’s North East correspondent, telling me that I HAD TO GO because Hasan Gaylani of Jazzfinger had been asking after me.  That was very flattering.  Imagine if the subject of my humble blog was poker and Chris Moneymaker had requested an audience – a legendarily down to Earth and approachable guy but still a world champion.  I was, as our American cousins might say, stoked.

The gig was great (see the write-up at Idwal Fisher) and I managed not to make a twat of myself in conversation with Hasan, Ben (Jazzfinger) and Mike Vest (of Bong, Space Victim etc.) who had all travelled down.  The ‘social’ was well good that evening.  Hasan was very appreciative of the coverage this blog gives to the North East noise scene and flattered me even further by handing over the first two in this series of CD-rs by Popular Radiation, with a promise to send on the others.  He’d been pleased with my review of the 3″ CD-r by PR on Bells Hill and wanted me to flap my ears at his solo project’s more long-form incarnation.  This I have been happy to do.

The specifications: a series of five CD-rs packaged in minimal wrappers featuring found illustrations (at least I hope they are found given the subject of the piccy on PR3 – yes, that one you stopped and had a good look at on your scroll down to the text).  All are recordings of live performances which took place between June 2010 to July 2011 in various venues around Newcastle.  To keep it all in the no-audience family: PR3, 4 and 5 were recorded by the indefatigable Joe Posset.  Each contains a single track and vary in length from one quarter to three quarters of an hour, though I’m inclined to think of it as one piece in five parts with a total running time of about two hours and twenty minutes.

These recordings have three main ingredients: a) noise, mainly strata of distortion, b) drone, mainly swarms of fuzz and c) lengthy samples appropriated from other musical sources or dialogue taken from film or ‘field recorded’ conversations.

The tone is some distance from the expansive, psychedelic delirium of Jazzfinger.  This is demanding stuff, occasionally claustrophobic, darkly humorous to the point of nihilism.  For example, Space Argument (PR1) is presumably titled for the series of cartoons by Modern Toss which features a pair of bickering astronauts oblivious to the majesty of the cosmos due to their annoyance with each other (“Stick the flag in over there”, “You fucking do it”).  Erotic Misery (PR4) features a lengthy excerpt from the film Kes of a teacher berating some school boys, exasperated at their intransigence and enraged at his impotence in the face of it: the whole system is fucked, always has been, always will.  Cheery thought, eh?

Or am I imagining it?  The ecstatic reaction of the small but appreciative crowd at the end of each set suggests the audience was not pummelled into submission by despairing bleakness.  There are plenty of lighter moments and some proper laffs too.  The bit from Kes is followed by an entertainingly squashed extract from In the Hall of the Mountain King, its inherent campness enhanced by a little industrial distortion.  Ariel Bender/Fart Inhaler (PR3) cannot be taken entirely seriously either, as you might expect from its title, cover picture and the grin-inducing exotic croon-pop that kicks it off.

I did use the word ‘claustrophobic’ earlier, and so it can feel, but it isn’t oppressive – plenty of headspace for interpretation remains.  My thoughts drift in and out of focus as these pieces progress, becoming more or less plausible.  To attempt to think hard about Popular Radiation is to put yourself in the position of the little girl in the film Poltergeist: her hand on the television screen, face flush to the static, chatting with voices only she can hear…

Recommended, of course, though I can find no indication that any of this is commercially available.  I suggest contacting Hasan directly – – and asking him nicely.

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