artifacts of the no-audience underground: recent astral social clubAugust 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: astral social club, drone, electronica, improv, neil campbell, new music, no audience underground, noise
Astral Social Club – #22 (self-released CD-r)
Astral Social Club – #23 (self-released CD-r)
Astral Social Club – Magic Smile (Wonderyou, CD)
Astral Social Club – Sleazy Disco (Zanntone, CD-r)
D’y’know, I’ve had some problems ‘getting’ recent Astral Social Club releases. Neil is obviously pushing things forward, and in a uniquely odd direction, but is it a turn that I actually like? At first the answer was a flat out ‘no’. Astral Social Club #22 struck me as almost unlistenable – like watching household appliances having sex with each other, strangely compelling but not a particularly pleasant experience. However, some kind of gestalt switch in my brain has now been flipped and I’m starting to grok it in fullness.
Three things combined to bring about this change. The first was the spoken introduction to ‘electronic séance’ which opens Astral Social Club #23. Neil spends a charmingly goofy few minutes acknowledging that he is performing in ‘the most haunted pub in Britain’ and calling on the spirits present to be his band for the evening. I suppose a table full of pedals, monotrons and weevils does look a bit like ghost-hunting equipment. This entertaining nonsense allowed me to unclench my teeth, plump up my organs of musical appreciation and open myself to the coming wonkiness. Why don’t more people do this? It’s great.
Second was the surprisingly spacious and involving set that Neil and Seth played at the Striate Cortex/Sheepscar Light Industrial show. I’ve enjoyed the pummelling, obliterating ASC gigs I’ve seen recently but the sheer balls-out, constant crescendo erected a (harsh noise) wall in-between me and the music, allowing only a visceral response. In contrast the Neil/Seth business allowed for some thought, some appreciation which, perhaps paradoxically, made it easier for me to lose myself in it and get my groove on. It was great.
Thirdly, was the track ‘sinister depilator’ from the insta-sell out, roaring success that was the Victorian Electronics box-set. This track provides a bridge linking the fuzz and sparkle of the ‘old’ Neil Campbell/ASC stuff and the blopping and grinding of the ‘new’ ASC and it makes perfect sense of the transition. I’ll try and convince Andy Cortex to make it available for download so slow-pokes that didn’t get the box can hear it. Guess what? This is great too.
Magic Smile, with its hilarious ‘taking drugs then going to the zoo for a laugh’ collage cover, is a slickly produced proper CD for Japanese label Wonderyou. A couple of tracks will be familiar to seasoned Neil-watchers – some of ‘Och’ from the Ach/Och tape, that Katy Perry thing from the Striate Cortex compilation – but most is new and all is terrific. I suppose you could read the warblings of ‘Och’ as melancholy but otherwise, pretty much from the moment he stamps on the pedals a few minutes into opening track ‘Rubber Lagg’, it is joy all the way. Neil even sings to us on the title track! Highly recommended.
Finally, I’ll mention in passing Sleazy Disco. Its a fun, crunchy, rough and ready recording of a fun, crunchy, rough and ready live set played at Nation of Shopkeepers here in sunny Leeds and dedicated to the memory of Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, which will give you some idea of when it was recorded. This was due to be released on the Zanntone imprint but has been long-delayed after the masters, along with those for releases by midwich, Ashtray Navigations etc., were thought lost when the caravan carrying them was subject to a devastating piranha attack whilst crossing the Amazon river. Luckily, they have been recovered and will hopefully see the light of day when Zanntone head-honcho Paul Walsh finally has his bandages removed…
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