artifacts of the no-audience underground: recent human combustibles

August 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Ashtray Navigations – Three Spots Two Circles (Medusa, 014, 2 x 3″ CD-r with poster, edition of 50)

Human Combustion Engine V – Bible Whistle (Total Vermin, #76, cassette)

Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides + Human Combustion Engine = Human Horses (Memoirs Of An Aesthete, CD in digipak, edition of 250)

So, Phil and Mel hand me some new stuff, right, and it is well smart so I decide to write about it, yeah, so I look back through the blog to find my last piece on the AshNav axis to make sure that I repeat any running jokes or overworked metaphors that I’ve annoyed them with before and, to my horror, I discover that I’ve said nothing about Three Spots Two Circles!  Nowt!

I’m not sure how/why this dodged the review pile but I suspect it was because I thought it had sold out at source – Medusa – almost instantly.  I might have been wrong (please check) but I don’t like to risk upsetting my sensitive readers by singing the praises of an unavailable item.  Still, as a terrific release by my favourite band I have to at least note it in passing.  From the eye-opening, Pendereckish scraped strings of ‘Forced Orchestra One’, through the more recognizably Ashnavian tropical psych of, well, the rest of it, the level of humour, invention and groove is maintained at a knock-out pitch.  The package is exquisite too – a lovely foldout poster in Renaissance gold, black and white hides two individually wrapped 3″ CD-rs.  Double mini-CD-r = format of champions.  Let’s move swiftly on to two items that are (almost) definitely available…

Human Combustion Engine V – Bible Whistle, is a one-lengthy-track-per-side cassette on the surprisingly-lovely-given-the-name Total Vermin.  The cover features the enormously be-conked, perma-grinning plaster face of Mr. Noseybonk – a nightmare-inducing mime from 80s children’s television series JigsawPerhaps the less said about him the better.

Anyway, this be the fifth outing of Phil and Mel’s synth duo incarnation (hence the ‘V’).  As you might expect given the instrumentation, there are tangerine passages but it isn’t overly krautish nor does it feel at all like pastiche, or even homage for that matter.  If you want layers of low-end robo-dystopian rumble or epic synth washes then you can find ‘em – especially on side two’s ‘The Importance of Whistle Boards’ – but there is also plenty of agile tweakery going on which pushes things forward in an angular and involving fashion.  Let’s examine, for example, the opening to side one’s ‘Holiday Bible Week’ which begins in a spacey manner but this isn’t 2001: A Space Odyssey spacey, more knitted-out-of-pink-wool Oliver Postgate spacey.  As the atmosphere surrounding the trilling and warbling darkens the new genre of electro-doom-clanger is birthed before our very ears.

An excellent companion piece to the stuff by Cloughy recently reviewed below.  At the time of writing this isn’t up on the Total Vermin blog yet but you could always drop Stuart a line at smearcampaign@hotmail.com and enquire as to what is up.

Finally, we have a proper pressed CD in a larily coloured digipak released by Phil’s own label Memoirs of an Aesthete.  Usefully, the project is explained by its own title: Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides + Human Combustion Engine = Human Horses so there you go.  Pascal Nichols (percussion) and Kelly Jayne Jones (flute, electronics and piano) join the HCE synthers for an improvised 40 minute performance recorded by RFM-chap-of-the-year-contender Andy Jarvis, Heathen Earth style, in front of a select audience.

I was very interested to hear how this was going to fit together.  Would the synths of HCE be mobile, reactive and spacious enough to accommodate, say, the delicacy and emotional potency of KJJ’s flute?  Would the remarkable, rolling, free drumming of PN really get its claws in or would it just skitter over the surface?  Silly me for even asking.  All the elements augment and amplify each other, creating a multi-faceted whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Imagine you are about to embark on a giant jigsaw (I’m talking about the tabletop time-killing activity now, not Mr. Noseybonk) of a tropical jungle scene.  The picture is always there, in prospect, from the moment you tip the pieces out of the box, before you even start to solve the puzzle.  However, it won’t resolve itself until you make some progress in assembling it, then it gradually becomes clearer and clearer until it is fully revealed by the satisfying placement of the last piece.

OK, now picture yourself as retired and therefore a fiend for jigsaws.  This is some distance in the future, of course, and now jigsaws are high tech things with shape-shifting pieces that change each time you waggle your iBrain implants.  Also, not only does the picture gradually take shape as you put it together but an immersive scene of lush plant life, strange insects, heat haze and exotic bird calls – stuff you can hear and see – is created at the same time.  Repeat listens to Human Horses is like that.  Buy here.

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