artifacts of the no-audience underground: noah brown and horrible injuryAugust 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: brown, comix, electronica, horrible injury, improv, legion of swine, live music, mini comics, new music, no audience underground, noah brown, noise, normal man, punk, slasher, swinefest, tapes, visual art, you'll learn, zines
Slasher issues #8 and #10 (A4 comic zine with noise punk compilation CD-r)
Horrible Injury and No Point (A6 mini-comix)
Normal Man – That Joyless Vibe (cassette, Horrible Injury Records, STAB001)
Legion of Swine / Brown – Split (cassette, Horrible Injury/Ojud, STAB009.5)
You’ll Learn – Live At Test Space (CD-r, Horrible Injury Records, STAB003)
Brown – Ride The Lightning (CD-r, Horrible Injury Records, STAB008)
It’s not all arty gurgling and delicate droning round here. Those familiar with the less pretty end of the Leeds noise scene will be aware of Swinefest, the occasional day-long festival of scuzz-punk, noise-filth and misanthro-metal (details of the next one, to be held in October, here). I’m always tempted by this and it is almost always the case that some friend or acquaintance is playing. However, being old, feeble and effete I worry that I would struggle with its girth (all day? Whoo boy). On the other hand, I remain just punk enough to sneer at those wankers who only turn up at the end for the headliners. Thus I am paralysed by my own stupidity and have yet to attend at all. I know, I know – my thought processes are as much a mystery to me.
Anyway, involved in organising this event and various related activities is the charming Noah Brown. Noah produces music himself, in bands with others, has a hand in the Horrible Injury imprint and is an artist and producer of zines and mini-comix. Some of this output I was vaguely aware of – clocking gig listings in Cops and Robbers, picking up Slasher in Jumbo Records then hastily putting it back – but I’ve not had the pleasure of properly immersing myself in it until recently. After a round of email introductions, Noah bounded up to me at the recent midwich gig and thrust into my hand a bulging plastic bag containing the generous selection of items pictured above. I was amused to see that it wasn’t a carrier bag but rather the sort of bag an electrical product comes in. It was covered in warnings: ‘keep away from children’, ‘choking hazard’ etc. How appropriate…
Let’s start with the comics. The mini-comix (definitely with an ‘x’) Horrible Injury and No Point are simply assembled black and white affairs with a sketchbook feel. The themes are violence, self-loathing, misanthropy and humiliation. Genitals and swearing feature prominently. This is a from-the-gut despair that I recognize from my own periods of debilitating depression and I was properly unnerved by one page that features a black-eyed, pointy headed demon taunting the author/reader, claiming to be the architect of all his/our failures. Nihilistic stuff drawn with a compelled, loose, efficient verve.
Slasher is a more substantial project: an A4 (more or less) comic zine with a decent page count, each containing a CD-r compilation of the kind of noise punk you’d expect to hear at Swinefest. Despite being the work of more than one artist this time, the subject matter is the same as Noah’s mini-comix but with an added dash of impotent fury at the stupidity and lameness of modern life. The artwork ranges from Shrigley-esque scrawled anti-drawing to some accomplished and carefully finished splash pages reminiscent of Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson and the Wierdo comics roster. There are also some well-paced and full page cartoon strips and photo-collages. Once over the initial shock of its raw brutality I liked this very much. Not something to read where anyone could look over your shoulder though.
Now the music. The two tapes and two CD-rs are all released by Horrible Injury Records which Noah runs. Well, he may co-run it with comrades but for the purposes of this review he is the glamorous public face. Live At Test Space by You’ll Learn is a half hour of free rock noise improv noteworthy for some insistently clattering percussion throughout and some hard-to-place choices of racket-elements. The split Legion of Swine/Brown tape is approximately 30 minutes of overloaded roar, falling in and choking on itself. Like one of those indoor fireworks that starts as a black pellet then expands furiously into a snaking tube of foam when lit.
That Joyless Vibe by Normal Man is terrific and made me think I’m missing out by not listening to more punk. It has the heaviness of late-80s Sub Pop – I’m thinking Tad – and the darkly humorous lyrics about suicide, Idi Amin and other causes for misery call to mind the magnificent Killdozer. Apologies for my references being twenty years out of date. I’m so geriatric nowadays that if I hear something that makes me want to pogo it is over before I can be helped up from my chair…
Finally we have Ride The Lightning by Brown, a solo Noah project. On first listen this seemed a bit sketchy – an anthology of experiments, some more fully realised than others – but familiarity has revealed a coherence not immediately evident. The working method is straightforward: get one or two loops rolling, maybe a field recording, drop in some electronics and see what colour the mixture turns. I approve, I use this recipe myself and as a fellow MC-303 owner it is particularly interesting to me to hear familiar voices used to a different effect. Compare, for example, the lovely set-closing ‘Doctor Officer Featuring Mouse Mouth’ with the first Truant session. Ride the Lightning attracts one of my favourite compliments: it rewards repeat listening.