artifacts of the no-audience underground: molotov label reviewOctober 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
Tags: fuckin' amateurs, funeral dance party, i torquemada, improv, molotov, new music, no audience underground, noise, oppenheimer, xazzaz
Xazzaz – s/t (CD-r, Molotov 04)
Funeral Dance Party / Xazzaz – MMXI (Vinyl album, Molotov 08/Fuckin’ Amateurs #62)
F.D.P. R.I.P – Under Stone and Trees (Vinyl album, Molotov 09/Fuckin’ Amateurs #68)
I, Torquemada – Asesinato Total (CD-r, Molotov 10)
Oppenheimer – s/t (CD-r, Molotov 12)
Xazzaz – Black Hearts and Brittle Bones (CD-r, Molotov 13)
Blimey, it’s like the ‘hampster dance’ or something. For a couple of days my response to Mr. Reynold’s talk garnered three times the usual average hits for this blog. Crowds are flocking to read my spirited defence of this odd little world (although I’m amused to see it isn’t all one way – almost no-one was watching the video prior to me mentioning it, now hits on it at Vimeo are bubbling along healthily). I’ve had so many referrals from that facebook that I momentarily thought about creating an account there. Luckily sense overcame vanity and I left it well alone. May I ask a favour? If anyone out there has made or read interesting comments then could you please email them to me, or comment on this blog, because otherwise I’m unlikely to see them. Cheers.
So, how to consolidate this new readership? Point them at something joyous and relatively accessible in order not to scare them off? How about a round-up of releases by a relatively ‘big name’ in order to ease the alienation? Nope: neither. Next up on the review pile is a whole mess of impenetrably hard, semi-anonymous noise, covered in skulls and on a more-or-less secret label hidden up in the wilds of the North East. Perfect! It’s the no-audience way…
Cherry Vampire by Culver is a mighty release and I said as much in my last worship-piece about the work of Lee Stokoe. However, when I came to exhort you to ‘buy here’ there was no ‘here’ to be found. No contact details on the CD-r or packaging, a partial Discogs listing for the label – Molotov – that was no more informative. In the end the ever-accommodating Scott McKeating of Bells Hill, omniscient in the North East noise scene, pointed me at a guy called Mike and a gently probing email was sent in his direction.
Yes, he admitted, he was running Molotov but had been keeping it strictly on the QT whilst it was mainly recordings by him or close associates. Amazingly, he’d built a notable back-catalogue of nicely packaged releases whilst very few outside his circle even knew it existed. Should you wish to examine truly hardcore no-audience underground behaviour in its natural habitat then the North East is hard to beat. Here is where a label such as Fuckin’ Amateurs can push out scores of releases, sometimes without even the featured band’s permission, and then just give them away at the shows they so cheekily bootleg. Even if the music, which is varied but tends towards a heavy guitarish/psych/metal inspired noise, isn’t your bag you can still find the attitude and self-sufficiency of the scene inspirational.
My nudge was well timed as it neatly coincided with Mike adding some information about Molotov to the website dedicated to his solo project Xazzaz – thus giving me something to point you at. He was also kind enough to send a generous parcel of his warez too – thus giving me a reason to point you at it.
Firstly, Mike has co-released two albums on the heritage medium of 12” vinyl with the aforementioned Fuckin’ Amateurs. One is a split called MMXI featuring live sets from Xazzaz and scene legends Funeral Dance Party. I imagine this will contain recordings of varying quality, maybe spitting with energy, top and tailed with excitable Geordie chatter. The other is, I think, a compilation of punk/noise hybrids called F.D.P. R.I.P. Under Stone and Trees. I say ‘I imagine’ and ‘I think’ because I haven’t been able to listen to either. My turntable is protesting by making a nasty grinding noise whenever switched on (all by itself – no need for HNW) so apologies to Mike and note to potential submitters: no vinyl until further notice, please. I’ll take it to bits at the weekend.
I can’t, however, pass these records by without commenting on the excellent sleeve decoration. MMXI is wrapped in a gloriously psychotic white-on-black screen print of three creatures from a Lovecraftian bestiary, doodled by a mad artist during the psychic storm caused by the raising of R’leyh. That the spear point at the end of the goat/devil’s tail is a guitar headstock and that one of the Cthulhoid creature’s tentacles ends in a jack plug is well ROCK too.
Now some CD-rs – we’ll start with the toughest. Asesinato Total by I, Torquemada is as unforgiving as the title, cover and band name suggest. I imagine this stuff is fun to make and, at one third the length would make for an exhilarating live set, but an hour long CD-r is too much for me. Not that nothing happens – it does. Not that it isn’t good – it is. Passages in the final third are terrific but by then my attention had been sandblasted to a nub. This may be savoured by those with a taste for such things but I usually order from a different part of the menu.
The self-titled Oppenheimer is almost as brutal. The components of metal are crushed and smeared until all that remains are distorted guitar and clattering, pummelling percussion. ‘Tests’, the first of two lengthy tracks, is relentless: a gang of droogs mug some defenceless krautrock motorik, wrestle it to the ground and give it a 29 minute kicking. ‘Consequences’ starts with a little swing to it (who woulda thought the Manhattan Project would be so… groovy) before settling down to more ego-mashing, eventually finishing with a swirling mechanical loop and, unnervingly, a child’s giggle.
Best of the lot though is Mike’s own solo work as Xazzaz. This is also noise coming from a metal direction but is all the better for making some concessions to the listener: shorter tracks and much more movement in tone and texture. You may even hear the odd riff or bassline, albeit one with a foot on its neck. Track six of the self titled Xazzaz is the one I keep coming back to. It is made up of a guttering bottom heavy wail, like a slowed-down, pitched-down recording of an orgasming dalek, a riff that breaks the waves like the back plates of a monstrous sea creature and bursts of whistling thrown into the air like snorts of mucus from a blowhole.
Black hearts and brittle bones crams the lot into an efficient thirteen minutes. A mournful opening, an organ drone for the shipwrecked, gives way to a sludgy guitar attempting to squall, like a giant carnivore trying to free itself from a tar pit. It ends with a haunting player piano tinkling away to itself deep under the rubble of a saloon destroyed by an earthquake. I dig it.
Ordering details can be found on the Molotov page of Xazzaz.com.