artifacts of the no-audience underground: thossian process and joined by wire

November 13, 2012 at 7:01 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Thossian Process – Impurities (CD-r in handmade packaging, Striate Cortex, S.C.54, edition of 60)

joinedbywire – lost weekends (CD-r, self-released, edition of 17)

Patience is a virtue, eh readers?  Without it how could I ever come to appreciate the oblique, the abrasive or a not-immediately-welcome change of direction?  It took me a while to get with these releases (one even had to be snuck into Midwich Mansions ignoring my polite but firm indifference) but the rewards have far outweighed the effort.  When life outside music proves difficult and I eye the teetering review pile with, shall we say, ‘mixed feelings’ these CD-rs remind me that remaining open-minded is a virtue too.

Impurities by Thossian Process – a chap called Tim Mitchell – is new on Striate Cortex.  Reason for celebratory fireworks usually but in his plugging email to the Striate faithful Andy described it as follows:

Impurities has a more industrial feel to it, very dark and edgy and for me has massive reflections of early TG

Oh, I thought, maybe I’ll give it a miss.  Heresy, I know, but I don’t really like much of that first wave industrial nowadays.  The claustrophobic seediness of Throbbing Gristle just makes me feel sad.  Thus I maintained a dignified silence.  Andy contacted me again, I explained my misgivings and suggested hardier blogs that might be more receptive …and a few days later a copy turned up in the post anyway.  The cheeky bugger had guessed correctly that once it was in the house I’d feel compelled to give it a chance.  Well, I’m glad I did.

The packaging is first class.  Inside a robust plastic wallet there is a length of black gauze.  This veils a fold out cardboard case painted in ‘oriental’ colours of red, gold and black.  Inside is a title card, a booklet of creepy black and white photography and a colour printed CD-r in its own black window envelope.  The attention to detail is… well, you can only shake your head in amazement.

The music unfolds to reveal a similar seriousness of intent.  I see where Andy is coming from with his description.  With so much noise these days being so, er…, noisy it is easy to forget how empty and eerie some of that early industrial stuff could be.  Thossian Process captures that vibe perfectly with rhythmic ticks, pulses and pitter-patter in lieu of anything too drum-like and a carefully chosen palette of electronics used sparingly and with purpose.  A couple of tracks even have that vaguely ethnographic Middle Eastern/North African influence that bands like Cabaret Voltaire tapped into.

Part of what makes the album so compelling is the space within the music.  I don’t mean it is ‘dubby’ – this is not a stoner-friendly warm bath – rather it is ‘spacious’ like a harshly lit, unfurnished room, or a view across a frozen lake, or the inside of your head when you wake sweating in the pitch black at 3.30am.

The seven tracks that make up this release total a fat-free 28 minutes.  This efficiency shows a respect both for the material and for the listener and ensures that the quick-witted inventiveness throughout is left undiluted and espresso strong.  Its discipline is admirable.  Given its very high tolerance to repeat listening, and the art-object level of the packaging, this release is incredible value for money.

Buy here.

The issue that delayed my appreciation of Lost Weekends, the latest CD-r by Joined  By Wire was a bit different.  I’m a big fan of the work of Stephen Woolley (and associates) and was delighted to be offered one of this super-limited edition.  Imagine the shiver of anticipation as I slid it into the CD player, pumped the volume and… was bludgeoned.  Oof.

Now, JBW is a noisy project and doesn’t mind loosening teeth/bowels if necessary but this is something else.  Stephen’s turn to brute electronics is closely akin to that taken by Neil Campbell with his recent Astral Social Club stuff.  However, being the dimwit that I am, my first thought wasn’t ‘oh yeah, Neil did something like this and I eventually understood it and learned to love it.’ It was: ‘oh shit, how am I going to break it to Stephen that I don’t like his record?’  Luckily, good ol’ fashioned English fear of an embarrassing situation kept me from pressing ‘send’ for a few days and in that time I realised that I was wrong.  Once I’d got used to the chilli heat I could taste the nicely balanced blend of spices underneath.  It turns out that, after your eyes stop watering, the new JBW disc is delicious.

It’s another cracking package.  A brown card gatefold sleeve, screen printed with a cartoon forest on the front, opens to reveal a CD-r, itself printed red and decorated with a wood grain pattern, and an eight page card booklet.  The booklet contains no information about the release just more of Stephen’s lovely graphic work.  The CD-r contains seven untitled tracks and runs to approximately 44 minutes.

The first three tracks are full of joy and energy but are unrepentantly brain-scouring.  It is like an audio time-lapse account of geological processes: formless masses are melted, boiled, set hard, torn into reflective shards, melted again.  Exhilarating stuff but you’ll need to fiddle with the volume to minimise ear-bleed.  Track 4 is relatively mild so affords us a deep breath and a brief, refreshing interlude to wiggle our toes in the grass before cracking on.  Track 5 is exactly one minute of sanity-baiting anarcho-squiggle so breathtakingly looney that if it continued any longer it may well cause irreversible brain-tilt.  Luckily it cuts when it does and we are back with the longer form, shimmering, rolling, scarifying tectonics until the end.  Blimey.

Now, in my reviews I generally try and avoid the internet cop-out of ‘if you like that, you’ll like this’ but fans of recent Astral Social Club material that don’t already know Joined By Wire should really check this out.  I’m sure neither Neil nor Stephen would grumble at the comparison as they are clearly both attacking the void with similar weaponry.  This particular edition runs to a mere 17 copies but fear not as Stephen has previous for bootlegging his own stuff.  I’m sure some arrangement could be made should it have ‘sold out’.

Buy via the JBW Big Cartel shop or drop Stephen a line at joinedbywire@hotmail.com.

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