a handshake from mexico: simulacro, la mancha del pecado, wehrmacht lombardoMay 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: altar of waste, drone, jorge gonzalez, la mancha del pecado, miguel perez, new music, no audience underground, noise, oracle netlabel, shameless self-congratulation, simulacro, wehrmacht lombardo
simulacro – cuatro ep (CD-r or download, registro latente)
La Mancha Del Pecado – Anciano Y Enfermo (CD-r, Altar of Waste, AOW 52, edition of 20)
Wehrmacht Lombardo – Au Convent de Panthemont (CD-r, Altar of Waste, AOW 61, edition of 20)
Some time ago I saw an interview with that Thom Yorke from that Radiohead (presumably by accident, I have no more than a passing interest in their work) in which he was asked his opinion as to the meaning of life. He gave the following answer:
The most essential thing in life is to establish heartfelt communication with others, there’s bugger all else to do.
I thought this impressively robust and, whilst not agreeing entirely with the second clause, found myself nodding in vigorous approval. As I can’t think of a better way of putting it, I find myself in the embarrassing situation of living by a maxim trotted out by a pop star (of sorts), albeit a thoughtful one. Oh well, it could be worse: ‘life ain’t nothing but bitches and money’ as Ice Cube once asserted…
Anyway, I was reminded of Mr. Yorke’s comment again the other day when a package arrived at Midwich Mansions from my Mexican Cousin Miguel Perez, wrapped, as is his habit, with rolls and rolls of sellotape. Hacking it open, I found it to contain, amongst other things, two new releases by Miguel himself (see below) and a letter and CD-r from a fellow Mexican previously unknown to me named Jorge Gonzalez.
Jorge could easily have just emailed me but instead he took the trouble to write a (beautifully handwritten – see scan) letter and instead of just sending me his CD-r directly, forwarded it to Miguel to include with his by way of an introduction. I was charmed by his effort, approach and the sentiment of his correspondence. This, comrades, is WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT: making connections with far-flung enthusiasts. That this guy on the other side of the world has been inspired by our meagre endeavours is enormously heartening and I was touched by the method he used to contact me. I was amused to discover that it took a blog based in the North of England to bring these two countrymen together. The no-audience underground is like Gentleman’s Relish on hot buttered toast: spread thinly, richly flavoured, not for everyone but delicious to those who have acquired the taste.
So what of his music? Well, Jorge records under the name simulacro and this CD-r comprises four tracks (hence the title), totalling about 20 minutes, in a colour printed card sleeve. The opener, ‘hangar 197 X’ is five minutes of free rock that I have to admit didn’t grab me. Its heart is in the right place but it isn’t my bag. Track two, ‘nebulizador eterico’ is a slow moving lava flow of drone metal – heavy, viscous, hot enough to make the air shake but spacious enough to walk around. I like this very much. ‘escudo ceramico’ is a synth whine overlaid with some ghost jazz guitar. It kinda works and its oddness has grown on me. The closer, ‘instruccion clasificada’, is a fitting final track as it draws on elements of the previous three: synth drone, a background rattle of metal guitar, slow sludge rock stabs allowed to bleed out. So: one track I didn’t like, one I really did, two others that showed interest and promise. OK, I’ll settle with that for now and look forward to Jorge’s next effort.
…and speaking of international no-audience solidarity: Miguel Perez, another fine case in point. My first mention of him and his work was a one-line dismissal of his side of a split tape shared with Culver back in the Summer of 2011. Undaunted, he got in touch to say thanks for the mention anyway and since then a transatlantic friendship has blossomed that has involved thousands of words sent in emails, the exchange of hours of music via the magic of the internet, many parcels trusted to the worrisome international postal system and collaborations on a couple of releases with more promised for the future. Partly via radiofreemidwich but mainly due to his own indefatigable spirit he has, for example, ‘met’ Yol and formed the peerlessly strange improv duo Neck vs. Throat, secured releases on excellent labels like Striate Cortex, Molotov and Sheepscar Light Industrial and arranged collaborations with everyone he can pin down. I’ve heard so much of his work over the last couple of years I feel like I’ve been sitting drinking a coke on his doorstep, listening to him figure it all out in real time.
Whilst his work rate would kill a lesser man, or at least lead to a battle-fatigued drop in quality, the opposite seems to be true of Miguel. The trick is: he listens. He reads his reviews, takes it all on board and makes mental notes of things to try next, he learns from his collaborators and, especially recently, he approaches his own solo ventures with a view to refining their quality, concentrating their purpose. All this whilst already being a virtuoso guitarist having grown up in the metal scene. He tells me that he is satisfying the hard-plucked improv impulse with his guitar duo Colectivo N (even playing live, winning over bars full of initially puzzled punters) which is allowing him to focus on the majesty of drone with his other projects.
The two albums pictured above illustrate his development perfectly. Produced in very limited editions, as is typical for this intriguing and prolific American label, they are packaged in DVD style cases and wrapped in some striking photography (even more eye-opening when you find out that the provocatively posed ‘nun’ adorning the inlay of Au Convent de Panthemont is Miguel’s wife Maria! What can you say to that?!). The professional quality of the finish is noteworthy considering the tiny number available, but entirely appropriate given the quality of the contents.
Au Convent de Panthemont by Wehrmacht Lombardo is an epic ‘airless drone’ (Miguel’s own description) apparently inspired by the Marquis de Sade’s Juliette. Whilst I agree that it is claustrophobic, albeit in an erotically complicated way, I’d say its defining characteristic is an ever present throb and that the drone, although heady and intoxicating, is secondary.
After a brief orgiastic opening, for the first half hour this throb plays out aching and distended, gratification painfully delayed, in an atmosphere thick with incense. Around the 30 minute mark an insistent hiss is pushed to the fore adding a deceptively soothing layer of white noise balm under which the fleshy redness continues to pulse. With 20 minutes to go the rhythm resolves into a metallic clatter which, in this decadent context, suggests the workings of a flagellating machine into which out hapless protagonist has been strapped. The last few minutes see the return of the initial throb only to be merged with a final burst of the duelling hiss. It’s a satisfyingly ambiguous conclusion.
The pace of this piece is perfect. The movements flow naturally from one to another giving it a clear, resolute narrative drive despite its minimal components. That it remains wholly engaging over a running time of more than an hour is a measure of Miguel’s accomplishment.
Anciano Y Enfermo (‘Old and Sick’) by La Mancha Del Pecado comprises two tracks (the title track is 46 minutes long, the second a mere 25) and is apparently inspired by a freakish snowstorm hitting Miguel’s home town of Juarez.
It is stating the obvious to say that ‘Anciano Y Enfermo’ does indeed sound cold. I’m not above reaching for clichéd imagery – arctic winds across the tundra, electric blue ice caverns and so on – but a proper account of this track demands a little more effort. You could consider it purely descriptive but I think it also contains a kind of dread for the future, a middle-of-the-night panic that we are well on the way to making this planet uninhabitable for us humans. This could be what we have to look forward to: what isn’t on fire is underwater, what isn’t desert is frozen. I wasn’t entirely convinced by John Hillcoat’s film of Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road but a few scenes have stuck with me, one of which I thought was a very efficient piece of character exposition. In a flashback to the start of the civilisation ending disaster, the Viggo Mortenson character looks out of the window at the coming chaos and immediately starts filling the bath with water. He isn’t going to wash, of course, he realises that the water supply may soon be cut off. He’s a survivor. This track makes me want to fill the bath.
‘Tragedia Silenciosa’ has an oceanic feel. It could be a soundtrack to the recurring nightmare of a shipwreck survivor. In the dream they are not dragged onto the beach and rescued but instead drown under the wind whipped surf in the howling black of the night storm. The ‘chk, chk, chk’ noise, an often present artefact of Miguel’s recording equipment, here reads as the superimposed sound of a motor dinghy forlornly searching the bay the following morning for corpses or salvageable jetsam.
A great deal of patience, restraint and concentration are shown in the construction of these long form compositions. With this release (and alongside some other recent work) La Mancha Del Pecado shrugs off the epithet ‘Culveresque’ and becomes its own creation. Miguel has distilled his sound from the muddy mixture of his influences and what remains is a clarified spirit. As Cory Strand, Altar of Waste head honcho, puts it:
…these sorts of records are exactly why I started the label in the first place. You will not emerge unscathed. Fucking amazing.