rob takes huge bite, eyes water, grins, attempts to swallow: rfm rounds ’em upJune 28, 2013 at 11:56 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
Tags: aetheric records, brian lavelle, colectivo n, crater lake sound, drone, dust unsettled, electro pop, electronica, etai keshiki, improv, marky loo loo, miguel perez, mika jarvis, nacht und nebel, new music, no audience underground, noise, oracle netlabel, people-eaters, peopling, tapes, the subs, the subs(cribers)
people-eaters – hinterland (3” CD-r, edition of 20, or download, Aetheric Records)
people-eaters – vore EP (download, Aetheric Records)
peopling – BULBOUT (download, self-released)
Etai Keshiki – Shit Off (download, self released)
nacht und nebel – downloads culled from five various releases
Colectivo “N” – La Ultima Tocada 06-02-2013 (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE95)
Brian Lavelle – The Night Ocean (download, Dust, Unsettled)
The Subs(Cribers) – Spilling Gravy In The Castle Of unfathomable Terrors (tape, edition of 40, Crater Lake, CL#003)
Dear reader, as a fellow music fan, I wonder if you ever feel that you have bitten off more than you can chew? Do you stare forlornly at a pile of unheard tapes and CD-rs? Do you scroll guiltily through the overfull menus on your mp3 player? Do you look at your monthly credit card bill, panic that you have been the victim of some kind of fraud, then realise that all those little Paypal payments are for various microlabel whims?
It’s brilliant isn’t it? What a privilege to have access to so much terrific art and the wonderful people that make it! I wouldn’t have it any other way: long may I choke. A case in point: last month through a mixture of hard work, delegation and judicious use of the words ‘no thanks’ I managed to get the review pile here at Midwich Mansions down to zero items. Did I take the opportunity to sit on the porch and admire the rhododendron flowers? Did I bollocks. I touted for freebies, I drifted around Bandcamp, I even paid for a few physical objects with actual money. Last week the right speaker of my ear buds broke and I had an infection in my left ear that made it painful to listen to music. Time to take a break? Not a bit of it. I ended up ramming the still working left bud into the wrong ear so I could continue getting my groove on, albeit in discombobulating mono – *sighs, grins sheepishly* – I just can’t help myself. The upshot of all this silliness is that the review pile is now teetering again and a round-up is in order. I shall point you at some great stuff that can be had cheaply or for nowt and explain with brisk efficiency why you should check it out. Links at the end. First up…
hinterland by people-eaters comprises two tracks totalling about 19 minutes and is available as a criminally limited 3″ CD-r with lovely cover by Crow versus Crow (a sort of ethereal version of the Black Flag logo), or as a download from that Bandcamp. The main components of the music are a swell of delicately balanced feedback, some breathy electronics and a low, hissing crackle (monotron?) which sprinkles a pinch of iron filings over the mix. It has a cool, enveloping feel – as if the frozen wastes are close, but that you are protected from them by a layer of parental skin and hair. Thus it documents the antenatal experience of a gestating polar bear cub (now there is a pull quote for a press release if ever I saw one: “makes you feel like an ursine foetus” – radiofreemidwich). It is also beautifully recorded and this attention to detail shows an admirable faith in their own vision. If you are going to take the trouble to return your listener to the womb then you shouldn’t allow anything to poke the amniotic sac.
The vore EP (five tracks, 21 minutes, Bandcamp download) shows a similar level of light but unswerving control. Minimal elements – an ominous rumble, a voodoo rattle, the splintered reflections from a broken mirror – are slowly rotated to give the listener a chance to appreciate each facet, then dismissed. There is, dare I say it, a midwichian simplicity to this release: the methods of construction are discretely hidden, the sounds trusted to engage (or not) on their own terms. I wholeheartedly approve of this discipline and like the results very much.
Coming at things from a different but equally satisfying direction is New York based noisester Ronnie Gonzalez who records as peopling. His skill is in taking the tropes of power noise – gargling electronics, sulphuric vocal distortion – and by combining them judiciously with more accessible ‘musical’ elements creating something fun and life-affirming. His latest, BULBOUT, a three track EP totalling seven minutes, has the funk – not a notion much called upon here at RFM. Older readers may recall the mutant pop of early 90s electro-industro-punkers like Babyland (yeah, if you want ‘played once on John Peel 20 years ago’ references this blog is for you!). Peopling is the teenage son of that sound: beaming, busting with mischievous energy and clearly spitting out his medication the second the nurse leaves the room.
Ronnie refers to BULBOUT as a ‘digital 7″ single’ which makes perfect sense to me. One of the strengths of the Bandcamp model is that, within the prescribed site format (ugly but functional enough to be transparent), you are free to present your release how you like. If your work is complete, coherent and self-contained then why can’t it be an ‘album’, even if it is only two minutes long? Which brings me to…
Shit Off by Etai Keshiki is a one track album totalling an epic 113 seconds and apparently named for an incidental detail in the short film My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117 by Chris Morris (click on thumbnail to enlarge). It is hardcore fast, rhythmically elastic and very, very angry. Imagine the camera focussed on someone drowning in a lake, screaming for help as they surface, limbs flailing in the churning froth. Then the camera pulls back to reveal there are actually four people making exactly the same moves in unison. This is synchronised, precision flailing. Freely downloadable but chuck these kids some money if you can as they are always proper anarcho-punk skint.
New to me is the charming Henry Davies who took my left elbow in one hand and with the other gestured to his Bandcamp site where the lazy can find all his recordings as nacht und nebel collected in one convenient location. I downloaded the newest five – split tape w/Crimwewave, split tape w/Lea Cummings, hrönir, split 7″ with W>A>S>P>S and 466 Days originating on various labels – which takes us from the present day back to October of last year. Selecting ‘play all’ on my mp3 device accidentally compiled them into an impressively cohesive 11 track, 61 minute ‘album’ of short and shortish noise tracks.
Henry’s sole sound source is, apparently, a cello though there is little that sounds like a Bach concerto here. Like Chrissie Caulfield’s violin, I suspect his instrument is filtered and processed by a daisy-chain of effects before it reaches our ears. Most of this is fairly heavy duty electronic noise but it is far from being mere HNW. Henry has an ear for the rhythmically mechanical and is adept at handling a rolling crescendo – a quality sorely lacking in much overly-static ‘harsh’ noise. Thus the tracks have dynamism, momentum and are edited for impact. The rhythmic elements clear some headspace which allows the listener to fully appreciate the atmosphere. Thus despite being a demanding listen, the work is never wilfully bombastic or alienating. Very much worth your while.
A word about Henry’s band name, as I was troubled by it. Nacht and nebel (‘night and fog’) was the Nazi policy of providing no information as to the fate of those taken prisoner by the regime. It facilitated mass murder, unimaginable horror shrouded behind mute bureaucracy. Is there anything more nightmarish? It is also the German title of Nuit et brouillard a profoundly harrowing short documentary film about the Holocaust released in 1955, directed by Alain Resnais. In short: why the fuck would anyone choose this as their band name? I put this to him and he replied:
First off, it’s emphatically not a pro-nazi thing at all.
When I started doing this (about 7 years ago, I think?) I had the idea that whatever name I chose for it should in some way reflect the fact that it isn’t obvious that all the sounds originally come from the same source (a ‘cello) – a kind of audio obscurantism, if you like. Around the same time, I happened to be reading Philip K Dick’s The Simulacra, which mentions nacht und nebel in passing, and that it translates to night and fog (but little else, as i recall), which struck me as exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Some investigation at the library later and the awful nature of it was quite striking.
My intention with nacht und nebel musically has always been to evoke an atmosphere of dread more than anything, with suggestions of unsettling and nightmarish things going on that are being hidden from view so you can never quite make them out (seen through a glass, darkly, as it were) and that you have no control over. (Which no doubt betrays my interest in certain kinds of horror) – judging my success or otherwise at attaining such arguably highfalutin goals is no doubt best left as an exercise for the listener. But that all played into the choice of name as well in one way or another – as you say, troubling.
So yes, it’s entirely abhorrent, both for what it obscured and that it enabled ‘across-the-board, silent defiance of international treaties and conventions: one cannot apply the limits and terms of humane treatment in war if one cannot locate a victim or discern that victim’s fate.’ That said, I do find it interesting that ‘band’ names are almost always taken to be a positive thing (a kind of seal of approval) when there’s no real reason for the opposite not to be the case (i.e. the band ebola, for instance, come to mind as an example.)
I was satisfied with this (and, as an aside, that last point is an interesting one). I suppose my worry about his use of that concept for a band name comes from growing up with industrial noise and power electronics in the 1980s and 1990s. That scene was overflowing with idiots vying to be the most ‘shocking’ or ‘challenging’ or ‘transgressive’ and I suppose when I found out what ‘nacht and nebel’ referred to I was taken back to those tedious times. Now I see that is not Henry’s intention at all and, whilst I am still squeamish about the use of such concepts/imagery in this context, I’m happy to acknowledge that he has at least thought this through.
OK, let’s lighten the mood.
Colectivo N is the improv duo of RFM regular Miguel Perez (La Mancha Del Pecado, The Skull Mask) and his compañero Picho. La Ultima Tocada (June 2, 2013) is the document of their last gig together before Picho moved way over west to that other crazy border town Tijuana. What we have here is a very entertaining quarter hour of Miguel jaggling the strings (yes I know jaggling isn’t a proper word but you know exactly what I mean, don’t you?) of his guitar whilst Picho wails comically and/or mournfully through a strangulated trumpet. There are vocals: sardonic interludes and some exaggerated, grunting pastiche of lounge jazz – a bit in the first few minutes reminded me of the scat solo in the immortal ‘mnah mnah’ Muppet Show sketch. Worth noting that this performance did not take place in the Juarez equivalent of the Fox & Newt in front of a knowing, improv-savvy audience but in a regular bar in front of bemused punters who had little idea what was occurring. These boys have some big brass balls. Miguel tells me that the recording cuts out before the applause because… there was no applause. Which is both hilarious and awesome.
After all this noisy racket my poor infected ears needed a little balm so, on a whim, I made a visit to the website of long-term friend of this blog Brian Lavelle. Brian’s work, that is: his own recordings and those made by friends and associates released by him on his Bandcamp label Dust, Unsettled, is uniformly excellent. To my shame, a quick search of this blog reveals that he has not been mentioned recently. My apologies – I suspect this is because I rather take him and the quality of his offerings for granted. Erik Satie once described selections of his own work as ‘furniture music’, meaning them to be used as background ambience, and I have to admit to treating Brian’s back catalogue as a kind of wing-backed leather armchair. Around Midwich Mansions his music is ‘used’ – as a lullaby, a massage, an exotic holiday, a diverting puzzle – rather than ‘listened to’ as such. Sounds like a back-handed compliment, I know, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.
Take, for example, The Night Ocean a 40 minute, single track album inspired by an atmospheric short story by H.P. Lovecraft and R.H. Barlow (a pdf version of which is thoughtfully included with the download). It ripples in the cool offshore breeze, it shimmers with reflected moonlight (‘Yet for me there is a haunting and inscrutable glamour in all the ocean’s moods. It is in the melancholy silver foam beneath the moon’s waxen corpse…’), it fizzes as each stroke disturbs the plankton and triggers a phosphorescent display. And that is it: no driving forward momentum, no complicated narrative, just a barely perceptible ebb and flow. By using ‘stop’ or ‘repeat’ this track can be made to last exactly as long as you need it to. An excellent example of the underrated sub-genre LNW (lovely noise wall).
If the concept of ‘goodwill’ could be transformed into a band then the result would be The Subs, such is the regard with which they are held. The doe-eyed adoration is justly deserved, however, as the duo of Markylooloo (Stoke scene veteran, paragon of virtue) and Mika (the girl who radiates sunshine) produce electro-pop perfection. The band’s small but exquisite catalogue of songs, crafted in fits of sporadic creativity spanning two decades, is almost overwhelmingly charming. Cute without being twee, sweet without being saccharine, daft without being stupid – it’s as groovily, refreshingly life-affirming as eating ice-lollies in the park on a warm Sunday afternoon. Lovely.
Right then, here’s where to get all this great stuff: