holy confectionery: joe murray eats chocolate monks with a singing knife

August 2, 2013 at 7:57 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Usurper – Fishing for Tripe (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.261)

Blue Yodel & Lovely Honkey – Poppies & Cocks (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.249)

Marvo Men – Give Some Idea of the Boys at Work (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.251)

Human Heads – The Beauticinist (C38 tape, Singing Knives, SK020)

usurper - fishing for tripeblue yodel and lovely honkeymarvo men - give some idea

human heads

Usurper – Fishing for Tripe

The Hinge & Bracket of the no-instrument underground break the fourth wall in the opening seconds of this tasty McNugget.  A noisy enamel-mug clash ends with a giggle and the beardy-burr ‘Shall I stop it and start it again?’

We are in Usurper territory instantly where tables, cutlery, marbles, cardboard boxes, billiard balls all become an orchestra for this pair of Ritalin Simon Rattles.  The skringle is close and dense but with enough room to breathe and flex with layers of fuss and bother laid over Tourette’s tick and shiver.

Things are neatly compartmentalised with track one (there is no song titles baby!  Malcy’s drawings depict a series of numbered stomach aches in lieu of numerals), the aforementioned symphonic scratter, setting a firm and reliable base layer.  Track two is pure vocal radge with mouth farts snuggling up brownly with warm guffs and moany choams.  This dark throaty gurgle is kept, pretty much, behind the teeth balancing control against the promise of chaos.  Track three…a play in three acts (1) if rats were made of polythene they would recognise their brothers squeezing through the plumbing and answer in kind,  (2) dry twigs evolve sap-like fingers and stretch blindly down narrow ginnels, (3) the idea of hard electric weather.  Track four is Usurper’s Take Five, like Joe Morello traded in his traps for a ‘pencil rattling in jam jar’ solo but ends up in a space previously occupied by Zaire’s cacophony of electrified mbiras and full moon moaning.  Track five is a proper sound poetry blow-out exactly halfway between Alvin Lucier’s ‘I am sitting in a room’ and a round of ‘London’s Burning ‘sung by year 4 of the Ivor Cutler Primary School.  Not only does this sound delicious and minty on the ear it delivers a brief history of the group leaving us with a shy but heartfelt ‘cheers man.’  Fishing for Tripe – music to stack a dishwasher to.

Postscript…I’m writing this in the cafe of a snooty Health Club (just don’t ask) and next on my crap laptop playlist, after Usurper, is Venom and their legendary between-song banter from their first US tour (1986).  I almost leap out my chair as Cronos dribbles his bullshit about Newcastle Brown Ale, ‘kicking your balls off’ and mixing up the names of his own songs, ‘Blood lust?  Blood what?’ We don’t have a song called that.’ I don’t know how but this somehow strangely fits into Usurper’s world: making magic out of nothing, rejoicing in the vernacular, pointing at windmills and laughing at their ridiculousness.

Blue Yodel & Lovely Honkey – Poppies & Cocks

This is going to be a weird one to write about as Yodel & Honkey make up the Sheffield arm of my underground family and have housed me, watered me and popped falafel into my weary gob-hole on many an occasion.  What if I don’t like their offering?  Will I be able to face them again?  I’ve always been a worrier, and as usual, it’s a groundless concern.  Poppies & Cocks is a piquant little caperberry overflowing with sour juice!

A true pairing.  This is no trad jazz duo, out-honking each other, desperate for the solo – the group mind has taken over.  Practiced over endless cups of herbal tea Poot/Honkey is less snotty than usual suggesting a new linctus approach.  Yodel’s joyful humming is downtuned, dark and graveyardy.

A quick note on the recording quality.  Some people have unfairly tarred the sub-underground with the ‘lo-fi’ brush.  While I’m a fan of lo-fi’s qualities this little disc is by no means low in fidelity or intent.  It fairly roars out the speakers and fills the room with clotted curses.

There are several approaches here. The open-mouthed mung-out that seems to be chuffed direct to tape and then played back at volume (although your ears may pick put more than my cloth cabbages) revelling in the spittle-flecked abandon of hurling your head back and letting the pre-language gasps and hucks spring fresh from the subconscious.  On occasion there is a more feather-light feel with barren electronics needling horse-faced snorts with toothpick-thin shards of feedback gilding the outer reaches of the spectrum.  The clever use of hiss and near silence makes these humps almost painterly.  And then, and this could be totally off beam, there seems to be a secret recording thread; like some pieces were recorded in the dark, alone, trying not to wake the sleepers camped out next door.  In this case frantic gasps and exhalations seem to stretch and mutate, expanding to fill the scant space between gob and condenser mic.  Fingers search blindly for buttons to nudge and pause, smudging the grain further leaving a burred snapshot.  Those dicks on The Apprentice might say – ‘Yodel & Honkey – multiple mouths make morbid murmurs!’  Fuckin’ saps…this is an essential disc for all students of the wild northern weird.

Marvo Men – Give Some Idea of the Boys at Work

More mouth-based lunacy.  But don’t automatically think glottal coughs or lippy trimphones!  The untitled opener is pure cut-up tape abstraction.  Beautiful and brilliant the ‘aughs and absenthh, wah’ sing chicken noodle soup into my ear, nourishing my jaded soul and filling me with pearl barley goodness.  I’m beaming like the golden shimmer on saffron infused rice.  Track two is a more physical attack with two mouths jamming up against each other, like roof tiles they interlock but it’s not fragile.  This sound bends and forms new rude shapes in expanded foam.  The cloisters are never far away as monk-like  groans hiss like hot drizzle on a freshly shaven tonsure.  Half the fun of this kinda goof is the theatre of it, the gurn and posture, the sinews standing proud on effort-rouged neck.  But the Marvo Men have marked their territory well with a strongly scented musk leading you like a pissy Bisto kid, round the saplings and into the glade they have prepared with dusky boughs and cracking grass.  The closer takes us back into a multi-tracked tape nightmare that sounds like…and I’m not kidding here…some nugget from that Beatles Anthology cash in.  You can hear the Fab Four, directed by the ever-correct Yoko, to lose their inhibitions and ‘make like the universe’.  Ringo gets it first (of course) neighing like a Bootle donkey then letting Mr Martin rewind and play the noise backwards.  George gets in on the transatlantic ‘Ohm’ leaving bloody John and bloody  Paul to throw their caps into the ring; reluctant at first but with rising confidence whispering harmonious nonsense with one hand on the Abbey Road Ampex (then state of the art, now retro/vintage).  The voices and chortles are corralled together to create one neon stream of liquid sound, rising in density, a dark-eyed sister to that orchestral bit in ‘A Day in the Life’.  Hey man…this is what Revolution Number Nine should have sounded like.

Human Heads – The Beauticinist

Classic and domestic fung-poetry!  Like a pie chart: stream of consciousness verb & strum (37%), interrupted field recordings (45%) and aching vowels (18%) this pretty pink tape clearly displays the everyday psychedelic for all to see.  The faint whiff of petrol (aphrodisiac to some, emetic to others) clings to The Beauticinist with its see-sawing collection of spoken word rambles and delicately knitted tones and recordings.  Tarnished beauty seems to be a central theme; from the hard gloss of grotty nail bars to the washboard stomach of a tabloid personality we are asked, as beholders, what do you see?

Among the stuttering speech patterns lays a rotating burr (slo-mo dentist drill?) and wheezy brackets (harmonium?) as dice are casually thrown and a ghost leaves by the squeaky door.  Sometimes words are picked apart phonetically; each snatch of un-sound rolled round the gob like a fine brandy then spat unceremoniously into the festering slop-bucket beneath the table.   Although these sounds are presented simply, sometimes with the gentlest of echoes, there is a steely confidence here.  Human Heads brush a demure fringe to one side and look you straight in the face…worship me like you worship the distant buttery sunlight of youth, it seems to say!

If you are looking for easy references and comparisons the closest cousin would be sub-underground giants The Shadow Ring whose slack halfarsedness rattled brain boxes before I started shaving.  But, make no mistake –  this is no backwards-looking retro shit…I’d put a dollar on Human Heads lasting the full 12 rounds with a Hype Williams style outfit any day of the week.  In other words – it’s tasty.

In this post-noise world it’s the tiny things matter most and Human Heads put an expert eye to the microscope.  Like boffins they examine the brittle grain of speech patterns, greasy tape huss and the clatter of finger bones, presenting them, ‘OU style’ to you dear listener.

Note: Human Heads…contain two Helhesten Heads/Psykick Dancehall bods too.

Chocolate Monk

Singing Knives

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