tight to the brassy keyhole: joe murray eavesdrops on adam bohman’s music & words

September 4, 2013 at 10:03 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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music and words by ADAM BOHMAN (CD, paradigm discs, PD09)

music and words by adam bohman

I’ve struggled with this review for about a month and spilled a lake of Quink in the process.  My first reaction to hearing Music & Words was a big sloppy love poem, complete with little hearts drawn to dot any ‘i’s.  Then I went the other way and got all WIRE magazine serious (don’t you dare!  Ed) explaining how Adam Bohman fits into the UK underground like a lop-sided jigsaw piece (Editor’s note: this album was originally released in 1999 and was reissued in June of this year).  In the end I almost fell back on my lazy Bananafish approximation and licked up the mouldy pool of mung with my double tongue-brother.  But I guess in these situations I have to fall back to the last refuge of the music guest-blogger, honesty.  And it’s with pure, clear honesty I declare Music & Words a phenomenal and brave record.  It would be easy to hurl around the words, ‘charming’ or ‘naive’ or perhaps ‘childlike’ but make no mistake…this is weighed with the heavy domestic like grandparents that lived through the horrors of war.  We often talk about a musician creating their own language.   That’s normally a feat in itself.  But it’s own belief system?  That’s upper-level creativity of Scott Walker (Tilt onwards) proportions.

The first two studio tracks are dandy variations on that ribbed springs and echoplexed gongs caper giving a gamelan electric vibe.  ‘Nice music to read to’ I think but gosh…the pages stop turning for good on track three ‘At Home (Sunbury)’ as Adam lists his tea (liver, mashed potatoes and Brussels Sprouts) and explains where he is and what his doing – visiting family for Christmas.

I’ve heard a million sound diaries and sonic art pieces that aim to give a home to vagrant sounds but this, simply and clearly nails you to the spot and I end up staring at the cheap-o stereo like it’s going to sit up and waggle dance.  It all reminds me of a Home Counties One Wobbly Egg from Dictaphone flag wavers Fuckin’ Amateurs.  The hurly-burly mixture of deadpan voice, rusty metal and blast of radio/TV/tape noise are as comforting as a strong brew and hobnob.

With the scene set ‘Sun dried’ becomes a sour sorbet of Dictaphone/tape recorder jump-cuts and fine tones (Adam’s Pause Pieces). Annoying at first but gradually easing into another diary entry (what Adam calls his Talking Tapes) that leaps into a treatise on preparing fish while The Fall and The Pulp (from John Peel’s festive 50) mung on, self-importantly in the background.  Soon I realise…I am listening like an eavesdropper; ear stuck tight to the brassy key hole.  And it’s thrilling!

Adam’s obsessions are his food (breakfast, dinner, tea and sundry snacks are described with bored relish) and buttoned up Public Safety instructions that are read with a smirk like a sherried-up uncle.  The whole mashy mess is overlaid and underlaid with inappropriate music, clues to set the scene, TV rabble  and the occasional violent tape ‘scree’ and crumpled whirr. The editing is a work of genius.  Whenever possible words are slurred as the PAUSE and RECORD button are pressed together making the Christmassy fug gin-soaked…even at breakfast.  ‘At Home (Red Mullet, the Woodcock of the Sea)’ is the Rosetta Stone of this odyssey with Adam chatting to his mum about biscuits, snatches of church bells, cookery book recitation, tape fuckery and a winter walk to the pub with the interior dialogue of the prodigal son;  at times mocking, at time sentimental about his home town.  I know this feeling so well having escaped small-town boredom in my teens to discover the thrilling anonymity of the city.  Words lurch into the mix: straight into clandestine toilet recordings and the ‘whuuuuush’ of cars speeding by.  This breathtaking, dizzying listen comes to a gentle close with Adam lying in bed listening to the wind and rain before we have one quick  jerk into Adamworld for a post script chat with mum about Sam/Zam Hoffman.  ‘It was quite near to sending me mad’ says mum with a very mad giggle.

When the words cease we are left with some tasty scrapings on ‘sweepings’ that seem to four-track the groaning of iron ore and would happily satisfy any deep droner.

But it’s not all tape experiment, ‘In Memoriam E. Power Briggs’ is live in front of a chirpy sounding audience.  It feels like an afternoon in a dusty village hall until screwed up snatches of seaside organ get dragged down the A1 all Christian Marclay-like as Pianosaurus jam alongside in a side-car.

The mix of studio, live and Dictaphone pieces are in no way jarring or affected.  In fact this has the feel of a compilation tape you might make for a friend’s older brother…keen to impress with your jazz knowledge but really wanting to get your grubby mitts on all them Emerson, Lake and Palmer doubles.

My dream tonight is One Wobbly Egg, Scott Walker & Adam Bohman meeting in Sunbury, outside the Estate Agents or maybe the Magpie Hotel, a fine bottle of red uncorked and breathing.  As the vino gushes Adam clangs on the park railings, mumbling his daily diary as One Wobbly Egg skeets FFW blur out of a brace of Dictaphones.  After a while, feeling around the sound,  Scott drops hot coins in a bucket and adds bleak and dark harmonies.  Come on…a Bohman/Walker/Egg trio gotta make the Oto scene eh?

Listing at paradigm discs

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