tj cuckoo: home-grown baby shaman’s psychedelic ululations

October 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 3 Comments
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tj cuckoo – too tired to eat, too hungry to sleep (C10 tape, Matching Head, mh 198)

tj cuckoo

I find it amusing nowadays to see noise releases described as ‘extreme’ or ‘challenging’ or ‘harsh’.  Compared to what?  I think, defined by whom?  It’s like contemporary visual art fancying itself all transgressive and shocking when the type of high concept guff described as such has been the dominant paradigm for more than a generation.  It couldn’t be more established.  Likewise ‘harshness’.  Thankfully, over the years noise has spiralled out and away from these industrial fetishes and yet the same old vocabulary is still used approvingly on forums, in distribution catalogues and the like.  I’ve nowt against this in principle, of course, but find myself less and less likely to partake.  Who, aside from the most box-fresh newbie, remains impressed by the middle-aged, leather-clad paunch of power electronics?  Or monolithic slabs of ‘harsh noise wall’ which are enthusiastically described using the same language – texture, grain, tone – you’d see on a website supplying kitchen worktops.

Parenthood has only increased my impatience with this silliness.  Becoming a father has taught me a great deal in a very short time.  The main lesson has been about my apparently unbounded capacity for love and joy – who would have thought, eh? – but one of the many secondary lessons is this: once you’ve endured an infant screaming in your face for hours on end certain definitional goalposts get shifted.  Tell me that your music is ‘harsh’ and I shall ruefully disagree.  No mate, your music is entertainment.  I’ve heard harsh, Sunny Jim, and your crap is birdsong in comparison.

…and yet…

Mulling all this over caused a train of thought to pull slowly away from the station platform.  Whilst some of the short, spiky tracks you’ll find on midwich albums are deliberately abrasive I’ve never set out to create something truly difficult to listen to.  However, now that I find myself with the perfect sound source to hand – a noise we are biologically hardwired to find unbearable – I found myself tempted to make my definitive statement on the matter.  It isn’t an original idea – I can think of examples of baby sounds being used from Stevie Wonder to Whitehouse – but I hadn’t heard it done in the way I intended to put it together.  I mentioned the idea to Lee Stokoe as a possible release on Matching Head, ideally on one of those super-short computer tapes.  He was interested and mentioned he had a pile of C10s knocking about.  Ideal.

Using my recently purchased dictaphone I recorded two pre-bedtime tantrums – pretty much the only time he does cry nowadays, being a generally happy little fella – cut out the ‘good’ bits and layered each four times.  Thus ending up with a chorus of 8 x Thomas screaming, coughing and wailing for ten minutes chopped into two five minute halves, topped with a charming gurgle and tailed with a punchline to reward those that get through it.  I felt very cold that evening as I spent hours listening to my son howl through my headphones and coolly adjusted the levels in Audacity.  Art, eh?  Anyway, I am delighted at how it has turned out.  Yes, it is a tough listen – truly nightmarish in places – but get past the, ahem, ‘harshness’, and I think you’ll find something profoundly psychedelic and ego-shredding.  I describe it in the title of this piece as shamanistic ululation and I’m only half joking.  At only ten minutes long it is also a lot less time consuming and dangerous than a ketamine overdose.

OK, no sound samples, no Bandcamp.  This is a strictly physical, tape only release.  Contact details for Lee and the label can be found on the Matching  Head Discogs page.  Check it out.


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  1. Big heaps for this one Rob, I have the cassette and not only the sounds are nightmarish (gives the creeps really!!!) but totally awesome and wishing you have it going for longer, but you end up putting the tape at least two times in a row HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me as a listener.
    And the cover art is so amazingly lovely!!!…Thomas is not only a beautiful baby, now he has his own Matching Head release!! goooood!!!

  2. screamer of the year!

  3. Cheers fellas – really glad that you liked it! I may now record some happy gurgling and offer it to Joe for a TJC/Posset collaboration… 😉 With love, Rob H x

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