(another) fortnight with lee and miguel, part one: two (hundred) matching heads

February 9, 2014 at 9:57 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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culver – plague hand (2 x tape, Matching Head, Matching Head 200)

Culver – Angel Obsolete (CD-r, Molotov, molotov 25)

La Mancha Del Pecado – A Triple Fetichistic Treatment – Tribute to Raoul Valve (3 x CD-r, Altar of Waste, AOW 138, edition of 15)

La Mancha Del Pecado – Domina (2 x CD-r, Occult Supremacy, OSP027)

Wehrmacht Lombardo – El Vicio Tiene Medias Negras (CD-r, Agorafobia Tapes, #24)

Wehrmacht Lombardo – Tyrant (self-released download)

 culver - plague hand 1culver - plague hand 2culver - plague hand tapes

(Editor’s note: some of the releases above were sent to me as pre-release mp3s by an overexcited Miguel, thus format/label information might be incomplete and some cover pictures may be stolen from the internet.)

Radio Free Midwich is delighted to offer heartfelt congratulations to Lee Stokoe on the occasion of the 200th release by his mighty label Matching Head.  It is an unrivalled achievement, I think.  Others may have been around longer or produced a greater number of releases but who can boast such focus, such unerring coherence?  Over the years he has stuck to tapes whether or not bearded hipsters were enthusing over the format.  He has no interest in the online world.  His black and white aesthetic makes each individual package a counter used in an occult variation of the game go, played on a non-Euclidean goban.  His musical project has been, to reuse a metaphor I have leaned on before, a type of cartography.  Each of Lee’s releases on Matching Head, or elsewhere as Culver, is another detail of the map completed.  The landscape abstracted can be bleak, inhospitable but its geography is endlessly fascinating to me.  Click on the ‘Lee Stokoe’ or ‘Culver’ or ‘Matching Head’ tags above to see how many ways I’ve managed to describe what to the uninitiated might appear to be 40 minutes of mere ominous rumbling.  I am, in short, a fan.

As is our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez.  Miguel is a great friend of this blog and, via the magic of the internet, has become an enthusiastic contributor to the noise scene in the North East of England despite living on the other side of the world.  Modern life, eh?  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me describing him, with my tongue in cheek, as a disciple of Lee’s.  The influence is clear in his music, his fiercely independent stance and his awesome work rate.  However, I consider Miguel to be a notable artist in his own right, a skilled musician (with a background in metal guitar) and an open-minded and enthusiastic collaborator who brings out the best in those that work with him, including Lee.  Oracle, the netlabel that he co-runs, chalked up its 100th release last year.  Not to be sniffed at.

(An aside about the horror/fetish/porn imagery used on the packaging of these releases: I’ve tutted prudishly at these two perverts on several occasions in the past and can only throw my hands in the air again.  Oh well, boys, whatever floats the boat…)

OK, on with the show.  As I have a bunch of stuff on the pile from these chaps, much of which crosses over thematically or collaboratively, it makes sense to tackle it en masse. In part one: solo stuff from each, part two: collaborations and splits.

—ooOoo—

First, of course, I need to account for Matching Head catalogue number 200: plague hand by culver (covers above), a twin cassette set containing four side-long tracks totalling, you guessed it, 200 minutes.  Each of these four untitled pieces (the sides are labelled a,b,c, and d and that’s all you get) is a sombre Culvanian documentary: a long, wordless panoramic camera sweep taking in the scenery with an unblinking 360 degree turn.  Each is different from the last, all are wholly involving and will have the attentive listener crowing ‘aww… man, I was digging that!’ and reaching to flip or rewind as soon as the track ends.  I say ‘attentive listener’ but really there is no other kind because you have no choice in the matter.  This isn’t background music – allow yourself to get caught and your ego will be dissolved like a fly in a pitcher plant.  It is a masterwork and a fitting celebration of the numerically notable point it represents.

When discussing Lee’s music (and Miguel’s and others like it) I often lead with metaphors of decay.  If I’m in a fancy pants mood I’ll throw in terms like ‘entropy’, thus suggesting Culver depicts a world in the process of rusting shut.  However, today I think I might have been looking in entirely the wrong direction.  Perhaps instead Lee is composing for a super-evolved race living in a parallel universe where Culver is pop and our most sophisticated, technically accomplished mainstream musical efforts sound to them like a sick pig farting into a tin bucket.  Nice to think that somewhere at least Lee is a star…

culver - angel obsolete

Angel Obsolete, released on Mike Simpson’s wholly reliable Molotov imprint, begins with a few seconds of a doomy bass riff and ends roughly 38 minutes later following an onslaught of electric weather.  This is the sound of being trapped under an upturned giant glass fishbowl as a desert storm gradually blasts it to an opaque white.  Every grain of sand, every scratch and abrasion, documented by the texture of Culver’s roar.

la mancha - raoul valve

This three disc epic both appears on US label Altar of Waste and takes its inspiration from the work of Cory Strand, the label’s head honcho.  Cory is known for his multi-disc noise/drone extrapolations from favourite film soundtracks and, following this lead, Miguel has chosen to interpret the work of Raoul Valve, best known for scoring the high-gloss art-porn films of director Andrew Blake.  The sheer nylon/patent leather glamour is abstracted through the crooked lenses, peepholes and clogged filters that define the La Mancha vibe.  Cory’s own description of the album is compelling:

…a frightening excursion into the deepest realms of the glisteningly erotic illuminating the horrid emptiness lurking behind boudoir noir. Utilizing the eclectic soundtracks composed by Raoul Valve for three Andrew Blake films, “A Triple Fetishistic Treatment” sees La Mancha Del Pecado transforming the vaguely banal and unobtrusive into blackest night clouds of uncertainty and self-doubt. The artistry in Blake’s films reveals layers of suggestion not oft found in standard gonzo pornography, teases of themes and relationships oft left unexplored by the mainstream in favor of quick release and exhaustive bouts of fucking. La Mancha Del Pecado takes that artistry and rips it open, exposing both the emptiness at its heart and the lurid technicolor expanse of the images it approximates.

The guy can write a sizzling blurb, f’sure, but I don’t agree.  Miguel’s perversion does not seem sleazy or hollow.  His submissive worship of the stocking is not an expression of existential malaise.  Rather it is joyous, celebratory and engaged.  His band name translates as ‘The Stain of Sin’ but there is no judgement implied in this – Miguel just doesn’t mind getting dirty.

The first disc, ‘Subtle Exhibitionism (Kyla Cole)’, is a mere 43 minutes of blood in the ears – what you might expect to hear after an hour being strapped upside-down in a dominatrix’s dungeon, your brain an electrical storm of consciousness drowning discharge.  My theory is best supported by the second disc, ‘Slaves With Stockings and Heels (Kelly Havel)’, which is a glorious, sense heightening, scything buzz.  Profoundly, heavily psychedelic, it writhes at a furious fever pitch throughout and seems nowhere near spent even after over an hour of effort.  The third disc, ‘Industrial Girlfriends (Justine Jolie)’, is the toughest.  Clocking in at 55 minutes, it begins, appropriately, with hydraulic rhythms and pneumatic hiss and continues with a pummelling tour of the factory floor where molten plastic is injected into amped up, anatomically suspicious moulds of the human form.  The second half eases up a little as a series of satisfying metallic clatters are picked up, rattled, dropped and replaced until all that is left is echo steeped in static.

la mancha - domina

Domina is another epic, this time two tracks spanning a double disc set.  ‘Enfermera a Domicilio’ is a La Mancha cocktail built from one part Geordie-style free-rock noise and two parts drone: Matching-Head-style ice cavern atmospherics complimenting desert scorched organ psychedelics.  It is structurally ambitious and consistently engaging.  After a short burst of fast talking voices (a news report?  Lo siento, no hablo español…), ‘Ciudad Sangre’ steps up into a brash, abrasive fuzz with slower moving undertones.  It’s like rain on the surface of an oily lake obscuring the shadow of a monster swimming menacingly beneath.  The opening, the title (‘City Blood’) and the short burst of sombre percussion that appears near the end all suggest the piece is influenced by the never-ending, senseless drug war that blights Miguel’s home town of Ciudad Juárez.

wehrmacht lombardo - tyrant

Wehrmacht Lombardo is the pseudonym usually saved for the harshest of Miguel’s noise.  You might expect panic-inducing, deep-into-the-red Geiger counter static, an icy arctic wind whipping across the tundra and rumbles as the inhabitants of a nearby city are reduced to burnt tar by aerial bombardment.  These components will ebb and flow within the baseline roar.  However, that said, neither of these releases follow the blueprint exactly and differ quite markedly from each other too.  Tyrant is 23 minutes of wandering around the innards of a semi-organic, mountain-sized machine – its purpose unfathomable, the variations in its rhythms heavy and mysterious.  El Vicio Tiene Medias Negras is largely standard Lombardian business: earthily visceral throughout with a particularly effective last few minutes during which Miguel cuts the low end completely.  Was that the generator finally breaking down?  Is the electric fence surrounding the compound now just a few strands of harmless, flimsy wire?  Have we come to The End?

For now.  Continued in part two…

Matching Head

Agorafobia Tapes / Oracle Netlabel

Wehrmacht Lombardo on Bandcamp

Molotov

Altar of Waste

Occult Supremacy

2 Comments »

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  1. Thanks Rob for listening as always man!!! Feel great about the way you put these works with your words…and about “Ciudad Sangre” I would like to add to the people who might listen to it: Yes, these are sad reports of assassinations in this city (Juarez, México) between 2009-2010 during the “war on drugs” that took thousands of people’s life’s in this city and one is about a young girl loosing her life during a crossfire. Something that touched me deeply till these days!…. is not made to “shock” people…is only a catharsis and taking out away a bit of what surrounds me…what frightens me a bit is that the results are overtly obsessive and dark…when I did it I just went with the guitar flowing and sounds perfect along a night drive in the dark alleys of Juarez….Thanks for listening and enjoy!!! And do not forget to get in touch with Lee 😉

    • Thanks for filling in the background M, tragic as it is. Glad you are enjoying the reviews – more to come in part two. R x


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