shade-defying, mid-morning sun: the shouts from the sea, just playing music

May 9, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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THE SHOUTS FROM THE SEA – s/t (tape, Power Moves Label, PML 010, edition of 53 or download)

shouts

The UK General Election result is a disaster.  On a personal level, as a clerk employed in the public sector and suffering from a long-term, disabling medical condition, that’s me fucked.  A few ‘challenging’ years ahead, no doubt.  For society as a whole, well, there are many commentators far more astute, articulate and stronger-stomached than me picking apart the implications and the internet is awash with their analyses.  Suffice to say I follow the Zanntone line when it comes to the Conservatives and their supporters.  Ugh.  Shall we throw open the windows, change the subject and hope to find some small solace in the work of our friends?  Please.

Noise is a joyous, life-affirming, heart-bursting business.  At least it can be – I know there is a reactionary old guard who insist that true underground noise has to be ‘transgressive’ and ‘confrontational’ but fortunately they are dying out (auto-asphyxiation accidents whilst wanking over Japanese bondage porn, mainly).  Anyway, those cantankerous curmudgeons are, as ever, missing the point.  In these troubled, jaded, cynical times what could be more revolutionary than heartfelt and sincere enthusiasm?  Radical, eh?

Speaking of which, if friendliness and public displays of appreciation were crimes then Phong Tran would be trussed up like Hannibal Lecter on a day visit to the fava bean farm.  Here the Washington DC based musician, digi-crate digger and twittervangelist for transcendental sound is joined by fellow traveller Patrick Cain and between them they tear it up over nine tracks of relentless noise improv.

The tagline of Power Moves Label, the host of this party, is ‘true bedroom recordings’ – a spirit that is gloriously represented by this release.  Problem tooth?  Can’t get an appointment at your dentist?  Stick this on, lean your jaw against the speaker and the aching peg will be shaken out of your head before you flip to side B.  In a tradition within lo-fi music stretching back to at least the 80s/90s tape underground there is no bass to these recordings – just a scouring, cleansing wash of electrostatic treble.  I don’t know if this approach was a result of shonky recording equipment, choice of instrumentation (crackle box, prepared guitar, electronics etc.) or an artistic decision to simply not give a fuck.  It doesn’t matter.  Once recovered from the initial shock of the spanking, the listener’s cheeks begin to glow red with a warmth that is, *ahem*, strangely ‘stirring’.

Don’t expect a uniform chalk-white cliff-face though.  Flinty protuberances catch the light and texture the skronk.  The nine tracks are easily differentiated on repeat listens and there are gaps between them in order for you to clear your throat and straighten your tie before P&P crank it up again.  At a couple of points the chaps even (almost) settle into what I believe is called a ‘groove’.  Overall the album is like harsh, shade-defying, mid-morning Summer sunlight, come to boil away your hangover and leave you invigorated enough to consider restarting the session at lunchtime.

The last couple of seconds are noteworthy enough to merit their own paragraph.  The racket cuts to an amused/bemused voice asking:

What are you guys doing?!?

…and Patrick or Phong replies:

Just playing music, heh, heh

…in the half-sheepish/half-defiant tone of an already stoned teenager who has been caught rolling a joint by his mum.  Aww… busted!  It is a beautifully self-deprecating celebration of bedroom recording and tickled me as hard as listening to Robert Ridley-Shackleton talk to himself as he struggles with his kit or, a favourite moment from back in the day, Rob Galpin audibly deciding to answer a ringing phone mid-track.

I chuckled as I repeatedly rewound this moment before flipping the tape.  What was that tingling sensation cutting through the fug of depression?  That sudden lightening of my spirit?  Could it be?  Yes, I think… Despite everything I just might be… Yes! It is!  I… am… having… FUN!

—ooOoo—

Power Moves Label

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