dense as blood: rfm on maalem mahmoud gania, baccam/chayer and broken shoulder, ij, grey guides and steven ball

October 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind)

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings)

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings)

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label)

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings)

 colours of the night

Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind) double vinyl LP

Here’s a thing.  While the N-AU may be set in staunch opposition to some elements of popular musical culture some slices of the pie enjoy a quiet and respectful gravity.

So while the baldheads and grey beards carefully stack their noise tapes they also gently tend record collections that bulge with what was rather antiseptically packaged as World Music back in the 1980s.

But of course things have moved on since Real World or Sterns’ opened the ears of the £50 man.  Smaller, more intimate labels; Excavated Shellac, Awesome Tapes from Africa, Sublime Frequencies and Power Moves recent Excavation series have been setting heads nodding for a decade.

But be sure to add Hive Mind to your ‘must check’ list.  This new label has released a handsome album of mystical Gnawa and is a real labour of love. Brighton resident Marc Teare spent years researching and travelling in Morocco ultimately working with Mahmoud Gania’s family making sure their maiden release was done just right.   Down to the cleverly understated artwork Hive Mind has the feel of a family affair; putting pure love and deep knowledge into the weighty album you hold in your hands.

The eight generous tracks (all are between seven and ten minutes long) feature Mahmoud Gania’s   rubbery Gimbri exploring a tone that’s warmly plucked and deliciously toasted.  Small motifs are played through like scientific equations with a crisp balance between the deeply funky repetition and free-flowing fingering.   There’s a chaotic tumbling to this playing.  The earthy notes churn like a plough cutting deep into the field and turning over fertile soil. Each run reveals a perfectly formed micro-world shot through with woody detail in rich orange and brown.

An insistent, gritty percussion is skittering underneath. Like a wave of sweltering motion this tinny crackle shimmers and shudders like sunlight on a lake or the glaze on a raku pot – each tiny thread spitting into another hundred veins of rhythm.

The call-and-response vocalising lifts an already head-spinning trip into the rusty red sky on a plume of resinous smoke.  Sung in a lip-smacking mixture of Peul, Bambara, Hausa and Arabic there’s a dangerous slurring on ‘Foulani’ where Mahmoud Gania’s  authoritative declarations are repeated back by a slack throated choir, lovingly slurping over each line.

The Gimbri playing on the ten minute ‘Bala Matimba’ is as dense as blood, descending from a mightily complex riff into a smear of bass tones that bounce like magnetic bubbles constantly repelling and attracting.

Keeping things authentic ‘Sidi Sma Ya Boulandi’ features an additional drone keyboard part and marks the semi-permeable membrane that divides ancient and modern which is of course a typical western construct.

But it’s the sheer velocity of these tunes that keep me coming back again and again.  Like the joy of watching a wagon almost leap the tracks.  To my un-tutored ears this all sounds dangerously, wonderfully brittle and could rattle apart at any second – but of course it doesn’t.

The matter is in a master’s hands so the illusion of imminent collapse is a thrilling, intoxicating thing.  Me?  I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth and loving every single second.

Apparently available copies are almost down to single figures so be sure to check this out now at Hive Mind!

 broken shoulder

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

This split between Montreal’s Baccam/Chayer and Japan-based Broken Shoulder is uncommonly weighty and carefully binary.

Our Canadians syringe sweltering electronic pops and gristly-noise-rattle through my ears.  It’s like some sort of sieve has been taken to a fever dream and all that falls out are ragged scraps: fuzzy disconnected images and a neck-clawing panic.

The machine-made frightened squeals add that ghost-in-the-machine quality that I love in this kind of racket; the closing minutes of track one crack like parched lips with salty, scarlet blood staining the teeth.

Track two is a lo-slo mung-out.  Chirping figs clatter unholy toothy-pegs on one level while tracked beneath an over-stretched boil of rubber strings are bubbling merrily in a trail-battered billy can.   Huge coughs of noise splutter like the last thick green hockle of Iron Man before he starts Sweet Leafing.

Is that some sort of calliope buckling under atmospheric pressure?  Who takes a steam-organ into a bathysphere?  Baccam/Chayer have gone totally Jacques Cousteau on this one – silvery bubbles ripple though the deep as a steel piano is found on the soft sea bed.

For the wonderfully-named Broken Shoulder it’s all about technique.   He starts by spilling glue on an old keyboard and then dousing it in cold tea.  The resulting death spasms are recorded on an unreliable mini-disc swiped with funky electrons.  You go to such lengths and something remarkable is bound to happen like on this ‘Hot Wind’

‘Keep on Believing’ takes the jam to the aviary matching each colourful cheep and trill with a pulsating ur-groove.  Two notes of hope, two notes of wonder, two notes that yaw across a scaffold of just goddamn loveliness.  I can’t listen to this without a smile skimming across my ugly mug and good, wholesome thoughts drive out the bad ju-ju in my noggin.  Musical chicken soup!

More sweet and gentle air wafts through ‘Make Sure all the Doors and Windows are Open’ another wonderful tone-painting as soft as duck down in blues and pinks.   The sister-track ‘Piss Boat’ does an Eno/Fripp and seems to reverse the original sucking us back in time.  Marvellous yeah!

 IJ

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

Inge van den Kroonenberg & Jürgen De Blonde are a loved-up couple of mountain goats and therefore have a soft pad within their polished hooves.  This malleable surface provides extra grip on the sharp rocks and 5cm ledges on which they thrive.  On ‘Calling the Heard’ IJ develops their own evolutionary extension (a reversible air-sac, a throat pocket?) to plunge deeply into a world of hollow-horn drone. Impressive eh?

But extra mind-balloons are thoroughly inflated on the peerless ‘Expanding Rainbow’ a study of super-sparse mbira clicks and organ-loops.  Like a growing anxiousness each flutter of reverb sets off a small chain reaction of impish huffs that glisten like vapour trails – always too far to reach out and touch.

The ghost of reverb haunts ‘Frozen Highway’ as frisky as a tumbleweed skitter.  More breathy organ notes are stretched over the event horizon but for me the real jazz is played out in the snatches of faint conversation/street noise that blisters like paint under a blowtorch, lifting medallions of oily pigment in a beautiful rash.

grey guides 2 

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label) CD-R and digital album

Morley (near Leeds) greatest hobos bum a fag from ex-members of This Heat.

Like.  Not literally of course.  But these pieces of swollen tape-noise and crushed sonics could be a backing-tape from Cold Storage or something.

The stressed-out guitars in ‘Lame Duck Alchemist’ throb and thrum like useless string ghosts.  The cascade of puckered notes are sour to taste and wobble gingerly like a tipsy aunt.  A hussing/hishing (that’s the pucker again – this time a pair of red lips) swooshes over lazy chants and crow impressions.  This really is a blunted reality.  Anything you want to tell us lads?

But then ‘Kev’s Temple’ is a firm Dr Phibes palm on the keys with muffled grunts fighting to get heard over the filth.  The cinematic theme continues on ‘Venus-in-Furness’* that makes like a montage scene trying to convey the sense of morbid fascination one has with re-visiting locations of previous heartbreak.  The nervous system is close to collapse but continues to make bad decisions.  A two-note hum struggles to make an entrance around the wire wool messiness.

As ever there is a finger on the FFW button all through this glorious construction so playing speeds are arbitrary (See ‘New Experimental Wheelchair’).  Smears are the new clarity and act as ear-cataracts.  Only the most messed-up and bleached sound can cut through the soft tissues.

But this is by no means a grim affair. No sir!  A doubled-up whine shimmers becoming a fly trapped in a test tube.  Its furious buzzing is muted by the firm rubber bung on ‘Last Feast of Harlequin’ which could also ape Ligeti’s ‘texture music’.  Take that Gramophone!

Yet again the Grey Guides have dug deeper than most to unearth layer upon layer of groovy silt/loam/compost.  It may stink to high heaven but nourishes countless pretenders on its rich, vital nitrates.

*contender for NAU pun of the year

subsongs

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings) CD and digital album

This Mr S Ball is a long-time man.  Spending decades in Storm Bugs this is the first solo album that I’m aware of and certainly his first full album for the wonderful Linear Obsessional group.

Classy from the uncluttered front cover art to the spare arrangements for instruments and voice – this is a disc as bracing as an arctic northerly blast.

This collection of real songs is unfussy and focused.  Steven’s voice never raises much above a conversational hum, a sing/speak that’s both comforting and hypnotic.  The very normality of his vocal approach makes this an arresting enough listen – but couple this with the barely-there arrangements and you are on to a winner.

Like the Wu-Tang on their 36 Chambers best Steven practices the secret art of sticking to one distinct, lopsided sample/loop and letting it breathe.  There’s no smothering hiss on this finely recorded disc and spare bass, guitar or piano (but rarely playing at the same time) create a soft scaffold.   ‘Inside’ showcases this approach wonderfully with a handful of descending bass tones capturing a whole suitcase full of moods.

An emphasis on structure and organically developing themes makes the 15 min ‘Of the Yard (after Terry Ball)’ an exercise in deeper listening and repetition.  Sort of like a kitchen sink version of ‘There was an old lady that swallowed a fly’ cribbed from unpublished poetry notebooks (which the notes suggest it was).

Less esoteric matters are discussed on ‘Garage/Band’.  What could be a withering snark at underground poseurs ‘pretending to be bored’ Steven delivers with a kindly wink, and avuncular sigh – we’ve all been there eh?

The missing link between reductionist improv and the intimate breathy song cycles of a Robert Wyatt.

Hive Mind Records

Kirigirisu Recordings

Grey Guides Bandcamp

Linear Obsessional

-ooOOoo-

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