holding our treasure aloft: thoughts on facebook, rfm and the d.i.y. underground compiled by rob haylerMarch 21, 2017 at 7:42 am | Posted in musings, not bloody music | 3 Comments
Tags: chrissie caulfield, d.i.y, DIY, ethics, facebook, joe henderson, joe murray, luke vollar, marlo eggplant, no audience underground, rob hayler, sky high diamonds, sophie cooper, twitter
On Friday 3rd March, as I was enjoying the opening of the Crow Versus Crow/Malorymaki art exhibition in Bradford, Joe Murray (who had been invited down to play at the event) mentioned to me that new RFM staffer Sarah Gatter (known ‘round these parts as Sky High Diamonds) had offered to create a Facebook page for RFM.
Without thinking too hard about it I gave my blessing. By lunchtime on Monday 6th March the thing existed. Blimey. As the dust settled there began a lengthy and involved discussion amongst RFM colleagues about the merits, or otherwise, of Facebook and other social media. This has proved so interesting that I have returned briefly from my sabbatical to compile these thoughts (edited to remove repetition, small talk and logistical stuff) and add some of my own.
Let’s start with Sarah and the rationale:
A brief online chat with Rob and Joe over the weekend suggested that an RFM Facebook page would be a good idea as it would exist as a ‘go to’ site for interested parties to get a rundown on RFM and the latest blog reviews. I am happy to manage this page but if any of you are Facebook users and would like to be added as admin (meaning you can then also upload the RFM blogs, add photos, monitor, add and remove posts, including posts or comments from other people etc.) then find me on FB and I can add you as admin.
As agreed with Rob & Joe this page will be a ‘copy’ of the RFM WordPress blog in its use of words and images, both of which will simply be an echo of the already published blog info. No new material or personal posting to exist here as it then gets confusing.
All business, right? Nowt to worry about, eh? Well… Marlo kicks it off:
Woah, really?! I think Luke, Chrissie, and I use it. Both Joes, Rob, and Sophie don’t.
I was thinking RFM was purposely avoiding that platform…. Times are a-changing…
Rob and Joe, can I ask why? I mean, it isn’t really harmonious with what I though RFM mission statement? Or is it?
Chrissie is pragmatic:
I’m very much a semi-detached user of Facebook these days but I think the idea of a page is OK provided it doesn’t distract from the blog.
Is the plan just to post links to the RFM reviews when they appear on the Facebook page? This seems like the best way of doing it to me and allows for people to possibly discuss the reviews and share them easily on FB.
Sof then voices unease:
Know what you mean Marlo. I came off FB because I got so sick of everyone relying on such a massively corporate website to find out about underground DIY gigs etc (including Tor Fest – winds me up so much). Don’t see why everything needs to have a FB presence to exist these days.
…which allows Marlo to expand her point:
Thanks Sophie for understanding. I feel torn myself constantly cause I cornered myself into the FB for Ladyz in Noyz back in the day and am stuck now or take the risk of losing the international audience. I should have just done a proper page in the past. Myspace to FB…sheesh…
I know it isn’t a collective and whatever Rob and Joe feel is right, I go with [Editor’s note – heh, heh]. Just wanted to see why the shift?
I will be here either way!
Time for me to weigh in:
I wasn’t involved in any discussion as such but Joe M did mention at the show on Friday that Sarah had offered to mirror RFM on Facebook and I said sure, if she’s willing to do the work then let’s try it.
I have never had any personal desire to be on FB, nor have I ever had an account, but since the blog’s inception the majority of referrals have been from FB links (twitter is catching up but FB still in front) so, like it or not, a lot of our traffic has come from that direction. Thinking about the ubiquity and omniscience of FB makes my stomach flip but it is only one aspect of the corporate global evil that we are using for our purposes. PayPal, Google, Apple, Twitter – bleurgh – even Bandcamp takes a hefty rake and WordPress charges me more for keeping the site ad-free than it does for hosting our actual content! We wade waist-deep through the shit holding our little box of treasure aloft so that it doesn’t get caked in crap too. ‘Twas ever thus.
Also, should you be concerned about such things, the numbers are down. Mostly, I think, due to the breaks in regular posting last year caused by my burn-out/’real life’ issues, 2016 was the first year since RFM’s birth that number of visits didn’t increase. I’m not fussed about a plateau – this is a niche concern after all – but this was quite a dramatic drop (2015 = 32k, 2016 = 23k) and I’m not above a bit of rattling the stick in the bucket. Calling attention to your fine work is noble, and can be even if the format is grisly.
That said – some suggestions/requests. Firstly, I’m not sure I want that photo of (some of) us from Crater Lake to be so prominent. Makes me a little uncomfortable. Secondly, I don’t want the text of posts just reproduced on the FB page – pictures, lists of artists featured, little summaries like those we tweet are fine but I want people to visit RFM to do their reading (or subscribe to the blog and get each post emailed to them directly – currently over a 100 people do this). I don’t want the FB page to replace the blog. I see that posts are being made as I type [Editor’s note: Sarah was cracking on]! The format is fine like that I think.
Over two emails Sarah doubles down for practical reasons and stresses it can be a collaborative effort:
The page is easy to delete if having second thoughts. I personally think it is a good idea as FB really is the ‘go to’ site for getting information. Also, those of us on FB can like and repost the blogs (as we do on Twitter) giving each blog a bit more of a following and a bit more oomph and clout. Also, when blogs are just in a newsfeed (as on both Twitter & FB) they are easily lost and many people (myself included) don’t have the time to fully read a review, or even scan through it, when leisurely (or frantically) scrolling through a news feed.
However, if people are aware that there is a permanent page storing these blogs with a link to a whole heap of other blogs, then that instantly makes all of the blog posts more accessible.
I’m happy that everyone gets a say about layout and content and happier that there are many admin involved, also to make sure that everyone’s happy!
At this point Joe Henderson offers a forthright, brain-stirring intervention:
Will briefly say my piece. I think that, for me, the magic is instantly lost when Facebook gets involved in anything – to be honest. Given my own experience of it and the flow of research surrounding well being & social media I make a concerted effort to stay away.
I don’t mind using the word ‘poisonous’ to describe my attitude towards Facebook, however, I’ve seemed to deal a little better with Twitter, although I still have yet to use it myself (I went on there to get another News source other than the BBC, turns out I can’t get the app anyways on my old iPhone, so I haven’t ended up using it anyway).
Can I make a request that none of my articles are re-posted to Facebook? And on a far stronger note – I do not want any of my writing to be subject to Facebooks content codes and control.
Part of the charm of things like Radio Free Midwich is their unwavering principles in the face of peer pressure.
Sophie, I know what you mean about lazy promotion. I came to think of Facebook promotion as really exclusionary – like, that you could miss out on so much by not being in a link or social loop. I have no solutions, but I think in general… good old hand-made posters and nerdy art stuff like that appeals to my DIY, punk sensibilities more. Things shouldn’t be eazy..
I’m happy to hang back for a bit and maybe see how things pan out. Very sceptical right now, but open minded for y’all. My first article should be out this week (given a little tweaking in the mean-time). Am happy for it to go out on the website but please don’t put it on FB – I hate that place and it’s toxic, damaging glare. But, of course am happy for you guys to go ahead and frollick (in the dust & mirrors)
Oh, is that Sarah wavering a little? <winking emoji>
I also think that hitting the delete button on the FB page would be weirdly very satisfying, and quite anarchic, at this early stage of gaining a few ‘likes’ and ‘followers.’
“Now you see us, now you don’t.”
Not sure what else to say!
Joe Murray shouts encouragement from the window of a moving train:
For me this is all about spreading the word. No more. I think we are a valuable piece in the no audience crossword so a few more clues (like FB) help folk connect.
But still…we all have to be comfortable with it. I guess we can self-destruct this channel whenever we feel the need.
It’s always good to debate and have different views. Let’s keep an eye on things and review in a month or so.
All our viewpoints matter.
Speak soon, and if I may gush for a second…we goddamn rule!
Respect as always…
Sarah, like all good academics recognizes grist for the mill when she sees it:
I’m loving this debate, currently attempting to put a PhD proposal together on this very stuff- the relevance of social media to DIY, so the varying perspectives on how we use and control/are used and controlled by social media platforms is intriguing. Many of the artists I know go through long/short periods of deactivating profiles and deleting entire pages of personal data and then coming back to social media on their own terms and for their own agenda when it suits them, I like that.
Sof, bit now firmly between teeth, questions the stated purpose:
Slightly related / aside – I saw this band in London last week and at the end of their show they made a massive statement that “clicks get gigs” find us on Facebook! If we have loads of likes then we’ll get more shows! What a load of bollocks. Talent gets gigs not some website. People who work hard at what they are doing get gigs. It doesn’t make any personal difference to me if RFM has a FB page or not I’m just saddened that this is the way people think you have to be nowadays. I know it is the go-to for loads of people, the company I work for get loads of work via it but what a lazy state of affairs. As if the Internet doesn’t make it easy enough for people already why not condense the info in to one accessible website ? Twitter is just as bad – argh! Please meet me down the pub or the library / send me a letter for further ranting opportunity!
I’m actually in talks with a web developer to create a sort of Cops n’ Robbers website [Editor’s note: for non-UK readers Cops n’ Robbers is a legendary Yorkshire-based listings zine with oodles of DIY and N-AU swagger]that would cover West Yorkshire (and maybe nationally) gigs as an alternative ‘go-to’ site instead of FB. For this gig I did on Sunday just gone I really wanted to just advertise without FB but actually got a complaint! Forced Jake to make a page – made it more legit I guess. Fairly confident that most people who showed up were at Pelt a couple of weeks before and picked up a flyer but perhaps that’s wishful thinking.
Clearly a Luddite technophobe over here, where are my DDDD copies?
P.S. I really like Twitter btw. Not as personal.
In her typically quiet but laser-sharp fashion Chrissie makes the point that…
Contacts get gigs mainly – in my experience at least. It doesn’t matter how talented or brilliant you are, if no-one has heard of you then you don’t get gigs*. Facebook is just one of many places that can possibly be a help there. Ignoring it is a choice, of course, but you are cutting off a potential source of people. The platform on its own may, or may not, be evil. But the people on it mostly aren’t (with some exceptions).
* I’m not saying my band Helicopter Quartet are either talented or brilliant [Editor’s note: they are, both, in spades], but we don’t get any gigs because we don’t have any contacts and both of us are so painfully shy we never make any.
At this point Marlo and I both start thinking ‘there’s an article in this’ and ask if anyone wants to make a more formal contribution. Marlo suggests:
Perhaps we could all string something together around the question:
How do different social media platforms feed or weaken the ‘underground’? What associations do different social websites bring to the table? What is lost or gained in ‘opening the floodgates’?
Chrissie responds first:
One of the nice things about social media is that it can bring together people of niche interests together – it’s largely what I do on twitter – in a way that’s almost impossible or very difficult to do in other ways.
Yes – you can start your own website but how do you get people to use it in the first place: twitter/Facebook etc. are the funnel through which you can get access to people who might want to go there. Of course, there are all the arguments about centralisation and monopolies and I’m not happy about those things either. But principally I’m a pragmatist and that’s how these things are structured at the moment. To some extent they always have been, it’s just that the ownerships change over time.
As to ‘opening the floodgates’ – it doesn’t happen. Despite what I just said above, adding RFM to Facebook isn’t going to triple or even double viewing figures (if it does, please buy me a hat to eat). It’ll bring in some new readers, yes. But it’s not a magic potion and it doesn’t make you popular overnight or even ever – it’s a small help. I have Facebook pages for my two main bands, nothing has ever happened because of them. That’s partly down (as I said in a previous email) to the need to be ‘present’ to chat with people on there and make contacts, and partly down to having contacts on the IN THE FIRST PLACE to bring in others.
For my personal opinion, I hate Facebook (for non-political reasons), and I only use it to publicise (unsuccessfully) band things and chat in some obscure synth groups where it feels more cosy and safe. I don’t post personal things on my timeline any more, but plenty of people still do and I have chatted with lots of interesting people there.
Luke puts his head around the door to add:
Hey folks – well for what it’s worth I use Facebook every day. It has its drawbacks and I’ve sworn off it a few times. Having said that it does allow you to keep in contact with groovy people chat about music, films, books, gigs etc. I guess it’s about making it work for you and keeping it real. I can’t be doing with Twitter. So I guess I’m saying if RFM hits face-ache. I’m cool with it.
…then Sarah offers a more fleshed out statement of her position
My continued interest in the electronic DIY underground/no audience culture stems from the DIY rave movement of the mid 80s and early 90s.
I see the current No Audience Underground, as an extension of this movement and I am still fascinated by how it was documented through film footage, photography, music, art and printed/published writings by those who protested for the right to squat empty buildings, resist fox hunting, gather for music events etc. etc. I did attend some events back then however, it was always pot luck to get to those events due to no social networking and reduced publicity (for obvious reasons) except for well organised word of mouth-those guys were good!
Those DIY activists made thorough use of the tools that were available to them at that time to promote their beliefs, ideas, celebrations and defeats into a wider consciousness and I believe that without those wonderfully documented processes (e.g. the wibbly-wobbly film footage of squats being raided, dancers in the street protesting the CJA etc.) this representation, and therefore a current understanding and contextualisation of that scene, would not be available to us today. I see this as a cultural mapping of those times and I see social media as a contemporary tool available to us now to continue that cultural mapping.
Social Media is a site of production and reproduction but in many ways it responds to the DIY ethos in that it is free (most of the time), accessible (to the majority) and can be used to promote the individual, it is not entirely corporate like other sites of production and reproduction. However, I like to think that at some point DIY will turn away from social media and re- ground itself into a less available scene, but I would be happier with this only once much documenting has been achieved and exists in some kind of accessible form.
Things that nag me are: Does the DIY underground movement become less ‘exclusive’ and therefore less underground when its documentary style footage is available to all to access online? How do the ideas of audience/participation/spectacle/active and passive viewing fit in with this? We are all passive audiences when viewing footage/sound/writing of the underground through social media. I also ponder how an attraction to a much larger and wider audience may well undo the emblematic DIY underground counter culture status, such as witnessed in the growth of the Glastonbury Festival, as well as contribute to a more general and overwhelming saturation of the arts.
In summary: For me, social media is currently a way of culturally mapping the continued growth of the DIY movement and is a tool available for us to use (and abuse) right now, but I am not entirely sure that it should or will have a monopoly on documenting the DIY movements for the long term.
I propose that we find a way to occupy the dark web!
…and that was that until over the weekend of the 11th and 12th when Joe and I received the following volte-face from Sarah:
Hi, I was in two minds about RFM on Facebook.
- It seemed like a good idea to make use of it as a tool and to support the artists, whom I think want reviews about their work publicised.
- It might be free, it might be accessible but it is a limiting platform and I am beginning to agree with Joe H, it makes us lazy and passive.
This has been echoed within another group that I am involved with [Editor’s note: The Unexplained Sounds Network] who have today proposed ‘silence’ in order to find new ways to communicate and collaborate other than Facebook. I am in agreement with them. DIY must mean DIY and Facebook takes that away through its controlled use of data, amongst other things. I did say in my last email that we need to find new ways and jokingly suggested the dark web but I am starting to feel that more needs to be done with searching for new and less lazy & passive ways. Sorry for the complete 100% U turn!!!
Heh, heh – the irony that this doubt as to the appropriateness of one form of social media was sent via a twitter DM was not lost on me.
So, where are we now? Firstly, let me just comment on the loveliness of my colleagues – a multiway discussion carried out over the internet that remained civil and useful for an entire week. Have you ever heard the like? Secondly, it strikes me that there are three questions to consider with answers to the first two informing the answer to the third. I’ll begin with a stab at the moral/political question: is Facebook evil? Next, the pragmatic question: does it actually work as promotional tool? And finally, the overarching question of whether it is ‘appropriate’ for our slice of the DIY underground to use it.
Despite not holding an account I have, of course, spent plenty of time dodging the demands to sign up in order to see gig info or otherwise lurk. If RFM is being discussed then the hits coming from FB feel like a partially heard conversation happening in a room with the door ajar. I’ve never been tempted to walk in, however, because what I hear about Facebook outside of Facebook is predominately negative. I don’t doubt that there are lovely people using it (like those members of Chrissie’s synth discussion groups) but friends talk about it with exasperation, torn as to whether to cut ties as you might with a needy and bullying family member. The final straw for a mate of mine was when he was disinvited from a stag do following a row caused by him daring to confirm his attendance with, y’know, his actual voice and not via Facebook. It’s become like shopping in a supermarket, or reading The Wire – something none of us actually enjoy but which we grudgingly accept as part of modern life. Imagine spending the evening in a gigantic, soulless, city-centre chain pub, one which has an unsmiling bouncer on the door demanding ID before letting you in. The beer is crap, the décor unpleasant, neighbouring tables are full of braying idiots but, hey, it’s here that we have agreed to meet. Evil – on a personal, individual level? Probably not. Fuck that shit? On balance, yes.
That’s not to say that the information you provide to Facebook can’t be used for straight-up evil though. As these thoughts were congealing in my head I read this article, published on The Guardian website on February 26th. I’m genuinely concerned that if I name names bots will be released, like flying monkeys, to come and destroy us but the gist is that an off-the-radar software company is busy analysing hundreds of millions of FB accounts and using that data to target propaganda furthering the hard-right agenda of their billionaire backer:
These Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. […], the centre’s lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves,” says […].
This team worked both with the Leave campaign and with Trump. Was it enough to swing both elections? Maybe us complacent liberals wouldn’t have laughed so hard at those ‘dumpster fire’ campaigns if we’d known this Black Mirror style PSY ops was occurring in the background. Evil – on a worldwide, political level? Yeah, I’d say so. Fuck that shit? Absolutely.
But, the pragmatist asks, does it work? Leaving aside the moral qualms and given that everyone is in the crap pub, what happens if we put our poster up on the noticeboard? I think I’m with Chrissie on this one – the answer is: nowt much. The reason is, I think, to do with the size and structure of the scene and not where the noticeboard is located. In an article I wrote five years ago about the, *ahem* ‘economics’ of the no-audience underground I said:
OK, leaving London to one side as it has its own rules, experience has shown me that most UK conurbations of city-ish size can rustle up 20 people interested enough in the type of experimental music RFM covers to turn up to gigs. 10 or less if you are unfortunate, 30 plus if your scene is thriving. Should you wish to perform in this ‘arena’ then these people are your audience: the subset of this crowd who can turn up on that evening.
Marketing and promotion do little to alter these numbers. This is because music of this type will always be a fringe interest (ignoring little blooms of hipster popularity every now and again) but that fringe is well-informed and inquisitive. As long as the gig is plugged in whatever the usual places are (for example in Leeds we have the essential Cops and Robbers) then the cognoscenti will find out about it and do their best to roll up.
…and, despite the Facebook gig listing becoming ubiquitous in the meantime, I still think this is about right. Had I been stood next to Sof when that band made their ‘clicks mean gigs’ announcement I would have groaned but at some level I guess it might make a difference nowadays – just not at our level. Chrissie is right about contacts to a certain extent too – those who hustle for shows do generally get more shows – but within the no-audience underground any attempt at hype or unwarranted self-promotion is usually met with at least a raised eyebrow if not all-out hilarity. Given the absence of money, the unit of currency ‘down’ here is goodwill and it is earned, exchanged and repaid through being active in the scene. Perhaps this is our equivalent of <dry boke> ‘networking’ <coughing retch> and it strikes me that this can make more of a difference than any particular means of spreading the word – look, for example, at the love showered on Crater Lake or Tor Fest (“Call something a festival,” says Jake Blanchard, mystified, “and people just turn up.”).
For us, Facebook is now one of the ‘usual places’ where we find stuff out but its prominence has not noticeably affected attendance numbers either way. When not specifically concerned with discussing Facebook itself I think most people consider the format transparent and ‘see through it’ to the information itself in the same way you don’t consciously think ‘this is a poster’ but instead just register the date, venue etc. To be honest, I’d have been grateful to have it back in the Termite Club days when I was stuffing envelopes with flyers (<Noel Fielding voice> Imagine that!) to send to a postal mailing list or badgering magazines knowing full well that their attention was far less important than whether or not it rained on the night of the show.
To the last question then: given that we are at least justified in having misgivings about using Facebook and that as a promotional tool it is little better than other means (necessarily so given the nature of the scene we are part of) how appropriate is it to use it at all?
Firstly I’m going to dismiss a couple of related concerns more or less out of hand – that it is inappropriate because it is ubiquitous or ‘mainstream’ and that it is inappropriate because it ‘makes things easy’ – then I’m going to end the whole thing really abruptly.
If something so nebulous and subjective as ‘mainstream’ culture can be usefully defined (I’m not sure it can, but that is for another day) then Facebook is unarguably part of it. Your mum is on Facebook right now, discussing her favourite tracks from the Stormzy album. I don’t care. One of the great strengths of the no-audience underground is that is does not define itself in opposition to ‘mainstream’ culture but largely just turns its back to it and cracks on with the work. The belief that DIY culture needs to be antagonistic to popular culture is a quaint stained-glass window surviving in the Church of Punk – very pretty, but I can’t help thinking it is orders of magnitude more radical to not engage with popular culture at all. I’ve rehearsed these arguments several times over several years (starting here) so I needn’t say any more right now.
I also have absolutely no time for the argument that Facebook, or any other form of social media, ‘makes it easy’ or ‘lumps it all together’ as if that were a bad thing. I’d be delighted if access to everything we do was made as easy as possible so that anyone who is interested could find it at their fingertips. When I think of the golden age we live in now and compare it to the time and resources I had to spend as a teenager getting even part-way sound-literate I could cry at the waste.
For example: I grew up in a small seaside town called Littlehampton on the South Coast of England, near enough to Brighton for me to misspend much of my youth there. As a teenage fan of Spacemen 3 and Loop, Can loomed large in legend. My fellow heads and I did what we could to track down stuff from libraries, second hand shops and borrowed stuff from the rich kid whose dad bought him the first batch of CD reissues. In that way we built up a patchy knowledge of the band and their context. Contrast this to the situation in January of this year when Jaki Liebezeit sadly passed away. In celebration of the man and his unique achievements links to YouTube clips went flying around twitter and anyone could listen to hours of the band’s music for free whilst reading exhaustive accounts of its history and influence via Wikipedia and innumerable blogs. May I respectfully suggest that anyone who thinks the former situation is preferable to the latter (not with regard to Jaki’s passing, of course, I’m talking about access to the material) is, at best, misguided. There is a tendency, especially amongst middle aged beardies, to cry-wank over their box-sets and pristine collection of Melody Makers from the late 1980s whilst whimpering nostalgically about finding a copy of Fun House under a hedge and ‘discovering’ The Stooges. Jesus wept. I could go on but I presume my feelings about anything that could be perceived as ‘gatekeeping’, or the raising of artificial barriers, are perfectly clear.
But what about RFM? Reading through the above I see much of what I’ve written is fairly abstract or from the perspective of gig promotion. Does it help answer the question as to whether a blog dedicated to documenting weird music produced by a fiercely independent d.i.y. scene should have a presence on Facebook? Well, much as I understand Sof’s frustrations, Joe H’s reticence and the personally negative feelings shared by me, Chrissie and others I’d hesitate to say, as Joe H does, that Facebook drains the magic from everything it touches. I don’t find it fun, for sure, but I’d like to think that the magic of the art we cover (and, let’s not be too modest, our descriptions of it – we are part of all this) shines through the murkiness of the medium. If we proceed with caution then …nnnnggghhh… OK.
We are camped way uphill from the floodgates, a few signposts can’t hurt.
kenny g your neighbours. a no basement is deep enough special: joe murray on kito mizukumi rouber, ho turner, bart de paepe and bleekFebruary 21, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
Tags: bart de paepe, belgian waffles, bleek, ho turner, joe murray, kenny g, kito mizukumi rouber, nbide, no basement is deep enough, wolf eyes
Kito Mizukumi Rouber – Savatia Calvi ni KMR (No Basement is Deep Enough)
Ho. Turner – T.V. Tapes Mix (No Basement is Deep Enough)
Bart De Paepe – Twistkapel (No Basement is Deep Enough)
Bleek- Lay your Skull upon the Groundz of the Bleek Godz (No Basement is Deep Enough)
The No Basement tapes always cause a commotion in our house when they slam indignantly on the door mat.
“Oh Daddy…what are those Belgian/Serbian hash-leprechauns up to now?” cry my tear-streaked children.
Coz the kidz…they dig the NBIDE big-style. It’s like snapchat or YOLO or dabbing or something. So for the sake of all our pre-teen readers I’ll make a real effort to big-up the packaging that you so covet. Let’s go young people!
Kito Mizukumi Rouber – Savatia Calvi ni KMR (No Basement is Deep Enough) C40 Cassette
~tape wrapped in a hand-sewn fabric ribcage daubed with fake blood~
Bonkers art-skronk from a real-life band sporting the odd dreadlock and jean jacket I’ll wager.
Squat down long enough and your feet go wobbly. Listen to Kito Mizukumi Rouber long enough and that sticky pin-prick-wobble travels from sole to head.
At times this drifts into territory mapped out by the fairly obscure Gibson Brothers. There’s no shame in the ‘a-hella, hella’ rock and roll and reel and rawk and rask and wrark…
…but any quiff is flattened by the shambolic looseness. Like – SHAGGS loose baby. A sax bleats over sox-string wrangling and the tubs thumped by the delightfully named ‘Papa Big Papa’.
I’m not getting any Memphis on me but this certainly straightens my trousers as I pop a steel comb in the back pocket.
Like Easy Rider never happened.
Ho. Turner – T.V. Tapes Mix (No Basement is Deep Enough) C60 Cassette
~tape encased in toxic yellow foam stuck on the back of a large ceramic ear (sprouting wires from the ear drum)~
Short-form synth gurgles that make like a bath emptying slowly, leaving a ring of creamy residue.
Originally recorded in the early 1980’s for deaf folk Ho. gets his hands dirty grabbing large puddles of ‘groof’ and ‘schhhappp’ moulding it with fingers, mouth and elbows. A handy paper leaflet tells us the electronics Ho uses have names: the saucy Kawai-synthesiser 100f and legendary Fricke MFB-501 drum machine – so get busy fan boys and fan girls – wreck those second-hand market prices!
The resultant mix is seemingly timeless and swoops like a lazy bat in that skittering, only just viable way. Themes and ideas move quickly with an ancient logic. This resultant mist flows from abstract cloud-based longing to strict-military (like The Normal) or something. Parps and squelches may be damp as a used towel but are as far from a Tangerine Dream as you can imagine.
At times I feel John Carpenter’s corridors closing in on me…running from an unseen enemy going ‘blop, blop, blop’. Later on (on side two to be precise) the mud-bubbling wouldn’t be out of place at some seaside rave (circa ’94) but with the BPM’s seriously mogged out.
To add some ass-grit Ho makes sure we have a regular reference point; be it a rhythm or thin- recordings – a school choir, a black box recorder all nattering away in ever reliable German. This anchoring stops the tape floating away like analogue bubblebath but still leaves me delicious and squeaky clean.
As this cheeky tape clicks off I’m left with a very vivid visual after-image: steeped terraces, only a metre wide, but circling the fresh green mountain. Weird but exactly right eh?
Bart De Paepe – Twistkapel (No Basement is Deep Enough) C40 Tape x 2
~resplendent in a winged lung-shaped wallet that transforms into a lady’s face~
Totally zoned-out Space Rock/Kosmische as gentle as a cough syrup from the Sloow Tapes shagger.
Suitable for: fans of Japanese Psych, long winter evenings in front of the fire, daytime drinkers, foreign exchange students, light sleepers, bikers on a tea break, tree guardians, squat wizards and basically anyone else with a bit of time on their hands and the desire to break free and dig deep into the negative zone.
De Paepe is, I believe, responsible for all the guitars going ‘wah wah’ like an infant holding out a greasy palm. Some other jokers are ‘Tuckering’ the drums and tinkering on the occasional breathy and sizzling keyboard mung. Together, with the wide stereo sound and measured, almost agricultural, pace I’m thrust deep in the heart of the Euro-prog. I’m whiffing on the barley husks of Sylvester Anfang II, Parson Sound and International Harvester.
Each tune/piece/movement seems to get progressively more inward-focused until I’m lying, eyes closed tight, brain cogs spiralling in decreasing circles letting out a clear snake of drool.
Even without the double tape aspect this is l-o-n-g music to be lived in. Long in vision and scope, in length and near-constant solo…
What more is there to say? You wanna rock or you wanna die?
Bleek- Lay your Skull upon the Groundz of the Bleek Godz (No Basement is Deep Enough) C60 Cassette
~ avocado green tape in silky black purse, finger the slit and a bloodshot eye stares back at you ~
Two side-long jams of J-A-Z-Z from some Wolf-dong side-project. Oh yeah daddy!
If, like me, you like your fusion lumpy this will up-end ya, will flip ya. Caveman-primitive electronics wheeze and ralf in an asthmatic fashion but soaring above, proud like dope-stallions horn some horny horning. It’s all spraffed thru a limp echo box so that all important swing is multiplied again and again bouncing round my book-lined study as I nibble on a peanut.
Remember the time rock goons like MC5 and The Stooges really, really dug the free jazz? It’s got that same electric-jizz burning pure white in its veins but with one foot on the monitor. Let’s go!
Side one focuses on the distant horizon, eyes squeezed shut to keep out the wind. The horn wheels and keens while a rubber foot stomps out segments of time divided by soul-math. There’s a nobility and savagery to lengthy jams (30 mins or something) marking an endurance that’s damn shamanic. Drop the ‘shrooms and p-a-r-t-y.
Side two is altogether neater in a button-down shirt and braces with two guitars (Jared Left & Adam Right) strumming out spidery chords and brief ringing chimes. Wot…no sax? Be calm. Olson still blows his brass-stick while electronics sprout and climb like poison ivy.
Remarkably smooth – but tight enough to Kenny G your neighbours into submission.
Y’know those rare days when it is so hot that the only possible topic of conversation is ‘how hot it is’? Well like that but replace ‘hot’ with ‘tired’.
So tired that I mix up different presenters on the CBeebies channel and alarm my three year old son by exclaiming:
Blimey! That lass has grown a new arm!
So tired that I can only marvel, a hapless spectator, as a single flight of stairs proves a challenge to my trembling knees.
So tired that I put the grapes in the freezer and am bewildered to find them, rock-fucking-solid, the following morning.
So tired that all music becomes a grey and undifferentiated mass, the prospect of which just makes me want to… sleep.
Readers may have noticed a slow down in posts of late. This is due to your humble editor enduring a bad attack of the one-damn-thing-after-anothers. Long term followers may worry that my depression is returning but, mentally at least, I seem as impervious as a concrete rhinoceros. It’s ‘just’ ‘real’ ‘life’, the demands of which have brought on a mild, music-related existential crisis and have, until now, not afforded the time to think about it.
On the face of it, all is barrelling along very nicely indeed. I’ve been massively impressed with Clan RFM this year and the terrific projects my comrades have been involved with: Chrissie’s album with Helicopter Quartet, Joe’s unhygienic but effective finger-in-every-pie creative strategy, marlo’s participation in and championing of the Extraction Music event/comp, Luke’s mad tape on ultimate outsider-art label Cardboard Club, the awe-inspiring line-up gathering for Sof’s Tor Fest (alas, I won’t be there – I’m cashing in all the husband-points I’ve collected to go to TUSK and hang with Miguel later in October) – to name but a FEW. That any of them has managed to write anything for l’il ol’ RFM boggles the mind.
And me? Yeah, my dinky CD-r on Bells Hill has been well received, my ideas have been discussed in the ivory towers of academia and I am now the owner of two T-shirts commemorating events at least partly inspired by my writing. No biggee.
The only problem is that I can’t seem to listen to music.
It’s odd – throughout my life as a serial obsessive I’ve spent three or four years each on various nerdish pursuits (go on, ask me about textual variations in the numerous editions of Philip K. Dick’s The Unteleported Man a.k.a. Lies Inc. Err, no, on second thoughts, don’t) before losing interest and moving on, but music has always been exempt from this pattern before.
What’s happening? Despite the ridiculous tiredness, my concentration span hasn’t entirely left me – for example, I got through over twenty hours of podcasts about the horrors of the World War I recently (yes, that was what I was doing instead of listening to your tape). My sense of humour may have darkened but I’m maintaining a jaunty-ish Twitter presence (even if the rest of my correspondence is for shit). I’ve even tried dropping the noise and looking elsewhere. A few weeks ago I was told off for declaring 6 Music ‘unbearably smug’ so I turned it on, listened to three minutes of a string quartet covering ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin, and turned it off again. The prosecution rests. 1Xtra is a lot more exciting but the playlist system makes it impossible to listen to for any length of time (or at the same time each day – ‘Skwod‘ soundtracked the washing up for a week, it’s great but…). Experiments with YouTube, downloading mixes, internet radio and the like have had inconclusive results.
So what now? My apologies to those who have sent music or are expecting emails – I’ll do what I can. I have posts lined up from Chrissie, Luke and, inevitably, Joe so RFM won’t be entirely silent whilst I figure this out but, with the pile of stuff for review at record levels and visitor stats stalling, I wonder if you lot have any advice.
Any ideas as to why my grapes are in the freezer?
Tags: feral tapes, joe murray, miguel perez, skull mask, spoils & relics
Skull Mask – Artificio y Fetiche (self-released download)
Skull Mask – Musa (self-released download)
Spoils & Relics – Private Garage Collection (tape, Feral Tapes, 010, edition of 40 or download)
Skull Mask – Artificio y Fetiche / Musa
If you asked me, and I’m taking your continued reading as a straight affirmative, I would say the guitar is a desert instrument. Think Jon Collin, Cian Nugent and Loren Mazzacane Connors – they’ve all explored the lonely sound of the desert scorch.
And you can certainly see why. Those spare six strings can mimic the warped shimmer and the emptiness of a desert landscape in slow simple plucks. The baking heat lends a laziness and fractured timing to the dusty fretboard.
Miguel Perez, another amazingly important guitarist to the N-AU, packs his atlas and strolls the deserts of this world (and the next) on the sun-damaged Artificio y Fetiche.
The taught and springy acoustic steel-string has a slight reverb warble as Miguel conjures up the skitter of a green lizard’s quick limbs, the poisonous spines of a cactus and the glassy psychedelics found in handfuls of sand.
This is a desert that’s teeming with life, studded with microscopic activity, scuttling and slithering between the bone-dry gullies.
The Flamenco influenced ‘Cortometrajes’ explodes with energy fingers rippling like a buttery dawn.
So clear and precise is Miguel’s vision and playing it takes the majestic ‘Piezas’ to remind me of what I’d forgotten- this is an improvised guitar album – as it shuffles between bliss-out sun worship and knotty string bending.
But it’s the closer, the soon-to-be-classic ‘Sangre,’ that makes you come back again and again for a rusty fix. The imagined opening credits to a lost Western it rolls like a Django with an extra thumb; it’s acid-blasted and 70’s-day-glo jaunty in equal measure.
At around 15 minutes Artificio y Fetiche is a trip too brief and yet the much longer Musa still leaves me with an empty craving.
The two lengthy tracks on Musa stretch things like perished rubber. The surface of these recordings is littered with stress-lines and furrows, clicks and bumps that show a real human bent over double, hands blurring with speed.
On the title track notes are spat-out rather than neatly placed. A disorder and chaos reigns. But to judge this expression random would be foolish. Ever so slowly, ever so gently a sense of order is constructed in small sections, each folding into each other. A Moorish pattern, all azure-blue and cream emerges in egg-shell tones. As you stand back you pick out familiar patterns and lines. A map? But to where? But before your brain can muster a reply you find your feet shuffling forward, unable to resist.
Somehow Miguel has broadcast ‘Nada es Perfecto’ from a distant Ballardian future. Course red sands have crept into the cities leaving only the minaret’s thin towers, poking through the desert-creep, looking for all the world like giant abandoned onions.
The wind blows his haunting raga through the arrow slits; a rosewood moan, a restless questing. A sound so dry that it goes on forever.
Spoils & Relics – Private Garage Collection
Knowing the Spoils & Relics I wasn’t expecting any pebbles or nuggets but, make no mistake, the garage is in full effect. It’s chock-a-block with tin trays of screws, half-empty paint cans and a broken TV…
o///oo////o////At first it’s a jumble of unusable parts, scraps and ephemera\\\\\\0\0\\0\0\ooooo\o\o\o\\////ooo//o/oBut that of course all melts away when you add the human, the flesh ~~~~~and blood machine that takes the tightly-sealed jar of turpentine, beer towels and an XXXXXXXX old projector and turns that into a compelling narrative_____))()()The ghost >><<<<of memory haunts these dark ruffles and smeared hisses)(((((ooo>>A hum becomes a glass of fizzing alka-seltzer))))))A shifting ‘shish’ is folded into a matrix of voices)><><>Machinery hums and whirrs – a busy crackle industry but incredibly delicate+++Aural flytipping?+++The dynamics are kept XXxxXXX low and introverted, almost shy, with only the occasional brassy honk>>><<<…
The side B is ever-so-slightly busier>>><<>><>> with sounds overlapping and ()()( (())meshing messily rather than lining up ‘straight like a soldier’o00o)Oo0)Oo This added dimension takes away none of the quiet menace; in fact it OOOO adds layers of subway/\underpass paranoia like a sudden face at the window)()(***()))(((((((((()))ooooiiiiiiiooooOOOOOO>><><><<Snatches of art-core jams involving mahogany and ivory pieces slapped down in unknowable rhythms()(()””””!><><0000)0IT LIVES IT’S OWN LIFE, BREATHS IT’S OWN BREATH 000<<>><><)()()) )(())0o0o0o))
…This private garage is truly abstract and at times could be a ‘lost’ futurist recording from 1913 with all it’s sepia clanking and rattling. At around 10 mins per side this is a perfect power-listen for the busy radical. Get busy people.
Tags: ceramic hobs, simon morris, tegenaria press
Simon Morris – Consumer Guide (hardback, 176 pages, Tegenaria Press, numbered edition of 100, dustjacket text by Philip Best)
This book contains a selection of autobiography and opinion from Simon Morris, best known ‘round these parts as front-man of The Ceramic Hobs. Discovering its existence (by eavesdropping on a twitter conversation between John Eden and Andie Brown) brought on a lust for ownership that shocked me with its meaty fervour. Was I bollocks going to miss this. Those who have read Bang Out Of Order, Simon’s augmented history of the early days of Power Electronics, or his occasional pieces for zines such as Hiroshima Yeah!, or who just know the man and his band, will need little convincing. Allow me to work on the rest of you.
Here’s Simon with the spec:
The first 30 pages ‘Mergers’ is the heart of the book – you may not believe I lived it, I can barely believe I wrote it. Pages 33 to 167 ‘Acquisitions’ features essays and profane outbursts on music ranging from Art Garfunkel to The Grey Wolves, on cinema, on fast food, on alcohol, on love, on literature. The short accompanying text from Dr Best ‘kith and kin’ should speak for itself.
(nicked from the Tegenaria Press blog, as are the pictures)
The opening section is indeed only 30 pages long but is so dense with incident it shames many biographies ten times the length. An account of some recent dreams leads into a eulogy which in turn becomes a list of those in Simon’s orbit who have died prematurely which flows into an episodic, roughly chronological life story albeit with vectors overlapping: drugs and drink, death and sex, madness and music. Given its brevity you might expect a collection of anecdotes shorn of context and worn pebble smooth by the retelling, or maybe a stream of consciousness piece more suited to an open mic night. But it is neither. Instead you’ll find a moving, funny and profoundly human description of one guy’s attempt to deal with difficult circumstances – occasionally of his own making – and the people he cares about whilst figuring himself out at the same time. The tone is perfect: recognizable and straightforward but knocked off the ecliptic by enough to make it unique.
The second, much longer, section (set in a Courier-style font for some reason) is a very entertaining collection of (mostly) reviews – music, film, books, fast food, drink, seaside towns and so on are all encapsulated. Simon does have an arresting turn of phrase but there is nothing overly ‘literary’ about this exercise, nor, thankfully, do you have to hack away at anything academic (no ‘phenomenology of transgression’ here). It reads like this:
Imagine being at a gig and, in-between acts, chatting to a friend who you don’t see as often as you’d like. ‘Band X’ gets a mention and your friend says
Oh right, are you into them then?
‘Band X’ being a mystery to you, you shrug sheepishly and your friend says:
ah, I’ll send you some links or something
…and two days later, to your surprise and delight, you get an email from your friend containing one paragraph reviews of pretty much their entire back catalogue written in a perceptive and open-hearted way but with the odd wry barb or flailing complaint chucked in to keep it well seasoned. How lovely they took the trouble, eh? And off you pop to YouTube, or Spotify, or to the record library with a print-out in your coat pocket. This kind of stuff is gold dust and there is a hundred pages of it here. In fact, it is very hard to remain disciplined and not skip forward pages or flip on the tablet to look up one track and have it playing whilst you read about the next. I had to read it all twice to calm down enough to take it in once.
There are plenty of negative opinions expressed, something readers of this blog will know I’m not that interested in, but Simon never comes across as a prick because he wears his erudition lightly and his trenchant confidence is clearly borne of passion and experience. Have to admit I punched the air at this bit though:
THE CLASH – the single most boring rock band that ever existed, clueless politics, tuneless lumpen riffs, overproduction and stylised painful fashion input. I’d take Jon The Postman over these clowns as far as punk goes.
I wholeheartedly agree – once I heard some teenage aficionado smugly answer the question ‘what is your favourite reggae band?’ with ‘The Clash!’ and I had to be physically restrained from caving his head in with a fire extinguisher.
I found the final two chapters, ‘BAD ADVICE’ and ‘SELF-CRITIQUE’, very moving. In the first Simon offers a kind of taxonomy of desire and relationships with definitions of the various stages (from: 1. Crushes to: 8. Arguments). Despite the chapter’s title I found his observations – rueful, comic, joyous, human – to be thoughtful and charming. The very last section is an account of The Ceramic Hobs’ recorded output in release order with added detail – fascinating to a fan like me – of wider context, of how things were put together and the love and/or turbulence between band members. It is easy to forget when watching Simon perform, drunk and channelling whatever monster it is that produces that amazing, unique voice, that there is a lifetime’s work involving countless people behind all this. He seems very proud of it. He bloody should be.
OK: the object – a coat-pocket-sized, black bound hardback – arrived via insanely expensive recorded delivery, carefully packaged and slipped into a candy-stripe paper bag to ensure its matt white dustjacket remained pristine in transit. Both the bag and the book itself are hand-numbered. Yeah, I can sense the fetishists amongst you tremble with excitement. You perverts. Those not prone to hoarding don’t have to worry though; the zen minimalism of the design (by the impeccable Bracketpress) is guaranteed not to fuck with your chi. It sure ain’t cheap (£23.23 all in for the UK, less magical sums if you live abroad) but is apparently being sold at cost price. Given the distinction of the product, and the tiny edition of only 100 copies, I can believe it.
I’ll let Simon have the last word:
There is no plan for a second edition, e-book version or kindle amazon tie-in or film script or community arts funding – you can call it a kind of clandestine integrity if you wish … Satisfy your depraved bibliophiliac lust while you can, dear libertines.
Tags: dex wright, dr. adolf steg, gary simmons, hiroshima yeah!, joe murray, joined by wire, julian bradley, mark ritchie, michael clough, microzine, paul walsh, stephen woolley, tape noise, the barrel nut, zanntone
[Editor sighs, picks at bits of glu-stik and newsprint stuck to his palms, sucks blood from site of paper cut]
…that was fun, eh?
It is with sadness that I announce that the new, long delayed, issue #14 of The Barrel Nut will be the last and, aside from a handful of paper copies for contributors, will be distributed in digital formats only. This is a drag but a triple whammy death blow has been dealt by a) time poverty b) my access to ‘free’ photocopying being curtailed by, *ahem*, circumstances and c) silly postal charges.
Regarding this final point, it is profoundly depressing to see the offline world of mail art, zine culture and other barter economies being constricted by the prohibitive cost of shifting physical objects. Plenty of fun remains to be had, of course, and I salute those still at it, but I am joining the retreat. Living with a privatised postal service sucks major donkey balls and if you reside in a country where your national service is being run down/softened up to make its flesh palatable to those vultures then I suggest you fight against it.
OK, freed from the obligations of its usual microzine format this issue is presented as a series of full page pdfs/jpegs to be downloaded and/or printed out by the reader. Featured artwork is a representative sample of remaining submissions and the names will be familiar to regular readers – I hope you are entertained. This, and all previous issues, will be available via the The Barrel Nut page (tabbed above) until the coming alien invasion unleashes its server-destroying electro-magnetic pulse. Roll call:
- The cover is by me,
- page two is more scanner/photocopier EVP phenomena filtered by Michael Clough,
- Dex Wright, a.k.a. Tape Noise, mauls ferric oxide on page three,
- weird symmetries by Zanntone’s Paul Walsh slide across page four,
- page five presents the collaged thoughts of Gary Simmons and Mark Ritchie of the print-only Hiroshima Yeah! zine (email@example.com),
- Stephen Woolley of Joined By Wire leaves tire tracks across page six,
- deep-fried brainwaves crackle up and down page seven, courtesy of Adolf Steg
- …and lastly we have typographical and cut-up dada from Julian Bradley and RFM’s own Joe Murray to play over the credits.
It’s a belting finale, that’s for sure. Here’s the files – individual page scans are of better quality but the ‘whole thing as one pdf file’ is handier for those busy zine readers on the go:
Individual pages as jpegs:
Individual pages as pdfs:
The whole thing as a pdf:
Many thanks to all those who have been involved – it’s been a right laugh.
Tags: cardboard club, joe murray, piped in from head office, robert ridley-shackleton, waste farm
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Sober Junkz (tape, Cardboard Club, CC11, edition of 12)
Waste Farm – Waste! (tape, Piped-in From Head Office Records, pifho017)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Sober Junkz
The singular RRS drops another mind-bomb on our door mat with Sober Junkz, an almost unconscious unraveling of the super-ego.
Adopting the persona of a middle-aged DJ Ridley-Shackleton mumbles through an unhinged afternoon show with nothing but Whitehouse audience recordings to play instead of Toto’s Africa three times per hour.
This pure right-brain shuffling between gentle coughing and distant feedback (er… like the rains down in Africa) sits uncomfortably with the braggadocious whittering concerning RRS and Kanye facing up as presidential candidates.
As ever the packaging is classic Cardboard Club [Editor’s note: above are scans of my copy]; masking tape and crayon daubed with careful joy around a plastic zip-loc. But it’s the sheer ‘otherness’ of this tape that shifts it to my ‘caution’ pile, clearly marked, to ensure I play this when I have my full faculties about me. Without a suitable warning this tape could set up a feedback loop of intense crypto-listening that can lead to gentle catatonia!
In an act of retro-vandalism I replaced the name ‘Cage’ with the name ‘Ridley-Shackleton’ in my handy Penguin Cassette Guide:
Cornelius Cardew, our own British avant-gardiste, is quoted as saying that there seems to be a sense of logic and cohesion in Ridley-Shackleton’s indeterminate music. ‘The logic’ Ridley-Shackleton replied, ‘was not put there by me.’
He can say that again! Even so, a tape like this of highly experimental music does give the listener an excellent chance to work hard at the apparently impossible music…what it all means is anyone’s guess, but perhaps one should not take it too seriously. The transfer is atmospheric rather than sharply focused. (March p204)
GREENFIELD, E. LAYTON, R. & MARCH, I. (1979). Penguin Cassette Guide. Middlesex: Penguin Books Limited.
Joe fucking Orton me like!
Waste Farm – Waste!
This conundrum snuck into a package from that Shareholder Sandy Milroy and feels like a solo project from a dude in a skinny tie surrounded by banks of antique synths. To complete the scene a TV flickers blue smoke from the corner of the room while circuit diagrams are soaked in brandy. Got a mental picture?
Side one opens with a sound as tactile as silvery-birch or slippery elm. The wooden electrics shimmer all over ‘Dale Baker 201’ making it hard to pick up, running through my clumsy fumbling thumbs. But it’s light man, relaxed and all; a smiling face at closing time on Princess Street.
Then the mood changes to delightfully sleazy as ‘Spoonfood’ (electronic tones pump like a punctured sausage…slow offal ooze) and ‘Woomb’//‘Meat Scarecrow’ (three-note stabs uncover a crystal skull – each beam of reflected light hints at an alien tone) soundtrack that thick tentacle wallop the Belgians seems to favour. OK… a bit more grit; you’re accepting the invitation to an empty.
Side two drops a clue to its Caledonian lineage as ‘The Specimen’ merges distant street chatter with a lolloping synth line. So far so good… but when that thick bass tone drops it’s like Wolf Eyes’ ‘Stabbed in the Face’ decided to get really fucking stroppy. Gloopy like black molasses the jellified tones stick to your hands, face and chest. It’s probably best to just submit, I think, until I find myself pounding a bleeding fist against the wall, thumping out this slow heart-beat, riding the waves of limp sizzle and ruddy ripping. I’m locked in and they are slowly approaching!
Balancing the fine line between head-banging euphoria and deeply unpleasant industry.
Serving Suggestion? Check out this euro-weird animation LIGHT YEARS. Use your eyes to see but plug your ears into WASTE FARM instead.
Tags: guttersnipe, luke vollar, mantile records, matching head, va aa lr, xazzaz
VA AA LR – Ping Cone (tape, Mantile Records, #028, edition of 50)
Guttersnipe – Demo (CD-r or download, self-released)
xazzaz – descent / the crusher (tape, matching head, matching head 209)
VA AA LR – Ping Cone
VA AA LR are a trio of London based improvisers who make a confounding and ludicrous noise on all manner of non-musical items. The most obvious comparison would be with that other trio of detritus maestros Spoils & Relics, as they also have a weird grasp of group dynamics and a fearless trust in the communal brain. No coincidence that the tape is released on Mantile Records – (the smallest Spoils member) Johnny Scarr’s label.
Abrupt cuts and volume drops entice the curious into the rusty thicket, it’s just you’re more likely to get a spoke in your ass than a sloppy kiss. What starts as hesitant and probing gradually becomes the lopsided half jam of a cola slurping rusted robot making its way down a filthy, ruined corridor – a strobe occasionally lighting the dismal scene.
Yes, we could talk about the lineage of AMM and the principles of improvisation and experimentation being ingested and regurgitated by a new generation but something tells me that these boys would be more interested in yanking your pants down in public and laughing at your bare ass than discussing Eddie Prevost’s latest musings.
Guttersnipe – Demo
Now this li’l disc arrived with me via a man who quite possibly has the most perfect name for a punk drummer ever: Rob Glew, a.k.a. ‘The Ginger Tornado; a.k.a. ‘Spaghetti Limbs’ a.k.a. ‘Bobby Sticks’. Ex- of sadly defunct righteous punk squawkers etai keshiki, a band who shared a tape with my groop Castrato Attack Group (*ahem*, still available for gigs). An unlikely comradery developed betwixt both bands: the skinny shit kickers and the receding, beer bellied sludgemonauts – a cosmic alignment if you will. Hell, Bobby even guested on sticks for one Castrato show. But enough of Ol’ Vollars reminiscing, etai keshiki have ceased to be but all members have to my knowledge continued to pursue musical activities. For instance…
Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama. However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma. Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short. This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient. Marvellous job.
xazzaz – descent / the crusher
Another missive from the North East primitives on the none-more-black Matching Head: tape only, no internet presence, all regular readers know the drill. Xazzaz has elegantly stroked my lobes in the past with fine, nourished noise loopholes. This one coughed up in a plastic rectangle from the Northumberland swamps is a sidestep that shows another feather in his headdress.
The fidelity is gloriously wrong, as if a ball of fluff the size of a tennis ball was hanging off the needle of your record player. A hypnotic loop comes in and out of focus like the black oily cogs lowering you beneath the surface. Frenzied string abuse compelling forward (or downward) motion also blurs and sharpens. A similar theme is maintained over both sides with a strong atmosphere of anxiety, as if our man is descending into unknown and inky depths with only his battered guitar and amp on the plinth, trying to wring as much from the rusty strings as his cold damp fingers will allow. There is a darkly compelling isolationist bent to this tape that is as inviting as the warm glow of a stranger’s window on a pitch black night. A bit of research tells me that Xazzaz has his first proper CD now available from Turgid Animal. Just try and stop me.
Long story short: The year began with a minor dip in my mental health coinciding with a virus caught at work. An unbroken four months of further physical illnesses caused a deepening of my depression and a strengthening of the accompanying anxiety. As a result I have been ill for the whole of 20-fucking-15 so far and have been off work for weeks.
The latest stroke of bad luck is that a new medication I have been prescribed alongside my existing pharmaceutical regime has left me unhelpfully zonked. Appointments to discuss results/dosage/alternatives are in the offing but in the meantime my brain is as worryingly hot as an off-brand ‘phone charger. Luckily there is nothing in it to catch fire. Seriously, you know that overclocked, whining noise that a car reversing uphill makes? That’s my current waking experience.
The upshot is that I am not writing and the output of this blog will slow. Apologies to all concerned. More from my comrades will follow as and when I get around to formatting it, but I’m sitting out for a while.
For any new readers visiting due to the mention in Ashtray Navigations/Yorkshire Psych articles in The Wire I’d recommend looking at the ‘about us…’ page then reading down through the last few review pieces to the article on what I mean by the term ‘no-audience underground’. That should give y’all the flavour.
I’ll still be larking about on Twitter and all emails are answered eventually.
With love, Rob H x
Tags: collage, cut-ups, dada, dr. adolf steg, foldhead, gary simmons, hiroshima yeah!, illustration, jake blanchard, mark ritchie, midwich cuckoos, paul walsh, posset, spon, village of the damned, visual art, zanntone, zines
Fellow travellers, pilgrims, pray sit and give thanks for the latest issue of The Barrel Nut. It appears from nowhere today, like manna from heaven, and offers a morsel of psychic sustenance in this desert of unsatisfying blandness.
Yep, the microzine voted ‘most likely to go through a spin cycle’ by The Agitator (samizdat journal of the anarcho-launderette network) is back to blow your mind for an instant, then be stuck in the back pocket of your jeans, then forgotten about, then washed, shredded and ruefully picked out of your soggy undies whilst sat on the kitchen floor. Life affirming stuff!
In lucky #13 you will find beaked appliances on the cover by me, a digi-kaleidoscope view of The Barrel Nun by zanntone‘s Paul Walsh (a fat-fingered Google search mistake treated as artistic opportunity), a hyperkinetic collage of speed and muscle by Dr. Adolf Steg culled (mainly) from the 2000AD comic strip Nemesis the Warlock – an ever relevant satire on intolerance and xenophobia, and and art/collage double-whammy combo cheerfully reminding us that life is full of pain by the Hiroshima Yeah! brothers Gary Simmons and Mark Ritchie. On the reverse, I am delighted to present a full-page poster by ace illustrator Jake Blanchard of Tor Press inspired by John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos (a key text for RFM, of course) and the film version Village of the Damned.
For those who might be new to this publishing phenomenon. Here’s the standard blurb:
The Barrel Nut is a single sheet of A4 paper cleverly folded to make an eight panel (per side), A7 pamphlet. Paper copies will be distributed to anyone who wants one, or who has expressed an interest in the past. I’ll bring some to gigs I attend and a bunch will be passed around by those with a similar love of the post.
Should you be so inclined then you are very welcome to download and print out your own. Links to the latest issue in jpeg and pdf formats are below (you may need to trim the print-out down one edge to make it fold properly). Some more context, assembly instructions and previous issues can be found on The Barrel Nut’s own page (tabbed above).
Should you wish to contribute artwork then I would be very grateful indeed. Submissions need to look OK when reproduced as a black and white photocopy and be 7cm by 10cm in size (or scalable to roughly those dimensions). Good quality scans attached to an email are fine, originals sent in the post ideal. Please get in touch.
Contributor and subscriber copies will be in the post ‘in due course’. For those who can’t wait, or don’t mind a bit of salt-and-shake style DIY, then print out your own from the links below:
Artwork for future issues always welcome – please feel free to drop me a line.