pride of the potteries: sophie cooper on saboteuse, subs(cribers) and stoke on trent

March 23, 2015 at 4:52 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (CD-r, Poot Records)

Subs(cribers) – Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept (CD-r or download, self-released)

saboteusesaboteuse 2subs(cribers) - finger fighting

The City of Stoke on Trent is a place that on the surface looks to be completely dead. The town of Stoke itself has a High Street consisting of a few charity shops, boarded up failed businesses and an occasional nasty looking pub.  It doesn’t look like much is going on but, if we delve a bit deeper, there is evidence that the city is on the cusp of a renaissance: art will save this place. In September 2014 arts organisation B-Arts received a whopping grant to develop their vision of Stoke on Trent as ‘Art City’, aiming to induce a positive change in how the city’s cultural profile is viewed. Activities are already taking place: B-Arts themselves have taken over a giant warehouse close to all those boarded up establishments and will offer cheap studio and exhibition space for artists to use, last year Supersonic organisers took over Hanford Park and presented a day’s festival, outdoor performance organisers Appetite have put on a series of free events across the towns bringing new work to locals and AirSpace Gallery in Hanley continues to curate fantastic contemporary art exhibitions in a disused Post Office building. These are just a handful of activities that I know about.  Stoke is a place to watch and deserves this attention after having its original industry so brutally treated.

Radio Free Midwich is a music blog, of course, so what of the music scene in Stoke? The city has an interesting musical past and today when I look to its experimental fringes I see individuals from the area creating music and art largely because of an instinctual need to do so.  I’m so thankful for this scene because, as I grew up in Stoke amongst constantly creative people, it taught me not to sit about and do nothing with my time. There’s a hell of a lot of talent in the Potteries and for now I would like to draw your attention to the following two releases.

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course

This CD-r came out sometime in 2014 on Poot Records and I’ve got to say, I find it a bit irritating that I didn’t know about this release until Joincey gave a copy to me personally in February this year. As the sleeve notes bear no mention of Poot Records at all I assumed it was self released but Joincey informed me otherwise. If you enter this title into a search engine it does pop up on Discogs and if you have a nose about there (and in the rest of the Poot Records catalogue) you’ll see that Luke puts out some awesome titles.  I just can’t help but wish more people were able to know about this stuff when it first comes out.

Saboteuse is a duo of Andy Jarvis and Joincey. The pair have been making music together for a long time and it just gets better and better. Death, Of Course opens with ‘Yearning, “Rosebud”’, which is a brilliantly savage introduction.  Starting with a quiet beat, like slow footsteps going into a dark cave, dirty looped bass then lays a foundation for a barely in control electric guitar ‘solo’ that sounds like it’s being beaten to pieces to make way for a clattering percussive ending. It’s terrifying.  The sound puts you on edge and I can’t imagine anything I would like to find less during a cave exploration than the creatures summoned by this track.

On ‘Cheeking the other turn’ instrumental melodic lines interject, perfectly complementing the lyrics delivered by Joincey who loops words and sings over the top of them. It is difficult to work out what the words are about but I know they can’t be meaningless as the whole record has a strong sense of control over chaos. On ‘Blackened Pool’ the lyrics are more audible but still completely surreal:

I think I can take this heat because I’m wearing the white hat, which side are you on now? Cinnamon bagel, raisin bagel.

I’ve been listening to this record intently since I got it trying to work out what the lyrics mean but have got nowhere.  It doesn’t matter though because this is the language of the Saboteuse world: better to just listen in.

What I find most interesting about this release is how smartly some songs segue into one another. It’s a “I wish I’d thought of that” moment between ‘Burying Yourself on a Desert Island’ and ‘You, Holding My Breath’ where the two tracks become one and a natural break eventually comes part way through the second. It reveals a well thought out and really intelligent approach to the construction of this record.

Saboteuse produce consistently innovative and compelling music.  I can only hope that eventually some clever, fancy record label will cotton on to their brilliance and sort them out with the flash release they deserve.

Subs(cribers) – Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept

The first time I saw The Subs play live was at their ‘comeback gig’ at Andy Jarvis’ hen do a couple of years ago in Stoke. This was Marky Loo Loo’s first time performing with Mika De Olivera on additional vocals and I’ll admit, I didn’t really get it at that point. I was nursing a particularly monstrous hangover after drinking too much gross lager in Newcastle’s The Full Moon the previous evening and just wasn’t in the right mood to understand the band. I mentioned this to Joincey who advised me not to be so dismissive because this was Mark’s “life’s work”. It wasn’t until I heard Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept that I got what he meant.

Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept was self-released on Valentines Day this year. It could just be a coincidence but I like to think of this album as a gesture of love towards Subs fans and to themselves. You couldn’t make this type of beautifully cute pop without being completely into it and the entertaining good times that come with it. There’s an ecstatic energy throughout the album that celebrates the overriding mission of creating joy for themselves and their listeners. It must have been so much fun to have made this.

Paradoxically, despite all this love and happiness the subjects covered by The Subs are dark and macabre and even death gets playfully joked about. My favourite track has got to be ‘A Day Out With The Aphids’ which on the surface comes over as a super sweet, toe tapping, pop tune but when you listen to the lyrics the aphids aren’t having such a great time: “what will the future hold? Death under plimsoll”. There’s a lightly morbid theme that runs throughout the album, I mean, light in the sense that the music is so blimming upbeat and happy that it takes your attention away from the grim subject matter. Check out these titles: ‘Killed By A Bath Nap’ (genius), ‘Next Spring You Will Die’ (charming) ‘Necro Supermarket’ (what??) ‘Dead Mans Jeans’ (where Mark picks up some new clothes from the local cemetery) and you know what, these songs are DEAD funny! Dark matter presented in rainbow wrapping paper, how could I have not seen how amazing this band were before? Is The Subs’ “Life’s Work”, to bring joy to all who listen? To remind us that it’s OK to just have a laugh sometimes? They are doing very well if so.

So there you have it, two contributions to the sound of Stoke on Trent – “Art City” in the making. I wish the place the very best.


Poot Records [Editor’s note: yeah, good luck with that.  Be resourceful though – it’s worth it.]


clawed metal: luke vollar on black heath coven and yol

January 27, 2015 at 11:12 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 3 Comments
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Black Heath Coven – Erratic Glacial Haze (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 48)

Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 48)


Black Heath Coven are a trio from Stoke on Trent with Andy Jarvis, Jim Brindley and Daz Rowlands in their ranks. Can’t say I know Jim and Daz but I have known Andy for years through his bewitching musical endeavours and his now sadly defunct CD-r label First Person.  Aside from being about the most affable and charming bloke you are likely to encounter his resume is pretty impressive, from mighty fine picking and singing to weirdo electronic adventures with a variety of different folks.  Let’s not rattle on about him here though, as that would be a touch unfair to his comrades in the Coven.

Now I would like to think of myself as RFM’s resident metal warrior (which may cause Joe and Rob to smash flagons of ale into their heads, beat their chests and roar in indignation before pursuing me through a snowy forest at night, swords in hand, with only a pair of wolf skin briefs [Editor’s note: a pair each, I hope] to keep the chill out) and I can sense the claw of metal on this tape before I stick it in the stereo.  After all, you’d hardly expect an electro-pop group with a name like that.

Sure enough the tone is ominous and the guitars are tuned to doooom.  As a dude who massively digs early earth and Sunno)) albums where the amp worshipping, melting tar pit vibe is maintained for the duration this is fine by me, but it ain’t all they got.  Electronic passages and dusty lonesome guitar sounds provide subtlety and variety before inevitably giving way to massive lumbering riff juggernauts that crush the puny villagers underfoot as sine waves scorch the arid earth.  It’s an epic trip at seventy odd minutes, so best plug in your lava lamp, crack a brewski and drop the fuck out.  I like this a lot and would be proud to sew their patch onto my denim vest (if I had one).

Next up, and also from Beartown Records, is another offering from shaven headed Hull resident yol.  Regular readers of RFM will know the score by now: deranged utterances and curses of (what sounds like) an extremely troubled individual dragging metal around: 1, rest of the world: 0.

To my mind there is no one doing anything even remotely similar to yol.  While the N-AU contains it’s fair share of gibbering and slobbering droolers, yol stands alone as inhabiting the twilight worlds between sound poetry, power electronics and hard-core punk without ever being any of the above.  The fact that a lot of these pieces are recorded live adds another level to the already formidable intensity, polite chatter abruptly ceases as yol does his thing.  He growls – he grunts – he roars – he attacks various lumps of debris.  There is zero in the way of processing/electronics and yol is not afraid to leaving gaping yawps of silence between his spasms. One track ends with some frantic applause as if the audience were afraid of him.  Who could blame them when lyrics like…


…are delivered in such a fierce manner it would make Henry Rollins hide behind the sofa. It would be easy to speculate on what fuels the fire behind yol – grey drizzly council estates, abandoned shopping trolleys and sallow faced bureaucratic arseholes all appear in my head – but as yol walks a tightrope between terrifying and surreal without giving much away it is left to the listener/spectator to draw their own conclusions.  I remain baffled in the best way – it ain’t pretty but it is beautiful.


Beartown Records

slurred morse: nameless city haiku compiled

September 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Culver – Prophecy Of The Black Spider (tape, Mantile Records, #027, edition of 50)

Culver – “Kitty” (tape, Agorafobia Tapes, #31)

ZN – Carniceria (CD-r or download, self-released)

The Dead End Street Band – Bombs Rain Down on Innsmouth (tape, Agorafobia Tapes, #29)

La Mancha Del Pecado – Witchskinner (tape, Agorafobia Tapes, #28)

Inseminoid – Gemma’s Sacred Waters (tape, Matching Head, MH204)

Xtul – Black Holes of Stellar Mass (CD-r, self-released, edition of 30)

Female Borstal / NIHL – Split (tape, matching head, mh206)

culver - prophecy

…and so for the second anthology of my recent haiku reviews. This time I’m addressing the Tyneside noise/drone scene and its transatlantic outpost in Juárez, Mexico. Picture Lee Stokoe (of Culver and Matching Head tapes) sitting in a dark grey throne room that giddies the senses with its non-Euclidean geometry. On the other side of the Atlantic Miguel Perez (of La Mancha Del Pecado and Agorafobia Tapes) sits cross-legged on the floor of his desert cave whistling along to the howling wind. Eschewing the internet, they commune via crystal balls each containing a burning eye…

I needn’t go into the sound or aesthetic of this music at any length here as thousands of words I’ve written previously are available at the click of a tag (see above). Suffice to say the gist can be garnered from the following exchange. Imagine Lee casting a withering look over two brightly coloured art-school types setting up their gear prior to a gig.

C’mon, Lee!

I say,

…it doesn’t have to be all doomy blackness does it?

The withering look is transferred to me, with a slight twinkle added to his eye:

Yes Rob, it does.

…he replies. Tongue in cheek, perhaps, but there you have it: the final word.  True story.

Initially the following poems were tossed into the overcrowded public swimming pool that is Twitter (@radiomidwich) but, knowing all that shouting and splashing is not conducive to contemplation, I’ve fished ’em out, dried ’em off and present this leather-bound blog post for your leisurely perusal.

It might seem disrespectful to reduce these releases to seventeen syllables apiece – the Xtul album is a whole hour of glorious psych noise, the La Mancha tape is one of Miguel’s best, the NIHL side of that split is possibly the best thing I’ve heard all year and so on – but I put a lot of thought into these compositions and I hope the impressions expressed are, in their own way, accurate and useful. The title I used for the series, ‘Nameless City’, is, of course, a nod to the Geordie scene’s obsession with Lovecraft but is also apt for Miguel due to the desert setting of the story.

Click on the band name/album title to be taken to an appropriate webpage.  Matching Head has no official internet presence as such but contact details can be found via the Discogs listings for the label – maintained (largely) by Scott McKeating of this parish.


No. 1:

Culver – Prophecy Of The Black Spider

Polished steel mirror

examined by microscope:

metallic tundra.

culver - kitty

No. 2:

Culver – “Kitty”

Gremlin on plane wing

observes sleeping passengers

leans into the roar…

zn - carniceria

No. 3:

ZN – Carniceria

Grisly truth unpicked:

Cannibal horror movie?


the dead end street band - bombs rain down

No. 4:

The Dead End Street Band – Bombs Rain Down On Innsmouth

Smothered radio,

ragged semaphore, slurred morse

lost to riot seas

la mancha - witchskinner

No. 5:

La Mancha Del Pecado – Witchskinner

Flesh machinery

processes blind consumption:

cattle eat cattle…

inseminoid - gemma's sacred waters

No. 6:

Inseminoid – Gemma’s Sacred Waters

Dunes bombed into glass.

Tank tracks shatter windowed earth.

Sand returned to sand.

xtul - black holes of stella mass

No. 7:

Xtul – Black Holes Of Stellar Mass

Existence confirmed:

selfhood undeniable

…when thrown from a ‘plane

female borstal nihl split

Female Borstal / NIHL – split

No. 8a: Female Borstal side

Dredging a channel

up silt fouled estuary mouth

takes brute, swinging force

No. 8b: NIHL side

Seduced by darkness

beyond guttering arc-light –

like moths, like dead souls.


EDIT: Matching Head Catalogue September 2014 as a pdf document.

eye for detail: the midwich remixes album

August 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Posted in midwich, no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
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the archive

The idea of a midwich remix project goes back a fair distance (indeed, the missing-in-action Trademark TM created a version of the second midwich album life underwater – called ‘life underwater in space‘ – back when we were still laughing at bewildered millenarians) but now, finally, its time has come and I am inviting you, dear reader, to be involved.

The story so far is simple: Paul Walsh (foldhead, early hominids) sent me ‘glacier’, a version of ‘stomach lining’ from october in yorkshire that had been knocking about his hard-drive for yonks and discovered in a clear-out.  I liked it very much, mentioned it in passing on Twitter and within minutes had volunteers queuing up to submit their own remixes for an album I had to retroactively call into existence.  That’s what Twitter is like, innit?

So here’s the plan: the album will be called  ‘eye for detail’.  The entire midwich back catalogue is up for grabs, much of which is freely downloadable via the midwich bandcamp page.   Take what you want, do what you want with it and return the results to me ideally in wav format, ideally via WeTransfer (my email address can be found on the ‘about us…’ page).  The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 30th September and it will be released in October as soon as I get it all sorted.  To keep distribution simple and proceeds high the album will be download only via Bandcamp.  The reason for wanting to keep proceeds high is that all money raised will be donated to the Red Cross.

(An aside: this organisation was chosen as it provides immediate medical help to those most in need around this shitty world that we live in.  It has been brought to my attention that some may have issues with the Red Cross.  I’m afraid I’m ignorant of the politics I might be accidentally wading into here, so if you have concerns please email me privately so I can address those concerns or make sure your donation is sent elsewhere)

So far the project has only existed on Twitter and in a few emails but already I couldn’t be more delighted with the response. As well as the foldhead track mentioned above and garnering permission to use existing tracks by Daniel Thomas, ap martlet and Andy Jarvis, brand new work by dsic, Clive Henry, the piss superstition, Yol and Brian Lavelle is jostling in a hard-drive folder.  Others are hard at work.  It’s very exciting and updates are being tweeted on the arrival of each new jewel for the treasure chest.  Of particular note is Joe Murray’s Posset remix of this blog.  Yes, instead of choosing a midwich track to molest he has clipped favourite passages from my more whimsical and/or threatening moments and has created a shadow narrative that sounds like Adam Bohman cutting up H.P. Lovecraft.  Has to be heard to be believed. ‘Cover art’ will be provided by Michael Clough, who may be persuaded to submit some music too.

So: fancy being a part of this?  I flatter myself (as always) but perhaps there seems to be something about the wide open spaces, the jokey bibbling or the simple pulses of my, *ahem*, ‘music’ that invites augmentation or reinterpretation.  You’d be in terrific company and the cause is righteous so why not, eh?  All submissions gratefully received.

artifacts of the no-audience underground: petals, aqua dentata, andrew jarvis on sheepscar light industrial

October 5, 2012 at 5:58 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Andrew Jarvis – Cardigan Arms

(3″ CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.007, edition of 50 and download)

Aqua Dentata – A Staircase Missing

(3″ CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.008, edition of 50 and download)

Petals – Whether to Drown

(3″ CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.009, edition of 50 and download)

…and now because the show must go on.

Listening to these three releases on Daniel Thomas’s Sheepscar Light Industrial called to mind a passage from Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond’s book The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way). Published in 1988, shortly before The KLF’s reign of world domination, it now evokes a prelapsarian idyll of Top of the Pops, 7” singles and the like but, leaving the nostalgia aside, it remains enormous fun, of historical interest to the pop connoisseur and brimming with wisdom. On my bookshelf the dinky 1998 reissue sits alongside Notes on the Cinematographer by master of austere cinema Robert Bresson – another tiny format book full of gnomic utterance but, ironically given its Frenchness, comparatively lacking in joie de vivre.

In the former volume, after some initial instructions and having spent Sunday evening listening to the Top 40 on Radio 1, the reader is directed to spend Monday evening…

…round at some mate’s house. See if he has any records worth borrowing. More importantly, tell him what you are up to and see if he has any great ideas worth using. It is a little known fact, but when it comes to creative ideas the majority of people are creative geniuses. Your mate is bound to be one of them.

Heh, heh: ‘records worth borrowing’, charming isn’t it? Still, the substantive point is delicious, timeless and absolutely true. However, the next sentence…

It’s just that all these folks never dare to translate their creative brilliance into reality.

…doesn’t apply to the people I know, the people I write about here. None of us (apart from Neil Campbell perhaps – ha, lolz!!) dream of having a bestselling pop single, which is fortunate given the abject lack of interest in our endeavours, but neither are we afraid to create and to present those creations to others. On the contrary (as I am driven to mention time and again) we are driven to do so even when our time might be ‘better’ spent more ‘usefully’.

Am I saying that my everyday life is full of friends and acquaintances who are creative geniuses, compelled to express that genius as best they can given the resources available to them? Yes, I am. Need proof? Listen to this little lot.

I am not going to say much about the music (dawn chorus on the island of mecha-godzilla, shadows of sea-monsters, cleansed by internal forest fire – that will do) for two reasons. The first is that you can hear all of this for yourself and/or download it and/or purchase dirt-cheap physical instances of it via the admirably user-friendly SLI Bandcamp site. The second is that today I’m not discussing the detail, I’m discussing the phenomenon.

You’d think I might take it for granted by now but I never do. Sometimes the joy is buried under fatigue, sometimes I may be distracted from it by sad and difficult events, but it is always there. Holy fucking shit, I think, I can’t believe I actually know these guys! Let’s take, for example, today’s three artists and their label boss: Eddie is a relatively new acquaintance but we hit it off during his recent visit to post-industrial Yorkshire and his music is terrific, the presence of Andy or Kev at an event will always draw a big grin from me as I look forward to the evening’s performance and conversation and my continuing bromance with Dan is the talk of the no-audience underground. But this isn’t a sniffy elite of insiders. If you don’t already know them you can just say hello, buy a CD-r, express an interest, like them on facebook and all that. No-one will mind, they’ll say ‘hello’ back. Amazing isn’t it?

All three of these discs/downloads are marvellous and will enormously enrich your day should you let them.  SLI marches on: Dan works fast, keeps the product cheap and the design functional so he can expend all remaining effort on quality control.  It shows.

Listen/download/buy here.

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