(another) fortnight with lee and miguel, part two: conspiracies

February 12, 2014 at 9:36 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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culver & la mancha del pecado – collaboration 3 (tape, At War With False Noise, ATWAR140, edition of 50)

culver & la mancha del pecado – collaboration 4 (CD-r, Turgid Animal)

culver & la mancha del pecado – collaboration 5 (tape, Narcolepsia)

The Dead End Street Band / La Mancha Del Pecado – El Mercado De Las Brujas (CD-r, Agorafobia Tapes, #25)

Crown of Bone / La Mancha Del Pecado – split (CD-r, Agorafobia Tapes #26/Occult Supremacy OSP040)

the collects & culver – untitled (tape, Matching Head, mh203)

la mancha - culver - collaboration 3culver - la mancha - collaboration 4

OK, see part one for an extensive preamble.  This second half showcases a bunch of Lee and Miguel’s collaborations and split releases.

—ooOoo—

Firstly, the ongoing team-up between our two heroes sees their powers squared by being combined.  Three more products:

#3 is the final moments of a desperate refugee attempting to escape certain death by clinging on to the landing gear of a passenger jet.  As the aeroplane climbs to cruising altitude, and hypothermia takes hold, this doomed soul hallucinates he is entering a kind of aviation heaven.  The roar of jets, the ‘whup-whup’ of rotors, the burrr of propellers all condense into a single throb carrying him upwards.  This pulse fades along with his own and a slow-picked refrain on acoustic guitar mourns the frozen.

#4 is a single 48 minute long track in three movements.  First is the chugging clatter of a damaged piston furiously rattling its housing as the engine it is part of belches out acrid black smoke.  Secondly, great swathes of the sound are blown away by a cooling wind leaving a rumble as the seemingly broken engine settles, components fusing.  Finally, surprisingly, as it cools the engine bursts back into life in a suicidal last gasp but then – spoiler alert – the piece ends in a relatively upbeat state as the rhythm calms and smoke is replaced with a pleasing iridescent glow.  It is a genuinely unexpected conclusion.

#5 is 38 minutes of scouring radio static as heard in the cockpit of a single propeller aeroplane surveying the bomb damage inflicted by Wehrmacht Lombardo’s war machines.

All great.

dead end street - la mancha - split

I know Miguel is proud of this one ‘cos it’s his tape label Agorafobia’s first transatlantic split: The Dead End Street Band hail from exotic Newcastle.  Their track, ‘Night of the Bloody Apes’, has the greasy, queasy electronic pulse that made the best of first wave industrial music such uncomfortable listening.  It also adds a viscous layer of inescapable stickiness.  At twelve minutes long it is the perfect length to lure an unsuspecting fly into the monkey cup…

The La Mancha track, ‘Raza Crapulienta’, has a forward motion I am tempted to describe as ‘roaring’ but in this case ‘gushing’ might be more accurate.  There is a wetness to the torrent that suggests subterranean rivers coursing through pitch black limestone caverns.

crown of bone - la mancha - split

It took me a while to warm to ‘The Chapters of Judas’ by Crown of Bone, their contribution to this split release.  At first it seemed too fierce for my tastes, too easily described with clichéd adjectives such as ‘harsh’, ‘relentless’ etc.  I was won round by its ridiculous, visceral, irresistible momentum.  At around the 16 minute mark pedals are stamped on which adds variation to the blowtorch ferocity.  With a few minutes to go we are transported instantaneously into the centre of a black mass before the noise returns just as suddenly to play us out.  I don’t listen to this type of stuff very often but I would if more of it was like this.

The La Mancha track, ‘Helena’, is an example of that super-advanced music for alien races that I mentioned in part one.  To feeble ears attached to feeble brains like ours it sounds like metal played by a flock of drunken geese.

collects and culver

…and finally we have the collaboration between Culver and mysterious, new-name-to-me The Collects.  Scott McKeating, the omniscient third voice here at RFM, reckons this is the best of the latest crop.  His verdict, pulled from the pneumatic tube system we use for office communication, is:

shit hot

…which is undeniable.  The cauldron of boiling black liquid provided by Culver is what you might expect, I guess, but a spell is cast by the carefully chosen ingredients tossed into the mix.  There is insectoid filter whine, viscera-rearranging generator throb and reedy, fluting near-melody amongst the other earthy and unplaceable flavours.  Stepping away from the witch’s brew metaphor and into the suburban living room, I am reminded (again) of the little girl in the film Poltergeist, speaking to voices only she can hear via a detuned television.  The first two tracks of this C30(ish) album, ‘clutch fed’ and ‘you are never going home’, could well be what is heard by her during gaps in the conversation: the background noise of a dead realm.

Given its title – ‘do you remember her last moments?’ – and the bound figure illustrated on the cover, it would be easy to interpret the side-long third piece as some kind of torture-porn soundtrack but who wants to linger on that thought, eh?  Not me.  Instead let’s imagine the Culveresque rumble as the mud colouring a drop of dirty water.  Now put that drop on a microscope slide and take a closer look at its contents.  The uniform dirt is separated into boulders suspended in solution and a teeming ecosystem is revealed, thick with monsters.  This is the noise they make as they strive without sense, unaware of how beautiful and terrifying they are.  Flagella thrust clumsily, cilia ripple rhythmically, translucent blobs are attacked by floating mouths.  It is a grotesquely, magnificently alien scene.

Scott is, as ever, correct.

Matching Head

Agorafobia Tapes / Oracle Netlabel

Turgid Animal

Narcolepsia

At War With False Noise

Occult Supremacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wehrmacht Lombardo – Tyrant (self-released download)

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

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

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

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

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

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

—ooOoo—

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

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

culver - angel obsolete

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

la mancha - raoul valve

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

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

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

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

la mancha - domina

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

wehrmacht lombardo - tyrant

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

For now.  Continued in part two…

Matching Head

Agorafobia Tapes / Oracle Netlabel

Wehrmacht Lombardo on Bandcamp

Molotov

Altar of Waste

Occult Supremacy

wired for sound part 16: culverised

August 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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culver & waz hoola – maps of war (matching head 153)

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado – Trans-Atlantic Harsh Terror Drones (matching head 174)

culver/seppuku – Dedicated To Soledad Miranda (At War With False Noise, atwar043)

Inseminoid – Old Blue Lass (Finite Change)

Two things: firstly, I know the purists will be upset that I’m including mentions of a CD and a CD-r in the previously tape-only ‘wired for sound’ series of articles.  Well, the reason is that Lee Stokoe is so tape that all his releases should come on cassette even if they don’t.  You’ll see what I mean.  Secondly, the Inseminoid cover is even less SFW than those above, so I’m keeping it under the counter.  OK, on with the show…

I sometimes approach a parcel from Lee Stokoe with trepidation.  I don’t pick it up gingerly, expecting it to explode, of course.  What I mean is that, after recognizing the handwriting, I may pause and think ‘whoo boy, am I ready for this?’  This may surprise readers familiar with RFM’s usual fawning reverence when it comes to Lee’s projects, especially Culver.  Is not the arrival of such a package reason for unbridled joy?  Well, not entirely.  Lee’s releases demand concentration, repeat listens, high volume – in a word: commitment.  Taking them seriously is hard work. And I am, dear reader, nothing if not a lazyboned procrastinator.

However, a week or two after plunging into this cold, dark sea I find myself familiar with the tides and currents at work and am able to safely tread water over these murky depths.  Last week I caught myself thinking: ‘great, that Inseminoid album is just the right length for the commute to work.’  I had achieved a familiar state of mind: a sort of meditative conviction (temporary, but sincere when held) that Lee’s work makes everything else seem like irrelevant frippery, decadent and unnecessary.  I had been culverised.

So how does he do this?  There is a working method common to most of these releases and, indeed, to many other Culver albums.  Lee starts with some kind of triggering sound – an anxious whine, a slow throb, a surprisingly delicate tape-loop – then erodes it to nothing, dissolving it in corrosive waves of entropic noise.  This noise is almost exclusively bass-heavy rumble, a slow-motion fire.  Usually the only treble is the ubiquitous tape hiss accounted for, quite deliberately, in the composition and as much an instrument as the guitars and keyboards that, presumably, supply the rest.  So there is a beginning, but no middle, and not even an end as such – you get 30-45 minutes then it stops.  No crescendo, no satisfyingly complete thematic variations, no cathartic release.  Nothing straightforwardly ‘musical’ at all.

That is not to say it is featureless.  On first or second listen, especially if you aren’t prepared to be disciplined, it sounds like being on a double-decker bus idling at a junction.  Your patience and concentration are rewarded, however, as changes in tone and texture reveal themselves.  Like a giant sturgeon moving slowly, and apparently without effort, at the bottom of a lake.  Like waking in a seemingly pitch-black room and gradually distinguishing objects as your eyes adjust to the dark.

And it is dark.  When Nietzsche said: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” (from Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146, 1886 – God bless Wikipedia) he forgot to mention that as well as gazing back this is the noise the abyss will be making.  This is the soundtrack to a horrifying, Lovecraftian existentialism: the universe is unimaginably hostile, not in intention – it has none, but in its utter indifference.  The affectlessness is what is so frightening.

Interestingly, and in my humble opinion, this poses a problem for Lee’s visual style.  His aesthetic is derived from his interest in the transgressive.  He is, for example, a student of exploitation cinema and the packaging of his releases is informed by his love of horror film and, increasingly, the pre-internet history of pornography.  This leads to covers that are, at best, unnerving abstract collages or, at worst, the kind of morally dubious filth that a family blog such as this forces you to click on surreptitiously.  My contention is that associating this music with this imagery is simply unnecessary.  Five minutes in its company will convince you of its seriousness and all the porn does is cheapen the impact; it actually distracts you from the blankness which is its ultimate strength.  I dunno what Lee can do about this, of course, and how he wants to wrap his stuff is entirely up to him.  For what it’s worth, I like his graphics anyway.

There is a similar problem for Lee’s collaborators.  He features on many split releases – two of the four above, for example – and the question for the non-Culver half is always: how do we compete with the abyss?  Take Seppuku, featured on the excellent At War With False Noise CD (trainspotter note: the title given above comes from the AWWFN website and is nowhere mentioned on the release itself).  Their sound is monstrously heavy – a grisly hybrid of doom metal and power electronics – and terrific stuff on its own terms.  However, compared to the preceding half-hour of Culver it appears childishly theatrical.  Camp, even.  ‘Hush with all the screaming,’ I found myself thinking, ‘don’t they know I’ve just stumbled out of the Total Perspective Vortex?’  La Mancha del Pecado fares better as the B-side of the amusingly titled ‘Trans-Atlantic Harsh Terror Drones’ (nice bit of self-parody there) by, well, sounding more like Culver.

The two collaborative recordings are just as arresting.  Maps of War is by Lee and Waz Hoola, head honcho of Infinite Exchange records and the evil genius responsible for my favourite drone piece of recent times.  Both parts are built around a sly, slow throbbing which adds an interesting rhythmic element to the ominous rumbling.  Wholly involving.

Inseminoid is a duo of Lee and George Proctor of Mutant Ape and Turgid Animal.  Track one follows the Culver blueprint outlined above: triggering loop, buried in noise, 34 minutes.  However the tonal range is a little wider than usual so you get more of a ‘wall noise’ experience (a term everybody seems to have learnt from As Loud As Possible magazine).  I love the helicopter-blade thwapping, like the soundtrack of a badly loaded film strip punctured by the projector sprockets.  You also get a proper ‘end’ as the last few minutes quiet down and fade out.  Track two appears to have been recorded live, is half the length and slightly more agitated.  The audience is denied a cathartic conclusion by the performance cutting abruptly to a girl-group pop song.  Apologies for not recognising it but I’d guess it was The Sugarbabes as Lee is their most unlikely fan.  I’ll end on that incongruous note…

Matching Head has no website, likewise the mysterious Finite Change.  Try Lee direct: barely legible contact details can be read here.  The Culver/Seppuku split can be had for a mere £5 from At War With False Noise.

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