human knotty complexity : joe murray on katz mulk, daniel carter/george lyle/fritz welch, downer canada and brb>voicecoil

March 27, 2017 at 6:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Katz Mulk – Katzenungen (Sacred Tapes)

Daniel Carter, George Lyle, Fritz Welch – So Long Farewell Repair live at The Glad Cafe (Iorram Records)

Downer Canada – Snarl like a Poem (Power Moves Library)

brb>voicecoil – Cloth White Skin (Muza Muza)


katz mulk

Katz Mulk – Katzenungen (Sacred Tapes) C30 Cassette


A new project from N-AU stalwarts Ben Knight, Ben Morris and Andrea Kearney* should make the most cynical of listeners burp – but I can report back from my comfortable trench that Pepto Bismol is not, repeat not needed.  This Mulk slips down easy as sherry trifle.



Knight continues his imagineer work for a darker-Disney building a domestic palace of half-song and chant.  He adds delicate plonks with increasing grace and moves the air with a palm, then a knee.  And Morris knits these materials into a thread-bare tapestry that celebrates the tiny, the small and the microscopic. Kearney provides the graphic score…

katz mulk 2


Side one: truth bandits, engaging rumble of an outboard motor, the squished goose honk of decaying electronics and wet hiss of traffic.  A voice says ‘squeal, squeal’, a bell rings and tinfoil gets crushed underfoot, a plate spins. Alligator goodbyes!

Side two: roar of a space heater, hectic metallic scrape, a voice battles sense against ripped rubber electronics, taped blister pack wrench overlaid by gentle footsteps. The plumber’s mate fouls up the pipes leading to complex knocking (at the7 min 30 second mark) that is both wet and dry, hard and soft, immediate yet attached to memory.

The end is heralded with the kind of repetition pin-ball/gong-strike/marble rolling I could listen to forever.

(iv)Outcome & Impact

The rare art of listening is engaged in this most rewarding of tapes.  I’m guessing this is a patchwork of ‘live’ and ‘studio’ jamz with the idea of sparse pushed through a nozzle, so the language bacteria grows in a dish; the rattles of accompaniment become as real as altitude ear-pop.

One to catch in a butterfly net no matter what!

*a most fortuitous bumping into Andrea enlightens me that her presence on this tape is purely graphic score construction rather than future-ghost player.  But FFW to the planned Katz Mulk disc on Singing Knives coz itsa trio of all-three-players-playing!

carter lyle welch

Daniel Carter, George Lyle, Fritz Welch – So Long Farewell Repair live at The Glad Cafe (Iorram Records) CD

Real-proper JAZZ chips from this sax/piano, double bass, percussion trio and sadly the last ever recording from Glasgow bass-face George Lyle.

The dials are set for human knotty complexity rather than eviscerating fire and that is all super-smashing-great for me.

It’s like this.  My simple mind is pulled in several directions at once.  George saws an undercurrent of resin-soaked wood so it glows like a fire biding its time.  Fritz supplies the sizzle of gentle rain on the griddle – a liquid bada-bing!  Sax sings for the brassy siren then Daniel moves to a dusty piano playing all the in-notes outwards.

But each piece tightens the jewels further, like when you find the bite on an old socket set and each bolt and nut clicks an extra few revolutions.  This is true open-jaw music that plays the lush valleys between the craggy peaks.

Even the most casual listen reveals ear-gems and brain worms: the guilt marimba, felt ravioli all come seeping out a blowhole and begin rolling around my feet.

But weirdest of all, the closing minutes of ‘News Loom’ seem to suck god-save-the-queen backwards over all the rippled sonic scree.  That can’t be right eh?

Shit! What more do you want me to say?  This threesome are impressive enough as lone gadgies but the sum is most definitely more when all those ears and fingers (and feet) get warm and busy.

Bop it!

downer canada full

Downer Canada – Snarl like a Poem (Power Moves Library) CD-r in classy envelope and free digital download

This slim CD-r is packaged between two pieces of thick card and makes me think that the music is being coddled in some way – like it’s a delicate thing that needs protection from my fat, greasy fingers.

But when played ‘Snarl like a Poem’ is surprisingly robust – a full frequency exploration of brushed steel flux and hissing radiators.  It knocks like the ancient plumbing attached to your old head (a gaseous ghost in the pipes, hurtling through copper joints , whipping right and left) until you are not quite sure what’s going on.

And then…a feedback suite; a feeble keening smooth as marble.  Limp Morse that rolls as a cylinder would over a deep ice puddle yet fuzzy at the edges like someone just smeared my glasses with Vaseline – most agreeable!

Tones on the edge of collapse send oily ripples through my ear canal, a lo-tech Eliane Radigue, until things blister, bubble and pop.

Dry mouth sounds… ‘kah’ and ‘schah’ and ‘khow’ reveal dusty language roots.  Is this the lost speech of the sand-encrusted pharaohs?  Or perhaps a sound poet’s secret  library hiss?

What was once ultra-minimal collects the grit of a classic Dictaphone approach with each surface filled and smoothed-over with fizzing huss.

It fills my head with sweet drizzle!


brb>voicecoil – Cloth White Skin (Muza Muza) C25 Cassette and digital download

The perfectly dank sound that joins the dots between classic long-form drone, field recording and musique concrete.

Kev Wilkinson’s bands Drill, Big Road Breaker and the more recent brb>voicecoil, have been stalwarts of the Newcastle noise/drone scene for as long as I can remember. After years of steady, underground activity his brb>voicecoil delighted a whole new generation in a triumphant performance at last year’s TUSK festival.

This cool-looking tape is the next instalment in an epic story.

Using source material recorded over an 8 year period the side-long title track ‘Cloth White Skin’ weaves an arcane industrial process (cast-iron rollers flattening bone fragments / blast furnace being stoked with terrible energy / huge tumbling spikes) with the spluttering of cold liquid metal and the distant thunder of Xipe Totec .

But it’s not all spitting-bluster.  The final short movement is an introspective shudder, a ‘someone’s-just-walked-over-my-grave’ uneasiness of rusty tin slowly coming to rest.

The itchy rhythm of ‘Crack Vessel’ mimics exactly the enamel rattling of a child’s tooth in a jam jar.   The accompanying offset, slopped-shunts of sound remind me of dancers limping after brutal rehearsals, all sore toes, ripped calves and swollen ankles.

The closer, an aptly named ‘Vent 2’ treats us to a Heath-Robinson industrial scene.  Grey gas escapes under enormous pressure from cracked terracotta pipes.  The hullabaloo flips a series of leather coated buttons to perform an organic, irregular beat.  The surrounding soundscape is crisp with busy electric crackles and fades into one lone drummer drumming.

A taste of the grim future?  Automation gone loco?

Regard the prophetic warnings of brb>voicecoil!

Sacred Tapes

Iorram Records

Power Moves Library

Muza Muza


a frame to mark the edges: joe murray on akke phallus duo, pascal nichols, thf drenching, human heads

October 2, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Akke Phallus Duo – An Insatiable Demand for Tea (Devastation Wreaked By) (tape, tanzprocesz, tzpCS44)

Pascal Nichols and THF Drenching – Moth of Spring (self-released download)

Human Heads – Triggers (tape, tanzprocesz, tzpCS43)


Akke Phallus Duo – An Insatiable Demand for Tea (Devastation Wreaked By)

Insomnia is curdling my body’s precious fluids.  Beaten down by sleep deprivation I get up out of bed and unwrap another glorious release from the Akke Phallus Duo: equal parts Jon Marshall (Nose/Gracchus/Bull/Thumbs) and Ben Morris (Lost-Chora-Wax).  It’s 3.00 am and I know sleep will only coquettishly tease me from now on so I screw ear-buds into my swollen canals and clear my sinus of thick glotts.  My mind flits back and forth between dull domestics and high-art theorising.  This might be a bumpy ride…

A quick note on construction for all you lab techs: these taped sounds were sent between mainland China and hilly Sheffield and back again (and back again) in a game of reverse ‘pass-the-parcel’.  Stamps were soaped for sure as each skronk and hum is carefully folded numerous times around the seed of a zesty idea.

If you’re thinking thin tissue paper scrunched around pebbles and smeared with goose fat – you are totally right!

But beware.  This is no, ’chuck it all in and see what sticks’ meta-collage but a painterly seascape with a steady hand, an eye for colour and bold, manly texture.  As food seems to be a reference for these chaps it’s time to take those elbows off the table.  But what’s first on the menu? Why it’s delicious, ‘Black Plum and Vinegar Blues’, sour as umeboshi but not bitter at all.

The themes that emerged in my sleep-damaged skull included the slo-mo creak of a giant clam opening.  Sea-moss ripping; organic tendrils snapping under intense pressure.  A gush of stagnant, foul water jettisoned.  The gibber of the tiny idiotfish aid the greasy comedown.

I soon realize that headphones are a must here as the dead hippie electronics take more a central role than in any of the other Akke Phallus jams I have heard before.

These irregular instruments (sampler, keyboards, cassette, throat trampoline and contact mic) perform a cyber-blues, a hillbilly Dalek jug-band hootenanny.  The crackle of transistors and resistors smashes the digital and becomes fleshy fibres.  Components get all melted down into source code corruption.

A case in point is ‘tide-sluiced soup’, which comprises a gradual distillation process refining sound to form little more than pure thought.  Imagine a robot’s mind collapsing due to a paradox in Asimov’s three rules of robotics.  That’s it!  White lubricant dribbling out an ‘ear’ completes the picture.

The thigh bone honk and demented wooden clonk of ‘Kendal Black Drop’ echoes the stark bleakness of the Lake District in freezing hail.  Picture the loneliness of the solitary cairn, the dry fellowship of rounded rocks.

In the war of organic versus inorganic, flesh becomes rigid steel and metal spreads as soft as butter.  The Akke men have leapt the wormhole with this one and beamed back an acoustic postcard from someone’s future.

You just gotta hold out hope it’s ours.

moth of spring

Pascal Nichols and THF Drenching – Moth of Spring

Recently Drenching’s ‘gone and done an Aphex’ and stuck butt-loads of his old stuff on Bandcamp for us cheapskates to check out, fondle and coo over.  The ever generous Drenno has slid a cheeky newbie in here too.  Chocks away.

Each finger-pop, tapebox ‘click’ and salty-contact crackle from ‘Moth of Spring’ is captured in voodoo fidelity on this exercise in extreme micro-sound.  THF is joined by the one and only Pascal Nichols, part-wild drummist of choice for the ‘FUH’ generation who leaves his sticks in his back pocket to concentrate on microphone and objects.  DRNCHNG’s Dictaphone hub-bub rings clear and true.

Gosh… these are frazzled jams, bubbling like claret-red blood through a vein.   They come in three moth-like servings (studio/live/studio) with the constant rattle of a true-born fidget.  It’s dry as a cracker, brittle even in parts, reminding me that fine delicacy is often created from industrial process: Nottingham Lace or Brandy Snaps being useful examples. Whatever the manufacturing formula, the powerful arms of these rhythm men crochet a fine mesh of mauve meaning.

Balance and structure become calibration points, a measurement on one axis correlates to the other plotting a classic bell curve.  For some reason this brings to mind Cornell’s cluttered boxes as a type of neatness and hobo-logic emerges from the bristly chaos.

At other times I pick up the clean, fresh sound of ball bearings scooting round a copper bowl, a perfect sauce to the cultish moaning that adds the gravel of despair to an otherwise joyous occasion.

The live piece, full of iron rich canker and grot is removed through one layer of experience.  I found myself sitting up in bed, leaning forward slightly to help approximate the O2 hit of seeing this flesh-like.  The rattle is moister and burps gas in places.

Nichols and Drenching buckle the Jazz convention – when a piece is realised live, before an audience, you speed that mother up, all the better to show off them greasy chops no doubt.  These jokers carefully create a musty lagoon to paddle your ears in.  It’s a damn sludge workout man!  Can I say Stoner Rock?  Oops… just done it.  Imagine them Electric Wizards hunkered over Dictaphones and table electronics, beards bristling, hair flying.  But these moth-riffs are loose to the point of disintegration.  The great heaviness of hiss and extended drones pile on the pressure until it is bathysphere tight.

THC Drenching & Redeye Nichols: the sweet relief of not getting picked for the football team.


Human Heads – Triggers

Welcome to the gentle world of Human Heads where ‘barely a whisper’ pillow-talks onto your hot cheek making your ears sing like a high-tension cable.  The keys (mainly played by Hannah Ellul) bump low and slow, relaxed and poised.  The voices (mainly chanted by Ben Knight) plumb a negative zone of reality, a psychedelic domestic where Lambkin spikes Pebble Mill with beige Mandelbrot.

Found sound, this collage of transmission spoons tiny verbal details, a patchy dog for instance, until a brittle beat gets all the d.i.s.c.o deliberately scooped out.  With the euphoria removed we’re left with a gritty dancefloor and bleak escapism – hell to live with but delicious to observe.

The sellotape ripping over kettle whistles mimics the lonely sound of wandering from room to room forgetting what you came in for.  Mind-wipe as chart position strategy versus untranslatable vocoder raps?

Boom… you had me at the first manipulated language tape.

Extended field recordings kick off side B.  And rather than drop a geographical anchor (even though we are pointed quite squarely at Munich) the sense of place drifts, it smears itself across the map dislocating from regular reference points.  The ‘hish’ of smooth concrete floors is dusty as the afternoon sun.

Some of the text here is appropriated from a similar place to the UNSMOOTHMAKING.  New rhymes and anti-rhymes, fresh as new minimalism, are fetched up.  Like those Young Marble Giants the Human Heads take space and place it carefully like white paint, a border, a frame to contain the action.  For what is life without a frame to mark the edges?

Well reader, I’m spent.  I’ve got to turn in for the fag-end of the night but one last Sherlock explodes in my head-pan.  Five of these six artists dwelling within these projects are Manchester based.  Well fancy that, it’s like that Roses/Mondays jiggery all over again.  Yet I’ll wager no one called Drenching baggy recently!

Double dare you.



THF Drenching

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