stress of speech: joe murray sings along to emblems of cosmic disorder, pascal nichols

September 4, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Karl M V Waugh – 5 Alarm Systems / Songs About Choir Boys (CD-r and text prosody poems in document file, Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)

dogeeseseegod / The Zero Map – Split (tape, Emblems of Cosmic Disorder, unspecified limited edition)

Kosmos 954 – IX V IV (CD-r in hand made cover, Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)

Binnsclagg – 23 (CD-r, no label)

Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House (LP, Discombobulate, BOB003, edition of 250, ‘on frozen puddle coloured vinyl’ as Joe would have it)

Songs About Choir Boys-5 Alarm Systems 1Songs About Choir Boys-5 Alarm Systems 2

Karl M V Waugh – Songs About Choir Boys / 5 Alarm Systems

Like many folk I’m slightly aroused by office stationery [Editor’s note: too right – I’m still banned from Rymans].  There’s something about the clear usefulness of envelopes, pens, polyvinyl packets that’s so darn satisfying.  So it was with trembling hands I slice open the latest package from our esteemed editor; a selection of goods from new ‘boutique’ label Emblems of Cosmic Disorder.

A slim document file, the kind of thing you’d find in any dusty HR department, houses a neat CD-R in a clam case and several pages of closely typed text.

I check out the disc (‘songs about choir boys’) first.  This 20 minute piece has three distinct sections:

  • Cluttered junk noise collage – echoed pings, guitar scratch knitting itself tighter and tighter.  Balloon squeak adds a slivery ripple.
  • Domestic vocal psychedelic – “What valley?” Bus-travel-noise, digital avalanche, granular fractals etc. “I’m gonna go out now.”
  • Electric Balalaika heard through the fog of war, Austrian glitch and heavy pastries.

The editing is sharp, each distinctive piece flows nicely like egg yolk through new copper pipes.  Not a leak in sight!

I take out the poems (‘5 alarm systems’) and give them a bash.  On a first reading these short pieces come across like some fractured stream-of-consciousness narrative…

“Diamond scratching on the inside of my scalp.”

Or

Duncan Harrison refuses to fight Johnny Liron and everyone’s oxygen supply is depleted.”

Pretty heady stuff, ya dig?  Like reading old Bananafish magazines through a gin hangover or something.  But closer inspection of the handy press release states these are prosody poems; a term I have never come across before.  A quick google search tells me…

Prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance (statement, question, or command); the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of language that may not be encoded by grammar or by choice of vocabulary.

OK…I get it.  It’s all about how the poem is read.  So I heave myself from the comfortable armchair and gracelessly unfold to my full (and rarely realised) six foot three and read these darn things loud and proud.

The neighbours curtains twitch, the kids giggle, Mrs Posset asks if I am feeling well.  The answer is a boisterous ‘YES’.  In fact I feel better than ever.  The act of reading is a tonic, a shot in the arm, just the very thing.  And I read on; in trembling baritone.  The intensity and vigour leaves me glowing like a Victorian lady.

I wonder if these excellent poems are to be read along with the music?  There are no instructions in the envelope to the contrary so I take matters into my own hands and rig up the gramophone to record and play and hawk out money scam intake collection [Editor’s note: click to hear a one minute rendition – self-embedding journalism, that] for kicks.

Even if this was never K.M.V. Waugh’s intention the interactive nature of abstract sound and spoken word is a great one: ham & eggs, strawberries & cream.

I urge you to check this one out and popularise as a parlour game for all the family.

dogeeseseegod zero map frontdogeeseseegod zero map back

dogeeseseegod / The Zero Map – Split Tape

There’s some real right brain/left brain stuff going on here on this pocket guide to cosmic disorder.

dogeeseseegod take the knotted tangled path with raw ganglions swaying.  Junked up domestic field recordings get clotted and rubbed up rough with the sound of water (a unifying fixture with dripping tapes, gushing pipes and the steady trickle of piss) running through this whole piece, ‘Tappin ‘Ard O Phiernahe On Rye’.  As I settle in my listening chair I’m picturing some Futurist Opera, the men of dogeeseseegod wrapped in itchy suits as they arrange scrap metal structures to a newspaper score.  Occasionally there’s the rare fizz of melody.  A guitar or keyboard makes a dash out the door with a tune stashed up a tight cuff.  But mainly the sounds are free to roam within the strict structure of the edit.  You’ve seen One Man and his Dog right?  Sort of like that but with sheep being replaced with rude tape blarts and hawking tremors.   Thankfully the electronic effects are kept to a minimum so the pure mung rises to the top of the beaker, ready to be scooped off and fermented; brewed into zingy espresso.

This kinda porridge pot can be hit or miss but I am delighted to say this is breakfast gets a Goldilocks ‘just right’ from me.

The Zero Map set their dune buggy down a smoother, less hectic, route.  The modestly titled ‘Z’ is a meditation.  Pale blue tones float out my cheap-o hi-fi clearly.  They arrange themselves in regular symmetrical patterns that turn in on themselves, forever folding and unfolding across a hidden axis to reveal a thousand-leaved Chrysanthemum glowing with an inner light.  The sound warms up to a pinky-red hue and the slight ‘tap, tok, tap’ of a recurring theme (the decaying ring of a bell with all the attack digitally snipped off perhaps?) rubs my shoulders as I settle deeper into the Chesterfield.   My eyelids droop and I find my 14 year old self perched in front of the TV trying to keep up with Horizon or something.  I’m scrunching my brow over some really complex but beautifully original maths, the slight chemical tang of lemon squash leaving a bright yellow smile on my lips.  The almost spiritual neatness of a Venn diagram, intersecting arcs creating enclosed spaces calms my teenage self into a Zen stillness that rockets through the years anointing my old-guy bristles with Nag Champa.

Kosmos 954 – IX V IV

Kosmos 954 –IX V IV

What’s this?  A live in the studio jam all cut up with a monkey claw?  Yeah man yeah.  It starts with odd honks and the sort of space echo Joe Meek would have pawned his Ouija board for.  And then a scissor cuts and Kosmos 954 draw us into the gloom for some heeds down pub-kraut-rock.  Zoinks!  The edits keep on coming: a rhythmically blocky soundtrack to 80’s handheld game ‘Scramble’ (Kink, kink, kink!) slides into slurring crabs leaving tracks in the sand of mystic Hebrew script ending the ritual with a heaviness worthy of Haikai No Ku. I love to be confused by a record and Kosmos 954 are cheeky mystic monks Ra-Ra-ing like a funky Rasputin.

Binnsclagg – 23

Binnsclagg – 23

More poetry and ‘natural malfunction’ from the South coast.  I’ve been told this is not an emblems release but it bears all the hallmarks; handmade sleeve, ambitious scope and grievous cluttered sound etc.   The lazy blogger would drop names like Graham Lambkin but this is a far more robust beast.  Sure enough, there are browned-off words that melt like dripping but some of the accompanying sound is sharp and glitchy enough to share self space with those Editions Mego jokers.

Things get pretty dark about 14 mins in.  The crystal plumage noise is replaced with matter-of-fact reportage and amplified gibber/gong workshop.  The natural energy of a live improvisation takes over and an end of the pier sample wraps things up nicely in under 25 minutes.

Pascal - Nihilist Chakai House

Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House

Whooosh.  I’m on my way to mighty Manchester with an earbud full of Mancunian musicians making the Megabus the most happening bus on the M62.

Rob has beat me to it, covering the excellent, Getting Nothing to Appear on the Developed Film by The Piss Superstition already.  So, all that I can add to the no-audience dialogue is a breathless “CHECK OUT THE SUICIDEFUZZOUTLIVEATTHEBUDOKANMIGRANE ON THIS SHIT MAN!” to the poor bloke sitting next to me.  He snores on…

The next record in my brace of Manc offerings comes from Pascal Nichols, one half of the wonderful Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides (often abbreviated to tongue-straining acronym PWHMOBS) who are stealthily playing their way into the hearts of the underground.

Here Pascal wallops hollow gourds until they clank and click like a Moondog army marching menacingly through a dark Mardi Gras.

And then…a bagatelle?  Rubber marbles?  The sound of impact folded inward.

In my cloth ears a theme reveals itself.  Cacophony is introduced then tamed…the gradual removal of syncopation reveals the human heartbeat within.  ACTION POINT: A Grandfather Clock is taken apart piece-by-piece – a military ‘tick / tok’ resolutely strict and stiff-upper-lipped morphs seamlessly into an allotment shuffle; muddy tools being hung in racks by knotted hands.

A dry ‘thwock’ repeats.  Micro spaces click sticks.  Did I just hear a sneaky ‘Moonlight on Vermont’ snare ripple?  The stick clicks continue and seem to say ‘hatchback’ in the language of the trees.  Bees are waxed for sure…you can smell the yellow howl of varnish all over the ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing.

Soon a knitting machine of Patrick Woodroffe proportions rattles pennies in a jar.  Each bronze disc placed with a trajectory planned by a master’s hands.

This is a glorious and life-affirming record.  The joy of playing is evident in every snare swish and cymbal brush.  Share the spirit of adventure…let the love in!

—ooOoo—

Emblems of Cosmic Disorder

Discombobulate

meditative anarchy: releases from tor press

January 26, 2014 at 5:30 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 7 Comments
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The Zero Map – Cerebrum Paté (CD-r, Tor Press, TORCD04, edition of 60, lino print cover)

Plurals – Debasement (CD-r, Tor Press, TORCD03, edition of 100 with three lino prints)

Ignatz / Sophie Cooper – Split (tape, Tor Press, TORCAS005, edition of 75)

Hellvete / Jake Blanchard – Split (tape, Tor Press, TORCAS006, edition of 75)

The Zero Map - Cerebrum Pate

Blimey, you lot have woken from your winter hibernation pretty sharpish, eh?  After throwing off the bear skins and shaking out the grass matting the first thought in the groggy collective mind of the no-audience underground seems to have been ‘must… send… parcel… to… Rob…’ or ‘nnnghhhh – download code for RFM!!’  Thus a review pile that had been diligently reduced to single figures during a hyperactive December has, by the end of January, been re-swollen to over forty items.  I ain’t complaining, comrades – far from it.  A skim through the new stuff reveals a level of quality and invention that is noggin-baking.  My only concern is how to do it all justice.  What  a glorious bind to be in, eh readers?  What a privilege to be a creative partner in this collective endeavour!  Anyway, enuff swooning – I better get to work: a few posts to put 2013 to rest, the spring greens of 2014 to follow shortly after.

Today we’ll be looking at four releases on Tor Press, the Todmorden-based record label, zine publisher and gig promoter, run by illustrator Jake Blanchard.  The first of these is Cerebrum Paté (cover above) a thirty-two minute, two track CD-r by The Zero Map, the Brighton based duo of Chloe Wallace and Karl M V Waugh.

I consider this band to be underrated – meaning that Uncle Mark of Idwal Fisher doesn’t like ’em as much as I’d like ‘im to like ’em – but not, of course, here at RFM HQ where they are firm favourites.  On several enjoyable occasions I have pretzelled myself attempting to classify the meditative anarchy of their vibe.  On the surface there is nothing gonzo or discordant apparent.  An augmented drone, or electronic collage, carries you along like a pooh stick on a slow moving stream, flowing over and around some interesting obstacles.  However, the closer you look the more peculiar it gets.  One of those obstructions might be, say, the arm of a shop window mannequin sticking up out of the current, or perhaps some  unknown hand has rearranged the pebbles of the stream bed into a mosaic depicting the face of Philip K. Dick, or maybe some biological agent in the water has turned the orchids in that tree stump blue (aside: Upstream Colour – best film of 2013) and so on…

Suffice to say that the first track, ‘Neutrino Detector’, begins with some nicely intestinal bass and that the second track, ‘A Python’, ends with a visceral crescendo that makes me want to drink blood from the skulls of my vanquished enemies.  In-between times you’ll find plenty of whatthefuckery to flavour your reverie.  Recommended.

Plurals - Debasement

Next is Debasement, a CD-r by the three (or four?) member ‘scattered collective’ Plurals.  The disc is accompanied by three beautiful lino prints, one each by Ben Jones, Tom J Newell and Jake Blanchard, each an interpretation of one of the three tracks that make up the album.  I consider this band to one of the frontrunners in this sport.  Their sound has, for me, a subtle narrative quality that is compelling, exciting and rewarding of repeat listens.  It draws stories out of me.  Like this one:

The first track, ‘Modal Nodes’ is a glorious drone piece, a model of adulterated perfection.  Picture a conical, many-limbed alien creature, nestled comfortably in an indentation on a sandy beach.  Scattered around it are a number of terracotta coloured objects, each of which is picked up and, with a whip of a tentacle, set spinning.  Some of these tops contain whistles, others beads and carved stones, all of which hum or rattle as they rotate.  Luxuriating in the buzz it has created the creature uses half its mouths to join in with ululations and the other half to grin with.

‘Ape Skull Photography’ begins with more insistence – the urgent throb of a distress signal triggered by the captain of an exploration vessel sent to map this new world.  The cause of his alarm is the frightening speed at which his crew have ‘gone native’ since arriving.  The majority can be found scooping out their own hollows and joining in with the alien groove, only to be dragged away by the few left unaffected.  This gathering siren sound begins to blot out the sound of the siren.  Cut to the bridge of a rescue ship sent to investigate.  The crew shift in their seats, uneasily listening.

‘Glowing Generic Diety’ is the final sublimation.  Primed by the smeared-out distress signal the rescuers didn’t stand a chance and succumbed immediately.  The captain can now be found on a nearby riverside, covered in red muck, fashioning his own spinning pots from the clay.  Dozens are drying on the bank behind him.  The rest of the crew are entwined in tentacles, consciousness liquefied in a grotesquely beautiful parody of nirvana.

Heh, heh – how’s that?  Tremendous stuff.

ignatz sophie cooper split

Hellvete Jake Blanchard split

..and finally the two split tapes.  Sadly, they are already sold out and do not appear to have a digital afterlife.  However, I am compelled to mention ’em at least because they are marvellous.

Ignatz, a guitarist from Belgium called Bram Devens, contributes five tracks of outsider blues with an archaeological crust to the recording that suggests Daniel Johnston transported back to the Mississippi Delta of the 1920s.  His playing is raw and immediate but contains passages of disarming subtlety.  His voice is fragile but his delivery has plenty of personality and push.  I have been charmed by these haunting, humorous pieces and invigorated by the lifeforce they exhibit.  One track, ‘Liquorice’, is named for my favourite confectionery too!

Sophie Cooper’s songs here concern absence and displacement and are half submerged in fuzz, echo and lapping ripples of liquid noise.  The atmosphere is maintained beautifully, the medium conveying the message.  ‘Dreamlike’ is an adjective easy to reach for when faced with anything at all diaphanous but, despite an explicit rejection of the notion by Sophie: track four is titled ‘I Never Associate Dreams With Anything’, I think the description fits.  The tidal to and fro between here and distant, me and you, inside and outside has the sort of discombobulating internal logic you might struggle with on waking at 3am.  I recently had the pleasure of seeing her perform live.  Her voice and guitar were accompanied by a filtered flow of taped audio detritus which gave the impression her songs were emerging from a kind of shared, consensual hallucination.  Also, by filling the gaps between songs and thus not providing the usual silence for applause her set was placed firmly in the context of the noise performances that preceded it.  Very smart and very engaging.

The tape shared by Jake Blanchard himself and Hellvete, a guy called Glen Steenkiste, is a meeting of mighty, magical dronezillas.  However, instead of tearing chunks out of each other whilst stamping on the unsuspecting burghers of Todmorden, Jake invites Glen to a campfire party at a beauty spot up on the Pennine tops.  After roasting a few cattle the monsters take turns casting spells to entertain each other.  This isn’t lazy, elbow-on-the-keyboard drone but a glowing, crackling, rolling presence built from ‘real’, sometimes handmade, instruments.  It is beautifully layered and textured and animated by a sparkling and complex soul.  Vibracathedral Orchestra comes to mind, of course, as does Jazzfinger, but replace the incense with the sinus clearing tang of pine resin.  It ain’t all epic, though.  The Hellvete side ends with a charming, tiny, banjo-plucking coda called ‘Op Linkeroever’ (Dutch for ‘On the Left Bank’).  This return to a human scale serves the same take-a-deep-breath purpose as, say, ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’ at the end of Neil Young’s death-of-the-hippy-dream masterpiece After the Goldrush.  If I hadn’t taken so long to get around to this release it would have surely figured in the 2013 Zellaby Awards, so sincere apologies for that.

To conclude: Tor Press is boss.  The attitude exhibited by this outfit is impeccable.  Every aspect of the operation exudes an understated but unmistakeable class.  The content and choice of acts, whilst not always to my exact taste, show an adventurous but coherent vision for the label.  Attention to detail is rigorous and quality control strictly enforced whilst retaining a loose, friendly and collaborative vibe.  The packaging is exceptional – covers and inserts are hand-printed where feasible and beautifully designed with an eye for the aesthetically satisfying.  Jake is, and I do not bandy this term about lightly, an artist.

Should you know anyone unconvinced as to the achievements possible here in the no-audience underground, any fool who uses the term ‘hobbyism’ as an insult, or insists on clutching tatty security blankets like The Wire to their bosom, then point them at labels like this and tell them to shut the fuck up.  Tough love, yeah, but they’ll thank you for it eventually.

Tor Press.

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