sorting the lego part one: soundtracks for graded tasks

November 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Tape Noise – Journey to the Centre of the Worth (tape, self-released, edition of 1?)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton & David Barton – Surge (30 page pamphlet with card covers, ISBN 978-1-907546-52-5)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Nov 8th 2013 (C15 tape, hissing frames)

Ashtray Navigations – axe attack in 3D / unfuck you (tape, Crater Lake Sound, CL004)

Posset – Goose Shat Silver Dollars (tape in hand-stamped cover, Mantile Records, #024 or download)

Posset – the teenage virus (CD-r, chump tapes, chump #6 or bootleg below)

Stuart Chalmers/Nick Edwards – split (tape, Feral Tapes, C60, edition of 80)

tapenoise - journey

As regular readers and correspondents will already know, I am currently off work enduring a nasty bout of depression.  In the past I have written about my history with the illness, its symptoms and its effects on my life – click on the ‘depression’ tag above should you be interested – but not today.  Instead I wish to briefly mention two coping strategies – exercise and the ‘graded task’ – explain how the music of the no-audience underground is helping me with both and offer a few brief accounts of my listening in that context.

Firstly, exercise needs no explanation.  Much as we potatoes are loathe to admit it, getting moving helps with pretty much everything, especially depression.  To adapt Funkadelic: free your ass and your mind will follow.  For me this means walking, mainly around the neighbourhood.  Secondly, the idea of the ‘graded task’ might need a little clarification.  Originating, I think, from the cognitive behavioural therapy side of counselling, ‘graded task’ is used to describe a physical activity that can be completed in discrete, manageable but notable chunks.  The idea being that the job takes you out of yourself for a while, can be scaled according to your energy levels and can be looked back upon when completed with a sense of undeniable achievement: I did that.  For example, when I kept an allotment I dug it over one square metre at a time, currently I am cleaning Midwich Mansions (a series of chores sadly neglected since the baby arrived) and during one particularly debilitating episode a few years ago I ordered a vast collection of second hand Lego from eBay and spent days sorting it all out and bagging it up according to categories of brick.  Whatever, man – it helped.

At the moment my energy levels are such that I cannot rely on physical activity alone to lighten the darkness.  I simply can’t work up the sweat needed to turn my brain off entirely.  Thus I need some help and that is where you lot come in.  Whilst out walking, or doing a chore, I have been accompanied unswervingly by my mp3 player and/or tape walkman and music from the review pile has been keeping me company.  However, it wouldn’t be fair to use your art just as elaborate wallpaper to cover the cracks in my psyche so I have been trying to consider it too.  This has the added benefit of flexing mental muscles that the depression has sat on.  Forming an opinion heaves the fucking thing off me for a second and fans away the fug.  So, in the first of what I hope will be several similar articles, here are some short pieces (with what I was doing whilst listening in parentheses, in italics) about stuff picked more or less at random over the last few days.

OK, firstly I have to apologise to Dex Wright of Tape Noise for sleeping on Journey to the Centre of the Worth (heard as I walked through Gledhow Woods) for months.  It is no reflection on its quality, it just slipped down the back of everything else for a while.  Dex is the outsider’s outsider.  His preferred method of distribution – hand-decorating tapes and recycled inlay cards and selling his warez in editions of (apparently) one on eBay is unique amongst those artists celebrated on this blog.  He seems perfectly content to groove his own way utterly independent of any concern other than the production of his art.  The music herein is his usual mix of first-wave-industrial-style echoing vocals and pattering noise-tronics and all-embracing collage.  There is hard-puffed jazzy flute, chugging rock guitar, snatches of conversation – children playing in the background, squalling electrics, an episode of bass that will balloon your ear canals and a break for some Current 93ish folk/psyche prose poetry.  This might sound garbled but I assure you it is perfectly coherent.  It is all clearly the product of that singular mind to be found shielded by that polka-dot bowler hat.


Next, two items picked at random from the latest wildly generous parcel received from RFM’s other favourite oddity-generator Robert Ridley-Shackleton.  Surge (meditated on in an attempt to clear my head and go to sleep) is a 30 (approx) page A5 booklet containing drawings by Robert and collaborator David Barton.  The former’s pages are like Joan Miró’s Hope of a Condemned Man endlessly reworked in crayon and masking tape, drawn on pages pulled from a recluse’s empty scrapbook.  The latter’s pages contain line drawings of the human form, agitated to the brink of collapse.  Incompleteness and uncertainty are depicted with definite and furious energy.  The honours are shared.

Nov 8th 2013 (heard whilst hoovering the stairs) is a brief noise tape. Side A is mechanical peristalsis with alarms sounding whenever an indigestible lump is passed from duct to duct.  Side B is electrical scouring, like an R2D2 class droid frantically trying to reconstruct its memory after an EMP attack.

ashnav - axe attack

Two live sets (walking in Gledhow Woods again, trip to the pharmacy) by Ashtray Navigations (here mysteriously billed as ‘Ashtray Navigations (l.a.m.f.)’ – I don’t know why) from Autumn of last year.  The first is dominated by an exquisite psyche guitar indulgence that devolves into a deeply satisfying scything drone: whirling blades, molten silver.  The second is a curious beast.  Phil and Mel are joined by Daria Ramone of peerless punksters Etai Keshiki on guitar and by Pete Cann of Half an Abortion and Crater Lake (the label putting this out – buy here) on noise.  Despite beginning with a bellowed ‘1,2,3,4’ this takes quite a while to gel.  In fact it doesn’t really cohere until they give up on cohering and instead surrender themselves to a group freak-out and non-linear crescendo which makes up most of the second half.  Love the underpinning robo-warble.

posset - goose

Goose Shat Silver Dollars by Posset (heard whilst cleaning the bathroom) was a fitting accompaniment to my chores as it appears to be constructed largely from domestic recordings made around the Posset household.  Slow-motion vocals mirror my own strained attempts to follow conversation whilst my brain swirls in the fug.  The plinkplonkiness elsewhere has the same indecipherable feel (to the untutored western ear) as traditional Japanese music.  Indeed, in that context the sounds of liquid – pans being filled?  Teeth brushed? – could well be the lanquid tricklings of a water feature in an oriental garden.

Someone (Derek Bailey?) once complained that the turntable-as-musical-instrument has as limited a range as the bagpipes.  I always thought that this focus on the ‘wick-wick-wack’ scratch noise was missing the point entirely.  The turntablist has a century of recorded music to play with – try matching that by waggling your fingers in the sound box of your guitar, dumb ass.  A similarly incorrect complaint could be made about the dictaphone, Joe’s weapon of choice.  Yes, the skwee and scrubble of pressing-more-than-one-button-at-once is its signature sound, but the dictaphonist also has all audible noise within range of the device potentially in their saddlebag.  Beat that.  You think you are just hearing Joe’s kids chuckle but actually these humble, clever, funny recordings are intimations of infinite possibility!

Hmmm… or maybe I’m just a bit mad at the moment.  One or the other.  Or both.

Anyway, Joe also sent a copy of his CD-r the teenage virus which he created to be given away at the Colour Out Of Space festival (li’l networker, eh?).  It is great stuff and on the insert he insists we are free to bootleg it as desired so, in that punk spirit, here are the four tracks in good quality mp3 format for you to download as you wish.  Help yourselves (descriptions are mine):

  1. the carriage of spirits (possetronic dictamatics)
  2. at the end of the day (snatched recording of pub piano, possified)
  3. learning the restaurant trade (full flowing posset, live set from Bar Loco)
  4. he loves me so (riff on that tear-jerking endurance test by Gavin Bryars)

I’ll not be assessing the split tape from Stuart Chalmers / Nick Edwards (trip to Co-Op for Sunny Start Baby Porridge, Banana flavour, hanging out laundry) as I find myself in word-for-word agreement with Uncle Mark over at Idwal Fisher and you can read his review here.  Though, unlike that shirker, I did at least listen to all of it.  Tut.  In short: Chalmers = terrific, Edwards = not so much.

OK, more as my energy levels allow.

black and white noise, part three: new from fuckin’ amateurs! / chump tapes

May 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 5 Comments
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Posset – “Ear Sungs Of Unfit Eyes” / Basillica – “Casual Curses” (Split vinyl LP, Fuckin’ Amateurs #66, or maybe #69, possibly an edition of 50)

posset – a  grimy minor remembering (CD-r, given away with the above, Chump Tapes #03/Fuckin’ Amateurs! #69(a), or maybe #66(a))

Fuckin’ Amateurs! are the punk-as-fuckest exponents of the photocopier aesthetic. Yeah, they use typewritten text and photo collages but, unlike Lee’s surgically precise efforts, these are created with gleeful abandon, augmented with anarchic scribble and, well, whatever else they have to hand. Attention to detail may not be their uppermost concern, as we shall see, but this quibble is unimportant (to me). Their bubbling and heartfelt enthusiasm is infectious and life-affirming.

The enormous Fuckin’ Amateurs back catalogue mainly documents the noise, psychedelia and improv scene in the North East of England. Unfortunately, much of this catalogue is not ‘available’ in any commonly used sense of the word. Most of these objects are just given away to their mates at gigs, often created without the band’s prior knowledge or, indeed, permission. However, being a vinyl record this might, just might, be something that you can exchange money for.

Yes, you heard: a vinyl record. A prestige, heritage format no doubt, but one I find unwieldy and rarely listen to nowadays. The problem is portability. I do most of my music appreciation via headphones whilst going about my business.  This is obviously not possible with vinyl – instead it feels like I have to make an appointment to hear it. I know it sounds perverse, but having to sit still to listen seems to dampen my critical faculties.  I am envious of Mark over at Idwal Fisher with his high-backed leather armchair, his might-as-well-leave-the-bottle glasses of wine and relay team of scribes, licking their nibs, ready to take down his thoughts on The New Blockaders.  I can’t concentrate in that manner myself.  Anyway, having used another obsolete technology to tape it for repeated walkman consumption I am now happy to attest to its qualities.

The Basillica side, ‘Casual Curses’, is edited with a sledgehammer and recorded with the settings on ‘bootleg’ but is still an undeniably high quality trip.  We begin with ‘Amour’, a single, simple riff repeated with a mesmerising, sunburnt torpor.  This acts as a mood-diverter and scene-setter for what is to follow.  In ‘Blood Servant’, the second and longest track, a beautiful, dreamlike refrain – synth?  pipes?  coo-ed by doves? – bobs semi-submerged in a sea of liquid metal.  Or perhaps it is like coming across an unexpected clearing in the jungle and finding a tribe of brightly painted natives worshipping an enormous jet engine from a crashed 747, its broken blades still whirring and grating despite there being no wind to propel them.  ‘Sans’ and ‘Try To Be Right’ extend the tropical vibe with a languid wah-solo, briefly lifting its head to chug into a riff only to fall back exhausted and stare up at the foliage, defocused into a green smear by the gauze of the mosquito net.

The Posset side, ‘Ear Sungs Of Unfit Eyes’ is a terrific engraving of the dictaphonist’s art.  Four tracks show the versatility of the miniature tape machine, especially when combined with Joe’s dada-magpie sensibility.  Just don’t expect phat bass.  Instead, you get a wheezing, antique iron lung, its mechanical bellows gasping like a bargeman’s knackered accordion.  You hear the chittering of a team of miniscule scientists shrunk by the explosion of a prototype raygun attempting to attract the attention of their colleagues by shouting and climbing onto a microscope slide.  You join a herd of Swiss cattle getting their funk on at a headphone disco.  Their cow bells jangling to a mash-up we can only infer from their dance steps.  Finally, we join Clan Posset as they gather round the camp fire and practice making their own entertainment for when decadent late period capitalism finally implodes and the lights go out.

Accompanying the vinyl LP is a bonus CD-r called ‘a grimy minor remembering’ which, to my delight, turns out to be a ‘greatest hits’ selection from the last few years of the Posset back catalogue.  This would be terrific enough on its own but as a bonus bonus the photocopied cover folds out to reveal an interview with Joe conducted by Scott McKeating (head honcho of Bells Hill and occasional writer for the The Quietus).  Our man explains his love of the Dictaphone, lists a few must-have dicta-oriented releases and gives his own account of the tracks on the vinyl LP.  Essential stuff.

This being a Fuckin’ Amateurs release it is unsurprising that there are a few quibbles one could make about the presentation: the centre labels on the record itself are on the wrong sides, the catalogue numbers are different depending on which insert you look at, ‘Basillica’ is spelt with only one ‘l’ and the following sentence from the liner notes…

had he any idea we were releasing this record, mike would’ve no doubt sent shouts.

…suggests that the thing is at least half-bootleg.  This suspicion was confirmed in a conversation with Mike himself – he was expecting maybe a tape or CD-r at best.  ‘Little tinkers’ was the description used, I think, and Hasan of Jazzfinger also remarked on F#A!’s fondness for trick-playing.  I’m sure that if it was my music that was being appropriated I might be less charmed but, as it is not, it is easy for me to say: ahh… fuck it, more power to the cheeky monkeys.  Also worth noting is that the covers pictured at Visual Volume feature a colour collage pasted on to a black sleeve whilst the copy I have (sent by Joe) came in a white sleeve with John-Bull-Printing-Set style Posseted adornments.  I’ll let discographers more obsessive than me sort it all out.

According to Mike’s Visual Volume blog this record can be had for £8 post paid worldwide which seems v. reasonable.  The email address for enquiries is:  You could also try Joe Posset via ‘cos even if the vinyl is sold out I reckon you could hit him up for the CD-r and dicta-centric interview.

wired for sound part 23: posset and chump tapes

February 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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posset – correct come (chump tapes #01)

Sindre Bjerga & Posset – List of unrefined sweeteners (chump tapes #02)

Ladies and gentlemen, radiofreemidwich is delighted to announce the birth of a new tape and CD-r label.  The proud father is tired but happy, the infant is bonny and in rude health.  Long having resisted the urge, Joe Posset, RFM’s North-East Correspondent, finally crumbled like a stock cube and here he is dirtying his hands with self-released racket.  He describes chump tapes as purely a ‘vanity project’ (his choice of phrase) created mainly so he could have fun manufacturing daft inserts (my chump tapes flyer is a recycled triceratops top trumps card).  He is not, as far as I know, inviting submissions.  However, when your home-grown product is so fine who needs ’em, eh?  I wondered why Joe had been so quiet lately – the reason is, of course, that he has been busy being loud…

Posset’s correct come cassette gets the coveted catalogue number #01 (I love the use of the hash symbol for some reason – seems right) and is a terrific mash of the expected dictaphone madness, with some unexpectedly noisy passages and some downright shocking non-verbal, acapella, vocal improv.  This latter category, dismissed as ‘gurglecore’ by a wit cleverer than me, is usually something that I will cross the road to avoid, but Joe tackles it with such joie de vivre and such awe-inspiring total commitment that the tracks in question are spellbinding.  In fact, such is the ferocity/velocity of his straining, grunting and wheezing that I fear for the state of his undercrackers.  Disarmingly hilarious, sometimes disquieting, often both at once – these are the highlights of a very strong set and possibly my favourite release by Posset until at least the next paragraph.  Joe also wins track title of the year so far with ‘i killed power electronics with my big fucking dick’.

List of unrefined sweeteners is a collaborative project constructed by Joe and the prolific Sindre Bjerga via the heritage method of posting cassettes backwards and forwards between them.  This has all the humour and dada erudition you might wish for but again has some surprisingly heavy passages (see for example the opening of track two: ‘Some sweeteners are made from starch, with the use of enzymes.’).  I’ll let Joe explain:

A new CD-R of Dictaphone mumble and frottage from the titans of micro-cassette mayhem Sindre Bjerga & Posset. Sounds were mailed across the sea so sounds could live again on ferric spools. Vocal mush and groaning rubs rudely against grey hiss, ffw scree, Pipa bling, broke-horn skronk, out-of-tune pucks, Maoist chants and street shatter etc. This is a right dirty listen. Not for fans of order or subtlety.

Indeed so: there is a shout of ‘smash the old world, establish the new world’ at one point, just to underline the pre-revolutionary fervour.  This rabble rousing 20 minutes is available in an edition of 30 so I suggest you get a wriggle on and secure yourself a copy.

Email Joe at and visit the Posset blog here.

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