(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

alien menagerie: rfm catches up with oracle, kevin sanders, north east noise and shoganai

August 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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ErosM – Demo II (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE97)
La Mancha Del Pecado – Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE99)
Crown of Bone – Children of the Corn, a Tribute (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE100)

Seth Cooke / Kevin Sanders – split (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 25, or download)
Kevin Sanders – heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”) (hairdryer excommunication, download)
Petals – Salivate Stone (tape, Dirty Demos, edition of 30)

Suburban Howl/Mutant Ape – split (tape, Turgid Animal)
Sindre Bjerga – foreign tongues (tape, Matching Head, mh195)
Culver/Xazzaz – split (tape, Matching Head, mh196)

The Truth About Frank – Live 10/04/13 Hogwash 6 Fox and Newt Leeds (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 310513 (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 121012 (self-released download)

Shoganai –  ショウガナイ (self–released download)

shoganai

Eagle-eyed readers will have noted that since joining the organisation in May RFM’s new staffers Scott McKeating and Joe Murray have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting.  As they frolic – sweating, bare chested, rearranging the rockery in the grounds of Midwich Mansions – I close the window to avoid breathing in their heady, powerfully erotic musk.  There, behind closed curtains in the cool darkness, I mumble into the whisper-ma-phone that links my property to Idwal Towers and discuss possible sightings of an absent muse with Uncle Mark.

She was here until recently: the Summer season has seen (*ahem*) ‘major’ articles by me about Lucy Johnson, Robert Ridley-Shackleton and the purported golden age of internet-enabled uber-punk amongst other things, a dozen (re)releases plastered up on the midwich Bandcamp site and the publication of the first two issues of North Leeds most popular noise/art microzine The Barrel Nut with much more to come.  Not bad, eh?

And yet… in the face of a review pile of over thirty items, some received more than two months ago, I feel guilt-stricken.  It’s an oddly masochistic response as I have every reason to take things at my own pace.  This is ‘only’ a ‘hobby’ after all and I have, to put it mildly, a lot on.  However, it still pains me to see quality pile up whilst I don’t have the energy to attend to it.  Leaving aside my own musical fumblings, writing is how I pay my way but, despite being thrilled by a lot of what I am hearing, my organs of musical appreciation are currently worn to sorry nubs, my powers of whimsical metaphor generation flummoxed.

So what to do?  It don’t seem right to sleep on so much good stuff so I’m going to embark on a desk/head clearing news round-up and see what happens.  I apologise to those kind enough to submit their work recently – you may not be getting the 1000 word flight of fancy you were perhaps hoping for – but I call on the discerning readership of this flagship blog to do their duty and check this gubbins out.

crown of bone

First then: RFM offers heartfelt congratulations to our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez and his comrade-in-arms Pablo Mejia on the occasion of the hundredth release from their netlabel Oracle.  A remarkable achievement, an admirable dedication.  Number 100 itself is Children of the Corn, A Tribute by Crown of Bone.  From the off this is ruthlessly pummelling – watch where you have the volume set prior to pressing play – and until a change of direction in its final minutes (during which the soundtrack of the film that inspired it is sampled, I’m guessing) is like screaming into a hurricane.  You already know if you like this kind of thing – check it out if you do, it’s a great example.

Other noteworthy recent releases include Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer by Miguel’s own La Mancha Del Pecado.  This is a feature length (96 minutes!) rumbling drone which sits static in a culveresque way, like some machinery of war idling as a mechanic fine tunes the engine, before exploding with speaker-challenging bass in an all too short final section.  I was so amused by this that I imported the file into Audacity and, as expected, the wave form looks like something that you’d use to unblock a sink, or bash someone over the head with.  At the other end of the spectrum we have a four track, 21 minute EP titled simply Demo II by ErosM.  This music is sombre and delicate, weighty and expressive.  It shows discipline, ambition and a seriousness of intent that makes its short running time all the more remarkable.  Those of you into Geordie drone/noise should be tempted across the Atlantic to pick this one up.

seth and kev outsideseth and kev inside

Closer to home, we find a split release on hairdryer excommunication featuring field-recording-based tracks by label boss Kevin Sanders and bearded polymath Seth Cooke.  I’m saying nowt about Seth’s effort here because (spoiler alert) I’m going to proclaim his genius (again) in a soon come review of his latest for Sheepscar Light Industrial.  Kev’s ‘side’, a piece of augmented atmospherics titled ‘Eight aisles (for Truro Court)’, brought on an irresistible attack of vanity on my part as I thought I could hear the influence of my very own ‘eaves’ in its construction.  It’s a largely domestic recording buzzed up with accompanying fuzzy drift.  I put on a Christmas cracker paper crown saved for such occasions, proclaimed myself King of Drone and strutted up and down the hallway.  Then I listened to his latest work, heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”), four tracks of entirely lovely, glittering brilliance constructed from nothing but a ukulele and a fuzz pedal.  I was, all joking and whimsy aside, moved.  Once I’d finished gawping I tore up my pathetic headgear in a fit of jealous rage.

petals - salivate stone front

Also well worth getting hold of is Salivate Stone by Petals, Kev’s usual nom de plume.  This tape has been released in a perilously limited edition by Dirty Demos and comes lovingly cocooned in a bed of tissue paper within an oversized case.  The content is spring-loaded, high tension, balanced, held by the slightest of catches.  Spiralling screws lift a heavy vibe upwards whilst friction heats the barely greased moving parts until they throb and grind against one another.  Birds tweet.  Clearly, he is the King.

suburban howl-mutant ape sleevesuburban howl-mutant ape tape and insertculver-xazzaz mh196

Whilst I’m on interestingly packaged noise tapes, I have to mention the Suburban Howl / Mutant Ape split on Turgid Animal.  Here you will find two sides of unnerving catharsis housed on a neon orange cassette safety-pinned into a hessian bag painted in camo colours (shades of TG’s industrial 7″s) and accompanied with an exquisite mini-comic detailing a suicide by self-butchery.  The object as a whole has a satisfyingly doom-struck, hopeless aura.  Two new tapes on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head label are dressed in his standard livery of black and white sleeves with the minimal information provided typewritten by hand.  The Culver / Xazzaz split sees Lee’s giant robot square up to Mike’s lizard monster in a contest to decide who wins the North East.  An honourable draw is the all-too-predictable outcome and both end up side by side, content to stamp on the false noise pretenders that dare challenge them.  foreign tongues by Sindre Bjerga documents three involving live sets from his travels in 2012.  Has he now got something released on every noise micro-label in the world?  He can’t be far off.

Others are content to release their own live stuff.  I know nothing about The Truth About Frank other than what can be gleaned from their Bandcamp site but suffice to say that a friend of Hogwash, that is the admirably eclectic and regular experimental music evening hosted by Dave, Noah and Benbow, is a friend of radiofreemidwich.  My own single figures was recorded at one of their gigs.  TTAF’s set is a three stage affair – a shuffling beat, looped, layered barely intelligible voices, orchestral stabs to finish – that I found engaging and entertaining.  They don’t try and do too much in their twenty minutes, each idea is allowed time to breath.  They also submitted a bonkers photoshop collage to The Barrel Nut #2 – guys, check your email!  I’m waiting on a postal address so I can send you a few paper copies!

charles dexter ward

Also to be found on Bandcamp are two live sets by Charles Dexter Ward performed at the Cumberland Arms and Morden Tower respectively, both to be found in that Newcastle I keep going on about.  These pieces are beautiful.  There is fuzz tone shimmer with enough bite to chew your ego to mush.  There are chopped and filtered loops heavy enough to anchor the vibe yet sinuous enough to let the groove flow and build.  They do the thing that a successful live recording must do: make you wish you’d been there.

Finally, then, we have the album of the year.  Well, maybe – it is certainly a contender.  ショウガナイ by Shoganai was one of those out of the blue ‘hi, let me introduce myself, would you like to hear my album?’ surprises that makes this ‘job’ such a joy (the cover is the pic that heads this article).  The fella behind this project, remaining semi-anonymous for his own reasons, has produced a piece of work so ambitious and accomplished that the fact that it is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from that Bandcamp left me stupefied.  More evidence of the golden age, should it be needed.

Some details: your download will contain nine tracks spanning 41 minutes.  These episodes are clearly the product of a single aesthetic but vary in construction.  There is computerborne surrealism, the programme code distorted by a horseshoe magnet ordered from the Acme catalogue, there is deep-fried tropical psychedelia the like of which wouldn’t be out of place on a Space Victim or AshNav album, and there is the cooing and squawking of an alien menagerie, recorded rooting and strutting about the forest floor on a distant, poisonous world.

I’m imaging (the muse! she returns!) one of these creatures sitting patiently in a tree, humming and carving intricate patterns in the bark with an impossibly sharp talon.  Earlier it was furious having found itself caught in a snare – the indignity!  It freed itself immediately, of course, and is now waiting for the return of the witless hunter that set the trap.  The unsuspecting fool is going to be disembowelled for his trouble.  The creature trills to itself, musically…

…and on that happy note, I call ‘enough!’  Plenty of links within the body of the article – go hear for yourselves.

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