slow as eels: rfm on various herhalen artists, mudguts, günter schlienz, hawlimann & stricktschek, nautapes #32

December 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen)

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records)

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes)

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes)

Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes)

 herhalen

Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen) Cassette and free digital album

A curious compilation that sits halfway between an all-star remix album and an old-fashioned call and response holla.

The backstory goes like this.  Mark (Concrete/Field) sends a bunch of unfinished, unused but much loved sounds out into the universe and waits for like-minded beards to respond with a reaction.  So what we get is a blur of interpretations and a shimmy of styles from a heady mix of collaborators.

The mood is cautiously optimistic with each collaborator (many new names to me) mining a seam of whistling iron; each piece separate in rusted glory but tied together with strong metallic links.

Cauterized bounce silver balloons with bright electric sparks.  It takes Descent to riff on the itchy scratch favoured by high priests Zoviet:France.  Air bubbles are released into the blood by Elricj with a turkey wishbone used as a funky clave.

What’s this?  A shimmering John Carpenter-style synth all trussed up in black leather? Ladies and gentlemen – introducing Amantra.

We go back in time with Wound’s piece sounding like it was composed on a Casio calculator watch (circa 1987) – a river of bleep.  Then race to the here-and-now for Matt Warren’s Styrofoam rummage and one finger keyboard bee-drone.

RFM fave Kek-W on the brilliantly titled ‘A Fax from Phillip Glass’ creates exactly that.  Four organs battle the inhuman squeal of redundant technology.  Libbe Matz Gang bring the gritty howl they are well known for in these parts.  But watch out! Scutopus’ almost 6 min drone is crispy pancake – not filled with boiling cheese and ham but gently sculpted and rough to touch. Wizards Tell Lies, another scorched earth outfit, juggle tangled loops and fine, filigree crackle.

The gloriously named artist Nude for Satan seem to be riffling through the Necronomicon while listening to copper pipes being clanged (on leaky headphones).

Classy Draaier ends the recording on a tasteful note.  A foamy sea drawing itself through smooth pebbles as the heavens dance overhead.

A perfect balm for this most abrasive of seasons.

mudguts flower girl

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records) Cassette and digital album

Ghostly power-duo Mudguts (Lee Culver on sounds and Scott McKeating on composition) haunt and howl their way through another impressive tape drenched in sticky black ectoplasm.

The opening two pieces ‘Original Mistake Growing Arms and Legs’ and ‘Constantly Slaughtering Something’ seem to exist beneath a level of human perception. Sure, churning voices are suggested and even become corporeal for moments but mostly these are echoes, lost murmurings and hints striving to pierce the veil of human static.

The altogether more boisterous ‘Bat’ is a multi-limbed car wash applying numerous squeegee squeals to your scalp.  The twelve minute ‘Every Single Edge’ truly made me jump with its needle-sharp intro cry.  Imagine a single string soprano violin bowed with fury cutting through an orchestra of damp tissue paper and comb artists.  Picture the clarity of intention over the glum voices of damage!

The balance is restored with the beautiful hum of ‘Carver’ a soul-scratching guitar noodle heard through heavy atmospheric interference.  And the prettiest of the lot ‘Moth’ a one minute mumble, makes me think this really could be the only surviving recording of a wet marimba covered in fragrant peat.

Mudguts once again daub the strange and the beautiful with primitive woad.

gunter

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Totally beautiful synth wig-ins.

Marvellously introspective and slow as eels this tape massages my tired temples and places a warm oiled hand on my knotted shoulders.

Schlienz’ Self Portrait floats in the air faintly glowing all across side one.  The spare notes breathe into each other – a cinnamon-scented wind.

But this is in no way a dumb drift piece.  No Sir!  This is as deliberately approached as your end of year accounts.  The movements are smooth and calm.  A gentle shudder, a close cluster of harmonic moans as discrete as Eno’s Discreet Music.

Side two, ‘Campfire Suite’ takes the whole soft sheebeen outside and clusters around a real life crackling fire (just audible in the mix).  This time things are less obviously soothing and more mysterious – picture an electric loon-bird or stoned sperm whale.

Perfect and peaceful – more most welcome Spam!

hawliman

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Phew!  This hectic duo couldn’t be further removed from Gunter’s plantagenet hoofs.

Side one opens with the mud-popping farts of a bass pipe getting lustily fingered. The wet slurp is part aboriginal dreamtime part steam-driven traction engine busting hot rivets.  Percussion comes in the form of crinked coffee cans, a fistful of dry reeds and shuffling grit under the soles of a clog.  It is truly magical to hear a crisp packet scrunched, up and close to the mic, as loud as Slayer in any given Enormo-dome.

Side two is an almost prehistoric take on Don Cherry’s masterpiece ‘Mu’.  These boyos drag around sacks of cloth, sigh politely and snore, setting the scene before breaking out an ivory horn and badass drum.

We are treated to a walking mix; various beaters and rattles picked up, explored and discarded.  It’s a pleasure, a delight, to hear the invention and thought weaving as voice melts into melodica or balloon squeak tackles a wooden bamboo flute.

Clear the picnic blanket – these scotch eggs are ripe and ready to pluck.

20171214_164445

Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes) Cassette

Gosh knows how many more NAU-Tapes Dave Howcroft has released in the last month but here’s the latest that found its way into my bulging stocking.

Admission corner – I’m breaking form here at RFM by reviewing a tape that I feature on but I don’t see why the other acts here should suffer because of my writing mumps.

And what a set of acts! Posset-Ruus Duo, Dawn Bothwell, Kleevex and Yoni Silver & Ram Gabay all braved five flights of stairs to take up residence in the sun-drenched plaza that is Newcastle’s Northern Charter Space.  Normally reserved for visual artists this wonderful space looks out over the main drag of Newcastle City Centre – a veritable eagle’s nest!

First up new duo – Posset-Ruus (soon to be re-branded The Russets but that’s a different story) take two acoustic guitars, two mouths, two Dictaphones and four speakers in a self-perpetuating loop squeezing scrambled string-action and slack tooth honks via their Dictas in what I believe they call a hot mess.  Described by some as ‘not really music’ imagined by others as Harry Pussy swapping their instruments at half time – WOOF!

Dawn Bothwell’s electronic poetry takes advantage of the view and describes the pre-Christmas rush; all mead quaff and sausage munch.  A looping module takes snatches of voice and spins a ring of bright fire making it sizzle.  Just when you thought you’d heard it all pitches are switched and a booming bottom-end heralds precise and hammering tech-noir squelch.

Keleevx pair up two of the hardest working folk in the Undergronk, Faye MacCalman and Gwilly Edmondez rasping on sax/clarinet and mouth/dicta respectively. Like a couple of daytime drinkers they read each other’s minds ready to place a new conversational nugget or curious honk on the table with practiced certainty. Seeing traditional instruments cozying up to what is basically outdated office equipment fills me with a wonderful sense of hope and I can wax lyrical if you want. But it’s all just breath at the end of the day innit?   The secret is its vital oxygen, life-giving air whistling from Kleevex into my hungry ears.  Dandy.

The brave headliners are polished metropolitan gentlemen Yoni Silver (Bass Clarinet & Violin) and Ram Gabay (half a Drum-set).  I’m not going to beat around the bush here – this is world class improv.  Yoni and Ram are inventive masters pushing each of their respective instruments though ten rounds delivering stylistic K.O’s with grace and regularity.  Yoni’s deep, deep honk is filtered through an enviable technique, rude tongue-slaps on the gummy reed, a foot in the brass bell and plastic filters clattering with the power of sculpted air.

Ram’s drums (a couple of snares, a rogue bass drum and a collection of cymbals and gee-gaws) are cosseted and stroked like old house cats. Skins are thrummed and thowked.  The mixture of texture and timing fill the air with gritty vibrations that are expertly controlled with the occasional sharp ‘crack’ brining us out of our misty reverie and back into the present.  Special mention must be made of the bass drum – a slack and sliding mobile unit skittering at the sight of Ram’s well-heeled boot.

And the interplay between the two is gob-dropping, jaw-smacking.  Nuance unwraps further nuance, in a cluttered Venn diagram alive with microscopic bristle.  This damn tape reminds me why I love improv so much – it just keeps on flowing and reforming until (one brief violin scrape later) it snips to a perfectly neat and tidy close.

As with all other NAU-tapes these are available only from the mighty Mr Dave Howcroft at howcroft.d58@gmail.com for FREE!  *but bung him a few quid eh…it’s Christmas.

 

Herhalen

Cruel Nature Records

Spam Tapes

-ooOOoo-

magnetic stones: joe murray on lost harbours and common objects

May 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Lost Harbours – In the Direction of The Sun (tape, Cruel Nature Records, CN040, edition of 50 or download)

Common Objects – Whitewashed with Lines (2 x CD, Another Timbre, at85x2)

lost harbours - sun

Lost Harbours – In the Direction of The Sun

Shove your hipster Mordant Music/Boards of Canada/Giallo soundtracks etc.  This is the real deal with a wryd feel: a skinned vole left on a post by the farmer, the lonely boom of the fells when a second set of shallow footprints appear next to your own.

Wind-blown tape-loops wobble over grey-sky synths and chilly field recordings.  The mood is respectful, not quite sombre, but with a doesn’t-suffer-fools gait; a rustic Culver in a Barbour jacket, the tang of rich dubbin flickering ’round the nostrils.

With no whizz, bang, look-at-me theatrics this is listen for a long haul.  I needed to take my time, to let it fill up my earholes with black moss.

And, of course, the rewards are many.  The super-deep richness is an almost tactile thing.  It throbs in and out of phase like a sleeping beast, gently massaging the air on either side of room, making things shimmer like slinky minx graphite.  ‘Rings’ even manages to open up a small tear in the hiss to let through a galleon drawing stars in it’s wake.

But it’s the vocal tracks that make this an essential release.  ‘Idumea’, written by Charles Wesley in 18th Century is sung in that gentle voice we reserve for the very young and the very old.  A natural and unaffected true-voice that meshes entirely with the loop/synth/electronic backing that, in an earlier time, might have been a barren fiddle, earlier still – the gush of the wind.

The final track, ‘The Lovers’, is a traditional Orkney tune.  This time the true-voice is overlapped and woven around itself, dubbed and floating.  The vocal lines get more and more intertwined and complex until a static machine tunes them out, and all we are left with is the huss of magnetic stones.

It’s no surprise this banger has sold out at source (although you may find a copy at Lost Harbours live shows) but that doesn’t mean you should stop reading right now.  The download lasts forever right?

common objects

Common Objects – Whitewashed with Lines

Hurtling through the Yorkshire countryside with my snazzy new headphones, the pre-breakfast sun is already sharp and hot.  Common Objects become my perfect travelling companion as I settle down for almost 100 minutes of gritty group-think.

There are two lengthy live sets from these Heath Robinsons offered here.  Disc One – ‘Cup & Ring’ is a composed piece, realised via a graphic score whipped up by Rhodri Davies – beard wearer, harp supremo and all round good egg – based on ancient cup and ring marks.  Carved by prehistoric peoples these gnarly scratches in the rock have no discernible purpose.  Could they be border markers, religious offerings to the wolf in the sky or early communications?  Hey, I don’t know… this is not that sort of blog buddy.  But what is clear is that they have formed a rallying point for Common Objects, a most singular group made up of the already mentioned Rhodri, Angharad Davies (violin), John Butcher (saxophone) and Lee Patterson (amplified devices).

This being a cadre of first-class improvisers the sounds are ingenious (sick whistles blend into viscous burrs to finish off crumbling varnish) and carefully placed.  And it’s the winding up and release that’s the thing; the slow shift and shuffle that conveys a compelling narrative arc.

I revel in the rich peaks, plump as a Ptarmigan – converging hiss, burr and bummmnnn nestled next to a haunted pause.  But as my train judders shakily towards Leeds I sink deeper into the genteel placement of texture: burlap sack, waxy candle and discarded orange peel.

My mind drifts to these hairy caveman carvers (my image of the caveman is pretty much based on 1950’s ladybird books so admittedly probably not 100% historically accurate) and I reckon they would dig this kind of music.  Why?  Well it sounds vital, honest and, in a very good way, obvious.

You can see how the music is made with lip and finger. A vibrating gadget attached to strings sounds like a vibrating gadget, a set of short, popping breaths on the reed sound like short popping breaths.  A solitary twanged spring sounds like…you get my drift yeah.  As I drift further into the city the pops and drones translate into blue-black clouds skimming over a full moon, bullrush rustle and a toad’s wet burp.

Disc Two’s ‘Repose and Vertigo’, a group improvisation, is fizzier and bubbling with ideas; rich like calligraphy and clever as Braille.

I’m listening at home now, covers pulled up to my chin, when the violin takes centre stage (about 10 mins in) the sloppy plops and trills, pings and scratches sound like hornets swarming, foaming with  life.  But this business is answered with a gong-like recess, all keening pipes and slack string sawing.  Pregnant drones start to push up from the seabed toppling hastily-erected cities constructed of coppery small change.

Later a Hong Kong traffic jam is felt through steamy windows, your fingers sticky with hot Pork Bun.  A librarian type plays that new Sunn O))) record high up on the 33rd floor and your strain your ears to hear above seabird caw-caw and TV static.

The final third of this disc is a dream sequence for some hardboiled detective. It’s obviously a stakeout scene (a dissonant background furze punctuated by sharp sound sprigs) and superbly matches that combination of tension and irritability readers will associate with overnight close surveillance.

Eventually the disc whirrs to a skittering stop and within minutes the vivid hallucinations have begun to fade. Good golly; Common Objects play music to look at.

—ooOoo—

Cruel Nature

Another Timbre

drowned church, boiling noise: scott mckeating on joseph curwen, benway, deceiver

September 17, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Joseph Curwen – From Beyond (tape, Cruel Nature Records, CN008, edition of 30 or download)

Benway – Surfs Up (tape, Fuckin’ Amateurs, Fa 79, limited edition)

Deceiver – Tour 2013 (3” CD-r, Human Beard Records, limited edition)

joseph curwen - from beyondbenway - surfs updeceiver - tour 2013

Dictated via whisper-ma-phone from his undersea lair, Scott McKeating – RFM’s mysterious third voice – opines thus:

Joseph Curwen – From Beyond

My initial thought on the way that this tape’s opener, ‘From Beyond (Part One)’, begins is that it might actually make a great intro for an industrial metal song – its stasis drone crawl could well portend some epic pounder setting the goth club dance floor alight. However, Joseph Curwen (aka Newcastle resident, Alexander Roberts) is drone through and through thus no easy catharsis here. Instead the track fills the mind with a drowned church stillness, the silt disturbed by a loping pattern of notes, a mouldering noise toying with melody. ‘From Beyond (Part Two)’ is another low-visibility water piece, currents pushing the tones a little higher up the scale this time. It’s the most markedly Lovecraftian of the tracks: a distant but approaching din hints at chaos crawling through the deadening ambient fug.

The three parts – two short, one long – that comprise Side B are a little less inspiring. The relative lightness is not unwelcome following Side A’s murky grey but allows the listener’s attention to wander to the less cosmic chaos of everyday reality. Whilst the initial tracks have the hypnotizing creepiness of a time-lapse film of verdigris creeping across a forgotten bronze statue, this second side allowed me the headspace to worry about the car’s MOT.

A word about the cover art which is surprisingly ‘new agey’ given the content. I presume it is meant to depict the ultraviolet alternate reality revealed by the occult machinery in Lovecraft’s short story. Unfortunately, what it reminded me of was the opening scenes of that steaming-curled-dog-egg Prometheus.

Benway – Surfs Up

After all that droning sometimes it’s good to get your head kicked in by a bit of noiserocknroll. Here’s Martin of Fuckin’ Amateurs fame to set the scene:

Benway was the group put together by Steve Savage aka Steve The Goon aka Steve Pierce the week after I interviewed him for a forthcoming the punk book. He was in Dementia Praecox and a local character at the time. After the interview he mentioned getting a band together so I introduced him to some mates.

Benway (presumably named for Burroughs’s dubious doctor) is the sound of the assembled players orbiting the very aptly named Savage’s scuzzily serrated guitar. There are various jams available on cassette with a revolving line-up of players like Wrest, One Wobbly Egg, Noisebastard / Noisebear / Mark and our very own Posset who backed and enveloped Steve in venues like the legendary Morden Tower (R.I.P., alas).

The main track on Side A of this one is a great howling thing. A loose feedback fouls everything (even the poorly recorded radio forecast attempting to butt its way in) mixing up a sonic morass. Riffs are ragged chugs, pounded on an anvil as bass turns steely cold. This piece is a one instrument show with a band sound; the Moe-Tucker/krautrock rhythm of Jamie’s drums is the next loudest thing but still a flickering match in the pitch black train tunnel of guitar. Of course, it’s a Fuckin’ Amateurs release so there’s the ubiquitous dicto-surveilled audience chat and, as a bonus, Side A also offers some solo drum work (not a drum solo) from Wrest.

Side B is a different thing altogether, Savage offers up four tracks of reverb friendly instrumental and crystal-tipped electric guitar work. Melodic and reminiscent of Robby Krieger’s playing on ‘The End’ (something another punter also mentions in the recorded chatter after the show), it’s a good counterpart to Side A’s roughness.

Deceiver – Tour 2013

Having already berated Matt Goodrich, Human Beard Records label boss, for not giving this disc a catalogue number, there’s little point in me grumbling on RFM about it too [Editor’s note – yes, if you weren’t already locked in the cellar, I’d lock you in the cellar for excessive nerdiness]. Anyway, when not thwarting my Discogs obsession, Matt is a member of the mighty powerviolence band Water Torture and is also the fellow behind the noise project Deceiver, now based in Rochester, NY.

Deceiver do a great line in fierce, boiling noise, in lo-fi audio recordings of disintegrating city scapes. Bass is used to underline certain passages, but Tour 2013’s single ten minute track is formed mainly from layers fading in then being disintegrated by the knotted razor-wire sound. The track could be digitally sourced, but as it moves organically – clouds of scuffed metal consume each other – I prefer to imagine a string of effects pedals, each throttling the next in a macabre, red-faced, eye-bulging daisy chain. There are hardcore vocals here too, courtesy of noisemaker John Kerny (aka Dead Weight) who red-raws his throat by screaming like a wrong ‘un at someone/something. Absolutely no idea what’s he’s saying, but it’s clear that he’s pissed off.

—ooOoo—

Cruel Nature Records

Fuckin’ Amateurs

Human Beard Records Bandcamp / Discogs

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