junked-up broth: joe murray on blue spectrum tapes

December 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Orphanage Rats – For the Dead Infested (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Light Collapse / Blue Spectrum / The End of Empire – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

The Phosphenes / Monuments Are No Good To The Dead – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 21)

The Phosphenes / Vehscle – Split (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Knox Mitchell – Shrieking in Stereo (2006 – 2010) (CD-r, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

Carl Kruger – Lazy Metal (CD-r in A5 artpack sleeve, Blue Spectrum Tapes, edition of 20)

blue spectrum tapes logo

When I rule the world I’m gonna make it law to include a special ‘forgotten footnote’ button on all BBC4-style music documentaries.  The button will start to throb and pulse when some lame-ass social commentator starts heaping blanket praise on that old phlegmy chestnut Punk.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m a Punk fan (I got a new rose, I got it good) and Punk did some great things but it did not, I say DID NOT, invent D.I.Y. culture.  The forgotten footnote function would butt right in and silence the Morley explaining that, “Punk popularised D.I.Y. culture and even legitimised it to some extent, but freaks have been doing their own thing; records, pamphlets and plays for like…for like forever man.”

And so, it’s with this reclaiming of the history of the private press, I present Blue Spectrum records and tapes.  Simon David Wilson runs this label in a hurricane of activity, putting out over 70 releases in a short 3 years with a very definite outsider edge.  Drumming to no one’s beat but his own this is a very singular take on noise and drone.

Simon’s noise is very human and warm.  It’s more about the enveloping fug or cathartic release than the misogynistic boys-club Noise has sadly become in places.  The drone has its stoner head-nodding moments but rises above the all too common drone clichés by adding a spunky energy, a childlike impatience to the mix.

CD-Rs tend to be short, sharp affairs.  Recorded loud and unvarnished Blue Spectrum is a home for like-minded free-thinkers: The Phosphenes, The Bloodletters, Team Electrics, Knox Mitchell and Simon’s own Blue Spectrum project (along with a host of other travellers).

Releases come in ridiculously small editions.  A run of a hundred would be a MYKL JAXN ‘Thriller’ for Simon.  In fact most discs come in modest batches of 1 to 20.  I get the impression that the small runs are nothing to do with marketing strategies or in-built record-collector-scum mentality but a constant desire to surge forward, move to the next thing…keeping it fresh and spicy.

These discs and tapes are not shoved naked into the world, oh no.  They come swaddled in Simon’s distinctive photocopier art and collage.  More Dada than Punk (natch!) the art tells a parallel story to the cathartic noise and drone, capturing Simon’s domestic detritus and fax smears all grimy.  But I’ll let you check that out for yourselves.

In the spirit of one-person missions like Miguel Perez’ Agoraphobia Tapes or Andy Robinson’s Striate Cortex (Editor’s note: Striate Cortex R.I.P.!) you get a real personality emerging from between the cracks.  A real enthusiastic person, not some business model, is making the decisions here…for better or worse it’s human…and that pre-dates 1977 and the 100 Club ya schlubs!

Here’s a mini-round up of the latest Blue Spectrum releases:

orphanage rats

Orphanage Rats – For the Dead Infested

Totally zonked-out peals of guitar skunk and doped electronic echoes.  Makes like the mid-period SKULLFLOWER with that washing machine buzz & bumble.  Five untitled tracks plumb the depths of the oubliette with screeds of gun-metal guitar spinning like a Leslie speaker in my skull.  ESSENTIAL MISERY.

light blue empire

Light Collapse / Blue Spectrum / The End of Empire – Split

Two twenty minute drone/noise pieces on one handy disc.

LC & BS: crumbling noise/drone as heavy as roadworks.  If this kind of music is all about the texture this sounds like an Arran sweater knitted from rusty scrap.  Unflinchingly bullish for a super-saturated 23 mins.

TEOE: altogether lighter.  A slowly accelerating truck the size of a house; and in the cabin, a brutish trucker man turns up Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to the film ‘Sorcerer’.  You tremble, tightly bound, in the path of the beast.

phosphenes momuments

The Phosphenes / Monuments Are No Good To The Dead – Split

Tape/collage/skronk from The Phosphenes with a pleasing junked-up broth of ‘cruuungggh’ and ‘shoooossshh’ that takes turns in the organic (breathy harmonium) and electronic (amplified cutlery).   Comes with lyric sheet!

Monuments… take pretty harsh noise as a starting point and turns that dial right up to 11, in the red, all the time.  Tracks start in one noisy place and pretty much stay there making very gradual changes in intensity and granularity.  Such stasis is in not at the expense of craft.  No way!  Check out ‘Tonight’ which sound like THE STOOGES played by MONSTER MAGNET at 16rpm.

phosphenes vehscle

The Phosphenes / Vehscle – Split

Field recordings taken from a Dictaphone tied to the collar of a junkyard dog.  As dog sniffs round the oil-drenched trash the tape picks up Native American Electronic Voice Phenomena (NA-EVP).  Phosphenes, terrified at what they have captured, leave the accursed recordings completely untouched for you to judge.

More accidental tape damage from Vehscle, this time captured from SETI.  Unnervingly sounds originally presented on the Voyager gold disc (Bird song, Dixie Jazz, New York soundscapes) are beamed back from the red dwarf UDF 2457.  Mixed in linear stereo!

knox mitchell

Knox Mitchell – Shrieking in Stereo (2006 – 2010)

An anthology of Knox’s singular tape experiments.  Dubbed from gob, guitar, shortwave radio, keyboard, Dictaphone straight to tape, it’s got that familiar mung of crushed frequencies that turn all the beauties brown and snug.

This has a magpie’s eye on methods and techniques taking collage and composition side-by-side and turning both over like a bad clam.   Fans of insect squeals will revel in the familiar sound of waxed wing-pods rubbing over knotty carapace.  Music for prawns.

carl kruger

Carl Kruger – Lazy Metal

Are you a fan of granular ripping?  Well look no further than this Lazy Metal disc from Mr Carl Kruger.  Five untitled tracks start with mucho electronic squiggles, rasps and bleats; from a Gameboy perhaps?  It’s certainly video game inspired and riding the waves between harsh noise and broken electronics.  The dub comes out for a while as a cardboard tube is miked up and long springs slither down…all presented through the decaying lens of an overdriven guitar pedal.  With no climax these sounds are eaked out slowly in a very thoughtful, vicious game.

Like all good journeys this one is paced with regular comfort breaks and challenging peaks.  The ender…a needle-sharp introspective drone is all dandy for the mousey eared until a sharp hail of noize tinkles the ear wax reminding you Kruger is leading this expedition from the front.  Don’t get left behind sucker.

Blue Spectrum Tapes Blogspot.

Blue Spectrum Tapes Bandcamp.

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: beyondtherim@hotmail.co.uk.  You could also try Joe Posset via sweetflagfour@blueyonder.co.uk ‘cos even if the vinyl is sold out I reckon you could hit him up for the CD-r and dicta-centric interview.

black and white noise, part two: new from matching head

May 11, 2012 at 6:14 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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  • culver/felss – blood above the breath/familiar territories (split C15 tape, Matching Head 180)
  • Culver/Mutant Ape – They Walk Alone/Secret in Hiding (split C15 tape, edition of 32, Matching Head 181)
  • Gammal Sed – s/t (single-sided tape, Matching Head 183)

Lee Stokoe is a shaolin master of the photocopy aesthetic.  My love for the man, his music – especially his solo project Culver – and his label Matching Head has been comprehensively documented on these pages (click on tags above for more).  The Matching Head ‘look and feel’ is an instantly recognizable brand (a word you don’t see often here on RFM).  Its components are deceptively simple.  Text is created with a manual typewriter and literally cut and pasted onto the artwork.  The artwork is usually a photographic collage: sometimes abstract, sometimes surreal, often unsettling (see hand-in-the-foliage above).  Images are culled from the fringes of pop culture, of which Lee has an unrivalled archive.  Vintage porn (which I got prudish about here), transgressive cinema, pictures ripped from fashion magazines – all grist to the mill.  That these grim satires on pop culture are copied in brutal monochrome only adds to the darkly humorous nihilism.  The photocopy is the perfect medium in which to package this message.

The two split tapes, both packaged in Ziploc bags with wraparound covers, are home-made examples of that long forgotten genre: the cassingle.  Each is recorded on a C15 ‘Computape’ (you can imagine the 80s futurist font, I wonder where Lee found those?) thus each piece can be no more than a refreshing seven and a half minutes long.  Only one of the four tracks plays to the whistle, the rest – admirably, comfortably – fit within the confines of the format and even find time for fade outs.  Ahh… freedom through discipline.

Culver’s ‘blood above the breath’ is the only track cut by the end of the side, but it doesn’t feel truncated or excerpted.  A juddering two-note refrain is as creepily melancholy as a broken music box, yet feels drowsily resigned and peacefully hypnotic.  ‘familiar territories’ by Felss, a name new to me, is a polished little mechanism.  A disciplined few minutes of noise/drone, sophisticated and robust, which puts to shame others who say less at four times the length.

‘They Walk Alone’ see Culver hooded and traipsing across the tundra.  Tension is maintained with such efficiency that the one alteration to the dynamics, a simple change in tone, has the force of a blow to the back of the head.  Mutant Ape embraces the short running time by chucking as much shit around the cage as seven minutes will allow.  Bellowing power electronics is followed by milk-bottle skittles and tape skweee amped up to apocalyptic levels.  Yeah, fun.

The Gammal Sed tape is in some ways a more typical Matching Head release: single sided tape, one track which can be divided roughly into two parts, total running time of about 20 minutes.  However, in other ways it is completely mysterious.  The inlay carries no information at all, just the carefully crosshatched gothic illustration.  The cassette features the name of the band and/or album written, unhelpfully, in what I presume are runes and nothing else.  Now, I’m guessing you’ve already taken a stab at what this might sound like: some sort of doom metal, right?  Well, not entirely.  Metal, sure, but there is nothing sludgy or funereal about the pace nor is it bowel-churningly low-end.

The first movement hovers about two feet off the ground and is propelled effortlessly by jangling riffs.  The whole sound is drenched in distortion but it is the kind of fizzing, sparkling, echoing, recorded-in-a-spacecraft-hangar vibe beloved of disciples of garage-psych.  The second movement features a slower riff which is swiftly overtaken and swamped by a tidal wave of vibra-throb.  This is what I imagine metal as recorded by Flying Saucer Attack might sound like.  I’ve been backwards and forwards over this a bunch of times and I really dig it.

I’m delighted to repeat that, as far as I know, Matching Head still has no official internet presence.  However, should you wish to pursue this further, information about much of the back catalogue plus contact details for Lee can be found on the label’s surprisingly comprehensive Discogs page.  Go buy some tapes – a noise collection looks kinda funny without a Matching Head section.

black and white noise, part one: new from agorafobia

May 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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  • Miguel Pérez – Vouyerismo/Fetichismo (Agorafobia 011, tape)
  • La Mancha Del Pecado – Espectros Del Despeńadero (Agorafobia 012, CD-r in DVD case with artwork by Matthew Bower)
  • La Mancha Del Pecado – The Nylon Stains (Agorafobia 013, tape)
  • The Skull Mask – Macabra (Agorafobia 014, CD-r)

Quick question for you: historically, what item of technology has done the most to help in the production of the artifacts (as I insist on spelling it) of the no-audience underground?  I’m not talking about the internet now, I mean physical things: tapes, CD-rs, zines, flyers, gig posters and so on.  With nods towards the home computer and the CD burner, I am tempted to answer: the photocopier.

Exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of this chugging machine with its intoxicating smell (mmm… ziney!) has led to a recognizable d.i.y./punk/noise aesthetic.  It’s one I like very much.  Not only that, but this marvel put the means of quick, cheap, ‘mass’ production into the hands of the worker.  Literally in some cases: I imagine the office machine has been used many times to slyly run off a few (or not so few) copies when the manager is out at a meeting.  I’ve never done it, of course, and I’m sure you are all blameless too.  I’m just saying that some consider stealing from work to be a legitimate form of political protest.  I’m just saying, that’s all…

Those lucky enough to work somewhere with, say, a Konica contract will have noticed that photocopier technology has kept pace with our aspirations.  Most new machines will cough out photo quality colour copies or scan into any number of formats and proudly email you the results.  Some will even generate a withering 1000 word critique of any improv CD that is pushed into the slot under the little tray for paper clips.  So why do a few labels still insist on rockin’ it old-skool monochrome?  I’m guessing a combo of three main reasons: a) they are punk as fuck and/or b) they have built a ‘look’ around it and/or c) having no money means having to make the most of necessity.

I think the packaging of Miguel Pérez’s Agorafobia label falls largely into category c) with heaped tablespoons of a) and b).  Firstly, this guy has had no luck with digital equipment recently and a series of misfortunes has only exacerbated a lack of resources.  From what he’s told me about broken computers etc. the dude appears to be a walking electro-magnetic pulse weapon.

In one sense this is heartbreaking.  For example, the artwork for Espectros Del Despeńadero is by Matthew Bower of Skullflower, a hero of Miguel’s, and was secured with an international barter.  Yet due to circumstances beyond Miguel’s control he has no choice but to present it in black and white via the photocopier (though a colour scan can be seen on the La Mancha Del Pecado blog).  I’m sure dozens of oligarch patrons of the arts must read this blog – could one of you send this guy some money?  Cheers.

In another sense it is kind of invigorating.  The ragged, black and white artwork, inexpertly compiled, exactly mirrors the raw, emotionally charged music and the driven, impulsive, unmediated way it was created.  Too much gloss would be dishonest.

Listening to this music I was green with envy, once again, at how Miguel is able to tackle his themes from so many different angles using solo guitar and almost nothing else.  I was also struck by the thought that a grounding in metal – Miguel grew up musically in that milieu – is a terrifically useful tool.  Metal is sometimes derided for its daft content or teenage sensibilities but once you can hold your own in that crowd you can use the skills to do anything.  Think I exaggerate?  Another example: a well known no-audience underground acquaintance of mine, rightly famed for his psychedelic style, sheepishly admitted that without the influence of Motörhead he would probably not be a guitarist today.  So there you go: established scientific fact.

Fittingly, I suppose, given the artwork, Espectros Del Despeńadero does sound a bit like Lee Stokoe era Skullflower.  Three long tracks of Culveresque roar with the aforementioned metal guitar submerged and abstracted in the mix.  It sounds like the howling of animals, tethered at some distance from the camp.  Imagine the furious, terrified, soon-to-be-gutted, dog pack in Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (or, if you like, the similarly doomed dogs in John Carpenter’s The Thing) struggling to make themselves heard over the Antarctic wind.  Best of the three tracks is the last one, ‘Vale Menos Que El Polvo’, which over its seventeen minute duration reaches an intensity that wouldn’t be out of place on a release by Enoc Dissonance, Miguel’s balls-out total noise incarnation.

The second La Mancha Del Pecado release, The Nylon Stains, is very different.  Totalling a tight twenty minutes it starts, to my great surprise, with a beat.  Steam-powered mechanical sailors on shore leave jerk arhythmically as laughing, plastic geisha automata dance around them.  We then sink through the floor and this scene is replaced with a field recording of the workshop below where the geisha bodies are injection-moulded, repaired and the nylon stains of the title are hosed off.  We sink further still and end up in the cyclopean furnace room that fuels the whole port.  A hypnotic recording that invites repeat listening.

The psychedelic thrash of The Skull Mask is always welcome around these parts and has been a big influence on the fuzzed out direction I’ve been taking with midwich recently.  However, Macabra is something a bit different.  Taking inspiration from the Day of the Dead celebrations (the cover features a woman in a magnificent Catrina costume) and from revolutionary Mexican folk music, Miguel has reined in the ragas and dampened the delays.  The energy is still crackling, of course, but now it is focussed rather than deliriously expansive.  It feels like Miguel taking conscious control of a lucid dream.  The second of the three tracks, ‘Con Respeto a la Señora’, even features a riff so catchy that it has been an earworm burrowed into my head for days…

To conclude we have Vouyerismo/Fetichismo, a double sided tape of harshly-lit carnality.  It is appropriate that this release carries Miguel’s own name as these recordings contain nothing to hide behind.  This is solo improv guitar at its most exposed – no effects, no overdubs, clinically recorded.  There’s just you and the hard fact of the matter.  Vouyerismo is one long track in several movements and evokes a surreal, lanquid eroticism not unlike that of Shinya Tsukamoto’s A Snake of June.  However, in Miguel’s recording the participants have been driven crazy by the Mexican winds rather than the Japanese humidity.  Fetichismo is more pornographic: fifteen short tracks of completely naked plucking, fingering and scrabbling.  Even sustain is ruthlessly muted.  A series of Polaroid photos it is impossible to tear your eyes away from.

Agorafobia releases are, initially at least, only available as physical objects for trade so contact Miguel via lamancha@rocketmail.com, get some stuff into a jiffy bag and wait – the Mexican postal system seems more or less reliable but they take their own sweet time about delivery.

More black and white noise to come from Matching Head and Fuckin’ Amateurs…

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