saltwater lake: joe murray on michael morley, seymour glass & fleshtone aura, shepherds of cats & panelak

December 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Michael Morley – The Burning House (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.317, edition of 60)

Seymour Glass & Fleshtone Aura – Amplified Teacup (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.316, edition of 60)

SHEPHERDS OF CATS & PANELAK – Muscle atrophy in a squirrel’s left leg (CD-r, FANFARE)

morley teacup

Michael Morley – The Burning House

Excuse me if I get all ‘Classic Rock’ for a moment but Michael Morley has been part of that guitar legend category for like what?  Twenty years?  His distinctive scuffed and ultra-primitive shredding in The Dead C confounded, confused and delighted a generation of dysfunctional weirdos (like me).

That Morley sound, explored further in Gate and other duos/trios and collaborations, has remained fairly consistent.  The emphasis has been on the rotten, decay and the fine art of falling apart.  This glorious sound is singular to the degree that the actual method of creation, the humble guitar, becomes the least important part of the equation.  The sound is the thing man!

So what happens when this rotten, decayed and deconstructed approach is aimed at a poor old acoustic guitar?  What happens when amp-buzz, rich feedback overtones, volume and crushing distortion are painted out, shipped off and packed up for another day?

This conundrum is answered by Michael in a calm, reasonable and clear voice:

I’m gonna pick up this thing and just play.  Roll my fingers over the strings and let my head go blank and my heart pulse with pure unrefined love.

Or something

So… if you are expecting lame Fahey-isms look away now.  Sure, you get some finger-picking-dixie but this is more of a strummer – the ghost of punk can’t help but glimmer in the distance.

I’m not sure if these pieces were recorded in chronological order but they sure travel in the same direction.  ‘The Hills’ is a watershed moment.  You can hear the decisions being made in the Morley-mind… this chord/that chord, repeat or move on, hang a note and let it ring or plough on?

And that’s what makes this so darn charming.  It’s how I want to hear a guitar get played.  Not all cocksure strutting but more questioning, more searching.

FLASHBACK: I’m reminded of THE BEST SHOW EVER (29th October 2004) when Christina Carter played so free and so wild and so unconsciously unfettered we all (us the freezing audience) lost touch with reality for a moment or two.  We nudged our dimensional boundaries for a time and pushed ourselves collectively into a new altered state.  It was like a Close Encounter without the sunburn.  Phew. Back to business…

Shorter, tidy and neat tracks build to the 22 minute epic ‘The Living’ that takes the lessons of each pause, harmonic sigh and fret-board creak and lays them out, like a floodplain extending towards the horizon, perfectly flat and reflective – giving nothing away.

Themes bloom from the mirror-like lake: an arthritic flamenco and soft dub whispers.  Knotted straw is fashioned into a scratchy homunculus… but these are mere dreams on the bucolic journey.

The fingers crackle over the strings, moving with determination but at a baroque pace, letting a foot stomp occasionally.  But mainly?  I’ve got my elbow stuck out the window as I keep on trucking.

Just watch out for them sinister hitchhikers!

Seymour Glass & Fleshtone Aura – Amplified Teacup

Jaxx, JAXX, JAXX!! Goof-off jizz collage from gents old enough to know better.

Like-I-said, any old giffer can chuck a tape-machine in the blender and stand back, hands on hips looking fairly pleased.  But it takes a lifetime of weird to let things float a bit, to resist the easy temptation and play the hot denial card.

I like it best when everything crumples into a pile like a screwed up set of pyjamas.  All the energy is spent and collapsed, fagged-out, so all that’s left is a memory of a split second… and that’s rolling away like a greasy marble.

It’s a two track beast this.  Live (recorded like, live, man in San Francisco) plays with one hand tied behind the back and one eye closed.  Glass // Aura become a neat one-ness.  The sounds are clean and fresh, diced with a quick sharp knife but free of any residual gump or snot. A sense grenade redecorates your scrambled mind and non-sequiturs suddenly form allegiances and join hands singing like Cola-hippies.

The speedier Non-Live possum ramps up the tape-rottage… the sound snippets jitter between calamity and tragedy.  With Jaxx so heavy it’s as physical as hauling in a sodden trawl net.   There’s all sorts of briney sparkles caught up in the weft but some are squished beyond recognition.  TED talks cut up into alien syllables anyone?

Freaky like a flatfish.


SHEPHERDS OF CATS & PANELAK – Muscle atrophy in a squirrel’s left leg

This single piece of music, running for over 50 minutes once rang clanging alarm bells for me.  I was raised with Punk, Trad Jazz and Skiffle – four minutes constituted a major opus in them grimy-thumbed worlds; how am I going to cope with almost an hour of klattersome huffin’ and puffin’?  So, as a result of my small-minded defeatism this handsome looking disc stayed on the mountainous ‘to do’ pile for far too long.  For shame.

I should have had faith in my host’s skills.  Poland’s Shepherds of Cats and the Leeds/Lisbon wunderkind Pascal ‘Panelak’ Ansell have paid their dues man and ‘…squirrel’s … leg’ is a damn fine piece of collated jam, taking in free-freak-folk, company-style improv and Impulse-label ecstatic jazz.  Those 50 minutes I churlishly baulked at give this quartet the time to relax and stretch out, develop the narrative and bring each performers unique voice to life.  Obvious now, eh?

Earphones ready, I dive in.  The very proper percussion rubs shoulders with dirty electronics. Ritualistic vocal chants beat down cheap plastic pipes, cello drones interrupt spoken word instructions (“let me show you”) and we end with the sort of fusion keyboards Herbie Hancock would vamp back when he was good.

But of course it’s the careful and sensitive edit that makes each micro-element flower into life.  I have no background info but I’m guessing that individual solo, duo and trio recordings are woven together to create a meta-tapestry. Hey, if it’s good enough for Teo Macero…

Keeping such rich material in a collective form but still allowing it to breathe is no mean feat.  And especially as this doesn’t resort to any climax clichés.  In a world where peaks and troughs, to-you-to-me improv is busting my balls it’s delightful to hear such confidence just letting things flow.

There seems to be a two-layer thing going on here: interior, close sounds are crackling at pillow-talk volumes but the external, wider sounds carry everything along in a gritty wake.  You want comparisons?  I’m minded of some of the more sparse Vibracathedral  Orchestra pieces overloaded with Phill Niblock’s sandpaper electronic shapes with a snifter of ‘The Creator Has a Master Plan’ in its loose-limbed Wurlitzer flailing.

The combinations of keys, horns and percussion get tangled together and instinctively unravel at the exact point we’d welcome some electronic fizz.

That’s right.  International telepathy gets a new spokesperson!


Chocolate Monk


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