sorting the lego part four: soundtracks for decorating the tree

December 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Ceramic Hobs – Spirit World Circle Jerk (vinyl LP in silk-screened sleeve, Must Die Records, MDR 032, edition of 250)

CASTRATO ATTACK GROUP – blood porridge from the islets of langerhans (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, MOA 666-13, edition of 100 or download)

La Mancha del Pecado & Culver – collaboration six (tape, Matching Head/Agorafobia, mh 199/27)

Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerkcastrato attack group - blood porridge backcastrato attack group - blood porridge front

I think I’ve written enuff about depression for now, don’t you?  See the preambles to parts one, two and three of this series for an account of the development of my current illness and what I am doing to combat it.  Suffice to say the struggle continues but I am very well supported and am looking forward to the break in routine that Christmas will provide.  I’m trying hard not to make a ‘mulled whine’ pun.  Damn, just did it…

Thanks again for the music and messages of encouragement – it all means a great deal to me.

These will be my last reviews of 2013 – if you have stuff on the review pile then it will be dealt with in the New Year.  Continued apologies for any delay but we have caught up considerably during December.  Articles by Joe and Scott on Colectivo N, Smut and Caroline Mackenzie are in the works and will probably appear sometime during the holiday period to tide us over until the Zellaby Awards are announced in January.  Exciting!

Have a lovely Christmas, dear readers, and I wish you peace, health and love from all at RFM HQ and Midwich Mansions.


It isn’t often that I agree to review something without having heard it first.  I’m not concerned about accusations of insider trading, or conflict of interest, nor are there brown envelopes stuffed with payola for me to collect in motorway service station car parks.  It’s more to do with not wanting to feel obliged, nor wanting to accept freebies under false pretences – I know resources are scarce so I don’t want to trouble someone for their warez only to say ‘no thanks’ once it is too late.  However, I thought I was on safe ground when Simon Morris of Ceramic Hobs pulled out a copy of their latest album and handed it to me at that Skullflower show with the words: “You MUST review it!”  I agreed, of course.

Here’s the spec: The Spirit World Circle Jerk is a vinyl LP in an edition of 250 from the ever-impressive Must Die Records, the covers were created and screen-printed by Dr. Adolf Steg of Spon fame and a handy lyric sheet and download code are included for maximum convenience and enjoyment.  One side features six of the seven tracks, the other side contains just the epic ‘Voodoo Party’.

Initally, it seems a bit more straightforward than the psychonautical adventure that was the last ‘proper’ Hobs LP I heard – Oz Oz Alice – but flip it over and over during the course of several afternoons and its depth, complexity and sense of humour are revealed.  Ideas, characters, lines of lyrics, references to popular culture, mass murder etc. that are largely lost on me (a great track-by-track description of the album on the Must Die Records site helps decipher all this) are repeated from song to song which gives the album coherence.  Don’t worry – this isn’t a tedious ‘concept’ piece, more a series of linked short stories (‘Simon Morris as the Robert Altman of the psychiatric underground’?  Discuss).

Simon’s voice remains remarkable: utterly different from his speaking voice, it ranges from bassy growl, as if gargling with multi-coloured gravel and slimey algae from the bottom of a tropical fish tank, to overdriven power electronic screech, like William Bennett flicking through the Ikea catalogue in bed and getting a paper cut on his bell-end.  The band are totally up to it too and the music works an accompanying range, from oi punk and pub rock to psychedelic collage.  There are plenty of laughs.  For example, the opening line of ‘Glasgow Housewife’: “I… BELONG… TO… GLASGOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW” cracks me up every time I hear it.  It’s as funny as Wile E. Coyote stamping on the trap that Road Runner just failed to activate.  There is head-down boogie – try and resist singing along to the ‘Hong Kong Goolagong’ with your thumbs in your belt-loops.  And then there is ‘Voodoo Party’…

The side-long seventh track is a companion piece to the 35 minute long title track of Oz Oz Alice.  It’s a category-defying collage, a psychedelic ritual, or maybe a cut-up screed by the author of a conspiracy website where everything is grist to the mill and the more you deny it the more sure he is that you are hiding something.  For example, the ‘true’ story of Rhonda’s journey through a stargate, lifted from an American talk radio programme complete with dumbfounded hosts, is totally fascinating in itself and calls to mind ’22 going on 23′ from the masterpiece Locust Abortion Technician by Butthole Surfers.  Surely, there can surely be no higher praise and yet this is just one of the many elements to be found sliding over each other, slotting into an order of things dictated by the track’s own gurning and fluid internal logic.

I’m happy to conclude that this album is perfect music to accompany tucking into a lovely Christmas dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings – well, you might have to reheat it after making sure that the family whose house you have just broken into are securely tied up in the basement first…

blood porridge from the islets of langerhans is perfect music to accompany chestnuts roasting on an open fire – that is if the fire was caused by a gas explosion and is roaring in the rubble of what used to be your house.  The album comprises two twenty minute plus tracks of crackling free rock.  Despite the band’s name, this is clearly the result of the nine balls belonging to the four band members (which member has three is a closely guarded secret) swinging back and forth like a hairy Newton’s cradle.  Nothing clever-clever here.  ‘triceratops badmouth’ starts in a paint-huffing, head-banging mood and remains that way throughout – a tethered crescendo of thrashing and bucking.  ‘temple of glue’ is even less structured, if that is possible.  At first it’s like a squadron of dragonflies attempting to free themselves after having accidentally landed in a puddle of beery piss then, rescued at last by a beat at around the nine minute mark, they spend the rest of the track shaking themselves dry and drunkenly vowing revenge on the fool who dared urinate under their flightpath.  Terrific.

collaboration six is perfect music to accompany dashing through the snow – that is if you have been thrown from a helicopter onto the tundra because your colleagues think you may have been infected by an alien shape shifter and now night is falling.  The latest in a series of all-star team-ups featuring friends-of-RFM Lee Stokoe and Miguel Perez, this won’t hold any surprises for those already familiar with their work but it is perhaps a little more delicate than you might expect.  The album comprises a single track on a single sided tape in a black and white cover not reproducible on a family blog like this due to, well, tits.  In the spirit of seasonal goodwill I won’t make my usual prudish complaint about this ‘aesthetic’.  The music, a deceptively simple, multi-layered drone is magnificent, a high water mark in the recent catalogues of both artists.  How you take it could go in two opposite directions depending on your mood: is it evocative of a warm, enveloping, womb-like environment in which you shift about, satisfyingly comfortable, in a cocoon of amniotic jelly or is it a windswept mountainside, treacherous with snow-covered ice and bottomless crevasses below?  Essential either way.

Buy the Ceramic Hobs LP direct from Must Die Records, where you’ll also find the track-by-track description I mention above.  Buy the Castrato Attack Group CD-r (or download) via the Memoirs of an Aesthete Bandcamp site.  The La Mancha del Pecado & Culver tape can be had from Matching Head, contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.

heft and chemistry: scott mckeating and joe murray on the unit ama

August 9, 2013 at 7:36 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Unit Ama – The Mason’s Mallet (vinyl LP, Tusk Records, TUF001)

 the unit ama

Ladies and gentlemen, your editor speaking.  There now follows an epic, mould-smashing experiment in tag-team journalism.  As both RFM staffers Scott McKeating and Joe Murray attended the gig at which this performance was recorded, and as both love the record, they decided to split it between ’em and review a side each.  Who am I to stand in the way of such bromantic celebration, eh?  See Scott’s opening paragraph for the hard facts of the matter, the rest is poetry…


Side A reviewed by Scott McKeating

Arriving onstage to a strong welcome from the in-the-know and familiar, and playing as a part of Newcastle Upon Tyne’s second Tusk Festival, The Unit Ama are another one of the North East of England’s unsung heroes. A trio comprising of bassist Jason Etherington, drummer Christian Alderson (who you can both find as members of the Miles-esque improv unit The Long Lonesome Go) and guitarist/vocalist Steven Malley, The Unit Ama are a ‘rock band’ in the same way Sonic Youth were/are a ‘rock band’. While these three players might work with tools of a power trio, they play fast and very loose with that particular setup’s conventions. For the record, and what its worth, Malley’s better loved by me for his outstanding folk project The Horse Loom than through this band or his rightfully lauded past as a member of both Crane and Kodiak, but there’s no denying the heft and the chemistry of The Unit Ama’s sound.

The opening track ‘Sycamore’ swiftly cranks itself up on its metallic guitar part, a muscled Husker ragged edged crunch that allows the rhythm to flex underneath. A push-and-pull of guitar and bass, there’s a lot in Ama’s rhythms that recall the sharp turns, mathness and force of Fugazi’s famed Lally/Canty engine. There are enough moments of structure melting under exploration to pull ‘The Mason’s Mallet’ away from being a straight-faced live document affair. Their post-punk flecked racket is mauled as it continues its momentum, the guitar ram raiding its way between Lee Ranaldo string wrangling one minute and micro Derek Bailey indebted investigations the next. Steven Malley’s voice is a mix of roar, wail and bullishness but there’s something tender and exposed in there too. The second track, ‘Sable’ is a more expansive piece though not without its wild bear at the limit of her chain ferocity. With warm lulls of  wide horizons and cauterised desertscapes, here The Unit Ama nod to their dissassociative side (recalling quiet Slint) without getting all post rock snoozy on us.

Side B reviewed by Joe Murray

This side opens with a knotted clump of notes tugged from the greasy strings of a bass guitar (penk…pendle-de-tumg) and accompanied by the dry-mouth gulps (glumm-broof-AW-Aowl) of Henri Chopin choking on bread sauce.  Soon drums have a look round the corner and say, ‘what about me then eh?’ and drop a tart ‘tub-tub-ping!’ all over the gaff.  Guitarist starts the harmonic star-light shine with a shimmering vocal (extracts from Miranda Grey’s diary perhaps?) into one of those muscular riffs that all rock groups wish for…like a Jordon/Minnesota, a Sunshine of your Love, a Flip yr Wig…one of them beauties.

And you know where you are for a bit.  The Power Trio doing that Power Trio thing…bass, drums, guitar all equal, all levels balanced, no bully-boy boss-man to stomp on your buzz.  Call me a bleeding heart but this is living, breathing musical socialism in practice.  I know where I am man.  This is going all the way man.  This chunka-chuka-chunka riff is going on forever man…right on down the freeway.  Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy.  The wind’s in my hair and my fist thumps the leopard-skin print steering wheel in time to that heavy, heavy riff.  Let’s fucking go man!  Hunter S Thompson and the Brown Buffalo.  Sure, we’ll stop for Gas and Tacos and a ‘worship at the altar of Quetzalcoatl’ guitar solo on the way but what we’re gearing up to is the inevitable BIG ROCK AND ROLL ENDING – cymbals crashing like Talos crashing to his knees, guitar & bass strings scoured for fair won victory.  I know where I am man.  Put your foot to the floor baby.  I ain’t never gonna stop.

But the Unit Ama have thought ahead and know the only way to stop this supernaut is not with a crash but with a change of medium.  With gentle love, love, love the blacktop turns to clear blue water, the highway becomes a placid lake.  One by one the guitar, bass and drums drop out to be replaced with shaker/mbira/percussion scraps…the propulsion is still there but this is more of a pedal power vibe, swish, swish swishing through English country  lanes…take your feet of the pedals to hear the ‘sccccciiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrr’ of cogs relaxing and freewheel to a stop. Tik tik tik tik…


…and that, dear readers, is that.  Allow me to draw proceedings to a formal conclusion and entreat you to buy here.

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