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.

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