the sweet jelly is in the deft cut: joe murray on david birchall/nicolas dobson/javier saso, dylan nyoukis & friends, plastic hooligans and acrid lactations & gwilly edmondezMarch 3, 2017 at 6:00 am | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: acrid lactations, chocolate monk, david birchall, drugs, dylan nyoukis, fae ma bit tae ur bit, gwilly edmondez, javier saso, joe murray, nicolas dobson, plastic hooligans, skronk, soundholes
David Birchall/Nicolas Dobson/Javier Saso – XZ ::::::::: Brazil (Soundholes)
Dylan Nyoukis & Friends – Mind Yon Time? (Chocolate Monk)
Plastic Hooligans – Untitled (Chocolate Monk)
Acrid Lactations & Gwilly Edmondez – You Have Not Learned To Play & Mock in The Psychic System (Chocolate Monk)
David Birchall/Nicolas Dobson/Javier Saso – XZ ::::::::: Brazil (Soundholes) C30 cassette
Super-charged scrimple-skriffle improv coming at you mixed in, depending on your view, (almost) mono or 3-way stereo.
But what’s going on?
Dave Birchall plays granite-flecked guitar in the left speaker, Javier Saso spills slippery, silvery lapsteel in the right speaker and Nicolas Dobson sprays wild, wild violin all over the place.
Side one is a string piece for three players and it waxes happily, darting in and out of focus like a lazy eye would. Contributions are in part clotted and meshed (like a scab) and independently driven. Imagine walking three energetic hounds, each with their own digging, burying, pissing mission. Their colourful leads are soon a wrapped-up maypole binding your arms and hands. Got it?
Now replace the noble hounds with these three improv-dudes and the dog-specific missions with group-mind blankness and collective musical mischief and you’ve got the perfect picture!
While the pace is athletic there’s always room for a ruminative cul-de-sac, a wet sniff about a single tone or blunt-thumbed technique. And as I listen I pass through several phases myself: chin-stroking on the non-idiomatic tip but also horn-throwing on the sexy electric eruption.
On side two I briefly land in a thoughtful strung-out lake but get distracted by amp-pops and bright lead-crackle. The tension mounts as our three players riff on the giant nothingness that exists right at the point of the horizon; saw, saw, sawing away, whipping up a gentle typhoon that bursts with bloated rain. It doesn’t take long to plinkety-plonk and things end with that ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ intro-played inside out and over ice.
This is what it sounds like when Slash cries.
Dylan Nyoukis & Friends – Mind Yon Time? (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
Popular wisdom suggests that there is nothing more boring than other people’s drug tales.
Ha! Popular wisdom is a duff grey lie.
On this re-imagining of Dylan Nyoukis’ Fae Ma Bit Tae Ur Bit radio show various sub-underground lads and lasses ‘fess up their first or otherwise notable drug experiences. Imagine Radio 4 has been snorting and huffing all night long (or something) with Dub Naughty on the controls.
They talk, in soft mumbles and gentle whispers; ‘it was like this…’, ‘we took a taxi…’, ‘I started to feel strange…’
Recorded up close it’s an intimate listen. Breathy and in your ear(s) – you sense the memories being dragged from that grey-matter prison and forced out into the open (in some case decades later) with all the added memory moss and drama a bit of distance provides.
D-Nyoukis works like a psychedelic Foley artist, twisting the background. Adding an addled ‘whuff’ or stoned ‘skofff’ to the voices that are dropping cautionary, ecstatic and, in some cases heart-warming tales of sweet, sweet intoxication. Subtle it is, in the way a shimmering hallucination first grabs you and makes you say “wha?” But it’s a flanger-free zone yeah?
So…anyone want to split this bottle of Cherry Lambrini? I’m thinking about getting it on now anyhow.
See ya on the other side travellers! YEAH!
Plastic Hooligans – Untitled (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
The aptly named Plastic Hooligans are gentle souls wrapped up in retro Adidas and Fila.
But an obsession with the Arabic world introduces ritualistic field recordings in a primitive electronic cloak. With a sparse, shady touch, loops are played via old reverb units and malfunctioning oscillators ramping up the potency of these already fairly ‘loaded’ sounds.
The shivers come in four waves.
- A xylophone tinkles in a French-speaking colony. Delicate as a music box found among boiled chicken’s feet.
- Moroccan tapes get fed through the mincer. The ‘boing’ of the overdriven hand-drum and voice pinched sonically to release only the most important tones.
- Rubberised machinery clunks away as a giant horn is blown roughly but slowly. Deep reparative hums.
- A hiccough bounced across eleven cryptic reverb-drenched minutes. The sort of mind-loop you feel on waking from a cumin-scented dream.
Acrid Lactations & Gwilly Edmondez – You Have Not Learned To Play & Mock in The Psychic System (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
The exact Reuleaux triangle-shaped intersection between modern classical, goofy wonk and hardcore improv. Oh yes!
History Lesson #1: The Acrid Lactations have been humble key-players of the untranslatable wonk scene. Really, really, really free players smiffy that non-idiomatic improv by adding an indefinable ‘something’. I’ve pondered this conundrum long and hard and the best I can come up with is that ‘something’ might be their slight unhinged quality; a willingness to go the extra mile, wherever that trek will take them.
History Lesson #2: Gwilly Edmondez has ploughed a similarly deep furrow. A Dictaphone high-priest, instant composition stalwart and one half of those rising stars YEAH YOU! [The UK’s only father/daughter slack-hop duo pop-pickers.] Gwilly, the tallest man alive, is a selfless player, an encourager, a persuader whose full-frontal yet ego-less schtick seems to be able to connect with that artistic blank space where anything becomes possible.
Taking this babycake as a whole I’m shocked by the time-shifting quality to these suckered gobbles, hazy trumpets and clogged electronics.
The lumps are bigger yeah! For 20, possibly 30 seconds you could be listening to Pharaoh Sanders (Impulse Era), or Morton Subotnick and then it could be nothing other than the good ole AL & GE. Things are so precarious I’m on a mental zip-wire sporting a psychic g-string baby.
But readers, it’s the edit that’s the thing here. In a similar way to the exceptional Hardworking Families latest disc the sweet jelly is in the deft cut taking these pretty much wonderful recordings and carefully layering, stripping and selecting the ripest cheese.
And this editors ear not only multiplies this trio but forges new links and allegiances between sound-nodes. Put simply; a ‘clunk’ recorded one day now spoons a sexy sigh recorded another and lo! A whole new thing starts a’going on.
The sounds? A dignified sniffle and pre-language burrs make up a respectable percentage but add to that bamboo pipes that ape the breath hissing down a human neck, disturb-o-moans and high-octane heffer on brass and tin. We’re talking “Seriously munged magic” (Nyoukis 2016)
But I’m throwing in a deep balloon-rubber ripping, a damp Dictaphone squelch and a goff-keyboard going electronically slow & low. Not only but also, the relaxing humming of social insects (ants probably) discuss their complex legal system.
To sum up I’ve got (consults notes, adjusts spectacles and frowns) three quarters goat-legged- spry and muscular, one quarter lazy liquid. So that’s something for everyone then; time for dreamers to collect themselves and activists to get-up-offa-that-thing.
Right-o. Discussion proposition? Dub opened a new door for Reggae. Teo Macero projected Jazz into an alternate future state. What about this N-AU versioning then readers?
Like…whoa man. Makes you think and shout “welcome to the world Keir J Arnot.”
Tags: brighton, charlie collins, colour out of space, dictaphonics, dinosaurs with horns, dylan nyoukis, greg kelly, gwilly edmondez, improv, joe murray, jon marshall, new music, no audience underground, noise, pascal ansell, posset, roman nose, sarah mcwatt, thf drenching, tom white, vocal improvisation
COLOUR OUT OF SPACE / 6
INTERNATIONAL EXPERIMENTAL SOUND FESTIVAL
Performance Weekend: 8th – 10th November, 2013, Brighton, UK
Editor’s note: Pascal’s turn. He clearly wasn’t as impressed overall as Joe but has selected some highlights to grudgingly comply with RFM’s sternly enforced policy of being nice. Well, mostly:
In a weekend bursting at the seams with irritating vocal improvisations, glossophonics, snarled and impertinent mouth crap, the likely trio of Gwilly Edmondez, Posset and THF Drenching chose the only option viable: ol’ time barbershop. Nah, we were of course subject to gurgle-core (is that Phil Todd’s term?) but this was of the finest pedigree. Bossy, snarled and darting; a real performance in that it propelled forwards towards you, opening itself up to the punters in an act of delicious spectacle and invitation. Gwilly Edmondez is a lumbering professor of something at the University of Newcastle. He is also in possession of a reverberant set of vocal chords of such rubbery depth to be, gasp, slimey, pure slime, the slime of old lady ass, under-sofa sweat dribbles, magnificent slime, everybody! A cassette voice slowed down, and that is garçon Gwilly, whose aural slugs competed with ex-Bailey bandmate THF Drenching, the latter wrestling his amp of its feedback possibilities. Posset on the third and final hand of this musical mutant nailed a splashing blend of static and mouth junk. See his mouth didn’t sound like mouth, or gargle, or in any way approach the being so-cerebral-it-gets-silly; it sounded good, ‘sound-in-itself’ good, inexhaustibly good, serious play and goodness.
Enjoyable as Dylan Nyoukis & Greg Kelley’s set was, and admitting that Nyoukis never disappoints in his encyclopaedic vocal voyages, his control and mastery over continents of vocalics… and taking into account this mighty Scot twinned with an enormous trumpet imagination of Greg Kelley, what really is there to be said about free improv anymore? I’ve been guilty of using the term too frequently but this is bona fide, every man out for himself territory. The only markedly different aspect of this performance was the brief and inexplicable spurts of disco lights which interrupted the almost total darkness. Good drossophonic messabout improv no doubt, but achingly purist free improv. So free, so fraught with my fevered doubts and whiffs of ‘what the hell will they do next?’ that the potential of it potentially collapsing – which really is the silent riff of free improv – seemed almost welcome.
Tom White wore a pristine white shirt and has a pristine brown beard (well, almost, and I urge him to embrace the status of total barbarism) and to clatter this rhetorical bowling ball was also in serious danger of delivering a pristine white overperformance. Let’s admit it, Luke was heavily involved with that obscenely massive and adorable tape deck he played with, he might as well gone off and married it. Ha! You’ve been great! There seemed to be no space between his hands and his ears, not letting sounds be themselves without having to hey-everyone-I’m-performing perform it, histrionics over Cagian (that’s adjectival John Cage, right?) conveying, cold and impersonal just as I like it. Thankfully us floor dwellers enjoyed an earful of superb tape junk. Nicely done. I say ‘junk’ but this was the sexy middle-class green bin kind of noise junk. Tasteful streamlines of grey static were repeated with just enough of interim to evade falling into witheringly dull tape delay jerk-off marathons. How gratifying to witness such immaculate and wretched explorations and applaud with, forty, heck, sixty other sick heads! And there were real girls, with, y’know like real hair, more than three! That’s when you know you’re festivalling!
Roman Nose provided welcome relief on Friday night with songs, actual songs! The free suspension and ‘what do they do next’ idea exchanging had its tension nicely diverted out of the room, past the very friendly venue staff of The Old Market and into the great Brighton night; that tension mentioned earlier of spontaneous performances was eroded by sudden halts, and proceeding to jolt without much delay into the next number. What I later learnt was a Chinese sheng (a strange organ-like contraption) was set upon and disturbed by Sarah McWatt. Charlie Collins clambered delicately over his drumkit shadowed by Jon Marshall (the Roman Nose wolf mother) on samples of scary tharqa and messy reeds.
I loved Black Dice for a long time but always knew there had to be a looser, non-hipster version that wasn’t Yellow Swans with their drizzling mush. Dinosaurs with Horns were a revelatory gesture towards this. Any band that can cram in experimental graft with joyful zest, with a semblance of a pulse, are due more than a little attention. What could otherwise slide into our memory bin instead transforms into joyful and constructful mucking about, my real and true nub rubber! These LA teamsters offered on a side-plate to this gigantically stale loaf of a weekend some morsel of delight, genuine swaying fairyground [sic] (Editor’s note: what a beautiful typo!) rollercoasting delight and rumble.
Editors note: a comprehensive selection of band bios and links can be found on the COOS website here. Photos by Marc Teare.
Tags: acrid lactations, ali robertson, andie brown, anja dornieden, bridget hayden, brighton, cm von hausswolff, colour out of space, dictaphonics, dieter schnebel, dylan nyoukis, electronic voice phenomena, enzo minarelli, evp, f. ampism, fordell research unit, free radicals, gen ken montgomery, gonzalez monroy, greg kelly, gwilly edmondez, ilan volkov, improv, joe murray, jooklo duo, juan david, karen constance, lovers ritual, m. stactor, malcy duff, maya dunietz, michael esposito, new music, no audience underground, noise, occult hand, pascal ansell, patrick goddard, posset, roman nose, sharon gal, sindre bjerga, spoils & relics, the handeye (bone ghosts), the y bend, thf drenching, usurper, virginia genta, vocal improvisation
COLOUR OUT OF SPACE / 6
INTERNATIONAL EXPERIMENTAL SOUND FESTIVAL
Performance Weekend: 8th – 10th November, 2013, Brighton, UK
Editor’s note: RFM had two roving reporters present at this year’s Colour Out Of Space festival down in that Brighton. Regular contributor Joe Murray, who also performed, enjoyed himself enormously. Pascal Ansell, whippersnapper and occasional guest of RFM, ahh… not so much. Copious enthusiasm from Joe first, a more exacting response from Pascal to follow. Over to Joe:
Ahhhh Brighton…the sun, the sea, the squalor! I’ve had a soft spot for Brighton ever since I was a wee kiddie with a vivid imagination, trying to piece together the violent Mods & Rockers legend with the twin-set & pearls crowd that strolled slowly down the pier huffing camphor-scented liniments.
These days of course it’s all about the hipsters and Bubble Tea but I’m not complaining; I’ve got my freak on as I meet my gracious host Bod for a pint or two before we lurch expectantly to the main venue, The Old Market. Immediately adopting ‘Brighton time’ I missed the mysterious Occult Hand and outrageous Acrid Lactations who I both really wanted to see – please accept my apologies Occult Lactations, I was with you in spirit.
It was sometime around pint four I met up with my co-reporter Pascal Ansell and we immediately set ourselves up in a Hunter S Thompson style press-pack; silver-eyed Tuna darting purposefully through the flitting shoal. We rejected the usual journalistic conventions to move straight from gentle ‘forming’ to chaotic ‘storming’ within minutes, swapping war-zone anecdotes, snippets of esoteric record knowledge and the loudly proclaiming the relevance of Sammy Davis Jr. The result of such firm-calved bonding and reckless drinking resulted in a beery bonhomie for sure but also meant I pretty much missed every act to play on Friday. Oops…I did it again! The one that got away was the Enzo Minarelli. Dressed in dark jeans and tight black T shirt, his hair scraped back, there was an air of the ninja in his vocal guffings. Assisted with backing tracks of further mouth-chaff the precise and deadly Enzo sliced the air with steel-edged hissing and lippy smacks. This was no po-faced sound poetry lark but a right old hootenanny with his piece ‘Poem’ being turned into ‘PoemMacaroni’ in the curdled air. The rest of the bill was crammed with exceptional acts of legendary avant-gardary but to my shame dear reader I spent the remnants of Friday propping up the bar catching up with old friends and making new ones. I’ve never been a good mixer Midwichers but I made up for 43 years of insecurity and introversion with full-strength good cheer and love for my fellow travellers. You’re (hic) my best pal (hic)!
Saturday morning was an exercise in sickness, pain and remorse as I sheepishly ate brunch with family Bod and took the drizzly bus in disgrace to witness Gen Ken Montgomery in a Hove Oxfam shop. The steamy windows of the Oxfam obscured the ‘standing room only’ crowd as I inched in and stood, stomach lurching, for this exploration of the 8-track tomfoolery. Gen Ken, dapper in vintage Op Art shirt and tie manipulated old portable 8-tracks filling the damp air with warped 70’s AM rock all mashed and rotting. The warbles and trembles on the tape gave the Bee Gees et al a sepia fuzzed-out logic as loops were found and layered up into the consistency of dusty blancmange. He was a right card too, playing it up for the steaming crowd, making asides and throwing out hula-hoops of pulsating ‘waaahhhhoooosssshhhhh-voooshhhhhh’. After Gen Ken’s performance I wandered round Brighton for a bit, drank some peppermint tea (swearing off the demon drink for the rest of the weekend) and soundchecked with the great Gwilly Edmondez & THF Drenching.
At about teatime I found myself outside the very proper St Andrew’s church for some right high culture. Old-guy Produktionsprozesse composer-guy Dieter Schnebel was interviewed by Ilan Volkov about his approach to music and personal history. Dieter seems a game old bird, humble and gracious but with a sharp sense of humour…he somehow manages to call the audience stupid and make them love him for it…dude! A bunch of doofs play some Schnebel pieces: Maya Dunietz world premieres the ass off a beautiful and catchy piece for piano, voice and tambourine. Ilan and Maya throw some shapes in a gestural piece where composer and pianist struggle for supremacy like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Then Maya and Dylan Nyoukis get all serious and tackle a vocal piece for restricted mouthshapes and we end up with the most spellbinding piece of the afternoon. Like air hissing through naked ribs, dry and crackly. The pair, dressed in formal black, embrace at the end of the show, cracking hearts at CooS and letting pure love flow. The only way to follow such an intense and refined performance is of course with some chips so I headed to Bankers (Brighton’s best Fish & Chip shop) for sustenance.
Energised by hot potato and grease I walk into the Old Market to see the friendly and familiar face of Sindre Bjerga coaxing gentle tape loops out of his mess of wires and objects, polishing them up and floating them on the breeze like water-filled balloons pulling gruff-clouds out the air. Stepping round his desk he carefully wraps up a few people in abandoned cassette tape, hurls a miniature cymbal onto the deck and politely waves marking the end of a neat little set. Next up were a bunch of A-Band/Ceramic Hobs/Zero Map/Smell & Quim refugees calling themselves The Y Bend. The programme describes ‘no-mind sounds’ which pretty much sums up the Hawkwind out-takes vibe. Personally I’m transported back to the days of Anti-Poll Tax benefits as this jam band takes a note and jiggles it proper between guitar, keyboard, violin and eccentric hand percussion making incidental music for the revolution.
Roman Nose take the stage behind them and win the rosette for ‘best band of Saturday’. These days Roman Nose are very much a ‘band’ bridging the gap between rock’s looseness and tape/noise/jam’s love of overload. It’s almost funky with a pushing and pulling, a wrapping and un-wrapping of tape-fuff mittens across fluttering drums and breathy intrusions via flute and black-bamboo sheng. Throw some horns for the Nose!
Huge wineglasses are set up amid electronic doo-hickery for Sharon Gal and Andie Brown. These glasses are Jeroboam massive, pregnantly full; delicate but comprising a thousand potential shivs. Like an inverse Justice Yeldham the glass is thumbed to produce deep rasping drones. It’s great to watch the deft hand movement turn into such singing and bassy mulch. Gal uses her voice like some terror-choir re-enacting a trauma. Electronic squash makes a Black Metal grunt adding to the dungeon gloom. Wow…a Carpathian Forest sprouts from the floor as the thin rays of a dismal sun rise slowly in the East. The bald guy with all the pedals is M. Stactor; his mask is a composite of Her Majesty Betty II and Saddam Hussein. Slowed down speech goes ‘burrrrrrr’ and get shoved through a variety of whizz-bangs to come out ‘BURRRRRR’ anointed with contact-mic crackle and hand-palming crunch. Brand new CooS trio Edmondez/Posset/THF Drenching adopt the dual Dictaphone position like a crouching Judas Priest. Gwilly bangs his head like Halford. And seeing as I’m involved modesty prevents me for saying too much about this fine-legged beast.
I caught about 20 seconds of Bridget Hayden’s set but within that 20 seconds I heard the entire history of overblown fuzz-guitar from the Sonics to the Velvet Underground to the Dead C. Rusty chainmail began clanking out the walls; rolling thunder crashed from the ceiling. The very gods showed their pleasure in ancient, animalistic ways. Oh boy! I was still kicking myself when Greg Kelley & Dylan Nyoukis sat erect and purposeful on a pitch black stage. Side by side they were, with Greg’s tubes augmented with cold brass and Dylan’s with moist flesh. Snide hiss and scything tones crept almost guiltily from trumpet and gob, playing merrily between wet-mouth slappings and full jowl squelch. This was no dramatic, overwrought, performance piece nor academically apologetic. The “my voice, your voice” mantra summed up a lot of the days sessions in a simple repetitive phrase. Some jokers joined in on coughing and started a response group reflex (koff-KOFF-koff). The optimist in me thought the spontaneous outpouring would lead to a scratch feral choir but no…it was a piss take…yet troupers Kelley & Nyoukis toughed it out cackling and blowing the third eye till it blinked all yeasty. Lovers Ritual (Maya Dunietz & Ilan Volkov) used voice and violin to beguile, encouraging minimal and thin tones out the cracks in the light fittings. Not content with sticking to the stage both Maya & Ilan ended up on the floor, among the punters, stroking and keening their flexible bones in a tangled tableaux.
It’s Sunday. The Lords day. And me & Bod celebrate with a visit to a typical Brightonian Car Boot sale; he picks up some Colombian tapes, I nab a Fantasy Island fridge magnet and we both head happily to the Sallis Benney Theatre for the famous CooS film screenings. I really loved what I saw but I soon discovered it’s hard to take notes in the dark so am relying on musty recall only. Standouts…the bonkers The Handeye (Bone Ghosts) by Anja Dornieden & Juan David Gonzalez Monroy which coupled 19th Century taxidermy with digitized commands and the bumbling chunter from Patrick Goddard’s charming Free Radicals. As the films ended, us gaggle of cinema-goers milled around, checking maps and GPS systems to find the next venue, giggling over being able to genuinely say, ‘See you in church later man.’ A walk along the cold, crisp sea-front takes us back to St Andrew’s Church for a session of spooky Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) from CM von Hausswolff & Michael Esposito. I’m really excited about this one. Since I was a kid I’ve been in love with that flexi disc that came with the first edition of ‘The Unexplained’. Of course I never knew these supposed ghost voices were EVP but I totally dug the hissy weirdness. The two gents open with about 15 minutes of static tape hiss with the occasionally clunky ‘chump’ like ghosts dropping wooden marbles in a bucket. The fuff was pretty damn immersive and had some of the flagging hordes crashed out on the pews. CM and Michael then took us through some of their EVP recordings (cue demonic chuckle) made in this very church. What could have been (possibly should have been) spectral and creepy turned into a bit of a laugh as the particularly chirpy Michael introduced second-long sound-clips of the dead calling us ‘assholes’, urging us to ‘get out’, that they ‘are in love with married men’ and…to much hilarity…‘it’s all shite’. Wow the ghosts sound like angry jakeys!
Back in the Old Market I strained limbs to find my comrade Pascal. It was Jooklo Duo next and I was pretty sure he’d be right up the front for this. Some lazy sleuthing revealed Pascal had packed up and gone. He’d had enough and trekked back to Leeds earlier in the day. Oh Pascal…you would have loved what came next! Jooklo Duo were absolutely amazing. Now I know that’s trite, lazy journalism but I was too busy picking my eyeballs up off the floor to concentrate on clever words. This was a 100% lung-bursting blowout with drumming as agile as a crack-fuelled squirrel. I’m no jazz buff but I like my brassy honks and squeals. Jooklo one, Virginia Genta, plays like Pharaoh Sanders with some nifty Arabic scales quickly releasing that cheeky kundalini from the base of my spine. Woah boy, I said Woah! Not one or two but three casual acquaintances said this was ‘better than Brotzmann’. Heard that? Promoters…book ‘em now.
Brighton local f.Ampism loops and loops and loops domestic clunk, mbira tones and gentle sighing all engaging and releasing softly like the briny blue sea just 100 meters down the street. A film is projected behind his hat and beard; cut-up collage sourced from what seems to be the family Nyoukis archive and Martha Colburn’s paint splattered horror-core. I have to admit I’m a total fan-boy of Amp’s choogle-leech-warp but this was a whole new saltine! Fordell Research Unit sat like a couple of chess masters and manipulated a pretty damn heavy drone with micro-movements. So far, so good. In tiny, tiny increments the drone gets grunty and somehow slower and fuller until we’re faced with a monolith – a black slab, playing the theme tune for the world’s most evil super villain. There’s a growing feeling of excitement for the next set from noise-monkeys Spoils & Relics with Karen Constance. Faced with a table full of gizmos and wires the quartet sat in quiet contemplation building a Jenga house of quivering tones and darkly-twinkling steam. Like some giant engineering puzzle, pieces are interlocked; a spark starts a fire and is extinguished ruthlessly by the hobo fire brigade. After a time the factory klaxon calls and the workers down tools and melt into grease.
It’s no secret; I’m a little in love with Usurper. Ali Robertson and Malcy Duff have been making the most singular no-input music for half a decade at least. Writing about Usurper is always a tough gig; their total lack of any of the regular handholds makes the amateur pamphleteer work hard, busting chops to describe their occasional cutlery pings and tales of Auld Reekie. Tonight they are joined by Dora Doll, one half of the legendary Prick Decay, on scissors as a circular story unfolds on twin tape recorders. Narratives intertwine as a regular haircut turns into a meditation on the seaside and seaside ritual. A grumpy Ali gets wrapped in ribbon like a maypole, Malcy crawling on the floor streaming the red and white tapes behind him. Hairy objects are presented to Ali & Dora for snipping. A guitar FX pedal, a pair of glasses, a descant recorder are shorn of hair and (in some cases) indecently rubbed beneath the barber’s shawl. Apart from the taped stories, folding in and out of phase there is a rare skronk-interruption on contact-miked yard brush ‘Shussssh, shusssh, shussssh’ as Malcy coughs up hairballs. Any traditional ideas of what performance is are dashed. Any preconceptions of what underground art should be are delightfully roasted. Usurper are right out on a limb, doing their very own thing and making up a whole new set of parameters. What on the page seems like random vignettes has a strong sense of direction and pace…and most importantly fun. I’m laughing like a drain and looking round to see a crescent of bemused yet joyful faces. No one is really sure what they have witnessed but pretty much everyone agrees it was damn fine.
The tapes spool to an end, Usurper and Dora bow and grin, and my CooS adventure comes to an end. It’s been a trip and a half Midwichers. Brighton itself is a beautiful backdrop to this very psychedelic weekend, the bands/acts/performers have all brought their own slice of oddness with a spice and professionalism the naysayers often miss. But for me it’s all been about the people…the floating and transient chats, the laughs and the in-depth conversations. There’s that quote about the Velvet Underground isn’t there? They didn’t sell loads of records but everyone who bought one formed their own band. Well this weekend might have been an intimate affair but I wonder how many projects and plans were hatched, how many ideas were sparked and alliances formed. CooS brings the no-audience underground together like a giant think-tank…but what’s gonna occur? I can’t wait to find out.
Editors note: a comprehensive selection of band bios and links can be found on the COOS website here. Photos by Joe or Marc Teare.