knotty scabs, fresh burns: joe murray picks at smut, witchblood

November 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Smut – Incomplete Chaos (CD-r, Turgid Animal)

Popular Radiation/Witchblood – Live at the Mining Institute (tape, Boiled Brains Bootlegs, BBB #003)

Smut - Incomplete ChaosSmut - Incomplete Chaos 2

Smut – Incomplete Chaos

Lucy passed this one to me merely minutes before she clambered up on stage at Newcastle’s OctoberTUSKfest and fairly flattened the attentive crowd with the extreme heaviness found inside an old violin and some dodgy FX pedals.

This time Smut plays it spookier and looser with a bunch of long/short/long pieces moving from candle wax smooth to hessian rough over 50 delightful minutes.

‘Mother Shipton’ is, as you’d expect, cave music; throbbing reverberation and haunted echoes.  Squashed foghorns moan in a deep drizzle, a children’s pipeband is lost in a nearby chamber but play to keep their spirits up.  You can hear terror in their reedy voices as eyes skit round the dampness looking for any pinpricks of light.

A rush of thick flaming oil is captured in the brief but aptly titled ‘A grandeur in the beating of the heart’.  It’s warm and rough like knotty scabs over fresh burns; you can’t stopping picking at it despite the crimson pearls of blood collecting under your fingernails.

Free-guitar overload lurches while the runes rattle as the pivotal piece ‘G&G’ unfolds…chunky riffing collapsing and re-building solid shapes, sucking all the light out the room.  A ragged apocalypse, dark alkali fires and barren earth all spring into my mind-cinema as I’m buffeted by this howling voodoo.

Long nights bring the unknowable with the three cackling demons: isolation, paranoia and fear.  The super-spooky track ‘Tramadol 4am’ is a séance of terrible magnitude.  Like slow suffocation, or waves closing over your head, the scruttered voices are just beyond the level of intelligibility… their dark chatter is unclear making this all the more haunting.

Phew… this brings us to the melancholic closer ‘Blood Moon.’  A giant ribcage from some monstrous beast is bowed (deeply) whilst thunderous exclamations get chucked from on high by a grumpy Zeus.  Truly restrained and ponderous, like the sound of glaciers calving, this is now standard kit for all Antarctic explorers.

Being in the right place at the right time snaffled me up this boxed copy but Incomplete Chaos will be released on Turgid Animal soon.  Keep watching… as the nights draw in you’ll need this grim disc, as autumnal as acrid bonfire smoke and spent fireworks found in the damp street.

poprad-witchblood frontpoprad-witchblood back

Popular Radiation/Witchblood – Live at the Mining Institute

Like Cheap Trick and the Budokan or Motorhead and the Hammersmith Odeon some bands and venues seem inextricably linked.  Is it the acoustics, the pre-gig ‘refreshment’ or the vibe (man)?  I’m not sure about all that lot but one thing I know is some places accept a performance and some don’t.  I’m delighted to report Newcastle’s Mining Institute is fast turning into a little Carnegie Hall for the No-Audience Underground with excellent performances this year from Fritz Welch & Crank Sturgeon, the Minton & Poot duo and Roger Turner & Urs Leimgruber to name but a few.  So while you might not be able to scream, “I was there man!” you can sup from the excitement goblet by jamming this pink little tape.*

First up, Hasan Gaylani’s Popular Radiation.  A full-throated and rich-coffee roar fills the air as soon as I press play.  Blimey… this is heavy.  Derived from something Sarod/Tanpura-esque this is a single point in time, stretched across 20 mins or so, but it would be disingenuous to call it a drone work.  Poplar [sic.  Editor’s note: nice typo though – imagine the luminescent forest!] Radiation has more in common with the dark art of the DJ, in particular Millsian techno. Deep sounds are mixed and blended and it’s in this mixing and blending that the magic takes place.  Tiny incremental changes are edging between different states until it dawns on you that you’ve moved from one listening position to another without even knowing.  As the Killer Bees state:

The slow blade cuts deepest.

Flipping the tape introduces us to Witchblood (Smut & Culver) who employ gas piano and shadow violin in a devastatingly effective duo.  For me the name Witchblood conjures up Hammer Horror but this music is no campy bombast; it’s pure dustbowl depression.  Like a tornado full of sepia-tinted pianola and slack cat-gut, sound whirls slowly.  Things keep at a menacing pace but become more dense and complex as notes topple over each other, edging themselves out the twister to collapse to the ragged rocks below.  It’s elemental, with that sense of gathering power, like when clouds bruise and blacken and you feel the delicious tension before the first fat drops of rain fall.  Most precious of all is the beautiful, respectful silence that follows the thin grey fade out, a precedent to the howling cheers and applause.

All this for £4 only from the mighty Turgid Animal site.


*the other option of course is to just lie about it like the thousands of Manc half-wits who ‘saw’ the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall and still haven’t stopped going on about it…

artifacts of the no-audience underground: recent jazzfinger

August 7, 2012 at 7:57 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Jazzfinger – Poem of Stones (Bells Hill, BH010, CD-r, edition of 50)

Jazzfinger – Night Fall At Borrowed World (Sonic Oyster Cassettes 009, edition of 50)

OK, what we have here is a nicely presented CD-r on Scott McKeating’s ever reliable label Bells Hill.  It contains one track which documents about 45 minutes of a Jazzfinger rehearsal from 2004.  The recording is inexpensive, unedited – rumble at the bottom, harsh at the top, meandering throughout – however as it progresses it becomes clear that this is no mere ephemera of interest only to Jazzfinger obsessives.  I can’t get enough of it.  The liner notes provide some context:

Recorded at Morden Tower, this was a rehearsal for a gig we were going to play at a Weekender at the abandoned Aldwych Tube station back in November 2004. As it turns out the event was cancelled at the last minute and coincided with John Peel’s funeral on the Friday, and Jhonn Balance‘s death that Sunday. What a shit weekend.

Presumably the band did not foresee this shitness but the melancholy air to much of the piece suggests a hint of what was to come may have been in the room.

There are changes of direction, as you would expect from a rehearsal tape, but these are far from aimless.  As with all good improv, the transitions are as interesting as the periods of ‘steady state’ noise.  It shifts with the unknowable purpose of a nocturnal marine predator swimming over what in the daytime is a multi-coloured reef rinsed to grey-scale by the moonlight.  Is it looking for food, a mate, shelter?  Or is it a Lovecraftian ‘Deep One’/human hybrid, fully adapted to the life aquatic and shaking off the last vestiges of its humanity?  Irresistible.

The tape is a more manageable, relatively slick affair with properly edited and titled tracks released in the generic neon packaging of the collectable Sonic Oyster cassette series.  Would it be perverse of me to describe this as ‘urban pastoral’?  What I mean is that Jazzfinger’s psychedelic noise is no hippy delirium, no prelapsarian bliss.  Instead it seems pulled up from the streets of the city, like strange flowers growing through cracks in the pavement, in a place where urban foxes knocking over bins have the same totemic power as the coyotes of the Mexican desert.

For more on Bells Hill see their discogs page or email Scott via  Details of how to get hold of the the Sonic Oyster tape can be seen here.

popular radiation post popular, radiating

July 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Ah, it is good to be back!  My beloved and I have just returned from a less than satisfactory holiday in Devon.  The weather was atrocious throughout, the accommodation acceptable at best and what little relaxation we could manage when our teeth finally unclenched was unavoidably interrupted by terrible news about the serious illness of a close friend.  Grim.  I won’t miss those roads either.  The journey from the local village to our cottage was like a hedged-in rollercoaster.  With sheep on it.

Oh well.  Back in civilisation I have been taking solace in a skim through the pile of correspondence that built up in our absence.  My eye was naturally drawn to a lengthy email by the lovely Hasan Gaylani of Jazzfinger whose solo project Popular Radiation was the subject of my last post before going away.  He makes a bunch of interesting and explanatory points adding to my own comments and I thought you lot might be interested to read ‘em for yourselves.  Over to Hasan (with one more note from me):

I’m so glad that you heard this as one thing divided into 5 – did you notice that some of the outros are actually the intros to the following gig/CDR?

(Editor’s note: I DID notice the outros/intros thing, and now I wish I had mentioned it, but I thought it was my overactive imagination.  My mp3 player shuffled the tracks into alphabetical order so at first I didn’t hear them in chronological order yet STILL heard intro/outro links between them. Hasan is obviously a massive genius because his skills make sure the tracks appear linked no matter what order they are listened to in!)

Yes, Space Argument is a reference to the fantastic Modern Toss cartoon, but it’s also a reference to that cat on the sleeve. She was called Patti Smith (!) and died in Jan 2011 at the grand old age of 18. The photo was taken in the early 90’s – at that time she didn’t like living with me and the other cat I had at the time and tried to keep away as much as possible: in the photo she’d finally found a bit of privacy – on top of the kitchen door!!

A while back I was reading a lot about Merzbow and discovered that an alternate title for Kurt Schwitter’s Merzbau was The Cathedral Of Erotic Misery……and the term Erotic Misery really fitted into my feelings about the bits of Kes I used – the scenes where the headmaster is berating and caning those boys, and also when Billy is hitting and cursing his inebriated older brother all seem highly charged in a totally wrong way. The bit from Paris Texas (I knew these people…) is the scene where Travis is talking to his ex through a one way peep show mirror: at once beautiful and desolate, he can only talk to her and love her as long as she can’t see him…….etc……two of my all time best movies.

Ariel Bender is a reference to the Mott The Hoople guitarist of the same name and also a reference to a lot of the sounds being lifted from the radio. The second half of the track is me mashing up the beat from the Strangulated Beatoffs ‘(Theme From) Fart Inhaler’ (mixed with a faulty Bong live tape) – it’s recognisable if you know the original track so it’s a cover version!

I thought your comparison of PR to the girl in Poltergeist was spot on and great. Kraftwerk’s Radio Activity’s allusion to radio waves and radioactivity says that it’s ‘in the air for you and me’ and so it follows with that in mind I’m nicking/soaking up/recycling stuff from the radio (presumably it’s popular if it’s on the radio, right?), TV, DVDs, other people’s records etc…….you know what I’m getting at, right?

I think the humourous side of things comes through more in my stuff than in JF as it’s more personal to me, and I love my twisted comedy as much as my favourite music – my favourite band ever is Sun City Girls which probably explains a lot. JF is more about a collective pursuit of beauty, and a manifestation of our friendship.

So now you know, eh?  Thanks again to Hasan for taking the time to reply so comprehensively.  I can only repeat my recommendation that you get hold of this stuff.  Contact Hasan directly via and ask how.

artifacts of the no-audience underground: popular radiation

July 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Popular Radiation – PR1 to PR5 (self-released CD-rs)

  • PR1 Space Argument
  • PR2 Magnum Hopeless
  • PR3 Ariel Bender/Fart Inhaler
  • PR4 Erotic Misery
  • PR5 I Remember Every Day Of My Life

I’ve heard it said that you should never meet your heroes and I suppose that if your idol is, say, a Premiership footballer or a big name contemporary artist then this is probably true.  The experience is unlikely to be edifying.  However, down here in the no-audience underground the notion is total bollocks.  I am in the enviable position of being friends with many of my heroes and can report on their qualities as human beings as well as their creative talents (see here for an explanation of why we are all so wicked awesome).  Always good to meet a new one too…

…And so it came to pass that before the recent Ceramic Hobs/Jazzfinger gig in Leeds I received an email from Joe Posset, RFM’s North East correspondent, telling me that I HAD TO GO because Hasan Gaylani of Jazzfinger had been asking after me.  That was very flattering.  Imagine if the subject of my humble blog was poker and Chris Moneymaker had requested an audience – a legendarily down to Earth and approachable guy but still a world champion.  I was, as our American cousins might say, stoked.

The gig was great (see the write-up at Idwal Fisher) and I managed not to make a twat of myself in conversation with Hasan, Ben (Jazzfinger) and Mike Vest (of Bong, Space Victim etc.) who had all travelled down.  The ‘social’ was well good that evening.  Hasan was very appreciative of the coverage this blog gives to the North East noise scene and flattered me even further by handing over the first two in this series of CD-rs by Popular Radiation, with a promise to send on the others.  He’d been pleased with my review of the 3″ CD-r by PR on Bells Hill and wanted me to flap my ears at his solo project’s more long-form incarnation.  This I have been happy to do.

The specifications: a series of five CD-rs packaged in minimal wrappers featuring found illustrations (at least I hope they are found given the subject of the piccy on PR3 – yes, that one you stopped and had a good look at on your scroll down to the text).  All are recordings of live performances which took place between June 2010 to July 2011 in various venues around Newcastle.  To keep it all in the no-audience family: PR3, 4 and 5 were recorded by the indefatigable Joe Posset.  Each contains a single track and vary in length from one quarter to three quarters of an hour, though I’m inclined to think of it as one piece in five parts with a total running time of about two hours and twenty minutes.

These recordings have three main ingredients: a) noise, mainly strata of distortion, b) drone, mainly swarms of fuzz and c) lengthy samples appropriated from other musical sources or dialogue taken from film or ‘field recorded’ conversations.

The tone is some distance from the expansive, psychedelic delirium of Jazzfinger.  This is demanding stuff, occasionally claustrophobic, darkly humorous to the point of nihilism.  For example, Space Argument (PR1) is presumably titled for the series of cartoons by Modern Toss which features a pair of bickering astronauts oblivious to the majesty of the cosmos due to their annoyance with each other (“Stick the flag in over there”, “You fucking do it”).  Erotic Misery (PR4) features a lengthy excerpt from the film Kes of a teacher berating some school boys, exasperated at their intransigence and enraged at his impotence in the face of it: the whole system is fucked, always has been, always will.  Cheery thought, eh?

Or am I imagining it?  The ecstatic reaction of the small but appreciative crowd at the end of each set suggests the audience was not pummelled into submission by despairing bleakness.  There are plenty of lighter moments and some proper laffs too.  The bit from Kes is followed by an entertainingly squashed extract from In the Hall of the Mountain King, its inherent campness enhanced by a little industrial distortion.  Ariel Bender/Fart Inhaler (PR3) cannot be taken entirely seriously either, as you might expect from its title, cover picture and the grin-inducing exotic croon-pop that kicks it off.

I did use the word ‘claustrophobic’ earlier, and so it can feel, but it isn’t oppressive – plenty of headspace for interpretation remains.  My thoughts drift in and out of focus as these pieces progress, becoming more or less plausible.  To attempt to think hard about Popular Radiation is to put yourself in the position of the little girl in the film Poltergeist: her hand on the television screen, face flush to the static, chatting with voices only she can hear…

Recommended, of course, though I can find no indication that any of this is commercially available.  I suggest contacting Hasan directly – – and asking him nicely.

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