the medicinal quality of northern noise, its alloys and compounds

May 13, 2014 at 10:16 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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posset – friction rivers (tape, Singing Knives Records)

sindre bjerga / posset – split (CD-r, gold soundz, gs#123, edition of 25)

star turbine / inseminoid / fordell research unit / xazzaz – nundungeon (CD-r, gold soundz, gs#122, edition of 25)

I, Torquemada – The Book, The Eye, The Scourge (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE106)

Oppenheimer – Oppenheimer (CD-r, molotov, 26)

oppenheimer – js/ls/ms, js/ls/ms/mks (tape, Matching Head, mh202)

Inseminoid – Vanessa Howard’s Night Light (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.022, edition of 50 or download)

posset - friction rivers

Surprisingly perhaps, given my status as long-term noise aficionado, I suffered my first ever migraine last week.  Silver worms squirmed into the top right of my peripheral vision, wriggling downwards until their glistening made it impossible to read the newspaper I was holding.  Then the left hand side of my face, upper jaw to receding hairline, seized up completely – as if a phantom of the opera mask was held clamped in place over the affected area.  The pain made me feel nauseous but, in denial about what might be occurring, I decided that a few painkillers and a lie down would be sufficient treatment.  The worst of it lasted about three hours.

During the following week my face and scalp remained ‘tight’ – the muscle under my left eye twitching like an oyster dripped with lemon juice.  Worse though was a near constant state of seasickness which had me imagining I was swaying from side to side and made it difficult to sleep, to stomach food or to concentrate on everyday tasks.  I took some time off work and visited my GP who was sufficiently concerned to prescribe some medication and insist that I saw her again if anything changed.  My Dad suffered a minor stroke when he was about my age so we all wanted to make sure my brain wasn’t exploding.

Unfortunately, things deteriorated over the weekend and I reported even more, even stranger symptoms – a sunburnt feeling on my arms and hands being the weirdest – to my GP yesterday morning and she referred me immediately to Accident and Emergency at Leeds General Infirmary for a neurological assessment.  I was at the hospital for six hours, four of which were spent waiting in A&E.  I’ve been before in the evening and seen the bloody, alcohol-soaked horrorshow but the daytime parade of elderly patients rubbing numb limbs whilst spouses laughed nervously, each trying not to let on how frightened they were, was even more upsetting.  Anyway, I eventually saw a bunch of doctors, had my noggin sliced with X-rays and got the all clear.  Nowt wrong with me that a few painkillers and a lie down won’t see to.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, it explains why I’m sat here typing instead of being out gallivanting.  Given that all has not been well between my ears, medical opinion (and common sense) suggests that I should probably not press ’em up against the speakers at Wharf Chambers.  The timing is heartbreaking as this week sees sets in Leeds from Neil Campbell, Popular Radiation, Spoils & Relics, BBBlood and RFM comrade Joe Murray as Posset.  It would, of course, be a glorious way to go out – to have my head literally explode at the peak of a Paul Watson racket-crescendo, say – but my worried wife would much rather I was around to, y’know, help with the baby n’ all that.  Thus here I am in Midwich Mansions, self-medicating my sulk with doses of noise from Tyneside, Edinburgh and Norway.

sindre and joe split

First then to my man Joe and his nom-de-gurgle Posset: a cassette monograph on the ever lovely Singing Knives and shared credit for a split with the ubiquitous Sindre Bjerga on the latter’s Gold Soundz imprint.  Between the pair of them we are treated to a symphony for spittle and poorly-lubricated door hinge, a Punch and Judy show as performed by the inmates of Charenton Asylum directed by the Marquis de Sade, a fleet of aquatic budgerigars trilling, gargling and discussing the price of kelp, trainers squeaking on a basketball court during a game played by the anthropomorphic animal croquet teams from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, a wheelie bin full of post-midnight, soggy gremlins plotting mischief and a chipped vinyl Oliver Postgate storybook LP playing forlornly on a faulty wind-up gramophone.  Occasionally in Sindre’s tracks some drone bleeds in as if his million other projects are leaking through a badly aligned tape head.  Tremendous stuff, full of verve, exuberance and humour as well as a surprising and touching emotional range.


Speaking of Sindre’s million other projects: Star Turbine, his excellent duo with Claus Poulsen, leads off a compilation that could well have been curated with me in mind as the ideal listener.  Four bands: Star Turbine, Inseminoid, Fordell Research Unit and Xazzaz – all favourites of mine – each donate a single 10(plus) minute track to a CD-r celebrating that line up playing the exquisitely named Nundungeon in Edinburgh earlier this year.  The Turbs are in a playful mood, bringing Sindre’s current solo style to stamp gleefully around in the space afforded by their usual spacey drone.  Inseminoid I will be coming onto shortly thus my later comments can be slotted in here: ‘______’.  Fraser Burnett of Fordell Research Unit simply cannot put a foot wrong and his confident, expressive drone work is as satisfying as remembering there is an uneaten Easter egg still in the cellar head.  Mike Simpson of Xazzaz is capable of exactly the same level of customer service but does it with added pedal-stomped, bristling loudness.  Sindre had this one for sale on his recent jaunt ’round the UK – you better drop him a line to see if it is still available.

i, torquemada - the book, the eye, the scourgeoppenheimer - molotov 26oppenheimer - mh202

Mike Simpson also plays a part, I think, in both I, Torquemada and Oppenheimer – the former being a duo of Frater J (Jamie of Wrest?  Jerome of Charles Dexter Ward?) and Frater M (Mike, probs), the latter being mainly a quartet of Jamie, Jerome, Mike and RFM heartthrob Lee Stokoe of Culver and Matching Head.  I’m sure the omniscient Scott McKeating will set me straight if I have the details wrong.  Both acts perform an industrial strength improv noise rock, or free punk, or doom skronk or harsh guitar wall or whatever – subgenre post-it notes won’t stick to this surface caked with filth.  There is a perverse relish in referencing the Spanish Inquisition or the Manhattan Project with your band name and a dark, hopeless abandonment is certainly celebrated with the music too.  It’s as morbidly beautiful as the glistening wings of a sea bird caught in an oil slick, as terrifyingly faceless as a coin eaten smooth by a corrosive fluid.  I am reminded, quite purposefully I suppose, of the famous quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer following the Trinity test:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

These Tyneside nihilists would have been amongst those laughing.  They see the big – the biggest – picture.

inseminoid - vanessa

Inseminoid, the duo of Lee Stokoe and George Proctor (of Mutant Ape and Turgid Animal), are connoisseurs of horror cinema, vintage porn and exploitative art in general but their heavy drone pieces are importantly different to the gore-splattered gusto of their colleagues above.  They curate a carefully sustained atmosphere of unease, understanding that true terror is often found not in the act but in its consequences, not in the situation but in its implications.  Repeat listens brought to mind haunting, half-remembered, dream-troubling passages from my own limited experience with horror fiction.  For example, I always found the reveal in Ringu 2 that Sadako was actually alive and sealed in the well for thirty years before dying to be as viscerally nauseating as any of the deaths portrayed.  Or how about a scene from one of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood stories where a guy foolishly pokes a seemingly dead monster and has his hand bitten off?  In a moment of genius, Barker steps back from the gore for a couple of sentences to let us in on the shock and dismay this moment of idiotic bravado has caused.  We see the awful, disproportionate consequences and are appalled.  This is what Inseminoid are up to: cool, considered, implacably hostile – absolutely compelling.


Singing Knives

Gold Soundz

(Editor’s note: there are various Gold Soundz resources revealed by a quick Google/Discogs search but none seem current.  As such, I’ve linked to Sindre’s own page and you can ask him about these releases directly.)

Sheepscar Light Industrial

Oracle Netlabel


Matching Head

artifacts of the no-audience underground: molotov label review

October 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Xazzaz – s/t (CD-r, Molotov 04)

Funeral Dance Party / Xazzaz – MMXI (Vinyl album, Molotov 08/Fuckin’ Amateurs #62)

F.D.P. R.I.P – Under Stone and Trees (Vinyl album, Molotov 09/Fuckin’ Amateurs #68)

I, Torquemada – Asesinato Total (CD-r, Molotov 10)

Oppenheimer – s/t (CD-r, Molotov 12)

Xazzaz – Black Hearts and Brittle Bones (CD-r, Molotov 13)

Blimey, it’s like the ‘hampster dance’ or something.  For a couple of days my response to Mr. Reynold’s talk garnered three times the usual average hits for this blog.  Crowds are flocking to read my spirited defence of this odd little world (although I’m amused to see it isn’t all one way – almost no-one was watching the video prior to me mentioning it, now hits on it at Vimeo are bubbling along healthily).  I’ve had so many referrals from that facebook that I momentarily thought about creating an account there.  Luckily sense overcame vanity and I left it well alone.  May I ask a favour?  If anyone out there has made or read interesting comments then could you please email them to me, or comment on this blog, because otherwise I’m unlikely to see them.  Cheers.

So, how to consolidate this new readership?  Point them at something joyous and relatively accessible in order not to scare them off?  How about a round-up of releases by a relatively ‘big name’ in order to ease the alienation?  Nope: neither.  Next up on the review pile is a whole mess of impenetrably hard, semi-anonymous noise, covered in skulls and on a more-or-less secret label hidden up in the wilds of the North East.  Perfect!  It’s the no-audience way…

Cherry Vampire by Culver is a mighty release and I said as much in my last worship-piece about the work of Lee Stokoe.  However, when I came to exhort you to ‘buy here’ there was no ‘here’ to be found.  No contact details on the CD-r or packaging, a partial Discogs listing for the label – Molotov – that was no more informative.  In the end the ever-accommodating Scott McKeating of Bells Hill, omniscient in the North East noise scene, pointed me at a guy called Mike and a gently probing email was sent in his direction.

Yes, he admitted, he was running Molotov but had been keeping it strictly on the QT whilst it was mainly recordings by him or close associates.  Amazingly, he’d built a notable back-catalogue of nicely packaged releases whilst very few outside his circle even knew it existed.  Should you wish to examine truly hardcore no-audience underground behaviour in its natural habitat then the North East is hard to beat.  Here is where a label such as Fuckin’ Amateurs can push out scores of releases, sometimes without even the featured band’s permission, and then just give them away at the shows they so cheekily bootleg.  Even if the music, which is varied but tends towards a heavy guitarish/psych/metal inspired noise, isn’t your bag you can still find the attitude and self-sufficiency of the scene inspirational.

My nudge was well timed as it neatly coincided with Mike adding some information about Molotov to the website dedicated to his solo project Xazzaz – thus giving me something to point you at.  He was also kind enough to send a generous parcel of his warez too – thus giving me a reason to point you at it.

Firstly, Mike has co-released two albums on the heritage medium of 12” vinyl with the aforementioned Fuckin’ Amateurs.  One is a split called MMXI featuring live sets from Xazzaz and scene legends Funeral Dance Party.  I imagine this will contain recordings of varying quality, maybe spitting with energy, top and tailed with excitable Geordie chatter.  The other is, I think, a compilation of punk/noise hybrids called F.D.P. R.I.P. Under Stone and Trees.  I say ‘I imagine’ and ‘I think’ because I haven’t been able to listen to either.  My turntable is protesting by making a nasty grinding noise whenever switched on (all by itself – no need for HNW) so apologies to Mike and note to potential submitters: no vinyl until further notice, please.  I’ll take it to bits at the weekend.

I can’t, however, pass these records by without commenting on the excellent sleeve decoration.  MMXI is wrapped in a gloriously psychotic white-on-black screen print of three creatures from a Lovecraftian bestiary, doodled by a mad artist during the psychic storm caused by the raising of R’leyh.  That the spear point at the end of the goat/devil’s tail is a guitar headstock and that one of the Cthulhoid creature’s tentacles ends in a jack plug is well ROCK too.

Now some CD-rs – we’ll start with the toughest.  Asesinato Total by I, Torquemada is as unforgiving as the title, cover and band name suggest.  I imagine this stuff is fun to make and, at one third the length would make for an exhilarating live set, but an hour long CD-r is too much for me.  Not that nothing happens – it does.  Not that it isn’t good – it is.  Passages in the final third are terrific but by then my attention had been sandblasted to a nub.  This may be savoured by those with a taste for such things but I usually order from a different part of the menu.

The self-titled Oppenheimer is almost as brutal.  The components of metal are crushed and smeared until all that remains are distorted guitar and clattering, pummelling percussion.  ‘Tests’, the first of two lengthy tracks, is relentless: a gang of droogs mug some defenceless krautrock motorik, wrestle it to the ground and give it a 29 minute kicking. ‘Consequences’ starts with a little swing to it (who woulda thought the Manhattan Project would be so… groovy) before settling down to more ego-mashing, eventually finishing with a swirling mechanical loop and, unnervingly, a child’s giggle.

Best of the lot though is Mike’s own solo work as Xazzaz.  This is also noise coming from a metal direction but is all the better for making some concessions to the listener: shorter tracks and much more movement in tone and texture.  You may even hear the odd riff or bassline, albeit one with a foot on its neck.  Track six of the self titled Xazzaz is the one I keep coming back to.  It is made up of a guttering bottom heavy wail, like a slowed-down, pitched-down recording of an orgasming dalek, a riff that breaks the waves like the back plates of a monstrous sea creature and bursts of whistling thrown into the air like snorts of mucus from a blowhole.

Black hearts and brittle bones crams the lot into an efficient thirteen minutes.  A mournful opening, an organ drone for the shipwrecked, gives way to a sludgy guitar attempting to squall, like a giant carnivore trying to free itself from a tar pit.  It ends with a haunting player piano tinkling away to itself deep under the rubble of a saloon destroyed by an earthquake.  I dig it.

Ordering details can be found on the Molotov page of

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