a crooner and a loomer, st valentine’s day special: joe murray on id m theft able

February 14, 2017 at 11:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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spooky-theft

ID M THEFT ABLE – A Heart Named Spooky (Download from Skot’s profile on the OK Cupid Dating Site /or/ limited cassette available from (Mang Disc))

“Love! I can’t get enough of it” says that Jay-Z fella in Kanye’s Monster (2010) and I have a feeling that this THEFT ABLE, a similar giant of a man for sure, is of the same fluffy opinion.

He’s both crooner and loomer on ‘A Heart Named Spooky’, an album of piano-led ballads (yes really) released as a download on a genuine dating site – OK Cupid.

Gosh…that’s the facts ma’am.  But what about all this damn lovin’ and a kissin’?

Skot-ABLE’s world has always been fluid and this collection is as hard to pin down as cherry vape smoke.  It’s as diverse as love is broad so forgive me if I skip between warm hugs and a little gentle spanking.

The drift of ‘Blue and Yellow and Different Blue’ pitches a Burberry-soft voice over rolling piano, aching like Phil Collins always wanted you to.  ‘Faded Sign’ a lamentation on memory is exactly halfway to becoming a player-piano tune in a Western brothel but with the clipped diction of Human Head’s Ben Knight.

The pieces ‘My Clothes They Never Fit Right’ and ‘A Heart That’s Gasp GASPING for Blood’ could be the middle-sections from vintage THEFT ABLE jams with goof-goof-grub schlurps and snickers; super wet and inviting.  It’s stretching at the very limits of understanding and attention ya’hear!

A thin drone sets the tone for ABLE to practice his keening castrato over digital rubble making ‘I’ll Bet’ a bridge of a track.  The ideal entry point for THEFT-watchers I’d wager; but slippery?  You bet!

But it’s ‘A Bit of Trash, An Unspilled Flower’ that makes me mist-up and blub.  This is a truly handsome nonsense, as forgiving as true love and therefore as blind as a bat.  Each slurp and tinkle, each howl and arpeggio takes me make to a very, very specific stolen glance; an imperceptible nod from beneath sharp dark bangs that made my heart go ‘pop-pop-popeye’ back, way back, when I was loveable.  (Sigh!)

Things end on the very damn poignant ‘A Valentine Late’, one minute fifty eight seconds of pure piano, guff-less, and concentrating on fingers totally.  Beautiful anxiety.

theft-able-and-flaniel

ID M THEFT ABLE & Flandrew Fleisenberg – Paying $10/an Hour to Dig a Hole in Monroe (Bandcamp Download and cassette on Mang Disc)

With THEF_T on voice-moan, snap-judgments and sloppers only, a clear space is marked out for percussionist FLANDRE_W on collected steel detritus and novelty plastic beaters.  I’m listening out for a regular trap set but just keep getting these junk-mechanic flowcharts appearing before my eyes.  So be it.

From both gentlemen the watchword is reckless speed and demonic accuracy.  ‘Beats’ are dropped like clumsy spoons going all ‘schlang-schalng’ as they wobble comically to rest on their fat bellies.

Rosy-cheeked squawks rumble like a rusty tenor blowing Fela Kuti horn charts deep in The Shrine!  It’s a well-mixed match; a garment woven with care for sure but also a jittering confidence that puff-shoulders are making a dramatic comeback.

The pivotal track ‘My Life in a Bush of Ghosts. New Paltz. New York. 05.20.16’ made me really go ‘youk-youk’.  I imagine ENO and that Talking Heads guy spraffing on about psychedelic Africa while THEFT and FLAND almost take off at the 4.23 mark paying homage to the Yoruba spirits. The skies open wide and safari fumes vibrate of the land in game-y crescents.  For fans of the real here and now – don’t despair! This track is bookended with violent furniture-moving scrapes.

A student of DOUBLE DUTCH?  Check out ‘The Lodge, Chester, New York 05.21.16’ for helix-skipping rhythms and rhymes hymned perfecto!

In fact the energy doesn’t even begin to drop until the thoughtful, melancholic closer ‘553 Warren Street, New York 05.22.16’.  As benefits a final artistic statement it goes in heavy on the water-filled baking tray, mournful bell ring and asthmatic goose-honks.  Perfectly balanced…light and shade innit?

But…whatever the political climate it’s worth checking out IDM’s bottom drawer for any junk you might have missed.  You could do worse that HINT HINT, plant your feet on Babb’s Bridge, for example NUDGE NUDGE.

This communication ends baby!

Muuurrrrr…WAH!

theft

 

Mang Disc

Theft Able Bandcamp

-ooOOOoo-

stamina and chutzpah: joe murray on anla courtis, the pink chunk, g.j. de rook and id m theft able

November 7, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Anla Courtis – Microtonal Drifts (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR18, edition of 50 or download)

The Pink Chunk – Unearthed (“C20 Tape in a pink and green bulbous swelling”, No Basement Is Deep Enough)

g.j. de rook – a and bla (“C25 Tape in a chunky letterist bundle”, No Basement Is Deep Enough) 

ID M THEFT ABLE – Jowls Without a Face (“C25 Tape in a felt-lipped plush purse”, No Basement Is Deep Enough)

anla - microtonal

Anla Courtis – Microtonal Drifts

I’m such a brain-doofus I wouldn’t know a microtone if it bit my pooter but I can fairly say this tape is some splendidly jiggering fux.

On side one a skittering hand limply flaps nylon guitar strings whispering new vibrating words in my ear like…

Chid-duh-duh-duh; kunnnn-unnng. Douw. Douw. Douw.

I’m guessing the ex-Reynols professor is nudging a wooden guitar with layer upon layer of rubbery notes.  A mixture of electronic effects and intelligent fingering makes each single tone wobble brightly and then gradually build up into an incredibly satisfying jelly.  It neatly swerves the dreaded grey-goo approach by revelling in the human touch.  The occasional stray string-buzz or delicately lacquered slap adds an artisanal edge, like stone worked smooth.

If that all sounds a little light and pretty for you side two uses the exact same methods (canny fingering, electric magic and fretboard slide-rules) but roars out the speakers like an acid-etched excursion by Xazzaz.

Picture a freezing sleet storm dashing horizontally across a bleak valley.

The stings howl in some Quatermass dialect, harsh and pissy, among never-ending metallic squeals.  Thin abrasive sounds slowly peak like waves of shale, reaching a precarious tipping point then shatter noisily among cracked debris.

Imagine the world’s largest blackboard and the world’s longest finger nail.

The shush/slush/shush is polished with a finer grain and, just when you think you have the measure of this misty beast, the tape snaps off with a rude ‘click’.

Crickey!  After a pause and pat down I feel like my ears have fallen down the stairs, hubbity-bubbing down each soft step but my body is still paused, taught and alert on the landing. I’m breathing hard and black-coffee wired.  Thank you Invisible City for a darn-near perfect tape experience!

pink chunk

The Pink Chunk – Unearthed

It’s a NBIDE joint so that means you’ve plugged into some pure outsider trash right from the start yeah?  The sleeve notes hint this is some forgotten classic, pressed originally to 45 way back in the day.  I’ve learned to trust pretty much nothing Ignace says but the heft of the beardy voices and sunny collapse of the recording switch my dial to 1979 pronto.

As ever the NBIDE design budget is pushed hard with this Pink Chunk being delivered to me in a blinking Pink Chunk!  35/83?

The ‘Louie Side’ unwraps rock’s dumbest moment and gives the Kingsmen a right royal rodgering.

But it’s the cheeky dub effects that took me by surprise; at times I can hear Lee Perry plotting revenge on Chris Blackwell among the sloppy verbal poncing, smashed tunes (including a vamp on Ellington’s classic ‘Caravan’) and edge-of-the-mind juxtaposition.

Like a couple of Zappas with the smart-arse kicked outta them these partial-tunes/melodies and approaches collide in an unschooled mix.  The Guru Gwilly Edmondez seems to be a retro-influence on some of the outpourings and that makes this a darn peachy effort in my book.

The ‘Kitchen Side’ starts with a Kitchen Cantata (natch) and dissolves into multi-speed stoopidity as quick as a wink.  Playing purely for yuks can make a listener grudgeful, but no fear – dramatic crystalline metro-gnomes polish my pleasure node good!

Fake Inuit vocals hinge back and forth and have that cabin fever feel.  In fact it’s all a bit infected with chipmunk squeals, frontiersmen accordion and, on occasion a ‘residents-plays-the-beatles-plays-the-residents’ hum than feels like I’m looking into an infinite mirror, reflecting, reflecting, reflecting…

What can you rely on?  The unreliability, man.

rook

g.j. de rook – a and bla

The phenomenal pulsating brain that is Gerrit Jan de Rook [poet, curator and artist] comes wrapped up in a unashamedly descriptive package of giant A,B,L & A again.

In the early 70s Gerrit Jan concentrated on sound poetry but has been active in publishing, mail art and all manner of edgy performance across the decades.  Recently, all old and grey, he’s been roping in them Bloody Stereos for Rotter-fun.  He’s a groovy uncle for sure; and as my kids would say…

Gerrrit… he’s legend.

I’m almost trembling as I slide this modest grey tape into the player and soon get jaxxed by some quiet yet fiercely determined vocalese jibber- jabber.

Side one is surely as pure as snowy white towels.  There’s no electronics, no hawking-throat phlegm, no burst-sinus koff, no birdcall whittering or flutter but real text/sound meshes that sit as calm as a rose-scented balm.

The gentle undulations of language get gradually unpicked and unravel in a glorious slow-plosion. It flits and stutters but never breaks character or pauses for breath.  At over ten minutes the sweet unconscious babble (yet fully scored and annotated I’m guessing) becomes a marathon of vowel sounds, repeated to reduce meaning, necessitating an automatic, animal response.

Those simple base syllables are stretched and re-modelled like putty to create unnatural tensions and networks.  Yet, if I listen at a distance this yammer blends with the domestic hum of our house so perfectly they cancel each other out and space becomes transparent.

I have to sit back a little to ponder on what I’ve heard.  Such wondrous play makes the ache in my knees vanish and an amber glow of energy snake up my spine.  I’m transported to a more innocent time of long walks and toxic Tip Top drinks.  This is music as time-travel provider!

Side two starts with super-gentle rounded phonics (all ‘ohs’, ‘ehs’ and ‘ahs’) but soon turns a corner into whispered ‘shiffing’ with a faint whiff of studio reverb.

The volume increases and pace quickens like a gushing tap until we’re in the midst of some demented horse racing commentary.  Lips are slapping speedily as neurotic whimpers whistle through the fatty gob tissue.  The occasional deft pause is dropped like a Gene Krupa rim shot. The sudden, off-beat, smack drawing you back into the moist melange as the thunder rumbles on.

I’m struck by the stamina and chutzpah that keep such a human mouth swinging with such fruity aplomb.

I surrender completely.  Join me in slack-jawed praise.

jowls

ID M THEFT ABLE – Jowls Without a Face

MORE PURE KLUNK from the frizz-hair mountain that is THEFT ABLE.

Shit… props are most definitely due to SKOT as the absolute master of this kind of super-fast cut up jaxx and lippy bluster.  This couldn’t be more different from the cool natter of de Rook.  You can’t measure ID M’s punk-a-delic Truman’s Water to de Rook’s stately P Glass; his gilded Rococo mouldings to Rooky’s cool IKB 79.  Apples and oranges man.

But before I go off like a jizz-rocket I must report its sheer chance that interrupts reason on the super-classy opener ‘don’t keep your feelings a secret’ as THEFT ABLE sings Hallmark platitudes in an uncomfortably high soprano.  Like in his classic tape Babb’s Bridge found words become the jam in his porridge to gloop down tasty

Girdles rip as ABLE ‘poings’ energetic springs and screws up tape FFW scree to salt lake flats speeds on ‘TRY IT IF IT’S ELECTRIC’.  Never a throaty singer, this is all front-of-house style vocal-jaxx with spittle being squirted between flat white teeth and rubbery uvula.

Mid-review note: The lips and cheeks play a fundamental part in ID M’s sound, as key to him as what those jazz-beards will riff over Dizzy’s groovy bullfrog impressions.  Like Diz, ID M builds up such an impressive air pocket that other vocal improvisers lay gasping on all fours, all blacked out and nauseous.  Yeah…these chops are deeply impressive and singular.

It’s delicious to get lost as side one continues to bluster and poke.  Electronics fight it out with radio-thumbing and DJ mumble.  The whole construction is whipped up, ever changing and jagged with energy; like a fidgets dream yeah!

But just when you’ve busted your last move and need a little breather ABLE brings out his Beatle-bones to jagg about playfully on xylophone and piano until it sounds like George Martin’s thrown down his headphones screaming

You fucking Scousers drive me batty.

Side Two introduces a multi-choir of massed nonsense. Partial songs jostle with instant composition, the brain-pauses keeping it cute.

Then things devolve into electronic stew // marimba destruction in a matter of minutes.  With the clunk-a-bout wooden ‘dong’ being one of the most pleasant sounds this blender of soniks is cosy and comfy.  Voices are pitched fairly high so that ‘meoooo’ thing doubled on twin tapes becomes a thick-grey wash, the odd words bubbles through are  ‘vain’ or ‘fame’ or maybe both.

I could go on about the disembodied carping, the tuneful scratch, the dub-like ‘boof’ of dropped soup mix.  But it would just be more words.  If I’ve not convinced you to click on a link or check out this hipster’s profile [Editor’s note: woah, Joe is reclaiming the word ‘hipster’! Ballsy move!], I can do no more.

It’s over to you my most luscious reader.

—ooOoo—

Invisible City Records

No Basement Is Deep Enough

the 2013 zellaby awards

January 4, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 4 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

Ladies and gentlemen, dear readers all, welcome to the hotly anticipated Zellaby Awards for 2013.  The show, in its third annual outing, is presented in association with Radio Free Midwich and hosted by the editor from his comfortably-appointed padded cell in the basement of Midwich Mansions.

In previous years the awards have formed part one of a two part round-up of cultural highlights.  However this year I can easily roll what would usually be part two into this preamble.  Why?  Three words: Thomas James Hayler.  The birth of our son in March was an epoch-defining, paradigm-shattering, life-forever-altering event for all of us – I’m sure you’ll remember the moon turning a fire red that evening – but looking after the kid (y’know: issuing orders to the nannies, sorting through the mountains of flowers, cards and teddy-bears left at the gate of the estate, that kind of thing) has rather cut into the time and energy afforded to culture in general.

It was interesting to experience how looking after a baby pares life down to the essentials.  I now do my bit to help with Thomas, I look after my wife Anne as best I can too, I keep up with my friends and family (more or less), I go to work (when healthy) and I think about music.  That’s all I have but, crucially, it is all I want.  Sure, we could do with more money and better health – who couldn’t? – but establishing this balance has been refreshing and revelatory.  I can sincerely state, all joking and archness to one side, that Thomas joining us has made 2013 the best year of my life so far.  By some distance.

Thomas at Xmas 2013

<stares wistfully into middle distance, wipes tear from stubbled cheek, returns to business at hand>

I did get to read a handful of books, of which HHhH by Laurent Binet, about a 1942 mission to assassinate Richard Heydrich, chief of the Gestapo, was the most compelling, original and intriguing.  I even stole a line from it to use in a review.  I think I read the entire of Museum Without Walls, a collection of essays and television scripts by polemicist, architecture critic and commentator Jonathan Meades.  I say ‘I think’ because it was mainly done in sleepy five page chunks in the middle of the night.  Otherwise I kept my membership of the bourgeoisie fresh by reading the London Review of Books and took my news mainly from Private Eye which, despite its many faults, holds power to account at least some of the time thus making it unique in the mainstream.  I pretty much gave up on film and television aside from using the boy as an excuse to watch Regular Show and Adventure Time on Cartoon Network.  Oh, and Game of Thrones series 3 was fun too if you like that sort of thing.

Down here in the no-audience underground I devoured, as ever, anything posted by Uncle Mark over at the essential Idwal Fisher blog and cover-to-covered the no-less essential Hiroshima Yeah! the moment it arrived in the mail.  Congratulations to the latter on reaching its 100th issue this year, no mean feat with one of its two editors in prison…  Also in the realm of the self-published, a pamphlet of poetry by my good friend and comrade Nick Allen has been on my bedside table since he surprised me with it at work one morning and has been well-thumbed and repeatedly enjoyed.

It has been another golden year for music, both live and recorded.  A couple of my all-time favourite gigs occurred in the last 12 months and my ‘long list’ for best album contained 34 contenders!  Never mind those bullshit ‘end of year’ polls you see in print magazines that you know were proofread over ice-creams in August, never mind those ‘best albums of the last fifteen minutes’ you see on internet based blogzine snore-fests.  This is the real deal: compiled whilst the New Year is still bellowing after being slapped into life.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – we need to trot through a few methodological points, then the ceremony can commence.

Firstly, the music mentioned below may not have been released in 2013, although most of it was.  To qualify it had to be heard by RFM for the first time in the calendar year 2013.  Secondly, releases featuring the staff of RFM (me, Scott McKeating, Joe Murray) are excluded.  Modesty is not a virtue I can be accused of but awarding ourselves prizes is a bit much even for me.  Thirdly there are the same five award categories as last time (although one has had to be renamed…).  Should an artist win big in one of them they may appear overlooked in others.  This is deliberately done in the interests of plugging as much excellence as possible and thus no-one should get the hump.  Finally, I did invite the aforementioned Scott and Joe to contribute nominations but the final decisions are mine.  Think of me as a benign dictator listening carefully to his advisers before passing judgement.

OK, shush now – the house lights are dimming…  Time for the first category!

—ooOoo—

5.  The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award goes to…

Lucy Johnson

smut - piano one

(with honourable mentions for Joe’s choice: WANDA GROUP, “the absolute master of steamy hiss and non-linear edit”)

Here’s a extract from the lengthy overview of Lucy’s back catalogue that I posted back in July:

One of the refreshing things about what I playfully refer to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is that it is not full of self-aggrandising blabbermouths.  There are a few – me, for example – and an acceptable level of self-absorption is common, but many artists quietly get on with producing excellent work mainly, it seems, for their own gratification and the pleasure of their circle.

This situation allows for the gradual discovery of that most mysterious of creatures: the unsung hero.  Names are pencilled in – an aside from the omniscient Scott McKeating, a credit on a Matching Head insert, say – then repeated until they become underlined in bold and further investigation becomes inevitable.  Such has been the case with Lucy Johnson.

I had, of course, already praised Space Victim, her duo with Mike Vest, to the hilt (they featured in RFM’s best of 2012 list) and more recently did the same for the Witchblood tape, her duo with Lee Stokoe, on Matching Head.  A comment from Miguel Perez led to me picking up her tapes as Smut and hearing those led to me finally paying some proper attention. Over the last few weeks I have been putting two and two together via Discogs, the Turgid Animal site and various other rune-casting activities and have been gathering up examples of her work.  She records solo as Smut and Esk, is half of the aforementioned duos, is the vocalist for black metal band Rife, and is also in the bands Obey and Dark Bargain (as reviewed by Scott below).  Her artwork adorns covers and T-shirts and has recently been made available to buy as prints.  Most of this stuff is available from the label and distributor Turgid Animal which (according to that same review by Scott) she co-runs.  Blimey, eh?

Can’t wait to hear what comes next.  There is at least one more Smut tape to pick up and the Obey album to look forward to as well…

Next is…

4.  The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up goes to…

Robert Ridley-Shackleton

r r-s - butterfly farm

(with honourable mentions for Kevin Sanders whose consistency proves awe-inspiring, Bjerga/Iversen’s album-per-month Bandcamp project, Joe’s choice Hapsburg Braganza and, of course, Lee Stokoe, who was also Scott’s choice)

Given that I went from not knowing who he is to hearing/seeing around 50 objects produced by him during the course of a few months Robbie was odds-on favourite in this category.  That said, I realise that it is a controversial choice as ‘quality control’ may not be an entirely appropriate concept to apply to this gushing, unstoppable flow.  I suppose one man’s drivel fountain is another man’s exuberant exploration of an outsider vision.  As I wrote in my first overview piece about his stuff:

Call it an ‘aesthetic’, a ‘vision’ if you like, but it becomes clear during the perusal of these artefacts that this is Robert’s world – a dimensionless jiffy bag containing a wonky, distorted universe – and that the rest of us are tourists within it.

For what it is worth, The Butterfly Farm, the tape pictured above released by Beartown Records, is as good a place to start as any.

On to…

3.  The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award goes to…

Joe Murray and Scott McKeating

posset - my hungry holesscott

(with honourable mentions for Dan Thomas and Miguel Perez who both understand what friendship is really about.  Cheers fellas.)

Obviously.  In May Scott offered to help out, I bit his hand off.  This gave me the idea of asking Joe, who bit my hand off.  Once these appendages had been sewn back on we shook them vigorously and got down to the typing.  I like to think that the house style at RFM sits somewhere between the jazzed exuberance of Joe and the more meticulous, journalistic work of Scott.  Thus between us we offer a comprehensive ‘three bears’ account of this remarkable scene.  Being able to lean on these guys has kept the porridge at a perfect temperature during some pretty distracted times, especially baby- and illness-related, and I am beyond grateful for their contributions.

Now we have…

2.  The Label of the Year Award which goes to…

Memoirs of an Aesthete

Half an Abortion - Drowsy Seepage

(with honourable mentions for, well, see below…)

This was a very, very hotly disputed category.  I was tempted to be perverse and, in the style of Time magazine’s mirror cover, proclaim label of the year to be ‘self-released’.  Certainly, in this Bandcamp enabled age the idea has to be considered seriously.  But that ain’t much fun is it?  Let’s have an argument instead!  Joe stepped up for Winebox Press:

Jon Collin’s labour of love has presented some amazing music this year (Vampire Blues, Lost Wax, and his own gorgeous schizzle)  all nailed to hand-sanded wooden chunks.  This extra detail might make things difficult to file but the soft hand-feel makes me return again and again to these loose spools of joy.

Scott proclaimed Matching Head, natch:

Same as every other year. Lee Stokoe keeps it prolific, adding new regulars to a strong cast of returning cassette-friendly noise/drone/wtf artists.

Both excellent choices, of course, but what of the Sheepscar Light Industrial, last year’s runner up, or Kirkstall Dark Matter – a blood feud between Leeds postcodes?  Or is the glorious return of Sanity Muffin gong-worthy?  Speaking of returns, was any more welcome or surprising than that of Union Pole which made a long-gone 76 item back catalogue available to download for the total of one dollar?  Or what about Hissing Frames or hairdryer excommunication, the content-pumps of Robbie and Kev respectively?

The choice seemed impossible so I left the scribbled lists and did a couple of those things that you only see people do in the movies: splashed my face with water then stared into the bathroom mirror, took a cold can out of the fridge and held it against my cheek etc.  Soon clarity was restored.  For not putting a foot wrong, for never having even a single hair our of place, it had to be Memoirs of an Aesthete.  Phil Todd’s label has released one belter after another this year and has probably clocked up more minutes playing time in Midwich Mansions than any rival.  If it has Phil’s seal of approval on it then you should buy it.  Simple really.

…and finally…

1.  The Album of the Year Award

Risking accusations of hyperbole, I have claimed once or twice over the course of 2013 that we were living in a golden age.  Revisiting the releases I heard during the year I feel absolutely vindicated.  Add my long list to the short lists provided by Scott and Joe and you have a total of over 40 titles without even counting much not-really-released-as-such-but-still-magnificent work such as the soundcloud presence of, say, ap martlet.  Scott mentioned…

Black Sun Roof4 Black Suns & A Sinister Rainbow (Handmade Birds) – Davies and Bower make noise ritual a rhythm thing.

Vile PlumageBlack Tar Jenny (No Label) – Scum froth and gutter glitter.

Skullflower / MasterySplit (Cold Spring) – Black metal soundtracks.

Joe added:

Duff/Nyoukis/Robertson/ShawAcetate Robots (Giant Tank) – Soft Scottish mumble, sweet as tablet.

Poor MouthS/T (Total Vermin) – Stream of consciousness wonk-out in proud Estuary English.

Lost Wax – My Sore Daad Heap’d (Winebox Press) – Environmental sounds lashed into a bivouac as the sun rises.

ID M Theft AbleBabb’s Bridge (Veglia, King Fondue, Zeikzak, Taped Sounds) – Like Manson’s internal monologue as knives get knotty.

Blue Yodel & Lovely HonkeyPoppies & Cocks (Chocolate Monk) – Mooooggg, hummm…voosh. Boo-fffff.

Both lists pleasantly indicative of the interests of my comrades, I think.  Take note.  Right then, as I did last year I have whittled my choices down to twenty with the first half presented in no particular order, linked to the original RFM reviews.  Here we go:

Witchbloodspoils and relics - angelsplurals sli 018Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerkaqua dentata - ten thousand wooden faceshalf an abortion - quandarystarlite coffins - medicine eagleGalena - Buried Finchpeople-eaters - imprecate

Every one a winner.  Click on the above for further thoughts and for contact/purchasing info.  Now on with the top ten, in reverse order…

10. Xazzaz – Untitled (Molotov 20)

xazzaz - 'untitled' molotov 20

This was reviewed twice on RFM this year.  Firstly Joe said:

…a melodic pitch-shifting that recalls those tremolo-heavy vibes from MBV…except this time the jazz electricity comes via belt sanders, floor polishers and hammer-action drills rather than sappy guitars.  The crashing continues, churning up plankton and hurling it on the zinc-coated rocks until, at around the 11 minute mark a large rusty anchor is thrown overboard and is dragged nosily (sic – it was more fun to keep the typo than correct it – RH) across a rocky sea bed.  Grrrgrgggrgggrgghhhhhh!   After a while your ear hairs can bristle no more and I had to settle back to accept this Black Metal take on Frippertronics as an astringent lullaby…

…then I pitched in with:

Mike’s music causes my edges to crumble, then crevaces to open, then huge thoughtbergs to calve from my mental glaciers.  He isn’t averse to roar, of course, and can stamp on pedals if need be, but it is the subtleties and nuance that make it so compelling.  He listens patiently, he understands what is going on.  He knows what to do.

Check out the Molotov catalogue now distributed by Turgid Animal.

9. Shareholder – The Backwards Glance volumes 1, 2 and 3

shareholder 1

Joe turned me on to this one.  He wrote:

The Backwards Glance is ten god-damn years of recordings all wrapped up in beguiling drawings, elastic bands and creepy collage work.  Sandy has taken the Faust approach and jams are cut-up hard against each other so you lurch between approaches, styles, themes and moods … My advice is to block out a few hours in your schedule, settle yourself in your preferred listening area and drink this special brew in deep.  As in the dog-eat-dog world of high finance the Shareholder is always looking for a unique selling point.  This USP for these clever little tapes is their god-damn addictiveness!

8. Culver/Somália ‎– Split

culver-somalia

Joe also beat me to this one too and came up with the best simile of the year, damn him:

Culver is a master of the dark art of static movement.  In the same way smoke will fill a room to the corners, too thick to see thorough but fragile enough to part with the wave of a hand, Culver plays that hard/soft, full/empty, maximal/minimal dichotomy like Erich Von Daniken’s  ancient astronauts. Always working on the edge of being there and not being there this piece, this relatively brief drone called ‘seven human hairs’ is like watching ink boil … Somália is some mysterious Portuguese music maker who, on ‘das cordas’ takes a melancholic Satie riff (Gnossienne No. 1 I think) and loops it over and over again with a grimy patina of tape murk.  That’s it.  No speeding up or slowing down. No descent into beats or basslines.  Just a gradual fade into the muck collected round the capstans.  Super simple and super effective.  It works at times (and I have to point out here I have played this tape a lot!) like dark canvas, swallowing the light but freeing up the subconscious.  This is dreaming music.

7. Seth Cooke – Run For Cover

seth cooke - run for cover

The spec is simple enough, a single track of about fifteen minutes in length, but its ingredients are tricky to separate out.  I suspect the noise that sounds like a swarm of angry wasps flying into a juddering extractor fan may be a vibrating implement set upon a drum skin.  The buzz is malevolent – like tapping the glass of a giant tank full of insects only to have them all turn in unison, give you a hard stare and then start working together to get the tank’s lid off…  Some abrasive electronics are then set loose in order to scour and gouge the source noise whilst a bucket of low end catches the swarf.  The concluding crescendo is visceral, tough and as sparkling as your peripheral vision after a sharp smack to the back of the head.  Yeah: awesome.

6. Yol – Four Live Pieces

yol - four live pieces

Joe is a true believer:

I think it was the mighty Stan Lee/Jack Kirby axis that came up with the Incredible Hulk to explore the untamed, brutish side to mankind.  The trick Yol has turned is to take this Yahoo Hulk and transplant it into the damp and bland world of Northern Britain – 2013.  This is no Marvel Universe magic realism but the dark perverted land of a bent cop, conflicted priest or overworked teacher.  It’s a post-Saville world where celebrity corrupts and no one can really trust each other.  Yol gives a voice to the bitter and bleak, the misplaced righteousness and revenge that most of us keep buttoned up tight.  The inner struggle is played out in vivid crimson, choked out, spat into the gutter and stamped on with spite.

5. Shoganai –  ショウガナイ

shoganai

The fella behind this project, remaining semi-anonymous for his own reasons, has produced a piece of work so ambitious and accomplished that the fact that it is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from that Bandcamp left me stupefied … Some details: your download will contain nine tracks spanning 41 minutes.  These episodes are clearly the product of a single aesthetic but vary in construction.  There is computerborne surrealism, the programme code distorted by a horseshoe magnet ordered from the Acme catalogue, there is deep-fried tropical psychedelia the like of which wouldn’t be out of place on a Space Victim or AshNav album, and there is the cooing and squawking of an alien menagerie, recorded rooting and strutting about the forest floor on a distant, poisonous world.

4. Helicopter Quartet – Where have all the aliens gone?

helicopter quartet - where have all the aliens gone

Their sound (‘drone rock’? ‘dark ambient’? I don’t know) is dense and rich, each element absorbing in its own right, all contributing to a mysterious but coherent whole.  It is like finding an ornately inlaid wooden casket containing a collection of exquisitely handcrafted objects: what might be a bear, carved from obsidian, a female form cast in an unplaceable grey/green metal, an abstract pattern, possibly even unreadable script, scrimshawed onto yellowing bone.  All irresistibly tactile, all fascinating, all revealing aspects of the character of the unknown and long dead collector who gathered them together.

It is cliché to describe simplicity as ‘deceptive’ and efficiency as ‘ruthless’ but both phrases are perfectly apt in this case.  There is no waste, no let up, the emotional demands of this music are unmistakeable.  Despite the jokes about torturing aliens on its Bandcamp page, this is a deeply serious music but it is epic on a human scale.

3. Various – Knurr & Spell

knurr and spell

Four tracks, each about twenty minutes long, by four different solo artists.  First is veteran Leeds scenester Shem Sharples, recording as his robotic alter ego Shemboid, who kicks things off with ‘myths of the prehistoric future’ – a Ballardian pun well suited to this blistering, splintering track.  Shem is an aficionado of the garage psych sound and his skyscraping fuzz/wah guitar illuminates the rubble like harsh Californian sunshine.

Next is ‘bontempi bastet’ by Ocelocelot, Mel O’Dubhslaine’s noise/drone endeavour.  The track is remarkable: an ectoplasmic gumbo, a thick electronic soup spiced and seasoned to make the corners of your eyes twitch.  Or is it an evocation of heaven?  Mel is a serious artist quietly and brilliantly re-purposing music to serve her own mysterious ends.  She does this with good humour and modesty and I think she might be my hero.

Third is ‘no forks’ by Moral Holiday, Phil Todd’s affectionate homage to first wave industrial music. The backing is brittle, unforgiving, stark.  Phil has taken the bucolic feel of the most utopian electronic Krautrock, frogmarched it to a grimly urban setting and then recorded it amongst the glass and concrete, mutating to fit its new surroundings.

Finally, we have ‘taser delerium’ (sic) from Paul Walsh’s foldhead.  Perhaps you could imagine spiking the punch at a convention of shortwave radio enthusiasts then getting the fried participants to improvise a jam using nothing but the guttering warbles of atmospheric interference.  Life affirming stuff – joyful noise wall.  Like an intruder appearing at the foot of your bed, paralysing you with a swift injection to the sole of your foot, then draping his cock across your forehead as you lie prone and immobile, it is a perversely calming experience.

In summary: this album is damn near perfect.

2. Ashtray Navigations – Cloud Come Cadaver

cloud come cadaver

Previous winners come oh-so-close once more.  I wrote a lengthy psychedelic ramble accounting for each track in turn which you can read by clicking on the title above.  For now I need only quote the final remarks:

It’s like a ‘Comfortably Numb’ for the psych/noise underground but defiant, without a trace of self pity.  It could accompany the ‘ages of man’ sequence at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Did I mention that Ashtray Navigations are my favourite band?  This is why.

Absolutely magnificent.

…and finally, the RFM Zellaby Award for Album of the Year 2013 goes to…

1. The Piss Superstition – Vocal Learning

vocal learning front

Back in May I had a moment of prophetic clarity:

The music suggests systems gone wrong, like some guy pushed in a punch card upside down and then went to lunch leaving everything running.  Yet heavy, juddering electrics describe arcane symbols as they spiral through the iterations of this garbled instruction set.  Something truly wierd is being revealed.  The serrated buzzing suggests saw mill equipment escaping its moorings and consuming itself as one bladed machine vibrates into the path of another.  But again, there is nothing random about this movement.  All is being conducted by an unfamiliar intelligence for some unknowable purpose.  In the end though, all metaphors, similes, superlatives and whimsy just slide off this band or, at best, get caught in the gears and mashed – such is the beauty, mystery and power of their output.  They do not sound like anyone else and yet, somehow, it turns out that this sound is exactly what I wanted to hear.  Its value can only be calculated by fumbling with an alien currency, glinting strangely in my palm.

Thus: Vocal Learning is the best album of the year so far.  Why?  Because it is – I said so.

…and there we have it.  The End.  Well, not quite.  There is a prize should the winners wish to claim it: a release on the fabled fencing flatworm recordings.  Yes, in a tradition stretching all the way back to one year ago I decided to reanimate my legendary label to issue one release a year which could only be by the winner of the Best Album Zellaby Award.  So, JB & Paul, how about it?  Drop me a line if the idea tickles you both and we’ll talk turkey.

RFM’s ongoing account of the no-audience underground’s creative endeavour will continue shortly.  We wish you all a very happy New Year!

rolling gums, stiffening whiskers: joe murray on id m theft able

November 3, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

i’d m thfft able – Werther’s Original/Bruised Apple (tape, mangdisc, #69)

I’d m thfft able – BLOOD BLOOD / HER BLOOD (2 x 3” CD-r, Orl, orl16, edition of 100)

Le 6eme Doight de Dwayne (tape, mangdisc, #70)

Id M Theft Able – Babb’s Bridge

her blood-blood blood oneher blood-blood blood twoRFM IDM

Hark!  Let’s have a cheer for IDM Theftable.  Or is that a shout out for IDM Theft Able? Or possibly we need to make some noise for I DM Theft Able?  Whatever way you spell it, whatever way you say it, Skot Spear is a man of multiple characters, approaches and many, many tapes (editor’s note: since the time of writing Joe has done some journalism and asked Skot about this.  According to the man himself there are two ‘official’ spellings: id m theft able or i’d m thfft able.  No hint as to appropriate use of capital letters so we’ll just wing it.).  A recent trawl through the internet slurps up at least 50 but I’m pretty sure that’s just the tip of this particular ferric iceberg.   I first came across Skot in a very real, physical form.  I pretty much tripped over his enormous rucksack at Newcastle’s historic Morden Tower (sadly now decommissioned) and amid the apologies and grovelling we started to chat and it turned out…this guy was the band.  OK.  Fast forward a hour or two and the whole room is glowing with rum, wearing witches hats and moaning and groaning under the instructions of the giant ginger instructor.  It was a great night, a live spectacle, a shaking of hands across the Atlantic and all that.

In a plot hatched between Skot and Jonah Jameson (editor’s note: heh heh, very funny.) here I’ve scored a whole swag bag of ID M Theft Able goodies to talk/spraff/go wild about.  OK…time to dig in and see what comes out first.

There’s a whole bunch of approaches across these releases.  But Werthers Original/Bruised Apple are what some cats are calling sound poetry these days.  Yeah….I kinda go with that description but there’s none of that academic frigidity in ID M’s voice.  The psychedelic domestic is explored and probed with an adventurous tongue as word bombs light up the gloomy interior of my skull.  The phrase “she slipped a Werther’s Original into my mouth and my eyes rolled round like a slot machine” is teased and taxed with no electronics or nothing.  Just lips, teeth and throat flapping the gas out into my ear.  The B-side (ID M describes this as a ‘kinda like a single’) is more overlapped with various ID Ms inhabiting different levels of time & space intoning his Bruised Apple schtick.  The words, phrasing, inhalations of breath all stir together in a creepy kind of way making nonsense of sense and leading your lurching down the path mossy with glossalia.  We need more of this mung in the top 40 you pop pickers.

The double CD-R package (HER BLOOD / BLOOD BLOOD) comes in the kind of triple folded pop-art collage folk like Richard Hamilton used to paste up and makes me happyjolly right from the off.  Inside the delicate envelopes are two live discs; ‘HER BLOOD’ is pure vocal, feral choir chops, with an audience of youngsters and hipsters.  ID M makes the process easy, explaining his cues to the assembled choir, then launches into a giant hissing and sighing piece that sounds like the world’s largest Whoopee Cushion deflating as Yoda settles his bony buttocks into the rubbery folds letting out a goose-honk ‘bronx cheer’.  Phonetic consonants are rolled round moist gobs and spat into a crackling fire as some Chip, Chet or Chuck wonders ‘Why did he put that in? It’s plastic.’  There is an occasional bell ring from an old fashioned telephone to punctuate but, in the main it’s all live hiss conducted for the BBQ crowd.  Wow.  This is a hell of a heavy document.

‘BLOOD BLOOD’ (very confusingly) starts with The Verve then Florence and the Machine’s corporate indie rock, and what sounds like psycho-beard Matt Berry (from the IT Crowd fame) as some hapless XFM Jockey…until I realised I had knocked on the radio my mistake.  Sheet!  I listened for about 5 mins before realising my mistake.  I think this serves as a salutary reminder of how diverse ID M’s chunks can be.  I guessed it was some anglo-indie-tape piece.  No dice!

Right…back to work, here’s the real deal.  ‘BLOOD BLOOD’ starts with some speed rapping “I Want It” and breaks into brief verses from TLC’s classic ‘Waterfalls’ to spice things up.  The infamous ‘box o’ things’ makes an appearance like some Harry Partch equipment hot-wired by the mice out of Bagpuss and cranked up tight by angry worker bees to sculpt the minimal poem ‘The Hole’; soft twanging tones rumble gently reminding me of a foam gamelan.  ‘Encore!’ Chuck, Chet or Chip calls out squeakily and, ever the gent, Theft-san rolls his gums up round more tape-collage fuss to spit and slobber ‘I’m Swimming in Blood, Blood, Blood’ mixing gob-punk techno-squelch with random radio blather and feedback tweaks.  A heavily amplified hamster cage is rattled for a bit like another Harry, this time of the Bertoia persuasion, was kidnapped and thrown in the boot seguing into the most primitive sampling this side of the Dave Howard Singers, ‘boof, Burrrfff….clunk!’  Wow.  The audience babble and chat and laughter only makes this all the more dixy.  As a beginners guide to the ID M universe this is a mightily good place to start.

So far there has been a knockabout, laff-a-minute thread to many of these ID M releases.  Me, I love this.  Does humour belong in music?  If you don’t know the answer, pack up and go home man.  But, ya’ know, we’re all different and I appreciate not everyone likes to listen to the band playing for yuks.  OK…now that’s settled, the stern-gobs can be safe in the knowledge that Le 6eme Doight de Dwayne is pretty much a serious piece of group improv recorded in a basement so low ID M couldn’t even stand up in it.  Instrumentation seems to be sporadic with metal percussion, keys, voice and occasional bass making a rich broth of hive-mind.  For a tape recorded in Quebec in 2011 it has a very late 1980’s Eastern European quality (perhaps one of Martin Klapper’s shindigs?) with deliberate placement resulting in busy-brittle-rustling meshed up with junk/toy clatter.  ‘Ching, ching…wurrrupp’ says a musical see-saw answered with polite restraint from the players.  Things really take off when the voices babble in unison, the electronic bird caller warbles in the background, and throats coalesce into a single snort and honk chorus.   Again… I’m a sucker for this approach and it takes me back to huddling under the bed covers listening to Mixing It on the verge of sleep; all the signals getting scrambled in my dozing brain.

Babb’s Bridge (on recycled Max Bygraves tape…I didn’t know Max had ‘broke’ America) channels a totally different approach to everything else I have heard up to now from Thefty (editors note: apparently originally released on vinyl in 2009 via a four-way label collaboration involving Veglia, King Fondue, Zeikzak and Taped Sounds).

Side one totally wrong foots me as it starts with a field recording/stream-of-consciousness poem that rambles politely across time, tense and sense to come up with demented couplets, “loves Kurt Cobain…forever, italiano cheek, 1980…Mike Gray is gay.  Bleed rat bleed.” which the occasional knotty thump that I suspect is tapped out on Babb’s Bridge itself.  Slowly it turns back into field recording as cars drive on and revellers shout.  It’s all drawing to a close I think but, amid the sparse background chatter ID M continues with more precisely timed loves and losses, “the sexy ass beast” and most unusually, the occasional Wu Tang Clan quote.  Then it dawns on me…he’s reading from the bridge itself, or rather from the accumulated graffiti that must be scrawled across it; picking up themes, repeating them, turning words and phrases inside out.  What makes this all the more haunting and worthwhile is the calm and relaxed way it’s all delivered.  There’s no am-dram shouting or over-enunciated performance poetry theatrics.  It’s all matter-of-fact and chatty, like overhearing one half of a conversation between an anxious God and his disciples. A beautiful piece of music to add to the ever-growing no-audience underground sound poetry cannon.

Side two picks up the honky electronics, wires, tapes and samples approach.  Flustered mouthings and fizzy lippings are laid out over Morse Code spurts while the wheels of a matchbox car are mashed into bright blue Play Doh.  It’s all speed-of-thought chaffings and pips, rolling and lurching (bishp…booop.  FZZZZZZZzzzz) that raises the pulse rate and stiffens the whiskers.  The logic of the collage is taken to extremes with one sonic idea laying over its partner to create a herringbone pattern of interlocked brickwork.  As one sound fades it’s cousin takes over, holding the construction tight, making it safe to walk over…just about perfect for a bridge yeah?

For a far more in depth understanding of this mysterious record (also available on vinyl) check out this vintage interview with the man himself.  For more general intelligence on IDM look no further than his propaganda page: KRAAG.

I reckon I’ve listened to about 3 hours of IDM Theft Able straight this morning and it’s been a right tasty trip for my ears.  I’ll listen to goof-off mouthing all day but it’s Babb’s Bridge that’s stolen my heart with it’s pure otherness.  Use Google…check ‘em out Midwichers!

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