perfectly down: scott mckeating on smut and caroline mckenzie

January 12, 2014 at 10:02 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Smut – Vulgar Tongue (tape, Wealth of Abuse, Wealth of Abuse 03)

Caroline Mackenzie – Almost Air (download, Incorrect Things, ALOIT-01)

caroline mckenzie - almost airsmut - vulgar tongue

A message from the editor: many thanks to those of you who have bought a copy of The Swift and/or moseyed over to the midwich Bandcamp site.  I am very grateful.  Special thanks to those who have paid for the privilege of downloading some of my odd early stuff – your donations are very much appreciated and I wish you the best of luck with your purchases (my stats page tells me that one listener has made it through the heavily mentholated ‘stomaching‘ from beginning to end – midwich fan, hero class).

Right then, enough advertorial.  The first reviews of 2014 come from RFM’s mysterious third voice Scott McKeating who wants to suggest two soundtracks for the January floods and frost.  More soon from both me and Joe and The Barrel Nut issue #5 is currently being loaded onto the delivery truck…


Wealth of Abuse is part of the tape underground rooted in Northern England.  A sonic peer of labels like Matching Head, Cruel Nature and All Dead Tapes (its parent label), its handful of releases fit snugly into that axis of noise. I’m in love with the fact they are all prolific and each have defining aesthetics, whilst perhaps not always being a fan of their particular choice of aesthetics at times. If that makes sense? (Editor’s note: sure, it does.  See my well documented prudishness at Lee Stokoe’s use of horror/porn imagery.)

Those familiar with the previous output of Lucy Johnson as Smut might be expecting this tape to follow the direction of her previous Turgid Animal releases, continuing on with her starkly recorded solo piano works. Vulgar Tongue, it seems, is exploring another avenue altogether. ‘Nuns Choir’ begins aptly enough with a recording of a choir, taped from what sounds like a black-and-white telly. This distant soaring praise is speedily and unsteadily swallowed by the buzzing of unstable amps and the roar of unmarshalled noise. Layers rise and fall, oscillations spew, surface and sink – Smut’s noise is duvet warm yet scab knotted and night black. A handful of violin notes are introduced, perhaps forming a melody – perhaps not, each seemingly on a short fuse but never exploding, the treble sounds scything through the busy industry of noise.  Like a churning sea front, ‘Nuns Choir’ makes a sodden wreck of its elements yet manages to maintain an identifiable ‘sound’.  It ends with the returning/resurfacing of the choir and the feeling that Smut has been expanded into a project where anything goes.

The other track, ‘Nature of the Beast’, is also strong.  It contains the customary Smut piano but this time it’s a stilted pattern of notes in a drone murk instead of the echo of piano in a box room. This runs through the turned up swamp fog like it’s emerging from under a shroud of grave dirt, the feedback like breath through cracks in a coffin lid.

Buy here.

Self released as a five track download on her new imprint, Incorrect Things, Caroline Mackenzie’s Almost Air is her second album. Her debut, Did you really think you were safer in the dark?, (out on Glasgow’s very reliable and very productive Black Circle Records), was a much darker, noisier matter. Almost Air is another thing altogether, a perhaps unintended showcase for Caroline’s varied drone sensibilities.

‘Three Diaries’ opens proceedings with a metallic-ore derived sound of light-dazzled drone, there are swells of melody submerged throughout adding to a sense of sporadic trepidation. Channelling the sensation of being trapped in a vibraphone box while everyone else is asleep, this song is scrapes, skewed reality and iron tasting queasiness.

A straight-down descent from its opening, second track ‘Three Shadows’ begins as a frozen song of metal breath, soon joined by an insistent and raw guitar line. A blunt chime that could well be mistaken for ‘Wish’ era Cure, a melody circling a further cycle of blurry sounds. The drone is a spinning top caught in mid spin – still turning and sending off waves – and ends in cold breath effects, icy howls and guitar tamper. ‘Three Bridges’ is probably the most perfectly down drone that’s come through my headphones for a long, long time. The piece is desperately sad, unqualifiably so, but definitely sidesteps being anything close to generically depressing (if there is such a thing). Trimmed in a silvery lining, it’s an odd, melodic, transient piece.

“Three Waves (XII, XIII, IX)” is a short circling guitar piece that leads to the closing widescreen horizon of Jesu-esque “…And Now, We Ascend.” Caroline channels this final track away from, then back into, song structure coating it all in a living glaze of feedback. Like a nine minute burst of slow-motion fireworks.

Download here.

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