slurred morse: nameless city haiku compiled

September 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Culver – Prophecy Of The Black Spider (tape, Mantile Records, #027, edition of 50)

Culver – “Kitty” (tape, Agorafobia Tapes, #31)

ZN – Carniceria (CD-r or download, self-released)

The Dead End Street Band – Bombs Rain Down on Innsmouth (tape, Agorafobia Tapes, #29)

La Mancha Del Pecado – Witchskinner (tape, Agorafobia Tapes, #28)

Inseminoid – Gemma’s Sacred Waters (tape, Matching Head, MH204)

Xtul – Black Holes of Stellar Mass (CD-r, self-released, edition of 30)

Female Borstal / NIHL – Split (tape, matching head, mh206)

culver - prophecy

…and so for the second anthology of my recent haiku reviews. This time I’m addressing the Tyneside noise/drone scene and its transatlantic outpost in Juárez, Mexico. Picture Lee Stokoe (of Culver and Matching Head tapes) sitting in a dark grey throne room that giddies the senses with its non-Euclidean geometry. On the other side of the Atlantic Miguel Perez (of La Mancha Del Pecado and Agorafobia Tapes) sits cross-legged on the floor of his desert cave whistling along to the howling wind. Eschewing the internet, they commune via crystal balls each containing a burning eye…

I needn’t go into the sound or aesthetic of this music at any length here as thousands of words I’ve written previously are available at the click of a tag (see above). Suffice to say the gist can be garnered from the following exchange. Imagine Lee casting a withering look over two brightly coloured art-school types setting up their gear prior to a gig.

C’mon, Lee!

I say,

…it doesn’t have to be all doomy blackness does it?

The withering look is transferred to me, with a slight twinkle added to his eye:

Yes Rob, it does.

…he replies. Tongue in cheek, perhaps, but there you have it: the final word.  True story.

Initially the following poems were tossed into the overcrowded public swimming pool that is Twitter (@radiomidwich) but, knowing all that shouting and splashing is not conducive to contemplation, I’ve fished ’em out, dried ’em off and present this leather-bound blog post for your leisurely perusal.

It might seem disrespectful to reduce these releases to seventeen syllables apiece – the Xtul album is a whole hour of glorious psych noise, the La Mancha tape is one of Miguel’s best, the NIHL side of that split is possibly the best thing I’ve heard all year and so on – but I put a lot of thought into these compositions and I hope the impressions expressed are, in their own way, accurate and useful. The title I used for the series, ‘Nameless City’, is, of course, a nod to the Geordie scene’s obsession with Lovecraft but is also apt for Miguel due to the desert setting of the story.

Click on the band name/album title to be taken to an appropriate webpage.  Matching Head has no official internet presence as such but contact details can be found via the Discogs listings for the label – maintained (largely) by Scott McKeating of this parish.


No. 1:

Culver – Prophecy Of The Black Spider

Polished steel mirror

examined by microscope:

metallic tundra.

culver - kitty

No. 2:

Culver – “Kitty”

Gremlin on plane wing

observes sleeping passengers

leans into the roar…

zn - carniceria

No. 3:

ZN – Carniceria

Grisly truth unpicked:

Cannibal horror movie?


the dead end street band - bombs rain down

No. 4:

The Dead End Street Band – Bombs Rain Down On Innsmouth

Smothered radio,

ragged semaphore, slurred morse

lost to riot seas

la mancha - witchskinner

No. 5:

La Mancha Del Pecado – Witchskinner

Flesh machinery

processes blind consumption:

cattle eat cattle…

inseminoid - gemma's sacred waters

No. 6:

Inseminoid – Gemma’s Sacred Waters

Dunes bombed into glass.

Tank tracks shatter windowed earth.

Sand returned to sand.

xtul - black holes of stella mass

No. 7:

Xtul – Black Holes Of Stellar Mass

Existence confirmed:

selfhood undeniable

…when thrown from a ‘plane

female borstal nihl split

Female Borstal / NIHL – split

No. 8a: Female Borstal side

Dredging a channel

up silt fouled estuary mouth

takes brute, swinging force

No. 8b: NIHL side

Seduced by darkness

beyond guttering arc-light –

like moths, like dead souls.


EDIT: Matching Head Catalogue September 2014 as a pdf document.

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

snatched reality: scott mckeating on deathwank, platemaker, inseminoid, colossloth

February 6, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Deathwank / Platemaker – Find Ahmed (business card CD-r, Vilenoise, 06, edition of 50 or download)

Inseminoid – The Whitest Eye (tape, Wealth of Abuse, Wealth of Abuse 02)

Colossloth – Anchored By Lungs EP (download, Peripheral Records)

colosslothplatemaker - find ahmed

Scott McKeating, RFM’s mysterious third voice, twiddles with the focus on his microscope and invites us to see what he’s smeared on the glass slide.  Over to Scott…


Aside from briefly shocking work colleagues that have no previous experience of the harsh noise or no-audience underground, the name Deathwank has several other functions for me. Their chosen name is an indicator that this is a band I’m probably going to end up avoiding in future and it’ll be a project that’s its hard to take particularly seriously. There’s something just a little too ‘look at me, ma!’ in a name like Deathwank (Editor’s note: true, but some of their track titles are pretty funny: ‘YOUR MUM AND DAD ONLY FUCKED ONCE AND IT WAS SHIT’ is comic genius). A side project of sorts for members of Scots grinders Sufferinfuck making an unhealthy noiserockpunknoise (or as they’ve labelled it “noisecore scum grind”) racket, the act’s single track here is so lo-fidelity that it’s just a nudge away from collapsing into harsh noise wall. With little but the vocals (I think I’m hearing two vocalists screaming like Cuckoo’s Nest detainees but I can’t be 100% sure) and snatches of rhythm straining through the brick-thick sonic soup, it’s a fairly one-dimensional sound.

In all honesty I’m instantly more inclined to like Platemaker’s offerings on this business card CD-r (Editor’s note: the whole split release totals just four minutes, physical object sold out – see download links below), pretty much just because he’s not called Deathwank. For those that need to know the who and what, Platemaker is a solo “workplace grievance related noisecore” project from Tide of Iron’s vocalist / drummer Rob Woodcock. A frenzied three-pack of balance assailing tracks, this kitchen-based fury is a din risotto of live drums, noise blasts, programmed beats and treble screams; a super fast spew from the service industry that would rather take a big shite on the customer than season their dishes.

Inseminoid (Lee Culver and George Proctor of Mutant Ape’s dronestaticnoise duo) have been reasonably quiet of late, so this cassette is a welcome sight on the release schedule of Gareth Howell’s (Sump’s drummer) new PE/noise label Wealth of Abuse. This back-to-business outing begins with crossing sonic pulses and dusted down 80s VHS soundtrack melodies forming underneath the pair’s signature static thunder. Despite their stationary aggression, an Inseminoid listen demands headphones. There’s too much going on under the gale to risk losing it in the rumble of public transport or the interruptions that contact with humans can bring.  Overheard melodies are almost tentative in the mix of sound, the handful of notes (subsequent listens suggest they were made using a shite keyboard rather than broken samples) rapidly become part of The Whitest Eye’s Alvin Lucier skew. The fleeting snatch at reality these elements represented is eventually reduced to a near whiteout by the trademark Inseminoid slow rise to noise.  The deal is sealed – another extraordinary release.

Buried deep in the city of Leicester, Colossloth is a one man experimental project that isn’t easily tagged with a sub-genre. Wherever people end up deciding where the music fits, the recent Anchored By Lungs EP is a definite success in stitching together abstractions. At three tracks and around ten minutes long, the EP is more a signpost than a release (although it is an actual release, download only at the moment though). The title track might well be a very musical piece, but its still slough dredging heavy. Crawling along like Sadako on a broken pitchshift riff from the MBV archives, ‘Anchored By Lungs’ is a clash of clean and scarified, a ‘real’ violin line saws through the loopage. With death moans in the track’s recipe, accompanied by creaks and desolate piano, it’s a bit Nurse With Wound-y in the best possible way.

The broke fairy tale vibe continues into ‘Welcome Home Mourning Voyeur’ – some kind of adagio for creaking floorboards or creeping-troll-incubus on the bed springs.  There’s a genius loop (created? Randomly found?) of a revolving weathervane of percussion noise, spinning at the tip of the forthcoming storm. The track isn’t all abstraction though, there’s a tasty Sabbathian electric guitar squall in there. ‘Feint Hearted’ also features guitar, possibly sampled and removed from its usual world, and angularly spelunked in a bed of manipulated bleepage and circuitboard sucked squelches. An Argento mood permeates this piece, plucked string and piano horror atmospherics add to the darkness. Colossloth is also a better name than Deathwank.

Deathwank on Bandcamp

Platemaker / Shybairns Records on Bandcamp


Wealth of Abuse via All Dead Tapes

Colossloth / Peripheral Records on Bandcamp

wired for sound part 32: dispatches from culver

November 18, 2012 at 11:46 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Inseminoid – A Nun and a Mk 1 Escort Van/A Nude and a Mk 1 Escort Saloon (Cassette, Matching Head, MH 186)

culver & felss (Cassette, Matching Head, MH 187)

fordell research unit – Taste the Blood of Culver (Cassette, Matching Head 190)

Pact Of Ash – Demo (Cassette, Legion Blotan, BLOTTAPE022)

culver – hand of ice (CD-r, basses frequences)


Close your eyes, stick your hand into my music collection and pull out an item at random.  The object you are now holding is more likely to be by Culver than by any other artist, such is the number of Lee Stokoe’s releases that I have amassed.  I’ll repeat the general reasons why I love Lee’s projects in future posts (or interested readers can adjourn here or here) but for now let’s keep it specific to the releases in hand.

The tape by Inseminoid – a duo of Lee and George Proctor – features two side long tracks, each of about twenty minutes duration.  I’ve no idea which one is ‘A Nude…’ and which is ‘A Nun…’ as the tape itself is not labelled (and was wound half way through when it arrived) so I’ll just describe each in the order encountered.

The first track I heard starts with a collage of snippets from films and TV soundtracks held together with a folksy, ‘from the old country’ violin tune.  Like Hasan Gaylani’s Popular Radiation, this seems to be a scrapbook constructed from cultural detritus snatched from the air as it blows about around us. These excerpts and loops, filtered and distorted, gradually become the noise.  As the layers slide over each other they are worn smooth until what remains is a ballooning, bassy feedback throb and the white noise of tape hiss amplified into the foreground.  The build-up is surprisingly gentle – like the apocryphal frog in the pan of water, you may not realise you are being boiled until it is too late.

The other side starts with a gravelly burbling, sploshing and happy voices buried in the mix.  A holiday recording of a trip across a bay in a knackered old ferry perhaps?  This pleasant scene is overlaid with some sunset guitar and is allowed to linger for the best part of ten minutes.  Rumble then takes over with some hard, rhythmic, electric scraping threatening to tear through.  The second half – a troll stomping on a woodland cabin, an eerie, hypnotic ringing loop, an ever-increasing blood-in-the-ears roar, a female choir singing just one note – starts with an almost fairytale feel, digs deep into the primal horrors that fairytales express and then pulls us back into the technological present at the end.  Very, very good.

The single track that comprises culver & felss has been constructed by the former from sounds supplied by the latter and is approximately 43 minutes long – it fills one side of a black C90 cassette.  After reviewing a terrific split cassingle that felss shared with Culver I listened to a bunch of stuff freely downloadable from their Bandcamp site and grooved on it extensively.  Some veers towards ambient electronics (apologies for the lazy phrase but there is a lot to get through today – forgive me), some has a shoegazey/flying saucer attack-ish splintering fuzz to it.  It’s accessible stuff, the release on Matching Head being from the noisier end of their work.

Regarding this tape, the culverisation of the source material begins almost immediately.  If felss is a giant, glistening, metallic blue dragonfly then Culver is the even larger carnivorous pitcher plant that it unwittingly flies into.  Less a collaboration than a slow, corrosive digestion.  The second movement lifts off as a bright shaft of sunlight illuminates the plant and the outline of the doomed creature can be seen silhouetted through the translucent red/green pitfall trap.  This change in texture is oddly moving.  At the end of the piece is a final twitch of the silvery wings and… that is that.

Taste The Blood Of Culver is absolutely brand spanking new from Fordell Research Unit, still warm from the Matching Head duplicators. These three tracks have been constructed by Fraser entirely from excerpts plucked from the Culver back catalogue, thus making it a sort of sister release to the culver & felss album.

‘Hmmm,’ you may be thinking, ‘one lo-fi dronester plays off another lo-fi dronester.  I can see where this is going’ and I have to admit you probably aren’t far off.  However, business as usual for Fraser and Lee is still a highly profitable enterprise.  Dividends include: three very different tracks (well, to an obsessive drone/noise fan) despite clearly being the product of the same aesthetic(s), Fraser’s choice of loops foregrounding the rhythmic element of Culver (an underappreciated aspect of Lee’s work) and it’s tidy 20ish minute length making it eminently rewindable.  I hope Fraser draws another pint from this rich vein soon.

The tape is housed in a wraparound pen-and-ink scene of Hammer-style gothic horror – see scan above. Pictures of this carefully rendered ilk have been turning up uncredited on Culver packaging recently. Who draws ’em? Lee? The world (that is: me) wants to know.

Pact Of Ash, a new solo project from Lee, is something of a departure.  What we have here are five tracks totalling about half an hour that could, at a push, be described as (whisper it) rock.  Well, a lyric-less, fuzzed out, distorted, garage punk version of rock but still some distance from his usual culvations.  This isn’t bass-heavy doom-sludge either but is relatively light on its feet.  Perhaps showing the influence of his new pals felss?  Maybe.

As the title Demo suggests, some of this is sketchy and has a ‘work in progress’ feel.  The simple riffing can smell a bit of teen bedroom metal.  Judge ye not though: nowt wrong with primitivism and when it gels, as it does on the magnificent third track, the ever-ascending guitar has an immediacy that is irresistible.  Hardcore Culver fans need not fret that this signals a permanent change in direction, however, as it doesn’t even last until the end of the album.  Track five – spoiler alert – ends swamped in noise and thoroughly smeared out.  The guy can’t help himself.

The hand of ice CD-r follows a pattern familiar from other recent Culver releases: a quiet beginning of melancholy guitar is swamped by waves of entropic noise only to rise again, albeit in a cruelly eroded form, towards the end.  Again, the process lasts three quarters of an hour.  Imagine an old man in a wooden shack filling an upturned hubcap with handfuls of silver jewellery.  He picks up a particular necklace, examines it, runs it through his fingers for a few minutes, unable to remember why he should remember.  Eventually he gives up, returns it to the pile, takes a large tin of tar that has been warming on the stove and slowly empties it into the hubcap, gradually drowning the valuables in sticky, oily blackness.

The Tomb of Alucarda is a split CD-r on Miguel Perez’s label Agorafobia containing two untitled tracks each lasting about half an hour.  It’s title is nicked from a Mexican horror film of the 1970s – Lee and Miguel are fans.  The Culver track is remarkable for its patience and control.  A low rumble exists in stasis for about 20 minutes then is joined by a half-buried metallic ringing.  This pulls the roar into a slow crescendo and at 30 minutes it cuts dead.  That’s it – truly minimal music.  Even to describe it as ‘music’ seems unnecessarily ornate.  What is it?  A process?  I’m not sure how to answer that question but I can say that it lulled me to sleep on several nights last week.  A lost memory of the womb?

The track by La Mancha Del Pecado, Miguel himself, has more fire underneath it.  This is a hot, earthy roar – a desert wind in the face that dries the lips but is strangely invigorating.  The last few minutes are transformed by a loud, rhythmic whomping announcing the arrival of a massive, misshapen, monolithic… what?  We don’t find out – it cuts dead on the half hour.  I dig this track too.  In the first couple of minutes there is a dog barking (and maybe the sound of a bird call but I think I am imagining that) which grounds the noise in a real location and helps give it a sense of place and scale.  A small detail, but important and I’m glad Miguel left it in.

Contact details for Lee can be found on the Matching Head Discogs page (though don’t hold your breath as he doesn’t have internet access at home and is away from work for a fortnight – a letter might be better than an email), Legion Blotan is here, basses frequences is here and Agorafobia can be contacted via Oracle Netlabel or Miguel can be emailed directly at

artifacts of the no-audience underground: second review haiku

November 9, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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At a time when the quantity of music I’m exposed to is increasing exponentially, even without amassing downloads, I am super wary of burn-out.  It did for me during the last days of fencing flatworm when I was stretched paper thin and miserably ill.  Back then, an unsolicited jiffy bag full of scratchy Scandinavian improv was enough to bring on thoughts of self-harm.  Ugh.  In hindsight it wasn’t surprising that the short break from music that I embarked on in 2004 ended up lasting five years…

Now back in the fray, healed and enjoying some hard earned sense of perspective, I am digging music more than I’ve ever done before.  Amazing, eh?  The only problem is finding the time and the energy to write about everything I want to write about.  Goddammit, the world must be told!  And by me!  So here is the second in an occasional series of round-ups in which I maximise efficiency by using the traditional Japanese poetic form of Haiku.  Pretentious?  Aww.. maybe, but I enjoy attempting to achieve the clarity and precision of thought that the form demands.

I’m hoping that, as none of the producers and donators of this material were expecting reviews at all, they won’t be disappointed not to get a thousand word epic containing rapturous references to duelling cybernetic dragons.  I’m parking all that for a minute.  Instead this lot get seventeen syllables in the traditional 5-7-5 formation.  Each poem is a distillation of some concentrated repeat listens and was composed whilst the music was actually playing.  Each entry follows the same format:

Thumbnail of cover (click to enlarge)

  1. Band name – album title
  2. Review poem
  3. Label and release info which doubles as a ‘buy here’ link

OK, off we go…

  1. Enoc Dissonance – Ilimitada Disponibilidad Corporativa de un Automata
  2. Lump hammer rhythm / Heaving circadian wheeze / Wounded robot blinks
  3. Oracle ORE72, free download

  1. The Skull Mask – The Old Spirit of Maria Sabina
  2. Wilderness shaman / Sierra de Chihuahua / Ego Dissolving
  3. Oracle ORE70, free download

  1. Mascarae – Daemdria Lades
  2. Mechanical ghost / Abandoned power station / Circuitry spirit
  3. Oracle ORE71, free download

  1. The Piss Superstition – Valentine, The World Hates Us
  2. Reptilian hulk / Immobile yet poised, like a / hibernating frog
  3. Self released, CD-r

  1. Inseminoid – untitled
  2. Quiet, implied threat / Cinematic butchery / Hung meat favoured here

  1. Inseminoid – uk tour 2011
  2. The gulf between us / The sheer metallic cliff face / The roaring abyss
  3. Self-released, 3″ CD-r

  1. Hapsburg Braganza / Trancers II / Posset – …a clutch of eggs…
  2. Magic carpet flight / George Dixon versus Jack Deth / Dicta-noise chirrups

  1. Foldhead – Drugs Paint Alcohol
  2. Amniotic lab / Grisly incunabula / struggling to be

wired for sound part 16: culverised

August 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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culver & waz hoola – maps of war (matching head 153)

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado – Trans-Atlantic Harsh Terror Drones (matching head 174)

culver/seppuku – Dedicated To Soledad Miranda (At War With False Noise, atwar043)

Inseminoid – Old Blue Lass (Finite Change)

Two things: firstly, I know the purists will be upset that I’m including mentions of a CD and a CD-r in the previously tape-only ‘wired for sound’ series of articles.  Well, the reason is that Lee Stokoe is so tape that all his releases should come on cassette even if they don’t.  You’ll see what I mean.  Secondly, the Inseminoid cover is even less SFW than those above, so I’m keeping it under the counter.  OK, on with the show…

I sometimes approach a parcel from Lee Stokoe with trepidation.  I don’t pick it up gingerly, expecting it to explode, of course.  What I mean is that, after recognizing the handwriting, I may pause and think ‘whoo boy, am I ready for this?’  This may surprise readers familiar with RFM’s usual fawning reverence when it comes to Lee’s projects, especially Culver.  Is not the arrival of such a package reason for unbridled joy?  Well, not entirely.  Lee’s releases demand concentration, repeat listens, high volume – in a word: commitment.  Taking them seriously is hard work. And I am, dear reader, nothing if not a lazyboned procrastinator.

However, a week or two after plunging into this cold, dark sea I find myself familiar with the tides and currents at work and am able to safely tread water over these murky depths.  Last week I caught myself thinking: ‘great, that Inseminoid album is just the right length for the commute to work.’  I had achieved a familiar state of mind: a sort of meditative conviction (temporary, but sincere when held) that Lee’s work makes everything else seem like irrelevant frippery, decadent and unnecessary.  I had been culverised.

So how does he do this?  There is a working method common to most of these releases and, indeed, to many other Culver albums.  Lee starts with some kind of triggering sound – an anxious whine, a slow throb, a surprisingly delicate tape-loop – then erodes it to nothing, dissolving it in corrosive waves of entropic noise.  This noise is almost exclusively bass-heavy rumble, a slow-motion fire.  Usually the only treble is the ubiquitous tape hiss accounted for, quite deliberately, in the composition and as much an instrument as the guitars and keyboards that, presumably, supply the rest.  So there is a beginning, but no middle, and not even an end as such – you get 30-45 minutes then it stops.  No crescendo, no satisfyingly complete thematic variations, no cathartic release.  Nothing straightforwardly ‘musical’ at all.

That is not to say it is featureless.  On first or second listen, especially if you aren’t prepared to be disciplined, it sounds like being on a double-decker bus idling at a junction.  Your patience and concentration are rewarded, however, as changes in tone and texture reveal themselves.  Like a giant sturgeon moving slowly, and apparently without effort, at the bottom of a lake.  Like waking in a seemingly pitch-black room and gradually distinguishing objects as your eyes adjust to the dark.

And it is dark.  When Nietzsche said: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” (from Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146, 1886 – God bless Wikipedia) he forgot to mention that as well as gazing back this is the noise the abyss will be making.  This is the soundtrack to a horrifying, Lovecraftian existentialism: the universe is unimaginably hostile, not in intention – it has none, but in its utter indifference.  The affectlessness is what is so frightening.

Interestingly, and in my humble opinion, this poses a problem for Lee’s visual style.  His aesthetic is derived from his interest in the transgressive.  He is, for example, a student of exploitation cinema and the packaging of his releases is informed by his love of horror film and, increasingly, the pre-internet history of pornography.  This leads to covers that are, at best, unnerving abstract collages or, at worst, the kind of morally dubious filth that a family blog such as this forces you to click on surreptitiously.  My contention is that associating this music with this imagery is simply unnecessary.  Five minutes in its company will convince you of its seriousness and all the porn does is cheapen the impact; it actually distracts you from the blankness which is its ultimate strength.  I dunno what Lee can do about this, of course, and how he wants to wrap his stuff is entirely up to him.  For what it’s worth, I like his graphics anyway.

There is a similar problem for Lee’s collaborators.  He features on many split releases – two of the four above, for example – and the question for the non-Culver half is always: how do we compete with the abyss?  Take Seppuku, featured on the excellent At War With False Noise CD (trainspotter note: the title given above comes from the AWWFN website and is nowhere mentioned on the release itself).  Their sound is monstrously heavy – a grisly hybrid of doom metal and power electronics – and terrific stuff on its own terms.  However, compared to the preceding half-hour of Culver it appears childishly theatrical.  Camp, even.  ‘Hush with all the screaming,’ I found myself thinking, ‘don’t they know I’ve just stumbled out of the Total Perspective Vortex?’  La Mancha del Pecado fares better as the B-side of the amusingly titled ‘Trans-Atlantic Harsh Terror Drones’ (nice bit of self-parody there) by, well, sounding more like Culver.

The two collaborative recordings are just as arresting.  Maps of War is by Lee and Waz Hoola, head honcho of Infinite Exchange records and the evil genius responsible for my favourite drone piece of recent times.  Both parts are built around a sly, slow throbbing which adds an interesting rhythmic element to the ominous rumbling.  Wholly involving.

Inseminoid is a duo of Lee and George Proctor of Mutant Ape and Turgid Animal.  Track one follows the Culver blueprint outlined above: triggering loop, buried in noise, 34 minutes.  However the tonal range is a little wider than usual so you get more of a ‘wall noise’ experience (a term everybody seems to have learnt from As Loud As Possible magazine).  I love the helicopter-blade thwapping, like the soundtrack of a badly loaded film strip punctured by the projector sprockets.  You also get a proper ‘end’ as the last few minutes quiet down and fade out.  Track two appears to have been recorded live, is half the length and slightly more agitated.  The audience is denied a cathartic conclusion by the performance cutting abruptly to a girl-group pop song.  Apologies for not recognising it but I’d guess it was The Sugarbabes as Lee is their most unlikely fan.  I’ll end on that incongruous note…

Matching Head has no website, likewise the mysterious Finite Change.  Try Lee direct: barely legible contact details can be read here.  The Culver/Seppuku split can be had for a mere £5 from At War With False Noise.

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