Tags: amateur shoegaze, cam, constellation tatsu, crow versus crow, dictaphonics, emblems of cosmic disorder, feedback, grey guides, improvisation, joe murray, karl mv waugh, noise, skrat records, slayer, stuart chalmers, tape loops
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu)
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow)
CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records)
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu) cassette and Bandcamp download
Don’t know if it’s just me but this appears to be the perfect winter cassette of glum collisions. Imagine bad thoughts reverberating inside your skull; the sounds bounce and amplify and leave a sooty fingerprint. You shake your head but the dust remains however low and mellow the sun.
Regular readers will know Stuart manipulates tapes and tape loops with a sparse pedal set-up, mighty fists, secret knowledge and magical skill. But this time it’s not just the loopology that takes the starring role, it’s the singular tape content that snaps like an arrowroot biscuit.
Here Stuart uses Indian Swarmandal tapes pretty much exclusively for his palette adding a layer of glittering resonance and magnetic space to each gentle track.
The dulcimer-like tones vibrate and twang, sour as brass but with an unmistakable air of mystery. “Just what is behind those beaded curtains?” They seem to whisper, while a be-jewelled finger beckons you through a hidden door into a room heavy with musk.
I’m transported (can’t you tell?) but you need facts eh reader? The killer stand-out, the magnum opus has to be ‘reflection’. It shimmers like a Bagpuss episode viewed through sepia-specs. It builds slowly and metallically, fine interlocking coils spiralling ever tighter and tighter until sonic shrapnel bursts rudely from the shell.
There’s a slight panic, a speeding edge that propels each track into momentary discomfort. And it’s that intersection between mystic enlightenment and dangerous toppling that makes me come back again and again to this wonderful little tape.
OH YEAH…While we’re talking I’ve got to give an honourable mention to Tlon a fruity collaboration between Stuart Chalmers (cassette/pedals) and Liam McConaghy (synths). It’s now sold out in this realm but available for all you millennials on digital (e.g. not really there) editions. It’s boss alright but gone, gone, gone.
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder) Cassette and Bandcamp Download
Ultra atmospheric, lichen creeping from the South Coast’s very only K M V Waugh.
Lengthy opener ‘Fire snow (i), fire snow (ii), fresh grow’ stretches out as slow as bone growth. It starts slow and ends slow yet visits several distinct intervals on the journey: Meredith Monk on the Woodbines, bummed Didgeridoo guffs and the Electric Spanking (of war babies?).
Things grow darker on the even lengthier ‘Future glow (ii), final gravity’ that matches John Carpenter’s percussive judders over Space Odyssey’s floating-backwards-through-the-monolith-with-rainbow-brite-whurrrring . The disembodied voice offers no comfort.
Designed for the sort of snitchy mediation we can expect in today’s topsy-turvy world.
A statement? Perhaps. A coping mechanism? Very much so.
Plug in and remain alert!
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow) Tape and bandcamp download
Encased in a top-notch Andy Wild photo-collage-art-piece (slate grey of course) this tape just fucking drips quality.
The Grey Guides hail from Morley outta Leeds and concentrate that satellite town dislocation that those city slickers just can’t replicate. The exquisite weirdness of the suburbs runs through this tape like mould in a stinky cheese.
The instrumentation is sparse. A gentle roaring (sounding rather like The Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the next parish) becomes a backdrop over which indistinct keys, fetid tape grot and soft Dictaphone squelches hover on opener ‘One Eye Lower Than the Other’
The next two tracks, ‘Millipede in a Doll’s House’ and ‘Mushroom Heads are Turning’ are surely designed to spook; they come across like a Yorkshire Dead C with their sound-on-sound fullness, their squished-sonic wrongness. Black reverb ripples across backmasked guitar and throb in a fair approximation of a tape player actually throwing up; brown ribbons spiralling out, collecting in sticky ferric pools. It all ends in a grim repetition which baffles against broken ancient machinery. A woven howl (now sounding like a 16th generation tape of Kerry King’s amp fizz) smears as Gerhard Richter, using only charcoal tones and coal dust, comes up with his next masterpiece.
‘Just Burned Down a Care Home’ starts with some s-w-e-e-t tape-juggling, thumb on the soft pause squealing out fractured speech while that dude out the Cocteau Twins wonders why all his pedals now sound like elephant seals huffing petrol fumes.
Massed tape séance-traps are forced open on ‘Van Hoogstraten’s Big Pay Back: Gorton Poltergeist Revisited’ leaking thick magnetic ectoplasm with a “whurrr, whhorrr, whurrrr” rattling like an unsteady wind. It’s heady like good brandy.
Several ghostly interruptions later we happen upon the rarest of beasts, a No-Audience Underground cover version of a real-live tune (x2). The Grey Guides join the dots, reversed of course, between The Can and The Fall from a barely perceptible start; the faintest of pulses through to a garage-rock-recorded-through-codeine-infused-marshmallow finale.
I finally collapse to the unruly jaxx of ‘The Unlovely Acolyte Anointed at Last’ – Sidney Bechet clarinet played on Satan’s mouthparts and wonder. “Is this what passes for entertainment in Morley right now? “
Yeah it is?
Book me on the Mega bus boys…I’m coming down to jam!
These long-timers, Denmark’s enigmatic CAM, share six electronic improvisations with us on this classy vinyl offering.
It’s a noble three-piece set-up with Claus Poulsen, Anders Borup and Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau on an encyclopaedic array of tapes, synth, processing, objects, things, toys, electronics and improbable occult practices.
Keen RFM-spotters will recognise the name Claus Poulsen from his work with Star Turbine (a duo with Sindre Bjerga – on tour in the UK late Feb/early March) but this is a very different animal to their ion-drive grit. CAM specialise in fast-moving tripod dialogue, texture and split-tooth wrangles ya’ hear.
The spirit of Northern Europe Improv is strong with strains of cold-dark hiss, low-frequency gloop and singular vocal hummings woven together in pan of steaming mind-think.
The six tracks on this el-pee make these impressions on my Swiss-cheese mind.
- Squiffy beats ba-da-bump like Saaaaalllllt n’ Peppppper over a humpin’ vox (heavy on a delay). Snatches of field-recorded atmosphere are tucked up nice with an analogue-warm wave; reverse-hissing seems to be become a new Olympic discipline as breath gets sucked out a puckered pair of lips.
- More moaning: a creaky bridge caught up in high wind. The cables sing sorrow in a thousand different voices. The damp thump of workboots crossing the swollen planks adds a steady beat. But what’s that I hear? The dreams of the factory workers hoping for sunnier Spring days.
- Uncertain hymns via Robert Wyatt’s fractured, dust-dry larynx. There’s a real Rockbottom vibe with that watery keyboard (a gift from Julie Christie) lapping gently at your stubby toes. The oyster grit comes in the form of treble-heavy child chatter and bubbling electronic slime.
- Primary tones/chalk sliding over wet slate/Babbit-bobble/wrenched petroleum
- Confrontations in the afternoon, seeping prose and dramatic static ripples – don’t go chasing waterfalls.
- Mind-over-matter becomes a group practice. Three individual voices hum the theme from ‘The Bridge’ in different timezones, accents and languages so voice two arrives before voice one and voice three has an acidic hangover. Deep as an oil well and twice as sticky.
OK Travellers…a reliable signpost might say Supersilent but I reckon these dudes are looser and, without doubt, DIY to the core.
Tags: ben morris, chocolate monk, disillusion.dot.dot.dot, duncan harrison, field recording, improv, joe murray, karl mv waugh, lost wax, musique concrète, new music, no audience underground, noise, reckno, tapes
Karl M V Waugh – unnamed murk (coagulated detritus may 2014 – january 2015) (download, disillusion.dot.dot.dot)
Karl M V Waugh – Varnish Crease EP (download, disillusion.dot.dot.dot)
Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God (tape or download, Reckno)
Lost Wax – The Poacher (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.304, edition of 60)
Karl M V Waugh – unnamed murk (coagulated detritus may 2014 – january 2015) and Varnish Crease
A lazy, taking a line for a walk, kind of listen. That’s no criticism readers. I’m loving this particular ramble with Karl; round the town, out past the betting shop and onto the Downs, chatting and shooting the shit as we wander.
These unnamed murk pieces are poor orphans (coagulated detritus indeed) with no home to go to. And for me that makes things all the more interesting. Are you telling me these pieces don’t fit into your soundworld Karl? Man…I gotta check out these oddballs – they are going to be the nuts.
The modus operandi remains classic K M V Waugh – an object or technique is picked up and fiddled with for a while and each possible combination of rubbing, striking, bowing and blowing rained down until all options are exhausted.
‘Bread Failure’ dances with some close mic rustle, jazz-gob, fake sine wave feedback loops and acoustic guitar fumble as crispy as an early 2000’s Usurper jam. ‘Close Net’ starts with a slo-mo rave synth trapped in a bathysphere; the two Navy SEALS having it large while contact with the surface is registered in day-glo Morse and trippy emoticons. Outside the Angler Fish get anxious with stress-harps. Blimey, Jacques Cousteau couldn’t get this low. ‘Nada Test’, the most lovely one of the lot, is an untutored, unconscious guitar/balalaika/mandolin (?) improvisation heavy on the Korean and Rembetika influences. There’s pure innocence in this playing, a passionate exploration and experimentation that’s scrabbling but at all times searching for a melody to grasp out of the clear blue sky. The last 2 minutes of this 21 minute piece add a slight distortion giving you a soft landing destination.
This mini-album, the wonderfully titled Varnish Crease, is an 18 minute smeared collage, a bold painting in Bovril hues.
Industrial grot (a malfunctioning PEZ dispenser perhaps?) and novelty dice dropped into a chunky whiskey tumbler form the base coat to KMVW’s meta-poetry. Like several porridge-slugged mouths reading their dreams simultaneously this has a head-fudge quality. Ever been lost in a crowd? This mimics that slight panic and claustrophobic feel exactly.
Wonk-hop snatches of sound are introduced like RZA’s all blunted on Funeral Dance Party; a South Coast One Wobbly Egg. In fact this whole crease has a real Cidershed feel with that slight tint of threat added to the vulnerability.
Essential listening for any young dream-voyager.
Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God
Pearls dipped in butter swirling round the palm of a brown giant. The slick tones fill the smooth handful; fingers wiggle to spread the flutter.
This is a disarmingly charming and hypnotically beautiful opener from his holiness Duncan Harrison.
Gurble-gobs, slop and slobber the lazy consonants and sighs that very skitter with finger-manipulated tape skank. It soon turns into pigs grunting quick enough (oink oink oink) and a sonic Richard Scarry cartoon of crash-bang-wallop.
A water butt slowly fills with rancid treacle as tiny black imps dance around the bloated barrel, slapping their bulbous bellies and blowing crimson smoke rings. A watchful Duncan scoops up the imps and ingests them all a-wriggle, recording their hapless plummet down his gullet.
But please don’t take my sub-Stan Lee dribbling as evidence of sonic goofiness, cynically used to leap-frog to the desired ends (freedom, bliss, ecstasy etc). Repeated listens to this humble tape reveal this to be a mature work, a self-assured work, a personally resonant work floating slowly into my consciousness. There’s no reliance on underground clichés here. The psychedelic-domestic of bus number recital, buffeting wind noise, slow chip-pan ‘pop’ and throaty Gatwick roar have filled my heart with honey and my head with sleepy nutmeg.
Side one ends with another real-life vignette, this time trad-jazz busker (think bowler hat and pinstripe waistcoat) overlaid flinty guitar pluckage (think sloppy Arran jumper and orthopaedic shoes) bringing two worlds together – the beach front and the bedsit – into a tangy-sharp fragment.
Side two opens with a wanking mumble, a half remembered dream of the time John Noakes applied Chopin’s poesie sonore methods in the Blue Peter garden (don’t bother to ‘YouTube’ it. This nugget was never televised and then destroyed on direct instructions from Biddy Baxter.) as the tape edits flutter around his West Riding glottal stops.
Valhalla opens its gates to welcome another fallen hero. For a time the drunken revelry quietens and the bard’s horn plays mournfully through the mist. Shields become bronze gongs beaten with a soft as the captured skald drones on.
Back in the studio Duncan dons his silk gown and adopts the Crane stance blowing on flesh bassoon until a feeder tape of allotment gristle joins the sound mix like it was the most natural thing in the world. Birds aimlessly chirrurp and flapper and cast iron tools are tinkled like collectible glass bells. I can feel the late afternoon sun in this recording baking my neck and making me sleepy. This. Is. Delicious.
A game-changing tape from D Harrison. It looks innocent enough for sure; but this tape’s got a confident swagger that’s unmatched right about now.
Lost Wax – The Poacher
Super-classy Musique Concrete from Ben Morris that takes full advantage of the far-flung places he’s laid his loveable mop-top over the last couple of years (China, Vietnam and even Derbyshire).
The Poacher is split into three parts, each third revealing a different side to Lost Wax, that unlock and fold out on hidden brass hinges. Let’s look inside…
The first third, ‘The Sun is a Hammer’, takes clear recordings of tin parakeets, smoke-train rumble and happy-clapping ritual and slices them up nice with a razor like some heavy radiophonicia dripping secretly out of 1970s Bulgaria.
The pace is stately, like a nurse on a bike, as Ben adds layers of hiss and schloop weaving them into a tapestry fit for a medium-sized town hall. But before we can even jiggle a heavy chain of office beautiful voices creak out of the floorboards. They soar and float like rainbows. Flutes trill. I swoon.
Next we visit the watch menders convention for ‘Time Travel Corrodes the Mind’. A hired drummer fiddles with his high-hat (fairly obsessively tiss-tiss-tiss) as the cummerbunded MC beckons in a phalanx of beach balls full of gaseous hippy crack. The massed horologicalists look up from their chaotically ticking handfuls but relax as Ben, safely at the controls, squeezes out a rhythmic pulse for the cast-iron disco crowd. Tapes of paranoid mumbling (source: CIA bugs, Cuban Missile Crisis?) bookend the track as several men bend aluminium picture frames in your left ear.
This tasty trio is completed by ‘Home, Exhuming a Shed‘. Imagine F.M. Einheit getting ready for a date (checklist – red rose, lump hammer, rusty chain, trumpet, gas canister) dressing in his best dungarees with bear-grease controlling his wanton quiff.
Gnarled hands rip up steel casings and pummel a brass boiler with oranges. The bright zest fills the air and this sudden change in atmosphere calms our man…his fingers caress the splintered keyboard moving from black to white. Digit-shapes transfer from 3D geometry into calm sound-pools that sit gently rippling in the citrus breeze.
Tags: charles dexter ward, dr:wr, drone, electronica, fuckin' amateurs, improv, joe murray, karl mv waugh, libbe matz gang, libertatia overseas trading, loxley tapes, matching head, new music, no audience underground, noise, tapes, the new blockaders, tusk festival
The New Blockaders – Everything You Ever Needed (tape, Fuckin’ Amateurs, edition of 12, FA90)
The New Blockaders – A Beginner’s Guide to TNB (tape, Loxley Tapes, edition of 45)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 111014 (TUSK) (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – Past Lives (tape, Matching Head, MH208)
Libbe Matz Gang – Infantilised Britain EP (7″ single, Libertatia Overseas Trading, LMG4S, edition of 150)
DR:WR – Trippin’ Daggers Inner Skull Metal Blade Musique (self-released CD-r with ‘original gonzo artwork’, edition of 20 or download)
The New Blockaders – Everything You Ever Needed and A Beginner’s Guide to TNB
A warning. Art-jokers The New Blockaders like to keep folks on their toes right? They’ve toyed with ‘blank’ tapes, live performances that contain no actual Blockading and recordings that never see the light of day. The question on many lips seems to be…
Will this be a real Blockaders recording or some grimy stunt?
The extra patina of yuks comes from the labels themselves, Fuckin’ Amateurs & Loxley Tapes. In Blyth parlance they are most definitely, ‘cheeky fond’. Translation – loveable rogues, with a long history of bootlegged, unofficial and deliberately misleading recordings dubbed quickly and distributed for free.
This time F#A! and Loxley have really nailed the presentation: A Beginner’s Guide… is encased in a rusty metal tin, dripping with foul-smelling bitumen. The tape itself smeared with grime and grit. Everything You Ever Needed is less dirty, the monochrome artwork sporting a spot-on-grim smeared photo of local graffiti, but more or less playable.
Both of these tapes were originally dealt out personally to folk at Newcastle’s TUSK fest by F#A! frontman Martin dressed as a police officer. The remainder were shoved in a bag and left near the bins behind the Star & Shadow cinema for people to stumble upon.
1. How does it sound? The title gives us a clue of sorts. Side A, ‘ACAB – Changez Les Blockeurs vs Live at Morden Tower’ sounds to my tin-ear like two live recordings jammed together. These kind of extended noise jams are always tricky to describe. Here goes…
SKKKEKKKEKK…approximately 30 minutes of mega-amplified squeaky plimsoll on hardwood gym floor…HHHHHUUUUMMmmmmm…moving furniture, painful feedback squeals…KUUMMSSKKkkkkkkSSSSS..broken-glass shatter, spurting electric springs…BuuuuuuummmmBBBB…rusty metal shearing all delivered with hectic energy.
It’s soooo frantic. Any pauses are brief oases and end sharply as things get broken and kicked with renewed vigour. Say what you like about this dark art: it’s really exciting. I can see my teenage self jamming this full-throttle alongside Suicidal Tendencies whilst disastrously skating the local parks.
Side B is labelled ‘Blank’ and seems to be really, like blank man. Totally silent without no background hiss or nothing to judder or hang on to. OK…given the TNB history that’s all very fitting. I’m fine with all that.
As I deconstruct The Beginner’s Guide I swoon for this is indeed a beautiful object. From the insert replicating the famous TNB manifesto to the detailed sleeve notes (hidden inside the tin) it just hums attention to detail. Shining a torch inside the thing suggests this is a TNB approved compilation of their greatest hits; a handy taster for any up-and-coming noise fan. The only problem is I can’t play it. Some of the blue grit (the sort of thing you find at the bottom of a fish tank) has gummed up the spools so my cheap-o-stereo just whirred uselessly and looked at me whispering…
Really? Are you sure?
…under it’s cheap-o breath.
So, dear reader, I’m no further forward with my original ponder: is this TNB or some stunt? I’m not sure – it seems genuine enough but I’m no expert. I reckon as long as everyone goes into things with their eyes open we’re all good. Yeah?
What are your chances of picking one of these up? Slim I’m afraid. But in true New Blockaders style… why would you? Reject the Art! Use the above blueprint to create your own. I’ve got a hot nut for some amplified baking tray action just right for this one.
Mamma…we’re all Blockaders now!
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 111014 (TUSK) and Past Lives
Brace yourself for a clutch of psych/drone/kraut-tronics from the wonderful Charles Dexter Ward (the tweedy beast). First up this super-hectic live piece from CDW’s storming set at this year’s TUSK festival. Things start all relaxed alright: water bubbling, birds singing and Greensleeves style plucking afore…
The analogue synths start to mist up your eye mask with long-haired groaning lurchers. Slowly, so slowly, new textures (a two note keyboard hum) are added, like peeling an onion in reverse, with each papery skin folding up nicely over the next all neat n’ tight.
Content to let this scene build for over ten minutes the patient Mr Ward starts adding guitar riffs, each loaded with potent chemicals. The rhythmic strumming builds up and up into rapier-sharp soloing clearing the vapours like menthol. And it’s this electric soloing, ecstatic and optimistic that makes CDW my contender for the No Audience Crossover prize. I can picture this, in my giddy mind’s eye, going down in hearty gulps at shindigs like the Liverpool Psych Festival or Islington’s Union Chapel.
There’s a universal in the grain of that guitar sound…a forward motion that’s as unstoppable as evolution. Don’t believe me? Watch with those beady eyes!
The title of the Past Lives tape is a cheeky wink to the age of some of these recordings. Two of the four tracks are from circa 1996 but are in no way patchouli-scented juvenilia. Both dark and gloomy ‘Pathfinder’ is one of the back catalogue offerings; a brief but richly fertile drone building up into a drumlin – a soft-boiled egg in sound.
‘131213’ starts all Carlos Castaneda with that wide-open-spaces-desert sound; shimmering guitar and gritty synth as distant and insistent as the mid-day sun beating down on your naked pate.
But, as the analogue storm slowly blackens and brews, I’m transported to an alternate space. The sense of heat and desolation remains but it’s altogether more sinister now. An abandoned drive-in stands lonely as a poisoner. The tattered screen flickers and springs into life, washed-out colours are slightly unfocused as a Mexican version of Assault on Precinct 13 plays to its audience of one. The slowly shifting colours on screen smear out the violence behind.
Side B opens with ‘010612’; a synth-led warble and fritter. All the juddering warps the stereo-vision like a mirage in sound. Tones flit in and out of focus, showing a partial shape but content to tease until a pair of tamed sea-lions honk in harmony (errr…probably a guitar played with e-bow in reality but please grant me this indulgence). The mantra continues as a raga based on charred notes from Rugby’s space programme but by upping the noise quotient this moves beyond any stale rock music and closer into the tumbling chaos of Edgard Varese.
‘Stereo’, the final piece and another offering from the crypt, is a roughly psychedelic theme tune. Slowly descending chords wreathed in glistening effects remind me of that AR Kane lot when they spoke about remaking Bitches Brew but with guitar feedback. This is a questing sketch (at about 2 minutes long, it makes me want to hear more). An ode to yearning.
Libbe Matz Gang – Infantilised Britain EP
Raised as I was on the heady tripod of Jazz, Heavy Metal and US Hardcore I’ve always felt slightly uneasy around electronics. I mean, I dig all that kind of thing now; but I still have to take a deep breath when faced with anything resembling a plastic keyboard.
The Libbe Matz Gang have no such aversion as this neat little sevener is heavy on the ‘tronics right from the off. This back of the bus rave on a Blackberry Bold with a cracked screen vibe is both harsh and heavy. Each short track is a rap over the knuckles and cosh to the conscience with evocative titles like ‘Casualty to Custody’ and ‘Punterhunt 2’.
The sounds? Well, like I said it’s electronics that rule. What I hear in my ears is: bedpans emptied down a steel tube, concrete burrs over a rubber glove and guttering wobble. The ghost of Chrome hollas a tune…and even forms a rhythm for a few bars. Sonic bombs explode – a scurrying hustle of a contact mike dropped into a tin can, an elbow cracking a tender collarbone are all captured and served on brushed-steel platters.
While that takes care of your percussive needs be prepared for some snatches of speech that are World-in-Action grim/red-light district grotty. They add a dark heart to the bleak, fractured blasts of twisted noise rumbling under the surface.
Available now from their intriguing blog/news/update site.
DR:WR – Trippin’ Daggers Inner Skull Metal Blade Musique
This is one of them discs that doesn’t like to sit about too long. It’s itchy, it’s twitchy and keen to get up, pogo, lie down, roll on the floor and pretty much do everything in its power to grab your attention. This is just the sort of slap I need from time to time. Sure…I’ve got the patience for a 50 minute plus drone workout but I often favour the sugar-rich rush of folk who just want to jam an idea, stop, re-set their equipment, than jam another as quick as silver.
DR:WR have an attention solution. And so in that very spirit I’m going to write this as each track plays. No filler or bumf. No navel gazing or theorising. Just first impressions hammered home on the keys as quick as these folk make ‘em.
Mung Crow: Guitar scree played in forbidden harmonics. Lumping beatbox high with cowbell and handclaps.
Hyper Tile: Super-burnt-electrics ripple like hot water then turn to freezing Napalm.
Lumbargo Extraction: The sort of beat Basic Channel reject for being too out-there played in the dark…no lasers!
Blood Rental: Fizzing electric squid.
City Storms: Oi Eno? Is this what you’re up to these days? Ambient for the terminally uneasy. Seagulls solo. The cliffs crumble in slo-mo.
Sherbet Delay: Tubular Bells heard through the chill-out room door. A 4am vibe when my nerves are shredded by 16 hours or drum & bass and … I drift … slowly … … off.
There you go. An instant reaction to this frothy disc just champing to be played. You’ve got some time don’t ya? I urge you to click here for this and more speedy enlightenment.
Tags: binnsclagg, chloe wallace, discombobulate, dogeeseseegod, emblems of cosmic disorder, improv, joe murray, karl mv waugh, kosmos 954, krautrock, new music, no audience underground, noise, pascal nichols, poetry, prosody, the zero map
Karl M V Waugh – 5 Alarm Systems / Songs About Choir Boys (CD-r and text prosody poems in document file, Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)
dogeeseseegod / The Zero Map – Split (tape, Emblems of Cosmic Disorder, unspecified limited edition)
Kosmos 954 – IX V IV (CD-r in hand made cover, Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)
Binnsclagg – 23 (CD-r, no label)
Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House (LP, Discombobulate, BOB003, edition of 250, ‘on frozen puddle coloured vinyl’ as Joe would have it)
Karl M V Waugh – Songs About Choir Boys / 5 Alarm Systems
Like many folk I’m slightly aroused by office stationery [Editor’s note: too right – I’m still banned from Rymans]. There’s something about the clear usefulness of envelopes, pens, polyvinyl packets that’s so darn satisfying. So it was with trembling hands I slice open the latest package from our esteemed editor; a selection of goods from new ‘boutique’ label Emblems of Cosmic Disorder.
A slim document file, the kind of thing you’d find in any dusty HR department, houses a neat CD-R in a clam case and several pages of closely typed text.
I check out the disc (‘songs about choir boys’) first. This 20 minute piece has three distinct sections:
- Cluttered junk noise collage – echoed pings, guitar scratch knitting itself tighter and tighter. Balloon squeak adds a slivery ripple.
- Domestic vocal psychedelic – “What valley?” Bus-travel-noise, digital avalanche, granular fractals etc. “I’m gonna go out now.”
- Electric Balalaika heard through the fog of war, Austrian glitch and heavy pastries.
The editing is sharp, each distinctive piece flows nicely like egg yolk through new copper pipes. Not a leak in sight!
I take out the poems (‘5 alarm systems’) and give them a bash. On a first reading these short pieces come across like some fractured stream-of-consciousness narrative…
“Diamond scratching on the inside of my scalp.”
“Duncan Harrison refuses to fight Johnny Liron and everyone’s oxygen supply is depleted.”
Pretty heady stuff, ya dig? Like reading old Bananafish magazines through a gin hangover or something. But closer inspection of the handy press release states these are prosody poems; a term I have never come across before. A quick google search tells me…
Prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance (statement, question, or command); the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of language that may not be encoded by grammar or by choice of vocabulary.
OK…I get it. It’s all about how the poem is read. So I heave myself from the comfortable armchair and gracelessly unfold to my full (and rarely realised) six foot three and read these darn things loud and proud.
The neighbours curtains twitch, the kids giggle, Mrs Posset asks if I am feeling well. The answer is a boisterous ‘YES’. In fact I feel better than ever. The act of reading is a tonic, a shot in the arm, just the very thing. And I read on; in trembling baritone. The intensity and vigour leaves me glowing like a Victorian lady.
I wonder if these excellent poems are to be read along with the music? There are no instructions in the envelope to the contrary so I take matters into my own hands and rig up the gramophone to record and play and hawk out money scam intake collection [Editor’s note: click to hear a one minute rendition – self-embedding journalism, that] for kicks.
Even if this was never K.M.V. Waugh’s intention the interactive nature of abstract sound and spoken word is a great one: ham & eggs, strawberries & cream.
I urge you to check this one out and popularise as a parlour game for all the family.
dogeeseseegod / The Zero Map – Split Tape
There’s some real right brain/left brain stuff going on here on this pocket guide to cosmic disorder.
dogeeseseegod take the knotted tangled path with raw ganglions swaying. Junked up domestic field recordings get clotted and rubbed up rough with the sound of water (a unifying fixture with dripping tapes, gushing pipes and the steady trickle of piss) running through this whole piece, ‘Tappin ‘Ard O Phiernahe On Rye’. As I settle in my listening chair I’m picturing some Futurist Opera, the men of dogeeseseegod wrapped in itchy suits as they arrange scrap metal structures to a newspaper score. Occasionally there’s the rare fizz of melody. A guitar or keyboard makes a dash out the door with a tune stashed up a tight cuff. But mainly the sounds are free to roam within the strict structure of the edit. You’ve seen One Man and his Dog right? Sort of like that but with sheep being replaced with rude tape blarts and hawking tremors. Thankfully the electronic effects are kept to a minimum so the pure mung rises to the top of the beaker, ready to be scooped off and fermented; brewed into zingy espresso.
This kinda porridge pot can be hit or miss but I am delighted to say this is breakfast gets a Goldilocks ‘just right’ from me.
The Zero Map set their dune buggy down a smoother, less hectic, route. The modestly titled ‘Z’ is a meditation. Pale blue tones float out my cheap-o hi-fi clearly. They arrange themselves in regular symmetrical patterns that turn in on themselves, forever folding and unfolding across a hidden axis to reveal a thousand-leaved Chrysanthemum glowing with an inner light. The sound warms up to a pinky-red hue and the slight ‘tap, tok, tap’ of a recurring theme (the decaying ring of a bell with all the attack digitally snipped off perhaps?) rubs my shoulders as I settle deeper into the Chesterfield. My eyelids droop and I find my 14 year old self perched in front of the TV trying to keep up with Horizon or something. I’m scrunching my brow over some really complex but beautifully original maths, the slight chemical tang of lemon squash leaving a bright yellow smile on my lips. The almost spiritual neatness of a Venn diagram, intersecting arcs creating enclosed spaces calms my teenage self into a Zen stillness that rockets through the years anointing my old-guy bristles with Nag Champa.
Kosmos 954 –IX V IV
What’s this? A live in the studio jam all cut up with a monkey claw? Yeah man yeah. It starts with odd honks and the sort of space echo Joe Meek would have pawned his Ouija board for. And then a scissor cuts and Kosmos 954 draw us into the gloom for some heeds down pub-kraut-rock. Zoinks! The edits keep on coming: a rhythmically blocky soundtrack to 80’s handheld game ‘Scramble’ (Kink, kink, kink!) slides into slurring crabs leaving tracks in the sand of mystic Hebrew script ending the ritual with a heaviness worthy of Haikai No Ku. I love to be confused by a record and Kosmos 954 are cheeky mystic monks Ra-Ra-ing like a funky Rasputin.
Binnsclagg – 23
More poetry and ‘natural malfunction’ from the South coast. I’ve been told this is not an emblems release but it bears all the hallmarks; handmade sleeve, ambitious scope and grievous cluttered sound etc. The lazy blogger would drop names like Graham Lambkin but this is a far more robust beast. Sure enough, there are browned-off words that melt like dripping but some of the accompanying sound is sharp and glitchy enough to share self space with those Editions Mego jokers.
Things get pretty dark about 14 mins in. The crystal plumage noise is replaced with matter-of-fact reportage and amplified gibber/gong workshop. The natural energy of a live improvisation takes over and an end of the pier sample wraps things up nicely in under 25 minutes.
Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House
Whooosh. I’m on my way to mighty Manchester with an earbud full of Mancunian musicians making the Megabus the most happening bus on the M62.
Rob has beat me to it, covering the excellent, Getting Nothing to Appear on the Developed Film by The Piss Superstition already. So, all that I can add to the no-audience dialogue is a breathless “CHECK OUT THE SUICIDEFUZZOUTLIVEATTHEBUDOKANMIGRANE ON THIS SHIT MAN!” to the poor bloke sitting next to me. He snores on…
The next record in my brace of Manc offerings comes from Pascal Nichols, one half of the wonderful Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides (often abbreviated to tongue-straining acronym PWHMOBS) who are stealthily playing their way into the hearts of the underground.
Here Pascal wallops hollow gourds until they clank and click like a Moondog army marching menacingly through a dark Mardi Gras.
And then…a bagatelle? Rubber marbles? The sound of impact folded inward.
In my cloth ears a theme reveals itself. Cacophony is introduced then tamed…the gradual removal of syncopation reveals the human heartbeat within. ACTION POINT: A Grandfather Clock is taken apart piece-by-piece – a military ‘tick / tok’ resolutely strict and stiff-upper-lipped morphs seamlessly into an allotment shuffle; muddy tools being hung in racks by knotted hands.
A dry ‘thwock’ repeats. Micro spaces click sticks. Did I just hear a sneaky ‘Moonlight on Vermont’ snare ripple? The stick clicks continue and seem to say ‘hatchback’ in the language of the trees. Bees are waxed for sure…you can smell the yellow howl of varnish all over the ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing.
Soon a knitting machine of Patrick Woodroffe proportions rattles pennies in a jar. Each bronze disc placed with a trajectory planned by a master’s hands.
This is a glorious and life-affirming record. The joy of playing is evident in every snare swish and cymbal brush. Share the spirit of adventure…let the love in!
Tags: bram devens, chloe wallace, drone, glen steenkiste, hellvete, ignatz, jake blanchard, karl mv waugh, new music, no audience underground, noise, plurals, sophie cooper, tapes, the zero map, tor press, visual art
The Zero Map – Cerebrum Paté (CD-r, Tor Press, TORCD04, edition of 60, lino print cover)
Plurals – Debasement (CD-r, Tor Press, TORCD03, edition of 100 with three lino prints)
Ignatz / Sophie Cooper – Split (tape, Tor Press, TORCAS005, edition of 75)
Hellvete / Jake Blanchard – Split (tape, Tor Press, TORCAS006, edition of 75)
Blimey, you lot have woken from your winter hibernation pretty sharpish, eh? After throwing off the bear skins and shaking out the grass matting the first thought in the groggy collective mind of the no-audience underground seems to have been ‘must… send… parcel… to… Rob…’ or ‘nnnghhhh – download code for RFM!!’ Thus a review pile that had been diligently reduced to single figures during a hyperactive December has, by the end of January, been re-swollen to over forty items. I ain’t complaining, comrades – far from it. A skim through the new stuff reveals a level of quality and invention that is noggin-baking. My only concern is how to do it all justice. What a glorious bind to be in, eh readers? What a privilege to be a creative partner in this collective endeavour! Anyway, enuff swooning – I better get to work: a few posts to put 2013 to rest, the spring greens of 2014 to follow shortly after.
Today we’ll be looking at four releases on Tor Press, the Todmorden-based record label, zine publisher and gig promoter, run by illustrator Jake Blanchard. The first of these is Cerebrum Paté (cover above) a thirty-two minute, two track CD-r by The Zero Map, the Brighton based duo of Chloe Wallace and Karl M V Waugh.
I consider this band to be underrated – meaning that Uncle Mark of Idwal Fisher doesn’t like ’em as much as I’d like ‘im to like ’em – but not, of course, here at RFM HQ where they are firm favourites. On several enjoyable occasions I have pretzelled myself attempting to classify the meditative anarchy of their vibe. On the surface there is nothing gonzo or discordant apparent. An augmented drone, or electronic collage, carries you along like a pooh stick on a slow moving stream, flowing over and around some interesting obstacles. However, the closer you look the more peculiar it gets. One of those obstructions might be, say, the arm of a shop window mannequin sticking up out of the current, or perhaps some unknown hand has rearranged the pebbles of the stream bed into a mosaic depicting the face of Philip K. Dick, or maybe some biological agent in the water has turned the orchids in that tree stump blue (aside: Upstream Colour – best film of 2013) and so on…
Suffice to say that the first track, ‘Neutrino Detector’, begins with some nicely intestinal bass and that the second track, ‘A Python’, ends with a visceral crescendo that makes me want to drink blood from the skulls of my vanquished enemies. In-between times you’ll find plenty of whatthefuckery to flavour your reverie. Recommended.
Next is Debasement, a CD-r by the three (or four?) member ‘scattered collective’ Plurals. The disc is accompanied by three beautiful lino prints, one each by Ben Jones, Tom J Newell and Jake Blanchard, each an interpretation of one of the three tracks that make up the album. I consider this band to one of the frontrunners in this sport. Their sound has, for me, a subtle narrative quality that is compelling, exciting and rewarding of repeat listens. It draws stories out of me. Like this one:
The first track, ‘Modal Nodes’ is a glorious drone piece, a model of adulterated perfection. Picture a conical, many-limbed alien creature, nestled comfortably in an indentation on a sandy beach. Scattered around it are a number of terracotta coloured objects, each of which is picked up and, with a whip of a tentacle, set spinning. Some of these tops contain whistles, others beads and carved stones, all of which hum or rattle as they rotate. Luxuriating in the buzz it has created the creature uses half its mouths to join in with ululations and the other half to grin with.
‘Ape Skull Photography’ begins with more insistence – the urgent throb of a distress signal triggered by the captain of an exploration vessel sent to map this new world. The cause of his alarm is the frightening speed at which his crew have ‘gone native’ since arriving. The majority can be found scooping out their own hollows and joining in with the alien groove, only to be dragged away by the few left unaffected. This gathering siren sound begins to blot out the sound of the siren. Cut to the bridge of a rescue ship sent to investigate. The crew shift in their seats, uneasily listening.
‘Glowing Generic Diety’ is the final sublimation. Primed by the smeared-out distress signal the rescuers didn’t stand a chance and succumbed immediately. The captain can now be found on a nearby riverside, covered in red muck, fashioning his own spinning pots from the clay. Dozens are drying on the bank behind him. The rest of the crew are entwined in tentacles, consciousness liquefied in a grotesquely beautiful parody of nirvana.
Heh, heh – how’s that? Tremendous stuff.
..and finally the two split tapes. Sadly, they are already sold out and do not appear to have a digital afterlife. However, I am compelled to mention ’em at least because they are marvellous.
Ignatz, a guitarist from Belgium called Bram Devens, contributes five tracks of outsider blues with an archaeological crust to the recording that suggests Daniel Johnston transported back to the Mississippi Delta of the 1920s. His playing is raw and immediate but contains passages of disarming subtlety. His voice is fragile but his delivery has plenty of personality and push. I have been charmed by these haunting, humorous pieces and invigorated by the lifeforce they exhibit. One track, ‘Liquorice’, is named for my favourite confectionery too!
Sophie Cooper’s songs here concern absence and displacement and are half submerged in fuzz, echo and lapping ripples of liquid noise. The atmosphere is maintained beautifully, the medium conveying the message. ‘Dreamlike’ is an adjective easy to reach for when faced with anything at all diaphanous but, despite an explicit rejection of the notion by Sophie: track four is titled ‘I Never Associate Dreams With Anything’, I think the description fits. The tidal to and fro between here and distant, me and you, inside and outside has the sort of discombobulating internal logic you might struggle with on waking at 3am. I recently had the pleasure of seeing her perform live. Her voice and guitar were accompanied by a filtered flow of taped audio detritus which gave the impression her songs were emerging from a kind of shared, consensual hallucination. Also, by filling the gaps between songs and thus not providing the usual silence for applause her set was placed firmly in the context of the noise performances that preceded it. Very smart and very engaging.
The tape shared by Jake Blanchard himself and Hellvete, a guy called Glen Steenkiste, is a meeting of mighty, magical dronezillas. However, instead of tearing chunks out of each other whilst stamping on the unsuspecting burghers of Todmorden, Jake invites Glen to a campfire party at a beauty spot up on the Pennine tops. After roasting a few cattle the monsters take turns casting spells to entertain each other. This isn’t lazy, elbow-on-the-keyboard drone but a glowing, crackling, rolling presence built from ‘real’, sometimes handmade, instruments. It is beautifully layered and textured and animated by a sparkling and complex soul. Vibracathedral Orchestra comes to mind, of course, as does Jazzfinger, but replace the incense with the sinus clearing tang of pine resin. It ain’t all epic, though. The Hellvete side ends with a charming, tiny, banjo-plucking coda called ‘Op Linkeroever’ (Dutch for ‘On the Left Bank’). This return to a human scale serves the same take-a-deep-breath purpose as, say, ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’ at the end of Neil Young’s death-of-the-hippy-dream masterpiece After the Goldrush. If I hadn’t taken so long to get around to this release it would have surely figured in the 2013 Zellaby Awards, so sincere apologies for that.
To conclude: Tor Press is boss. The attitude exhibited by this outfit is impeccable. Every aspect of the operation exudes an understated but unmistakeable class. The content and choice of acts, whilst not always to my exact taste, show an adventurous but coherent vision for the label. Attention to detail is rigorous and quality control strictly enforced whilst retaining a loose, friendly and collaborative vibe. The packaging is exceptional – covers and inserts are hand-printed where feasible and beautifully designed with an eye for the aesthetically satisfying. Jake is, and I do not bandy this term about lightly, an artist.
Should you know anyone unconvinced as to the achievements possible here in the no-audience underground, any fool who uses the term ‘hobbyism’ as an insult, or insists on clutching tatty security blankets like The Wire to their bosom, then point them at labels like this and tell them to shut the fuck up. Tough love, yeah, but they’ll thank you for it eventually.
Tags: drone, hairdryer excommunication, improv, karl mv waugh, kevin sanders, new music, no audience underground, noise, petals, tapes, the zero map, thomas james hayler, vocal improvisation
Kevin Sanders – Singing (etcetera) in a hallway for baby (tape/download, hairdryer excommunication)
KMVW & PTLS – split (2 x 3” CD-r/download, hairdryer excommunication)
Amongst the tributes paid to the birth of our son, I was particularly touched and delighted that Kev Sanders, best known ’round here as blog fave act Petals, dedicated a recording to him. The ol’ smoothie did the same for Seth and Sara on the arrival of Beatrice last year too.
Anyway, as it was created in his honour, I thought I’d let him review it. Here is Thomas’s initial reaction:
I see what he means – it is very odd indeed. Here’s how he was at the end, having dressed for dinner with it on in the background:
A success, I’m sure you’ll agree. Download it for the amusement of your whole family here.
On a roll, I decided to try him on the Karl MV Waugh (him of The Zero Map) and Petals split too and, to my sleep-deprived surprise, I think I heard him say the following:
Finest quality aural cartography of the neurotic mindscape and a cracking object to boot. Double 3″ CD-r is truly the format of champions and to mount it in a 7″ single sleeve is magical. All should be rushing to acquire one of these, or, if it proves no longer available, gratefully accepting a free download in consolation.
Remarkable – I couldn’t agree more. Then he filled his nappy with something the colour and consistency of korma paste and the listening session was brought to a hurried close. To get your copy see here.