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.

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!

sorting the lego part four: soundtracks for decorating the tree

December 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Ceramic Hobs – Spirit World Circle Jerk (vinyl LP in silk-screened sleeve, Must Die Records, MDR 032, edition of 250)

CASTRATO ATTACK GROUP – blood porridge from the islets of langerhans (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, MOA 666-13, edition of 100 or download)

La Mancha del Pecado & Culver – collaboration six (tape, Matching Head/Agorafobia, mh 199/27)

Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerkcastrato attack group - blood porridge backcastrato attack group - blood porridge front

I think I’ve written enuff about depression for now, don’t you?  See the preambles to parts one, two and three of this series for an account of the development of my current illness and what I am doing to combat it.  Suffice to say the struggle continues but I am very well supported and am looking forward to the break in routine that Christmas will provide.  I’m trying hard not to make a ‘mulled whine’ pun.  Damn, just did it…

Thanks again for the music and messages of encouragement – it all means a great deal to me.

These will be my last reviews of 2013 – if you have stuff on the review pile then it will be dealt with in the New Year.  Continued apologies for any delay but we have caught up considerably during December.  Articles by Joe and Scott on Colectivo N, Smut and Caroline Mackenzie are in the works and will probably appear sometime during the holiday period to tide us over until the Zellaby Awards are announced in January.  Exciting!

Have a lovely Christmas, dear readers, and I wish you peace, health and love from all at RFM HQ and Midwich Mansions.

—ooOoo—

It isn’t often that I agree to review something without having heard it first.  I’m not concerned about accusations of insider trading, or conflict of interest, nor are there brown envelopes stuffed with payola for me to collect in motorway service station car parks.  It’s more to do with not wanting to feel obliged, nor wanting to accept freebies under false pretences – I know resources are scarce so I don’t want to trouble someone for their warez only to say ‘no thanks’ once it is too late.  However, I thought I was on safe ground when Simon Morris of Ceramic Hobs pulled out a copy of their latest album and handed it to me at that Skullflower show with the words: “You MUST review it!”  I agreed, of course.

Here’s the spec: The Spirit World Circle Jerk is a vinyl LP in an edition of 250 from the ever-impressive Must Die Records, the covers were created and screen-printed by Dr. Adolf Steg of Spon fame and a handy lyric sheet and download code are included for maximum convenience and enjoyment.  One side features six of the seven tracks, the other side contains just the epic ‘Voodoo Party’.

Initally, it seems a bit more straightforward than the psychonautical adventure that was the last ‘proper’ Hobs LP I heard – Oz Oz Alice – but flip it over and over during the course of several afternoons and its depth, complexity and sense of humour are revealed.  Ideas, characters, lines of lyrics, references to popular culture, mass murder etc. that are largely lost on me (a great track-by-track description of the album on the Must Die Records site helps decipher all this) are repeated from song to song which gives the album coherence.  Don’t worry – this isn’t a tedious ‘concept’ piece, more a series of linked short stories (‘Simon Morris as the Robert Altman of the psychiatric underground’?  Discuss).

Simon’s voice remains remarkable: utterly different from his speaking voice, it ranges from bassy growl, as if gargling with multi-coloured gravel and slimey algae from the bottom of a tropical fish tank, to overdriven power electronic screech, like William Bennett flicking through the Ikea catalogue in bed and getting a paper cut on his bell-end.  The band are totally up to it too and the music works an accompanying range, from oi punk and pub rock to psychedelic collage.  There are plenty of laughs.  For example, the opening line of ‘Glasgow Housewife’: “I… BELONG… TO… GLASGOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW” cracks me up every time I hear it.  It’s as funny as Wile E. Coyote stamping on the trap that Road Runner just failed to activate.  There is head-down boogie – try and resist singing along to the ‘Hong Kong Goolagong’ with your thumbs in your belt-loops.  And then there is ‘Voodoo Party’…

The side-long seventh track is a companion piece to the 35 minute long title track of Oz Oz Alice.  It’s a category-defying collage, a psychedelic ritual, or maybe a cut-up screed by the author of a conspiracy website where everything is grist to the mill and the more you deny it the more sure he is that you are hiding something.  For example, the ‘true’ story of Rhonda’s journey through a stargate, lifted from an American talk radio programme complete with dumbfounded hosts, is totally fascinating in itself and calls to mind ’22 going on 23′ from the masterpiece Locust Abortion Technician by Butthole Surfers.  Surely, there can surely be no higher praise and yet this is just one of the many elements to be found sliding over each other, slotting into an order of things dictated by the track’s own gurning and fluid internal logic.

I’m happy to conclude that this album is perfect music to accompany tucking into a lovely Christmas dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings – well, you might have to reheat it after making sure that the family whose house you have just broken into are securely tied up in the basement first…

blood porridge from the islets of langerhans is perfect music to accompany chestnuts roasting on an open fire – that is if the fire was caused by a gas explosion and is roaring in the rubble of what used to be your house.  The album comprises two twenty minute plus tracks of crackling free rock.  Despite the band’s name, this is clearly the result of the nine balls belonging to the four band members (which member has three is a closely guarded secret) swinging back and forth like a hairy Newton’s cradle.  Nothing clever-clever here.  ‘triceratops badmouth’ starts in a paint-huffing, head-banging mood and remains that way throughout – a tethered crescendo of thrashing and bucking.  ‘temple of glue’ is even less structured, if that is possible.  At first it’s like a squadron of dragonflies attempting to free themselves after having accidentally landed in a puddle of beery piss then, rescued at last by a beat at around the nine minute mark, they spend the rest of the track shaking themselves dry and drunkenly vowing revenge on the fool who dared urinate under their flightpath.  Terrific.

collaboration six is perfect music to accompany dashing through the snow – that is if you have been thrown from a helicopter onto the tundra because your colleagues think you may have been infected by an alien shape shifter and now night is falling.  The latest in a series of all-star team-ups featuring friends-of-RFM Lee Stokoe and Miguel Perez, this won’t hold any surprises for those already familiar with their work but it is perhaps a little more delicate than you might expect.  The album comprises a single track on a single sided tape in a black and white cover not reproducible on a family blog like this due to, well, tits.  In the spirit of seasonal goodwill I won’t make my usual prudish complaint about this ‘aesthetic’.  The music, a deceptively simple, multi-layered drone is magnificent, a high water mark in the recent catalogues of both artists.  How you take it could go in two opposite directions depending on your mood: is it evocative of a warm, enveloping, womb-like environment in which you shift about, satisfyingly comfortable, in a cocoon of amniotic jelly or is it a windswept mountainside, treacherous with snow-covered ice and bottomless crevasses below?  Essential either way.

Buy the Ceramic Hobs LP direct from Must Die Records, where you’ll also find the track-by-track description I mention above.  Buy the Castrato Attack Group CD-r (or download) via the Memoirs of an Aesthete Bandcamp site.  The La Mancha del Pecado & Culver tape can be had from Matching Head, contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.

alien menagerie: rfm catches up with oracle, kevin sanders, north east noise and shoganai

August 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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ErosM – Demo II (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE97)
La Mancha Del Pecado – Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE99)
Crown of Bone – Children of the Corn, a Tribute (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE100)

Seth Cooke / Kevin Sanders – split (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 25, or download)
Kevin Sanders – heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”) (hairdryer excommunication, download)
Petals – Salivate Stone (tape, Dirty Demos, edition of 30)

Suburban Howl/Mutant Ape – split (tape, Turgid Animal)
Sindre Bjerga – foreign tongues (tape, Matching Head, mh195)
Culver/Xazzaz – split (tape, Matching Head, mh196)

The Truth About Frank – Live 10/04/13 Hogwash 6 Fox and Newt Leeds (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 310513 (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 121012 (self-released download)

Shoganai –  ショウガナイ (self–released download)

shoganai

Eagle-eyed readers will have noted that since joining the organisation in May RFM’s new staffers Scott McKeating and Joe Murray have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting.  As they frolic – sweating, bare chested, rearranging the rockery in the grounds of Midwich Mansions – I close the window to avoid breathing in their heady, powerfully erotic musk.  There, behind closed curtains in the cool darkness, I mumble into the whisper-ma-phone that links my property to Idwal Towers and discuss possible sightings of an absent muse with Uncle Mark.

She was here until recently: the Summer season has seen (*ahem*) ‘major’ articles by me about Lucy Johnson, Robert Ridley-Shackleton and the purported golden age of internet-enabled uber-punk amongst other things, a dozen (re)releases plastered up on the midwich Bandcamp site and the publication of the first two issues of North Leeds most popular noise/art microzine The Barrel Nut with much more to come.  Not bad, eh?

And yet… in the face of a review pile of over thirty items, some received more than two months ago, I feel guilt-stricken.  It’s an oddly masochistic response as I have every reason to take things at my own pace.  This is ‘only’ a ‘hobby’ after all and I have, to put it mildly, a lot on.  However, it still pains me to see quality pile up whilst I don’t have the energy to attend to it.  Leaving aside my own musical fumblings, writing is how I pay my way but, despite being thrilled by a lot of what I am hearing, my organs of musical appreciation are currently worn to sorry nubs, my powers of whimsical metaphor generation flummoxed.

So what to do?  It don’t seem right to sleep on so much good stuff so I’m going to embark on a desk/head clearing news round-up and see what happens.  I apologise to those kind enough to submit their work recently – you may not be getting the 1000 word flight of fancy you were perhaps hoping for – but I call on the discerning readership of this flagship blog to do their duty and check this gubbins out.

crown of bone

First then: RFM offers heartfelt congratulations to our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez and his comrade-in-arms Pablo Mejia on the occasion of the hundredth release from their netlabel Oracle.  A remarkable achievement, an admirable dedication.  Number 100 itself is Children of the Corn, A Tribute by Crown of Bone.  From the off this is ruthlessly pummelling – watch where you have the volume set prior to pressing play – and until a change of direction in its final minutes (during which the soundtrack of the film that inspired it is sampled, I’m guessing) is like screaming into a hurricane.  You already know if you like this kind of thing – check it out if you do, it’s a great example.

Other noteworthy recent releases include Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer by Miguel’s own La Mancha Del Pecado.  This is a feature length (96 minutes!) rumbling drone which sits static in a culveresque way, like some machinery of war idling as a mechanic fine tunes the engine, before exploding with speaker-challenging bass in an all too short final section.  I was so amused by this that I imported the file into Audacity and, as expected, the wave form looks like something that you’d use to unblock a sink, or bash someone over the head with.  At the other end of the spectrum we have a four track, 21 minute EP titled simply Demo II by ErosM.  This music is sombre and delicate, weighty and expressive.  It shows discipline, ambition and a seriousness of intent that makes its short running time all the more remarkable.  Those of you into Geordie drone/noise should be tempted across the Atlantic to pick this one up.

seth and kev outsideseth and kev inside

Closer to home, we find a split release on hairdryer excommunication featuring field-recording-based tracks by label boss Kevin Sanders and bearded polymath Seth Cooke.  I’m saying nowt about Seth’s effort here because (spoiler alert) I’m going to proclaim his genius (again) in a soon come review of his latest for Sheepscar Light Industrial.  Kev’s ‘side’, a piece of augmented atmospherics titled ‘Eight aisles (for Truro Court)’, brought on an irresistible attack of vanity on my part as I thought I could hear the influence of my very own ‘eaves’ in its construction.  It’s a largely domestic recording buzzed up with accompanying fuzzy drift.  I put on a Christmas cracker paper crown saved for such occasions, proclaimed myself King of Drone and strutted up and down the hallway.  Then I listened to his latest work, heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”), four tracks of entirely lovely, glittering brilliance constructed from nothing but a ukulele and a fuzz pedal.  I was, all joking and whimsy aside, moved.  Once I’d finished gawping I tore up my pathetic headgear in a fit of jealous rage.

petals - salivate stone front

Also well worth getting hold of is Salivate Stone by Petals, Kev’s usual nom de plume.  This tape has been released in a perilously limited edition by Dirty Demos and comes lovingly cocooned in a bed of tissue paper within an oversized case.  The content is spring-loaded, high tension, balanced, held by the slightest of catches.  Spiralling screws lift a heavy vibe upwards whilst friction heats the barely greased moving parts until they throb and grind against one another.  Birds tweet.  Clearly, he is the King.

suburban howl-mutant ape sleevesuburban howl-mutant ape tape and insertculver-xazzaz mh196

Whilst I’m on interestingly packaged noise tapes, I have to mention the Suburban Howl / Mutant Ape split on Turgid Animal.  Here you will find two sides of unnerving catharsis housed on a neon orange cassette safety-pinned into a hessian bag painted in camo colours (shades of TG’s industrial 7″s) and accompanied with an exquisite mini-comic detailing a suicide by self-butchery.  The object as a whole has a satisfyingly doom-struck, hopeless aura.  Two new tapes on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head label are dressed in his standard livery of black and white sleeves with the minimal information provided typewritten by hand.  The Culver / Xazzaz split sees Lee’s giant robot square up to Mike’s lizard monster in a contest to decide who wins the North East.  An honourable draw is the all-too-predictable outcome and both end up side by side, content to stamp on the false noise pretenders that dare challenge them.  foreign tongues by Sindre Bjerga documents three involving live sets from his travels in 2012.  Has he now got something released on every noise micro-label in the world?  He can’t be far off.

Others are content to release their own live stuff.  I know nothing about The Truth About Frank other than what can be gleaned from their Bandcamp site but suffice to say that a friend of Hogwash, that is the admirably eclectic and regular experimental music evening hosted by Dave, Noah and Benbow, is a friend of radiofreemidwich.  My own single figures was recorded at one of their gigs.  TTAF’s set is a three stage affair – a shuffling beat, looped, layered barely intelligible voices, orchestral stabs to finish – that I found engaging and entertaining.  They don’t try and do too much in their twenty minutes, each idea is allowed time to breath.  They also submitted a bonkers photoshop collage to The Barrel Nut #2 – guys, check your email!  I’m waiting on a postal address so I can send you a few paper copies!

charles dexter ward

Also to be found on Bandcamp are two live sets by Charles Dexter Ward performed at the Cumberland Arms and Morden Tower respectively, both to be found in that Newcastle I keep going on about.  These pieces are beautiful.  There is fuzz tone shimmer with enough bite to chew your ego to mush.  There are chopped and filtered loops heavy enough to anchor the vibe yet sinuous enough to let the groove flow and build.  They do the thing that a successful live recording must do: make you wish you’d been there.

Finally, then, we have the album of the year.  Well, maybe – it is certainly a contender.  ショウガナイ by Shoganai was one of those out of the blue ‘hi, let me introduce myself, would you like to hear my album?’ surprises that makes this ‘job’ such a joy (the cover is the pic that heads this article).  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.  More evidence of the golden age, should it be needed.

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.

I’m imaging (the muse! she returns!) one of these creatures sitting patiently in a tree, humming and carving intricate patterns in the bark with an impossibly sharp talon.  Earlier it was furious having found itself caught in a snare – the indignity!  It freed itself immediately, of course, and is now waiting for the return of the witless hunter that set the trap.  The unsuspecting fool is going to be disembowelled for his trouble.  The creature trills to itself, musically…

…and on that happy note, I call ‘enough!’  Plenty of links within the body of the article – go hear for yourselves.

last few thuds of a heart: scott mckeating on recent turgid animal

June 15, 2013 at 9:56 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various – Behind the Toilet Door Part I (C90 Cassette, Turgid Animal, TA390)

Voltigeurs / Dark Bargain – Split (7 inch vinyl, Turgid Animal, edition of 300)

Karst / La Mancha Del Pecado / Culver – Split (CD-r, Turgid Animal)

voltiguers - dark bargain

OK folks, here’s the sophomore effort from new RFM contributor Scott McKeating in which he reveals what is behind the toilet door, confesses his obsessive love of long-term psyche/noise fiend Matthew Bower and gets grumpy about vinyl again.  Over to Scott:

Despite being a Turgid Animal release, Behind the Toilet Door Part I has the feel of a Fuckin’ Amateurs production wrapped in the aesthetics of Matching Head. A prequel to the 2009 release of Behind the Toilet Door Part II, which actually did come out on Matching Head, like its predecessor this earlier-in-the-day instalment features some lesser known North East noise players and their uncracked aliases. With each of the artists performing their sets in the confines of a carpentry workshop toilet cubicle, y’know as you do. Experimental arts festivals take note. With Behind the Toilet Door Part I having been recorded in the same lowest-fi quality as Part II, there is no concession to spit and polish clean-up here; this is organised, glorious and enjoyable chaos. As you’d except from a Dictaphone type handheld thingy recording set-up the sounds dips at points, conversations are overheard and the levels of applause (and ‘waheying’) sometimes hurricanes out all sound. These mini-sets are as varied as they are dissonant, alongside Wrest’s solo vocal take of ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’ there’s demolished sound collage, free percussion/samples, static cut-ups, stop-start field recordings, the sweep and pluck of solo violin and a dose of virulently energetic New Monkey. Yes, you read that right. New Monkey on Turgid Animal.

There’s no point in being coy about this, I’m a fully paid up Matthew Bower acolyte. We tend to operate in sleeper cells, tracking down his prolific output across disparate labels like randomly strewn Dan Brown clues. As one of the very few still active, evolving and enduring artists from the post-industrial noise scene of the 80s, Matthew Bower can be relied on to deliver the goods whatever the project title. Much like Black Sun Roof! and occasionally Skullflower, Voltigeurs is a duo of Samantha Davies (ex of Harm) and Matthew, and away from the glare of daylight and the accord of reality they hunt the hinterlands of bliss OD and layers of feedback noise. Turgid Animal has become something of a home to Voltigeurs, having previously put out three and a bit releases. So, needle down and right away it’s like being plugged directly into a stream of breathing charred sound that has the Bower/Davies union demon-bound in a living amber covering. It’s heavy. ‘Strangled Angels (In Our Hedgerows)’ has no time wasting coming-up intro, no mirror/signal before the manoeuvre, Voltigeurs are intravenously instant. The layers of haze-horror noise sound like they’re created through an energetic hands-on expelling. From-hand-to-instrument-to-pedal-to-overload, Voltigeurs’ chaos is a living thing far beyond any concept of a mere blackout of harshwallnoise. Howling around a pulse of (possibly) piano notes and an impatient rhythm, this side of vinyl makes me want to turn the volume up till I break on through or kneel in masochist reverie. This is music that inhabits and endorses both the concepts of cosmicism and the glory of the self as simultaneously the only important thing. And then it’s over. Just as immediately as it began we are spat out again into reality. No fade out, no winding down, just a complete and utter removal of everything. Dark Bargain is another spurt from the incestuous pool of the north east of England’s noise/experimental people. With a cast of Lucy Johnson (of Smut and co-runner of Turgid Animal), Mike Simpson (of guitar noisedrone Xazzaz and the Molotov label) and Wrest (of Fuckin’ Amateurs and affiliated labels), Dark Bargain are suppliers of fuzzed-to-hell bleak rock. Their ‘A Fillip To The Senses’ circular riff is a more an aggressive horizontal burrowing than it is primal rock repetition. A battered beat, a seven minute millstone grind that comes careering to a feedback crunching finish, Dark Bargain’s debut track is a shakily solid teaser for this new unit.

(Pedantic vinyl gripe Part 2. No rpm on this 7” means I’m on mental tenterhooks thinking I might have to get up off my behind to change the speed)

A part of Turgid’s appeal is that while they put out pro CD and vinyl releases, they also still slip out the kind of home burnt and photocopied CD-rs you can imagine them putting together at their kitchen counter. This facet of the label often puts out some of its best offerings, keeping up the regular flow from George Proctor and his close allies. This three-way is a strong representative of the label’s pool of close to hand talent. And while there is no evidence that Proctor has angels chained in his basement, Karst’s ‘Shipwreck’ is a good exhibit A to kick off the rumour. There’s a touch of the blinded angelic to the start and end of this 27 minute track.  If you can imagine a take on the idea of a watery grave, de-toned and hidden from daylight, then you might be a third of the way there and you’ll still need to pick this disc up. Nurse With What? Salt Marie Who? La Mancha Del Pecado is the lucky Pierre of this CD-r and needs no introduction to RFM readers.  Miguel’s 22 minute piece is occult slasher horror visuals made aural. I’ve no idea who Julieta from ‘Julieta En Las Catacumbas’ is, but she’s bleeding out as I write/you read – no doubt about that. Stasis drone that attracts a clattering breath industrial rhythm heard through the last few thuds of a heart.

The disc is closed out by RFM ViP Culver, and it feels like something of a slight departure. Where ‘The Fiend’ feels a little different is that it seems to be purposefully constructed as opposed to having just materialised through one of Lee Stokoe’s feedback rites. A twenty-minute slow burning noise-influenced dose, the track soon switches into a collision with harsher sounds once the opening reverse tones are swamped. ‘The Fiend’ is drone dragged through an arterial stream of black Lyle’s, Stokoe’s touch drawing queasy sound and industrial ambience poisons from the track.

All available via Turgid Animal

a handshake from mexico: simulacro, la mancha del pecado, wehrmacht lombardo

May 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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simulacro – cuatro ep (CD-r or download, registro latente)

La Mancha Del Pecado – Anciano Y Enfermo (CD-r, Altar of Waste, AOW 52, edition of 20)

Wehrmacht Lombardo – Au Convent de Panthemont (CD-r, Altar of Waste, AOW 61, edition of 20)

letter from jorgesimulacro - cuatrola mancha - ancianowehrmacht lombardo - convent

Some time ago I saw an interview with that Thom Yorke from that Radiohead (presumably by accident, I have no more than a passing interest in their work) in which he was asked his opinion as to the meaning of life.  He gave the following answer:

The most essential thing in life is to establish heartfelt communication with others, there’s bugger all else to do.

I thought this impressively robust and, whilst not agreeing entirely with the second clause, found myself nodding in vigorous approval.  As I can’t think of a better way of putting it, I find myself in the embarrassing situation of living by a maxim trotted out by a pop star (of sorts), albeit a thoughtful one.  Oh well, it could be worse: ‘life ain’t nothing but bitches and money’ as Ice Cube once asserted…

Anyway, I was reminded of Mr. Yorke’s comment again the other day when a package arrived at Midwich Mansions from my Mexican Cousin Miguel Perez, wrapped, as is his habit, with rolls and rolls of sellotape.  Hacking it open, I found it to contain, amongst other things, two new releases by Miguel himself (see below) and a letter and CD-r from a fellow Mexican previously unknown to me named Jorge Gonzalez.

Jorge could easily have just emailed me but instead he took the trouble to write a (beautifully handwritten – see scan) letter and instead of just sending me his CD-r directly, forwarded it to Miguel to include with his by way of an introduction.  I was charmed by his effort, approach and the sentiment of his correspondence.  This, comrades, is WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT: making connections with far-flung enthusiasts.  That this guy on the other side of the world has been inspired by our meagre endeavours is enormously heartening and I was touched by the method he used to contact me.  I was amused to discover that it took a blog based in the North of England to bring these two countrymen together.  The no-audience underground is like Gentleman’s Relish on hot buttered toast: spread thinly, richly flavoured, not for everyone but delicious to those who have acquired the taste.

So what of his music?  Well, Jorge records under the name simulacro and this CD-r comprises four tracks (hence the title), totalling about 20 minutes, in a colour printed card sleeve.  The opener, ‘hangar 197 X’ is five minutes of free rock that I have to admit didn’t grab me.  Its heart is in the right place but it isn’t my bag.  Track two, ‘nebulizador eterico’ is a slow moving lava flow of drone metal – heavy, viscous, hot enough to make the air shake but spacious enough to walk around.  I like this very much.  ‘escudo ceramico’ is a synth whine overlaid with some ghost jazz guitar.  It kinda works and its oddness has grown on me.  The closer, ‘instruccion clasificada’, is a fitting final track as it draws on elements of the previous three: synth drone, a background rattle of metal guitar, slow sludge rock stabs allowed to bleed out.  So: one track I didn’t like, one I really did, two others that showed interest and promise.  OK, I’ll settle with that for now and look forward to Jorge’s next effort.

Do your bit for international no-audience solidarity and visit his netlabel blogspot where you’ll find details and links to his files at archive.org.  You don’t have to break out the calligraphy pens.

…and speaking of international no-audience solidarity: Miguel Perez, another fine case in point.  My first mention of him and his work was a one-line dismissal of his side of a split tape shared with Culver back in the Summer of 2011.  Undaunted, he got in touch to say thanks for the mention anyway and since then a transatlantic friendship has blossomed that has involved thousands of words sent in emails, the exchange of hours of music via the magic of the internet, many parcels trusted to the worrisome international postal system and collaborations on a couple of releases with more promised for the future.  Partly via radiofreemidwich but mainly due to his own indefatigable spirit he has, for example, ‘met’ Yol and formed the peerlessly strange improv duo Neck vs. Throat, secured releases on excellent labels like Striate Cortex, Molotov and Sheepscar Light Industrial and arranged collaborations with everyone he can pin down.  I’ve heard so much of his work over the last couple of years I feel like I’ve been sitting drinking a coke on his doorstep, listening to him figure it all out in real time.

Whilst his work rate would kill a lesser man, or at least lead to a battle-fatigued drop in quality, the opposite seems to be true of Miguel.  The trick is: he listens.  He reads his reviews, takes it all on board and makes mental notes of things to try next, he learns from his collaborators and, especially recently, he approaches his own solo ventures with a view to refining their quality, concentrating their purpose.  All this whilst already being a virtuoso guitarist having grown up in the metal scene.  He tells me that he is satisfying the hard-plucked improv impulse with his guitar duo Colectivo N (even playing live, winning over bars full of initially puzzled punters) which is allowing him to focus on the majesty of drone with his other projects.

The two albums pictured above illustrate his development perfectly.  Produced in very limited editions, as is typical for this intriguing and prolific American label, they are packaged in DVD style cases and wrapped in some striking photography (even more eye-opening when you find out that the provocatively posed ‘nun’ adorning the inlay of Au Convent de Panthemont is Miguel’s wife Maria!  What can you say to that?!).  The professional quality of the finish is noteworthy considering the tiny number available, but entirely appropriate given the quality of the contents.

Au Convent de Panthemont by Wehrmacht Lombardo is an epic ‘airless drone’ (Miguel’s own description) apparently inspired by the Marquis de Sade’s Juliette.  Whilst I agree that it is claustrophobic, albeit in an erotically complicated way, I’d say its defining characteristic is an ever present throb and that the drone, although heady and intoxicating, is secondary.

After a brief orgiastic opening, for the first half hour this throb plays out aching and distended, gratification painfully delayed, in an atmosphere thick with incense.  Around the 30 minute mark an insistent hiss is pushed to the fore adding a deceptively soothing layer of white noise balm under which the fleshy redness continues to pulse.  With 20 minutes to go the rhythm resolves into a metallic clatter which, in this decadent context, suggests the workings of a flagellating machine into which out hapless protagonist has been strapped.  The last few minutes see the return of the initial throb only to be merged with a final burst of the duelling hiss.  It’s a satisfyingly ambiguous conclusion.

The pace of this piece is perfect.  The movements flow naturally from one to another giving it a clear, resolute narrative drive despite its minimal components.  That it remains wholly engaging over a running time of more than an hour is a measure of Miguel’s accomplishment.

Anciano Y Enfermo (‘Old and Sick’) by La Mancha Del Pecado comprises two tracks (the title track is 46 minutes long, the second a mere 25) and is apparently inspired by a freakish snowstorm hitting Miguel’s home town of Juarez.

It is stating the obvious to say that ‘Anciano Y Enfermo’ does indeed sound cold.  I’m not above reaching for clichéd imagery – arctic winds across the tundra, electric blue ice caverns and so on – but a proper account of this track demands a little more effort.  You could consider it purely descriptive but I think it also contains a kind of dread for the future, a middle-of-the-night panic that we are well on the way to making this planet uninhabitable for us humans.  This could be what we have to look forward to: what isn’t on fire is underwater, what isn’t desert is frozen.  I wasn’t entirely convinced by John Hillcoat’s film of Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road but a few scenes have stuck with me, one of which I thought was a very efficient piece of character exposition.  In a flashback to the start of the civilisation ending disaster, the Viggo Mortenson character looks out of the window at the coming chaos and immediately starts filling the bath with water.  He isn’t going to wash, of course, he realises that the water supply may soon be cut off.  He’s a survivor.  This track makes me want to fill the bath.

‘Tragedia Silenciosa’ has an oceanic feel.  It could be a soundtrack to the recurring nightmare of a shipwreck survivor.  In the dream they are not dragged onto the beach and rescued but instead drown under the wind whipped surf in the howling black of the night storm.  The ‘chk, chk, chk’ noise, an often present artefact of Miguel’s recording equipment, here reads as the superimposed sound of a motor dinghy forlornly searching the bay the following morning for corpses or salvageable jetsam.

A great deal of patience, restraint and concentration are shown in the construction of these long form compositions.  With this release (and alongside some other recent work) La Mancha Del Pecado shrugs off the epithet ‘Culveresque’ and becomes its own creation.  Miguel has distilled his sound from the muddy mixture of his influences and what remains is a clarified spirit.  As Cory Strand, Altar of Waste head honcho, puts it:

…these sorts of records are exactly why I started the label in the first place.  You will not emerge unscathed.  Fucking amazing.

I concur.

Altar of Waste blog, entry on La Mancha Del Pecado, entry on Wehrmacht Lombardo

Altar of Waste shop

More from Miguel

a fortnight with lee stokoe, miguel perez (and friends)

April 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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 La Mancha Del Pecado & Culver – Collaboration One (tape, Matching Head, MH191)

Witchblood – Eponine (tape, Matching Head, MH193)

Indian Lady – Help Wanted Female/The Creeper (tape, Matching Head, MH194)

Culver + La Mancha Del Pecado – Collaboration II (CD-r, molotov 18)

La Mancha Del Pecado/Xazzaz – La Fetichista (CD-r/tape, molotov 17/agoraphobia 20)

The Skull Mask – Delbene (tape, agoraphobia 21)

La Mancha Del Pecado – Cadaveres Exhumados (CDr, Ruido Horrible, rh54)

Enoc Dissonance/Pordiozero/ La Mancha Del Pecado – 3 Way Split (CD-r, agoraphobia 22/El Canzancio Records 01)

Wehrmacht Lombardo/Black Leather Cop – Stars Extinguished, Black Sky (download, Grindcore Karaoke)

Xazzaz/La Mancha Del Pecado – La Esquina Roja (download , Oracle, ORE90)

La Mancha and Culver - Collab One  Witchblood Indian LadyCulver and La Mancha - Collab IILa Mancha and Xazzaz - La FetichistaLa Mancha Xazzaz Skull Maskla Mancha - Cadaveres ExhumadosEnoc Pordiozero La Mancha - 3 Way SplitXAZZAZ_&_LA_MANCHA_DEL_PECADO_-_LA_ESQUINA_ROJA

As I sit here listening to Thomas the Baby enter a particularly blood-curdling, screamy phase of the vocal improv set he is currently honing (provisional title: “The Aptamil Variations”), I find myself pondering the question ‘what is it to be a conscientious reviewer?’

Some context.  The submissions pile at RFM never gets totally out of hand.  It is currently about 20 items (the oldest received two-and-a-bit months ago) and that is as big as it gets.  I am not complaining, of course, as being given artefacts, or pointed at downloads, is an inexhaustible pleasure for me.  Having learnt a few lessons from the Termite Club/Fencing Flatworm days, I also have provisos in place to stop me getting swamped and/or frazzled.  See the submission guidelines on the ‘about me and this blog’ page – basically, I am allowed to take my time and say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ if I like.

That said, the pile can still induce a kind of overloaded, guilty numbness occasionally.  One of the meanings of ‘no-audience’ in my tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘the no-audience underground’ is that there are few passive consumers round these parts, everyone is involved in the scene in some way.  So I ask myself: what do I owe in return for this generosity?  How much work counts as ‘doing my bit’?  The question feels sharper than usual at the moment because new-to-fatherhood-tiredness has sorely eroded my powers of concentration.

What, for example, should I do with the several hours of roar recently bestowed upon me by the gentleman Lee Stokoe and his Mexican cousin Miguel Perez?  An intriguing body of work for aficionados of the darker, metal-infused side of drone music, no doubt, but there is a fuck of a lot of it.  The answer came to me as I lulled Thomas the Baby to sleep with Cherry Vampire by Culver the other day, or rather I was reminded of a tack I have taken before.  When there isn’t time to put life on hold for musical appreciation, what you can do is just use the music to soundtrack life and live inside it for a while.  Thus, for a couple of weeks I have been listening to the releases above on my commute, on lunchtime strolls, when changing nappies in the middle of the night and so on.

This approach seems especially fitting for these two artists.  Both are exploring the nuances of a haunting and enveloping aesthetic.  As such, releases are like a series of landscape photographs that build up into an atlas of a bleak, windswept country, beautiful in its desolation.  Thus they can be enjoyed en masse, at length, repeatedly and in pretty much any order.  The more you breath in their atmosphere the more acclimatised you get and the more sense it all makes.  Details emerge as your eyes get used to the dusk, collaborations offer new angles on the scenery.

A word about the covers.  Apart from the noteworthy exception of those designed by Mike Xazzaz for his label molotov, they pretty much all feature pictures of women in states of undress and/or duress.  I can’t help feeling this is a bit teenage and distracts from the impact of the music, but I am also aware that I’m unlikely to convince anyone of this.  Lee has wryly raised an eyebrow at my prudishness before (I insisted there be no tits on the cover of faraday cage).  He just shrugs and points over my shoulder at the totally sexualised depravity of popular culture nowadays.  At least he and Miguel are aficionados of schlock images and use them in a way which acknowledges the history and context.  I suspect I’ll just have to continue grumbling in my quaintly 1980s-style feminist way.  Anyway, the quality of the music makes it possible to ignore the dubious packaging illustration…

There is indeed much to engage and satiate.  Collaboration One is a single track documenting a primordial scene: distant landslides bury forest, volcanoes steam menacingly, giant lizards hiss in desperation as they sink into a tar pit.  It smells of animals rooting in hot soil.  Collaboration II is a good place for a newcomer to start.  ‘Graveyard Kiss’ features a trademarked Culveresque melancholy loop rotting into mulch and coloured with Miguel’s metallic, echoing chang.  ‘Funeral in Black Stockings’ (see what I mean about schlock?) is a gloriously elongated crescendo of low end rumble and crackling heat haze.  It is a natural, fluid partnership of artists clearly in sync with each other.

Witchblood is a duo of Lee and Lucy Johnson (of Smut etc.) and Eponine is made up of several tracks presented on a one sided tape.  There is an elusive shimmer to this, rising through the murky recording like silver carp just below the surface of a muddy pond.  Delicate piano lines are partially submerged in clockwork loops, burbling water and overamped hiss.  It’s like the accompaniment for practice at a ballet school for ghosts.  Indian Lady is, y’know, a ‘proper’ band featuring Lee on bass.  This tape contains two lengthy jams presented apparently unedited.  Rumble is to the front and centre with a satisfyingly fried psych/metal guitar grooving its own way behind.  I imagine teenage, stoner dragons listening to this whilst picking their teeth and relaxing after a huge meal of peri-peri hobbit.

The split album La Fetichsita finds Miguel and Mike (of Xazzaz and molotov records) on a war footing.  Miguel shows us billowing clouds of metallic noise and the machine growl of giant tanks advancing whilst foot soldiers (presumably, given the title, in rubber skin suits with high heels and ‘sexy’ gas masks) finish off the wounded.  Mike gives us Sabbath as played by an ill disciplined battalion of mechanical trilobites then later joins Miguel on the choking battlefield to supervise the collection of the corpses.  Yes, this is pretty dark.

La Esquina Rosa is the return leg: one twenty minute track each from the same two acts, this time made freely available to download via Oracle Netlabel.  Miguel’s track is a satisfying, viscous drone.  Imagine filling an indoor swimming pool half with syrup and half with ball bearings then chugging backwards and forwards in a little dinghy on the surface using the outboard motor to churn the mixture up.  Of you could just bounce your Casio through some filters if that proved too messy…  Features a two minute long surprise towards the end unique to Miguel’s drone work.

Mike’s track begins with the sound of the listener being locked into a shipping container and the situation remains heavy thereafter.  Scything, arcing, guttering electrics – as lithe and unnerving as mating snakes – and some punishing guitar feedback makes me concerned for his health and safety.  Exhilarating.  Mike’s stuff is so good I feel a little embarrassed subsuming it within a review headlined by others.  My apologies Mike – next time you’ll get the prominence deserved.

Enoc Dissonance, a duo with Oracle netlabel collaborator Pablo Mejia, and the solo Wehrmacht Lombardo are the most balls-out-total-noise of Miguel’s various projects.  Stars Extinguished, Black Sky is a split featuring the latter and Black Leather Cop, a collaboration between Scott McKeating (of Bells Hill) and RFM’s North East Correspondent Joe Murray (of Posset).  The Wehrmacht Lombardo track is a very convincing, satisfyingly panic-inducing tale of a gathering hailstorm.  It eases off around the twenty minute mark briefly so we can hear Miguel torture his guitar as he kills time hiding from the weather in his cave.  Otherwise: you wouldn’t want to be out in it.  Black Leather Cop present an almost indescribable gumbo of doomy noise/metal and discombobulating, scrabbling, dictaphonic collage.  It might be awesome – I can’t tell – which means it probably is.  I suspect it of being unholy at the very least, if not downright satanic.  Freely downloadable from the wonderfully named and breathtakingly prolific Bandcamp label Grindcore Karaoke.

3 Way Split is comprised of tracks by Enoc Dissonance, Colombian electro-noise act Pordiozero and La Mancha Del Pecado and is co-released by Miguel’s agoraphobia tapes and Pordiozero’s El Canzancio Records.  The Enoc Dissonance tracks are full-frontal racket.  Fans more knowledgeable than me get the hump when I use the term ‘harsh noise wall’ because I often do so inappropriately, but surely this is pretty close.  It’s like getting into a very, very hot bath or a very, very cold shower – bordering on painful at first but then strangely invigorating.  I admit I don’t listen to this end of the noise spectrum often but a blast every now and again is a welcome brain-rinse.

Pordiozero provide two central tracks of agitated, restless electronics.  Sub-genres of hard dance, industrial and synth based noise are smeared over one another, squeezed flat, then discarded and replaced.  Vocal snippets, crunching rhythms and increasing distortion create a atmosphere of disaffected alienation.

I’d had a copy of the La Mancha track ‘She is Misery’ on my hard drive for a while prior to this being released and it is good to see it finally available.  It has a dystopian, science-fictional feel to it that could well make it an appropriate soundtrack to the shenanigans pictured on the cover.  Ah yes, the cover: this album is notable for its very professional looking packaging and insane artwork.  A pro-copied CD-r is housed in a properly printed digipak featuring photos of some kind of post-apocalyptic alleyway in which gas-masked, pseudo-military, fetish-zombies threaten each other with guns.  The mind boggles.

Anyway, here is your chance to do your duty for the international noise underground by buying one of these.  It isn’t the best release in this round up but I know it cost a fair bit to produce and it would really help out our Latin American cousins if you got busy with Paypal.  I know times are hard but, if it helps, you could consider it payment for all the stuff you can download for free.

Finally, we have two key releases by Miguel’s major solo guises: La Mancha Del Pecado, as already encountered several times above, and my favourite of his incarnations: The Skull Mask.

Cadaveres Exhumados by the former is a full length, five track CD-r presented in a grey digipak by Ruido Horrible (stick that label name into Google translate for an example of truth in advertising).  It is an ambitious and accomplished noise album that almost scuppered this ‘fortnight with…’ idea by hogging the time available for repeat listens.  There are quiet, elegiac passages of bells, pipes and slow picked guitar that balance the roaring crescendos, lend an air of mournful seriousness and indicate the level of care and sophistication taken in its construction.  The noise itself is forceful and thick as bitumen in places (the final track, ‘Renuncia al silencio’, is HNW until it breaks at the end) but thoughtfully layered and throughout most of it there is space to think and appreciate what you are hearing.  Its scope is impressive.  Fans of the kind of metal-infused, heavy psychedelics typified in this country by the North East noise scene (from Culver to Jazzfinger to the various Mike Vest projects) should really track this down because they would dig it.  High praise from me.

A word about the ‘chur-chur-chur’ sound that can be heard high in the right channel on many La Mancha Del Pecado tracks.  I suppose it is an artefact of one of the filters he uses, or perhaps a result of knackered recording equipment.  It would distract me occasionally at first but now it seems like a signature – like the bubbling electric jug noise that is all over those 13th Floor Elevators records.

The Skull Mask has an intensely personal vibe.  It is Miguel’s shamanistic response to his experience of the Mexican wilderness.  He draws on folk traditions from around the world to construct dizzying ragas and desert improv using almost nothing but acoustic guitar.  Whilst the influences are sometimes clear, it has a core identity that is Miguel’s invention alone.

The tape Delbene is perhaps more varied in style than previous Skull Mask releases.  Side B is definitely more hard-picked than the seasoned Miguel-watcher would expect.  It shares the spiky, Bailey-esque, rawness of the pieces he records under his own name.  Side A, though, is pure Skull Mask: a swirling incantation, calling up dust devils to whip the desert sand into the air.  As well as his usual loose fingered virtuosity on the guitar there is some mysterious instrumentation (trumpet?!) adding to the impression that a rite is taking place.  Great, as ever.

OK, I think my ‘bit’ might be done for now.  Links below, folks.

Matching Head

Oracle netlabel/agorafobia

Molotov

Ruido Horrible

Grindcore Karaoke

El Canzancio Records

fencing flatworm recordings presents: neck vs. throat volume 2

February 23, 2013 at 9:37 am | Posted in fencing flatworm, new music, no audience underground | 3 Comments
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NECK VS. THROAT volume 2

(3″ CD-r mounted in booklet, fencing flatworm recordings, edition of 50)

neck vs throat volume 2nvtv2 cavalry chargenvtv2 battlefield

Ladies and gentlemen, Radio Free Midwich is delighted to announce the reanimation of the influential and fondly remembered microlabel fencing flatworm recordings.  This endeavour, which I co-ran with comrade Sean Keeble back at the turn of the century (defunct original website archived here, an account of our exploits here), has been jolted back into life for the one-off release pictured above.

Following their success at the Zellaby Awards, where the first NECK VS. THROAT CD-r scooped Album of the Year, I offered to help with the second release.  It seemed like a sensible use of the customary prize money (hey, £20 goes a long way down here) and since the self-released Midwich/Skull Mask split last year I’ve been itching to get the craft knife and cutting mat out again…

So what we have here is an A6 sized booklet with grey card cover and eight internal pages all featuring either Yol’s lyrics or amazing Saul-Bass-of-Skid-Row graphics.  His stark, monochrome cut-outs and sketches mirror the content and fit the format perfectly.  A 3″ CD-r contained in a plastic wallet is mounted on the inside back cover.  It is a very cool object: minimal yet substantial, the clean design restraining the frothing craziness of its contents.  Hand-constructed in a numbered edition of 50.

On the CD-r you will find five remarkable tracks, totalling 13 spittle-flecked minutes.  Perhaps I should back up a little here and describe the sound for the benefit of newcomers.  The transatlantic duo of Miguel Pérez (“guitar neck, electricity, string damage” – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico) and Yol (“throat, discarded objects” – Hull, UK) hammer out a unique racket.  Having found each other via radiofreemidwich’s matchmaking service they used the magic of the internet to swap audio files – improvising along on first listen in order to keep the feel fresh and immediate.  It’s as raw, salty and appallingly delicious as an oyster that twitches when you squeeze lemon juice on it.  Forgive me the indulgence of quoting myself from a previous review:

Yol’s … vocalisations range from the almost conversational to horrifying bellowing to teeth-clenched groaning.  It is remarkable – unlike anything else I’ve been sent.  His utter commitment to the physicality of the performance is awesome.  Scraping, crashing, the dropping of metal objects augment and divide the stuttering tirade, like punctuation.

Miguel’s style here is similar to that on recent recordings released under his own name.  No effects, no overdubs, rarely even sustain, hard picked, unforgiving in its discipline yet nuanced, subtle and compelling.  There is no ornament to it because none is needed.

The collaboration is a success, meaning the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Miguel underscores the rhythms and cadence of Yol’s glossolalia.  Yol’s furious delivery both bounces off of and is contained by Miguel’s guitar, like the steel ball bearing on a pinball table.

…sentiments that remain accurate and appropriate with regard to volume 2.  An mp3 of the first track, ‘meaningless fence’, can be downloaded here to give you a taste.  We are unapologetic about the brutality of the recording.

EDIT: no copies left here at Midwich Mansions!  The artists were sent half the run between them so I’m sure they would be glad to hear from you should you wish to discuss fair exchange.  Yol may even have some left when he plays in Leeds at Pete Cann’s Crater Lake Festival in March (an unmissable gig that, sadly, I will be missing).  Contact Yol: yol1971@hotmail.co.uk, contact Miguel: lamancha@rocketmail.com.  We may make it available to download sometime in the future.  Thank you all for the gratifying interest in this release.

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)

CULVER/LA MANCHA DEL PECADO – THE TOMB OF ALUCARDA (CD-r, Agorafobia, #19)

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 lamancha@rocketmail.com.

artifacts of the no-audience underground: neck vs. throat

July 21, 2012 at 7:27 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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NECK VS. THROAT (self-released CD-r)

…and whilst I’m on about that Yol guy…

Ladies and gentlemen, RFM is delighted to present: NECK VS. THROAT.  I’m wiping a tear of paternal pride from my cheek as I write because this terrific collaboration came about as a result of this blog.  Yes, my jottings have creative consequences.  I am humbled.

The story is a simple one.  Earlier this year me and Miguel Pérez, RFM’s correspondent of the Americas, produced a split CD-r: Miguel in his psychedelic raga guise as The Skull Mask, I contributed a throb-heavy Midwich track.  Fifty copies were manufactured and offered to friends and to those willing to trade or brave enough to express an interest.  One of those who kindly responded was Yol – see below for my thoughts on his art – who sent a copy of PUSHTOSHOVE in return.  I was mighty impressed and threw some mp3s of it across the Atlantic to Miguel who found himself just as appreciative.  Those two got in touch with each other.

Soon files were being swapped and neighbours unnerved.  The work was fashioned into shape with machine tools, willpower and spit and now the results of this experiment in transatlantic improv can be revealed.  It’s a fucking triumph.

To be specific: what we have is a five track, 32 minute CD-r, packaged in another example of Yol’s winningly stark graphic style.  Two of the pieces are Miguel improvising over material provided by Yol, the other three vice versa.  I think the difference between the two sets of tracks is marked and interesting.  One is furious, claustrophobic, the other has more air to it, a little more room in it to pace nervously up and down.  I’m not going to tell you which are which, though, as I think it might be fun to try and work it out for yourself.

Yol’s contribution is aptly described as ‘Throat Attack & Smashing of Objects’ on the back of the CD-r.  His vocalisations range from the almost conversational to horrifying bellowing to teeth-clenched, spittle-flecked groaning.  It is remarkable – unlike anything else I’ve been sent.  His utter commitment to the physicality of the performance is awesome.  Scraping, crashing, the dropping of metal objects augment and divide the stuttering tirade, like punctuation.

Miguel’s part is described as ‘Guitar Neck, Hair Sticks & String Damage’ and his style here is similar to that on recent recordings released under his own name.  No effects, no overdubs, rarely even sustain, hard picked, unforgiving in its discipline yet nuanced, subtle and compelling.  There is no ornament to it because none is needed.

The collaboration is a success, meaning the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Miguel underscores the rhythms and cadence of Yol’s glossolalia.  Yol’s furious delivery both bounces off of and is contained by Miguel’s guitar, like the steel ball bearing on a pinball table.

This physical object is only available in a painfully tiny edition so don’t sleep on it – get moving.  If you are in the Americas then please contact Miguel via lamancha@rocketmail.com or if you are in Europe then contact Yol via yol1971@hotmail.co.uk.  Anywhere else – take your pick.

—ooOoo—

EDIT:  Also reviewed by Idwal Fisher. Yol’s youtube channel is here.  More from Miguel freely downloadable here.

midwich & the skull mask update: now available for free download

June 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Midwich & The Skull Mask (self-released split 3″ CD-r, edition of 50)

Now for the final phase of this project.  Almost all the physical copies found a home some time ago so we have decided to make it available for download.  Help yourself via the links above or on my discography page.  It can also be had via the Oracle Netlabel (where more stuff by The Skull Mask can be found for free) and Miguel is working on getting it up on that Bandcamp so we can pretend to be hipsters.  Thanks again to those who traded for the actual objects – your time and interest was much appreciated by both of us.  Should anyone still want a tangible thing then Miguel may have a couple of copies left.  Drop him a line at lamancha@rocketmail.com and do your bit for international relations.

The original post detailing this release can be read here, further puff plus a lovely review from Joe Posset can be found here and it is mentioned in a double-whammy combo review of this plus ‘running repairs’ on Idwal Fisher here.  Possibly of interest to those who have seen me perform recently: ‘That Which I Believe, I Wish to Behold’ is the long, droney second track of the set that I played both in the snow in February and in Stoke last weekend.

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