eject the tape: rfm moans about the format, champions the content

October 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 4 Comments
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Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split (tape, Soundholes, #060, edition of 100)

Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM! (tape and 12 page A6 booklet, self-released as part of Bang the Bore Forum tape exchange, edition of 15)

BBBlood – Untitled (tape, Beartown Records)

Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter (tape, Rok Lok Records, #97, edition of 40 or download)

Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split (recycled tape, Hyster Tapes, HYSTER13)

Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT (self-released tape)

Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges (tape, Stolen Head)

harsh noise wall (of tapes)

Apologies for not writing more reviews over the last couple of months.  I’ve been waiting for two things to wear off: the effects of a nasty virus and the novelty of being on Twitter.  Both have rather dragged on.  Anyway…

As part of this year’s fabulous TUSK Festival Joe Murray agreed to curate a small exhibition of tape label art titled Everyone Loves Tapes These Days.  Looking for someone to write a brief wall text Joe reached out to his editor here at RFM and I replied with the following diatribe:

Interesting, and thanks for thinking of me – I’m flattered.  However, I wonder if I am exactly the right guy for the job.  Dare I say it?  OK, deep breath: I’ve pretty much fallen out of love with tapes.  I appreciate the determined anti-commercialism that they represent nowadays, and they are a good archive medium,  but the format is cumbersome, inconvenient, space consuming and has no sonic advantages over other formats.  Those beardies that talk about its ‘unique low end’ are talking out of their own low ends. I suppose I still do like the clacky sound of taking them in and out of their cases but if everything went download/CD-r tomorrow I wouldn’t care. Tapes = the price you pay for being a Culver fan.  I might even go a bit further: what used to be a democratic, punk (‘home taping is killing music!’ well, GOOD) format has mutated over the years into a symbol of hipster elitism – maybe not in the context of the no-audience underground but that is what anyone vaguely knowledgeable about music looking in from outside would see.  Tape walkmans aren’t as an awful an affectation as manual typewriters but, hey, matter of time…

Heh, heh – ain’t I naughty, eh?  So do I actually believe all that or did Joe just catch me in a mischievous, belligerent mood?  A bit of both, I think.  Some clarifications and addenda are necessary.

Firstly, that bit about being an archive medium is true enuff – they won’t play after the aliens come and destroy civilisation with a massive electro-magnetic pulse but they will last until then which is more than can be said for CD-rs etc.  Dude, my Mum has had that Billy Joel tape, like, for ever.

Secondly, I do really like the clacky sound of removing a tape from it’s box and sliding it into the deck.  I also think the Tabs Out Podcast twitter feed is really funny.  So that’s two tape related things that are good – fair as Solomon, me.

Thirdly, and more contentiously, the determined anti-commercialism/hipster elitism tension.  I haven’t closely followed the rise of tape ‘culture’ but I’m sure arguments must have raged/might still be raging about this subject on corners of the internet that I am blissfully unaware of.  I don’t have the energy or inclination to take a side.  However there is one aspect of the business that I’m tempted to take a hard line on.  Now, I have nothing but love for truly tape only noise labels (the ne plus ultra in the UK being Matching Head, of course – a label with no official internet presence, untouched by fashion, driven purely by the uncompromising vision of Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe) but raise an eyebrow at self-described ‘tape labels’ that also offer downloads.  Personally I prefer this arrangement for reasons given above – 98% of my musical appreciation is done via mp3 player – but I would argue that by offering downloads you can ditch the word ‘tape’ because yours is just a… label.  Catch me in the same mischievous, belligerent mood that greeted Joe’s innocent request and I might say that you were actually a label providing music in the preferred, most convenient format of the day alongside unnecessary physical versions meant to tempt daft hipster object-fetishists – a demographic always keen to reify counter-cultural heft into something that can be neatly displayed on a shelf.

Heh, heh – more naughtiness – comments genuinely welcome.  I am open to being convinced otherwise.

So, with that all in mind, my eyes wander to the tape section of the RFM review pile and I decide that a round-up is long overdue.  Never mind my misgivings about the format, it’s the content that really matters right?  Let’s see.

jbw and clivejbw - era end

Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split

Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM!

Boy, have I slept on these two tapes – Stephen of joinedbywire kindly sent me these months ago.  Mea culpa.

Clive Henry‘s side of the split tape is like waking from a blackout caused by a blow to the head and piecing together the events that led to the assault.  Bursts of vision-blurring pain, repeated verbal tics that refuse to resolve into coherent speech, stumbling.  Or maybe it is Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man reassembling itself the morning after falling off that cliff.  I like it very much.

Stephen’s side is perhaps not as nostrils-flaring, full-on psych as previous JBW releases admired on this blog but is no less terrific for being dialled down a notch.  Instead what we have are a group of multi-limbed clockwork toys of indeterminate form defying the laws of thermodynamics by winding each other up into a clicking, buzzing, writhing mass of mechanical energy.

Available from SoundHoles.

ERA END and/or BAJM! is Stephen’s contribution to a tape-swap project organised via the Bang the Bore forum.  I was not involved in this so am grateful to him for sending me this spare copy – the last of an edition of 15. As ever, I deeply impressed with Stephen’s graphic work and faultless attention to detail – see photo for all the elements that make up this package – especially as this was originally only to be seen by the dozen people signed up to take part.  The racket this time is up in the red.  Thick clouds of noise create an atmosphere of salty feverishness with occasional sinus clearing bursts of stomping distortobeatz.  That said, there are passages of relative calm too – imagine some brute devolved remnant of far-future humanity worshipping the one remaining artefact of our decadent age: a broken tape walkman.

bbblood - untitled - beartown

BBBlood – Untitled

Paul Watson is a current scene leader in what I’ve always thought of as ‘proper’ noise.  That is: a visceral racket created by rough-housing with physical objects, by combining field and domestic recordings and by filtering the lot through a rag-tag tabletop of battered and home-made electronics.  However, that is not to belittle the skill and care with which Paul puts these recordings together.  The sounds are not ends in themselves but chosen, ordered and edited as a means to establishing an atmosphere.  His latest recordings eschew ‘harshness’ almost entirely and the listener is led through a post-industrial landscape of broken glass and burning tyres with, dare I say it, delicacy and finesse.

I can sense the leather-jacket owning section of my readership twitching with unease but don’t worry – I’m not saying Paul has gone all Nick Drake on us.  He still get his balls out on occasion – and so magnificent are his plums that it is no wonder the crowd goes fucking apeshit when they are displayed.  What I’m saying is the flashes of nad are appropriate and proportionate to the larger task at hand.

Essential, of course.  Available from Beartown Records.

cestine

Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter

This recording by Cestine, the duo of Dominic Coppola and Theodore Schafer, hovers shimmering between the ‘nothing music’ of Karina ESP I described a few posts ago and the ‘extraction music‘ of Dan Thomas et al that I have been banging on about this year.  Two tracks, each lasting fifteen minutes exactly, contain slowly cycling electronics augmented with field recordings – birds, the sea maybe, children – and snatches of whispered conversation, perhaps partially overheard whilst daydreaming, perhaps snatches of radio broadcasts crackling between the stations.  It is constructed with a robust attention to detail that allows for deep, repeat listening but conveys a vulnerability, a brittleness too.  The contemplative reverie it induces is bitter-sweet and emotionally complicated, like turning over the memory of an important friendship, now long lost.  Recommended highly.

Available from Rok Lok Records.

dear beloved henry

Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split

Hyster Tapes are punk as all fuck – black and white J-card, recycled tapes, photocopied flier advertising their warez (pictured) – and I wholeheartedly approve.  Joe grokked the FOUR LETTER WORLD compilation back in March and as a result Heikki of the label kindly sent this too.  Gotta keep that goodwill circulating – keeps it fresh and vital.

The Dear Beloved Henry side of this split, one 24 minute track titled ‘Advent’, is one of the best things I’ve heard all year.  It is deceptively simple in execution: a flowing electronic drone groove with a vaguely East Asian feel – like 1970s Krautrock that has been listening to a bunch of gamelan LPs – works through the variations.  However, every so often a magnetic pull distorts it off course and adds an intriguing, complicating layer of discordance.  It’s like it was mastered to VHS and someone is now messing with the tracking.  Is this an artefact of duping it to an old recycled tape or is this woosiness wholly intended?  The result is magical either way.

Sadly the Albert Materia side, several tracks of fractured poetry with piano accompaniment, was not for me.  Can’t win ’em all, eh?

Available from Hyster Tapes – email: plaa@pcuf.fi

leitmotiv limbo

Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT

Also sent as result of Joe’s FOUR LETTER WORLD review.  In ‘Limbo’ Elijah Vartto (umlauts over the vowels – apologies for the limitations of the WordPress editor) conjures an alien souk from the echoed honking of an unspecified wind instrument and stick-in-bucket metallic rhythms.  The point of view changes every few minutes and gradually a scene is set, protagonists introduced.  This comes together in a surprising burst of new wave pop before retreating to the abstract – a menacing bassy warble dragging us down to an underground bunker full of robot soldiers.

‘Wind Swept’ uses field recordings phased to sound like the fuelling of spacecaft over which mournful, austere jazz blowing accompanies growling, heavily filtered vocals.  It’s the blues played by a band whose home-world was destroyed as a display of power intended to tame a petulant rebel princess.  Guitar jangles like the rigging of boats.  All eventually peters out to a gargling throb.

Comparisons have been made elsewhere to early Cabaret Voltaire.  This is apt and, of course, a very good thing.

Available from Elijah himself.

stamina nudes

Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges

Finally then, what might be my pick of the bunch.  Bryan (whose surname I suddenly realise I don’t know) operates in an adjoining laboratory to meta-musical collage-jockeys Spoils & Relics (indeed, I recently saw him play as a duo with that #KieronPiercy).  The shared working method involves isolating sounds, sanding off their contexts and reassembling them into new fragmentary narratives – a perversely delicious anti-archaeology.  Here Bryan invokes a dystopian, science fictional vibe but builds in a wry distance that stops it becoming self-important or parodic. The balance and compelling flow he maintains are both very impressive.  In summary: I dig this.

This album scores maximum ideological purity points too.  It was slipped to me, in person, by the artist, as we sat on a bench, under a tree, in a park, with Dan Thomas, one sunny lunchtime – a clandestine, samizdat-style handover.  Now that is tape only.

I’ve no idea in what sense this this might be ‘available’ but you can email Bryan and ask: dorh@hotmail.co.uk

—ooOoo—

rancid fridge imploding: joe murray on knives, osmiroid, pain jerk, justin marc lloyd, duncan harrison and hyster tapes

March 19, 2014 at 9:26 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Knives / Osmiroid – Stars, Dots and the “New” Junk (tape, Stars, Dots and the “New” Junk, starsdots007, edition of 50 or download)

Pain Jerk – Inflammable Material (CD-r, English as Apples)

Justin Marc Lloyd – I’m Sorry for the Thoughts Assigned to My Name (C29 tape, Wasted Capital Since 2013, WC6, edition of 50)

Various – FOUR LETTER WORLD COMPILATION (recycled tape, Hyster Tapes, HYSTER17, edition of 50)

Duncan Harrison – Ogre Neon (CD-r, Beartown Records)

knives - osmiroid

Knives/Osmiroid – Stars, Dots and the ‘New’ Junk

The little seaside town of Blyth UK has been churning out some of the murkiest noise that my little ears have ever feasted on.  So, it was with the grim anticipation of a solemn kicking I unwrapped this Blyth-related tape from the excellently named ‘Knives.’  I make the distinction of this being Blyth-related as the hipsters may know Knives as Blyth ex-pats, refugees who left their fabled mist-drenched home for the bright city lights of London.

These dark Knives take the guitar/drum/bass/tape set up you’ve shook your head to for all them years and set the controls for glistening tinnitus.  On ‘Days of ancients’ finesse is treated with distain…this is a ROCK recording and plods like an undiscovered Birthday Party sound check while Nick’s round the back kinging his wretched ink.  The unctuous rhythm leaves guitar free to dive-bomb, swooping and crashing into gasoline-scented balls of flame. Track two ‘Ancients of days’ starts off with the leaden bully-boy stomp of The Cosmic Psychos or Slub or something and disintegrates into a sheer hellish miasma of scorched electric gravy…steaming, dangerously fizzing.

Osmiroid sounds less like a band and more like a couple of heavily-bearded dudes with tapes, modulators and laptops playing evil dragging noise.  Imagine a splintered, heavy cable hauled over a gravel pit of broken bottles.  That’s the kind of abrasion pouring into my ears right now.  The modulators give a fowl hoot every now and again.  Another god-damn Australian makes an appearance but this time it’s Rolfy Rolfy Harris hawking his never-popular Stylophone.  Yup.  This makes no sense at all and is all the richer for it.

You can try before you buy at Bandcamp.

pain jerk - inflammable

Pain Jerk – Inflammable Material

Real life, honest to goodness, retro Japanese noise from Kohei Gomi aka – Pain Jerk.  But before we dive into this shiny beast there’s some back story.  Jamie Wrest takes it from here.

Initially this Pain Jerk album was meant to get issued as a cassette 18 years ago.  But it just never happened because of one thing or another.  I was handed the DAT by Steven Middleton who was first sent it by Pain Jerk in 1996.  Next I paid a visit to my friend M.P. Wood who runs the Soundroom studio in Gateshead.  He worked his MAGIK on the recordings and now here they are in all their nasty glory after all these years.  So enjoy whoever you are…

OK.  The scene is set…but what does it all sound like?  If you’ve never experienced Pain Jerk this is a pretty great place to start.  With the first piece ‘Spiral Dragon’ you get unhinged-blackened-noise whipped-up like the mother of all howling storms.  But there’s also some brief interludes of squelching electronic bird-song (possibly the base material for these improvisations) that sneak through the brutal tidal hammering.  The white noise hiss gets turned up beyond any levels of common decency and, in parts, become a static floating thing, a gauze cloud perhaps?  But any temporary prettiness is soon shouldered aside by the very physical jerks of metallic paintwork all scratched and peeled; wire wool in the tumble dryer, a rancid fridge imploding.

Track two ‘Right Angled Air’ is even more aggressive with less bass and more hi-fi harsh roar.  There’s very little let up from the caustic scouring except a herky-jerky knob twiddling towards the end that temporarily dulls the sharpness for a moment, but of course brings things back at double export-strength…and then it just ends without no fanfare or crescendo.  Phwoar!  What a listen.

No idea where you can get this.  English as Apples is the ultra-underground, hand-reared, barely legal bootleg label run by Blyth’s most beloved son Jamie Wrest.  You could try the man himself, a fixture at most North East noise shows.  For readers based outside Geordieland an email to the ever-helpful Turgid Animal label might help…possibly.

justin marc lloyd

Justin Marc Lloyd – I’m Sorry for the Thoughts Assigned to My Name

Described as ‘Globular Vocal Mass’ on the handy Wasted Capital site this neat looking tape from  Justin Marc Lloyd caused me a bit of a foggy-brained confusion.  I know, pretty much for certain, that Mr Lloyd is a born and bred American.  From over the pond and all that.  So why does this tape remind me so much of the late 1990s Essex-bwoy sound of  Ceefax Acid Crew or Chaos A.D.?

It could be the sound quality which is busy and precise but ragged as dogtooth check. It could be the speedy, buzzing energy; manic as a teenage oik on Frosty Jacks.  It could be the obnoxious clots of ‘globular vocal mass’; derived as easily from a rusty Commodore Amiga as a mucus-drenched throat.

“So much for the overall feel of the tape you hippy.”  I hear you snort.  “What about the edited highlights man?”  OK…I know you’re busy people.  Here’s the skinny version.

Side One contains the future-hit ‘Sub-dermal Thirst for Bland and Christian-like Suburbia’ and has a ‘wasp-in-a-crisp-packet’ buzz about it with some crunching ‘beats’ sounding like heavy mortar fire hitting the next village.  Real Apocalypse Now shit.  It ends with the superbly brief ‘Comfort of One’s Own Innocent Lover’ which appears to be some sticky-palmed sigh lasting for exactly 26 seconds.

Side Two starts with a see-sawing motion, and a Vocoder bleat like some ‘Rockit’ era outtake and segues into the sound lampposts make in a buffeting high wind (a kind of bruised and lonely temporal clicking) on ‘Perimeter Scan with Faulty the-world-is-shit Filter’ until a rise-of-the-robots synth alarm crushes other sounds beneath its primitive metallic chime.  The final piece is an homage to the Wasted Capital/Hideous Replica brothers where objects, things and stuff gradually get folded round the sort of gloriously limp guitar loop last heard on a Kemialliset Ystavat record.  Wow…that’s some ground covered; Chelmsford to Tampere via Chicago.  Booyaka! (Editor’s note: yes, Joe did really write ‘Booyaka’ – I shall deflate his bouncy castle immediately as penance.)

hyster comp tape

Various Artists – FOUR LETTER WORLD COMPILATION

Hyster is a Finnish label specialising in the more austere end of the no-audience underground.  Artwork is from the photocopied greyness & musty collage school.   The tape releases are recycled and lovingly battered.  The artists tend to be Northern European beans sweeping round the iron-filings factory.  So far it’s all pretty dope.  This simple little tape opens my ears to a few unfamiliar names and presents the ever-wonderful Yol in a new context.  Here goes…

Crap sampled horn and heavy dub effects over a skronky-ass scribble open the proceedings with a piece from LEITMOTIV LIMBO.  Then there’s a gap…and then the slum-horn strikes up again.  It’s all over in under 3 minutes and I love the off-handedness of this.  There’s a serious ‘I don’t give a fuck’ to the way it’s shaped and presented.  Like the slouching teenager outside the off-license…he doesn’t even want you to go in and buy some Special Brew for him…he just wants to see you squirm like a middle-class liberal.

GREY PARK are a perfectly named project for this kind of gristle.  There’s a bone-freezing dawn mist outside.  But, pulling on warm socks and boots, you crunch through the most beautiful field of silver-frosted grass; each blade a perfect pewter shard.  Looking back you see your own heavy footprints creating rhythmic dark patches like rough stitching on a blanket.

Breeze block rumble and the cough-glotty howls from cattle baron YOL opens side two.  This ‘disappointing human-head pulled out’ kinetic-poetry and furious violent honks are artfully tempered with some real subtle tin-tapping, stone grumble and an almost hissing scat coda from our man from Hull.  Six minutes long and over in a flash.

The mid-1980s synth tone mumble over record-player-run-out-groove ‘schhhhlip, schhhhlip’ and recorded babble make %20 come across like Tangerine Dream got a bonk on the head.  Recorded live in Chomsky Bar, Riga it says here.  I picture this played on Newcastle’s Diamond Strip at closing time.  Tottering heels and big-armed boys slow the dance from which all dances come, the hen-night quietens to silence and all take stock of bitter lives lived.  No one returns on Saturday.

Two Euros plus postage.  50 copies.  Trades welcome. Weirdness distro and ‘zines too… plaa@pcuf.fi

 duncan harrison ogre neon

Duncan Harrison – Ogre Neon

I’m over a year late reviewing this god-damn essential clutch of sonic-chuff from Brighton’s Duncan Harrison.

The general mood is confident.  Unhurried and relaxed; this is no sweating beard scrabbling at the lock.  And while Hanover Mist might open with close-miked domestic chutter it’s the kinda-blue bicycle-bell sample that makes this as refreshing as pink grapefruit.

Pretty much all approaches are fair game, so: loops, vocal jizz, noise interruptions, kraut-inspired repetition and crackling ambience all play a part in building up the lumpy canvas on ‘Rattles in the North’ with its heavy closing meditation on the three words…

Let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again, let’s try again…

…that becomes pregnant with hidden intention and meaning.

But again I keep coming back to the relaxed hand on the tiller.  There’s no hurry to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ at all.  A limp finger dangles in the water as the punt floats imperceptibly through the bull rushes.

A simple two-note bass riff creates the backdrop for ‘Dust from the Artists Quarter’, the building ‘sceeeeee’ sine wave thing giving this a medical vibe – music for dentists perhaps?   At any rate it’s starched and white for sure.  ‘The Shadows Cast by the Bottom of Photoframes hung on Gallery Walls’ is a fuzzy-logic vocal piece with that expressive Dictaphone smear all over the plosive and consonant knocks that goes something like this…

n..n..NN..Ssss…S’t..nN..ssh

…with the occasional blurt of dicta FFW klonk for three blissful minutes.

Now the the chasers are necked, and the hors d’oeuvres munched, the main event occurs.  A weighty 20 minutes, ‘Upstairs in Infinity’ squeezes the tubes marked Pierre Schaeffer depositing the chalky paste ready to spread.

Things gently toast with some concrete turntable frittering and intimate bottle breathing (this captured like some Mongolian shamanistic ritual, the low tones echo the desolation of the high plains via Cream Soda) until slo-mo, dicta in pocket reportage, takes us on a trip though the sort of antiques shop last seen on Tales of the Unexpected.  Stark lighting and swift edits make the stuffed birds all sinister and beaky.  The old busted violin squawks like a Harpy.  Single notes drift as dust motes in the pale afternoon sun.  But what’s that scratching come from the old tea chest?  It sounds like something’s try to GET OUT!  Cue credits and daft titles.

If this sounds like your kinda schizzle check out Duncan’s Bandcamp for this and a whole bunch of other essential releases (hint…2012’s Young Arms is his ‘On The Corner’).  As Rob always says, ‘give what you can.’

Afore ye go…check out the excellent Beartown Records site for more related mung.

Over and out comrades!

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