artifacts of the no-audience underground: littlecreature and why opera makes me feel sick

March 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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littlecreature fukken mowse nekk ov der wuds – archer howls

littlecreature – u.a.

When I was a teenager I would, of course, roll home shitfaced in the middle of the night most Fridays and Saturdays.  It amused my parents, especially if my crashing around had woken them, to play very loud opera or some other large-scale classical music, of which they are both fans, as soon as they got up the following morning.  Thus one moment I would be enjoying a blissful coma, the next plunged into the retching nightmare of a Newcastle Brown hangover by Puccini or, if I’d left the kitchen in a mess, Wagner.  I came to associate classical music with feeling nauseous and fragile.  Cheers folks.

Being a cultured lad, I have tried to correct this Pavlovian response (mmmm… pavlova, I’m salivating just thinking about that cream and meringue…) but to no avail.  I have, however, discovered what aspect of this music causes me the most discomfort: sudden changes in volume.  To put it more formally, I rapidly lose patience with a wide dynamic range, especially if expressed abruptly.

For example, Pauline – a dear friend of me and my beloved wife – takes the bold position that Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 in A major is one of the crowning achievements of musical endeavour.  Knowing her to be a gal of taste I gave it a go but couldn’t settle to it.  I was forever fiddling with the volume in order to minimise the difference between the quiet and the loud bits.  Ridiculous, I know, but, as with everything else, you can blame my parents.

Preamble over, we come to the object above, received in – very generous – trade for the Midwich/The Skull Mask split CD-r.  These two albums, packaged together in a DVD case with explanatory inserts, are compilations gathering the ashes of the roaring fire that once was littlecreature.  Clive Henry, for it is he, has now ditched the nom de plume in favour of his given name and these archaeological remains – unrealised projects, unreleased tracks, rehearsals etc. – are the last of it.

The track titles are oblique, sometimes humorous, slipping from one language to another.  They could be heavy with allusion that I don’t understand, they could be dada, cut-up nonsense (e.g. ‘littlecreature grynds nach null shuttel – even the mildest heart is the worst bane, part II’).  I dunno.  In that respect they perfectly mirror the music.  Most of the stylistic elements are taught at the No-Audience Academy of Lo-Fi Noise, where Clive holds an honorary professorship.  He is often to be found running around the playground, gleefully disrupting the pupils’ games or, unnervingly, standing stock still staring mournfully at nothing and emitting a kind of low moan.  The other teachers know to cut him some slack.  Tracks start and stop seemingly on a whim and, as each track can be made up of several movements only tangentially related, divisions between tracks could be made elsewhere without losing any sense or momentum.  And there are huge variations in volume, maddening to someone of my sensibilities and upbringing.  Clive apologises in a charmingly unapologetic way:

yeah, sorry about the volume jumps…! sometimes they can work really well – tho they’re hackneyed and “stupid”.

i have a “problem” (well, I don’t..! ha ha) in general with dynamics – i love a REALLY wide dynamic range. i like quiet to be quiet and loud to be loud. this is something thats always irritated a friend of mine – i get the impression that he’s read on a studio mixing/mastering site the “ideal” dynamic range figures, and it drives him mad that i don’t adhere to them..!

it causes problems for me, too; in terms of mixing etc

i’m the same when playing an instrument – its great to make barely audible sounds

littlecreature only played live a few times, but it was nice to pare everything back to a really quiet level and make the room go quiet 🙂

He also adds:


…to which I can only agree.  That this is the first time Clive and I have made contact is shockingly, unbelievably amiss.  He is no-audience underground of the old skool and his professorship is handsomely deserved.  I can’t honestly say that I liked all of this though I was perplexed by own reaction at times: an element identical to one that I disliked in one track might be my favourite part of the track that followed.  Very odd and befuddling, but in the most refreshing manner.

I have no idea whether this is ‘available’ in any straightforward sense so perhaps you should contact Clive via and find out.

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