shuffling huffer: rfm on cannon bone, ivy nostrum, penance stare, depletion and neil campbell

November 10, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records)

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label)

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label)

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head)

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk)

cannonbone

Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records) Vinyl LP and digital album

Om, Lightning Bolt, Ruins.

Rocking bass and drums duos are thin on the ground eh?  So add another much-needed twosome to this proud duo-pile.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Cannon Bone.

Nottingham-based duo Daniel Murray (bass) and Rich Park (drums) reject the ubiquitous six-string and its ceaseless attention-seeking for a solid, dependable rhythm approach that still blisters like hot Szechuan pepper.

The riff becomes the king, repetition the queen and together they rule a land of lurid flexible strings and tightly wound skins.

Half instrumental / half traditional sung-song the ghosts of Roxy Music, Young Marble Giants and the aforementioned Ruins haunt tunes like ‘Seahorse’, ‘Is that OK?’ and ‘Progressive Dancing Shoe’ respectively.

Such an eclectic mix revels in the invention going back-to-basics requires so detail becomes focused on textures, the quality of the fuzz and the dry crack of a snare.  It’s so easy to get lost in the canyons of fizzing electricity and compressed air each side plays in a sort of deceptive time-puddle.  The more you poke your stick in the deeper it gets.

But all this is mere dressing to the powerfully muscular playing – a rigorous and elemental musical snarl as infectious as Darby Crash’s dental work.

The dynamics are indeed the key here so the punishing pounding is coupled with a delicate tom roll, the explosive bass-harmonix smother a melody that’s perfectly cherry, cherry.

Like a horseshoe in a boxing glove – K.O. to Cannon Bone!

Ivy Nostrum

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label) Lurid pink Cassette

Two side-long constructions pieced together by the fair hand of RFM scrivener Paul Margree.

The helpful sleeve notes say these pieces feature the autoharp (broken), domestic field recordings and free sound among other wonderful things.  But what they don’t say is how damn lovely some of this is.

The autoharp pieces are bright and sunny; each broken pluck becomes a golden beam of light.  The electronic bleats are neither too sharp nor too gritty and seem to be formed instead from fresh pink marzipan being all smooth and almondy.

Side B ‘We Weren’t Really Dressed for the Weather’ features some speech software rattling around like an embarrassed Orac in a ruptured poly tunnel until the autoharp make another Wicca appearance. Lo-impact movements clatter like Tupperware underneath some charming whistling.

But of course…like much musique concrète it’s the placement that makes the thing sing.  I don’t know why a low undulating throb sits so perfectly with human-child chatter and bulbous metallic ringing.  But it does…it most certainly does.

Not sure where you can even grab this pink tape – tweeting @PaulMargree might be a good place to start yeah.

penance stare

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label) Cassette and digital album

Ex-Etai Keshiki and Melting’s, ELN plays all manner of guitars, basses, synths, drum machines and effects boxes to create a super-dark compressed tablet of riffage on the mighty House of Bastet.

A true one-woman-black-metal-band she does what is seemingly impossible and makes a drum machine really swing on awesome closer ‘Bleaken’ as it well and truly admonishes the gas-bloated riffs.   But I’m getting ahead of myself…

These four songs seem to blur the edges between industrial, shoegaze and black metal taking the most interesting elements of each and dousing it with lighter fluid.  For an old duffer like me, who, although a fan, doesn’t listen to metal much anymore this is a breath of fresh air.

Opener ‘Persona Non Grata’ has the heft of Godflesh yet the brutal riffs are played with an almost funk sense of timing – it’s all about the accents and half-spaces; rejecting the 4/4 for a more freewheeling, loose attack.  ‘A Lack of All Things’ and ‘Moon in Scorpio’ , are no-less heavy and feature ultra-disturbed vocals buried way, way deep in the mix so they sound almost like the wind rushing through nude branches.

This tape plays the same on both sides so before long I’m back to that killer fourth track ‘Bleaken’.  And now I’m more accustomed to the black-grammar I can make out the faintest howls under that pulverising thrashing – squaring that circle, lighting the thirteenth candle.

Thanks – Andy Crow for extra journalistic brain-power on this one.

Depletion

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head) One-sided Cassette

Cold psychic disturbance from Depletion all wrapped up in black and grey photocopies.

Never one for pure noise-for-noise-sake Martyn Reid pitches his monochrome tones against each other creating deft occult harmonics.

The opener ‘Intra Muros’ sets up a warm baffling of feathered obstacles.  The soft oily edges soon reveal sharp poisoned barbs but only after you realise your ankles are streaked with blood.

‘Elegy’ appears to be a gradually descending note made of brushed steel that’s being dragged down an underpass.  The heavy throb of traffic makes the concrete rumble until all begins to vibrate in electric unison.

Machine thinking is captured on ‘Synthex 1’.  Let’s be honest…it was never going to be the mechanical clanking predicted in the 1950s but more like this smooth logical curve – effortlessly coiling and unwinding picking up the stray debris of algebra and the universal language of mathematics.   And what does that mean for ‘Synthex 2’?  As this has an altogether more abrasive feel, toothed and barbaric in places even, I guess the machines have discovered capitalism.

The dramatic closer ‘Deaths Door’ finally seems to make sense of the cryptic dedication to Virginia Maskell mentioned on the sleeve.  A shuffling huffer, there is no clean machinery or warm analogue here.  This is the foul breath of an underground tube tunnel; meaty-moist and sweetly overpowering.  The resulting shuddering shakes like a wet dog with arcs of spray as crooked as arthritic fingers.

Neil Campbell

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

When I was a young teen a dusty, many-dubbed tape circulated my group of friends.  Handed down from an older brother or sister (I forget which) it contained songs by The Very Things, Alien Sex Fiend, Ausgang and The Virgin Prunes. For me this was a Rosetta Stone document.  Being under 18 (and looking it) I had no way into the underground culture of clubs.  Records were expensive and most zines I had access to ignored this fascinating middle ground between the chart pop I’d been brought up on and the weirdness I’d sniffed but couldn’t quite locate.

I’m guessing Neil Campbell had a similar moment but was obviously knocked hardest by The Virgin Prunes.  Hard enough for him to claim them as his favourite band – and I’m sure you can all remember how important and considered that personal accolade is when you are a young person*.

But what does it all sound like? These are ‘re-imaginings and reactions to’ rather than straight covers I’m guessing.  On ‘Political Problems’ Neil’s rich baritone voice intones a set of eldritch lines, at first reading like poetry and then slipping and sliding over each other to end up perilously looped ‘like a crazy singer in a band that’s lost for words’ over Neil’s signature wet electronic squelch.

Teasing us with an almost four minute fade-in ‘Red Metal’ conjures up micro-moments of guitar pick and electric squall in a lovely, lovely drift-piece.  Gradually shifting like winter sunlight this warms up the bones like a good chicken soup and somehow makes me feel pretty darn Christmas-y!

The closer, a Bongwater-esque, ‘No Clouds were in the Sky’ is quite beautiful.  A folk-tinged wriggle of acoustic guitar loops/looped vocals/spoken word/freak-out electricals all writhing like fresh chicks in a nest.

Innocent? You bet.  And with innocence possibly one of the hardest emotions to get right in music I’m sure that Gavin Friday would be delighted.

*I’m assuming you are an oldster like me eh?

Cannon Bone Bandcamp / Cannon Bone World

Penance Stare Bandcamp

Chocolate Monk

-ooOOoo-

radiofreemidwich goes to tusk festival 2016

October 23, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, musings, new music, no audience underground | 8 Comments
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TUSK Festival 2016, Sage Gateshead, October 14 – 16

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Hmmm… ‘Long, Authoritative List Of Everything That Happened’? Nah, not really my style. How about ‘Epic Musing On Life, Music And What It All Means’? Oof, maybe later.

Let’s just start with the car.

Dan(iel Thomas – well known in this parish) kindly agreed to drive me, Sarah and Lisa to our digs in Newcastle. Here we are setting off:

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Dan looking handsome, a vision in stubble, Sarah in holiday mode, Lisa appalled at Sarah’s story about someone whose retina fell out and me giving it some cheek. What could go wrong, eh? Well, Dan’s back is crook and went into spasm on the A19. At one point I had to shift gears for him because he couldn’t reach down to the stick. Given that I only hold a license to drive an automatic this was a fraught moment that I had to be talked through. Still, my slight embarrassment was as nothing to the agony Dan was clearly suffering. After gliding into some grim services so Dan could walk it off, Sarah drove the rest of the way.

Luckily, when we arrived a retinue of servants rushed to carry Dan into the fluffy opulence of Malmaison and I was roughly directed to Premier Inn, where I would be KEEPING IT REAL. As I trundled the wheelie case containing my band and my clothes along Quayside the air started to crackle. I looked up and saw – fuck me! – the trio of Mike ‘Xazzaz’ Simpson, Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and MIGUEL ‘SKULL MASK’ PEREZ walking towards me (all in black, natch).

Is this Rob? This is Rob!

Miguel said, lunging in for the bear hug.  Mike, who refuses to be photographed despite being a strikingly handsome guy, helpfully took this soon-to-be-iconic picture. Left to right: Miguel, me, Lee.  Tyne Bridge in the background.  Cool, eh?

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I’ve already written something about how important Miguel’s visit is to me and will return to the theme later so for now I’ll keep to the narrative.  Suffice to say I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone so pleased to be somewhere.  The huddle broke up so Miguel could soundcheck and I could settle into my (actually very pleasant) hotel room.

Soon I was trotting back over the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead and up the fuckloads of steps you need to climb to get to Sage:

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My feelings about Sage were fluid and contradictory.  On some levels it is profoundly impressive – an arts-for-all enterprise on a huge scale, proudly publicly funded, run by friendly and enthusiastic staff – but at other times it felt like a vast airport lounge from a Ballardian near-future dystopia.  From across the river it looks like a reclining figure from the title sequence of a cheapo James Bond knock-off (‘Silverfinger’?), on the inside it’s a Duplo play set, lit in sugary, boiled sweet colours.  For a structure so enormous it has little heft.  I could easily imagine the giant struts (one is cutting across the corner of the first picture below) hauling back the whole silver facade on a sunny day, like opening a roll-top bread-bin.  I did get pretty comfortable (institutionalised?) over the three days but there was definitely culture shock to contend with.

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An example: as I entered Hall 2, the main TUSK venue (middle picture above), for the first time on Friday an usher used a torch to show me down the stairs.  The room was dark aside from the stage lights illuminating the band currently playing.  Oh, I thought, it’s going to be like that is it?  Theatre.

Feeling discombobulated and out of my element I leaned myself up against a tousle-haired giant and enjoyed the crunktronik drama of Bad@Maths.  When the house lights went up at the end of their set I realised I was clutching onto:

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…Joe ‘Posset’ Murray – my RFM comrade-in-arms!  Always a delight to be in his company, likewise:

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yol!  Another who fears photography will remove biopsy snippets from his soul but I was NOT TO BE DENIED.  We soon became festival buds and hung out throughout proceedings.  Now though, I was so excited about seeing Miguel play that all I could do was babble and take photos of my new boots.  I’m not joking:

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[Editor’s note: at this point, after I’ve started introducing people but before I start rhapsodising about Skull Mask etc., I’m going to apologise in advance for not mentioning everyone I spoke to. This is partly because my notes are sketchy (and my memory worse) but mainly because I’m uncomfortable assigning some conversations to this ‘highlights package’ and some not. The social aspect of this trip was a thrill – from meeting people for the first time, to catching up with rarely seen friends, to chewing the fat with the regular crowd but outside of our normal context. It was all very inspiring. In short: if we talked, rest assured that I enjoyed our conversation and want to talk to you again.  Likewise I’m not busting a gut to account for every band, nor provide comprehensive links and tags – that isn’t the purpose of the exercise.  A quick net search should fill in any gaps.  There will be one Get Carter joke.]

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Next up it was Miguel Perez, playing as Skull Mask (apologies for crappy picture, I still had the flash on my camera from the boot pics and once he got started I didn’t think to try again). This was what I was here to see and his set – just man and guitar – was astounding. Flamenco flourishes, desert folk, improv spikiness and metal hammering flowed, pressed and burst like a time-lapse film of jungle flowers opening, like lava flow, like clouds of starlings at dusk, like liquid mercury. Miguel is one of the most technically adept guitarists I have ever seen but all that virtuosity is in service of one thing: the truth. To say the music of Skull Mask is heartfelt or sincere is to understate the raw beauty of what it reveals: a soul. Miguel’s soul.

Stood at the front I found myself having an out of body experience. Part of me was enjoying it on an absolutely visceral level, unwaveringly engaged, but another part of me was floating above thinking about what the experience meant. I’ve had a hard time with music this year. I’ve not listened to much and have been in denial about how burnt out I’d got keeping this blog afloat whilst juggling the demands of ‘real life’. I’d been hoping that this event would prove to be a big purge and cleanse and that I’d be returned to music rinsed clean and ready to GO. That didn’t happen, but something better did.

Watching the performance unfold, I started thinking about how beautiful life can be despite, sometimes because of, how hard it can be.  I thought about the miraculous combination of factors – hard work, friendship, sheer bloody luck – that led to us all being in this room at this time.  A strange, accepting calm enveloped me whilst at the same time the more present, grounded part of me was yelling (internally – I do have some control):

HOLY FUCKING CHRIST!! MIGUEL IS SAT RIGHT IN FUCKING FRONT OF ME PLAYING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THAT FUCKING GUITAR!!  FUCK!!!

At the end of the set I felt myself tearing up.

Outside, shortly after, Miguel was holding court talking ten-to-the-dozen.  I’ve never seen anyone more stoked – his heart must have been beating like a sparrow’s.  He explained his philosophy of life, about living in the moment but appreciating the steps that have brought you to it, about the Mexican relationship with the dead, about the music he had just played.  I couldn’t keep up – my mind had been blown – but luckily it didn’t matter that I couldn’t say anything, as Miguel, beer can in hand, couldn’t quiet down.  And why the hell should he?  It had been a triumph.

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A short time later I found myself stood next to Miguel watching Guttersnipe (how wonderful to be able to type that sentence).  I had predicted that their set would be amongst the most talked about at TUSK and they certainly left the crowd open mouthed, wide eyed, ears ringing.  I feel like I could write reams about this band, scribble profane codices, letterpress manifestos, paint placards to be carried in protest or celebration but when I actually sit down to type… it’s confounding.  The strength of Gretchen’s personality – gentle, thoughtful, keenly intelligent, enabled by a seemingly (to this fat, middle aged man) unbounded energy explodes on stage into a writhing conduit for, what?  Rage?  Despair?  Whatever it is, it feels like unmediated access to the same rooms that Miguel opened doors to.  Likewise, Rob’s unassuming, cheerful manner translates into the most glorious, life-affirming, pushing-a-shopping-trolley-down-the-concrete-stairs-of-a-car-park, free-punk drumming I’ve ever heard.  Afterwards, Paul Margree, of the We Need No Swords blog, tried to praise his technique and, in typical self-deprecating fashion, Rob disagreed:

My technique is shit, there is just a lot of it, and fast.

Love it.  This pair are unique, the band are important and you have to check them out.

Wandering in a daze after this I was collared by the very lovely Jen Parry who wanted to show me the exhibition of Matching Head artwork that she had put together, which was hidden under a staircase around the corner from the main entrances to Hall 2:

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I really dug this and thought Jen had captured the vibe of Lee’s cut-and-paste aesthetic very cleverly.  The exhibit was interactive in that you could make yourself comfortable and listen to Matching Head releases on the tape recorders provided.  On the leather sofa (bottom picture) there was a hammer (and some goggles – health and safety!) which I assumed was also there for punters so I used it to whale on some of the tapes and tape cases that were artfully scattered about.  It seemed appropriate at the time, though I’ve noticed a disapproving tweet from Andy Wood about the smashed cases since.  In my defence the artist was there egging me on and taking photos of me doing it!  My apologies if I got the art wrong – difficult to tell nowadays <winking emoji>…

About this time I realised I was shot for the day and silently drifted away.  Back at the hotel I half-watched Dredd on Film4 whilst sorting out stuff for the next day’s gig.  In my pants.

—ooOoo—

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On Saturday I woke from from the dream-free sleep of the righteous and padded downstairs to gorge on obscene amounts of breakfast in a room with a view of the underside of Tyne Bridge.  Glorious.  As I was tucking into my second plateful, I noticed that I had been name checked by Dawn Bothwell in the introduction to the festival programme.  Blimey!  I nearly spat out my bubble and squeak.  It all added to a cheerful, woozy calm, a kind of blown-out relaxation that I hadn’t felt since sitting on Low Newton beach in Northumberland with my wife Anne and son Thomas back in May:

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Aside from feeling sheepish about instigating a complicated, 6-way conversation about how we were all getting there (the more tired I am the more insistent I am about knowing WHAT HAPPENS NEXT), I was also relaxed about performing.  My band was packed (see picture above, midwich fits in a rucksack), I was sweet smelling, fully medicated and my cheek pouches were bulging with spare breakfast.  LET’S GO!

Well, let’s all see Wolfgang Voigt first.  This involved sitting in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, feeling like I was in a dream version of a school assembly, with the headmaster replaced by an anonymous, unannounced middle-aged man giving a wordless, non-performance whilst illuminated by his laptop screen.  The sound – an ambient, computer-musicish drone, augmented by airy and/or brittle vibes familiar to those who know his work as, say, Gas – was perfectly lovely but I doubt it would have held my attention without Rachel Lancaster’s terrific visuals.

Rachel’s film was perfectly measured to draw out the best in the music.  We were reminded that there is nothing more sublimely beautiful than smoke rising in still air (‘Patrons are requested to smoke only on the right hand side of the auditorium’ – remember that?), unless the smoke is thick enough to resemble glaciers calving, or liquids of different densities spiralling into each other, or the pearlescent quality of crocodile scales as the creature lies semi-submerged and glistening…

Right then, NOW let’s go.

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‘Dark Tusk’ was set up by Lee Stokoe as a fringe event to help make the most of Miguel’s visit.  Here’s the blurb:

With the arrival of Miguel Perez in the UK to perform as Skull Mask at TUSK, it would be unthinkable to let him escape back to Mexico without congregating with some of his closest conspirators from the Northern noise void.

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado: with six collaborations to date and numerous splits and joints amassed, a live collaboration between these 2 horror drone obsessives was inevitable…

Midwich: one of Miguel’s most ardent advocates via his Radio Free Midwich blog, this is a mega-rare live performance from Rob Hayler’s solo electronic machine-dream.

NeckvsThroat: an ongoing postal duo of Miguel and Yol, binding guitar and voice with barbed wire and discarded steel.

Xazzaz: sinkhole drones, guitar fog and harsh dives from darkest Northumberland.

Plus sound installation by MP Wood.

2pm till 5pm at the Soundroom, Cuthbert Street, Gateshead, NE8 1PH. 15 min walk from Sage Gateshead.

Free with Tusk pass, £3 without.

The Soundroom

Cool, eh?  I love a matinee performance, me.  Miguel, yol and I met up with Jamie (if you don’t know his recordings as ‘Wrest’ you should check them out immediately) and his pal Steve who had kindly offered to drive us to the venue from Sage.  Miguel spent the journey telling us about how he had fended off two shitfaced Glaswegians in the hotel bar the night before.  They had offered him drugs (‘the hardest in Glasgow!’) in full view of two coppers who also happened to be there.  He wanted no part of it, fearing he was being set up, but Jamie assured him:

Nah, that kind of thing just happens around here…

…and expanded on similar topics whilst Steve forlornly tried to get him to concentrate on the journey and offer directions.  Never mind, we got there.

The Soundroom is a community centre/rehearsal space/gig venue sat in isolation in Gateshead.  I suspect most of us scuzzball, dog-eared, D.I.Y., no-audience underground types found it much easier to breath there than in the airy atrium of Sage and it is well equipped with a very decent PA.

Turn out was good, including – fuck me! – is that…

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…erstwhile RFM colleague, Discogs obsessive and near-hermit Scott McKeating?  Yes, it is!  Just one of many hands from the pantheon of the righteous I shook during proceedings.  You know who you are.

Once underway, the gig proved a joy.  First up was Neck vs Throat, the duo of Miguel and yol, playing with the lights on for full kid’s-birthday-party-at-local-church-hall effect:

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I needn’t say too much about this one as, amazingly, a video exists of the performance – filmed by Pete Cann (who, being an absolute darling, had come up from Leeds just for the afternoon) on his ‘phone.  Sound quality is hardly crystal but fuck that – it’s a document.

What truly boggled the noggin was how fluid and natural the partnership appeared.  Prior to that very afternoon the project had only existed as a transatlantic file swap.  Now it felt like a psychic connection, the product of long hours of rehearsal.  Miguel’s fingers-in-the-soundhole grappling, like a wheelbarrow of gravel being dropped into molasses, perfectly in sync with yol’s clattering, guttural retching and bleakly comic exhortations.

Next was Xazzaz and Mike treated us to the best set-that-wasn’t-Skull-Mask of the weekend.  As has already been noted, he forbids photography so all I have is this snap of his set-up, snatched prior to the show beginning:

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Mike used two (maybe three?) guitars and three (maybe four? Five?) amplifiers to create a drone/roar of ego-obliterating purity and intensity.  All the Xazzaz recordings I’ve heard have been exceptional but actually being there as it unfolds live was a shortcut to… I dunno?  Enlightenment?  For something as heavy as watching a gigantic dinosaur thrash its last and slowly sink into a tar pit it was a strangely life-affirming, awe-inspiring experience.  North-Eastern drone-metal of this quality is pretty much my favourite thing in all the world.  Fucking hell, I thought, I’ve got to follow that…

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…and so it came to pass.  I thanked all who were there and those involved in setting it up, had a quick word about the two tracks I was about to play – one inspired by a dismissal of our music by Miguel’s daughter, one a version of my track from a split CD-r I shared with Miguel, dedicated the set to him and… faded up a recording of my son snoring.  The rest was thick, chewy, throbbing drone at pleasingly high volume that would have gone entirely to plan if I could have stopped myself fiddling with the cut-off.  Anyway, it seemed to go down well and I was rubbery with relief once all was packed away.  Enjoyed the opportunity to bounce about on my seat too.

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Finally then: Culver and La Mancha Del Pecado.  Another unique opportunity to see a transatlantic tape-swap project in the flesh and this time the one that kicked it all off.  Miguel later told me that, like so many of us who end up in noise, he found himself looking for something without knowing exactly what that something was.  He discovered Skullflower, read up about it, saw Culver mentioned, found a rip of a CD-r in a shady spot on the internet, listened to it and heard the contents of his own head reflected back at him.  Soon they were collaborating on a series of beautifully sustained, utterly nihilistic, implacably menacing ‘horror drones’ and the rest is willpower and logistics.  This set was an absolute masterclass.

…and it wasn’t even 5pm.

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I have to admit that the evening programme back at Sage was something of a blur after that.  My highlights were the early doors sets from Usurper (above above) and Ashtray Navigations (above).

Surprising myself, I realised that this was the first time I had seen Ali and Malcy go at it live despite having heard many of their releases and eyeballing numerous zines and comics over the years (indeed, one of my collages can be found in Giant Tank Offline #4).  My usual reaction to their work – amused bewilderment – was swept away by a far more concrete admiration for the Dada lunacy of the performance.

For example: crouched under a table, each took a turn deliberately and repeatedly banging their head as if trying to get up and forgetting the obstacle above them.  I thought that the yellow objects taped to their heads were something like washing-up sponges to soften the blow but was later informed by Stuart Arnot (of Acrid Lactations, who was roped in to their gig at the last minute) that it was butter and that the stink in their hair afterwards was rank.  Idiocy or commitment to the art?  Or both?  Oh, you decide.

After the first few minutes of Ashtray Navigations starting, Miguel, who had been leaning on the stage, came over to shout in my ear…

Now I know why everyone loves them!

…and I had to grin because he was right: it was, from the off, a performance full of heart that encouraged a reciprocal response from an eager, affectionate crowd.  Phil pulled out one heart-stoppingly preposterous solo after another whilst Mel – resplendent in glittered Converse – held down the electronics and laughed at the site of Gretchen Guttersnipe and RFM’s own marlo eggplant wigging out front and centre.  Much as I enjoyed the bubbletroniks and nostril-flaring bombast I think my favourite track was a lengthy ambient piece halfway through during which Phil folded himself up and sat on the floor.  It was spacious and woozy but had a crisp brittleness to it that kept it fresh and engaging throughout.  Have I heard this before?  Probably, but I couldn’t name it.  Shameful, I know, considering my placing in the AshNav fan club.  What can I say?  I’m a big man, but I’m out of shape.

The evening culminated with me, Dan, Lisa and Sarah reconvening and rolling up to my second fringe event of the day.  This time at The Old Police Station (a venue I was told is ‘borrowed’ from the council?), a ten minute walk up the hill behind Sage.  The place was already full when we got there at about 1am and there was a great squat gig vibe with people spilling out into the street, sat on the pavement talking loudly, drinking and smoking.  For me it felt like travelling back in time 25+ years to my misspent youth in Brighton, a bittersweet feeling I was reluctant to embrace until someone appeared, like Scooter in the Muppet Show, shouted…

C’mon Miguel you’re on!

(or something like that) and we all piled in to a tiny front room to see Oppenheimer play.  Seriously, there must have been 30-40 people plus a four piece band in a space more suited to two sofas and a telly.  Once over the initial crush panic, it was awesome.

Oppenheimer are the aforementioned Jamie (drums), Lee (bass) and Mike (guitar), this night augmented with Miguel (also on bass) and they play, Christ, how to describe it?  Super-basic, long-form, thug-punk, primal-metal.  Whatever it is, it had the packed crowd bent at the waist, rocking in unison.  It is a crying shame that Mike doesn’t allow photos because when he was stepped on by a drunken and oblivious punter the look of lupine ferocity he threw was fucking terrifying.  I did get this pic of Jamie, Miguel and Lee though, which, as a piece of reportage, is my favourite of all the photos I took over the weekend.

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After the set I waved goodbye to my sweaty comrades and walked back to the hotel.  I put a music channel on the TV as I got ready for bed.  Every video looked like a film by Matthew Barney.  Lights out: 3am.

—ooOoo—

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On Sunday morning I felt exhilarated after the remarkable day before but old and tired after the late night.  Oof, I don’t intentionally go to bed at 3am ever nowadays.  Thus another war-on-the-buffet, gargantuan breakfast was warranted before I stumbled to Sage in order to meet Paul ‘Pops’ Margree, still of the We Need No Swords blog, who wished to interview me for his podcast.  I’d met Paul for the first time this weekend, we’d hit it off and were already chatting in a free and easy fashion.  However, when the tape recorder was switched on something stamped on a fuzz pedal between what I was thinking and what I was saying.  Oh well, here’s hoping he can salvage something coherent.

We adjourned upstairs to the Northern Rock Foundation Hall (where Voigt played) to see yol at midday.  This was easily the weirdest programming kink of the festival – both venue and timing – but a fair few people had turned up to see yol take his turn as headmaster-gone-wrong at the front of assembly.  The gig was intense, muscular, poised.  The venue adding a unusual theatricality to the bulging veins and growling stutters.  I always look around at the audience during a yol show, relishing the expressions of appalled fascination, but the stage lighting made it difficult to gauge reactions.  His comic timing was faultless though, plenty of half-laughs as we appreciated him diffusing the tension with a funny line then realising that what he had just said was easily as bleak, nihilistic even, as the rest of the performance.  To describe his total commitment to expressing his vision I need to reclaim a debased word and re-inflate it with meaning:  yol is an artist.

Feeling some trepidation about lasting the day I decided to accompany the men in black (Jamie, Mike, Lee, Miguel) back over the river and had a laugh walking with them through the Quayside market as far as my hotel.  I cocooned myself there until it was time to go see Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present.  Cuddling up with Joe Murray in the back row, this turned out to be a beautifully measured and life-affirming documentary about a charming and fascinating artist, surpassing all my (fairly high) expectations.  I loved it, and can only praise the transparency of the film-making – the director Tyler Hubby does an excellent job of standing back and allowing the story to be told by Conrad himself, a wise decision when your subject is such an intriguing raconteur.  With a voice and demeanour like a cross between William Burroughs and John Waters, Conrad chuckles through a life of iconoclasm, innovation and determination in a way that can’t help but be awe-inspiring.  There is also an hilarious section about what a total bell-end La Monte Young is.  I don’t want to get into any more detail about the content as you really should track this down – you’ll be rewarded.  The film was clearly a hit with Tuskers and provoked much discussion afterwards.  I was lucky enough to see Conrad live twice and boasted of it many times during the rest of the night.

During the evening programme I made the effort to give every act a fair shake, a decision made easier by the fact that my brain was shot and I found myself in a state of happy bewilderment wherever I was standing.  Highlights for me were probably Silent Servant and the final act Senyawa.

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Tall table for a short guy, eh?  Must share Dan’s back problems.  Silent Servant – American producer Juan Mendez – was notable for changing the atmosphere in Hall 2.  Suddenly all the middle-aged beardies (like myself) found themselves at a club night.  Advertised in the programme as ‘grinding, irresistible techno’ I actually best enjoyed the bits where he veered into Electronic Body Music territory – the kind of high camp, leather bound pounding that our Belgian friends were so good at in the late 80s.  yol was tempted in, amused by the prospect of seeing me dance, and guarded my handbag and coat whilst I stomped and flailed in tragic approximation of my twenty-something self.  The ‘pit’ of Hall 2 was soon lined with middle-aged beardies (like myself) leaning on the wall, sweating and clutching at their chests.  Whoo boy, haven’t danced for any length of time in a while.  The young and beautiful looked on in amusement.

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The last act on Sunday, and thus of the festival as a whole, was the Indonesian duo Senyawa.  Vocalist Rully Herman powered through a scouring range of timbres and techniques, hands grasping the mic stand or raised up in Black Metal claws.  Fuck me, the swagger on this dude.  Wukir Suryadi held his own playing an apparently hand-made instrument called the bambuwukir which resembled a giant phallus, stringed and pegged, which he could pick or bow to create anything from the most delicately augmented silence to brutal shredding.  I suspect they personify exactly the type of high-quality, cross-cultural, what-the-fuckery that TUSK wishes to promote and that their place on the bill was no accident.  Having them headline the whole shebang was programming genius.  After their set, under the cruel house lights, Lee Stokoe and I exchanged the kind of blasted/delighted look that Lee Etherington, creative director of TUSK, must design the festival to provoke.  Congratulations, mate – mission accomplished.

All that was left to do was say goodbye.  Handshakes were exchanged, gratitude expressed, Miguel was hugged, wished well, hugged again, wished well again but now with a distinct wobble in my voice.  I nearly fell down the stairs in my hurry to get into the fresh air.

We’ll see each other again sometime, right?

Yes.  We will.

—ooOoo—

Postscript:

a) We got home safely, as did Miguel.  Dan recovers.

b) Two Skull Mask tapes were made available to coincide with Miguel’s visit, one released by Invisible City Records (hello Craig) and one on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head.  I’ve been listening to them as I typed this article and I reckon you should buy both.  Lee also has some rad Skull Mask t-shirts for sale.  Hit him up via the contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.  All the discerning blog editors are wearing ’em – an Autumn wardrobe essential.

c) Last year the live-streamed sets from TUSK were made available after the event via the Archive page of the TUSK website.  I shall be keeping an eye on this, and on Lee Etherington’s Twitter feed (@tusk_music), in the hope of similar generosity with this year’s recordings.

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

sliver lizards: joe murray on olivier di placido, fritz welch, kelly jayne jones, ross parfitt, jon collin, yol, culver

October 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – untitled cassette (tape, humansacrifice, HS0010, edition of 75 or download)

Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015 (tape, Early Music)

Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016 (tape, Early Music)

Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 48)

Culver – Gateshead Soup (tape, Matching Head, MH213)

placido

Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – Untitled

Absolutely no nonsense Technicolor squall and dramatic brokenness from that most hectic of fluffer duos: Di Placido/Welch.

Like stitches in yr lip this stings a little as it wrenches new shapes outta junk-drums and garrotted-guitar.  Frantically itchy as scabies it is… the scabby metre has you shuffling on and off the hot foot never quite sure where to hang your hat.  But I’m diggin’ it… diggin’ it bad.

I’m listening with an abstracted grin now.  I just can’t help it; the reptile part of my brain fair goofs on the hard/soft, fast/slow choices being presented to my dense grey lumps.  But at the same time my debonair city-slicker love-node is lapping up the lightening-fast interactions and improvisations between flapping pig skin and eviscerated coiled steel.  The perfect music for the metrosexual caveman perhaps?  Shit… let’s throw a party to find out.  I’m on nibbles.

Is that some post-production fingering I can hear in the backmasked vox that plays us out of this side?  Wonderful, wonderful… let’s get some electronics soaking up this gravy to deglaze the nuggets.

Goosh… ya!

The other side* made me squirt like Slaine in full-on berzerker mode such is the slap and clatter, the fizzing rip and hi-hat chit-chit-chit-bash.  Like an erotic jazz experience it manages to create that brassy plateau of living a constant high… then stops on a teasing sixpence.

It’s not all hi-NRG jizz-riffles though.  One small section’s a right downer of industrial ‘booms’ and ‘crashes’ played out next to a juddering (bass) washing machine that segues neatly into a promise of friction and anatomically crude charcoal drawings.  Phewy.

The art of the improviser occasionally gets ladled with faux academic nonsense from highfaluting bodies, boards and authorities.  A pox on them.  This is vital as hydrogen and alive as a fresh pig because it’s free from any grey-beard permission.

Play this at your next lecture and watch Prof implode!

*I’ve used the rather unhelpful ‘this side’ and ‘other side’ descriptors because there’s nothing as bourgeois as track titles or side demarcations on this babycake.  Total Hardcore yeah.

kjj

Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015

On seeing the title a ripple of excitement forced me to check last year’s journal and I can see I was right there, in Sheffield, when this piece was recorded.

…firmly camped upstairs for the rest of the show Jon Collin & Kelly Jones played guitar & flute but nary a note was plucked or blown.  99% of the sound came from feedback tones as fresh as a handful of snow down the trousers.  Thin and minty… menthol smoke sprouting from the fingers.  Control was the watch word and even a dropped e-bow couldn’t interrupt the stately ‘hhiiiimmmmm’…

Listening back to this, in a domestic setting, seems to downplay the austerity and dial up the astringent complexity.  The sharp guitar tones (sliver [Editor’s note: I suspect a typo but am leaving it in for the sake of poetry] lizards shimmer across cool marble) mesh perfectly with the breathy feedback/flute (crystallised ginger crushed into powder and applied to the forehead) and create a ritual of pure transcendent beauty.

I’m often lost in the fog of metal or jazz (crashing and slashing) but the paleness and gentle simmering of these mercurial sounds has tickled my mind forever with its frosty bliss.

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Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016

It starts with twin guitar plucking, wild and free as a Manx cat, but stretching out time into an almost cosmic nothingness.

However sparse and spectral this recording is though there’s a right-in-your-face attitude with some heavy clarity.  Those brushed-steel sounds emerge from the plucks adding an odd gamelan ‘kong’ to the twisting strings, reminding us we are on a journey.  From here to where doesn’t really matter but the steady pad of the foot and swing of the arm propels this music constantly forward.

Don’t look back.

A lake of clear water lays still and calm.  Birds (too far away to distinguish species) swoop lazily overhead.  All is peaceful until the standing stones begin to quiver, small pebbles roll down to the lake sending ripples across the surface drawing patterns that weave and double cross.

A watery maze appears.  The walls clear enough to see through but refractions set up a prism effect showing the landscape with a rainbow light.  Glorious colours indeed… but what’s that smoke on the horizon?

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Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value

Ever wondered what JAZZ would sound like after Yol had had a fair go at it?  Wonder no more as ‘Finley Crafted’ kicks like a Sidney Bechet joint with bruised ribs.  Yakety-Sax and Ten-to-Two drums are pushed out a porthole but the pulse… the all important swing remains.  It’s all syncopated beats and bomb-detonation throat, man.  Gosh! This is heady, heady head-est schizz right from the get-go.  These ‘live’ recordings are juddering with malevolence and stark contrast.   ‘Bleed Mouth Parts’ and ‘Trapped in Portland Works’ are two of the most violent and brutal recordings I think I’ve ever heard.  Sorry Extreme Noise Terror.  Yol has beaten your usually exceptional ROOAAOOORRROR  trump with a single (but scientifically focused) gob, cheap spanner set and polystyrene block.

Real rubble is thrown about for ‘Bird Feathers’ a rare decent into bass with (what sounds like) a fully pressurised deep sea diving suit dragged down a spiral staircase – as you listen, ear cocked against the air tube, it pulses ‘Vuphhhh-chk-hhhoooofff’.

The final boof , ‘A Medium Experience’ brings the hooligan noise back into home territory with the warmness and (dare I say it) comfort of interlocking manacles.  Again my jass-ears are focused on the clattering percussion; the tinka-link of scrap metal that divides time like a punk Dejohnette.  Do I have to say it? Essential.  Essential and life affirming motherfuckers!

soup

Culver – Gateshead Soup

What is there left to say about Culver?  The most singular of artists he does his thing with no regard for fashion or favour.  You’re into it or you’re not.

This tape (same as the last and same as the next) was picked up at a live show and apparently not available via more ‘official’ channels.  What?  Less official than a regular Matching Head release… that’s like trying to copyright snowflakes, man.

But what’s it sound like?  A slowly emerging landscape of loops that I’ve tried to scientifically represent (a) to (g):

(a) a foul machine heating up and  (b) three solitary acoustic guitar notes

(a) with (c) brown organ smear

(c) and (d) foreboding doom rumble

(d) incorporating (e) bleak metallic thunder

(e) gives way to (f) plumes of black smoke rising over the battlefield

(f) gently diminishes for (g) Valium earthquake

(g) x 2 fades out incredibly slowly leaving you praying for a start to the endless nothingness…

—ooOoo—

Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch

Early Music

Beartown Records

Matching Head

disinfectant: wrest, culver, joined by wire

April 21, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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wrest – dark green (tape, Matching Head, mh212)

Culver – Seven Eyes (3” CD-r in DVD jewel case, self-released)

Culver – It Bleeds (CD-r, Inyrdisk, iyd126, edition of 30)

Joined By Wire – Two Thousand & Fifteen (self-released download)

wrest - dark green

Recent experience settles in drifts, in piles – like folded blankets in a cupboard, like books angled into inadequate shelving.  It fills space, imperfectly.

Some is good: the chocolate buzz of my son Thomas’s third birthday celebrations, the marathon runner’s pride felt when my wife Anne’s hard earned promotion was confirmed.  Some is tough: a journey diagonally down and to the West for the funeral of my Grandmother.  No tragedy: she died aged 96, in her sleep, well looked after.  On the train back up I stared at sodden countryside and thought about what I’d heard.

Imagine a little girl, the legs of her bed sat in jam jars full of disinfectant.  A forlorn attempt to stop creatures crawling up into the mattress.  Imagine sleeping with that smell, imagine rinsing out the drowned and poisoned in the morning.

Details like that lead me to reassess what is ‘consequential’.  Aside from my family and my health (to which it seems inextricably linked) my relationship with fringe music is the most important thing in my life.  Yet the numbers are statistically indistinguishable from zero: 20 people came to the show, 40 people bought a tape, 80 people read a blog post.  Almost literally no-one cares but despite this – and because of it – when the pilot light is extinguished it can be really fucking hard to get it going again.  I press the boiler’s red button and panic because all I can hear is the hiss of gas and the impotent tang, tang, tang of the ignition mechanism.

Nothing for it is there?  The only choice is to chuck everything off the single bed onto the floor (that isn’t another metaphor – the tape deck is in the spare room), open the window and start with something reliable.  I wonder what Stokoe is up to?

—ooOoo—

wrestdark green

You can’t blame me for being surprised – I’d assumed that this shortish, single sided offering from Jamie Wrest on Lee Stokoe’s ever-reliable Matching Head tape label would be balls-out noise-metal of a North-Eastern variety.  It’s not.  Instead we hear a recording of a rainstorm outside accompanied by a simple, evocative, melancholy guitar and… that’s it.  I was moved.

Imagine standing in the kitchen of an elderly relative – it’s curling up at the edges, it smells of its corners.  In the back garden is an overgrown castor oil plant, its leaves a brilliant dark green in the rain.  As your relative – half the size he used to be, hands shaking, absolutely delighted to see you – pours two mugs of tea you remember digging the hole for that plant with him when you were a child.  You take your tea and turn back to the window so he can’t see you crying.

Aye, thanks,

you say,

I’ll be with you in a minute, you go sit down.

culver - seven eyes cover

Culver – Seven Eyes, It Bleeds

To Lee himself.  Seven Eyes appears not (at the time of writing) to be ‘officially’ released but rather is being distributed under the counter to those addicted to his particular brand of Mugwump juice.  Submit yourself to the same humiliating rituals that Scott McKeating and I have done and maybe you’ll get on the list.  It runs to 22 minutes or so, is indistinguishable from previous offerings to all but the most attentive acolyte, and is completely obliterating.  This rumbling conflagration cancels thought – its bloody-minded nihilism makes any kind of higher function irrelevant.  To comment further would be like engaging in polite philosophical discussion whilst attempting to escape the choking smoke of a factory fire.

culver - seven eyes inner

It Bleeds, released on CD-r in a tiny edition by the excellent Inyrdisk (I’ll say nowt about the cover art.  My prudishness at Lee’s prurience is well documented and he clearly doesn’t give a shit anyway), runs to around 37 minutes in two parts.  The first follows a typical Culveresque structure: contemplative intro swallowed by entropy, lengthy panic-inducing roar, initial theme resurfacing drained by the experience.  It is a time-lapse film of an abandoned, decaying cabin in the woods, played in reverse until it almost appears habitable again.  The dried blood on the axe left on the porch deliquesces, glistens.  The second part is harder, brittle.  ‘Melancholy’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe the vibe – here we have someone wet-eyed, jaw-clenched, about to make a tough decision as they listen to their neighbours play black metal at abusive volume and police helicopters throb low overhead.

Yeah, compelling stuff.  Now what else is there on the review pile?

jbw2015

Joined By Wire – Two Thousand & Fifteen

Ah, Stephen Woolley’s Joined By Wire (or ‘joined by wire’, or ‘joinedbywire’, or ‘JBW’ depending on typographical whim) project has always been a favourite nephew here at RFM. Albeit it an emotionally intense nephew with a worrying glue habit. Stephen himself may be as calm as a zen cow of course, but this racket brings to mind the mutant stepchild of Ashtray Navigations and a fax machine, fidgeting at dinner all moon-eyed and gabbling about how green the peas are. Here’s an extract from the notes accompanying this release:

./You (sing.) survival or caution or ghost house Mr Robot brains 100% on off. On Monday reach a peak of the highest level of the lowest level of between … and … to …, two million warning warning, you are here. 1 2 3 4 5 6 I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but, We can’t. CALL 0800-MAGIC PORTAL. Great Galaxalaxies, immense as the space through “light-years” stop this way 15 000 000 15 million million tons Pulsed light ellipse intense. Default energy x Actual energy JxBxW -re -length zzz soft places our solar system. The central plane of the galaxy, the myriads of stars, vast formations of cosmic dust, Ace ace I use the power and authority I have to make others comply, y My enthusiasm is contagious 49 00,59,01 duet turbine-harp cooool. Our solar system is somewhere here. Road captain X riders 1% riders biker Take some!!! Yes Touch Here view even if I told you I can’t see anything here No Touch Here RRRR 1000 1000 TRAX trax…

Bracing stuff, eh? Anyway, 2015 is an album of two halves. The first six months are full-on thug-psych, a gloriously exuberant over-clocked riot and possibly the noisiest JBW so far recorded. Percussive elements hidden under piles of splintered mirror suggest that these were once songs, now shredded beyond recognition by Cenobites driving agricultural machinery. The second six months are a change of pace. I raised an eyebrow at the relatively sedate ‘Midsomer Titan’ but soon swooned over its epic scope and irresistible charm. I listened sitting on a bench, back against a cool stone wall, sunglasses on and challenged myself to remain absolutely still and do nothing but watch the clouds and absorb every detail of these liquid fireworks.

What a privilege, I thought, as the pilot light in my head relit with a satisfying ptouf.

—ooOoo—

Matching Head (no official online presence, contact details via Discogs)

Inyrdisk

Joined By Wire

up to the surface: culver and la mancha del pecado

September 29, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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la mancha del pecado and culver – “collaboration vol. 5” (tape, Narcolepsia, narco 039, edition of 80)

Culver – Saps ’76 (tape, matching head, matching head 210)

collab5

Ah, Lee Stokoe and Miguel Perez – two old friends of your humble editor and of this blog. What have they been up to I wonder?

Well, it appears Miguel has been conjuring a no-audience attracting, improv noise racket as one half of the duo ZN, has been recruited as bassist for proper (corpse paint, cowls – the lot) black metal band Funereal Moon, has retired his labels Oracle and Agorafobia (over a hundred releases! Many still available via Archive.org – be resourceful), started a new one dedicated to harsh noise called Collants Noirs Releases (NSFW – unless you work in a sex dungeon, I suppose), engaged in numerous collaborations, rethought his major solo projects – Wehrmacht Lombardo, La Mancha Del Pecado and The Skull Mask and maintained a release schedule that would give Sindre Bjerga heartburn. Oh, and he has two new, excellent tracks on this compilation raising money for the Syrian refugee crisis – a cause well worth your donation. Despite all this Miguel assures me he is following some advice I gave him a while ago: to slow down. Heh.

…and Lee remains Lee. Solo as Culver, or in collaboration with others, released by his own label Matching Head, or elsewhere, Lee is the truly underground musician I sometimes wish I could be. Indefatigable, unruffled, he continues to explore the contours of a rigorous, uncompromised aesthetic. He dupes tapes, he sends handwritten letters, he shows a disdain for digital culture that has gone past anachronistic, through wilfully perverse and become almost heroic. His work – a distant but ever present ominous rumble – attracts a handful of acolytes (myself included) who tend their ridiculous collections with obsessive care. The newbie should not be intimidated, however – you can start raking the sand anywhere. Here will do.

I first encountered this fifth (of six?) collaboration between the two early last year when an overexcited Miguel sneaked me a preview via the magic of the internet. I reviewed it thus:

#5 is 38 minutes of scouring radio static as heard in the cockpit of a single propeller aeroplane surveying the bomb damage inflicted by Wehrmacht Lombardo’s war machines.

[Editor’s note: quote taken from a pair of articles posted 9th and 12th February, 2014. Wehrmacht Lombardo being Miguel’s hardest noise project – see links for context. Also, whilst inlay card states this is narco 038, internet says: narco 039]

…and, yeah, I’ll stand by that. Interestingly, despite being almost entirely static there is an attention-diverting rasp that stops it becoming mere background. The listener (well, this listener at least) is not allowed that ‘warm bath’ ease that the experience of much ‘harsh’ noise quickly devolves into. Even when played quietly, volume knob dressed to the left, it still sounds like incidental atmospherics from the tension building corridor scene in an otherwise relentless gorefest.

saps

Saps ’76 has a (relatively) elaborate four part narrative structure that describes a (more or less) upward trajectory.  There ya go – that’s the sort of classy musicological analysis you read RFM for, eh?

The first section is muscular and discordant guitar abuse.  Imagine a laboratory set up deep in the Martian caverns of Abomi to study the vampire jelly creatures that slither the walls there.  Alas, these nightmares have figured out how to melt through the helmets of the scientists, have affixed themselves to their hapless heads and have dissolved everything from the nostrils up.  Now bloated on this broth of brain, bone and hair they urge their new host bodies to smash up the lab’s equipment.

[Editor’s aside: if you don’t know ‘The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis‘ (1932, also known as ‘The Vaults of Abomi’ in an extended, restored version) by Clark Ashton Smith then settle down for a treat.  It’s a brilliant Lovecraftian weird tale with a disgusting schlock finale.]

In the second section, led by a simple, melancholy synth riff, horror-struck colleagues lock, bolt and brick up the lower levels knowing that no-one down there can be saved.  Later, those that are able to sleep will wake sweating and screaming but for now the only thought is of escape.

The third section is a grey rumble – more felt than heard – experienced by passengers in the cramped elevator to the surface.  The sound is partly the grinding of overloaded lifting machinery, partly the roaring of blood in their ears.

The fourth and final section opens out with the return of the guitar – this time it is keening, psychedelic.  The landscape the survivors stumble out to is crepuscular, desolate.  The air is thin, cool.  People breath as heavy as it will allow and glance around, silently noting who is here and who isn’t.  The first nervous laugh is cut short when the doors of the empty elevator close and the ‘down’ arrow is illuminated.  Who called it?

—ooOoo—

narcolepsia

Matching Head (no internet presence as such but contact details for Lee can be found on this Discogs page)

 

detritus maestros: luke vollar on va aa lr, guttersnipe, xazzaz

August 6, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | 1 Comment
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VA AA LR – Ping Cone (tape, Mantile Records, #028, edition of 50)

Guttersnipe – Demo (CD-r or download, self-released)

xazzaz – descent / the crusher (tape, matching head, matching head 209)

VAAALR_PINGCONE

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

VA AA LR are a trio of London based improvisers who make a confounding and ludicrous noise on all manner of non-musical items.  The most obvious comparison would be with that other trio of detritus maestros Spoils & Relics, as they also have a weird grasp of group dynamics and a fearless trust in the communal brain.  No coincidence that the tape is released on Mantile Records – (the smallest Spoils member) Johnny Scarr’s label.

Abrupt cuts and volume drops entice the curious into the rusty thicket, it’s just you’re more likely to get a spoke in your ass than a sloppy kiss.  What starts as hesitant and probing gradually becomes the lopsided half jam of a cola slurping rusted robot making its way down a filthy, ruined corridor – a strobe occasionally lighting the dismal scene.

Yes, we could talk about the lineage of AMM and the principles of improvisation and experimentation being ingested and regurgitated by a new generation but something tells me that these boys would be more interested in yanking your pants down in public and laughing at your bare ass than discussing Eddie Prevost’s latest musings.

guttersnipe

Guttersnipe – Demo

Now this li’l disc arrived with me via a man who quite possibly has the most perfect name for a punk drummer ever: Rob Glew, a.k.a. ‘The Ginger Tornado; a.k.a. ‘Spaghetti Limbs’ a.k.a. ‘Bobby Sticks’.  Ex- of sadly defunct righteous punk squawkers etai keshiki, a band who shared a tape with my groop Castrato Attack Group (*ahem*, still available for gigs).  An unlikely comradery developed betwixt both bands: the skinny shit kickers and the receding, beer bellied sludgemonauts – a cosmic alignment if you will.  Hell, Bobby even guested on sticks for one Castrato show.  But enough of  Ol’ Vollars reminiscing, etai keshiki have ceased to be but all members have to my knowledge continued to pursue musical activities.  For instance…

Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama.  However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma.  Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short.  This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient.  Marvellous job.

xazzaz - descent crusher

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

Another missive from the North East primitives on the none-more-black Matching Head: tape only, no internet presence, all regular readers know the drill.  Xazzaz has elegantly stroked my lobes in the past with fine, nourished noise loopholes. This one coughed up in a plastic rectangle from the Northumberland swamps is a sidestep that shows another feather in his headdress.

The fidelity is gloriously wrong, as if a ball of fluff the size of a tennis ball was hanging off the needle of your record player. A hypnotic loop comes in and out of focus like the black oily cogs lowering you beneath the surface.  Frenzied string abuse compelling forward (or downward) motion also blurs and sharpens.  A similar theme is maintained over both sides with a strong atmosphere of anxiety, as if our man is descending into unknown and inky depths with only his battered guitar and amp on the plinth, trying to wring as much from the rusty strings as his cold damp fingers will allow. There is a darkly compelling isolationist bent to this tape that is as inviting as the warm glow of a stranger’s window on a pitch black night.  A bit of research tells me that Xazzaz has his first proper CD now available from Turgid Animal.  Just try and stop me.

—ooOoo—

Mantile Records

Guttersnipe

Matching Head

crater lake festival 2015

March 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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crater lake poster

Whoo, boy – where to start with Crater Lake? Maybe with the simple and declarative: Crater Lake Festival is a day-long celebration of experimental music held annually in March at Wharf Chambers in Leeds and is organised by Pete Cann. Them’s the facts. However, over the four years of its existence it has grown into something over and above a display of the curator’s unimpeachable taste and ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ approach to time keeping: it has become a gathering of the clan. As well as being an unrivalled opportunity to see the risen cream of ‘noise’ (some in combos suggested by Pete himself) perform to a large and appreciative crowd, you also get the equally important social side. Names are put to smiling faces, hand are shaken, warez exchanged, plots hatched – all taking place in a general air of slightly delirious enthusiasm fuelled by the constant flow of decent, fairly-priced alcohol.

This blog is known for a phrase coined as shorthand description of the scene it documents but I am steering clear of that for now.  I don’t want to co-opt something that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts and can’t be pigeonholed. I will say this though: when I noticed that Pete had hooked some relatively big fish for the bill, and saw the Arts Council logo had snuck onto the corner of his poster, I asked him how he’d managed to successfully tap ’em for funding. He replied, to my delight, that he’d used my write up of last year’s festival as the blurb for his application and they couldn’t wait to shower him with cash. Despite knowing that the Arts Council has recently taken an almighty bollocking for being Londoncentric and that any application from Winterfell was going to be seriously considered, it was still a very proud moment. There you go, people: this stuff matters. Hang on a second, I seem to have something in my eye…

<sniffs, turns to window, regains composure, harumphs manfully>

OK, a word about the below. Due to family commitments – a visit from my parents to celebrate the second birthday of my son Thomas – I could only attend for the three hours from 8pm to 11pm. To be honest, given the stinking cold I had, that is probably all I could manage anyway. So, having spent the afternoon chasing the kid around Home Farm at Temple Newsam (and marveling at turkeys that looked like monsters from Doctor Who, or an illustration by Ian Watson) I arrived flustered and discombobulated into an already pretty drunken milieu. Suspecting this would be the case I had already tasked the other four RFM staffers attending (alas, Chrissie had to be elsewhere recording an orchestra) with documenting the day so all I had to organize was a group photo.

In the piece that follows the author of the paragraph is indicated in bold like this – Luke: – and interjections about non-musical aspects of the day are (bracketed and in italics). Photographs of the workshop were taken by Sof (using the ‘nice’ camera) and the awesome pictures of the performers were taken by Agata Urbaniak and kindly donated to RFM for use in this piece. I am hugely grateful to her – and to marlo for having the presence of mind to ask – and recommend that you all visit her flickr site too.

Right then, let’s go!

—ooOoo—

(Joe: Too early! We – one half of the Newcastle delegation – arrive too early at Wharf Chambers. We spot an Evil Moisture prepare for his evil workshop through the crack in the door but take the old army maxim on board – eat when you can – and scoff a scrumptious Persian meal at the place round the corner. A brief sojourn to Leeds market is broken by a call from YOL. We can sound check so I make my way back to base camp. Pete’s relaxed event management skills pay dividends. Everyone knows/does their job. Things tick like Swiss time. The super-patient sound guy balances our 10 second sound check, we nod satisfied with the racket and slope off to meet ace faces Ben Hallatt & Dale Cornish cackling in the Wharf Chambers sun trap.)

workshop 1 workshop 2 workshop 3 workshop 4 workshop 5

The workshop

Sof: I fought my way through Saturday afternoon Leeds crowds to make it to Wharf Chambers just in time for the Evil Moisture / Andy Bolus Ghost Hunting Detector workshop. We had been instructed to bring along a non-metallic cylindrical object, basic soldering skills and undead ancestors.  I’m sure I had the first two with me at least.

We all gathered round a table in the middle of the bar on which we found various items I came to know as ‘cells’, wires and other dangerous looking bits. I’m generally quite scared of electronics (old residual fear of metal work at school no doubt) and so always sign up for activities like this to try and get over this issue. Andy’s approach to the workshop was really relaxed with his main instruction being a hand drawn diagram that he placed in front of 4 of us before letting us get on with it. He was available to answer questions and sort out our various mistakes – great teaching style. This helped to kerb my concerns, I mean, if he could be so chilled holding a wand that can melt metal then why shouldn’t I be too?

There were a lot of confused and frustrated faces around the table during the process but these all turned into massive grins when the detectors finally worked out. It took me nearly 2 hours to attach the cells to a battery and a long wire wrapped around a giant pencil but you know what, it bloody worked. I mean, I’m not sure if the loud squealing noises that were produced from this thing were communications from the other side but when I stuck it into an amp through a bit of reverb at home some use was envisaged. In retrospect I shouldn’t have drank a really strong black coffee during the process because the shaky hands did become a bit of an issue but I got there in the end!

Tom and Jerry, I mean Dale

(Joe: While the laboratory is an evil hive of evil activity the wonderful folk of the N-AU turn up, firstly in ones and twos, then huddles, then mobs. I meet Sophie for the first time and gasp in awe at the purple camera she’s sporting so rakishly. The N-AU are prompt, alert and full of relaxed bonhomie. Crater Lake has started!)

Mel 1  Mel 3 Mel 4  Mel 6 Mel 7

Mel O’Dubshlaine

Joe: fractured electronics garbled and yarbled straight outta Mel’s mini-mouth – possibly reading out what she was doing (I’m lowering the volume on this tape, I’m adding more reverb on this channel) – via a Dutch translation aid and robot clarinet.  The vocal musings were calmly paced, relaxed and with an electronic softening that tickled the tiled floor all nice.  Phil Navigations joined in on cyber-Taiko drum to muss things proper towards the end.  Ke-tung!

Luke: droll Yorkshire instructions fed through robot vocoder.  About five minutes in it dawned on me that I could listen to this quite happily for hours.  My mate thought I’d left because Phil turned up and it was in danger of going ‘all musical’ not so: my chalice had run dry.

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Yol & Posset

Joe: (view from the floor) dunno about this, lots of knees and boots, getting awful hot awful quick, Yol clatters…HIT IT!

Boof/~~~scree/HAWKS////zingzingzing/~~II~~:~~BAU~~~~/CLANK.  The end.

Cor.  That felt good.

Luke: yowser this was fun like visceral high energy free gumph played with the contents of a skip, lots of gurning growling and testifying.

Marlo: the interesting element of this performance is that opposed to some electronic noise acts that seem distanced or detached from actual live performing, these two were very alive, very awake and fully present in a visceral and physical way.  Yol, as usual, used his body as his instrument to full capacity.  Apparent in his performance were both his sensitivity to environment and his physiological response to Mr. Posset’s intuitive electronic gestures. Both, not shy to show some presence, expressed a reciprocal appreciation of live art.

(Joe: Later… the food comes out full to bursting with Pascal’s grapes… I’m too keyed up to eat but notice it gets a thumbs up from Lee Culver who, no shit readers, is a proper gourmet/baking behemoth. Top Marks.)

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Stuart Chalmers

Joe: top drawer Dictaphone thumb-nastics from Stuart.  The whirr and ‘scree’ of fast forwarding tape was a joy to hear as it bounced from one hand to another; Stuart flinging his luscious black locks like a metalhead and shaking like a nervous cicada.  Even my tin ear picked up the subtle tape preparations and timings as skronk melted effortlessly into ethnic-plink with industrial overtones.  Of course no one knows what Stuart really looks like…he threw his Kim Thayil wig into the crowd and disappeared into the balmy Leeds afternoon.

Luke: about three beers in this was lush green elephant tea. I dig the candles, the wig, the ritual maaan. Led to an interesting conversation outside.  Seems in the N-AU you got your tapes lovers and your tapes haters (known as ‘taters’)

I’d rather watch him play the sounds than play a tape of it

…one geezer remarked.

He was playing a zither thing!

I retorted in his defense. I myself am pro tapes: the wow, the flutter, the plastic encased mystery.

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Kay Hill

Joe: Ben Hallatt set up an impressive reel-to-reel machine and facilitated the sound of a monkey opening a recalcitrant jar of peanut butter through the fragile, disintegrating brown tape.  A play in two parts, this simian housekeeping was taken over by a more keening, knock-kneed hubble-style.  All glorious drippings to clear out me waxy tabs.

Luke: my highlight of the day. Tape music with lots of pop and hiss but with, if not a tune, then a beguiling pattern. I struggled to verbalize how impressed I was to the man himself and was astounded that he had no merchandise to pass on (you haven’t heard the last of Kay Hill, readers).

Marlo: Ben Hallatt performed a nuanced, textured and atmospheric tape art set. Despite the surging, celebratory atmosphere of Crater Lake, he held a patient and meditative space. Starting from a minimal structure, he added an elaborate architecture that was sturdy and mindful. The performance was a sound journey that led the audience through this construction and left them in a different place.

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Dale Cornish

Joe: Canary Yellow computer splutter. Spitting and frothing like a thousand tiny tummy kicks from the blue shrimps inside.  Marie said to me,

It sounded like the 90’s.

I said,

What.  All of it?

She said,

Sure, in Belgium.

I’m no flat pancake!

Marlo: I had previously seen Dale the week before in Nottingham. His mood was quite different this time. With alert attention, he proceeded to command his laptop to amuse, irritate, and tickle the audience. If I were to have a party, I would invite Dale. Always enjoyable, instead of baking him a birthday cake to compliment last week’s set, based on this performance I would make him profiteroles.  Thus instead of a treat that is made for pure enjoyment, celebration, and taste, a pastry as work of art which takes many steps prior to presentation (and I like profiteroles a lot).

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Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

Joe: Soundtrack to Night of the Living Squelch that somehow managed to dissect Dylan & Kieron so one duo played breathing noises: hisses, coughs and sighs and the other ‘ghost’ duo played the sound of the first duo running their outputs through resinous pinecones.  By gently slapping their foreheads bubbles of gas birthed from parted lips adding a metallic sheen. Please stop me if I’m getting too technical.

(Joe: Later…. booze is consumed, hands shook and booty exchanged. Among the hugs plans are hatched and reputations blackened! Later… we meet the boss. In what must look like a comical gesture to onlookers we both reach out one hand to shake and another to pass cdr/tapes/notes to each other.)

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Charles Dexter Ward

Joe: Erotic Jerome is the most focused man in the N-AU.  Every twitch and tremor of his hands opened another subtle filter, let out a deceptive synth note or texturised the canvas with his painterly guitar thribbings.  Guess what?  Watching CDW reminded me of that Keef.

What do you think about when you’re playing?

Asked the handsome young Vee-jay.

I don’t think on stage.  I feel,

came the raspy reply.  Nuff Said.

Marlo: I had the immense pleasure of being acquainted with Jerome after his stellar set at Tusk Festival. This time, the layers and processing felt more dense. Every time I felt as though I had embraced a new element of his guitar mosaic, I was being introduced to yet another level of intensity that abandoned yet built upon the previous input. It was a rich and powerful piece.

Rob: I got my non-euclidean groove on and shimmied like a tentacle.  It was cyclopean.  Who would have thought such a nice guy could be an Old One in human form?

(Joe: Later…a fart in front of Elkka Reign Nyoukis makes her laugh so hard it drowns out the nearby trains.  Later…it’s a Warhol of confusion. The heat and the noise and the crowd means conversations start, stop, merge and scatter. I’m bending ears all over.  Later…The RFM photo op. I never realised our erstwhile photographer was the legendary Idwal himself! Our handsome group is propped up by my screamingly odd face.)

5-6ths of RFM take 1

Rob: The evidence!  Five sixths of RFM: me, Sof, Luke, Joe, Marlo – Chrissie sadly couldn’t make it as she was recording an orchestra.  Cheers to Uncle Mark for taking the picture.

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Stephen Cornford

Marlo: As they said in Videodrome (1983),

Long live the New Flesh!

I say this because I felt like Cornford was battling with the mind melting controlling of vertical and horizontal holds, in a telekinetic struggle with amplitude and frequency, he went head-to-head with his multiple television screens. He was absorbed. I was absorbed. I think the visuals that seemed to translate his audio concoctions were pretty. I would love to see more of his work.

Rob: I felt like the little girl in Poltergeist (1982) but I wasn’t communing with the dead, rather a race of electric creatures attempting to re-programme my bonce with strobing logic.  They may have succeeded.  I await the trigger word from Mr. Cornford.

(Rob: Sof, Sof!  Where are you?  I think Sof and Jake’s last train beckoned around this point)

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Culver

Joe: Rich sarcophagus music.  Prostrated like a monk with a Casio, Culver played the sound of the tides spiced with deep orange paprika.  Ebb and flow washes over you easily for sure but remember Culver’s dark gravity pins you to the planet like a moth in a cabinet.

Luke: whilst Charles Dexter Ward embraced the crowd with his pink love drone in a highly pleasing manner, Culver extended the black tentacles of Cthulu and left us powerless facing the ghastly pit of torment. I am inebriated at this point and only roused from my Culver trance by my pal clinking glasses, it’s a fine moment: we are ridiculously close to the high priest himself. There can be only one.

Marlo: Culver is remarkable in that he uses similar gear and techniques to others whilst adding something completely signature and unique. I would say that Culver is one of the best drone artists in the UK. His monastic and constant involvement with his gear makes for a compelling performance. Despite the darkness that he chooses to invoke with sound, there is a clear joy interspersed amongst the high frequencies.

Rob: I make a mental note of all in the crowd who talk during Lee’s set.  There will be a reckoning.  A RECKONING!

(Luke: sad to say I had to miss Evil Moisture and Rudolf Eb.Er but I was successful in navigating my way home. Cheers Pete, see you next year!)

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Evil Moisture

Joe: A Very Wonderful Fucking Sloppy Mess (AVWFSM).   Long, long loops of disgruntled squirm get run through the Bolus-zone to come out triple-strength odd.  With nothing to hold on to the free fall becomes increasing delicious.

Marlo: When watching Andy Bolus, one wishes that they had superpowers like photographic memory or the ability to time travel. The issue is that normal human capacities do not allow for full visual comprehension of the devices across his two tables and to simultaneously be absorbed by the sounds. There is just so much going on! From the crazy inventor’s lab of his set up to the enveloping waves of sound, my body was compelled to move. Pushed up close to the stage with several other victims of unintentional movement, I held onto a monitor to make sure I didn’t collapse from my undulations. These movements are, by far, my favourite response to good noise. His detailed dynamics had a light touch. Well paced yet not predictable in his shifts, Andy seemed to be using his whole body, even his feet to make the monster chewing sounds. But there were purposeful and understated details placed delicately through sound blasts and running engines. Not sonic saturated and definitely not shy, Evil Moisture’s intuitive performance was well worth the wait.

(Rob: at this point I bow out myself and trot off for the second-to-last bus home very happy with how the day has gone.  I’m in such a good mood that when I discover the New Blockaders tape Joe gave me earlier is leaking oil onto the other merch in my bag all I do is chuckle.  Ahh, occupational hazard.)

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Rudolf Eb.Er

Marlo: One of the best things about seeing noise and improvisational music played live is the feeling that what one witnessed is unique and unrepeatable.  Experience a performance by a sound artist like Ruldolph Eb.Er, for example, and you know immediately that what you saw and heard will never occur again the same way.  In this case, it might be the fact that several Crater Lakers had lost their marbles on booze and kept hollering throughout the set. That was a bit unfortunate but his professionalism didn’t allow one moment of lack of concentration. I use the word ‘dynamic’ a lot when I talk about noise and sound art, often using it to describe movement.  However, in this case, Rudolf’s use of tension and silence is signature to his style. Silences punctuated the set and left the audience irritable and anticipating each aural stimulation. Personally, I was enthralled by the spectacle – I felt prone to his ‘psychoaccoustic’ gestures and was dizzy with confusion.  My favorite part of his set was when he placed some nodes covered with a black, inky sound conductive substance on his face and head whilst appearing startled and trembling. I like to think he was slightly losing his mind with the audience but by the end he was fully composed and I felt freaking grateful I had stayed cognizant enough to appreciate all the different acts contained within the piece.

Joe: It had been a very long day.  Whist I don’t approve of public drunkenness I am charmed by the tipsy.  All my notes say is:

good oaky noise but possible Harkonnen spy.

I think it’s about this point that my brain packed up…

—ooOoo—

…which is an appropriately wonky note on which to end.  Alas, that is that for another year.  Many thanks to all involved – performers, venue and attendees – with special back-slapping to Pete Cann for making it happen.  It was a terrific day.  See y’all next time.

—ooOoo—

Photo credits:

Agata Urbaniak: performers

Sophie Cooper: workshop

Mark Wharton: Team RFM

turkey

the 2014 zellaby awards

January 4, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

The deliberations are over, the ballots are burning.  White smoke billows from the chimney here at Midwich Mansions.  Ignore the salty wave of ‘best of 2014’ lists you saw prematurely ejaculated over an appalled December – here is the real thing. ‘Never finalised prior to January 1st’ – that’s the Zellaby pledge.

And what a conclave it has been!  Scott turned up early and presented his nominations as a hyperlinked series of Discogs listings – he spoke using a vocoder throughout and would only answer our questions if we assigned them catalogue numbers.  Joe’s effervescent enthusiasm remained undimmed despite a trip to Accident and Emergency following a foolhardy attempt to gargle Christmas tree baubles.  New kid Luke seemed happy to fetch and carry despite our hazing pranks – oh, how we laughed sending him to Wilko’s for a tub of left handed CD-rs!  All I had to do was sit in my wing-backed leather chair, fingers steepled, and pass Solomon-style judgement.  My beautiful Turkish manservant took copious notes during procedures, of course, and whilst those are being transcribed I’m afraid I must begin with some sombre news: the underground is dead.

An article making this claim by David Keenan was published in the December issue of The Wire magazine and caused adverse weather in the crockery.  Having finally read it I can confirm that it is, by and large, laughable.  The friend who sent me a copy included this note:

Here it is.  I will look forward to reading your response as it would be great to see his flimsy, self-obsessed nonsense getting torn apart.

Hmm, yeah, tempting as it is to to embark on a comprehensive rebuttal what does it really matter?  I hate to disappoint but engaging with the wilful fucknuttery to be found in publications like The Wire is like arguing about the properties of phlogiston – it might be of vague historical or semantic interest to those with too much time on their hands but is ultimately pointless.  My favourite response has been Tom Bench‘s (@TJDizzle) satirical summary of Keenan’s disdain, tweeted in reply to some genuine outrage from Duncan Harrison (@Young_Arms):

yr not tru underground because u have friends and sometimes talk to them about music

Lolz.

Some of the fallout has been quite interesting though.  Just before Christmas, RFM started getting hits from an Italian language music site that was, on investigation, carrying an interview with Keenan in which he is asked specifically about the idea of the ‘no-audience underground’ as popularised by this blog.  In his short response he manages to invent a barely recognizable straw man version of the notion, take a swing at it, miss, then step back as if he’d actually landed a punch.  Admittedly, Google Translate may have knocked some nuance out of his answer but, as I was able to read it, it was good for a hearty chuckle and fuck all else.

Phil Smith, currently researching the history of Termite Club for a book chapter, wrote a thoughtful piece largely agreeing with Keenan that contained the following tragicomic scene:

One of the saddest moments of the year for me (on a lovely day) was Neil Campbell & John Tree talking about whether there was ever in our lifetime likely to be a music revolution like (say) punk again (one which Keenan seems to want), & shaking their heads in total ‘of course not’ resignation, the required kidz soaked in computer games & all manner of other entertainment drips & (I suppose) music, whatever it signifies to people, only ever welling up in such a way as part of a business move anyway.

I laughed out loud reading this.  Not only have these rueful old geezers forgotten at least one revolution we’ve already had since punk (rave culture – musically game changing, actual laws passed to disrupt it) but the internet enabled golden age is orders of magnitude more significant than punk.  Here’s a piece from yonks ago which begins to explain why and, for good measure, here’s another from double-yonks ago about why The Wire is hopeless too.

Neil Campbell, emboldened by Keenan’s piece and nostalgic memories of poorly received gigs unearthed in response to Phil’s Termite research, ramped up his usual silliness.  On Twitter he lamented the lack of confrontation nowadays and took the piss with his #realnoaudienceunderground hashtag.  I was interested to find out if there was any substance behind his bravado so devised an experiment.  After waiting for Twitter to move on, I called Neil out on some random nonsense in a deliberately antagonistic manner.  As expected, fight came there none.  Indeed, after explaining what I was up to both publicly and via direct message (the latter, I admit, did contain the phrases ‘full of shit’ and ‘you ol’ fraud!’) I found myself unfollowed.  Ah well, so much for confrontation.

(Aside: Neil has form for practice/preach discrepancy.  After hearing him proclaim several times that he’d rather read a bad review than a good one I took him at his word and minced three Astral Social Club releases including the album Electric Yep.  I did this with heavy heart and even ran it past Neil before posting.  He replied with a jaunty ‘hey you know me, go ahead’ but after I did he deleted the RFM link from the list of friends on his Astral Social Club blog and has not submitted anything at all since.  I was amused to find myself excommunicated for heresy.  Ah well, so much for bad reviews.)

I get the impression that Neil might be a bit uneasy with his current status as universally loved sacred cow.  Or maybe he digs it and is frustrated not to be a Wire mag cover star?  Who knows?  I love the guy, have done for about fifteen years, and hate to jeopardise a friendship with a shameless ad hominem attack over something so inconsequential but… dude has clearly forgotten how to take a kick to the udders.

So, in summary: those that say they want confrontation don’t, or rather only want it on their own terms or at a safe distance, those that lament the lack of revolution need only to open their eyes to what is happening around them and those that proclaim the underground dead are talking pish.

Before moving on a word about terms of engagement.  Whilst I’ve enjoyed a few physical fights in the past (yeah, I may be short and out of shape but I’m fucking mental), I find this kind of swaggering jaw-jaw to be boring, childish and unproductive.  Comment if you like but unless what is posted is novel, substantial and engaging I am unlikely to respond.  I won’t be tweeting about it under any circumstances.  I have washed my hands and will need an irresistible reason to get ’em dirty again.

—ooOoo—

BOY!  WHERE ARE THOSE NOTES?  Oh, thank you.  Have a shortbread biscuit.  Right then, shall we crack on with the fun bit?

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents The Zellaby Awards 2014

Thank you for bearing with us.  Firstly, an apology: due to, y’know, austerity n’ that, this year’s ceremony will be taking place on the swings in the playground at the muddy end of the estate.  Nominations will be scratched into the paint of the railings and refreshments will be whatever cider Luke can prise from the grip of local vagrants.

Secondly, the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2014.  It does not need to have been released in 2014.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for any of my own releases, nor any releases that I had a hand in, er…, releasing (with one notable exception this year).  My three comrades are free to ignore these rules and write about what they like.  The price paid for this freedom is that I, as editor, have final say.  Thus the awards are the product of the idiosyncratic taste of yours truly with input from my co-writers along the way.

A couple of omissions explained.  Long term readers may be shocked to find no mention of previous winners Ashtray Navigations or the piss superstition.  Phil and Mel have been preoccupied this year with moving house, full time unenjoyment and various celebrations of the AshNav 20th anniversary and have not been as prolific as nutcase fans such as myself would like.  There has been one cassette of new material, Aero Infinite, which, to my shame, I only became aware of recently and do not yet own.  Believe me, the pain is fierce.  Bookies have already stopped taking bets on their planned four-disc retrospective winning everything next time out.

Julian and Paul have shared a split live tape with Broken Arm and had a CD-r, The Dialled Number, The Bone-Breaker, The Heavenly Sword, out on Sheepscar Light Industrial but, in my humble opinion, their defining release of 2014 was getting nothing to appear on the developed film, a mighty album which is sadly ineligible for this year’s awards because it was released by me on fencing flatworm recordings as their ‘prize’ for winning album of the year last time.  See, complicated isn’t it?

There are also many releases on the guilt-inducing review pile that I suspect could have been contenders had I found time to digest them properly: apologies to Ian Watson, Prolonged Version, Troy Schafer, Seth Cooke etc. and thanks for your continued patience.  For the first time, two entries in this year’s poptastic final chart are previously unreviewed on RFM.  Mysterious, eh?

OK, enuff with the preamble.  The first category is…

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Joe votes for Yoni Silver:

I heard Yoni Silver play a solo bass clarinet set on November 1st this year. Over the course of 20 minutes I blinked repeatedly and snapped my fingers; my mouth hung open like a codfish and eventually my eyes filled with hot tears. I’d emerged from a jazz-hole that ranged from barely-there, reductionist ‘hummmm’, to wet-chop dribble/spittle outta the brassy pipes, to full-bore Ayler-esque gospel skronk. It was so good I didn’t just clap and holla…I vowed to start a record label to immediately box this shit up. Yoni’s discs are thin on the ground but live shows with proper jazz cats and beards like PWHMOBS are gathering pace. Watch out!

Luke goes for Botanist:

Ever fantasized about a forest dwelling black metal troll singing songs about plant life on drums and hammered dulcimer only?  Me too.  Well, fantasize no longer: he exists. Just when your jaded ears smugly tell you they’ve heard it all along comes the Botanist.

taming power - twenty-one pieces - cover

…but anyone paying attention will have already guessed that the winner this year is Taming Power.

I might have indulged in some ill advised Campbell-baiting above but I am profoundly grateful to Neil for taking the time to introduce me to the world of Askild Haugland.  This quiet Norwegian has amassed a sizeable back catalogue of tape and vinyl releases on his own Early Morning Records, most of which were recorded, edited and annotated around the turn of the century and have remained largely unheralded since.  His work – created using tape recorders, cassette players, shortwave radios, electric guitars and the like – is perfection viewed from shifting angles, filtered through prisms.  His patience and dedication to uncovering every nuance of his processes are truly inspiring.  It has been an enormous pleasure to promote his music to a (slightly) wider audience – exactly what this blog is all about.  The chap himself seems lovely too.  Read more: Neil’s accidental guest post, reviews, more reviews, Early Morning Records catalogue.

…and when you return we can move on to…

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

Joe makes a compelling case for the Peak Signal 2 Noise broadcasts:

If Cathy Soreny and her Sheffield-based gladiators had released ten 25 minute compilation tapes in a year featuring the creamy froth of the N-AU we’d stand to attention and sing a rousing song. To create ‘visual cassettes’ for your telly and computer screen and navigate the machinations of the community TV industry and come up with such a thoroughly curated, imaginatively shot and god-damn funny series is just the bee’s knees. PS2N has opened another glossy window into the N-AU.

Luke keeps it pithy:

The Stokoe Cup should clearly go to Lee Stokoe.  ‘The underground is dead ‘ announces David Keenan in The Wire this month ‘shut up you prat’ is the reply from Radio Free Midwich.

Scott agrees:

Predictable enough, I HAVE to say Lee Stokoe. Browsing my discogs list for 2014 acquisitions it’s virtually all Matching Head tapes – either the new ones or tapes from the 90s that I didn’t already have. Its consistent to the point of sheer ridiculousness.

daniel thomas - that which

However, the editor has other ideas.  This year’s winner is Daniel Thomas.

Dan’s output in 2014 has been prodigious.  He even wins in two categories that don’t exist: ‘1016’ the opener on Enemy Territory is my track of the year (go on, play it whilst reading the rest of this article) and the ‘flower press’ edition of That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us / As Light Fades put together by Dave Thomas (no relation) for its release on Kirkstall Dark Matter wins packaging of the year too.  The latter album is perhaps the definitive expression of ‘extraction music‘ – the sub-genre I defined as a way of herding the work of Dan, Dave, Kev Sanders and other fellow travellers into a manageable fold of headspace – and one of at least three projects involving Dan that could have been album of the year.  For the record, the other two are Hagman’s Number Mask on LF Records and the remarkable Dub Variations by The Thomas Family in another beautiful package hand crafted by Crow Versus Crow:

It is the bead of sweat on the brow of the tightrope walker. It is a time-lapse film of dew condensing onto a cobweb.

Dan shows no signs of slowing, nor of relinquishing his choke-tight quality control.  I cannot wait to hear what he has for us in 2015.

…and now a favourite moment for the editor:

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Scott goes for a far-flung ambassador:

It has to be Miguel Pérez.  For making RFM a global concern, and being full of passion, he’s the man.

Joe, as ever, finds this a tough one to pin down.  He suggests…

…we should say a thank you to all the readers and contributors … to everyone who has waited patiently for a review/carried on reading without sending us hate mail…

…which is a sentiment I share, of course, but this year I think one particular set of contributors has to be recognized in this category.  God knows how 27 different acts are going to share the gong though because the winners are…

Michael Clough - eye for detail cover

The artists who submitted tracks to eye for detail – the midwich remixes album:

Andy Jarvis (Vile Plumage, NIHL), ap martlet, Aqua Dentata, Breather, Brian Lavelle, Chrissie Caulfield (of RFM faves Helicopter Quartet), Clive Henry, Dale Cornish, Daniel Thomas, devotionalhallucinatic, DR:WR (Karl of The Zero Map), dsic, foldhead (Paul Walsh – who accidentally started it all), Hardworking Families (Tom Bench), In Fog (Scott McKeating of this parish), John Tuffen (of Orlando Ferguson), Michael Clough (who also provided cover art), Michael Gillham, Neil Campbell (Astral Social Club), Panelak, Paul Watson (BBBlood), posset (Joe Murray also of RFM), Simon Aulman (pyongyang plastics), the piss superstition, Van Appears, Yol, and ZN.

This year I finally joined Twitter which, as a wise-cracking, smart-arse, mentally unstable narcissist with self-esteem issues, turned out to be a perfect platform for me (though for those exact same reasons I think I’ll have to exercise a bit more caution with it in future).  One of the first things that happened was a throwaway comment about a midwich remix project ballooning into an actual album that had to be retroactively called into existence.  The final release six weeks later contained 27 re-workings of tracks from my back catalogue and lasted a total of 3 hours 40 minutes.  The process was humbling, exhilarating, joyful and unprecedented in my personal experience.

The album remains available here (along with more detail as to its construction).  If you don’t already have it, I recommend you treat yourself with that Christmas money from Gran.  I’m charging a fiver for the download and all dough raised is being given to The Red Cross.  The total donated so far, after PayPal and Bandcamp fees, is something like £180.  When I reached a ton I had a giant-cheque-handing-over-ceremony, again following whims blurted out on Twitter.

Many, many thanks to all involved – you are elite members of the pantheon of the righteous.

—ooOoo—

BOY!!  DIM THE LIGHTS.  What?  Oh yes, we’re outside aren’t we.  Fetch me a shortbread biscuit then.  What do you mean there are none left?  Well, just give me the one you are holding.  Gah!  The impertinence!  Anyway, finally we come to the two main categories…

—ooOoo—

2. The Label of the Year Award

Joe goes for No Basement is Deep Enough:

You could easily mistake No Basement is Deep Enough’s tape goof for a zany Zappa-esque prank. But peel away the layers; brush the fringe to one side, open that single plush tit and you are rewarded with some amazing music. Almost like a wonky Finders Keepers NBIDE have unveiled some new ghouls and re-released some remarkable old gizzards (Alvaro – The Chilean with the Singing Nose, Ludo Mich and Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson) in frankly outrageous packaging. Old or new, experimental classicists or gutter-dwelling hobo these gonks are pure trippin’ for ears.

Yeah, I’ve been involved as a one of these gonks this year but I think that means I can give you an extra bit of insight into how curator Ignace De Bruyn and designer Milja Radovanović are such wonderful human beings. I told them about getting some mentions in The Wire (Ed – you’ll love this) and they didn’t give a shit. “Ha, we always get mentioned in The Wire without any clue how, what, where, when” said Ignace, “and let’s keep it like that” he chortled into his waffle.

Luke narrows it down to two:

Beartown Records.  A consistent champion of no audience sounds and nice and cheap, they sent me a parcel addressed to Luke ‘ the sick’ Vollar which contained a postcard with ‘sorry just sorry’ written on it.  For this reason they are my label of the year.

Also a mention for Altar of Waste.  I find it comforting to know that somewhere in North America there is a guy called Cory Strand transforming his favourite films / TV programmes / music into insanely limited and lovingly presented sets. Twenty disc drone interpretation of Harry Potter limited to five copies!? He also releases loads of drone/HNW discs that are lovely items to look at and listen to including my album of the year [SPOILER REMOVED – Ed]

Scott apologises:

Sorry, Matching Head again.

Luminous worthies, for sure, but I reckon my choice has been phosphorescent:

kevin sanders - ascension through apathy

The winner is hairdryer excommunication.

The solo venture of Kevin Sanders has released, I believe, 26 items in the calendar year 2014.  Unbelievably, during the same time, he has also had his creations released by other labels, has played live, has moved house and job along a lengthy diagonal line from North to South and has let fly with a gazillion opaque tweets.  This guy’s heart must beat like a fucking sparrow’s.

But never mind the girth, feel the quality.  Kev’s hairdryer excommunication sits alongside Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head as an absolute exemplar of the no-audience underground micro-label as expression of personal vision.  Each release is a new page in the atlas mapping the world he is presenting to us; each trembling drone, each nihilistic/ecstatic scything fuzz is a contour line.  Like all great labels, hXe is greater than the sum of its parts and only gets more compelling as those parts collect and combine.  I appreciate that this might appear daunting for the newbie so here’s five to be starting with – you’ll thank me for it.

Now you see why I have to strictly enforce my ‘win allowable in only one category’ rule.  I could have created a top 40 (!) that just contained releases by, or involving, Askild, Dan and Kev.  Astonishing.  So, leaving those guys sat chatting under the climbing frame, we finally come to the blue riband, best in show, gold medal event:

1. The Album of the Year Award

Woo!  Lists!  Click on the album title and you will be taken to the original RFM review (if such a thing exists) or another applicable page (if not) where you will find details of the release (label, whatnot) and, most importantly, how to go about hearing/purchasing these marvels.

First to the lectern is Mighty Joe Murray:

It’s taken a real effort to whittle this down but here’s my top 5 in order:

faint people

1. The New Band of the Faint People – The Man Who Looked at the Moon

Keep yr Wounded Nurse. These micro-pieces are stitched together with a domestic hand juggling fly agaric.

2. Rotten Tables, Golden Meat – My Nose is Broken

This cheeky release opened a new stomach pouch and gassed itself in…yeasty and fruity. Biggest smiles of the year.

3. Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House

It goes, “tk tk tk tk tk …. po/po/po – ping.” Blistering like hot metal pipes; fragile like seaweed.

4. Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget

Stream-of-consciousness becomes conscious itself…a living, breathing music as fresh as green parsley.

5. CKDH – Yr Putrid Eyeballs/Fungal Air Creeping Adders

The most violently restrained listen of the year by a long shot. Needle sharp. Music to break radios.

Scott briefly interjects:

skullflower - draconis

Skullflower – Draconis

As sylph-like a heavyweight as you’re ever likely to hear.

Now over to the office junior Luke:

Album of the year…

midwich - the swift cover

Midwich – The Swift

Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?!  Madness. [Editor’s note: ha! What is more shameful? Luke sucking up to his editor or me for publishing it?  Yes, I know its me – shut up.]

The rest:

Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget
culver & posset – black gash
Skullflower – Draconis
Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus
Robert Ridley Shackleton / Werewolf Jerusalem / She Walks Crooked – April Fools
Ashtray Navigations  – Aero Infinite
Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg
Dylan Nyoukis – Yellow Belly
Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale

..and last of all, to your faithful editor.  I have chosen twenty items (well, twenty three including cheats).  The first half are presented in no particular order, the second set in the traditional ‘top ten run down’ ending with the actual, objectively verified best album of the year.  In my opinion.

10. NIHL / Female Borstal / Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia

female borstal nihl splitdear beloved henry

The perils of the split tape, eh?  I dug the Female Borstal side of the former, sadly didn’t get on with Albert Materia on the latter.  However the sides by NIHL and Dear Beloved Henry were bloody marvellous and, if they’d appeared on the same object would have rocketed up these rankings.  So I’m imagining an ideal world in which they did.  NIHL got a haiku:

Seduced by darkness

beyond guttering arc-light –

like moths, like dead souls.

Praise for Dear Beloved Henry – equally heartfelt, less formatting:

…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.

9. Helicopter Quartet – Leading Edges

helicopter quartet - leading edges

 …the album expresses a profound vision with an austere but soulful beauty.  Imagine a slate-blue version of Ashtray Navigations psychedelics or a restrained take on the intensity of, say, Swans without the self-loathing bombast. The band may jokingly self-describe as ‘semi-melodic mournfulness’ but this is a deeply serious music with, I think, plenty to say about the difficult, forlorn, wonderful, awe-inspiring condition we find ourselves in.

…Helicopter Quartet are, to my tired ears, a near-perfect example of how musicianship can be harnessed in a noise context.  Chrissie and Mike balance their considerable skills with an understanding of how to use noise to pluck the soul of the listener and have it vibrate with a slightly discordant, emotionally complicated, seriously intended, profoundly satisfying resonance.

8. Sophie Cooper – Our Aquarius

sophie cooper - our aquarius

 

When I wrote in the RFM Christmas message to the nation…

To be transported by a work of art – to be lifted from yourself, your surroundings and placed elsewhere for the duration – is a profound experience and, as someone who has trouble with self-sabotaging mental illness, one that I greatly appreciate. Catch me right and the bus to work is swapped for a magic carpet skimming the treetops. Find me in a susceptible mood and waiting at a pedestrian crossing becomes standing at the bedside of an elderly relative, brimful with a mixture of love and trepidation. Listening to music pans the muddy water sloshing inside my head, nuggets of gold and squirming, glistening creatures are uncovered. It – thus: you – is a constant source of revelation, of insight and of inspiration.

…it was no coincidence that I had been listening to this album a lot.  My apologies to Sof for not getting around to reviewing it but, hey, Uncle Mark did over at Idwal Fishers.  The cad suggests that it is ‘by no means a flawless release’ but if he dare repeat that in my vicinity I shall strike his cheek with my glove.

7. Stuart Chalmers – imaginary musicks vol. 1

stuart chalmers - imaginary musiks vol 1

The world his music describes is fully formed and the listener’s experience of it is immersive and ego-dissolving but carefully placed ticks – a filter echo, a moment of dictaphonic skwee – bring you back to the surface by foregrounding its artificiality. It’s like a South Sea Islands version of Philip K. Dick’s Time out of Joint. Imagine walking on the golden beach, admiring the dancing palms, looking out over the glassy ocean to the setting sun only for it all to suddenly disappear and be replaced with a featureless white room and a scrap of paper at your feet with the words ‘tropical paradise’ typed on it. As with all the very best stuff: the more I listen to it, the more I want to listen to it.

6. The Skull Mask – Nocturno Mar / Sunburn

skull mask - nocturno marskull mask - sunburn

Another terrific year for the prolific Miguel Pérez, RFM’s Mexican cousin.  From the bloody-minded free noise of his improv duo ZN to the incense-and-bitumen ritual drone of The Will of Nin Girima (released on new label-to-watch Invisible City Records), I doubt a week has passed without me spending some time in his company.

My favourite of his projects is The Skull Mask and these two recordings were released either side of Miguel’s return to acoustic guitar.  The former is made of enveloping, tidal drones containing half-submerged reversed vocals.  It can prove oppressively menacing or hypnotically soothing depending on your mood as you encounter it.  Just like the night sea it is named for.  The latter is ravaged, desert psychedelia improvised with raw acoustic guitar.  There is no shade under which Miguel, or the listener, can hide – this is completely exposed music and is riveting.

5. Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg

yol - headless chicken

From the preamble to a review by Joe:

For the uninitiated Yol has carefully and modestly created his own footnote in the frantic world of kinetic poetry.  Imagine tiny fragile words battered with broken bottles.  Innocent syllables and posh sibilance swashes getting clotted and clumped together.  Those classy phonics all chopped up and smashed; ground out like spent fags and stuttered wetly in a barely controlled rage…

Musical accompaniment is of the most primitive and brutal kind.  Forget the chest-beating Harsh Noise dullards, this is frighteningly naked and exposed.  Short blasts of destruction come from broken machinery, sheared plastic shards, bits of old hoover and burnt cutlery.  A more dicky commentator would say recordings are made in carefully selected site specific locations.  The truth?  Yol’s breaking into empty factory units and shouting his rusty head off.

4. Spoils & Relics – Sins of OmissionEmbed and then Forget

spoils and relics - sins of omissionembedandthenforget

The closest the RFM staff come to ‘critical consensus’.  I can’t decide which of these releases I prefer so you are getting ’em both.  From my review of the former:

Their music denies narrative … The palette used is a largely abstract selection of found, domestic and field recordings as well as sound produced by the various electronic implements that make up their ‘kit’.  The source of any given element is usually (and presumably deliberately) unclear.  They are examining the innards of everything, poking around where noise happens and taking notes.  It is more akin to the meta-musical experiments of AMM and their progeny.

Don’t be scared off – this music is not dry and scratchy, it is layered with humour (ranging from the wry raised eyebrow to banana skin slapstick), tension and a whip-smart self-awareness that speaks of the telepathic relationship between the band members when performing.  A piece by Spoils & Relics is about sound in the same way a piece by Jackson Pollock is about paint.

From Joe’s review of the latter:

There is a constant flow of ideas all itchy with life; reminding me of a similar feeling – running your finger over a gravestone, nails gouging the names.  I’m caught up in a multi-sensory melting of meaning into a constant ‘now’ … Listeners who favour that hi-fidelity will be delighted.  Beards who dwell in the no-fi world of clanking tape jizz are going to be entranced.  Skronk fans will be be-calmed.  Zen droners will wake up refreshed and sharp.

3. Ap Martlet – Analog Computer

ap martlet - analog computer

The title is perfect – it calls to mind a room-sized, valve-run difference engine humming with contented menace.  These three tracks seem less compositions than iterations of an algorithm set in motion by a wonky punchcard being slotted into the machine upside-down.  ‘Comdyna’ and ‘Thurlby’ are both rhythmic in an abstract sense – the latter being a low impact step aerobics class for retired ABC Warriors, the former an exercise in patience and discipline as a series of low-slung tones are held until they start to feedback, then released, then repeated.  The final track, ‘Heathkit’, is a coruscating, brain-scouring, fuzz-drone.  It is the kind of sound that in a workshop you would wear ear protectors to dampen but here it is presented for our contemplation and admiration.

2. culver – plague hand

culver - plague hand tapes

[Editor’s note: a sudden attack of prudishness has stopped me from reproducing the covers of this release.  Scans can be found accompanying the original review.]

I need to account for Matching Head catalogue number 200: plague hand by culver, a twin tape set containing four side-long tracks totalling, you guessed it, 200 minutes.  Each of these four untitled pieces (the sides are labelled a,b,c, and d and that’s all you get) is a sombre Culvanian documentary: a long, wordless panoramic camera sweep taking in the scenery with an unblinking 360 degree turn.  Each is different from the last, all are wholly involving and will have the attentive listener crowing ‘aww… man, I was digging that!’ and reaching to flip or rewind as soon as the track ends.  I say ‘attentive listener’ but really there is no other kind because you have no choice in the matter.  This isn’t background music – allow yourself to get caught and your ego will be dissolved like a fly in a pitcher plant.  It is a masterwork and a fitting celebration of the numerically notable point it represents.

[Editor’s second note: Lee later told me that this is in fact all one track with various movements.  Just so as you know.]

…and the winner of the Zellaby Award for Album of the Year 2014 is:

1. Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus

aqua dentata - cygnet procambarus

My review took the form of a science fiction (very) short story.  Eddie’s music does that kind of thing to your head.  Here it is:

In some future hospital you are recovering from a horrible accident. Within a giant glass vitrine, you are suspended in a thick, healing gel – an amniotic fluid rich in bioengineered enzymes and nanotech bots all busy patching you up. From the waist down you are enmeshed in metal, a scaffold of stainless steel pins keeping your shape whilst the work continues. The first twenty minutes of Eddie’s half hour describes your semi-conscious state of prelapsarian bliss, played out over dark undertones of bitter irony: every moment spent healing is, of course, a moment closer to confronting the terrible event that put you there.

During the final ten minutes the tank empties, bizarrely, from the bottom up. Pins are pushed from healing wounds and tinkle and clatter as they collect below you. Attending staff shuffle nervously but maintain a respectful distance and near silence. As the gel clears your head, your eyes slowly peel open, the corners of your mouth twitch. You look out through the glass at the fishbowled figures in the room. You weakly test the restraints you suddenly feel holding you in place, and with a sickening flash it all comes back and you rememb———

No-one in what this blog lovingly refers to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is producing work as consistently brilliant as Eddie Nuttall. The back catalogue of his project Aqua Dentata – growing with the alien beauty and frustrating slowness of a coral reef – contains not a wasted moment. His work – quiet, long-form dronetronics with metallic punctuation – is executed with the patience and discipline of a zen monk watching a spider construct a cobweb.  Best dressed man to feature on this blog too.

—ooOoo—

So, that is that.  Eddie’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for Aqua Dentata to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2015.  I’ll keep you posted on negotiations.

Oh, and should any of you be interested in how this blog does – y’know, number of hits and all that – I’ve made the annual report provided by WordPress public and you can see it here.

Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.  All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2015.

 

patina of yuks: joe murray on the new blockaders, charles dexter ward, libbe matz gang, dr:wr

December 16, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Blockaders – Everything You Ever Needed (tape, Fuckin’ Amateurs, edition of 12, FA90)

The New Blockaders – A Beginner’s Guide to TNB (tape, Loxley Tapes, edition of 45)

Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 111014 (TUSK) (self-released download)

Charles Dexter Ward – Past Lives (tape, Matching Head, MH208)

Libbe Matz Gang – Infantilised Britain EP (7″ single, Libertatia Overseas Trading, LMG4S, edition of 150)

DR:WR  – Trippin’ Daggers Inner Skull Metal Blade Musique (self-released CD-r with ‘original gonzo artwork’, edition of 20 or download)

TNB beginners 3TNB beginners 1TNB beginners 2TNB beginners 4TNB everything

The New Blockaders – Everything You Ever Needed and A Beginner’s Guide to TNB

A warning.  Art-jokers The New Blockaders like to keep folks on their toes right?  They’ve toyed with ‘blank’ tapes, live performances that contain no actual Blockading and recordings that never see the light of day.  The question on many lips seems to be…

Will this be a real Blockaders recording or some grimy stunt?

The extra patina of yuks comes from the labels themselves, Fuckin’ Amateurs & Loxley Tapes.  In Blyth parlance they are most definitely, ‘cheeky fond’.  Translation – loveable rogues, with a long history of bootlegged, unofficial and deliberately misleading recordings dubbed quickly and distributed for free.

This time F#A! and Loxley have really nailed the presentation: A Beginner’s Guide… is encased in a rusty metal tin, dripping with foul-smelling bitumen.  The tape itself smeared with grime and grit.  Everything You Ever Needed is less dirty, the monochrome artwork sporting a spot-on-grim smeared photo of local graffiti, but more or less playable.

Both of these tapes were originally dealt out personally to folk at Newcastle’s TUSK fest by F#A! frontman Martin dressed as a police officer.  The remainder were shoved in a bag and left near the bins behind the Star & Shadow cinema for people to stumble upon.

1. How does it sound?  The title gives us a clue of sorts.  Side A, ‘ACAB – Changez Les Blockeurs vs Live at Morden Tower’ sounds to my tin-ear like two live recordings jammed together.  These kind of extended noise jams are always tricky to describe.  Here goes…

SKKKEKKKEKK…approximately 30 minutes of mega-amplified squeaky plimsoll on hardwood gym floor…HHHHHUUUUMMmmmmm…moving furniture, painful feedback squeals…KUUMMSSKKkkkkkkSSSSS..broken-glass shatter, spurting electric springs…BuuuuuuummmmBBBB…rusty metal shearing all delivered with hectic energy.

It’s soooo frantic.  Any pauses are brief oases and end sharply as things get broken and kicked with renewed vigour.  Say what you like about this dark art: it’s really exciting.  I can see my teenage self jamming this full-throttle alongside Suicidal Tendencies whilst disastrously skating the local parks.

Side B is labelled ‘Blank’ and seems to be really, like blank man.  Totally silent without no background hiss or nothing to judder or hang on to.  OK…given the TNB history that’s all very fitting.   I’m fine with all that.

As I deconstruct The Beginner’s Guide I swoon for this is indeed a beautiful object.  From the insert replicating the famous TNB manifesto to the detailed sleeve notes (hidden inside the tin) it just hums attention to detail.  Shining a torch inside the thing suggests this is a TNB approved compilation of their greatest hits; a handy taster for any up-and-coming noise fan.  The only problem is I can’t play it.  Some of the blue grit (the sort of thing you find at the bottom of a fish tank) has gummed up the spools so my cheap-o-stereo just whirred uselessly and looked at me whispering…

Really?  Are you sure?

…under it’s cheap-o breath.

So, dear reader, I’m no further forward with my original ponder: is this TNB or some stunt?  I’m not sure – it seems genuine enough but I’m no expert.  I reckon as long as everyone goes into things with their eyes open we’re all good.   Yeah?

What are your chances of picking one of these up?  Slim I’m afraid.  But in true New Blockaders style… why would you?  Reject the Art!  Use the above blueprint to create your own.   I’ve got a hot nut for some amplified baking tray action just right for this one.

Mamma…we’re all Blockaders now!

CDWcdw tusk

Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 111014 (TUSK) and Past Lives

Brace yourself for a clutch of psych/drone/kraut-tronics from the wonderful Charles Dexter Ward (the tweedy beast).  First up this super-hectic live piece from CDW’s storming set at this year’s TUSK festival.  Things start all relaxed alright: water bubbling, birds singing and Greensleeves style plucking afore…

Yonder!

The analogue synths start to mist up your eye mask with long-haired groaning lurchers.  Slowly, so slowly, new textures (a two note keyboard hum) are added, like peeling an onion in reverse, with each papery skin folding up nicely over the next all neat n’ tight.

Content to let this scene build for over ten minutes the patient Mr Ward starts adding guitar riffs, each loaded with potent chemicals.  The rhythmic strumming builds up and up into rapier-sharp soloing clearing the vapours like menthol.  And it’s this electric soloing, ecstatic and optimistic that makes CDW my contender for the No Audience Crossover prize.  I can picture this, in my giddy mind’s eye, going down in hearty gulps at shindigs like the Liverpool Psych Festival or Islington’s Union Chapel.

There’s a universal in the grain of that guitar sound…a forward motion that’s as unstoppable as evolution.  Don’t believe me?  Watch with those beady eyes!

The title of the Past Lives tape is a cheeky wink to the age of some of these recordings.  Two of the four tracks are from circa 1996 but are in no way patchouli-scented juvenilia.  Both dark and gloomy ‘Pathfinder’ is one of the back catalogue offerings; a brief but richly fertile drone building up into a drumlin – a soft-boiled egg in sound.

‘131213’ starts all Carlos Castaneda with that wide-open-spaces-desert sound; shimmering guitar and gritty synth as distant and insistent as the mid-day sun beating down on your naked pate.

But, as the analogue storm slowly blackens and brews, I’m transported to an alternate space.  The sense of heat and desolation remains but it’s altogether more sinister now.  An abandoned drive-in stands lonely as a poisoner.  The tattered screen flickers and springs into life, washed-out colours are slightly unfocused as a Mexican version of Assault on Precinct 13 plays to its audience of one.  The slowly shifting colours on screen smear out the violence behind.

Side B opens with ‘010612’; a synth-led warble and fritter.  All the juddering warps the stereo-vision like a mirage in sound.  Tones flit in and out of focus, showing a partial shape but content to tease until a pair of tamed sea-lions honk in harmony (errr…probably a guitar played with e-bow in reality but please grant me this indulgence).  The mantra continues as a raga based on charred notes from Rugby’s space programme but by upping the noise quotient this moves beyond any stale rock music and closer into the tumbling chaos of Edgard Varese.

‘Stereo’, the final piece and another offering from the crypt, is a roughly psychedelic theme tune.  Slowly descending chords wreathed in glistening effects remind me of that AR Kane lot when they spoke about remaking Bitches Brew but with guitar feedback.  This is a questing sketch (at about 2 minutes long, it makes me want to hear more).  An ode to yearning.

libbe matz gang

Libbe Matz Gang – Infantilised Britain EP

Raised as I was on the heady tripod of Jazz, Heavy Metal and US Hardcore I’ve always felt slightly uneasy around electronics.  I mean, I dig all that kind of thing now; but I still have to take a deep breath when faced with anything resembling a plastic keyboard.

The Libbe Matz Gang have no such aversion as this neat little sevener is heavy on the ‘tronics right from the off.  This back of the bus rave on a Blackberry Bold with a cracked screen vibe is both harsh and heavy.  Each short track is a rap over the knuckles and cosh to the conscience with evocative titles like ‘Casualty to Custody’ and ‘Punterhunt 2’.

The sounds?  Well, like I said it’s electronics that rule.  What I hear in my ears is: bedpans emptied down a steel tube, concrete burrs over a rubber glove and guttering wobble.  The ghost of Chrome hollas a tune…and even forms a rhythm for a few bars.  Sonic bombs explode – a scurrying hustle of a contact mike dropped into a tin can, an elbow cracking a tender collarbone are all captured and served on brushed-steel platters.

While that takes care of your percussive needs be prepared for some snatches of speech that are World-in-Action grim/red-light district grotty. They add a dark heart to the bleak, fractured blasts of twisted noise rumbling under the surface.

Available now from their intriguing blog/news/update site.

dr-wr - trippin'

DR:WR – Trippin’ Daggers Inner Skull Metal Blade Musique

This is one of them discs that doesn’t like to sit about too long.  It’s itchy, it’s twitchy and keen to get up, pogo, lie down, roll on the floor and pretty much do everything in its power to grab your attention.  This is just the sort of slap I need from time to time.  Sure…I’ve got the patience for a 50 minute plus drone workout but I often favour the sugar-rich rush of folk who just want to jam an idea, stop, re-set their equipment, than jam another as quick as silver.

DR:WR have an attention solution.  And so in that very spirit I’m going to write this as each track plays.  No filler or bumf.  No navel gazing or theorising.  Just first impressions hammered home on the keys as quick as these folk make ‘em.

Mung Crow: Guitar scree played in forbidden harmonics.  Lumping beatbox high with cowbell and handclaps.

Hyper Tile: Super-burnt-electrics ripple like hot water then turn to freezing Napalm.

Lumbargo Extraction: The sort of beat Basic Channel reject for being too out-there played in the dark…no lasers!

Blood Rental: Fizzing electric squid.

City Storms: Oi Eno?  Is this what you’re up to these days?  Ambient for the terminally uneasy.  Seagulls solo.  The cliffs crumble in slo-mo.

Sherbet Delay: Tubular Bells heard through the chill-out room door.  A 4am vibe when my nerves are shredded by 16 hours or drum & bass and … I drift … slowly … … off.

There you go.  An instant reaction to this frothy disc just champing to be played.  You’ve got some time don’t ya?  I urge you to click here for this and more speedy enlightenment.

—ooOoo—

haunted oxide: luke vollar on culver / posset

November 18, 2014 at 8:49 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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culver & posset – black gash (tape, matching head, mh 207)

culver and posset j cardculver and posset tape and insert

[Editor’s note: ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm radiofreemidwich welcome to our latest guest writer and potential new team member: Luke Vollar.  Mr. V – family man, Jazzfinger obsessive, member of Lanterns and Castrato Attack Group – has apparently been itching to get involved for some time and when the tape above materialised he couldn’t help but lick his nib and get scrawling.  As this release involves RFM staffer Joe Murray it seemed appropriate that it should be accounted for by someone ‘outside the fold’ so I’m delighted for this piece to be Luke’s calling card.  He speaks thus…]

When I first heard of this collaboration between culver and posset I was naturally as curious as any self respecting no audience head would be.

Could go either way…

…I thought, smirking to myself as I imagined culver’s stern drones going up against posset’s ADHD dictaphone frottage.  Well, I’m happy to report that it’s a resounding success, neither artist dominates proceedings and the end result is something wholly other: it ain’t culver and it ain’t posset, dig?

The first side (that I put on): wave interference, crunch of static, distress calls from haunted oxide.  A water damaged micro tape of the final words of the captain from a long submerged ship describing something ghastly coming into view through the freezing fog. In my mind culver and posset think it would be seriously hep to jam in that creepy abandoned house that is rumoured to be built on an ancient Indian burial ground and has been empty and decaying since anyone can remember.  Thing is they both get seriously spooked and make a bolt for the door, too terrified even to pack up their gear.  What is left behind begins to slowly unspool into a heaving mass of black goop – pulsing, sparking, spreading.  From this ectoplasm rises a figure, at first indistinguishable, slowly becoming human shaped – head bowed, arms outstretched, eyes begin to glow fiendishly.  Its lips slowly draw to a grin revealing incisors that snap and crackle with electric menace.  As the gelatinous figure takes its first steps forward the hiss, BUZZ and clank rises to a fevered pitch but the panic then ebbs away and I remind myself to cut back on the horror movies. The side fades out with a young girls voice, distorted and foggy.  The mutant has come out from under the bed, the people are scared but really it’s nice.

The flip starts with what sounds like buried piano loops under undulating hiss, the slightly off-kilter-ness maintaining the disquiet of the previous side.  I see a lighthouse, its light flashing rhythmically onto an indifferent ocean in the darkest night.  This is followed by glassy, luminous heroin drone that morphs into a more complex rising and falling pattern: all musical, like.  The pulse slows to a steady thump and all the unease seems to dissipate like smoke in the air. We’re now in drone nirvana heavenly nod out music that is over too quickly. Quite an exit gentlemen and quite a journey.

More please.

—ooOoo—

Matching Head

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