feedback bleed: scott mckeating on bong and jfk

October 24, 2013 at 7:54 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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bong - another dosejfk - la bas

OK folks, here’s the latest from RFM’s mysterious third man.  Scott keeps it sharp.

Bong – Another Dose (Cassette, Washy Tapes, WT004, edition of 100)

They might only be four tapes into their release schedule, but the Washy Tapes label is already rightly regarded as consistently mint purveyors of the North East of England’s underground. Run by Cara France and Cameron Sked (familiar to RFM readers as members of masked psychedelic rock crew Lobster Priest), Washy are heavy on the presentation tip, their tapes being screenprinted artefacts in near-origami card sleeves. With previously dropped releases by the mighty Posset, Stephen Bishop’s electronic project Basic House (he also sings for Drunk In Hell, an equally good but utterly different proposition) and Cameron’s own Trancers II (a very short / infinite loop tape), this Bong tape is probably the label’s most high profile to date.

A single 22 minute jam of monstrous feedback-bleed psychedelic stoner doom metal, Another Dose is one of Bong’s more traditionally rooted and end-of-time proportioned jams. As with most Bong, this track sits within their now-familiar parameters of music that blocks out the sun and aurally heaves itself across the earth moaning like some great land whale. Another Dose is (very obviously) very heavy shit with much recurring guitar riffage, a pulsing low end and vocals channelled from a Fulci-ravaged dimension. With the guitars creating a spiralling Lovecraftian motion, Bong’s rhythm section keeps the track moving in a Sisyphean direction. If there was ever a piece of music made to soundtrack a psych-warped Nicolas Winding Refn undead centurion marching scene then this is it.

(Editor’s note: sadly sold out at source, it appears, but available digitally via the inevitable Bandcamp.)

JfK – La Bas: 1987-1992 (CD, Fourth Dimension Records, FDCD-083)

Probably one of the least prolific big names of the post-industrial and power electronics underground, the dark horse in your post-industrial noise rock Top Trumps, Anthony Di Franco (aka JfK and Ethnic Acid) has recently been collecting/compiling his past work into more manageable releases. With much of this era’s music unreleased, out of print or only available for stupid money from blokes in Charles Manson shirts on Discogs, these recent compilations have been revealing what Anthony had under his bushel all those years ago. With eight of the ten cuts here previously unreleased, even Di Franco’s membership of both Ramleh and Skullflower, made this record something of a potential gamble. Thankfully, much like the recent gush of unreleased Skullflower material found on the 4 disc Kino set, it’s hard to fathom why this music remained unreleased for so long. Those expecting something left of leftfield or vigorously assaulting might be surprised by the ‘relatively’ straight nature of this material compared to Di Franco’s excursions beyond noise rock. While there are drifts of power electronic, clanked rhythms and noise on La Bas, the prevailing sound is that of a skeletal peer of Godflesh’s circling vulture grooves. Middle finger in your face post-punk. As a kind of take on glam-beated industrial, there’s a Cramps-y / Jim Foetus wiry swagger to the sound that differentiates this from less well bred but heavier muscled genre colleagues. Skullflower mate Matthew Bower appears on guitar for three tracks here, blasts of guitar wreckage that refuse to marshal his howled-out searching sound. Stepping away from the rhythm based tracks, ‘Will To Live’ is a more experimental cut of a hard acoustic strum put through a sheared-off top end mix in amongst tape work. All snapped strings and industrial unit processing technology, there’s doubtless more brainfumble music in the archives.

(Editor’s note: Fourth Dimension are currently overhauling their mail order operation.  In the meantime see their discogs listings or buy from Norman Records.)

hot ashes: the work of lucy johnson

July 11, 2013 at 7:50 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Smut – ‘Scraps’ (tape, Turgid Animal)

Smut – Piano One (tape, Turgid Animal)

Smut – Live at Morden Tower, Newcastle, 09.03.13 (self released download, Soundcloud)

Space Victim – Angel Face (3” CD-r, Turgid Animal)

Space Victim – Decreased Awareness Of Inner Processes (CD-r, Blackest Rainbow)

Space Victim – Kiss From The Serpent (self-released download, Bandcamp)

Esk – Ashdene (tape, Turgid Animal)

Rife – “Demo” (tape, Turgid Animal)

smut - piano onesmut - scrapsspace victim - angel facespace victim - decreased awarenessesk and rife

One of the refreshing things about what I playfully refer to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is that it is not full of self-aggrandising blabbermouths.  There are a few – me, for example – and an acceptable level of self-absorption is common, but many artists quietly get on with producing excellent work mainly, it seems, for their own gratification and the pleasure of their circle.

The noise scene in the North East of England has often been celebrated here for this kind of self-sufficiency.  I write a 1500 word review full of words like ‘entranced’ and they just look up from their effects pedals for a second, murmur an embarrassed ‘thanks, man’ and get back to work.  Nowt insular about this, of course: they are a friendly, passionate, talented lot generally happy to talk, pleased to see you and flattered by any interest.  It’s just that, with a humility I find barely understandable, they don’t go looking for it.  Nor does approbation seem that important to the process.

This situation allows for the gradual discovery of that most mysterious of creatures: the unsung hero.  Names are pencilled in – an aside from the omniscient Scott McKeating, a credit on a Matching Head insert, say – then repeated until they become underlined in bold and further investigation becomes inevitable.  Such has been the case with Lucy Johnson.

I had, of course, already praised Space Victim, her duo with Mike Vest, to the hilt (they featured in RFM’s best of 2012 list) and more recently did the same for the Witchblood tape, her duo with Lee Stokoe, on Matching Head.  A comment from Miguel Perez led to me picking up her tapes as Smut and hearing those led to me finally paying some proper attention. Over the last few weeks I have been putting two and two together via Discogs, the Turgid Animal site and various other rune-casting activities and have been gathering up examples of her work.  She records solo as Smut and Esk, is half of the aforementioned duos, is the vocalist for black metal band Rife, and is also in the bands Obey and Dark Bargain (as reviewed by Scott below).  Her artwork adorns covers and T-shirts and has recently been made available to buy as prints.  Most of this stuff is available from the label and distributor Turgid Animal which (according to that same review by Scott) she co-runs.  Blimey, eh?

Now, I am aware she is on Facebook but I have self-excluded myself from that party for reasons of life being short and, anyway, where’s the fun in that?  Far more entertaining to piece all this together imagining a shadowy matriarch/polymath pulling strings and making things happen isn’t it?  Then write a lengthy blog post about it.  Then, AND ONLY THEN, say ‘hello’.  Thus:

Hello Lucy.  I trust you are well.

As for the music: Lucy has the Midas touch.  We’ll start with Rife as I don’t really know its genre – black metal – so am not qualified to judge.  Despite my ignorance, though, I dug it: sounds well angry and has the recorded-on-a-dictaphone-that-had-been-left-in-the-boot-of-a-car-parked-outside-the-rehearsal-room muffled rawness that I am told is customary for bands of this type.

Ashdene by Esk, another Turgid Animal tape, this time a solo project, begins in a similar vein but soon mutates into something far more apocalyptic.  These four tracks recorded by Lucy bridging 2011 and 2012, feature sulphuric vocals – treated to the edge of power electronics, riffs as sticky and abrasive as beach tar and an overall heaviness equal to sleep paralysis.  By the time we get to ‘III’ the words ‘fucking’ and ‘awesome’ seem entirely appropriate and adequate.  After this storm, the final track is shockingly quiet.  A slow picked guitar accompanies the sound of a troll enduring unhappy dreams as he sleeps under his bridge.  The sound of savvy locals using a chain ferry can be heard nearby.  They watch with interest, the guitarist slowing to a stop, as an unwary traveller chooses to cross the river on foot…

What next?  Ahh… Space Victim.  The more I listen to this duo of Lucy and (longhaired doyenne of the psych/noise underground) Mike Vest the more I want to listen.  Such is their obliterating power that the rest of the review pile can only tut as Space Victim strut to the front of the queue, skip over the velvet rope, work their Jedi mind trick on the bouncer, settle down in the VIP area and spark up a huge joint whilst sitting under a ‘no smoking’ sign.

The music is dominated by an acid-fried guitar sound and the vibe is heady, humid and darkly psychedelic.  It manages to be both expansive and claustrophobic at the same time.  Like staring at the sea, becalmed in all directions to the horizon, then turning to face the reality that you are stuck on a tiny desert island and the only potential food source is the fly blown corpse of a fellow shipwrecked sailor.  The epic Decreased Awareness Of Inner Processes feels like campfire music for an evening with the tribe of human/animal hybrids rejected by Dr. Moreau, the horror of their abject condition tempered by their heartbreaking nobility.  They stir the ashes with a stick and the embers glow the same red/gold colour as the setting sun.

Don’t let me put you off with grim similes, though.  There is ecstatic release to be found within the vine-choked entropy.  The end of Angel Face, for example, lifts as Lucy and Mike make the existential decision to accept their roles as protagonists in an early J.G. Ballard novel and paddle their kayak above the flooded streets of the newly tropical Newcastle.  Kiss From The Serpent is all exquisite submission – like the willpower-sapping first taste of the terminally delicious, transformative fungi in the exceptional weird tale ‘The Voice in the Night’ by William Hope Hodgson (if you don’t know this beautifully creepy short story do yourself a favour and slap a librivox reading on your mp3 playing device – you’ll thank me for it).  Dangerously, addictively glorious.

Finally then, we come to another of Lucy’s solo projects: Smut.  I’m not sure in what sense she is using the word – soot, ‘obscene material’ etc. – but I discover it can also mean a fungus causing disease which fits nicely with the reference above.  It’s like I plan this stuff.  Anyway, Live at Morden Tower, Newcastle 09.03.13, a record of the first Smut gig, is a collection of well chosen noise elements looped, layered and topped and tailed with a brief sigh of solemn church music.  The method is simple enough – a collection of pebbles dropped one after the other into a pond – but the effect is profound.  It is like being dragged backwards, in slow motion, through the terrible events that the sombre music bookending the piece is memorialising.

Side one of ‘Scraps’, the first Smut tape, is filled with an increasingly angry spiral of distorted and overlapping alarms.  The hull has clearly been catastrophically breached and life support is failing.  The racket is visceral enough to be properly panic-inducing.  That it ends with a burst of song, so smeared as to be unintelligible, is not the least bit reassuring.  The second side begins with a would-be crescendo, tethered to the spot.  Stabs and rattles pierce the fuzz as it tries to shake itself free.  The final section acts as a bridge between this noise and the tape that follows below.  A delicate but determined piano line echoes with doomed insistence until it is subsumed under unintelligible radio communication and an all-consuming mechanical grind.

Piano One, the most recent of Lucy’s releases that I have heard, is a remarkable album and a fitting place to come to a halt.  The resources she calls on are minimal: piano played with slow deliberation, tape hiss, pedal throb and that is about it.  A couple of tracks are more active, including one in which she appears to be strumming the wires within the instrument, but most are stark and simple (occasionally brutally so: one track is little more than a two note refrain).  At first, given the context of the releases above, this seems incongruous – like Erik Satie picking up a guitar, stamping on the DS-1 and screaming ‘for those about to rock!!!’ but repeat listens reveal a melancholy air and a seriousness of intent that is of a piece with the rest of her work.  The heaviness here is emotional: there is nothing to hide behind.  It is like partially recalling a troubling memory and being uncertain as to whether it was a dream or whether it actually happened.  I was transfixed by this, as I was with the similar vibe of Witchblood, her collaboration with Lee Stokoe, and recommend it very highly indeed.

Turgid Animal

Smut on Soundcloud

Blackest Rainbow

Space Victim on Bandcamp

avian assault crew: scott mckeating on stefan jaworzyn and lobster priest

May 20, 2013 at 7:54 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Stefan Jaworzyn – EP1 The Fucker / Dr. Smegmatic (12” vinyl, Shock Records, SX035)

Lobster Priest – Crucial Trading (vinyl LP, Fuckin’ Amateurs, #72, edition of 200)

Stefan JaworzynLobster Priest

And so, ladies and gentlemen, we come to the debut post from the third of RFM’s musketeers.  Yes, Scott McKeating officially joins the trio of co-conspirators running this show today.  Marvel at his account of old warhorse and Termite Club favourite Stefan Jaworzyn’s shock (ha, see what I did there?) return, grin with pained amusement at the heritage medium of vinyl making his balls ache and nod in vigorous agreement at his praise for Lobster Priest and Fuckin’ Amateurs, pride of the North East.  Over to Scott:

Stefan Jaworzyn – EP1 ‘The Fucker’ / ‘Dr. Smegmatic’

Think Stefan Jaworzyn and you’d normally be thinking about the freejazznoise Ascension project, his Shock Records label and his time as part of Skullflower. Having just revived his revered Shock label after a decent hiatus, Jaworzyn’s first release there is a limited 33rpm 12” of his own electronic synth analogue material. Available as a single 12” or as part of a 3 x12” (and bonus cdr/art) subscription series, Jaworzyn is back and busy.

Riding an insistent rhythm, ribcaging in a sense of un-releasable pressure, ‘Dr. Smegmatic’ is an infected DNA coil of electronic loops and analogue pulses. Think crazy paced tectonics of post-industrial electronics, layers of blunt are jarred together like chipped bricks dropped from a tower block roof version of Tetris – with all the brutality that that image represents. This side is all about blunt force squelch; ‘Dr. Smegmatic’ is a locking/unlocking groove of a frantic mind state and a blur of oscillation and potential collapse. There’s a strand of sound in this track that sounds like dawn chorus gone ape shit, altered bleeps that sound like Hitchcock coaxed avian assault crews straining at their cage bars. This isn’t straight electronics by any stretch of the imagination; it’s the bleep-age fried eye experimentation of a triumphant analogue bludgeon.

The flipside, with the in your face title of ‘The Fucker’, is a comparatively looser affair – a blind melody line, a live cut-and-paste-and-let-it-loop improv over the adamant thudding of the track’s beat. Angry, exploratory and at the Beachy Head edge of confusion, Jaworzyn always manages to keep it back from the brink of din to remain be musical. Two fifteen minute pieces of two-fingers up analogue.

Available from the usual outlets such as Norman Records or email for purchase and subscription details.

Lobster Priest – Crucial Trading

A perennial grumbler, even the fact this Lobster Priest release is their best to date doesn’t turn my frown upside down – I find everything to do with vinyl a huge pain in the arse. There’s the storage issues, the fact it’s completely defenceless against a two year old and the need for it to be set up like an altar. Ridiculous format grumbles aside, this album was hand delivered by a passing Martin of FA, truly one of the North East’s no-audience underground’s most generous and thorough documentarians.

The two sides of this plastic grooved abomination highlight Lobster Priest’s different aspects, each side bulging with third eye nutrition. Where Lobster Priest have always reliably delivered the goods in the form of the purest grown Anatolian psychedelic dronerock, the addition of artist and keyboard player Cara France has broadened/weirdened their sound. Now with a Carnival Of Souls aspect to their sound, and the increased ability to run on grooves as well as the fumes of abandon, the already liberated guitars of Bong’s Mike Vest and Totem Recall’s Cameron Sked are even more free to scrape the VU meter’s limits. The A side, the epic ‘Suzie Fuckin’ Q Death Trip’, manages to transmit a great emotional ache through its melody while still kicking out the jams. The sound may be reaching for the skies of the sunscorched open plains, but there’s always been a further skewed aspect to Lobster Priest beyond that of psychedelia. They’re not so much tripped out as they are ragged and a little bit fire damaged, at the odd crossroads of expanded pupils exhilaration and closed eye wrecked. Lobster Priest’s huge guitar workout tracks are more than just the produce of stoners, more than just a retread of past glorious trails.

Crucial Trading’s  flipside, ‘Live In Harran / Free Radio’, is the more experimental of the two cuts. Grown around hefty Turkish (?) radio samples, loops and tones as a constructed field recording of the soundtrack to a long hot desert road drive in a dust shrouded beat-up car this is just like being there. There’s no real attempt to tune the station in, the thing is merging up signals anyway and is pretty much broken, sounds slipping in and out of drones. It’s no World Music toe-dip either; it’s much more caustic and rhythmic than a mere ambient soundscape.

Fuckin’ Amateurs

Lobster Priest: Bandcamp, Homepage

black and white noise, part three: new from fuckin’ amateurs! / chump tapes

May 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 5 Comments
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Posset – “Ear Sungs Of Unfit Eyes” / Basillica – “Casual Curses” (Split vinyl LP, Fuckin’ Amateurs #66, or maybe #69, possibly an edition of 50)

posset – a  grimy minor remembering (CD-r, given away with the above, Chump Tapes #03/Fuckin’ Amateurs! #69(a), or maybe #66(a))

Fuckin’ Amateurs! are the punk-as-fuckest exponents of the photocopier aesthetic. Yeah, they use typewritten text and photo collages but, unlike Lee’s surgically precise efforts, these are created with gleeful abandon, augmented with anarchic scribble and, well, whatever else they have to hand. Attention to detail may not be their uppermost concern, as we shall see, but this quibble is unimportant (to me). Their bubbling and heartfelt enthusiasm is infectious and life-affirming.

The enormous Fuckin’ Amateurs back catalogue mainly documents the noise, psychedelia and improv scene in the North East of England. Unfortunately, much of this catalogue is not ‘available’ in any commonly used sense of the word. Most of these objects are just given away to their mates at gigs, often created without the band’s prior knowledge or, indeed, permission. However, being a vinyl record this might, just might, be something that you can exchange money for.

Yes, you heard: a vinyl record. A prestige, heritage format no doubt, but one I find unwieldy and rarely listen to nowadays. The problem is portability. I do most of my music appreciation via headphones whilst going about my business.  This is obviously not possible with vinyl – instead it feels like I have to make an appointment to hear it. I know it sounds perverse, but having to sit still to listen seems to dampen my critical faculties.  I am envious of Mark over at Idwal Fisher with his high-backed leather armchair, his might-as-well-leave-the-bottle glasses of wine and relay team of scribes, licking their nibs, ready to take down his thoughts on The New Blockaders.  I can’t concentrate in that manner myself.  Anyway, having used another obsolete technology to tape it for repeated walkman consumption I am now happy to attest to its qualities.

The Basillica side, ‘Casual Curses’, is edited with a sledgehammer and recorded with the settings on ‘bootleg’ but is still an undeniably high quality trip.  We begin with ‘Amour’, a single, simple riff repeated with a mesmerising, sunburnt torpor.  This acts as a mood-diverter and scene-setter for what is to follow.  In ‘Blood Servant’, the second and longest track, a beautiful, dreamlike refrain – synth?  pipes?  coo-ed by doves? – bobs semi-submerged in a sea of liquid metal.  Or perhaps it is like coming across an unexpected clearing in the jungle and finding a tribe of brightly painted natives worshipping an enormous jet engine from a crashed 747, its broken blades still whirring and grating despite there being no wind to propel them.  ‘Sans’ and ‘Try To Be Right’ extend the tropical vibe with a languid wah-solo, briefly lifting its head to chug into a riff only to fall back exhausted and stare up at the foliage, defocused into a green smear by the gauze of the mosquito net.

The Posset side, ‘Ear Sungs Of Unfit Eyes’ is a terrific engraving of the dictaphonist’s art.  Four tracks show the versatility of the miniature tape machine, especially when combined with Joe’s dada-magpie sensibility.  Just don’t expect phat bass.  Instead, you get a wheezing, antique iron lung, its mechanical bellows gasping like a bargeman’s knackered accordion.  You hear the chittering of a team of miniscule scientists shrunk by the explosion of a prototype raygun attempting to attract the attention of their colleagues by shouting and climbing onto a microscope slide.  You join a herd of Swiss cattle getting their funk on at a headphone disco.  Their cow bells jangling to a mash-up we can only infer from their dance steps.  Finally, we join Clan Posset as they gather round the camp fire and practice making their own entertainment for when decadent late period capitalism finally implodes and the lights go out.

Accompanying the vinyl LP is a bonus CD-r called ‘a grimy minor remembering’ which, to my delight, turns out to be a ‘greatest hits’ selection from the last few years of the Posset back catalogue.  This would be terrific enough on its own but as a bonus bonus the photocopied cover folds out to reveal an interview with Joe conducted by Scott McKeating (head honcho of Bells Hill and occasional writer for the The Quietus).  Our man explains his love of the Dictaphone, lists a few must-have dicta-oriented releases and gives his own account of the tracks on the vinyl LP.  Essential stuff.

This being a Fuckin’ Amateurs release it is unsurprising that there are a few quibbles one could make about the presentation: the centre labels on the record itself are on the wrong sides, the catalogue numbers are different depending on which insert you look at, ‘Basillica’ is spelt with only one ‘l’ and the following sentence from the liner notes…

had he any idea we were releasing this record, mike would’ve no doubt sent shouts.

…suggests that the thing is at least half-bootleg.  This suspicion was confirmed in a conversation with Mike himself – he was expecting maybe a tape or CD-r at best.  ‘Little tinkers’ was the description used, I think, and Hasan of Jazzfinger also remarked on F#A!’s fondness for trick-playing.  I’m sure that if it was my music that was being appropriated I might be less charmed but, as it is not, it is easy for me to say: ahh… fuck it, more power to the cheeky monkeys.  Also worth noting is that the covers pictured at Visual Volume feature a colour collage pasted on to a black sleeve whilst the copy I have (sent by Joe) came in a white sleeve with John-Bull-Printing-Set style Posseted adornments.  I’ll let discographers more obsessive than me sort it all out.

According to Mike’s Visual Volume blog this record can be had for £8 post paid worldwide which seems v. reasonable.  The email address for enquiries is:  You could also try Joe Posset via ‘cos even if the vinyl is sold out I reckon you could hit him up for the CD-r and dicta-centric interview.

artifacts of the no-audience underground: space victim

March 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Space Victim – Psychotropic Mind Murder (Bells Hill, BH009, CD-r, edition of 50)

In the same package from Scott of Bells Hill that contained the Culver & Fordell Research Unit CD-r was nestled this monster, eyeing me suspiciously and waiting patiently for the opportunity to flex its scaly wings.

For what we have here is Space Victim, a duo of Lucy Johnson of Obey and Mike Vest of Bong and Basilica (see VISUAL VOLUME for details of all these variations).  And what Space Victim have for us is some heavy, viscous, maximalist guitar psychedelia.  Don’t be expecting anything whimsical or pastoral and flower strewn.  This is best-night-of-the-year-without-leaving-your-armchair drug music.  I suppose should you want a musical reference point then this sounds a little like millennial Ashtray Navigations, pre-synth turn, with Phil’s guitar sound at its most monsoon drenched and tropical.

The release is bookended by two lengthy jams (for want of a better word): ‘The Sea of Sleep’ (17 minutes) and ‘Entrail Weight’ (20 minutes, great title) which riff, drone, drift and shimmer in a heat haze.  Teenage dragons might groove on this in a lair filled with dope smoke as they do flame-grilled hot knives whilst sniggering at that lame-ass Lord of the Rings shit.  The tracks that make up the middle section are much shorter and offer glimpses of experiments: part mad science, part arcane rite.  Orgone accumulators crackle and the tang of ozone bleaches through the heady fug of incense.  However glimpses are all you get: sometimes these tracks end suddenly, as if the laboratory door had been slammed shut in your face.

Passages of this album are properly fried.  The psychonauts amongst you may be reminded of the ‘chameleon’ stage of an acid trip: peaking like crazy, your senses fizzing like sherbet fireworks, your skin rippling and morphing to mimic your surroundings, your eyes bulging and swivelling independently of each other.  Or so I hear.  I wouldn’t know, of course.

Over the last couple of weeks a few casual listens led to an addiction blotting out almost everything else.  Then this release became pretty much the only thing I wanted to hear.  I was hoping that typing this up might help break the spell, but I can feel its claws tightening on my shoulders again already…

Highly recommended.  Contact Scott of Bells Hill via

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