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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

crown of bone

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

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

seth and kev outsideseth and kev inside

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

petals - salivate stone front

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

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

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

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

charles dexter ward

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

Finally, then, we have the album of the year.  Well, maybe – it is certainly a contender.  ショウガナイ by Shoganai was one of those out of the blue ‘hi, let me introduce myself, would you like to hear my album?’ surprises that makes this ‘job’ such a joy (the cover is the pic that heads this article).  The fella behind this project, remaining semi-anonymous for his own reasons, has produced a piece of work so ambitious and accomplished that the fact that it is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from that Bandcamp left me stupefied.  More evidence of the golden age, should it be needed.

Some details: your download will contain nine tracks spanning 41 minutes.  These episodes are clearly the product of a single aesthetic but vary in construction.  There is computerborne surrealism, the programme code distorted by a horseshoe magnet ordered from the Acme catalogue, there is deep-fried tropical psychedelia the like of which wouldn’t be out of place on a Space Victim or AshNav album, and there is the cooing and squawking of an alien menagerie, recorded rooting and strutting about the forest floor on a distant, poisonous world.

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

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

black and white noise, part two: new from matching head

May 11, 2012 at 6:14 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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  • culver/felss – blood above the breath/familiar territories (split C15 tape, Matching Head 180)
  • Culver/Mutant Ape – They Walk Alone/Secret in Hiding (split C15 tape, edition of 32, Matching Head 181)
  • Gammal Sed – s/t (single-sided tape, Matching Head 183)

Lee Stokoe is a shaolin master of the photocopy aesthetic.  My love for the man, his music – especially his solo project Culver – and his label Matching Head has been comprehensively documented on these pages (click on tags above for more).  The Matching Head ‘look and feel’ is an instantly recognizable brand (a word you don’t see often here on RFM).  Its components are deceptively simple.  Text is created with a manual typewriter and literally cut and pasted onto the artwork.  The artwork is usually a photographic collage: sometimes abstract, sometimes surreal, often unsettling (see hand-in-the-foliage above).  Images are culled from the fringes of pop culture, of which Lee has an unrivalled archive.  Vintage porn (which I got prudish about here), transgressive cinema, pictures ripped from fashion magazines – all grist to the mill.  That these grim satires on pop culture are copied in brutal monochrome only adds to the darkly humorous nihilism.  The photocopy is the perfect medium in which to package this message.

The two split tapes, both packaged in Ziploc bags with wraparound covers, are home-made examples of that long forgotten genre: the cassingle.  Each is recorded on a C15 ‘Computape’ (you can imagine the 80s futurist font, I wonder where Lee found those?) thus each piece can be no more than a refreshing seven and a half minutes long.  Only one of the four tracks plays to the whistle, the rest – admirably, comfortably – fit within the confines of the format and even find time for fade outs.  Ahh… freedom through discipline.

Culver’s ‘blood above the breath’ is the only track cut by the end of the side, but it doesn’t feel truncated or excerpted.  A juddering two-note refrain is as creepily melancholy as a broken music box, yet feels drowsily resigned and peacefully hypnotic.  ‘familiar territories’ by Felss, a name new to me, is a polished little mechanism.  A disciplined few minutes of noise/drone, sophisticated and robust, which puts to shame others who say less at four times the length.

‘They Walk Alone’ see Culver hooded and traipsing across the tundra.  Tension is maintained with such efficiency that the one alteration to the dynamics, a simple change in tone, has the force of a blow to the back of the head.  Mutant Ape embraces the short running time by chucking as much shit around the cage as seven minutes will allow.  Bellowing power electronics is followed by milk-bottle skittles and tape skweee amped up to apocalyptic levels.  Yeah, fun.

The Gammal Sed tape is in some ways a more typical Matching Head release: single sided tape, one track which can be divided roughly into two parts, total running time of about 20 minutes.  However, in other ways it is completely mysterious.  The inlay carries no information at all, just the carefully crosshatched gothic illustration.  The cassette features the name of the band and/or album written, unhelpfully, in what I presume are runes and nothing else.  Now, I’m guessing you’ve already taken a stab at what this might sound like: some sort of doom metal, right?  Well, not entirely.  Metal, sure, but there is nothing sludgy or funereal about the pace nor is it bowel-churningly low-end.

The first movement hovers about two feet off the ground and is propelled effortlessly by jangling riffs.  The whole sound is drenched in distortion but it is the kind of fizzing, sparkling, echoing, recorded-in-a-spacecraft-hangar vibe beloved of disciples of garage-psych.  The second movement features a slower riff which is swiftly overtaken and swamped by a tidal wave of vibra-throb.  This is what I imagine metal as recorded by Flying Saucer Attack might sound like.  I’ve been backwards and forwards over this a bunch of times and I really dig it.

I’m delighted to repeat that, as far as I know, Matching Head still has no official internet presence.  However, should you wish to pursue this further, information about much of the back catalogue plus contact details for Lee can be found on the label’s surprisingly comprehensive Discogs page.  Go buy some tapes – a noise collection looks kinda funny without a Matching Head section.

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