pick-up truck vocabulary: joe murray on crow versus crow, faniel dord, stefan jaworzyn/dylan nyoukis/seymour glass, the tenses & bren’t lewiis ensemble and the viper

March 17, 2017 at 8:37 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Crow Versus Crow – States (Crow Versus Crow Editions)

Faniel Dord – Faniel Dord (Dante’s Ashtray)

Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis, Seymour Glass – My Disgusting Heart (Chocolate Monk)

The Tenses & Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – Daughter of the Boot (Chocolate Monk)

The Viper – Art for Pain’s Sake (BUFMS)

 states 3

Crow Versus Crow – States (Crow Versus Crow Editions) 3 inch CD and 20 page art-zine photo booklet

This beautiful package comes sandwiched between plain grey heavystock card; the sombre plainness a reaction to the vibrant colour inside perhaps?

I’ll start with the sound.  The disc contains 17 minutes of the real Americana collected by Andy Crow on his 2016 road trip to southern states of the USA (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia – fact fans).  As you’d imagine there is a rejection of any field recording cliché – this is pure extraction music with no toothless fiddle or Grand Ole Opry in sight.


It’s a subtle and slow movement for sure: the opening static crackles makes way for a woven pattern of cicada’s rhythmic rustle and the liquid whoosh of passing cars. An occasional maraca-shake could be a deadly rattlesnake.  The  ‘tich-th’ of the owl a hi-hat sizzle that reeks of baked desert heat and sonic shimmer.  But rather then present this slack-jawed and unexamined the mix builds a hidden momentum through increasing the thread count and rippling the fabric with a deft thumb.

The final movement drags lazy ears into unapologetic high-performance mode.  A lonely buzzard calls out across the valley – the sound of the air around the recorder fizzes with unknowable purpose.  An excitable preacher (my guess is via battered radio rather than a gaudy TV) adds the sort of paranoid verbals African Head Charge favoured era Songs of Praise.

It is of course a suggestion piece – with no literals to hang your baseball cap on the imagination picks up tiny clues and builds a personal narrative from the crumbs.  My reality is not Mr Crow’s but what we now share is a gas station dream, a pick-up truck vocabulary.


CVC states

But as well as his ears he’s brought his eyes.  Eyes that spy detail in the trash and the unloved, beauty in the unused and plain old decrepit.

It’s almost impossible to look at the booklet without adding today’s awful political charge and context but a deep breath helps to remember a time before this extra ladle of madness soup soured what was the American dream.

People are absent, but the hands of the hardworking and decent, the just making do, are all over these gorgeous images.

As Crow’s lens is drawn to the weather-beaten and well used the inference is communal – we are joined by the codes of work and play.  And even when the work has gone and the players drifted home the traces we leave are still good.  Not necessarily grand or initially impressive but honest and modest and well-intentioned.

cvc states 2

Railway tracks vanish to a point, exposed brickwork bakes in the sun and corrugated metal rusts like soft brown blooms.  A single word ‘sorry’ is inked onto a door frame.

States shows a land waiting for interpretation, a mythology waiting to be written.


faniel dord

Faniel Dord – Faniel Dord (Dante’s Ashtray) CD-R

The Scouser Sun City Girl deals us a full-deck of deranged approaches on this tasty self-titled release.

Micro-songs are played on dodgy keyboard, beer-stained piano and battered guitar then dripped though a lo-fi studio set up that adds a delightful scruffy edge to these enigmatic pieces.

Some arrive fully-formed; dripping with sarcasm and uncomfortable political questions like a Mersybeat Porest.

Others riff –out a tune that has always seemed to exist somewhere behind my ear until the mighty Faniel has just shucked it out with a blunt knife (for evidence see My Bowl of Skulls).

The shadow of Edward Lear inhabits Dord’s world in both word and deed.  A lover of scatological shock and the innocently odd –  both ends of the stick are jammed in the jellyfish mouth until the protoplasm pops.

But of course it’s not all yuks, ‘Zaidida’ concludes in deep Rembetika sorrow after a frantic three minutes and ‘Medusa’s gone Digital’ warns the Gorgons and their ilk the dangers of modern life – something I don’t think we do quite enough of.

Fans of Derek and Clive take note and click.

nyoukis etc (1)

Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis, Seymour Glass – My Disgusting Heart (Chocolate Monk) CD-R


I never expected Jaworzyn, that long-haired, six-string Ascension/Skullflower wire-wrangler on this kinda gob-jaxx (see Nyoukis) / tape-huss (see Glass) melange.  But more fool me eh? The iron banjo adds some rich, metallic DNA to this most lovable of three-ways.


Opener ‘Frozen Tombs of Siberia’ is a medium-sized panic attack; part elephant seal growl, part rattling coffin nails, but all Skippy the Kangaroo incidental music.  As you’d expect from these experienced heads the pace is stately, elements of bubbling vowel or chopped-to-john-o-groats guitar placed in a sonic Battenberg with a similar marzipan roughness.  The closing seconds of this jam re-imagine a Tardis’ asthmatic ‘whump-whump’. Calling all BBC commissioning editors – get these lads in – you’ve been warned!


Song title of the week is well and truly won by ‘Dirty Owl Teat’ and works like one of them Scandinavian open sandwiches.

  • (rye cracker base) slow-mould guitar wrench, harmonic pimples and drumlins, a yeast of amp hum…
  • (smoked herring topping) an expression of joy hissed through side-mouth bibbles, coughs and spaniel-like panting.  Occasional v-words are the glace cherry.

And the Smorgasbord analogy still holds for ‘Slowest Emergency Team’ with oodles more tape-frot.

But it’s the closer ‘Gang-related Sneezing’ that really quivers my liver.  This modest track is a stop-start-stop-start wrecking ball of un-sense tape-slivers.  Neatly delivered in finely measured bursts that defy any conventional rhythm; pretty soon my arms and legs are tied up in Twister-esque contortions.

A test-card for the mind or an essential document of new solutions?

Whisper your answer in my hot pink shell.

the tenses

The Tenses & Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – Daughter of the Boot (Chocolate Monk) CD-R

Two long, long, long pieces of near psychic jam make up this extra-value 60 min disc.

A whole platform of players (note ‘em: Oblivia, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Lucian Tielens, Sylvia Kastel, Leroy Tick & Gnarlos) strike bowls, press buttons, crank up turntables and rattle cutlery in an infinite variety of ways.  The label says…

 ‘spontaneous sound collage, bent improv, non-musical weirdness’

…and who am I to argue?

Of course it’s the group-think that makes this disc hover in an unnatural manner.  The linkage of brown ideas and soupy ingredients interweave in an effortless stew.

And where ‘Authentication of Ancient Chinese Bronzes’ is a pointillist pin-prick on tightly ruled graph paper ‘Heroic Armor of the Italian renaissance’ is more of a flexible lake or a fake puddle.  The difference is startling yet understated, like putting sugar in the salt cellar.

As I lay back and let ‘the music take me’ I picture several conflicting images: emoji torture, dry goods being bagged, the gritty feel of a military mess kit.  But that’s just me!  You may picture the red stone of Bologna or the broad green leaves of Portland but that’s the point innit?  From a base of gentle tinkles and sound-scurf we make our own reality.

And at this point I start to doubt the sanity of reviewing such a subjective sound environment and ask you to point your finger here to listen to an extract and write your own damn review.

But, dear reader that wouldn’t be the RFM way eh?

Another couple of spins in different environments (making dinner, jogging through the park) reveal the onion layers.  The surface complexity is really a carefully constructed chicken-wire framework to hang the softer, more feather-light sounds.

So…the clear-edged ‘clonks’ and ‘smaks’ punctuate the more ghostly ‘heshhh’ and ‘vumpf’ until, before you realise it a thousand bicycle bells are ringing you through The Arc De Triomphe.

Sacred Blood!

the viper

The Viper – Art for Pain’s Sake (BUFMS) CD

Vintage tape experiments from one Mr Richard Sterling Streeter and his long-suffering family and friends.

What strikes me first is the application of the universal language of mucking about.  You know what I’m talking about; that finger heavy on the play/pause button, that snotty ‘la la’, the classic chopstick-on-margarine-tub click.

Are these early tape experiments (made between the years 1978 to 1982 according to my terrible maths) any less worthy for that?  Well of course not.  As a listener I’m humbled to be let in to this world and nostalgerise my own (now thankfully lost) juvenilia.

But before I get too comfortable and misty-eyed our old friend progress rears its head and the later tracks (for all are arranged chronologically) dig deeper into the heart of echo, reverse reel-to-reel wonk and real-live violin scraping.

Music Concrete is an old maid on ‘Ollidarma’ an infectious riot of bright stereo blossoms. Raw sound becomes the source itself as it whips though the tape heads smeared by speed or plummets down a wormhole of creepy reverb.  I’m treated to a whole dossier of tape wonk with added ‘accidentals’ that seem to come from the 1940’s via a haunted dancehall and a coffee-jinxed auctioneer until the white-coated engineers start pulling chunks out the Revox machine creating whirring thrums and empty pings while George Harrison wheedles away his yolk-less omelette in the main studio.

The almost traditional instrumentation of ‘In a Garden’ makes be bark like a dog.  Piano, bass, shuffling snare and lonely violin tug on those melancholic heartstrings like a Midnight Doctors jam.  Pure longing and loss gets bowed out across the cat-gut until hot tears snake down my cheek.  Crikey!

‘Dreams of Glipnorf’ the energetic closer starts rough-hewn like a callous but ends up boogieing like that Canned Heat out-take where Blind Owl really starts to lose his mustard.

Don’t fear the Viper!


Crow Versus Crow Editions

Dante’s Ashtray

Chocolate Monk




saltwater lake: joe murray on michael morley, seymour glass & fleshtone aura, shepherds of cats & panelak

December 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Michael Morley – The Burning House (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.317, edition of 60)

Seymour Glass & Fleshtone Aura – Amplified Teacup (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.316, edition of 60)

SHEPHERDS OF CATS & PANELAK – Muscle atrophy in a squirrel’s left leg (CD-r, FANFARE)

morley teacup

Michael Morley – The Burning House

Excuse me if I get all ‘Classic Rock’ for a moment but Michael Morley has been part of that guitar legend category for like what?  Twenty years?  His distinctive scuffed and ultra-primitive shredding in The Dead C confounded, confused and delighted a generation of dysfunctional weirdos (like me).

That Morley sound, explored further in Gate and other duos/trios and collaborations, has remained fairly consistent.  The emphasis has been on the rotten, decay and the fine art of falling apart.  This glorious sound is singular to the degree that the actual method of creation, the humble guitar, becomes the least important part of the equation.  The sound is the thing man!

So what happens when this rotten, decayed and deconstructed approach is aimed at a poor old acoustic guitar?  What happens when amp-buzz, rich feedback overtones, volume and crushing distortion are painted out, shipped off and packed up for another day?

This conundrum is answered by Michael in a calm, reasonable and clear voice:

I’m gonna pick up this thing and just play.  Roll my fingers over the strings and let my head go blank and my heart pulse with pure unrefined love.

Or something

So… if you are expecting lame Fahey-isms look away now.  Sure, you get some finger-picking-dixie but this is more of a strummer – the ghost of punk can’t help but glimmer in the distance.

I’m not sure if these pieces were recorded in chronological order but they sure travel in the same direction.  ‘The Hills’ is a watershed moment.  You can hear the decisions being made in the Morley-mind… this chord/that chord, repeat or move on, hang a note and let it ring or plough on?

And that’s what makes this so darn charming.  It’s how I want to hear a guitar get played.  Not all cocksure strutting but more questioning, more searching.

FLASHBACK: I’m reminded of THE BEST SHOW EVER (29th October 2004) when Christina Carter played so free and so wild and so unconsciously unfettered we all (us the freezing audience) lost touch with reality for a moment or two.  We nudged our dimensional boundaries for a time and pushed ourselves collectively into a new altered state.  It was like a Close Encounter without the sunburn.  Phew. Back to business…

Shorter, tidy and neat tracks build to the 22 minute epic ‘The Living’ that takes the lessons of each pause, harmonic sigh and fret-board creak and lays them out, like a floodplain extending towards the horizon, perfectly flat and reflective – giving nothing away.

Themes bloom from the mirror-like lake: an arthritic flamenco and soft dub whispers.  Knotted straw is fashioned into a scratchy homunculus… but these are mere dreams on the bucolic journey.

The fingers crackle over the strings, moving with determination but at a baroque pace, letting a foot stomp occasionally.  But mainly?  I’ve got my elbow stuck out the window as I keep on trucking.

Just watch out for them sinister hitchhikers!

Seymour Glass & Fleshtone Aura – Amplified Teacup

Jaxx, JAXX, JAXX!! Goof-off jizz collage from gents old enough to know better.

Like-I-said, any old giffer can chuck a tape-machine in the blender and stand back, hands on hips looking fairly pleased.  But it takes a lifetime of weird to let things float a bit, to resist the easy temptation and play the hot denial card.

I like it best when everything crumples into a pile like a screwed up set of pyjamas.  All the energy is spent and collapsed, fagged-out, so all that’s left is a memory of a split second… and that’s rolling away like a greasy marble.

It’s a two track beast this.  Live (recorded like, live, man in San Francisco) plays with one hand tied behind the back and one eye closed.  Glass // Aura become a neat one-ness.  The sounds are clean and fresh, diced with a quick sharp knife but free of any residual gump or snot. A sense grenade redecorates your scrambled mind and non-sequiturs suddenly form allegiances and join hands singing like Cola-hippies.

The speedier Non-Live possum ramps up the tape-rottage… the sound snippets jitter between calamity and tragedy.  With Jaxx so heavy it’s as physical as hauling in a sodden trawl net.   There’s all sorts of briney sparkles caught up in the weft but some are squished beyond recognition.  TED talks cut up into alien syllables anyone?

Freaky like a flatfish.


SHEPHERDS OF CATS & PANELAK – Muscle atrophy in a squirrel’s left leg

This single piece of music, running for over 50 minutes once rang clanging alarm bells for me.  I was raised with Punk, Trad Jazz and Skiffle – four minutes constituted a major opus in them grimy-thumbed worlds; how am I going to cope with almost an hour of klattersome huffin’ and puffin’?  So, as a result of my small-minded defeatism this handsome looking disc stayed on the mountainous ‘to do’ pile for far too long.  For shame.

I should have had faith in my host’s skills.  Poland’s Shepherds of Cats and the Leeds/Lisbon wunderkind Pascal ‘Panelak’ Ansell have paid their dues man and ‘…squirrel’s … leg’ is a damn fine piece of collated jam, taking in free-freak-folk, company-style improv and Impulse-label ecstatic jazz.  Those 50 minutes I churlishly baulked at give this quartet the time to relax and stretch out, develop the narrative and bring each performers unique voice to life.  Obvious now, eh?

Earphones ready, I dive in.  The very proper percussion rubs shoulders with dirty electronics. Ritualistic vocal chants beat down cheap plastic pipes, cello drones interrupt spoken word instructions (“let me show you”) and we end with the sort of fusion keyboards Herbie Hancock would vamp back when he was good.

But of course it’s the careful and sensitive edit that makes each micro-element flower into life.  I have no background info but I’m guessing that individual solo, duo and trio recordings are woven together to create a meta-tapestry. Hey, if it’s good enough for Teo Macero…

Keeping such rich material in a collective form but still allowing it to breathe is no mean feat.  And especially as this doesn’t resort to any climax clichés.  In a world where peaks and troughs, to-you-to-me improv is busting my balls it’s delightful to hear such confidence just letting things flow.

There seems to be a two-layer thing going on here: interior, close sounds are crackling at pillow-talk volumes but the external, wider sounds carry everything along in a gritty wake.  You want comparisons?  I’m minded of some of the more sparse Vibracathedral  Orchestra pieces overloaded with Phill Niblock’s sandpaper electronic shapes with a snifter of ‘The Creator Has a Master Plan’ in its loose-limbed Wurlitzer flailing.

The combinations of keys, horns and percussion get tangled together and instinctively unravel at the exact point we’d welcome some electronic fizz.

That’s right.  International telepathy gets a new spokesperson!


Chocolate Monk


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