Tags: culver, drone, george proctor, improv, karst, la mancha del pecado, lee stokoe, lucy johnson, matthew bower, miguel perez, mike simpson, new monkey, new music, no audience underground, noise, samantha davies, scott mckeating, skullflower, tapes, turgid animal, voltigeurs, wrest
Various – Behind the Toilet Door Part I (C90 Cassette, Turgid Animal, TA390)
Voltigeurs / Dark Bargain – Split (7 inch vinyl, Turgid Animal, edition of 300)
Karst / La Mancha Del Pecado / Culver – Split (CD-r, Turgid Animal)
OK folks, here’s the sophomore effort from new RFM contributor Scott McKeating in which he reveals what is behind the toilet door, confesses his obsessive love of long-term psyche/noise fiend Matthew Bower and gets grumpy about vinyl again. Over to Scott:
Despite being a Turgid Animal release, Behind the Toilet Door Part I has the feel of a Fuckin’ Amateurs production wrapped in the aesthetics of Matching Head. A prequel to the 2009 release of Behind the Toilet Door Part II, which actually did come out on Matching Head, like its predecessor this earlier-in-the-day instalment features some lesser known North East noise players and their uncracked aliases. With each of the artists performing their sets in the confines of a carpentry workshop toilet cubicle, y’know as you do. Experimental arts festivals take note. With Behind the Toilet Door Part I having been recorded in the same lowest-fi quality as Part II, there is no concession to spit and polish clean-up here; this is organised, glorious and enjoyable chaos. As you’d except from a Dictaphone type handheld thingy recording set-up the sounds dips at points, conversations are overheard and the levels of applause (and ‘waheying’) sometimes hurricanes out all sound. These mini-sets are as varied as they are dissonant, alongside Wrest’s solo vocal take of ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’ there’s demolished sound collage, free percussion/samples, static cut-ups, stop-start field recordings, the sweep and pluck of solo violin and a dose of virulently energetic New Monkey. Yes, you read that right. New Monkey on Turgid Animal.
There’s no point in being coy about this, I’m a fully paid up Matthew Bower acolyte. We tend to operate in sleeper cells, tracking down his prolific output across disparate labels like randomly strewn Dan Brown clues. As one of the very few still active, evolving and enduring artists from the post-industrial noise scene of the 80s, Matthew Bower can be relied on to deliver the goods whatever the project title. Much like Black Sun Roof! and occasionally Skullflower, Voltigeurs is a duo of Samantha Davies (ex of Harm) and Matthew, and away from the glare of daylight and the accord of reality they hunt the hinterlands of bliss OD and layers of feedback noise. Turgid Animal has become something of a home to Voltigeurs, having previously put out three and a bit releases. So, needle down and right away it’s like being plugged directly into a stream of breathing charred sound that has the Bower/Davies union demon-bound in a living amber covering. It’s heavy. ‘Strangled Angels (In Our Hedgerows)’ has no time wasting coming-up intro, no mirror/signal before the manoeuvre, Voltigeurs are intravenously instant. The layers of haze-horror noise sound like they’re created through an energetic hands-on expelling. From-hand-to-instrument-to-pedal-to-overload, Voltigeurs’ chaos is a living thing far beyond any concept of a mere blackout of harshwallnoise. Howling around a pulse of (possibly) piano notes and an impatient rhythm, this side of vinyl makes me want to turn the volume up till I break on through or kneel in masochist reverie. This is music that inhabits and endorses both the concepts of cosmicism and the glory of the self as simultaneously the only important thing. And then it’s over. Just as immediately as it began we are spat out again into reality. No fade out, no winding down, just a complete and utter removal of everything. Dark Bargain is another spurt from the incestuous pool of the north east of England’s noise/experimental people. With a cast of Lucy Johnson (of Smut and co-runner of Turgid Animal), Mike Simpson (of guitar noisedrone Xazzaz and the Molotov label) and Wrest (of Fuckin’ Amateurs and affiliated labels), Dark Bargain are suppliers of fuzzed-to-hell bleak rock. Their ‘A Fillip To The Senses’ circular riff is a more an aggressive horizontal burrowing than it is primal rock repetition. A battered beat, a seven minute millstone grind that comes careering to a feedback crunching finish, Dark Bargain’s debut track is a shakily solid teaser for this new unit.
(Pedantic vinyl gripe Part 2. No rpm on this 7” means I’m on mental tenterhooks thinking I might have to get up off my behind to change the speed)
A part of Turgid’s appeal is that while they put out pro CD and vinyl releases, they also still slip out the kind of home burnt and photocopied CD-rs you can imagine them putting together at their kitchen counter. This facet of the label often puts out some of its best offerings, keeping up the regular flow from George Proctor and his close allies. This three-way is a strong representative of the label’s pool of close to hand talent. And while there is no evidence that Proctor has angels chained in his basement, Karst’s ‘Shipwreck’ is a good exhibit A to kick off the rumour. There’s a touch of the blinded angelic to the start and end of this 27 minute track. If you can imagine a take on the idea of a watery grave, de-toned and hidden from daylight, then you might be a third of the way there and you’ll still need to pick this disc up. Nurse With What? Salt Marie Who? La Mancha Del Pecado is the lucky Pierre of this CD-r and needs no introduction to RFM readers. Miguel’s 22 minute piece is occult slasher horror visuals made aural. I’ve no idea who Julieta from ‘Julieta En Las Catacumbas’ is, but she’s bleeding out as I write/you read – no doubt about that. Stasis drone that attracts a clattering breath industrial rhythm heard through the last few thuds of a heart.
The disc is closed out by RFM ViP Culver, and it feels like something of a slight departure. Where ‘The Fiend’ feels a little different is that it seems to be purposefully constructed as opposed to having just materialised through one of Lee Stokoe’s feedback rites. A twenty-minute slow burning noise-influenced dose, the track soon switches into a collision with harsher sounds once the opening reverse tones are swamped. ‘The Fiend’ is drone dragged through an arterial stream of black Lyle’s, Stokoe’s touch drawing queasy sound and industrial ambience poisons from the track.
All available via Turgid Animal
Tags: agorafobia, d.i.y. aesthetic, improv, la mancha del pecado, matthew bower, miguel perez, new music, no audience underground, noise, oracle netlabel, photocopier, photocopies, psychedelia, punk, skullflower, tapes, the skull mask, zines
- Miguel Pérez – Vouyerismo/Fetichismo (Agorafobia 011, tape)
- La Mancha Del Pecado – Espectros Del Despeńadero (Agorafobia 012, CD-r in DVD case with artwork by Matthew Bower)
- La Mancha Del Pecado – The Nylon Stains (Agorafobia 013, tape)
- The Skull Mask – Macabra (Agorafobia 014, CD-r)
Quick question for you: historically, what item of technology has done the most to help in the production of the artifacts (as I insist on spelling it) of the no-audience underground? I’m not talking about the internet now, I mean physical things: tapes, CD-rs, zines, flyers, gig posters and so on. With nods towards the home computer and the CD burner, I am tempted to answer: the photocopier.
Exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of this chugging machine with its intoxicating smell (mmm… ziney!) has led to a recognizable d.i.y./punk/noise aesthetic. It’s one I like very much. Not only that, but this marvel put the means of quick, cheap, ‘mass’ production into the hands of the worker. Literally in some cases: I imagine the office machine has been used many times to slyly run off a few (or not so few) copies when the manager is out at a meeting. I’ve never done it, of course, and I’m sure you are all blameless too. I’m just saying that some consider stealing from work to be a legitimate form of political protest. I’m just saying, that’s all…
Those lucky enough to work somewhere with, say, a Konica contract will have noticed that photocopier technology has kept pace with our aspirations. Most new machines will cough out photo quality colour copies or scan into any number of formats and proudly email you the results. Some will even generate a withering 1000 word critique of any improv CD that is pushed into the slot under the little tray for paper clips. So why do a few labels still insist on rockin’ it old-skool monochrome? I’m guessing a combo of three main reasons: a) they are punk as fuck and/or b) they have built a ‘look’ around it and/or c) having no money means having to make the most of necessity.
I think the packaging of Miguel Pérez’s Agorafobia label falls largely into category c) with heaped tablespoons of a) and b). Firstly, this guy has had no luck with digital equipment recently and a series of misfortunes has only exacerbated a lack of resources. From what he’s told me about broken computers etc. the dude appears to be a walking electro-magnetic pulse weapon.
In one sense this is heartbreaking. For example, the artwork for Espectros Del Despeńadero is by Matthew Bower of Skullflower, a hero of Miguel’s, and was secured with an international barter. Yet due to circumstances beyond Miguel’s control he has no choice but to present it in black and white via the photocopier (though a colour scan can be seen on the La Mancha Del Pecado blog). I’m sure dozens of oligarch patrons of the arts must read this blog – could one of you send this guy some money? Cheers.
In another sense it is kind of invigorating. The ragged, black and white artwork, inexpertly compiled, exactly mirrors the raw, emotionally charged music and the driven, impulsive, unmediated way it was created. Too much gloss would be dishonest.
Listening to this music I was green with envy, once again, at how Miguel is able to tackle his themes from so many different angles using solo guitar and almost nothing else. I was also struck by the thought that a grounding in metal – Miguel grew up musically in that milieu – is a terrifically useful tool. Metal is sometimes derided for its daft content or teenage sensibilities but once you can hold your own in that crowd you can use the skills to do anything. Think I exaggerate? Another example: a well known no-audience underground acquaintance of mine, rightly famed for his psychedelic style, sheepishly admitted that without the influence of Motörhead he would probably not be a guitarist today. So there you go: established scientific fact.
Fittingly, I suppose, given the artwork, Espectros Del Despeńadero does sound a bit like Lee Stokoe era Skullflower. Three long tracks of Culveresque roar with the aforementioned metal guitar submerged and abstracted in the mix. It sounds like the howling of animals, tethered at some distance from the camp. Imagine the furious, terrified, soon-to-be-gutted, dog pack in Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (or, if you like, the similarly doomed dogs in John Carpenter’s The Thing) struggling to make themselves heard over the Antarctic wind. Best of the three tracks is the last one, ‘Vale Menos Que El Polvo’, which over its seventeen minute duration reaches an intensity that wouldn’t be out of place on a release by Enoc Dissonance, Miguel’s balls-out total noise incarnation.
The second La Mancha Del Pecado release, The Nylon Stains, is very different. Totalling a tight twenty minutes it starts, to my great surprise, with a beat. Steam-powered mechanical sailors on shore leave jerk arhythmically as laughing, plastic geisha automata dance around them. We then sink through the floor and this scene is replaced with a field recording of the workshop below where the geisha bodies are injection-moulded, repaired and the nylon stains of the title are hosed off. We sink further still and end up in the cyclopean furnace room that fuels the whole port. A hypnotic recording that invites repeat listening.
The psychedelic thrash of The Skull Mask is always welcome around these parts and has been a big influence on the fuzzed out direction I’ve been taking with midwich recently. However, Macabra is something a bit different. Taking inspiration from the Day of the Dead celebrations (the cover features a woman in a magnificent Catrina costume) and from revolutionary Mexican folk music, Miguel has reined in the ragas and dampened the delays. The energy is still crackling, of course, but now it is focussed rather than deliriously expansive. It feels like Miguel taking conscious control of a lucid dream. The second of the three tracks, ‘Con Respeto a la Señora’, even features a riff so catchy that it has been an earworm burrowed into my head for days…
To conclude we have Vouyerismo/Fetichismo, a double sided tape of harshly-lit carnality. It is appropriate that this release carries Miguel’s own name as these recordings contain nothing to hide behind. This is solo improv guitar at its most exposed – no effects, no overdubs, clinically recorded. There’s just you and the hard fact of the matter. Vouyerismo is one long track in several movements and evokes a surreal, lanquid eroticism not unlike that of Shinya Tsukamoto’s A Snake of June. However, in Miguel’s recording the participants have been driven crazy by the Mexican winds rather than the Japanese humidity. Fetichismo is more pornographic: fifteen short tracks of completely naked plucking, fingering and scrabbling. Even sustain is ruthlessly muted. A series of Polaroid photos it is impossible to tear your eyes away from.
Agorafobia releases are, initially at least, only available as physical objects for trade so contact Miguel via email@example.com, get some stuff into a jiffy bag and wait – the Mexican postal system seems more or less reliable but they take their own sweet time about delivery.
More black and white noise to come from Matching Head and Fuckin’ Amateurs…