fizzing blue stars: joe murray on ksds, acrid lactations, smear campaign & poulsen/harrison/watson/bjerga

February 6, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Claus Poulsen, Duncan Harrison, Paul Watson & Sindre Bjerga – Blind Dates (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.294, edition of 66)

KSDS – Black Abba (CD-r, T-Shirt and stickers, stars, dots and the “new” junk, Starsdots016, edition of 15 or download)

Acrid Lactations – Drizzling Quids A’ Crepuscule (tape, Total Vermin, #88)

Smear Campaign – Funky Cold Demeanour (tape, Total Vermin, #36)

blind dates

Claus Poulsen, Duncan Harrison, Paul Watson & Sindre Bjerga – Blind Dates

A note on construction: these two duos; Duncan and Claus, Paul and Sindre played live to an audience in single figures in London’s free and easy Olive restaurant last year. These remarkable first-time duos were recorded and expertly mixed by Claus Poulsen and released in an edition of 66.

Duncan and Claus serve up a hubbling, bubbling mixture of tension and texture.  Drawn-out scrapes and moans open the piece until loose cheeked ‘pops’ cut some slack and open up the landscape for Duncan’s concrete word-dub.  Meanwhile a rich acoustic ripping rolls out of Claus’ fingerless gloves as he jingles a vintage synth with his toes.  The button marked ‘sexy robot talk’ is fingered to start up a hot conversation that would make Louis and Bebe Barron blush beetroot red!  A satisfying climax is sculpted out of decaying polystyrene blocks and Viking horns – classy!

Paul and Sindre begin inside a peach, pulling out chunks of juicy flesh and dropping it noisily to the floor.  Sindre starts his onyx panther purring while Paul plays an egg-slice by caressing it with red Tudor brick.

Next they turn their attention to soundtracking a rowdy bout of Olympic wrestling.  I can clearly picture the slap of stinging-pink flesh on the crash mat and feel the astringent whiff of liniment in the nostrils.  A cub reporter gets in close with the Dictaphone but fluffs the buttons (screee…) and a disco plays, thump, thump, thump in one unfortunate head until you bail and cry ‘UNCLE!’  Chucky Cheese is hosting a sugar-frenzied birthday party for Sky Saxon and the electricity keeps cutting out like Norman Collier is controlling the Black Ark.

Then things get serious.  A sound like giant granite blocks being slowly moved around the chessboard is overtaken by Wu Tang Killer Bees (swarming) then descending into the insect-o-cutor to die spectacularly as fizzy blue stars.

All this furious invention makes me ponder the position of the improviser in 2015.  It used to be a point of pride for grey beards to master the jizzle, skin or hornpipe until they could play inside out.  Listening to a record like Blind Dates makes me remember that a collection of eggs, dried seaweed and a typewriter can transform just as spectacularly in the hands of a select goon.  Ears are of the highest importance.  Imagination is gold dust.  Courage is the epaulette earned through practice and concentration.

Hold up your heads gentlemen…you join the pantheon along with yr average Derek, Evan or Han on this blow-out piece.

black abba

KSDS – Black Abba

This is a cheeky one alright.  Mocked up to ape the Sabbath classic Master of Reality this disc by KSDS might be free of all inverted crosses but it’s still a heavy trip (man).

Fans of Kosmische-leaning keyboard action pay attention!  This is whirling like a day-glo electric galaxy.

In some places heaviness comes from clustered chords held down until grim fingers bleed.  In others (‘Cosmic Radiation’ for instance) crude beats lend weight and sound like the ghost of Jacob Marley took up the drums, rattling his rusty chains.  ‘Hammer of the North’ is as claustrophobic as an oft remembered family car journey with a similar sense of tension and restrained anger; the shifting banks of delay sculpting something almost dancefloor friendly that would sit neat and tidy in the Opal Tapes catalogue.

And just when you think you’ve got the measure of things a tune of pure loveliness (‘With Anger’) swirls like some green and pleasant church organ gone up the silk route for hash and adventure.

But it’s on ‘The Stack’ that things get totally sepia-tinted kraut.  Sounding like mid-period Cluster simple lines overlap building up layer upon layer until the tinniest beat (high hats spitting like a drowning man) keep strict tempo with a military bearing.

tv2

Acrid Lactations – Drizzling Quids A’ Crepuscule

More strung-out edge-of-consciousness skronk from that most singular of duos, Acrid Lactations.

Following in the footsteps of The Who, Iron Maiden, Kiss and Johnny Cash, Acrid Lactations release their version of that record industry classic – THE LIVE ALBUM.  For many bloated groups it was a stop-gap, a cynical filler to be snorted up between tour and studio.  But for some (hopefully the old beards named before) the live album becomes more than just a different version of the same old shit.  It’s a chance to stretch out and rediscover the energy and vim that brought you together in the first place.

This collection of jams recorded between 2012 and 2014 is so live you can chew on the humus breath of the audience.  You can sniff the peculiar brew in the air and feel the starchy knit of a woolly jumper necessary for the unheated venues of the no-audience underground.

But what do you get from the Lactations in a freewheeling live space?  I sense a willingness to push things even further in these recordings.  I mean…this is performance right?  Honest entertainment for cold hard cash yeah?  Stuart and Susan know the value of a dollar and play right up to punters letting new gasses fly.  There’s a strong brass presence with the familiar Arnot trumpet joined by a whole selection of metallic blowholes from Sue (pipe, whistle, ocarina perhaps).  An old accordion is humped and huffed with a lazy foot, tattered voices mesh, taped squalls blabber and a metallic shiny sheen shimmies.

Yet it’s the very dualism of a two piece group that makes the strongest impact here.  With only four hands between them there is a delightful limitation to what can be done.  You can only juggle with what you have eh?  Sonically there’s a ‘to-you-to-me’ that’s so much more than basic call and response…it’s an appreciation of what needs to be left out, rejected, un-attempted to concentrate on the pure reaction/expression/reaction that flows like warm milk.

Most of the recordings are high energy affairs, skipping slightly quicker than your beating heart, but on occasion a delightful interlocking calmness occurs making a high tide mark in the performance journey.

Someone draw a plimsoll line so we can see how high we all got!

Another fine Acrid tape on the goddamn essential Total Vermin.

tv1

Smear Campaign – Funky Cold Demeanour

The word on the street is that this ruby red tape is based on old hip hop vinyl found in Glasgow’s charity shops.  The Fly-girls and B-boys among you will perhaps notice the play on words in the title barfing up memories of your favourite gold rope wearing sexist Tone Loc.

So can you expect block rocking beats on your boombox?  Errrrrrr…not really.

Side one starts off with what sounds like a huge bath full of agricultural slurry being thoroughly mixed…a flexible hose runs from the bottom of the steaming vat to your ears so you can better hear the liquid brown churn.

Soon metallic voices start to spar and dart (could this be our Anthony?).  The distinctive ‘schliip’ and ‘f’wip’ of  turntable melts into the dull consonants like a seasoning, bringing out the highlights, shining the vowel.

Side two opens with some percussive bumming as rusty sponges are rubbed together.  A brief spurt with some human air is soon battered like a pork medallion with swathes of medieval feedback.  Yet still the lip, teeth and tongue flip and stutter like a malfunctioning mp3 file.

This minimal judder strolls seamlessly into an altogether more hellish movement of tightly bound-up humming and rubbery percussion, stretching out across all points of the compass before ‘snick’ the sound stops and the tape pops.

Having said all that (and yes I know I was starting to become really cryptically verbose before) this is all done with a sense of reverence to the source material.  This is certainly no ‘look at those people in the past, they stoopid cuz they clothes different’ schtick but a real act of honest sonic ecology.

Recycling done with no turntables nor a microphone.

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

stars, dots and the “new” junk

Total Vermin (now nearly two years since a blogspot update but Stuart is clearly still active.  Be resourceful)

wired for sound part 34: new from total vermin

December 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Core of the Coalman – Stain (Total Vermin, #65, C59)

Fordell Research Unit – The True Meaning of Red (Total Vermin, #66, C32)

Acrid Lactations – Crude Paintings on Porcelain (Total Vermin, #67, C37)

Hard Pan and Hobo Sonn – Soup Electric and Roll (Total Vermin, #71, C26)

Smear Campaign – Love in an Heroic Vernacular (Total Vermin, #72, C36)

fordell research unit - the true meaning of redcore of the coalmanhard pan and hobo sonnacrid lactations - crude paintingssmear campaign - love in an heroic vernacular

Stuart Arnot, boss of prolific tape and CD-r label Total Vermin, likes to put on a spread.  Rather than drip feed us his releases one at a time he prefers to prepare a banquet, a smorgasbord long-promised then presented triumphantly in full on the Total Vermin blog.

I can see the sense in this approach: one big promo push covers a raft of releases, simultaneous availability encourages multiple purchases which are, in turn, easier to post in batches.  Economies of scale and all that.  The only problem is getting excitable punters such as me to sit still, chew their food and digest each course properly before gorging on the next.  Over the last month or so I’ve been savouring the five tapes above from the latest menu.  I’m finally at the picking-my-teeth, calling-for-the-bill, sending-my-compliments-to-the-chef stage of the meal.

First up is Stain by Core of the Coalman.  Jorge keeps it simple: a full hour (in two halves) of slowly evolving variations on a fuzzed-up viola loop.  What at first seems like a Tony Conrad-ish endurance test took a few minutes to pop my bubble of mental resistance (soap-film thin at the best of times) then mind freed, my arse did follow.  I was soon dancing naked on the driveway of Midwich Mansions.  This tape is hard, lovely.

Fordell Research Unit is flavour of the month round here and The True Meaning of Red is a late contender for tape of the year in the hotly contested ‘droning fuzz roar’ section.  Five short to mid-length tracks, all beautifully balanced, all sharing the delicious alchemy of a poached egg coagulating in fiercely boiling water.  The whole thing invokes a feeling that we are rarely treated to: total, magisterial, soul-cleansing satisfaction.  A must buy.

Now we come a series of tapes illustrating what might be called the Total Vermin house sound.  Whilst the girth of Stuart’s impeccable taste is impressively meaty, listen to a bunch of TV tapes – especially those involving Stuart himself – and you’ll start to recognize variations on a similar groove.  It isn’t coolly academic meta-music, nor is it balls-out fire music, rather a kind of all-in, kitchen sink improv.  Recordings are lo-fi, but components are not mashed together, detail is maintained and no sharpness is dulled.  It exists in its own world where ‘real’ instrumentation muscles in on everyday activity and makes the commonplace enigmatic and musical.  The approach is perfectly at home on tape and housed in the vibrant paint and crayon colours of the packaging.

Examples?  Take your pick.  Soup Electric and Roll is by Hard Pann and Hobo Sonn which unpacks as Stuart, Pascal Nichols and Luke Poot who are joined for this recording by Ian Murphy.  Side A is all stomping, knocking electronics with subtleties bobbing to the surface, side B is a sublime, too-wide-eyed choir of Nurse With Wound-ish unvocalizations.  Compelling late night listening or discombobulating walkman contents for the commute.

Love in an Heroic Vernacular is Stuart solo in his Smear Campaign guise.  A band name like that might lead you to expect power electronics or harsh noise but not a bit of it.  Instead you get in-between-train-carriages whistling wind, queasily arrhythmic percussion, clouds of robot starlings, skittering electronics and mournful trumpet.  At one point the entire mix is dropped down a well.  It’s like the alien funk of 1970s Miles filtered through ectoplasmic gel and played at half-speed.  Terrific.

Finally, we have Crude Paintings on Porcelain by the wonderfully named Acrid Lactations, a duo of Stuart and Susan Fitzpatrick.  Possibly the most lo-fi of these productions, it was apparently recorded in a shower room and, as the occasional sound of running water proves, the fixtures and fittings were pressed into service.  Side A is rumbling, popping improv percussion using whatever implements and instruments they could drag in whilst still being able to close the door.  It sounds like Paul Hession trapped in a cupboard and trying to alert the search party.  This is augmented with some unplaceable trilling and circuit-bent stylophone stylings and finishes with Susan and Stuart hallucinating the trumping horns and jangling cowbells of a procession of tiny Swiss goat-herds as they march across the linoleum.  Side B starts in a contemplative fashion before the goat-herds return in buoyant mood having eaten some mouldy bread and interesting looking mushrooms in the meantime.  The second half has a more ominous feel as a foot-long giant bee starts banging its head against the shower room window.  I dig it.

To buy this stuff visit the Total Vermin blog, make your selections – tapes at £2.50 a throw plus postage – and email Stuart at smearcampaign@hotmail.com for an all-in quote.

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