threat of disintegration: joe murray puzzles over basic house but is damn sure about the piss superstition

December 18, 2013 at 10:07 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Basic House – Oats (CD, Alter, ALT12)

the piss superstition – southpaw the skull (CD-r, poot records, poot#49)

basic house - oats

Basic House – Oats

One of the stranger developments in recent years has been them naughty noise-boys trading in their para boots for vintage gazelles and applying the ‘noise’ mentality and sound sources to a completely new template.  Labels like Pan, Opal Tapes and Alter are scooping up these singular artists and opening up new vistas; transforming these no-audience stalwarts into some-audience players.

Oats starts with tape hiss as fresh as ocean spray soaking the bridge of the Terra Nova.  And it’s with this image of adventure I sit down and struggle to work out, what is it that Basic House does?  He’s not a DJ.  Well not here anyway, so it’s not turntablism I’m listening to.  He is using sound sources and in some way sampling them but I find the term samplist clumsy and insufficient. The job title ‘composer’ is far too stuffy and does nothing to describe the very organic thought process on show.   So, how about loopist?  One who performs with loops?  Does that take us any nearer understanding the art of the Basic House?

Let’s see…

Like movements of a galactic timepiece ‘AR II’ chimes with cymbals double-timed by Jack DeJohnette.  On a second listen the touchstone could be Tom Recchion’s Chaotica with its woozy, schoozy fat-wobbling circles spiralling within each other and occasionally collapsing.  I think I’ve just got this thing cracked when it all ends with about 15 seconds of syrupy mid-70’s easy listening schmaltz.  The atmosphere is briskly challenged by ‘Child Confession’ with the introduction of a soggy-bottom beat, a machine-like ‘whump’ that anchors the soaring, grinding gears.

I need to make something clear here though Midwichers.  A few commentators have used the word ‘industrial’ when describing Basic House.  For me this sends out all the wrong messages.  This is not the itchy grime of a replica WW2 uniform but the beautiful deep pearly-grey of a dove’s wing.  And while the occasional beat (however lopsided and lurching) signifies a ‘club’ feel, this has as much in common with late-period Blood Stereo as Berlin’s  Transmediale.  It’s all about the sound of the sound.

‘Interiors’ could be extreme vocals pushed through a mincer.  It could be the time stretched squeal of a pig as a bi-plane circles overhead.  The only thing that remains certain is the distinctive klunk and scree of a Dictaphone that makes an appearance into the misty melange; fading slowly…

‘BG Feathers’ lavishes a beat so distorted it sounds like a dot matrix printer wired to explode, whilst cymbals buried deep are ‘ten-to-two-ing’ again.  Folded into the mix a stanky aquarium squelch comes across almost like a parody of an acid track.  These are not Autechre’s studied opaque strategies but genuinely odd juxtapositions and alliances; field recordings from the Nostromo, air vents opening and closing wetly.

The CD version that I have been playing has a couple of tracks of silence separating side one and side two to mimic the anticipation of turning the record over and diving in again.  Patience is rewarded with ‘Time Table’, that loops the sound of a trawlerman’s winch hauling nets and throaty gurgles that wouldn’t be out-of-place in Yol’s back catalogue

The penultimate piece, ‘C – Beat’ ripples like mercury.  The heavy, silvery waves lapping with insistent purpose until we find ourselves at the Terra Nova once again, climbing out the sea like lesser gods, ready to summon accursed masters in a diabolical ceremony.

But does the term loopist work?  For me Basic Stephen Bishop waits right until the end to give us hungry listeners a tantalising clue with the epic ‘L-Wave and Comb’, the greatest tune Jazzfinger never wrote, an exercise in dank basement gloom, grimy loops and never-ending climax.  You’ll have to listen to see if you agree with me Midwichers!

OK.  I started this slightly hysterical review with a knee-jerk and badly-researched statement; folk are leaving the sub-underground to engage with a slightly different set of parameters.  Basic House et al are making work that is just as challenging and avant garde as anyone else on these pages but it’s snagged something more commercial.  It’s becoming more than another tiny-micro niche and turning (dare I say it?) into a movement.  And the million dollar question…what’s the difference?  Could it be that a slight change in frequencies and presentation are the deciding factors?  Are audiences so shallow that the merest hint of a beat places this music into a different, more commercial and visible, category?  Hell…I don’t know.  But it’s fun trying to figure it out eh?  Until then consider me a fan…the oldest swinger in town.

southpaw

the piss superstition – southpaw the skull

That Dorian Gray of the no-audience underground, Piss Julian Superstition Bradley, kindly put me up once after a gig in Leeds.  We had a laugh that night; drank some beer, listened to Public Enemy and generally put the world to rights.  But my enduring memory of that visit was having the most powerful and outrageously lucid dream of my life kipping on his sofa.  I’m one of them annoying light sleepers.  The merest rattle of a fag paper and I’m sitting bolt upright shot through with black-coffee alertness.  But on that morning it took me hours to pull myself round.  I was so confused I kept questioning my compatriots (Lee TUSK and our RFM host Rob (Editor’s note: heh, heh – much fun was had by all…)) ‘Did someone visit in the night?’ so realistic were my dozy memories.  That, dear readers, is a taste of the potency of Mr Julian Bradley when he’s not even trying!  The contact-high off his sofa was enough to knock me for six all morning.  Now imagine distilling this psychedelic essence into a silvery disc and pouring it into your ear.  That is pretty much what I attempted with repeat listens to the glowing masterwerk southpaw the skull.

But despite his boyish good looks, me and Julian must be similar ages coz the all the references on this sizzling disc are super-resonant to my 43 year-old ears.  At some points it’s the harshest, worst fidelity imaginable, Velvet Underground bootleg ever; a two note boogie, nodding-out over the zonked repetition, dropping brass polish all over the floor and headaching the metallic fumes.  At other times it’s a Stylophone demonstration disc played by furious bees then roughed up in an alley by a Mexican girl gang.  Finally there is a hint of that old Pebbles compilation (with bands like The Litter? The Wild Knights?? (Editor’s note: the most reprehensible song ever?  Possibly.)) letting them guitars ring out and feedback like a trashy liberty bell.  There’s a real joy in the simple fuzz and fuh that’s pretty darn contagious.  Even non-musical sounds twang the memory gong with the grey-pumice pulsing of a ZX Spectrum game endlessly loading becoming a theme running though ‘Hospital Material.’  And if that makes things sound like moronic retro-riffage you got it all wrong pal.  Amid the spark and fizz of the uber-distorition strange melodies peek out.  ‘Sev Acher’ is one of them modern hymns you get on Songs of Praise every now and then that has a vaguely familiar tune taking unexpected turns as if people don’t know the words very well.  It’s on the point of constantly breaking up but holds things together for a minute or two before a breathless surge towards the climax.

And it’s that threat of disintegration; the edge-of-chaos collapse that keeps making me turn back to this sweet knuckle-sandwich again and again for a hit of fresh air.

Buy Oats via the Alter Bigcartel site, buy southpaw the skull by contacting Poot direct.

slide gradually uphill: joe murray on wanda group

July 14, 2013 at 9:36 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Wanda Group – Piss Fell Out Like Sunlight (Opal Tapes)

wanda group - piss

Two side long pieces (this is 12 inch vinyl buddy) of…well, I’m not really sure what this is. Before I tie myself up in knots I think I better start this tale at the beginning. This anonymous 12 inch was passed to me by Stephen Bishop. A genuine Renaissance man, Stephen puts out records on his Opal Tapes imprint, makes rubbery electronic squalls as Basic House (think those pink shrimp sweets as corrupted sound files)and sings in brutal hardcore legends Drunk in Hell. Shit…he was even one half of the fledgling Hapsburg Braganza for a while. He dances, he bakes, he can fix cars…the whole ball of wax, you savvy?

It took me a couple of days before I could find quiet time to play this slab…the grey geology collage of a cover gave me no clues so I sat back in my listening chair, a freshly mopped blackboard. Lift needle and drop…side one…’Her Stomach on Terror’ starts with some granular rushing, like a copper mouse sweeping up papery onion skins with a stiff broom, and melts into an Oxygene style fiff (sic – does Joe mean ‘riff’?  ‘fiff’ is way better.  Ed.) that peaks cheekily at the edge of my perception. The lopsided beat is replaced with a dry talcum powder coating making everything slide gradually uphill. There is a music concrete angle to this but it’s done with such gentle slickness it resembles a future organic technology, balancing viscous liquids atop each other with careful gloves. As each thick liquid is spilled out the beaker another sonic texture is revealed, another plankton pond of growing life receives the lightening strike and multiplies, growing festering tentacles. Phew! Side two – ‘Pans out in the Afterlife’ – is a bashment boogie compared to it’s Siamese Twin and has a brief moment of bass thump before a degraded synth line plays from (what appears to be) the other room. Helicopter blades ‘chudder, chudder, chudder’ adding to the Vietnam Vet atmosphere; bad acid and sweat-stained fatigues. The misplaced geology on the record sleeve now seems to make sense. Like that fashionable fracking business the fault lines of sound are shattered and pumped full of high-pressure mung allowing the distilled weirdness to hiss pissily through the shale.

I was going to end this review with a lamentation on age. Put plainly, this kinda stuff makes me feel old…I can almost see the tail-lights of this particular scene speeding off into the distance, leaving me behind with my threadbare cardigan and back issues of The Wire (The Wire?!? – you’re fired!  Ed.). Why? For one, my conscious brain tells me I’ll never have the time to dedicate to this particular tributary. Secondly it’s the actual sound of this and similar Opal Tapes groups. I get the collage aspect of Wanda Group but the process, and the signifiers of how it happens, how a sound is rattled through wires and out speakers is a mystery to me. I’m listening out for tape hiss or loop return-click…but there’s none of that. I’m guessing that’s due to there being a computer involved at some point. However, even as a single dalliance, a knee-trembler, this is one sweet record.

But, after spending a week with Wanda I can confidently announce we are starting a meaningful relationship with each other, inviting along Ex-Con and Coin for brunch, planning a holiday and all that jazz. Midwichers…raise a glass to the happy couple!

(Editor’s discographical note: this release has been available in three formats: cassette, vinyl – the version Joe is losing his head over here – and download.  The image above is nabbed from the Opal Tapes Bandcamp site and thus accompanies the latter)

Opal Tapes

Wanda Group

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