sorting the lego part two: more soundtracks for graded tasks

December 4, 2013 at 10:43 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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people-eaters – imprecate (3” CD-r, aetheric records, edition of 20 or download)

ap martlet – A Dream Of The Arrow (self-released download)

SWEFN – Varieties of Anomalous Experience (CD-r and download, hairdryer excommunication)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Changing A Prayer A Little (CD-r, Unverified Records, UN041, edition of 50)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Ovencleaner (3” CD-r, LF Records, LF033)

people-eaters - imprecate

Each time depression rolls around I appear to be allocated one key task that helps occupy my time above all others.  In part one of this series I explained what a ‘graded task’ is and gave a few examples.  What I didn’t mention is that, for some reason I do not understand, any of these ‘jobs’ can become my main depression-fighting occupation during an episode but that the same job will not have the same effect more than once.  Each escape route is backfilled by the disease once it discovers that it has been tricked.  It is perpetually furious and profoundly spiteful.  Thus digging over an allotment helped defeat it one year but when I returned the next I was left sitting on the ground, crying, as I realised that I couldn’t put the blade of my beautiful spade, once my most treasured possession, in the earth even once.  It was denied me.  Likewise this time I can’t see myself stepping on and off the wii-fit board – something I did for endless hours staving off a previous attack – so what now?

I set myself the task(s) of cleaning the house, augmented with some exercise mainly in the form of walking around the neighbourhood (it is an attractive area with parks and woods within easy distance).  To make sure my brain’s capacity was fully engaged I would also listen to, and think about, music from the enormous review pile whilst doing so.  The plan was to write up these musings when and if I had the energy thus linking all these disease-bashing activities – useful work, exercise, creative endeavour, thought to some purpose – into a kind of ‘virtuous circle’.  It hasn’t always worked – I needn’t trouble our sensitive readers with the coolly insane deliberations that left me utterly hollowed out yesterday – but I feel that in general it is a good plan.

Interestingly, what I thought would be the key tasks have flipped roles with the supplementary.  Thus, the listening to, thinking about and commenting on music has become the central tactic and I appear to be using the chores, walking and whatnot in its service.  I’m delighted at this development, as you can probably imagine.  Very convenient for the blog, at least.  So here we go with part two…


Until very recently all midwich tracks were produced by being figured out, rehearsed then recorded ‘as live’.  If anything went wrong during the take I had to start all over again.  I was once laughed at in the pub for moaning that completing one nine minute track composed entirely of a single pure tone (hey – it warbled slightly, OK?) took twelve attempts.  “But nothing happens!” my incredulous companions exclaimed.  “That’s the point,” I countered, “things kept happening.”  I suspect that people-eaters understand this urge to perfection exactly.

Well, I say ‘perfection’ but they also understand that the trick is to cut it with a pinch of exotic impurity thereby creating the friction necessary to grip the listener’s attention.  Thus during the two tracks that make up imprecate nothing happens for seven and a half minutes then nothing happens again for nine and a half minutes.  However, this nothing happens in a way which is eerie, involving and wholly satisfying.  Rumbles are augmented with some mildly abrasive ringing filter hiss, presumably as the curse is intoned inaudibly beneath, and that is it.  Like a giant ball bearing forged then left to sing and crackle as it cools, like coins dropped into a speaker cone dancing against one another to a super-low frequency.

ap martlet - a dream of the arrow

I am somewhat in awe of the tracks constructed by David Thomas as ap martlet.  These humble masterworks of electrical engineering often have an enveloping, sensurround vibe and ‘A Dream Of The Arrow’ is especially womb-like.  Listening to it feels like being attended to by the robots in Chris Cunnigham’s video for Björk’s ‘All is Full of Love’.  Or perhaps like I’ve been placed into a medically induced fugue state and lowered into a vat of gelatinous slime that will heal whatever ails me.  Or maybe the goo will tweak my DNA a little so that I can grow the tail I have always wanted (Editor’s note: I have always wanted a tail.  Tails are cool.).  Whatever – another marvel of creatively sullied perfection from our Dave.


Ian Watson, recording as SWEFN for Kevin Sanders’s peerless hairdryer excommunication, takes us a few steps further.  Imagine you are standing in front of a perfect man-made object – a Renaissance altar piece, say, or an antique Persian carpet or an unwrapped but still pristine ream of A4 paper.  You take a photo, compress it and email it to me.  I print out a faded copy on a printer containing an already twice shaken toner cartridge and fax the result back to you.  You take this, fold it in half and leave it tucked under a wiper blade on the windscreen of Ian’s car.  It rains.  He discovers it the following morning, leaves it to dry on a radiator and feeds the crinkly remainder into his machines of musical generation which treat it as a score.  Varieties of anomalous experience is the result.  The album gets angrier, noisier as it progresses.  Perhaps the perfect object is a stolen painting, wrapped in newspapers and inexpertly hidden in a dank cellar.  The bucolic scene it depicts is gradually ruined by smeared, inky images of war and disaster as newsprint is transferred to its surface by the damp.  In case you are in any doubt: I liked this very much.  The packaging is of Kev’s usual high standard: an alien greetings card wishing you an inexplicable emotion on a day from an unknown calendar or the best of luck with an incomprehensible task.  Download from hairdryer excommunication, a few physical copies still available from Ian.

RFM would also like to take this opportunity to wish Kev well with his recent move to the South West (to live in Bristol, work in Bath – la-di-da, eh?).  We were delighted to be namechecked in his ‘farewell to the North’ blog post as one of the institutions thanked for making his time in these parts such a pleasure.  Best of luck with your future endeavours, comrade – I’m sure the cidertronic and Georgian improv scenes down there will benefit enormously from your mercurial presence.

r r-s - changing a prayer a littler r-s - ovencleaner

Finally for today, another couple of selections from the Robert Ridley-Shackleton songbook.  Changing a Prayer a Little, to be released on Unverified Records, sees some syrupy, romantic film music brutally dissolved in an acidic hailstorm of electro noise fuckery.  Most entertaining.  Ovencleaner, a 3” CD-r on LF Records, comprises two tracks the first of which (the title track) is made up of whistling, groaning, stretching noises with stylophone parps.  Like a determined but confused homunculus struggling to rip through a series of taught rubber membranes and negotiate a series of sticky tunnels in order to get itself born.  The second track (‘Transformers’) is just as perplexing.  Imagine the situation described by a nonsensical objection to the theory of evolution – that, given the time span, evolution is as likely as a hurricane hitting a junkyard and constructing a working jumbo jet from the detritus – actually coming to pass.  This track is the sound of the tentative, uncomprehending switch-flicking of the junkyard owner as he explores the cockpit of his newly ‘evolved’ possession and accidentally turns on the electrics…

Robbie’s world sure be odd.

an astringent lullaby: joe murray on muscletusk and xazzaz

June 22, 2013 at 9:55 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Muscletusk – No Hink (2 x CD-r, Unverified Records, UN039)

Xazzaz – Untitled (CD-r, Molotov, Molotov 20)

muscletusk - no hinkxazzaz - untitled molotov 20

Muscletusk – No Hink

A double fucking album from Muscle fucking Tusk.  This jaunt takes the noise-band to a bunch more destinations with some extreme lo-fi aesthetics and short, sharp raps across the knuckles.

In my mind’s eye there is a little Hornby OO scale set of Muscletuck, delightfully detailed and set in their characteristic pose of wild abandon, just right for the Station Master’s office.  Why so?  Maybe it’s because so much of this ‘No Hink’ excursion seems to be an exercise in miniature?  Cast your mind back to a more innocent time when one childish distraction was for a newspaper to publish a picture of something small (say, a fly’s eye) then blow it up big so you could see all the little scales and hexagons.  It looked different all big didn’t it?  The detail was beautiful and unexpected – an unusual mixture.  Parts of this brave record sound like a tiny performance that has been expanded and enlarged to massive portions.  The scale and detail goes all squiffy and you’re left with an alien and decaying landscape; some things remain familiar yet strangely tweaked.

You want examples yeah?  Disc one opener ‘Rattray Rat Tray’ comes across like mid-period Chrome disguised in scratchy tweeds. ‘I found it in the piano’ sounds like hot sand riffling through a rubber sieve – but magnified 1000 times.  ‘From frozen’ takes a metallic rattle and stretches it out like a greasy ink smear across fresh linen.  Don’t worry, The Muscletusk still do the stun-volume-noise-avalanche…and do so with aplomb.  ‘Spare the fractal’ starts with all that moon-faced moaning but when the drums kick in…whoa boy!  It all gets super-hot and tight – badda-boom, badda-bing!

Disc two instantly stands to attention, rigid and trembling on ‘Cuthome Carethroat’ with a sense of an unstable intro looking for a staircase to hurl itself down.  ‘Bogus Specimen’ is hardcore, to the max, all the time, 24/7, oops-upside-your head rock ‘n roll; like a locked groove on the vinyl of the apocalypse.  The heavy industry continues with ‘Melk of the Steamtube’ as a gurning lathe turns, spirals of gleaming metal slice viciously through the frigid air.  ‘Night of the Hot Knives’ (my personal top pick!) zones in after the action has taken place; the debris is collected in scruffy pools and the dribbling has started in earnest.  It’s a total sponge-opera mang!  Slack-string guitar flops lazily around a fag-ash rainbow as people start to rouse themselves and collapsing machines are punched vigorously into life. After a time, all semblance of order is dropped through a hatch and drums and electronics lurch about, stamping heavily on your dreams, shattering them like dry spaghetti.

As with their last long longplayer (Ask the Universe on Braw Records) Muscletusk are still rockin’ but the rollin’ is coming with a distinctive lop-sided squint.  Noise is at least a decade old as a sub-genre and these good ole boys are taking their grimy noise footprints onwards to soil up another fresh pasture.  Take me with you Muscletusk!

Buy from Unverified Records here.

Xazzaz – Untitled

Mike Xazzaz regularly makes the long drive into Newcastle to support the no-audience underground and conjure dark, ugly music under a whole bunch of evil monikers.  But it’s beneath the ornate cloak of Xazzaz that this thirty-minute piece; constructed from (Buster Crabbe era) rocketship fizz and the best bits of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless played with power tools, that has been mussing up the stereo for the last few weeks.  So regular has been by airing of ‘Untitled’ Mrs Posset asked if this was one of my favourite domestic recordings of her mowing the lawn.  Close but no cigar!  (BTW – If you think me un-gallant letting her do all the manual work I just need to remind you that these records don’t review themselves bub!)

So, into the ‘Untitled’ zone we go!  First impressions come with the record sleeve itself…displaying a distressed circuit board design that hints of data malfunction and screaming machines.  Plop the silvery disc in and you’re pretty much assaulted from the off with the cool electric fizz of light sabres clashing.  Like I hinted before there is an accelerating rush to this (the Flash Gordon reference) and a melodic pitch-shifting that recalls those tremolo-heavy vibes from MBV…except this time the jazz electricity comes via belt sanders, floor polishers and hammer-action drills rather than sappy guitars.  The crashing continues, churning up plankton and hurling it on the zinc-coated rocks until, at around the 11 minute mark a large rusty anchor is thrown overboard and is dragged nosily (sic – it was more fun to keep the typo than correct it – RH) across a rocky sea bed.  Grrrgrgggrgggrgghhhhhh!   After a while your ear hairs can bristle no more and I had to settle back to accept this Black Metal take on Frippertronics as an astringent lullaby…in fact at 26 minutes in a woozy-sounding chrome bubble of feedback repeats on and on and on and on making me sleepy despite the high volume battering.  But this is no Harsh Noise chest-beating…the dynamics are tested at times with the loud and heavy electronic stew being peppered with thin metallic ‘pings’ giving a different focus and perspective on things.  Like when you walk down a familiar street at 4 am.  The exhaust-rattling whoosh of traffic is replaced by chirping birds recalibrating your ear-memory.

Towards the end of your allotted half hour, the dark soundworld begins to draw to a close with a teased out comedown that gently floats you direct into Buddha’s benevolent palm, all fat and beaming.  Om!

(Editor’s note: at the time of writing this isn’t yet up on the Molotov site but check it out and drop Mike a line to pre-order.)

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