Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Wreckers Ruin + D Coelacanth

Wreckers Ruin
Recycled cassette.

D Coelacanth - Nancy Creaks In Graveyard Slime
Recycled cassette + badge + vintage photo

And as the good idea that was Record Store Day slowly descends into the feeding frenzy it was destined to become, let us cast our minds back to when records were something you bought to help you hear music.

In his Saturday diary column the Guardian’s John Grace mentioned that Record Store Day was upon us once more and how this fact reminded him that he’d got rid of his vinyl thirty years ago and now his head is constantly full of thoughts as to how much all those records must now be worth. Millions perhaps. Enough to retire on at least. They’re not records any more they’re money shitting circles of crackly wax that lie in the hands of someone who doesn’t deserve them.

Thanks to Record Store Day there's now a cynical manufactured market for those super limited vinyl releases that everybody wants but only those mad enough or determined enough to start queuing at 2 a.m. outside Jumbo Records in Leeds [and other independent record stores around the world] are likely to see. Slapping down on the counter a wants list running to over 20 choice items our intrepid, sleepless, grumpy and soon to be listing on eBay vinyl ‘fan’ can look forward to steeping his weary bones in a hot bath full of aromatic oils as the bids on his recently purchased ABBA single pass the fifty quid mark.

I can’t remember the last time I was in a record shop to be honest. I try to avoid them these days seeing as how the prices being asked for vinyl gets me all hot and angry. £40 for Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ as reissued on 180 gramme high fidelity audiophile taken direct from the studio masters vinyl? Thank you very much. Kerching. Remember the late 80’s and early 90’s when a CD could knock you back £17? Well vinyl has replaced that CD cash cow and thats why ‘record shops’ are asking £40 for something you can buy for £3 on Discogs including postage and packaging [I just checked and oh alright its not on 180 gramme high fidelity audiophile taken direct from the studio vinyl but it’ll still do the job].

Looking at the snaking queues of happy vinyl hunters/scalping gouging bastards taken outside record stores on Saturday morning as posted on Twitter by deliriously happy record store owners had me chuckling deep in to my bowl of Golden Nuggets. Some of them opened early so as to let in all those bedraggled, been there since 2 a.m. punters. Some of those been there since 2 a.m. punters got upset and Tweeted that the queue wasn’t going down quick enough and that there was every chance that they weren’t going to get the mystery test pressing of a various artists LP that was being given away for free or that all the Led Zeppelin singles were going to be gone and that they’d have to settle for something by Shaking Stevens and hope that there were enough Shaking Stevens fans out there in eBay land willing to pay more than the asking price.

And have you noticed how those queues are full of males of a certain age? Of a colour of a certain type? Looking for a music of a certain type? There are exceptions of course and I dare say there were takers for last years Alice Coltrane 10” and Jazz and Reggae releases do feature in Record Store Day but the overwhelming weight of sales run along a white male rock demographic.  

And that can get very boring, very quickly.

Instead let us turn to something far more interesting and something that is unlikely to interest those who spend two days and nights in April queuing outside a record shop in the hope that they’ll secure a limited to 5000 copies David Bowie Greatest Hits LP that has a different mix to ‘John I’m Only Dancing’ on it.

To that man of mystery. The man whose name is written down on a scrap of paper and hidden inside the yew tree in the ancient churchyard at Burselm. He’s been called plenty of things in his time, most of them complimentary. You may know him as the Filthy Turd but that era is gone, never to return. He’s moved on now drawn to a brighter light, he’s polished his shoes and made his mark using a Sharpie he borrowed from the Jarvolater. Recently he was seen banging a four stringed out of tune guitar under the name of Ernie K. Fegg. He had a drummer with him and they never released anything. Last year, in the 40C heat of the Ionian summer he surfaced as D Coelacanth. Only the Tape Gods know where he is now.

He dumped these two stunners on me a couple of weeks back. I sat and played them on a loop while surveying the RSD queues. Struggling with the crosser I made copious notes:

Wreckers Ruin:

Proper Horror Show
Destroyed loops as recorded in coal cellars
Snatches of American scientists fighting for space with flaming pheasants and the dirty gunge found on guitar strings
The North Korean national anthem played on a circuit bent Stylophone
Rough confessions
Foul deliverances
Shriveled transmissions
Warning to others delivered through the distorting cloud of interference
Indistinct calls taken from crumbling ansaphone machines
Mutant riffs strummed on frayed nylon strings

That was good but as D Coelacanth and ‘Nancy Creaks in Graveyard Slime’ he’s created the best thing he’s done to date. If you want a solid hours worth of total mind bend then look no further for our man has somehow managed to edit together a series of short Dictaphone cut and paste randomnia that when listened to in one sitting gives the listener all the benefits of six pints of White Lightning without the danger of a hangover or liver damage.

You know the man can make sounds like no other but this is other realm. From the off there’s nothing but a constant barrage of short missives all delivered in that burry Burselm voice of his:

I could do with some thinner he shouted,
All over me knew settee
They wanted more skulls,
I collected all of it in a tiny box,
Luckily all them people were dead,
That needs a bit of work. See a specialist,
Its better out there,
There are seven types of damp,
I put me hands in,

Each line delivered in a series of voices most of them coming at you like an off his tits Patrick Stewart reading the rambling thoughts of Rampton through a paper cone.

The man is on the form of his life creating a world that no one else I know of can even come near to imagining never mind creating. A world chock full of dirty sounds, chipped mugs, the filth of forty thousand years as culled from the cassette racks of Woolies circa 1976. Hallmark Greatest Hits packages that only play one side with the other bleeding through. The monologue of a man on a mission armed only with a Dictaphone and his fevered brain. True Outsider Art.

Where you’d get Wreckers Ruin from I have no idea. Maybe you’ll have to hang around Stoke-on-Trent in the small hours looking for a small hairy creature. Chocolate Monk are carrying Nancy Creaks In Graveyard Slime though and for this they have my utmost respect. For your coin you also get a vintage photograph and a badge that says Eerie Stink. Neither release will require the packing of a sleeping bag and a flask.

Chocolate Monk


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Silver Dick + Saboteuse

Saboteuse - X
Crow Versus Crow. CVC008
Cassette. 50 copies.

Silver Dick
Feeding Tube Records. FTR 335LP
LP [including DL code]. 300 copies.

The above two releases have been causing a bit of stir of late. Silver Dick with a glowing review courtesy of Byron Coley and Saboteuse courtesy of The Bearded Wonder who was seen to be visibly shaking with excitement when the subject arose during last weeks Silver Dick gig at the Wharf Chambers. They are good though. Both of them. I’d go as far as to say that the Saboteuse release is one of those only-comes-along-once-in-a-while genre busting releases that you continuously listen to with a mixture of awe of rapture. And then you play it again.

The common theme is Joincey, that ever present constantly working underground figure who seems to have been around since the year dot. With Silver Dick he’s behind the drums while in Saboteuse he’s opposite long time collaborator Andy Jarvis with whom he shares the same initials. I’m liking the synchronicity. I’m also liking the sleeve written in Joinceys distinctive small case hand and that all the tracks begin with ‘the’ except for the last track ‘ROMMET’. Recorded in 2014/15 its only seeing the light of day now for reasons I can’t fathom. I can’t believe that something as wondrous as this has failed to find a label for three years.

Maybe its because its the harshness of the opener ‘the comedian’ and its moans in one ear and cries in the other, a machine in constant collapse and Joincey’s distinctive spoken word vocals that at times bring forth both Genesis P-Orridge and Mark E Smith both of whom would have been born a not too long a car drive away from Joincey’s place of birth. Next track ‘the drive’ opens a capella and then in the background a washing machine drum descending stone stairs with a brick in it. ‘the bloodhound’ has reversed tape EVP and a guitar being hit with a bottle, a silent movie soundtrack going in reverse. I made notes on each track here, all ten of them before it struck me that each has its own distinct style, Joincey’s voice is moody and effect laden, when its bare its revelatory, when he mentions Rochdale I think of MES. On ‘the crossbow’ there's the panning sound of the wind and Joincey speaks/sings ‘parakeets fly over the bridge that looks cool’. AJ one is ‘the stalker’ AJ two is ‘the painter and decorator/the executor, the executioner’. Andy Jarvis fills this wonderful world with loops and noises and spazzy guitar and riffing bass thumps. ‘The devil’ opens up with swirling noises, its noise/pop like what The Jesus and Mary Chain would have sounded like if they came from Stoke-on-Trent. ‘the thumbnail’ is glitch, ‘the umbrella’ drone noise, last track ROMMET finds a multi tracked Joincey singing/talking ‘the flowers don’t smell’. The last words you hear are ‘do you feel anything’.

I most certainly do.

Saboteuse have been spitting out the odd release for the last ten years or so now but none have them have given me the goosebumps like this one. Previous releases have been more in the improv vein [to these ears at least], noisier, edgier, rougher but ‘X’ is it. Its easily the pairs best release yet and for two people with such vast back catalogues and such a depth of experience working and releasing within what passes for the underground these days, its easily one of their best.

That ‘X’ is limited to 50 copies and only available on cassette and download is laughable. Feeding Tube have done an excellent job with Silver Dick and I urge them with every tiny fibre of my being to give this the vinyl treatment too.

Actually I was lying about Joincey being the common factor between these two releases, Kate Armitage appears on them both too, as a ‘thanks’ on ‘X’ but as a full blown member of Silver Dick where she is credited with guitar and vocals, as is Martin Greenwood, all of them blowing in to things and singing, the sounds being off kilter improv pop with a Joincey on drums, vocals and ‘other’.

Whether its improv or not is open to conjecture. Seeing them play in Leeds last week I kind of recognised some of the songs once I got the vinyl and listened to it from the comfort of my own Poang. But the road to Improv heaven is not a primrose lined path strewn with scented petals, its more of a weed sprouting stretch of freshly laid thin Gypsy tarmac upon which you try your best to keep a hold of your senses. Improv is not for the feint of heart and can lead to fist fights in the gutters of Leeds city centre. Some people find that anything that wanders beyond the remit of Radio 2/Classic FM to be improv in that it all sounds like people making it up as they go along anyway. Its a tricky subject, where does improv end and structure begin? I’ll ask John Zorn the next time I see him in Tescos.

The eponymously titled Silver Dick has six tracks the longest being the opener ‘Reps’ that stretches all the way to 13 minutes and pretty much encapsulates all that is good about Silver Dick; mumbled vocals from Armitage [think someone singing after eating glue and being asleep for two weeks], battered rim shots, scraggly guitar, stretches of not much happening and wild racket. The see-sawing guitars of ‘Roman’ are head swimmingly swoony while second longest track ‘A Horse With No Opinion’ ventures the nearest to song structure with a recognisable slowed down naked strummed guitar chord progression and singing that emerges as if from the depths of a coal cellar. ‘Caul’ sees Armitage singing as if a small child trying to memorise a nursery rhyme by repeating it over and over again all this to a background of blown pipes and spidery notes plucked from high on the guitar neck. As a trio they fit perfectly with the wonk and bend somehow suggesting form before tearing it up and shoving it into toot filled rooms full of scrabble and dink.

Byron Coley calls it the ‘new, new thing’ which is good enough for me.

Crow Versus Crow

Feeding Tube Records



Friday, March 30, 2018

Xann 4 - The Final Countdown

Primitive Knot

Xann 4 - The Final Countdown

Primitive Knot
Silver Dick
La Brea Pulpit

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, March 23rd, 2018.

The 254 leaves Cleckheaton at 18.41 and the last one back is 22.30. Seeing as how Leeds bus station is but a five minute walk from the Wharf Chambers this gives me about three hours within which to get some Sams Smiths down me and enjoy some bands as put on by that Mr Zanntone mister.

I’ve been going to Leeds gigs in the car of late. I can park up cheap in the Trinity car park and be home within twenty minutes of getting in the car. If I’m lucky I can get a spot outside the Wharf Chambers and if I’m really lucky I can go home with both wing mirrors intact and no parking tickets from over zealous traffic wardens but for some reason I fancied a few beers. So I went on the bus.

But first the illness. For the last three weeks a dreaded lurgi had descended into the very marrow of my fibre rendering me a weak and useless bag of bones. I ached the aches of a thousand men and awoke every morning feeling I’d done ten rounds with Kendo Nagasaki. I had to take time off work and spent two days wandering around the house a morose and defeated figure looking out of the window wondering what it would be like to be normal again. Then one day I did feel normal again and realised there was a gig I could go to and seeing as how I hadn’t a drink in a while I could go to the Wharf on the bus and drink some Sam Smiths. Oh frabjous day.

That last bus is a killer though. For reasons that I’ll never fathom the ever reliable 22.30 double decker last bus out of Leeds had for some time been replaced by a shuttle bus usually driven by a psychotic 17 year old speed freak. The normally staid ride down the dark roads of the A58 dropping off happy drunks a short walk from their homes became a torrid snow globe of people. Passengers clung to upright supports as if their lives depended on it and gingerly dismounted the bus looking visibly shaken, tottering the first few pavement steps like sailors losing their sea legs.

Still, if I’ve had a few bottles of Sam Smiths Imperial Stout 7% ABV £3.00 for a 330ml bottle thank you very much the pain of being involved in a serious road traffic accident would be lessened somewhat. At least for the first hour or so. So I went on the bus.

With two bottles of Sam Smiths Imperial Stout 7% ABV in my hand I made my way to the venue proper where I was met by Mr. Zanntone who immediately went for a pint leaving me in charge of the door where I scratched Zorro like zeds on the backs of peoples hands with a very sharp sharpie all the time apologising profusely in the hope that I wasn’t hurting them or giving them blood poisoning and thus becoming the subject of litigation.

The Wharf eventually became full of the wonderful characters it attracts, there was a bloke with a beard who held his mobile phone two inches from his nose and laughed like a lunatic into it, when La Brea Pulpit began a young slip of a man appeared from nowhere and began to vigorously shake his head and dance the dance of a thousand loons. He was really into it. Man. La Brea Pulpit being a duo of Gretchen from Guttersnipe and Pete Cann whose resemblance to a young Duane Allman grows stronger every time I see him. They mad a noise racket which sounded like a noise record with rhythm in it from which the rhythm had been stripped which meant it was fractured and disjointed but equally engaging. There should be more noise duos.

Catching the last bus meant I wouldn’t see Manchester’s Primitive Knot’s headline set but at least I see them soundcheck as I scratch zeds on the backs of peoples hands. A three piece with guitar, synth, laptop and masked vocals making pounding ritualistic dark anthems of a pagan nature or suchlike. Its hard to get a grip after only hearing one song but they appear to be worth investigating and are creating quite a stir amongst the various bald heads.

What came next surprised me no end. The Leeds duo of Hawthonn. The married duo [I’m assuming] of the Legard kind who between them held those assembled rapt with their whispered folk like field recording electronica. After ten minutes of this most mesmerizing of musics most people in the room were swaying like corn stalks in the breeze, me amongst them. With sounds assembled from bird song and the treatment of various bone rattles they took it in turns to whisper breathy vocals creating an atmosphere in the Wharf that I’ve never experienced before, a dreamy, featherlight atmosphere of drift and calm. A little bit of 21st century Paganism brought in to the heart of Leeds city centre.

The headliners for me would be Silver Dick. An improv trio featuring your man Joincey on drums and two electric guitars peopled by Kate and Martin who said at its end ‘you’ve had your fun, now fuck off’. Charming. As with most of what Joincey gets involved with its a compelling listen and for some in the room a trip down memory lane and the Termite Club and improv where pluck and parp were the order of the day. Joincey hit some finger cymbals with a stick, hit a drum, Kate pulled on guitar strings and blew down a pipe that may have been a small section of plastic tubing. Martin blew down a small section of what could have been plastic tubing and pulled his guitar strings. They all blew down sections of small plastic tubing and made wonderful wonky improv and along the way a rhythm may have grown in to something quite wonderful. A wonderful wonky improv that I’m struggling to compare but that sounds like a load of pop records and a load of improv records smashed together in a bag with a ball pien hammer and then glued back together again where they fit best. Which is a good thing. Sadly I took no notes. I never do and I’m writing this three days after the event so all I have is the memories of this and the queue for the beer and the scratchy zeds and the chat and the last bus home which wasn’t a shuttle bus driven by a seventeen year old speed freak but a proper double decker. A cracking night out.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Whiteness & Pinkness

Ex-Crown - 646 592 3423
Cassette. C10. Whiteness & Pinkness #1
70 Copies.

Three Resurrected Drunkards - The Dagger in the Flesh
Cassette. C72. Whiteness & Pinkness #2
100 Copies.

Various - Whiteness and Pinkness
Single sided flexi. Whiteness & Pinkness #10
250 Copies.

Moffarfarrah - Primo
Cassette. C45. Whiteness & Pinkness #19
20 Copies.

PVA in Hair - Sumptuary Law
Cassette. C5. Whiteness & Pinkness #62

Whiteness & Pinkness
A4 Zine + Badge.

There are weird labels and there’s Whiteness & Pinkness. A label so far out there in Weirdsville Australia they put YOL and Filthy Turd in the definite mainstream. Try that one on for size.

I like Whiteness & Pinkness because they don’t try very hard. I don’t like labels that try too hard, are too earnest, that flood my inbox everyday with entreaties to follow the link and download the press release and if you could spare but five minutes of your time ... I like labels that just get on with it, small numbered runs and that great feeling of being detached from whatever it is that passes for normal in your kitchen. Whiteness & Pinkness do that and thats what I like.

I like this Tom Smith/Pit Noack tape I’ve been playing for the last hour. Thats them in the Three Resurrected Drunkards disguise a-warbling and a-singing their way through two sides of Las Vegas crooner meets the muck inside a forty year old flip top school cassette recorder thats playing a recording of a 1940’s pinball machine doing Hugo Ball impersonations. This is thick loam. You can grow weighty taters in this shit.

What Whiteness & Pinkness have done is send me a smattering of their back catalogue for my perusal. Its a direction I encourage all other labels to follow as its a good way of getting a feel for the label over a short period of time, plus its a good way of getting rid of those releases that have failed to sell out.  Its also a jiffy bag from Australia rammed with goodies and not a link in an email. Its my favourite kind of communication.

Whiteness & Pinkness released the YOL/Filthy Turd double cassette extravaganza cassette back in 2013, I got one of the 20 measly copies that were made available [no download or Bandchump for you] all on recycled cassette, all glorious, ground down to magical noise dust. Twenty copies. The madness of it all. And it is mad. I’m still in Smith/Noack territory here so bear with me and then the thundering of subway trains and electronica that could be the ultra-distorted sound of electric guitar strings being twanged.

Lets start at the very beginning with a pink cassette in a white box and ten minutes of Ex-Crown [Miles Pflaz] ringing various pay phones in and around the New York City area and getting not much in reply but answer machine messages, number not in service robot responses and the scream of fax data for his trouble. What makes it work is Pflaz’s flat monotone vocal delivery and his actual shock when someone does answer, which I think was once. On the flip he tries to bamboozle the telephone companies voice recognition software by giving it ridiculous commands such as ‘bring me oysters in a half shell’ and ‘I have a gun, empty the register’ all of which illicit the response, ‘sorry no match found please try again’. As one sided conversations with robots go its all rather wonderful.

On a sickly yellow cassette we have Moffarfarrah and the abuse of vocal chords as spat out through the speeding and slowing capstans of various cassette players. Dictaphones maybe? The voice a ah-ahing and growling, dog like and then holding the note. The full Minton. Mouth held close to condenser mic gobcore with just the added soupcon of treatments giving it the ghostly feel of an unmade horror flick as recorded on a new school Nokia 3310. When the voice is slowed to absolute sludge is where it works best.

The shorter the tape the bigger the box hence the PVA in Hair release appears in a 7x7 box with a blob of hardened green PVA  on it [I’m guessing]. Side one is two males having a conversation about a TV actress and a straight cut from an American comedy/TV commercial replete with gales of canned laughter. The flip continues the conversation interspersed with cuts from Australian TV chat shows. This could be something deep. This could be something shallow. It could be the kernel from which an Australian author finds the urge to write the greatest Australian novel, the Australian Ulysses, The Ozzie Moby Dick. We will never know. One side is titled Shabby Chic Mania, the other Hydrogen Peroxide.

Which leaves the flexi and the zine and the outsized button badge which I will never wear.
The zine is a shiny cut and paste typewriter job, maybe laser printed and double stapled on the flat thus making the folding out of the pages a difficult task. Its a catalogue of sorts with info on the first 13 W&P releases including a review of the zine and the flexi which is weird. There’s an interview with Miles Pflaz and Always and reviews of suitably outre material tucked in at the back. Due to the nature of the stapling, the shiny surface and the numerous crossings out it makes it hard to read which is what comes with zine territory and seems fitting in Whiteness & Pinkness world. The flexi contains tracks by Always, Sneak and Mackle Jackle and is prime weirdo material with a musical box accompaniment to a recital as to what someone is going to do to someone else [Always], the Australian Smegma meets Butte County in a homemade ethnic instrument kind of way [Sneak] and life in Stoke as seen through night vision goggles [Mackle Jackle].

For those of you of a digital bent there exists a Whiteness & Pinkness Soundcloud page. It consists of a 14 minute track by Mother’s Breast which is a conversation between two young girls and one side of the Ex-Crown release. I’d be much happier with the flexi or any of these releases to be fair, they seem to reflect the world as it is. The mere sight of a flexi in a world of downloads and links, made me go all weak at the knees. Its a mad world for sure. A mad, mad, mad, mad world and like the film of the same name it makes this spinning orb of crud a much better place to stand on.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Murray Royston-Ward

My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors Near my House
CDR + 2 x A5 Booklet.
80 Copies.

Language is a Virus
CDR + A5 Booklet.
30 Copies.

Improvisations 2014
A5 Booklet.
50 copies.

Murray Royston-Ward - Dissolution Matrix in Afterthought of Skies

The Sons of David Ginola - Blood Too Thick Symptoms
3” CDR + Booklet.
50 copies.

There are times when I feel as if I should get to grips once more with a ‘difficult’ novel. I become intrigued by them and the polarised reviews they garner on Amazon and Goodreads and once more think myself ready to tackle something by William Gaddis or Alexander Theroux. And when the book arrives I get about halfway through it and think to myself ‘well ... maybe I’ll pick up something by Bukowksi and come back to this later when my brain has sorted itself out’. My current obsession is with William Gass and while I’m tempted by his first novel ‘Omensetter’s Luck’ and the it-took-almost-thirty-years-to-finish ‘The Tunnel’ I think I’ll hang on until June when there’s a compendium of his work out. At the moment I’m reading ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ which is the sort of novel that demands your attention and could easily be described as ‘difficult’ but that's mainly because its written in an 18th century style and deviates more than a drunk Italian driver. At least its got some laughs in it.

Unlike reading listening doesn’t demand total concentration. Few are those who can sit and listen to an LP or a composition and give it their 100% total concentration. You can listen to music while walking, running, shagging, washing the car and doing the shopping but you cant do any of those while trying to fathom the intricacies and the sub plots of Gravity’s Rainbow [unless you’ve got the audio book - which might make the weekly trip to Lidl slightly surreal/more interesting - somebody please do this and report back. I’d do it myself but I find wandering around in public with things jammed in my ears rather disconcerting].
All this apropos of nothing much other than leading in to what Murray Royston-Ward creates which might be described in certain circles as ‘difficult’ and in others as Sir Richard Bishop jamming with some audio verite tapes.

Described on one of his two websites as ‘Material flows and internal communications from the amateur avant-garde’ Royston-Ward collects field recordings some of which he works into improvisations of his own making others of which are left unadulterated. As in ‘My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors Near my House’ which comes with two books, one titled ‘Bangladesh Listening Notes’ describing the noise levels in various parts of Dhaka and Royston-Ward’s attempt to find ‘quiet sounds’, something he eventually loses interest in due to the constant noise pollution. The other book is called ‘Gasworks Fellowship’ and describes his month long residency at the Britto Arts Trust in Dhaka and his increasing vulnerability as the rise of Islamic extremism results in the deaths of several  foreign nationals. The accompanying CD is a collection of disparate sounds ranging from the slaughter of cattle, to conversations with locals, to locals singing all mixed in with bowed cymbals, the inevitable traffic noise and Royston-Ward wandering around the Britto gallery space sucking on glass doors. The results being spacious, loose and liminal.

‘Language as a Virus’ as you’d expect draws from William Burroughs concept of the same name and details the work Royston-Ward’s wife did in an Ebola holding center in Sierra Leone. The booklet is a collection of photos as taken by Holly Royston-Ward alongside text describing the situation there. The CD is a single 28 minute track that is a series of rapid radio and tv samples [some relating to Ebola] over which Royston-Ward recites tracts of text [taken from news stories?] also relating to the subject. Its a tough listen with each sample and tract of text ending abruptly with a violent slap/stop as if Royston-Ward is hitting the stop button on his cassette player with a lump of wood.

The two stand-alone releases highlight Royston-Ward’s penchant for sounding like Sir Richard Bishop and the hitting of pipes and steel wires. The Sons of David Ginola release ‘Blood Too Thick Symptoms’ is a collaboration with Kevin Sanders and contains many a lo-fi rumbling, humming, squeaking, squelching Alvin Lucier homage while ‘Dissolution Matrix in Afterthought of Skies’ sees Royston-Ward mix wind flutter, chair scrapes and pub chat with electric guitar frottage and tape wobble. Like Jim O’Rourke playing pool with a guitar swinging from his neck. Track six ‘Loose Women’ sounds like a Sonic Youth rehearsal as a conversation in Esperanto goes in reverse.

All of the above comes highly recommended, even the Ebola related work should you have the stamina for it. Royston-Ward also utilizes recycled paper for his books, ‘archival inks’ [whatever they might be] and environment friendly plastics for their packaging. So all is good. Not quite. Why the Bangladeshi project had to come with two separate books I cant fathom while Bangladeshi Listening Notes also contained notes from Brighouse [just down the road from me] London and Edinburgh. The use of acronyms also bugs me, its why I never joined the army, I have no idea what CNG’s or SPL’s are, Sound Protection Levels? Cars Not Guns? Cocks Not Glocks? There’s also a series of pictures taken from an unexplained exhibition visit, one displaying the mutilated corpse of a child, oh what fun and a cut up poem which I couldn’t skim through quick enough. The Improvisations 2014 book would have been of far more worth had it come with a CD of the sounds created or links to the net where the sounds could be accessed. As a stand alone book detailing the time, place and instrumentation, its only of passing interest.

Having said all that the sounds herein are eminently worthwhile and show that Royston-Ward has the ear for the juxtaposition of disparate sounds, his prose is crystal clear too. At least they’re both here to tell the tale. After having survived the threat of ISIS and Ebola I doubt that me being a tad disparaging is going to upset them. Now where's my book.            




Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Doggy Bag

The Verboden Boys [Belfast Chapter] - Band From Reality : The Complete Demos.
Doggy Bag. DL

The Unseens - Shut In/Leper

Doggy Bag. DL

Doggy Bag is an online only label because they’re skint and I’m feeling kind of sorry for them because they’re skint and all of this is good and worthy of your attention. Its non genre, non pigeon hole for me lads and lassies and here am I, the miserable sod who doesn’t do reviews unless he has a hard copy in his hands. But if enough of you put your hands in your pockets and buy something from Doggy Bag then you will get to hear The Verboden Boys and The Unseens coming out of your speakers via the glory that is a vinyl record. Or maybe a CD.

The Verboden Boys are like Smegma meets The Gerogerigegege. This fifteen track LP has eleven tracks which clock in at under a minute, five of which clock in at under ten seconds, the shortest being a mere two seconds. One track is called ‘Ultraeczema OK’ so maybe they’re Tyfus fans. Another song is called ‘Is Sex Still Illegal in USA?’ The last track is over ten minutes long and a meditative affair featuring a high pitched whistle and the loop of a pebble being rolled around the bottom of a 45 gallon drum and is unlike anything that preceded it. I like them.

According to the blurb The Unseens are Glasgow’s most reclusive Dolewave band and this single is the only surviving material of theirs after a series of unbacked hard drives went tits up, an ‘as yet unexplained experience’. Which is either a convenient story or a crying shame or both. ‘Shut In’ is all echoey dub effects and door bells, the flip is a random beat generator on a cheap keyboard played against more dub effects with the neighbours drilling holes in their walls in protest. It reminds me of Milk From Cheltenham in a ‘we just went in to a room with some gear and this what it sounds like’ and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or any of this.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Laura Steenberge / Taming Power

Laura Steenberge - Harmonica Fables
Nueni #007. CD

Taming Power - Selections For Fort Evil Fruit
Fort Evil Fruit. FEF63. Cassette/DL
100 copies.

By its own admission the Bilbao/Berlin based label Nueni Recs goes in for ‘risky’ music. They also adopt an ‘anticopyright’ stance meaning you can share at will. Its a stance I wholeheartedly applaud and with music of such a difficult nature it should be encouraged. If you’re in this game for the money you’re in the wrong game. The audience is tiny here it needs all the encouragement it can get.

According to her online bio Steenberge’s work is ‘a study of nonsense and the boundaries of knowledge’, medieval Byzantine chant plays a part too. That doesn’t sound too difficult does it but then here comes Harmonica Fables.

Which is Steenberge blowing up and down a harmonica. Not that this is an hours worth of Larry Adler does Bob Dylan on drugs but the first two tracks ‘Ritual for Harmonica’ and ‘Chant - Harmonica’ are the hardest to endure [and for the most part I did endure] both being lengthy explorations in to the sonic vibrations created when lips meet instrument and deep breaths resonate with reed plate. With ‘Ritual for Harmonica’ Steenberge alternates lengthy rasps on the harmonica with breathy incantations, the much longer [twenty minutes worth] of ‘Chant - Harmonica’ is a connected series of shorter blasts where Steenberge combines breathing and harmonica creating a dual pitch drone that depending on your bent is either aurally stimulating or just plain annoying. I have to admit to being drawn in to it at one point but trying to key in to its abrasiveness is a difficult task. There are two further sections; three ‘Spheres’ where the blowing and breathing is sweeter and four final tracks that are the nearest we’re going to get here to melody. ‘The King’s Ears’ ventures in to Laurie Anderson territory with an eruption of wordless tones to compliment the sawing while last track ‘Rip Van Winkle’ is, as its title suggests a lullaby. After all that gone before its a welcome relief.

Comparisons with Norway’s Askild Haugland and his mighty Taming Power project are worth considering with several Taming Power works verging on the unlistenable. His work for feedback-ing reel to reel tape recorders and the over amplified clanging of guitar harmonics are the kind of sounds designed to empty rooms of people of a nervous disposition, the latter managing to create that not really sought after trapped inside a grandfather clock feel.

'Selections for Fort Evil Fruit' is what it says on the tin. This is only the second time this has happened with everything else coming through his own Early Morning Records imprint. Not all of it is unreleased but by its nature its hard to come by and will for most people be a first time listen.

As ever all the track titles [and there are 14 of them] are the dates on which they were created with the first three tracks all composed in the year 2017 all three being thee most exquisite melancholic electric guitar pieces, each note a delicately struck and rung tremulous thing of ectoplasmic beauty. They have the making of a soundtrack to a film about Norwegian winters, or a Nordic road movie where nothing much happens. As we go further back [and we go as far back as 1998] the mood takes a darker turn with the emergence of reversed tape loops and primitive electronics with their frozen lo-fi drone blasts. Some tracks veer in to experimental territory with the ghosts of what was recorded being laid to rest on the magnetic strip in a cloudy swirl of echo. 

Haugland’s work under the Taming Power moniker is instantly recognisable. He's managed to create his own soundworld and by the sound of it he's happy doing that with little in the way of feedback or interaction. Here’s someone working in isolation and relative obscurity with little in the way of influence to guide you and little in the way of a web presence. Its partly why his work has such impact. It comes at you as if from nowhere while leaving behind it the vividest of memories.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to have most of the Early Morning Records back catalogue through these doors. Its a motherlode of vinyl delivered as if from a higher being. We can only watch and listen and hope he carries on recording. For now though this collection of his work, one of the few available online, is where those who’ve been slow to the show can start playing catch up.

Fort Evil Fruit

Nueni Recs