Meccano Man & grizzly bear

Sensational ‘newie’ just clanked in from Pierre Bastien, called Les Premières Machines 1968-1988 (GAZUL 8687.AR CD). This is from the same excellent French label who brought us those fabboo compilations of Ptôse and Pascal Comelade, and it’s the same approach – a hand-picked representative selection of music from the man’s history, in this case 15 tracks, plus a wealth of fascinating detail including a very good discography, all crammed into a no-nonsense foldout sleeve layout. Admittedly it’s all written in French, but how need that trouble us my dears? Bastien is kinda notorious for his ‘gimmick’, which sometimes involves hand-made machinery built from Meccano sets or converted bicycles to play musical instruments in clunky ways, but he’s also a puffy guy – he blows a mean alto clarinet and equally makes a shenai sit up and beg! I tell you, what with all the above and more Jac Berrocal albums coming our way (in my dreams, that is) it’s high time we re-appraised the French contribution to underground music of the 1960s and 1970s. This release is part of the Zut-O-Pistes collection, compiled by Dominque Grimaud. For his efforts, M. Grimaud gets a massive tip of the Sound Projector beret!

Gaspo! Here’s a copy of the recent Faust book, Faust: Stretch Out Time 1970-1975, by Andy Wilson, written and self-published by the same man who diligently compiles the splendid (unofficial) Faust website in this country. A mere three-minute browse this lunchtime has already persuaded me I’m holding a very detailed and intelligent study in my hands, with lots of facts about how the records got made in particular, but I’m getting a good buzz from the half-tone illustrations too – nice to see them embedded in the pages (ie instead of glossy plates inserted) and of such high quality, not to mention the lip-smacking rare pix of press handouts, newspaper adverts, posters, unreleased covers, and what have you. I can’t absorb enough information (or mythology) about this band, one of my firm favourites for many years, even if I’m still floundering like a wet fish as I try to grasp their music. Also in favour of this book – it’s got a proper discography, notes and citations, bibliography and…an index! How many worthless cut-and-paste rock biographies concern themselves with such important details? One in the eye for certain other music book publishers I could name…

Destructo Swarmbots is a pretty descriptive name for a lively performance ambient-noise project, one that’s just spreading out of the USA like a disease since 2003. The ‘bots can be a collective combo in certain situations, but their Clear Light CD (PUBLIC GUILT PG011) is all the work of main mayhem-merchant Mike Mare, who lives in the Queens district of NY. Abstract art fold-out cover here which may depict anything from fireworks in night sky, outer-space nebulae, or light reflecting from the surface of a pond as seen by a hallucinating frog. If I play it and it doesn’t convey all of these sensations simultaneously in an aural way, I’ll be one disappointed chick. James Plotkin, a fairly big name from this ‘area’, was drafted in to do th’ mastering. Eager fans may want to note this isn’t officially out until May 07.

Artur Nowak is a fine Polish specimen of a man, currently striding the streets of Wiesbaden in Germany like a colossus. His label released a coupla scorchers last year which are detailed in issue 15. One of ’em (Rurokura and the Final Warn) still brings me out in a cold sweat just thinking about it, as I mentally relive its apocalyptic nightmare which was barked into my ears in stuttering bursts. Now here’s a monstrous sliver from Daniel Menche, the highly prolific American wild-ogre of noise, called Animality ( and featuring the head of a grizzly bear on the cover printed in white and gold. Said bear is roaring with mouth open at full stretch, and his bonce is outlined in jagged shards, suggesting the considerable effects this recording will have on all those in the animal kingdom. So now we know – the noise of Menche can even make a bear scream for mercy! Like the Rurokura disc, this one is packaged in a highly imaginative piece of thin, rigid black plastic that unfolds into a miniature 3-D sculpture of sorts. Crisp, sharp and clear, looks like you can really sink your incisors into this one!