Lunatic Voices

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Here are some very brief mentions for 25 of the wonderful music items that have of late been arriving on my virtual doorstep in the imaginary post-room of TSP-nalia. Apologies for the unseemly length of this post.

Editions Mego have reissued all the collected works of Fenn O’Berg in a double-CD set. The trio of Fennesz, Rehberg and Jim O’Rourke now seems so perfect an idea it’s a miracle it ever happened. Yet in 1999-2000, their pioneering laptop music seemed so unacceptable to audiences that they rarely escaped from a gig with their lives. On Magic & Return (MEGO 3514), you get both their releases plus a rare compilation track and one that was only issued on a Japanese edition. Essential listening; I’m not wild about the way the original crazy artwork has been ‘remixed’ by Tina Frank into these muted, dull colours, but otherwise this is grand.

Staalplaat are continuing their Mort Aux Vaches series (I haven’t seen any of them for years now) and I’m pleased to report their zanoid packaging strategies are getting even more eye-catching and unlikely. Yellow Swans is packaged in a piece of utter kitsch, a bas-relief image of cloying sentimentality designed to appeal to a manufactured sense of childlike cuteness and innocence. Nothing innocent on the interior, of course, as the crazed American duo deliver their familiar brand of evil, intoxicating noise made with guitars and electronics. My Cat Is An Alien‘s release is packaged with a 3-D postcard image which when tilted in the palm enables you to behold various alien catty visages. Of the music inside, the second long track by this cosmic Italian duo seems the most promising; the guitar amps are scowling like angry cockroaches with smoke pouring out of their antennae, and there’s some intimidating drumming building up a mood. I mention these now as only 500 copies are made and they become collectible very quickly.

The Rational Academy‘s Swans (SOMEONE GOOD RMSG006) is a set of songs by this melodramatic Australian band, who want to project the same sort of low-rent sleaze in their scuzzy yet grandiose guitar music as Sonic Youth; while the cover art is reminiscent of a 1980s cover from the 4AD label. Lawrence English is the producer and arranger.

Hari Hardman from Reading sent us breathe fresh morning air (HH0020), a curious CDR of stark electronic noise which sounds like home recordings, but with a very clean and direct force guiding his every move. The titles are pure typewriter gibberish. Very promising!

Supernova 2 (INT 008) is a double 10-inch compilation LP set from Interstellar Records, with one side each occupied by Wolfgang Fuchs, Peach Pit, Merzbow and Bulbul. Some pretty good examples of angular Austrian guitar noise going down here from Peach Pit and Bulbul, while Fuchs diverts us with weird hoover noises. Merzbow just roars and grates.

Fine experimental beats and powerful electronic music as ever from Olekranon, who arrives freshly with {recycle human lung} released on his own Inam Records label as INAM 33. Pessimistic titles and inward-looking, psychologically twisted noise set to a nasty disco beat all makes for a winning combination here.

Close Up (MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO 024) is recorded by the trio of Bertrand Gauguet, Franz Hautzinger and Thomas Lehn, the latter a veteran of analogue synth noise in an improv context. When joined by the puffy blowing of Bertrand and Franz on their brassy funnels of doom, huge waves of controlled fog-bound weather systems result.

Same label, which happens to be Polish, also sent a double CD Buenos Aires Tapes (MONO 025), whereon Günter Müller deploys his low-key iPod and electronic music in live situations with Alan Courtis and Pablo Reche, then does it some more with Sergio Merce and Gabriel Pauk. Extremely subtle and near-inaudible rumblings slowly emerge from these collaborations.

Italian player Nicola Ratti has released Ode (PRESERVATION PRE023) on this Australian art label, and it’s packaged in a nifty origami-styled cover. He overdubbed guitar, piano, bass and percussion as if dreaming himself to be a small jazz group from the 1960s, but instead atonal and moody atmospheres result, the wispy mood occasionally jolted by a sharp blow from a snare drum.

Highly powerful psychotic droning from Greg Headley on his CDR Fragments of the Dream Machine (28ANGLES 28A108), which instantly deposits its victim into a strange isolation chamber pulsating with black and white mirrors and other hypnotic devices. Intense evil electronic genius at work.

Stephan Moore‘s To Build a Field (DEEP LISTENING INSTITUTE DL 40-2009) is a compilation of music he scored for avant-garde dance works. Extremely open-ended and drifty music was what he deemed fit to accompany the movements of Kimberly Young, Yanira Castro and others.

The record Sweat Stained Fancy Heaps for First-Rate Ladies by Ritualistic School Of Errors (RESIPISCENT RSPT029) arrives in a shocking full-colour gatefold digipack, showing the paintings of this music’s creator, Gregory Jacobsen. With the help of some far-out collaborators on acoustic instruments and zany vocals, he’s created a species of absurdist musical theatre full of noises that verge on the comic as they sometimes emulate embarrassing bodily eructations. Jacobsen’s paintings likewise exhibit a near-obsessive interest in the juiciness of the human anatomy (especially when engaged in sexual activity), and his ultra-detailed paintings draw many a connection between intestines, decaying fruits, and the flesh of sea creatures. Frankly, a bizarre disc, verging on repulsive.

American loopsters Gary Young and Arthur Harrison call themselves Music From The Film, under which name they have released World War Tree. This crazy record features an enormous amount of instruments, voice samples, mutilated melodies and twisted songs. Packed with incident, to say the least; given time, its chaotic surface may resolve itself in your ears.

Couple of choice items from Last Visible Dog for those who enjoy New Zealand punk; The Terminals’ Little Things (LVD 123) is a reissue of their third LP from 1995, featuring the talents of Peter Stapleton and Brian Crook with a set of dour, oppressive songs played by a band determined to lift themselves from the mire of depression using rhythm alone. Monsters and Miasmas (LVD 136) by The Renderers is a more recent record by Brian Crook and his cohorts, a combination of raucous psychedelic guitar rock and jet-black folk songs.

Grisly remorseless noise from Richard Ramirez, who I seem to recall is something of a well-respected veteran in this area. Start Again (UNREST PRODUCTIONS) is two long tracks of incredibly harsh and excessive blastage. The titles hint at sexual perversions, and the sleeve uses unpleasant imagery including a black spider, torture instruments, and what I take to be a 16th century plague doctor, his mask packed full of herbs to counteract the Black Death.

Some enjoyably denatured ambient dronery from Stephan Mathieu and Taylor Deupree on Transcriptions (SPEKK KK:019), where guitars, piano and synths are subjected to the usual digital processing; the tranquil surface is roughened up slightly by Mathieu’s use of old 78 rpm records. Me, I haven’t forgiven him for his misguided Washington Phillips tribute.

Graham Stewart from Ontario is the main man behind Violence And The Sacred, who also perform as VioSac. On You are planning to enjoy the apocalypse (VATS2), Stewart layers numerous Korg and Yamaha keyboards alongside guitar work from Ted Wheeler on a couple of tracks and vocal help from St. Deborah. Field recordings are sometimes added to the mix. Stewart assures us the works are ‘structured’, yet the results are curiously difficult to get a purchase on with one’s ears – almost formless at first listen. His queasy combinations of doomoid industrialised sounds may however draw one back for a second visit.

The Finnish label Ikuisuus has three new releases. The highly prolific Keijo, after sharing with the world numerous instances of his droning instrumental records, has now made a blues record Neverending Blues (IKU-011), all songs and acoustic guitar straining hard for that ‘authentic’ American feel. Harps Of Fuchsia Kalmia have Burning With Your Old Joy In the Terminal Sun (NO NUMBER), which returns the listener to more familiar Finnish turf – that enchanting mix of acoustic stringed instruments with bells, recorders, whistles, and violins, all suspended in the non-ground of shapeless, unregulated and endless gentle circular jamming. It’s all done by one guy, and he’s got an Italian name. So much for my familiar Finnish turf! Alarmingly, the peaceful country road which he proposes also has a dead body wrapped in polythene lying in the middle of it (see front cover). No idea what to make of Strongly Imploded with their Why Use a Proxy? (IS-035) CD, an inchoate beast which stops and starts with no rhyme or reason, usually erupting into obnoxious electronic jazz-noise with a dirty squealy sax. Again, seems to be the work of an Italian.

Metamkine also sent three CDs, from the American Intransitive Recordings label which they handle in Europe. Asylum Lunaticum (INT033) is by Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Bär, which is an unfathomably bizarre collection of voices and field recordings, whose inexplicable sleeve notes do nothing to make me any the wiser. I shall need to return to this loopy disc! American genius Jim Haynes has released Sever (INT032), a grand collection of opaque and compelling field recording music in the slow mode. Most perplexing of all, a highly ambitious cut-up musique concrète composition by Lionel Marchetti from the mid-1990s; Knud Un Nom De Serpent (INT014) may or may not have been derived from vast collections of ethnic recordings, but Marchetti’s usual lightness of touch when collaging, and his brilliant juxtaposing with other unknown sources, creates an incredibly dense and subtle record, criss-crossed with numerous mental associations.

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