None but the Brave

French artiste Romain Perrot endeared himself to us many years ago with the first thing I heard from him under his Vomir alias, even if that vocal-heavy item turned out to be quite untypical of the rest of the Vomir output (and I use the word advisedly) – he was proud of being the self-appointed king of “Harsh Noise Wall”, and spewed out multiple instances of small-run CDRs and cassettes where the atrocious and unlistenable electronic roar would not vary by one iota for its entire duration, often an hour at a time. I mention this so you’ll have some idea why this new item is from him is quite a departure 1. Credited to Roro Perrot et son héroroïne, it’s titled ta bouche de fraise me rend si sauvage (DECIMATION SOCIALE NO NUMBER), and it’s a devastating example of what he appears to call “Ultra-Shit Folk”, as if he’s just invented an entire micro-genre of his own and elected himself its sole practitioner. On it, he plays about 14 short tracks – some of them less than a minute in length – which consist of him frantically strumming an acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar, and gasping out his nauseating, incomprehensible vocals in a completely lunatic way. New depths of dreariness and incoherence are reached, in a matter of minutes; he plays, and he growls, like a wild beast. Some of the tracks are “enhanced” with spastic synth solos and sporadic drum beats, but the essential minimal and highly unpredictable framework prevails, making it hard for the listener to gain much traction. Exhibiting a complete disregard for production values of any sort, Roro Perrot appears to have simply turned on the recording device and let rip, holding true to the ideals and methods of the bedroom cassette genius of the 1980s. No structure, no tunes, no guitar chords, no songs – you get the feeling this material is just crawling out of his body, almost against his will. To finally confirm his rejection of all conventional values, the cover itself is a hilarious parody of “rock album” covers, as Roro poses with a long-haired leather-jacketed beauty in frankly rather unprepossessing surroundings and the pair of them fail to project much in the way of convincing “rock” moodiness in their mannered poses or bored-looking facial expressions. In short this is a fabulous work of unmitigated, natural genius which I totally recommend. If you want to experience the work of a real “outsider”, stop dithering over those Jandek LPs and walk this way.

Superb short album of very English songs from The Sound Of Antler, whose Them Bones (HARK RECORDINGS HARK!015) was sent to us 4th April 2013. It’s the solo work of Joceline Colvert from Hamilton Yarns, and she sings and plays everything (keyboards, accordion, field recordings). I’ve noticed before how Hamilton Yarns members deliberately sing in an unaffected English accent, and I find it very endearing; it’s the case here too; it’s not that I’m a Marxist A.L. Lloyd type who thinks that everything went wrong after World War II, but it seems that 99% of bands in the UK default to singing in an American accent, quite often without even being aware of it. Colvert not only sounds unmistakeably English, but at times she has the directness and honesty of Robert Wyatt at his finest, praise which I wouldn’t want to dish out lightly. There’s also a lot of richness and symbolism in her narrative-heavy lyrics, with an underlying theme which addresses the sorrows and loneliness of old age. Colvert has served time in hospital wards and interviewed senior citizens, including apparently the great Vera Lynn whom she spoke to about Remembrance Day. Undoubtedly what she learned from these experiences has fed into these songs, and she exhibits a degree of compassion and poetic musing about old age that we haven’t heard since Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends album. Lastly, there’s the largely acoustic musical backdrop with its warmth, small sounds, and slightly soft-focus perspective, all lending a bitter-sweet patina to this highly nostalgic album. At times, it’s like she’s singing forgotten sea shanties from a distant world, updated with opaque Leonard Cohen-styled lyrics. Impressively, she found the time to put this album together in between her day job, studying for her degree, and working for Resonance FM as an engineer. Beautiful record, which I recommend.

Now for a thick slab of underground improvised clay-like mummery from the Glasgow-based duo With Lumps. Fritz Welch is the American percussionist who has made his home in that Scots endroit, Neil Davidson the guitarist from the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra. They are doing lots of music up there in various permutations and bands, and we’ve noted their clotted non-musical activity in the past with a mixture of relish and sheer dread. Lumps For Lovin’ (NEVER COME ASHORE NCACD1), with its sickening green and red cover, is a release from April 2013 and has been greeted in these quarters with much the same hesitancy. Listening to this inspired fulsome gunk is, for me, always akin to being coated with heavy clay-like substances, such as mud, lumpy porridge, old emulsion paint, or clay. This impression may be connected to the slow, obstinate movements made by the music – it’s as though we’re trying to drag an old decrepit mule out of its stable, the rope around its neck is fraying and about to break, and we lack any inducements to further its progress, such as carrots or bales of hay. Four tracks here of interminable, clunky scraping and grinding, produced by means of guitars, amplifiers, and percussion objects. Three of them are studio works, while the fourth was recorded live at a church in Manchester, lasts for nearly 30 minutes, and is called ‘National Bird of England’. The duo often seem to work at this leaden pace, which may at first seem a bit infuriating for some listeners, but there’s much to be said for their unhurried approach, which allows a thorough and comprehensive exploration of each sound, each theme, each new development. Be sure to check out the Never Come Ashore micro-label for further examples of insanely marginal improvised noise like this.

  1. It’s not a complete departure if we count 2011’s Application À Aphistemi, on which he played a 12-string guitar.

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