The Drid Machine Turns You Up

So, in October 2013 I reviewed the cassette from Clifford Torus – a maniacal avalanche of raw avant-rock boulders from threepiece Horacio Pollard, Kjetil Brandsdal and Anders Hana, released on the label Drid Machine Records. That same month I received another copy, this time sent by Kjetil himself in Stavanger, plus five other goodies on this label. Note the sumptuous screen-printed covers, many with eyeball-rattling graphics and imagery. If you’d found tapes like this on the shelf of Rough Trade Ladbroke Grove in the late 1970s, they’d have been snapped up like hot lobsters. Let’s peruse said rotary ratmeisters from Norway and find what noises we can.

Noxagt live tape Kill Yr. Ego, Oslo 13.08.03. (DMR9) is a fine black bat of violence flying in the urban night. Noxagt have been Norway’s premier Underground power trio since about 2001 onwards, but all I’ve got to show for it personally is a seven-incher from 2000 which is in fact not the trio but an earlier incarnation of the “project” when it was simply a showcase for Brandsdal’s solo work. Boy, have I been missing out on some seriously poisonous rock. Here the trio is in fact a four-piece – drummer Lauritzen and Nils Erga on the viola joined by vocalist Anderson, and as title may indicate they’re keeping the spirit of Sonic Youth aflame on these 2003 recordings. Actually they’re a lot punchier, more compressed and determined than Sonic Youth have ever been, and on this blistering tape when you’re not being physically scorched by gasoline-fuelled feedback, you’ll be pounded repeatedly in the mush by the remorseless percussive attack of bass guitar and drumming. Once you get past a little audience banter at start of tape, it’s a non-stop assault course from then on. Commandos only for this ride, slugger, and be sure to bring your bulletproof helmet.

DMR8 is a split venture where Freddy The Dyke and Blodsprut cleave the cassette in twixt, doing so under a beautiful collage artwork created by Yasutoshi Yoshida. Visually it’s one of the finest realisations to have been printed in this genre (i.e. decapitated / mechanised heads with blood and veins laid bare). Freddy The Dyke is known to us for their solo LP which came out this June on Skussmaal, one track spun in these quarters though not yet reviewed; they’re a guitar and drum duo from Stavanger, name of Bendik Andersson and Gaute Granli. Here on ‘Hamenikashe’ and ‘Tambacounda’ they produce a hugely entertaining row where the frequent whoops of joy from their vocalising indicate the degree of illicit fun that was had by both during the sexed-up, sweaty, orgasmic session. Unlike MoHa!, the “other” Norwegian drum-and-guitar pairing 1, these grinning gorks don’t propose to pummel us alive with an excess of flatulent noise, and in fact most of the energy comes from the intense drumming and the singing rather than amplified blooey. A sort-of stripped-down version of Boredoms with elements of Lightning Bolt thrown in. I only regret the brevity of the tape, wanting more of this.

Speaking of MoHa!, here’s Anders Hana from that combo who is also one half of Blodsprut along with Patrick Petterson. Unashamed “grindcore” is their trade, which in this instance means very short tracks, devilish screaming, and drumming that defies belief with its intensity and speed. There may be a guitar or bass or synth in here too, but it’s so tightly locked-in to what the drummer is doing that I find it hard to credit a human being with “playing” an instrument at all. Blodsprut’s fiendish brand of grindcore takes the “genre” into another century and another dimension, seeming truly to have been spawned in Hades – at any rate, a very efficient and mechanised region of that diabolical kingdom. After this ultra-violent episode, you’ll be only too glad to return to Freddy The Dyke for their brand of “fun”.

Can’t find out much about Abuseman and his Greatest Hits (DMR10), but from cover blurb it suggests this puzzling collage of electronic tunes and samples was created at Banan Studios by Mr. Bernaise. Not that that’s very informative. Unlike what we’ve heard so far, this is not a tape of guitars and ferocious drumming, but instead a fun-loving concoction using synths, drum machines and studio ingenuity to produce highly entertaining instrumentals, with a high degree of professional polish in the production. The creators here play with pop-art “weird” sounds and 1960s exotica in a way that clearly indicates they have no small love of a certain strain of library music – anything by Piero Umilani from the 1970s probably floats their boat – and the only thing it shares with our remorseless rockist friends above is the same sort of driven quality, where some of the tunes proceed with an airless intensity that only well-programmed machines can deliver. High production values, sharp editing, upbeat tempos and melodic treats galore make this item the poppiest lollipop in today’s envelope…

Now we have my favourite marginal loon-boon of DIY weirdness and noise, the one and only Horacio Pollard. The cover of his Frequencies of Seizure (DMR11) first fries your lids with its ghastly dayglo orange tones, then opens out to reveal overprinted images of the Korg DD1, which I gather is one of the more coveted pieces of 1980s drum machine hardware. Pollard here offers two suites of non-stop electronic zaniness, characterised by looping rhythms, chugging beats, and scads of grotesque noises smeared into the mix like so much melted cheese scooped from the top of a five-day old pizza. Pollard as ever manages to be absurd, entertaining and repulsive all at the same time – it’s frequently hard to position yourself as a listener in the face of this much great / ridiculous music, and you won’t know whether to guffaw or groan. Who can resist the fun-charged pull of these primitive patterns and primitive, near-ugly sounds? Pollard is one of the few creative people on the globe (Romain Perrot is another) who understands that “good taste” is the very death of art, and as such he needs to be cherished like a Siberian Tiger, albeit one whose pelt is made from artificial dayglo blue fur.

Last item of the batch is second live tape by Noxagt, Checkpoint Charlie, Stavanger 08.03.03. (DMR7) This time the Sonic Youth quotations are again made explicit by opening track title ‘Thurmaston’, followed by further titles which do more than hint at rampant group sex and violent perversions – Norwegian style! The band is back to trio formation here, and I for one find this a lot more enjoyable without the shredded vocals of Anderson spitting on my parade. There’s more opportunity to savour the remarkable string work of Nils Erga with his melancholic, depressed viola that scrapes out the inner chambers of the heart as surely as David Cross did in 1973 King Crimson. Meanwhile Brandsdal and Jan Christian Lauritzen turn in exemplary performances of dynamic, heavified slugging with the bass and drums, and each song works away obsessively in its narrow frame. A very harrowing attack is the trademark of Noxagt on this performance; the trio won’t rest until the operation, one involving much blood-letting and painful organ replacement, is fully completed whatever the cost to themselves – and to the patient. Labour-intensive rock at its hardest; Noxagt never short-change their audience.

  1. I’m about half-right here; they use electronics as well, but you get the idea. Manic noise is the dominant characteristic.

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