Got another tape by the feral Cardiff combo Bear-Man, who we last heard with their self-titled 2010 release, a great fiery recording of untamed free-rock wildness…when we last looked this band comprised Simon Jenkins, Phil Jenkins and Richard Mathias…their Doppelganger (KNIFE IN THE TOASTER KT118) appears to be from 2011, though we received it in February 2014, and the same basic instrumentation of drums, guitars and electronics is zonked forth to great effect, including two extensive live recordings made at venues in Cardiff. On today’s spin some of the more “psychedelic” elements of their unhinged playing rises to the fore like so much acid-spiked cream in a jug, and some elsewhere characterise this trio as embodying some unidentified strain of psych-rock, that is when they’re able to spot them (Bear-Man might be quite elusive)…but there’s still plenty of the primitive, hands-on noise-making action which appeals to me so much, even when (on some of the live material) it feels like they might be meandering about and treading water. But they perform that aquatic feat as only a bear-man can, stomping through a river or cataract with large plantigrade feet, usually in pursuit of a salmon-like fish. All of side two of this lengthy cassette is replete with a single live cut whose title appears to have been plucked from a recipe for making haggis, and it’s a triumphant long-form workout of high-energy free-form cosmic banana-rock. Clearly Bear-Man have a strong primal bond with the early Pagan past of Cardiff where the line between mankind and the animal kingdom was not so clearly demarcated, and they channel this rough magic into their music.
Fully Blown Dental Reform also puke up some sort of free-rock noise, except theirs is much more aggressive and deliberately “heavy”, at times verging on the ham-fisted when compared to the more delicate and collaborative work of Bear-Man, who can appear almost fey laid alongside the thumping blast of the Dental chaps. However, there’s much to enjoy in their four-track debut FBDR (LE PETIT MIGNON LPM11), not least the tremendous sense of purpose that directs their every move as they confidently swagger down the wide motorway chopping down telegraph poles with their bare hands – much like an updated, crueller version of Paul Bunyan. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know we have a soft spot for Horacio Pollard and all his noise-spattered lo-fi doings, so it’ll come as no surprise that he’s a key member of this trio – along with Marc Fantini, the drummer from the ultra-heavy avant-rock combo Monno who are gaining multiple plaudits at TSP just now. Completing the Fully Blown Dental Reform trio is Danny O’Really, another non-German player who just happens to be in Berlin where this monstrous trio was spawned. Not sure if it’s significant but I don’t think any of the members are in fact German. Danny’s name on the roster brings the total armoury count up to two guitarists / vocalists, and one drummer playing “massive and overwhelming drum sounds”, and what they unleash is an invigorating and remorseless assault of metallic shrieking and powerful assaultive rhythms. Just surrender to the tsunami and let it swallow you whole. Issued in a full-colour wraparound poster, said poster featuring a colour photo of a kebab platter which I assume was found in an old 1960s cookery book or magazine. Its lurid colours present a most unappetizing prospect, almost as if we’re being invited to consume day-glo food that’s been irradiated by the film in a Technicolor camera. Said image is then cut into mosaic forms to create the mind-bending collage on the verso. Great! From February 2014.
Also out from same label is The Second To Last Plague (LE PETIT MIGNON LPM12) a gruesome offering from Helaas…this four-piece of players based in Berlin rejoice in the names Bex, Niedowierzanie, Ratbag and Yvan Volochine, one of whom may have connections with Last Dominion Lost, and they perform an unhinged species of echo-heavy droning noise laced with vocals and hideous loops. Some deem this work of theirs “psychedelic” in nature, which is an apt description if your understanding of the genre includes enduring a mandatory “bad trip” from which it’s impossible to come down. I have no doubt that other listeners would apply the “ceremonial” tag to their music, a conveniently vague and suggestive term which is used to designate just about any free-form music with chanting vocals, long drones, or primitive drumming. Their intensive brand of long-form noise is realised with a reasonably conventional setup – bass guitar and electric guitar, electronics – with the addition of a gloomoid cello and tortured vocal moanings. Where the A-side of this tape is a mysterious descent into a murky fogged-up Hades on a misty day, you’ll find it’s relatively serene compared to the far more harrowing B-side, with its acidic guitars chiming out their plaintive tones in ways which that stretch into infinity. Helaas have a nice line in balancing out all the elements of their very rich sound so as to grant maximum distortion, yet still allow each contribution to be audible; and they follow a sustained rise-and-fall dynamic with admirable conviction, even if it does take an age for each tune to complete. You can bet a bag of rusty nails against a pair of iron boots that this foursome would pack quite a punch in a live situation, much like a controlled megaton blast. Wraparound cover art is an “impossible” collage of Tudor timbered houses proliferating in a menacing way. Flip it over for the face of an old fuddy-duddy member of the Establishment, who may be anything from a hated headmaster of the 1950s to a blinkered Presbyterian preacher from Alabama. Either way, the band regard him as The Enemy, and have printed an inverted cross over his visage. From February 2014.