Tagged: absurd

Vinyl Sevens round-up (2 of 3)

Two colourful and bizarre items now from Le Petit Mignon, both received 20 July 2012. LPM is the “in-house imprint” of Staalplaat in Berlin, and the publishers spare no expense in producing luxuriant fine-art packages with close attention paid to unusual vinyl pressings and high-quality printing for the sleeves. We’ve received from them at least three items in this vein in the past, and I prize them quite highly as grabbable artefacts. The Hans Trapp record (LPM10) is credited to “Various Artists”, and believe me you can’t get more “various” than this – 41 contributors, each providing a very short snippet of sound to the monstrous assemblage. I feel it would be futile to list them all, but rest assured that many TSP regulars will feel right at home in this very mixed company. I suppose the real endeavour has been to co-ordinate such a project in the first place, for which we have Insultor (as compiler) to thank, plus the efforts of three named “curators”; and then there’s the job of editing these wild fragments into some sort of cohesive whole, which task was assigned to Nicolas Wiese. Actually forget about “cohesive”. It’s a completely schizophrenic listen, shifting constantly and instantly between explosions of violent harsh noise into barrages of easy-listening, demented electronics, strangely tuneful segments, mad vocal yawps, and largely unidentifiable snippets of insanity. The hot orange vinyl pressing should clue you in to the degree of intensity (registers about 150,000 units on the Scoville scale) of this firebrand, while the screenprinted wraparound cover produced by Re:Surgo has a grim, black and blocky collage on the front and a Dada-inspired piece of typography on the back. Methinks the designers must have had access to some old Letraset 1 for this. An absurd and in places slightly silly item, it’s hard not to love it. Even so, at just 41 artists it falls well short of the benchmark set by the notorious RRR 500 LP (500 locked grooves by 500 artists) in 1998.

The other item is a Split (LPM06) between two “bands”, both of which are formed from ad-hoc meetings of members of many other projects – MoHa!, Jazzkammer, Noxagt, Jealousy Party, Perlonex and Ultralyd – in fine, the best that the (mostly Norwegian) underground has to offer. I first played ‘The Early Years’ by Tree People, which is a grisly feast of John Hegre’s guitar feedback and Morten Olsen’s percussion combined with looping elements, the latter presumably provided by Ignaz Schick’s turntable struggling to make good in this testosterone-fuelled atmosphere. Tree People’s strength here is to create a vivid episode where nothing is muffled or dampened, thus enabling them to come out fighting with the hard, steel knives of “dangerous” noise. Pokemachine is the duo of Anders Hana and Mat Pogo, and they create ‘Eg Ottast Ingen’ using a diabolical blend of CD player, synths, vocal and percussion, all said components locked together in quickstep; everything is piled on in super-abundance and the track moves too fast for comfort, creating an alarming sensation of uncontrolled metallic filth, like spastic outdated robots going viral. This desirable “noiser” is pressed in clear vinyl coloured with an added “sickly green” tinge, which shows you that no detail is missed out when it comes to inducing nausea and prolonged vomiting. And that’s before you even open the booklet. Snap on the 3D glasses and prepare to have your eyeballs deep-fried in hot fat by Fredox’s images, lovingly printed by experts Le Dernier Cri. Plenty of skulls and bits of machinery collaged together, along with certain peers through the microscope you wish you’d never taken. No visual taboo is safe when Fredox is on the march, and a quick scrumble through Google images indicates that these are some of his “tamer” efforts.

  1. Dry transfer lettering, popular in the 1960s and 1970s; often used by professional graphic designers, but I suppose since superseded by digital methods.
013

Attic Salt

Mmm…Grapefruit

From January 2012, we’ve got a double CD set by Ensemble Pamplemousse, an American combo of performers who are also composers, and seven examples of their craft can be heard on Raaba Jedaku (CARRIER RECORDS 013 2 x CD). They are a mostly acoustic chamber ensemble, with flute, violin, cello, piano, and percussion, but there are some electronic sounds also deployed. Overall the sound of the Pamplemousse is impressive – dense, complex, brittle, with lots of small details and tiny events compressed into elaborate, hard-to-follow structures. Rarely do these geniuses lower themselves to play anything so vulgar as a repeated pattern. I’d love to see what these compositions look like, because for most of the time on CD 1 I was pretty much convinced it was improvised music, full of the happy coincidences and free atonalities you’d expect from a lively confab between such gifted musicians. I think though the Ensemble are trying something a bit bolder than just “free playing”, and have some shared ideals about exploring the extremes of sound, each getting to this point through their exceptional prowess on their chosen instruments. It’s also clear that the music could only be played by this group of collaborators, because they each bring their unique voicings to the collective picnic. The actual performances are, it seems, flexible enough to depart from the compositional structure to allow these more intangible values to make themselves manifest. The rest of the package is over my head, though. The two discs are intended to describe or demonstrate two separate ideas or practices, the first to do with ‘Symbiosis’ and the second ‘Absurd Limitations’, but I’m unable to tell you any more than that. The composers’ own sleeve notes don’t help me much either, packed with rather obscure references and using language that is beyond my meagre comprehension. Clearly these people are extremely intelligent. I’m encouraged that they do think very much outside the box, and rather than producing self-referential vacuities, they try and describe complex ideas in music; their extra-mural influences include science, history,and language. I’m also warmed by the notion that there is lurking within the group a commitment to the exploration of absurdity, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into a sense of fun – at least, not that I can discern in the music. In summary, fascinating music, busy and skittery, with many complex undercurrents; but a tad too “clever” for me.

Off the beam

KBD (uo) are the duo of the percussionist Michael Kimaid and the guitarist Gabe Beam, and along with their instruments they both contribute electronic murmurings to Any Port In A Storm (EH? 54). Their playing styles may not be as sophisticated or developed as those of Ensemble Pamplemousse, but the duo have a refreshing directness of attack as they scrape and rattle their devices, and remain just as committed to finding new sonic textures and unusual voicings. Expect lots of strange exploratory groans and clangs as this duo feel their way along unknown pathways, punctuating their percussive clonks and non-musical grindings with bizarre electronic bubbles of steam. KBD (uo) are very adept at setting up a certain grim mood in their discursive rambles, but I also find they stay a little too long in one place, as if afraid to disturb that mood once it’s established. Most of the pieces are slow and turgid, sinking in a vague morass of abstraction. Track 3 bucks the trend and has a certain amount of restless vigour as a drums-versus-electronics battle, but even so I’d love to hear them get a lot more impolite and assertive, with each other and with their instruments. Studio recordings made in Toledo Ohio, with one track recorded in The Noisy Attic.

Boot up the Sinclair

If a sense of absurdity is what you want, look no further than this odd release from TapeNoise, although I doubt if it even qualifies as a release and if you sent away for a copy the chances are you wouldn’t receive the exact same thing I have before me. TapeNoise is a mystery UK project who remains committed to the old bedroom cassette thing both as a model of practice and an aesthetic, including the whole mailart aspect – he put a hand-decorated rail ticket in the envelope which arrived here 5 January 2012. Other releases I had from TapeNoise in the past were kind of aural palimpsests – he would record over old tapes (found objects, retrieved from charity shops or wherever) and deliberately allow traces of previous content to leak through. This one isn’t even a music cassette; it’s an old computer game. Here, it’s not quite clear what is going on at all, although there are fragments of singing, electronic music, beats, and distant murk which makes no sense at all. The bewilderment factors score high, even when the actual music is not especially distinctive; one side of this very short tape is filled with lame electro-disco garbage, while the other is a peculiar audio jumble of crooning, samples, and playful malarkey suggestive of a Toytown version of the Radiophonic Workshop. The demented song here, half-sung and half recited like a glorious epic war poem, is characterised by its completely insane lyrics. Kind of a shame that both sides are truncated so dramatically, but that’s part of the strategy; pure Dada. Even the envelope is trying to tell us something; its collaged message “POLLUTE FUDGE ECONOMY” has been further disrupted by the sticker from my mailbox service.

Ruined Appendix


Jüppala Kääpiö take us on a Sporing Promenade (OMNIMEMENTO OM01), a very sylvian-pastoral escapade where the watercolour-styled music is a series of meandering acoustic twitters, drones and peeps, surrounded at all times by forest-like atmospheres and evocative sound effects. The singing voices which wail and hum in airy tones as though wafted into our lugs on a gentle breeze are particularly affecting. Inside the booklet there are charming woollen dolls of elves, gnomes, and other forest sprites, photographed amongst nature’s glory (leaves, mushrooms, dew) in delicate, dream-like colours. In fact the whole album exudes a distant, dreamy air that you could use while reading Alice in Wonderland. The band may have a Finnish name and exhibit concerns we would associate with the wood-dwelling Finnish Free Folk brigade, but in fact they are German and Japanese – the husband and wife team of Carole Zweifel and Hitoshi Kojo, who also records as Spiracle (producing memorably minimal drone pieces). A very convincing “take” on certain territories staked out by say, Jeph Jerman and Loren Chasse.

German Dadaist Raoul Hausmann used to leave visiting cards printed with the legend “President Of The Sun” amongst other grandiose titles when he strolled around Berlin in 1919, presumably doing his bit to baffle the normals. Column One now pay tribute to this important artist, and to a very specific crisis in the Berlin Dada movement around 1920, with this CD Präsident Der Sonne (MOLOKO + PLUS71). It purports to have been created by “relatives and descendants of those DADA protagonists”, but given the penchant of Old Europa Cafe (where I found that description) to invent fictitious histories and incredible yarns, we can probably take this statement with a pinch of salt. That said, it’s a brilliantly confusing listen, alternating very disturbing slow dark-electronic abstractions with acoustic nonsenses – aimless percussion and mad laughter – which do indeed resemble what we’d always dreamed a performance at the Cabaret Voltaire would sound like. Plus there’s one track which makes great use of an old crackly sound-poetry record; perhaps it might be samples from one of the surviving recordings of Kurt Schwitters’ Ur-Sonata. To complete the package, the covers and inserted booklet are full of stunning collages and typographic experiments by Tom Platt, Jürgen Eckloff, Stea Andreasson, and Robert Schalinski, some of which are spot-on pastiches of the work of John Heartfield and other original Dadaists. These meagre clues aside, this is a perplexing package which doesn’t give much away in its darkly anonymous electronica segments.

Absurdity and ugliness abound from Fat Worm Of Error, whose Ambivalence and The Beaker (RSPT039) has been released by Resipiscent Records (who else). Originally issued in 2007 as a CDR on their own Yeay! Cassettes label, this is a bewildering bucket of incoherent insanity from these Northampton (Massachusetts) fellows, harking back in some ways to the sputtering rattle-shock methods of Trumans Water. The Fat Worms eschew loud volume however, and their effectiveness comes from deploying very unusual and unnatural electronic and acoustic sounds, unexpected stops and starts, broken phrases, free-form poetry lyrics, strange baby-like vocal dribblings, and declamatory voices whose tone reveals that Fat Worm of Error’s members are, like the best lunatics, utterly convinced of the sanity of their preposterous mission in the world. I’m all for it, but the complete lack of coherent planning or structure on this album also makes it quite a wearying listen sometimes.

Reindeer Tubular end of music

ZANZBAK
Very intriguing boxed set of lunatic brilliance from Baktruppen – the collection entitled 1986-2008 (+3DB 004) attempts to make some sense and collate the sprawling, indefinable work of this Norwegian performance art / music theatre collective, who have been amazing and puzzling audiences across Europe for over 20 years. Actually there’s very little contextual information in the booklet that goes with these three lengthy CDs, but there are lots of amazing photos of the guys and the gals looking like Bohemian wrestlers and refugees from an Albanian circus, their appearance having nothing whatever to do with conventional music, or theatre for that matter. Although some audiences may have been fortunate enough to witness their actions unfolding at a music festival, a lot of the time it seems that these zanies would perform anywhere but on a stage – in galleries, libraries, sports arenas and tunnels. Cognoscenti in Germany have loved them ever since they performed an action at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Spinning these fragments of deranged sounds, crazy music and incoherent babbling gibberish conveys but a fraction of the energy and excitement (I guess) of what it would be like to experience these liberating grotesques in the flesh, but it’s still a great listen regardless. Python-esque silliness abounds, everything is very loose around the edges, creating the sort of perplexing stream of information where you can fill in the gaps and make up your own little stories as you go along. Seems to be like a family-rated, non-violent version of a Hermann Nitsch action. I always imagined the early Faust live performances would be as much fun as this! All credit to this Norwegian label for rescuing an important part of their country’s loopy heritage.

From Texas, the Mayyrh Records label has been busy and produced three more limited-edition releases since we last checked in, all of them packed in nice colourful screen-printed or Xeroxed card wallets inside permatrace envelopes. Zanzibar Snails are the noisy improvising crusaders built around the core duo of Nevada Hill and Michael Chamy, well represented on a new set called Journey Into Amazing Caves! (MYH06) This offers a CD of their uglified electronic and oscillating spillages recorded in 2006-07, producing slowly swelling sounds that are every bit as craggy as the stalactites they purport to depict. The release comes with a DVD called Carbage Goma, a more recent musical performance by the Snails enhanced with wild visual additions from David Lee Price (who also joins the band here); there’s also a welcome return from Josh McWhirter and his diabolical viola. You won’t see much of the band on this mind-murking visual explosion from Price, but you will see plenty of dazzling computer effects, colour-field experiments, and surreal close-ups of ill-fitting objects that produce a memorable psychedelic broth. Also from the label, Age Of Disinformation (MYH08), a collaboration between six Texan players from similar-minded underground venturers, calling themselves a ‘lucid nightmare supergroup’. Playing lots of electronic instruments, keyboards, percussion and guitar, their aim was to make some sort of subconscious statement about the contemporary problem we all face of information-bombardment, and the possible damage this may be causing to our collective spiritual condition. How ambitious…what results is a slowly rotating whirlpool of over-filled musical and verbal gibberish, with no clear guidance to the listener about how to navigate around this swamp of vaguely unpleasant fetid noise. Very compelling! Also out: D&N 2 (MYH07), a collaborative effort between Hill and Price, not yet spun as I can’t bring myself to get past the strange hirsute contents of the envelope.

From the UK, Ischio Romantico with a total gem of a CDR release called From The Hip (SHADAZZ 10). This is Adam and Jonathan Bohman in collaboration with two other heroes of the UK underground, here performing under the aliases of “Leonard Aspen” and “Roger Boulding”. Currently attracting much interest at the radio station Resonance FM, and no wonder. The Bohman brothers are a national treasure for many of us, and on this uncanny little release they do not disappoint. It’s fairly impossible to tell what is going on here, but broadly we seem to have the amplified-junkyard work of the Bohmans colliding in exciting ways with the bewilderingly strange turntable work of the other pair. The notes would have us believe that these eight pieces comprise a ballet in four parts, an ‘Ealing comedy with Helmholtz overtones’, and a dystopian vignette. The release comes with a great illustration by the visual artist Jussi Brightmore, whose exceptional line and colour work I do urge you to seek out. He may or may not have some connection to the Brighton improv combo I’m Being Good. Many thanks to Luke Fowler (maker of the excellent documentary about the Scratch Orchestra) for sending this masterpiece of beautiful absurdist genius. Unfortunately I have absolutely no idea how you can get a copy!