Tagged: magic

019

Slip Inside This House


About time we took note of this large package of goodies from the Pilgrim Talk record label in Illinois which arrived 21 February 2012. The label is mostly Nick Hoffman who is interviewed in the current issue.

Noish & Xedh have a cassette tape rlhaaaa to (PILGRIM TALK PT18) of which the A side ‘Coyote’ is frankly pretty tough going with its puzzling tracts of humming noise and half-hearted feedback squeals. The B side ‘Psy Htgu’ contains radio bursts and occasional intriguing snippets of electronic garbage, but the interminable humming continues to dominate, even as matters develop into full-blown chaos and massive disorder. Some of this is richly insane noise monstrousness, while some of it is curiously vacant and monotonous, where it’s very hard to discern the underlying logical pattern. May take some time before we start to sensate the hypnotic magickal intensity of which we know Xedh (Miguel A. García) is capable of weaving with his bony stumps. Noish (Oscar Martin) is also a diabolical fiend who experiments with computer language and home-made processing tools to mutate his field recordings in unpleasant ways. The figure of Death is printed in red on the green card cover and he steps out of a coffin while lifting its heavy lid as if made of balsa.

Plenty demonic imagery on Exhaustive Expulsion (PILGRIM TALK PT19) by Aaron Zarzutzki and Nick Hoffman. Two cassettes in a white vinyl pack. That’s Hoffman’s linework on the cover there. This is another example of near-futility. I would almost be tempted to call it a cross between doom metal and minimal improv. This low-key electric drone noise and shuffling about is just so modest it’s almost afraid to show its face. It’s like hearing the work being performed in the house next door. Only it’s more like workmen banging about with electric drills and belt sanders. There is more activity and even a little more presence and purpose as the work progresses though, and if you persevere across these four sides of magnetic tape you too may end up as inert and impassive as the anonymous man in suit and tie on the back cover, so ominous a figure his image appears three times. The inserts give us images from religious icons, the pyramids, and a magnificent possibly Chinese building in the mountains. And what’s with these minimal printed texts? Are they track titles? They just keep restating short, punchy messages about death. They are like crossword clues to a morbid cryptic crossword. So is the music. The only way to solve the crossword is by killing yourself, or others. It’s like the template for an extravagant masterpiece of doom metal music, merely awaiting the requisite musicians to step in and complete the outline with their loud amplifiers and expensive guitars. 50 copies of these edited live recordings, made on an “ancient tape machine”. You’ll be exhausted and expulsed, not to mention exasperated.

Electronic musician and improviser Jin Sangtae made Sacrifice 2 (GHOST & SON GHOST 4) using car horns. Another piece that sounds like it was recorded at a tremendous distance. I sense a pattern emerging here which may help us understand Hoffman’s aesthetic. This is a primo example of junkyard art improv with a vaguely “metallic” feel underpinning the largely unidentifiable sounds. It also presents the atmosphere of the room very well. The space in question is the Seoul Art Space Mullae. You will come to know its walls, via acoustic methods. After about 15 minutes of uncertain rumbling and shuffling, the work finishes off with some high-pitched squeals that are completely insufferable. More like car alarms than car horns. But maybe they do things differently in Seoul, automobile-wise. So far Hoffman’s vision of musical Hell is shaping up to be fairly grim in its desolation and unshakeable sense of futility. A strong vision, i’faith.

Just found Red River / Rio Tinto (GHOST & SON GHOST 5) by Miguel A. García in the package. Already reviewed this one and it’s a fiery bowl of chilis. Great to have another copy of this cobra-infested cable-biting noise-jam. Nine tracks of loopy abrasive gibberish. Almost a whole band at work on this Madrid mash.

Hell House (PILGRIM TALK PT 16) is quite a different proposition to all the above in many ways. Credited to Nick Hoffman, all the music is by Eyeless Executioner. Given that he’s the type to form and disband 18 bands and projects before breakfast, Eyeless Executioner could be one of Hoffman’s forays into the field of satanic metal (another one being Back Magic, a sort of garage-metal combo which I personally enjoy). It’s just that compared with the above, it sounds almost like a professionally-produced record. There are overdubs, power riffs, melodies, drumming, vocals, and guitar solos that make sense. It may not be especially innovative, but it’s a decent slab of Black-ish guitar metal with the strained and grunting generic singing we love so well, its melodies played in mean and menacing minor keys. Hell House is presented in a superb oversize 56pp booklet packed with Hoffman’s lovely drawings and artworks, on shifting paper stocks, some printed in full colour, with a gold on red screenprinted cover. The drawings are presented one after the other in a near random fashion, not telling a story or anything, and some of them have little inset images which make even less sense. Plus a little purple folded gewgaw with some lyrics printed on it. Unfold it and die…think of ‘Casting The Runes’ by M.R. James. 100 copies of this niftaroo.

In many of these Pilgrim Talk releases under discussion, even those not made by or involving Hoffman, there seems to be a discernible commonality in certain key areas:

  1. The reluctance to edit out “mistakes” or “boring sections”, and for the most part presenting the material as it happened, and at some length.
  2. A preoccupation with lo-fi or poor quality tape recording methods.
  3. A general indifference to explaining how or why the music was made.
  4. An abiding formlessness in the finished piece, which rarely begins or ends in what we might call a satisfactory manner.
  5. An implied (or outright stated) theme of futility and despair, often expressed in supernatural terms.

While some listeners and indeed many musicians might tend to regard the above shopping list as a catalogue of calamitous proportions, to Pilgrim Talk these things are core to the label’s defining aesthetic, I would propose. #3 in particular is very refreshing to me personally, when one is constantly being fed “explanations” of a piece of music by its eager creators. Even if you might think from my descriptions that the music here is unbearably boring and painful to endure, I would still recommend that you seek it out. All this music has a directness, honesty and spontaneity that is hard to come by in the world of over-manicured, pre-processed and self-professed experimental noise. Let the sense of strangeness and weariness dissolve, and you too will come to perceive the fascinating corners, alcoves and bricks of Hoffman’s Hell House.

Boosted Magatamania

Solid Jacksons in your House

Excellent amplified trumpet work by American improvisers Peter Evans and Nate Wooley on High Society (CARRIER 010) from Carrier Records in New York. Seems the two of them have been working as a duo for about five years, but both have behind them an impressive list of collaborative work with many of the big fish in the international world of improvisation. On these six quite lengthy cuts, there’s a variety of engagement with the set-up, raw tones and impolite parpling effects wrestling together in a potentially dangerous arena. Sometimes they’re content to explore the long hearty tones and feedback from the amplifiers, other times the imperatives for performance are soloing in an urgent spastic fashion and a commitment to intense multiple note-production, as though their daily wage depended on how many C-sharps they can blow before close of business. Breathing techniques, spluttering lip movements, and valve fingering actions are all magnified and enlarged in frightening detail, and the modulations (some might call them collisions) between natural acoustics and electronic amplification are negotiated and exploited to everyone’s advantage. Hendrix-meets-Evan Parker in the living room of Wolf Eyes. And speaking of wolves, what’s the deal with the photograph inside the digipak here? It’s a pastoral tragedy for sure, like a Tarantino standoff in the animal kingdom, fortunately without the stage blood strewn everywhere.

Tuppence a bag

Another hypnotic item from the wonderful workshop of Simon Balestrazzi in Italy, who teams up with Monica Serra as Dream Weapon Ritual and released their 20-minute CD Another View (MWT 04) on his own Magick With Tears label. This wispy but potent brew is concocted using exotic stringed instruments such as the psaltery and the cümbüs, along with guitars, electronics, the VCS3 synth, and various sonic manipulators such as the Kaoss Pad mixing desk. Not forgetting the many layers of voices, which whisper and scallop around the charged recording environment in ethereal ways, making good the press release claim about “an aural world populated with ghosts”. The first cut ‘Unending Green Waves’ is a dreamy and meandery open-ended shroud of musical mist, but ‘Big Hungry Birds’ almost follows some form of song-structure, and Serra’s musical chant ‘Let’s feed the hungry birds’ grows in ominous intent over six minutes filled with increasing tension, until the track fades into a near-silent pastoral interlude filled with birds twittering in the background. This is like the ending to the famous Hitchcock movie compressed into a fraction of the time, but it’s an inverted scenario where Tippi Hedren and the other besieged villagers rush to meet the birds with emphatic acceptance of their fate. Very nice package design, limited pressing, hand-numbered.

Psychedelic Basement

Received two CDRs and a cassette from LF Records in Bristol at the end of June. One of them is the 30-minute workout of sullen electronic phased rock noise by Non-Ferric Memories, called Live at Joey’s Basement. (LF018). The NFM may or may not be an entire band from Swindon, producing a glorious psychedelic racket using over-echoed guitars, tremendous distortion, whistling feedback tones like the breath of an angry raincloud spirit, and a vocalist who whimpers and wails some luscious unintelligible murk in a soprano approximation as though mouth is filled with stale Minestrone soup. Chaotic, incompetent and weighed down by stoner acid-head inertia, this is like a garage-band approximation of the first LP by Amon Düül II executed by someone who had never played the record and only ever seen the cover art, and is describing it to the other band members by megaphone. Formless and dirgey psychedelic glory, a lightshow made with magic markers and drugs issued from a tube of Smarties; this is absolutely great!

It’s allright Maaaa, I’m only bleeding

From Poland I got this really great CD of harsh noise which is a split between MAAAA and K2 (TRIANGLE RECORDS TR-47). The booklet is extremely confusing but it seems that MAAAA, the duo of Sergei and Renata who we heard from with their superb Decay And Demoralization CD for Mind Flare Media, occupy the first five cuts in the same way that a bulldozer “occupies” a building scheduled for demolition. Using a combination of Korg synth and metal junk, this husband and wife team create electronic music of a devastating power which is as basic as the ‘Crude Petroleum’ of track 2 and as confused as the ‘Drunken Skinhead’ of track 4, but it’s also incredibly dynamic and inventive – jet-fuel rock music on power skis, mainlining its way to the heavy-metal heart of the listener. Recorded in Warsaw in 2010 and 2011, these five crash-collision powerhouse cuts reinvigorate the notion of “metal” in industrial music. Even so, the MAAAA cuts are almost eclipsed by the sheer manic viciousness and searing attack of K2 for the remaining three cuts; Japanese player Kimihide Kusafuka uses a vaguely similar set-up (Korg synths, ruined electronics, contact mics and voice but no junk metal) to deliver remorseless sweeping invasions of exciting dive-bomber racket. Where MAAAA feel somewhat resigned and pessimistic about life’s prospects, it’s clear that K2 wants to attack everything with a psychopathic relish, sawing through life’s hurdles with a chainsaw in one hand and an acid-blasting cannon in the other. He’s also a member of numerous band projects including The Bikini Pigs, Hospital In Vain, The Immunes and Lemon Negative. As with the best Japanese noise, there is something dangerously crazy and uncontrollable which feeds the core of this music. Hold tight and enjoy the ride. Many thanks to Sergei for sending this primo sizzler of harshness.

The Vehement Shore of a Bright Life


We last noted Zavoloka in 2005 with a release of hers on the Ukrainian Nexsound label. Here she is again with Vedana (KVITNU 16), an impressive collection of well-polished electroacoustic music which has taken about two years of hard graft on her part to execute, involving research, live performance, studio work in Cracow, and a collaboration with the visual artist Laetitia Morais. Kvitnu are planning a series of abstract musical works dedicated to the four ancient elements, and this release takes on the “water” theme. Nary a field recording of a spring, river, stream or waterfall here, and instead this imaginative creatrice has drawn inspiration from the Ukrainian legends of the Kharaktemyky, magician-cossacks who held sway over forces of nature to the extent that, merely by the act of drinking spring water, they could perform remarkable feats of channelled energy. The Vedana album clearly expresses these ideas of purity and inner cleanitude, and true to its word the music “flows, melts, drips and crashes”. Indeed the very lack of pre-mapped contours to these nine pieces is very refreshing, and they merge and unfold in a highly natural and non-linear way. Packed in a hexagonal card wallet printed with apt microscopic water-crystal shapes and snowflakes. Released in April 2011, received here 11/05/2011.

Another gorgeous work of dreaming-awake music from Joe Frawley is Carnival (JOE FRAWLEY MUSIC JFM-CD10). Using his familiar constructs of piano music, found sounds, tape loops, voices and other carefully-selected remnants, Frawley weaves his ambiguous dream-narratives in sound. Evocative titles such as ‘A sleepwalker’s vocabulary’ and ‘Premonition’ confirm his surrealist bent; each track is packed with sumptuous layers and inexpressibly beautiful moments of sound that pass and vanish in seconds, fading in and out like phantoms lit up in orange autumn light. The spoken-word fragments are planted and repeated like scraps torn from a poetry book and found strewn across moonlit pavements in strange cities. As ever, the listener has the delightful impression of being conducted on a dream-quest and invited to interpret multiple symbols, clues and fleeting hints. Collaborators on this release include Rachel Rambach, the lyre player Connie Alblas, and the guitarist Greg Conte, but in essence it is a Frawley solo piece. He has published a complete list of his samples and sources used for this miniature on his website. Received in May, but this feels like the sort of record you should be playing in the months of September and October, complementing the fey and wistful season with its mysterious charm. Come to that, it would be perfect for me if Frawley were to produce an interpretation of the stories of Ray Bradbury.

A stellar lineup of composers produced Quartet for the End of Space (POGUS PRODUCTIONS 21059-2): Pauline Oliveros, Jonas Braasch, Doug Van Nort, and Francisco López. On these eight lengthy pieces they assist playing each other’s compositions in the mode of performance which is quite close to “electroacoustic improvisation”, or EAI as some will have it. This strange work is largely charcterised by very alien, unnatural sounds; great duration; slow exploration of imaginary spaces; and certain affinities with the weather, of which Braasch’s ‘Snow Drifts’ is the most obvious example. His ‘Web Doppelganger’ on the other hand is asking profound questions about the very nature of improvised and aleatory music, and doing so in a very creative way. Recorded and performed in 2010, and put together with a great sense of deliberation and care; instrumentation is not detailed, but there is a deal of electronic music, signal processing and computer assisted sounds blending with traditional instruments such as the saxophone. All the musicians play with authority and gravitas on this profound and stirring collection.

Human Greed is mostly the vision of founder Michael Begg, whose Black Hill album we heard in November 2008. For Fortress Longing (OMNEMPATHY OMIC2), he’s joined by members of Fovea Hex, 48 Cameras, and Colin Potter, and the visual artists Deryk Thomas and Nicole Boitos, the former contributing heavily to the overall aesthetic of the project. The record is the result of Begg’s personal questing, involving much travel and self-imposed silence and exile, and an investigation into the properties of various droning musical devices, including singing bowls, the glass harmonica and stringed instruments. Mystical burnished drones result, at times so evanescent they seem to hang in the air like solar phenomena. Hermetic symbolism is implied in the cover images, texts, track titles, and that same sense of ancient mystery lurks within every moment of this slow and icy ambient music, as fragile and delicate as the tracery of frost on a window. Arrived here late May 2011.

A sizzling bruiser of raw electronic improvisation is Ktotam (ZEROMOON ZERO012) from the Argentinian sound artist Andrea Pensado, a kind of mixed-media composer who comes from Buenos Aires but has also lived in Cracow for ten years. These seven blistering cuts were produced with an unearthly combination of laptop noise and her own voice, using the voice to perform multiple tasks: barking out texts and fragments of speech, triggering gated samples in the set-up, and even controlling the mix in some way. I assume she’s equipped with a digital version of a snorkel or aqualung to perform these superhuman tasks. The results are just astonishing; dark magical incantations and spells for the digital realm. If I could send out one of these grunters in email form, I feel sure I could vanquish my enemies or win the girl of my dreams. Mastered by Jeff Carey and released on his Zeromoon label, this is a totally essential dollop of musical gravel re-expressed as virtual bits and bytes. I just adore the craggy formlessness of this energised mouth-music, at times so granular and crunchy you could eat it for breakfast with half a pint of milk. Pensado truly is a “bicho raro”!

Esoteric Volumens


From 11 April, two monsters of evil noise arrived from The Netherlands. Both these spray-painted CDRs by Doodshoofd are pretty striking examples of non-stop intensive feedback grind, or HNW as the connoisseurs would have it. Geenheidsworst announces its obnoxious presence with two long tracks that will destroy 23 minutes of your peaceful life, and somehow finds space for pouring out a further 45 minutes of remorseless hell, defying the restrictions of the CDR format. Politiestaat erupts with seven slightly shorter works and a shade more “variety” in the way it executes its brutalising slabs of painful, hot scalding acid and chainsaw attacks, but still ends up delivering the necessary punch to leave most listeners in a swoon for eight days. Doodshoofd, whose name translates as Death’s Head, comes from Almelo, celebrates the power of anger and despair, and doesn’t stint when it comes to spreading these destructive emotions thickly all over his power-noise work, of which these two examples are packed in scuzzy grey xeroxes of a sort which I’d thought we’d lost in the 1980s. Distributed by Stirner and SkumRex.

Cough Cool‘s self-titled CD (DEBACLE RECORDS DBL055) is a reissue of his first cassette, remastered onto CD by this Seattle label. Seven songs in 20 minutes reveal the complex and unusual emotions which traverse the brain of Dan Svizeny, which he delivers with an idiosyncratic mix of minimal synth, guitar and drum music, occasionally allowing his electric guitar to roar in loud sweeps. His vocals invariably reach us through filters and distortion effects, adding to the sense of distance and remove. This could prove quite a grower; I like it best when his lyrics remain dumbed-down to the point of incoherence and he seems unable to do more than mumble the same inexpressive inanities over and over in time to his off-kiltre chords and beats. This was released early April.

Got a couple of newish Black Metal releases which arrived 11 April from Ladlo Productions in France. Numen are a five piece of pagan folk-metallers from the Basque country in Spain and the self-titled CD (LADLO PRODUCTIONS AO-004) is a re-release of their 2007 album. They’ve been going since the late 1990s and sing all their grisly yet hearty songs in the Euskera tongue, a tactic which may endear them to fellow Basque countryman Mattin. Competent enough fast guitar work and screeching songs is what they give us, seemingly “following the path of the ancient cult”. Cult Of Erinyes have released A Place To Call My Unknown (LADLO PRODUCTIONS AO-003), a more recent endeavour recorded last winter and offering nine songs about oppression and torture, in the “ritualistic BM” mode. Again, fast and overloaded music is the keynote here, but Corvus (main man who plays almost all the instruments) sometimes leads the drummer down some unexpected side trails.

Inside an elaborate chip-board outsize wallet is housed Mathieu Ruhlmann‘s latest endeavour of subtlety ANÁÁDIIH (3LEAVES 3L006), a 40-minute meditation in six parts which contemplates the beauties of the forest, plant life, the skies and mountain-dwelling with an enraptured awe. Banks Bailey is co-credited with producing these recordings, which to my ears seem to include many choice fragments and selections from nature’s bounty – insects, birds, horses, fire, water, weather and air, and certain unseen activities that might cause the bark of an elm to creak in sympathy. There are at least two layers of recording in motion at any one time, and sumptuous overlaid beauties emerge like multiple exposure photographs. Our Hungarian friend Ákos Garai did the mastering for his 3Leaves label on this, one of the clearest and most straightforward things I have heard from Ruhlmann’s catalogue (he can sometimes indulge in opaque murk and metaphysical conjecture). Comes with a tipped-in colour cover and a printed insert, and a paper band around the package. Arrived from British Columbia, home of the huge wooden log, on 04 April.

WP31 / REDUKT 014 is a CD packed in a DVD wallet on the Wachsender Prozess and Reduktive Musiken imprints from Germany, although my copy arrived from France on 18 April and was sent here personally by one of its creators, the impenetrable genius of “quiet noise”, Guido Huebner. As Das Synthestiche Mischgewebe, he performs the first long composition on this split CD with the title ‘Notre Besoin D’Attachment Est Aussi Celui De Rupture’. Unlike some of DSM’s compositions which have involved fragmentary cut-ups, this piece feels like it’s more of a start-to-finish document with no edits, but what strange event may have been transpiring before the microphones of Guido and Samuel Loviton is anybody’s guess. DSM specialises in this producing this extremely puzzling and alienating effect in his sound art that is well-nigh impossible to understand; this instance may start out like errant birds rattling the tops of empty milk-bottles, but it soon becomes a complex and difficult episode of vaguely electronic effects, rattles and pops. TBC‘s contribution, ‘They Never Come to Hit the Public’, has more substance than DSM on first impression, using synths and tapes and various processes to produce exciting variations on traditional musique concrète techniques. Moving freely over imaginary and real terrains in just 20 minutes, TBC is capable of a rowdiness that DSM would probably find most unseemly. But the combination of the two on a single release is just perfect; TBC’s piece is like a walk in fresh air after the cramped confines of DSM’s obsessive and vaguely neurotic internalising.

Simon Balestrazzi (1980s veteran composer and member of T.A.C.) kindly sent us three excellent new items on his Magick With Tears label, which have been languishing here in the box since 31 March. These mini-CDs (all 20 minutes) are limited editions and handsomely packaged in unusual outsize cartons which resemble slim volumes of esoteric texts. Uncodified: released Involucri (MWT 03), 20 minutes of splendidly supernatural droney effects whose single-mindedness I find most enjoyable, like being led down a strange tunnel below the surface of the earth by a big owl. All the more credit to this Italian musician for eschewing the use of computers in creating these strong and complex drones. Simon Balestrazzi‘s A Rainbow In My Mirror (MWT 01) is a lovely jumble using many acoustic stringed instruments (including a psaltery), organ, tapes and electronics; a rich and complex work that remains all of apiece despite meandering into many forbidden sonic territories. He does indeed imbue this 21-minute work with a sense of the possibility of time-travel or supernatural scyring, and it’s decorated with numerous images of skeleton siamese twins. Simon resurfaces on Untitled Soundscapes (MWT 02) as one-third of A Sphere Of Simple Green, an improvising group which also includes Adriano Orrù and Silvia Corda. Matter of fact his psaltery makes a reappearance here, along with his trusty VCS3 murmuring minimal mysterious electro-utterances that are quite sublime. Prepared piano and bass are the basis for most of this work, creating all manner of unholy textures with their hearty full-bodied scrape and nerve-shredding jangling. Kind of like a speeded-up and impatient version of MEV with added dark clouds of aural uncertainty, these three guys get the job done in half the time and for a fraction of the cost. Only the indifferent front cover disappoints here, although the interior is more intriguing with its gallery of abstract drawings.

Kut, Nurse and Decay


From April 12, a box of three multi-textured brain-crushing materials from Mind Flare Media in Charlottesville. Kristus Kut‘s offering is a tasty little oddity, mostly the work of Mr Kut performing with a bass guitar, various effects, his own voice, and a broomstick of curious proportions. With this idiosyncratic set-up, he manages to generate some highly charged atmospheric noise environments, grandiose in scope and scale, and determinedly refusing “the path of structure” which was associated with his previous incarnation, the power-industrial dynamo that was Abbatoir Rouge. Kristus Kut has also thrown himself headlong into the study of assorted non-Western belief systems, and intends his work to follow the same pattern of ritualistic order as that proposed by certain African, Caribbean and Afro-Brazil magicians and priests. In fine, Butterfly King (MFM004) will take the listener by the hand and lead him or her along a sequence of sexual initiation, with the guarantee that the happy purchaser will emerge from the chrysalis as a fully-formed butterfly with sexual prowess to match. After three mysterious episodes of dark broomstick shaking and bass-guitar reverberations that could overturn a bulldozer, there’s a brief spoken word interlude followed by three exceptionally powerful instances of complex, layered roaring noise, that conveys the unstoppable terror of a juggernaut. Chanting, deep wailing, moaning voices, many short repeated effects, loops and electronic noise attacks are among the elements carefully chosen to encourage and enhance the sex-magic rituals. Without a doubt Kristus Kut has the poptential to be the missing link between Arrington De Dionyso and Merzbow. The sleeve painting (by Wolf Englander) may look innocent at first glance, but like the music it’s laced with recondite symbols and esoterica. From 2009, with the help of guest musicians on percussion and voices; I gather that Kut’s live act is nowadays enhanced with the help of Jabu Warrior, an improvisatory dancer. You can bet those live shows are something Josephine Baker would never have dreamed of!

Crawling out from the hinterlands of Poland and Russia, the husband and wife team of MAAAA have been dealing out punishing live shows across Eastern Europe for the last four years, attempting to take all of their sonic interests – power electronics, table noise, industrial, hardcore and grindcore punk – and combine them into a solid lump of metallic noise. Decay And Demoralization (MFM002) contains six tracks of tremendous fatalistic and negative noise, performed with seething energy and close attention to shocking dynamics. MAAAA compel us to pay attention to what they’re doing by dint of their sheer ferocity – it’s virtually impossible to ignore these continual waves of anger and hate. Tracks 1-4 are short and punchy examples of their brutal craft, and were originally released in 2007 as a split with Torturing Nurse. There’s also one half of a split tape from 2008, and an entire CDR release Satan Edge, the latter doling out a full 40 minutes of unstoppable heavy flow; it’s like being trapped between the teeth of heavy gears and being melted in a vat of acid at the same time. “No computer generated sounds”, is the proud emblem of quality for their work; instead everything is hand-knitted from a tabletop of FX pedals, pre-recorded tapes, and lumps of metal (hopefully gnarled, rusty and ugly mis-shapes from the factory floor). The sleeve is beset with numerous images of decaying animals (fish and/or men) reduced to a skeletal state. All the above elements may give you the impression that MAAAA are simply pressing all the buttons that have been pressed by many other harsh-noisers for the last 30 years, but this is a strong release which I recommend.

The third serving in today’s helping of monstrosity comes from Torturing Nurse, the Chinese extreme noise act whose work was first picked up on the TSP radar in 2009, but they’ve been creating their own poisonous strand of noise for a good five years before that. Il Communismo Doveva Morire (MFM003) is an overwhelming onslaught that lasts for 75 minutes, and it’s one continuous track of incredible sound production that defies all logic and cannot really be described. For me, what stands out here is the high-quality reproduction process – every inhuman screech stands out with a stark and undeniable presence, not that you really care about how these sounds were being generated in the first place, but TN have at last succeeded in building a compact disc that stands by itself and produces in your living room the exact same experience of grotesque holy terror which they wreak on the stage. Torturing Nurse specialise in broken, unhealthy effects; it’s as though the glass window of a man’s soul were being continually shattered time and time again, in slow motion, by diabolical forces equipped with sledgehammers. Decorated in a handsome red, black and yellow cover using Communist propaganda materials from China and Russia (and a picture of skulls, of course), this is an utterly essential item for those whose inner chaos thrives on a diet of the dark and insufferable.

English Second Language


Two years ago when I had a stab at posting something on The A Band, my meagre writings were rewarded with a series of lively comments from many cheery souls who I took to be members of the band themselves. I think since then they must have taken pity on me, because last month I received this astonishing CD compilation on Agdam Records. It features seven tracks of “archive material” provided by various members of The A Band, including Stewart Walden, Neil Campbell, Stewart Greenwood, Minty Cracknell, and many more, from the dates 1987 to 2007, representing home recordings, live shows, side projects, and other snapshots from the maddest family album that was ever compiled by man. It includes some work by side project Sepopeplel, a fine piece of rumbly live noise combined with sweet accordion and clarinet music from 1998; and Well Crucial, a 1986 “conceptual precursor” to the A Band and offering a crazed piece of radio plunderphonics that demonstrates much about the collectively twisted sense of humour of this ultra-underground English combo. There’s a brief 2004 live set from Neil Campbell showing he is still the peerless master of psyched-out drone firestorm fiddling, and a ghastly acoustic lounge-music satire from 1990 called ‘Morons’. Actually that doesn’t even begin to describe what’s going on with this strangely-recorded episode of overlapping spoken-word freeform poetry and acoustic guitar mayhem.

These are all dazzling enough examples of home experiments, tape manpulation, live performance, noise and sheer daring madness. The major set pieces however are 23 minutes of divine alien-reggae music from Gay Animal Women, a 1989 track from this multi-media affair led by Stream Angel. Apparently this is just an excerpt from a much longer piece of live performance art involving numerous singers freaking out in bouts of ‘semi-verbal ecstasy’, while Stream Angel and Richard Youngs create avant-garde rock steady riddims fighting against reverb effects and tape loops. The hopefully-untutored musical geniuses who stood on the stage here would also become major players in the anarchic A Band; when you hear music as superbly bizarre as this, all the stories you hear about them could just turn out to be true. There’s also a 32-minute slab of more recent wild noise, recorded in 2007 at Warrington, including 13 of the japesters at work sawing, blowing, thrashing and wailing their lungs out in a dense melange of completely insane chaos. You’ll feel enlightened and liberated enough just hearing this slice of genius, so just imagine what it was like to have been there at the time. This workout represented a return to live work after a 15 year rest for the crazed apes, and the press notes proudly describe it as a “timely restating” of the noise they have been unleashing into the human menagerie since the early 1990s. Essential release for anyone interested in free improv, noise and truly imaginative experimentation from intelligent and gifted outsider geniuses, but mainly just for anyone who wants to experience freedom through music. My unending gratitude goes out to the wild-eyed genius of Agdam Records who sent me a copy of this; “Hope it intrigues”, and that’s all he wrote! 500 copies in a handmade card wallet; try emailing zeropoint_uk [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Also: Neil Campbell’s no-nonsense post, and some mp3 samples, here.