Tagged: noise

Yellow Fever

Norbert Möslang / Ilia Belorukov / Kurt Liedwart
sale_interiora
RUSSIA MIKROTON RECORDINGS mikroton cd47 CD (2016)

The packaging for this is bright yellow; a kind of black grid graphic; it looks like it has been photocopied black on yellow. The whole thing is yellow; you open the gatefold digipak and inside its bright yellow. I once had a friend whose favourite colour was yellow. She often maintained that yellow was “the colour of madness”, but that was a long time ago and I expect she’s grown out of saying that sort of thing now. I had another friend who painted her baby daughter’s nursery lemon yellow. Not my favourite colour. I’ve got nothing against the colour yellow, although I must say I prefer the shades nearer to orange than green.

The two tracks on this disc are each just under 17 minutes in duration. The first one is called “Giallo”, presumably after the Italian horror film genre, while the other one is titled “Nero”; another Italian reference I’m guessing, this time to the infamous emperor who was more interested in practicing scales on his violin while his city was on fire. This album is the result of two sessions or performances from 2014; “Giallo” in Moscow and “Nero” in St Petersburg. Möslang is in charge of some “cracked everyday electronics”, Belorukov, alto saxophone, laptop and electronics and Liedwart on an analogue synthesiser (although as a synth nerd, I’m a little disappointed it doesn’t say which one on the sleeve), electronics and ppooll – a piece of software whose manufacturers describe as “audio and visual networking system created from Max/MSP and Jitter patches”.

“Giallo” is an uncompromising crunch-fest. Like a digital re-enactment of First World War trench warfare. Perhaps it was the result of one of those days of travelling where everything went wrong for the musicians? Someone got up late, missed connections, lost luggage, the wrong map, GPS not working, mobile phone out of charge and arrival at the venue with just enough time to set-up with minimal line check before doors open. “No-one served coffee, so no-one woke up”, as Stephen Malkmous once sang. Everyone’s playing sounds thoroughly annoyed. But in a good way. In comparison, “Nero” sounds relatively good-natured. The granular explosions and giant combustion engines producing unnatural sub bass frequencies are still there, but it seems that there is more of an accord or mood of contentment among the musicians. Liedwart’s synthesiser is more to the fore here, too and this gives the piece a perhaps more anxious feel rather than the out and out aggression of “Giallo”. At one point, a sound like wolves howling, presumably a sound sample courtesy of Belorukov’s laptop adds to the disquiet. I’ve never been disappointed by a project involving any of these three musicians that I’ve heard so far. Yeah, I like this item – looks good, sounds good, is good. This is a record I think I’ll be returning to a lot.

Press Play Stop Eject

Working in the 1980s, A. K. Klosowski produced music and noise with his largely hand-operated methods of pressing buttons and depressing keys to get playback from a bank of eight Walkman cassette tape players. He also used a drum machine and some effects. “Intuitive and spontaneous control” are the operative words for this practice.

He hooked up with Kurt Dahle, a member of the Dusseldorf synth band Der Plan, a record appeared in 1985 called Hometaping Is Killing Music (Dahle appeared under his Pyrolator name). I never heard it, but the present LP A. K. Klosowski Plays The Kassetteninstrument (GAGARIN RECORDS gr2035) predates that session, and is done solo.

Reading about it may be more interesting than hearing it; it’s certainly a great way of working, and while the album contains an entertaining and inventive set of tunes, it doesn’t go much beyond a primitive sampling set-up with added noise and beats. A.K. doesn’t push it far enough; or the set-up itself is limited. Klosowski manipulates his device, and his sounds, like modelling clay. It results in lovely imperfections, rough edges, things not matching, which I like. I never liked that school of thought that spent ages crafting a “perfect” loop or sampled beat, an approach which kills spontaneity.

Other writers have picked up on the theme that this represents an early pre-digital approach to sampling, and invoked Cabaret Voltaire and The Art Of Noise. I like this better than Cabaret Voltaire (who were too arty, and trying to tell us something) and The Art Of Noise (who were too synthetic, too layered with intellectual pretensions.) Klosowski has a directness – his noise is noise – and it may start with tapes, but doesn’t end there. His actions are imprinted instantly onto the record without studio “diddling” before and after. It may even be closer to the “art” end of early sampling, for instance Steve Reich.

Not every track here is “abrasive disco”. ‘Lamento’ is a very nice use of strange loops, mostly voices and strings, and not too far away from Canaxis (‘Boat Woman Song’). And ‘R H 2’ is as close as he comes to producing chaotic industrial noise.

Let’s not forget cassette tapes are at the heart of this inventive noise. Label owner Felix Kubin doubtless approves; his love-affair with the cassette tape was wittily and passionately expressed on his Chromodioxgedächtnis box set, which we noted in 2015.

From 31st August 2016.

Hate Yoga: a wacky black metal noise homage to legendary French Black Legions scene

Vergreuvbre, Hate Yoga, Australia, Australibus Tenebris, cassette (2016)

About 23 minutes long, this wacky exercise in cacophonous black metal noise hell seems inspired by the more obscure and demented projects of the French Black Legions / Les Legions Noirs from way back in the mid-1990s. (The band’s name itself hints at LLN worship.) Gosh, can it really be 20 years since that little scene set the black metal world on fire with the werewolf baying, the gurgling vocals, the suspicious snuffling sounds, the junkyard approach to composing and playing music, and the in-fighting that led to the scene’s dissolution? This album – Vergreubvre’s third apparently – barrels along at a solemn pace while ghouls and ghosts yowl, gibber and complain loudly and groaning-grinding guitars chung-chung-chung along half-heartedly.

While the tin says there are five tracks – and one doesn’t know what it wants to be, so it’s just called “Untitled” – the practical reality for most listeners is that one track bleeds into the next so you’re pretty much looking at a solid slab of near-industrial raw guitar grind and percussion bashing, accompanied by some of the most bat-shit strait-jacketed groaning and bleating you’ll ever find on this side of the nine circles of hell. Even those Americans calling themselves the Black Twilight Circle appear sane and restrained compared to this lot. At least the crazed lead guitar scrabbling in some parts of the cassette anchors the rest of the band to this physical plane of material reality.

With such a lo-fi presentation, the music is gritty and raw with a crunchy noisy low end and the vocals sound even more savage and rabies-infested than they might actually be. The torture is solid and relentless, and the sound is massive in parts. At the risk of sounding like a masochist, I hazard the band probably could have added some reverb effects to get a monstrously steamy, hellish steel mine-shaft ambience and a muddy sound. Towards the end the lunar mayhem starts to tire and would probably have fallen apart if the multi-voiced screaming hadn’t started up to keep the torture going. Everyone collapses in a hail of cymbal smasherama and croaking death-rattle. If you’re not feeling drained by this point, you either are not human or (more likely) you collapsed far back during the recording.

If you’re a self-respecting music fan willing to try anything once, you definitely have to try hearing this recording.

Ossuary Dub

Finding much to enjoy on this 2016 reissue of the third Painkiller album Execution Ground (KR025) from 1994, appearing as a double vinyl LP from Karlrecords in Germany. The trio of John Zorn, Bill Laswell and Mick Harris make a crazed and maximal noise full of things we tend to like, such as manic sax screams, heavy bass, remorseless rhythms, and plenty of lush studio effects such as reverb and echo. It’s much to my chagrin that I never bought their records at the time, but I intend to make good and investigate Guts of a Virgin and Buried Secrets as soon as possible. The structure of the original release was to pile on the crazy rock-friendly rhythmic stuff on the first disc, and then reserve disc two for the “ambient” mixes. Even so the second disc is every bit as menacing as the first, and the listener lives in fear for their life for most of the duration of Execution Ground.

I see the track titles make reference to Balachaturdasi and Pashupatinath, both of which terms are associated with Hindu and Buddhist rituals, a nod in the direction of esoterica which I tend to attribute to Zorn, especially with some of his later Tzadik releases when there appeared to be no gnostic subject at which he wouldn’t have a tilt, or at least profess an interest. This strain is conspicuously absent from the first two Painkiller records, which came out on the Earache label (a home to extreme speed metal, most notoriously Mick Harris’ original band Napalm Death) and whose track titles wallowed in gore, death, and other tasty taboo subjects. On the other hand, the image on the labels of a hanged man surrounded by a mod in a grisly fog will more than compensate and put the listener in a suitably morbid frame of mind.

While I’m not the world’s most loyal fan of John Zorn’s music, I find his crazy squeals make a tremendous amount of sense in this context, the studio effects improve his sound, and there may even be some edits which demonstrate he wasn’t wedded to the conventional jazz idea of recording a solo in its entirety. It wasn’t too long before this that he made the Spy Vs Spy LP, which drew musical connections between extreme hardcore and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman; clearly a stepping stone on the way to working with Harris. Laswell is probably known to most readers of these lines, and his profligacy in recorded and performed music since the 1980s is – erm – remarkable; as one example of his genre-straddling capabilities, the press notes remind us of his Last Exit project with Peter Brötzmann, Sonny Sharrock and Ronald Shannon Jackson. One of many melting-pots where improv, free jazz, rock noise and funk exchanged their sinewy vibes in a sweaty, punchy mix. The parallels with Painkiller are evident, and if you enjoy wild free-jazz skronks on top of ultra-heavy bass rhythms, this is indispensable listening.

That particular blend of sound, which we could reduce to the simple equation “rock noise with wild sax noise”, immediately made me think of Otomo’s Ground Zero. Both bands seem to have started about the same time, and the possibilities of cross-infection are interesting to speculate on, although Otomo’s band went much further down the road of layering in intense cut-ups and samples from pop culture, before the band imploded from sheer exhaustion. Also note that their Null & Void album came out on Tzadik in 1995. That same year, the year after Execution Ground came out, we had Techno Animal and the first Macro Dub Infection record, where Kevin Martin and his friends carved out a further niche down this road, laying more emphasis on the dub mixing technique, but not neglecting the fine juicy noise. I suppose Painkiller were one of the monumental milestones that opened up this route of musical experimentation. Very good. From 12th August 2016.

Skate Mutie from the Fifth Dimension

Impressive record by one-man American powerhouse Matt Weston on his four-track release Skate For The Lie (7272music#009). I was interested enough to browse his back catalogue, much of which seems to consist of self-released items on his own 7272 Music label, and without hearing them I do have the impression that Skate For The Lie is just a tiny glimpse into what this fellow is capable of. He credits himself with just percussion and electronics, but there seems to be so much more going on in just these four short tracks, many more instruments at work. On ‘You’ve Got That Song’ he sounds like an entire band, performing some wayward brand of outer-space funk-rock noise. There’s also the intense over-crowded explosions on ‘The Old Man With The Burning Eyes’, where it’s like about two or three punk rock bands having a friendly punch-up in a sweaty basement. Real energy music, and “maximal” in a way that I enjoy tremendously, by which I mean there’s no time wasted with wispy nuances of drone and fiddly digital manipulations.

What exactly is Matt Weston doing? I’m not sure. This particular release, we are told, “features multiple realisations of architectural site-specific electroacoustic notation”, a sentence that begs at least three pointed questions. Notation? I’m prepared to believe he’s a composer of some sort, but this stuff comes across as so spontaneous, so very much of the moment, that it’s not immediately obvious to me at what point he pauses to look at the music score. Admittedly, ‘Tarrings and Featherings’, a stark piece of restrained but strong drumming, resembles avant-garde percussion music in places, but there’s also a lot of hearty scrape-and-bang malarkey that would terrify most classical timpani players. ‘This Machine Kills LRAD’ is even more stark, but has bursts and eruptions of electronic noise that you could use to dig up half the pavements of Manhattan. If that’s Matt Weston’s notion of “electroacoustic”, I’ve no complaints, but it’s a long way from INA-GRM, Clyde. As to the claims about being site-specific and having some connection to architecture, I’m at a loss to explain, but one does feel a certain grandiosity in these hefty, industrial-ish, man-sized blocks of noise and sound, as if one were being overshadowed by the tower blocks of New York. He doesn’t mess about and he gets straight to the point.

If we put aside these abstracted ideas about music, we should also note this album “explores themes of loss and defiance”, which may refer to some personal crisis in the life of this Chicago-born musician who currently lives in Albany. The title, and Jeremy Kennedy’s cover art, remain a little obscure, but I could say the same about many of the other intriguing titles in his catalogue, such as Kidnapping Denials or The Last Of The Six Cylinders. I do like a musician who evidently dreams of being mistaken for Herman Melville one day. Lest you think Weston is some undiscovered lone genius, in fact he’s got friendly collaborators by the dozen – there are ample instances of his collaborative work with other bands, singers, improvisers, rockers, jazzers, and avantists of all stripe, a resume of which would probably leave you feeling quite sick. Two regular gigs to look out for are Arthur Brooks Ensemble V, and Arc Pair, a duo with drummer Amanda Kraus. Many thanks to Matt for sending this. There’s also a cassette edition available as Tape Drift Records TD76. From 3rd August 2016.

Past Tense

Pluperfect (EH? AURAL REPOSITORY EH? 87) is a team-up between two American improvisers, Ben Bennett and John Collins McCormick; I see that Bennett has made one record for this label before, 2014’s Tangle with Jack Wright, and his drumming work has surfaced on cassettes and CDRs since around 2008. Can’t find out much about McCormick, although he may be as much of a video artist as he is a sound maker. Here, he plays his laptop and an amplified drum to do battle with Bennett’s percussion and “membranes” set-up. Two lengthy and insufferable sets veer between aimless, meandery doodling and intense, sometimes rather harsh, explosive sounds; both drums and electronics shriek and scream, spitting out painful ear-damaging statements. When the noisy portions interrupt the proceedings, it’s hard to see the logic behind it; by which I mean that neither improviser has any clear idea about what they wish to say, or what their intentions may be. There’s also a crippling lack of rapport between the two, adding to the cold and listless feel of the set. It was recorded in Marlboro College in Vermont in 2015. From 25 July 2016.

Sleep Disorder

Daniel Wyche is a Chicago guitar player and improviser who takes his task very seriously, determined to “explore the relationships between forms of resonance, overtones and noise”. He’s been doing it through extended techniques, guitar preparations, and using an effects console that would probably make even Keiji Haino sick. More recently, Wyche has turned to the methods of multi-channel playback, and something to do with the “spatialisation” of sound, something that works better in some performance places than it does in others. Some of these ambitions may or may not be represented on Our Severed Sleep (EH? AUDIO REPOSITORY EH?86), where he lets rip with the help of Ryan Packard, the drummer from Fonema Consort and Skeletons. Two lengthy improvisations pour forth, over 18 minutes apiece; a full-on noise assault eventually kicks in, some minutes after undetermined noodling about and hesitant stabs. There are some nice unkempt and dirty sounds on here, but for all their thrashing and hammering, the duo can’t seem to generate much actual energy. Their strenuous efforts go round in circles, like a dismal whirlpool, leaving no lasting effect on the listener. Wyche isn’t really playing the guitar enough for my liking; 40% of this album is just loud feedback put through filters and left to drone in an angry manner. Conversely, Packard plays the drums too much, blindly smashing his way through unadventurous riffs. While Our Severed Sleep may appeal to fans of avant-rock noise, it’s also too mannered and over-intellectualised to really make that visceral, gut-level connection one would tend to seek. Grandiose titles like ‘I Give My Language To More Than History’ don’t help matters either, I regret to say. From 25 July 2016.

It’s Clobberin’ Time

The Thing
Shake
AUSTRIA THE THING RECORDS TTR005CD CD (2015)

Instead of Mats Gustafsson christening his thug/jazz combo after a Don Cherry number, I’d like to think than an alternative reality would see this Swedish sax pulveriser finding his descriptive powers failing badly in the pursuit of a fitting band name. As he had his chakras seriously realigned by Brötzmann’s Machine Gun at the same time as certain seminal punk bands, it had to be one that embraced the indeterminate; a neither/nor situation. So, after a lot of deep thought, we encounter The Thing 1 and, of course, mere bullets simply can’t stop its forward motion.

And the forward motion of The Thing (and M.G. related produce) is indeed relentless. We’re actually into three figures now (!) and naturally you’d have to be as rich as Croesus to own his/their/its entire discography. Shake, the follow-up to 2013’s Boot, follows the usual thingian template with the hired muscle of bassist Ingebrigt Håken and upper echelon sticksman Paal Nilsson-Love flailing their way through a set of originals and some covers. You may recall Polly Harvey, Duke Ellington and Lightning Bolt being the focus of their unlikely attention in years gone by.

In this case though, we’ve trawled a little bit deeper, as aside from a bustling Ornette Coleman cover (“Perfection”), the songbooks of Loop and Canadian free folk unit Wyrd Visions have been plundered. The former’s signature foghorn blasts on “The Nail Will Burn” rise up in stark contrast to the smokier sax wisps of “Sigill”. The murk-laden moodpiece “Til Jord er du Kommet” finds scrapyard percussives and cracked J. Arthur Rank gongs under the now barely visible spotlight while the molten “Bota Fogo” (penned by Nilssen-Love), should really be retitled “Bota Fuego” as this 7.26 ripper suggests that the file on Fire Music must be reopened and revised immediately.

N.B. The double vinyl gets one over its C.D. counterpart as it boasts four extras in the shape of “First Shake”, “Second Shake”, “Third Shake”, and “Round About Lapa”.

  1. Though for those of a certain age, you’d be excused if b/w images of the stogie-chewing Ben Grimm (of The Fantastic Four) stomp through your mind, not to mention the two films of the same name. The first being for me far more subtle/kreeepy than the viscera/offal fest of the remake…

Nihil Ex Nihilo

The kings of UK confrontational Noise Music, The New Blockaders, surface yet again with these 2012 recordings on a Japanese CD. Live At The Rammel Club / The Dome (VLZ PRODUKT VLZ 00043-CD) features two lengthy performances captured in venues in Nottingham and London respectively. The first was part of the Broken Flag Festival held that year, the second as part of the Harbinger Sound Festival. That information alone might be helpful to put these recordings in context…after all Steve Underwood, the owner of Harbinger Sound, had just published his first (and only?) issue of As Loud As Possible in 2010, an exhaustive magazine dedicated to furthering the cause of Industrial Music and Power Noise, and what’s more it featured an in-depth overview of the whole Broken Flag thing, in a bid to understand not just the music and the label, but also see it through the eyes of the main contributors to the label, including M.B., Paul Lemos, Skullflower, and…erm…Tim Gane. That publication is the closest I for one have come to getting any kind of purchase on the dark and foreboding world of Gary Mundy and his thoroughly alienated cohorts.

It makes sense that all the brutal noise-loving diehards of the world would wish to keep the flame alive in the form of two Festivals that year, showcasing what they would regard as two important locuses of their preferred form of cultural endeavour. And what better way to underscore these sentiments than by offering a platform to The New Blockaders, who since the early 1980s have been pummelling the ears, minds and bodies of anyone who cared to listen, doing so through their own unique brand of formless, destructive noise, a racket which often appears to have been assembled from equal parts of malfunctioning metal devices, feedback, and the rubble from a bomb blast site. Those who have collected the works of Richard Rupenus and his men over the years may have some idea what to expect from this CD, although The New Blockaders in 2012 is somewhat of a different proposition from the original incarnation. It’s now a four-piece of collaborators.

We’ve heard rumours that other performers besides Richard and brother Phil have been involved in the tour band versions, but this is now confirmed by the credit note here, which clearly identifies Mark Durgan, Michael Gillham, and Phil Julian as the three able supporters of Richard Rupenus for these concerts. True, they stick to the expected form – they still have the ski masks, the jackets and ties, and they still set about the task on stage as though working on an anti-building site where everything has to be demolished before the five o’clock whistle. And they make a tremendous noise doing so. But they also do it knowingly, perhaps a bit too knowingly; a record such as Changez Les Blockeurs could be seen as something of a leap in the dark in 1982, with its creators having no idea if their contribution to the culture would even have any effect. By 2012, we’ve had time to assimilate that assault into our collective bloodstream; and so have Durgan, Gillham, and Julian, next-generation noisesters who are more easily able to step into the ground cleared by TNB, and produce a highly convincing take on the music, but also one that’s ever so slightly “facile”. I’m not feeling the struggle, the pain, the internal strife that Richard Rupenus poured into his best and most alienating work. However, I would like to think that Rupenus chooses his collaborators with care; it’s not the same as recruiting for a tour band version of Gerry and The Pacemakers, after all. This is undoubtedly a “dream team” for a viable performing version of TNB; as Putrefier, for instance, Mark Durgan has produced some scathing statements in the harsh noise mode. His four-CD Hypertension Classics Vol 2., released by Harbinger Sound in 2005, is not something I can forget in a hurry.

Another side of the TNB project is the abrasive, nihilistic “anti-art” stance, a stance which mostly consists of saying “I’m against it” while still striving to locate the music and culture of TNB within an avant-garde framework of some sort, whether that’s performance, Fluxus composition, or visual art history. It involves the careful positioning of TNB alongside fine art, in order for Rupenus to say he rejects it completely, and that TNB has nothing to do with it. On the present release, this aspect is represented by some characteristically hostile paragraphs of invective reprinted from Glissando magazine.

A thoroughly depressing, misanthropic, and negative release; everything about it brings you down, including the sickening colours of the artworks, the extreme bitterness of the printed texts, and the grim, suffocating noise music on the disc. The only development I might remark on is the audience sound; it’s the first time I think that I’ve even heard an audience reacting to TNB. More to the point, they’re obviously loving it, whooping and hollering as if they were mainstream rock fans at a U2 concert. I’m not sure what this means, but I think it’s interesting; perhaps despite all Rupenus’ strenuous efforts to produce a noise and a performance that is completely toxic and fatal to society, that same society still manages to consume it, and enjoy it. From 8th July 2016.

Curriculum Vitae

The last tape in the envelope, which is a shame as I’ve enjoyed hearing these oddities – every one giving new and unexpected surprises, which is more than many labels can say these days. I Placca are the duo of Iritur’aràrcamu and Ben Presto, and their La La Vitea (TUTORE BURLATO #11) is a wonderful tape-jumble collage using everyday sound effects, field recordings, music, noise and what have you, creating a kaleidoscopic vision of modern life across six separate tracks. As ever with this label, the emphasis is on energy and humour combined with a decidedly skewed view of everything. Where some of the performers on this imprint shade that skewed view in darkness and grotesquerie, I Placca are more life-affirming and upbeat, and what is conveyed is that while life may be a little chaotic and hard to understand, it is not completely absurd and futile. Only once do our witty duo permit themselves to editorialise, and that’s on the final track ‘ochiesi’ which takes the sounds of the interior of a church (murmuring, whispering voices), and a choir singing a holy tune, then juxtaposes them with the bleats of a flock of sheep. A fairly obvious bit of collaging, in some ways, almost making a visual pun in sound. The chap who calls himself Iritur’aràrcamu is in fact Francesco Calandrino, whom we have heard in these pages on the Idi Di Marzo record he made with the French guitarist Jean-Marc Montera. Ben Presto is another luminary known to the world in the groups Cement Teddies, Larsen Lombriki, and Tofubibles; the duo’s common ground is that both have had works released by the Italian avant-garde label Setola Di Maiale. Matter of fact, I see they released Decidere A Te… for that label working under this same project name. It’d be nice to know who does what on this tape, given that both are clearly all-rounders when it comes to instrument performances, use of tapes, samplers, field recordings and live electronics, but on the other hand it’s also nice not to know. This is another highly enjoyable collaged vision of life that takes a lot of simple delight in finding, hearing, playing and editing sounds, without the need for processing or filtering or any of the other over-familiar digital tricks. Nice cover sketch of a strong man in red trunks and boots, too. Great!

One of nine cassettes received 4th July 2016 from Ezio Piermattei.