Tagged: noise

Decaying Loops

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We’ve had a soft spot (assuming you can indeed experience such an emotion when it comes to harsh noise records) for the music of MAAAA since 2011, a time when we heard their Decay And Demoralization record for Mind Flare Media, and also a superb split they made with K2 for Triangle Records. For the longest time I have since assumed that MAAAA is a husband and wife duo and always liked the idea of them being two committed noise-makers who “live the life” to the max with a disciplined, straight-edge lifestyle. I’ve also been less than clear about the Russian-Polish origins of the band. A little fact-checking reveals that, at time of writing, MAAA is the solo project of Sergei Hanolainen, a Russian-born fellow who lives in Warsaw in Poland. The group is about ten years old, used to be a “punk noise collective”, and in fact had ten members in its ranks at one point. Sergei also came our way in 2015, when he co-curated the superb comp. Hard Panning for Triangle Records, on which MAAAA appeared with ‘Utmost Restraint’, enjoyed by this writer as a “liquid firework display”… “propelled forward as surely as a gigantic ball of dung rolled by two dung-beetles”.

We now have Abhorrence And Dismay (TRIANGLE RECORDS TR-55), which appears to be the first release by MAAAA since that K2 split mentioned above; continuing the theme of Decay And Demoralization, it’s clear that Sergei sees evil inhabiting the world in twin pairs of horror at all times. The music here was created by a mix of “decaying tape loop manipulation, amplified objects, field recordings and torn harsh noise passages.” These two long tracks express his personal revulsion at the grotesqueries of human life and the filthy globe. The first of these, ‘Abhorrence’, may finish up a sub-Merzbow roar of painful harsh noise wall, but before it reaches that point it stumbles its way blindly over some fascinating sonic terrain; the listener is led through several strange moods and bizarre textures, there are plenty of dramatic shifts and changes, and the dynamics of the music are just plain odd. I recently re-listened to Merzbow’s Collapse 12 Floors and was similarly struck by the careful attention to bizarre shifts of timbre and tone, where the sheer unexpectedness of the changes draws many a gasp from the lungs. MAAAA is not far away from achieving the same powerful sensations here.

The same drama can be found on ‘Dismay’, a superb construct full of similar contrasts and stark, evil sonorities battling it out in a disputed no-man’s-land of noisy turf. If he were a visual painter, MAAAA would most likely favour fields of all-black jagged edge colour fields, thrown to create vivid contrasts with white paint and unprimed canvas, an angrified update on Franz Kline. ‘Dismay’ also seems to link back to industrial music of the 1980s, and perhaps to the work of the ultimate Polish gloomoid noise genius, Zbigniew Karkowski; I can sense a similar preoccupation with remorsless, airless, sound, and an attempt to delineate the horrors of the grim Polish political-scape using electronic noise. With this release, Sergei Hanolainen has created a nuanced and detailed work fit to be regarded as a modernist compositional statement, and not just another harsh noise record. From 6th June 2016.

Broken and Incoherent Society

Three items from the LF Records label in Bristol landed 6th May 2016.

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Norwegian Sindre Bjerga wows crowds everywhere through his manipulation of cassette tapes. We heard him doing it for this label in 2014 with Black Paper Wings, a highly effective combination of warped speaking voices with twisted electronic spew. We also heard him as one half of Star Turbine, on the fabbo record Inner Space / Outer Space for Attenuation Circuit, and on Invisible Paths for Zoharum. Here on For The Automatic People (LF057), we’ve got 28 minutes of him mangling tapes and machines at a live set in Nijmegen. No doubt it offers a sensationally chilling experience, pushing the listener through the other side of a distorting mirror where the once-familiar world is transformed into ugly, threatening shapes. But for most of the time Bjerga is treading water, letting the tapes unspool in suitably ambiguous droney and crackly scapes but not doing much to exert himself as a performer; I prefer the brief moments when he gets his hands stuck right in, and does something to manually retard the rotation of his own capstans, to devastating effect. Even so, this growly beast fully lives up to label claim of “magnetic tape abuse, bleak drone and dungeon crawler electronics”.

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When it comes to “hands-on” performances, you could do worse than turning your spotlight on major loon Yol, the English performer whose ugly and slightly confrontational work has crossed our path on two unforgettable CDRs. Is It Acceptable (LF056) contains four instances of his voice-centric noise, and will likely sear its way into your life in just 30 mins with as much assurance as a truckload of spoiled food or garden debris tipped onto your front lawn. Yol spits and vomits out primitive poetry right there on the stage, mauling and mangling his own larynx into hideous forms while doing so; unpleasant imagery abounds in his texts, many of them vivid descriptions of life on a bleak on a housing estate, and it’s like meeting an urbanised Stig of the Dump crossed with a heroin addict clutching a can of Special Brew in his hairy paw. To accompany these caustic, abrasive voice attacks, Yol uses broken debris as percussion – could be chains, metal tins, broken glass…as if using the remains of industrial society to make his point. Can’t help but concur with label assessment: “Yol infests speech and sound with a plague-like bubonic mass that explodes spores into the atmosphere”.

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Both the above releases tend to confirm label owner Greg Godwin’s view of contemporary British society as broken and incoherent. The next record is slightly more “musical”, though that’s probably stretching the envelope a bit more than we should. It’s a split album (LF050) between Robin Foster and Henry Collins, with both cuts mysteriously timed at exactly 18:02. Foster turns in ‘Spill Lynch Corrosiveness’, a long and brooding episode of nasty guitar noise, which he executes with a coldness of purpose that borders on malevolence. He makes that feedback hum creep along the studio floor as though it’s a slowly-seeping pool of acid, soon to be lapping around our ankles. There’s also evidence of his skill with pedal manipulation; not a second goes by but a potentially “normal” sounding guitar lick is mutated into a hideous blob of ugliness by means of distortion or delay, pushed to wild extremes. If there’s a coherent statement to be extracted from this lengthy bout of waywardness, you’d be hard pressed to find it; Robin Foster is determined to short-circuit logic and common sense at all times, pushing back and forth between the modes of twangy free-form plucking and pure noise generation.

Henry Collins’ exploits are even more insufferable. His ‘Frostlike, Neighbourly Aversion’ makes it plain, in both title and sound, that he wishes to explore his own personal sensations of alienation. His assault on the guitar, if that is indeed the instrument in question, is violent and crude; for the first seven minutes the listener is repelled rather than engaged, forced aside by an ugly chattering of coarse metal-electric filth. Things progress from that point, into insane explorations of wayward feedback apparently taking place inside an industrial metal cannister, some 30 feet high with no possibility of escape. It’s genuinely alarming to hear; this noise perfectly evokes the maddened frustration and claustrophobia of the mentally ill, clawing helplessly at the walls of their self-made cage. One of the more impressive scabs to have been torn from the gangrenous knee of the LF Records label; for those with a thirst for more Foster and Collins, they also perform as a duo under the name of Tippex.

Fuochi Rituali di San Giuseppe: the mystery of fire through comforting rituals

Andrea Borghi, Fuochi Rituali di San Giuseppe, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U36 (2016)

Play this often enough and loudly enough and your neighbours might think you’re operating a diner, frying up loads of comfort-food lamb chops, bacon and eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner for hungry commuters and truckers. Indeed, the dominant sounds on the three parts that make up this recording are fire-related: a crackling fire on firewood, oil being fried over fire, and people and children gathering around a fire. While these fiery field recordings constitute the sonic foundation of this CD, and are more or less continuous (though the sounds may dwindle close to nearly inaudible), other more ghostly or murky sounds pass in and out of the space above the snap, crackle and pop to give us a recording that’s as much mysterious as its source material is mundane.

The recording is very spacious with a cool darkness that appears to be benign, and listeners may be surprised that they are drawn into its depths by fragments of ordinary every-day noises, sizzle and crackle. Even though there is not much variation in the soundscapes, the mystery surrounding the noises and the rituals that they suggest keep attention close and boredom away. More soothing and comforting than exciting or forbidding, you’d probably bring out this album to play during times when you want familiar company, without too much stimulation that might frazzle your nerves and leave you feeling jumpy and unable to relax.

Gosh, just talking about this recording is making me hungry …

Onden: a surprisingly soothing set of interwoven soundtracks of man-made and natural sounds

Kassel Jaeger, Onden, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U37 (2016)

If you enjoy the soothing frying sounds of electromagnetic fields captured from lights and cables, and want something of the ambience of Japanese cities as well, you’ll feel at home with this surprisingly calming urban soundscape of field recordings made by Kassel Jaeger in various locations across Tokyo over a six-month period in 2015. The material has been spliced into one continuous flowing track of layers of droning textures, all frying away and intriguing in their sonic pointillism, each dot of sound complete in itself as a tiny mini-universe and all of them joined up in long extended linear strings that are more than the sums of their minuscule atoms. Jaeger lets these sounds speak for themselves, not trying to shape them into structures with recognisable beats or rhythms and the result is a leisurely sinuous, almost organic river of metallic or sparking textures brimming with alien life and energy.

The actual sounds are very difficult to describe and yet they can remind listeners of all sorts of objects and memories: a hydrofoil coming into a bay and settling down beside a wharf to deliver its passengers; a leaf-blower in the far distance from where you’re sitting; cargo trains passing in the night; machines laying asphalt on a road; and probably lots more besides, depending on the individual listener’s own past experiences. No sound in particular evokes a mood or feeling and as a listener you tend to passively observe the sounds passing by rather than feel engaged with them. Yet these soundscapes can be very hypnotic and through their mesmerising quality keep boredom at bay. Some listeners may even find a spiritual dimension in the sounds, especially near the end of the recording where deeper tones begin to resound amid the receding textures.

There are actually two very different soundtracks here on the album: the more obvious urban-generated soundtrack of electromagnetic humming and droning, and people going about their daily business in the city; and the world of birdsong, insect ambience and other murmurs of the natural world that acts as a counterpoint and commentary on sounds generated by humans and their machines.

I do find this a very likeable recording though its length and obvious lack of musical structures won’t endear it to most people. You’d be hard put to find another recording of droning metallic noise drone that’s just as serene, majestic and impassive as it rolls by.

Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki: a good but not great fusion of old school black metal and space psychedelia

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Abyssion, Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki, Finland, Svart Records, SVR343 CD digipak / vinyl (2015)

Apparently the album’s title translates into English as “The Harmony of Nature and the Green Flame” and the music bears a very superficial resemblance to Filosofem-period Burzum but there’s little about the album that’s either calming or pop-friendly for listeners. There’s a strong industrial / punk / garage feel to the music which through continuous tremolo micro-repetition and harsh abrasive guitar textures achieves an effect of ever-flowing levitating music which can have an unsettling impact on listeners. This feeling of being adrift is magnified by the use of synthesiser-generated cold space ambience and a severely raspy machine vocal reminiscent of Daleks gone psycho (for those of you who watch Doctor Who). It soon becomes obvious that, in the hands of Abyssion members Jose Rossi and Antti Varis, raw punky 1990s-period black metal becomes the launch-pad for sonic experimentation that takes the band and its followers into dark and deranged realms far beyond BM while still retaining a connection, however stretched out it becomes, to that genre.

Intro track “Luonnon Harmonia” sets the pace with a rock-n-roll rhythm, swirling psychedelic effects and a screeching vocal in what’s otherwise a no-nonsense throwback to old school BM. The drumming is close to overwhelming thunder on the second track but apart from that and the screaming, the music doesn’t raise its head much above a sedate pace until its last couple of moments. It’s not until we come to “Vihreä Liekki” that Abyssion comes close to the promise of the album’s opening track: demented demonic singing, a mix of fast and slow rhythms, psychedelic space-ambient effects that reach sky-high and dip down far below, a scrabbly lead guitar solo near the end, all of which are buoyed by solid tremolo guitar textures, combine to make the song a major highlight of the album.

Just when you think the band couldn’t be any more inspired after “Vihreä Liekki”, out comes “Ajatus kirkastuu” which experiments with droning guitar feedback and more atmospheric droning space psychedelia to create a cold, remote and sometimes nauseous mood, and which features even more insane shrieking vocals and thundering percussion. No matter how extreme this song (and some of the other songs on the album) becomes, the rhythm guitars still anchor everything in place with solid riff abrasion. The last track continues on, this time with some shrieky lead guitar soloing and furious stickwork, but it quickly runs out of puff and settles into a melodic BM groove.

For the first few times the album is a good listening experience with mostly short screechy songs and an inspired combination of raw punk, solid old school BM and cold space ambient psychedelic effects to spice up the music. After several repeated hearings though, you start to realise that the band is short on very catchy and memorable melodies and extended riffs, and that for all the vocal gymnastics the actual music doesn’t break into too much of a sweat. Perhaps sticking a bit too close to its black metal roots and not severing the connection with them and going into all-out blackened space derangement is Abyssion’s weak point here. Here’s a case where a band would seem to have everything going for it – but on closer inspection doesn’t have those inspired tunes that would take it far beyond the ends of the cosmos.

The Road To Red

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Red Square
Rare And Lost 70s Recordings
SPAIN MENTAL EXPERIENCE MENT003 LP (2016)

Here’s another excellent item from Mental Experience, the sub-label of Guerssen who also brought us the two reissues of Circle, the lesser-known 1980s post-Krautrock band. Red Square were an English art-rock free-jazz combo who were first active in the 1970s, and had a serious political edge to boot. The name Red Square refers not to the plaza in Moscow, but to the work of the Constructivists painters (especially El Lissitzky), but I’m sure these Marxists found it was a good way to signal their intentions to promoters and organisers alike. Nothing like booking a commie pinko band to play to the radical young students of the day, who wanted some light relief after a hard day occupying the University faculty with their sit-ins and strikes. They also made a grand old racket, as is evidenced by Rare And Lost 70s Recordings, an album which salvages a studio session from 1978 where they played live to create four blistering cuts, and another three recordings from a gig at Lindisfarne Hall the same year.

It’s fairly clear Red Square had at least one foot planted in the rock music enclave, as the guitarist Ian Staples heaves out a delicious heavily-amped swirl of noise, proving he fears neither loud amplifiers nor feedback effects, and makes few concessions to conventions of free jazz (or rock, for that matter). In fine, by 1978 Staples had already evolved himself into an English Sonny Sharrock, which isn’t bad going if you consider that Monkie Pockie-Boo was only 8 years old at this time, and I sincerely doubt if many people in England had even heard that record. Then you’ve got the drummer Roger Telford, who has a fairly relentless attack…I usually don’t care for drumming that attempts to fill in every available space with unnecessary rattles, bangs and triple-notes, but for some reason this maximalism is just perfect here. Manic, excessive drumming appears to be a big part of the Red Square sound. One might even say it’s the lifeblood. If nothing else, Telford’s bass skins do give the band their “bottom end”.

Then there’s the woodwind player, Jon Seagroatt, also a member of Comus and sometime performer with Current 93, who plays bass clarinet and saxophone and may at times seem to be in danger of being wiped out by the guitar noise, but retaliates with everything he’s got in his lungs, heart and liver. While he too may have picked up some of hell-for-leather sensibilities of the all-out free blowing such as you find on the 1969 BYG records, Seagroatt has also somehow evolved his own English take on the genre. There may be anger and fury bubbling under the surface, but whereas Archie Shepp and Clifford Thornton directed their anger against white racism in America, here it’s channelled into an audible Marxist dialectic, laying out a sustained critical argument against the iniquities of society in 1970s UK. At any rate, that’s my take on the matter. I invite the listener to hear for themselves and see if they agree.

All of Red Square’s music carries this particular directed energy, so the music is not just an exercise in “free blowing” or “extended technique”; they were probably young idealists itching for change, and I would suggest they intended to pass on their restless state of mind to the listener, and thereby activate the brains of the audience towards critique, towards questioning. I have often expressed the same view regarding certain Post Punk bands, most notably This Heat. It’ll come as no surprise when you learn Red Square played with Henry Cow, and were part of a movement called Music For Socialism. On the other hand, while I can imagine Chris Cutler personally welcoming Red Square as fellow Marxists, I’m not sure how far they went with participating in the Rock In Opposition thing. For balance, we should also point out they shared bills with other jazz and jazz-rock combos with no discernible political agenda, such as National Health and Lol Coxhill. There’s also some vague allusion in the press notes here to general conflicts which arose in the band’s lifetime: “their extreme sound and attitude were too much for both audience and record companies”, an evasive remark if ever there was. “Too much”? What happened? Were there audience riots? And could you be more specific about why they didn’t get a record deal?

Even if you’ve no interest in politics, which can be a jolly boring subject, the music will energise and amaze you. At their best Red Square created a kind of fierce tidal wave of sound, which was absolutely untrammelled by any tedious conventions such as rhythm, metre, structure, chord changes, or any of that stuff that gets in the way and restricts movement. Yet they did not simply spew out a hideous, self-indulgent racket, and the internal dynamics of this trio must, I assume, be something that these three men alone were capable of creating together. The press notes blither on about how Red Square were pioneers of things that “have become common practice today”, and doing this before Sonic Youth, Last Exit, and contemporary noise combos like The Thing, as though these “common practices” were fixed values and fixed goals, and “getting there first” was the important thing. I take issue with such lazy thinking. Such thinking also assumes that all these bands and musicians are all trying to do the same thing, which might not be correct. I realise we all need these labels like “noise” and “avant jazz” to help us get our bearings, but we shouldn’t trust them to the extent that we fail to listen to the music itself, and appreciate the real differences between things. Music is a living culture, not a map pointing to things we already know. And while I’m prepared to grant pioneer status to any brave musician in history who took risks and followed their instincts, I don’t think it’s helpful to see musical evolution as some sort of race to the finish line or a competition to invent something “new” before everyone else. But there I am criticising the press release, which is a bad way to write.

Red Square existed from 1974 to 1978; apparently they created two private press cassettes at this time, probably for selling at gigs, and as far as we know no “official” records from this period exist until now. However, they reformed in 2008, and albums were released on FMR Records and Fo Fum from this date, including a document of s gig at the Vortex released in 2010. Very happy to hear these fragments of buried treasure from 1978 and this record is highly recommended. From 18th April 2016.

A Certain Ratio

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Ted Lee is co-owner of the Feeding Tube Records label in New England, that part of the United States generally associated with a resurgence in underground noise, free rock jamming and freaky-folk of all stripes over the years…as regards his own musical contributions to culture, we were less than impressed by the Zebu! record in 2014, tho’ had more time for the scrambled gibberish of the Curse Purse record in 2015 where he appeared as one part of a trio. Seems he’s also performed with Egg, Eggs (though one cynical riposte there might be “who hasn’t?!”) and Sunburned Hand Of The Man. Now Ted Lee has made a solo record, and a fine statement of mystifying art-drone-noise shoutery it do be. Appearing here as No Sod, Lee has seen fit to press his record in blue vinyl, manufacture only 100 copies of it, and call it 1:11 / 11:11 (FTR 223), a mystical numerical equation that may mean he’s inviting us to find parallels with Alan Sondheim’s Ritual-All-7-70, or not…it’s something to do with ratios…he’s also included a monochrome printed booklet of baffling artwork daubs, some of them resembling human heads, most of them distorted and stretched in the computer in some way…so far, a lot of “artiness” abounding.

I enjoyed what’s in the grooves, though. Each side equally abstract and puzzling, but packed with dense noise, drone, and feedback…the first side opens with some beautifully delicate chords, which is a way of ushering us into the main event…said main event being a protracted bout of free drumming and semi-crazed vocal yawping, an entity writhing like a trapped fish in the sea of humming noise and distortion…it’s a much more successful bid at what I always expected Sunburned Hand Of The Man to deliver, but they never did. As No Sod, Ted Lee has evidently decided that the best art music is primitive, inexplicable, and utterly spontaneous. Don’t look for hidden messages in this primal goop, but enjoy the warm, blood-filled presence while it still throbs and vibrates your torso…if we’re still dropping ESP-Disk references, maybe the Cromagnon or Mij LPs would align themselves at this juncture too.

The B side feels kinda more refined after that caveman gorge-fest of fire, blood, and bones, emitting a strange multi-layered chilling drone for some 15-20 minutes that feels like a glimpse of infinity, or least a view round the immediate upcoming corner. Somehow it manages to evoke very mixed emotions, of simultaneous dread and happiness, without really doing much to vary its general continuum. While not as roary as its flip side, this No Sod endorsed drone is nowhere near the over-processed, polite and synthetic drones that tend to emanate from mainland Europe and the million and one laptops that pass for musical instruments in these grim times. Instead, it’s as rough-hewn and cranky as a Claes Oldenburg slab of painted plaster, or a Rauschenberg canvas packed with found images and detritus. Good stuff. I always wondered why Alvaro kept on mentioning Ted Lee and his ever-present bottle of maple syrup, and now I know. From February 2016.

Solar Darkness

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Aithein (KARL RECORDS KR023) is a fine record of guitar art-rock excess played by Oren Ambarchi with two Italian musicians joining in, namely Stefano Pilia and Massimo Pupillo. I see we noted guitarist Stefano Pilia in 2005 with his album for Last Visible Dog, Healing Memories… And Other Scattering Times, realised with the help of Valerio Tricoli. “Long-form instrumental…shapeless drones”, was how I recall it, but there was also warmth and sincerity to his work, plus he seems to have improved his technique considerably in 11 years, and his guitar work makes a good complement to Oren’s playing here. Pilio has also made some headway playing and touring with Andrea Belfi and David Grubbs in another art-music trio. Massimo Pupillo is the bass player in Zu, an Italian trio who blended jazz moves with math-rock in some way, and I don’t think we heard them since 2005 either, and the album The Way Of The Animal Powers on Public Guilt. Well, so much for the good old days.

Oren Ambarchi has over time been growing and developing his unique approach to playing extended instrumentals, a trend which could be seen on 2012’s Audience Of One and Sagittarian Domain from 2013. I’m not sure what it means, or how to characterise it. I can’t give it a name. It feels quite composed, because it’s structured to some degree; it allows for improvisation, like jazz; and yet there’s always a strong beat in it somewhere, so it never departs very far from rock music. You could say Oren is trying to have his triple-layer cake and eat it, with extra helpings of cream and sugar. Maybe it also reflects on his wide-ranging musical appetites; we all like so many types of music now, mainly because there’s so much of it available. But I’d like to think Oren is not only doing something quite original, he’s taking his time to evolve it thoroughly, and naturally; it’s a learning process, other collaborators are involved (even though he can produce similar results in a studio by playing all the instruments himself), and it’s not some novelty act or a flash in the pan that’s built on sand (insert other dreary cliché of your choice here; I’m looking for trite, commonplace phrases that suggest transience or impermanence).

However you might wonder what on earth I’m getting so excited about when you hear Aithein, captured at a live gig in Bologna in 2015 and comprising two long instrumentals. After all, the first half is mostly so desolate and empty that you lose the will to live as you listen, especially when you survey the grey empty skies and consider the awful future that awaits us all. And is your life enriched by the livelier antics on the second side, which if you sampled for just two minutes you’d say was nothing special, indistinguishable from any given Hawkwind “jam” of 1973 surviving from a Festival bootleg tape? (Incidentally I think that’s Oren drumming at the end of the record, and he ain’t no slouch behind the old tubs.) Well, Oren’s achievement I think has been to structure the whole piece over some 33 minutes, so that there’s a discernible trajectory from its sorrowful start and its cathartic release at the end; along the way, there are numerous changes in tone, mood, timbre and effect, where the subtleties of the guitar drones are far more varied and powerful than anything Sunn O))) (with whom he has played) have ever managed, riff in slow motion as they may. Aithein’s dynamics and developments never feel forced or strained; it’s a combination of good ideas, compositional / directional strengths, and good musicianship that leads to such a good result. From 19 April 2016.

Mortadelle Aux Vaches

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Got a double-cassette pack from L’Autopsie A Révélé Que La Mort Était Due A L’Autopsie, which arrived here 19th April 2016…we first heard from this strange outlying project in November 2014 when they sent us a very bizarre album called Le Souffle de L’Avorton and we learned, whether we wanted to know or not, that the membership comprised Ogrob, aka_bondage, Anla Courtis and Frank de Quengo. Courtis and aka_bondage did the editing and mixing of the present release, and aka_bondage provided the artwork. As you can see, it’s an image of a Mortadelle sausage, and the album is titled La Tétralogie de La Mortadelle (KOMMA NULL KN11). I have never eaten this particular Italian delicacy, as I suspect that the inclusion of berries and pistachio nuts (little red and green bits) in the mix of cured pork and pork fat make for an unappetising combination. You might say the same about this loopy music, but we’ll get to that.

The release is clearly another send-up of “serious” music. The last album spun a yarn about the life and work of Jean-Philippe Borbollono, a composer who never actually existed, but the band put a lot of effort into creating a convincing hoax. This piece uses the term “Tétralogie” in mock-solemn tones, although technically it is indeed a tétralogie because it’s composed and presented in four separate parts, over the four sides of the two tapes. They pretend it was made at “Groupe de Recherche Mortadelique de Dammartin”, thus poking fun at the “real” Groupe de Recherches Musicales, though this kind of in-joke isn’t much of a knee-slapper unless you’re already a devotee of Pierre Schaeffer and all his works. They also claim to have realised the music using a Toshiba GT-840S, which is a genuine reel-to-reel tape recorder from the mid-1960s, but that might be wishful thinking on their part (such devices are quite rare). Lastly there’s the absurd image of the sausage, which might be read as a snide comment on electro-acoustic music “grinding” its sources into mincemeat, but I’m probably over-thinking it. There’s no quicker way to get a grand bouffe from your audience than using the image of a big sausage.

It’s hard to keep my mind off food for some reason…but the music here is mostly indigestible, a greasy stew of thoroughly unpleasant turgid sounds. It’s slow, disjointed, and makes no sense; in places, it stands on the cusp of being comical. This group, Ogrob in particular (just check out any of his solo works, like the recent microphones-in-the-vaginas album), have an uncanny knack for producing a strain of glorpy, muddy sound that resembles a stomach-ache. Or induces one, if there’s an aural equivalent for that condition. Admittedly, the surface does resemble “old school” musique concrète in some ways, possessing that kind of “muffled” and slightly hissy sound you get on 1950s recordings, which may be a patina that L’Autopsie have lovingly tried to recreate on this release. However, it’s clear they are not at all interested in normal tape composition methods nor conventional aesthetic pursuits, and that’s putting it mildly…vague, meaningless murmurs are the order of the day, deliberately voided of meaning or association. Playing it back becomes an endurance test; it’s up to the listener if you choose to bring anything to this picnic of the Damned. You’ll need a fair degree of inner resource, or you’ll go hungry.

This isn’t to suggest La Tétralogie de La Mortadelle is just an elaborate leg-pull. I have no doubt that the creators involved have a serious point to make, and none of them are talentless frauds. They’ve been doing this project for eight years now. But somewhere I suspect they may have reached a point where the idea of an artistic compact (for instance, the creator attempts to transmit meaning to a receptive audience) has broken down completely for them, and they see no point in attempting to repair it. Thus we end up with muddy, disjunctive noise, which pokes fun at anyone foolish enough to take music seriously.

Post Scriptum

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From Tanuki Records we have a nice cassette of sound art by the trio Le Cable Du Feu. This is Olivier Meyer, Laurent Berger, and Aymeric de Tapol. Berger is one third of the trio Sun Plexus, and we have heard him play in the trio Suboko; their split tape on Kommanull records was a memorable blast of harsh and disjunctive noise, and their Schraum release is also worth hearing. Aymeric de Tapol is new to us, but he’s evidently a highly prolific and productive creator of weird drone music in Brussels, with various cassettes and file based releases in his catalogue. This trio’s FireWire (TANUKI RECORDS #17 / MEMOIRE MMR01) is a compelling mix of many styles and approaches – drone, noise, tape loops, field recordings, and general low-key mayhem, all creating interesting narrative-like tableaux and pictures for the ears to wallow inside. Distortion, assemblage, duration, and odd sounds are among the many tricks at their disposal, and there’s a certain intriguing imagination at work in each piece that raises question marks over the listener’s head and passes on an enjoyable mental condition of ambiguity. Aural riddles, printed on cassette tape. The packaging and insert are saying something perplexing about churches or a church in the Alsace area, and the foldout image of the church organ – an old engraving – raises that instrument to the level of something rather unsettling, a gigantic machine which Dr Frankenstein or Dr Caligari might have pressed into service in some way. On the other side are printed some vaguely confusing texts and collages. A fine sense of the futility of things. An enjoyable piece of work, and much better than some things we’ve received from this patchy Belgian label. Arrived 4th April 2016.