Tagged: noise

Loving the Alien

MeiZhiyong Dave Phillips
MeiZhiyong Dave Phillips
SLOVAKIA URBSOUNDS COLLECTIVE URB035 LP (2017)

Schimpfluch Gruppe’s prized Humanimal-Aktionist Dave Phillips needs no introduction round here, though Mei Zhiyong – his confederate for this collaboration LP – may be less familiar to SP readers, which didn’t stop him racking up kudos in 2014, when he organised a tour of China for/with Herr Phillips. Live videos show the man to be a beast behind the mixing desk, pumping out torrents of effluent noise that could pass for that of ‘80s/’90s scum-noise-mongers such as Hijokaidan, Incapacitants or even Otomo Yoshihide on a strident night. This LP, a typically Schimpfluchian cut n’paste montage, is sourced from slivers of the Sino-Swiss double-act’s subsequent, 20-city rampage across Europe in 2015, which must have left audiences breathless and Phillips with much to wade through while editing this monster.

First thing out the window is linear time: the record obliterates any sense of what happened during these shows, but in its warped continuum of sudden shifts, subdermal explosions, subterranean drones, dulled voices, animal growls, and occasional sonic pixelation as Phillips zooms deep into his materials, offers some idea of the audience’s disorientation. The prolific Phillips’ probably threw this all together on the fly, filleting his digital archives of tasty bits as he gave them the once-through; burnishing the sum into a ferocious form of electroacoustic wizardry without wasting a moment. Hewn of fat, flatulence and dead air are the visceral shits and giggles, leaving only muscle and menace: an approach eminently preferable to even a highlight-cuts compilation, much less the bloated live document format. For this we are eternally grateful.

Gilles Aubry
And Who Sees The Mystery
GERMANY CORVO RECORDS core 011 LP (2017)

Between 2013-14, well-commissioned radio producer and sound artist Gilles Aubry took to Morocco’s in-between spaces to collect and process the recordings he went on to map out this 38-minute composition or ‘sonic exploration of Berber-Amazigh voices and instruments, rhythms and spaces’ as the literature has it. The Berber are an Afro-Asiatic (but largely Islamic) ethnic group dispersed across Northern Africa, with concentrations in Morocco and Algeria; their languages a blur of related autochthonous tongues under the Tamazight umbrella. Reasons for Aubry’s interest in the group are unclear, but what distinguishes this recording is its distance from the motifs, the vigour and the verve one might expect from a part of the world so frequented for its sense-sharpening music. Indeed, hot countries are not usually known for such introspection. However, behind the curtain of our thwarted expectation, we may, perchance, bear witness to the titular ‘mystery’.

Much like the expansive sound collages of Sublime Frequencies (and as far back as the proto-collage on Sun City Girls’ Low Pacific), And Who Sees The Mystery is both an excursion through and remote from from the standard issue sound sources encountered in field recordings and fixed-medium electroacoustic both. It openly trafficks in faintly-familiar fragments (street sounds, bird calls and rousing musical performances), binding them with the dissonant yet adhesive properties of ‘performative’ feedback and a recurrent drone that tints everything it touches, till the whole artefact succumbs in time to sonic degradation: tape corrosion, piercing feedback and the dust of field recordings that demands cognitive reparation for our audio tourism. Neither travelogue nor scrapbook, the record is more of an interior tapestry of nameless voices echoing through the darkness of either an alienating reality or dispassionate dream world, at least inviting the listener to ruminate upon this strange, fictional realm.

Andi Otto
VIA
GERMANY PINGIPUNG 53 / JAPAN NIGHT CRUISING NC-LP02 2 x LP (2017)

Berlin’s Andi Otto first touched our radar in 2014 with Where We Need No Map, under his Springintgut monicker – a lightweight deck of beat-driven backpacker postcards from all corners of Asia. He followed this with a fine collaborationThe Bird and White Noise (with F.S. Blumm) – an uplifting ‘travelogue of naturalistic melodies’ that I have turned to in many a time of Too Much Dark Ambient. His current self-image is of an ethno-beat maestro of the Four Tet/Daphni school, who crams the channels with suave string samples, modular whoops and warbles, and selectively swiped Asian girl vocals doing loops around slow-burning deep house and dub rhythms.

With more in the way of a blissed-out Buddha Bar vibe than ‘Map offered, tracks like ‘Dub For Ian Waterman’ balance eye for detail with ear for delicate melody, though this is an exceptional instance of a build-up leading to a payoff, where many other tracks level off to a predetermined pace and stay there. The effect of this is that for all the variety of content, identity quickly becomes homogenous. Besides, Four Tet perfected the art of middle-class beat-smithery with his Morning / Evening record in 2015. Thus, while clearly a talented producer, Otto and his skills might be better off in good company.

Miracle Tree

The Miracles Of Only One Thing (SUB ROSA SR439) is a studio team-up of Keiji Haino with two eminent Belgian players, the drummer Teun Verbruggen and the pianist Jozef Dumoulin, here performing on the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Dumoulin has come our way before as part of the duo Lilly Joel, noted by Stuart Marshall for their nocturnal and dream-like qualities. This Miracles team-up record is not one to take to bed if you want a peaceful night’s sleep, though. It’s cluttered, noisy, and contains an ill-fitting mix of stylistic approaches. The players tear through their work as though the world was going to end yesterday, and even the quieter passages seethe with hostility and barked menace. Most of that barking is down to the Japanese third of the act, of course – and it’s good to know that Haino hasn’t abandoned his “tortured man” vocal hysterics after all these years. He also mangles his guitar in typically over-wrought fashion, but the sound that keeps rising to my foreground is something that resembles a monstrous Theremin, growling discontentedly like a caged beast sitting on a sideboard. I can’t work out if this sound is Keiji’s guitar passed through a jillion effects boards and processors, or the live electronics work of Verbruggen. Either way it’s both delicious and faintly nauseasting.

The main events from these 2015 sessions, recorded when the Belgians were on tour in Japan, are two epic assaults called ‘Non-Dark Destinations’ and ‘Hotel Chaika’, both of which are nightmarish endurance tests that drag the listener down endless tunnels of aggression and chaotic emotions; even with the precise, jazz-like drumming of Verbruggen I’m still experiencing that unwelcome “sucked into a vortex” sensation that I haven’t felt for a long time with any Haino project, so maybe this unpleasant roller-coaster ride is a blessing in nylon tights. On the ‘Non-Dark’ track, there’s a grotesque pattern of distorted and ugly notes resembling music from a carousel ride going massively wrong – I’ll assume for the moment this is the Fender Rhodes of Dumoulin, and if it is then we’re a long way from the affable world of Joe Zawinul and his tasteful fusion chordings. The latter passages of ‘Non-Dark’ contain some noteworthy git-twangs from the Japanese Blackster Dude, sheer reverso-rockabilly madness dredged from an alternative history of the Southern states. But while this track has many powerful rushes, it’s also an ungainly sprawl – the untidiness of self-indulgent improvising threatening to collapse into flailing gibberish at every turn, with none of the perpetrators quite sure when and where they should leave off. ‘Hotel Chaika’ exhibits similar characteristics, and if anything is even more episodic; while I like the violence implied in these heart-attack dynamics and constantly-shifting boundaries of the musical arena, it’s also damned hard for a listener to get into the rhythm or spirit of this formless work.

There’s some relief on the third track (whose title offers some typically Zen-like observation about snow, light, and winter) which is at least cohesive, quieter, and packed with many mysterious glistenings as we enjoy a happy confluence of metallic percussion, electronic crackles and purrs, and perhaps some breathy flute work from He in the Eternal Shades. There is definitely a flutey moment or two on ‘Tonight’, a piece which does seem to make good on Keiji’s plan to achieve uncanny levels of proficiency in every musical instrument ever made; for some reason the two Belgians just get in the way here, and their rather random non-jazz doodles and stabs don’t add great value to the performance. The front cover artwork is nice, but doesn’t really convey much about the music on this rather hit-or-miss album. From January 2017.

Black Broadcast

On the split LP FYLP 1037 from Fylkingen Records, we hear one of the last team-ups between Lars Åkerlund and Zbigniew Karkowski, two past masters of death-dealing noise. Between 2012 and 2016, you couldn’t get a melon between these two – they would drop everything for a good collaborative project, one of which crossed our threshold in the form of Horology, a 2013 escapade (with Jean-Louis Huhta) where they took horrendous liberties with the Buchla synth system that’s housed in Stockholm. Gustav, the old janitor at EMS studios, hasn’t been the same since that fateful day…Further materials from that session may have surfaced on the double CD from Sub Rosa, disappointingly called A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush, but we never got a copy of that. Looks like my ears won’t be turning into grey mush just yet.

Åkers and Karkers – as they called each other familiarly – had a partnership dating back to the late 1980s, when they made a record as part of P.I.T.T. with The Dreamers and released it on Carl Michael von Hausswolff’s Radium 226.05 label. That Drakon item from 1989 might not have been cut from the same cloth as today’s jet-black dark droner, leaning more towards tribal rhythms and inspired by industrial nightmares of charred metal. We might say something similar for the grisly Mental Hackers LP, also released in 1989 on the same label, which featured Karkowski and a number of drumming Swedes battling it out with bass-playing Swedes, all of them out-staring each other in a contest of grim scowls and baleful glares. Later the duo formed a trio with Dror Feiler, and also realised an avant-garde opera based on The Idiot (by Dostovesky). Whatever next? Flash-forward to 2012, when those Mental Hackers jokers resurfaced at an “acclaimed” concert in Fylkingen, after which Lars Åkerlund and Zbigniew Karkowski were inspired to create this split LP. It would turn out to be Karkowski’s last project – as the sleeve note penned by Daniel Rozenhall points out, evidently seeing weighty significance in the fact.

For his side, Lars Åkerlund created ‘Aware Not Aware’. Round these parts we mostly know Lars for his Xenon record of 2011, a solo emanation that caused sales of gas cannisters to fluctuate wildly in some parts of the world. Here, he creates reverbed droney menace for 23 minutes, murmuring in stern manner and varying the pitch as needed – now hard, now soft. The sharp dynamics of the piece give it some variety, but he doesn’t do much to earn these dynamics; they are forced changes, not organic ones, and the general ill-conceived nature of the piece means it just ends suddenly after several dreary passages of motor-boat puttering. A very dismal motor-boat, going round in circles on a sluggish grey ocean, with only a skeleton for a passenger and an emaciated loon behind the wheel, piloting aimlessly.

Zbigniew Karkowski’s ‘Radio Enemy’ is more satisfying. For the most part, he uses the simple trick of distorted voices passing through extreme amplification, creating the effect of the short-wave radio set from Hell. For as long as I can remember, which isn’t very far, the short-wave radio has been a familiar tool in the hands of many, from industrial music denizens to dark ambient dabblers of all stripe, and it’s a convenient way to create instant fear and paranoia in the listener. I wonder if we all have some shared memory of being a serviceman in an imaginary Cold War, receiving these unwanted messages from the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. If we have, it may account for why the Conet Project recordings continue to strike such a raw nerve on the collective psyche. Karkowski however has his own take on this marginal “genre”, and he pushes it far beyond the limits of tolerance, as is often the way with his extremely testing near-physical noise assaults. The human ear struggles to decode these hideous messages, but in vain. The piece gives way to a slightly more subdued episode for its final third, almost entering a pastoral zone of tense chirping and hissing, laced with small sound events which may be radio signals we stand a chance of understanding. However, the mood is no less pessimistic, and ‘Radio Enemy’ will not leave you with a smile on your lips nor hope in your heart. If this record is indeed an epitaph to the mighty Karkowski, it’s not an unfitting one. From November 2016.

The Purge

Another “horror-noise” special from Cold Spring Records, the UK label which does house a number of extreme and monstrous items in its catalogue…the album Surgical Fires (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR226CD) was created by Tunnels of Ah, and it’s his third release for the label since 2013’s Lost Corridor. Tunnels is a solo project by Stephen R. Burroughs, who was one of the main men in Head Of David – one of my favourite 1980s indie noise-combos who created an almighty obnoxious racket with their guitars and shriekery for the Blast First label, and as such endeared themselves to many disaffected types.

I had no idea Burroughs was pursuing a solo line. On the evidence of this, it involves an intense form of electronic music with plenty of weird processing, nasty effects, vocals buried in a swampy mix…it moves beyond mere dark ambient drone music somehow, perhaps through his close attention to dynamics and studied application of nuanced tones to his ever-shifting howls and murmurs. Needless to remark there’s a highly unpleasant subtext to Surgical Fires, as evidenced in titles like ‘Demonic Forms’, ‘Mind As Corpse Bearer’, ‘Black Air (Exhale)’ and ‘Release of the Burning Mouths’. These do much to trigger the unhealthy imaginative forces of a susceptible listener, and it isn’t long before we’re all sharing alarming visions of a subterranean Hell, not unlike a coal mine, laced with poisonous vapours…death is all around us, and there’s a supernatural dimension to boot, if the “Lordly Cobras” alluded to on track 7 are the demonic entities I suspect them to be.

The record, half-music and half sound effects, does nothing to dispel such tormented visions – nor does the cover art, also by Burroughs, which seems to be applying a decalcomania effect to suggest grim, grey, gruesome caverns of inescapable doom. The printed press release takes us off another tack, alluding to “psychic surgery” (whatever that may mean; in this instance, it probably involves taking slices out of a man’s soul with an invisible scalpel) and a roster of important-sounding abstractions, such as “loss, gain, conflict, resolution, decay and transformation”. I have no idea if these words belong to Burroughs or to the Cold Spring PR department, but they just make the work seem unnecessarily solemn and self-important…it reads more like the agenda of a two-day international symposium on 21st-century urban problems. Nonetheless, the record remains an assured piece of depressing gloomoid filth…from 30th November 2016.

On Safari

The cassette by Usurper is on Singing Knives Records, the Sheffield label who are doing their part to keep the lunatic fringe alive…the Scots duo Usurper occupy the first half of this 45-minute tape with an interminable piece of absurdist poetry / performance art, on which they recite words such as “snake, monkey, mosquito, giraffe, elephant” with bizarre vocal inflections, and create their own brand of broken, formless acoustic noise using whatever non-musical objects they can clasp in their paws. We are invited to read this escapade as a warped 19th century jungle expedition, along the lines of a lost Joseph Conrad novel…to me it feels more like they’re glancing at pictures in a children’s story-book, which is not meant to be a disrespectful remark, but there is a sense of infantile fun at work here, a possibility which is not dispelled when you see pictures of them performing with hand-drawn paper masks attached to their heads with masking tape. This “jungle” side appears to have begun life as an experiment using the Google search engine, subverting its “normal” use and instead using it as a random word generator of some sort. As they near the end, and the cries of “snakes! snakes!” become increasingly more demented and alarming, we might almost be hearing an episode of The Goon Show…it conjures up comic-strip images of hapless explorers in pith helmets and khaki shorts, flapping about as they face their doom.

Usurper are Malcy Duff and Ali Robertson from Edinburgh, and have released a fair number of CDRs and cassettes since 2005 for labels such as Giant Tank, Sick Head, Harbinger Sound, Unverified Records, Bug Incision Records, and Chocolate Monk. I’m unsurprised to find that Malcy Duff has worked once or twice with fellow loons Anla Courtis and Dylan Nyoukis; Usurper’s inchoate noise is not far apart from the churning porridge mass that Nyoukis specialises in. While I enjoy the absurdity of Usurper, their noise disappoints me as sound art; it seems thin and under-nourished. They seem to have no interest in using the microphone as anything other than an inert instrument to document their flat and uninteresting voices, which would be fine if there were a bit more energy and variation to the vocal performances. Consequently much of the tape is a dreary listen.

Usurper continue on the B-side which, judging by other online accounts of the tape, involves a dialogue around a kitchen table with more non-musical objects and simplistic repetitions of “rat-a-tat” and “blam”, while a young child occasionally intervenes with their own vocal contributions. Again, the rather flat delivery of the monosyllabic nonsense words is disappointing; in the hands of a Dadaist like Tristan Tzara or Hugo Ball, this vocal salvo would have created an explosive situation and every “blam” would have struck terror into the hearts of the bourgeoisie. By contrast, Usurper just seem bored and unengaged; this may be a deliberate post-everything beyond-ironic stance, but it also makes for a tiresome listen. However things liven up somewhat when events take them outside, and against the roar of traffic Duff and Robertson suddenly erupt into an impromptu improvised dialogue that blends clichéd dialogue from cowboy movies and pulp novels with surreal, florid, stream-of-consciousness gibberish. Overlapping voices give the listener too much to digest, and the sheer lunacy of their performance is enough to short-circuit common sense in 50 seconds. From 30th December 2016.

Yaschichek, Little Box

Herewith four more cassettes from the Russian Spina!Rec label. Arrived here 20th December 2016.

Andrey Popovskiy is the St Petersburg composer whose work has been arriving here since 2014. If there’s any connection between his releases Rotonda and Kryukov, it might have something to do with the way sound behaves in an enclosed space, and the exigencies of recording devices in attempting to capture the elusive reality of acoustical behaviours. While Rotonda seemed to misfire for Jack Tatty, we liked the mysterious properties of Kryukov (his split tape with Dubcore) and the way it somehow summoned an aesthetically pleasing effect from such everyday banality. Even to call Popovskiy a “kitchen sink” composer would be to make it far too exotic; he’d be happy to occupy the cupboard under the sink, along with the cartons of bleach. Works For Voice Recorders 2011 (SR029) takes this pared-down approach to an even further extreme. On the A side, there are five short pieces documenting his experiments with voice recording devices (dictaphones, perhaps? If those things even exist any more), placed inside a room and capturing whatever external bumps and groans may come their way. There’s also something about the devices being used to record themselves – contact mics placed in their own innards, or something. All manner of recorded artefacts are generated in a refreshingly non-digital manner. I can’t account for why this unprepossessing, near-blank grind effect is so compelling, but I can’t stop listening to it.

On the flip is a long piece called Zvukovanie, and is a far more ambitious composition lasting some 34 mins. He’s created layers of sound from field recordings out in the streets, musical performances, and rehearsals, superimposing them into what is described as a “three-dimensional” piece. Percussionist Mikhail Kuleshin and improvising trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky join him in this task. While this might seem a recipe for chaos, in Popovskiy’s hands it results in a very pleasing jumble of balmy strangeness, drifting and shifting in unexpected ways. The listener is not being “directed” to pay attention to any one element, and instead is free to wander in an open landscape of sound events, much like an exotic street bazaar, and picking up what trinkets they may. Delightful.

SR027 is a split. The side by Andrey Svibovitch did little for me; very ordinary sounds emerge from his synths (probably due to use of over-familiar filters or pre-set sounds) and he has a simplistic approach to playing chords, both of which point to under-developed techniques. He produces a stream of undemanding electronica with little structure or originality. The four parts of “What Hides The Voice” were originally presented as part of a multi-media installation with the work of visual artist Maxim Svishev. Svibovitch creates his music using voice samples, yet what ends up on the tape is so synthetic and processed it seems to have zero connection to anything as natural and human as a voice.

The side by Sergey Vandyshev is more engaging. The electronic music of this fellow is described as an experiment in “pure data”, and there are references to “digital generators” and “granular synthesis algorithms”…most of this is beyond my ken, but it seems to point to a process-based approach where machines do most of the work, but also indicates that Vandyshev is a skilled manipulator of digital data, perhaps doing it “at source” in some way. What I mean by that is he may bypass the conventional routes of feeding information through pre-sets and filters. Anyone who can run an algorithm at granular synthesis level is capable of anything. The sound of his untitled tracks is certainly quite clean, and feels uncluttered by unnecessary elaborations. I also like the loops, repetitions and insistent pulsations, which are set forth in a very porous, open-ended manner, as if he’s found a way to avoid the trap of the strict grid-systems imposed by digital sequencers. This reminds me very much of a more low-key version of Pimmon.

SR028 is a split. For this release we have a rare (for this label) instance of acoustic music played on musical instruments – as opposed to their standard electronic fare. Blank Disc Trio are a Serbian group of improvisers who have been at it since the late 1990s. It used by a duo of the core members Srdjan Muc and Robert Roža (guitar and electronics, respectively), but have since been joined by Georg Wissel, who puffs a “prepared” alto saxophone. For this tape, they were joined by the pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel and the electric guitarist Julien Baillod. What they play is a rather tentative version of the “electro-acoustic improv” thing, a form which in their hands takes a long time to get started and is littered with many half-baked stabs and much guesswork along the way. I like the abrasive textures they manage to summon up, and it’s good that they know when to shut up and leave gaps for each other, but overall there isn’t enough coherence or continuity in these wispy musical ideas to sustain my interest.

On the flipside we have Ex You, another three-piece of Serbian experimenters. Milan Milojković, László Lenkes and Filip Đurović blend electronics, guitar, and drums into a pleasing scrabbly mess of non-music, keeping it fairly low-key and resisting the temptation to create a hideous energy-noise blaroon-out. The addition of guest cello player Erno Zsadányi only increases our pleasure in this grumbly, meandering groan-fest. Like their Blank Disc brothers, this group sometimes finds it hard to crank up the old motor, but once they get it turning over we’re guaranteed a much more exciting drive through the old Serbian mountain tracks. I wish more drummers could act with the restraint and decency of Đurović; he doesn’t call attention to himself with fills and ornament, but his steady gentle pulsations give a surprisingly sturdy backbone to this music. Two members of the trio also play in Lenhart Tapes Orchestra, should you feel curious to investigate the Serbian “scene” further; their 2014 album Uživo Sa Karnevala Glavobolje looks like the one to go for.

The tape Povstrechal Gaute Granli (SR030) is a team-up between Mars-69 and Gaute Granli, another one of the Russian-Norway “hands across the water” affairs which this label does so well. Mars-69 are I assume Mars-96 with a slight change to the name – at any rate the core members of this Palmira trio appear to be intact. They’re about the most prolific bunch on the Spina!Rec label and we’ve enjoyed most of their disaffected noisy work. I always thought they were a guitar-bass-drums trio but here they’re spinning their craft with synths, syn-drums, and vocals. As for Gaute Granli, we’ve been enjoying the solo work and group work (in Freddy The Dyke) of this Norwegian loon for many years now, and can recommend anything he’s done for the Drid Machine and Skussmaal labels. He brought his electric guitar and voice to these Povstrechal sessions. With a line-up like that, I feel I have a right to expect some serious fireworks, which is why I felt gypped by this damp squib. With the possible exception of ‘Osa’, the opening track, the tape is a lacklustre set of pointless studio noodling, half-formed ideas trailing away, and occasional absurdist vocal dribble. One waits in vain for a single idea to catch fire or take off into the stratosphere. The band had a lot of sociable fun on the day (hint: that’s code for they all got drunk) – the press write-up seems to indicate as much – but that doesn’t justify the release of this self-indulgent nonsense.

Speed Kills

London-based sound artist Louie Rice has been ruining my life for some time now with releases from his labels Wasted Capital Since 2013 and Hideous Replica, home to ultra-minimal reductive electronic music that refuses to explain itself. That mode continues with 33/45, a seven-incher released by Organized Music From Thessaloniki, which makes plain its intent to alienate the listener with its severe sleeve – strange futuristic grid imagery on the cover, and stark black typography on the back. Indeed the press release is proud of the cryptical and opaque stance presented thusly, describing “two tracks marked only by their playing speed and no additional info at hand”. As with all minimal art, I suppose, the intent is limit the options faced by the audience, to encourage (some would say force) our total concentration on the message at hand. This particular outing contains many fragments of broken noise, which resemble snapped pieces of scrap metal being popped open in your face, recordings of which have been scrambled and rendered into nonsense by very drastic editing. On the first side, these noises are suspended in a near-vacuum, with only an insistent cyber-pulse to remind us that we’re still alive and not trapped in some conceptual science-fiction Hell. The B-side, which plays at 45, frames the noises in a setting which I expect we could read as Louie Rice’s idea of “disco” music. It’s often tempting to think that the contemporary generation of experimenters are influenced by Techno music as much as by the 20th-century schools of musique concrète and electro-acoustic, and indeed this is a theme that has been carried on in much of the discourse surrounding Mego, glitch, the Cologne school, Raster-Noton, and many others since the late 1990s. To his credit, Rice (and his compadres Alves and Asnan) seems to be developing his own uniquely “evil” and alien take on the genre, seething with implied threat and hostile gestures. From 5th December 2016.

Simulacra of Songs

Highly unusual release is Spam Me (CUCHABATA RECORDS CUCH-095), sent to us by the Quebec composer CE François Couture, and first spin reveals a dazzling, dense and engaging array of lyrics, sounds, complex arrangements, weird noises, and hyper-intelligent art rock settings. He’s doing all this in the service of the concept, which is to call attention to the “spam” problem – those irritating emails we all get, and in some cases (mine at any rate) coded messages invading our very websites, through exploiting weaknesses in WordPress and other blogging platforms. One of these is the common CSS hack, which finds a way to use the cascading stylesheet as a mule to smuggle in its verbal contraband. Couture is clearly exasperated by this modern phenomenon, calling the spam messages “pests” and “flagrant failures at communicating”, but also observing that spam is so commonplace it has become almost invisible to us now. His plan is to set the spam texts to music on this album, almost in spite of his own frustration, or perhaps to exorcise himself of certain demons…he admits the texts, which are often scrambled and meaningless and badly written, “hold a poetic charge” for him. All of this feeds into what he calls “Simulacra of Songs”, the sub-title for Spam Me.

Apparently this is Couture’s 1 first solo record as a composer, a fact which I mention because it’s such an impressive and convincing set of songs, but he’s been active in music since 2010 working in free improvisation, and performing with groups La Forêt Rouge and RBC. There’s no musical style he won’t parody or plunder for this Spam Me project, a strategy which feels somewhat in keeping with the subject matter (getting revenge by poking fun at your enemy), and you can hear him try out everything from hip-hop (‘Magie Rouge’) to art-prog (the title track); some of his post-modern ballads, with their imaginative intervals and dissonances, reminded me of Slapp Happy and Peter Blegvad, with all the awkwardness and mannered style that implies. He’s also prone to high drama, such as on ‘Parajumper Kodiak’, where he delivers the nonsensical spam text in an actorly, declamatory style over a klunky musical backdrop worthy of Magazine or A Sudden Sway. What I appreciate about the vocal delivery is there’s nothing tongue-in-cheek, no matter how ludicrous and absurd the text may be (and they get pretty cracked, lemme tell ya); he takes it all seriously, and lets the spam subvert itself.

An enclosed leaflet tells us a little more about the process of creation and composition – all the spam texts were left on his own music blog – and reproduces the texts in full, so you can double your twisted pleasure by reading as you listen. Just watch your face in a mirror as you do so…your eyebrows will soon reach the top of your head. Parts of this record reminded me of recent work by Alessandro Bosetti, particularly the Stille Post record set; but where Bosetti has some residual faith in our ability to communicate effectively using technology, CE François Couture evidently thinks the human race has completely lost the plot, and all we can do is propagate incoherent gibberish on a global scale. Hard to argue with that…one of the more unusual items we have received lately, and a real winner. From 1st December 2016.

  1. His name is spelled this way to denote THIS François Couture, which would be the French translation of CE. This is because the name is apparently quite common in Quebec.

Throne Of Blood

Now for some very grisly and soul-shattering “Horror-Electronics” from the American magus Burial Hex (Clay Ruby) last heard in these four walls in 2012 with the terrifying Book Of Delusions album. A quick glance at this madman’s Bandcamp page will indicate there’s no end to his prolific career in sight, and you’ve only to peruse the images of skulls, hooded figures, night skies, moons and planets, sigils, symbols, statues and magick hex charms to get an index on where his brain-waves are coming from. Ruby – or CLYRBY – still seems hell-bent on creating music that serves a purpose “In Psychic Defence” (to use one of his own album titles), and clearly perceives the world as an extremely threatening place filled with invisible enemies, demons and devils who strive to capture his soul. To keep them at bay, he dare not relax his charms for a single second, and consequently his every waking moment is likely to be dedicated to the production of this sickening, harrowing noise, filled with desolate atmospheres, harsh explosive effects, unpleasant grinding sensations, and ghastly shrieks of despair. The present record Throne (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR232CD) is the third in a series of reissue albums, bringing together Clay Ruby’s contributions from split records made with Sylvester Anfang and Iron Fist Of The Sun, and other sources. If you missed the original vinyl editions, here’s your chance to catch up. It opens with three shockers of raw noise and yawping nightmare…for my reactions to ‘The Coming Of War’ and ‘Actaeon’, see this post.

‘The Feast Of Saints Peter And Paul’ is a work that in title at least must be understood as evidence of the “eerie religious allusions” noted in the press release; it’s not quite as violent or aggressive as some of the other punch-fests on this CD, and even allows the listener some room to breath in amongst teeming blocks of steel noise…but once you do inhale you will find the air is actually poisoned smog from the chimneystacks of Hades. Buried in this ingenious layered mix of shapeless black noise, we hear the pale echoes (the ghost of a ghost) of a celestial choir singing mangled hymns, as if Burial Hex were striving to portray the utter annihilation of all religious endeavour, yet still mourning its demise, and attempting vainly to reconstruct an entire church from the fragments of a charred and broken icon. A very bitter-sweet 19-minutes of angsty despair, chillingly beautiful in its abject visions…this was the A side of From The Rites Of Lazarus, released in 2010 on the Italian Urashima label.

‘Armagiddion’ was also rescued from Italian vinyl, the 2009 release Bagirwa Hymn on Von Archives. This is even more subdued and atmospheric and with its ambient tones, guitar sketches and exploratory drones, it’s almost like a zero-gravity stroll around what’s left of the scorched globe after a nuclear holocaust…Ruby once again finds a strange beauty in the horrors of the void, staring intently into dark corners where few men dare to peep. The esoteric artwork for the cover is by long-standing collaborator Nathaniel Ritter. From 30 November 2016.

Le Temple Du Rock

Very impressed with Ein Geisteskranker Als Künstler 1 (RONDA rnd11), an old 2009 release from Sébastien Borgo, performing solo under his Ogrob guise. Here are 14 experiments made using guitars, electronics, motors, loops and radio waves, covering a wide range of approaches to sound manipulation – some harsh noise, some murmuring drones, some vague and abstract. It’s a compilation as such, bringing together short works made in 1994 onwards, up to 2006. What typifies all the music is an angry, slow-burning, brooding contempt, which seeps out of every passing moment and spreads across the imaginary listening space like a poisonous plague. Ogrob uses his own deconstructed, hands-on approach to electro-acoustic music, more informed by the “industrial” school than the traditional musique concrète academics, and raises himself just one notch or two above the electrified junkyard. But the music is also evidently serious in intent, and deserves to be heard with a serious pair of ears. A lot of Ogrob projects, particularly micro_penis, seem to me to have a rather satirical intent behind them, as though the musician wanted to parody the pomposity of “proper” composition. On the other hand, when I put a question like this to him in my recent interview, he purported not to understand what I was talking about. The cover art to this macabre and dark release is a photo called Destroy Noise Jetset by Ogrob, depicting a shipwrecked vessel in some vague body of grey water near a rocky landscape. For some reason, I can’t help reading it as the document of a crashed flying saucer. Either way it sends out just the right visual messages of defeat and failure. Superb hour of grimness..from 14 November 2016.

  1. The title is something to do with Adolf Wölfli, the Swiss Outsider artist.