Tagged: turntabling

Long Overdue Part 13

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Relative Memory (ABSINTH RECORDS 022) is the unusual team-up between Jealousy Party and Nicolas Wiese, released on Absinth Records and which arrived here 19 July 2012. Nicolas Wiese is the Berlin based multimedia artist, whose excellent electro-acoustic compositions we noted on Living Theory Without Anecdotes, a record characterised by its ingenious approach to sampling, recycled sound, and reprocessing. Evidence of the same techniques abounds on Relative Memory, so clearly Wiese is a past master of this studio method.

Jealousy Party are three Italian loons from Florence who do a live improvised set. I call them “loons” based mainly on the unprepossessing photo of them where they’re grinning in a manic fashion, and the fact that they belong to something called the Burp Enterprise collective. I tend to mistrust art movements that liken the act of creation to bodily functions, but heaven knows it’s a trope that’s old as the hills. Their shtick is Mat Pogo doing his rather silly scat-singing and Edoardo Ricci playing a rather ordinary bunch of fluid saxophone riffs. I suppose the most interesting active ingredient is WJ Meatball, a DJ who plays back pre-recorded elements (sometimes recordings of Jealousy Party themselves) and does a form of live sampling of their utterances and woodwind toots. In fact it involves live editing, cutting, and mixing too. She thinks of this as a system, and calls it the “JP Set”.

Right there you’ve got the common ground they share with Wiese – live sampling. He did some live sampling-playback stuff in the studio too, but freely admits – tantamount to confessions of a control-freak – that most of his work on this record was done alone, after the fact, where he “takes apart and reconfigurates mostly everything played”. We’re thus hearing, I suppose, an exceptionally complex construction of noises, and it’s impossible to determine who is contributing what or by what means. The helpful sleeve notes summarise this as “the focussed relativity of self-quotation in a musical frame that is never 100% improvised and never 100% fixed”.

I don’t care much for Jealousy Party’s contributions to this, and even if they are regarded as “one of the most significant creative music units in Italy”, I find something fundamentally crass and corny about their work. The vocalist in particular comes across as a bad Elvis impersonator, and the sax player feels like he’s warming up for a third-rate Motown covers band. However, there’s much to admire and enjoy in Relative Memory, and the techniques involved are technically quite pleasing; at his strongest, Wiese does indeed add several degrees of sophistication and nuanced layering to the tracks, much like the “imaginary architecture” he is clearly capable of composing as noted on the Corvo release above. In doing so he draws out a certain subtlety which Jealousy Party alone might not be capable of. He’s also acting as a once-removed collaborator with WJ Meatball, by working in sympathy with her technique.

Vinyl Seven Glom Part 7

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Another exciting Le Petit Mignon release is LPM 16. Its full title is Le Petit Mignon Vs Le Cagibi and it’s a split between Vinyl-Terror & -Horror and Toys’R’Noise. It lives up to its promise of creating a horrorshow experience in sound, and what’s more is presented in a sumptuous silk-screen book with an array of contemporary graphiste artists.

The side by Vinyl-Terror & -Horror is pretty much a scrambled, cut-up version of an abstract radio play. Sound effects, fragments of voices, vari-speeded records and tapes, eerie music, ghastly drone and general strange things are all thrown together in a witch’s cauldron, leaving listener to imagine their own stories. Surreal, grisly humour abounds…but it never tries to shock the listener with intense noise. Rather ‘Inner Dialogues’ sustains a particular mood through its pop-collage method and never once descends into schlock or irony. The people behind this are Camilla Sørensen and Greta Christensen, two Danish sound artists currently agitating the gravel in Berlin, and are among the ranks of conceptual art terrorists who are “rethinking” the art of turntabling. They do it by smashing up old records, then reassembling the pieces of vinyl along with broken bits of plastic or glass junk that don’t fit. They do much the same to old record players, producing grotesque sculptures. They don’t have that many released items in their catalogue, but all of them make playful and punning references to movies and TV. They seem to be more of an art-gallery thing than full-time musicians, and you can see videos of their art installations on their website. Nearest reference point for me would be Michael Gendreau, whose been doing similar things since 1979.

‘Pachitea Aïda’ on the flip is by Toys’R’Noise, a further 4 and a half minutes of menacing, creepy noise. Sounds very mechanical, as if produced by ramshackle machines similar to those erected by Pierre Bastien, but the noise is spliced with contemporary electronic noise and nasty disco beats. Tribal clonking rhythms ensue, redolent of an imminent forward-marching doom brought about by wind-up robots. I think Toys’R’Noise are a French duo who produce all their murky noise with toys and home-made instruments, and photos of their set look like a junkyard or a car boot sale. Which is probably where they pick up their raw materials every Sunday…wouldn’t you love to be married to these two magpies? Not prolific in terms of releases, but there’s a self-titled debut on Tandori from 2013. The band remind us that the toys are just a gimmick, and their real roots remain in “ambient industrial electro”. Great clanking fun on their side, though I personally prefer the more intricate spells cast by our two Danish witches above.

The booklet is an art object in its own right. It opens in the middle like a pop-up book with a simple mountain-fold used to house the record, which incidentally happens to be pressed in blood-red vinyl. Inside are some dazzling images produced by some two dozen creators whose names are mostly new to me (though I do recognise Zven Balslev, and have published his drawings myself). Not sure if I’m intoxicated by the strong colours, the bold graphic techniques, or the shocking and surreal imagery on display, or perhaps the combination of all three. From 9th February 2015.

Update 27th September 2016: Toys’R’noise are a trio (but they sometimes play as a duo).

Another Fine Mess

DJ Marcelle

DJ Marcelle
Meets Most Soulmates At Faust Studio Deejay Laboratory
GERMANY KLANGBAD 66LP 2 x LP (2014)

‘Once again this album is a celebration of musical inspiration and personal friendship worldwide’ reads the legend on the rear of this this double LP’s sleeve and it’s a good capture of the contents: 3 parts mix tape (‘inspiration’) and 1 part collaboration (‘friendship’). If I’d heard this blind I’d have sworn it was a new release from Yamantaka Eye – the Boredoms’ frenzied frontman-turned-tribal-house-DJ and drum circle shaman – who knocked out some excellent mixes in the early ‘00s; the raging pan-musical wildfire of Planetary Gas Love Webbin’  being my personal favourite volume of dance floor anathema. But as his recent mixes are hard to get hold of for non-Japanese, DJ Marcelle’s mach 5 mashups of rhythms tribal-to-techno provide an excellent substitute for the ritalin-starved.

Something of an old hand behind the decks, Marcelle has been running a radio show in Holland (Another Nice Mess) for the past 30 years and appears to be as much of a musical omnivore as the late John Peel, whom she apparently counted among her friends. Certainly no less inspired nor comical in her collage-like combinations than EYE-sama, she cuts and splices samples like a samurai swordsman with a professionally packed suitcase. Yet, at the drop of a hat she’ll drop everything and launch into an audience singalong as happens on side three, tumbling into the locked groove that marks the ‘end’ of the mix phase. By this time we’ve feasted from a plunderphonic horn of plenty too rapidly changing to prevent stomach cramps, but side four is the breather: showcasing Marcelle’s collaborative side across five equally eclectic and exotic but more evolutionary tracks. It’s a fitting end to the preceding madness, and a novel way to end a mix: with a compilation.

The Another Nice Mess vinyl series now runs to four double-vinyl volumes, so one might be inclined to wonder WHY anyone would release a hard-copy mix (cassettes aside) in these days of digital-plenty, when no scene or artist goes undocumented and archived on Mixcloud by talented enthusiasts around the world. While not invalid, given the current vinyl bubble one could just as easily point the finger at the plethora of pointless vinyl issues and reissues that clog the racks today. If anything, Marcelle’s playlist is as fine a presentation of wheat from chaff as one could possibly stomach. While it would be easy to point out that Marcelle has clearly earned the right to such extravagance and this ‘love letter to vinyl’ route is probably appropriate to her modus operandi, it certainly behooves the conscientious consumer to decorate their surroundings with such delirious professionalism.

Deadlock Versions

Ulrich Troyer feat. Vin Gordon, Didi Kern and Kassian Troyer
Deadlock Versions
AUSTRIA 4-BIT PRODUCTIONS 4BIT-P006 12” EP (2015)

A super-solid four pack of remixes from electro-dub tinkerer Ulrich Troyer, whose amiable Songs For William 2 we previously had the pleasure of reviewing. While it was hard to pick a favourite from that eclectic treasure trove, it has proven just as difficult to go wrong in choosing a ‘single’, as these four able remixes demonstrate. Anchored into the throbbing ‘ostinato iterations of a massive bass line’, ‘Deadlock’ is a lean beast, its cool, graceful movement radiating great self-confidence. Outwardly similar, the remixes link like one, long toy-town parade that got caught in a gust of spliff smoke. Suitably relaxed listeners will discern the subtle distinctions from one track to the next, and many will appreciate the unassuming interlocution of Vin Gordon’s trombone; a delicate trimming that allows room for the liberal play of echo and reverb in time and space.

Chris Weisman

Chris Weisman
Monet In The 90’s
USA OSR-TAPES OSR #24 LP (2014)

Cutesy Californian bedroom indie-pop with a stylised, adolescent amateurism that beams from the diary art sleeve; valium vocals breathing warm life into platitude-plentiful lyrics like “my cup would be empty but yours has filled up the rest / love is a nest and you patch it up the best you can” and a song of love to the skateboard. Though markedly more lo-fi in affectation, Chris Weisman and cohorts – alongside devotees such as Caribou and Olivia Tremor Control – enjoy an enduring enchantment with psychedelically charged records by the Residents, Beach Boys, Beatles, Byrds and beyond.

But he has shunned the bombast and expansiveness for the simple comforts of home, which on initial listenings makes it easy to write things off as mannered pastiche (not least when his pitch-shifted female companion chimes in) but over time these songs do get their hooks in, and there’s no denying the musicianship that underlies the restraint of the song-craft, as little filigree flourishes of guitar in ‘Forgive and Forget’ and elsewhere attest. But pastiche it is, and if the title tells us anything its that Weisman harks back to the 1990s; a decade when home technology became sufficient to the task of making festival headliners out of skilled amateurs. Sure, he may not have been Lollapalooza material, but that could have been his decade.

Underwater Torture

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French art-turntabler eRikm is usually sure of a warm welcome here, even if we were a little nonplussed by his forays into modernist composition in recent years, such as Transfall. However, this vinyl LP L’Art de La Fuite (SONORIS LP01) is a winner. It’s a compilation of earlier works from 1994-1995, which also appeared on a self-released cassette. It’s pretty much a showcase for some of the wild and crazy things he has done to vinyl LPs in the pursuit of his musical statements, about which more shortly; it might be more convenient to begin by explaining the cover. It seems he was listening to the weather forecast in Marseilles in summer of 1995, when a major rainstorm was announced. Instead of hiding in his cellar and curling up with two bottles of Burgundy like any sane Frenchman would, he deliberately blocked up the storm drain outside his house, and waited for nature to take its course. Into the ensuing flood, he tossed several vinyl records. This action may help decode the cover photo for you. It may also help to learn that what you see is pretty much the catalogue of the vinyls used in production of the sounds on this LP. 1

eRikm points out with some pride that these records are “virtually devoid of their original sound source” – which presumably is a euphemism for how distressed and damaged they have become after they’ve passed through his radically-experimenting hands. He states with some precision that 80% of the records he uses for concerts end up this way. Which is no wonder, considering the violence he inflicts on their innocent surfaces. Describing his actions with the clinical glare of a surgeon, he lists such techniques as carving extra grooves into the vinyl; scorching, burning, and melting the grooves; and, that old favourite, breaking LPs into bits and reassembling the pieces into mis-matched Frankenstein monsters. 2 And then he plays the damaged records, of course. The resulting disrupted playbacks from such experiments are displayed on this release.

Further interventions follow. Feedback from the record players; spinning discs at wrong speeds; random stylus pressings on vinyl spinning at high speed, and manual repeats (scratching, in other words); loops produced from records, and further loops added with an effects pedal; and prepared guitars, strings, pieces of metal, bowed objects, and what have you. The process of interference has been near-total, eRikm finding a way to colonise the entire set-up of machinery and objects with his restless body and spirit. Glorious noises result, often highly reminiscent of the howls of pain which the records and the players must be undergoing. While almost completely abstract – eRikm is not a semi-narrative turntabler, like Philip Jeck – this raw sound art never fails to transcend its process origins, and produces genuine aural surprises at every turn. From September 2015.

  1. I was half-hoping from this that we’d be hearing the sound of records “played” by the water lapping against the grooves, but I don’t suppose that would really work from a technical standpoint.
  2. Some readers may think Christian Marclay did this first, but a more significant pioneer might be Milan Knizak, to many the “father” of so-called Broken Music.

Souvenir de son Ventre

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Loopy Belgian genius vocalist Catherine Jauniaux has a distinguished career, and may be known to you as a member of The Hat Shoes, but she’s also worked with Tim Hodgkinson, Bill Gilonis, and Mick Hobbs, associations which may help you situate her work in a UK-Euro art-music continuum. A double-CD Mal Des Ardents / Pantonéon (MIKROTON CD 21/22) allows you to savour her uncanny vocal effects when showcased in conjunction with the great eRikm, who is performing like a demon with his turntabling, sampling and live electronics antics on these assorted concert recordings. Mal Des Ardents is from 2010, and Jauniaux’s performance is like a stream of dramatic poetry recited by a lone survivor from a Greek tragedy, recounting hideous events in a language we can’t understand; an uncanny range of emotions flashes through her wiry frame. Wordless scat-singing competes with nonsense gibberish in the mode of an angry James Joyce filtered through the evil twin of Cleo Laine, who abandoned the tasteful lounge jazz route of her doppelganger long ago. eRikm’s restless interventions are as sparky and abrasive as he usually conjures up in such situations, although the crackle of old records keeps popping up all the time and becomes something of a distraction here. Even so, his lightning-fast responses and vinyl-rubbing techniques certainly bring the best out of Jauniaux, who wriggles about like a galvanised puppet.

Pantonéon is from a festival in Basel in 2000, and is generally a more melancholic set, with lucid passages and a slightly more coherent feel than the bonkers first disc; in places, Jauniaux actually sings a convincing representation of French chanson in the Edith Piaf mode, morphing now and then into a parody of Lotte Lenya, giving us glimpses of the profound depths of her vocal talents. eRikm leaves a bit more space on this disc too, giving her (and us) room to breathe. Buried in the set, perhaps better represented on this disc, are snippets from printed texts which Jauniaux uses to underpin and advance her fractured world-view; she samples the writings of Ovid, Kandinsky and Rilke in the same way that eRikm pilfers thrilling sounds from his LP collection. A tremendously exciting and vigorous set which I recommend; producer Kurt Liedwart, who runs this label, can feel proud of this distinctive release from 2013.

Instant Insanity

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From Maxi Bacon, we have the nauseating pleasures afforded by Maci Bacon (ADAADAT ADA0033), a fairly indescribable racket that borders on the indigestible…the “charismatic” half of this strange duo is undoubtedly Scott Sinclair, an Australian performance artist who also appears as Company Fuck, a riotous karaoke / table-noise hybrid act that has been embarrassing audiences around the world for the last eight years. Clearly unafraid of the “bad taste” label, Sinclair’s act is one that mercilessly takes the mick out of “serious” music, and gleefully mixes music and sound from all manner of sources, carrying on the high-art low-art dialectic on his own dumbed-down terms. From the one video I’ve managed to find of his Company Fuck hi-jinks, the word “irrepressible” springs to mind when faced with this hyped-up cheesy-grinning court jester. He’s also associated with Borborg, The Superusers, Stick In Your Eye, and Kottbusserdamm Terror Corpse. A wonder to me that this phenomenon hasn’t yet been signed to Dual Plover Records.

Could be that Sinclair, currently based in Berlin, has found a suitable sparring partner in the form of Freeka Tet, aka Sgure, a Parisian loon who’s been assaulting the civilised world with his extreme take on electronica-noise-gabba-glitchcore (whatever…) since 2005 and his Surr Grr CDR album, which distinguished itself with the catalogue number DUMB001. My hunch is that Freeka is the one who’s nimble with his fingers and may be supplying the “customised music software” which Maxi Bacon use to cut up and rearrange the materials, in order to advance buy kamagra online india their mind-shattering outbursts. On the evidence here, the project aim is to achieve total meltdown of multiple music sources (this goes far beyond the humble “mash-up”), transform them into hideous, unrecognisable shapes, and combine everything with shocking explosions of obnoxious noise, deliberately ignoring any precepts of compositional order – “thrown together” is the order of the day. When this strategy is used as backdrop for the intense and stinky vocalese of Sinclair, you can be sure the sparks will fly. If you’ve played your 1990s Boredoms collection to death and still clamour for more insanity in like vein, I suppose this is your next stop.

Not every single track is a one-way ticket to the Bughouse, though. I’m struck by ‘Analchemy’ which doesn’t fit any of the profile outlined above, and emerges as an interesting sample-jigsaw piece that makes effective use of exploding cymbals and slow, treated noise. In this context, it’s practically Bernard Parmegiani. And the long track ‘Careless Sniffle’ feels uncharacteristic somehow; it’s as though the duo left the tape running in the studio to capture aimless humming and random noise, and published the half-baked results just to annoy the listener. But it’s a strangely compelling episode, for all its tawdry banality. For the most part, though, be prepared for shocking noise assaults, fun, silliness, and just plain weirdness. The “outrageous” cartoony collage cover art is an exact visual analogue to the music herein. From 25 July 2014.

Two Vinyl Viewpoints

Another vinyl art object from the Berlin label Corvo Records, this one less elaborate than others in the series in that the sleeve is plain grey card albeit with nice raised lettering in red (resembling runes in their avant-garde typography), and the vinyl is pressed in a sumptuous shade of pink. The contents of trick17 (CORVO RECORDS CORE 006) were put together by dieb13, the Viennese musician whose catalogue is not well represented in my collection, but I know of him for his very severe turntabling and computer-based works. This release is somewhat uneven; I decided after five minutes of listening I couldn’t abide the B-side, titled “visible”, which resembles an annoying buzzsaw or power-sander passing over my ears in a regular fashion. The inert noise suggests that dieb13 were passing his tonearm over a rotating record and taking it off again, with highly regulated swoops like some sort of avant-garde seagull snatching at your sandwich. Much as I savour noise music, this was a little process-heavy and anonymous for my tastes. The A-side “audible” on the other hand is a resounding success. Through means unknown (the sleeve simply describes a series of actions, such as recording, editing and mixing), dieb13 has created a very effective jumbled sensation which I would characterise as “the radio station from Hell”. Yes, shortwave, static and feedback are in here, but so are many fascinating electronic musical layers, and controlled by the hand of a rigid genius. After some moments, the delirious sensation is such that you’ll imagine you are being sent distress calls and S.O.S. signals for your ears only, and that you alone have the personal decoder/receiver equipment built into your very ribcage in order to accept these messages. dieb13 (Dieter Kovacic) has created a bold and assured statement in these 20-some thrilling minutes, showing he has totally assimilated his technical environment and that he can make his turntabling equipment perform like an entire flea circus of trained seals. All the dogs are barking, to put it another way. I gather this young man is largely untrained in “conventional” music making, and has come into experimentation via the route of DJ-ing, a trend which (some scholars and historians claim) is reflected in much of the Viennese “scene” since the 1990s, and further evinced in the unstoppable rise of the Mego label. While not as dense or conceptual as other Corvo Records we have noted, this is dynamic, entertaining, and a highly innovative burst of fast-moving abstract noise. Arrived 15 July 2013.

Focus On Nothing On Focus (AUSSENRAUM RECORDS AR-LP-001) is a split LP of sorts, between Francisco Meirino and Kiko C. Esseiva, and it’s a limited numbered press on a vinyl-only label based in Switzerland. Each creator has worked with the same source material, and produced a side-long reworking of the content. There’s a shopping list of equipment printed on the back cover, from which we learn that many hours of recordings were produced to arrive at this highly compressed and refashioned result. Neither side is particularly engaging though, and I categorise this album as a joyless exercise in dull process art. Meirino admittedly has lots of layers going on, and there’s plenty of textures in the way of creaks, drones, clicks and sighs in this strange abstract piece that sits somewhere between field recording, electro-acoustic treatments and electronic music. Yet I can’t get hold of anything substantial here, and find my attention wandering every two minutes. The sounds just aren’t memorable enough, and the assembly seems meaningless. Esseiva is slightly more successful in that he allows himself a tad more in the way of studio treatment to juice up the otherwise inert sounds, but despite the odd flourish of reverb, it too remains rather ordinary. Meirino has not dented my noggin much with his previous worthy efforts, although Paul Morgan found much of interest to report on his Untitled Phenomenas In Concrete. I am personally quite keen on Esseiva though, and have found his studio concotions for Hinterzimmer Records both beautiful and poetic, which is why I feel short-changed by this pedestrian release. From 10th December 2013.

Red Shift

From 27 February 2014, we have the Estigate (LINEAR OBSESSIONAL RECORDINGS LOR050) album by the English improvising duo of Colin Webster and Graham Dunning, which exhibits Webster’s extended saxophone techniques and the extreme live electronics of Dunning. In Webster’s case, this means he’s joining the many woodwind and brass players who have for many years now been expanding the ranks of what I would call the “breathist” school of playing, where the sound of their own breath passing through a metal tube is privileged above all other sounds. Webster’s personal take on the “breathism” concept is that he appears to be perpetually gulping and swallowing, as if drowning in a shallow pool, and placed in a drastic situation where his life depends on him not playing a single recognisable note of music. I’m feeling the same vibe of constrained, almost constipated energy that I recall from his Antennae cassette for Gaffer Records, and there’s the same concern with emphasising the mechanical moving parts of his saxophone, almost recasting the instrument as some sort of alien machine that’s gradually taking over his body.

In that context, Mr Dunning is the perfect sideman to have in your duo, although of course his contributions amount to far more than an entire army of bassists and drummers. He plays turntables and mixing desk like a dozen other intense young men these days, but he’s got his own field recordings which he’s had pressed up as dub-plates, and teases sounds from these on his own cheap (hopefully near-broken) turntables. His personalised approach to turntabling even allows the use of pencils and dentist’s implements to act as surrogate needles on the deck. While this description of Dunning’s set-up may suggest forms of sonic violence, in fact his work on Estigate is as subdued and gentle as an afternoon stroll along the bottom of a canal. The common ground apparently shared by both musicians is their drive to produce “broken” music, and every track on Estigate stutters and buzzes along like an entire colony of wounded one-legged ants making their way home from war. Not a single phrase emerges from this duo before it is cut short, smothered, snapped in half and ripped out of any meaningful context. The listener must work hard to reconstruct any sense of continuity from this highly fragmented mosaic of sound. That broken-ness is, I like to think, reflected in the fragments of excavated shellac which have been dug up and sealed in a small forensic bag and included as an insert with this release. It’s one of the hallmarks of Richard Sanderson’s label that he makes the physical versions of his releases into desirable, or at least interesting, limited art objects.

Action Vision

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You may recall we reviewed the lovely music of Neil Luck in October 2012, the London composer who gave us Last Wane Days, a truly unique operetta baroque-pop chamber piece – a real surprise for many a powdered wig. He also appeared with one cut on the GoldDust compilation for Slightly Off Kilter records. Luck it was who sent us Songs From Badly-Lit Rooms (SQUIB-BOX NO NUMBER), received here 13 March 2013, and another uniquely somehow very English piece of wailery and squealation it doe bee. As you can tell I am already lapsing into a Jacobean-era style of writing and speaking, a transformation I considereth most appte when hearing these sodden wood-panelled pieces of musicke, as I sitte beside the fire and peepe dartingly out of a small latch window. These airres fitte for the eares of our right royalle King were played by Tom Jackson the clarinettist, with the viola player Benedict Taylor ever by his side. Both are improvisers and performers well respected about the towne, and indeed have likewise found success beyond the seas. For many pieces the players doe buzz and humme at a frantic rate, as though pursued by two tigers from Oriental parts, or else find themselves besette with unwanted small insects crawling about in their nether garments. My advice would be to wear an iron codpiece and so preserve themselves from The Enemy. Also of interest are the different timbres and acoustic qualities, which vary from track to track; perhaps the titles indeed reflect the real-world locations for their performances. If so, most sensitive to the space of a chamber they have proven themselves. No man can listen and remain unmoved at such delicious sounds; barking, crying, hooting and issuing many a plaintive mew, both raising dreadfull clamours to the skies. The duo perform roped together like two sailors on board a shipload of tobacco, and communicate by unseen means that inform their every thought and move. In fine, most high recommendation for this moving and delightful recording. Now I must needs return to gutting my fish from Cheapside market, ere I expire from hunger.

ReverseAge

From 11 March 2013 we received a glorious eccentric and fiery recording of avant-rock solo antics by GR (i.e. Gregory Raimo from France). What an axeman he’s proving himself on these solid high-volume grooves. I’d like to meet his tailor. His A Reverse Age (MEXICAN SUMMER MEX140) is a glorious blast of psychedelic rockabilly noise, the musical fabric cut to shreds by his nasal poison vocalising which mows down eight beds of precious flowers and causes entire trees to wither and die with just one billow from Raimo’s diabolical breath. With his ‘Hymn to Pan’ and his ‘The Primitive Hoodoo’ he owns himself a willing convert to the anti-religion of The Cramps, while his thudding drumming style and raw recording approach fuel the excitement to boiling pitch. The highlight though is his rich and juicy guitar style, often-times heavily psychedelic and reminiscent of Gary Ramon of Modern Art / Sun Dial (or the glorious obscurity Jesse Harper). Fans of Alan Vega and The Fall from circa 1980-1981 should devour this flaming nugget at tremendous speed, using crocodile jaws to chew the slabs of meat. Excessive and flailing adjectives abound on the press release, describing this wild trip as an “argument between myth and reality”, but such unhinged language and frothing praise is quite justifiable in the face of this rockin’ gemuloid.

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Here’s the scrapey improviser Tim Olive with another release on the 845 Audio label sent to us from Kobe in Japan on 21 March 2013. He was carrying a metal pail full of old rusty bolts at the time. On Various Histories (845 AUDIO 845-2) he teams up with Katsura Mouri, a fabulously talented sound artist who works with turntables which are doctored with “prepared records”, percussive objects and pieces of metal. She’s been a member of BusRatch, DOOG, and herviviennestrap, but also performs solo and in 2009 she toured with other contemporary turntable manipulators eRikm, Martin Tetreault and Ignaz Schick; and has assembled a cunning multiple turntable set-up, like Philip Jeck used. This is the first I ever heard of Mouri, but I love her delicate approach; there’s none of the heavy-handedness, violence or sarcasm one sometimes finds with your basic turntabling types – present company excepted, of course – who seem intent on smashing the device, breaking records, or trying to single-handedly destroy the history of recorded music through the symbolic annihilation of this culturally-loaded (as they would see it) machine. Instead she works most sympathetically here with Tim, who plays pieces of metal amplified with guitar pickups, to create five intense pieces of heavily abstracted grey rumbly sound, rich with plenty of low bass grumbles and growls, most of the music hovering gracefully on the twilight zone where it might erupt into vicious anti-social table noise at the turn of a feathered cable. However, it never actually does that, and instead suffuses all emotions into this slowly-bubbling green soup of seething restraint. One listen to this shimmery-abraso beauty and I’m head over heels with Katsura Mouri’s playing style, now tempted to seek out her 2000 and 2002 BusRatch records for PARA discs.

Deliberate Mistakes

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The latest entry in the Vernon & Burns catalogue sees this Glasgow duo teaming up with Lied Music, the duo of Luke Fowler and John W. Fail. Lost Lake (SHADAZZ SHA.11) is one of the stranger and darker emissions from these talented creatives, particularly if you care to compare it with the sometimes more playful assemblages of V&B, or the deliciously offbeat melodic avant-pop tunes created by Fowler as part of Rude Pravo. At first spin the record is a near-bewildering toasted-cheese sandwich, a concoction which contains at least a zillion ideas apparently thrown together any which way. Faced with such an array, discerning avant-LP listeners may want to reach for The Faust Tapes as one touchstone, but another credible precedent is the unearthly Bladder Flask LP 1, that ne plus ultra of cut-up sound art put together by a teenaged Richard Rupenus as if possessed by some fevered desire to surpass the worst excesses of the lunatic fringe end of the United Dairies catalogue. But the Bladder Flask release had the underlying sinister aim of sending all those who heard it mad, through highlighting the complete absurdity and futility of everything. Lost Lake has a more benign mission, thankfully. The album has been very carefully crafted, using sets of recorded improvisation sessions produced by the four players, aiming to resculpt the near-chaos of that source material into a coherent structure. Within that structure, fractured songs and equally fractured stories emerge; yes, a scrambled form of a radio listening or cinematic experience, which is an effect Vernon & Burns have striven for with a good deal of their work (and have produced many items expressly in radiophonic mode). As to the cinematic, Fowler is also a film-maker. There is a logic to this scheme, but it is hard to follow and weaves its way around in a highly secretive and intuitive fashion, like an errant underground stream full of eccentric fish and darting river-insects stained in unnatural colours. We could account for some of this quirkiness by pointing out that all four creators were involved in the refashioning process, rather than a single editorial hand behind the editing knife; one can imagine the clashing dynamism generated by four powerful personalities, each of them bending the path of events in their favour. Additionally, the source material itself was not exactly straightforward music to begin with, but created using the now-virtually-standard set-up of the modern improviser, that is amplified instruments, toys, found tapes, field recordings, and live electronics. From this rich stew, voices and tunes emerge from amid a varispeeded and highly layered humid aggregation of extremely strange sounds. And yes, like the Rupenus LP, it is quite absurdist, but I like to think it’s a fun and cartoony absurdity, rather than bleak and Beckett-like. That said, this aural bric-a-brac crawls out from a dark attic of the mind, and is as much an unsettling listen as it is entertaining. Corin Sworn’s cover art encodes all the above information quite perfectly. Using collage technique (naturally), it depicts a figure sitting on a sofa surrounded by hideously “tasteful” drapes and furnishings. This image of bourgeois normality is thoroughly disrupted by replacing the outline of the figure with fragments of urban horror and machinery, then further scrambling the visual schema with concentric rings and diagonal bars, suggesting the power of the aural emanations on the record. The album is, we are told, a sequel to a 2006 release called Lied Music vs Boy-Band Tax Returns, which we reviewed in our Vinyl Viands issue.

Pedal to the Metal

A promising experiment in steam-driven innovation is the one-sided 12-incher by DJ Mistakes (PHASE! RECORDS PHR-81). The two creators are Casey Farnum and Elliot Hess, who built a complex apparatus allowing them to power their turntables using bicycles; the cover art and the enclosed drawing, as if torn from the pages of the English comic illustrator Rowland Emmett, give some indication of the set-up and its concomitant paraphernalia. These drawings also reminded me of the sketches Hans Reichel used to include on his early FMP albums (e.g. Bonobo Beach), indicating how he assembled his own hand-built guitars. On the record, we actually hear live recordings of the infernal machine, made in Brooklyn in 2006-07 and also using gongs, microphones, a mixing desk, and of course records on the turntables. The artists may be slightly poking fun at the conventions of DJ culture, but also intend to put more spontaneity back into the artform, and they hark backwards to the time of the hand-cranked Victrola, harbouring a certain intellectual nostalgia for an undefined early modern period when “gears and bicycles were the stuff of aural and physical revolutions”. If I were a writer of the Ken Hollings school, no doubt I could bring forward numerous references to the place of the bicycle at key political moments of the Russian revolution, the First World War, or in the films of Eisenstein, thus making ingenious connections across political and cultural history. Farnum and Hess may even be attempting to begin that undertaking with their front cover collage, which although let down by rather murky printing, does suggest a darkened industrial landscape where the bicycle wheel on the horizon resembles part of a mining operation, and the two men in old-fashioned suits have their heads replaced, John Heartfield style, with objects which I assume are bicycle seats. Unfortunately, the record itself doesn’t live up to much of this promise, and is merely odd and amusing where it could be radical and wild. Some unusual moments can be heard, but it is mostly a lot of wobbliness and speed variations, which is pretty much what you’d expect. This arrived around June 2011.

The Charred Rise

The double LP Atonal Hypermnesia (MEGATON MASS PRDUCTS PIKADON002LP) by French avant-metallists P.H.O.B.O.S. is their third release and arrived here in June 2012. We last noted them in 2009 with their album Anœdipal, and this new release provides an even more remorseless manifestation of their craft. They began life in 2000 using the “conventional” four-piece set up of guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals, but from the start their driving mission has been to create a degree of sonic intensity that transcends the conventions of the many generic labels that are flung in their direction, including Black Metal, doom, stoner, sludge, noise, industrial, etc. As a matter of fact the principal creators are proud of their “maximal” approach to amplified noise, which while it may use a lot of churning, droning effects is arguably more “eventful” than any given release from the Sunn O))) school of imitators. They also aim to structure their tunes, rather than merely reverberating their Marshalls into infinity. Stefan Thanneur once again provides the cover artworks, but where the Anœdipal record made provocative use of religious icons, the keynote this time is heavy abstraction, a restricted colour range which allows only black (lots of it) and silver, and an allusion in the direction of geological formations, intended to suggest this is music that causes earthquakes or was engendered inside the crater of a volcano. As a listen, it’s very heavy going; treated guitars, much studio fog and choking drone effects, solemn vocal grunts, and relentless hammer-blow drums throughout. In fact I can’t stress enough how inescapable these drum beats are. They strike their way into the very fabric of the music like geologists’ mallets, and serve mainly to illuminate how trapped we are by the cavernous walls of this extreme sound. These drums make the entire sonic environment sound hollow, and start to make me feel hollow inside too. As to the guitar and electronics (if indeed that’s what we hear), they produce endless, clotted clumps of noise, and to endure them is like eating lumps of burnt coal or solidified nuclear waste. Certainly this is very well-crafted music and is quite some way removed from the more primitive end of Black Metal (e.g. Striborg, Bone Awl, and Beherit), and the elaborate titles such as ‘Solar Defrag’ or ‘Necromegalopolis of Coprolites’ point to a strongly intellectual influence on the work, adding additional layers of context to what is already an extremely dense statement.

  1. One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met & Everybody Thought I Was Whistling, originally released in 1981 on Orgel Fesper Music.