Messages from Mattin

Competing for your attention this week: four new releases winged off to the sanctuary of the TSP box by Mattin. Long skilled as a wreaker of the most malevolent synth and laptop growls you could wish for, Mattin caught my eye last year with a stark, minimalist release issued jointly under his name and Radu Malfatti, the veteran trombone improviser. That package arrived with an abrasive printed polemic, asking some very pointed questions about the nature of modern music and its audience. I discern further chips on shoulders with this new batch, the most obvious candidate being Keith Rowe Serves Imperialism (w.m.o/r 29), a release credited to Michel Henritzi with guests Mattin, Bruce Russell, Taku Unami and Shin’ichi Isohata. Henritzi, late of the excellent A Bruit Secret label, incorporates what might be an inflammatory text in the booklet, the exact meaning of which I have yet to decode; smart avant hipsters with any sense of history will immediately recognise the title’s dig as a quote of Cornelius Cardew‘s famed 1974 tract about his former mentor Stockhausen, made doubly ironic in this instance by its reference to fellow AMM performer Rowe. The record itself appears to consist of guitar and turntable improv, with some live electronics and items swiped from the toolbox; and it’s dedicated to guitar greats Derek Bailey and Masayuki Takayanagi.

Josetxo Grieta is here with Euskal Semea (w.m.o/r 28), which on the face of it comprises two lengthy cover versions of ‘European Son’ by The Velvet Underground, and printed texts in the package intellectualising and contextualising the decision (even filling in some historical background on Delmore Schwartz, the poet and English teacher at Lou Reed’s University). Josetxo’s text asks pointed questions about national identity, particularly as it obtains in 21st century Europe. Mattin forms part of this deconstructionist trio, adding guitar and voice to the radio work of Josetxo Anitua, and the drums of Inigo Eguillor. Actually this record could turn out to be a very rewarding slab of noise, and more than just ‘cover versions’, perhaps an interesting commentary of sorts on the music of The VU and their status in musical history. The high-impact cover art is a witty pastiche of the first VU LP, except this Basque banana is peeled, bitten, and dipped in some vile red sauce; the strands of banana peel fall in odd patterns and make it resemble a yellow and black stick insect.

NMM, or No More Music at The Service of Capital, are a duo featuring Lucio Capece and Mattin; Mattin does computer feedback, Lucio does saxophone feedback and plays the mixing desk. The CD is called Universal Prostitution and comes decked in a sleeve resembling a 1930s Marxist tract, printed with trenchant texts about consumerism, products, alienation, power, and belief systems; the sort of accusatory and critical messages I haven’t seen printed on a record sleeve since the days of Crass or The Pop Group. This particular product is proudly marked ‘Anti-Copyright’, and it’s a joint release by Ideal recordings (iDEAL041), Absurd (#63) and 8 mm Records (012).

Zaïmph‘s Emblem (w.m.o/r 31) finally, comes with no hectoring messages (and indeed no other information whatsoever), but simply a nifty silver-on-black postcard sleeve with a wild snake leaping up the trunk of a tree on the back cover and an eerie Beardsley-esque landscape on the front, where coils of smoke turn into the unkempt grass of the heath. The CD has a scrawled image of a skull surrounded by Aboriginal stripes (which could translate as additional snakes, or a river), and two long tracks of electronic darkness lie within.