Vikings, vikings, vikings! We are the terror of the sea!

Michael Renkel is the arch fiend of guitar-sound manipulation from Berlin, back again with phono_phono, #014 on the Absinth Records label. On these live recordings from 2005, he’s working with Sabine Vogel the flautist and Magda Mayas on the piano and synths. Most of Renkel’s impeccable work that I’ve heard has been largely studio-based, so it’ll be a nice change to hear the cut and thrust of passioned debate as he sallies with these two glistening unicorns in a live situation. It being an Absinth release, we get the usual attention to visual detail on the package – it’s limited (500 copies) and housed in a very attractive screen-printed sleeve, unfolding into a frieze of miniature modern art, heavy on the enlarged process dots. This release is part of the ‘series diametral acoustics’; my understanding is that the diametral process is so physically dangerous and life-threatening to the listener, that the other records in the series have already been banned across most of Europe.

A totally insane looking artefact has sailed in from Denmark today. Sender was Gæoudjiparl, sometimes known as Goodiepal. I knew I was in for a treat by the lovely old-fashioned cursive script on a thick cardboard box, written by someone using an old-fashioned fountain pen, who added a cryptic message in the same hand on the back of the box. As to the contents, I’m completely baffled – not even sure if it’s anything to do with music. I recognise the phrase Mort Aux Vaches, which has been used for many years now in Holland by Staalplaat to designate their occasional series of strange, far-out experimental works. A blue foam-rubber sandwich is printed with the image of a viking ship full to the brim with deaths-heads. Inside are two dinky little vinyl biscuits, the size of compact discs, etched with further images and possibly equipped with lock grooves of the nasty sort that cause employees of Linn to have heart failure. This foam pack is mounted (with the familiar Mort Aux Vaches brass paper-fastener) on a teardrop-shaped picture disc, decorated with further etchings, more deaths-heads, and baffling surreal outbursts penned in a foreign tongue. No man should be expected to put this monster on a turntable, but the temptation to hear it may prove too strong. The sounds within, if any, may or may not emanate from such near-invisible underground European badgers as Gamers In Exile, Gæoudjiparl, Chupa Chups, Mainpal Inv and others – although our Manchester friends V/Vm also appear to be involved. An impenetrably strange compilation thing, maybe released in 2005; its entry on has merely confused me further! Just the sort of puzzling dementia I personally need at this time of the year – ‘depraved May’, as T S Eliot rightly called it.

Scott Foust, leader of widely-respected avant electronic outfit Idea Fire Company, writes from Amherst, enclosing a DVD-R of The Hero Retreats From The World and Fulfillment (PINEAPPLE TAPES 009). It’s a document of his most recent solo show, another chapter in his unexpected forays into film-making and performance art – a move which continues to surprise the critics of The New Yorker. ‘This one is a bit more musical,’ he drawls, in between slicing open another packet of Dunhills on the teeth of his pet German Shepherd. ‘A 10-minute lecture, a couple of minutes of ‘dancing’ and ‘singing’, and a 10-minute piece of radio and sound poetry with a backing tape. All good news,’ he adds at the end with a suggestive leer. If you’ve never seen the DVD of his previous solo stand-up pieces (or been there for the real thing), then I can guarantee the phrase ‘all good news’ will take on a whole new meaning for you. Scott also reports that there’s a new IFCO LP which is just about to reach the mastering stage, and a 10-inch LP by Scots outsider Ian Middleton (one-time Sound Projector contributor of visual art) will be sent to the pressing plant before many weeks. Hoist the black flag!

Also got some newies from Last Visible Dog, a label that’s always dependable for quality reports from certain sectors of the US (and elsewhere) drone-and-dream scene. One of ’em is by Area C, ie the Rhode Island genius Erik Carlson, here supported by Jeff Knoch; their Haunt (LVD 113) is built up from treated tapes of Farfisa organs plus other sounds. Crows Of The World Volume 1 (LVD 99-100) is a compilation, a two-disc survey of materials from music from Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Italy and the US. In like manner to the massive Invisible Pyramid comp, the set is themed by Chris Moon as though it’s a natural history tract; this one will purportedly provide details on the behaviour of crows in their habitat. I can already feel myself being torn to shreds by the cruel beaks of those carrion birds, and I haven’t even heard a single note…a fitting fate for music critics everywhere, I’m sure.