Don’t Eat the Grass

Another odd entry in the Bryan Lewis Saunders Stream Of Unconscious series of cassettes where contemporary sound artists interpret the dream-diaries of this very extreme American performance artist. On Volume 7 a lot of leeway is clearly given by the creator to his collaborators, and these two contributions are indeed very free and imaginative interpretations of the source material. On ‘French Spies’, Joke Lanz may or may not have been given an original tape recording of Saunders’ sleep-talking, but he has elected to re-record the text using his own speaking voice. That alone kicks things off in a fairly unsettling fashion. It feels decidedly odd to be listening to the American’s speech patterns and slang words recast into this rather formal sounding vocalising, as if Joke were acting out the role of a rather strict and stuffy Swiss official like a schoolteacher or customs officer. This contributes no end to the utter surrealism of this fragmentary and illogical story involving broken bones, a French family, eating grass and cooked eggs. Natch, Joke Lanz is no stranger to extreme performance art himself, need I tell you…I gather that you’d be safer letting a firecracker explode in your face that get near this man when he’s in full spate in an underground bunker armed with his noise devices and microphone. For this recording though, he tones things down to an almost glacial degree, and his additions / interpolations in terms of sound effects and tape manipulation are relatively subdued, all in the service of making the text appear as strange and unnatural as possible. Odd giggling effects and bodily-function burbles, perhaps making a passing reference to the granddaddy of all literary sleep-journals, Finnegans Wake. 1 In short, although the actual recorded voice of BLS may be missing from this experiment, his inner core of warped dream visions still hit home, regardless of which voice may be speaking them…

The B side is even more triumphantly surrealist. ‘It’s Parents Like You That Are Flies on the Horse’s Face’ is credited to Dylan Nyoukis, although Elkka Reign Nyoukis also contributed vocals, and various friends who were also captured in the tape machine of this eccentric Scots genius who lives in Brighton. Nyoukis has created a turgid tape collage that’s as thick and swampy as ten-day old porridge, and laced the brew with potent hallucinogenic drugs. Within this completely insane swirling melange, we hear creaking, musical fragments, muttering voices, bird song, snatches from TV or movie soundtracks (perhaps); but mostly unidentifiable and puzzling sounds. These are stitched into place in erratic fashion around whatever segments of the original Saunders tape Nyoukis has managed to salvage in what (I hope) was a gloriously untidy and somewhat dangerous exercise, involving tape splices made with razor blades on the breakfast table while the family were still trying to eat breakfast, and the splashes of blood were indistinguishable from the raspberry jam. Through his wild-eyed and half-mad method, the artist succeeds completely in capturing the crapulous effects of a nightmare, by turns horrifying, hilarious, and mostly just plain bizarre. Whether this matches Saunders’ original intent is irrelevant, as his crackpot texts are Grade-A bughouse to begin with, and in any case the curious reader can decipher the transcripts printed in the enclosed booklet as needed. Animals, insects, drugs, and a strange scenario about a school day trip are among the many elements in this tangled tale. On the portions where we can hear Saunders muttering, he sounds like a more tremulous version of Tex Avery’s Droopy. For the rest, he’s just one more player in the cast of thousands that constitutes the psychotic inner world of Dylan Nyoukis. Another essential entry in this cassette series!

  1. No, I never read it all the way through, but I understand that snoring, coughing and indigestion sound effects are all worked into Joyce’s prose.