Sergeant Throat

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On The Glottal Allowance (PERIPHERAL CONSERVE pH-23), we hear the voice and throat of Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg doing his creepy thing in front of the microphone for one side of this seven-inch single. This Belgian voice improviser can be heard on various marginal records on INAudible, DUNS and Improvising Beings where he’s doing it in the company of other international musicians, but he’ll be more well known to the select few who saw the movie Berberian Sound Studio, the unusual psychological thriller directed by Peter Strickland. Strickland is a great Englishman of genius who happens to run this label, is a respected film-maker, well-connected with the Bohman Brothers and was also the main man in the Sonic Catering Band. In said movie, a psychologically disturbing narrative which revolves around an ingenious reimagining of the Italian exploitation movie industry, Van Schouwburg played the part of a voice actor providing some hideous “goblin” sounds. These circumstances provided the basis for the present single. Stickland put him behind the mic and the entire work was completed, including edits and overdubs, in less than one hour.

Van Schouwburg could be classed in the Phil Minton school of vocal improv. His ugly wordless growls, groans, and wheezes are full of spit and saliva, and the other juices of human life. If you see the human frame as a sack of viscera, we’re practically hearing it on display on this record, along with many bodily fluids brought into play. Where Henri Chopin celebrated his own lungs and phlegm, Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg plays his entire anatomy like an orchestra. He squeezes his diaphragm like an accordion player, abuses his larynx like Archie Shepp over-blowing his sax and shredding eighteen reeds.

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On the flip-side, fittingly called ‘Down Neck’, Andrew Liles was called in to create a “remix” – a word which normally sends me running from the room in search of an axe, but on this occasion Liles has managed to transform the source into something even darker, more surreal, and horrifying. He’s extended the bitty, grunted fragments into a palpable echoing drone, sound events which leave a permanent stain on the mind. A bloodstain, no doubt. Liles was involved in sound design for the movie, so in many ways this release is a fitting conceptual addition to the film soundtrack album issued by Warp Records in 2013. 1980s veteran Liles has associations with the English Industrial bands Nurse With Wound and Current 93, and his work has appeared on hundreds of records.

The cover art is gorgeous, but seems at odds with this record. The images are light and precisely rendered, with heavy crisp outlines showing precise stylisations of human faces; while the music is ugly, dark, lugubrious, and vague. Arrived 15th September 2014.

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