Robot Cities

I think we may have heard the prolific Clayton Noone many years ago under his Armpit guise, most likely on his Tron album for Last Visible Dog in 2008. This New Zealand noise-rock experimenter has been in about nine bands, often appears as CJA, and has a sprawling discography of cassettes, CDRs and lathe cuts that defies mortal comprehension…he’s here today as one part of The Futurians, an actual band which also features Ducklingmonster, Kraus, ISO-12 and Rocko Mandroid, and who have spewed out over 40 releases since their inception in 2001 represented on labels like Soft Abuse, Foxglove, Digitalis, 267 Lattajjaa, and Pink Skulls. Now Feeding Tube Records get in on the action with this Distorted Living (FTR 309) LP. 12 songs of groovy noisy lo-fi avant-rock fun.

The Futurians have made an effort to present themselves as “retro-futurists”, and have cultivated a strong science-fiction vibe in their cover art, song titles, and (apparently) their live performances. All I’ve got to go on is one blurry photo insert here, but I’m prepared to believe they are carriers of the torch for bands such as Gong, Hawkwind, Steve Hillage and other space-freaks of the 1970s. There’s also the tune titles such as ‘Abandon Base’, ‘Psilicon March’, ‘Brainplant’ and ‘Tears of Iso’, all of which are conjure up imaginary NEL Sci-Fi paperback covers in the listener’s head, hopefully painted by Bruce Pennington or Chris Foss. So far I seem to be harking back to a relatively innocent phase of science fiction, that of the later 1960s and early 1970s, untainted by the digital stench of cyberpunk and William Gibson fantasies, which I hope is in keeping.

As to the music, “distorted” is certainly the key word here – all amps turned up to unsafe levels, plenty of fuzz and distorto-pedals on the floor, and not a single sound emerging from mic, amp, guitar or synth that is allowed to sound remotely normal or untreated. A delicious scuzzoid blend of futura-punk noise, in fine. The vocals by Ducklingmonster are especially tasty, resembling a cosmonaut turned alien bellowing out severe warnings from the other side of the galaxy, or perhaps an android-policebot announcing curfew in this mildly dystopian future. The rest – guitars, synth and drums – just blur together in an unholy mess of frequencies, with only the occasional synth line allowed to stand out from the morass. Somehow, this warhorse keeps chugging along and sustaining some level of energy, mainly I think due to the choppy efforts of Clayton and his guitars. I like them best when they stretch out a bit, as on ‘Abandon Base’ where they stand a chance of hitting a groove and working it into the moon-dust, but there’s something to be said for the shorter episodes too; their unfinished quality lends them the air of urgent broadcasts from a dying planet.

While one might be tempted to reach for comparisons with Chrome, that’d be off base; there’s little of the deeply toxic angst and future-paranoia that Chrome exuded from their early works, and the overall vision of Distorted Living is that the future isn’t really such a bad place to be, once you get used to the over-crowding and the polluted air. The cover painting is pretty much the side of a train covered with graffiti art, but I like the gestural markings of it, and the acidic colours. From 3rd January 2018.