Tango With Cows

The German label Corvo Records has always managed to put out surprising and unusual art-music records of all sorts, whether in the fields of noise or free improv or the just plain unclassifiable. Corvo also put out a number of items featuring voices or vocals in unusual sonic situations, and indeed the last two items in the catalogue – Ringing Still Life by Laura Mello, and Tracing South by Alessandra Eramo – were primo examples of quite extreme voice art, Mello’s quite playful and modern, Eramo’s rather more confrontational.

Today’s Corvo item indicates the label is going even further down the route of bonkers, absurdist material – as if expecting the return of those heady days when wild Dada gestures stood a chance of upsetting the establishment and all its works. It features Joke Lanz, that notorious performance artist and noise-maker, who is the man behind Sudden Infant and who has rubbed forepaws with many of the heavy-hitters and concrete giants in the fields of extreme noise and industrial music. In the context of this LP, we’re reminded a fair bit of Lanz’s physical body-art performance work, which I feel thankful that I have never experienced personally, as I suspect it’s the kind of threatening assault to the senses that would require three days of laudanum to recover from. But he’s also a master with the old wheels of titanium, and it’s his turntabling dexterity that’s on offer here on Abstract Musette (CORVO RECORDS core018). His Münster Bern record for Cubus is one instance of his skill, a record which I found to be “a mind-sappingly odd and bewildering frieze of aural collage”. The same method applies today, that of throwing out fast-moving and confusing fragments of sonic information, apparently with intent to drive the listener insane.

Lanz is aided in this task by the accordion of Jonas Kocher, that Swiss player who has worked so hard to fundamentally redefine the sound and context of this most homely of instruments. To put it more plainly, he turned it into a viable avant-garde music-maker, reclaiming it from decades of corny polka music, and constantly drawing attention to the sound of the bellows and the creaking wheeze of the instrument’s lungs. Whoever had the brilliant idea of putting Lanz and Kocher together? It’s a bewildering record with a syntax that’s impossible to follow, and in its wild mood swings it seems to be collapsing in laughter one moment, then the next minute realising the utter futility of everything. A real manic-depressive schizoid episode…yet, despite the skills and the iron-clad attitudes of both players, I feel it makes the same brillliant joke 15 times over without much being gained in the process. Even so, it’ll win prizes for bold gestures and its savage musical sarcasm. Even the track titles are designed to rub mainstream tastes the wrong way. Inverted and insane cabaret music, for the inmates at the Cafe of the Damned. From 17th February 2020.