Received a copy of Weird Harvest (WEIRD GARDEN WG001), a compilation CD showcasing music associated with the “Weird Garden” series of events…I have never assisted at these particular entertainments, but this is my loss as they seem to be vibrant instances of underground culture happening right under our collective noses here in the UK. Largely based in Lincoln and taking place at an art venue called Decimal Place (although the event has been spotted in Hull), Weird Garden has been digging in its bulbs and seedlings since 2012 and in that time has managed to clock up over 60 separate events. It’s to their credit that all these events have been free attendance, boast a truly international range of attending creators, and feature not just music but also experimental noise, performance art, poetry and spoken word, songs, and film screenings – although the latter may have been a one-off under the aegis of another Lincoln art event called Bend In The River.
The fellow who is largely credited with initiating Weird Garden is TapeNoise, whose cassette tape work we have been avoiding for many years now. I learn now that he’s also known as Dex, not that this information brings me any closer to understanding him, or his baffling noise. Evidently he likes to be considered somewhat subversive, as the main idea fuelling the Weird Garden events is that it takes place within a commercial milieu, feeding off whatever is available (money, space, advertising, the work of other people) to nurture the growth and spread of underground culture, which to him means “personal creative projects”. To those who liken this activity to weeds growing in a garden and sapping the vitality from the flowers, his riposte is the name of the project itself, intended as a multi-layered pun that can be read as “weed garden”, or even “word garden”, and it becomes a badge of pride for this radical approach, one that builds on the promise of DIY, punk rock, cassette bands, and the anarcho-syndicalist models that grew from those earlier music scenes and did everything from squatting to tending allotments for the vegan lifestyle.
The fact that Weird Garden has sustained this tenuous grip for eight years now counts for a lot. Meanwhile there are 13 cuts on this CD (and one hidden track), almost entirely by combos and artistes I never heard of (and that’s probably a good thing). For those who like grim minimal-synth drone noise, we have Grey Frequency, Modulator ESP, and The Great Schizm – whose ‘The Wounded Earth’ reminded me of the sort of dark depressive material we get from Zoharum in Poland. For fans of Darkwave and twisted synth-pop, there’s Tim Holehouse, Vacuus Otiosus, and Experimental Sonic Machines; the last of these have a drum machine sound that will endear itself to collectors of 1980s home-made cassettes, while the one by Vacuus Otiosus (of Oldham) – its title is a nonsense string of letters and numbers – exhibits a relentless quality in its abrasive monotonous guitar strumming that I enjoy enormously, even if I don’t dig the spoken-word recit on this one.
There’s also Plyci from Nottingham with their hugely enjoyable ‘Purplenoise’, one of the few creators on this cut who pay attention to structure and melody in their concise and well-arranged slice of home-made synth-and-sequencer brew. Another one who shows much promise is DiseasesOfVenus, who might be just one person from Derby and a guitar; their ‘Pearlygates’ has much to enjoy in its thickly-clotted layers of psychedelic guitar wranglings, and its desolate vocal buried in a heavy mix. The CD is packaged in a digipak and has artwork by Gavin Morrow. From 19th February 2020.