Running, Jumping, and Standing Still

Fine new batch of CDRs from Bristol label LF Records leading off with Music To Stand Still To (LF078) by Territorial Gobbing. This could be solo act Theo Gowans of Leeds with a clutch of seven tracks he assembled in the final months of year 2020. Absurdist, puzzling noise is the order of the day, created perhaps by cutting up tapes and creating rough-hewn “samples” in a very DIY manner, plus occasional murmurs, breathing listlessly into a harmonica, cluttering the kitchen crockery around, that sort of thing. Judging from earlier releases, I think one of his preferred tricks is to close-mic his own mouth in some eccentric way, attaching devices to his very jowls. “Music that could, in theory, just carry on for a good while,” is the way he describes these bizarre experiments, “and you can just wait about for [it].” Well…if the Leeds bus service is still as unreliable as rumour has it, there’s a poignant truth buried in here.

With its devil-may-care approach to mic placement, this CDR spins us back to a more innocent time (early 1980s) of UK cassette bands making home experiments in the kitchen by any means (and utensils) that come to hand. While he briefly samples the music of minimalist composers Glass and Riley, he does so very irreverently and doesn’t even deign to spell their names correctly. He also does a “cover version” of a song by The Shadow Ring, a very bold and welcome move, as the work of this important UK trio from Folkestone can only benefit from more exposure within the culture, although his clumsy keyboard work on ‘Lindus’ is, if anything, not quite primitive enough for the task at hand.

Clicking onto one of Gobbing’s websites, I find he describes his act as a “dada noise improv thing”, alludes to his working method as “high speed dada cutup nonsense”, and self-deprecatingly sums up his output as “STUPID music”, exuding a healthy non-art sensibility that indicates he doesn’t take himself entirely seriously. He’s made dozens of records, available through his Bandcamp page, and there’s evidence of numerous live sets and split releases since 2017, all evidencing the same streak of demented weirdness and zany surrealist antics. I’m tempted to file him alongside fellow luminaries such as Dai Coelacanth and Filthy Turd / Darren Wyngarde, who also produce scads of nonsensical-genius cassettes, though Territorial Gobbing occupies his own patch of the crazy streets of MadHouse Britain 2021. For one thing, he’s not especially “noisy”, and achieves his mind-sapping effects in more subtle and devious ways. An excellent release … and we look forward to hearing more.

Alter Ego here with Cold Biology (LF075), six tracks of low-key electronica and rhythm box chuntering with track titles referring to species of plant life for some reason…Alter Ego has appeared on this label with self-titled item dating from 2016, but we don’t appear to have a copy in our files. Press blurb describes this sullen, strung-out music as “sediments, fungal life, extracted sounds from the life-cycle”…what I’m mostly hearing is some mutant form of ramshackle post-financial collapse minimal avant-techno, where the beats are struggling to stay alive and the sequenced layers can hardly breathe in the poisoned air. It’s as if someone were trying to recreate Mego and Raster Noton records, using only a broken photocopier from 1973.

Mouth Worker has been showing up on the old TSP sensors since around 2015 and we found a lot to savour in his demented vocal-and-noise roarers, Rose of the Desert and Tomb Mystery. His plan was to use voice samples in among gobbets of noisy detritus, subjecting everything to intense distortion, creating nightmarish glimpses of psychological horror thereby. Just two long tracks on today’s item Probable Reuse Vol. 1 (LF079), which in theme and method is aiming to extol the virtues of recycling, perhaps implying that he’s now repurposing found sounds from an extensive library of samples, or using cast-offs and other remnants to build a crazy-quilt of noise. The first item here starts as a fairly affable looped riff, standing on the edge of turning into a pleasing melody, before it gradually descends into a semi-industrial Hades of grind and scuzz. Nice bit of jet-engine noodling for sure, but lacking the sheer menace of earlier Mouth Worker barbs. I got more of the nastiness I crave from the second track, which manages to combine an icy desolation with grisly robotic growls, sketching out a highly dystopian urba-scape in fragmented glimpses. The shortwave radio voices here add a particularly chilling frisson. With “bomb damage” cover art and its cold, distant stance, this release manages to convey a healthy dose of futility and despair.

Also in same envelope is a cassette release by same Mouth Worker called Shredding Anxiety (CC106). This was released in March 2021 on the very good Bristol label Cardboard Club, an imprint which works very hard to keep alive the spirit of 1980s DIY culture, opting to print all artworks in black and white. Compared to the eco-friendly recycling job above, this “angsty” item is a much more maximal beast, and once it starts pumping out thick layers of audio slurry then the pipe refuses to turn off, suffocating the listener in multiple layers of distortion, loops, and horrid drones. While not particularly “noisy” in the sense of brutalising table-noise harsh wall, this tape still passes on the same sense of gloom and despondency as Probable Reuse, yet there may also be a slightly “therapeutic” dimension. If its creator does indeed suffer from anxiety attacks, making grotesque organic noise music like this might be the best way to purge oneself of these unwanted mental episodes. Recommended listening to help you kick start the brain on a rainy Monday morning.

All the above from 27th July 2021.