Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I'd like to preface this review by stating: A) I am not a journalist: B) I have given up writing these things because I'm crap at it. Also, a review I wrote of Mark Stewart and the Mafia was painfully deconstructed on the On-U Soundsystem website, complete with comments such as "Fucking Journalists!" and "Wrong again, dumbo!". Ouch: C) I wrote these things for the free tickets that were provided. No money changed hands and I am not to be bought. This is pirated from a webzine that I don't wish to name for certain reasons (basically self-protection).This review is full of absurd assertions, ill-researched assumptions and childish prose. It should serve as an example of how NOT to write music reviews. That said, I post it for the sake of hopefully inspiring some critical comment or feedback.
I shimmied home.
Wolf Eyes, Battles and Black Dice at the Volksbühne
So once again an evening of Noise in the chasm of the Volksbühne. I mean, hats of to the VB for booking these kinds of concerts, but it’s also un-rock’n’roll to have to remain seated for these events. And make no mistake, Noise is rock’n’roll. Groups such as TG and SPK always maintained they were punk bands, and so they were.
The much-maligned Whitehouse, for example, employ the full bag of rock-tricks: audience provocation, sex issues (it’s usually large amounts of spunk that are being issued in these cases), a “sexy” lead singer, massive volume and the traditional championing of the underdog (in their earlier days, serial killers and child-molesters, but undeniably underdogs)… in other words, perfect rock. It doesn’t matter that you may not be able to endure a single minute of their music. Some bands are simply more important than how they sound.
Which brings us to Wolf Eyes, the bastard offspring of Throbbing Gristle and Sonic Youth (with just a dash of Metallus Diabolus thrown in). That this band played first is only one of the many peculiarities of the evening. Lanky Nate Young strolls leisurely onstage, followed shortly thereafter to his left by John Olson (peroxided and slightly portly, he handled some of the more poignant grey noise, tweaking his anything-box and later playing some kind of amputated guitar) and Aaron Dilloway (ditto the funny-box and guitaro, unfortunately bearded… why do they do it?) flanking on the right. With a subtle crackle and fizz and we’re off into a Precambrian seascape, delicate electric ripples stirring up the silurian silt, playing with the trilobites… In the depths, the Globster stirs (note: a Globster is like a hairy Kraken which occasionally washes from fuck-knows-where onto distant shores… last observed in Tasmania in the 1970s).
We morph to a dusky, blurred film-noir soundtrack, complete with pretty convincing alto-saxophone wailing and keenings from Olson and then its back to the electric ooze… this is good stuff for sure. Ring-modulated, fuzzed out, perfectly formless… I’m getting a stiffy just thinking about it. After ten years of doing this stuff, these guys have got it down. No sentimentality, no phony coyness, just aggrevated air molecules doing their thing. They have correctly analysed and distilled the tenor of Rock, keeping the good stuff (feedback, dissonance, dynamic) and throwing away the worthless (melody, harmony and discernable lyrics). Right on. 25 minutes into their short set (40 minutes at most, folks), a slight concession to tradition: guitar-like things appear and Olson and Dilloway do some formation headbanging. Thankfully, it was just the silhouette of a song, not the letter. Some things are better hinted at than sketched out in detail. As the crescendo (or paroxysm) was obtained, all three began to scream in deranged unison. “Thanks, we’re out of here” said Young in a ruined voice, and that was that. Really majestic.
Next up, Battles. Oh boy, how I hated their guts. A “Super-Group” featuring John Stanier from Helmet (couldn’t they afford a drum-machine? He played like one) and the son of free-jazzer Anthony Braxton ( a pity he didn’t inherit his father’s form-destroying instincts). Like “Live at the Fillmore” without Miles, without anything. The guitarist to the left of stage was gumming and jawing like he was on the drugs I wanted to score (Chlorpromazine, of course), simultaneously hammering his guitar with the one hand while playing Jan Hammer lines on the keyboards with his other. Please. This kind of turgid jazz-rock should have been consigned to Hades (or the Knitting Factory, whence it came) eons ago. Makes me shiver just to think about it. Just as I was thinking they should be vapourized, I realised they were going down well with the audience. Hmm. Need a bigger Vapourization Chamber. Negative reviews are best kept short, so goodbye, Battles ( or does the indefinite “s” in their name mean I’ll see them again? I thought the war was over…).
A deep breath and on to Black Dice. I wanted to like them… hell, I think they wanted us to like them! Having just released another accessible noise-dance record on the trendy DFA label (recorded in the Australian hippy-belt of Byron Bay), the brothers Bjorn and Eric Copeland, plus either Sebastion Blunck or Aaron (Copeland? Is this a joke?) were burning to bring us their Evangelium (it was Easter Monday, after all). Lots of hand-played samples and mangled tapes/synth/whatever, itchy scratchy high freq. percussive babble with a kind of lurching rhythmic feel. These guys aren’t bad… and they do seem to wanna make noise… but they’re hippies. They just didn’t convey that same whiff-of-leather sleaze and spite that Wolf Eyes hinted at… to be fair, having to be seated detracted somewhat… maybe if I could have, ah, shimmied to it… Party music, basically, and no bad thing in itself. It has its moments of ugly attraction, its insect funk and rude pop. Skinning-up music. Went on and on. The video-feedback projected behind them was a close enough analogue to their music, I guess, but the guys were as interesting to watch as an aquarium. But I’m sure the music could well blow its swell load in a funkier environment, like some sleazy smoky speakeasy… oh yeah, you can’t smoke and watch bands at the VB.
So Wolf Eyes should have been heaped with tribute and spoils on this night. Besides, they have the better songtitles:”Stabbed in the Face”, anyone? They should have played last,of course. I shimmied home.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Rehumm was an vocal-only ensemble that formed in 1986. Its members were Cathy Vogan, Tony Riddell (shortly before the accident that was to transform him into the Marvel superhero Lester Vat) and Debra Petrovich. This stuff reminds me some of the Cold Meat Industries releases. Short but sweet, I couldn't resist trying to preserve this for posterity. This one's for Cathy.
Get it here: http://rapidshare.com/files/43592107/rehumm.rar
Monday, July 16, 2007
Here is a review I wrote for some webzine, complete with a silly cartoon I drew:
Current 93 - Low Voltage at Volksbühne
Hoo boy, this is going to be a hard review to write. The reasons for this are many. Firstly, while not directly an adherant of Current 93, I AM a fan of many of their cohorts and collaborators (and it’s a long list. Big breath now: Coil, Nurse with Wound, Death in June, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Nick Cave, Boyd Rice, Bonny Prince Billy, Marc Almond and on and on…) as well as digging some records from the past (“Nature Unveiled” is a real goodie… scary too). Nobody’s fault but my own…. I should have remembered that the “Industrial” Current 93 made way for the “Folkie” 93 more than a decade ago (the nomenclature is actually “Apocalyptic Folk”: they pretty much invented it and others took it under).
First seeing life in 1982, the early Current 93 was a sinsister emanation from the same marvelously infected pit which spawned TG, Coil, Nurse with Wound and such leperous company. Unabashedly creepy and blasphemous, their early recordings were the original “Music to Listen to in the Dark”. Tapeloops, treated vocals, ritual percussion and occultist (some would say satanic) obsessions defined a new industrial aesthetic, one already removed from the drum-machine throbs and synth squawks of, say, Cabaret Voltaire. In the course of their musical development (charted over more than 40!!! releases) the synthetic elements gradually submerged in favour of a more melodic, modal acoustic music… at least to exoteric scrutiny. Embedded amongst the pleasantries, an unswerving devotion to the long night of the soul, matching festering malaise with exstasis, as if William Blake and Lautreamont were writing the continuity… what the hell is this stuff? James Taylor it ain’t.
Our Planck Constant here is singer David Tibet, he of the domed skull and posessor of the largest orbits and most hooded eyes in the business… le Christ hydrocephalique. Tibet has a unique vocal style, frustrating to some but obviously beholden to many, pitched somewhere between Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff (sorry, description fails me at this time), which, depending on your mood or psychic state, can be spellbinding or simply annoying. This is the “acquired taste” necessary for persevering with this sometimes quandrous music. But if you’ve made it this far you may be allowed a peep into the Sanctum Seclorum (apologies for the archaisms in this text, but it seems appropriate considering the often Ex-Cathedra nature of 93’s texts and titles).
Studiously ignored by the mainstream for the last 24 years, Tibet and cohorts have built a mini-empire of production through their own organ, Durtro records, not only releasing albums by such colleagues in crime as Nurse With Wound (Steve Stapleton, a legend unto himself) but also branching into book publishing, imprinting little known classics of Victorian unease such as E and H Heron, Arthur Grey and Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock. These boys have used their time and resources well (although one hopes enough money was left to purchase a haunted manor-house on the blasted heath of some wind-swept moor). Despite the greater public being unaware of this particular virus, it seems that C93 are a “musician’s band” and a creative nexus for some of YOUR fave raves: the Current served as a springboard for Antony and the Johnsons, Bonny “Prince” Billy doffed his cap and do check out Nick Cave’s collaboration on “All the Pretty Little Horses”, a beautiful appalachian folk song unearthed by Mr Tibet. So much for history, let’s plunge into the recent present and get down to reviewing the Beast in concert.
I actually saw them twice. Unaware that the promoter (thanks Enrico!) had placed me on the guest list for the first evening, I strolled in at 11 o’clock to watch the encore (doormen usually allowing free entry by this time) and was amused to see a quartet consisting of guitar, piano, recorder and vocals. An unplayed harp stood in a prominent position but wasn’t plucked (this was the encore, remember, even if it did last almost 50 minutes!). This was, I presume, the old favourites section of the concert, as “A Gothic Love Song” greeted my ears.
The (sold-out) audience were almost certainly hardcore fans (a polite ripple of applause greeting the beginning of every number, just like jazz audiences style their responses) and in between songs you could have heard a pin drop. Respectful silence, or genuflection? I’ll never know, because this public didn’t look like me and maybe doesn’t think like me… who’s alienated here? I plead the Fifth.. Onstage we had the following: Maya Elliot on piano, Michael Cashmore on accoustic guitar (an early C93 member and a very lyrical player to boot), Baby Dee on recorder (gender unspecified, Baby’s that is) and David Tibet vamping in his unique way. Sometimes very frail, sometimes almost beautiful and occasionally threatening to collapse under his own cultivation, Mr Tibet sure has balls of steel to do this stuff. A noise-monger such as myself was left almost totally baffo. Feeling very much like the negro who stumbles upon a KKK ceremony, I was in a blue funk that I would be outed at any moment. The next night would be even stranger…
This second evening I arrived in good time and caught supporting Folkie Simon Finn’s set. Simon has a pedigree stretching waaay back and has been living in Canada for decades. Nick Drake? Donovan? I don’t know, but when he started screeching “Jerusalem!” I knew it was time for a breather.
Returning for the C93 bigband, I saw a far more fleshed-out performance than the previous night. Three guitars hacking in unison, Ms. Elliots piano, cello and violin from William Breeze (sideman with Coil and Grand Caliph of a charitable religious movement… a quick Google or glance at the Wikipedia should tell you more about this topic than I wish to go into here…), Andria Degens (also known as Pantaleimon, and Tibet’s spouse) and perhaps others I didn’t check are all givin’ it half. What they gained in increased orchestration seemed to be somewhat to the detriment of the more spare and ghostly quartet of the previous evening. Again, the public where vigourously supportive to the point of hostility (I drew plenty of foul looks and admonishment… “SHH!”… when I tried to whisper a comment in my friends ear)… yep, this was a listening audience alright, fuck their eyes.
Imagine meeting a real C93 compleatist, with all 50 releases in his collection (not counting over 20 bootlegs, mostly from Russia where the Goths eat this stuff alive)… could be scary, no? I couldn’t be entranced. Too many songs sat in the same key, the emotional tonalities clustering in the midground between Kate Bush and “Totenkinderlieder”. Anarchy (and Chuck Berry) were formally retired for the evening, leaving only the love that seeps. The more spiritually filled the fans became, the more I entered that grey zone which can only be washed away by a good snort of whisky and “Metal Machine Music”, if you know what I mean. “It’s true,” I mused “I’m just a Rock’n’Noise philistine with the emotional latitude of black to grey. What am I doing here?” At least the concert posed these existential questions to me. Not a complete loss after all.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Carrying on from a previous post, we come to Last Dominion Lost, formerly known as Merge. By this time, we knuckled down, borrowed an 8-track from Dominik's brother and started an ecstatic and blunted recording session that no-one seems to remember many details from. Jonh Murphy was a steady houseguest at the time and he was inevitably drawn into the proceedings. You'll find some of Jonh's recollections on the whole thing in a pretty mammoth interview here:
This is an alternative mix of the "centre-piece" of the album. I found this some years ago on a cassette and, while perhaps not as dynamic a mix as the released version, is infinitely clearer and hi-fi (the Tesco release, "The Tyranny of Distance" is pretty murky due to... being mastered from a murky 12-year old cassette). The track carries a very long title on the Tesco package, but was originally known as "Three Faces of Modern Evil" (yes!) and should respectively represent, very roughly, Fascism, Capitalism and Communism.
As far as the participants are concerned, it was basically Dominik Guerin, John and myself, but I recall the crunching at the beginning was Paul Von Deering (from Severed Heads and Go Back to your Precious Wife and Son) stomping on corrigated iron with a contact mike attached.
So, here it is: massive tape manipulation, AKS synthi everywhere and a superb Muphy industrial percussion workout (a metal spring played with steel bars, yikes).
Get it here: http://rapidshare.com/files/42944646/LDL_altmix.rar
Friday, July 6, 2007
A month ago, the Festival of Light( http://www.myspace.com/thefestivaloflight ) played at a new groovy/underground/psychedelic fairyfloss venue called K:ITA. This is the concert in all its unedited goriness, broken into five mp3s and compressed in a rar. file...
Get it here: http://rapidshare.com/files/41382625/KITA_1.rar
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Merge was the preceding project to what eventually became Last Dominion Lost (the latter featuring Jonh Murphy, currently sticks-man with Death in June and Knifeladder). In this early form, Dominik Guerin (better known to some as Tone Generator of SPK fame) and Jon Evans slug it out as a duo. The voice tape used was a police recording of a mad bomber who tried to plant an incenduary in the University of Technology. Get it here: http://rapidshare.com/files/41041831/arsonLDL.MP3
This is the sole recording of a live improvisation featuring Louis Burdett, Jon Evans; Matt Jennings and some other unknowns. This one is for Louis. Get it: http://rapidshare.com/files/41036662/Live_Radio_1989_Jon__Louis__etc.MP3
Monday, July 2, 2007
I wish someone would post something from Jamie Fielding's Extinkt album. I played on it and I've never heard it! Jamie was a good lad but very serious (as in very). He threw himself under a train not so long after the recordings. Somewhere there also exists a triple CD of his collected works...
15 years ago, Jamie...