Greetings, trakMARXists! I’m glad to be here. Hell, I’m glad to be anywhere! Following a bout of streptococcal septicaemia, I’ve spent the last six weeks in hospital; the treatment room; and on the bench. I’m only just returning to match fitness now, so excuse me if this month’s belated column wallows in self-pity, pathos and drama just a little bit more than usual.
July had begun promisingly, I was up to my neck in Helm‘s masterful ‘Olympic Mess’ (PAN), loving every subsequent reveal in its substantial arsenal with a sense of genuine wonderment. Records come and go, hype ebbs and flows, but Luke Younger has captured something transcendental in the grooves of ‘Olympic Mess’ that will inform sensibilities and ignore boundaries for years to come. Supporting platters in the early weeks of the allegedly capital month of our English summer included Demdike Stare‘s subliminal ‘Rathe’ (Modern Love), J.G. Biberkopf‘s cinematic ‘Ecologies’ (Knives), Tapes‘ skantastic ‘No Broken Hearts On This Factory Floor’ (Cornerstone Music) and Stephen O’Malley‘s drone symphony, ‘Gruides’ (DDS), recorded with ONCEIM – l’Orchestre de Nouvelles Créations, Expérimentations et Improvisation Musicales – a thirty-five-piece French improv orchestra (incidentally, Cindy, DDS is Demdike Stare’s own label, Connect-More fans!).
As the month progressed, cramps in my thighs, which I’d originally attributed to cycling, began a series of interfaces with medical professionals that eventually numbered: two GP visits; two A&E visits; one Out Of Hours Clinic visit; and one visit to a physio. Over the course of a week, I progressed, like the man on the windowsill with deep depression in the Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch about having a hospital bed to auction, through diagnoses which included: trapped nerve in my thigh; trapped nerve in my left shoulder; dehydration; frozen left shoulder; chest infection; and Type 2 Diabetes, before regaining consciousness around 7am on Friday 24/07/15, unable to move anything from the chest up.
I was removed from the tMx bunker by three paramedics, and bundled into a waiting ambulance, by now utterly convinced that I had something totally terminal. The pain was immense, I was hallucinating, I’d been in a fever touching forty degrees for the last few days. They rigged me up to oxygen, and began to inject me with stuff, constantly assuring me that I was going to be OK. Remarkable people, paramedics: so calm, so empathetic in the face of my, by now, increasingly histrionic self-pity. I entered A&E for the third time in five days in the optimum position: on a stretcher. I was immediately quite the centre of attention: tubes went in, blood came out. I/V drips, x-rays, scans galore. Blood pressure and temperature checks on the hour. The day passed in a whirl of medical procedures and assessments, and I was eventually admitted to a ward by early evening.
The main battle appeared to be to reduce the fever, and regulate my temperature. The hallucinations were intense. I could see a zoo’s worth of animals on the ward. With antibiotics surging into my veins, and paracetamol I/V drips attempting to reduce my temperature, the ward was empty, bar a chap in his sixties opposite, who kept getting out of bed, getting dressed, then being ushered back into bed by a nurse, complaining that he had a family wedding the next day, and that his brother in law was picking him up. The nurse told him he couldn’t leave until the results from his biopsy had come back. He wasn’t happy. As I settled in, propped up on pillows, seeing animals everywhere, we semi-engaged in ‘conversation’, and I eventually asked him if it was his border collie sitting at the foot of his bed, and what a beautiful dog it was. The ‘conversation’ ended there, and I turned my attention to the horse that had just entered the ward. The man’s bother finally arrived around the same time as his biopsy results. He didn’t say goodbye as he left, nor did his brother in law. The dog stayed put, maybe it wasn’t his after all.
That night my fever raged, the hallucinations became more malevolent, and nurses were on my shoulder for what seemed like the entire night. At one stage I heard two of them arguing about whether to stick a fan on me, or not, and when I regained consciousness at dawn the next day, a fan was cooling me from a safe distance. Although the fever hadn’t broken entirely, I intuitively felt that the danger had subsided. It was a very profound moment, I still had no idea what was wrong with me, and the pain remained agonising in my neck, my shoulders, and my right hip, but I distinctly remember thinking that any threat to my life had now passed, and that I was going to survive.
The next morning I was moved to another ward. Visitors began to appear, my phone was ringing, bleeping with texts and social media alerts, constantly, but I could hardly hold the damn thing, yet alone manage to tap out any replies. I was, however, overwhelmed by the power of love rained on me by my family, friends and colleagues. I am a very lucky man. For the next three days, my body fought the fever, and began to settle into the medication regime. The antibiotics were doing their stuff, and although the pain remained, the infection was obviously retreating rapidly. Eventually, I was informed that I had contracted streptococcal septicaemia that had resulted in a 3cm x 3cm abscess beneath my clavicle, the source of all the poison and pain. At first I was told that the abscess would be removed surgically. That was later refined to ‘drained under ultrasound guidance’, and eventually dismissed altogether due to infection risks and the fact that the material within the abscess itself had already congealed and would not be removable by a needle drain.
It was therefore decided that I would remain on antibiotics, and that no invasive procedure would take place. I was warned that the infection could have entered my heart valves, however, and that further scans were required. Later that day, following further extensive scanning, I was relieved to be informed that my heart valves were all functioning correctly, with no sign of damage, and that there were no secondary infection sites elsewhere in my body. Convalescence had begun, and with the delivery of a pair of headphones by my little sister, I was able to block out much of the madness and the pain of my fellow patients with the sound of music. I couldn’t concentrate to read, or have the strength to hold a book, so lying on my bed, headphones strapped on, eyes closed, I managed to block out much of the next ten days.
I began by downloading the new Sleaford Mods LP, ‘Key Markets’ (Harbinger Sound). The LP’s title is resonant to me, as we had one in the town in which I grew up in as a kid. In fact, an early girlfriend used to work behind the till there, and I courted her attention on visits from my place of work at the time, Discovery Records, for milk, teabags, coffee, etc. If ever there was a case of ‘should’ve turned left instead of right’.
As I intimated a year or so ago in my review of ‘Divide And Exit’, I’ve developed a love/yawn relationship with Seaford Mods over the last couple of years. Initially blown away, especially in a live setting, my ennui has risen in parallel to their public profile. While there were great lumps of ‘Divide And Exit’ I found childish, it did eventually grow on me, musically, and I’ve actually played it with a regularity I never afforded ‘Austerity Dogs’.
‘Key Markets’, then, has evolved musically from both previous ‘proper’ long players, and I can see myself hanging out with it on a regular basis from now on. Since leaving hospital, I’ve enjoyed its journey from stereo speakers in the bunker, to blasting at volume in the car . . . after all, there’s a certain amount of ‘driving around with the windows down, playing it loud’, to Sleaford Mods . . . ironically, my kids had been over-swearing at me a while back, so I turned up to pick them up from their roller disco one Saturday night, with the windows wound down, blasting out ‘Mr Jolly Fucker’, to their friend’s parents disgust. Needless to say, they got the message.
‘No One’s Bothered’, ‘Bronx In A Six’ and ‘Rupert Trousers’, in particular, are amongst their finest work to date, the latter being possibly the best thing they’ve ever done, on every level. There are still moments when Jason’s cultural reference points are so outdated you begin to think he’s being groomed by John Lydon, especially considering the digs Williamson has lobbed at Rotten over the years, again here on ‘Key Markets’, with a ‘Problems’ reference on ‘In Quiet Streets’. When you factor in PiL‘s pathetic attempts to jump on the Mods bandwagon with their latest self-parody, ‘Double Trouble’, it’s getting harder to see who’s aping who. I’m also getting a bit fed up with the duets: Prodigy, Leftfield, who next? MC Tunes? 808 State? A Guy Called Fucking Gerald?
After a few days of nodding on the hospital bed to Seaford Mods like fucking Churchill the dog, I grew bored, and sought something of greater substance to sooth my existential angst. Prompted by a Supersonic Festival post on Facebook trailing a forthcoming Godspeed You! Black Emperor show at Warwick University Arts Centre, I remembered I’d paid scant regard to GY!BE‘s ‘Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress’ (Constellation), when I’d picked it up on release. I duly dove back into a veritable orgy of GY!BE, spending the next nine days listening to nothing but them and A Silver Mt. Zion, in all their varying forms.
Like a Tardis, ‘f# a# oo’ teleported me back to 1997: a life before children; a life on the cusp of the internet. The profundity of such a thought blew me away: as I lay on my bed, surrounded by the pain of my fellow patients, the music in my headphones reminded me of how much, not just my world, but all of our worlds have changed in the ensuing fifteen years. The ominous strains of ‘Nervous, Sad, Poor’ felt prophetic then, they felt like history, right here, right now. As I worked my way forwards, through ‘Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada’, ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’ and ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’ . . . it dawned on me that we had become everything that GY!BE had warned us about, literally.
Jumping past the ten year hiatus to ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend’ and onwards to ‘Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress’, I was struck by how much heavier in every component GY!BE (rebirth) have become in comparison to their first incarnation. Dullards, refuseniks and luddites will doubtless argue that GY!BE‘s first manifestation was the epitome of their embodiment, but the drone elements of their more recent material brings a contemporary air to proceedings, whilst the harsher guitar parts bring a post-apocalytic vibe that’s even heavier than the pre-apocalyptic vibe of their previous life. I’m looking forward to seeing them live in October, I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this then.
Finally, post-discharge, I must admit, I’ve been struggling to reconnect with the wider world. There’s something about NDEs that force you to retreat, somewhere deep inside. I’ve delved back into Helm‘s ‘Olympic Mess’, where this sorry column began, and am looking forward to imminent long players from Chain Of Flowers and Lumisokia, both on Luke Younger’s Alter Records.
I have also been really getting into L.O.T.I.O.N.‘s debut on LVEUM, ‘Digital Control And Man’s Obsolescence’. L.O.T.I.O.N. hail from NYC, and contain people from other bands in NYC you will have heard of (answers on a cyber postcard), but sound like nothing you ever heard before. That’s what they have in common with Helm‘s ‘Olympic Mess’, I guess: total unpredictability. They also sound like the kind of band GY!BE (mark 1) would have warned us about back in 1997, so I guess that’s about as full circle as this shit is going to get this time out. In the meantime: DONT TOUCH THAT SMILE!
Being on the spot for Swansong’s first two public performances enabled a broader sense of the extensive sonic parameters that are being explored across the quartet’s four-track debut demo. The emissions emanating from the band’s glowing transuranic core serve to irradiate rock’s topography, re-rendering existing tropes by bathing them in strange new lights that exude beauty and danger in equal measure. Live, the trajectories initiated on the disc are extended, affording a sense of territory being mapped. Frozen in the permafrost of plastic and metal, the same songs act as base camps; touchstones providing the foundation of towering structures under construction.
The prismatic nature of the compact disc’s surface provides an apt visual metaphor for the varied sonic refractions contained within. Opener, ‘Cake’, displays Swansong at their most widely accessible; irradiating economy with immediacy, bumping and grinding its way into the consciousness and therein securing its hold via a succession of savage hooks that bite deepest during the choruses. Twin guitars serrate the smoothness. They’ve got a secret…
Delineated in blood and crayon, ‘Lose Your Head’ offers up a decapitation danse; severed headspaces bouncing from the rubber room as a nursery nightmare pitches and yaws its way toward becoming a mesmeric whirlpool, accelerated by its inherent anxious urgency. A fallopian fodderstompf, ‘Vagina Monologue’ explores the sounds of synapse. F Emasculata drum beast Jimmers Thomas combines with Honey queen bee Sarah Marie Tyrrell on bass to construct a rhythmic superstructure that is subsequently subjected to successive strafing swarms of fuzz courtesy of twin guitar assassins Nat Guest (also late of F Emasculata) and hardcore hondos Rash Decision’s Simon Walker. The result is an asymmetric Tower of Babel that hurls Woolf’s internal processes into a puddle of bathtub crank.
Beached upon a plateau, the valedictory ‘After You’ve Gone’ is a tactile thing; feeling its way through loose, laconic passages, their walls scarified with confession. Ephemeral yet gravid, the track evokes sensory stimuli, buzzing between the bi-polar nodes of cognitive dissonance before detonating in an orbital resolution.
These are four stations of Swansong’s cross. The view from the front row reveals glimpses of more. I’ll keep watching.
Eden Project, 27 June 2015
Popular wisdom has been known to dictate that we are all where we are meant to be. If that is so, then the eventuality of King Creature opening for Motörhead represents a clear case of manifest destiny. Like the illustrious headliners, they possess the talent and wit to weld hefty hunks of pure rock’n’roll hedonism to a hard rock dreadnaught. This conceptual superstructure provides the basis upon which the Cornish quartet construct towering monoliths of sound, adorned and embellished with six-string splendour that rises through the rhythm section mesosphere to form white hot coronal ejections, arcing out across the void between amplifier and eardrum.
This evening, the forces of destiny ensure that King Creature manifest early, enabling them to burn a thousand times brighter than the darkening firmament. Just two years into their existence, the band emerge onto the Eden stage to play their most significant show to date, close to the vital small venues where they have so often paid dues and laid waste. Those who love them are here, many more who are seeing them for the first time. The hollers come from the initiated, the intro music ends, a cymbal is struck twice and they detonate. They are assured because, like Motörhead, they are rock’n’roll. There is no pretence here, no vapid hype. Just the sound and fury of something primal unleashed as opener, ‘Wasted Life’, shifts rapidly up through its initial gear changes.
Those to whom King Creature are a new phenomenon face sensory overload as each component of the roaring, radioactive beast shows its fangs. Bass colossus Dave Kellaway generates his own magnetic field that holds him fast at the eye of the maelstrom; twin guitar titans Matt Vincent and Dave Evans dazzle with dexterity, then bludgeon with forces previously held in restraint; drum behemoth Jack Bassett is a leonine whirl, despatching rhythmic mortars that impact upon over three thousand solar plexuses. A false flag of respite is raised – Momentary delicate subtleties are unfurled, indicative of a brief calm before the big one hits. Then they’re off, dragging us through an escape velocity ascent of interlocking solos, strafing chords and buffeting rhythms. Each part of the machine locks together seamlessly, the song’s end brings the cries of many new voices keen to pay due tribute.
The set’s molten core, a powerhouse triptych of whirlpool death trips ‘In Hell’, ‘Breaking Down’ and ‘Down In Flames’ exacerbates the approbation, evangelising new converts to a form of the Devil’s Music overseen by a dark deity with bigger, brassier balls. Suitably literal, ‘Power’ provides the exultant climax to a short set that would have acted as an unholy gateway for many: They will discover that King Creature have plenty more dark delights to show them. The band take the plaudits they deserve; they pose for a photograph in front of those who hail them. It is their moment. There will be many more.
(Photo: Chris Potter)
The highlight of my month was undoubtedly Supersonic Festival (11-14th June), Birmingham, the first major music event I’ve attended in active recovery. I’ve been to many gigs over the last five years, always in company. It’s easy to walk into a relatively small underground venue with friends, watch a band, and leave before things get messy. Hanging around a complex of venues, on the other hand, across a time span of dozens of hours, with the potential for excess alcohol consumption/altered states of consciousnesses invading one’s personal space, is theoretically more intimidating. Or so I thought. As it turned out, I’ve never been to a more friendly, well-organised, relaxed and convivial festival, in all my days.
Unforeseen circumstances curtailed my plans for the Friday evening, so consequently I missed Happy Meals and Sex Swing, both of whom I’ve been enjoying a great deal of late. The former in the shape of their excellent debut twelve for Night School Records, ‘Apero’, and the latter through repeat plays of ‘Night-Time Worker’ and ‘Untitled’, on their Soundcloud page. Happy Meals blend French and Italian dance-floor influences into a soup of analogue delay and busted beats, with Lewis Cook assembling the collages, and Suzanne Rodden delivering the vocals. Sex Swing, meanwhile, are an altogether filthier proposition, peopled by renegades from Part Chimp, Dethscalator and Mugstar, they ably redefine heavy duty skronk for a new generation with an enormous dollop of swagger. I also managed to miss Ela Orleans, Gazelle Twin, Free School, Apostille and The Pop Group, amongst others.
Saturday morning began promisingly. The postman arrived with a copy of Richard Dawson‘s ‘The Glass Trunk’ on vinyl, acquired recently from Insula in Denmark, via Discogs. It’s a record I’ve been after for some time in this fomrat, a magnificent collection of reimagined folk song lyrics rescued from the Tyne and Wear Archives and brought back to life in collaboration with harp worrier and internationalist, Rhodri Davies. Everybody’s favourite former-Solihull-based comedian, Stewart Lee, is a fan: “The Glass Trunk is a mesmerising and pungent selection of seven eerily keened faux folk songs forced into form from scrapbook scraps and forgotten family papers. Penetrating the heart of the archive’s hidden stories, Dawson draws out hidden truths in strong bold strokes”. I subsequently left the house with a spring in my step, and a robust melody in my heart.
I eventually arrived in Floodgate Street in plenty of time, and soon found myself inside the festival hub, digging through the crates in the marketplace, populated by stalls from the likes of Alt.Vinyl, Edgeworld Records, Oaken Palace Records, and Lancashire and Somerset Records. I chatted to a friendly Gee Vaucher on the Exitstencil Press stall, passed the time of day with Graham Thrower from Alt.Vinyl, and purchased copies of the ‘Kaspian Black’ album by Nikos Veliotis & Xavier Charles and the ‘Flexible Pooling’ 7″ flexi by :zoviet*france: & fossil aerosol mining project. I wagged chins with a recently-arrived Richard Dawson, who revealed he’s begun work on his next record, tentatively scheduled for 2016, and that Weird World Recordings will be re-issuing both ‘Magic Bridge’ and ‘The Glass Trunk’ on vinyl later this year.
By 4.20pm, I was ensconced in Boxxed, a three minute stroll down Floodgate Street from the festival hub (The Crossing, The Market Place), for my first appointment of the day: Woven Skull. Natalia (mandola), Willie (percussion) and Aonghus (guitar), augmented by an electric violin, launched the day upwards towards the skylights of Boxxed’s industrial roof panels with their mesmeric minimal psychedelic repetitions. Rising and falling like a shaman gorged on ayahuasca, Woven Skull soared transcendentally as I clung to the barrier, front-left of stage, staggered by the intensity of the performance. I await their debut LP, ‘Lair Of The Glowing Bantling’ (Penske), with increasing fervour.
Back in The Crossing, it’s 5.50pm, and Selvhenter have taken to the stage. The Copenhagen-based, all-female, five-piece (minus a drummer, Anja Jacobsen, who recently gave birth) have been redacted to a four-piece (Maria Bertel: trombone; Maria Diekmann: violin: Sonja LaBianca: saxophone; Jaleh Negari: drums) for their current European tour, but that hasn’t reduced their sonic impact unduly. Over the course of an hour, they exceed my already great expectations with a performance of utter wonderment. A swelling and appreciative audience are treated to a masterclass in rhythmically-propelled, freestyle-drone, darkened by the shadows of doom, executed with the ferocity of hardcore. It’s so refreshing to witness performers visibly enjoying their performance whilst remaining somewhat in awe of their surroundings. Trombonist, Maria Bertel, in particular, handled her instrument with the audacity of a rock’n’roll star (and I mean that in a totally endearing and ‘good’ way)! With the backdrop of an engaging slide show complimenting the visual perspective, Selventer were a joy to watch, as well as listen to. As the performance ended, the group took a classical bow, which made me love them even more. As I left the hall, satiated, the talk on the lips of my fellow festival goers echoed the superlatives in my head. This was a moment in time, and Selvhenter had made it their own.
Back down the road at Boxxed, it’s 8pm and I’m glued to the barrier awaiting Eternal Tapestry. I’m hitherto unfamiliar with the Portland, Oregon, four-piece, but I’m aware they dabble in meandering neo-psychedelia, and I try to banish the lead singer/guitarist’s resemblance to Steve Wright In The Afternoon fronting Buggles tribute band from my mind, as the group set up their equipment and soundcheck. What follows is a revelation of sorts, as I’m transfixed by the slideshow and suspended within the pastoral panoramic of Eternal Tapestry’s sonic palate, I’m transported. Staring gamely at the refracting images on the screen behind the band, I enter a trance-like state, unlike any I’ve ever experienced outside of altered states of consciousness induced by psychoactive agents. It really was a trip, man, and I soaked up every note by osmosis.
Eternal Tapestry are followed on the Boxxed stage at 9.20pm by Six Organs Of Admittance, Ben Chasny’s desert-psyche warriors, tonight expressed as a three-piece, emitting searing outbursts culled from their recent studio recording, ‘Hexadic’ (Drag City). Stumbling from rock to folk to noise to psych across his eclectic career path, Chasny refuses to remain static long enough for anyone to get a clear shot at him, and tonight he plays the role of axe-murderer, destroying the room with outrageously heavy guitar licks, somewhere south of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, and ten degrees north of Keiji Haino.
Meanwhile, back at The Crossing, it’s 10.10pm, and the largest crowd of the night is waiting expectantly for the arrival of Holly Herndon. My only previous exposure to Herndon has been via The Wire and a couple of YouTube clips, and I was genuinely under-prepared for the experience of consuming her live. Blending noise, glitch and avant approaches with the slightest sheen of populist fervour, Herndon commands her laptop-as-instrument to emit and project sound and vision on an transfixed audience, hung up on every bleep. The last time I felt this enamoured with electronically triggered music I was off my head on ecstasy, tripping the light fandango at Global Gathering, sometime early last decade. Tonight I was overjoyed to be experiencing the event fired by adrenaline and naturally produced chemicals alone, clutching my bottled water with pride, I felt every previous dance floor experience I’d ever had be superseded in the windmills of my mind. A totally unique experience.
Sunday’s Delight Is Right program takes place entirely at Boxxed, curated by Richard Dawson. Still tired from the previous day’s exertions, I slump in a comfy chair at the back of the hall and people watch: zoned, soaking up the performances of Phil Taylor and Angharad Davies, fighting the gravitational pull of my eyelids. Citizen of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Phil Taylor, temporality estranged for the day from partner Cath, treats us to a choice selection of Anglo-American folk offerings, via banjo, guitar and voice. Improvisational prepared-violinist, Angharad Davies, follows. Sister of harp terrorist, Rhodri, her single-piece performance begins with ugly scrapes of the fretboard, leading to staccato plucks, proceeding to feedback-drenched vistas of noise, as the pedal-driven distortion of her violin oscillates off the walls of Boxxed. As the piece reaches it’s climax, strings shed from the violin, captured reflectively by the stage lighting, visualising the implied violence lurking inside the musical situation. My lungs gasped for air as Angharad bowed to leave.
Fashionably late to the party, as always, John Robb’s arrival for Richard Dawson‘s performance reminded me of the cowboys t-shirt from Sex: “Nah, its all played aht, Bill. Gettin too straight”. As Dawson took to the stage, I rose from my comfy chair and moved towards the stage. Having witnessed Dawson at the Flat Pack Festival back in March, I was no stranger to the power he can generate with just a guitar, a voice, and a pair of stomping feet, but this afternoon felt one-louder, in terms of both passion and delivery. The honour of curating the event possibly firing etra cylinder-power within Dawson’s internal engine? Due to the constricts of time, tonight’s performance was shorter than I would have liked, but renditions of ‘The Ghost Of A Tree’, ‘Joe The Quiltmaker’, ‘We Picked Apples In A Graveyard Freshly Marked’, and a truly invigorating stomp through ‘Judas Iscariot’ captivated me, nonetheless. It was all over too soon, however, and Dawson humbly shuffled off to rapturous applause. I’ve said this once before, but it bears repeating, there is no other troubadour on the planet right now who can match Richard Dawson, on any level. He is such an unassuming, gentle and lovely human-being, to boot, it really is massively rewarding to see him accrue the respect and admiration of the wider audience he so richly deserves.
At 6.05pm, Rhodri Davies took to the stage, and began to torture his harp through channelled distortion pedals, replicating moments from his immaculate conceptions, ‘Wound Response’ (dirty: on) and ‘An Air Swept Clean Of All Distance’ (clean: off). Davies shifted positions throughout the performance, seemingly seeking a more comfortable stance from which to traumatise his instrument. As strings were ripped from the harp, Graham Thrower quipped that something awful must have happened in the Davies household during the sibling’s formative years to warrant the wanton instrument-abuse exhibited by both this afternoon. Having spent much of the last decade ensconced firmly on the global punk underground, it struck me that there is something inherently more punk about terrorising a classical instrument to within a hair’s breath of its life through the medium of distortion than there is in replicating the identical offspring of punk-rock-past. The extreme harp terror Davies creates doesn’t sound like anything else on the planet. From this moment hence, that’s exactly the point.
Au revoir, mes amis.
Due to the apparent demise of the tMx laptop, and a bout of internet interuptus, this column comes later than planned, for which we apologise, unreservedly. The ambient temperature of this inclement isle is rising: the heat generated by the hard drive of the dying iBook is increasing accordingly. Total meltdown was only to be expected. We’re tense and nervous, and we can’t relax.
With Supersonic Festival pending, the tMx bunker has been awash with the sounds of Richard Dawson, harp terrorist, Rhodri Davies, and raw folk traditionalists, Cath and Phil Tyler, ahead of their Delight Is Right appearance on Sunday 14/06/15. Sadly, Cath won’t be present, which is a shame, but Richard, Rhodri and Phil will be joined by Ethiopian free spirit Afework Nigussie, who plays a range of traditional stringed, woodwind and percussive instruments; Czech street musician, Jiri Wehle; and prepared violin innovator, and sister of Rhodri, Angharad Davies. Other highlights of the weekend for us look to be Selvhenter, on 13/06/15, and Sex Swing, on 12/06/15.
Incoming items that have been generating sustained interest in the bunker recently include a triumvirate of releases from the always prolific yet never predictable Richard Youngs. A spate of action from his No Fans Records has delivered a 7CD Boxset and a brace of 12″ records. The CD collection, ‘No Fans Compendium’, gathers detritus from the annals of the label to represent an alternative summation of Youngs’ eclectic career to date. It’s a vast array of wares that encompasses the many approaches he has applied to his art over the years. Beautifully packaged and lovingly assembled, it is augmented by the ‘Stormcrash’ two-track twelve inch, which comes complete with its own No Fans tote bag, and the ‘Unicorns Everywhere’ LP, which Youngs describes himself thus: “The political climate is both frustrating and exciting. ‘Unicorns Everywhere’ is a protest album that grapples with this dichotomy. Chance procedures as much as traditional song craft were used as a way through the confusion. Keywords: referendum, Faslane, Trident, foreign policy (war), social justice, NHS, accountability, representation, the 1%”.
With a new album expected soon from Luke Younger’s respected sound collage project, Helm, we’ve been duly delving back into the PAN Records catalogue, and have sourced a couple of supporting gems. The new Helm long player is entitled ‘Olympic Mess’, and early reports and a Soundcloud streaming of the record’s title track suggest that Younger has seen the light at the end of the tunnel to emerge from the dark arts of his back catalogue with something altogether brighter. Written during extensive touring exercises with Iceage, the album has been grown and honed on the road. From a distance, the record’s iconic cover, designed by PAN supremo Bill Kouligas, is vaguely reminiscent of a piece of Soviet early-20th-century-era graphic art, but at closer quarters, it turns out to be a wreck on the inner-city-highway. ‘Olympic Mess’ is shaping up nicely as one of 2015’s most anticipated releases.
Lifted, an ongoing collaborative project initiated by Matt Papich (AKA Co La) and Beautiful Swimmers’ Max D!, is the second PAN release of late worth seeking out and devouring. Drawing on studio sessions recorded in their respective hometowns of Baltimore and Washington DC, the album sees the pair working outside the framework that underlies their solo output. This truly is the sound of summer 2015, and the record’s eight tracks showcase experiments in freeform techno fusion, hyaline consumer electronics, and general ambience. The album also exhibits solo performances from Gigi Masin and Jordan GCZ (Juju & Jordash), who submitted overdubs over the phone from their bases in Venice and Amsterdam.
The final PAN Records selection this month is ‘Live Knots’, Australian avant guitarist Oren Ambarchi’s first release for the label, which features two live renditions of ‘Knots’, the epic centrepiece of his ‘Audience of One’ (Touch, 2012) LP. Built on the interplay between Ambarchi’s swirling guitar harmonics and the metronomic pulse and shifting accents of Joe Talia’s DeJohnette-esque drumming, the record merges the organic push and pull of free improvisation with an overarching compositional framework. Two takes of ‘Knots’ are present, one recorded in Tokyo, the other in Krakow.
In other news, we’ve been delving back into the tMx archives to access residual genius from the vaults, including Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck’s ‘Djam Leeli’ (Mango Records, 1989); Price Far I’s ‘Under Heavy Manners’ (Joe Gibbs Music, 1976); Joe Gibbs and The Professionals’ ‘African Dub Almighty – Chapter 3′ (Joe Gibbs Music, 1978); and Scientist’s ‘Scientist Meets The Space Invaders’ (Greensleeves, 1981).
Finally, we can’t end this month without collectively expressing our communal love for Captain Beefheart’s recent mid-period collection, ‘Sun Zoom Spark’. The 4CD set collates the albums ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’, ‘Spotlight Kid’, ‘Clearspot’, and a supplementary disc of out takes, oddballs and unreleased shenanigans. For those of you who’ve never really dug Beefheart’s pre-Troutmask output, or those of you who have found the alleged magnum opus itself somewhat dense, intense and ever-so-slightly-too-overwrought, like us, you may well find ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ represents the most satisfying and genuinely rewarding era of Beefheart in his not unsubstantial cannon. We’ve spent many an evening of late basking in the humidity of late spring on a bed of rose petals, quaffing iced sparkling mineral water, and marvelling at the true genius of Don Glen Vliet and his magical band of merry men. Remastered for remarvelling, it could be argued that ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ is all the Beefheart you’ll ever need.
Until the next time: don’t touch that smile.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER