Don’t you just love it when that happens? There I was, minding my own business at Supersonic, a few months back, quelling my social anxiety by digging through the crates, head down, no nonsense boogie, when I stumbled across a rash of sides by a bunch of neo-hippies from Portland, Oregon: Eternal Tapestry.
By some cosmic miracle, they were on the bill that very day! As I have attested elsewhere in these pages, their subsequent performance was a transformative experience for me. Wandering, dazed and confused, post-gig, I stumbled across a copy of their ‘Wild Strawberries’ (Thrill Jockey) album in all it’s double vinyl glory, but, having already dropped a fair chunk at the Alt.Vinyl concession, I was digging in my pockets and coming up with lint. I finally tracked down a copy on white wax recently, and my love affair with this extraordinary record has inspired a renaissance of my obsession with Krautrock.
‘Wild Strawberries’ has revealed itself to me exponentially, providing verisimilitude over a period spanning months, and I’m still finding something new with every listen. Naysayers claim that once you’ve heard one Eternal Tapestry record, you’ve heard them all, but the truth is this band just get better with every release. Where 2014’s ‘Guru Overload’ (Oaken Palace Records) was loaded with molten fret abuse and rambling riffage, ‘Wild Strawberries’ pushes the manila envelope further than it’s ever been opened before. Recorded in a secluded cabin under the shadow of Mount Hood, in Zigzag, Oregon, the Zigzag River flowing serenely nearby, Eternal Tapestry took time-out between takes to learn about the area’s floral populace, and the record itself features eight titles named after local plants. Recorded on eight-track over a stash of Phish cassette bootlegs, the album resonates with echoes from the past, to draw vivid approximations of utopian future days.
All this talk of psychedelia has been making me itch, and I’ve been wallowing in the warm familiarity of The 13th Floor Elevators, Syd-era Pink Floyd, NEU!, Can, Faust, Cluster, Amon Düül 2, and Kraftwerk. The latter’s ‘Computer Love’ (Kling Klang/EMI) has become a renewed passion, and although ‘Trans Europa Express’ (Kling Klang) and ‘Die-Mensch-Maschine’ (Kling Klang) are universally held in higher regard, I was working in Discovery Records in SuponA when ‘Computer Love’ was released, and it transports me back to those days, instantly. It’s also a more finely honed record, complete, unique: by 1981 Kraftwerk had honed both image and sound to perfection, and the record’s translucent yellow cover captured the anti-zeitgeist of the burgeoning post-punk movement garishly.
Listening to the distant past in the present tense, it’s incredible to realise that there is nothing new under the sun. The last three decades worth of improvisational left-fieldism, post-metallic exploration, and general sonic deviance, owe a strictly non-repayable debt to the pioneers of the late 60s/early 70s. Those who talked of a zero hour, or scorched earth policies, were the same ‘visionaries’ who later plagiarised what had come before them, claiming it as their own, in an ironic display of schadenfreude. It’s not the laborious process its oft-painted to be, excavating the proto-punk wastelands. Hidden in pain sight, within the confines of what was once labelled derisively ‘progressive rock’, lies the evidence that neither punk rock nor post-punk were as totally original as some would have us believe: side-2 of ‘Neu 75′, the total non-compliance of Faust‘s entire ouvre, the links to Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler, and Ulrike Meinhof and the Red Army Faction (Strummer’s Red Brigade/RAF t-shirt), this was truly revolutionary music, whose influence extends to this day.
Above and beyond all that came before, few bands matched the pastoral beauty and majestic aural panorama of Harmonia, the short-lived German group that existed from 1973 to 1976. Harmonia was a Krautrock supergroup, bringing together Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, and Michael Rother of NEU!. Though Harmonia were virtually anonymous during their lifetime in their native Germany, their music eventually captured the attention of Brian Eno, David Bowie, and other high-profile admirers overseas. Eno was so captivated by Harmonia, he once famously called them the “world’s most important rock group”, and briefly joined the band, recording music with them in 1976. Gronland release Harmonia‘s entire catalogue in the form of a box-set containing five vinyl albums (one previously unreleased); a 36-page booklet; a poster; a pop-up; and a digital download code, on 21/10/15. Preorder here:
My constant companion throughout this archaeological dig has been David Stubbs, whose masterful ‘Future Days’ (Faber & Faber) captures the rebuilding of post-war German culture in an informed yet immensely readable format. Stubbs’ love of the music shines through, infecting the reader with the curiosity required to pick up the trowel and delve. Stubbs rolls his cursor ever-onward in time to encapsulate later developments in German sound, such as Einstürzende Neubauten and D.A.F. – therefore, in the interests of plagiarism, I will close this month’s missive in similar fashion, with two new releases born out of Berlin, 2015.
Firstly, ex-pat Aussies DIÄT drop their debut long player, ‘Positive Energy’, for Iron Lung in the States, and Adagio830 in Europe: “Brought together by a shared enthusiasm for bleak UK punk and a history of playing in hardcore bands, Berlin based DIÄT have created a sound that they have described, perhaps not entirely seriously, as ‘tough new wave’. Fans of Crisis, Killing Joke and The Mob should be pleased by the band’s unlikely synthesis of depressive drift and cranked, accelerated energy. ‘Positive Energy’ was recorded last Winter while huddled in a practice space overlooking the industrial landscape of frozen East Berlin, the album finds DIÄT reining in the threads of malignant enthusiasm still peppered throughout their earlier recordings to focus on the cynicism and dejectedness that binds them as a band.” This LP comes highly recommended, and anyone still in love with the influences cited above will not be disappointed. The record is also packaged in possibly the sleeve of the year so far, totally capturing both the ambience of the city in which it was created, and the black and white/cut and paste art of post-punk UK, circa 1984.
Finally, on a more electronically experimental tip, Alter drop ‘Mnemosyne’, the new album from Berlin based, Italian/Belgian duo, Lumisokea. Expanding on 2014’s ‘Apophenia’ EP (Opal Tapes), space and tension are the key factors here. The first time I heard this record, I was immediately impressed with its authority, the way it stamped an ambience onto the room within the first few minutes. Richly expressive and darkly atmospheric, ‘Mnemosyne’ shares much in common with Alter head honcho Luke Younger’s (Helm) ‘Olympic Mess’ (Pan Records).
“The whole process felt like like cultivating a garden of the imagination which is no rush to be opened to the visitors. With this full length album we explore the more nocturne, narrative and twilight-like angle of Lumisokea. When listening back to it, we had strong images evoking times in an unidentified or unactualized past, like places and events that could have existed, but then didn’t. Hence our reference to Mnemosyne, the ancient Greek goddess of Memory.” – Lumisokea, 2015.
So, we come full circle, once again. Happenstance opening doors of perception that lead to doors of perception, ad infinitum. A vast vista of sonic appreciation, buried beneath the detritus of the past, waiting to be dug up, again and again and again. Sometimes when the future looks bleak, its prudent to learn from the lessons of the past. Plagiarism is a an act of liberation: talent borrows, genius steals.
In the hands of velvet, the scriptures of the Books of Albion are carved into something new. Built around the guitar/vocal duo of Dan Able and Toby Mitchell, assisted by the right people in the right place at the opportune moments, the group’s foundations sit precariously upon the shifting sands of rock’n’roll. Demonstrating the maxim that stability is often anathemaic to excitement, the Hands traverse uncertain terrain with a louché swagger. These are the formation times, as the tectonic plates of their creativity gouge and recombine; all is movement and change.
Thus far, they have racked up a relatively small number of live shows, several line up changes and given nascent indication of their substantial promise. Most recently, an impressive showing at Falmouth’s MONO during the Ker-Now! event served to demonstrate that they are coalescing into a kaleidoscopic entity that engages, and at their best, enraptures. Produced by local heavyweights Sam Stacpoole and Ben Woods and supported by a Purple Knif productions video, their first single, ‘Who Cares’ represents a marker; a formidable base camp from which further ascents will follow. Keen to find out more, trakMARX entered the house of Clough Williams-Ellis and demanded in-for-mation from the group’s own Number Six, Dan Able.
How did you get started?
Probably when Toby and I became friends in secondary school, we used to do music together and just piss about on guitars. We discovered we shared a love for rock’n’roll (maaan); he taught me how to play guitar actually – taught me ‘Time For Heroes’ – and now I play lead because I like to be a bastard like that. We didn’t actually start writing together until a year or so later, and spent half a year dicking about writing songs about nothing, didn’t actually do a Velvet Hands gig until Mid august last year.
Did you set out with any specific aims in mind?
At first it was a laugh, and everyone else we knew was in metal bands or singing about how much life sucks with a £1k acoustic guitar, and we had no idea about bands like the Black Tambourines, Lost Dawn, or Red Cords at the time so we just thought we’ll make the music we want to listen to. I guess the dream would always have been to make it in a band, it’s better than when I used to work in the back of a fish and chips shop, covered in disinfectant and rats – I got trench foot from that job.
Everyone picks up on the Libertines/Strokes influences, what else would you say has inspired your sonic gumbo?
For me anyway it’s a lot of raw music, like Iggy, Velvets, Clash, Stones, the Cribs, you know? Although I do like some kinda darker stuff from the 80s.
How did your early gigs go over, any memorable reactions?
Mostly they were fine, nothing really went too badly, I mean we were probably slightly more shit than we are now, I used to play bass in the old days and roll around on the floor. I guess because we’re at every gig we don’t see the progression, but I’m sure we’ve come along. Toby’s a lot more confident on stage these days. One gig, I broke my guitar the week before at another show and decided it’d be fine to duct tape it back together, which it wasn’t
You’ve had some line up changes since the early summer, what happened there?
Well our first gigs were with these guys Curt and Reece, and they were great musicians but they had different ideas about the style and sound, I think the punky vibe was a bit too under-technical. Then with Charlotte and Jake, we were a lot louder and aggressive, but a few things went wrong after a while; we weren’t practicing often so nothing new was being done, and they were moving to Brighton and Toby and I were going to London. The final straw was probably when I pulled a ‘Keith Richards to Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg’ situation, then him and Toby’s girlfriend got into a bit of a squabble, it was all a bit messy really so we decided to part ways.
And you ended up with Telephone Medicine’s rhythm section…
Yeah, they’re good mates of ours, we met them because they stuck us on headline slot for a gig they were doing, I think it was their first. I thought they were fucking great man, they’ve got some new stuff coming out soon actually which is exciting. I remember I got trashed and did a handstand on my guitar – only recently did Louis and Davy tell me that they thought I was a massive cock after I did that, but we invited them back to do a gig with us and then we all became the best of friends.
Do you feel that you’ve moved closer to nailing the definitve line up now?
Right now, fuck no – but we’re going to London next month so there was no point getting a definite line-up until we got there. If Louis and Sean could get to London then we’d have them for sure, but in the end they’re Telephone medicine’s guys so we cant really nick ’em. I know some guys in London that are up for it. I guess the time before Uni is weird because everyone’s pissing off to different parts of Blighty.
You’ve shot a video (or were it two?) with Mawgan/Purple Knif, how was that?
Two, the other one is out just after we play Looe festival. ‘Who Cares’ is out at this very moment and that was fucking knackering man, I’d had about two hours sleep the night before and we spent the whole day going around to a ton of places and playing along to the song. ‘Games’ was much easier, we just got this white room and we had the ideas and stuff already, Mawgan knew exactly what we meant from our vague blueprint. It was fucking great working with the man though, he’s been great to us, we probably owe him a beer or two actually…
Have you been pleased by the responses you’ve had to ‘Who Cares’ so far?
Yeah man! Its real fun to play live, and BBC Introducing are well into it, the video’s already got a load more views than I expected in a week. Everyone’s been super supportive of us and helping us push it and get it out there, so I guess we owe as much of it to the kind people of the local music scene as we do to the songwriting or whatever.
So you’ve got the move to London coming up – what’s the gameplan?
Get a couple more tracks recorded at the Troubadour to slowly seep out into the public conscience. Toby’s going to study music so we can get free practice, try and get a drummer there so at least half the band are at the uni. He’s taken one for the team, spending £9000 a term for us to practice. Then I know a couple bassists, I’ve acquired a nice to shed to live in too. Then just get known on the circuit in the smoke, hopefully they’ll get into us like the people on the local scene have.
Where would you like the Velvet hands to be a year from now?
We’re planning to record an album late spring next year so have that out, let’s say that people get onto it then what I’d really like is for the NME to say we’re the saviours of Rock And Roll for two years and then we’ll completely disappear and become irrelevant. In seriousness, I would like to be at a good post debut size, playing some energetic packed out sweaty little venues around the country and getting some cool supports.
(album, Easy Action)
As trakMARX has regularly reported from its privileged position on the southwestern frontlines, there’s a lot going on down in Cornwall. With the likes of the Black Tambourines, Lost Dawn and Honey all issuing albums that have brought them to the attention of the mainstream music press, and a slew of diverse, exciting bands have accelerated to varying degrees of prominence in their slipstreams. Easy Action’s bumper 23-track compilation provides an invaluable snapshot, capturing moments in motion at a time when all systems are very much go.
However, ‘Cornwall Calling’ does not document any contrived scene – while several of those represented inhabit relative orbits, there is as much variety as there is common ground: The sequential juxtaposition between King Creature’s volcanic rock and Kezia’s crystalline delicacies being the most striking example of this dynamic. Instead, the disc features something for everyone, with the vast bulk of the material showcased more than able to stand out by virtue of its own merit.
The collection opens at the confluence between garage and psychobilly, where the mighty Eyelids make a welcome return from repopulating the county to deliver ‘Louise’. Infused with Theremin and organ straight from the cabinet of Dr Caligari, the track detonates with immediacy, delivering a précis of the kinetic irresistibility that typifies the female foursome. Heavyweights the Black Tambourines and Honey contribute standout tracks from their recent, outstanding albums; the prismatic fugue of ‘She Don’t Mind’ and powerhouse ‘Rapunzel’, before the Isabelles announce their considerable abilities with the mesmeric ‘Small Stone’.
After King Creature and Kezia supply ying to yang, the Red Cords ignite the fire-blackened garage afterburners for ‘Scratch It Off’, a number drawn from their forthcoming ‘Vile Guy’ six-track EP. Tinned Fruit embark on a less visceral trajectory stemming from a similar underground point of origin, then further highlights follow in rapid succession as Wolf Note’s monumental ‘Move It On’ surpasses its titular brief, Buffalo Frame launch the high altitude slingshot of ‘Chemical Satisfaction’, and the Golden Dregs’ rich and beguiling ‘Lafayette’ serves to enhance their developing legend.
A sonic travelogue, ‘Cornwall Calling’ blasts across the varied terrain exemplified by successive stylistic lurches that surprise and delight; SCI 23 drop dubbed-up Blockheadisms across ‘Stompin’ Boots’, The Spankees ‘Untitled’ demonstrated why they embody rock’n’roll, and Killer Car Junkies recombine anthemic rock tropes into new genotypes. It is an album driven by the fecund imaginations of those who appear within it; F Emasculata avoid the clichéd hardcore orthodoxies for, ‘ST’ – a track of genuine resonance and power, before Night Motor’s ‘Ice Age Man’ opens new Pandora’s boxes of electro-terrorism.
Even evaluated with the most jaundiced eye, ‘Cornwall Calling’ comfortably includes at least half-a-dozen truly outstanding tracks. The disc ends with two of them – Pirate Copy’s pitch’n’yaw glam racket classic, ‘Lure Of The Sea’ and the irresistible boogie of Lost Dawn’s ‘Song For Robert’. There’s easily another ten numbers here that also have significant merit, and you don’t often get that all happening in the same place at the same time.
Further evidence of this quantity-with-quality dynamic was submitted at the album’s launch event, held as part of the Ker-Now! event over the August Bank Holiday weekend at Falmouth’s MONO. Run in conjunction with the venue (a tasty new hotspot that has already hosted Lost Dawn’s unrepeatable album launch, as well as shows by the likes of the Pop Group) and the West Briton/Cornishman’s ‘What’s On’ supplement. Three nights of shows featured a number of bands not on the album alongside those who are and not only raised funds for a local children’s hospice, but also saw likes of the Velvet Hands, Olive Haigh, Hanterhir and Auction For The Promise Club contributing diversely exciting sets across a weekend that saw everything from visceral punk, garage and hard rock to pastoral acoustic sets and art noise. If this compilation proves anything, it demonstrates that there’s much, much more to come.
Freedom (album, Easy Action)
In a nutshell, the second album from this Falmouth quartet can be said to realise the promise of the band’s eponymous 2013 debut. However, Freedom exists inside and outside of any such nominal confines, kicking open the doors of perception and expanding within the limitless spaces of their own invention to create a synaesthetic wonderland within which boundaries decay and beautiful gardens deliquesce from the velveteen undergrowths.
The Tambourines’ developmental curve has been pointing straight up for some time now, their collective power becoming more assured as they hunker down, growing stronger – sonic guerrillas awaiting their next moment. Now it has come; the instant stratospheric acceleration of the title track announcing their singularity like tracer flares flashing over the Mekong Delta. The fertile sonic mulch that has been prepared gives rise to strange fruit – beguiling, yet possessed of savage barbs and unshakable hooks that slice into the soft pulp of consciousness, cruel edges driven by the irresistible vortices: Action, time and vision.
A deceptively simple shard of perfection, ‘Punk Simon’ exemplifies this irresistibility. The four minds crack indeed – creating the fierce rhythmic undertow, upon which mesmeric leads are traced. As the needles orbit towards its spindle declines, so the gravitational pull of its grooves increases. There are byways within this dark globe – ejected from the rabbit hole by sheer impetus, ‘I Don’t Mind’ coalesces as a lysergic clearing where rolling stoned refractions sparkle and beguile, the track grinding its own furrow with adroit precision, rather than requiring the vulgarity of sheer power.
‘LA’ moves things forward. Rattling along boxcar tracks with perpetual motion, hadron colliding rock’n’roll’s futures and pasts in aural IMAX before pulling its focus sharply in upon the minutiae of an all-encompassing trip. Space becomes a rhythm within the prismatic opening to ‘Namaste’, then the afterburners fire, and abandon is directed via the dual delivery system of Sam and Josh’s guitars.
I was sitting with my headphones on when the rush took hold. ‘Sister’, a helter skelter stream of consciousness sees harmonics generate, orgones accumulate and sprays blood across the walls of the Fun House. The track excels, both independently and within the context of the album. It provides the path of access to the palace of excess that is ‘No Action’. Needles stab deep into the redzone as a turbo-deathtrip disinters spirits named Cummings, Colvin. Asheton and Freedom’s most thermaturge element is coronally ejected into the vibrational cosmos.
‘Lost’ develops the mastery of defenestrated psych that infused the Tambourines’ debut. Tracing mesospheric vapour trails of sound, it unfolds as a synapse triggering balm to ‘No Actions’ searing plasma. ‘Look Down’ surveys the view from eight miles high, Proust takes Kool Aid with Leary, a serpent offers an apple and Madeline spacecake is consumed.
Re-entry now. ‘Cool Out’ glides across a plateau of bliss, drifting down the perfumed river, it exists as a reflexive totality, leaving kaleidoscopic impressions within existential vermillion sands. ‘Ride Hard Crash Hard’ completes the cycle as motorik rhythms carry us back to Coney Island through a blurred soundscape of light and colour, a trans-consciousness express that flashes by driven by precise, frictionless forces.
After, we are changed. The sum total of these eleven songs by a rock’n’roll group equates to a profound experience. Are you experienced? Deny yourself nothing.
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!
- 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