It’s always the way when you start a career in writing about music, that while you will almost certainly get paid fuck all (That is if you get paid at all!), you will find that people, from musicians, to their managers and PR guys, will just happen to message you to “give” you stuff, even if you don’t ask for it. This is what i often call Hey-check-us-out-itis. It’s a fairly standard ailment, along the lines of tooth decay, or gout, and it’s something you inevitably will need to get used to.
Despite doing this for what seems to be like years, I’ve always felt slightly ambivalent when people just give you music “with no strings attached.” This is not to cast aspersions on the people giving you stuff. some of them are indeed very nice people. But I’ve always felt that such an transaction/encounter comes with a certain quid pro quo attached to it, that I find myself in the position of being compelled to say something about the music as a form of thank you, which has always made me feel uneasy (hark at old prolier than thou here!)
Over the past few months though, the amount of records, CDs and digital files have grown into a slightly large pile near the record player and on my desktop. and despite my best efforts, I can’t ignore them any longer, as the compulsion to play and write about them growing stronger by the day.
So with that in mind, Iet’s have a look at some of the stuff that has come my way from the UK in the past couple of months, And before you ask, an Icelandic version will be following in the next week or so…
OK first up are a couple of tracks that were sent to me by the lovely Sophie Cooper, who you may remember (probably not) being featured as part of an Exotik Pylon label review way back when. Well she’s fast becoming a major linchpin in what is the most unlikely cultural hub in the UK. No, no Deptford or Dalston, but Toddmorden in West Yorkshire. A few months ago she sent me a few files for some music that was being released though her work with the bombshop arts collective, something that she said I might be interested in. The files have petrified on my desktop for weeks, but it’s only now that I’ve got around to giving them a proper listen!
The first act is the self titled release from MOSAIC OF TEETH. A motley band of improvisational musicians that include Justin Wiggan (Roadside Picnic), Nicholas Bullen (Napalm Death), Keith Moliné (Two Pale Boys / Pere Ubu), ILIOS (Mohammad/PAN), Anthony Donovan (Murmurists) and Antonio de Braga. According to the blurb, this collaboration came about due to the Eyjafjallajökul eruption in 2010. Wiggans finds himself stranded in Norway for a few days, so he spends his time getting a loads of crappy cassettes from the local fleamarkets. the tapes are then morphed, edited and passed around the cabal who warp and flail at the sounds with febrile glee. the result is a 40 minute sound sculpture mindfuck that sways and tilts all over the place, from poised, polished blocks of sound, to corroded shards of noise rock jazz jams, to bastardised Bond Soundtracks being passed through a grunge filter. After listening to it a few time, I have no idea what’s going on, but that’s all part of the fun of this collaboration – Defamiliarisation and Destabilisation is the name of the game. There are still copies to order, and physical copies come with a phial of volcanic ash! Hope they got a permit for that.
(Alas there’s no soundcloud link available, but you can here an excerpt HERE)
The next up is FUSE 004 by Petrels, the latest in the series of recordings from the FUSE multimedia art space in Bradford. It’s a live recording by noise artist and composer Petrels aka Oliver Barrett. Over tow long form tracks of densely layered harmonic compositions, we hear two components at play. On the one hand you are gently assaulted aurally by overloading, sometimes jarring electronic textures and waveforms, but at the same time they adhere to the core harmonic principles that lay down a lot of raga infused folk musics. the result is music that is both harsh and melodic, stinging walls of pure sound a colour that trigger a painful delirium of the ears. I can only hope that there was a light show that came with it that blew out the eyes as well. If you fancy something that’s along the lines of Fuck Buttons or Oneohtrix Point Never at their harshest, then i think you’d be interested in this.
Now I turn to a bunch of releases from the only and only Andy Cooke from JUNIOR ASPIRIN records in London, a repository label for some frankly weird and disturbing music that should come with a govt warning. Simple story this – I got an e-mail from Andy a few months ago thanking me for using a track from the band The God In Hackney in one of my Nordic Interstitial Thresholds mixes. He then goes. “Would you like me to send you some music?” to which I reply “Sure, why not?” Now what I was expecting was for Andy to send a a CD of 12″ or two. Imagine my shock when a week or so later, I received a rather hefty package (well it was more like a box) from the mail courier. opening it, I see not one, or two, but TEN albums (See the pic at the top), pretty much the entire discography of Junior Aspirin records! I won’t be going into some of the records he gave me, such as the releases from Skill 7 Stamina 12, and The Rebel, but instead point you towards the following 3 groups.
Fist up is Big Legs and their self titled debut album. Two Englishmen stuck in NYC who have decided to make some decidedly off-kilter pop ditties in an attempt to articulate their lives in their adopted hometown. the result is one of wibbly and contorted home studio beats electronics and samples, woodwind sintruments, surrealist spoken word mumblings and vocal cutups that are of a decidedly English monotone bent. The album’s highlight is a cover of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” that descends into a loopy, haunting intermission. Pop music for people who don’t like people.
Next up is Cave Moderne, by The God In Hackney. A four piece that contains Label owner Andy, the album is meant to be a concept album that imagines the Flintstones for real, a contemporary neolithic period where avant pop/rock sounds are performed “with chants, drums, guitars, synths, shells, earth, teeth, bits of tree and crap music apps.” the result is an bricolage album of songs as sound assemblages, held together by dinosaur gut twine and duct tape. Looping and clattering drum rhythms mix with deadpan vocals, churning keyboards drones and broken guitar riffs. An alternative album title for this could have been Prehistoric Modern Life Is Rubbish.
Finally we have Further Conclusions Against an Italian Version (BAT) by the wonderfully named Socrates That Practiçes Music. Another band that contains label owner Andy Cooke and his mate Alex Ellerington, they call their music METAGOTH, which if anything is at least one of the best ideas for a band name I can think of. And like Big Legs, STPM are a band that take a simple base structure/genre of music (in this case goth and post-punk) and smashes it around the room with an English approach to DIY music and songwriting. this sort of approach has a long lineage from The Fall, The Fates, Cleaner From Venus, and The Nightinggales, all the way to Grumbling Fur, Officer! and Daniel Patrick Quinn. A track like “Mrs Hammersmith” for example reminded me a little bit of the early music that the likes of The Young knives were putting out years ago. Despite the obviously avant-pop structures and the woozy use of samples and gothic atmosphere, there is definitely a strong, decidedly grounded, pop sensibility that shines through the tracks. It’s suburban garden/kitchen sink goth music, where the magic comes from performing divining rituals on utility bills and clairvoyance using Tetley tea bags. Recommended.
that’s your lot for now. I’m back off to work!!