Neck Doppler – Future Hits Vol. 1
Label: Consume Format: CD
Another very well-produced CDR – this one has the Consume label’s name printed out on that sticky tape with the raised letters, as used on many office products. It’s very clean, which counts these days, believe it or don’t. Echoey drums and vocals urgently exhort on to listen . The vocals are rudimentary, brutal; cut off suddenly in some cases. It’s as if these are little songs that have been marinating in ruminations all day, buzzing around in the head and neck of Mr. Doppler, and this is his way of exorcising these annoying little demons. Distorted voice and laser beam percussions now, amidst the smoke of the odd-timed melody and incongruous piano. Scratching and xylophonies now, underscoring a certain amount of reality that is kept. “All Coming Back To Me Now” features the speeding beat and a voice cutting itself to confetti. It all winds up with “Degenerate”, and actually, it’s listed as “DeGeNeRatE” on the sleeve – the change in lettering more or less crystallises the tenor of the tones eloquently.
Nectarine No. 9 – South Of An Imaginary Line EP
Label: Creeping Bent Format: CD,12″
There’s something strange about this band – it’s like listening to the Sixties swinging through a distorted radio, with too much earwax and a slight cold. Either that, or the band are on too much cough medicine and caffeine – a nasty mix which gives both the speedy rush and the fuzzy blur which accompanies the title track, stomping like there’s no today, let alone tomorrow. As for “A Cold Meat Pie” – think fog-bound TripHop half-eliding out of the shadows with some kind of fuzz-guitarist soaring away to themselves while a bemused, confusing man mutters about his dinner and the lack of appeal inherent in the concept of drowning, all slurred into a half-broken megaphone.
Titles like “Pregnant* 2/3%” don’t help either – what relation this bears to the layered waft of vari-speed voices and instruments isn’t immediately apparent – and as for “A Gay Paean To Thierry Lacroix” – nope, not a clue, except that he’s allegedly the “hunkiest Frenchman since Joan Of Arc”. Still, the drawling Glasgow delivery of longtime collaborator Jock Scott has a certain appeal, and the backing tracks sound like the band are on helium and slowly floating down to earth with a cacophonous splat. And nice, too, that there are still guitar bands who insist on being weird (which has nearly become the preserve of Electronica enthusiasts recently) and who pull it off convincingly – without remotely resembling Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci either.
-Antron S. Meister-
Needledust – Wuh!/Speedfreek
Label: Novamute Format: 12″
First single to emerge from the collaborative talents of Mark Moore (of S’Express) and T-Total in Needledust guise, “Wuh!” rolls in on a propulsive Electro House beat and a vocal sample of the title. Surrounded by shimmers, swoops and rewound shuffles of synther-pokery, the expected fragmentary stops, echoing bleep trails and even chirpy orchestra stabs interrupt lengthy excursions into bass breakdowns and squitters of analogue synth.
Further kinetic pumping to the same basic rhythm characterizes “Speedfreek”, but with the opening mood brought down and dirtier into a post-Moroder spin through the darker recesses of the dancefloor. Yawning chasms of stretched sussurus soon bring forth a bright House groove, and everyone gets their happy faces as their spines start to tingle to the buzzing and burbling sounds and the elevating chord progressions go ever upwards. There’s all the tricks of the trade here; a turnaround droput boogie as the title sample reverbs back and forth and a couple of the required returns to re-invigorated beats and newly made over melodies too. Damn Housey and none the worse for that, this EP does the dancefloor business and does it well.
The New Blockaders – Changez Le Blockeurs
Label: Urthona Format: CD
Label: The New Blockaders Format: LP
“We are The New Blockaders. Blockade is resistance. It is our duty to blockade and to induce of thers to blockade. What is blockading? – This. It is time for change – make way for The New Blockaders! The Discipline of Absolute Freedom! Abolish everything! Wake up! Never mind anything else – let us leave the dead alone. Onward and upward The New Blockade! The Black is History. We have disrespectfully shattered it into four disparate pieces. From these pieces we will invent new eyes, new histories, new systems, new languages, new futures, new arrangements, new answers, new images, new substances, new ideologies, new lives, new deaths, new ways of doing, new ways of seeing, new ways of thinking, new ways of making…we are The Modern Alchemists…let us bomb the temples of History – of Logic, or Religion, of Reason, of Psychology, of Authority, of Service of Philosophy, of Money, of Sex, of Science, of Nations, of Wars, of Monarchies, of Polotic (sic), of Professionalism, of The Old Creators! Let us plough new furrows! Let us depart from these mere journalists, let us demolish these fetid blocks of stability, of security, of tradition, of certainty, of unquestioning worship…let us be the Murderors (sic) of the Past! We are the Sea chipping away at this rotting abortion of morality, dismantling the defences of totalitarian constrain (sic), smashing the safety of superficiality, throwing stones at the icons of religion…the obscene progression of regression shall be halted by us, The New Blockaders! Let us be anonymous, o brothers and sisters, let us work in subtle ways and then at dawn our hour of glory shall come! Let us be chameleons. Let us infiltrate their ranks unnoticed…only attacks from behind ever succeed! Let us sever this Parasite called History, it has nothing to do with us! Death to the bourgeois! Death to the aristocracy! Death to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat! There are no byes in our crucade! (sic) Your stinking corpses will all be burnt! This I the future! This is now! Move over you museum relics! This attack shall never be compromised, never accomodated, we are everywhere! Only carcinoma need fear our joyful brunt…ah, the glorious sound of its dying screams! Get out of our world, you poisonous scum! Avaunt! Avaunt! Avaunt! The Church of the Absurd marches on. Anti-books, anti-newspapers, anti-films, anti-art, anti-magazines, anti-poetry, anti-music, anti-clubs, anti-communications! We will make anti-statements about anything and everything, we will make a point of being pointless, we will drive backwards up one-way streets! Typewriters will become pianos…with which we will compose anti-symphonies! We must destroy in order to go forward! The Farce has gone on too long! Now let the Farce be made a Farce of! We are the Abraham-men of today, we are the adverts that mean nothing, we are the speakers who say nothing, we are the fighters who do not fight, we are the creators who destroy….. We spit on your works of art! We vomit on your politicians! We laugh at the malitia (sic) men! How does this work? Oh, it is meant to blow people’s heads off…Sehr gut, sehr gut! All in the cause of democracy, what? You shall never pacify us, you brainless cretins! We vote for nobody…for the right reasons!”
One of the top ten liner notes, ever.
A re-issue of the LP released in 1982 in an edition of only 100 copies. It’s currently going on eBay for about $300. Go, Bill Reider, whip that price guide! A medieval woodcut is the cover is altered and hassled by new and magic markings. Shame that the tirade from the back cover of the original LP is missing from this edition – “We vote for nobody – for the right reasons!” Indeed.
A very live series of scraping recordings, possibly cut-ups, done by Richard Rupenus and his brother P. But is the anti-aesthetic still part of the aesthetic, going against nature and becoming part of it, too? Again, like the Ligeliahorn LP by Metgumbnerbone, there is a feeling of fun and amusement that the Rupenus brothers might have had while realising these sounds (because, as with some anti-art, it’s difficult to discern if the situation is immensely enjoyable or intensely painful.) If you use this for fuck music – by all means, keep that girl or boy! Oh, and there’s some slapping going on, fortuitously enough. Much squeaking and rattling.
And that’s what’s missing and sorely needed from modern music – much squeaking and rattling.
Sheer sheets of onanistic sound from Richard and Paul Rupenus (also known as the Muckle Brothers) ruin the rack and explode across the consciousness in the form of this la(te)st retrospective CD. Imagine what it would’ve been like to hear this in 1982, when it was completely new and very few frames of reference were hanging on any wall, anywhere. “Blockade is Resistance” – of course. They stretch across these last twenty-five years, in various forms – here as TNB, there as Funeral Danceparty, then Metgumnerbone and Masstishaddhu – like a strafing run, “Avaunt! Avaunt! Avaunt!”, into the face of convention and artifice.
The pieces sound entirely complete, as if they just stepped out of the stereo for the first time. Much wealing and squealing and upheaval of sound. The odd rhythmic snatch. “X-Nihilist Assault” – the titles only tell half the story. This is the hard rain that’s promised to fall – this sound is a rage against loneliness in one of the loneliest places on earth while pursuing one of the loneliest forms of expression. Unbelieveably unrelenting, it seems to be produced on an occasional conveyer – piles of metal, storms of static, in no discernable order. It starts, and when it stops, it stops. And the titles: “Viva Negativa!”, “Epater Les Bourgeois” (“To Impress the Middle-Class”), “Hit Damage On A / B Over X”…
Totally interstellar, completely vital, utterly timeless.
“Contains two live performances at Morden Tower, Newcastle, England in 1983. Originally released by RRRecords in 1988.”
The cyclone hits and sheets of pure metal godlike shrieking rain down and ring out for a little less than forty minutes. Unrelenting and visceral, it’s a phoenix in its execution and a peacock in its diversity. There are many levels to one word used to describe a particular sound. The word “shrieking”, for example, has edges, levels and sides to it, although they may sometimes be difficult to discern. One person hears a shriek in an entirely different way than does another. A bird could hear a shriek and think that it’s being called to. It ends, and it’s exhilarating. Audience dulls around a bit, and then another simoom in the room – a lower kind of grating now, from three or four sound sources. Occasional stalactites of sound jut from the proceedings and there seem to be “breakdowns” in the sound from time to time but it is unclear. Squeaking and rolling, quaking and cajoling, and the sound spikes and speaks and spills from the guts of that time and place.
These recordings are almost twenty years old. It still holds the same power to incite, inspire and unnerve that it had when first it emerged and, with any luck, shall retain this claim for many years to come.
New Model Army – Eight
Label: Attack Attack Format: CD
“I didn’t know they were still going” says anyone I tell, all breathless and excited, about the fact that New Model Army have a new album out, their second in as many years, and then they usually laugh laugh at me a bit. So I tell them to fuck off. Unfashionable though it may be to like (or admit to a liking of) Justin Sullivan‘s proto-Crusty post-Punk revolution, the fact remains that they are still one of the tightest, most intelligent bands operating in the field of unreconstructed Rock music. And that’s no bad thing. And on record? The same, if you turn your stereo up loud enough.
Eight is, quite frankly, a fucking stunning return to form for a band who only really slipped a little bit on last year’s Strange Brotherhood (which still contained some of their finest and stirring moments – live favourite “No Pain” for example, or the gorgeous “Big Blue”) by trying to change their job description a little. Sullivan has obviously realised that what NMA do best, what NMA always need to be around to do because no-one else really can, is the mostunifying, uplifting and downright bitchin’ prostest songs a bloke with a funny haircut ever stood on his mate’s shoulders and drank cider to. Grim Northerners not too scared to let a few low-key ballads through the net every once in a while. Sensitive new men built like brick shit-houses who are fond of the word “bastard” and have managed to spearhead an entire battalion of hitch-hiking, clog-wearing, pyramid-building disciples over the (fuck!) fifteen-odd years of their career.
So, enough of their excuses already. Lacking the time an Army album usually has to grow and earn a place in your heart, I can nonetheless say that of the first couple of listens, Eight is fucking great. this is a band returned to the anger and passion of something like “Here comes The War”, but with the tunes of stuff like “Green And Grey”. Sullivan is still pissed off, and still knows how to make the political personal (and vice versa) is to hop from huge-scale heavy concept international scale (“You weren’t in Waco/And you weren’t in Kosovo”) to small local-scale (the whole of “Leeds Road 3am”) to the unexpectedly touching (“Hale-Bopp flying motionless out across the night/And you turned to me and said with a smile/everything these days seems to be some kind of sign”) without warning, to drive home the relevance of interconnected events.
Of course, there’s the more specific “Snelsmore Wood” (“Where the yellow jackets stand with the Thick Blue Line” – environmental activism is still a recurring theme here) or “Someone Like Jesus” (“I met someone like Jesus in the spring of ’98/He was so full of live and I was so full of hate/So I nailed him on a cross where he belonged/Told myself it’s what he would have wanted all along”) as if to remind us that Justin S. is an indicidual, not just some generic guitar-playing agitiator. Indeed, all is as it should be for a New Model army album. Welcome back, you grim Northern bastards. I’ll see you in Hull.
-Deuteronemu 90210, actress and supermodel-
New Model Army – High
Label: Attack Attack Format: CD
There’s something a little disorienting about this CD right from the off- it uses a different font. Yup, that’s right, gone is the stencilled military-style lettering they’ve been using for… blimey, for about TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS! (Doing a quick bit of mental arithmetic I’ve just frightened myself with the realisation that my first New Model Army gig was some eighteen years ago. I’ll get me slippers). But once you’ve slipped the thing into whatever space-age contrivance you crazy kids use to play music these days, it’s very soon apparent you’re in the right place. “Wired” hits the ground running, with a bass line built on runs and arpeggios which would make Philip Glass shit himself in terror.
A quick note about the difficulty of reviewing a New Model Army album- they’re a band it’s very hard to be objective about. Throughout their career they’ve pretty much polarised opinion- you either love ’em or hate ’em. I’m firmly in the former camp (aside from possibly the Bad Seeds, I don’t think there’s a finer band on the planet, especially live), though my days of hitching to far-away gigs are behind me, partially through age but more down to the fact that as a responsible adult in full-time employment I can now afford public transport.
It’s still a mystery how such a quintessentially English band get so overlooked here, but thrive on the Continent. I’m betting this will fly off the shelves in Germany, for a start, where NMA have always had a pretty solid following. Mind you, over here the people who love them really love them, and it’s not really hard to see why. This, their tenth studio album, shows them doing what they do best- beautifully poetic songs performed with real passion by fantastic musicians. ROCKING, to put it more simply. Lyrically it’s all present and correct, with main man Justin Sullivan still at the top of his game. The real standout for me is “One Of The Chosen”, a look at religious fanaticism from the inside – no judgments here, but an investigation into what can cause intelligent people to separate themselves from society- “There is something in us all that wants to surrender / To be guided through it all like star-eyed children… And here from the inside all the lights are blazing / And the view of the old world is dull and grey and joyless… We are the Holy Fools, we are the fearless”- a mantra screamed over an apocalyptic metal crescendo. Ooh, it’s giving me goosebumps just typing about it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- nobody manages to blend the personal and the political so seamlessly as Mr Sullivan.
The title track’s another good example of this, and of his continuing love affair with the Earth- “The movers move, the shakers shake / The winners rewrite history / But from high on the high hills it all looks like nothing”. But it’s not all meditating on nature and knitting yoghurt, far from it. The righteous anger’s never far from the surface, and raises its head in spectacular style on “All Consuming Fire”- “We’ve found a thousand ways to lay waste the planet / And we’re going to use them all / A culture in just two dimensions is all that we require / Because it burns so well, it burns so well / So blazing bright in the all-consuming fire” he spits, disgust dripping from every syllable. Followed immediately by the unbearably gorgeous and sad “Sky In Your Eyes”, this is a one-two punch that could pretty much sell the album on its own.
Sadly, you’ve probably already got your opinion on New Model Army- if you’ve never liked them before, this probably isn’t going to convert you. If, on the other hand, you like them, well then you probably love them and will certainly not be disappointed by this album, which sees them continuing to progress the rawer, more driving sound I thought they’d already perfected on Carnival (but it would appear I was mistaken, and they’ve found a way to make it sound even better). Their next round of UK gigs should certainly be worth catching, as I can’t fucking wait to hear some of this stuff live, in a sea of flailing arms and human pyramids.
Twenty-seven years and still knocking it out of the park. Here’s to another ten albums.
-Deuteronemu 90210 herd u liek mudkips-
New Order – Get Ready
Label: Reprise Format: CD
I remember reading an interview with Ewan MacGregor when he was making The Phantom Menace in which he said every morning he had a moment when he’d wake up and think “Jesus! I’m Obi Wan Kefuckingnobi!” That’s what it must be like once having been in Joy Division. (Or possibly The Beatles, but from the sounds of things Paul McCartney‘s well and truly forgotten about that.) Indeed, I have vague memories of reading Peter Hook saying something similar. I mean, after such knowledge, what forgiveness? You’re not allowed to be crap. Ever. ‘Cos SOMEONE WILL NOTICE.
Just as well New Order are so bloody good then, really. And it’s still something of a surprise. I’d forgotten. I kind of expected this to be poo. I admit to having been a bit worried when the opening bars to single “Crystal” came on all New-Order-By-Numbers, but then That Chorus kicked in and it was like hearing them for the first time again. And it made me cringe at all the times down the pub when I’d desperately tried to convince everybody (including myself) that Monaco, Revenge, The Other Two, even (Jesus!) Electronic were all excellent bands. Because it’s only when they’re back together – the surviving Joy Division members and synth priestess Gillian Gilbert – that you realise that they’ve Got It. Okay, so they may only have a quarter of It each, but put it all together and it sounds wonderful. The mechanical/organic drums, the jangly guitar, the washes of electronica, That Fucking Bass, and Barney‘s strained but enthusiastic vocals- all of it’s still there, and it still Rocks. (And anyone who doubts my choice for the last word of that sentence should bear in mind how low Hooky holds his bass, and how far apart his feet are while he does it.)
The lyrics are still the sort that only Barney can get away with, but it’s always been thus (I mean, remember on “Thieves Like Us” with all that “Love is the cure for every evil/Love is the air that supports the eagle” malarkey? If anyone else tried singing that they’d just sound like an idiot. Barney sings it over that tune and your legs go all wobbly.) Although I do pity the poor man, because if “Here comes love/It’s like honey/You can’t buy it with money” is an accurate representation of Manchester’s convenience stores, then I’ll have to show him our local Tescos, where they have several brands of honey, all of which are, indeed, purchasable with coin of the realm. I mean – what can I say? You know what it sounds like – you’ve just forgotten how good that is. New Order have remained, consistently, one of the best bands this country has ever produced (and in retrospect, even that football single was just a Bit Dodgy, rather than the disgrace to the corpse of Joy Division I thought it was as a fervent teenager). It’s not just the single, though, that’s most easily hummable. “Primitive Notion” starts off with some classic Hook bass, before a (I know, I’m going to say it again and I really shouldn’t) Joy Division-esque rhythm comes on, and it’s like they never went away. “Slow Jam” (what is it with these sandwich fillings? and can “Slow Jam” be bought with money, or only points off your loyalty card?) has a wonderfully evil distorted Electro-Funk thing going on, and then – get this – he says “The sea was very rough/It made me feel sick/But I like that kind of stuff/It beats arithmetic” before Bobby Gillespie does a guest spot (and let’s not forget, Barney was on Primal Scream‘s Exterminator, one of the few other bands that comes close) while the others do their cool stuff underneath.
Despite their age, it’s all done with that wonderful naïveté that’s characterised all their best stuff – from (apparently) calling themselves New Order as a joke to dispel the rumour that Joy Division were Fascists and then wondering why nobody else was laughing, to relating to Factory Records on a mates basis rather than as a business – with disastrous consequences – to running The Hacienda like a playground gang with expensive ones. And somehow it all works. There’s nothing post-modern, or ironic, or knowing about this. If it’s even clever (which it undoubtedly is) then it doesn’t know it. It’s as if they’ve discovered a musical philospoher’s stone by accident, and they’ve put it on the mantelpiece in their studio because it looks nice. So yeah, I guess I kind of liked it. Could you tell?
-Deuteronemu 90210 in a state of awe-
Phill Niblock – Touch Works, For Hurdy Gurdy And Voice
Label: Touch Format: CD
Phill Niblock is a sixty-something New York based minimalist composer and multi-media musician and director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation born in the flames of 1968’s barricade hopping. He has been a maverick presence on the fringes of the avant garde ever since. In the history books Niblock is the forgotten Minimalist. That’s as maybe: no one ever said the history books were infallible anyway. His influence has had more impact on younger composers such as Susan Stenger, Lois V Vierk, David First, and Glenn Branca. He’s even worked with Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo on “Guitar two, for four” which is actually for five guitarists.
This is Minimalism in the classic sense of the word, if that makes sense. Niblock constructs big 24-track digitally-processed monolithic microtonal drones. The result is sound without melody or rhythm. Movement is slow, geologically slow. Changes are almost imperceptible, and his music has a tendency of creeping up on you. The vocal pieces are like some of Ligeti‘s choral works, but a little more phased. And this isn’t choral work. “A Y U (as yet untitled)” is sampled from just one voice, the baritone Thomas Buckner. The results are pitch shifted and processed intense drones, one live and one studio edited. Unlike Ligeti, this isn’t just for voice or hurdy gurdy. Like Stockhausen‘s electronic pieces, Musique Concrete, or even Fripp and Eno‘s No Pussyfooting, the role of the producer/composer in “Hurdy Hurry” and “A Y U” is just as important as the role of the performer.
Nightmares On Wax – Carboot Soul
Label: Warp Format: CD,LP
The long-awaited third album from Leeds’ electronic downbeat collective, Carboot Soul begins promisingly with another reworking of Quincy Jones’ “Summer In The City.” They continue by providing the crowd-pleasing beats and basslines which made Smokers’ Delight a word-of-mouth bestseller in 1995. Despite the four-year gap, there is no significant advancement in musical style or technique on offer, and the album is predictable but not unlistenable because of this.
As with Smokers’ Delight and Word Of Science, the brilliantly subtle production is not matched by the disappointingly unoriginal samples and drum patterns. The collaborations with vocalist Sara Winton and live musicians such as the sax-playing Jimi Tenor are swamped by the technology, often to the point where even the live instruments sound sampled.
Nightmares On Wax undoubtedly have a talent for producing records which sound as good on a sunny day with all the windows open as they do at 4am after a hard night on the dancefloor. They manage to put the meat back into Jazz, take the swagger out of Hip-Hop and make funky music that isn’t Funk. They’ve found their niche, but the problem is, they ain’t movin’ for no-one…
Nightmares On Wax – Finer
Label: Warp Format: 2×12″,CDS
Taken from NoW‘s recent Carboot Soul album, “Finer” first gets mixed up by DJ Paul Nice into a sub-Trip Hop smoothie worthy of All Saints, and unfortuanely about as interesting, despite the slippy scratching. What is the point in this? The Original mix shows much more promise, despite sounding the same as every other breathy, wasted track to roll a spliff and wear narrow glasses to in Old Street bars to – is this too condemnatory? Maybe, though it might just make much more sense emanating from a huge speaker stack or bass-propelled UV cruiser.
The mix by Alex Gopher makes it all horribly Discofied, even if in a slightly sleazy manner. The problem is, it’s never quite sleazy enough, and just comes across as languid by numbers, and ultimately eminently disposable smooching pap. Unfortunately, not having heard the mixes on the two 12″ versions, it’s not possible to say if they’re any better, but here’s hoping…
BJ Nilsen – Fade To White
Label: Touch Format: CD
Since his early years as doom-laden industrial act Morthound, pint-sized Swedish experimentalist Benny Nilsen (a.k.a. Hazard) has been a master of lonely, wistful soundscapes and the musical expression of loss and longing. Emotional versatility is perhaps not his strong point, but he has long been adept at working with his chosen palette and has honed it to a fine art, this album being no exception. “Purple Phase” opens with some indistinct machine rhythms, before expanding into a quavering drone, bleak yet somehow warm, that sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s never easy to describe drones in writing with much lucidity, but if you like the sounds the Swans were making before they called it a day, this will work for you – think electronic without sounding electronic, lo-fi soundtracks for films that will never be made.
It’s not like the CD just consists of one homegeneous tone though, not like a few drone releases I could mention. “Dead Reckoning” is much more textured, with unplaceable organic noises clumping together all over some knobbly sonic surface, whereas “Grappa Polar” has a fuller, more orchestral sound, featuring stabs and squeals of high-pitched sound that resemble violinists with delerium tremens. Closing opus “Nine Ways Til Sunday”, clocking in at a quarter of an hour, resembles some of the more recent Nurse With Wound drone compositions; tense and creepy, it features the indistinct sounds of plucked string instruments and perhaps even Honky-tonk pianos just below the surface, and ends with a couple of minutes of electronic creatures chittering away at each other in some bizarre digital menagerie.
According to the notes on the Touch website, much of this CD consists of manipulated field recordings and the sounds of performances in open spaces, with nature itself being roped in as an unwitting session musician. But I try not to dwell too much on process, as product is really what counts, and if delicately beautiful drones are your thing, you won’t be disappointed.
Nimoy/Unit Moebius/Electronics For Defence – Ancient Melodies
Label: God Factory Format: CD
Despite the string of names attached to this production, it’s not actually a compilation – hardcore trance Techno producer Unit Moebius just seems to like confusing the issue of his identity. Originally put out on his own Bunker label as a limited edition tape under the name IMP Electronics For Defence in the early Nineties, then reworked (and never released) by Unit Moebius, and now remastered using the Nimoy tag, Ancient Melodies (Dust to Dust) consists of one 46-minute track of varying degrees of ambience.
It’s pretty easy to splice a series of samples, tape loops and processed effects togther and call it experimental, but much harder to make it work over an extended piece such as this. Cut-up tape sounds, tribal-industrial percussion, screams and sundry noises off are composed into a sound collage of the form made (un)popular by The Hafler Trio et al in the days when psychedelic noise assault was still a new idea. Discordant synths, de-contextualised speech fragments, layered effects trails and a pervading sense of alienation: it’s got all the hallmarks of a floatation tank nightmare in the making, and all the better for it.
To use a reviewer’s cliché, Ancient Melodies is uneasy listening. To trot out another, it’s cinematic too, in as much as there’s no melody, no tune, and hardly any music. Headphones-and-darkened room music to fuck with your head, an aural spinetingler and mind-expander which works on an environmental level, much in the same way as an abstract impressionist painting or film. In a decidedly Modernist manner, the listener becomes the storyteller, directed by the unfolding sequences (which follow the familiar rush-plateau-comedown formula) to provide their own imagery (save for the occasional direct reference to the Challenger disaster), and refer to their own favourite archetypes. Hallucinogenic aural wallpaper – just imagine the designs…
– Antron S. Meister –
Nintendo Teenage Robots – We Punk Einheit!
Label: DHR Format: CD,2LP
Lurking behind the Atari Teenage Riot pastiche cover and name is of course none other than Alec Empire, but in ever so strange a mood as to be simultaneously at his most inspired and deranged. Sourced entirely from the programmable music edition of a Gameboy, We Punk Einheit! takes the machine to its limits. Bleeping and blipping like a demented games console circa 1983, the Gameboy becomes a bit of a monster in Empire’s hands, as he explores seemingly every possible combination of 8-bit sound in ways the designers probably never envisaged in their most fevered moments.
There’s seventy-five minutes and twenty-five tracks of hypnotically engaging weirdness on this album, at once dehumanised and distorted. It’s the sound of a low-tech computer game listened to on PCP, heightened and transfigured into a parallel universe of the ultimate in bleepy Techno, where the Space Invaders took control of the reality studio. Empire’s trademark distortion remains, attenuated into a struggling buzz, but identifiably as jagged as his more conventional recordings, as do titles such as “Fuck Me D/A Style”, “No Disease Sex” and “No Humanity Allowed”. A mid-range assault on the very idea of what is appropriate in a recording of electronic music, this is gloriously, radically, unhinged, and guaranteed to disgust the more po-faced while delighting those of a warped disposition.
Nitzer Ebb – Body Of Work
Label: Mute Format: 2CD
Nitzer Ebb were always the Hard Beat band least likely to turn into a Metal band. While Nine Inch Nails, Front 242 and Ministry all successfully managed to fill out their sound with chuggy guitars and win over a more conventional audience, Doug and Bon‘s shaven-headed stompy anthems were much better suited to minimalism. Early tracks such as “Warsaw Ghetto” and the sublime “Join In The Chant” took DAF rhythms and pulsing basslines and bolted them onto an exercise bike, while a particularly crazed fitness instructor yelled “MUSCLE AND HATE!!!” into your ears. The single-minded, sweaty determination of Ebb’s first couple of albums was a joy to behold, and can be relived here, on this long-awaited best-of CD. “Murderous”, “Let Your Body Learn?” – they’re all here, for your strobe-fuelled dancing pleasure.
Then things took a more sinister turn- the album Belief cut back a little on the anger front, but upped the paranoia quotient, until the neurotic majesty that is “Control I’m Here” emerged from the clattering drum sounds and cyberpunked us all in the bollocks. Album-mate “Captivate”, also here, ran it a close second, but it was “Control?” that really made that record. After this, third album Showtime often seemed a little messy, though they managed to focus it all quite nicely on film noir Electro nightmare “Lightning Man”, with McCarthy’s Blade Runner menacing monologue finally bursting into the chilling “Baby, come to Daddy?/Daddy’s come to baby” chorus, while synthetic horns go parping well mental in the background. “Fun To Be Had” still confuses me, as I can’t tell whether it’s one of the catchiest and best, or the most irritating and earwormy track they ever made. Suffice it to say, hearing it again now it’s taken up residence in my head again.
A great template, sure, but you can only stick to a template for so long? and Ebbhead, the stroppy duo’s final album, drifted at times a little too far from what made Nitzer Ebb great. The standout tracks, all included here, were fantastic, but their days were clearly numbered. “I Give To You” was all spine-chillingly Wagnerian majesty, whose only drawback was that it put Nitzer Ebb in line for direct comparisons with The Young Gods, which could only make for trouble. The filthy electroporn of “Godhead” took them into Ministry territory, and suffered little for it, being a fairly classic stab of Industrial rock. But it’s the early stuff you should really be buying this for, as well as the second CD (oh yes, it’s a double) of remixes, which for once is actually a decent part of the package, rather than a tacked-on afterthought. Some stripped-down, some fleshed-out, a couple all spaced-up and William Orbited, this drags Nitzer Ebb back to where they were always at their most comfortable- the totalitarianism of the dance floor.
A wicked compilation, all told- all the lean, pounding meat and none of the fat. In fact, if you had a copy of this and a copy of Meat Beat Manifesto‘s contemporaneous Storm The Studio, you could probably set up your own gym.
-Reviewed by Deuteronemu 90210, doing exercises in big stompy boots-
No Age – Nouns
Label: Sub Pop Format: CD
Right now in some of the more garish wine bars the world over, record company lowlives sit hunched over their tapas, brows furrowed under expensive haircuts, racking their manicured brains to figure a way of luring people away from fucking iTunes and back into actual record shops. And right here, with the release of their new album Nouns, punky LA duo No Age might just have come up with a winner. The CD edition of Nouns comes packaged with a chunky and gorgeous booklet of photos, video stills, and colourful bits and pieces, which not only serves to give you an idea of who this band are and where they’re coming from, but also stands on its own as a beautiful thing that makes the album itself something exciting to own, rather than just being another annoying piece of plastic cluttering up your room. Seriously, I haven’t felt this happy about owning a physical copy of an album since I stopped buying vinyl. And crucially, of course, a chunky and gorgeous booklet can’t be downloaded from fucking iTunes. Well, not yet, as far as I know – but I’d bet you almost anything that some geek is currently furiously working on a way to wreck this, too.
No Age itself consists of drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt and a guitarist with the ludicrously awesome name of Randy Randall. At first blush Nouns seems to be a fairly simple proposition: cherrypick the snotty suburban numbers from Sonic Youth’s late 80s output and distil all that skateartnoisepunk energy down to barely half an hour of frenetic fuzzy joyous thrashy racket. And if that were all that Nouns entailed, it would still be an exciting listen. But there is a lot more to this record, after repeat listenings (and I’ve had it on fairly high rotate for the last couple of weeks – god bless short albums) Nouns reveals itself in a way that few records manage to do. Not just the music itself, the sheer joy which Spunt and Randall bring to making music shines through every track on this record, and it is truly a pleasure to behold.
No Age often attack their instruments with such a fervour that you have to remind yourself that, yes, there are only two people making this ruckus, and the guitar and drums often seem to struggle with each other, both spiralling up through the mix as if in racing to make it to the top through pure manic energy and volume. The vocals are inevitably the losers in this hairball, disappearing and reappearing in the murk, but the fact that this almost DIY dynamic managed to survive the studio process intact is truly remarkable, and it gives the record a genuine energy which is exhilarating.
No Age – Weirdo Rippers
Label: FatCat Format: CD
“No Age” huh? I don’t get the name at first. Sounds a bit grim, and faintly nonsensical. Then it clicks: ‘No Age’ is to ‘New Age’ much as ‘No Wave’ was to ‘New Wave’! Get it?
“No age is freedom from music and freedom from pain. Positive hurt and fun recreation is the process of age. None of it is beyond the reach of thinking. Engage Something that is painful and laugh about the anguish,” says one ‘Borgman Torst’ on the frontpage of No Age’s supremely uninformative website. Gosh, these chaps come with their own self-defined lifestyle philosophy and everything. Not bad.
So what is the No Age? These legions of skinny, male ex-art student kids who wear stupid hats and joggers wristbands, who proudly embrace the cheap’n’ superficial, live in poorly-defined ‘spaces’, claim to live entirely on sweets and beer and make nasty stuff out of trash in various knowingly unsavoury contexts; are they the No Age? If so, could No Age the band – two guys already clambering up the underground hype-mountain on the back of a few sold out CD-Rs from which this first official release is compiled – be the No Agers’ equivalent of whale-song and Tangerine Dream? Well we live in troubled times, so who knows.
Anyway, enough blather, let’s put this sucker on and see what we think. “Noise-pop” is the handy catch-all deemed immediately applicable to No Age’s music, but let’s get this straight: No Age do noise, No Age do pop (in a manner of speaking), but only infrequently do the two meet. These meetings prove to be the most interesting bits, and it is the tension between the two approaches that helps make Weirdo Rippers such an attention-grabbing singularity amid an ocean of cynical hipster racket. All things considered, No Age’s ‘noise’ tracks are exceptionally good, betraying a level of forethought and imagination that eludes many of today’s laptop manglers and stumblebum improv troupes. Batteries of cheapola guitar effects summon up the kind of melancholic fuzz-scape dreamt of by post-MBV shoegaze disciples, interspersed with warped found sound textures and other intriguing sonic wreckage, such as the echo-chambered traffic roar which opens the album, and the broken fairground ride masquerading as a keyboard (or vice-versa?) on “I Wanna Sleep”. Subject to only occasional blasts of feedback thuggery or total confusion, these sections of the album are genuinely engrossing, with a mysterious, emotive kick that alone justifies No Age’s continued existence.
Chopped and spliced into this nodding-out-on-petrol-fumes extravaganza with admirable randomness are examples of the ‘other’ No Age, playing… well not so much ‘pop’ as gut-level punk rock really – flailing guitar and drums beat-downs, recorded in classic dictaphone-in-the-rehearsal-room style. Here, No Age wisely reject the post-Lightning Bolt consensus of testosterone-fuelled sensory overload, instead playing up their relative technical inadequacies, thrashing sloppily at some distant horizon, strangulated geek yelping expressing mockery and self-belief in equal measure, eventually rallying around some semblance of a melody and coalescing into outbursts of refreshingly straightforward surf-riffin’ guitar pop, imbuing No Age’s noise-trash hardcore approach with a cracked strain of humanity and humour that prior generations of smart, starving weirdoes from The Electric Eels through Half Japanese to the much-missed Party Of One might recognise as their own.
The best moments on Weirdo Rippers occur though when song and noise meet head on, particularly on the 1 minute 50 seconds that constitute album highlight “My Life’s Alright Without You” which begins by cutting blurts of distorted field recording samples into a shaky live guitar jam, before lurching into an electrifying surge of motorik-punk fuzz and briefly boiling over into a stadium-rocking chorus worthy of Weezer‘s first album before the tape abruptly cuts out. Like Swell Maps before them, No Age might do everything in their power to make this stuff look accidental, but sparks of genius like that doesn’t come easy. “Loosen This Job” is another stand-out, and sees the album’s most affecting vocal performance, with one of the guys lamenting “..why are there so many records in my life..?” against a hypnotic mass of disembodied drummage and decaying Big Muff squall, approaching the territory of other modern day noise/pop synthesists such as Iran or The Animal Collective.
One of the only uniting factors behind the disparate material on Weirdo Rippers is the appalling sound quality, resulting, one assumes, from the use of hap-hazard, zero-budget live recordings, smothered with cavernous reverb and compression. Whether this is merely a product of circumstance (these essentially being repackaged demos) or a deliberate part of the band’s DIY aesthetic is difficult to ascertain, but combined with No Age’s obvious love of digital delay and distortion, and their propensity for abrupt jump cuts between different fragments of tape, it can make for a frustrating listening experience. For every illuminating moment here, there is another when a potentially good idea is chopped mid-flow or rendered incomprehensible beneath an ocean of painful sub-underground murk.
The overall impression created by Weirdo Rippers is similar to that of walking into the back of a crowded provincial punk show in time to catch the last few minutes of a crazed local opening act: distant shapes of skinny outcasts struggling with a cacophonous sound-mix, pulling every ugly trick they’ve got out of their low-rent equipment in an attempt to impress or enrage an audience who’d rather talk to their friends or get to the bar, knowing they might never get the chance to do this in public again. As it stands, few beyond the realm of brain-fried tape collectors could really declare this release a classic album, but nonetheless, it’s one you’d be foolish to ignore. Undoubtedly the most exciting thing I’ve heard from the American underground this year, No Age’s positivist approach makes Weirdo Rippers a shot across the bows of the increasingly complacent noise scene, and suggests that, given some studio time and a crate of new toys, these boys are gonna be able to return with something truly special.
Noise Camp – Super Noise Camp
Tujiko Noriko – Shojo Noshi
Label: Mego Format: CD
First off, two initial comparisions pop out – Kate Bush and Phew. The similarities are blurry rather than distinct ones of sound or style, but a general air or otherworldly concerns are imparted from the ticking, shifting rhythms and dissociative sounds which form the backdrop to Tujiko Noriko‘s largely Japanese language vocals. The picture on the back of the jewel case depicting a girl (Noriko herself?) on a BMX destroying Tokyo, Gamera-style, shows an off beat sort of humour too, which sometimes comes out of the music too. More often though, it’s a melancholic, reflective atmosphere which the sparse arty arrangements of tinkly, sometimes Poppy, electronics, shuffling lo-fi loops and meanderingly abstract keyboard diversions provide. Shojo Noshi is a record which laps gently against the listener, but has depths of interest which reveal themselves on each immersion. It’s not a great record, but it’s definitely an intriguing puzzle box of wastrel delights.
KK Null – [BaryoGenesis]
Label: Vivo Format: CD
Baryons are subatomic particles which include neutrons and protons – baryogenesis is the hypothetical process of the physical creation of the matter which went on to make up most of universe, just before the Big Bang. It’s also a pretty good title for the album, as there are moments when it sounds like the cosmos is expanding into something really quite vast. Being put in a position to listen to [BaryoGenesis] is a bit like being dragged off the street, muffled up in headphones and a virtual reality suit plugged into a planatarium, and made to endure whatever psychedelic surround-sound punishment the devious mind behind it can throw into the mix. In fact, doing that to a random person, were it ever likely, could get the perpetrator sent down for a considerable time, as [BaryoGenesis] is quite a challenge when heard voluntarily – imagine being tortured with it?
Unlikely reality show hypotheses aside, this album is probably not to be undertaken lightly; Kazuyuki Kishino has taken his sound sources, analogue and digital, and whipped up four tracks of devastatingly full-on material which is guaranteed to spin its audience through an audio blender, and will leave many shaken, and probably disturbed, by the end of the hour-long sonic drubbing he metes out from the opening environmental sounds of birdsong and insect life onwards and upwards into the wide blue yonder of abstract electronics which expands outward from there. And it’s great, like a rollercoaster ride into whatever KK Null can throw into the sampler and spit out again; but this is not sheer unaldulterated, disorganised noise, fun as that can be sometimes. Null has constructed [BaryoGenesis] with a sense of purpose, a clarity even, which is a delight to be immersed in, to live through, without ripping those damned headphones off and running screaming into the starry, uncaring night.
“This recording was made for White Noise for the Festival Musiques Ultimes, recorded May 14, for sale on the 13th & 14th of May 1995 at the festival”. One side begins with a swinging mambo music loop infused with strepthroated duck calls, sighs and guitar feedback descents (“(I Don’t Want to Have) Easy Listening Nightmares”). Ms. Diana Rogerson rings her crystal belle with the laughing phrase, “Easy…it’s so easy, baby…” Hey, where are the Fistfuck outtakes, baby?
The second track is “Prelude to Alice the Goon”, fortuitously enough, replete and complete with murky lurking bass and the wah-wahing of another duck in sorrow. Occasional echoes of manhole settling like a flipped coin (cf. “Human Human Human”), and high squealing squalls besides. Meditative tablas and feminine ululations complete the picture. The other side continues effervescent with an etched collage of various typefaces and images, silkscreened onto the vinyl itself; reminiscent of Mr. Stapleton‘s days as a sign-painter. A beautiful pitiful beautiful artefact. Don’t touch the side with the images on it – the oil from your fingerprints will leave a mark! I bought two copies just to make sure I didn’t screw the second one up. Damn! Now that one’s bonked!
Nurse With Wound – The Ladies Home Tickler
Label: United Dairies Format: CD
The squeals lurch in weals and are samples picked at random? What’s the criteria for their choosing – what’s the silent story? And the face gazes blindly from the cover – monolithic, monophidelic. An atmosphere rumbles behind what could be very few sounds or very many. “Say Ahh.” And then examination; revelation. Is the tape loop our romantic paean to infinity? The weal turns and returns, turned over again.
What universes dance on the head of a cd-player? The whorls and cheeps engender their own zoo, through which wander vibrating voices. Hither thither and yon, making as much sense to us as we do the cat or the fish, speaking to them as folks often do. And how are these sounds regarded by animals? Is animal experimentation using experimental music so unviable? Conrad Schnitzler use to compose “Katzenmusik” – has this fallen by the wayside? Too cruel – too banal? “Better a dead fly than…uh…koff…so sorry.”
Nurse With Wound And Aranos – Santoor Lena Bicycle
Label: United Dairies Format: CD
One of Nurse With Wound‘s most assuredly out there recordings in a career constructed from such moments, Santoor Lena Bicyle takes many of the elements of rhythm and groove Steven Stapleton and collaborators have been working on over the last few releases, condenses them, mashes them up again and throws half away to produce a further chapter of derangement. With Aranos on board, the mood is enhanced by his string-bending and bowing, making the customary, if a little neglected, trademark NWW Musique Concrét sound writhe again.
There’s comedy and tragedy, ominous threats of something Other in the clink of chains and whispers. While driblles of one sound make curiously inverted connections, another is assuredly waiting in the wings to surprise and tickle. All this and the packaging too, with a CD sandwiched between to 5″ squares of double-sided wood bolted together, and here’s the even better rub: these are none other than sections of the eleven paintings by Aranos and Stapleton which provide the track titles, sealed with a ribbon; guaranteed to break the future bank of those unfortunate enough not to make the necessary splash on buying it in this gallery edition.
Some sublime block taps, creaks and slowbass shuffles on “Mary Jane” make for what is possibly the album’s melodic highlight as Aranos draws halting emotion from his bowing to the accompaniment of a rattly metal-strung acoustic guitar and some warped crooning and deep-throated growling Blues singing. There’s some more scat bemoaning to the halting scrapes on “Dusty Belle”, (with ominous yowls) and these two together make for a odd addition to the flavour of NWW, but the real surprise comes with the ultra-Funky, Can-style cod Reggae groove interlude of “Sunset Belly Mother” to follow on in similarly off-kilter song mode from the extraneous material released on Second Pirate Session.
Elsewhere, impish yowls are brought up from the stretched, coiled wires; pianos tinkle seemingly to themselves; water trickles; the scrawl of tension in a violin or viola or a gong or a scrap of metal can make the skin crawl as the percussing of same edges tension into the scheme. By the closing squeaks and somewhat lavatorial groanings of “Knife Knows His Doing”, complete with helter-skelter drum-machine finale and disturbingly scratchy baby-wail noise assault to make every Techno fan run a mile wailing in horror, there is plentiful evidence of the playful dementia tally accrued – and the verdict? Lysergic in excelsis, once again.
Nurse With Wound – She And Me Fall Together In Free Death
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Format: LP
Opening with a gurgling faux-didj sheen which soon develops into a four-floored drumkit rhythm of the not-quite title track, She And Me Fall Together In Free Death finds Steven Stapleton expanding the consciouness of his Nurse With Wound project in further psychedelic directions. As the beat keeps pounding on with single-minded determination, it takes a good ten minutes to get going. While the undelying rhythm alters slowly, Kosmische shards of kranky guitar chords emerge fitfully as muttered, menacingly obscure vocalisations circle in the lower depths, nodding to the psychotropic Rock groove with the shamanic intensity of a fully smoked-up session which winds into a frizzled electrical fire.
More surprising is the twinkling bell introduction which prefaces a slow dirge cover of “Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair”, in which Stapleton sings Patty Waters‘ paen with a full-bodied, wistful voice which is accompanied by a suitably cavernous wall of sound shot through with etherial pre-echoing words. A quiet triumph of melancholia which reveals that Nurse With Wound are not just about funny noises – though the deliciously deranged “Chicken Concrete (for Mr. James)” proceeds to blip, grunt and scratch into Dada oblivion with carefully-placed environmental farmyard sounds deliquesing in a clockwork whirl of microsound for maniacs, dream soundscapes of a cheesed-up dreamer dozing too close to the barn doors of perception with the airwaves tuned to Radio Tesla.
The final eerie descent into lasciviouness on “Gusset Typing” is where matters become quintessentially disturbing as only Nurse With Wound can make them, as a pornographic story is read in hyper-effected voice to a suitably orgasmic orchestration of throbbing electronics and female moans. This is a piece destined to receive very little radio airplay, but conjours peculiar images of some kind of avant-porno phone sex session designed not so much to gratify the punters as freak the living fuck out of them on a wave of dehumanised, stiltedly lewd words and glowing technomagical audio stimulation. Taken as a whole, She And Me Fall Together In Free Death is proof positive that Stapleton is still the great avant-garde weird dream merchant and no mistake.