Four new-ish releases here from Bristol’s micro-label LF, run by one Mr Dsic (not his real name), documenting aspects of noise and noise-ish music. A mixed bag, but that’s no bad thing – my weekly shop includes all sorts of things, from washing powder to aubergines (exotic, I know), and I don’t see why a record label should be any different. Unlike my weekly shop, however, the packaging here is all lovingly prepared by Mr Dsic – designers of own-brand supermarket soap packaging take note.
Sixteen Fingers – Sixteen Fingers
The noise side of the Rubik’s Cube known as music here. And noise is a form of music I’ve rarely dipped into since my days of willfully pissing off neighbours. In fairness, they didn’t cause my spots or lack of girlfriend, but I probably didn’t realise that at the time. Sixteen Fingers is far from the sort of macho posturing I would’ve liked at the time, which makes it a lot more appealing now – it’s a really nicely put together record. The first track (no titles with the packaging) rumbles along, noises snagging into an off-kilter beat and seemingly building to quite a racket; suddenly, a massive glacial drone appears at enormous volume in the middle of it. It’s that use of volume dynamics, tricking the listener into a false sense of volume security, that makes this a worthwhile listen. Discernible in and amongst the usual noise scree and underwater helicopter-like sounds there’s TV dialogue, odd little melodies and, at one point, a major scale on what sounds like a church organ (!)Unfortunately, I really struggle to describe noise records – my notes on this record read more like terrible teenage concrete poetry – “Good and sheety”; “Punctured beats waking Autechre“; “haunted TV on smack”. These all made sense while I was listening to the record (honest) but don’t really make for very insightful criticism. Though I’d wager that everyone who’s heard it will know what I mean when I mention he “makes like a pirate with swag in a choppy sea.”
Various artists – Night Terrors 1 2x CD LF015
A recording of a gig I was lucky enough to be present at, which took place in what the Guinness Book of World Records may well describe as the warmest gig ever. It’s a bit of a rough-and-ready recording, replete with audience coughs and the drone of two massive fans failing to alleviate the excoriating heat. The CD itself is a beaut – looking like some lurid, acid-scarred, netherworld version of the Happy Hardcore tape-packs of yore (well, my yore at least).
First up is joinedbywire, ploughing an unrelenting furrow of feedback and amp static, grinding away like a feral Ashtray Navigations. While I was listening, I remembered an old NME interview with some rubbish band saying they wanted their songs to sound like every decent outro ever made. Whoever that band was failed in their aims and fell from my memory, but it’s definitely a fair description of joinedbywire’s sound here. Making a collapsing racket with feedbacking guitars is pretty easy; keeping it interesting, as they do, is quite the feat. Certainly one of the better full-on guitar racket records I’ve heard in a fair while.Next, Non-Ferric Memories providing a bit of spatial and spacey relief from joinedbywire’s onslaught. Crunchy basslines deftly orient sparing scratches and scrapes of battered instruments, and their junk psychedelia draws the listener in nicely. There’s a tendency to use a dub-like reverb, which means notes hang in the air without clogging up the sound for too long (as with the infernal delay pedals of a lot of this sort of music) so there’s plenty of room for notes to manoeuvre. There’s a minimum of instrumental pyrotechnics, and their grasp of letting sounds develop means this sounds like a much more accomplished duo than their low gig count would suggest.
littlecreature next, a solo signal and effects-chain artist. And a very good artist at that – the first time anyone’s been near the peaks of (the recently defunct) Team Brick in the effect manipulation field for a long, long time. Partly this is down to choice of input – he’s got an genuinely unsettling falsetto yelp, and is quite happy leaving his other processed sounds to quietly, malevolently brood. There are moments of ranted distortion, but never long enough to get accustomed to them – meaning they sound really loud. Mr Creature (presumably not his birth name) was apparently not entirely impressed with the sound of the fans on the night, but I think they add a nice blurry drone to proceedings.
And finally, Skjølbat, the guitar and gongs improv duo of typesetter’s sweetheart and Matt Nolan, an instrument-builder from Bath. Unfortunately, it’s the only moment on this 2 CD set where the sound quality lets things down – on the night, the gongs had a massive and lush presence, swimming in overtones, but this isn’t really captured here. This is probably the quietest of the recordings, and unfortunately this means it’s stymied by the fans blowing the gong wash and prickly guitar into a phasey murk. I really enjoyed the show on the night – they managed to pull some great sections from the fragile, sticky awkwardness of the odd instrumentation, but I don’t think this CD shows Skjølbat in their best light. I’ve been told that their release on Journal of the Belgæ Folk club is a better representation – though I’ve yet to hear it myself – so interested parties might be better directed there.
My niggles with the Skjølbat set notwithstanding, Night Terrors 1 is a worthwhile release all round – the not-quite-high-end fidelity really suits three quarters of the discs, with their rattly, rackety mush, so it’d be a shame if people avoided the release because one set isn’t perfect.
Dsic – Roman Birdhouseit sounds alarmingly like a heavily amplified server room, all fan buzz and impossibly tight, unsettling intervals. A great record, really, just one that prohibits description.
Gnar Hest – Tracts on how severe/welcome nonexistence as harsh as isa nightmareish computer game soundtrack, darkly arpeggiating minor basslines in a way that makes me wonder how he’d fare in a string quartet setting. For those who know him more for being the Brick, it’s an odd release, but shows a delicate affection for composition sometimes missing from his more improvisatory work.
Four different sorts of racket here then, all sadly unlikely to appear next to the fruit and veg aisle any time soon.