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Graham Bowers & Nurse With Wound – Mutation

Red Wharf

Graham Bowers & Nurse With Wound - MutationThey’ve been here before. Well, not quite here but near enough. This isn’t the first collaboration and, on this evidence, it won’t be the last. They’ve found that rubbing up against each other generates just enough electricity (teenage lightning, perhaps).

I’ve been in and out of the NWW canon for what seems like all the years now; I drift away, malcontent; having heard it all before (the creaks, the sighs, the gushes and rattles) and then something drags me back into the fold again, some little release slips out and makes me reconsider the oeuvre all over again (and inevitably sends me back to all the other stuff I have; re-listening, re-discovering). So it’s been with Steven Stapleton since I used to play out his Automating Volume 2 (still my favourite) record on the (not at all) infamous Swansea University lunchtime radio slot. It wasn’t a popular show. Perhaps not even memorable. I’ve loved some releases, I’ve let others pass me by. I’m always interested and they often get my attention when I’m not expecting to hear them but… there’s so many Nurse With Wound records out there, so many people to collaborate with and, surely, only so many ways to play that studio.

Graham Bowers & Nurse With Wound - MutationWell, sort of. The studio’s clearly like chess. Even the same sounds can be moved around in thousands of configurations and you get the feeling that both these guys are sticklers for placement; in this release, the sounds must be there, in that release they must be there; this is non-negotiable and is a constant joy. There’s nothing slapdash about this, even the chance meetings are carefully considered. This is a world that isn’t yours and they’re letting you know that. There’s a sophistication about NWW releases now not present in those earlier ones which received ????? ratings from Sounds magazine; spontaneity, for sure, but every idea seems like it’s been fully considered, placed like a line in Finnegan’s Wake, thought and wrought.

This particular release is one of my favourites from recent times and I guess it’s because it sounds a little like a demented carnival, like the music from my little ‘uns ‘educational’ iPad games filtered through Maldoror, through André Breton’s Exquisite Corpse, through (add in your own). The juxtapositions perhaps aren’t as jarring as they once were, but I’m grateful for that, having no further desire to bewilder my senses, to annoy myself into submission. At times, this even sounds like someone else could’ve recorded it (okay, that’s a lie). These are singular artists and together that doesn’t diminish (the issues I have with collaboration is that often you get a kind of compression; none here). I’m really enjoying this album. It’s kinda fun.


Every record in this series (this is the fourth collaboration) sounds like it belongs as part of the sequence and, a little frustratingly, you get a feeling similar to the dread when you realise during, say the third season of Homeland, that this could just run and run and run and… although you’re loving it, there’s something nagging at you that says: I desperately need an ending here. If you can get over this, or if you’re looking for another gateway drug back into the world of NWW then this is for you. I’m still waiting on them saying that next season will be the last.


Graham Bowers & Nurse With Wound - Mutation inner

Another fine instalment from the crossed wires of Bowers and Stapleton and what a lovely gyroscopic mess it is too. A continuous musical (mis)adventure divided into six sections whooping an avant classical knot of slippery eels that’s thematic spun around the notion of lunatics overrunning the asylum. Those tonal flashes, plunging necklines and swivelling hinges of the first track certainly cheese-wire your hemisphere good and proper, then proceed to trample over them in ceramic clogs. Beats that build bridges over an illness of weeping shivers and fanfares, cross-roaded in Billy Bunter-like rotunds on hot buttery escalators.

Honestly, for this duo its business as (ab)normal — a drift of Stravinsky-like ruptures that holds plenty to the eerie collaging of the surrounding artwork, some of Stapleton’s best methinks. The gnawing tremors of “Mind Rodents” descending xylo-chandeliers that weirdly manage to sound (actually) tuneful, scattered into the night like a palm full of stars; or are they spanners falling down a drainpipe? Duality, duplicates, doppelgänger pear drops, this is bold bombastic stuff full of ratchetty details that eat away at your concubines in all the best ways.

‘The Looping Flaw” is like a Simon Rattle Groundhog Day caught in Reich repeating circles (a motif that returns), thumping booms swamped in emergency bleeps and bendy pins. Pianos that sound like teeth bouncing off milk bottles, pottery chinks grinning like a mischievous door-to-door salesman caught from behind. Bloated paintwork bubbling up, cracking, revealing the whir of little clockwork chambers before squirting the toothpaste tube over the mangled mathematics once again. The speaker a swarming bed of intrigue stirred anti-clockwise with a bony finger. Really brings a tear to my eye, like a muddling of the sorcerer’s apprentice swing-sawing on some invisible tightrope; its vertigo’s hard to shake.

Those glorious clanking textures held in a hyperactivity of angles and lunges that coaster in crazy perspectives, the strange muttering voices that seem to be speaking from behind your wall rather than within the music. Outruns itself in comedic shapes that flutter, quake, wallow in the broken shadows of their former selves, the end of “Ceremonial Distortion” suddenly sounding like a taurine(ed) Herbie Hancock throwing a few hammers between his ivory breakdowns.

Mutation fits glove like with the others that proceeded it, leaving the fabulous entitled “Mothering Tongue” to seal the deal in looptastic intensity, rushing contours all zitttttttherrrry gong (the instrument, not the band) fish until left bleeping out into the darkness like a red myopic eye.

Right; I’m gonna spin this baby again and try to mentally trap more of its blurring edges. I doff my hat to you, Graham and Steven: you’ve gone and created another masterpiece of I’m not sure what.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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