Friday, 27 July 2007

Northampton Wools

Northampton Wools is a duo comprised of Thurston Moore and Bill Nace, two of my favourite axe-shredding fools. Therefore I was very excited about receiving this debut release in the mail, a double cassette blow-out.
Four sides of bombastic, violent amp-confrontation tempered by some eerie lull that closes down side 4. An almost power-electronics level of unremitting heaviosity is achieved throughout.
The packaging is very nice as well, minimal and eloquent, which is a pleasant suprise as sometimes these underground cassette joints come in decidely sketchy packaging.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Le Weekend Sunday night review

We arrived slightly late which meant the Glasgow Improviser's Orchestra had already begun when we arrived. We were lead up a stairway and along a corridor, a door was unlocked (?!) and we were in a dim auditorium looking down on approximately a dozen players. Most of them were still except this one blonde lady who sat, hands clasped as she screeched and wailed into a microphone. Suddenly another lady holding an upright bass suddenly struck the low string quite forcefully and looked around meaningfully. It continued in this way, each player or, at most, two players taking a shot at improvising. Quite engaging although began to drag towards the end. At one point the pianist was lifting and setting down the lid of the piano and then jingling his car keys about. Players were also staming their feet on the ground and clapping their hands to contribute spontaneous percussive sounds. My friend reckoned the whole thing was a bit impotent and stifled but I have to say it was this impotence that sort of endeared me to the whole affair.

Next was a screening of a film about Cornelius Cardrew and the Scratch Orchestra. It was edited to give it a sort of punk rock/fluxus vibe that I found quite appealling. The Scratch Orchestra, it seems, ultimately became overly concerned with politics. Cornelius Cardrew's extreme leftist leanings alienated the more bourgeious members. Anyway, by the end the film had sort of painted a picture of these guys as self-indulgent pompous dickheads. It's like they struggled to get laid or something and directed all this misplaced energy into some sort of abstract, inconsequential psuedo-political movement. I guess that sounds sort of harsh.. there was something cool and admirable about their initial anti-consumerist approach to music, it just seemed to get all blown out of proportion.

Then there was a performance by Nagasti Ne Te. I think that's what they were called. They were.. an odd choice for a self-proclaimed experimental music festival. Two chicks on bass and drums and a dude on guitar with harmonised vocals. Sort of struck me as the Japanese equivalent of Yo La Tengo cept with less dissonant rock moments. Their music struck me as slightly straightforward and dull. However, they were really polite, mild-mannered people so it was hard to bear any ill will towards them. The dude seemed sort of awkward and clumsy, carefully activating his pedals. He announced one song as "Me on the Beach" cept he pronounced it so it sounded like "bitch." Hilarious. Later, we surmised that that was what made them experimental - the marriage of sacharine melody to obscenely crude vocals, a nuance that was unfortunately lost on an English speaking audience.

Next up was Justice Yeldham. Second time I've seen this fool. Seeing the sheet of glass sitting in an instrument stand before he came on was getting me pretty amped. We looked around at the audience of middle-aged, self-styled intellectuals and I speculated that mass hysteria might erupt with people getting stampeded as everyone rushed for the exit. Then it would turn into an orgy but it would be a really depraved sinister orgy. People getting held down and cut while everyone stood around masturbating and watching. People writhing around in pools of blood and semen, headbutting each other. Me and my pal rapped on this theme for a while. We may be completely immoral and insane.
Justice was totally great. Not much variation from last time I saw him but still absolutely captivating. Dude delivers a completely visceral performance, really cathartic. The sight of his face pressed flat against a sheet of bloodied glass as he writhes around frantically combined with the inhuman processed howling and moaning that it creates is really exhilirating.

Finally, we had the Thing + ZU which I was anticipating highly. Unfortunately it sucked.
OK, it didn't totally suck. First the Thing came out and started off as a trio for about 10 minutes. Real high energy free jazz. I was getting completely psyched thinking I was witnessing one of the best things ever. Then ZU came out. They looked like nu-metal dudes. The bassist sort of had a rock/metal sensibility which I found a tad crude. Same with the drummer. And the ZU saxophonist didn't really contribute much I felt. Mats was on fucking fire tho. And the Thing drummer was awesome as well.
They played all these rock covers including a Lightning Bolt tune which had everyone cheering. Shame it was quite clumsily executed. Then for the encore they did a more subtle improv thing that was sort of more interesting than their actual set.

I bought the Monster Movie LP by Can from the Monorail stall then we went home.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

PRURIENT / HOTOGUISU - Snail on a Razor CD review

This is one of the deepest, heaviest 'noise' albums I've ever encountered. I use the term hesitantly as whilst it is undoubtably harsh and dissonance, it avoids the stereotypes of noise music to produce something that flows, is beautiful and mesmerising whilst simultaneously being utterly harrowing. Prurient's idiosyncratic vocal howling is barely audible, submerged as it is within a maelstrom of noise. Dark waves of static and din collide and crash, evoking dim sad swimming pool echo and the gruelling tunnel despair of heavy rain and short days. Overall, this is a pretty monolithic piece of music, with sharp zaps of power-electronics swirling the listener from ancient decay to futuristic fucking torture so quickly, you may just feel nauseous. Another quality Hospital Productions product.



Monday, 14 May 2007


The Incomprehensible Outpourings of a Solipsistic Obsessive

Pattern Recognition

The way it all becomes completely unhinged towards the end.

The Sprawl

Ditto. But more balanced between screaming harsh chaos and blissful melody.

Word Looks Red

Frenetic slide guitar work. See live video for evidence.

She’s in a Bad Mood

Atonal one-chord drone opening.

Brave Men Run

Bohemian vocal wail married to guitar chime sickness.

Society Is A Hole

Turgid, choppy, slow-motion maelstrom of 1980s folk noise.

Death to Our Friends

Nightmare race on dark roads

Shadow of a Doubt

Midway thru, guitars build up momentum and churn, hum like burning ghosts. Ambient anguish.


Pretty monolithic guitar riff drift pinned down with a steady, hypnotic beat.

The Wonder

The ‘solo’ is sort of revisited in a much brighter form on Incinerate.

Stereo Sanctity

Superb P K Dick vocal evocation, thundering/splintering zen drum chug whilst guitars sound like failing engines.

Pipeline/Kill Time

Cryptic, evocative lyrics issued with poetic nonchalance. Tumbling drums with best fill ever. You know the one I mean.

Female Mechanic Now on Duty

Midday anguish, grinding motion of construction/machinery.


Slow, heavy, and mesmerising, just how we like ‘em.

Dude Ranch Nurse

Ditto, but with more axe wailing which introduces a whole ‘nother element.

Sympathy for the Strawberry

Swelling mass of sonic fog – chilling wind chime tinkle.

Helen Lundeberg

No wave art rock (and roll???) Could be the ultimate Sonic Youth song, a real pleasant surprise at this stage in the game.


Heavy, thick zaps of suburban summer thunder.

Bull in the Heather

Sci-fi zaps, robotic belches and maraca enhanced drum breaks.

Sweet Shine

Alternative universe diva whispering amidst guitar shimmer.

Winner’s Blues

Totally dig the reverb soaked vocal.


Totally dig the noise intermission, specifically Thurston’s measured use of wah-wah. See live video for evidence.

Washing Machine

Haunting and tumbling in equal measures, initial unease is created with tunnel vocal and then dissolved with long mind baker of a noise meltdown


62 Jazzmaster… rolling slow and smooth… Culkin’s lips… swinging hair… horse paintings... detached gaze

Contre Le Sexisme

Western epic dissonance

Marilyn Moore

Complete submerging despair, clanking guitar, insane shepard alone on isolated hill at midnight.


Really warm… bass mewls like a cat by a warm fire of slowly burning guitars…

Tom Violence

I’ve picked more songs from EVOL than I realised I would. This has very gradually become my favourite Sonic Youth record; initially I was actually quite underwhelmed by it. TV is teenage soul scream.

Expressway to Your Skull

All the mysteries of existence compacted into infinity minutes of rock affirmation – hysterical scree – eerie hospital ambience… (I refer to vinyl locked groove track length)

Early American

Haunting Kim G vocal… slow burning embers...

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Recent disks I've been enjoying

Merzbow - Merzbuddha (rhythmic pulsing noise meditations)
No New York (an atonal yet dancable staple)
The New Blockaders - Gemantnichtswerk (disc two is crazy)
Mouthus - The Long Salt (heavy heavy electronic jungle dirges lost in falling rain)

stuff I look forward to jamming in the near future:
Merzbow/Giffoni/O'Rourke - Electric Dress
Vampire Can't - Key Cutter
Skaters - Dark Rye Bread
Starving Weirdos - Harry Smith
Brotzmann Octet - Machine Gun

Monday, 2 April 2007

Text of Light - Metal Box review

Below is copy which I intended to submit for a music review website which never happened. Here it is in its unedited glory.

Text of Light features a shifting pool of improvisers including Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Alan Licht, Ulrich Krieger, Christian Marclay, William Hooker, Tim Barnes and DJ Olive. The group perform improvised soundtracks to the avant-garde silent films of Stan Brakhage. Myriad live appearances are assembled across these three discs contained in a replica of the PiL metal box, engraved ToL.

Disc one starts the proceedings with the groups first ever set, from New York’s Tonic club in 2001. The music is immediately frenzied and abrasive. Hooker’s frenzied free jazz drumming collides against Marclay’s warped turntables. Things calm down enough for some pleasantly modulated guitar to seep through. The set continues this way: alternately frenetic and then subdued. Eerie dissonance remains a constant. At times the instruments are difficult to distinguish from each other. This being their first show, some listeners may perceive teething problems, parts where things go slightly awry. Others may delight in the earnest experimentation and spontaneity of it all, such as the end of track one when the other instruments gradually whittle away leaving a surreal turntable loop.

Track two is rooted firmly in sci-fi sound effect territory, a cauldron of modulated electronic signals and bleeps accompany Ranaldo’s trademark delayed guitar. It sounds reminiscent of another recent successful Sonic Youth side project - Four Guitars Live. Patterns, melodies and sketches of structure may emerge briefly but are quickly blown away in a hurricane of noise. There is no definitive path, everything is shifting and subjective, just like Brakhage’s films.

Track five features slabs of drone with notes and tones flickering briefly like flashes of light illuminating an empty auditorium.

Disc one closes with a 17 minute voyage to nowhere. It begins with ominous foghorn sounds, crashing cymbals like waves and a slowly melting saxophone. The sounds evoke bleak plains with ink black birds scattered across an empty grey sky. This is the group at their most filmic, a sound they will revisit more centrally later on. Wide open sonic architecture is erected to accommodate Brakhage’s images.

Disc two assembles material from various sources including an improvisation by Krieger, Ranaldo and Licht over a stanza of James Joyce’s poetry. No-one can accuse Text of Light of not being interdisciplinary.

Disc two also includes an excerpt from the group’s most recent set in Brussels 2005. A more minimal approach is utilised here with heavy slabs of drone intercepting each other. The main difference between the way the group sounds here as opposed to on disc one is in the percussion department. With William Hooker at the helm in 2001, Text of Light had a more scattershot, fierce free-jazz strategy. Later shows featured Tim Barnes replacing Hooker. Barnes, who also features on Sonic Youth’s tremendous SYR6, is concerned with a lighter, more subtle approach. Tinkling bells and chimes leave the guitars and sax to create wide open vistas of atmospheric noise. The overall result is possibly more satisfying than the group’s earlier experiments which, at times, seem to lack focus and cohesion.

Also included here are live studio sessions from 2002 which find the group without a drummer. Instead DJ Olive and Christian Marclay feature on turntables. The results are generally impressive although at times the sampling seems slightly arbitrary, leaving the other musicians tentative, seemingly unsure as to how to engage with the turntables.

Disc two closes with an excerpt from a Berlin gig in 2003 with Ranaldo, Licht, Krieger, Barnes and DJ Olive. Again, Barnes percussion is magnificent. He seems to know when to be more prominent and when to hold back and has a great array of tools for the job. DJ Olive’s work here is inspired as well, his short samples of foreign voices, explosions and general destruction lend a grim atmosphere to the piece. In contrast the guitars are quieter, placid, almost verging on melodic at times.

On disc three we find the unit at their most monolithic, sparse, and satisfying. Phosphorescent electronic sparks illuminate vast canvases of ominous feedback and drone. The music seems to be slowly exiting Earth’s atmosphere to explore distant, desolate planets. The percussion here evokes corroded structures collapsing in the distance. Suddenly horns blurt in, squawking like exotic dying animals. The looming wall of noise caves in to a frenzied free jazz assault. Instruments stutter and squeal , the whole structure on the verge of collapse. High frequency alarm tones bring to mind My Cat is an Alien. Shimmering vistas of feedback, a silver electronic sun illuminating glittering percussive shards. Dead-end horns lament over post-apocalyptic scenes of terminal decay. Snippets of tentative horns echo into infinity in a whirlwind of clattering percussion.

There is much within this metal box to sit down with and gradually immerse yourself in. I found it fun to trace the lineage of the group and listen to the Text of Light line up gradually morph over the three discs. This box still serves as a vital artefact for this formidable improv unit and will appeal to experimental noise chin strokers as well as the more adventurous Sonic Youth fan.