Wednesday, 1 November 2017

23 Skidoo - The Culling is Coming (1983)

I have no excuse for not having bought this at the time, barring - I suppose - being skint due to having bought other records or paid rent or whatever. As promised in vaguely remembered reviews, it's nothing like Seven Songs, except actually it sort of is, but mainly in spirit. There was a period of about six months when 23 Skidoo were seemingly regarded as a sort of baby Throbbing Gristle, partially by association in a social sense, but also sharing some areas of interest. The Culling is Coming reminds me of Second Annual Report to a much greater extent than anything else they ever recorded, whilst also representing an affirmation of 23 Skidoo as very much a unique proposition in its own right.

The Culling is Coming comprises a couple of live improvised performances and, being awkward buggers, the lads punctuate one of these with a lock groove halfway through side one, requiring that the listener get up and move the needle on; so it's a little like having a three-sided album. The music derives from loops of rough sound - some treated, tapes, atonal thigh-bone trumpets, and Gamelan instrumentation - or possibly percussive objects found laying around in the days before anyone had heard of metal bashing. It should be a complete fucking racket in the sense of the New Blockaders being a complete fucking racket, and yet there's enough tonal contrast from dark to light, heavy to soft, that it has a definite musical sensibility, or at least a sense of progression; and this is why The Culling is Coming reminds me of Second Annual Report. There's not much you can actually hum on the way to work, but after a couple of spins it all gets ground into your inner ear in a way which sticks.

The album has the same sort of beauty one might find staring at a plate of rusted metal for a couple of minutes; and it's really not such a leap of imagination to recognise this as a relative of the same drone you will have heard in the undergrowth of Seven Songs and Urban Gamelan. In some sense, it's almost an inversion of what much allegedly industrial music has done, in that it goes beyond the powerplay of noise, texture, shock, and awe to reveal a delicate perfection in the detail; and apparently I've just turned into Paul fucking Morley. Still, this was one of the absolute finest records of its admittedly nebulous genre, and it should be remembered as such.

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