Thursday, 4 October 2018

Nurse With Wound - Insect & Individual Silenced (1981)


It seems Steve Stapleton ended up hating this one, hence its patchy bordering on barely-happening reissue history. On the other hand, it's fairly dear to my own heart, or at least dear-ish - being the first Nurse With Wound album I ever bought, a purchase facilitated by a rare trip down to that London, and specifically to the Virgin megastore because it was a bit fucking tricky getting hold of this stuff if you lived out in the sticks. I had Homotopy to Marie on order at the short-lived Shipston-on-Stour record store for about a year before the proprieter eventually gave up.

I say dear-ish because clearly I didn't regard the thing with such affection as to keep me from flogging it to Vinyl Experience in the nineties along with a stack of Whitehouse albums when raising funds for early Foetus records - two albums and four singles which are great records, so I never quite regretted sacrificing my copy of Insect & Individual Silenced, although it would have been nice to have been paid more than twenty fucking quid for it, particularly when it was in the racks for eighty a week later. Twenty years pass, and I notice that I still have a tape of the album, because I used to obsessively tape albums as I bought them, and the tape is of such quality that, once digitised, it's pretty much the same as having the album back; so that's nice.

You probably already have a fairly good idea of what Nurse With Wound sound like, and that's what Insect & Individual Silenced sounds like, except more so to my ears because it was the first one I heard. This was my introduction to a whole new, seriously weird world. The most startling aspects of the record, at least to me, were the razor sharp edits chopping up disparate slabs of sound without the usual luxury of reverb to make it seem at least a little moody and romantic; and the way in which the next sound you hear is usually the last you would expect, and the one which makes the least obvious sense. Alvin's Funeral builds up around what are probably random notes pinged from the spokes of a revolving bicycle wheel, combined with unnerving bursts of feedback and worrying poetry in a little girl voice which I always assumed to belong to Danielle Dax, but I could be wrong. The other side features two tracks, first being Absent Old Queen Underfoot, a collaboration with Jim Thirlwell and Trevor Reidy of the Shock Headed Peters. It's mostly subdued noise and brushed drums serving more as irritation than rhythm, like flies bashing against a window; truthfully, it doesn't really do much, but works well as an uncomfortable respite after the barrage of Alvin's Funeral. Finally there's the six minutes of Mutil├ęs De Guerre which closes the album with loops of dialogue, electronic noise, and a bit of Ludwig van himself on the old ukelele - again maybe nothing special in its own right, but powerful in context of the album as a whole by contributing to a peculiar sense of narrative progression.

Insect & Individual Silenced should be experienced as though it were a surrealist film, a cousin to the work of Man Ray, Maya Deren and others, but struck through with something equivalent to the uneasy mutterings of Hans Bellmer; and happily, being a musical recording, the album has sidestepped the cauterising effect of the art establishment and is thus able to present Dadaist shock without us having to watch Waldemar Januszczak wanking himself silly. Of course there are still the trainspotting twats who will tell you this was early industrial music, but as it makes Gristle sound like Pink Floyd I'd say we can safely ignore such bollocks.

Lord knows why Stapleton was so down on this one. Personally, I think it's wonderful.

4 comments:

  1. I think it's one of his best too. Incidentally, the plucking sounds come from "Endless Music" by Albrecht/d. (I identified about thirty samples on this album. I'm a bit sad like that).

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    1. Actually, that *is* interesting! I assume you mean the sound I've described as notes pinged off a bicycle wheel. I only really know of Albrecht/d from those very early TG tapes.

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    2. Yes the 'bicycle' sounds (actually a huge, one-stringed instrument played with a soft mallet). The "Endless Music" album is from 1974 and a bit of a goodie, in my opinion.

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  2. The recurring scream on Mutiles de Guerre is Brigitte Fontaine, from her self-titled 1972 album - a more bizarre piece of work, actually.

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