Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Z'ev - Salts of Heavy Metals (1981)


Here's another one I bought, then sold so as to finance purchase of obscure Foetus records, having concluded it was a bit of a racket with nothing anywhere near so catchy as his hit single on Fetish, a faintly bewildering cover of Wipe Out by the Surfaris; and now I've bought it again because it felt strange that I should no longer have a copy; and I'm sort of glad I did, I guess.

Someone or other once described a certain band as the sound of metal dustbins thrown down a fire escape. It may even have been me, although if so I probably nicked the description from someone else. Anyway that's what Salts of Heavy Metals actually sounds like, mostly being Z'ev, who was a chap rather than a fully instrumented beat combo, kicking things he'd liberated from scrap yards across a stage, not even rhythmically. It's just a noise which seems slightly out of place on a record, which is why I still find it intriguing.

Coming back to Salts after a couple of decades, my first hunch was that it represents something like antimusic in the vein of the New Blockaders, but having boned up on the lad's interviews, it's clear his intentions were musical, and that all those lumps of metal hauled back from the side of the road were chosen for their tonal potential; and the more you listen to this record, the more sense it makes.

Needless to say, there's nothing particularly restful on here and there's not much variation in mood, but the tracks sound quite different to each other despite the brutalist method of composition; and the closer you listen, the more you find to enjoy, or at least appreciate. The best I can come up with to describe it is a sonic analogy of abstract expressionism, with the atmosphere - mostly a pretty tense one - formed from what are effectively random scrapes and slashes of noise.

My other hunch - other than the one about Salts being antimusic - was that the performance was surely the thing with this sort of stuff, and a recording will inevitably fail to pack the same punch as the spectacle of a seven foot skinhead swinging bits of tractor around his head on lengths of chain; and it's certainly a point, but then again a record is a different medium and probably shouldn't be judged by the same criteria. This still leaves us with the oddity that here the noise is nevertheless presented as music which, as I say, is probably what makes it so weirdly enticing. It's a sound you wouldn't expect to come out of your speakers, and is of such composition as to inspire questions about where the music ends and the random noises and fridge hum of one's own daily existence begins, or if there's even a division.

Salts of Heavy Metals probably isn't likely to become a staple at any of those Christmas parties I never host, but it's still really nice to have it back.