Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Bliss Signal (2018)

I've had a look on the internet in an attempt to find out what's going on here, but I'm too old and it's too confusing with all sorts of unfamiliar terms, such as electronic metal. In my day, metal was a portly lad in a denim jacket with Judas Priest written on the back in biro in slightly wonky old English lettering, and usually spelt wrong - Judas Preast or whatever. Should you attempt to engage him in a conversation about electronic metal he'd probably decide you were gay, thus ensuring your never being able to enjoy a drink in the White Bear ever again, at least not without some of it being poured over your head by random bikers you don't even know but who've heard all about the local bum bandit.

Anyway, metal has thankfully moved on, and now sounds a bit like some of Nocturnal Emissions darker works of the nineties, which is fine by me. Bliss Signal present walls of guitar decay tempered with that machine gun bass pedal thing - blast beats, according to the man on the internet; beyond which I'm left trying to describe this thing without invoking either cathedrals of sound or collapsing black holes. It's huge, and is suggestive of vast things happening a long way away, yet all coming together to somehow form a symphony much like that aircraft formed by a hurricane blowing through a scrapyard so beloved of creationists who don't understand stuff.

Electronic metal is probably as good a description as any, if you really need one, and it's not as annoying as dark ambient. Bliss Signal is better though, a hint towards something celestial, and a cause of fear only because it otherwise defies description. Jolly good.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Att Förstå Ensamhet (2018)

Here's another cassette tape which has been sent to me almost out of the blue, which is naturally very gratifying, not least because it's a fucking great tape - a compilation featuring contributions from Zones of Industrial Wasteland, Death Boys, Biskop Salutati, 3 Sfärer Överherre, the Woodpeckerz, Dom Goda Djuren, and Lars Larsson. I'd never heard of them either, excepting Lars Larsson from Cloister Crime and the semi-legendary En Halvkokt I Folie. Cloister Crime were responsible for Devilish Music for an Unredeemable, one of my all-time favourite things to come from the weirdy tape scene, and En Halvkokt I Folie seem to be Sweden's answer to Throbbing Gristle, at least in terms of cultural significance; although being Swedish they seem to have a more well developed sense of humour, so maybe that makes them Sweden's answer to Faust or summink; or maybe Faust were Germany's answer to En Halvkokt I Folie.


I don't really know much about the Swedish music scene, but it's intriguing that at the age of fifty-three not only am I yet to hear anything truly awful from Sweden, but the underground stuff is mostly fucking amazing, as is reflected here. The title seems to translate as Understanding Solitude and the music varies from tape collage to noisy improvisation to brooding electronics to Halloween soundtrack - here implying the possible influence of John Carpenter as much as anything. There's something very satisfying about forty minutes of the unexpected finding its way to me in 2018, and in a format which has been otherwise written off in mainstream consumer channels. I could definitely stand to hear a lot more like this one.

Availabubble yonder.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Ippu-Do - Radio Fantasy (1981)

It's taken me thirty-five years to get around to tracking this down and buying it, all based on the patronage of Bill Nelson and Magic Vox - as briefly seen on the telly about a century ago - being a pleasingly chunky slice of angular new wave. Perhaps inevitably, it's not what I expected and does all sorts of things I probably wouldn't have noticed back in 1981, but which have since become conducive to a degree of smirking under normal circumstances - not least of these sins being a rendering of the Mission: Impossible theme, the inevitable sixties cover, and our old friend cod reggae.

Ignoring the obvious objections, I opted to just keep playing the thing until it made sense, until it stopped sounding like Magic Vox with twelve b-sides. Surprisingly, I was hooked by about the third hearing.

Ippu-Do are described online as the meeting point between Yellow Magic Orchestra and Japan - as in Japan the band. I'm not sure the comparison entirely works, although it's probably significant that Masami Tsuchiya eventually joined the aforementioned Japan, and that Bill Nelson plays on Rice Music, his solo album. Whilst such associations may suggest promise, we probably shouldn't get too carried away here. Radio Fantasy is technologically flashy, or was at the time, but now sounds so profoundly of the eighties that it could probably pass for vapourwave. Once you're over this, there's still the characteristically eastern notation - which I initially can't help but hear as plinky-plonky ying tong yellowface - and yes, the reggae numbers, a Japanese new wave band trying their hand at reggae.

At this point you may have lost count of all that could have gone horribly wrong; but the key here is that Radio Fantasy just doesn't give a shit. It does what it does, and does its best, and ultimately hopes you'll like it, which I did. The whole enterprise has a daft undercurrent but keeps a straight face throughout, even with Tsuchiya's wailing and dubious pronunciation. Ultimately it wins on the strength of production, and all the peculiar little technological touches reminding me a little of Yello, and that these are simply great songs given a fantastically atmospheric rendering. Ultimately it succeeds because it doesn't do anything you might anticipate in quite the way you would expect it to.

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.