Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Five Years of HNM Records (2020)


'Sure,' I said, 'I'll give it a listen.' Imagine then my surprise when I downloaded the thing and discovered it to be a collection of thirty-five tracks amounting to four hours of my precious time. This is why I don't do downloads, or at least why I keep saying I don't do downloads despite that I obviously do, because here I am yet again.

I burned it onto four CDRs and took one out with me as I went about my business each morning but, unfortunately, found it a bit depressing, at least initially. As I may have mentioned, I'm not sure I quite understand noise so my enthusiasm wasn't what it could be, not at first. Then, after about a month of just two or three plays of one of the discs, I suddenly found myself wanting to hear the thing again. I think it was circumstances, because noise can make a lot of sense when you're having a tough time of it. Also, something here had apparently got its hooks into me.

Harsh Noise Movement is something of an enigma, a noise label, but a strange one run with an extraordinarily deadpan sense of humour, unless they're actually even weirder than I realised. I've still never quite made it to the end of all their releases listed on Bandcamp, and amongst all the stuff I suppose you might expect of a label named Harsh Noise Movement we also find Nihilist Cat, Transgender Godzilla, George & Lynne - those evergreen cartoon nudists some of you may know from the Sun newspaper, Gaz Top, William Shakespeare, prurient Star Trek references, and an album pointedly called Let's Take Photos of Leaves with Our iPhones and Use Them for the Album Covers Because Explicit Images on Noise Albums are so Fucking Lame. Before I forget, we also have the An Evening of Rape with Rolf Harris EP. That Wire magazine cover feature is probably still some way off.

This compilation, once you've finally got all the way through the cunt, reveals itself to be a genuinely peculiar mix which nullifies accusations of self-conscious wackiness by sheer quality of work. Ade Rowe, label CEO, informs me that these tracks are all taken from existing releases, although I can't find half of them on the Bandcamp page, not that it matters. For those who care, the bigger name contributors include Asmus Tietchens, Smell & Quim, the Ceramic Hobs, Macronympha, Evil Moisture, Incapacitants, Torturing Nurse, Eugene Chadbourne, and Rudolf Eb.er. There's plenty of noise, as you may have anticipated, most of it overpowering, and most of it pretty absorbing with all manner of hard shit going on inside the high definition blast zone. Many of these tracks are ten minutes to a quarter of an hour long, and no two of them sound alike - and nothing even vaguely resembling Whitehouse either, if that's worth mentioning. PBK's Stirring the Hornet's Nest and Thirdorgan's La OrgĂ­a de los Muertos have stood out as particularly rewarding in terms of raw texture and generally doing something which is better than you expected it to be, but most of it's good and there's nothing demanding the use of the skip function.

The noise is balanced by all sorts - a Japanese woman covering Bowie's Five Years, accompanying herself on an acoustic guitar - and very good too - free jazz, actual rap music, punk rock from the Ceramic Hobs, Dadaism, a genuinely amusing tribute to Donald Trump, the faintly sarcastic cold wave of Manufactorum, and other stuff for which I don't think anyone yet came up with a name. I wasn't massively thrilled by Eugene Chadbourne's hillbilly cover of Nazi Punks Fuck Off (although I can't fault the sentiment) but a three minute lull in four hours of material hardly justifies anyone asking to speak with your manager.

I guess I've now listened to this thing about five or six times and I'm still not bored with it, and most surprising of all - at least to me - is that the best material is actually the harshest and noisiest, tracks which reveal new depths with each repeat play. If noise had been anything like this good back in the so called golden age, I never would have drifted off in search of something with a bit of a tune.

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