Dead night blues, floor-ready space-spiritualism, anguished synth-wielding goth-disco fatalists, more wonders from the heyday of NY’s downtown scene and a neglected, heinous early new beat treasure…
Extnddntwrk – By (Fort Evil Fruit)
When Andrew Fearn isn’t providing the turbulent platform for Jason Williamson’s gobby but astute societal diagnoses in Sleaford Mods – a forceful, punk-energised loop-game edified by hip hop – he makes music as Extnddntwrk. Unlike the direct, rarely tamed impetus of those productions, his work – in this instance a cassette for Irish label Fort Evil Fruit – trades in a much more shaded and unsettling ambiguity. Here the immersive depths of drone and the heavyweight skews of industrial are imbibed, making it an abyssal beat music which diverges into more unreal territory. It’s not so much driven by the plague of everyday ills as beset by a dour fix of dead night blues where uncanny tremors and uncalculated, naturalistic clangour from some unknowably extensive and abandoned shaft resound. Despite the uniform, well-worn mood which dictates throughout, the ambition on display makes it more than a simple case of mordant surrealism. Harp work and smatterings of field recordings (dog barks, hissing cascade of rain, the stream of cars, a buried voice) heighten the sense of atmosphere, ensuring the haunting staying power of these forlorn, somnolent exercises. It’s as if this is the alternative, 3am aftermath of the Mods frenzied diatribes; a more resigned but curious expression of inner angst.
The Sun God – The Sun God and The Myth Lives On Trio (Cejero)
All the talk of Afrofuturism and its bearing on the work of Jamal Moss (aka Hieroglyphic Being) can sometimes eclipse just how grubby and raw his productions can get. Whilst the sense of an interplanetary flight path remains a relevant evocation in this latest missive, there’s a gutsy textural muckiness to the two parts (‘Cosmic Chords One & Two’) which constitute this latest 12” for Copenhaged-based experimental outlet Cejero. In keeping with the more attractive facets of his work, part one initially outlays hollow percussion and crisp effusion, with a continuous gleam filling the background, as if a synth is pouring out a lustrous, foreign substance. Eventually the predominance of an abrasive, in-the-red churn wrestles itself into contention establishing that old notion of a ‘journey’ taken – from free-floating delicacy to ear-wringing other-state - except here the concept doesn’t feel tiresome and you get the sense that it could go on and on, beyond the projected track time. But even with part one’s effective, ascendant protraction, part two is the highlight. Straight out of the gate it overlays an accelerated EBM thump and a drum-clap melee with the eventual unravelling of a jazz-flavoured excursion. It displays the essential kernel which makes Moss’ work such a marvel; that combination of expansiveness and anchorage. The sound of Sun Ra and Popol Vuh learning to jack; space-spiritualists giving it some.
Electroconvulsive Therapy Vol 3 – Obscure Singles Circa 83-86 (Medical Records)
Picture a brassily-clad throng of effete new romantic devotees; all the paint and performance, dance moves like automated constructions. Mute that slightly with the ashen filter of overcoated synth-punk; thematic predications mainly restricted to existential anxiety or unrequited yearning. Then pep it back up with the adrenalized high camp of Italo; back to the dramatization but this time a future that’s more hopeful yet constituted largely of absurd, nonsensical visions.
That’s the hybridized whole that comes close to the defining nature of the rediscovered singles collated here. Comprised of rarities recovered in tandem with the Crispy Nuggets blog it’s a compilation which feels very rooted in that world; those serendipitous encounters with backdated posts from neglected blogspots that seemed to always uncover and disseminate the most extraordinary and rare singles, EP’s, LP’s and other strands of ephemera that for whatever reason fell by the wayside.
There’s something impervious about the endearingly domestic, rudimental sound and the tortured, lyrical overreach that characterises these tracks which – even when they become ridiculously old-fangled and start to foreground proto-emo Weltschmerz – they still retain a sense of affect, overstated though it is. Brimming with these attributes but withholding more restraint are the Scottish outfit Secession, who released their debut single in 1983 (they also recently featured on the first edition of Trevor Jackson’s Metal Dance) ‘Betrayal’ – from that release – is all inconsolable gloom but is interestingly addled by liberal vocal echoes and freakily filtered, budget pipe organ. Its possessive too of a ceaseless systematic mettle that conjures the buoyant miserabilism of a discernible goth-disco, an ascription that encapsulates the character of many of these welcome finds. Anxious fatalism to an angular, primitive pulse.
Vitto Ricci – I Was Crossing A Bridge (Music From Memory)
The prodigiousness of the NY downtown scene - its multi-disciplinary openness and its cross-pollination with electronic experimentation and the city’s vibrant dance music of the time – seems limitless. Like his contemporaries, Vitto Ricci’s work was utilised for experimental theatre and performance art. But as with much of what Music From Memory have released to date, there’s an accent of off-key garishness more in keeping with the leftfield oddities that might arise in an adventurous Balearic set. Yet there’s such a variance here – from the empyrean ambience of ‘The Ship Was Sailing’ to the lo-fi boombox dub-boogie of ‘I’m At That Party Right Now’ – that getting some kind of consistent hold on its many leeways is no easy feat. Amongst the twists and turns, and the many warped manipulations of effect, there are spells of sparse but frantic drum-machines, not dissimilar to the bedroom-demo feel of many of Arthur Russell’s works.
But it’s in the latter half when it really comes into its own, indulging much more instability. ‘Deep Felt Music’ sounds like an orchestra engaged in tuning preparation but is held in a serene tension, somewhat redolent of early Fennesz. ‘Inferno (Part 1)’, meanwhile, lets laser-like emissions chaotically pinball around, as if Ricci is stretching how many effects he can pile onto each other. The third part of ‘Inferno’ and its reverberant mass of growling organ even recalls some of the thick-set swirl of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Ariel Kalma’s recent collaboration. And another RVNG INTL mainstay is evoked on the interlude ‘Dox E Koo’, its pixelated choral operatics similar to those of Holly Herndon. It shows the prescience of Ricci’s work and confirms how necessary this reissue is, forging another link between the richness of New York’s avant-garde past and the multifarious range of many contemporary concerns.
A Thunder Orchestra – Shall I Do It (Bio Rhythm)
Revolving around a sample that comes off like the haughty etiquette of the possessed children in Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, and equally as unnerving as that sense of corrupted innocence in Throbbing Gristle’s creepy opus ‘Persuasion’ (‘I’ve got a little biscuit tin/to put your panties in…’) this reissued, early new beat rarity seems like a bit of a companion piece to their other minor, macabre-wave masterpiece ‘A Diabolical Gesture’, similarly eerie and dominated by samples as it is.
Mick Wells does a sterling job of outfitting the original with a more contemporary, club-ready bent with two well-crafted edits. But it’s still Dirk De Saever’s effort that pips the post, allowing those repeated words of ominously uncertain meaning to swim around a opiated tussle of thuggish, barrelling drums and synth that wafts in and out like cave smoke. Repeat after me:
‘Shall I Do It?
It isn’t too difficult for me…’