Written a couple of weeks ago after the nominees for a certain Music Prize were announced...
Scanning another lacklustre list of Mercury nominations, imagining the cumulative decibels culled from the sum of every reaction in the country. A generic murmur and then a long sigh. Barely registers on the scale…
Hopefully these will make more of an impact…or have some semblance of trying to capture sounds beyond the drab.
Gut Nose – Filthy City LP/Weeknight Shuttle Bus
Andrew Vagabundo’s Gut Nose project lays claim to that air with some heavy, convictive clout. His new LP ‘Filthy City’ is split into two sides; the first a rolling ‘beats tape’ that resembles a dark, hulking form situated somewhere between Merzbow and Company Flow. The second is a run of concussive techno. Though both are likely to make the uninitiated question the health of their speakers, united as they are by surface stains of grain and spittle, as if the sounds are being fed through a payphone. But Vagabundo doesn’t use vogue-ish lo-fi soot to mask a lack of confidence or ideas, there’s plenty of depth within the roughness. The passages which interlink each track often rattle and break with a force beyond the common contentions of derivative LIES Records bandwagoners. Samples are worked interestingly too, often noise-treated in a pugilistic way. On ‘Unknown Allure’ faint, splintered vocal catches air sporadically and are continually snuffed out and on ‘Teflon Love God’ a sample of kitschy cruise-ship jazz is screwed until a bolt of torrential noise gives it an abrupt uppercut.
The primary motivation comes across clearly enough too. There’s an authentic and direct thread communicated, rooted in the dissipation and putridity of a city’s underbelly. Although for Vagabundo that specifically relates to New York, the relevance applies beyond its locale. ‘Weeknight Shuffle Bus’ for one, seems to harness the rickety velocity and beaten buzz of an old engine, whilst reflecting the manic pace and grim street scenes that often dictate what the title refers to. Soundtrack to nightbus nightmares everyone’s encountered.
Gut Und Irmler – Fruh
Resuming such a motored charge, Gudrun Gut and Jochen Irmler’s collaboration presents an altogether more hallucinogenic slant on a repetitious form. Gut (Einsturzende Neubaten, Malaria!, Mania D and latterly working solo in electronics) and Irmler (of Faust fame) combine automated, rigid and unyielding percussion with heady tides of wiry syrup-wash organ. Recorded at the Faust studio in Autumn 2013, it’s an exciting blend, drawing the lines between the unvarying pulse of techno and the rhythmic motorik of krautrock ever closer. That compounded drive keeps any wayward indulgencies in check too, making for a sinewy psychedelia as fit for immersion as it is for movement (some kind of dancing anyway).
Irmler states the aim was to realise ‘a concept that merges electronics and percussion’. Gut apparently ‘refined and deconstructed the sometimes up to thirty minute long original improvisations’ so there seems to have been a lot of cutting and shifting of parts. The fact that it’s so fluid is all the more impressive. Considering the pedigree of those involved you wouldn’t expect anything less.
De De Mo – Cause I Need You, Cause I Love You
This departs completely from the loose cohesiveness of the previous two selections into some (ahem) different territory. Pure Italo retro-future-rush, this is ludicrously camp but brilliant high-trash. Rescued from astronomical prices (it’s gone for £400 on Discogs on one occasion) by Dutch disco label, Bordello A Parigi, unsurprisingly it was written by guys with names like ‘Zennaro’ and ‘Dario Dedemo’ - the latter is the one displaying the gloriously stacked bush of man-perm.
Once you stop laughing there’s actually elements in the production which raise estimations. A gaudy cocktail of mutant robotic vocals, sparkling synth and crisp drum machines, it’s as absurdly unadulterated as the cocaine which probably fuelled its production, but as exploratory as many of the most revered cult Italo obscurities, mixing cosmic flourish and stiff proto-electronics.
The video is similarly absurd but somehow visionary. Primitive, inverted Technicolour, a Mediterranean playboy-twat who moves like Alan Patridge and looks like Kevin Keegan, and a reluctant amateur cast of hired (and by the looks of it badly paid) models. A holy grail of ridiculousness, this is why I’m doing this column.
Conveyor – Theme XI
Moving back to the present, to something infinitely more sincere and austere. Taken from a soundtrack composed for two midnight screenings of George Lucas’ THX 1138 - a similarly austere dystopian sci-fi - this is about as far as you can get from the prior choice; a stark, clock-like cycle of queasy, groaning distortion, guttural growl-like shuddering and paranoia-inducing squeaks, like trainers shifting on a gym floor. Later, a regular beat forms, the percussion sounding like gasps. Then the dread comes to a tantalizing climax, as heart-rate monitor pulses ring out. It has the same touch of feverish claustrophobia about it as grime, if reduced to its barest, tensest elements.
Strange that it comes from a Brooklyn-based band commonly described as ‘art rock’ or ‘noise’, but as seen in Shawn O’Sullivan’s recent work (under the Further Reduction guise particularly) that kind of sharp mania is finding its way into unlikely places, whether consciously drawn upon or not. Such an evocation lends itself perfectly in this case, to a relentless, hypertensive sound, like a prelude to a panic attack.
Austin Cesear – La Paloma
A respite of sorts comes with the first previewed material from Austin Cesear’s second LP on Public Information, his follow up to 2012’s ‘Cruise Forever’. Cesear doesn’t seem to have diverged much from his previous material, there’s still the familiar showering of deep texture cloaking and sometimes enveloping the more upfront moments. But there’s a glassier trance-like feel to this, with light, closely sequenced stabs of crystalline synth which fix and gradually ascend to the point where you realise it’ll just continue to build and build, foregoing release for a constant intensity. Cesear apparently drew a lot of inspiration from ‘the dockside location of Oakland Port, CA’, and there is a transparency, liquidity and reverie to this which hints at fixed stares across extended areas of water. The sheer magnitude of it makes it a reverie that’s likely to be widely shared. A dazzling burst of hypnotic elation.