reviews november 2004

Beachbuggy/ The Scaramanga Six, split (Wrath) 7"
The Fall, before The Fall - before Mark E Smith's balls dropped, that is. To back him up, there's garage grind, a shameless squeal of a solo and a lump-hammer chuggabeat, but it's the pre-pubertal slur that makes this one great. Over on the other side The Scaramanga Six channel dirty riffs and attitude through a greasy megaphone while flicking the V's as they roar off in a pink Caddy convertible overflowing with bikini models.

The Long Blondes, New Idols (Sheffield Phonographic Corporation) 7"
Plenty of the good stuff from thee SPC recently. So much that we asked them to be on the Robots #14 CD. They declined - politely, of course - and said maybe next time. We live in hope and expectation. New Idols comes from the top drawer once again, even if the idols in question are mostly not new: Blondie, Gang of Four, Stax and ancient valve amplifiers.

Various, The Agents of Impurity (Sonic Arts Network) CD
There are a couple of moments of absolute genius on the record and the rest of it is just inspired. The Agents of Impurity are 15 sonic artists - avant-gardists but not smart-arsists - chosen by Kenneth Goldsmith (the curator of for their sound poetry. Using voice as a starting point, a source material to cut and splice, pervert and rearrange, they challenge expectations of what constitutes sonic art. Which is pretty much the point of the Sonic Arts Network.

The tracks here range from unadulterated spoken word performance (the repetitive, hypnotic and circular argument between Erik Belgum and his wife) through to a complete lack of words (Language Retrieval Services erase the words from recordings, leaving only the breaths, lip-smacks and pops of the performer) via number recital (Neil Mills' Seven Number Poems are simply beguiling lists of numbers).

The first genius moment is Vito Acconci's Ten Packed Minutes (edited down to five for the compilation) where a couple of bars of Greek Taverna band recycle themselves for the duration while Acconci riffs with partial coherence about his baby. Think Tom Waits heard down in the wine cellar of a bad restaurant after a good session. Asa Chang and Junray could be reciting the Japanese alphabet and playing a stylophone. Or reading the football scores while the batteries on a toy keyboard fail. I don't know, but they make it sound like a dream.

The second moment of genius is supplied by Takayuki Nakano - also Japanese - who tourettes passages from Finnegan's Wake as he pounds his trap set with unbridled abandon. He apparently recorded up to page 31 and then vanished.. Angel of Death by Dokaka is the closest you're ever likely to get to humming hardcore (also features yelping) and would be the perfect accompaniment to the World Air Guitar Championships. In my head, anyway.

The final moment of genius is delivered in the compound form of Ergo Phizmiz's Sticky White Glue, an excerpt from his series for Resonance FM. Phizmiz blends accident and ambience in a mad whirl of dog chowing noisily down on Doggomeat and a drum'n'bass rerub of Russ Abbot's Atmosphere. It's a total immersion in his mind and charity shop record collection.

The whole thing is wrapped in a neat 7" square booklet containing art and writing by Samuel Beckett amongst others. It's part of a subscription series the next issue of which will be outsider music compiled by Irwin Chusid.

Um, Africa is a Fridge (Strange Lights) 7"
Um. When people know I live in Cambridge, people who are in the know, they invariably ask me if I know Um. That's how I know they're in the know. I don't know Um. I don't know why I don't know Um but do you know what? I know I'd like to know Um. Why? Because he knows..

Yes, because he knows how to warp the Beatles and Barrett around a trundling beatbox core and release magic into the world. And because he knows how to make the title cut stumble, crumble, mumble, jumble and ultimately humble as it bursts off the slate with a disorientating weft of samples that resolves itself into snippets of vocals inspired by an article Chuck D wrote. And so now you know.

Sarandon, The Miniest Album (Runout) 7"
Christ, they don't make 'em like this any more. Unless they were around then and are a bunch of (probably scruffy and) obsessive characters. And they are. So they do. It's early in the 1980s. It's late at night and you are lying in bed with a battery-powered transistor radio tuned to Radio 1 (no FM in those days.) You've got the covers over your head, tucked under the pillows to muffle the sound from your Mum and Dad in the next room. This makes you very hot and you are perspiring. You are tuned - of course - to John Peel (Rest In Peace, John) who is playing records that sound like a cheese grater having a wild time with a couple of metal rulers and a box of tacks. All have a bad case of the jigs and are good friends with a bloke who likes to half-sing enigmatic, probably clever but you can't tell, one-liners around the zig-zag noise and the songs are over almost before they've started.

It takes something this good to make me feel 12 years old again.

The Schneider TM Experience, Psychedelic Queen (Earsugar) 7"
Ironic? It's hard to say. Dedicated to Suicide? Looks like it. A jukebox 7" single? Yes. If that's not a combination that appeals you should probably be looking for another music magazine. Schneider squashes all the bombast out of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now with a monotone throb bass and a nasty synth, then he rips it another arsehole (which makes three if you include Roger and Brian) with a solo on shredded mouse fed through an effects box. Still doesn't appeal? You really should find another magazine.

Super Reverb, Jack Potatoe (Earsugar) 7"
I'm thinking that someone listened to a lot of Sonic Youth and 60's Brit Invasion through next door's wall at an impressionable time in their young lives. Later, intrigued and inspired by the tunes that struggled through the brickwork of their childhood, they formed a band to try and recreate the sound that by now occupied their every waking hour. Eventually, by slitting the speaker cones with a razor and shovelling gravel inside they achieved their dream. And made a record. Welcome to Super Reverb.

The Telescopes, Winter EP (Hungry Audio) 7" and Altered Perception (Space Age) CD
I was reading through an old zine my Dad had fished out of the loft the other day (House of Dolls, since you ask, number 22, from 1989.) Page 46, The Telescopes being compared to Loop and Spaceman 3 but taking it well: "we're gonna get comparisons until people start comparing bands to us." I was reading through a new zine my friend DDN sent the other day (Empty, since you ask, number 10, from 2004.) Page 2, The Telescopes and comparisons to bands that came after them - Mogwai and Radiohead. Seems like the band are getting their way as their silver jubilee approaches.

These two new releases span just about the same time period as the zines. They're a compilation and an evolution linked by The Perfect Needle. The opening cut on Altered Perception, it's one of the reasons they were getting those Loop and Spaceman nods though they were already showing how they'd be moving on by adding frantically-bowed violin to the slowhirling guitars and lackadaisical vocals. The same track appears, reworked, on the Winter EP but The Perfect Needle #4 is not the sound of a band bereft of ideas, it's the sound of a band who never stopped looking for the right sound, who never thought they couldn't do better. The gyratory riffs have been replaced by drone, the delivery has got lower and lazier over the years and the focus has moved onto the mesmerising, sumptuous bass line. In the past looking forward, or in the future with an eye on the past, it doesn't matter which direction you point The Telescopes.

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