reviews october 2001

Akasha, Mugwump Mondo (Ra) 12"

The Cramps in brothel creepers tip-toe through The Specials' Ghost Town. Dick Dale drives by in a large American car as a seedy jazz/blues club's doors fly open and a couple of rough-looking punters are kicked out. This moment is captured in sound and spun out for five minutes. charlie@akasha.co.uk

The Bug, Seismic (Morpheus) 12"

Kevin Martin, the half of Techno Animal who isn't Justin Broadrick aka JK Flesh, is The Bug. Without his partner in grimy breakbeat, Martin plays up the dub side of the TA sound, stripping a dancehall groove back to a whiplash beat, staccato stabs and a deep bass thud. Then he feeds it through a mincer and lets Daddy Freddy (the world's fastest MC) rip.

Tin.RP/Hinyouki, Killing Aubade (Burning Emptiness) CDR

Why would anyone want to kill a French lingerie company? I mean, come on, one of the few pleasures us chaps have left in life is ogling at the ladies in underwear catalogues. Aubade is famous for its stylish and artful advertising. Or, Aubade is infamous for its degrading and pornographic advertising. Several high-profile campaigns have featured a series of scantily clad females in provocative poses. Each picture has the head cropped off and a "lesson" (for women in the pursuit of men) superimposed. Voyeurs and budding Mary Whitehouses can see them at www.aubade.com. Tin.RP (France) and half of Hinyouki (Spain) find the pictures highly offensive. The other half of Hinyouki, Crypt, can't see what all the fuss is about: "To me, the use of female images to sell coffee, cars or liquors isn't necessarily an abuse, it's an expression of freedom, happiness and beauty." This is nothing as simple as a mindless protest record. Although it's billed as an anti-sexist release, the extensive sleeve notes reflect both sides of the debate and encourage the listener to have an opinion rather than none, even if it conflicts with the majority opinion in the bands. The music is 50 minutes of "frontal noise assault," a scalding attack of the kind pioneered by Merzbow compacted down into bite-sized chunks and lobbed under a passing train. www.burningemptiness.fr.st or Del Nista, Chemin de Saint Marc, Mauran 13130 Berre L'Etang, France.

Flaming Fire, Get Old And Die With CD

I am studying the sleeve closely. Flaming Fire dress almost entirely in red. Fire red. Flaming red. I like this directness in the age of indirection and sleight of hand, of deception and spin and marketing-gone-mad. A Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen character wears a red suit, red shirt and red tie flamboyantly. He looks every inch the retro-dandy, the fop, the one-time Goth who discovered colour. Two ladies are wrapped in rouge togas with flower crowns – red, of course – and pasty faces. They were probably Goths once. A man in a mask takes the role of choirmaster or public schoolteacher. His gown is not red. It is black. He is archly theatrical. Goth. Another chap hides at the back, his face obscured by a cloud. It's harder to pin the Goth tag on this one, but the circumstantial evidence is compelling. Let's say it's five out of five.

I am listening to the record. My pleasure at the straightforward manner of Flaming Fire is rapidly turning to dismay as I begin to realise that Lawrence is not a day-glo Eldritch, that the ladies in red are not Patricia Morrison and that neither the schoolmaster or cloud-head fills the Wayne Hussey or Tony James role. Curses! Fooled again! Well, mostly fooled. There's a definite ashen edge to the Flaming Fire sound, but it's mostly washed out by the torrent of invention sluicing across the album. At times it's like Miranda Sex Garden suddenly had a basketful of ideas, or Syd Barrett joined a circus of like-minded souls, or The Residents tried to stand still, or Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV went simultaneously wonkier and straighter. I don't know how you might convey this sound in pictures. Goths in red is about as close as anything else, I suppose. www.flamingfire.com PMB 112, 203 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA

Miss Mary, Hey Blue! (WIAIWYA) 10"

She stepped out of a re-run of Happy Days, a sassy, gives-as-good-as-she-gets compadre of The Fonz. She stepped straight into your heart. She's got a garage attitude – and I'm not talking about the unfathomable arrogance of the spotty twat who works nights at the petrol station over the road – but you like that, and you like the clean-cut sound. She sings about love, but you're in love and you love her all the more for it. She is Miss Mary and you are smitten. wiaiwya@bigfoot.com 1 Bankside, 10 Brock Lane, Maidenhead, Berks, SL6 1LP

Herbert, The Audience (!K7) 12"

Matthew Herbert, in his various guises, has made an art of microstitching sample scraps into outré house beats. The new one is no different but the addition of vocals detracts from the skilful silkiness of the rhythm. Matmos resplice and improve while Plaid rework Foreign Bodies (from the Bodily Functions album) but the Top of the Form star goes to Jamie Lidell who transforms the title track into something Wigan Casino would be happy to spin. This is one of those all-too-rare examples of a really, really worthwhile remix.

Tinsel, The Lead Shoes (Broken Face) CD

"Put on The Lead Shoes" Bowie once said. Probably. If he did say it, there's no way he and Mick Jagger would've been dancing in the streets. In stark contrast to the sparkle, glitter, glitz and good cheer that a name like Tinsel would suggest, The Lead Shoes is darkly matt with a melancholic disposition. The work of one man, Michael Hopkins, The Lead Shoes is an essay on what might happen if a folkie sank into quicksand while playing the songs of Leonard Cohen. keytapes@aol.com matsanna@mail.bip.net www.brokenface.exitflagger.com c/o Mats Gustafsson, Hogbergsgatan 43B, 1tr, 619 30 Trosa, Sweden

Misterbuster, Major F'ing Stars CDR

Misterbuster reckon they're the only interactive band in the world. And they've got something of a point. Which other band accepts samples on their website and promises to incorporate them into a tune? Certainly not other, bigger, bands who made a lot of noise about how cutting edge they were a couple of years back. Playing stadiums with a small East German car on the stage and loads of technology. Wow! Phoning someone up while the band is playing. Whoo! What Misterbuster do have in common with the likes of U2 is the lack of modesty. Major F'ing Stars, indeed. The pick of the three beat-led, controlled dada splice-fests is Fatty, So Nasty. I'm hoping it's something to do with Norman Cook. www.misterbuster.com PO Box 2584, Arlington, Virginia 22202. USA

Marianne Nowottny, Manmade Girl (Abaton) CD

A torpedo-like package was lying on the doormat. Its shape turned out to be a result of the Barbie-sized effigy of Marianne Nowottny it contained. The doll is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing. I haven't taken her out of the bag. I can't quite get over the idea that if I did she'd become animate and, after a period of time where I feel more alive than I ever have before, force me to become her slave and perform all manner of illegal and depraved acts. As it is, she's suspended from the picture rail above the stereo and is staring at me right now.

Simultaneously beautiful and disturbing. There was a record in the package with the doll. A double CD called Manmade Girl, Songs and Instrumentals, by Marianne Nowottny. It is a tense affair, an uneasy marriage of lush and crazily primitive sounds, of electronic abasement and natural glory, of perceptive disdain for so much of the here and now and appreciation for what might be there and then. Nowottny creates the confusion, a turbulent cacophonous whirl of sound, and then delivers the message back to us, like an operatic Dorothy broadcasting from the twister that's carrying her away to Oz or Alice beaming back reports from Wonderland, distorted by the looking glass. Manmade Girl doesn't appear until last-but-one on disc two, a full 23 tracks into the record. It is a microcosm of the whole, a summary of what went before, a reminder of the emotional heights and depths that were attained. With just a couple of tape recorders, a piano, a Tandy keyboard and a harmonium, Nowottny comes on like a weird, wired lovechild of PJ Harvey and Tom Waits. Her voice is mixed, and pitched, so low as to be almost inaudible amongst the cacophonic burble of chopped-up piano and swirling, whirling electronic noise. It sounds like nothing else on earth. Abaton Book Company, 100 Gifford Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07304, USA www.abatonbookcompany.com

Owen Tromans, Box Of Tapes CDR

I interviewed Owen when he was still the man behind Black Country bootboys, San Lorenzo. Sadly, they recently split after a couple of exhilarating post-rrrrock albums for Gringo and Bearos. When I spoke to him he was adamant that there was much more to the band than loud-soft and so it's not entirely unexpected that his first solo outing, recorded in his bedroom over the period he was playing with San Lorenzo, offers up plenty of otherness. He's folkish and semi-acoustic, he's noisily droning and he's garage trash-meets Arab Strap rock. On the standout There Is No Progress he revisits a common theme (the first San Lorenzo record was called Nothing New Ever Works) but since there's no dates on the songs, we can't tell whether or not he's right. 5 from sacred_geometry@hotmail.com

Weevil, Weevil (WIAIWYA) CD

When I was in the Scouts my Patrol Leader was a tall and skinny freckled ginger pale boy called Weaver. Except for the times we used to call him Jimmy Hill and Chisel Chin – for the obvious reason – his nickname was Weevil Weaver. (Even back then I was a declared devotee of alliteration.) Weaver was compulsively spiteful and took great pleasure in scaring the new kids just up from the Cubs by threatening to break their fingers for any minor breach of scouting codes. I hadn't thought about that wanker for 10 years. Until about ten minutes ago, when I was skimming the track listing for Weevil's debut long player and saw that the first track is called Pins Of Light.

Now this may seem obscure to you, but memory works in mysterious ways and it wasn't the name Weevil so much as the combination of Weevil and the image of two spindly white legs that brought it all flooding back to me. Scout camp etiquette demanded that long trousers could only be worn during kit inspection. At all other times, whatever the weather conditions or temperature, shorts were compulsory. Weaver hated it. His complexion was ghostly at the best of times, but his legs couldn't have been whiter had he left them under a rotting log for a couple of winters and then dipped them in battery acid. The twat.

I think of myself as a reasonable sort of bloke but the unresolved resentment I'm feeling is causing me some concern. Luckily, Weevil provide both the cause and cure in one handy packet. Six tracks of gently cascading gentleness rooted in the ambient end of the shoegazing sound, with just the odd spasm of crack'd drum'n'bass programming, are just the balm my fevered brow requires. I'll be able to pick up the butter knife without stabbing it though someone's heart now. I hope. weevil@orphanrecords.co.uk wiaiwya@bigfoot.com 1 Bankside, 10 Brock Lane, Maidenhead, Berks, SL6 1LP

The Groove Criminals, Kicking Up Dust CDR

Whereas the first Criminal records stole from DJ Vadim's dusty breakbeat cellars to create creaking instrumental hip hop with a strong sense of paranoia and guilt, recent efforts have tended towards less illicit sounds. This one wipes the slate clean completely, removing the hiss and spit of old vinyl, smoothing over the cracks and bringing in a commercial-sounding soulful singer. Mr Dan is currently doing very nicely with just this kind of conversion and there's no reason why the crims shouldn't do the same. www.groovecriminals.co.uk

Braer Rabbit CDR

Puffinboy, the boy/bird behind the Foolproof Projects project, is telling me about the Braer Rabbit remix of Electrelane's debut single, Film Music: "Their management considered it for the current re-release. But not for very long." I can't imagine why not. I mean, it only reworks the track so that it sounds like a knees up round at Mantronik's place where John Barry eats all the Bombay mix and picks a fight with the chap who plays the organ at Blackpool Tower Ballroom which ends up in a horrible mixture of drunken soggy punches and retching. fools@foolproofprojects.co.uk

Laughtrack, Amusements (Contrary Public) CDS

If you've read Joe Banks' rant about getting a record distributed elsewhere in Robots.. you'll understand why Amusements is a nicely ironic title for this, his debut, release. He claims Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine and Doves as the axes around which Laughtrack rotate but, especially on Left Standing, I'd put Laughtrack much closer to Massive Attack's miserabilist, lushly textured breakbeats. Meme's remix of Amusements bears me out, turning the low-key fuzz of the original into an icy roaring blast of beats and rugged bass. Contrary Public, 41 Church Lane, London, N8 7BT contrarypublic@yahoo.co.uk

Steve Escott, Issue 1 CDR

The mind of Steve Escott is in turmoil: ".. as I hit middle age, and the middle class, I'm having problems defining my position, relevance and attitude to music." This explains why most of Issue 1 could be summed up thus: insularity drone. Steve doesn't know what he wants and doesn't know how to get it. Which is why he can't seem to lift himself out of the self-imposed doldrums. Fortunately, towards the end of the album, Neuter (hopefully not a self-description) and 12 are the techno equivalent of a stiff drink. Neuter is a dark drum'n'bass rage and 12 a revelatory blast of tricksy electro, both should see Steve clear on the way to Issue 2.3 to 80 Hawthorne St, Leicester, LE3 9FQ www.391recordings.com


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