New Music

Listen: Power – Serpent City

Power are a relatively new three-piece to arise from Melbourne, a city decreasingly home to solid rock bands. Power’s members have a pedigree comprised of some of the better punk outfits of the last few years – Soma Coma, Dribble, Gutter Gods and Kromosom among ‘em. They play a kinda stomp that calls to mind the intuitive riffage of the Young brothers all while maintaining a steady boogie stomp not unlike Coloured Balls, who they all obviously have spent some time with. ‘Serpent City’ opens with a deranged mess of feedback before picking up steam as Nathan Williams’ caterwauling vocals are introduced.

I played a show with these guys the other day and can honestly say they are the best live band I’ve seen in an age, revealing a more psych-fucked edge than the two tracks on their promo cassette betray. A 7” and LP are in the works, also on Cool Death, for later this year/the next. Lobby would be proud.

*

‘Serpent City’ is one part of a two-track promo cassette available through Cool Death Recordings.

(Featured Photo: Sigourney Ormston)

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Features, Reviews

Scum Mecca #4

Contained here are ten reviews: nine tapes and one 7 inch singles. Scum Mecca is the name of the column, an irregular feature on Crawlspace’s schedule. This is the fourth. Cooper Bowman writes it.

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Bearded Iris – Fuck. Tha Polise CS (Alberts Basement)

Bearded Iris is essentially the solo project of a single female who may or may not be called Ora Ni. The first few tracks are comprised predominantly of vocals, percussion and a few harsher, industrial-edged objects. Some of those that follow are a little less obtuse, but the sounds are decisively inept and the method of recording is a successful adoption of lo-fi austerity. ‘I Am Anne Marie’ is naively playful, even if the vocal snips are lewd, where ‘Ora Ni’ is a tribal no-wave dirge. There is a connection to Satanic Rockers/Encounter Group, with Lynton Denovan supplying drums on ‘Vagina Is Life’. The liners offer that the creator was “fucked up on laughing gas” during the tape’s composition. Three out of a potential five potatoes for unique absurdity.

Bleak – Broken & Pinned CS (Confirmation Tapes)

Bleak, the sometime solo guise of Power Waters, is in duo mode here with PWR handling guitar, tapes and electronics and MSL (Michael Liestins of Cock Safari, Mermaids, et al) contributing tapes and other assorted electronics. There is a distinctive murk, slowed down vocal snippets roll over pulsing synth tones. Hiss dominates. It largely gives the impression of machines left to their own work. Buckets of filthy mopping water close by, left dangerously near the frayed wires coming out of the socket.

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Cock Safe – Sstake CS (Magik Crowbar)

A new release of oldish Cock Safari material, inexplicably presented under a different name. The A-side of Sstake is a tightly packed collage of samples (AM radio, motivational tape snatches, tweeting birds) and short pieces of recording (guitar plonking and predominantly harsh electronics). The B-side is almost all one long collision of classical radio and electronics. Next is a tape loop and didgeridoo ditty that is absolutely ridiculous followed with a final burst of seared electronics. One of the best from the Coq in quite a while, limited to 11 copies of course.

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LA County Morgue – That Maggots SHD / Eat The Dead Bullock CS (Mazurka Editions)

LACM is the long-gestated solo project of Jarrod Skene, the man responsible for the art and funding of excellent Newcastle imprint, Mazurka Editions. The untitled A-side consists of what appears to be a looped guitar recording unevenly sped with encroaching feedback ducking in and out before becoming stripped to pure buzz and rhythmic crunch. The untitled B-side is much more sparse, all dusty loops that corrode as they revolve, possibly doing damage to the heads of your tape deck in the process of playback. This, the first release for LACM, is a modern benchmark of what is going on in the steel city and of the remarkably unique sounds being emitted there.

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Muura –Tape CS (Organized Music From Thessaloniki) & Untitled CS (Mazurka Editions)

Two recent tapes from Matt Earle’s Muura guise. The first, Tape, is a release on a Greek imprint dating from late last year, a relative eternity in the scope of internet journalism. The first side presents a caustic wall of feedback with hidden melodies submerged underneath, or potentially the frequencies deceive the listener’s ears into believing they are there. Some tape screech makes itself clear as another component later on as the illusory swells continue. The other side involves damply rhythmic clanking, indecipherable utterances and swirls of what I can only describe as pure atmosphere.

The other release is an outstanding one on the consistently dependable Mazurka label from earlier this year. The A-side involves drummed clatter, distant vocals and guitar licks that lend a down by the bayou kinda twang to proceedings. The B-side is a dirge that is apparently a cover, however I’m assuming that this congealed blob of busted synth goop bears much resemblance to whatever influenced it, unless I’m missing something vital. It’s a leering industrial mess that incorporates sparse vocals, belted metal drum machine and even a few pretty key chords here and there. Bonza.

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Soma Coma – Demo CS (Self-Released)

Soma Coma is a Melbourne hardcore band with ties to UV Race (in shared bass player, Moses) forming part of the recent punk wellspring that has also spouted other top class acts like Dribble, Gutter Gods, et al. Soma Coma take cues from Cleveland, Osaka and probably other locales that I admittedly know very little about. Vocals remind me of NY’s Crazy Spirit, but that’s just a measure of how rabidly manic they sound and is where the comparison abruptly ends. Basically this is a ripper demo and is recommended for anyone interested in music to throw bottles to. Things are looking brighter, former Pathetic Human and Australia’s best punk drummer, Bryce Sweatman, has now taken over can duties for Soma Coma. You’ve been warned.

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TLAOTLON – Mad Idem! / Oudimma 7” (Vauve)

A new Tlaotlon recording is worthy cause to celebrate around Scum Mecca. Jeremy Coughbrough’s mutant electronic project is one of the brightest blips around Melbourne as I see it. ‘Mad Idem!’ is the usual cluttered maelstrom of several vying rhythms before the drop gives way to a purely single-minded, danceable vision. ‘Oudimma’ starts with accumulating midi keyboard before sirens and all sorts are added. Numerous potential directions are hinted at, but they disappear as quickly as they emerge.

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Von Einem – Imagined Infractions CS (Mazurka Editions)

Von Einem is the most recent form under which Mark Groves channels his discontent at various facets of life, a role once filled by Absoluten Calfeutrail. Von Einem is much more industrial-edged, where AC was predominantly power electronics focused.  ‘Silence and Brush Fences’ starts things with brooding feedback and drum machine. The next, ‘Mummified Rather Than Dissolved’, is electric churn with unnerving, processed vocals, most likely detailing the Adelaide serial killer namesake of the project. ‘White Holden Sedan’ opens side B with another dark excavation of reverb-soaked drum machine depths. ‘Number One Beat’ is solid block of feedback where saturated noise and vocals pervade. A solid and varied release with a clear conceptual vision.

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Various Artists – Rebel Sorts compilation CS (Bunyip Trax, available from World Food Books)

A new, excellently titled compilation featuring several of the forms that Christopher LG Hill materialises as, in addition to Joshua Petherick’s closely affiliated Mouving project. The Moffarfarrah track is the usual kind of vocal nonsense that can be expected, wherein Hill produces utterances that sound partly like a Sesame Street character over distortions also created by his mouth. This piece is harsher and more maximal than he usually comes across. Some electronic-sounding oscillations towards the end possibly signal a departure from purely vocal means of production.  A new alias, Urchyn, appearing here as (Asujoh (Urchyn) Sunag), is greyer than the bleakened Black Noise that appears on the Hatered Of Purity cassette. The Mouving jam is an excellent slice of cosmically processed cheap synth tones with a repetitive feedback loop running in tandem.  Petherick and Hill’s tape collage duo VDO contribute a ‘Truency Mix’ for the duration of the compilation’s B-side. This entails an initially abstract patchwork of ringing phones, rain and minimal synth samples that evoke a gritty cop drama. Chopped n’ screwed vox, synth melody loops and cartoon sound effects follow, but surprisingly the darkness remains. Some heavily blown out club rap rounds out the mix eclectically enough.

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Reviews

Coloured Balls – Ball Power (LP)

colouredballsLobby Loyde is the single most important person in Australian rock n’ roll history. Before he went on to produce seminal records by The Sunnyboys, X and Depression, Lobby played in The Wild Cherries, Purple Hearts, Aztecs and even did time in Rose Tattoo. Despite this massive list of accomplishments, the Coloured Balls debut LP from 1973 might be the crowning glory of the lot.

Ball Power is an exercise in excess: copious amounts of beer, thick as guts guitar solos and balls. CB’s brew is equal parts boogie, psych blues and meat and potatoes rock, all served hard. Most notably though, Ball Power predates the aggressively anti-authoritarian ethos and frantic pace of punk by a good four years. ‘Mama Don’t You Get Me Wrong’ and ‘Won’t You Make Up Your Mind’, two of the album’s finest moments, clock in at under two minutes apiece. While a good deal of the music spawned from the riotous UK sounds juvenile and cartoonish from a current perspective, time has rendered Coloured Balls no less tough. They sound like they’ve been smoking a pack of White Ox rollies every day since ’73 and could still drink you under the table.

The album’s peaks are numerous, among them the hard-cunt riffage of ‘Human Being’, and the guitar via theremin overdose that is ‘That’s What Mama Said’ is one of rock music’s highlights, period. It’s over ten-minute length is like very little that preceded it (or came after admittedly). It takes their cumulative sound to its furthest possible extreme, fittingly closing the album with the aural equivalent of speeding down a highway stoned outta your skull into the void of the ether.

After numerous labels failed attempts to get a reissue off the ground, Sing Sing have done a legendary job in repackaging Ball Power. From the authentically rough cardboard gatefold featuring the classic image of the mulleted ‘Balls to the page of liners by Ian McFarlane, the thing looks and, most importantly, sounds as it should. Buy the damn record or have your citizenship revoked.

***

Label: Sing Sing Records
Release Date: December 2012 (original released in 1973)

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Features, Reviews

Scum Mecca #3

Contained here are eight reviews: five tapes and three 7 inch singles. Scum Mecca is the name of the column, an irregular feature on Crawlspace’s schedule. This is the second. Cooper Bowman writes it. This month the column covers the Charles Ives Singers, Skrogen, Sprot, Threads, TLAOTLON, X in O, Mad Nanna and a compilation. We’ve provided audio samples and images where possible, but most of the time it wasn’t possible. Sorry.

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Charles Ives Singers – Unbuilt CS (Alberts Basement)

This absurdist group, led by Victor Meertens, has in my experience maintained no distinct direction and Unbuilt possesses a similarly disordered sense of navigation. On the first excursion, vocal scats n’ bloops move around horned instruments, building into a chaotic melee with the addition of an abused drum kit. Obviously a disjointed organ ditty follows. As does what appears to be Meertens doing his best auction caller in the background, his voice eventually mutating into a demented didgeridoo squall. Unbuilt continues in this typically disorderly and disorienting fashion for its 63 minute duration. CIS are not incarcerated by the conventions of melody nor common sense. However, as nonsensical as it all sounds, you can’t help but see that serious consideration has gone into its creation. The very fact that three people have all had this same thought is a bloody miracle, let alone found each other and committed the results to tape.

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Skrogen – Self-Titled CS (Bunyip Trax)

Bunyip Trax is an elusive tape and CD-R label cultivated around the core nucleus of Joshua Petherick and Christopher Hill and the numerous groups in which they find themselves. Rather than the dense tape composition and atmospheric electronics usually found on BT, Skrogen is ball-busting grind-noise. Think Warsore, but more de-evolved, mutated and feedback saturated. Hill serves in a screaming and raving vocal faculty here, accompanied by Sean McMorrow on geet and Tom Miller on the cans. This is all there exists of the band. No shows and no signs of any future recordings. Another barely discernible footprint…

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Sprot – Summer Of Sprot 7” (Wormwood Grasshopper)

The a-side “single” is all bass and cymbal engulfed in a swirl of electricity and what could be (but knowing those involved probably isn’t) vocals. This is as anthemic as Sprot will probably ever sound. The other side is closer to the seared electronic murk that I was expecting based on Sprot’s previous slew of CD-R releases on Breakdance The Dawn. Sounds like an old Corolla that won’t start no matter how many times you try to gun the ignition. My turntable doesn’t have 78 as an option so I can’t vouch for that, but both speeds on offer cause some distinctive, although equally pleasing, sounds to come out. Honestly, I’m just stoked someone had the sense to front up the cash to put Sprot on wax, good on ‘em.

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Threads – Tall Building 7” Lathe / DL (Kindling House)

This an extremely limited (twenty bloody copies) lathe-cut of a Brisbane duo comprised of Sandra Selig (Primitive Motion) and Stuart Busby (The Deadnotes). ‘Constellation’ begins in a dark enough manner, with trumpet, bass and distant reverbed drums dominating. ‘Elevator’ is extraordinarily brief, the sounds employed reminding me some of the squawk occasionally emitted by Sky Needle. The title-track is similarly concise and seems like more a sketch than a fully-considered song. Perhaps it’s Selig’s dominant vocals, but something about Tall Building might be a little too ‘nice’ to fully engage me. It doesn’t grab me in the same immediately vital way as the duo’s other projects. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there in 100% organic cotton shirts who’d argue otherwise though.

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TLAOTLON – Teeth Alphabets CS (Dungeon Taxis)

While it was briefly based in Melbourne, Dungeon Taxis was probably the best tape label in Australia. From its new home in Brooklyn (the American one, not the one north of Sydney) comes a new batch of audio produce. TLAOTLON is a project helmed by Jeremy Coubrough that actively resists being simply defined. Coubrough forcefully collides sounds from dance, acid and experimental music in a startling original manner. ‘On The Trail’ builds an off-kilter rhythm out of ethnic-drum machine sounds, misfiring synth stabs and clattered bells. Whereas ‘Fingering Tyrants’ eschews melody altogether in favour of a layered swirl of punchy kick drums, electronic squeaks and portamento synth patterns. No matter which approach Coubrough takes, he nails it. Easily one of the most unique and consistently engaging tapes released last year.

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Various – Golden Children Compilation CS (Magik Crowbar)

Golden Children is a relatively large-scale compendium of communiqués from several of the satellites orbiting planet Crowbar. There are numerous projects I was already familiar with; the astral synthscapes of Hyperspace Vision, Mshing’s harsh spew, the tape-concrete insanity of Oranj Punjabi and VDO’s dictaphone collage pieces among them. There’s also a slew of new names, some of which are most likely one-off projects, for instance the hilariously named Sepultra, that provide some of the tape’s best moments. The (possibly bootlegged) addition of US group Monopoly Child Star Searchers adds a further curveball. Some serious consideration has gone into the sequencing of Golden Children, it successfully flows as a single totality of consciousness-altering music. As a result it can be difficult to work out what you are actually listening to half the time, but knowing where you are isn’t really necessary when the environment is so appealing.

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X in O – Untitled CS (Alberts Basement)

Apparently X in O is Kate Martin, one of the gals from Stag and presumably numerous other Brisbong bands. On ‘You’re My Satellite’ and ‘Solid’, Martin employs minimal drum machine and saccharine key sounds, often with a clubbish low end buzz underneath to good effect. However, the guitar strumming and woodblock sounds of ‘Spiralise’ slip over the wrong side of the precipice of twee. On the flip, ‘Total Recoil’ moves closer to a soundtracking style, followed by several more key-heavy tunes before ‘Hammer And Popsicle’, a mulch of digitised noise, interrupts. It would be lazy to draw a line between X In O and Scraps due to their shared geography and instrumentation, but there is definitely some mild cross-pollination going on. X in O is a mixed bag to be sure, some fine moments and others that are too easily relegated to the limited confines of ‘casio pop’.

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Mad Nanna – My Two Kids / I’m Not Coming Here 7” (Soft Abuse)

Initially I thought this was just a re-release of Mad Nanna’s Unwucht single from last year and stalled slapping my hard earned down for it. However, if you remember my review of the previous 7”, I noted that part of Mad Nanna’s charm was that each time they play, the songs become instilled with a unique quality.  Someone else obviously agrees ‘cause these are the same two songs from the earlier rec, just with their order reversed and appearing in different forms. Both are recorded live at dive bar blackhole, IDGAFF, sometime in recent history. ‘My Two Kids’ rocks a little less messy and ‘I’m Not Coming Here’ is a smidge more decayed and terse this time around. Probably not everyone needs to own this, but anyone who does already knows who they are.

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Features, Reviews

Scum Mecca #2

Contained here are seven reviews: six tapes and one 7 inch flexi-disc. Scum Mecca is the name of the column, an irregular feature on Crawlspace’s schedule. This is the second. Cooper Bowman writes it. This month the column covers Cock Safari, Teen Ax, Cured Pink, Matthew Phillip Hopkins, Hyperspace Vision, Tony Irving, Pleasure Bros. and Tailings. We’ve provided audio samples and images where possible, but most of the time it wasn’t possible. Sorry.

Cock Safari / Teen Ax – Split CS (Street Muscle)

This sounds like Teen Ax and Cock Safari playing each other’s hits. Cock Safe does so live at Black Wire, in what should’ve been a Cocks With Wings set. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the audience instead copped a short barrage of contacted mic cymbal fuckery through busted amplification from the sole, glaze-eyed Cock. Sounds kinda like Teen Ax’s The Danny Sessions Sessions release in its unbridled feedback and obnoxiousness. The Tweens sound closer to their cocky counterpart, due to radio interference prodding in and out of their harsh vibes. Look at how many times it says Cock in this review, if this doesn’t offend you then the lowest-possible-grade smut in which this tape comes surrounded probably will.

(Ed – the cover art shown above is saturated with white because it’s pretty rude. See the proper version here. Not safe for anywhere.)

Cured Pink – Dudi Bumi CS (Redundancy)

Dudi Bumi comprises Andrew McLennan’s recordings while in Indonesia on some sort of artist residency malarkey last year. McLennan has enlisted the more than capable services of several local noisemakers throughout, many of whom may be involved in the Yes/No Wave collective. The first ‘piece’ begins with excessively pounding drums, an electric current of a drone underneath and occasional heavily delayed / deranged vocals. Basically this is TG’s Discipline reprised in Indonesia. The sound reverberates around the Yes/No Klub in a riotous cacophony before it de-evolves into a mess of scrape n’ shout. Much of the rest of the tape is a collaged blend, divided between more abstract vocal movements and a good amount of industrial chart-toppers. The flip starts with a genuinely fuckin’ strange organ-driven ditty, mixed with vocal sounds of what sound like I imagine being consumed feels like. This rates with the Sabbatical release from a couple of years back as one of the most consistently interesting CP listens.

Matthew Phillip Hopkins – Small Entry s/sided flexi 7” (Horizon Pages)

Small Entry is the first audio release on Melbourne vanity printing press, Horizon Pages. In what is likely his first solo release since the dissolution of the Bad Tables / Lamp Puffer nom de plume from a few years back, Hopkins crafts an opaque web of atmospherics by way of (according to the cover) tapes, keyboards, voices and feedback. The lone track here is closer to the dark void created by Hopkins in new project Half High than anything done by NOTV. There are hints of the electronic arpeggiations of Four Door, but this is an entirely murkier beast altogether. The flexi comes packaged with a broadsheet poster of Hopkins’ art and ‘digitized responses’ by the guy who does the label, so it is more of an ‘item’ than a stand-alone release per se, but still hits the spot nicely.

Hyperspace Vision – Starfire CS (Magik Crowbar)

Obviously extending on from Fabio Umberto’s love of italo, under Hyperspace Vision he makes the kinda space-disco knowledge of which is usually reserved for Europeans with impeccable hygiene habits and high Discogs seller ratings. Both tracks here are simultaneously epic, cheesy and immediately addictive. The title-track begins with an ominous synth-tone before leading into a sweaty galactic mess, replete with a subtly vocoded-sounding refrain of its title. Impressively, Starfire sounds like it could have originated from a rooted paradox of Italy, the 1970’s and the deep reaches of zeta reticuli.

Tony Irving – Vox Cyclops 21/05/11 s/sided CS (Confirmation Tapes)

On Power Waters Records, uh, Confirmation Tapes comes a new live recording from the hallowed halls of Vox Cyclops, the much-missed Newcastle record store and halfway house. This is the first I’ve heard of the (apparently) much revered English-born / Queensland-based multi-instrumentalist. Heavy feedback, ecstatically loose drumming and occasional geet dirges congeal into a mess of freeish noise. If this is you’re kinda thing, then you will dig, if you don’t then you won’t.

Pleasure Bros – Pleasure Bros CS (Self-Released)

More z-grade filth from one of the tainted minds behind Teen Ax, Tony McKee. In the T n’ A tradition, Pleasure Bros is excessively abrasive and indecently packaged. I listened to this with one of my mates slightly toasted while there happened to be an earthquake going on around us. Said mate tried to convince me the reason that I was feeling weird was due to the coarse static being issued from his tape deck, but a phone call from my childhood pal seeing if I had survived confirmed that there was another, more likely reason. The earthquake was actually pissweak, this tape isn’t though. The Pleasure Bros nearly had me convinced that music could be physically displacing and psychologically manipulative. Too bad, Tony could have made a killing selling it to the CIA.

Tailings – Untitled CS (Mazurka Editions)

Tailings is a Newcastle duo comprised of Jason Campbell and Kerry Robinson. Preceding this, Tailings had released one cassette on Campbell’s Eternal Solitude imprint, exhibiting them in a more formative juncture than the fully evolved organism on show here. Previously skirting the edges of harsh noise, this untitled cassette instead finds them comfortably situated in a smokestack spewing industrial zone. It’s easy to fetishise the decrepit, post-industry weirdness of Newcastle, but the comparison couldn’t be more satisfyingly apt here.

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