Reviews

Just Space: LA County Morgue’s It Was Become Over reviewed

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I don’t understand why people find noise music ‘difficult’ or ‘pretentious’ or ‘not musical enough’. Take this LA County Morgue cassette for instance, recently issued through Altered States Tapes. Few lives are lacking space for music like this because it’s virtually nothing. That is what’s appealing about it. It’s an adornment to silence. It’s an accessory for absence.

LA County Morgue is tainted silence. Unlike song, unlike composition, it’s not a sequence of moments. It’s a space. It is something you do not listen to, so much as visit. Above all else this LA County Morgue cassette reminds me of a flavour, or a paint colour, in the way it lends a certain charcoal shade to an otherwise white room. It’s unremarkable. It’s just a louder form of nothing.

 

 

No doubt many listeners and writers obsess over and question the relevance of noise music in 2014. I suppose noise music can no longer be a statement. I suppose it is no longer radical. It is ambience above all else. Actually, that is exactly what it is: it’s an ambience. It’s an impression and a point from which to begin. You do not gain answers or insight from a noise recording like this LA County Morgue cassette. None that are prescribed, anyway.

Pop music has to resonate widely in order to be deemed worthy, and rock music is currently in the midst of its umpteenth return from the grave. Why do we believe in these narratives? My belief is that noise music, ironically, is a type of music we can resort to when we do not desire meaning, or when we have tired of canned, readymade meanings.

What can this LA County Morgue cassette actually mean? What themes does it contain? How does it represent us? It doesn’t, and that’s a relief. How can any cultural artifact contain a truth? Noise music, once pregnant with theory and meaning, is now exactly what it could never have been when it emerged: totally lacking meaning. It took this long for its name to arrive at its purest meaning. This lack of meaning is the ultimate reflection of our reality.

There’s nothing particularly special about this LA County Morgue recording. It’s valuable because it lends a certain charcoal shade to an otherwise white room. I enjoy it for this reason, and that’s why you might choose this cassette over any other noise cassette.

I suppose it’s better to speak of noise music now, in the same way we do paint colours. But instead of the names of colours, we might use words for emotions, or impressions. Apply this LA County Morgue cassette when everything else leaves you feeling empty, or condescended to.

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LA County Morgue’s It Was Become Over is available through Altered States Tapes.

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New Music

Listen: The Mermaids on Breakdance the Dawn

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[UPDATE: a free Bandcamp sampler has been released featuring the below releases + more]

Matt Earle’s Breakdance the Dawn label has a habit of releasing a generous handful of new CD-Rs and tapes at once. The pattern continues with nine new recordings, all available now through the label’s website. I’ve not heard any of them yet though a few samples have been uploaded, among them this three minute section from a new Mermaids release, which comes in the form of a VHS / CD-R release.

As we’ve pointed out before, The Mermaids is a Newcastle duo featuring Michael from Cock Safari / the Grog Pappy label, and Nick from Polyfox and the Union of the Most Ghosts. The few recordings I’ve heard from the duo vary widely. The sample below – a bed of static harried by clipped vocal samples – is dramatically different to the atmospheric synth sleep of ‘Greetings in Three Languages‘.

‘Static with clipped vocal samples’ sounds like it’d be annoying, but strangely enough, there are few sharp edges to the sample below. It’s involving and evocative. I’m not sure how the VHS format factors into the end product, but expect it to be fascinating, and probably discomforting.

As for the other new Breakdance the Dawn releases, there’s stuff by xNOBBQx, Sun of the Seventh Sister, Goods Van, The Sha, Club Sound Witches, Squiding, Bad Intentions and Statis Duo. All are available as either CD-R or tapes, except the VHS tapes of course. Buy them here. Sample the rest of them here.

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New Music

Listen: Collector – September ’73

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Following what is apparently the permanent winding down of his Stitched Vision vehicle, Newcastle’s Jason Campbell has released his first track under the name Collector. While the instrumentation hasn’t changed much, Campbell’s new approach is a lot more arresting than the sad, retro-futuristic fug found on those old Stitched Vision tapes. It’s almost like he’s working in reverse: Collector feels like the storm that tore through the world that Stitched Vision posthumously explored.

A Collector release is finished, but I’m not sure when we’ll get to listen to it. Soon I’d wager.

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Reviews

Grog Pappy – Ferret Compilation (c30)

Picture 2John Overholt was a psychic medium and “spiritual healer” based in Newcastle, New South Wales. He specialised in “energy clearing” of homes and offices, and he was an Aroc Master for whatever that’s worth. His work was not substantiated by science and it was not rational. It was buoyed by superstition. It’s probably true that among the enlightened and educated he was considered a fraud, though his penetration of that market – his presence among the sceptical – was likely marginal at best. But do you know who John Overholt is? What was he doing? And was it comforting to know he existed?

Overholt passed away last year after a battle with cancer, but he’s immortalised (in a fashion) on this Grog Pappy compilation. His moment here is interstitial: the fact of his speaking is all we have. His actual words are manipulated beyond comprehension: we only know it’s him because the 40 second track is called ‘John Overholt Psychic Medium’. It’s not attributed to anyone else. Overholt was an unusual guy with a strange trade in a small city, but who knows what kind of alchemy he worked on his audiences. He probably changed lives, maybe. Here he’s a mockery.

This compilation is not important in any meaningful sense of the term. These eleven tracks are offered with no context in the form of liner notes, and most of the artist names you can’t even Google. These sounds are only rendered important because some guy put them on a tape and sold it on his blog. You can buy it, therefore it is. Some of the names are familiar (Rats With Wings, Moffarfarrah, The Mermaids, Prehistoric Fuckin Moron) but only to like, fifty people. I think it’s safe to say that by most units of measurement, Ferret is absolutely meaningless. To your mum and John Brown at the servo, these tracks are like a fish out of water, flailing pathetically, making a mess in that moment, probably bleeding from the eye. It won’t hold up to the world’s scrutiny: it will be laughed off and rejected, like most protests. There’s no cohesion, no goal, no purpose. Eleven arbitrarily united assaults by eleven different people. Whatever. Who cares.

There are plenty of routes you can take to explain this music, but most of the time Ferret sounds like the folk art of an age obsessed with filth and decay. It doesn’t need a purpose. For example: Rats With Wings’ ‘Beefcurtains Redux’ sounds sickenly yet, somehow, innocently pornographic. It feels like a confused, postmillennial culmination of instincts: it knows that horror shares prime time with moral servitude in most 21st century loungerooms, it knows that you can stream both at the same time, on different screens. It’s paternal, benevolent television rotted at the jaw. And right around the corner, Samaan Fleck is there to depict the frayed nerve endings – the broken circuits – that allow these crossed channels to make sense: a harsh static nothingness, a sound without a core, a heart without a beat, just noise and input. Godly, honey input. It’s a punishment you volunteer to.

Is that what noise music should do, now? Is it important for it to portray the crossed wires of a species that can degrade itself privately and with no remorse, with no recourse to the exploited? What else is it doing, if not that? What systems teach us otherwise! If you look at the blogs that are connected with labels like Grog Pappy – a relentless assault of the terminally fucked and ugly, set against the technicolour splendour of the everyday – then Ferret begins to make sense. Because it’s all noise. Piled corpses and Larry Emdur: that’s the same world. It’s all noise, all input, all titillation.

This noise is resigned to the fact that there’s a tiny distance between what you innocently consume and what you would consume, were it made available to you. It knows you’re ugly, because you are. The things you do are ugly, and the fact you don’t know they’re ugly is uglier. This is music for an age of archived beheadings, animal crush films, men falling from many storeys above, and then dead. It’s for an age of Tony Abbott, where arbiters of morality are always the ugliest leaches of all. It’s for an age of Parks and Recreation animated gifs. It’s the evidence that this horror exists, and the knowledge that you’d watch it again. This is terminal.

And that’s why, when The Mermaids’ godly synth landscapes descend at about the 25 minute mark – all calm pastels, new age purity, a kind of utopian nostalgia – you feel properly confronted. That’s when it’s sad, because real beauty sounds spectral, impossible, transient. It struggles! This surrounding fetid reality is permanent and inescapable, but here you go, here’s some relief. We only have this. John Overholt is a joke. Larry Emdur is a joke. There is no escape. That’s what Ferret sounds like: a putrid curiosity and then a meal at KFC. What else can you do.

Many of the artists on Ferret don’t communicate this anguish on their own: Prehistoric Fuckin Moron’s albums aren’t this debased: they’re colourful and transporting. Moffarfarrah’s recordings don’t normally channel apocalypse to this extent: they’re strange in their own way. But together with Herby Cock-Hands, Tistriallal Binds, Samaan Fleck and The Mermaids, this whole mess of otherwise rotely ‘fascinating’ sound feels epochal. It’s a half-dozen browsers open at once to shady age-blocked blogspots. It’s mess set against mess. It’s a culmination. It’s too much input, and therefore frightening and true. It’s an animated gif of a man eating his own shit.


Label: Grog Pappy
Release date: February 2013

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New Music

Watch: The Mermaids – Greetings in Three Languages II

The Mermaids, as we’ve mentioned before, is a Newcastle duo featuring Michael from Cock Safari / the Grog Pappy label, and Nick from Polyfox and the Union of the Most Ghosts. The track above features on a new Grog Pappy compilation cassette entitled Ferret, which also features the likes of Prehistoric Fuckin Moron, Moffarfarrah, Rats With Wings along with eight other artists. Michael sent me a copy on CD-R with the polite message “a CDR because you don’t have a tape deck. Get it together.” In my defense, I do have a tape player, I just hate using it.

Anyway, The Mermaids continues to be one of the more interesting synth-improv units in Australia, mixing as it does the prettier instincts of Nick French’s pre-band Polyfox with the demented / slightly sleazy elements of Michael’s Cock Safari. ‘Greetings in Three Languages II’ will probably come as a surprise to anyone who keeps an eye (and not an ear) on some of the noise stuff coming out of Newcastle at the moment. For a ‘scene’ that often trades in debased pornographic imagery (the Grog Pappy blog is very NSFW) and totally vanquished / vandalised sonic realms, this Mermaids track is actually stunningly beautiful! The more we hear from this duo the better.

You can get the Ferret compilation here. We’ll review it in full one of these days.

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