Pocahaunted has lost one of its female leads and, in the hands of the California group’s current leader, Amanda Brown, has busted out with “Make It Real”, a full-on black psychedelic album, “hypnagogic funk,” as Brown describes it, which I would guess she said thumbing her nose at least a little. There is hardly a trace of the drones and folk/neo-primitive sound of yesteryear. Under the same seal, Not Not Fun , a paradigmatic seal of the underground here and now, in “On Patrol”, Sun Araw has traded in its patchouli-soaked ponchos for dub, a genre that was already peeking out in “Heavy Deeds” (2009); L.A. Vampires –Brown again– has also headed in this direction with her formidable split with Psychic Reality, where sometimes she takes on an air of the Slits, and even comes close to sounding like the industrial reggae of Kevin Martin. Add to this the surprising reincarnation of Carlos Giffoni (head of the No Fun seal and festival, and the high priest of neo-noise) doing acid house as No Fun Acid –which we found out about last year by way of the double cassette shared with Prehistoric Blackout, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Oneohtrix Point Never, “Synth Night” (Protracted View), and which has turned out to be much more that just a simple joke, as “This Is No Fun Acid 2” makes clear. It includes a remix of Gavin Russom, and “This Is No Fun Acid 3”, references 01 and 02 of his new subsidiary NoFunAcid. Put it all together, and things start to look like a phenomenon. Don’t be surprised if pretty soon the neo-synthesis pack led by Emeralds starts to sink its teeth into the legacy of FSOL.
The Law of Historical MemoryFloating aimlessly on the sea of the hyper-textual, I found myself in Kevin Tomkins ’ MySpace, only to find to my surprise that the ex- Whitehouse not only keeps my beloved Sutcliffe Jugend active, as vocalist and half of the band, along with Paul Taylor, but also personally produces beautiful acoustic miniatures with Charles Curtis of “Ultra White Violet Light” or more intimate passages of Rachel’s. This is surprising, at the very least, coming from the same person who definitively contributed to the aesthetic profile of power electronics with works like the exhausting box of ten cassettes “We Spit On Their Graves” (Come Organisation, 1982), a monumental tour de force later pirated in Japan on vinyl, partially recovered on CD by Cold Spring in 1997, and nowadays changing hands on the collectors’ market for exorbitant prices.History, that faithless wench, has relegated Sutcliffe Jugend to the category of a mere spin-off from Whitehouse. Nevertheless, if you listen closely to their discography, both the end of their first phase, “Campaign” (Come Organisation, 1982), and the box-set I mentioned earlier– as well as the one that accompanies their return in the middle of the 90s after a venture into the world of rock as Bodychoke , which would have fit right in with the catalogue of Amphetamine Reptile , especially the fabulous “When Pornography Is No Longer Enough” (Death Factory, 1998)—you will see how unfairly Tomkins and Taylor have been treated. If the discursive mechanics of Bennett and company are based on a relationship of dominance and submission between the group and the listener, leading to a sadistic conceptualisation of control over the sound, Sutcliffe Jugend override any suggestion of subtlety, any trace of order, abandoning themselves to pure brutalisation. Whitehouse’s music calls to mind the image of a meticulous torturer, a friend of latex gloves and the stiletto; Tomkins and Taylor are like a furious madman armed with a machete and a hammer. It’s a catharsis through chaos whose influence stands out in a high percentage of contemporary noise production, especially Japanese. And then there is the use of images —serial killers, misanthropy, the weirdest pastimes– which, although previously used by Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse themselves, reaches an unheard-of level of paroxysm in the hands of Sutcliffe Jugend, starting with the duo’s stage name itself, a disturbing play on words bringing together the surname of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, and the Hitler Youth, the infamous Hitlerjügend, culminating in the dedicating of each of the twenty faces of “We Spit On Their Graves” to Sutcliffe’s different victims. The warm-and-fuzzy old guard! Free Radicals
What a dialectical circus has been organised by Thomas Bey William Bailey and Nick Cain on the pages of The Wire about MicroBionic. Radical Electronic Music and Sound Art in The 21st Century (Creation Books), written by the first and torn apart by the second in an unusually harsh critique appearing in the March issue of the British magazine. They call each other all kinds of names, none of them pretty. Controversy aside, the book seemed highly interesting to me, although I agree with Cain about his bothersome tendency to the commonplace when it comes to the handling of certain subjects. All in all, the volume sets out a convincing continuum that starts off with Throbbing Gristle and reaches the fascinating Japanese onkyo scene (Taku Sugimoto, Sachiko M, Toshimaru Nakamura, etc.), covering three decades of extreme sound production; William Bailey fits in interviews with, among others, Peter Christopherson (T.G., Coil), John Duncan, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Francisco López, Peter Rehberg (Pita) and Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto). It’s a pity that it ends in 2007, and therefore phenomena like the new American noise or radical hypnagogy of the hundred thousand offspring of The Skaters. But hey, a book that includes Alku, Roel Meelkop and The Haters, however arguable some of its conclusions may be, deserves a place in your library. Buy it.
I couldn’t attend Leyland Kirby concert within the framework of the first Barcelona Electrónica festival in April. And I’m really sorry to have missed it—hours later, angry voices were reaching me through Facebook accusing ex-V/Vm of being a cheat and a rip-off for pressing play and sitting down to pass the time. And what can I say? To me it sounds great. Not because Kirby, who I don’t have any special appreciation for, did it –although it’s worth remembering that it seemed hilarious to us when he did exactly the same thing with V/Vm– but because it’s high time the public got the idea that in certain aesthetic contexts, live music is a farce in the majority of cases. When it’s not total nonsense. That is to say—what did they expect to see? A guy processing in real time and the tunes fitting together to sound good right off the bat? A live mix, with the risk of having a bad night and fucking it all up? Would they rather watch him staring at the laptop screen, even though he was sure to be checking his e-mail? Obviously, I don’t have all the information to be able to judge Kirby. I’d like to know, for example, if the songs were played as they were, or if they were unpublished versions. If the tracks were sequenced, and if they were, how. And especially, it would be nice to know what he claims to be doing with his “concerts.” Knowing him, he has probably achieved it: ticking people off. My opinion: if you want a circus, go to Raluy.
Punk is Dead
Allow me, finally, to make a toast to the memory of Bruce Rohers (1950-2010), editor, columnist, and punk critic, whose untiring work with Maximumrocknroll encouraged many, myself included, to write about music prioritising their own criteria above any other consideration. He was not an especially gifted writer, nor did he have an exceptionally fine nose for music, but you’ve got to hand it to him for the boldness of his texts and the conviction of his opinions. He died on 13th March. To his health, then.
• Lasse Marhaug: “The Quiet North” (Second Layer)No edits, overdubs, or bagpipes: 30 minutes of in your face noise. Many try it, but almost nobody does it like Marhaug. A head-banger to start your day off with energy. And to top it off, a brilliant play on words between the title, the cover, and the contents. • Robedoor: “Burners” (Not Not Fun) “Radiant Command” invokes the spirit of the Stooges when they were still The Psychedelic ídem. “I Thought You Were The Devil” keeps a smooth correspondence with Spacemen 3 and Loop. And “Burning Man” synthesises all of the above and adds a few GYBE!-style crescendos. All of this is soaked in the necessary grungy lo-fi, of course.
• Denseland: “Chunk” (Mosz)Followers of Kapitalband 1 with the differentiating factor provided by the presence of a super-class vocalist like David Moss, Denseland is practicing a kind of overwhelming microscopic tribalism. When the drummer Hanno Leichtmann stops brazenly imitating Martin Brandelmayr, they’ll do something great. Peak moment: “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus applied as the base for “Scrape It (Up).” • Excepter: “Presidence” (Paw Tracks)An ex-No-Neck Blues Band doing minimal wave (or something like that) could sound no other way: thirty-minute improvisations, a vampire-like stupor, and an uncomfortable feeling of strangeness that is hard to digest because of its length (double CD, over two hours and fifteen minutes of tripping). A little at a time, though, it works. And very well, I might add. • Hair Police: “On Dark And Bloody Ground” (Hospital Productions) Hair Police are great! What a pity that they don’t know how to sell themselves like Wolf Eyes, totally blow off the epic like Yellow Swans, and aren’t as theatrical as Prurient. Because as far as having it goes, they have it all: textural richness, fierceness and sex appeal when it comes to regulating the tension. Cassette in a limited edition of 100 copies. They play to make a living.