29 August 2004


28 August 2004

Okay, firstly apologies to all injured parties for my somewhat belligerent tone last night. I was just in one of those stupid moods, y'know. And although I'm still really disappointed with iTunes Music for not being good enough, I did relent and purchase the latest Tortoise album, more on which soon, possibly. The download time was super-bloody-fast, I'll give 'em that.

But my beloved Bleep remains the finest download facility in the known universe. The Domino catalogue has now been added, so now you can get your Franz Ferdinand and Preston School Of Industry there, if you're so inclined. Junior Boys entire Electrokin output is now also available, so you really don't have any excuse not to check them out. Some of the earlier Big Dada albums are now available too, including Roots Manuva's splendid "Run Come Save Me". It's just gonna get bigger and better - though why the hell Rephlex haven't pitched in yet is beyond me. I hope RDJ and co. aren't holding on to some archaic notions of 'real' music packaging. I mean, sure - put out that limited 180g double vinyl edition if it makes you feel better, but what's the harm in making MP3's available for those of us who couldn't give a toss anymore?

True, individual track prices are still not cheap (99p a shot) but you do make big saving if you buy in bulk - typically £6.99 for an album or £2.49 for an EP. It works for me, anyway....

25 August 2004

...but just to return to Marcello for a moment, he's written some of the most naked personal shit of all, in the past. In some ways, his blog's failure to cleanse him, or at least comfort him, to enable him to move on from past horrors is the most damning argument against my standpoint. I won't go any further on this, it's his life and I've no right to dissect it. But I have known loss. My father died of Cancer in 1992. It fucked me up for a long time. I still dream about him. I still find it difficult to listen to Buddy Holly (his hero) without bursting into tears. It fucking kills me that he never got to see me get married, or got to see his grandchildren, who I know he would've fucking adored. Life can be a bastard. So let's party!

24 August 2004

...And then you get people like John Eden, who sound like they actually have something to moan about, seeming to draw some strength from sharing his 'bitch-of-a-week' with us, using the blog as a cathartic cipher to let off some steam and (sorry to admit it, John) amusing the rest of us because we've BEEN THERE (well, maybe not there precisely, but somewhere pretty damn close). I occasionally try to get personal, let some bits of my real life ooze into the blog, and I always feel better for it afterwards, even if I might be initially embarrassed. It's the way forward...ask Tiffiny, who's been rocking my world recently.

Blogging = freedom of expression, cathartic mental ejaculation, empathy, personal fulfillment....others?
So I finally got 'round to downloading the latest i-Tunes software. Now I have access to the i-Tunes Music Store. So what? I couldn't even buy that Kid 606 album I've been trying to find! Christ, I give these people a chance to prove that the legal way is best, but they're just not catering to my fucking tastes. The 'Electronic' section is a joke (although, somewhat inexplicably, they do have the Silver Apples' first two albums). Mainstream cocksuckers! Die! Die!! DIE!!!
Oh for Christ's sake!!! Marcello's gone and had another hissy-fit, so now he's throwing in the towel again. Another cool Carlin blog bites the dust. He just doesn't seem to have that protective psychological wall that allows most of us to just get on and enjoy ourselves, reveling in our own little obsessive backwaters, cherishing that which fulfills us, not really caring too much how many people read/enjoy/detest our opinions, just shouting our mouths off into the virtual void. It's a damn shame, I really thought he was starting to get into the spirit of things....when he's hot he's burnin' and when he's not he's moaning tediously, which is all part of the fun. If you're that concerned about blogging being pointless, then why not do something really worthwhile and do some voluntary work, or become a missionary or something. Musical/cultural commentary is never gonna change the fucking world (at least, not at this level), it's just something to pass the time, stimulate a few brain cells, connect with like-minded souls, have a fucking laugh.

I love blogging, me....

22 August 2004


Hi-voltage (NME 028)

Oh. my. god. This compilation was available by mail order only from the NME back in 1987. Totally blew my head off.


Side 1
Suicide - Ghost Rider
Soft Cell - Memorabilia
Matt Johnson - Red Cinders In The Sand
Holger Hiller - Jonny (du Lump)
Erasure - Senseless
Thomas Leer - Letter From America
D.A.F. - Kebab Traume
Cabaret Voltaire - Baader Meinhof

Side 2
Holgar Czukay - Hey Baba Rebop
Depeche Mode - Black Celebration
Neu! - Hallogallo
Can - I Want More
Colourbox - Breakdown
Yello - Homer Hossa

Amazing to think that, apart from the Depeche one, I'd never heard any of these tracks prior to receiving the tape. Even the Cabs one, which at that time was still only available on the ultra-rare "Factory Sampler" EP. There's a couple of things on here that still warrant further investigation, such as Matt Johnson's pre-The The experimental piece, which is from an album called "Burning Blue Soul" (4AD, 1981) which to this day I still haven't gotten 'round to tracking down. On the strength of this track, it must be blinding. If anyone out there can supply me with a cd-r burn, I'll be eternally grateful.

Compiled by Roy Carr & Ian Pye, this was my first taste of Suicide (I think I bought their just-reissued first album immediately afterwards), Neu!, Can & Thomas leer, as well as my first hearing of Soft Cell's early 'prescient-as-fuck' single "Memorabila".

Of course, being the wisened old know-it-all that I am now, I'm thinking about all the stuff they missed out. I mean, did we really need to hear current chartpop by Erasure when we could've had Cluster, SPK or Metal Urbain? But at the time...christ, it was like peering into a whole hidden history of music that I was only just beginning to comprehend. NME, I salute you for what you once were...

21 August 2004

Y'know, Chris Cunningham got it completely spot-on when he thought of using hyperactive martial arts action sequences in the video for Squarepusher's drill'n'bass landmark "Come On My selector" back in 1997. Tonight I was sat on the sofa 'chilling out' listening to Shitmat's totally bonkers "KillaBabylonCuts" album -a truly exceptional piece of work, if I might be so bold - with the TV on at the same time. I was watching a martial arts movie called "Fists Of Legend" on BBC1, when I noticed that the high-speed fight scenes were almost perfectly in sinc with Shitmat's outrageously OTT Gabba-Jungle concoctions - a flurry of limbs accompanied by skittery snare-rolls, a fist connecting with jaw accentuated by sinewave sub-bass detonation, a mouth opening to utter some Kung-Fu yelp in harmony with a snatch of Ragga MC chatter - it was almost uncanny. The overall sense of hyper-kinetic delirium shared by the two mediums produces similar sensations of bewildered euphoria in the viewer/listener. Has anyone ever done any serious study into the correlation between martial arts and breakbeat science?

On the subject of Chris Cunningham et al, Warp Records release their first DVD video anthology next month. You really should buy it, you know....

19 August 2004

Way back in September last year I wrote a piece on The Human League in which I quoted a line from David Buckley's Mojo article, concerning the League's groundbreaking "Love & Dancing" remix album. Here's the quote once again:

..a project that would arguably be the most influential product of their career. Producer Martin Rushent had journeyed round America in search of the latest dance sounds, and came back with an idea to pare "Dare!" down to it's basic grooves and release a remix album. Released in 1982, "Love & Dancing", by the Barry White-homaging League Unlimited Orchestra, was the first British pop remix album to reach the Top 5.

Then earlier this week, completely out of the blue, I get a rather disgruntled e-mail from Martin Rushent himself, as follows:

whats this crap about me touring america lookin for the latest dance sounds
and then coming home and revamping dare

thats bollocks

if you want the real story e me and i will tell you what really happened

To find out what really happened, keep watching this space....

18 August 2004

I have absolutely no opinion on 2004 Drum'n'Bass whatsoever. Why? 'Cause I haven't heard any. My interest in the genre peaked around '95-'96 when the whole Goldie/Photek/Dillinja axis was in full effect. It was that point where sophistication was still tempered by some tasty rave noise and the beats were still rinsing as opposed to just rollin'. The Roni Size era pretty much killed it for me (using real drummers and double bass players? - fuck off and Die!) and I haven't been back since.

I dunno if it's because people like Luke Vibert and the Planet Mu label have ignited my enthusiasm by excavating and reimagining the old Junglist stuff, but I find myself in total agreement with Drip Drap Drop's comments about a "great fondness for jungle" . I'm listening to this sort of shit now more than I ever did during it's heyday and, to coincide with my 'Cassette Pets' nostalgia trip, I was extremely pleased to find this little beauty lying at the bottom of a pile of my tapes recently:


It's a double cassette tracing the development of two of Hardcore Jungle's most central labels, Suburban Base and Moving Shadow, from 1991-95. I hadn't played it for years and, if I'm honest, there was a time when I probably would've scoffed at it. But playing it today is just a total fucking rush. Selected and mixed by DJ Kenny Ken and sequenced in a fairly chronological order, it really shows the development of the scene, featuring all the major playaz like Q Bass, Hyper On Experience, DJ Hype, Omni Trio, Foul Play and Remarc. Side 1 is mainly still anchored to the 4/4 House kick drum with ghost-traces of Happy Hardcore's E-rush oscillator riffs, side 2 is where the BPM's start getting excessive with the helium diva samples and the breaks start to fragment, side 3 is where the breaks start to really fragment and the sounds get sparser and more raggafied and side 4 is total Amen madness. How the hell anyone (me included) thought 'intelligent d'n'b' was progress after this shit is beyond understanding. Total genius - Reynolds was right all along!


Over the last few years, with affordable cd-r burning and high speed MP3 downloads becoming the norm around here, I'd almost forgotten that I had a cassette collection. It's huge! There's piles of the fucking things lying around in boxes and cupboards, just collecting dust. There was a time when cassettes were the life's blood of the hard-up music obsessive who's earnings could never match his voracious appetite for fresh sounds, and I'm sure there are many people out there who still have much affection for those home-made compilations their girlfriends and buddies made for them or those inspired mix-tapes they cobbled together on a wet afternoon in 1992.

So anyway, I was thinking what to do with them. Keep 'em, and just let them lie there taking up space? Can't sell them - they have no monetary value. Which means - gulp! - throw them away?! Yeah, I'm actually considering chucking the bloody things out. About 50% is probably stuff I'll never listen to again (Bronski Beat's "Age Of Consent"? The Cure's "Disintegration"? Gary Clail live broadcast?!!,) and the rest can probably be obtained in nice shiny digital format on Soulseek if the urge to hear them should return.

But before I jettison this portion of my music collection, I've decided to spend the next few weeks just listening through them, hoping to find forgotten thrills, sorting the wheat from the chaff, maybe relenting on the Stalinist Purge vibe and keeping some of them. I'll also be reminiscing about a few favourites here at the blog - so consider this to be Part 1 of an ongoing, occasional series.

One thing I've noticed is the surprising amount of off-the-shelf pre-recorded cassettes I own. Makes me realise that, even before I started buying CDs, I was never a vinyl purist. I've always been into convenience, so I guess that was my motivation for buying albums in cassette format. Easily played on stereo, walkman or in the car without any fuss. Come to think of it, cassette compilations played a vital part in my musical education. Take this one, for instance:

TECHNO: The New Dance Sound Of Detroit

No doubt all the hipsters will claim that they bought all the originals on 12inch import long before it came out, but this 1988 cassette comp. from 10 Records was my first exposure to Detroit Techno. Listening back now, some of it sounds a bit average, particularly the Blake Baxter tracks like "Ride 'em Boy" which is almost moronic, although when he gives over the vocals to the serenely disengaged Mia Hesterley on "Spark", it elevates the vibe ten-fold. I think she also did the vocals on that other weird Baxter tune "When We Used To Play" which appeared on the "Retro Techno" album later on. There's some solid tracks from Eddie "Flashin'" Fowkes, Anthony Shakir and Tongue & Groove (who I know almost nothing about), but there's too many examples of gimmicky stutter-vocals and 'mega-mix' effects which makes me suspect there was an attempt to cash-in on the House music explosion. Even Model 500's "Techno Music" is mired by some daft speak'n'spell robot voice nonsense, which is thankfully absent on the version on R&S's "Model 500 - Classics" anthology. At least "It Is What It Is", the peerless opening track by Derrick May's Rythim Is Rythim, is unblemished by such cynical maneuvers, although compiler Neil Rushton credits Derrick as 'Detroit Co-Ordinator', so I guess he approved everything. The man had bills to pay, I guess.

But whatever my gripes now, I remember this as a special release at the time. Maybe much of it isn't as 'timeless' as I would've liked to think, but as a symbol of change and gateway to future pleasures, it ranks as one of the greats. I think I'll be keeping this one for a while yet...

Remember I said awhile back that none of my comic strip art remained in existence? Well, I came across this fucking thing earlier, in amongst a bunch of loose paperwork. Kinda wish I hadn't, if this is the sort of adolescent wank-fodder I was producing.

13 August 2004


Got a nice e-mail from Dan yesterday:

When I woke up this morning I was thinking for some unknown reason about your post on Concorde a while ago, oh god nearly a year ago...

I was thinking of the meaning of the word concorde as I understand it - I had an old LP issue of Can's "Ege Bamyasi" and printed on the inner sleeve was a quote from Shakespeare about "concord of sweet sounds..."

Now I don't know if Can were opposing their product to the noise of the plane - I think the record was released in 72 so it's a possibility...maybe...

I was most gratified to think that a piece I wrote on Concorde back in October last year should still be providing stimulating thoughts for someone else now and, in turn, Dan's e-mail tickled my fancy to the point where further investigation seemed necessary.

Naturally, Concorde's name is derived from it's more well-known definition, meaning 'harmonious agreement', representing the spirit of co-operation between Britain and France that made the project possible (ironic then, that the two nations actually argued over the spelling of the name for some time - at one point, after Prime Minister Harold Macmillan felt slighted by President de Gaulle backing out of a scheduled meeting, Britain insisted on calling it Concord, only relenting to the Gaelic spelling some time later), but the word also appears to have a second music-related meaning (previously unknown to me) defined as "chord satisfactory to ear without other(s) to follow" or "Agreement or harmony between things; esp. said in reference to sounds and rhythmical movements, and in uses thence derived"

Along with Shakespeare, Dan came across several literary quotes relating to music:

1340 HAMPOLE Psalter cl. 4 In pesful felagheship & concord of voicys.

1509 HAWES Past. Pleas. XVI. xiv, The vii. scyences in one monacorde, Eche upon other do full well depende, Musyke hath them so set in concorde.

1596 SHAKES. Merch. V. v. i. 84 The man that hath no musicke in himselfe, Nor is not moued with concord of sweet sounds.

1744 J. PATERSON Comm. Milton's P.L. 171 If two stringed instruments be exactly tuned alike, the one that is not play'd on, will answer to that which is playd on, in perfect concord.

1849 M. SOMERVILLE Connex. Phys. Sc. xvii. 158 When their vibrations are so related as to have a common period, after a few oscillations they produce concord.

Although it's obviously incidental, I find it a delicious irony that the world's most notorious noise-polluter should have a name that represents perfect musical harmony. The secret of Concorde's distinctive 'sound' is due to hot gases leaving the engine's exhaust system and hitting the surrounding air, creating turbulent eddies, which can reach twice the speed of sound. The eddies act like a stream of Mach 2 bullets, each creating shock waves - and sonic booms - as they twist and turn back from the engine. These shock waves are the strongest source of noise for exhausts like these. Although I would hesitate to claim that the resultant deafening roar is music, I would certainly say that it excites me in a similar way to good music played at high volume. The way it seems to slice through the very fabric of reality, overpowering the senses, is (was) an intoxicating experience, proving - to me at least - that Noise can produce vibrant, ecstatic emotions and hence validating it's potential as a rich source of exploration in the field of conventional music composition. Which brings me full-circle to Non, Whitehouse, Pan Sonic etc etc...

God damn, I'm gonna miss that baby....

12 August 2004

Plastic Man gets all excited by the latest Grime dubplate.

(I'm waiting for the big Plastic Man/Mark E. Smith "How I Wrote Elastic Man" connection over at Kid Shirt....)

08 August 2004


Dalek creator Terry Nation was born today in 1930. He also created Blake's 7 and The Survivors, which earns extra props 'round these parts.

Whether or not the supposed rift between the BBC and Terry's estate was a publicity stunt, I'm pleased to note that the Daleks will in fact be featuring in the new Doctor Who series. Go here for the latest....

Discovered completely by accident earlier today, whilst thumbing through a box of '90s British Comics (Crisis, Strip, Revolver, Judge Dredd Megazine, 2000 A.D...) in my garage. Picked one out at random to have a browse through - this one. Came across an interesting story called "Cannon Fodder"; a really trippy excursion featuring Albert Einstein and The Devine Mother.

Then a quick glance at the credits reveals:

Kek's droid credentials can be viewed here.

So, Kek...when were you planning on coming clean on the fact that you're actually an artificial entity, constructed by an extra-terrestrial being called Tharg? A full, frank and honest account of your excursions in the land of comic writing is requested, nay demanded.

Great post on car-booting, by the way...

06 August 2004

Big thanks to Derek Poplife for hipping me to the rather superb girlie synthpunk duo Metalux. Never heard of 'em till Derek's coy little mention pricked my curiousity. At last, a current American electro act that don't sound like a cartoon pisstake of The Normal. An uneasy alliance of indie lo-fi and the electronic avant garde. Better than Add N To (X). I'm hearing strong echoes of late-70's Sheffield - those clammy analogue synth tones remind me of early League/Cabs home recordings. The singer is fucking amazing - sounds similar to Nancy Blossom, vocalist in late '60s psych/synth group Fifty Foot Hose, but with a nastier streak. Most excellent!

Oh yeah.. Derek, web info is thin on the ground, but if you want to learn a little more about these ladies, their website is here. No live dates in the UK scheduled, though. Poo!

05 August 2004


Excellent new posts over at Woebotnik.

At the risk of boring the hell out of everyone, it MUST be noted that Richard H. Kirk has been monitoring the shortwave 'numbers' for many years now. As he said in the Wire back in March 2000:

"I started listening to shortwave radio because I use it a lot for sound sources and I kept picking up snippits of conversations relating to the war (Kosovo). There are also these weird frequencies just transmitting numbers that have been going on since the Cold War. These are stations that you can tune into and all they do is recite strings of numbers in robotic voices. Well, if the Cold War's supposed to be over, why are the voices still there?"

These 'clandestine transmissions' are like a red flag to a bull in the ultra-paranoid worldview of Mr. Kirk. Samples of 'numbers voices' have appeared in his work, particularly on "Darkness At Noon" and "T.W.A.T. -The War Against Terror".

There's also a Boards Of Canada track called "Gyroscope" from the "Geogaddi" album that features a string of numbers recited in a freaky childlike voice which I presume was sampled from a shortwave station.

Also loved Matt's piece on the bleep 'n' bass/ Belgium 'ardkore era, which is never out of fashion at Gutterbreakz HQ. Respec'

04 August 2004

Just had a listen to the previews of Bizzy B.'s blog-buzzin' "Science EP 3" over at Bleep. What do I think? It's a fucking wet dream, baby. Rather than steal an advance copy off Soulseek, I'm gonna be a good boy and wait for the official release date, 9th Aug, because this chap clearly deserves my hard-earned cash...
Really enjoyed reading John's advance review of The Bug feat. Warrior Queen single, over at Uncarved. I'm excited. More stuff like this please, sir!
Wow, I seem to be making some new bloggy friends this week. Consider yourselves 'linked', guys. Really feeling the love out there....





Conny Plank (seen here with Cluster's Deiter Moebius)

Just noticed that Blissblog has taken up the Belgium thread. Tasty.
Although there is little I can add to Matt and Simon's wise words, here's a few choice tunes from the era that rate as 'timeless classics' in my book:

Kicksquad - Soundclash (Champion Sound)
Mundo Musique - Acid Pandemonium
LA Style - James Brown Is Dead
Outlander - Vamp
Rythmatic - Frequency
Meng Syndicate - Sonar System
Mental Overdrive - Theme Of St. Baafs
Zero Zero - Sanity Clause
The Scientist - The Exorcist/The Bee
Hyp-No-Tyz 2 - Torsion
Wishdokta - Wasted
Xon - Dissonance
Techno Grooves Mach 4 - Techno Slam
Set Up System - Music & Noise
and of course Nightmares On Wax - Aftermath

And it turns out that Simon was the author of that mystery MM article on Noise. That bit about "There needs to be a renewed awareness of the capacity of the synthesiser and sampling to produce filthy, noxious tones" really was an inspiring point, as it was totally in line with my thinking at that time. Nice work, fella.

03 August 2004


Must admit I haven't read The Wire for a while, so am currently ignorant of the details of Keenen's Noise Primer piece, but there's been plenty of stimulating discourse on the subject in blogdom. I can see both sides of the argument; relating to the pro-Keenens like Derek Walmsley with his talk of "music of psychological liberation, a struggle to create creative space via sculpting sounds. The struggle is itself rewarding..." whilst also being in total agreement with K-Punk when he suggests "Loveless and successors such as Fennesz are powerful precisely because they melt the oppositions between melody and noise, pleasure and pain, pop and experimentalism". Mark's really hit the spot there. That point where 'conventional' music forms get shafted by a big dollop of the White Hissy Stuff can produce some of the most intoxicating moments. Whilst "Loveless" and "Psychocandy" are two of the most high-profile examples of the pop-noise interface, there's plenty of other isolated examples littering the alleyways of pop/rock history.

Aside from the obvious noise-as-futuristic-effect ("Telstar", "Silver Machine"), one of the most powerful applications is when used as a vehicle to express extreme emotional impact. I believe the Beatles take credit for the first use of feedback in a pop song (the intro to "I Feel Fine") but it wasn't until the final studio album, "Abbey Road", that they really used it to full effect on the final section of Lennon's "I Want You (she's so heavy)": a slow-burning wall of feedback that gradually increases in volume, then suddenly cuts out just as it's about to completely drown out the rest of the track, perfectly illustrating the tidal wave of intense longing that the lyrics refer to. More recently, Smog pulled-off a similar trick on "Cold Blooded Old Times", from the "Knock Knock" album. Bill Callaghan's invocation of unspeakably awful childhood experiences ("the type of memories that turn your bones to glass") is concluded by a sustained howl of feedback whiteout that conveys the protagonist's inner torment and rage in a cathartic explosion of feeling.

But perhaps my all time favourite use of noise in a pop song is on "Cindy Tells Me", from Eno's "Here Come The Warm Jets". An otherwise highly melodic - almost bubblegum - tune, "Cindy" features, on the first chorus, a speaker-shredding wash of feedback-delay that's so unexpected, so inappropriate, yet completely galvanises the song, giving it an adrenalin shot that elevates it into the upper stratosphere.

Having said all that, I'm not averse to the idea of 'pure' noise composition. I'm surprised at how many people in this community are, actually. True, it's a marginal area of my collection, an area to dip into occasionally when in the required 'zone'. I think the last noise album I really enjoyed was Non's "Children Of The Black Sun", on which Boyd Rice went for a widescreen, panoramic sound that proved that noise can be beautifully produced (in DVD 5.1 sound no less!) yet retain it's crushing intensity. Boyd made some interesting observations in Re/Search's Industrial Culture Handbook about the way the human mind, when confronted by an apparently formless barrage of noise, can begin to impose it's own order:

"I think a lot of the noise suggests structures in people's heads that aren't actually there. Which is what it should do. I've made a lot of tapes of pure noise and I know there are no voices on them, yet you listen back and you swear there are voices. And on "Pagan Music" even though it's just loops of noise, you can hear definite little melodies coming out...the most subtle elements can become very pronounced."

So anyway, I guess my position is that, broadly speaking, I'm pro-Noise. I have my limits, of course. I can quite happily listen to Whitehouse, but never could get into Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music". Too samey. Like any other genre, there's good noise and bad noise. I refuse to dismiss it as an '80s fad. It's all subjective, anyway. No doubt, back in '64, anyone over the age of 30 would've considered The Kink's "You Really Got Me" to be Noise.

To illustrate this point further (and in light of Mr. Stubbs' recent nostalgia trip back to the 'glory days' of MM) I refer to a particularly evocative piece written by The Stud Brothers about Front 242, from Melody Maker, dated February 28th 1987, which begins with a fascinating examination of the (then) current state of popular culture (seen through the Studs' hyperactive gaze), and gives an insight (or perhaps a reminder) of what was perceived to be at stake at that time:


Eighties popular culture, and we mean here POPULAR CULTURE, has seen the reality and spreading of the horrible Seventies phrase "lifestyle", a phrase that is endorsed by horrible words like "health", "yuppie" and "career". From the radios, Walkmans, televisions and politicians ooze the philosophies of the New Valium Aesthetic that then slop into the brainpans of previously rational and intelligent people. The most trivial activities, like listening to pop music and taking cocaine, are raised to the level of great metaphysical significance.

In opposition to the New Valium Aesthetic, America and Europe have spawned "alternative" pockets of culture. In pop music a few subversive cells battle ineffectively for the communal cottonwool mind. Viva hip-hop. Viva the shambling kids. And, of course, viva NOISE.


"Noise" - that wonderfully loud and empty five-letter word. The cells, basically European, that sit rather unwillingly beneath this banner, regard it with the sceptism with which Nick Cave might treat the word "goth". Groups like the Young Gods and Front 242, in an effort not to be labelled, have invented their own labels. The Young Gods call their product New Sonic Architecture and Front 242 call theirs FRONT 242. These at least have the advantage of being accurate.
Their efforts, though, are merely rewarded with the critical label "noise". Unfortunately, "noise" in the Eighties has become an abstract term of little or no meaning, like the words "love and "fascism". The appeal of the word is that it seems to stand in emotive opposition to the words "music" and "melody", it suggests an alternative, independence and eventually subversion. But, as a term, it works purely in presumption. That's to say, if we assume Chris De Burgh to be UNnoise then we can, with banal simplicity, describe The Birthday Party as "noise".

The argument that "noise" exists at all as a medium is so feeble and sentimental that ultimately we agree with it because we can't believe it deserves any rational opposition.

"Noise" never exists for long. "Noise" can become "art" like Neubaten. "Noise" is never constant, it can become melody like "Ace Of Spades". "Noise" can be anything and, in the real world, it usually is. "Noise" exists like pain....subjectively.

I was sufficiently impressed by the article to use one of my Sixth Form free-periods the following day to sneak off into town to buy 242's "Official Version". Now, I've never really considered 242 to be a "Noise" band but, when I returned to school triumphantly brandishing my new purchase and slapped it on the Sixth Form Common Room's turntable, my peers were almost universally united in their aversion to it. To them it was just a 'Noise', which seemed rather odd when you consider that a couple of years earlier they'd all been happily listening to Depeche Mode's "Master & Servant". Perhaps you just need a pretty face to sell Noise? I say that with no disrespect to Depeche - you can say what you like about the mid-80's, or scoff at DM's 'Industrial Lite' sound, but where else will you find an example of a big selling Boy Band that applies that level of experimentation and feeds it to a teenage mass market? Amazing, really. To my ears, Front 242 were pretty catchy, like a more sour-faced, grown-up Depeche. In the accompanying interview, 242's uncredited spokesman is quick to distance the group from any Noise connotations:

MM: Are 242 noise?
242: We don't really like that word. I mean, what's noise, what's not noise? I mean, have you heard the LP, would you say that that's noise?
MM: No, but we could see others saying so.
242: Have you heard the seven inch, 'Quite Unusual', is that noise?
MM: No, it's probably got more in common with the Human League than, say, Neubaten.
242: Well, I know people that call the Human League 'noise' even now. I know people that call hip-hop 'noise'. When I listen to English radio, I think they put noise on all the time, I think The Housemartins are noise. We make music out of noises. We sample noises from everywhere, we don't make 'noise'.
MM: What sort of noises do you like in particular?
242: We should say 'sound'.
MM: What sort of sounds do you like in particular?
242: I like metal sounds but not like Neubaten or Test Department. We make metal sounds and work on them to make, say, a bass sound. But that's personal. There is no catalogue of sound for me, there are just sounds that you like and those that you don't like. It's the same with music, there is no form of music that I prefer. I try to be open even if I don't like The Housemartins and all that bullshit.
MM: Do you ever stop in the street and think: "What a brilliant sound"?
242: Yeah, sure. The last great thing we heard was on tour in Sweden. we found that the red light for the blind at a pedestrian crossing made a great noise. We sampled it for one of the tracks on the LP.
MM: Which track?
242: It's not important.

Reading that bit about turning metal sounds into bass sounds, it strikes me that most modern laptop-driven electronica focuses on editing and programming skills - which can admittedly be a total rush - but I can't think of that many current producers who put in the amount of Research & Development into sound morphing/sculpting that Front 242 were involved in back then, and when they do it's usually excavating/remoulding bits of other people's music in the Hip Hop tradition (Four Tet's Folk-bending, Prefuse 73's glitched-out Jazzscapes). Who is there really working with the fabric of everyday environmental sounds in popular music?

By a strange coincidence, on the reverse of the 242 page is another article that appears to address the very same subject. But I only have the second half, and can't remember who wrote it. Reading the following passage makes me suspect it might've been a Reynolds piece:


Too often, noise has meant a level plane of abraded texture, which can merely add up to a different kind of blandness, a sense-dulling consistency. There needs to be more dips, swerves, use of space and architecture, more faltering in the rhythms. Hip Hop is something the noise bands can learn from. The current hip hop aesthetic, as displayed by the music of Salt-n-Pepa, Deejay Marley Marl, Frick and Frapp, Beastie Boys, is based around the forcing-into-friction of antagonistic ambiences and idioms, sampled from random points in pop history. The effect is psychedelic, dispersing consciousness as effectively as any pure din.

The guitar is still privileged as a source of noise. There needs to be a renewed awareness of the capacity of the synthesiser and sampling to produce filthy, noxious tones. There needs to be a realisation of how far rock trails behind the avant garde and New Jazz. People have to follow through the possibilities for the human voice opened up by Diamanda Galas and Tim Buckley; to listen again to Faust, Can, Hendrix, Sun Ra, Cabaret Voltaire, Suicide....and labels like Recommended, Crammed, Play It Again Sam...

I remember being particularly galvanised by that second paragraph. It sort of sounds like something Simon might say (apart from the New Jazz bit?). But then again, Stubbs is the big Faust and Hendrix fan, right? If anyone (especially the true author) would like to step forward and shed some light on this, I'd be most grateful.

But if one were looking for a modern-day album that fits at least some of the above criteria and validates the Noise aesthetic as a force for further exploration, then you could do a lot worse than check out the sonic behemoth that is Pan Sonic's latest, "Kesto". No less a luminary that David Toop, when discussing his new book "Music, Silence And Memory" in this month's Record Collector, cites Pan Sonic as one of the "good examples of electronic musicians whose music is powerful and uncompromising, yet maintaining strong connections with familiar musical approaches". "Kesto" is actually four projects in one, as Finland's finest distill the essence of their muse, extracting and separating the constituent parts, presenting each facet on a separate CD. If we're talking about Noise in it's most literal sense, then disc 1 is where it can be found - in abundance! This presents Pan Sonic at their most violent; chiseling cubist sculptures from huge, granite-like blocks of distortion, or working their fingers through visceral lumps of static clay. My first experience of Pan Sonic was when I saw them live, supporting Suicide in 1998. I was impressed by the apparent level of improvisation - quite unusual for an electronic act - as they wrestled with raw sound: caressing, kneading, throttling....I can still feel that sense of struggle in their studio work; there's an immediacy, a sense of of-the-moment interaction between Man and Noise that suggests heroic, passionate labour. Although there's very little that could be described as 'melodic content' here, by anchoring this fearsome racket to electro-flavoured beats, Pan Sonic inject an accessible element to what would otherwise be an overpoweringly intense experience. I can detect a direct lineage to the late-70s Industrial/Post Punk school. Whilst "Diminisher" is clearly a homage to Suicide (evoking the spectre of the 'journey into hell' sequence from "Frankie Teardrop") and "Mayhem II" kicks with the sci-fi garage rock propulsion of "Nag Nag Nag", one of the strongest comparisons would be with SPK's "Information Overload Unit" album. Anyone who appreciates SPK 'classics' like "Emanation Machine R.Gie 1916" (like standing next to a jumbo jet engine at full throttle) or "Epilept:Convulse" (lurching drum machine with noise-stab punctuation) will feel at home here.

But for all disc 1's euphoric onslaught, it's disc 2 that's the real gem. The beats remain, but Pan Sonic ease off on the distortion boxes and focus on more sensual textures. The results are some of the most achingly beautiful dronescapes; the deepest rhythm-driven electronic meditation I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I'm not sure if I'm entirely certain what Matt Woebotnik meant when he spoke of 'Atmosphere' recently, but if you take it to mean a sense of space/place/environment then this stuff's got it in spades. The final track, "Arctic", is maybe one of the finest single pieces of music I've heard in, say, 10 years. Beginning with a simple four-note bass melody and pattering 808 drum pattern, the track swells into a huge corrosive drone of devastating emotional intensity that leaves me breathless and even a little tearful.

Disc 3 removes the beats and nearly all melodic content completely, delving into pure abstract ambient sound manipulation. Imagine if you removed the music from Joy Division's "Insight" and just kept Martin Hannant's lift-shaft atmospherics and you'll get the picture. Not as instantly gratifying as the previous discs, it is nevertheless a fascinating excursion. After a low sustained bass-tone, "Sewageworld" kicks off with the sound of a toilet flushing (very "Faust Tapes"), then develops into a series of clammy drips, clangs and thuds, not dissimilar to the sound effects near the end of Kubrick's "2001:A Space Odyssey" when Dave Bowman arrives at his final destination. "Arches Of Frost" sounds like gigantic concrete cylinders rubbing against each other, whilst "Inexplicable" adds a subtle wash of background tones that reminds me of the imaginary environments of Eno's "On Land".

Disc 4 is one continuous hour-long drone piece - the point where Pan Sonic flatline into total minimal drift. Not the easiest of work to digest, I find it best to just crank it up and go about my business around the house, letting my attention wander in and out of the piece as it slowly absorbs into the very fabric of my home. Coming back to what Boyd Rice said, although it appears be a series of overlapping metallic sustained tones, I keep thinking I can here a female choral effect - but I'm not sure if its actually there or not. Weird.

Album of the year so far, no contest.

02 August 2004

Delighted to make the acquaintance of Mr. Kek-W, first discovered lurking in my comments box. Turns out he's recently started a blog - the rather wonderful Kid Shirt. I've been greedily working my way through his archives and am definitely feeling some strong affinity. A fellow West Country lad too. On the international scale of blogginess, we're practically next door neighbours! His latest post on the Sudan Crisis is a gut-wrenching reality check - what are we all doing worrying about the minutiae of popular culture when there's people dying in the world?! This isn't an area I want to respond to in any depth here, as Gutterbreakz was always meant to be a playground where I could revel in the 'fun stuff' and forget about the world's problems - like Terrorism, Global Warming and Credit Card Bills - but suffice to say I hear what you're saying, fella, and now feel slightly foolish and worthless discussing anything as banal as pop music. Nevertheless, one must plough on. A few of Kek's recent threads I'd like to expand on...


I seem to have amassed a surprising amount of the damn things too, on account of being a regular Mirror reader and also being given all the Daily Mail ones by my Gran (bless her right-wing little heart). It's a phenomenon that's been fascinating/annoying me for some time, but it hadn't even occurred to me to compose my thoughts on the matter into a coherent piece for the blog. Thankfully, Tha Kekster's on the case. I guess the reason I'm hoarding these freebies is because I think they might come in useful next time I DJ at a wedding....

"Someone asked me to play at their wedding though".

Yeah, it's nice when that happens, eh? Years ago, I fancied myself as a decent left-field techno DJ, beat mixing stuff like Polygon Window's "Quoth" with Bandulu's "Presence" at obscure little clubs in central Bristol, back when there was a left-field techno scene here. These days, all I seem to do is supply the sounds for friend's weddings, house parties, Xmas do's and the like. I enjoy the discipline of creating an interesting mainstream set. I've been waging a one-man war on shit wedding DJ's for some time now. Although I recently turned down the first ever offer of a paying gig. I'm worried I'll lose my edge if I start accepting money for my services. My specialist area is mainstream '70s disco/soul, which always goes down well. Examples: Earth Wind & Fire, Heatwave, Tina Charles, The Emotions, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Barry White, The Stylistics, Van McCoy...I love all that stuff anyway, so it's always a pleasure, never a chore. Depending on the occasion and vibe, I've been known to drop in a half-hour of old skool Hip Hop, Punk & New Wave sets, 2 Tone sets, whatever I think I can get away with. Turn-of-the-nineties Indie-dance stuff like "Loaded", "The Only One I Know" and "Step On" usually work with my crowd too, and I've played out the Stone Roses' "I Am The Resurrection" on many occasions. It's always a great feeling when I spin something like The Pixies "Here Comes Your Man" or The Fall's "Mr. Pharmacist" and get drunken revellers coming up and showing their appreciation - it's like they can't believe they're hearing this sort of quality at a run-of-the-mill wedding reception. It's not like I'm playing anything particularly radical, merely that people have become conditioned to expect the DJ to play a load of bollox at these events. Once they realise I'm not an asshole, people start coming up to me and asking "don't suppose you've got any Spiritualized, mate?". Of course, there's always some pissed-up wench who gets irate when I refuse to play "Y.M.C.A." or "Aggadoo", but I have my principles to uphold. I make exceptions when the bride requests Robbie Williams or Ronan Keating (both of whom I detest), because it's her big day and I'm not gonna mess it up for her. But as for the rest of the guests - fuck 'em if they can't take it. I also refuse to chat over or between songs. If there're any important announcements to make, I let a member of the entourage do it. I firmly believe a good DJ should remain invisible. If you get the music right, you don't need to give people verbal encouragement to enjoy themselves. The only time you'll get me on the mic is when I mumble "last orders at the bar, folks" near the end.

Recently, I did get to let off some steam when Big Dave B. invited me to do a guest spot at Recognise 4. I played 45 minutes of left-field electronica like Mr.76ix, Team Shadetek, Jimmy Edgar, Plasticman, Slaughter Mob and Chris Clark. The fact that there was hardly anyone there at that point didn't matter to me in the slightest, it was just great doing a totally selfish set and listening to my fave tracks pumping through a PA.

"The Casio SK1 was the first sampler I ever owned"

Casio SK-100

Oh Yesss. My first 'group' was a Casio project. Back in '88, me and my school buddy Neil were making trax with an SK-5 and SK-100. Thanks for bringing back some cool memories, Kek. Incidentally, many years later I sold my SK-100 to Pete Kember aka Sonic Boom, who covets the old Casios for their circuit bending potential. I wonder if it's actually appeared on any of his records?

Jigsaws, Toys, Comics

Love the way Kek unearths and revels in these fragments of childood ephemera. I hope Kek spotted the thread running between K-Punk and me on this subject back in March

Bringing SPK back on the agenda

Been thinking about them myself recently, too. More of which shortly...

Slagging off Morrissey and Paul Weller.

A totally valid pastime in my book.
Gutterbreakz returns....back to the grind. To be honest, I'm not that bothered about holidays. Sure, I enjoy myself when I'm there, but if I didn't have friends and family arranging my vacation time for me and dragging me off to enjoy myself in some distant location, I probably wouldn't ever go anywhere. This year we decided to holiday in the UK, mainly because we couldn't face the hassle of taking an eight-month old baby and all the accompanying paraphernalia on a plane. So that's now two years of avoiding the rest of the world, as last summer the wife was pregnant and didn't want to risk flying.

Some holiday experiences relating to music...

Hearing Busted's "Year 3000" at surprisingly high volume through a PA at a kiddie's disco was a strangely exhilarating experience. It made me appreciate what a cool noise these boys can make. The sort of music I generally listen to tends to focus on the highs and lows of the frequency spectrum, so its quite refreshing to occasionally have one's ears pinned-back by a good blast of midrange wall-of-guitars rawk. In terms of sheer pile-driving power, it wasn't that different to the effect of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" back in the day. Cleared out my system nicely. Now back to the serious stuff...

Spent quite a lot of time in a particular restaurant and became morbidly fascinated by the piped muzak constantly buzzing away in the background. The worst ones were the zombie-like assassinations of the old classics ("Light my Fire", "Hotel California", even "Alone Again Or") but some of the jazz-funk instrumentals kept gnawing away at my subconscious, ultimately drawing me into a contemplative reverie, from which I wouldn't surface until one of my kids dropped a spoon on the floor, or something. I'd find myself ruminating on the effectiveness of an electric piano line or the curious counter melody of a brass part. The best track was this faux-dub reggae thing, which featured some outrageously liberal use of echo effects -so heavy at one point, it was verging on subversive. You could tell the engineer had some fun with that one. I couldn't help wondering if I was the only person in the place actually paying attention to the muzak. Were all the other diners cheerfully ignorant of it's occasional charms? Or does my life revolve around music so much that I'll listen to anything, even worthless crap like this, when there's no other options available? I felt like a heroin addict getting by on morphine prescriptions. Speaking of addiction...

My plan to quit smoking on holiday failed dismally. Worst thing was that I cracked during an extended stay at a Centre Parcs resort, because its a self-contained environment where the only place you can buy fags is from the vending machines, at an extortionate £5.00 for a pack of sixteen! I'd already made an instinctive mental note of where all the machines were located (one in the supermarket entrance, one in the hotel foyer, one in the Sports bar etc etc) and quickly got into a routine of collecting pound coins to ensure I'd have enough dosh for the following day's fix (I average between 10-15 fags a day). I felt like a character in Bill Burrough's "Junkie". Pathetic, or what?

Listened to an awful lot of reggae on the i-Pod during the hols (and no, I wasn't in the Caribbean - I was in Suffolk, mainly). A change of scene often requires a change of soundtrack. Seventies roots 'n' dub stuff like Ja-Man Allstars "In The Dub Zone" and The Chantells and Friends "Children Of Jah" was on the menu, along with some '80s Digi-Dancehall like Winston Riley's "Dancehall Techniques". Yum!

I've always been partial to a bit of reggae, but its only in the last few years that I've really begun to explore it in any depth. Though, if I'm honest, virtually all my knowledge of the genre is gleaned from my mate Aaron. He does all the research and buys the CDs. I'm just a bloated vulture who gorges on his rasta-informed carcass.