REVIEWS 23/11/01



Esoterra 9

Esoterra must now surely be the definitive "house journal" of the satanic-occultural-apocalyptic-industrial scene, despite its irregularity. As ever, the presentation is excellent with a full colour glossy cover and centre-spread. The graphics throughout are superbly reproduced.

This issue's cover star is H.R. Giger, who is interviewed at length about his creative process, influences and methodology. He comes across as being mature and at ease with his own obsessions, which is something generally missing from the "look at me! I'm dead weird I am!" world of industrial culture. So, for example, when Giger lets on that he like Miles Davis and the Aphex Twin this comes across as natural and interesting. He also seems to have an extremely sensible attitude towards magick (to do with the actuality rather than the accoutrements).

However, other people interviewed in this issue seem over-reliant on keeping up an enigmatic façade (possible band name, that!). Der Blutharsch are yer standard po-faced post-industrial germanic business (yawn), with a fanbase that clearly relies on a steady flow of limited editions that conjur up a precise aesthetic. You know the sort of thing - militaria, castles, runes, bleak mysticism. So when the guy behind Der Blutharsch reveals that he actually likes Moby and Robbie Williams it seems quite jarring because the imagery is SO one-dimensional there is no room for anything else.

This sort of linearity becomes unintentionally hilarious in some other features. Atrax Morgue hail from Italy and should get out more: "I have fantasies of murder when I see a beautiful woman… I made a short movie called Cockskull Fantasy and it featured about 15 minutes of masturbation with a plastic skull". Coming to a Blockbuster near you…

Black metallers Corvus Corax attempt to come across as literary and articulate in what is clearly an interview done by post (and aided by a thesaurus), but end up sounding like pompous windbags: "Regarding oneself as a warrior, both metaphorically and realistically, it is quite inevitable to raise the signet of the carrion bird."

Perhaps the best exception to this sort of posturing is Boyd Rice, who has taken up a so many ludicrous positions over the last 10 years that it's impossible to think that he isn't playing the game purely for laughs. Unfortunately the interview with him here was conducted before his hilarious latest ideological development, which is to try and con impressionable American young men into… monarchism. Prince Charles, Power Electronics icon? However, Boyd's thoughts on the Knights Templar are here, along with the usual so-ridiculous-he-has-to-be-taking-the-piss stuff about how stupid people are for thinking he's a racist just because he's into Hitler, describes himself as "an occult fascist", is happy to be interviewed on neo-nazi shows like "Race and Reason" and lists people like Joseph Arthur Gobineau on his record sleeves.

Trevor Brown paints manga-esque pictures of girlie dolls which are bruised, trussed up or undergoing medical treatment. On a purely technical/aesthetic level they are very good, but the bleak subtext is pretty off-putting. Lots of selections of his artwork are reproduced here and the interview puts things in perspective. He argues his case pretty well, but ultimately you can't get away from the fact that he is in the business of depicting violence against women from a purely aesthetic angle, which can only ever be reactionary.

As you've probably guessed, this is a scene I feel increasingly distant from. That said, Esoterra (along with the UK-based Compulsion) is probably the best way of keeping up with current developments. If this stuff is your bag, you will love it.

Suspension in Reality vol 1: nos. 8, 9, 10

The saga continues! AAA Aotearoa continue in their mission. The cover of 8 includes a number of contradictory statements about the AAA and its origins. (Demonstrating that the AAA is continuing to move in several directions at once). Inside there is a piece on art in space, focussing on Annick Bureaud and Kitsou Dubois. Back cover is some Millennium Twain material - invest in space exploration!

Issue 9 includes a report on AAA activities on new years' day 2001 (i.e. 01.01.01), Jungle AAA on Giordano Bruno, and a great balloon launch photo.

10 is the "AAA on mars" special, including photos and text relating to their successful mission to the red planet. Also comrade Balli on pimax technology and DIY spaceship construction.

All in all, a heady collection!

Bang Out of Order

"Dave Blunkett tore open yet another letter addressed to NAZI SEX MURDER RECORDS, 14 The Larches, Torquay. Another loser wanting the COCKSUCKER compilation tapes he'd released, and enclosing their grubby little cheque for a pitiful 3.50. He threw the letter aside telling himself he'd get round to it eventually, and put the cheque in his wallet for when he'd be in the bank later…"

Another mysterious zine with no contact details. Fat lot of good that is for you lot, but here goes anyway: "Bang Out of Order" is about Power Electronics, with particular reference to Whitehouse and their ilk.

The bulk of the booklet is a rather good fictional account of the rise of a Power Electronics Unit (with all the usual "apocalypse culture" obsessions, neuroses and fans) which warps into a mental conspiracy theory. It ends up both satirising and celebrating the scene (it's billed as an "affectionate tribute"). It also calls into question the issues of where "power" really lies (certainly not with nerdy white blokes with synths, or nerdy white blokes who are serial killers). Fragments of the text ended up in the fake Stewart Home novel "Stone Circle" last year, but it's good to see the original mix.

There's also a postscript which puts the piece in context and reveals that the author has an extensive knowledge, and analysis, of the subject matter - as well as the requisite black humour for such a task. In fact, this is probably one of the best things I have seen written on the subject. The text is accompanied by impossibly obscure graphics from record sleeves and fanzines. A real shame this isn't more widely available. Well worth tracking down if you can...

Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration. No. 5.

A new issue of the only academic journal likely to get a review on this site (though I am happy to be proved wrong)! Transgressions seems to have a fairly elastic definition of what constitutes "urban exploration", which is definitely all for the good. There are four "chunky" articles in this issue. Firstly, some more material from Asger Jorn (the much underrated Danish Situationist, something Transgressions seem to be on a mission to rectify). Also a fascinating analysis of Italian occupied social centres in the 1990s which takes in arguments about how location affects their function and relationship with local people as well as the usual discussion of how much compromise their should be with governmental agencies, etc. Should be essential reading for anyone interested in such spaces (including their UK counterparts like the old 121, etc).

The Melancholic Troglodytes offer a take on Guy Debord's films which I found surprisingly accessible (not having seen any of them, not having good French, not being articulate in "film-speak") - their position is that Debord cannot be taken into the modernist/postmodernist framework, and there are also some nice sideswipes at the cult of personality which has developed around Debord. It's pretty rockin', actually.

Juan McIver writes on Lorca, class and the individual in Spain. On first look this seemed to be another interminable tract on the Spanish Civil War, but that will teach me to take things at surface value. The piece actually looks at love, the collective/individual split, alienation (a definite Transgressions theme) and the dead-end of militant self-sacrifice. It's written with a wry passion that makes the subject matter very exciting (to me at least).

That said - for me, the smaller pieces in Transgressions are by far the best bits. Jakob Jakobsen discusses a project whereby residents of a cul-de-sac were able to turn their streetlights on and off, Tim Thompson writes on running a pressure group from inside a mental hospital (something I've been hoping he'd do for some time - it's worth the wait). Stewart Home responds to some criticisms of a review of his Mind Invaders anthology. One of the best pieces is a deconstruction of "capitalist utopias" by editor Alastair Bonnet, in which the desires fostered by capitalism are shown to be illusions, far more unreachable that the supposedly "head in the clouds" objectives of those of us who would like to see a different world entirely. Also some very good reviews of related material.

Transgressions looks great as well - it's over a hundred pages, perfect bound, with a full colour cover.



Ceramic Hobs - "Straight Outta Rampton" CD (PUMF)

The title suggests an NWA/Whitehouse mash up, which is… kind of true. This carries on from and improves on their Psychiatric Underground album. The introductory chant of "Largactyl… Barmy Army! Largactyl… Barmy Army!" sets the 'Mad Pride' agenda, but soon gives way to a sample of Chic's "Freak Out", folding into another call to arms. Blimey!

"Shaolin Master" is yer typical punk braggart extolling his prowess over a laid back Fall-esque backing. Top! This comes across as a more honest, anglicised version of Wu-tang Clan, who it turns out have never actually practiced martial arts either…

"Islam uber alles" echoes Stewart Home's "Kill" but with a bewildering array of other "heroes" including Diane Abbot. Obviously this was written before Sept 11th).

The album is interspersed with weird "found" sounds, for example what seems to be a tape letter from someone's Mum.

"a.e.trip thing" is an absolutely agonising listen. It features a recording of a radio show phone-in in which one person tries to explain his entire cosmology ("the W to the power of 3, the WWW, is the mushroom on its side…") while the host tries in vain to stop him rambling on. Some great ambient nuttiness which lays bare the mechanisms behind "public access" to the media.

"Love Twister" is sort of dub cow-punk, King Tubby does Dallas. My other favourite track is "Psychic Vampires" - a nice bit of brooding self-reflection: "I don't feed off the pain of others".

The Hobs sound like Half Man Half Biscuit's brothers who were locked in the attic and fed a steady diet of revolutionary tracts, special brew, and prescription drugs. This album is them shinning down the drainpipe, ready to run away and become the marching band of the Socialist Patients Kollectiv. Rampton couldn't hold them, but your CD player most certainly should.

£5 post paid (to "M. Standing") from PUMF RECORDS, 25 Ivy Avenue, Blackpool FY4 3QF

Radio Savage Houndy Beastie - 2001: a spaced oddyssey CD

More radically deranged radio show nonsense from oop north. RSHB squat like satan on a moped-rampage through your late-night consciousness. Cheesy listening lulls you into a cosy slumber before some well aimed verbal barbs shock you awake with a smile. I don't get many CDs that feature Cliff Richard, the Shaft Theme played by a brass band AND Bela Lugosi's Dead remixed inna octagenarian stylee. My suspicion is that you don't either. Other highlights include "Remember the essence of life" - a great ambient piece which just about manages to stay the right side of cod-hippy, some great skits on things like police recruiting ads, and the triumphant return of local councillor Barry Massive. Oh yes.

various artists - Naked and Alone on the Celebrity Circuit CD (Diskono)

A compilation of experimental electronics = a reviewer's nightmare. Either that, or a license to bang on all poetic about mystico-techno gubbins. After several listens in different environments I finally got time to put pen to paper on a long haul train journey from North Wales to London. Diskono seem to have contrived to place one of their agents across the table from me: someone who looked uncannily similar to an ex- of mine, but with a scottish accent. Unnerving.

Aaaaaaaanyway - 26 tracks, some of which are less than 30 seconds long, er right. That, and the stop/start/ noise/silence/ nature of the tracks makes individual pieces difficult to pick out - perhaps it therefore works more like a mixtape. Broadly two genres here - messy fucked up chopped about skippy CD glitch business, or loops 'n' drones - more continuous.

Aerospace Soundwise come on low-key with some clicks and silence on their track "Carter" (far outweighed by train noise but that is OK) -> lovely detuned (but tuneful?!) guitars cut in. A looped strumming (really this is all I need right now).

Klaus Oldenburg "plays physical remix" - sort of inept scratching with blues and marching band records (?) eh? Like a battle between to people, one of whom wants to play a lot of music and one who doesn't. Maybe there is some kind of macro-concept behind this which I am missing, however.

Felix Kubin "too many segments" - fucked up vocals/sorta NWW "quirky" >>> Skippy CD in Hell vibe >>> Funk emerges.

Gunter Saxenhammer's "Gunter meets doric on the night bus" - Seems to feature the treated voices of various nightbus voyagers. Which is pretty fucking mad for starters. I played this really loud at home and it sounded like there were a bunch of pissed Scots in my living room shouting stuff like "hairy cock!". Which had the unique effect of shutting up the upstairs neighbours. I therefore owe "Gunter" several pints. Big up the tartan massive!

Kid 606 is one of the few "names" (in a 'The Wire', micro-celeb way) on the CD. His "there's a reason why his "there's a reason you all speak american and we don't speak any of yr silly languages" (yes indeed, there is) weighs in with some cartoon soundeffects and few milliseconds of junglism. Difficulty: this would sound amazing played next to some "straight" dance music, but here just sounds like more abstract shit-for-the-sake-of-it.

Antenna Farm manage to make a track of interference noises and clicks sound far too long at just 3 minutes, which must have taken some effort.

Ruth Random, on the other hand, contributes a 13 second track of glitchy vocals, which is fantastic.

Presumably there is now some kind of software programme which can reduce any recording to a series of bursts of noise, skipping CD sounds and bursts of silence. Perhaps this CD is a demo for that software or something, but the actual programme isn't included. My difficulty with all this is that I am already suffering a CD player that doesn't work. Obviously I am all for people fucking about, destroying the linearity of verse/chorus or cubase, but it seems that this particular brand of experimentation is rapidly approaching a critical mass of identikit screechy ironic charity shop record tracks. Fine, but this makes it difficult to discover people who are doing interesting/enjoyable stuff (or are these concepts now redundant?! I am just some old fuck banging on about how you can't hum the tunes any more?).

Alejandra & Aeron come up with the goods - a beautiful classical loop, with typewriter/keyboard noises in the background. Possibly a commentary on the raw process of "composition", but also great to listen to. The addition of Rupert the Bear vocal samples hold your attention (and no, I am not making this up)...

Aerospace Soundwise come back with 8 minutes of building high pitch tones, church organ and crunchiness. Mmm granularity. Blessedly coherent - no jumping about like a hyperactive child. Lovely.

Klaus Oldenburg's second track "our tactics against the k-y" combines rain, "Scientist and Jammy Strike Back", more scottish voices and fade in/fadeouts. It is therefore, by definition, fantastic.

The CD came with two sheets of manifesto and introduction which do as much to confuse as anything (as does their web site). One quote stands out, however: "Please don't wait for that fanzine, that band, that revolution to change your life. If YOU want something and it's not there YOU create it. The refusal of constraint is a genuine challenge to conformity. Accept no limitations. Take that starpower." Which is certainly how I got here…

Skagboy 3 show up with 30 secs of geetar feedback and boshing drums, like the rehearsal tape of your teenage band that never happened.

V/VM detourn piano house classics to good comedic effect while Jane Dowe's "I'm so bored with Mick and Joe" chops up the Clash to good effect (good to play to those who latch onto the form of punk but not the attitude, i.e. conservatives with leather jackets).

Overall, it's an interesting, infuriating, intense CD.

Is it a good CD? Is it a bad CD?

Will I like it?

It's an interesting...



Brixton Bass Pressure Vol.2. - Angry Love mixCD

Another in what promises to be a pretty eclectic series from the man Paul Meme. The first one was all 2-step garage, and the next is said to be an 80s mix (apparently more Tackhead than T'Pau). But right here and right now it's all about drum 'n' b-b-b-bass. The Angry Love thing is a bit of concept. This would normally have me running for the hills ("run fooooor your liiiiiiiiiiiife!!! Dur dah dur dah!!!"), trying to escape from endless DJ mixes which threaten to "take you on a journey" (maaaaaaan), but end up being a voyage up some celeb DJ's fetid arsehole. S'funny how "taking people on a journey" is supposed to conjur up cosmic adventure rather than going to see your Granny near Swindon, isn't it?

Anyway, on first look the tracks are evenly divided between harsher, ruffneck stuff and more slinky funky business. Pump your fist in the air to the fist half and then get freaky with 'da laydeez' [oh yes, I can just see you doing that - JE] for the rest. However, on closer inspection it ain't as simple as that - the ruff ragga stuff like Congo Natty and Digital ('Deadline' - rave-mental chooooooooon! 'Rockers' - dub-chasmic chooooooon!) is mixed pretty smoothly, and the soulful liquid funk tracks are chopped about like Sweeney Todd is at the controls. Having an epileptic fit. On speed. But funky!

The obvious criticism of the mix is that it falls between two stools - not quite managing to maintain the brain-mashing intensity of the first half OR the lush vibes of the second. Personally I think it works pretty good. There are some nice mixes and Paul even manages to chuck in some wicked effects, something many have tried, but fallen into gimmickry. (Like - yes we KNOW you've got filters/bells/an echo chamber/an acapella of Martin Luther King saying "I have a dream!" but you don't have to use it Every Fucking Thirty Seconds! Just play the goddamn record before I generate my "cracking bone" sound effect with the use of your skull!).

The heads may also try to dis because of the lack of up to the minute tunes, which would be true, but would also be missing the point. To my mind, mixes should be about capturing a vibe, which can be done in a number of ways - not just by spending the most money on records. People mistake "new" with "good" too much in dance music (or is this another way of me saying that it's all shit now anyway?!). You can live in record shops for years, but if you ain't feelin' it you can't be dealin' it. For now, I'm out like Paul's corduroy trousers…


2 Dave Parkin mixCDs

Two lush downtempo/ambient/electronica mixes from the enigmatic Mr Parkin.

"The Snowflake one" is pure shimmering twinkly-ness. In fact, I am loathe to pick out individual tracks because the mix is much more than a sum of its parts. The sound varies from a gorgeous ambience to a more crunchy rhythmic vibe. No vocals except some faint vocoded syllables about half way through. The tracks are selected from 1993-2000 (must be some record collection) and include people such as Gerscom, Reload and the Boards of Canada. It's been an emotional few months for me and this CD has definitely contributed to my descent into a gibbering wreck of mushiness.

"The Space.1 one" is more eclectic, combining the electronica of "Snowflake", with more dancey (tho not laaaaaaarge, obviously) tracks and even some fantastic "songs". Apparently this was originally a radio broadcast (I think web radio) - which would have been an incredible find. Basic Channel's minimal dubby techno rubs up against Sigur Ros' Icelandic heart-wrenching balladry - and it really works. Some great unknown (to me) stuff like 'Low & Shj' and 'Norken'. Herr Parkin clearly knows his onions - there's a wonderful progression from beginning to end. This CD should be mandatory for rainy bus journeys.

Iration Steppas & Tena Stelin - War Inna Babylon 7" (Tandoori Space)
Vibronics - One Drop 7" (Tandoori Space)
Iration Steppas & Tena Stelin - Jungle Jungle 7" (Tandoori Space)

A bumper crop of new vinyl from camp Iration. War Inna Babylon takes up from where the Max Romeo version left off. This is serious UK digital roots - heavy heavy soundsystem style. The flip is a serious instrumental workout with added bongos, and we're not talking twee percussion here - this is nyabinghi ("death to the white oppressors and their black collaborators") for the 21st Century.

The Vibronics come in hard with a relentless instrumental track - absolutely wicked bassline that keeps on and on. I can see people into the harder end of techno and d 'n' b loving this. The flip is a remix by Iration Steppas again with added echo and siren. Categorically a Good Thing, tho' we seem to lose the bassline a bit (or is it just my speakers don't go down that deep?).

Jungle Jungle kicks off with Tena doin the Tarzan thing and kicks off big style from then on. The dub features some ferocious siren work. (out of date site)

VC - By His Deeds 7"(Digital Noise)

"Sitting in your church on Sunday, thinkin' who you gonna screw Monday…" - the roots smash of the summer. Like "Gunz in the Ghetto" last year, this combines a great song with social comment. Some nice clarinet (sax?) and backing vocals, with lyrics that tear into hypocrites everywhere, including reggae "warrior" stars (mentioning no names, tho…). The flip brings the clarinet and backing vocals to the fore. Part Two is already out on the same riddim.

Rhythm and Sound with Cornell Campbell - King in My Empire 10" (Burial Mix).
Rhythm and Sound with Tikiman - Jah Rule 10" (Burial Mix).
Wailers Band/Rhythm and Sound - Field Marshall/No Partial 10" (PK).

Rhythm and Sound is an offshoot of the sprawling Basic Channel clicky/dubby/minimal/Berlin techno nexus, which I freely admit had passed me by until now. There's too much house and techno these days that is rather hopefully described as "dubby" when it's really just kinda minimal with a bit of reverb and echo chucked on the top. This little lot are a joy after so many disappointments - a real synthesis which can't be described as either dub-techno or techno-dub. It's very telling that these are being stocked (and rated) by both Smallfish and Dub Vendor.

"King In My Empire" is the best of the current crop. It's great to see the spirit of Jamaican studios being brought up to date nearer to home - established singers being brought in to sing over rhythm tracks. Berlin meets Kingston Uptown. Cornell sings a righteous lyric, which gets crisped up by R&N over a weighty but minimal riddim. The flip features snatches of the vocal coming in and out of the mix… Easily one of my records of the year and hopefully just an inkling of things to come.

Tikiman has been vocalist on all previous Burial Mix releases. His style is much less soulful than Cornell Campbell, but still works well with the music. Here R&N add a whole bunch of tape hiss to the mix, their style well and truly carved out. Love to hear this on a proper sound system.

The PK release is a bit of an oddity - a couple of obscure instrumentals from the Wailers band on one side, with a Rhythm and Sound remix on the other. The Wailers tracks are alright - there's an off-key melodica on one, and the other is more dubwise. R&N take the vibe of the original and then stretch out an endless groove over several minutes. This is perhaps more like the R&N releases on the confusingly titled "Rhythm and Sound" label than the Burial Mix material, but it's cracking stuff anyway.


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