I’m skint and haven’t bought any records since July. Luckily my lust for new music is being catered for admirably by my friends. Another despatch from Mego HQ in Vienna has provided many enjoyable evenings.
Jim O’Rourke – Old News No. 6 2xLP
I used to own a fair few “dark ambient” albums, but I had to get rid of them. It wasn’t the fascist undertones, or the sheer satanic evil of the music – they all just seemed incredibly one dimensional when I listened to them again after many years’ abstinence. I think if you have to overload your record sleeves with extreme imagery and use vocal samples reflecting how incredibly sinister it all is, you’re probably doing it all wrong. (To know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent, right?)
Plus, I have less use in my life these days for such mono-emotional soundtracks. I rarely feel the urge to play “happy hardcore” or “uplifting trance” for the same reason. But mono-textural is fine – see my recent Mark Fell review.
O’Rourke is another of the pantheon of people I recognise from reading The Wire but have never engaged with. They stuck him on the cover dressed as a rabbit is all I know. Oh and he was in Sonic Youth for a bit. Frankly the cover of this doesn’t give much away. Which is all for the good because I approached it without any preconceptions. It’s strange – electronic and ambient and varied but not demanding that you interpret it in a particular way (even Autechre who I see as miles away from the legions of dark-ambienters still have a very clearly defined post-rave sinister boffin aesthetic).
Over four sides of thick black vinyl, O’Rourke pours gloopy drones, harsh interludes, urban field recordings and other elements that are even harder to describe. It fluctuates between calm and unnerving, bright and dark. These fluctuations allow your imagination to completely open up rather than being signposted in a particularly cliched sub-goth direction.
I don’t really know what it is, which is why I keep going back to it.
Mark Fell & Peter Rehberg – Zikir/Kubu 12″
I like both these people, but I don’t think I get this record.
Side A: BBC male voices document something seriously (possibly, the development of radar?). There is occasionally squidgy bass rumble, but mainly there are stilted breakbeats – running at about 70bpm. And let’s be clear, these are much more like drums than Mark’s martian surgical implements of UL8. There is a Cabaret Voltaire influence floating above this – and I’m not sure if they are trying to reach towards it or run away. Certainly the double, triple speed madness at the end suggests some kind of escape velocity being reached…
Side B: is Rehberg meets Fell in the echo chamber. A simple drum riff, some static crunchiness, elements slowly being added. Before you know it you’re nodding your head to a pretty complex drum pattern. Soon enough they’ve added almost baffling levels of complexity. A slow shift from minimal to overload.
I’m haunted by the feeling that this record includes elements of something else – another record I am very familiar with. That’s not to say that either track is generic, just that for a trainspotter like me there is a pleasure/pain aspect to not being able to pin it down.
Philipp Quehenberger – Uffuff 12″
The title track comes replete with a camp as fuck sinister bassline, right out of the Torture Garden or Slimelight in the early nineties. Plus nice stomping germanic beatz. Somewhere, someone in those stupid goth clown boots is mixing this in with KMFDM.
Then Patrick Pulsinger brings some mad diddly beats that make you wonder if you’re playing the record at the right speed. (No really, I had to play the thing from the start and then time it to see if was the right length as stated on the editions mego website…). Then about halfway through it morphs into an exact replica of the sort of tunes you’d get played in the mental room of raves -the spaces you’d peak into at about 4 in the morning and they’d either be empty or full of proper casualties going even more bonkers – either way you’d never actually go in, but probably regret it a little…
If you were fleeing the room-of-mentals, you’d probably be looking from something exactly like the Elin remix of “Hey Gert”. Absolutely lush twinkly synths and an only as rough as it needs to be bassline, with skippy beats. This sounds like the kind of gear Colin Dale used to play – and there are few compliments I can pay people in the techno realm. I don’t know if everyone did this, but there are some moments when you’d end up having a “smiling like a loon” partner on discerning dancefloors. Usually a complete stranger, you were forced together by the mutual recognition that “fucking hell, this is a REALLY GOOD BIT, isn’t it?”. This is one of those tunes.
Then – we return! To the room of mentals! For the last track! Remix by Altroy! Who are either a “business advice and marketing services” company in Ruislip, or some guy from Harlem who rocked up in Vienna with a pleasingly small internet footprint.
Bill Orcutt – A New Way To Pay Old Debts CD
Peter is most amused by the fact that the most extreme release he’s put out this year so far is a blues record. OK, so it’s not really a blues record as the old coves who turn up to the jam sessions in your local boozer would understand it. Very few vocals, mainly some guy pummeling the living fuck out of an acoustic guitar. A repaired acoustic guitar that has two strings missing. It’s a raw recording- you can hear the room alongside the music, which works. There is some distortion around the edges too, which definitely works – this is one gnarly performance.
Actually I’m not entirely sure that there are any vocals on this. On first listen I thought there was a bit of piano too, but now I’m convinced they are just strange fret-board resonances. Hey, maybe even the room-ambience is just something Orcutt can conjur up with his fingers and guitar, I dunno. It sounds like there is much more than one man and a guitar here, anyway.
I’ve previously said that “A New Way…” is what Seasick Steve would sound like if he was really some outsider dude on the fringes of society and sanity. That provoked some mixed reactions, so it’s definitely in keeping with the album. Whatever Orcutt has the blues about, you get the impression that it’s more than waking up in the morning to find his woman done left him.
Audio and more information on all of the above and more available at: http://editionsmego.com/