SPACEBOX: “Spacebox” ******

Recorded 1979

 

Fans of krautrock, Canterbury music and ‘frogressive’ rock avant-garde often underestimate the extent to which these leading currents of the 1970s were influenced by the jazz giants of the 1960s.  Berlin-based, but Swiss-related Guru Guru were among the bands whose key figures were critically exposed to free jazz, improvisation and Indian ragas.  By the time rock music electrified Mani Neumeier’s and Uli Trepte’s ideas, their musical education was all but complete.  Barely a month after its foundation, Guru Guru opened at a Festival in Essen.  The Fugs closed the evening.

 

In 1972, Trepte left Guru Guru and over the next three years worked with Neu!, toured with Faust, auditioned for Henry Cow and played with Release Music Orchestra.  He eventually settled to record some material with two musicians from northern Germany – drummer Carsten Bohn (ex-Dennis) and reed player Willi Pape, formerly of Thirsty Moon.  Joined by like-minded musicians from Embryo, the formation cut several compositions at Conny Plank’s studio, but failed to formalize its existence.  It was not until 1975 that two more musicians joined Trepte & Co to form the short-lived Kickbit Information.  Within this format Trepte pursued his original (and allegedly “central European”) ideas of placing the melody content into the minor modal lower voice.  He later spent some time in England, working, among others, with Daevid Allen and Lol Coxhill.

 

It took two more years before Trepte’s new formation could be consolidated.  Supported by saxophonist Edgar Hoffman of Embryo and Julius Golombeck on guitar, the studio-phase Spacebox co-opted drummer Lotus Schmidt.  The music, reliant on forceful speed control, was marked by dissonance and distortion generated with Trepte’s “spacebox” – a basic yet highly effective contraption containing a multiple input device, a filter and an echoplex.  The result was power-fusion of the highest caliber.  Although the packaging was electric avant-rock, the microstructure was heavily improvised.  It is astounding that free jazz buffs entirely missed out on these recordings.

 

A self-declared existential musician, Trepte later experimented with modal blues, but never regained the artistic heights achieved in Spacebox.  Stephen Stapleton repeatedly endeavored to document his unique talent, with little success.  Opinions vary as for the exact reasons of Trepte’s eventual musical demise – some stress his frustration with art commercialism and with the pariah status of underground lifestyle, others point out problems with substance abuse, yet others blame his geographic dispersion and lack of focus.  His output deserves attention beyond the walled circles of krautrock aficionados.

 

 

 

Zonk-Machine

We are instantly confronted with Trepte’s claustrophobic vocal processing.  As if confined to a metallic box, his voice contends with licentiously astringent soprano saxophone fingered by the inimitable Edgar Hofmann.  Lotus Schmidt assumes full responsibility for the Vortrekker-type ‘caravan’ drumming.  A little later the fourth – and equally unexpected – ingredient joins: Julius Golombeck’s electric guitar clangs lacerate the power chords in Jody Harris’s & Contortions’ style.  Still, Golombeck’s Neigung is more jazz and less ‘punk’ than James Chance’s contemporaneous New York band and he will limit here his programmatic anger to spicy tremolos.  By now the plodding “caravan” is in full bloom.  Hofmann’s soprano gesture is nearly histrionic, with little, if any, of Embryo’s tarred, spicy exoticisms.  The march of “Zonk Machine” is getting louder, courtesy Trepte’s ‘spacebox’ device, which mixes in savage blasts with short wave radio and tape switchbacks. 

 

Sue ist ein

Here Edgar Hofmann appears on shenai (an Indian shawm).  Its Rajasthani echoes bake the images of scorched, rusty desolation, in a shocking contrast to Trepte’s obsessively rolled “r”, borrowed from a South German dialect…  Golombeck’s anxious, frustrated guitar continues to evince an anti-jazz bellicosity, but the rest of the band glides through this trap.  Half way through, the ensemble erupts into a fast run, with abrasive, gut-wrenching vocal and cluttery junk noise.

 

Ich bin süchtig

The piece, dedicated to William S. Burroughs, opens with a flute part worthy of Yusef Lateef’s proto-Eastern, spiritual affirmation.  Intimately tender guitar chords, sizzling cymbals and dry, tightened drumwork all tune up to the sensation of sandalwood fondness.  It is Trepte’s Sprechstimme that abruptly changes the mood into an interrogation, as if exasperated by sudden time signature changes.  Were it not for his vocal revulsion, the cascade of meter changes would recall classic Brainstorm.  None of that referential comfort lasts.  Spacebox overshoots into a raw, blinding blow-out.  It takes Schmidt’s heavy drum roll to stabilize the band, which defaults back to the leadership of the orientalizing flute.  Trepte mostly speaks, but when he raises his voice, the speed change is almost instantaneous.  Thus far, the flute and guitar have been mixed in quite distinctively, but the spaceboxed vocal now densifies the texture.  These noisy blow-outs mask the underlying structure and it is impossible to tell if the original ideas were antiphonal or entirely free-form. 

 

Dapp-Da

The ‘spacebox’ device offers a mélange of radio snippets, 1960s’ cool jazz, 1970s’ Schlager and such like non-sequiturs.  A lethargic, loose groove throbs on, with a squealing shenai exploiting the relative dynamic freedom of this passage.  Golombeck’s guitar hesitates between harmonizing and straight-on improvisation.  Indistinctive, muffled tapes of male and female voices emanate through the ‘spacebox’.  Drumming takes the cue from Trepte’s quasi-melodic bass, which seems to be straying into higher pitches, above G.  Golombeck saws some slides, scrapes fast tremolos and yanks E-twangs on the bottom string.  Some quaint voice tapes close the track. 

 

Sing Sung Song

What begins like a skit in a Scandinavian language transmutes into Trepte’s incomprehensible harangue, stewed in a heavy anti-blues.  This track is highly distinctive through its use of a fuzzed out mouth organ.  Trepte’s shamanistic call-outs drag the rest of the band through velocity pick-ups and drop-outs.  Zonked-out and wacked through, the band secretes a sense of subplinian drama.  The drums knock and the mouth organ whinnies tragically with an intensity that even Don Van Vliet had never attained. 

 

Tape Talk

Spacebox’s 14-minute long tour de force is an amazing story of fits and starts.  Tumultuous and unpredictable, this highly improvised piece opens with Hofmann’s intoxicated violin and Trepte’s self-assured recitation.  I suspect that it is here that Winfried Beck joins on congas.  Hofmann’s sustained legato notes on his epiphytic violin are struggling to avoid conflict with guitar outbursts à la Sonny Sharrock.  Trepte induces slow, clamorous uplifts with his lair-dwelling, growling, feline bass.  Lotus Schmidt and Beck double up on drumsets when Hofmann’s portatos take on a discordant, riffy quality.  The basic beat is abandoned, resumed, waved off again.  In this purposive bedlam, replete with tragic energy, the ride cymbal misleads us into expecting an eventual take-off.  When it fails to materialize, a jazzy bass figure steps in, now ratified by a flute instead of the violin.  Here again, Trepte’s “lyrics” end many lines with his rrrrolled “r”, whereby he successfully turns his dampened voice into a raspy, scraggly instrument.  While the relentless drum pounding continues, a kamikaze guitar tremolo screeches right through the metallic shout.  The guitar solo eventually skids into a tube distortion, yielding the top spot to the well-projected flute.  Trepte’s tapes mingle with his live vocal input, in direct contrast with a loungey saxophone patina.  Free fusion rock finally lifts off when the sax turns shrieky.  Trepte proves that he can pluck his bass fast enough to keep the multifarious noise machine in check, yet without subjugating all of its cogs. 

 

Bassomat

Here’s the last statement from this riled, impulsive, curmedgeonly display of animalistic free rock.  The shamanistic voice distortion, the saxophone’s rancorous guzzle, the multi-percussive hail-like fracas and the ultra-fast Sharrockan guitar stitches all meet one last time to proclaim their emotional schizophrenia.  Trepte’s declamation sounds passionate yet bored.  The instrumental attack, sustain and decay impart both anger and indifference.  The guitaristic wall of fuzz dodges any temptation to grandstanding.  I am reminded of Pharoah Sanders’s “Izipho-Zam” – another piece of free mayhem which projected conflicting emotional signals through instinctive abstract expressionism.  Until the very last drop of audible amplitudes, the saxophone soars, the drums roll and the guitar handcrafts its distinctive grunts. 

 

***

 

 

Irene SCHWEIZER: “Jazz Meets India” (1967)

GURU GURU: “UFO“ (1970)

GURU GURU: “Essen 1970“ (1970)

GURU GURU: “Hinten“ (1971)

GURU GURU: “Der Zonk-In“ (1971)

GURU GURU: “30 Jahre Live“ 3CD (1971, 1998)

GURU GURU: “Känguru“ (1972)

GURU GURU/Uli TREPTE “Live 72.  Session 74“ or “Hot on Spot / In Between“ (1972, 1974)

KICKBIT INFORMATION: “Bitkicks“ (1975)

SPACEBOX: “Spacebox“ (1979)

SPACEBOX: “Kick Up“ (1983)

Uli TREPTE: “Phenotype” MC (1987)

Uli TREPTE: “Jazz Modalities” (1989-90)

Uli TREPTE: “Real Time Music“ (1990-91)

 

I have never heard the last three positions listed here, but everything else is well worth investigating.

 

Early Spacebox also appears on compilation “Umsonst und Draussen. Porta Wesvorhica” (1978, unreleased elsewhere).  Early Guru Guru can be found on “Ohrenschmaus – neue Popmusik aus Deutschland” (1970).  

 

During the period separating the two Spacebox LPs, Trepte spent some time in the US and in Japan, but, to my knowledge, no recordings exist from this period.  In the meantime, Lotus Schmidt appeared with Mani Neumeier and Edgar Hofmann in a highly recommended one-off known as LS Bearforce:

 

LS BEARFORCE: “LS Bearforce” (1983)

 

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Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 10:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Mizu ga honô wo tsukamu made” ****

Recorded 2000

 

 

The earliest sign of recorded collaboration between these two giants of Japanese avant-garde go back to Keiji Haino’s guest appearance on Musica Transonic’s “Gashô keshin”, also known as “Incubation”.  This was in 1997, and little at that time indicated that the shock of titans, mediated by Makoto Kawabata and Asahito Nanjo was anything more than accidental. 

 

Instinctively, Yoshida’s topological drumming technique should not sit comfortably with radical mood swings that Haino had been infusing with quanta of kinetic energy for nearly three decades.  And yet, when the legends met again in 2000, sparks flew. 

 

Whereas in other duet formats, Yoshida tends to dominate the proceedings thanks to his intuitively mathematical memory, in his collaboration with Haino, the distribution of outcomes suggests equal repartition of rights and duties.  Despite moments of premeditated asynchrony, the musicians achieve a measure of multi-climactic exaltation.  They never seek full symbiosis, but nor are they content with mere cohabitation.  Instead, we witness metathesis and occasional cross-mutation of ideas.  And what does bring these very different souls together is the essentially haptic nature of their musical practice. 

 

In the trio format, their collaborations are more than the sum of the three.  Haino’s gitara picaresca transfers the center of gravity, turning the polymetric Gordian knots into veritable jewels of avant-rock.  As Knead, they were joined by bassist Hisashi Sasaki, formerly of Ruins.  On Sanhedolin, Sasaki was replaced by Mitsuru Nasuno. 

 

As a duo, Haino and Yoshida often go beyond the electric assault and roam unplugged, bringing back the memories of itinerant troubadours, equipped with acoustic string and membrane instruments from Hindustani, Bengali and Berber traditions.

 

Please note that the record described here, originally published in Hong Kong, is also known under English and Cantonese titles: “Until Water Grasps Flame” and “Deng shui zhua dao huo wei zhi”, respectively.

 

Yoi sareru wa seishinbunseki no chimayoi

Thunderclaps of blitz guitar crash in before Yoshida’s multi-directional impetus disturbs the distant discharges and drag the guitar distortion much closer into an echo-less, closed space.  Haino’s axe transforms his a-melodic shrapnels into heavily infused, compressed, pyroxenic seams.  It is Yoshida’s feet that rule here, jabbing the low-pitched drums with determined rolls.  His busy cymbal work is disactivated whenever the guitar fizz evaporates.

 

Nadaraka na shiyôgo no ketsui

A very different duo of the same pair of hands.  Haino appears first on a wonderfully sentimental Mughal sarod.  Yoshida joins the misty sunset scene on darbouka.  Haino’s irreverent glissandos turn his sarod into a mantric oasis of short cycles, but his hedonistic style will take a while before accelerating.  Yoshida handles a multi-effect Korg X5D, here in liquid bass role, but with a trousseau full of other percussive sounds: glockenspiels, cog rattles and flexatones.  As the effects accumulate, the atmosphere becomes very dense.  The clamor of the electro-bass has almost distracted us from Haino’s riffing race to nirvana. 

 

Yokka to yutta to tan

A more familiar setting of chuckling jazz guitar and brushed percussion.  Haino, who had played with Derek Bailey four years before, hesitates here between the master’s non-speculative anti-documentarism and a peculiar stutter perfected by Davey Williams.  Although Haino does sound less angular and more rounded than either, he does not fall into the full-bodied, leathery nostalgia of his duets with Loren Mazzacane Connors.  Or perhaps, Yoshida just would not allow him to.  The track progresses by fits and starts, with aptly mobile drumwork evolving in parallel, and never in competition with the guitar.  This is rock improvisation for jazz sounds.  In the dry, clipped “rock” context, Haino’s sound is closer to Sonny Sharrock’s than Eddy Marron’s.  After another swell of nonmetric drum patterns, Haino desists again, contenting himself to punctuating Yoshida’s most defining beats.  Eventually, an eruption does arrive, embodied in higher riffing gear and more constructive buttressing from the drumkit. 

 

5Hz e no kansha no in

Here Haino picks up guembri, a three string lute of Berber origin.  He will exploit the instrument’s vascular, hollow sound with restrained, kindly pentatonic plucking.  Yoshida’s skin rumble is perfectly adjusted, color-wise.  The duo achieves a tribal asabiyya even before Haino hurls his first howl.  Yoshida’s bass drum rejoins, balancing the contributions adequately.  Soft drum rolls coarsen whenever Haino’s howling masks the delicate articulation on guembri.

 

Setten wo yowayowashiku shite shimau itteki

High pitched, wailing notes from Haino’s guitar are quickly corrected by Yoshida’s multiplicative drumming.  Henceforth, Haino is reduced to playing some combinations of quarter notes and 8ths, with irregularly interposed rests.  Their junctures create unexpected filling effects. 

 

Tokku ni kanatte iru hazu no LHNZ to iu kekka na no ni

Haino is credited here as playing “gothan”, a low-resonance string instrument of unusual tuning.  His strikes (probably plectrum) recall false, additive raga accelerations.  Yoshida operates mostly on brushes, mixed deep, but with very short reverb, and a clearly audible large tomtom on the right.  When silence falls, Haino intones an East Asian-sounding “melody” from his instrument – a slowly flourishing dance with bizarre dragon interjections and shouts.

 

‘Mochiron kare dake no tame’ to iiwake wo suru

Deep, tunnel-like echo buries the unlikely duo of bowed esraj and Korg X5D.  The esraj, a fretted Bengali instrument related to sarangi, gives off an eerie, heterotropic image.  No temple possesses such long-decay acoustics as applied here, but the atmosphere certainly is one of meditative concentration.  Yoshida’s clicking electro-rhythm does not distract, but the gesture of his rhythm-keeping differs radically from his physical drumming.  This is a novelty and a plus.  Later, the Korg’s bass function is switched off.  Scrapers, graters and microtonal rattling correlate nicely with an angrier accumulation of distorted meend from the esraj.  When Yoshida elicits vitruous effects from the low-end rumble, memories of classic Jon Hassell flow back. 

 

Owatta shôko misetagaru seimon

Although the track begins with Haino’s stammering guitar technique, so perfectly displayed on his first Aihiyô recording, it later settles into a more familiar, almost ‘jazzy’ mode.  At various intervals, the narrative sequence recurs: presentation, silence, resolution and release.

 

Kioku wo tadotta toki ni nankai ka atama ni ukabu akarasama to no sôiten

This is mostly Yoshida’s show.  He opens with his cocky vocal retributions, strongly in the improvised Zamla tradition, not nasal enough to be truly ‘tongue in cheek’.  The guitar sound is warm, welcoming, running scraps of medieval scales.  The drumming is unabashedly aperiodic.  When Yoshida defaults into his falsetto, Haino’s guitar veers off into a herbal, fruity terrain.  Quite unexpectedly, we are confronted with one of the more intriguing moments on this record.  From the fragrant orchard emerges an attempt at ‘melody’.  Granted, it is a mere “attempt”, but sustained as a perennial promise, not frustrated by an abstract collapse or a cacophonic break-out.  Instead, the promise is being subsidized with a conclusive dialogue between the two musicians, each caressing his miraculously sonic object.

 

Sabetsu to mitomerareta anna fun’inki

A duo of two darboukas.  Haino does well by not trying to compete with the world’s best drummer, but nor does he fall into non-pitched melodism of his percussion solos.  Rather his fingers nimbly send hurricanes across the darbouka’s membrane, keeping up with the vertiginous pace posited by the master.  Yoshida’s excitement is noticeable when his trademark vocalizing fuses with nonsensical glossolalia.  They rush through these minutes, barely touching the ground. 

 

‘Masaka’ to omotta toki no naka ni fukumareru  natsukashisa wa nan paasento?

The record culminates here with over 12 minutes of determined guitar and drum mayhem, not unlike Fushitsusha’s mid-period volcanism.  Chord progressions repeat but each time at different length.  Some guitar incisions sound almost groovy (or is Haino poking fun at Kurihara?).  The drumming is also more obviously ‘rock’: Yoshida’s avalanches of irreversible tremors are nothing short of impressive.  He perfects his craft whenever Haino’s riffing goes free.  And when Haino returns to his staccatos, Yoshida’s drumming suddenly becomes regularized.  It is Yoshida who takes the lead to pull the duo each time off the edge of repetition.  Haino’s anthemic moments are short-lived.  His guitar suffocates with a mere droplet of fuzzing pathos.  Then a brief, abstract section follows, filled by drumming in search of perfect architecture.  But it is a riff galore that will end the track.

 

Kiete yuku kono yôna kanashimi hô

Haino meows surreptitiously to Yoshida’s Korg and an astonishingly simple meter.  As if unaware, a detuned string instrument (banjo?) rambles on with a corrugated effect.  There are surprises – the Korg imitates tabla’s left-hand drum with a deeper, variable pitch.  The ‘banjo’ melodically shadows the polyrhythm.  Haino swoons into monosyllabic chanting, peaking mid-phrase (here’s the regularity) and varying the release (here’s lack thereof).  

 

***

 

For a bold listener in search of avant-rock improvisation, there are excellent moments on each of the recordings listed below.  My favorites remain 1 and 2.  I have never heard position 4.  Material on 7 and 8 partly overlaps. 

 

1. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Mizu ga honô wo tsukamu made” (2000)

2. KNEAD: “Tokete shimaeru shiyawase mo.  Melting Happiness” (2001)

3. KNEAD: “Knead” (2002)

4. Keiji HAINO, Tatsuya YOSHIDA, Mitsuru NATSUNO, BUS RATCH: “Live at Cafe Independants” (2004)

5. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “New Rap” (2005)

6. SANHEDOLIN: “Majoicchi wa mukô” (2005)

7. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Uhrfasudhasdd” (2007)

8. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Hauenfiomiume” (2008)

Published in: on September 7, 2008 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins (Rock Album)” ****

Recorded 1993-2000

 

The Seattle-based duo of Robert Millis and Jeffery Taylor began to record their initially lo-fi avant-rock sketches around 1993.  They quickly developed penchant for studio improvisations, often produced by Scott Colburn and manned by several regular collaborators, among them drummer John Vallier, sonic explorer Jeph Jerman and visual artist Jesse Paul Miller.

 

Despite their post-hardcore sensitivity, several of their explorations ventured deep into sound documentary.  At its most esoteric, Climax Golden Twins celebrated the form pioneered by Luc Ferrari’s revolutionary field recordings.  On the other hand, the band’s studio avatar alternated between avant-rock collections and dreamy compendia of loops, drones and sinewaves.  It is the latter incarnation that has contributed auditory haze to countless art exhibitions, radio, theater, film and dance performances.

 

More recently, the duo reappeared under the Climax Golden Twins moniker in a more cohesive, orientalist rock format, officiating as a promising substitute the now defunct co-locals Sun City Girls.  This is more than a coincidence.  Robert Millis had for years collected field recordings in South East Asia, some of which have now appeared on Sublime Frequeuncies’ series. 

 

Climax Golden Twins are also behind Victriola Favorites – a highly enjoyable collection of deeply obscure 78rpm singles from first decades of the 20th century, a treasure imported from most exotic destinations including Japan, Turkey, Burma, China etc.  Charming acetate documents occasionally make an appearance in the band’s multi-layered textures. 

 

 

 

Does Your Mother Know I’m Here?

After a brief phonemic cluster of unknown origin, acoustic guitars begin to strum lazily, carrying us through a stagnant, slumbering environment, laced with glasslike chimes.  Aimless infant vocals vanish somewhere in the backyard.  The informal atmosphere is breezy, summerlike. 

 

German

The beguine accents turn this primitivist guitar piece into a quasi dance.  It is as if the guitars surreptitiously spied on something, lurking and poking around in a comical fashion.  A self-replicating piano chord obsesses deliriously with little effect.  Unenthusiastically, drums, bells and some non-resonant guitar plucking fill the space.  More abstract cymbal and piano missive finish this off.  It is the “dance” character of this piece that drew references to Fred Frith’s Ralph-label period.

 

Ballroom

This begins with heavy tympani pounding.  Animist Orchestra’s Jeph Jerman rolls around some round or spherical objects, placing us in the middle of the installation.  The skeletal melodic component is sourced from an ostentatiously purposeless, clacking guitar/bass/drum trio of Mills, Taylor and Vallier.  Despite the radicality of metallic scraping behind them, the sustained bass line makes the band’s outing almost spacey.  In turn, the fuzz guitar erupts violently in short, scalding bursts.  All along, the mysterious round objects keep rolling.  The track wanes when a more prudent guitar peels away gentle notes along with respectful clinking from little bells.

 

To Float

This (longer) track wastes about a minute before audible elements can be captured.  These “elements” unfold into a tardily progressing rock trio with simple tempo runs on bongos.  Rhythmically pedant, the beat is unmasked as purely accidental when a screeching guitar unfurls a dirty fuzz carpet, eventually spreading over the pounded drum, rather monothematic bass and some insulated piano keys.  This pattern of tortuous progress is reiterated after each fuzz relapse.  An acoustic guitar closes the piece.

 

Choked Up

Under a prominent bass ostinato and a trickle of cymbals, oval effects pile up, mutating into a rocking behemoth when the bass drum joins to pinpoint the offensive ostinato.  Almost instantly, a choking vocal deprives this “rock” number of any semblance of commercial potential.  The sound is processed through folding, faulting, caving effects. As usual, the piece ends with a contrasting accent – this time from skittery percussion.

 

Heavy Hippie Shit

Here the bass falls even lower – to a threatening register as perfected by Boris.  But the palette is more diverse: detuned acoustic guitar, grimy, coarse guitar fuzz hijacked from the densest of metals, organ’s vitreous resonance and marimba. 

 

My Peppy Loins

A strangely tuned “Asian” string instrument (cha’pei?) cackles, followed by a speed punk suprematism in search of something to loathe. 

 

Cough…  Sniff…

Satanic growl is being smothered by a heavy tornado of several electric guitars, and curiously inept drumming.  Harsh electro-core production places this excursion somewhere between the realms of Orthrelm and Psychic Paramount.  Overall, it is a sonically repulsive experience, unless you’re in the mood for discord.

 

Composed

Sticks, toy xylophone and acoustic guitar strum, pluck, click and crackle.  There is something Art Bears-ian in the ascendant, skeletal harmonies of this anti-professionally delivered track.

 

Microspace Patrol II

Non-metric drumming evades any responsibility for rhythmic structure, allowing the fuzz guitar to play with feedback.  The band wakes up into a solid avant-rock number.  Were it more rhythmically complex, it could be categorized alongside Canada’s Fat. 

 

Theme from Climax Golden Twins

Southwestern atmospheric heavy rock – melodically one of the most promising moments on this record, plunges into discordance and is cut off way too early.

 

Telephone Call from the 70s

Billy Cox-like bass could be considered an anachronism.  But Climax Golden Twins insists on jabbing the listener with colliding messages – a phoned “hello”, high-end feedback, annoying organ, itinerant, stop-go beats. 

 

Frankly

If you remember pre-industrial bass utilized by Joachim Stender in German band PD, then the Twins get pretty close.  It migrates through pre-recorded dance tunes, vocal tapes playing backwards, various voices, engine-prepping guitar.  Despite non-rational sawing and scratching, occasional piano tremolo and some dramatic vocal interjections, there are unfortunately not enough ideas to keep it continually interesting. 

 

You Drove Me, Nearly Drove Me

Groovy Hammond organ teletransported from 1950s small-town pre-rockandroll dance party could have remembered Vivien Leigh’s first steps.  Yet no saccharine allowed here.  Tweeting and twittering juts out from a tape run within a reading range recording head.  The effect is simple, but ingenious; it does chirp and occasionally sings.  And then, an eerie crooner at half-speed does, indeed, loop in a line from the title. 

 

Swan

Probably the strongest moment on the disc.  This Heat-like guitar symphony with rambunctious drums, simple electronics and tapes thrown into the sonic whirlwind.  It plods on ponderously, toxified further by stammering bray.  The lead guitar crafts a solo and a scream resonates inauspiciously.  The hoarse voice later returns, if only to incinerate the gates of hell. 

 

A Door A Fish Your Head

Clarinets and Gene Krupa-like archaic 12-bar drumming accompany a failed recitation of “Poems for a Dead Man”.  Amplified, jazzy guitar softly points to the verse ends, with the warm clarinet pouring in additional color.  Later, the clarinet pierces in Ornette Coleman’s style.

 

Pop

Here’s the basic trio falls into a groove.  Structurally, this is a dialogue between two simple themes: one tense and suspenseful, one joyful enough to resolve the suspense.  After some to-and-fro, a Jon Hassell-like windblown effect quells the dispute.

 

1, 2, 3, 4

Voice snippets are followed by a cut-up punk charge.  Black metal vocal hurls lethal syllables whenever the charge stops to take a breather. 

 

Lampshade Market

A relaxed tabla, field recordings and exoticist guitars à la Sir Richard Bishop, crowd in a market full of children’s voices. 

 

Drink Me

Back to the beginning.  A sizzle sneaks through a rather random mapping of acoustic guitar strumming, melodica blowing and crystalline intonation.  The guitar cradles slowly, effective and swinging, but relatively uneventful.  Then it attempts to impersonate poor-man’s Appalachia plucking style, despite the geographic and cultural gulf that separates the coal miners from Seattle’s coffee shops… Isn’t it closer to Thailand?

 

 

***

 

1. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins” 2EP (1994)

2. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Three Inch” MCD (1995)

3. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Imperial Household Orchestra” (1996)

4. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Lovely” (1997)

5. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins (Locations)” (1998)

6. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Dreams Cut Short in the Mysterious Clouds” (1999)

7. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins (Rock Album)” (1993, 2000)

8. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Session 9” (1995, 2000)

9. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Highly Bred and Strictly Tempered” (2004)

10. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins” (2006)

11. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Five Cents a Piece” (2007) 

 

The band has also issued plenty of cassettes and I am yet to hear several of their early recordings.  Position 8 is a soundtrack using some material from 2 and 6 and I do not recommend it.  5, 7, 10 and 11 would offer a range wide enough for anyone willing to explore the band’s variegated approaches.

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 8:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” ***

Recorded 2004

 

Prp Group are (were?) a British trio of Ashley Clarke (drums), Richard Riz Errington (guitar, electronics) and Michael Clough (bass).  In the 1980s, all three were active in another formation known as Rancid Poultry. 

 

Prp Group’s sound is based on a smooth, interactive flow between the three, fully enfranchised musicians.  Often yielding to the lure of rock jamming, the band has been on a continuous quest for definitive sound.  Each recording seemed to tap into different deposits of experimental rock – from tropospheric space jams, through post-punk’s self-regulating ostinatos, to smelting guitar trio feedbacks. 

 

It is not clear if the band is still in existence.  Their output from earlier in this decade documents well various phases of their stylistic research.  At the same time, their intriguing CDRs carried a promise that they would eventually go beyond the rehearsal stage.

 

 

Ptarmigans

The track begins with a subterrestrial bass vibrato and rim shots from Ashley Clarke.  The succulent bass morphs into a regular ostinato, underlying the contrast with the dissicated drumstick work – in an (unintended?) resemblance to good old A Certain Ratio.  After about 20 turns, cymbals check in, cushioning a cleanly combed electric guitar which reverberates in the distance.  The guitar’s tickle and giggle iterations become brassy, gaining an almost timbales-like resonance, but the high-pitched notes’ call for the timbales answer will remain aperiodic.  A drum’n’bass dialogue walks in spryly, despite Jah Wobble-like bass tuning.  One just can’t dispel the memory of PIL’s “Fodderstompf” from 30 years ago (ouch !).  This is definitely not a space rock jam as we have known it from many talented US bands over the last decade.  Rather, Prp Group stays quite restrained and almost reluctant to engage in disorienting crotchets.  Although the extended, slow moving structure allows the guitar to improvise freely, Richard Errington appears surprisingly constrained, incorporating fairly minimal variance.  Finally, the drumming becomes more forceful and some additional treatments rear their buzzing heads.  This is when additional wooden percussive effects appear – sounding like angklung or a small bamboo xylophone. 

 

Shatner’s Bassoon

This piece starts with cyclonic electro-fluctuations and an extra-metric drumming hiccup – regular enough to sound like a sample.  The hi-hat is quite lonely in its chore, groping for understanding bass figure.  Some droning cylinders pivot incessantly – now you hear’em, now you don’t.  The repetition is slowly earning a loop-sounding, systemic character and the accent shifts offbeat.  Soon afterwards, it is reduced to pure, sputtering electronics.

 

Cow

Michael Clough’s relaxing bass exposes an obsessively simplistic, 9-note songlike phrase.  Languid drums and dry guitar clang do little to distract us from this self-defeating idea.  Echoing drum rims, acoustic guitar, purring electronic surge, crash cymbals and ratchet will all apportion some non-linearity, but the lack of convincing development is problematic.  Dub treatment selectively tackles drum reverb, but Adrian Sherwood this is not.  Some of the echoplex treatments are even a little childish, and those that do work are overfamiliar – a metallic pipe effect, alternatively extended reverb and damping of cymbals.  This amounts to little more than explorations into sustain and muting.  The listener’s attention is finally rewarded by “chopsticking” on a hard surface – light and multiplied many times over until smeared out into a buzz – a moment worthy of François Bayle or Bernard Parmegiani.  Unfortunately, a marching version of the elementary theme ruins the tail end.  A rocket lift-off noise will lead us directly into the next piece.

 

Dub Version of the Previous Track

This misleading title picks up where the “Cow” left off, but throws “dub” out of the window.  Yes, we do have reverb and even much of that, but it turns the aural environment into flywheels of electromagnetic buzz, fraught with sizzle, frizzle and feedback.  The pitch control is fairly slow; the amplitude control a little more varied.  The oscillations fingerpoint some blackbird tweets, panning between the right and left channel.  There is some intentional feedback from a speaker that sounds as if it had caught the waveforms from a fluorescent bulb nearby.  With the top range teeming with swarms of insects and the lower end hammering resoundingly, the days of contemporary studio luminaries (Milton Babbitt or Richard Maxfield) seem to be back.  Just the (very acoustic) drumming occasionally adds a non-academic twist to the concoction.  Again, this track will seamlessly sublimate into the next one. 

 

The Elephant Charmer

The carry-over drumming intensifies, increasingly emphatic and bruising.  Ashley Clarke pounds with abandon to the limit of our Faustian imagination.  It could almost segue into “it’s a rainy day, sunshine baby” as in the recent live recordings of the Diermeier-Peron version of the legendary kraut-band.  Prp Group will instead keep socking, with a riffless fuzz guitar sustaining its chords.

 

***

 

The discography of prpGroup is limited to relatively short CDRs.  Positions 1 and 2 were later collected on one CDR entitled “Penfruit/Babylard”.  Likewise, 3 and 4 can be found on one CDR.  Unfortunately, I have not heard position 5. 

 

1. PRP GROUP: “Penfruit” (2001)

2. PRP GROUP: “Babylard” (2002)

3. PRP GROUP: “Snib” (2003)

4. PRP GROUP: “Sun Pie in a Custard Pie” (2003)

5. PRP GROUP: “Soil Pipe” (?)

6. PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” (2004)

 

Aside from Rancid Poultry, Clough had also played in duo with Errington (as Clothearz) and with Clarke (as AMA).  At the moment, Sonic Asymmetry is not aware of any other recordings by PrpGroup.  Are you?

 

Published in: on July 8, 2008 at 6:06 am  Comments (1)  
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