Monday, 30 April 2018

Cassette Music 1 (1993) C60

My perception of the tape scene as was is that it pretty much went tits up in the mid-nineties. A few people struggled on, but we all knew it was over, supplanted by stuff recorded direct onto hard drives and distributed on CDR - a medium conducive to superior quality but which was never anything like so durable and had none of the charm. Of course more recently we have certain berks going back to tapes as some kind of artisanal statement for the same reason you'll occasionally get steampunk wankers issuing their most indubitably delightful examples of musical charivari on wax fucking cylinder, but let's be honest - it's over, upsetting though that certainly is, and you can never go home.

Dave Hopwood's Personal Soundtracks label has therefore come to represent - at least in my mind - one of the last great flourishes of the cassette, someone finally getting it right just before the lights went out, so to speak. There may have been others more deserving of such accolades, but I never heard them, so that's why I'm writing about this tape rather than them. Personal Soundtracks released five of these Cassette Music compilations (at least I'm not aware of there having been a volume six), and the music was always good, or worth hearing at the very least; the covers, as designed by Shaun of factor X, were decent; and it really felt as though some care and attention to detail went into these things - an entertaining sixty minutes worth as Scott McCrae wrote in his review in Music from the Empty Quarter #9. There was a similarly positive write up in Impulse #5, and I was going to reproduce both reviews here, but I've just had a quick look and aside from the thumbs up, they just tell you what's on the tape, so I can't be arsed.

If you've been following this blog, you should be familiar with a few of these names - Operation Mind Control, factor X, Chemical Plant, and Symboliks at least; Patternclear was Phil from Stress, the Stick Insects and others; Antonym was Mr. Burnham who edited Soft Watch - and I have a couple of his tapes to digitise at some point; Venus Fly Trap were, so I believe, Alex Novak, later of Attrition, and others - a familiar name, usually as the token rock band on tapes full of people reading poems over the sound of refrigerator hum, but it was always a pleasure to see their name on whatever had just fallen through the letter box; I believe Mr. Hopwood himself played the skins for Pranksters at some stage, and I'm not sure about any of the others - except the Chemical Plant track makes me wish I'd picked up more of their werks at the time.

1 - Patternclear - Dreamscape
2 -
Operation Mind Control - Spark Intro
3 -
Westland - Pterodaktyl
4 -
Symboliks - Andeluvia
5 -
Pranksters - Brut Force
6 -
factor X - determinants
7 -
Antonym - Tranquil Skies
8 -
Chemical Plant - Dark Water (second mix)
9 -
Ozone Bandits - Black Rain Edit
10 -
Ozone Bandits - Slank
11 -
Er - Who
12 -
Symboliks - Getting Back
13 -
Architects Office - A0809.7
14 -
Pranksters - Govt. Agents
15 -
Antonym - Song for Karen
16 -
Venus Fly Trap - 19th Incident
17 -
Patternclear - Flamenco
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Friday, 20 April 2018

Virullex! / Opera for Infantry - The Gentle Art of Murder (1984) C60

There isn't a whole lot I can say about this one which I haven't already said in regard to Opera for Infantry (apart from what a mighty slab of noise and vinegar we have here), so instead here's a guest post from Jess of Virullex! seeing as how it's his hard work I'm giving away for free.

1984: the miners' strike, that nice Mrs Thatcher's enemy within. She was unstoppable, coasting on a wave of self-interest and good old British entitlement. Since monetarism wasn't actually working for most of the country, left wing voices were drowned in a shiny tabloid outsplurge of WARandLIESandTITSandBINGO.

Since every point the left made was drowned out by all the ME!ME!ME!ism that had swallowed the country, my generation, in a piss-poor attempt at rebellion, started drifting towards fascism. Left-wing paper sales started to die as brutal half-a-dozen-on-one attacks on diffrunt peepul escalated.

The national focus was on the 'positive'. The Falklands was a glorious victory for those who hadn't been killed or maimed – and a huge hit with armchair generals everywhere. Union flags whipping in the wind, our brave boys serving their country. And those - on both sides - who bled out in the mud, screaming for a mother, thousands of miles away, they were swept politely under the carpet, innit? As Jeremy Beadle announced, “That’s right! You’ve been GAME FOR A LAUGH!”

In this rotting womb, Virullex! took shape. Driven by disgust and revulsion, I wanted to create an antidote to all the toothy boys with guitars tucked under their chins, singing about lurve. Something that described, not the shiny surface we were all supposed to be wanking over, but the hidden horrors that held it up and made it all possible.

I was isolated. None of the people I associated with listened to the funny noises I enjoyed. And so, the letter writing and tape exchanging began. I didn't start it, but contact was possible with others who hated what was being done to the 'best years of our lives'.

Joe (Ashenden) Banks, Andy (Apostles) Martin, Malcolm (Trench Music Kore) Brown, Tim (Un-Kommuniti) Gane, Gordon (Flowmotion) Hope, John (Interchange) Smith, many others who've disappeared without trace into the nothings in the last thirty years.

Cassettes would arrive through my door: obscure live Velvets recordings, Italian horror movie soundtracks and most importantly, "we done a gig last Saturday. The left channel's a bit quiet..." Other sick weirdos like myself, makin'-an'-a-sharin' their funny noises. It was a fucking goldmine.

I got in touch with Trev Ward and Dap Padbury sometime in 1984. We collaborated on a live tape, The Wars of the Roses, which was meant to be a Virullex! Gig in Edinburgh and an Opera For Infantry gig in Amesbury the same night – I was unable to find a venue, so I ended up hitching down and performing as part of OfI.

Trev was the acerbic one, all shaved head (a sort of round mohican, if that makes sense) and intense stares. Dap was the McCartney to Trev’s Lennon, the quiet one. We discovered a shared enthusiasm for liquor (and its effects on carbon-based life forms) and instantly became blood brothers.

I envied their work ethic. Opera for Infantry spewed out cassettes the way other bands threw badges at their audience. And so, (I think this was ex-mess 1984), we sent each other 30 minutes of backing tracks (In envelopes. With stamps on. This was the dark ages, remember?) And we collaborated, each piling our own racket on top of that of our opponents.

Until yesterday, I hadn’t heard this in a good twenty, twenty-five years. It’s been polished to a high standard and still sounds as dense and exciting as it did when things weren’t half as bad as they are these days. You fucking kids today, don’t know you're born, neither you do.

Here’s a shameless plug for some of my present day shite:

Funny noises for senile delinquents with too much time on their hands.

Pervy sex & politics for people with too much money lying around.

Religious emergency toolkit that you’re expected to pay good money for.

The last dying sparks of a badly burned mind.

...and finally:

No track list as it should probably be experienced as a single track, which is how I've edited it.

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Friday, 13 April 2018

Death Pact International - Fear Eats the Soul (1986) 2C60

All this Grey Wolves has set me to thinking about how I'd once collaborated with them as part of something called Death Pact International, and yet never heard the finished result. In fact I think I only realised that it had ever existed when Stream Angel, another contributor, had mentioned it on facebook. The deal had been that various persons with whom Trev of Opera for Infantry (or probably Irritant by that point) regularly corresponded should send in a tape of sound, noise, music, or whatever, and that it would all be processed, mixed together, and used as part of Death Pact International; so I suppose you could say it was a weirdy music supergroup on some level. Anyway, I sent him something called Rubbish Like You* - a title I'd pinched from Pok-a-Tok fanzine as produced by Lennart Eilersen of Enhoenta Bödlar - and that was the last I heard, although to be fair I was moving around a lot at the time so it's likely Trev either lost my address or that a copy never got forwarded to me from somewhere I'd been living. Anyway, duly reminded of this tape I had a look around for an MP3 version on the internet, but was only able to find one on a site which, for whatever reason, wouldn't let me download stuff. However, Nils Inge Graven was able to download the thing and thus kindly furnished me with a copy of the files, which was nice. So here, by way of a slight swerve, is something I haven't actually digitised from my own collection, but am sharing because I'm on the fucker.

The files I received took the form of four sides of the double tape each digitised as a single continuous track, which offended my sensibilities so I've put it all through Audacity and re-edited the thing, cleaned it up and so on, although as with Tomorrow We Live, the distinctions I've made as to where one track ends and another begins are guesswork on my part. I've also cleaned up the scans of the accompanying artwork and booklet. You're welcome.

Fear Eats the Soul is collectively the work of members of Opera for Infantry, Con-Dom, Kapotte Muziek, ESP Kinetic, Sperm Culture, Do Easy, Face in the Crowd, and a few others I haven't heard of. My recommendation is that you listen to it as though it were a single two-hour piece.

It's great to hear this thing at last, and I feel sort of proud to have been involved. 

*: The original track as it was when I sent it off to Trev can be heard on Gravesend.

1 - Bass / Roots Intro
2 - Madrid de Dia
3 - Sucked In
4 - Crawl
5 - Rubbish Like You
6 - Dumb Dogs
7 - Trigger Mechanism
8 - Mutation Nation
9 - Raw Aktion
10 - Piano //?
11 - Daddy, Fuck My Head
12 - Affirmation
13 - Rage Beater
14 - Clear Blue Sky
15 - Burning Down the Walls of Fire
16 - FDN
17 - What Are You Doing Tomorrow?
18 - Tentaciones
19 - Troops Rape Grenada
20 - Red Peace
21 - Ever Forward
22 - Kill at Will
23 - Banned Exit

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Friday, 6 April 2018

Tomorrow We Live (1986) C60

Last week I posted Opera for Infantry material from a tape I'd made up myself, copied from things which Trev Ward had sent me over the years. The last track on the tape was a massive slab of noise identified only as being by Irritant, a name Trev briefly used for his solo recordings. I had a hunch I'd probably just copied it straight from Tomorrow We Live for the sake of filling up a tape, so I went to check, then decided I may as well just go ahead and digitise the thing seeing as I was planning to get around to it eventually; meaning that April is Grey Wolves Month here at Ferric Archaeology Towers.

In between the end of Opera for Infantry and the beginning of the Grey Wolves, Trev recorded solo as both Irritant and Nails ov Christ, although I can never remember which secret identity came first. Anyway, this one was a split tape with Ramleh. The Ramleh side seems to be from some live performance, although I have no clue as to where or when, and the booklet doesn't give anything away. It also seems to share a roughly similar track list to a few of their early Broken Flag tapes - from what I can see on Discogs - which I never actually heard, so I don't know how well it stands up in the wider context of their oeuvre. Ramleh's Blowhole is one of my favourite records, but is almost the work of a different band, and their tracks on Broken Flag's Statement album are pretty solid, but I guess you probably have to be a bigger fan of Ramleh than I ever was to get something from this live set. I mean, it's okay, just sounds like a lot of other things. Titles appear where it seemed like a new track had begun to my ears, because otherwise it's just twenty minutes of more or less continuous noise. I know I could have left it as a single track whilst editing the sound file and no-one would have given a shit, but it felt as though it would be wrong to just leave it, because I'm a pedant.

Same with the Irritant side of the tape - the noise changes about eighteen minutes in so I've assumed that's where Assault System starts. I have to say, this Irritant material is probably one of the most powerful slabs of noise I think I've heard, and I vaguely recall thinking it was about the best thing Trev had ever done at the time.

I wasn't going to bother scanning the booklet because I'm sure you've all seen pictures of bad guys before, but what the fuck - here it is scanned and included with the download for the sake of being thorough. Enjoy.

I seem to recall the tape came loose in a sort of envelope made of an A4 photocopy folded over and stapled closed, which annoyed me because I LIKE EVERYTHING TO BE NICE, so I made my own cover (using photocopies of the envelope version) for the sake of sticking it in a case and neatly filing it away with my other tapes, like nature intended; so I've scanned my version of the cover. I don't have the envelope version. It's probably worth about a million quid now too.

Finally, in case it still requires an explanation, you will notice that the artwork of this tape features a heapin' helpin' of Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists, whom older readers of the Daily Mail may remember with some affection. My feeling, based on years of personal correspondence with Trev and the fact that I'm an adult, is that the presentation of Tomorrow We Live was intended to provoke an extreme and unpleasant reaction, rather than being as it is because, as some have suggested, Trev thought Oswald Mosley was probably a right nice bloke. The intention of most of Trev's work, as it seems to me, has been to provoke horror of such strength as to inspire change within society, so it's simply not the case that he's ever presented a vision of society he would like you to support. He's trying to scare you into pushing back. I personally think he may have misjudged the effect of what he was doing on a couple of occasions, but the Grey Wolves were never the musical wing of the far right, regardless of how it may have seemed from a cursory glance. Were it otherwise, I wouldn't be sharing this thing, mkay?

Smiley face. Smiley face.

1 - Irritant - British Blood
2 - Irritant - Assault System
3 - Ramleh - Throatsuck
4 - Ramleh - A Return to Slavery
5 - Ramleh - Nordhausen
6 - Ramleh - New Force
7 - Ramleh - Phenol
8 - Ramleh - Koprolagnia

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