Friday, 22 February 2019

Frenzied Encounters - From The Mind of Frenzi (1986) 2C60

Here's the final double tape spectacular recorded by the being which had already given us the Complete Trilogy and Sin, now reborn as Frenzied Encounters. Unfortunately by this point my enthusiasm for almost anything at all had taken a bit of a nosedive, so I never got around to releasing it despite recognising it as potentially the Physical Graffiti of the weirdy tape scene. Now over to the man himself...

Thanks to Lawrence’s dedicated digitising of his tape archives, the double tape album I made for his Do Easy label finally sees the light of day after thirty-three years.

Almost eighteen months elapsed between Disease and From the Mind of Frenzi, in part because my studies were taking up more of my time and musically I was changing direction. I’d gone as far as I could with industrial type music and wanted to collaborate with others. This period also saw my transition from my old tape to tape method of building tracks to working with a Tascam four-track, meaning I could remix and re-record elements with a flexibility I didn’t have before. All of this changed and refined the sounds I was creating and while I was in no hurry to create a new tape, I built up quite a backlog of material and experiments. As a result From the Mind of Frenzi is more of a collage than previous tapes, with a polished feel to it and tracks segueing organically into one another.

Another element that changed was that I’d begun performing live. In early May of 1985 I met performance artist/film-maker Kaprice Kea. With him and his group You Stink of Fish I made my first documented live appearance – at Dingwalls Dance Hall in Camden Town. This whetted my appetite for live work and Kaprice became an important friend, film and occasional music collaborator. Between the You Stink of Fish show and the following year I performed three times live, in wildly differing circumstances.

The first was as a last minute entry in a contest of the bands at Battersea Arts Centre (which You Stink of Fish also entered) in June 1985 – and at which my band Sin improbably won third prize, performing four songs using backing tapes and with percussion from Jeff Thomas – who was a full time mortician and sometime member of TOPY. This performance came together in about thirty-six hours as Jeff, his girl-friend Joolz and myself worked around the clock putting together a backing tape, which we then rushed to the place and performed the drum and vocal bit live.

Incredibly, it all came together – giving me the illusion that all shows could happen this easily. Jeff, his girlfriend and I seemed to have real rapport, so it was a bit of a mystery that the collaboration went no further. In addition to the third prize, I also attracted my first ever girl-friend.    

So this was why people played live!

The second performance occurred in a Ramsgate squat at a New Year’s party, in which Kaprice performed percussion and manipulated the backing tracks. The squatters were about to be evicted so didn’t care what happened to the house and were literally tearing the place apart as we performed.

The third was almost pedestrian by comparison, a self-organised gig at my Bulmershe College in Reading. For this last show I actually didn’t use backing tapes and played a fully live set as Sir Thomas and the Frenzied Encounters Machine, with Mark Manhattan from You Stink Of Fish on guitar and college friend Steve Middleton on drums. That show started well, but disintegrated after the half way mark into a series of half-baked improvisations.

During this time I also recorded sporadically on my own, and had begun work on the soundtrack for Kaprice’s film Virtues of Nature, as well as several non-gig performance and spoken word pieces. I’d also started recounting my dreams into a cassette recorder each morning, all of which material found it’s way onto the following track list.

Listening to it now, it’s an odd mix of vaguely poppy songs, one or two raw freak-outs, some stabs at Blake inspired poetry and some genuinely powerful stuff; but it really represented who I was at this time, and to anyone listening, you’re probably closer to the real me (circa 85-86) than just about anyone I knew at this time – other than my friends, Mssrs. Burton and Kea.

Tape 1 - Side A

You Who Do Not Live (*)
This was the first song Jeff and I performed at my first official gig – at Battersea Arts Centre.  Since the show wasn’t recorded, I simply overdubbed the backing track a few days later. My voice is a bit cracked because I blew it out in the gig itself. Joolz plays double bass lending it a classier than usual feel. A deceptively low key start to an intense tape.

Slander (spoken) / Ill Met by Moonlight
Two for the price of one here & quite a pairing!

I let rip about what I thought of most people I knew circa April 1985. Not quite through the first year of my Film & Drama Degree course, I was increasingly disenchanted with those around me, and a number of London friends too. One night after a few snakebites it all boiled over in one of the more blistering few minutes of ranting. The funny thing is I still agree with every word. This recording is also important because I coin a motto which became a lifetime credo - aspire to inspire. Listen to the track and you’ll understand.

At the end of this a Baran Drum starts beating and we have a slow fade in to Ill Met. I think Ill Met is my strongest song and it’s important to know how it evolved. It started life with that persistent pounding drum beat, recorded one afternoon in cemetery junction after I came home from College. It was eight minutes of concentrated drumming and at the time I didn’t have a conception of what it was for. A few days later I borrowed a friend’s guitar, loosened all the strings and laid down a menacing bass line with the drums. Then I played some sort of guitar line on top (very messy because I never learnt to play. This was certainly an atmospheric piece but I had no idea what to add next, so I laid it aside.

Another couple of days later, I came home, thought I should try putting a vocal to this piece, plugged the microphone into the Tascam, started to intone – and this is what happened. For the next few minutes I became two characters, a middle aged man and a small child. As I sang a tragic story emerged. I was totally 'in the zone' while performing this and it just came together' in one horribly perfect take. When I finally hit stop I stared at the machine for possibly thirty seconds, just completely numb and then slowly felt the tears well up inside me. I’ve never felt like this before or since in a recording situation.

It’s a song I returned to several times over the years, live with backing tracks in 1987:

...and a 16mm short I made with Mark Manhatten in 1992:

Lullaby / 28th December '82 (spoken)
Another mix between two tracks. Lullaby was a little throw-away thing I wrote for my second year video, which was called Video Nasty and dealt with censorship. The song was written for a scene with a homeless girl who is mugged as she makes her way to sell her ghetto blaster. It’s deliberately sacharine and sung in a very high key so as to be like a nursery rhyme. As Lullaby mutates into a decaying series of sounds we next hear a spoken word recording from four years earlier. 

28th December '82 is the date of my first acid trip at age seventeen, which I took at a friend’s Christmas party and which was still in my system as I returned home the next day. For most of the party – even while I was tripping – I’d concentrated on reading the Jim Morrison biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive – for some reason from the end to the beginning. So the next morning – in full Morrison mode, I felt inspired to write and then declaim this piece about the various people at the party and what was going on in my head. Somehow this crazed recording was made with my parents in the next room – with no idea how wired their son really was. I always liked it.

Easy Way Out (aka They Always Fail) (****)
Probably the last track recorded for this. Originally titled They Always Fail, this bitter-sweet love song with Casio backing was recorded in summer 1986 in my room in the house I lived at in Reading. I was very besotted with a beautiful Swiss German lady I’d met by the name of Lisa, and for about eight weeks that summer I was a very happy chappy – although I realised it couldn’t last. Lisa unfortunately was married to a member of Psychic TV, then touring Europe and she wasn’t about to leave him. So this song already predicts what will happen. By the time I mixed From the Mind of Frenzi, Lisa and I were already a thing of the past.

Aspire To Inspire (hidden track)
A noisy revisit to the moment in Slander where I coined the phrase.

Tape 1 - Side B

Have Mercy on Her
Another strong track, recorded only a few minutes after I completed Ill Met. I needed to work out the truly horrible feelings I had after Ill Met, and turning the tape over, I played the track backwards, and did so with a new vocal and a fragmentary Casio melody line. Again this was in real time. I start off chanting in a pseudo Japanese voice. I wanted it to sound like a religious ceremony – and as the backward voices from Ill Met built up, I began calling out and singing phrases, the first one being don’t be so clinical before I started the Have Mercy on Her lament. Never as well regarded as Ill Met, this one has a special place in my heart. One thing I like is the texture – dense, Satanic and yet clearly compassionate.

Shock Effect (spoken)
This was one of my morning dream recordings, rife with bizarre sexual imagery.

Over Her Head (*)
A fun and mischievous little song, concocted by myself and Kaprice for the Ramsgate New Year party. It has a slightly similar riff to Baseball Bat Song from Disease, but here I’m just being silly, singing about teacher’s giving me a lesson in a squeaky voice. Percussion is Kaprice and I pounding on a various objects with the microphone inside them. Despite any conclusions which might be drawn from this track, I was not public school educated.

Wiggled My Way Out (**)
The closest thing to rock n’ roll in this album, and the most personally revealing track on this tape. It’s a live one from the Bulmershe gig which I wrote on the last coach back from London to Reading. The lyric as performed is a furious onslaught of anger and frustration, not all of it aimed at others - starting with my continued disappointment over the gutlessness of my fellow students and the emerging political correctness. However, as it progresses the real target becomes clear, the singer himself – whether demanding the listener disembowel and devour me, and most important to me, articulating my confused sexual identity at that time. It was liberating to write it and felt great to perform, even if I so smothered that central message with other ideas.

Funny enough the only bit of self-censorship I practiced was when I changed a lyric from shit and grime in the rehearsal to rock 'n' roll in the performance! Mark plays bass and Steve drums. Probably the best performed song of the show.

See the actual performance here, although it's poorly lit: 


Pursuit (spoken)
Another dream account to round out tape 1.

Tape 2 - Side A

The Princess with Red Hair
Basically an audition piece for Kaprice Kea’s film, which was eventually released as Virtues of Knature with this song in the opening credits. I think Kaprice wanted to be sure I could create more ethereal music for his film and so I attempted to create something, which would sound as if it was taking place in a haunted forest and created a back drop of slowed down whistles and echoing bird-calls. The melody, rather obviously inspired by the opening music to Rosemary's Baby was sung with an undertone played on none other than my ancient Roland SH-1000 which I would occasionally drag out when the mood struck me right. I remember staying up most of the night to record this one Friday in Reading and taking the mixed tape with me to play to Kaprice at a pre-production costume and photo session the next afternoon.  

High Anxiety (*) (alternate version)
This is another live-ish track from the Ramsgate show and is quite different from other versions of High Anxiety I performed over the years. Whereas they are rather sinister and  mock-preachy as I intone Aleister Crowley’s parody of a Christian hymn (from his diaries) – here, although using the basic structure, I turned it into a more upbeat, slightly surreal Christmas tune. Music at the beginning is from a Weimar documentary and the spoken words (which I thought were Aleister Crowley) are actually from the last broadcast of Lord Haw-Haw, which actually work better in retrospect. Penny whistle and recorder are played by Kaprice.

For a sense of how I normally performed this one, see this 1987 performance:

Ascendance (spoken)/ Not Maya
Me at my most dramatic. Ascendance was written during a magical stay in Paris, with Kaprice and the lovely Rosali and Rebecca who put us both up and were the best of hosts. On day three after a mystery tour of driving – collecting clues and directions – we arrived at an amazing garden party in the suburbs.This was July 1986 and there was a new drug in town called Ecstasy. While I missed out on the chance to have any myself (I was broke and it was very expensive) I somehow managed to 'fly by association' and at the end of the day I took Kaprice and his girlfriend Jools to a Paris roof top, and as the full moon shone on us, improvised Ascendance to them. At their insistence I wrote it out the next day

This blends into the first thing I ever recorded on my Tascam four-track, only now with an added vocal, all about Lisa. I actually cringe hearing this now, but I meant it at the time.

Dali Song (**)
First of two songs from the Bulmershe college gig. Dali Song is a more energetic reworking of You Who Do Not Live, with some rather mean spirited lyrics about Salvador Dali who by then was in a very poor state. Mark and Steve again provide instrumental backing

Song of the Snake (**)/ Instrumental
My biggest hit! But only because I recorded the rehearsals. Many years later, Lawrence Burton played this on Ed Pinsent's show on Resonance FM as a lost something or other from the eighties. That was flattering, and even more flattering was when Lawrence revealed he had actually recorded a cover of it in 1992, by which time we were out of contact.

Anyway back in Feb '86, I wrote this one for our show and on the first rehearsal, which is what you’re hearing, it came off pretty well. It had a perky sub-Virgin Prunes feel to it and I really looked forward to seeing the audience react to it. However, the actual performance was a whole different deal. Mark started in the wrong key, fumbled the syncopation, then abandoned the riff and improvised. While I didn’t mind jamming, this was a song I wanted done right so the result was not fun for me at all, and survives in all it’s horror on a video I have and will never show. But you can hear what the audience didn’t.

Tape 2 - Side 4

The Joys of Existentialism
Near the end of my Bulmershe time, a sardonic entry into a talent contest. This is basically a radio play that I enacted in front of the audience, including a TV set which I attacked with a baseball bat at the end. Lawrence was intrigued enough by this to ask me to repeat a performance at Maidstone College,  I can’t remember whether I did it or not (he didn't and I don't remember asking - Ed.), although I did show the Disease video.

Wedding of I Am / I Bleed for You (***)
This is a crazy percussive piece I recorded on Coca-cola cans – one of the last things I recorded on my tape to tape set up. It fades into another recreated track from the Battersea Arts Centre show – a quite haunting little piece full of echo with a somewhat whiny vocal from me that suddenly turns the tables on the listener. Instrumentation is very exotic sounding Casio and Joolz playing double Bass. What’s missing is the pounding drum beat Jeff provided live which really raised it to another level.

Ave Maria (*)
This was the last track Kaprice and I played at the Ramsgate party – and in a highly appropriate gesture of absolution to the crazy party-ers it contains a scratched and reworked version of Liberace playing Ave Maria, with snatches of the Ill Met drum – which had survived under the recording of Liberace entirely by accident. This is quite a powerful piece – with yelling and chanting from Kaprice and myself and a really pulsating dark quality and felt like the right place to end what turned out to be the last tape-album I created and a real time-piece from a very interesting moment in my life.

I don’t think Lawrence actually put this out at the time, so this actually represents its first release.

Hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Additional Musicians: Kaprice Kea (*), Steve Middleton & Mark Manhattan (**), Jeff Thomas & Joolz (***), Lisa Von Erb (****).

1 - You Who Do Not Live
2 - Slander / Ill Met by Moonlight
3 - Lullaby / 28th December '82
4 - Easy Way Out
5 - Aspire to Inspire
6 - Have Mercy on Her
7 - Shock Effect
8 - Over Her Head
9 - Wiggled My Way Out
10 - Pursuit

...and the second tape by clicking on this one.

1 - The Princess with Red Hair
2 - High Anxiety
3 - Ascendance / Not Maya
4 - Dali Song
5 - Song of the Snake / Instrumental
6 - The Joys of Existentialism
7 - Wedding of I Am / I Bleed for You
8 - Ave Maria

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Friday, 15 February 2019

Chris Duncan - The Vanishing Mother (1981) C60

Here's the other Chris Duncan tape, as referred to when I wrote about The Broken Crucifix; and more or less anything I can say about this one has already been said about that one, so follow the link if you need to know more - not that I actually know much about this guy or his tapes. I'm not even sure that this was from 1981, but am guessing that it is mainly on the grounds of the other one being from that year. If you already downloaded and listened to the other tape, you'll already know not to expect Front 242 produced by Martin Hannett. This is similarly basic in terms of recording and composition, although there seems to be more multitracking and even a sample of Mr. Duncan's poetry, and the enterprise is not without a certain charm.
Whilst digitising this, I remembered (for no obvious reason) a stack of tapes I got sent back in the nineties, all destined for review in Ed Pinsent's Sound Projector, by a vaguely noisy DIY tape label of some lasting repute run by a noise bloke who is still treading the boards to some acclaim (mostly deserved) right now. I don't remember being massively impressed by the selection of stuff, but the worst was a thing called Thinnest Guitar Ever which seemed to be someone attacking an acoustic guitar with a screwdriver for twenty minutes, recorded on a truly shit tape recorder. It probably remains the most pointless waste of time I've ever heard in the name of art, and I personally would have been frankly fucking ashamed to have accepted money for it (and I say this in full knowledge of how shite some of the stuff I released was). Anyway, my point was that, for all his sonic shortcomings, Chris Duncan's work is still about a million times more interesting than the aforementioned improv noise wank. So there.
Not sure whether Confussion is so titled because Mr. Duncan couldn't spell or it's actually clever wordplay. What do you think?

1 - Confussion I
2 - Confussion II
3 - Confussion III
4 - Searching
5 - Dedication
6 - Listen / Hear
7 - Through the Window
8 - Usually Sometimes
9 - Excerpt From

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Friday, 8 February 2019

You Are Hear 21/10/03

This week's free shit will probably be of limited appeal beyond my wife and anyone who was actually on the show, but it's a recording of a radio broadcast: You Are Hear presented by Jim Backhouse and featuring me as a guest, plus a live session by Noxagt, which went out on Resonance 104.4FM back in October 2003. Jim invited me on to play a load of Mexican stuff and then attempt to form sentences giving account of the same, which was more difficult than you might think. So I suppose you could call it a podcast, if you really want, despite the lack of quirky ukulele music.
It's here on my blog because I am very, very vain, but also because the music is mostly worth hearing, and Jim put on a good show. This is as much of the show as would fit on a hastily located C90 at the time, so it's not all of it, but it's probably as much as you need (and is in any case as much as I have). I've glued the end of side one to the beginning of side two so as to allow for continuous play as a single track, and I haven't broken up any of what Jim played into individual tracks because that would be fucking stupid.
I'd like to think that I'm a bit more able to string a sentence together these days without all the mumbling and gasps of exasperation as I labour to recall even the simplest, most obvious words, but my more recent performance on the Raconteur Roundtable podcast shows that this simply isn't true. Oh well. Hopefully you can get something from this regardless. There were a couple of digital glitches here and there, but I've kept them because I'm lazy and I think they were part of the show, and ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN ON LIVE TELEVISION. That's also me you can hear asking whether everything is okay immediately following Noxagt accidentally eating their own drum kit during broadcast. They were playing in the studio downstairs, requiring that I go down and check that no-one had actually died, which thankfully they hadn't. Crazy times.
Featured music comes from Hanatarash, Kovert, Palais Schaumburg, various unidentified Zuni and Tepehuano musicians, Delfino Guevara, Antonio Zepeda, Tribu, Noxagt, Ceramic Hobs, the Noblemen, DJ Tranquilizer, UNIT, War Drum, and one other whose name I can't work out.

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Friday, 1 February 2019

Impulse 5 (1993) C40

Here's the fifth Impulse tape, and in case anyone was wondering, yes, I somehow missed issue four and never had a copy. I haven't scanned the mag on this occasion because I couldn't be bothered after a certain moaning wanker slagged me off on Twatter last time I shared one of these things, whining what the fuck have you done to our track?, somehow having failed to take into account that it was digitised from a tape which came out nearly thirty years ago, and a tape run off by one of those duplication services and therefore done on the cheap so as to make it practical to give it away with a fanzine, thus meaning people who had never heard of your music would then be exposed to it and might even thusly go forth and buy your fucking records and make you rich despite nothing resembling hard work on your part unless you believe programming a drum machine somehow falls under the heading of graft, your Royal Highness. You'll also notice a certain bit of old tape wobble on a couple of these tracks, so if it's a problem that something you're getting for free isn't quite up to your exacting standards, then simply don't download the fucker, mkay?
Anyway, if anyone really feels they need to see the mag that came with this tape, give me a nudge in the comments box and I'll get around to scanning and add it to the download when I get time.
You'll probably have heard of a few of these, particularly factor X, Pessary, Smersh, Brume and Left Hand Right Hand whom I only recently found out occasionally featured Karl Blake as well as Charlie Collins form Clock DVA. There's a fair bit of techno on this one, but most of it is pretty well done, and thankfully lacking the usual suggestions of the guy with too much technology pretending to be a frost-faced Matrix cyberstormtrooper in his bedroom in his mum's house; and I'm kicking myself that I never got anything by Left Hand Right Hand.

1 - factor X - Determinants
2 -
DsorDNE - Orgasme III
3 -
Terraform - Meld
4 -
Pessary - Dark Shadows
5 -
Cathedra - Voices
6 -
Smersh - Crazy Orange Atom - Do You Remember Love?
7 -
Agonije - Un Soffio Di Immagine
8 -
Left Hand Right Hand - White City
9 -
Brume - Zindoo

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