Monday, January 15, 2007

Let Glasgow Flourish!

It seems like there's mischief to be had at the drop of a hat up north. I hit Glasgow with a bang - my car sorta blew up on the way there - so I rang round my whole scottish world and made sure I had a social life. Whatd'you know, but our man TOOOKA had mentioned grabbing the Birchville Cat Motel show, so it was a done thing.

TuKKA, as you may know, has recently posted an EP on his myspace titled Let Glasgow Flourish! He's burning up a small number of copies with artwork as I write, and I'm sure that if you were to poke him you might be able to grab one before they're all gone. Tuckerock is a sort of Birchville-inspired sleaze-drone made on a £3 casio keyboard with some fuzzed up guitar providing the wash. It's perhaps the freshest I've heard this sound in a couple of years:

  • 'KRK Continental' has a rolling tattoo of snares blasting the backdrop while octave and unison synths hold a reed-like melody-like line through the middle - it's all quite appropriately appropriating scottish insignia.

  • 'Sandyford Day Nursery' starts like an outtake from The Books' 2004LP 'Lost and Safe' - misaligned fragments of toys being bashed by children. Hey, I'm all for using children as a new form of electronic interface for composition, but this track steers clear, and resolves itself into something briefly concordant and regular - elements coagulate into a satisfying uniformity.

  • Glasgow, like Birmingham and Bristol, is a city that's bifurcated by a motorway running through the centre. Pedestrians call roll right through from sheltered Georgian terraces to 6 lanes of lights, and out the other side. 'Bislands' and 'Millenium Park' are assuredly the strongest of the four tracks. Both bought'emselves a family pack of codeine and krautrock and went to watch the traffic. Bislands knows about motors and exhausts and combustion. Millenium Park thinks about the transience of travel and the silky trails of brakelights


  • While in Scotland:

    Play Bagpipes Made In Canada

    Birchville Cat Motel is yer'man Campbell Kneale from New Zealand. And yep, he played an electronic bagpipe machine. As well as a very crazy sort of drone controller that you can see his finger on - it's like a guitar string through which ALL THE POWER IN THE UNIVERSE is flowing, and as he moves the thing that looks like a stapler, or changes the pressure exerted by his fingers, so too changes the AMOUNT OF POWER IN THE UNIVERSE, and we all feel the changes accordingly.

    I have to admit that BCM messes with my sense of time - perhaps he speeds it up and slows it down with his stapler. After this show (at the 13th Note on 9th Jan) Tukka assured me it'd been at least 20minutes, but I can only account for 5minutes.

    The support had been a miss and a hit. The miss: Opaque, a bunch of guys on several guitars wearing facemasks had taken us from some positive-interference style work (not-quite unisons) that might have overlapped with Phill Niblock or even LaMonte Young (his drift studies) into some dirge-driven onanistic powerchords in an attempt to be dredging the same tar pits as Sunn0))) etc. I'm all for the Southern Lord family, but I don't think it's a case of turning it up and making it slow. The delicate work had been pretty good, so I was kinda sad to lose interest.

    I came back in for a spectacular treat - Richard Youngs on guitar in a combo with Alex Neilson playing free on drums.

    Youngs' eldritch, folklore-esque multi-instrumental releases are pretty hard to track down, although the Wire magazine have some mp3s on their site following a frontpage a while back. Together, he and Neilson worked around a number of ideas - creeping up to them, testing them like a wobbly tooth. But the main emphasis was to keep the tooth firmly in place, so those sharp spikes of tension and pain weren't allowed to give over to that swollen flooded feeling of bursting release. Delicate tension the whole way, ramped and mounted on the fear that you might chew on the wrong side of your mouth.

    But yeah, the last five minutes were the best. BCM came on, plugged in a stadium's worth of cables to his unit and started screaming, mutedly, into a microphone that he nearly swallowed.




    The show reminded me most of 'Chi Vampires' off the EP of the same name - you've got a gentle chamois leather softly buffing your bodywork when someone hits a switch and you see it's a brillopad - but brillo still makes stuff sparkle, right? Scratch on through, you'll see the silver, you'll FEEL cleaner. Throughout the set the layers of sound were tightly located - it was all very geographical. If you sort-of tuned your ears up you could hear the abrasive rinsing of static phasing itself around your head, and if you tuned down you could hear short bursts of samples looping off-beat. In you screwed your eyes into your ears you could see and hear that the air itself was made of sirens and bagpipes, while deep in the back of your neck you knew that you could hear a heavy bass drum, pounding you to the core, trying to break open your ribcage and let the deaf leopard out. Everything roared. And then filtered itself out, slowing itself back to earth, leaving only a sampleloop to remind us that music usually demands that a riff be repeated.

    I asked Campbell a coupla questions afterwards, drunkenly pushing an agenda, and here's the ever-so-professional transcript:
    JR: Hey, so how do you feel the audience should be taking your shows?
    CK: I guess I don't write the music with a particular audience reaction in mind...
    JR: I mean, you're there on stage, kinda rockin out, while the crowd seem to stand so deadly still, like they're scared to move their heads in case they miss anything.
    CK: It makes a difference - if you move your head then you get hit with lots of different frequencies, the whole sound changes as you move.
    JR: So you're there rockin back and forth...
    CK: .... yeah, and I'm feeling it that way. It's a big rock thing for me on stage, right?
    JR: I was going to ask - what're the samples?
    CK: That last one at the end is an Iron Maiden loop
    JR: Is that important to you?
    CK: Yeah, I grew up listening this stuff, and I just love listening to it and using it in what I do. I get really excited being able to use it, and I love hearing it over and over.

    Yep, I shouldn't try asking questions again. Promise you I won't. But hey, a similar idea can be found on Jason Forrest / Donna Summer's 'Death AfterLife' (on Mew le Disque), which essentially samples the whole of Iron Maiden's greatest hits and rebuilds them into power drone for the kids with new ears. Two guys coming from similar directions pull out radically different yet sympathetic sounds. I'll post some shortly, you can compare and contrast at yer leisure. In the meantime, go check out Let Glasgow Flourish!