Columnfortably Numb: November In Psych/Noise Rock By JR Moores
, November 3rd, 2016 10:07
Trying his damnedest not to digress, Dr Moores examines the latest deluge of psych/noise discs by the likes of Goat and Terminal Cheesecake
The October-November fortmonth is an outrageously busy period for psych and noise rock releases. You might assume that this autumn deluge is based on shovelling product into the shops before any crucial end of year lists are drawn up but it's actually to do with ley lines and the end of the equinox. Indeed, there's so much to cover right now - including a couple of September nuggets we missed last time round and no fewer than four whole Roy Montgomery records - that I'm compelled to make this succinct and reluctantly forego my intended lengthy intro inspired by a Boots own-brand toothbrush holder that reminded me of an old Tom Wolfe paragraph. These psych artists don't make it easy for us do they? So please excuse my cutting to the chase and just getting on with it. Normal TL;DR service will resume at a later date, assuming 2016 hasn't finally descended, as we all suspect it will, into an all-consuming apocalyptic crapstorm of corrupt demagogues, clown-suited terrorists, the pernicious mass legitimisation of bigotry and extinct bees.
Helen Money - Become Zero
When you buy a ticket for Shellac, you half expect them to be supported by some local two-bit group of DIY ladz who'd like to think they resemble The Jesus Lizard but have more in common with 1998's Llama Farmers. Wise ol' Shellac have learned how to shirk that awkward dilemma by frequently inviting the excellent Helen Money on tour. The pseudonym of one Alison Chesley, Helen Money is a cellist but no ordinary cello player be she. Chesley garnishes her instrument with wild and spooky effects and coaxes contributions from Neurosis drummer Jason Roeder and Rachel Grimes of Rachel's fame to concoct her distinctive Bach-meets-Big Black emotional mashers. This LP was written after the death of Chesley's parents and all that pain and anger and sadness of becoming an adult orphan has been channelled into its bloodshot instrumental grooves. Very heavy stuff.
Kuro - Kuro
Has Helen Money failed to satisfy your appetite for brain-squelching neo-classical psych/noise gubbins? Then let Dr Moores prescribe you extra medication. Kuro are French violinist Agathe Max and Bristol's Gareth Turner whose name you'll no doubt recognise from his work in Anthroprophh and Big Naturals. If your favourite section of any given Godspeed You! Black Emperor symphony is the muscle-tightening tension that precedes the predictable explosive climax, then this tastefully uncrescendoing morsel will be right up your street. It is forebodingly droning chamber music, with a pinch of Alice Coltrane sprinkled here and there, with eerie fluttering sounds lurking in its undergrowth which will make you think of crippled ravens. The long winter nights are setting in. "Kuro" is Japanese for black. All is decay. Stick this on. Traipse through dead leaves in the snow. Gradually lose your way. Twist your ankle. Freeze to death in a forest.
Christian Fitness - This Taco Is Not Correct
Andrew "Falco" Falkous is a national treasure. Well, okay, he's not a national treasure like Mary Berry, David Attenborough, Holly Willoughby, Rod Stewart, Keith "The Keefster" Richards, Kate Beckinsale, Otis The Aardvark, the more popular actors who've played The Doctor, Andy Murray, Lordy Lordy Alan Sugar, PJ & Duncan, The Kray Twins, Sir Cliff Richards, several posh comedians, Katherine Jenkins, Alan Coren's lucky lucky children, Ross Kemp, everyone from the Harry Potter adaptations, Joey Essex, Helen "sexy monarch" Mirren, Nicholas Parsons or the gentle pink-jacketed fellow who makes those surprisingly comforting railway documentaries. Falco's not in that league. Yet for those of us who hold grumpily exasperated guitar rock in high value, thanks to his work with Mclusky and Future Of The Left, Falco is a veritable British institution. He's the Barbara "Babs" Windsor of UK alt-rock, if you will. This Taco Is Not Correct is the third full-length outing from his Christian Fitness thingummy that we're not allowed to call a solo project even though he writes all of its songs on his own and plays most of the instruments too. With FOTL's Jack Eggleston contributing drum bits, this collection of homemade noise rock with observational lyrics about racists on trains and Ray Winstone's disembodied head isn't a million miles away from Falco's day job (a little less chunky perhaps; a touch punkier) and praise Buddha for that. If I have to hear about another indie musician's ambient synthesizer side-project I'm going to stick a knitting needle under my own kneecap.
Teksti-TV 666 - 1, 2, 3
The USP of Finland's Teksti-TV 666 is that they have five, and sometimes six, electric guitarists. They do not, however, recreate the sound of Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Ex-Easter Island Head or other abrasive racket-makers beloved by tinnitus-ridden no-wave beatniks and cravat-wearing gallery curators alike. I've not seen them perform in the flesh so can't say how deafening their multiple guitarists are in real life but that doesn't matter anyway because, while their recordings build up a formidable wall of noise in certain places, Teksti-TV 666's most impressive talent lies in merging krautrock, psych noise and old school rowdy but catchy punk rock songwriting. It's like Neu! and The Hellacopters had a quickie behind the bike shed, one paramour dressed in ripped Ramones leggings, the other wearing a grimy King Gizzard beanie, and nine months later this polycephalous rascal was born. Whoa-whoa!
Goat - Requiem
In The Three Billy Goats Gruff, it's the third hircine hero who butts the hungry troll off the bridge. The moral of this story is not to be greedy but I always felt a little sorry for that troll. He complied to let the two smaller, weaker goats pass scot-free which, even if selfishly motivated, was a nice thing to do and all he was ultimately trying to achieve was to get himself some lunch. It was in his instincts to covet that large juicy goat. Goats are the troll's natural diet. It's the circle of life. Requiem is the third Goat album but working in the opposite trajectory to the final BGG it's not their heaviest, meatiest or most aggressive appearance to date. It's marketed as their "folk" record so there's an emphasis on acoustics with a generally chilled-out summer evening's skinny-dipping vibe. Don't worry though, there is plenty going on here with percussion whipping like wind all over the place, a nice bleary guitar passage in 'Alarms', some overdue riffwork rearing its curled horns on 'Goatfuzz', plenty of lysergic sauntering and a Manson cultish pong that still underlies the communal grooves of this reclusive Swedish horde. A heavily psychedelic take on world music is their forte yet 'Trouble In The Streets' is the clearest indication yet that Goat are genuinely influenced by the prodigious Paul Simon. Which reminds me, have you heard the parable about The Three Billy Arts Garfunkel?
Roy Montgomery - R M H Q
You wait several years for a new Roy Montgomery album and then four turn up at once. They've been conceived as distinct entities and are available separately but the good folk at Grapefruit have also produced an affordable CD box set so you needn't miss out on any of these gems from the cult New Zealand-based dronesmith. Montgomery's played with Bardo Pond and Flying Saucer Attack and is admired by Grouper among others... Do you require further credentials? Okay, he's penned several academic papers on environmental management if that helps. One of these discs showcases Montgomery's lo-fi lyrical talents as his distinctive antipodean baritone drawls atop wonkily jangling strums, one of many highlights being a sarcastic parody of The Rolling Stones ('You Always Get What You Deserve'). For the remaining three sets he tends to jam vocal-less, sometimes with a rhythm track, often without, with his instrument draped in aliengazing effects for anything between 67 seconds to 20 minutes. The overall impression is that he's striving to exorcise some demons or suppress a black dog with a warm aural self-hug or simply trying to lose himself for a jolly wee while. Maybe he's just trying to help us do those things. It worked for me. Cleansed my bitter soul, it did.
Terminal Cheesecake - Dandelion Sauce Of The Ancients
Inspired by the words of life-tidying guru Marie Kondo, I was decluttering my treasured collection of Cadbury's Double Decker wrappers the other day when I stumbled upon an overdue library book that I'd borrowed way back in 1994. As an upstanding member of society, I returned said book only to be landed with a hefty £200 fine by an unsympathetic self-service robo-librarian tucked away in the corner of the building which was recently rescued from closure by being relaunched as a Costa Centre For Caffeinated Learning. 1994 was also, as it happens, the last time Terminal Cheesecake released an album. The return of these London crackpots sees vocalist Gary Boniface replaced by Neil Francis, whose shaman-sleeves you may have seen flailing around when he fronted Gnod until about 2013 if memory serves. Age, recess and personnel alterations mean that Terminal Cheesecake now sound like a slightly milder version of The Lightning Seeds. No, I'm pulling your leg. They're still as mad as a box of hopping frogs that have all been grafted with the cloned skin of Spike Milligan's face. The poppiest the 'Cheesecake get here is 'Poultice', an evil desert-rockin' hunk of riff gospel, as if The Heads were soundtracking an audiobook of Matthew Lewis' The Monk. Elsewhere, the collection sounds as though TC have got high on nitrous oxide or Monster energy drinks or worse, lassoed a lesser-spotted Hawkwind with a bass guitar string and dragged it backwards through a hedge full of undulating porcupines. One track is called 'Mr. Wipey's Day Trip To Guilford Haven'. Read that again. 'Mr. Wipey's Day Trip To Guilford Haven'. What a pleasure to have 'em back. Whack it on your headphones while you chase killer clowns around the parking lot with a rusty bicycle chain.
Feral Ohms - Live In San Francisco
As Californian noise-rock heroes Comets On Fire sank into extended hiatus, Ethan Miller sidled into less manic territory with the 70s-smitten Dazed & Confused aesthetic of Howlin' Rain and earlier this year he was spotted playing bass for psych-folk supergroup Heron Oblivion. One of Howlin' Rain's strongest releases was 2014's Live Rain and now Miller's latest project, Feral Ohms, have decided to debut with a live album of their own. And why not? It worked for MC5, Jane's Addiction and The Dave Matthews Band. At the outset Miller invites the crowd to make "animal sounds and, you know, make it big and stuff for us here between all the songs, all right" and then - kaboom! - the power trio blast off into sweaty orbit, taking no prisoners and barely pausing for anybody to even catch their breath let alone recreate the ambience of the farmyard. The whole set is over in six tracks and twenty minutes and is by far the maddest, wildest, liveliest, dirtiest, sexiest, most chaotically punk-and-freakin'-roll collection Miller has committed to wax since his CoF days. There's a proper studio album coming early next year. How can it possibly top this? More animal sounds? Bleat bleat chirp moo!
Narcosatanicos - Body Cults
In all the times I've seen Melvins, I never once thought to myself, "What this band really needs is fuck-off sleazy brass section." Thankfully, Narcosatanicos' album opener 'Vulvic Church' tells us what that might sound like and it's a universe I'd like to spend more time exploring. 'Vile' is faster, like The Stooges attempting to cover Secret Chiefs 3 in a runaway skip. 'Mania', on the other hand, is led by higher-mixed, feral vocals and skronks malevolently along as if Joey from The Icarus Line was accidently appointed musical director of Rocket From The Crypt. Apparently this Danish sextet's brass section consists of a single saxophonist which is hard to believe because I could've mistaken that one bloke for an entire army of horn-wielding nutcases. By the time the nine-minute final track rolls along they've calmed down a tiny bit, settling into groovier kosmische-jazz fusion as if scoring a film noir about a serial killer who chooses his victims based on their Ipecac Records collections.
E - E
Little to do with Ebeneezer Goode or that bloke off of Eels, E is an alt-rock supertrio consisting of Thalia Zedek (Come, Uzi, Live Skull), Jason Sanford (Neptune) and Gavin McCarthy (Karate). Unlike the world-weary gothic country rasps of Zedek's solo work, E is far crunchier and more morbidly urgent. Spouting lyrics about ties broken, goodbyes unspoken and the catastrophic failure of reason, these veterans' voices are as gnarled as Hoggle's forehead but their rattling musicianship makes younger bands of this ilk look like Mumford's grandma. Though less indulgent than Gira & co., there are times when E's compositions match the quivering intensity of Swans, which is no easy trick with a mere three members and zero Thor Harrises. As an added bonus, they chuck in a track called 'Candidate' which is the kind of thing Fugazi might be producing these days had they not abandoned us so cruelly to a world of competitive celebrity ballroom dating, Clean Bandit-soundtracked M&S advertisements, Phil Collins' non-retirement, novels whose titles refer to their adult female protagonists as "Girl", food banks, Honey G and the cumulative decline of empathy.
MV & EE - Root/Void
Speaking from experience, Matt Valentine and Erika Elder are the kind of musicians who you wouldn't mind missing a train for because you were too busy admiring the exhibition of handpainted CD-Rs on their merch stand and forgot to look at your watch. Sometimes billed as having recorded with The Bummer Road, The Golden Road, The Medicine Show or, as here, simply MV & EE, the discography of this ceaselessly prolific duo is barely possible to keep a handle on. Alongside deals with hip labels including Three Lobed, Ecstatic Peace and Blackest Rainbow, there's been oodles of self-released live and hometaped material. They've occasionally dabbled in Crazy Horse-ish geetar jamz in the past but this particular excursion is pretty much as laidback as MV & EE can be. This gently blissful island paradise of loved-up cosmic-country-freak-folk will probably get chastised in some quarters for meandering too much, for lacking focus and clear direction... as if those are negative qualities! Don't know about you, but the worst people I've ever met have been those who're blessed with focus and direction. And if you want to spend more time in the company of them types you can always listen to upstanding professionals like Kings Of Leon or fill out an entry form for the next season of The Apprentice. Instead, let's praise the haze.
Next time: 1001 Uses For A Second-Hand Yardbirds Cassette