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Errant Monks
Psychopposition / The Limit Experience Noel Gardner , March 1st, 2019 08:51

In two new releases from Manchester's Errant Monks, Noel Gardner finds strong contenders for the UK underground’s top scorchers of 2019

The two Errant Monks releases here, Psychopposition cassette on the Tesla Tapes label and an LP, The Limit Experience, on Maternal Voice from Sweden, are the first by the Manchester group to exist in physical form to a meaningful degree. As such, you might be tempted to think of them as a clandestine secret only shared with the (albeit well populated) underground in the city that cooks its collective head to gonzo techno and psychedelic noise. This isn’t exactly the case, however, and in fact an early Errant Monks tour far beyond their homestead forms part of the backstory to the remarkable, energising music found here.

A version of the band, whose membership is changeable save for founder/vocalist Joseph Charms, played some Eastern European gigs in 2016, with only one digital EP to their name. Apparently successful in terms of reception, Charms however spent it in “a state of intense mania which culminated in … Delirium Tremens and seizures from alcohol withdrawal.” These experiences inform The Limit Experience’s lyrics, which are most often spoken in a matter-of-fact monologue or conspiratorial whisper, and the opening track of Errant Monks, which lasts 15 minutes and is titled ‘Recovery Prologue BN1’. An atonal string drone sways like a bad bridge while freeform electronic klang snakes and judders, Charms talks of his self-bludgeoned skull and convulsions and cramps and “a conversation between my conscious and unconscious self in Sanskrit, Cyrillic and Olde English”.

Elsewhere on the cassette, Errant Monks’ techno tendencies are exhibited: ‘Psychomotor Retardation’, another lengthy piece offered as a digital bonus to purchasers, is a gig recording whose delayed vocal FX and monotone kickdrum is like if Suicide has tailored a set for a mid-90s Tribal Gathering festival. Side B proper froths with post-Cabaret Voltaire breakbeats, the lateral dub sensibilities of God or the farthest-out On-U cuts, loops of sampled dialogue (“She’s been violent, abusive…”) and a punishing refix of ‘Sdvig’ by Simon Crab of UK underground marvels Bourbonese Qualk, who Charms previously interviewed for this website.

The Limit Experience, while demonstrably thematic, is every bit as uneasy and jarring. ‘BKM’ is presumably named for its sample of Ban Ki-Moon, but its lo-fi rave mulch is marked by a distressed-sounding Charms intoning “anyway… I’m trying to sleep… normally.” As much as the atmosphere of this album leans towards the clammy and cathartic, Errant Monks know when/how to detonate a beat for max euphoria: see ‘Full Circle’ and ‘Svdig!’ (with an exclamation mark this time). Only ‘The Táltos’ approaches misstep status – its languid breaks-y house is perfectly serviceable, but also reminds me of Justin Robertson’s 90s project Lionrock.

I envisage Errant Monks as a kind of loose, all-hands-on-deck affair; beyond Charms, the Monk most likely to be familiar to readers is Neil Francis, also of Gnod and Terminal Cheesecake. The former of those bands are, to an extent, a signpost to Errant Monks’ own conviction, reinvention and anti-(music)-establishment politics, but more in a ‘if you like that try this’ way than an implication of one outfit hovering in the slipstream of another. Errant Monks have delivered what may well be two of the UK underground’s top scorchers of 2019.