Rants & Essays

JHR On Variousness

By JHR

Due to the vagaries of the international postal service (Worse than useless since your current junta instigated their current rule-by-terror and random locking up of foreigners. Unless you've all seen sense and voten in the other lot by the time this sees the printer…), the set of dreadful INDUSTRAIL(tm) CDs that Uncle Marcus promised have either been seized as foul and unlikely contraband by one or other set of customs officials, stolen by post officers ditto or sidetracked by a shadowy government department who are even now breaking down the doors of the perpetrators and about to subject them to The Question. Well, a chap can dream anyway...

So instead here are shorter versions of what I think about CDs I had to go and spend my own money on.

Close to the top of the pile we find Nouvelle Vague – at the top of the pile is the 2.0 release of Op by Severed Heads, but I went on about an earlier version recently, so I'll spare you the happy gibber about that – which is a set of post-punk covers played in the Bossa Nova style by a team of mad French people. And a very fine thing it is too. It opens with sounds of a beach and a laid-back and groovy version of Love Will Tear Us Apart which reminds me splendidly of several days spent on a secluded beach on the west coast of Brittany. Atmospheric with a slight hint of crab and the sound of my Saab turbo pinging quietly as it cooled down after being thrashed along the empty roads.

The backing for Just Can't Get Enough sounds like someone repeatedly falling over the instruments in a cheerful pub brawl. It's mad and jolly and swings in a completely different way to the original. (There's a techno remix that swings in a different way again. I think it's a great shame that Depeche Mode went to shite when Vince Clarke left. As it is, they're largely responsible for most Neu Deutsche Welle (Or however NDW is really spelled), Mesh and far too much stroppy synthpoop 'industrial.' A terrible legacy.)

All the tracks are highlights, but Too Drunk to Fuck being sung by a giggling French totty is a standout, while the version of A Forest bobbles along like a warm and firelit campground. It closes with a version of the Specials sublime Friday Night and Saturday Morning which horribly articulates the emptiness behind going clubbing and getting drunk.

A bit further down lurks a thing called Rephlexions, an Album of Braindance which is (oddly enough) a compilation of odd electronic music from the Rephlex label. Some of it falls squarely into the camp of interesting but unproductive laptop-powered noodle, other bits are sort of Trip-down-the-stairs-and-Hop-about-swearing, and then they're not. However, I am warming a great deal to the works of Cylob, since he seems to be able to take a pile of noise and throw away all the bits that are a bit too obviously music, which leaves a tottering pile of unidentifiable brass components that collapse in on themselves and emit pleasing 'grark' noises. DMX Krew meanwhile, are electro-funk time travelers from a slightly cleaner 80s. Utterly splendid and not even slightly out of place on the more synthpoppy/EBM dancefloor. Flex by JP Buckle just blats along for two-and-a-bit-minutes of rocking drum loop and earthmoving bass. It's just completely brilliant and I can't stop listening to it. I'd recommend buying this CD on the strength of that track alone.

I don't think you need me to bang on about how good Kraftwerk's Tour de France Soundtracks is, since I'm sure many of you caught them on tour this summer. Suffice to say that my July was much improved by alternating that and the live coverage of Le Tour.

My Way by Akufen is going to be a bit of a bugger to find, since it was released in 2002 and has since been deleted. My copy came from some record dealer via Amazon, so it may not be impossible to find. It's well worth the bother of trying though. Elsewhere, this has variously been called 'micro house' and/or 'microsampling'. What you get are massive housey rhythm tracks – lush, creamy and Ibiza-tinged are words that aren't even slightly out of place – with the usual wailing soul diva happily absent. Instead we find a curious patchwork of tiny samples like confetti or bits of ripped up newspaper. Like the chap was in the studio busily wrenching the tuning dial of the wireless in time to the thunderous beats. Fragmentary and outwardly very disturbing and hard to get your head around comes vaguely close to describing the experience. The bass-end is huge – it's like being wrapped in a vast and warm duvet of low frequencies – while all the time there are tiny snippets of other songs, small hits of guitar, jigsaw bits of vocal or swatches of found sound falling about you like curious audio snow. It's by turns storming dance music, hallucinatory and disorienting, and the works of Burroughs pressed into a CD. Those who prefer their music to contain guitars and choruses will find it disturbing and hate it with a passion. I think it's fucking marvellous. (And I bought it out of sheer randomness.)

Finally (for the moment anyway, there'll be more of the same only different if the post maintains their usual standard. Though they did manage to deliver the PWEI tickets efficiently during the week. Ha! By the time you read this I'll have seen The Poppies for the first time since 1994! They'll probably still be rubbish!) I must make reasonably extensive mention of Eurotechno by Stakker. It's twenty short slices of 303-powered proto-techno written to provide audio accompaniment to a sequence of computer-generated videos by the chap who went on to write Stakker Humanoid and then became the Future Sound of London. This is the space-music that I first heard in 1990 as tapes of a pirate radio station run from the back of a clothing shop. A couple of weeks later, I went along to view The Fields of the Nephilim and stood at the back with my chum Jon thinking, “What are those pillocks on stage doing? What do those pointy-booted twats think they look like? This is shit and I paid money to get in. What a waste...” Because this music (and the visuals) permanently warped my head. How could I continue to listen to guitar-based three-minute pop songs, even if they had been stretched out to Floyd-like dimensions by a mob of flour-covered ponces? There was a sudden and massive world out there filled with strange noises in curious structures and it seemed narrow-minded and wasteful not to grab it with both ears...

I rather got lost there for five years, wandering about as the land noisily fragmented. It's a nice place. You should visit.

Oh God. You know what this looks like? One of those 'staff top five' or 'editor's pick of the year' things that you'd see in the glossies. Fuck.

Nouvelle Vague - www.peacefrog.com
Rephlex - www.rephlex.com or www.warprecords.com
Kraftwerk - www.krafwerk.de
Akufen - You'll be lucky. Well worth a try, mind.
Stakker - www.warprecords.com again