A record I’d take to the grave, I always try to make time to listen to it when heavy, difficult, revelatory or otherwise serious things are happening in life. It’s really a standalone record for me, it has this totally hermetic feeling of making time stand still and puts a mile of distance between me and the rest of the world. Turquoise cirrus trails and strewn petals on concrete… It’s really beautiful and introspective but also deeply wistful in a way that is hard to listen to often for me these days (I played it a lot more regularly in my unhappier past), but utterly vital every once in a while. Now feels like one of those times, especially songs like “Absent Friend”.
One of the last concerts I went to before the lockdown was when me and my girlfriend Sydney/Slaylor Moon went to see DEMILICH in Leeds on valentine’s day, haha, which we had not planned on and didn’t even know about but was of course imperative on discovery. Demilich totally rinsed the place, and were really sweet shy nerds despite their insane, ferocious, modernist take on technical death metal. Nespithe is up there in my top 5 death metal albums for sure and is a big influence on my shred style in Guttersnipe. The vokills on this one may also ignite what dormant fervour for the worship of Tsathoggua you might have in these constrained times!
In my earlier, formative existential configurations I would always respond to darkness with more darkness and aim for the centre of the void, but after years of too much despair and drama I learned to resort to more sanguine tactics. Raving has been a big part of my life since I was 17 and nothing fails to put a smile on my face and get me bouncing quite like an oldskool hardcore banger such as Vibes & Wish Dokta’s “Feel Good” (included on the excellent Helter Skelter Hardcore Classics 3CD box) or this relentlessly ‘avin it acid techno monster “My 909’s got a picture of Chris liberator on it” with that most biohazardous of serotonin smashing squawk. Dancing is so important!!!
My favourite Art Ensemble cut, capturing the crew in full beams, all cards "on or off the table" kaleidoscopic frenzy which teleports the listener from station to station via igneous carnival of the insane cacophony, politically performative theatrical recitals of African folklore transformed into musico-magickal-mischeivery, squealing, pealing clatter'n'skree of the Braxtonian variety, ominous and dissonant larghissimo and even some exuberant yet relatively "straight ahead" jazz that even a luddite like Wynton Marsalis would have no choice but to swing to. For me this record really captures the zenith of 70s "free" jazz and as such sounds timeless, futuristic and incendiary. Though after seeing them play at Trip Metal 3 in 2018, it is clear Roscoe and his ensemble are still totally plugged in to whatever wild energies they were powered by back in those days!!
Being the snobby elitist goth that I am, excessive hype around any record tends to induce a bit of an allergic response in me, so even though I did listen to this when it came out and was totally awestruck, I didn’t really repeat the experience until very recently. I despise modern pop music and pop culture and I particularly loathe the majority of PC Music that I’ve heard, but it’s kind of undeniable that this record is a masterpiece. I relate to it a lot as a trans woman and weirdo, the intentionality of otherness and multifaceted idiosyncrasy is delivered with radical certainty and subversive power, not as mere garish irony games but genuine self expression. The sound design is truly alien and the grandeur of the composition is completely spellbinding. It feels like the music has a mission to change you permanently and I identify with that a great deal.
I listened to this record on acid for the first time late last year and was stunned by the levels of additional detail that I previously hadn’t perceived… My boy Moschops really wove a tapestry on this extremely intricate museum tour of his personal mikroKozz-Mos, some might say even a “pop” record by his warped measures (his Janet Jackson influence on display).
It’s definitely the closest feeling from any of his releases of being huddled round an Ontario campfire with maple creams and All-Dressed Ruffles in hand while he regails you with vortex ripple blacklight fracture axe-tones and his syrupy, hypnagogic drawl spinning tales of postmodern cyber paranoia, historic Quebecois criminal anti-heroes and shoe theft (a theme close to my heart). Another throughly idiosyncratic gem of a human whose music cannot be categorised in any one genre.
Continuing with the theme of stylistically capricious specimens and bouncing off from Moskos who I made a convert to this band out of in 2018, I could not put together a list such as this one without including A.R. Kane, who have been one of my dearest favourites for a long time. A critically under represented major force in the development of dream pop/shoegaze/ethereal music, likely because of music journalist racism and the fact that their shimmering, otherworldly sound contained currents of jazz, dub reggae and soul, even early house music, making it difficult to pigeonhole. The primary duo of Rudi Tambala and Alex Ayuli were also both members of M/A/R/R/S who released “Pump up the Volume”, which is a real head spin. 69 is their most complete sounding work and a great introductory point, but their early EPs (especially Up Home!) are also incredible.
Two highly contrasting records involving two beguiling high priestesses of the UK trans woman freak alliance (Glasgow division); Helena Celle aka Kay Logan of Gimp World/Herbert Powell/Otherworld/Time Binding Ensemble/Neuromancer/ex-Anxiety (now Anxious Music records!) and also her Outlet Archival label + Natalie McGhee who performs with her brother Sean as Comfort. The interconnectedness of these 2 records paints a picture of the Glasgow DIY underground - Not Passing was recorded and produced by Miss Celle who also made the cover art, plus it was released by Anxious Music, the label Kay is 1/4 of. Beginning with If I Can’t Handle Me At My Best… - a record I keep somehow forgetting about, was made entirely on an MC303 (+ some dictaphones) and makes me imagine a vision of transhuman dance music for the enjoyment of amoebas, with sluicing quasi-asynchronous aquacrunk squiggle + bump concertinas of phosphorescent polychaete sound, all beautiful, wonky, anemones-on-neptune style holophasic moments condensed into a freeze-dried, thermostabilized fruit paste which shape shifts into plastic, elastic, non-euclidean wiggleshapes.
Special deployment of audio-teleological autism powers herein, make no mistake. It holds a fond place in my heart given my passion for unconventional approaches to time, rhythm and synchrony, especially when it is FUN and not just boastfully complex number music. I wish this approach was explored more often! Comfort on the other hand are a pleasant reminder that so much can be done inside the heart beat meter; their severe, minimalist, mutant punk-hip hop a cyborg amalgam of Sean’s driving, biotech acoustic drums, hylic electroacoustic droid-funk grooves and Natalie’s striking, glamorous, vehement snarl, incendiary and powerful Queer identity delivered without hesitation or camouflage, evidenced by the brave and badass title of the record, Not Passing, a commentary on the harsh reality of life as a trans woman wherein Natalie fearlessly owns her right to be the freak she wants to be, which I appreciate immensely. Plus what better form is there for political expression than that which is so damn groovy?!
Last year I joined TLASILA and embarked on an unforgettably ridiculous High Summer tour with Tom and Rat direct and uncut, a sanity straining two weeks covering 9 hour drives in 40+ degree heat, French countryside circus raves, a big stretch in Italy from the lizard littered palaces of the North through picturesque beaches towards the wet basements of the South, acid fried German boat shows, Austrian gothic wedding band parties and many, many motorway service stations, not to mention the deranged, constantly mutating, super fun musical debauchery. I've been thinking a lot about all the lovely freaks in Italy who we met on that tour who were so good to us, bless their hearts... I really hope they are safe. A lot of the craziest memories from that tour are from Italy... One night in Milan I laughed harder than I have laughed in maybe the last decade!! Anyway, looking back, it's pretty funny that I was involved in all that before ever hearing this album which big T considers their magnum opus. Well, better late than never, after Marky Mojo Morgan blasted me with a little bit of it after his and Gaute Granli’s show in Leeds I had to dive in and submit to the pummelling double CD length assault of no-genre-fingers in the sockets schizoid seizure sound that is this juggernaut of pansonic punishment. Now you freaks have all the time in the world to ride the hell train through the expanding, collapsing, infinite torque action painting cyclone universe of diabolically hubristic havoc and salacious gene-slam jamboree of TLASILA at their most pure!
An album that for me really encapsulates isolation, a haunting and singular collection of pensive, lonely, beautiful songs that are full of unexpected and personal sonic touches. I would call the style of this record “Darkwave Soul” which is a sound I have not really encountered elsewhere. Mysterious, gossamer and mesmeric, a lush, gloomy paen for intimacy and longing which we all can surely place ourselves within right now.
After reading Cosey Fanni Tutti’s incredible book Art Sex Music I was compelled to revisit all of the TG records, having not really listened to them since I was a teenager and being put off the whole “Industrial” scene by the tainted association with the kind of power electronics and noise music made by/for repulsive bald men who glorify rape and fascism. I was really surprised when listening to albums like 20 Jazz Funk Greats and D.o.A how little this sound had in common with all that bullshit and I felt it was necessary to give the whole concept of “Industrial” music another chance and a new perspective. Stuff like The Lemon Kittens, SPK and Crash Worship were some of the things I found a renewed appreciation for, but another group, who I somehow only discovered/heard after being given an old Seripop poster in 2018 for an old gig of theirs, seemed to encompass most fully the new ideas I had about what “Industrial” music ought to sound like after reading Cosey’s book. That band is Metalux, whose final album Victim of Space was in seriously heavy rotation for me since and is a major influence on mine and Syd’s new duo Weird Bitch. Their sound is a whirlpool of arachnid gloaming and ghoulish sugardrip, a flickering medieval cipher-whorl of lush dark splintering, a highly modern expressive zone operating at the crossroads of psychedelia, goth, punk, dub and electronic music, all executed as a symbiosis greater than the sum of its parts. Completely immediate, imminent, inscrutable…
Undeniably a document of a person gone completely off the deep end in their own private mental cell is this bizarre martian no-wave/space pirate brain haemorrhage disco/lysergic mad max hippie punk opus that is humorously absent from the archive of Gong and other Daevid Allen related projects… Here we hear Bert Camembert going completely round the twist as he jams 80s digital modulation damaged guitar and synth freakouts whilst warbling completely ridiculous whimsical ditties over a flickering, spasmodic collage of insectoid robot phunk rhythms assembled from pieces of the New York Gong LP, which comes off sounding like a collaboration between Chrome, Worzel Gummidge (the Jon Pertwee version) and Von LMO soundtracking a post-apocalyptic-return-to-dark-ages medieval tournament in a dubious Australian kids TV show, which obviously RULES
Spooky, sinister, macabre, hallucinatory, eldritch, disquieting - the list of dark adjectives can be exhausted when trying to describe this otherworldly gem of late 60s proto-gothic sonic seance comprised of icy, tenebrous modular synth witchery amidst Ruth White’s utterly spellbinding voice which, in reciting the wickedly opulent poetry of Charles Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal collection, shapeshifts from intoxicating succubus-like whisper to coldly authoritative demon priestess oratory to, on the final track which presents the classic poem “The Litanies of Satan” (later popularised again by Diamanda Galas), a completely unhinged, inhuman delirium. There are even moments of lush, baroque beauty and ghostly serenity, where Ms. White suddenly becomes a shadowy chanteuse that lures you deeper into her coven of vespertine shades. Exceptional, eerie and… actually pretty sexy.
When all this coronavirus disaster began to unfold and was still probably in most of our oblivious and naive western minds another crisis that would never *really* affect those of us outside of east Asia, or specifically China, I thought a lot about my buddy Aming and his wife Yanfei, who are from Beijing but now live in Shanghai as far as I know, having sadly drifted out of regular contact with them since 2015. Aming played a very important part in the early developmental stages of Guttersnipe, after I met him busking in his wild, Bill Orcutt-esque guitar style on the streets of Leeds in 2014. Me and the pixie cranefly drummer boy ended up doing several very lengthy improvisatory jams (recordings of which may someday surface) + 2 gigs with Aming and I really learned a lot from him as a guitar player - he could coax so many different sounds out of his minimal set up whereas then I would hook up my cumbersome effects chain and be out of ideas after 15 minutes. It was a big blow to whatever confidence I previously had but it also forced me to wise the fuck up and get serious, to be disciplined and learn to listen and respond in a chaotic setting. His English was not great (but still obviously a LOT better than my non-existent grasp of any Chinese language) so our conversations were at first mostly restricted to onomatopoeic sound effects and hand gestures (much like the descriptive style of Fry from Futurama), but it didn’t really matter as what words can capture the essence of abstract music anyway? Over the 4 and a half months that he was in the UK (whilst his partner was studying) we learned to communicate better and better, also dabbling in video feedback experiments, surrealist drawing games and a great deal of weed smoking. Me and drumsnipe were very saddened to say goodbye to him in December 2014, which was the last time we hung out. He was a deeply strange guy, with “a big heart” (in his own words!) and an endless creative drive and sense of humour. He dropped out of his final year of studying theoretical physics at university to be a noise musician haha, what a hero!! Thankfully he is alive and apparently well, and it seems he has largely deviated from freely improvised noise guitar wig outs in the last few years, capriciously moving through video game electronica and cosmic synth, moody textural ambient explorations, cinematic melancholy piano pieces that recall the stately gloom and beauty of Harold Budd + John Foxx’s Translucence/Drift Music, loose yet plaintive jams on traditional instruments… I’ve chosen one piece of his that covers a range of his different interests, but I would suggest, if you have the patience, to investigate for yourselves, using the following links:
~ https://amingliang.bandcamp.com/ (his bandcamp)
~ https://www.xiami.com/album/yhX29Sb18cd?spm=a2oj1.138474184.108.40.206f0623c8a4Vr13(the “sailing log” recording on his page on xiami.com)
~ https://soundcloud.com/aming-liang (his Soundcloud which features some of the aforementioned Guttersnipe collaborations!)
I was completely engrossed by this unique point and click adventure puzzle game when me and my dad played it on the family Windows 98 PC back in that same year- at the time it had the most impressively detailed and immersive visual world of any existing video game and was richly realised with intricate sound design and a mystical soundtrack, as well as being a truly mind boggling challenge in terms of its labyrinthine riddles which involve an esoteric concept of worlds fabricated literally through the writing and construction of books (a likely allegory for computer programming, Sydney pointed out), a cryptic numerical/symbolic system, a series of complex relationships between mechanical objects and structures, a conflict between an arrogant and corrupt colonial autocrat and the clandestine spiritual world of the native people of Riven…. This all sounds extraordinarily nerdy, I know - and to be honest, it is - but it is surprisingly captivating and weird, along with being incredibly frustrating, which adds to the joy of solving any of Riven’s many puzzles! My brother got a Playstation copy of this for my dad for xmas end of 2018, but I was much more excited than he was about it, so I ended up taking it home. It truly is a mammoth undertaking however, with its FIVE DISCS of content, so after working at it for a couple of weeks on and off, I ran out of time to spare on it and it sat on my shelf ever since. Now however, with considerable more spare time and Syd here with me (who also was fascinated by this game as a child), we decided to give it a go.
Undoubtedly the most influential game on my personality - although there are other contenders, such as Abe’s Oddysee, MDK, Medievil + Final Fantasy 8 - and another deeply immersive and long form cinematic gaming experience, but of totally the opposite persuasion to Riven’s tranquil, scholarly enigmas. Instead, Silent Hill 2 is a harrowing, nightmarish and weirdly beautiful psychological horror trip unlike anything else in gaming before or since, with its creepy zones of wandering through fog shrouded, barely lit night-time, searching for strange objects in horrific, diseased asylum interiors, surreal and unforgettable adversities (such as the now iconic Pyramid Head) and a melancholic, moving storyline of bereavement, mental illness, guilt and tragedy, apparently inspired conceptually by Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment". If that isn’t enough, the sound design and musical soundtrack is second to none, spanning terrifying, nausea inducing harsh noise/industrial dark ambient to gloomy, serene trip hop and dreamy, heart wrenching synth reveries. I still really think it stands up after all these years and can’t recommend it highly enough.
Anyone who cares about music should see this film, immediately!!! Co-directed by Jake Meginsky and Neil “Cloaca” Young (drummer of Gsnip idols Fat Worm of Error), this film is a masterpiece of the format and presents the life and work of the awe inspiring individual that is Milford Graves in a way that is clearly born of genuine admiration and understanding.
Mr. Graves was a man I knew little about before seeing this film, but besides his incredible drumming which is beyond-human yet more human than most of us could fathom, his philosophy and approach to not just music but also physicality, spirituality, performance, emotions, health, time, nature, being and all the rest, along with his charisma and sense of humour, is hugely inspirational AND educational!! Full of super practical advice for musicians which I identify with immensely - such as the idea that we must make “relevant vibrations” rather than just playing to a formula… Drumsnipe removed the resonant head from his kick drum after Milford’s advice to stop playing “with your hand over your mouth”. Also the film is full of insane footage of him playing with Hugh Glover + Arthur Doyle in the 70s, the bonkers collaboration with dancer Min Tanaka at an autistic children’s school in Japan and Milford’s home cardio-lab where he demonstrates an ECG sonification technique which shows how the sound of the electrical activity in a heart beat actually sounds like a free jazz horn solo!!!
A very strange and aesthetically incomparable no-dialogue stop-motion “fairytale for adults” about a family of bat/owl/anthromorph peasants and their feud with a group of blood drinking aristocratic mice in their attempts to use a mannequin surrogate to hatch a mysterious egg, taking them on a quest involving a spider woman, toxic-trip inducing carnivorous plants, a frog priest, talking flowers and skeleton headed birds - all made by one woman, Christine Cegavsky, over a period of 15 years! Fantastical and phantasmagoric, with a weird, pretty soundtrack of medieval nursery rhyme recorder melodies, hollow, glassy mellotron like tones and ergot stained electronic flashes, this is a film I often turn to when I need to feel very far away from the “real world” out there. The whole thing is one big riddle within a riddle and only becomes more and more perplexing as events unfold, but the intricacy and allure of such a deeply personal dreamworld clearly realised through an obsessive perseverance such as what must have been required to make this cute yet saturnine curiosity is enough to keep me entranced!
I’m gonna round this one off with a book which I got from Tomas of Nonlocal Society/Quanta Qualia in early January - an obscure cyberpunk/hacker/post-humanist/anarchist/speculative science fiction/philosophy tome created in the 90s by the multimedia collective 0rphan Drift (of which experimental film-maker Maggie Roberts is a principal member). Again this seems extremely appropriate reading given that everyone is talking about “the virus” and walking round wearing masks, whilst governments deploy authoritarian/wartime measures to combat the spread of the disease and people worldwide question the towering mega-problems of capitalism, globalisation, technology and the powers that be. If William Gibson, Jean Baudrillard, Donna Haraway, Mad Mike from Underground Resistance and various members of the Oulipo formed an Industrial band, they would probably have concocted something like this as an oblique artefact of their transgressive ethos, haha, so be aware there is certainly a veneer of the absurd to the bombastic cyber-radicalism of the book. Pretty heavy going with it’s mixture of dense philosophical tracts, surrealist textual arrangements and distortions, classic sci-fi psychedelia, fractured narratives and zeitgeisty futurist lingo, but often remarkably prescient in its predictions, many of which are now features of our everyday world, or that seem more and more plausible as time unfolds. I understand there is a bookstore in Belgium that stocks this book, so hopefully they have an online service active right now?? [Editor's note: they do! Support rile*!]