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Negativland
The Letter U and the Numeral 2
(RecRec) book+CD 96pp / 26 minutes

Enough already! Yeah, yeah, we all know Negativland are a fab group of witty mass media subversives. We all recognise that it's a rotten state of affairs for them to get stomped on by Island, especially when U2's own Zoo TV tour illegally samples TV signals from all over the world. Our hearts ache, they really do. But to release a book of transcribed legal documents and record company memos smacks of so much self-absorption it makes me want to puke. The accompanying CD, an irritating lecture by the alleged Crosley Bendix (yer usual nerdy-voiced Negativlander pretending to be someone important) is equally useless. It's all just so much masturbation. Let's hope that here is where it stops. Don't support this junk; if you want to help them recoup their legal costs, send your money straight to the band. MG

Non
Sick Tour - Non live in Staalplaat 8-3-85
(Staaltape / Staaltape USA) CD 24 minutes

These live tracks from Boyd Rice's "pre-operatic" period will fuel you with minimalist fury and make you really want to go out and do something. Boyd hurls a tasty selection of cabbalistic girders and romanesque concrete structures (sometimes danced through by red-faced fraulein sausage vendors) into respectably massive mine-shafts, underground tunnels etc in the stuffy Staalplaat air. Hearing Non being sculpturally faithful to tracks from Blood and Flame and Physical Evidence has enabled me to whistle these "anthems" recognisably; not to say I can do away with listening to this (neither will you) - some tracks that I'd wrung pretty dry get a thorough resurrection here. Standout track for me is the version of Fire In The Organism, a very awesome piece of machinery indeed. [Staalplaat; or via Soleilmoon] AB

O Yuki Conjugate
Undercurrents (In Dark Water)
(Staalplaat STCD021) CD 70 minutes

This is a welcome CD reissue for O Yuki Conjugate's second album In Dark Water, a Final Image cassette, recorded in 1986. It includes another five tracks, four new ones from 1991, and Another Journey, previously on the excellent Final Image compilation LP Nightlands. As ever, it's thoroughly beautiful music, possessed of a calm and delicate serenity. It wouldn't be unfair to mention Jon Hassell and Brian Eno as influences on the ethnic-sounding percussion and ethereal atmospheres. The trance rhythms provide an excellent chassis for the tranquil ambience and sound treatments, a formula that still allows a lot of variety. Different approaches are taken on tracks like Out of Nothing, which mixes keyboards and poignant multitracked voices quite successfully. The new tracks are generally more restrained, focussing on the sound-colour rather than the rhythms: their smooth polish is an appropriate counterpoint to the rest of this excellent CD. [Staalplaat / Soleilmoon] BD

Ozone Bandits
We've Come For Your Atmosphere
(Personal Soundtracks PS003) MC

The Ozone Bandits are operating on tried and tested ground. I often wonder how far extreme electronics can be taken, and whether anything new can be added. Having said that, some mildly interesting moments do emerge from a rather mushy recording, especially Funeral Dance Party at the opening of Side 2, which explores some rhythmic marimba-like sounds. Much of the rest of this cassette consists of slabs of electronic "soup", which has little in the way of atmosphere, ambience or creativity. Maybe I've missed the point, but "Personal Soundtracks" seems to sum it all up. Perhaps the Ozone Bandits should keep this stuff to themselves ... failing that, a little more work in the studio would do them, and us, a big favour. [Contact D Hopwood, 24 Woodstock Street, Rochdale, Lancs. OH2 7DG] BN

Pankow
Stupidity
(Contempo TEMPO 170) 12" / CDSingle
Volume Sick
Ghetto Ghetto
(Contempo TEMPO 197) 12" / CDS
Brazil
Away
(Contempo / Dune 92D105) 12" / CDS
Attrition
Something in my Eye
(Contempo TEMPO 198) 12" / CDS

A lesson in how press releases work: Contempo describe Ghetto Ghetto as the "REAL rock / dance crossover - a killer single". I'd describe it as a heap of half-assed pop-dance crap. It's true, a bad title is usually a good indicator of a bad record. Pankow's Stupidity is more of a mixed bag: the title track is too commercial for its own good, but the Lassigue Bendthaus remix of Rememberme included is brilliantly stripped down electrobeat. Brazil apply heavy electrobeat techniques to the song Brazil (the original was much preferable), and on Away, adopt a much softer, more romantic approach, a sort of pop A.C. Marias. Best of the bunch is the 12" from Attrition, remixing a track from the A Tricky Business album, and providing three new tracks. All see Attrition in more of a techno frame of mind than before, without really losing their characteristic dark sound, but although very competent, none are really anything startling. [Distributed by Contempo] BD

Patternclear
Music for a Free World
(private release) cassette 11 minutes

With only four short pieces on only one side of a cassette, I presume that Music for a Free World is more of a demo than a release in its own right, but either way if you like the lighter, melodic style of synth music then it may well be of interest to you. (What you're doing reading this magazine is another matter). All the tracks are well-arranged with a suitable but cautious choice of sounds. Too Many People suffers from inappropriate vocals and a clashing bass line, but the other, instrumental tracks bounce along pleasantly. [Available from Patternclear c/o P. Clarke, 92 Edward St., Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, CV11 5RE] KB

Pessary
Laid to Rest
(Dirter Promotions DPROMCD7) CD 46 minutes

When I saw the titles on the back of this CD - The Curse, Rigor Mortis, Decompose - I imagined that a Whitehouse-like all out assault was to follow. Opening track Collapse seemed to prove me right. But no. After these brief two minutes things changed and the remaining 40-odd minutes were filled with low-key menacing instrumental filmic soundscapes. If you're familiar with any of Coil's soundtrack work (especially Hellraiser) then you'll know the type of thing. Laid to Rest should be the soundtrack to a really good horror film. The Curse is a bleak landscape with vague echoes, Nightfall brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of small-hours seclusion, while Necropsy samples a grisly autopsy lesson. If you like to sit in the dark, enveloped in a velvet caress of sound, while your mind creates imaginary horrors, then you'll love this CD. Highly recommended, especially to fans of Coil, Clive Barker, Dario Argento and Italian horror films. [NB Not the same as the similarly titled Layed to Rest tape; distributed by World Serpent] DB

P.G.R.
The Chemical Bride
(Silent Records SR9218) CD 65 minutes

I like something to focus on whilst listening to a work of this nature. Perhaps a nudge in the right direction for my thinking. The music on The Chemical Bride is beautiful, but what really holds it all together for me is the artwork on the inner sleeve. Picture a calm sea, a sky threatening rain. On this silent water a phenomenon occurs: a pillar of flame stretches high towards the heavens, at its peak the flames seem to curl into the shape of a woman's head. Is this the "Chemical Bride"? PGR's shimmering drones are complimented perfectly by this. PGR's Kim Cascone helped provide the "hyperminimalist" soundtrack to Twin Peaks. That was good. This is so much better. [Silent Records, 540 Alabama, Suite 315, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA; or Hyperium Records, Siemensstr. 18, 8560 Lauf, Germany] MFR

Piume e Sangue
Procedure
(Musiche di Paolo Dal Balcan) CD 70 minutes

As far as I can make out, this 1987/88 recording is the result of a duo, one who plays guitar and electronic percussion, the other keyboards, bass, viola and synthesisers. The neat fold out inlay features great surrealist pencil drawings, and the original score of one of the tracks Eloiv Rep. The fifteen tracks here show a wide-sweeping and varied array of music, that takes on and carefully uses classical sounding arrangements, "found" instruments (check out the beautifully used music box on Nollirac), and noise: again, check out the six guitars and the way these guys almost sculpt the feedback from them on the same track. Whilst there is a delight in the sounds they've found and created, and a sense of freedom clearly at work, it's all used - the band are in control throughout. Everything is composed with a flair for the new and a wit that juxtaposes (for instance) tribal drumming, sharp, slowly evolving feedback, and dense rhythm guitar on Enif Arudecorp. I love the way the drumming retreats to leave a crystalline note of feedback simply hanging in the quiet, before the rhythm track re-enters ... This is my favourite track, along with the dark, sonorous funeral-like tones of Eloiv Rep, where plucked strings counterpoint held background tones. I haven't been so delighted by music in this field of work since one of the early Nurse With Wound offerings ten, or more, years ago. This is genuinely new music - drawing on classical forms, the freer end of jazz, and noise / improvised art-rock in equal measures, it's an undeniable work of brilliance. [Musiche di Paolo Dal Balcon dist. Hax, Massimiliano Gatti, Via Mozart 13, 20092 Cinisello (MI), Italy] RML

Primordia
The Gleaming Eye
(World Serpent WSCD003) CD 66 minutes

Sometimes it seem that wherever you go you hear a "low, ominous drone" in the background. A collection of pieces recorded by Lucy Furlong and W.M. Owens from 1988 to 1992, using synths, guitar, flutes and vocals, The Gleaming Eye's no exception. This moody, black-clad set of music varies from the Skinny Puppy stylings of tracks like Surface Tension to less tangible instrumentals, mixing ambient washes of synth against lightly discordant effects noises, like Samhain. As that might indicate, Delerium are one point of reference, although Primordia are less strident, more varied and more melancholy than any of that group's releases. The more successful tracks are those that ditch the rather stiff drum machine and concentrate on producing an atmosphere that would delight many a horror film fan (or Goth). The rest isn't totally bad, but blemished mainly by a perceptible artificiality. [Available from World Serpent] BD

Pseudo Code
Remains to be Heard Volume 2
(Insane Music) cassette 57 minutes

Apparently the 28th release by Pseudo Code, this is a compilation of pieces from 1980 to 1982. The style is firmly within the popular experimental/industrial music of Belgium in the early 80s, featuring electronic effects on cheap equipment, drum machine and, of course, angst. The moaning vocals and aggressive use of electronics encourages inevitable comparisons with Throbbing Gristle, but there is also a reflective side to Pseudo Code which often surfaces. Some of the tracks are from live performances; these performances were undoubtedly a welcome reaction to the music of the time, but listening to a cassette recording a decade later does not have the same impact. As such, this release is quite listenable but only likely to be of real interest to committed enthusiasts of the primitive electronic sound. [Available from Insane Music c/o Alain Neffe, 2 Grand Rue, B-6190 Trazegnies, Belgium; Tel 067 - 210687] KB

Raksha Mancham
Phyidar
(Musica Maxima Magnetica EEE13) CD 76 minutes

"File under 'ethnographic music'" says the inlay. Raksha Mancham are a Buddhist Condolidated! Philosophically, that is, not musically - both share a sense of equality. Proceeds from Phyidar go towards the struggle for the restoration of Tibet as an independent state, although the tracks here deal with other ethnic struggles, in Kurdestan, Armenia, Timor, North America etc. Phyidar is a little more aggressive than I expected, with several similarities to the rhythmic percussion music of Test Dept. From a cosmopolitan array of instruments, including plenty of authentic ethnic items, Raksha Mancham produce a vehement cultural mix. Being four Belgian Buddhists, a difficult challenge is to convicingly put forward their arguments. On releases such as this, it's more often the message that matters, the music being the means to an end. That end is achieved on Phyidar with no detriment to the music. Recommended. [Contact MMM] MFR/BD

Sabotage
Qu'est-ce que c'est?
(Sabotape) MC 30 minutes

Sabotage's 7-track tape shows off a very odd kind of electropop. One track (not the best either) is remixed by Cassandra Complex, and is as good an example of Sabotage's musical style: electrifying sequencer pulsations above much slower drumbeats, and with a female French singer in good voice in front (vocals vary between French and English). It's a style at once poppy and grandiose, but undeniably proficient. If you don't like poppy electrobeat then this kind of thing won't be for you: if you do then Sabotage have a reasonably individual voice and could well deserve your attention. [Contact: Sabotage, PO Box 40 13 71, D-6072 Dreieich, Germany] BD

Paul Schütze
Regard: Music by Film
(Multimood MRC013) CD 68 minutes

This lengthy CD of soundtrack music is my first exposure to Paul Schütze's work, but on the basis of this I'll certainly be seeking out his new releases on Extreme. There are many, many electronic musicians producing what seems, at least superficially, to be similar sounding music, but Schütze's skill seems to me to lie in the combinations of sounds that he comes up with. He also refrains from sticking ineptly-programmed drum machine patterns under everything; offenders take note. There are far too many tracks (22 in all) to go through them individually. Among my many favourites, though, I must mention The Dark's sinister balalaikas, the soaring winds to Born by Clouds, and most of all the extraordinary mental pictures conjured up by Shark Sex. [Multimood, Kungsportsavenyn 27, 411 36 Goteborg, Sweden] MG

Scorn
Deliverance
(Earache MOSH78CD) CD 40 minutes

At long last the noise-guitar bands have embraced the avant-garde noisemakers. Whether its John Zorn and Naked City / Painkiller, or projects like Techno-Animal and Scorn, there seems to have been a revolution in attitude amongst the Earache / Pathological crowd over the last couple of years. Deliverance is a slow, drawn-out dub-rock plod, very lethargic and definitely too long. Delivered takes us into more ambient realms, abstract waves of noise seemingly produced with guitars and samplers, languid yet menacing, definitely not easy listening. Meanwhile, To High Heaven brings in a thumping, dirty beat over the same background to produce quite a different effect, and Black Sun Rising adapts a phrase from the title track to produce the CD's highlight, swirling noise lurking behind the circling vocals, repetition proving very hypnotic. It's a promising but hardly startling CD - it'll be interesting to see where Scorn go next. BD

Richard Scott & Rex Casswell
The Magnificence of Stereo
(Sruti Box CD 01) CD 70 minutes

No, no more, I can't take any more. The Tape-Beatles' Music With Sound was a tour through one group's combined record collection, and The Magnificence Of Stereo is more of the same. Music is drawn from a variety of sources, including quite a lot of jazz, and some ethnic music (eg Mongolian throat-singing); found voices are added from the radio, animal sounds appear, bells and the Beatles both join in, but much of the music comes from unrecognisable sources, blended or stapled together with a combination of repetition and isolation. Romantic melodies compete for you attention with what sounds like a baby's gurgling twisted into the voice of a Gremlin. On Change Under Clouds, the cut-up vocal fragments appear to recombine to mimic natural speech rhythms, while The Day Has Gone includes a lengthy period of nothing but vinyl run-out groove surface noise. There's less variety than the Tape-Beatles, more experimentation and less of a tendency towards "easy listening": the jazz and experimental music traditions also show up more clearly here via the instruments singled out in the mix and the use of unexpected juxtapositions in the collage. It's quite an enjoyable CD, if not always as distinctive as it might have been. [Distributed by These Records] BD

Second Voice
Living in Paradise
(Hyperium) CD 18 minutes

Another band who for some reason seem determined to recreate wholesale the sound of mid-period Depeche Mode. Of the four deeply uninspired tracks here, only Typhoon with its ferocious use of distorted guitars is noteworthy, and I've heard that style done much better in many other places. Sorry, but this shit is weak. MG

Skum Enterprise
Compelation
(Agony For Pleasure AFP0) MC 60 minutes

This is unfortunately another one of those endless industrial soundscapes, which although successful in conjuring up images of a bleak terrain, nevertheless achieves nothing new by its methods. There are the usual repetitive drones and distorted / echoing voice, and a touch of metal bashing, meandering down an endless tunnel. The image of a tedious train journey over a monotonous landscape occurs again and again in my mind. The first side has five tracks of this type of material, but the whole of the second is taken up by one piece similar to the other side, but employing more techniques. The result is not a richer sound, but a painful listening experience (for the wrong reasons), like continually listening to a record played backwards. The basic idea is squeezed dry, and all that we are left with is a lifeless and purposeless music. [Stevie Surreal, Flat 1 (Basement), 7 Atherton Road, Forest Gate, London E7 9AJ] PT

The Spectrum Zero
Will It Hurt If I Touch The Sun
(Situation Two) 12"

I suspect that this record will be remembered, if at all, for the sleeve. On the reverse all the band members are topless and covered in blue body paint (one of them is female). Make of this what you will. I actually find the contents somewhat more interesting. The Spectrum Zero combine the guitar sounds of recent bands like Ride with a shallow understanding of 60's psychedelia. The result is the sum of it's parts, quite pleasent but nothing more. I think they should wait for something a little more inspired before they next enter the studio. MW

S.P.K.
Information Overload Unit
(Mute / The Grey Area SPK1CD) CD 42 minutes
Leichenschrei
(Mute / The Grey Area SPK2CD) CD 43 minutes
Zamia Lehmani
(Mute / The Grey Area SPK3CD) CD 48 minutes

Switch on the Information Overload Unit and what do we find? Boom! An agonised howl of static, an intense expression of anguish and anger, the only sane reaction to an insane world ... or so the S.P.K. myth would have us believe. It's tempting to treat this reissue as if it was brand new, created whole only today, and if we do so then it sounds like nothing more than another tiresome fourth-generation "industrial" genre copyist. The reality is of course the reverse: S.P.K. were the prototypes for a genre every bit as much as were fellow noiseniks Throbbing Gristle. Should we castigate them for inspiring so much tedium or praise them for their contemporary originality? With the found voices, distorted noise and half-hearted rhythms of Information Overload Unit it's easy to decide: it really doesn't stand the test of time. Leichenschrei (approximately "corpse scream") was and is far superior. The unsettling ambience comes with a sinister smile, the percussive noises get rhythm, become tight and tribal. Gaps in the noise serve as holes through which leak disjointed, fragmentary voices bearing witness to the alienation and horror that lie behind the skin-deep grins of modern life. Musically it prefigures what would prove a productive ritualistic offshoot of the "industrial" scene, and the competence displayed provides a much clearer base for S.P.K.'s use of powertools and distortion. Much of S.P.K.'s attraction still lay in their dispassionate embrace of the horrible, the gross, the nihilistic, but with the 1986 release of Zamia Lehmani little of that remained. An important signpost on the way to Graeme Revell's destination as a soundtrack composer, this presents a rich "world music" of sorts, drawing on several musical traditions, especially those of the Middle and Far East. Instruments include steel bowls, Balinese gamelan, factory ambience and choir, and the nine tracks cover a wide array of beautiful timbres, harmonies and rhythms, combining all the elements to produce something thoroughly mesmerising. It's evocative of ethnic musics while remaining original and full of character. It's the most polished and most timeless of S.P.K.'s recordings, and heartily recommended. Still to come from The Grey Area are two more CDs, one of which will be Auto Da Fe (including their first two EPs, the Dekompositiones EP, and other material), the other a compilation of live and miscellaneous material. BD

Stinking Badger
Under the Mattress 1 & 2
(Radius Mailorder RMC02) MCx2 2C60

Two hours is pretty heavy going, so Under the Mattress is probably best taken a small chunk at a time. This is how it works best anyway, varied little tracks with names like Proboscis and Patterned Cyborg Clowns cover lots of territory from rock through what sound like folk songs performed on cheap synths on to more "experimental" stuff, especially on the second tape. Thoroughly charming or thoroughly charmless, depending on your point of view, it's the closest to archetypal hometaping to appear in this issue's reviews: every inlay carefully hand-produced, and music that results from a clash between imagination and limited resources. Judged on the same standards as, say, Strafe fr Rebellion (reviewed below), it can only ever fail; but professionalism is not the only criteria for judging the value of these things. To appreciate this sort of thing properly, you need to have tried making music with the same budget, ability and philosophy yourself. Criticism must be replace by a shared understanding of the fun of personalised creativity (I'm sure that's the same keyboard as I've used, in there on Side B). [From Radius Mailorder, PO Box 16, Nottingham NG2 5EQ; postage extra for overseas] BD

Strafe F.R.
Lufthunger
(Touch TO:19) CD 60 minutes
Öchsle - Bad People Have No Songs
(Staalplaat / Soleilmoon) CD 56 minutes

Lufthunger is presented as "Ten Catastrophes in the History of the World and Music", and exists as a ten part sound drama stretching from the Cambrian age through to the most recent Quaternary period. It sees Strafe für Rebellion ditching whatever taste for "songs" that they may have had and applying their unorthodox instrumentation (white Canadian timber wolves and the swinging wire shelf of a supermarket trolley both make an appearance) to ever more abstract realms. Their music, using no electronic sources or processing, combines a coarse, primitive intensity with a singular talent for composition: Lufthunger is alternately savage and gorgeous, a potent, majestic musical epic. Öchsle appears to be less hung-up on the concept, and as a result comes over as less coherent. There's more contrast between the radiant and the murky, and the use of voices to chant or recite a surreal procession of seemingly unconnected words. Although slightly less satisfying, it's still an unusual and startling work. Both CDs come in extremely well designed packages, and cement Strafe FR's ever-growing reputation. [Contact Touch or Soleilmoon; Staalplaat or Soleilmoon] BD

Sub Rosa
Coal Heart for Ever
(Sub Rosa SUBCD021-40) CD 39 minutes

This is an unexpected mixture: two tracks consisting of sound mixes of recordings of environmental sound, rituals and religious music from Western Europe, Tibet and Nepal, bells etc; and seventeen minutes mixed from various low-budget experimental film and video soundtracks. The two recordings based on ritual music are both excellent, giving the recordings as little alteration as possible, allowing their majesty and spiritual intensity to speak for themselves. The chants and ceremonial drones retain a tremendous potency, even in these relatively short fragments. On the other piece, Oubli, Roses, Epiphanies, all the films chosen have been produced by Sub Rosa over the last six years. The mix contains excerpts from narration, location ambience, interview voices and soft soundtrack musics of various sorts, and is less satisfying, because none of the fragments chosen have that much intensity to them. The other tracks may prove too short for the CD to be great value for money, which is a pity given the CD's obvious qualities. BD