KID SHIRT

Saturday, October 16, 2004

EVER-INCREASING CIRCLES

6:52pm, thursday. Left Yeovil Junction under an uncertain sky. Slabs of dark voltage were accumulating in the lower stratosphere and, beneath that, shining down from inside the inky depths of cloud-line, a weird opalescent light; pale and unforgiving. Lord, I love this time of the year.

Crouching down in the bicycle storage area, I wrote a list of possible track titles (checks unintelligible alien-looking scribble on a note-pad made from cured human-skin):

Brick Churn Brutalist
O-Smo Gin King
Inverted Mud Cherub
"Oook! Hakra Klan!"
Vacant Cables
Linoleum Sky
Chubby Foamer
Lentil Shrine
Etc, etc.

Pulling in at Crewekerne, I looked out the window to see if Hugh Fearnley-Whatisname had got off and, if he had, whether there was the possibility that I could disembark and injure him in some way without missing the train. The, er, in-flight magazine ran an article about him which claimed he caught the train down from London and got off at Crewekerne every day at around tea-time. Unfortunately, the magazine (and possibly him too) seemed to be labouring under the misapprehension that Crewekerne was located in Dorset. Wankers.

As we hit Honiton I settled down between carriages and started reading Lovercraft's The Shuttered Room. This extract is from The Survivor:

"1857. St. Agustine. Henry Bishop. Skin very scaly, but not ichthic. Said to be 107 years old...

1861. Charleston. Balzac family. Crusted hands. Double jaw construction. Entire family manifesting similar stigmata. Anton 117 years old. Anna 109. Unhappy away from water.

1863. Innsmouth. Marsh, Waite, Eliot, Gilman families..."

The Shuttered Room is more literary occult remixes; this time August Derleth reworks Lovercraft, completing unfinished stories, etc. The results are not entirely successful or consistant; Derleth gives us more of what he thinks HPL would've put in, and on the plus-side there's certainly more cross-over Mythos soap-opera stuff, but what's really missing is Lovecraft's own densely overpopulated prose; you can tell when/where Derleth has written bridges between fragments: it's like he's recorded his bits using VST plug-ins, whereas the rest was done on 1/4inch tape using early Eighties Roland analogue kit. Where's Richard-X when you want him, ie: someone with a real feel for the work...

Hook up with CyRus da VyRus at Exeter Central and he's got this mp3-recorder that's smaller than most of the cigarette-lighters I've ever owned; it's real James Bond stuff. He tells me he bought it on eBay from Taiwan for 50 quid. "They're selling them in the Next Catalogue this Christmas for £140," he says, laughing. The bloody thing's got 1/2gig memory and he's going to record the gig at near-DAT quality. This I gotta see...

The support act are early/mid-Nineties generic tribal-beats with a guitar (like System 7 without the, er, funk...); it's boring and we've both heard this sort of thing a dozen times before, so we get stuck into the gin and rum, and start chain-smoking ourselves into quiet hysteria. CyRus regales me with tales of the Early Nineties Yeovil Hacking/Bootleg/Cyber-Pirating Scene: driving to Bristol to buy hacked Amiga games from some wasted old stoner who ran a chain of floppy-copiers in his top-floor flat. "To get to his gaff," CyRus tells me, "you had to bypass two floors of full-on prostitution..."

And the Dancin' Man gig: a rave held at Yeovil College main-hall on a thursday lunchtime. Not sure what year this was...maybe '90? CyRus and Techno Phil were doing stuff in parallel to Eddson, so we all sorta joined forces. So, anyway, Cy drinks half a bottle of vodka on an empty stomach and blasts out a handful of Rave tracks on an Amiga and a coupla keyboards to some bewildered YTS students. It's one pm, dinner-time, and they've got all the curtains pulled; strobes and lights and smoke machines going full-on...then some idiot goes and brings in a bunch of Special Needs Students from Fiveways School across the road, thinking it was a free disco. The results resembled a near-apocalyptic out-take from a Farrelly Brothers' film. "Christ, " frowns da VyRus as he sparks up his 90th fag of the evening, "those poor kids. They had to stretcher 'em out..." We both try really hard not to laugh. Later, in the afternoon, he tells me, a Ballet Class came to an unpleasantly sticky end as they attempted to dance on a wooden floor slick with bubble- and smoke-machine output, and littered with alchopop bottles and damp Rizla-papers: Swan Lake, rave stylee...

Circle were supposed to be on at 9:00-ish. The plan was to see 'em play and still catch the 10:34 back home. The promoters were in disbelief that someone had actually come all the way down from Yeovil to see the band and they treated me like I a true Acid Rock hero. Bless 'em, they actually asked the band to play a bit earlier so I could make my train. We get a tantalising glimpse of Circle doing a 3 or 4 minute soundcheck that sounds a bit like Floyd circa 1970, with a smattering of earlyAir, but by the time they finally come on it's 10:10 and I've got to leave in ten minutes or I'll miss the train. Wotta nightmare. I woulda gotten away with it if hadn't been for that pesky support band...

One minute into Circle's set and it's blindingly obvious that we're about to witness something very, very special. Looks like I won't be going home tonight. Phone-calls are made and a sofa is hastily organised for the night...

Circle were utterly incredible. They locked into a Motorik pulse-groove and kept with it for an hour and a half; twisting the music, turning it inside out. Amazing stuff. Rock music's not dead; it just smells funny...

Comparisons with Can are unfair. Instead, let's say that they share common affinities with them in terms of attitude and technique. We're talking earlier era Can: from maybe around 1970 through to about '72, when their sound was a little harder; just before the fluid, almost bubbling beats of Babaluma and Future Days. One definite point of similarity was the band-members' near-telepathic level of communication; their ability to intuitively ride a groove, to layer and build it; to suddenly change direction, mood or tone without any obvious visible signalling. The drummer laid down an unstoppable linear pulse that, like Jaki Leiberzeit, was primarily defined by what he didn't play.

The keyboard-player mainly used an electric piano and a Juno-60 (the 106's younger non-MIDI'd sister); but would occasionally swivel round in his seat to face the drummer and get stuck into a small percussion-kit that would pump the rhythm up another notch, a set-up that reminded me, strangely, of early Tortoise. At other points he would suddenly stand up and play an eerie, echoplexed, banshee-like harmonica, or scream in Finno-Ugric like a maniac, sounding like a character from the Lovecraft story I'd just been reading on the train.

The bassist was a big, bearded Scandinavian bear of a man who also doubled up on percussion and demented vocal interjections. He spent a good part of the procedings jumping up and down on the spot and watching the psychedelic light-show that was being projected onto the ceiling. Incredibly, 40 minutes in, the guitarist suddenly switched to an electric-guitar, having spent the first half of the show strumming the veritable fuck out of a battered accoustic, or hitting Karoli-esque atonal twaaanks and Kershriiings during the break-downs; noises that seemed to have been sourced from some insane and twisted personal Spider-Jazz Mythos...(Jesus: 40 minutes of accoustic guitar and I hadn't even noticed...)

And then the whole band seemed to access an additional, almost-sacred psychic power-source that most musicians spend their entire careers searching for, but never find. Unbelievable, spell-binding stuff, but all the more incredible was the fact that there were only about 30 people in the audience.

Circle played their fucking heart out.

As for the cigarette-lighter sized mp3-recorder, well...Circle's cranked up Krautrock-flavoured stew completely overloaded the condenser-mike. The plan had been to post a minute or two of their set either here or over on Idiots Guide. But still, I picked up "Guillotine" on CD, and the awesome new live vinyl LP "Empire" on Riotseason (see my link list for details). If they'd had more vinyl, I woulda bought the lot.

Missed the final few minutes 'cause we had to run to get our lift, but, hell, what a night. If I'd stayed to the end, I would've had to kiss the whole, hairy bunch of 'em. Big up: da VyRus Clan for their wheat-free hospitality. Hope I didn't snore too much.

The next morning, hungover but happy, we drove up the A303, the car meshing perfectly with the pulsating sounds of "Guillotine"; and mist poured like dry-ice down off the sides of the Blackdown Hills, glittering like diamond-dust in the uncertain sunshine. Magickal.



GRIME PRIMERS

Simon Silver Dollar superb (as ever) over on Dissensus, as the distinctions between Bashment and Forward (FWD!) style Grime are rigorously explored. Also: Nick Gutterbreakz' excellent Grime Primers. Yer Heavy, guys.

Loved the idea that the instrumental stuff nearly ended up being called Croydon. Imagine if Scenes were just named after places (the more banal the better): "Just popping down Acorn Records t'see if they've got some Martock twelves in; love that inbred, triple-beat, coughing-tractor sound..."

Er, I've been calling the slower, spookier end of the Grime Continuum (ie the stuff on the Forward mix-CD) Dark Dubstep, or Substep. That's probably incorrect then. Or is it? Jeez; gonna need a Grime Glossary before long...

Speaking of which: I see someone'd started a Grime Slanguage Guide which looks a laff. It'll be interesting to see how Scene-related Slang and nu-urban terminlogy evolves and mutates with time. And I don't mean that in a dry, academic/anthropological sense, but in an exciting seat-of-the-pants Self-Evolving Soap Opera sense. Neither the internet, nor the will to investigate minority cultural minutae existed during the first wave of Acid House, so details of its development have been lost in the Mists of Time or have been extensively re-edited in the cocaine memoirs of Scene-Insiders and Retro-Rave Horse-Floggers. Thank God for the likes of Simon Reynolds.

Still, the use of 'Road' instead of 'Street' cracked me up, but I'm particularly looking forward to the invention/invokation of brand new words...