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Saturday, April 26, 2008

TRUE SHEFFIELD BLACK PSYCHEDELIA: CULTURE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

Okay, so the (dead link alert! While FACT migrate to new site...) latest installment of my on-line column for FACT is up and about, sipping soup in its dressing-gown. This time I'm zoom-focusing in on the sound of True Sheffield Black Psychedelia and the wonderous Frequency Thirteen label. So a big thanks to Skul and Troll for taking the time to talk to me and for sending me some fabulous CDs that certainly rank amongst some of the best stuff I've heard in recent months. Top blokes, and 666 hails to ya both! (And kudos to Brad for tiltin' me towards their releases)

Here's one that slipped thru the article - I'm not even sure if this is out yet, or what's happening with it - but "Culture is Not your Friend (Parts I- III) " by Dukkha is great and here's some of my wayward thoughts on it...



Tonal hummm. "Part One" is Fripp and Eno's "No Pussyfooting" after it's been taken to the saw-mill: rough edges and tiny splinters instead of that gooey walnut-whip romantism that Bob n Bri useta peddle; for a pair of so-called early-70's cocksmen they sure were a pair of softies; a coupla red wine n candle merchants, if yeh ask me. An' for someone who once 'boasted' of making "music as ignorable as it is listenable," much of the E-Man's back-catalogue sure is smeared in a creamy layer of sentimentalism. Bloody failed art-student! Anywaaays...

Thiiis has the texture of tree-bark or small pieces of metal swarf sat in a recycle-bin, oily yet sharp to the touch. An old power-tool partially decommissioned. Love the way it slowly acretes mass and momentuum; an old lorry slowly rolling dn hill with the handbrake (and the radio) still on... after a while it rolls off and becomes part of the landscape, muffled by the surrounding hills, and is replaced by slow-twistin' chimes that seem to hover in some artificial void - the sound of someone's uncle dying: abstract and minimal, yet oddly poignant: incidental music from a film about fog...slow-roiling cloud of volcanic ash; mushroom-cloud footage reviewed by a roomful of scientists, one of them smoking a cigarette, lit by the flicker of an 8mm projector, oblivious to the irony...



Dissolve to "Part Two" (uh, are those quotes necessary? I'm no longer sure...) and the layer'd guitar tones stretch-out like The Elongated Man after a quaalude binge...this is warm and restful, like a nod-out in some salt-heavy inland-sea... hisses intrude like someone's just opened the sluice-gates...flutter, ripple and drone: I'm thinking of that little weir at West Bay...

Later: tiny cities emerge ever so slowly, breaking the surface of the water w/ the bearest of ripples; shallow domes emerging from within a Cocteau mirror; a miniscus in reverse.

The disturbances become more prominent; a sense of vague unease gathering in a rural community. Seagulls circle overhead while I listen to this - dipping and wheeling around the smokestacks - a strange gun-metal grey cloud floats at the same speed as the music, trailed by a narrow cirrus finger of vapour in the shape of a hook: a cloud with its very own anchor...

Paper bats flutter past; a gramophone-player winding-up.



This is the soundtrack to mercury poisoning: not smooth and semi-liquid like the metal itself, but music that comes complete with jagged microscopic snags and slivers of hook-like digital static (just like that cloud, but instead they swirl ever inward; metallic currents clogging up yr bloodstream and yr thought-processes...), splinters of ill-intent that catch and tug at yr skin, yr cells, yr sanity. Under the influence of Quicksilver, sound (and meaning) are viewed at a distance - a slow promenade of information that's oddly detached from context; thought bleached of meaning. Under the malign influence of Mercury, The Ominous soon becomes your friend.

Later still: I'm haunted by generators - their fluctuating tones and submerged inner rhythms are rattling me enzymes, messing w/ me metabolism - AC current made manifest here, methinks: the sound of electricity made whole, played by a musician who thinks he's playing, but is actually being played...the inner buzz-tics of micro-biovoltages are making themselves heard via a guitar. Those FX-pedals are powered by ambient static leaking from yer shoes...

It's gets a bit heavy for a while. My eldest daughter wouldn't like this and she's normally game for a laugh. D.O.R. clouds are assembling overhead, cracked by arcs of arcane blue lightning...it's like standing inside a turbine or listening to Sammy Hagar on a walkman while taking that Boat-trip into Niagra Falls. R2D2 comms-chatter; Asteroid Miner loading from a cassette-deck while 8-bit Manganese Birds tm ascend a morbid staircase... and still the wheels of industry continue to turn.

An ancient riff trieds to climb out of a theme-park mining-accident...(I've written before about how some music needs suspension of disbelief from the listener- how it needs you to cheer it on, to help imagine how it's meant to sound...sometimes you just need to reach up towards the music or to stoop down and help it up...I get so pissed off w/ this attitude of passive acceptance; sometime we need to meet things half-way, to make an effort...)...now, it starts sounding hairy, an enormous furball of hair climbing up the the throat of a massive cat...a brief reference of the original soundtrack to "Frankenstein", but played on a guitar choked by fuzz and hair...

When the lo-key keyboards finally come in, it sounds so fucking wonderful...like Burzum playing in a church in space that's slowly burning up on re-entry...then we hit cold, fresh air and everything sounds so clean and open, limitless and untethered...

...and so we drift into "Part Three" and the ghost of Klaus Schultz plays a spectral colour-note organ, downpitched and adrift: '72 Kosmische a'swirl, icecream tones shifting and coalescing: "Traummaschine" rebuilt for a post-digital age...

Dig it, you fuckers!