Thursday, 14 January 2010

Radio Angels Mutate Turntables

2009 was the first year since 1988 that I didn't set foot in Liverpool, so it seemed fateful that the first gig I attended in 2010 was there. On the way to Piccadilly station I stopped off at Vinyl Exchange where they were playing a tortuous CD by Sexton Ming that sounded like a senile git trying to sing very badly in the bath. Fortunately I was distracted by my old friend Bess Keloid who turned up and hit the fifty pence rack, and I directed him to one of the three excellent Pascal Comelade compilations still lurking there. I found four more 50p CDs that turned out to be mediocre, and better bets at two (Swell) and four (Slint Glenn Rhoda). I also purchased the last two Pascal Comelade promo CDs. Hermana PR seem to have sent a huge number of these to dolts who don't take off the shrinkwrap, let alone listen to them. So far I've given copies to Hugh Cornwell and the Flaming Lips, which might be more potentially helpful to Comelade than ignorant music journalists who don't like listening to music. Later that day I gave a copy to Philip Jeck who assured me he'd give it a listen. I gave the other copy to a guy called Ross who ran the vinyl hack workshop at the Bluecoat that I'd missed earlier in the day. I've still got a few more of these, so if anyone wants a Pascal Comelade CD send me an email and if you can meet me at a gig I'll give you a copy. Jean Herve Peron and PJ Harvey sing on one song each, and there are very idiosyncratic covers of the Gun Club and "Brand New Cadillac."

First call in Liverpool was Probe records, where I hoped to find a copy of Flipper's "Love" album which was supposedly released in May 2009. Plastichead have done such a pitiful job of distributing it however that no record shops in Manchester, London or Liverpool are stocking it. They all have the Domino reissues of the early Flipper albums that I already have two or three times over, and Vinyl Exchange even has double CDR promos of "Public Flipper Limited" for a mere quid. All I could find was a secondhand copy of the first Ed Hall album for quid and a free paper with a very positive review of Mission of Burma.

Janek Schaefer's retrospective exhibition at the Bluecoat was pretty good, but one room was way more interesting than all the others put together. Three trios of turntables had been set up to play singles of recordings of droning cello, violin and piano and as they stopped and started and recombined they sounded beautiful. I sat in the room for a long while, listening to the needles dance over the vinyl bumps reproducing the chop and hum of invisible instruments. There was another room with a post bag that played recordings of a package in postal transit that had been edited into a seven inch single and released on Matt Wand's Hot Air Label. Another room had a bunch of old TV's with no images playing recordings of audio from broadcasts from the last day of analog TV in Liverpool. There were also inactive snazzily customised turntables. The generous bowl of carrot and ginger soup I ate in the cafe was piping hot and delicious, and then it was time for the performances to begin. First noisician was Vasco Alvo, playing an AM / FM Keyboard 6. He mixed snatches of radio into a mutating soundscape. Next Philip Jeck, who I've heard many times in the past, was introduced by Janek Schaefer as "The Master." Fortunately he didn't kill anyone by shrinking them, but he did wield a damaged bass guitar which he plucked occasionally to add more deep throb to his looping constructions of cranky keyboard, skipping records and semi-funcional effects pedals. Jeck was the main reason I'd travelled over, as he always makes a fantastic noise, and the intermittent addition of bass guitar worked well. Whilst recognisably a unique Jeckscape, this wasn't that similar to anything I've heard form him previously. There was a bit of a gap whilst Janek Schaefer set up his radios, and the DJ played a song I mistook for AC Marias, before realising that it wa actually "In My Garden" by Swans.

Janek Schaefer's "Phoenix and Phaedra" utilised surround sound to project a mix of multiple radios and Indian drone box, building from almost total silence to crescendos that had some poor old codgers sticking their fingers in their ears. They'd probably drop dead at a Lightning Bolt gig if this was to much for their delicate balance organs! There was no visual focus as Janek mixed from the desk on the balcony and the front stage where Philip and Alvo had set up was almost deserted. Towards the end a swarm of angels fluttered down from on high to do not very much at all.

On the way home there was a pack of dopey drunken retards on the train, one of whom paraded up and down the aisle naked, showing off his hideous spotty arse and circumcsied penis to everyone. One of his friends knocked my hat, under some delusion that he was funny, then later this moron started on a meek and mild character in a hood calling him a towel head and a suicide bomber. Unfortunately we were stuck in the company of these pissed arseholes for an extra fifty minutes as another train had broken down on Warrington station, blocking the line. What was even worse was the heating was not working and it was impossible to communicate a request to the driver to switch it on. By the time I alighted at Oxford Road I couldn't feel my toes, despite wearing three pairs of thick socks, so I got a complaint form to fill in. The police unsurprisingly seemed totally uninterested in getting the CCTV footage looked at in much the same way that they wouldn't check it when some stupid kids tried and failed to mug me near a camera. It's good that the fire service isn't quite as lackadaisical, isn't it?

There was a silver lining however; as I walked home in the middle of the almost car free roads, Radio 3 broadcast an interview with Keith Rowe about his use of radios in an improvised composition which they then transmitted. This was highly synchronous with my experiences that evening, and made the freezing walk home tolerable. On returning I counted my toes and was pleased that I still had ten.

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