Posts Tagged ‘Legion of Swine’

Dret Skivor – 11th January 2021

I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure for me, if not necessarily the audience – to perform a couple of times with Legion of Swine. They were noisy, brutal affairs: while Dave Procter’s many musical guises span most shades of noise, with a particular leaning toward all things drone, his work as the lab coat wearing porcine purveyor of aural pain.

The audio on this release is taken from Legion of Swine’s set for the Chapel FM 24-hour Musicathon, which took place on 12th-13th December 2020, which featured forty-five acts in twenty-four hours. Performing at 6:15am on Sunday 13th, the chances are few caught the performance as it aired live, but here, a year on, is an opportunity to bask in the gnarly noise at leisure and a more socially amenable hour. Not that there’s much that’s socially amenable about this: the liner notes explain how ‘It’s “almost” Harsh Noise Wall, but not quite as some random parts of reverb tails interact with others at various stages to create the slight variations.’

So how does that translate as a listening experience? Well, as the title suggests, the noise never abates during this twenty-six-minute blast of electronic abrasion. There are no breaks, no vocals, and next o no sonic variety, although there is some – and it’s heavily textured. In fact, it would be most readily summarised that it sounds like the cover looks: grey, grainy, but woven so as to be not entirely monotone and uniform in shade.

When I find myself listening to HNW – which admittedly, isn’t that often, as I generally prefer the concept to the experience, despite the fact I do very much like my noise to be immersive, not to mention somewhat testing – I find myself hearing subtle shifts in tone and frequency. I suspect it’s the result of some auditory illusion, the aural equivalent of an optical illusion as my receptors strain to find some variety, some detail on which to pin a response of some sort, in the same way a freshly-painted wall will reveal patches that are not as well covered as others the longer you look at it. The beauty – and I use the term with extreme caution here – of this performance is that those patches do exist, and are purposefully brushed into the finish.

This is alternately the sound of a distant swarm of hornets and swimming underwater. The recording doesn’t convey the kind of extreme volume that is an element of a lot of harsh noise, although one suspects that a large proportion of the interplay between sounds is derived from the way that reverberate, resonate, and rub together and against one another, and any comparison to Merzbow is entirely appropriate. But the lack of overt volume only accentuates the sameness – or near-sameness – of the sound, and what’s more that sound is a continuous torrential churning noise that sits in the midrange, and hammers like metal rain, a relentless digital downpour. It’s ultimately oppressive in its relentlessness, and over time seems to fade into the background, as anything with such a lack of dynamics inevitably will. But this is not about stimulating the senses so much as numbing them and challenging the listener to endure. It’s a test alright, and a tough – but good – one.

AA

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Ojud Records – 1st January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be January 1st, but 2021 already feels very much – as expected – like a continuation of 2020. As a friend pointed out to me only this morning, in summarising the fact that the pandemic position remained unchanged and now we had the added shit bonus of having fully left the EU, ‘shit never sleeps’. Seeing so many post on social media about being glad to see the back of 2020 was somewhat depressing: I get the sentiment, and very much am on board with the significance and psychology of book-ending a period of time with the striking of midnight marking the start of a new calendar, but really, what changes? This year or ever?

One positive of this continuity is that Dave Procter is kicking off the new year where he left off the old one, namely by making and releasing more noise, and its timing is noteworthy, as a common theme within Procter’s work is some form of commemoration or ritual, with events like midsummer drone walks

This time, it’s with an alliteratively-titled work with occasional collaborator Claus Poulsen, with whom he plays one concert and makes one release every year. Parallel Perspectives is very much from the dronier end of his working spectrum, and follows Solaris (2019) and Minimum / Maximum (2018) in a continuum stretching back to 2015 and the release of his first work with Poulsen, PP. The release of Parallel Perspectives being a day late for 2020, despite having been recorded almost a year ago on 20th January 2020 also seems somehow, if accidentally appropriate, and something that won’t be lost on the artists, not least of all with Procter having relocated to Sweden ahead of the finalisation of Brexit. And works like Parallel Perspectives illustrate why: when creativity is so reliant on collaboration, free movement is essential, and this is a perfect advertisement for everything the un-UK has just thrown away in the name of ‘sovereignty’.

Not that there is anything remotely political about the album itself: this is purely a coming together of musical minds, and a celebration of their commonalities and differences – and it’s that mutual understanding, paired with an awareness of the power of contrast that make this.

As the liner notes detail, Parallel Perspectives was recorded in Copenhagen. The single track on the album is an extension of Procter’s Fibonacci Drone Organ minimalistic project, but with Poulsen adding overdubs. With his different perspective, he quickly forgets the minimalistic nature of the piece and details it with waves of half speed vinyl and samples.

An elongated organ drone hums, hovering and wavering gently in semi-stasis. Ruptures and incidentals abound, from seemingly random discordant cascades of sound and piano interjections to slow-whispering thermal winds and desolately chill nuclear gusts, and I’s remarkable just how much those details prove to dramatically colour the mood. Perhaps it’s the – for a better term – blankness of the flat organ drone that is as much key here, in that as of and in itself, it has no particular ‘mood’; it’s a neutral sound, imbued with precisely nothing. It’s only when rubbing against or along with another sound that it slides upwards or downwards, into light or darkness. There is no shortage of either over the course of the album’s fifty-three minutes, but there are many protracted passages which explore the realms of the ominous and eerie, the uncomfortable and the suspenseful, as fear chords creep like drifting mist in a dark city alley.

At times, it chimes, and at others, it grates. Sometimes it rings, and at others it drifts. At times, it swells, at others it tapers to nearly nothing. Its pace is barely perceptible, a continuously creeping shift, not so much a slow-burn as a smoulder of smoke tricking from a peat burner, and the layers added by Poulson only serve to protract the transitions, grinding a slow-motion audio that has a cognitive effect as you feel yourself slowing in line with its interminable aural crawl. And for all the moments that sounds like there is a heavy craft looming on the horizon, for all the protracted ponderous spells, there are moments that sound very like the soundtrack to breaking dawn, the soundtrack to redemption on the horizon.

Parallel Perspectives is subtle, but the devil is very much in the detail here.

AA

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Dret Skivor – 21st December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Initially, this review was to open with the line ‘Dave Procter, the man with more musical projects than the devil has names, has been rather quiet of late’ – but the northern noisemonger doesn’t really do quiet, and doesn’t really do fallow periods either. Procter’s full-time relocation to Sweden from Leeds may mean, sadly, that some of the acts he’s involved with – most obviously The Wharf Street Galaxy Band – are on hiatus, but wherever he goes, he makes noise – quite literally, as demonstrated by his ‘noise walks’. Not that ‘hiatus’ really means anything with lockdown putting paid to so much musical activity anyway. It’s a shame, because Dave’s myriad projects tend to be geared to a live setting – improvised, visceral, and loud. On a personal level, I miss his presence on the scene: a man as comfortable in a pig’s head and lab coat as a red boiler suit, it’s his understanding and acceptance of niche I value almost as much as the noise he makes: no audience? No problem. And so with live performances largely off the table, Proctor’s started out establishing his space in Sweden with the set-up of a new label, Dret Skivor, and this early-doors sampler EP gives a taste of what we can expect – which is, for anyone with a priori knowledge – what you’d expect, namely experimental, and noisy.

On offer here are just four acts with a track apiece, but then, as an EP – which would actually work nicely as a 12” with a different running order – it does the job of showcasing exactly what Dret Skivor is about.

Fern’s ‘Low Pressure Wave’ is minimal lo-fi electro, an erratic pulsation and low-thrumming oscillating drone vibrating against one another to build a headache-inducing tension, fading into a simmering wave with scratchy interference. Claus Poulsen brings the noise and then some, with ‘Machines 2 and 4’yelding an absolutely face-melting five minutes of screeding distortion and treble abrasion worthy of Merzbow. It’s a squall of punishing feedback and overload. IJIN also trades in big, abrasive noise, but ‘OH the JOY’ (which I can’t help but read as sarcasm) takes the form of stop/start slabs of noise, with greater emphasis on lower and mid-ranges – although there’s a gum-curling blast f metallic treble that churns relentlessly throughout somewhere lower in the mix. But this track occupies a different territory from the others being showcased here, being a sixteen-minute behemoth that evolves through a series of transitions – yet for the largest part sustains an undulating, howling sustain that drones in an animalistic anguish against a shifting backdrop. It occasionally tapers ad re-emerges, swelling to a thick, nuclear wind of noise that blasts hard against a grinding sonic earthwork of deep, granular noise.

In contrast, Zherbin’s ‘piece for a router, a tape loop and a plastic bag’ feels a little lightweight, disposable, even. But it’s all relative, and in its own context it’s a grainy bit of noise that digs into the cranium with some surprisingly sharp claws.

More Dret, please!

AA

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COdA / Lonktaar – 20th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This release came my way via master purveyor of noise and drone and occasional collaborator of mine, Dave Procter. The man with more pseudonyms and projects than possibly anyone I’ve ever met – with Legion of Swine, Fibonacci Drone Organ, Wharf Street Galaxy Band, Hundbajs, Dale Prudent, and Trouser Carrier being just a few of his outlets – he’s immensely well-connected (and deservedly respected) in this niche corner of difficult experimental music (with forays into poetry and spoken word and with an angular post-punk band in the mix). I’m therefore assured that anything he recommends will be suitably obscure, and challenging, and probably very good and right up my alley. This is very much the case of Systemet’s När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige.

According to the press sheet, ‘Systemet is a collective that challenges the architecture of a standard band. While the sounds have their roots in early industrial, dungeon synth, dark ambient and noise drone music, only a segment of Systemet is a harsh reinterpretation of the mix of these genres.’ And it is harsh. Meanwhile, according to Dave, it’s a ‘beast’. And it is a beast.

I learn that ‘the aim of this album is to recreate the sensations of the Swedish winter, based on a one-week off-track trek in the Sami area north of mount Kebnekaise, where the cover picture was taken, in the period between autumn and winter 2018.’ Having never experienced a Swedish winter, I’m ill-equipped to comment, but if it really is anything like När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige, I can only conclude that Swedish winters are seriously tough.

I also learn that ‘all sounds were produced by ELI and ELQ synthesizers’ – which, being custom-made, you won’t find in the shops or emulated on-line – on a quadraphonic system, and recorded in dual stereo. The effect is deep, wide, immense.

‘Čievrrajávri’, the first of the album’s four pieces – I’d be reluctant to call them compositions, begins as barely a whisper of wind, a delicate breeze laced with almost invisible, inaudible traces, before the low-gravity bass notes begin to amble and moan in rumbling undercurrents that set an uneasy tone.

Things don’t get lighter or easier from thereon in: ‘Glaciären Brinner’ brings more space-age pulsations, oscillating rhythmic throbs of distorting low-end and murky mid-range over which whistles and screeches. But mostly, it’s about dark washes out found, swirling gurgles that spiral and whip the air. It’s an ever-shifting soundscape of swirling, pulsating darkness, a vortex which sucks the listener in. and it only become s progressively more difficult. It’s perhaps a cumulative effect: scrapes and drones in small doses are simply scrapes and drones, but over the course of almost forty minutes, it slowly becomes increasingly torturous, and När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige offers no respite.

The ‘extended version’ of ‘Gaskkasvággi’ is 11:11 of elongated, grating drone and what sounds like heavy breathing up close to a mic amplified and looped. It’s a shade hypnotic. It’s followed by the final piece, ‘Vy Över Visstas’, Which is the sound of collapse and a protracted final meltdown; circuitry slowing, fizzling to a halt, howling and braying like slain robots in an uncoordinated wash of distortion and stuttering analogue froth.

När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige is indeed a beast: challenging, uncompromising, bridging the gap between Tangerine Dream, Throbbing Gristle and the vast field of contemporary dark ambient / industrial / electronic crossover, it succeeds in pitching unsettling layers of unease in the pit of the stomach.

Systemet – När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige

Christopher Nosnibor

Fibonacci Drone Organ: three random words spliced together, unshackled from the constraints of context to allow free association to determine interpretation? Or a descriptive indication of what Dave Procter’s second- or t(h)ird-latest (this month saw the debut of HUNDBAJS, which is Swedish for dogshit, the absolute latest) of his myriad projects which include the Wharf Street Galaxy Band and Legion of Swine? The cassette release contains precisely no information whatsoever, even down to a track listing, but a spot of digging reveals that it’s the latter – which should come as no surprise, given that the man behind FDO curated a ‘10 Hours of Drone’ event a while back. The album contains two pieces, each occupying a side of the tape, and they’re formed around droning organ notes. Long, long droning organ notes.

And my (rather limited but suitably fruitful) research uncovered that FDO ‘uses the Fibonacci Series as part of the compositional process,’ that ‘the notes are chosen via dice rolls and coin tosses,’ and that ‘the durations of the notes are chosen by the Fibonacci Series. Notes are added at the appropriate time.’

From this, I infer that in technical / theoretical terms, FDO compositions emerge from an intersection of John Cage-inspired randomness and the mathematical precision of Fibonacci. What this actually means, ‘m not entirely sure, and thankfully, the technical aspects don’t impinge too heavily on the output from a listening perspective. Ultimately, it’s all drones. And on this outing the ‘appropriate’ time for adding noes is seemingly after an eternity.

This means that across the tape’s duration, not a lot happens. Notes may be added, but at such distance that the layers build so gradually that the pieces are over before much depth, resonance or layering has occurred. This is all testament to Procter’s unswervingly uncompromising approach to music-making, and encapsulates the reasons I personally hold him in such high regard (and it’s fair to say that if there’s one person I’ve worked with who’s intuitively understood my vision for creating spoken word with the most hellishly mangled noise, it’s Dave who’s been behind the majority of my best and most exhilarating collaborative live work). With more projects, pseudonyms and releases to his credit than seems humanly possible, he’s practically a one-man underground scene in his own right. Look up ‘northern avant-garde’, and you’ll likely find a picture of Dave Procter – or a bloke in a lab coat sporting a pig’s head or something.

Procter gets art, and is an artist, but doesn’t espouse the pretentious trappings of being an ‘artist’ (or, worse still, an ‘artiste’). Which means he can not only get away with releasing a tape containing 40 minutes of theory-backed drone without appearing a tit, but delivers some of the most brilliantly self-aware electronic drone you’re likely to find.

Side two (not that the sides are marked) brings a quavering decay to the elongated drones – which hover toward the higher frequencies – by way of contrast to the strong, stable drones of side one. The effect is cumulative and ultimately soporific, and it’s definitely the music and not the beer as I listen to the spindles rotate on my tape deck and the notes drift from the speakers. Sometimes, there’s no shame in sleep.

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AA

Christopher Nosnibor

Is it wrong to review an event you’ve participated in as a performing artist? Very probably, but in the scheme of things, and in the current global socio-political climate, a minor display of poor etiquette really doesn’t amount to anything. Besides, this is more about what I – as a writer, reviewer, artist and site editor – believe to be the primary function of running a site dedicated to the coverage of non-mainstream music, namely to give artists and acts I believe in exposure. At times, focusing on a niche – albeit a pretty eclectic niche – feels like the audience are likeminded obscurists but I like to think there are things for those likeminded obscurists to discover here. So. I landed a spot initially to provide a spoken-word interlude to some bands – bands I like. The night before the gig, this evolved into a collaboration with one of the bands, one-man experimental noise act Legion of Swine. It was something I’ve wanted to do for ages.

So I rocked up while the soundchecks were getting going to discuss what we were going to do. The little pub venue was bursting with more kit than many all-dayers and everything was pointing to this being one loud night before anyone even got plugged in.

And the lineup! Five acts, three (and a half) over from Leeds for a measly three quid? You have to hand it to both the venue and first-time booker Jim Osman for the wild ambition here. There’s so much that could go wrong.

Neuschlaufen are only just soundchecking fifteen minutes after they’re due to play, and their bassist, Ash, has to be out and on his way to another gig by 7:45. Yet somehow they manage to pull it together and are churning out their heavy, hypnotic grooves in next to no time. Ash Sagar’s hefty, Jah Wobble-esque basslines boom out, underpinned by Jason Wilson’s uncluttered drumming. In cominationm they provide  a solid base for John Tuffen’s textured guitars, and while the set may be short, it builds nicely, going beyond Krautrock and into territories as yet unexplored.

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Neuschlaufen

Immediately after, everyone vacates to cool down in the car park, with its impressive beach art installation. It also serves as a sandy area where people can go and sit and smoke and buy cocktails and stuff and pretend they’re not in a car park in a city pub.

Consequently, I began spouting my first rage monologue (a recent piece entitled ‘Ambition’, if anyone’s interested) to an audience numbering half a dozen (plus sound man and bar staff), but – probably for the first time in the years I’ve been performing – people began to filter into the room by the time I left Legion of Swine to run the set to its natural conclusion of feedback and bewilderment (what other response is there to a man in a pig’s head and lab coat, ambulating the space with a condenser mic taped to his face and a battery-powered 3W Orange amp to his ear?) there was a substantial crowd. Most of them were confused, and more interested in the spectacle than necessarily enjoying watching a 40-year-old man spew vitriol and expletives into a mic, but I had an absolute blast. Literature is the original rock ‘n’ roll and the new rock ‘n’ roll, and the footage of the performance, for which I can take no credit whatsoever, is outstanding.

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Legion of Swine

https://player.vimeo.com/video/175067654

 

One of the benefits of being lower down the bill is that it’s possible to kick back, drink beer and watch the other acts, and while the temperature was steadily rising, it was a joy to sup a cool pint and listen to Fawn Spots road test a set based on their upcoming second album. I‘ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen these guys since they started out as a snotty York-based two-piece and it’s been a source of pride to witness their evolution to a Leeds-based four-piece with a debut album on Fire Records. Their hard-gigging work ethic is admirable, and they’ve got both songs and attitude. If the new material showcased tonight is a little less frenetic than the older stuff, it’s no less intense, and there’s every indication that album number two will be a stormer.

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Fawn Spots

It’s a little over a year since I saw Super Luxury play. Supporting Oozing Wound at the Key Club in Leeds, I’d been impressed by the power of their performance. However, as their gig photos and the anecdote I’d heard from a friend about front man Adam Nodwell delivering vocals for a large portion of a set from inside a box on stage, it seems they’ve been evolving the performance aspect of their show. They pulled out all the stops for this one, Nodwell arriving on stage cowelled in a hooded cloak, stripping it off to reveal some crazy man/badger legs thing that simply looked wrong. With confetti guns bursting all over and crowd-surfing and a general air of crazed mayhem, you might think the music was taking a back seat. But you’d think wrong: with enough back-line to shake a venue three times to size to its foundations, they blasted through a ferocious set with terrifying vigour and psychopathic precision. They may be zany in their presentation, but when it comes to the songs and slamming them in hard, they’re entirely serious.

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Super Luxury

Irk are pretty fucking serious, too. It’s barely been a fortnight since I caught their set in Manchester supporting Berlin’s heads, and while they were pretty ripping them, tonight they really do take things to another level. Of course, when I previously stated that they sound like fellow Leeds band Blacklisters, I meant it as a compliment: Blacklisters are one of my favourite bands of recent years. They’ve delivered two gut-wrenchingly hefty albums and are one of the most consistent live acts you’ll find. But it’s on this outing that I first truly appreciate Irk in their own right as the drum / bass / vocal trio lumber, lurch and piledrive their way through a full-throttle set. Jack Gordon – an affable, articulate chap off stage – comes on like a man possessed, hurling himself about the low stage amid crushing bass riffs and powerhouse percussion. While the power trio format is often lionised as the optimal band configuration, there’s even less room to hide when there are only two instruments and a vocalist. And so it is that Irk are tight as hell and double the intensity of the playing to compensate the absence of instruments and bodies on stage. In contrast to Super Luxury, here’s little by way of over showmanship on display here, and instead it’s all about whipping up a blistering intensity through directness and unadulterated force.

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Irk

With not a weak act on the jam-packed, super-value bill, and every act giving every last drop of juice to their performance, this is going to stand as one of the gigs of the year. The venue may not have been packed to capacity, but there’s no question that those who were there will be talking about it. That’s precisely how legends are made, and I’d wager that that at some point in the future, tonight will go down as one of those landmark events. And if I’m wrong… fuck it, it was a great night.