The rain and cold are here at last, a perfect time to go a little slower and switch the iPod over to a more contemplative selection. So I finally got around to listening to Nurse With Wound‘s Angry Eelectric Finger series. And that’s no small feat as there are five albums to deal with, all slightly different but based off the same material. It’s an interesting story…
First, to the uninitiated, Nurse With Wound is something of a cult figure in the world of experimental music. Stephen Stapleton has, with the help of a whole circus full of people, created a distinctive blend of free improv, ambient, noise, krautrock, psychedelic, dada, surrealism, musique concrète, and general weirdness since 1978. His discography is insane in breadth, but perhaps even more remarkable is how he got started. He was talking to this studio engineer about the guy’s frustration over either the trite nature of the business he got or the amount of money it was bringing in. The guy decided he wanted to work with more experimental bands to shake things up a bit. So Stephen said he had a band. He didn’t, but the guy arranged a time for him to record. So he got together a band and made it happen. And the world hasn’t been the same since.
Fast forward to 2004. Stephen with the help of droney Monos member Colin Potter samples some one of his inspirations, a krautrock group known as Xhol or Xhol Caravan or Soul Caravan. They then manipulate these samples to create an homage to the death of Xhol saxophonist Tim Belbe. The album includes some “apocalyptic” guitar work by neofolk god David Tibet from Current 93. It was slated to be released by World Serpent Distribution (an awesome label and distribution center of some of the most fascinating avant-garde music) but they were going out of business then. Luckily it was taken up by Beta-Lactam Ring, another remarkable label. This leads us to the Raw Material – Zero Mix which is a total gem, even among Stephen’s vast range of impeccable work.
Ominous blasts of ringing drones fight for dominance with what seem to be bike freewheels whirring; bells frolic among what sounds like Tibetian horns or tubas on nitrous; waves of processed digital static wash over rumbling synth whilst some nervous beast rattles its metal cage; then it all starts swirling and spiraling into a maelstrom; and yet we pop out the other side to blissful harmony. And that’s just track 1. Then we are faced with the moanings of a tortured upright bass, filtered through a haze of delusion, portentous cymbals, the cassette cogs again, some monstrous daemon groaning– then, shots ring out– a pig squealing at the edge of consciousness, a tumultuous sea of sounds churns backwards and forwards, the flotsam and jetsam rising up and being drowned; then it all begins to go quiet except for a faint heart beat rhythm and, at long last, the work of Tim Belbe and Hansi Fischer come into play whilst some shadowy sounds babble in the background, eventually taking precedence again; charcoal brushstrokes of weary ambience hobble along and then are turned inside out until they finally devour themselves.
But it’s only begun to get interesting. Stephen then calls up his buddies irr. app. (ext.), Jim O’Rourke, and Cyclobe and asks them to finish and/or remix the work. This is where we get the three main parts of the series, Mute Bell Extinction, Tape Monkey Mooch, and Paraparaparallelogrammatica, respectively. There are also some outtakes known as Spitch’cock One which give a good taste for the tone of all of the above. I must say, though, I found the first one to be pretty similar to the original with some extra speaker panning. Jim does a little bit better with some spacey guitar bits, but overall maintains the same general theme.
And then there’s Cyclobe. First off, one must understand that Cyclobe is one half Stephen Thrower and one half Ossian Brown aka Simon Norris, both ex-members of halluninogenic experimentalists Coil. Now anyone that knows me knows I LOVE Coil. Their blend of dark and light, experimental and accessible, electronic and traditional, yin and yang, just rubs me the right way. I am only too sad that they are no longer. Needless to say I’ve been looking very carefully into related projects so I can continue my Coil fix and of all the projects out there, Cyclobe, certainly comes the closest (with CoH being a close second).
And what do they do with it? The absolutely obliterate it, turning it into a nightmarish daemon. At times the original sound source is apparent, but it’s constantly being turned over, fiddled with, warped, processed, scrambled, recycled, reconfigured, re-imagined. It constantly walks a fine line between insanity and reverie, constantly threatening to fall too far on either side. Where will we end up: dream or delirium? There’s only one way to find out and it’s a bad trip well worth taking. It’s an incredible remix of an already incredible piece of music. Certainly Paraparaparallelogrammatica is a must have so go buy it!