Archive | August, 1999

LOOKBACKS – Album reviews – Cindytalk: ‘Wappinschaw’, 1994 (“one of 1994’s most intense, perverse and unusual lost albums”)

30 Aug

Cindytalk: 'Wappinschaw'

Cindytalk: ‘Wappinschaw’

For almost fourteen years now, Cindytalk have been forging a lonely path through the ever-changing styles of modern music. Despite the soft pink flush of their name, Cindytalk’s music has always been so out-there, so much a music of violent extremes, that they have (more or less by default – how much could you change when you touch both ends of the spectrum?) stayed the same – no bad thing – while refining their sound on each album.

Gordon Sharp, the mainstay of Cindytalk’s many line-ups, is perhaps best known as the voice of three haunting tracks on the first album by 4AD art-collective This Mortal Coil, which also spawned Elizabeth Fraser’s honey-drenched version of Tim Buckley’s Song To The Siren in 1983. Yet 4AD-ethereal was never really Sharp’s bag. Cindytalk operate in the same dark areas that Michael Gira and Swans did before they transformed into doom-laden acoustic hippies (no more titles like Raping A Slave, then, Michael? cheers, love!), or The Birthday Party before Nick Cave mellowed out into Satan’s crooner.

They’ve wilfully, awkwardly, pursued music of extremes. Their first album, ‘Camouflage Heart’, must rank somewhere alongside Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’ for sheer unlistenable music for (dis)pleasure, that has to be owned simply to piss people off. And the mammoth ‘In This World’ was a double album of contradictions – one record of near-industrial rock with razor-sharp guitar sounds (varying between tooth- extraction by electric power drill or sheet-metal white noise), and one record of near-ambient instrumentals and songs, mostly played on very soft piano like Erik Satie on Mogadon.

But it’s been a long time since any new Cindytalk material; perhaps because of artistic reclusiveness, perhaps through being a true cult act. Having already had a protracted recording between 1990 and 1992, this album took a further two years to emerge on a record label in 1994. A lone concert aside, we’ve heard nothing from them since (that’s what y-o-u think.. – ED.). Hence this five-years-after-the-event review: cults can always do with getting bigger while they wait for the resurrection.

So, ‘Wappinschaw’; one of 1994’s most intense, perverse and unusual lost albums…


 
It opens deceptively simply, with an a-capella reworking of Ewan MacColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, reflecting Gordon Sharp’s interest in folk idioms (especially his own native Scots). He’s singing solo, without echo or reverb, up close, right there in your darkened room. His voice – one of the most expressive at conveying rage, pain, fear – displays power here yet, somehow, also insecurity. A Song Of Changes is leaden-paced at first, but David Ros’ guitars are more blurry and hazed than previous industrial strength Cindytalk noise. Suddenly the guitars hit an almost bright riff around which Sharp fluctuates and soars. A song of changes, indeed – light is breaking into Cindytalk’s dark world: “Within the heart of everything, there is you…”


 
It doesn’t last, though. Return To Pain (hah!) lurches in on a mix of barely-scrubbed electric and slide guitars, creating an empty and menacing atmosphere as Sharp emotes through wordless high vocals. It’s nightmare swamp music, midnight in the Mississippi plains accompanied by the scariest of companions, before the tension explodes into a barrage of noise. Drums, shotgun guitars, and Sharp wailing that “everybody is Christ.” Y-e-e-es; whatever you say, Gordon.


 
Whichever expectations are set for them, Cindytalk trump them on this record. Wheesht is introduced by a tape of Alisdair Gray reading an extract from his mammoth Scottish psycho-epic ‘Lanark’: a story of a young boy dreaming about what lies beyond the clouds. Recorded over the sound of a ticking clock and a ghostly musical box, this exercise in unsettling atmospherics chills the spine and sets us up for Wheesht itself: a brutally short, non- musical violent collage of bass drones, sonic interferences, sampled voices, blood-curdling screams and other genuinely unnerving sounds.


 
To the looping, echoed scrapings of a low-tuned violin, Snowkiss restores some sense of calm with more of Cindytalk’s music for winter nights – Gordon’s vocals imploding out of their rage into delicate lines and wordless harmonies sung over the gentlest of chiming, raindrop pianos. The lyrics of Disappear evoke a painfully trapped life: “You’re in heaven now, / Inside your head. / No thoughts of flight, / Your wings are clipped…”, while a strongly martial beat provides the tracks only propulsion as guitars and sampled interference compete with each other in a swirling eddy of sound. The lively, echoing trumpet on Traumlose Nacht, mingled with delicate piano and evocative waves of rolling drums, provide some relief and a different sonic vocabulary – it sounds like incidental music for the dark magic and oppressive heat of ‘Angel Heart’.


 
The final track, Hush, starts as an guitar-and-solo-vocal acoustic lament (back to the folk singing of the opening track) but then gives way to influential voices from the heavens (including samples of Orson Welles and Joseph Beuys) before everything fades to leave a long passage of bagpipe music that is, after the tumult of Cindytalk in action, strangely beguiling and soothing… but wait. After a long pause, a final hidden track, Muster. An incendiary, veritably Napalm-Death’s- worth battery of hideous thrash-noise, over which Sharp’s passionate ragged voice issues forth evocations to notable spirits: “The Wappinschaw is an invocation of the spirits of Shiva: Rise, William Wallace, rise! Rise, Arthur Rimbaud, rise!” He goes on to summon the spirits of Pasolini, Sitting Bull, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, amongst others. So unearthly does Sharp sound, so compelling, that I have no doubt that the spirits responded. Quite the most disturbing sound heard on CD for some time.


 
I wouldn’t like to hazard too close a guess at what kind of emotional traumas Gordon Sharp purges from himself to make this music; all razor blades, blizzards and crow feathers. It’s enough to say that, after fourteen years on the extremes, Cindytalk demand your rapt attention, your horrified fascination…

(review by Col Ainsley)

Cindytalk: ‘Wappinschaw’
Touched Recordings, TOUCH 1 (5 021958 432021)
CD-only album
Released: 1994

Get it from:
(2018 update) best obtained second-hand

Cindytalk online:
Homepage Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM

EP reviews – Schulte/Eriksson: ‘For The Sake Of Clarity/Answering Machine’ (“a loose cluster of stoned bees”)

24 Aug
Schulte/Eriksson: 'For The Sake Of Clarity'

Schulte/Eriksson: ‘For The Sake Of Clarity’

It’s an inviting idea. Anna Schulte and Lisa Eriksson sit around in a room in Liverpool with a couple of detuned guitars and some basic looping gear (plus a pair of rhythm-section men borrowed from Mersey psychedelics The Living Brain) to see what happens. They hum out songs and snatches of conversation in a way that’s always on the verge of crumbling to bits, but still holds together, like the immortality of crudded-up cobwebs – lots of interesting little fragments bound up in a tenuous snaggle.

Listening to the bits and pieces of lo-fi invention which they’ve kept on tape shows that Schulte/Eriksson have something in their music like the wobbly stagger of Captain Beefheart’s bloodshot jamming. Or like the scratchier bits of German science-rock that get played at you during music parties (the ones where the competitive art-freak boys are trying to uber-weird each other). But Anna and Lisa seem totally unconcerned with any of these fixations on pointers and signifiers. They’re an offbeat double act, sounding simultaneously bizarre and totally natural. It’s not just their German and Swedish accents as they bounce off English ears. When one of them asks the other “if I say the word ‘sexuality?’ to you, what do you think about that?” she’s met with an incredulous giggle (as if she’d asked “what sound does bread make?”) and neither of them come up with anything.

There’s something warm and alien about these women. Likeable but unreachable – like the futile task of trying to make a cat explain itself, trying to get beyond that affectionate and satisfied manner that displays nothing you can recognise and use for leverage. Interviews have (so far) revealed a pair of women totally detached from earnestness, preciousness or any other self-conscious qualities, and with a simple and unconcerned desire to just let music come.

The music, scribbling and swerving across the grooves of their single like a loose cluster of stoned bees, seems happy to oblige. The straightest that Schulte/Eriksson ever get is the bizarre jazz-train lurch of For The Sake Of Clarity. Their guitar (tuned with a kind of hummingbird logic) hop and pump ahead of the beat; their voices play up and down in stretchy harmonies. “Henry Kaiser playing a samba” is one possible description. I’m also wondering whether Sonic Youth might have produced something shaped like this, in the sweet muzziness after a Brazilian bender.

In Answering Machine the blokes from the Brain bash and stumble away manfully to give the song a bone structure, but in vain. All of the attention goes to the way Lisa and Anna’s voices tug up at their dismal otherworldly sag of guitar chords and take it to somewhere else. For the queasy First Ear Reset/Schaller/Riff, they sound like they’ve turned their guitars upside down: more perturbing jazz-punk chords and steam-whistle tweets yanked off the strings. A violent riff smashes in from another tape and shuts everything down. Their serene smiles probably didn’t drop a notch. But they were obviously laughing when they stuck a phony dance-pop title onto Bassline Loop/No. 1 Hit – it’s about a minute of drunken, tarry slide guitar and murmuring voices which are suddenly exposed as the instruments fall silent and intersect in lovely arcs like a tiny choir of mediaeval nuns… just as the tape runs out.

Scratching cheerfully at the join of subconscious and curiosity, Schulte/Eriksson might use a disorienting private language to run the dig – but you still feel invited to perch nearby. If you’ve ever felt like sitting in on the beginnings of music, here’s a chance to do it.

Schulte/Eriksson: ‘For the Sake of Clarity/Answering Machine’
Org Records, ORG 054
7-inch vinyl-only single
Released: 1999

Buy it from:
Org Records, or look for it second-hand.

Schulte/Eriksson online:
MySpace

Get In Her Ears

Promoting and Supporting Women in Music

The Music Aficionado

a song a post, for a song

ATTN:Magazine

Not from concentrate.

Xposed Club

improvised/experimental/music

I Quite Like Gigs

Music Reviews, music thoughts and musical wonderings

A jumped-up pantry boy

To say the least, oh truly disappointed

PROOF POSITIVE

A new semi-regular gig in London

We need no swords

Organized sounds. If you like.

:::::::::::: Ekho :::::::::::: Women in Sonic Art

Celebrating the Work of Women within Sonic Art: an expanding archive promoting equality in the sonic field

Ned Raggett Ponders It All

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Yeah I Know It Sucks

an absurdist review blog

Pop Lifer

Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Archived Music Press

Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

The Weirdest Band in the World

A search for the world's weirdest music, in handy blog form

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

Where You Are Always Wrong

Fragile or Possibly Extinct

Life Outside the Womb

a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

Bird is the Worm

New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

eyesplinters

Just another WordPress.com site

FormerConformer

Striving for Difference

musicmusingsandsuch

The title says it all, I guess!

%d bloggers like this: