Portions of this piece, well, small portions of it, originally appeared in the fine UK publication Wire. Hats off and thank yous to friendly pal David Tibet who hooked me up with David Keenan, eminent UK-based music writer who generously and selflessly handed over this fabulous chunk of writing to us here at LCD. Thanks a bunch, Mr. Keenan!
- Johan Kugelberg
Nurse With Wound i/v -
The deepest throb of electronics pulse and
waver beneath six scraped strings. The acid sear of 3rd-eye-aimed lead
guitar strikes out: destination - elsewhere. The car-start buzz, the
treated feedback trill, the paradigm blast of Chance Meeting On A
Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella. In the 18
years since this Nurse With Wound debut LP, they remain unequalled in
terms of sheer outsider invention.
Housed in a Dada-spewed sleeve of sado-slave imagery and eye-popping surrealist collage, Chance Meeting... (Lautreamont's famous reply to "What is Surrealism?") single-handedly created and defined an aesthetic and was blamed for plenty more. Inside was the near-mythical Nurse 'list' - an A to Z of avant-whup and visionary excess, name-checking the likes of Group 1850, Brainticket, This Heat, Yoko Ono, Cromagnon, Faust, John Cage..."Categories strain, crack and sometimes break, under their burden", reads the text, "Step out of the space provided."
Two months earlier, Throbbing Gristle had released their debut LP Second Annual Report and launched 'Industrial' Records - their's was a superficially like-sounding turf-plow through semi-improvised electronic noise and black imagery. Via the weakest of logical leaps Nurse, in the wake of Chance Meeting..., were tagged as 'Industrial'. It stuck.
"We were associated with 'Industrial' music purely due to the fact that we were around at the same time and our album cover was 'dark'," bemoans Steven Stapleton aka Nurse With Wound, "it didn't matter what the music was like. I mean, in reality our music was much closer to free improvisation - Incus and FMP, things like that. There's no comparison between Throbbing Gristle or Industrial music and Nurse. To me Nurse music is Surrealist music. It's the displacement of something ordinary into an extraordinary setting. I take ordinary things - instruments, solos, what have you, and place them in unusual settings, giving a completely different angle on the way instruments and composition are looked at." Just as Surrealism functioned as a rupture or a breakdown in the teleology of empirical reality, an exhumation of the subconscious, so 'noise' exposes the sonic chaos at the base of all music. The surrealism of Nurse With Wound is a mischievous and heady disruption, an attack on order and form, laced with the blackest of humors.
Despite the inclusion of the aforementioned list as some kind of openly genre defiant gesture, dunderhead logic prevailed and even today there are still some deluded parties convinced they 'know' what Nurse are 'all about'.
"The Nurse list was an attempt to get in contact with like-minded people that were interested in the kind of music that we were interested in which is, like it says on the list, 'electric experimental music'. We met loads of people through that list, and since then, it's become legendary. I mean there's things on the list that don't exist - I'm not saying what they are but I've seen them on people's want- lists for hundreds of pounds."
I met Stapleton at Finsbury Park, May 4th, 12:30pm. The Rock 'N' Roll Station. We'd met (briefly) the night before after the Current 93 show at The Union Chapel, exchanged pleasantries, chatted on the phone a couple of times before that. As a rule he doesn't do interviews; in fact, he actively discourages publicity, quoting Cage collaborator Morton Feldman's comment that the best environment to make music in is one in which "nobody cares." We're both nervous as all hell.
I catch sight of him slumped against the tube gates, a reanimated Victorian cadaver, his trademark top hat peeled and curling, all black draped and out of time. Round black shades blank his perpetual teary-eyed gaze, drizzled blond hair tangles from his hat. His beard sprout strikes just the right side of gonzoid as he twists and pirouettes his moustache. "I have to have my beard fairly short these days," he explains, "I kept getting it caught in my tools."
As we cross Highbury Corner, Stapleton doesn't seem pleased to be back in London. He's secluded himself on his Coolorta goat farm in County Clare, Southern Ireland since 1989, rarely venturing back to the capital. "I left London for a lot of reasons," he confides, "I didn't really want my children to have to grow up here. London's not the same as it was, it's got nothing to offer me anymore. Also, I got mugged by a couple of guys at Finsbury Park, they got me on the ground, held a knife to my throat, called me a honky bastard. The next day my wife got mugged. I'd had enough." He shakes his head, rolling a cigarette as he scans up and down the street. "When Morton Feldman was young he said nobody cared about his music - his parents, his friends, his brothers and sisters, and he said it was the most creative period of his life. He was left alone to do what he wanted to do without influences from people around him - I feel very much for that. I've almost done that with my stopping replying to mail and stopping being involved in musical discussions with friends, shutting myself off in Ireland. I find it's just the best way for me to work, completely alone when it comes to my music."
"I lock myself in my little room, I make my music, put it on a CD, and it just goes out into the world and then I hear nothing. I don't get reviewed, I don't get anyone writing to say what they thought about the music. After 10 years of replying to mail I decided I wasn't going to do it anymore, so I don't hear anything. There's still no reviews. It's weird, you put all this creativity into something and it just disappears..."
We arrive at the pub where we've arranged to meet up with David Tibet of Current 93, Steven's closest friend and collaborator, and Christoph Heemann, the German avant- soundscapist of H.N.A.S. 'fame' and wearer of braces. We share a few beers, some cruddy mango burgers, and David's farmyard jokes before they head off again to pick up some missing Joe Meek CDs. Steven gazes after them; "Although I'm very much a solitary person," he mourns, "there's another side of me which says, y'know, get out there and have fun and meet people and go and get drunk and stuff like this, but when it comes to creativity, whether I'm building a new goat house, mixing cement, making a sculpture, painting a picture, or making music, it's all the same. The same energy goes into it and there's no room for anybody else. That's why Nurse could never be a band - I'm not interested in compromising at all."
These are the two defining qualities which mark Stapleton out and inform virtually all of his life decisions - an essentially solitary character with a complete unwillingness to compromise either himself or his art. Growing up in Finchley, London, Stapleton's early ambition was to make it into Art School, eventually attending Hornsey Art School, putting up with it's stifling atmosphere for a grand total of seven days. "I dropped out, it was such a disappointment, I thought it would be wonderful," he sighs, "I didn't work, I took a year off. I was 16 then and, looking back, it was the most influential year of my life. It was the year I realized that you don't have to work and that there was wonderful music out there - Psychedelic Underground and White Light/White Heat were my two big discoveries. I spent a year in my room wanking, basically, masturbating every day, twenty times a day. I think that's where I developed the idea of doing things alone." He grins, sliding his glasses off for the first time, "I really enjoyed that year. I was really interested in biology, I had 5 or 6 fish tanks in my room full of creatures and I was studying them, listening to Amon Duul and the Velvets, and dreaming about females. Then I got into Krautrock, left my room, and went to Germany at 17."
The musical upheaval in Germany, led off by the likes of Xhol and Kluster between (roughly) '68 and '72 was an epiphanal head blast for the young Stapleton, provoking a whirlwind of obsessive collecting and drooly proselytizing.
"When I was 13 or 14 I went into Virgin on Oxford Street and I saw this amazing record in the shop," says Steven, "Psychedelic Underground by Amon Duul, this ridiculously expensive import at the time. I just had to have it so I bought it and took it home and it knocked me out, never heard anything like it at all, even today it's more anarchistic than virtually any record I've ever heard. That was a complete new start of life for me, I searched out all the other Amon Duul albums that were around at the time and found out about all the other German bands." Soon Steven and his friend Heman Pathak, whom he would soon found Nurse with, had packed their bags and were headed for Germany to experience the madness first hand. "We stayed there for virtually a year," he explains, "meeting the bands, collecting all the limited edition albums, partying with them, roadie-ing with them. I roadied for Guru Guru and Kraan at the time and helped out loads of other bands like Birth Control and Embryo. I did some artwork for them, designed some sleeves, including one for Cluster which got rejected by the record company. German music is so completely different to the music in the rest of Europe and England. At the time it was totally frowned upon - I was staying with Connie Plank the engineer and he was saying that he just couldn't get anything released in America or England, nobody was interested."
Steven's babbling, fired up. Drowning out The Stone Roses, he slams back a Becks; "What happened in Germany was unprecedented - I mean, it only lasted for a maximum of 4 years, but what it produced in those years is absolutely stunning, even today," he rants. "I always knew that one day it would turn around, one day people would appreciate them." So what does he think of the current Krautrock revival, of Julian Cope's book? "I'm ecstatically pleased about it," he continues, "I think it's brilliant, even just personally so as I can get all the CD reissues as they come out. I think what Julian Cope's done is fucking brilliant, I loved his book. So many people can now experience the real thing, they don't have to listen to fucking Stereolab - listen to Neu!, listen to where Stereolab ripped off all their ideas from. All these techno bands who ripped off Kraftwerk - people don't know about how Cluster single-handedly started off the whole acid house movement. Check out the first couple of Möebius records, years ahead of their time and the first Kraftwerk album, it's just so stunning and revolutionary and advanced, no one's beaten it even today.
"I think it's the most important movement in modern music. I mean, fuck The Beatles! Krautrock had nothing to do with The Beatles, it came from classical avant-garde and free jazz, it didn't come from pop. It was really self-contained, brutal, hard, and cold, and I just loved it. I think the only reason Can came up with the story about how they heard The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus" and were inspired to start a band was because they wanted to be accepted by western musicians and fans - they're gonna say that just to get 'in'. Schmidt came from Stockhausen, Liebzeit from free jazz." So were the Nurse seeds planted out in Germany? "Oh yeah, for the first time I really felt that I'd found real kindred spirits, this was what I wanted to do - especially the cold relentlessness of the first two Kraftwerk albums, Kluster, Amon Duul, I was absolutely moved by it. Later, through my label United Dairies, I tried to bring over Krautrock music which I felt had been totally ignored and put it out in England. I released the Guru Guru album and recorded some stuff with Uli Trepte (the Hot On Spot/Inbetween LP UD024) who used to be in Neu! and Faust. I got other people like Pole, Limpe Fuchs, Anima - I released them on U.D. and involved as many Krautrock people as I could in projects."
Stapleton returned to Britain, running the gamut of low-paid drudgework and plowing all his earnings right back into his record collection. "I had no interest in playing music before Nurse," he claims, "I just loved listening to it - I mean, friends used to come round and say 'God the stuff you're listening to is such shit, anybody could do it, anyone could bang those tins together' or whatever but I didn't want to." So where did the impetus come to start up Nurse With Wound? "Well, what happened was I was working as a sign writer in a studio, putting names on doors, and the backs of chairs, etc., and I got talking to the engineer about experimental music. He said that if I knew anybody who wanted to do some recording that was experimental and different then to contact him and he'd give them cheap rates. It was a really good 48-track studio in Berwick Street, Soho." It was an opportunity too unlikely and too seemingly fated to pass up and Stapleton swiftly made up some bull story about playing in an experimental band. The studio was booked for Saturday. "I went home, phoned up my two closest mates John Fothergill and Heeman Pathak, and said, '... we're in a band, get an instrument of some sort, anything that makes a sound, come down on Saturday and we'll see what happens' and in one day we recorded Chance Meeting... - our first ever session."
As a first experiment, an accidental recording session, the electronic disruption of Chance Meeting... is revelatory. Although nominally inspired by Kraut freedom moves, it was musically adrift from any such convenient reference points. Sure, there was the Ax Genrich space search guitar of "Two Mock Projections," but there was also dropped slabs of musique concréte, stabbed Derek Bailey dynamics, gothic cathedral organ haunt, and primitive, howled vocals all hurled together with the aesthetics of the possessed.
"Totally improvised. It was all recorded in about 6 hours and mixed in 2 hours the next day and we'd never even played before," exclaims Stapleton proudly, "I'd never in my life picked up an instrument before. It was just so pure - if you can get that pure, y'know? They had no idea, the other two guys in the band, what to do but I had a kind of idea, I was the one with the musical background really."
"We wanted to do something that was electric, that was the only thing we had in common, we all liked kind of improvised music but electric improvised music and John Fothergill bought a guitar, the other guy bought a Bontempi organ and I just made up loads of metal percussion from where I was working at the time, in an engraving shop. We had no idea it was going to lead into another album afterwards, it was purely just see what happens. After the first day we were so ecstatic with it, we just couldn't believe it. We all went back to my place and we put on the rough tape really loud and we just thought, 'God this is amazing, we can do it!' That's how it started."
We take a break, get a few more beers in, Steven slides his shades back on. "Jesus," he sighs, "I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm really nervous and I've just clammed up. I don't understand it." He wanders off to the bar. Clammed up? He's barely paused for breath.
On his return he rolls another cigarette and inhales deeply, psyching himself: "Right, where was I?" He continues, "Yeah, we thought this stuff was so off the wall, nobody was going to be interested in it. At the time the punk movement had started and people were starting to do things on their own, just one or two people and we just got the idea of putting it out ourselves. We didn't ever think we could sell 500 copies, though, but we sold them all within a week. All gone. Rough Trade took about 100, Virgin took loads. They liked the cover - they thought it was totally outrageous."
"As soon as we put the first record out on our own United Dairies label we thought, well, we can do it. There was a German record label that all of us admired called Ohr and it was always fascinating because every time you found something on the label it would be interesting and different - good cover designs. We were inspired by them. So, we heard an EP called Spoonfed And Writhing by The Lemon Kittens and we got in contact with them and put their first album, and we met a band called The Bombay Ducks and released their album. By that time our second album, To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl, was finished and that came out - it just escalated."
To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl and the subsequent Merzbild Schwet LP (which found them reduced to a duo of Stapleton and Fothergill) saw Nurse retreat into something less tangible, falling back on the disturbing use of warped, treated voices and more advanced studio buggery tactics. However, the next official Nurse LP, Homotopy To Marie, would become the first real Stapleton solo piece. As Steve explains; "I fell out with John due to The Lemon Kittens. Basically, he fell in love with Danielle (Dax) and that kind of split us up permanently, and for a year I ran a United Dairies and he ran a United Dairies. The only time we would converse would be whenever we were putting something out, just so we didn't get the catalogue numbers mixed up. He put out The Bombay Ducks album I mentioned and The Lemon Kittens Cake Beast album - I wouldn't have released Cake Beast, I didn't like it very much, and I certainly wouldn't have put out The Bombay Ducks album."
The inevitable confrontation took place with an agreement being reached that Steven would continue to run United Dairies and John would run his own Commercial Records as a U.D. subsidiary. Commercial Records went on to release two LPs which, according to Stapleton, were "shit".
Following a couple of collaborative efforts, (Insect And Individual Silenced with Jim Thirwell aka Foetus and The 150 Murderous Passions... with William Bennett of Whitehouse), Homotopy To Marie was the first post-split Nurse product and for Steven the first real Nurse With Wound LP; "I'd finally acquired knowledge of studios and recording techniques, how to get certain sounds." says Steven, "I'd also learned a little bit about composition, how to build a track up, how to add dynamics to it, which I had no idea of before. I could find my way around a mixing desk. I was really happy with that album - took about a year to record on and off. Looking back it was the one album that showed the direction I was going to go." It's a ghostly LP, exhibiting a warmth not previously associated with Nurse releases, full of restrained passion and dynamic, unearthly brood.
1983 was a real turning point for Stapleton, he'd finally freed himself from the compromising influence of band-mates and he was about to meet his lifelong collaborator and friend; "I met Tibet at an Industrial festival, (The Equinox Event at the L.M.C, according to Tibet)," laughs Stapleton, "I was supposed to be playing, I was going to paint this huge backdrop a-la Rolf Harris and play a tape I'd made to accompany it. I had all the canvas set up and then I got into an argument with some guy who pissed on me. In these Industrial gigs back then there was this nonchalance, y'know, fuck everything, fuck this, fuck that, Nazi bands were playing there, Pure, fucking morons like that. Anyway, I'm sitting at the front with William Bennet (Whitehouse) and some guy just got his dick out and started pissing on the stage and he turned round and it just went all over my legs. I got really angry and we started a fight, I remember saying to him 'Get the fuck out of here, I'm going to beat your fucking head in' and he said 'I ain't fucking going until Nurse With Wound have played', and I said 'I'm fucking Nurse With Wound and I'm not fucking playing' and I went over to the pub across the road and just sat there really fucking angry. I was determined I wasn't going to play, not if that cunt was in there, so David Tibet came over and said he'd just seen what had happened. 'Hello, my name's David Tibet, I'm with Psychic TV, I like what you do, can I buy you a drink?' We chatted and he became a very close friend very quickly and is now my closest friend."
Tibet had just left Psychic TV (or so he claims, Stapleton remembers it differently) and had played at The Equinox under the name Dog's Blood Order. For some time he had been toying with the idea of forming a group to explore his twin obsessions, which he described as "apocalyptic and eschatological religious imagery and children's nursery rhymes." Having recently completed sessions for Lashtal with Fritz, 23 Skidoo's drummer and fellow PTV member John Balance, Tibet invited Stapleton to join Current for the recording of the Nature Unveiled LP and Steve reciprocated his offer on a 12 inch EP by Nurse called Gyllenskold, Geijerstam and I at Rydbergs. Tibet had recently dismissed Fritz and fallen out with Balance (who later founded Coil) over his refusal to leave Psychic TV. It's a convoluted chronology packed with the half memories and contradictions of apocrypha, lending it a fitting drape of mystery.
"I suppose my role in the band was to help create the music for his voice," shrugs Stapleton. "Tibet loved Nurse and David guests on virtually every Nurse album. It was a meeting of kindred spirits, I love him dearly. He's a very talented bloke and I like the energy working with him, he's really honest about things and he puts a lot of effort into getting things right, like he'll do 20 takes of a vocal to get it exactly as he wants it. It's good to work with someone who can just say to me, I want this kind of atmosphere and I create it for him.
"I almost prefer working with Current 93 to doing my own stuff. Nurse is very taxing on myself, but with Current I can relax because I know that the main focal point is David, his poetry and his delivery. To underline that is really simple. It's evolved now to the point that I'm the sort of mixer/producer of Current 93, as David get's more and more into the folk side of things my role is, again, adding the surreal touch. The last few Current albums have been very folky but with a strange, surreal twist, I come in and add feedback, and perhaps a child-like quality."
After the Klaus Shultz-esque spaceways drift of 1986's Spiral Insana and the meditative mantra float of the 3 LP Soliloquy For Lilith set, Stapleton made his retreat to Ireland and his goat farm. In direct contrast to the claustrophobic intensity of the earlier Nurse stuff, sometime around Spiral Insana Stapleton's music began to really open out and became much more expansive in intent. Steven agrees, "I recorded Spiral Insana before I went to Ireland, but I was already starting to go that way. I was getting older, having children, becoming more spaced out ... thats definitely happened, it feels like a natural, organic development to go that way. I'm quite anti-that, though, in a way, I always like to throw a spanner in the works. That's something I think I did with the almost dancey Rock'n'Roll Station album, nobody expected anything like that. It was a real surprise, even to me, because I didn't know I was going to make an album like that. Maybe it reflects the fact that I don't really listen to a lot of music concrete and experimental classical these days or free jazz and improvised music."
Steven explains his new-found interest in rhythm, which has manifested itself in the last couple of Nurse LPs, Rock'n'Roll Station and Who Can I Turn To Stereo?, as being due to a fascination with a mambo musician by the name of Perez Prado; "I heard him for the first time in my life about 4 years ago and was obsessed with him for years. I was frantically collecting any Perez Prado material - it's heavily rhythmic and that's what I've spent the last 3 years listening to and it's certainly influenced my music."
"I mean, I've no interest in dance music, I don't dance - my hat would fall off. Even the stuff that's on Who Can I Turn To Stereo? and Rock'n'Roll Station that are sort of dancey or rhythmic, I might tap my foot to them but I certainly wouldn't dance to them. It's for concentrating on, a movie for your ears, an adventure which will hopefully surprise you. One thing's for sure, though, I'm finished with rhythm now."
Stapleton picks out the Current 93 LP, In Menstrual Night, as a landmark in the realization of his aesthetic and I relay the poetic way that Tibet had first described it to me. "I wondered where dreams went to when they died in your heart and your soul," David had explained. "Some strange graveyard - I wanted to recreate that feeling of when you're at some party, a bit drunk, and you start to drift off to sleep. You start to remember the voices of your childhood and they mingle with the distant sounds of the party, an old nursery rhyme floats past, all part of a bizarre collage. Then the drum enters, like a dream going to feed the moon's soul." Steve smiles and goes on to explain his own take on In Menstrual Night, particularly the first half, "Sucking Up Souls".
"'Sucking Up Souls' was inspired by when I was in hospital, I had a lot of trouble with my ears, tinnitis and all kinds of problems, and I'd lie in hospital at night and listen to the sounds of the hospital, just people milling around in wards far off, the occasional sound as metal things clanked, and both David and I thought it would be a really good idea to try and recreate that sound. Just being in bed, being immobile, and just listening. I was fascinated by it, I just lay there listening for days. There is a really heavy, unique atmosphere to a hospital. I think there is a kind of warmth there - you're protected, you're safe, you're being waited on - you're being pumped full of horrible drugs as well but you can lay there and almost become a vegetable."
The almost fetishistic detail which the whole scene inspires in Stapleton makes it seem woozily appealing, until you remember that all around you people are actually dying, strapped to life support machines, in iron lungs.
"I didn't actually consider that. It just adds to the atmosphere I suppose. Nurses must see that all the time. Just imagine, though, you're lying in bed at night and you're looking up a darkened hall and there's the matron sitting there with her light and you can hear her pen scraping, you can hear creaks coming from the beds, patients turning over, beds rattling a bit, someone dropping a utensil ten wards down. The echo, the bare walls."
To experience that degree of silence requires a very regimented regime, a very controlled environment. It's a silence which reminds me of childhood, in bed early, downstairs the buzz of late night television, the distant door lock, the creak of the stairs and voices under breath. A somewhat helpless feeling, subjected to sound, a regressive fantasy.
It almost seems that Stapleton's early years of collecting, listening and making sense of sound was simply a period of training, of preparing for his inevitable retreat. "I would listen to music for at least four or five hours every day without fail, surrounded by a collection of about two thousand albums," he explains. "I was teaching myself to listen in that time. I had 20 years of searching for interesting music and now I've almost had my fill of it and I really don't feel like searching for more." 'Teaching myself to listen' is the key phrase here, one which makes a fairly explicit connection between John Cage and Nurse With Wound. Through years of listening, of opening out his ears, just like his epiphanal experience in the hospital, Steven was able to truly listen to the sounds around him. Then he could disappear to Ireland's wild barren, content to listen to the sound of his environment, to hear the melody at the heart of the universe, the harmony of the spheres. Dispatching the occasional epistle by way of reply and thanks.
"I've been doing it for 22 years now, or whatever," Stapleton reflects, "and no amount of adulation would change the music. It's never worried me. I'm really happy in my life, I've got my goats, my lovely family, I've got everything that anybody could really want and I've also got my music. I'm a happy person. I make the music that I want to hear and that nobody else is making, a music that's never really existed before."
And now I think of Steven, pacing the hills and paths of County Clare, perched with his goats in the stillness of dead night. Silent beneath a star-filled sky. Just listening.
United Dairies - Ten Of The Best from the most consistently interesting British independent experimental label.
1 - Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella (UD 01)
The one that started it all and the cornerstone for all subsequent forays into improvised "electric experimental music." Originally issued in a numbered edition of 500, it received a fitting ????? rating in place of five stars from Sounds. A monstrous trawl through twilight regions of moan and scrape straight out of nowhere, where avant garde composition met Krautrock's expansive pummel. 18 years on from when three newly freed men hit the fade on "Blank Capsules Of Embroidered Cellophane" and went home for tea, it still stands as a monument to peerless invention and vision.
2 - Operating Theatre Rapid Eye Movements (UD 011)
Operating Theatre was a pseudonym for the Irish electro-acoustic composer Roger Doyle whom Stapleton discovered after picking up a copy of his first LP Oizzo No in the bargain basement of Notting Hill Gate Record and Tape Exchange. Rapid Eye Movements presents a series of three pieces which straddle the cerebral/emotional boundary like it never existed. Tape manipulation, treated 'field' recordings, and the most warped of orchestral movement cohere into what Forced Exposure magazine righteously hailed as being "so out there that the whole process of articulation is rendered obsolete".
3 - Various Artists An Afflicted Man's Musica Box (UD 012)
The best of the UD compilations (there were two more, Hoisting The Black Flag, UD 06 and In Fractured Silence, UD 015) and Stapleton's favorite UD release, An Afflicted Man's reads like a sampler from the Nurse list. Featuring Foetus In Your Bed, Operating Theatre, and Steve's Krautrock faves Anima, it's highlights include a triumphant, shortwave drenched roar from AMM (who let Steve choose a piece from their enormous backlog of tapes), the massed orchestral march of Jacques Berrocal's "Conseil Des Ministries," and the ominous drift of Nurse With Wound's "I Was No Longer His Dominant". As the John Cage quote on the sleeve reads: "You don't need to call it music, if the term shocks you."
4 - Current 93 In Menstrual Night (UD 022)
A landmark release and the first Current LP on United Dairies, In Menstrual Night is a work of singular beauty and subliminal haunt. Inspired, respectively, by Tibet's idea of the "strange graveyard" where dead dreams go and Stapleton's attempt to recreate the distant glow-sounds of a silent hospital ward, it's combination of nursery rhymes, early choral music, and distant loops of text and speech is uniquely disorienting when listened to in the early hours. Originally released as a picture disc in a ludicrously small run.
5 - Masstishaddhu Shekinah (UD 028)
Originally known as The Funeral Dance Party, they then changed their name to the classic Bladderflask and self-released their own One Day I Was So Sad That The Corners Of My Mouth Met And Everybody Thought I was Whistling LP round about the same time as Nurse's To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl. Stapleton was a huge fan and contacted them with the idea of doing an LP for UD. They changed their name to Masstishaddhu and the resultant LP exists in a fried dimension of it's own. Nowadays even Stapleton can't remember anything else about them.
6 - Current 93 Earth Covers Earth (UD 029)
The second and final Current release on UD, Earth Covers Earth was an early example of Current 93's idiosyncratic takes on English folk, sporting a cover which reads like a tribute to The Incredible String Band's Hangman's Beautiful Daughters LP. Inspired by Tibet's discovery of the likes of Comus's First Utterance LP and Shirley Collins, it features the now regular appearance of Strawberry Switchblade's Rose McDowall on guitar. A possessed and unexpected foray into the heart of the wood, it serves as an ideal way 'in' if you're looking for one.
7 - Nurse With Wound Soliloquy For Lilith (MIRROR 01/UD 035CD)
Originally released on the UD offshoot label Idle Hole as a 3 LP box set, this has since been re-released as a double CD on United Dairies. Perhaps the most beautifully formed and satisfying Nurse release, Soliloquy is meditative and expansive, full of tone float and the muzzy flow of distant feedback. It was created via a closed loop of effects pedals feeding back on each other, generating mantra-like rhythms which Steven then controlled with the movements of his fingers hovering six inches above the pedals. Because a lot of the pedals, flangers, etc., have built-in harmonics, as it goes through it's cycle suddenly the harmonics change and, in turn, are fed into the loop, gradually building tones of eternal fluctuation. In an unlikely turn of events, it stayed at number one in the world ambient chart for six weeks. As Stapleton sees it: "The record is fucking amazing."
8 - Nurse With Wound Thunder Perfect Mind (UD 040)
Although a companion album to the Current 93 LP of the same name, the title coming to Stapleton in a dream, musically they're poles apart, this being one of the harshest and most clinically electronic Nurse releases since the early albums. The first track, "Cold," is Stapleton's 'Industrial' pastiche with drilled rhythms and cut dead blocks of harsh noise interspersed with smoke alarm bleeps and scaffolding collapse. The second track, "Colder Still", clocks in at an impressive half hour plus and is a more organic and shifting space rumination. An invigorating release with plenty of house-clearing potential.
9 - Steven Stapleton And David Tibet The Sadness Of Things (UD 037)
The first of two non-Nurse/Current collaboration projects, this is a beautifully spacious mourn for days long lost. Tibet pulls off one of his finest broken pleads above a void of echoed flute and distant metronymic drum machine which gives it the feel of a narcoleptic ghost. Reverbed violin falls in and out of the mix while snatches of a little girl reciting a heart breaking text continually resurfaces. The second track is a collaboration between Stapleton and Geoff Cox, a soundtrack for a Diana Rogerson film (Stapleton's wife and sometime collaborator, she's released a couple of LPs on UD under her own name and under the Crystal Belle Scrodd pseudonym) and it's minimal electronics hover like a Klaus Schultz warm-up. One of David Tibet's favorites.
10 - Sand Ultrasonic Seraphim (UDOR 2/3CD)
This double CD makes up the second and third releases from a new United Dairies offshoot, the first release being the second Stapleton/Tibet collaboration Musical Pumpkin Cottage. Here UD combines with Tibet's Durtro label as United Durtro to reissue Sand's classic Krautrock LP Golem, recorded in 1973 by Klaus Schultz. Tibet had fallen in love with the album after discovering it in Stapleton's collection, recording a cover of Sand's "May Rain" on Current's Thunder Perfect Mind LP. This CD couples the original LP with out-takes, different mixes, and 3 tracks from the post-Sand Johannes Vester and his Vester Bester Tester Electric Folk Orchestra. Sand are a pretty unique sounding unit, utilizing a sparse smattering of synths and acoustic guitar over blackly intoned wordage.
|© 1998 WFMU.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of WFMU is prohibited.