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For Hallowe’en

ear ectoplasm

Happy Hallowe’en, All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain and Hop-tu-Naa, one and all.

May your ectoplasm run freely and copiously.

Some soundtracks for the day when the veil is thin…

First, The Heartwood Institute on amazing form:

Second, some a dark ritual in the forest from the Russian label Black Mara:

Next up, the opening titles to a film, ‘Bethany’s Cradle’, that was never made, by Klaus Morlock:

And then one of the many stand-out tracks from a brilliant compilation from Burning Witches Records:

And then we must leave you with the traditional dodgy goff. And probably one of the lowest budget videos ever made:


Party today and tonight, because tomorrow you die…




The Mortlake Bookclub: Exquisite Corpse


The Mortlake Bookclub are a shadowy collective whose first release on the brilliant Reverb Worship label is “inspired and directed by the surrealist parlour game Exquisite Corpse” wherein each collaborator adds to the previous person’s output. One of these members is Melmoth the Wanderer. Add to the mix a reading group centred around Dr. Dee’s library and surrealism, and you won’t be surprised to hear I was hooked immediately.

Opener, ‘The Sexton’s Dream’ sets the phantasmagoric tone beautifully: hazed and throbbed electrics, distanciated plucking and a spoken sample that is as threatening as it is cautionary. And it’s this sample that places the Exquisite Corpse squarely in a spectral rurality, where half-glimpsed simulacrums spook and uncanny survivals pervade.

‘Live Deliciously’ has ritual purpose. And I say this in a the same way an archaeologist digs into the land, finds something that can only be surmised as significant, and deems it a ritual object. Here this translates into a vague sense and aural awareness of a ceremonial performance whose importance and meaning is both enlivened and obscured by a resonant dissonance and distant chants. Only a tolling bell gives some clarity that a ritual is happening or has happened here. And no amount of polishing your obsidian stone will allow a clearer view.

With its swirling strings and baritone spoken word, ‘Exquisite Corpse’ could not be more haunting. The reversed voices, the shards of whispered narration, the funereal atmosphere – it’s definitively one of the heart-rending and poignant pieces of music I’ve heard in years. In short, it’s incredible.

With samples from – I think – this documentary, final piece ‘The Trial of Margaret Brown’, tells of witchcraft and cunning folk, and brilliantly envelopes and haunts like its predecessors.

Exquisite Corpse is available here in a limited and desirable edition. It’s on its second run so be quick

Here’s a sampler:

Sack of Streams #12: For Hallowe’en



Here we are again, that time of encroaching darkness. So happy All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, Hop-tu-naa, Nos Galan Gaeaf, Blodmonath or Goth Xmas, to you all. Here’s some music to soundtrack the revenants, that scream in the forest and to honour the Great Divide.

Probably our best yet…

(photo by angrybonbon)

Katharine Norman’s stunning sound sculpture:

Night of the Living Dead re-scored:

Creeping haunted wyrd folk from The Hare And The Moon:

EMA on scoring duties for #HORROR:

Mater Suspiria Vision in all out giallo shocker:

House in the Woods. Our Head Technician again?

Creeping haunted wyrd folk The Hare And The Moon:

Tuonela on spooked drone duty:

Terrifying  noise Brilliance from The Dead End Street Band:

And of course, to finish, the customary dodgy Goff. Here we have the Sisters covering Hot Chocolate. Yes, you read that right.

Sweet Dreams…

Colossloth: Outstretch Your Hand for the Impress of Truth


So you go to a pub in another city and drink. Complete strangers (a couple) join you at the table. You somehow get chatting (band T-shirts = the ultimate ice-breaker). The conversation turns (inevitably in my world) to music. “What sort of stuff you into?” the gentleman asks. “Oh, sort of electronic, noisy, rocky stuff”, I respond. “Such as?” [Thinks of best way in]. ”Umm, Teeth of the Sea?” “Oh, I’ve supported them.” “GNOD?” “Yep. Supported them as well.”

Enter Colossloth. A bloke I met in the pub in Birmingham. Who gave me a CD of his latest offerings. Was this chance meeting meant to be? Such musings are beyond our remit.

Outstretch Your Hand for the Impress of Truth has blown me away.

Opener ‘The Flavour of the Weak’ has it all: menaced drones, shards of sharpened static, treated guitar, face-disfiguring crunching oscillators. ‘Your Flag Stands for Nothing’ is a sonic pummelling that sees a jack hammer bass obliterating idiotic nationalism, both overt and banal, whilst knives sharpen and cut away at apparent ‘stirring’ patriotic orchestrals.

What engorges the soul here is the plethora of questions that arise as you experience the assembled noises: where did that sound came from? What was its original form? What variety of torture has been performed upon it? What Hammond Organ was cruelly, yet brilliantly, maimed to make the inserts on the album’s title track? Is this the recollection of a significantly bad day in Blackpool?

The disturbing undertow to ‘The World Keeps Turning (On Me)’ could well be a voice detuned and stretched to intimidating proportions. The riff on ‘Of Talons and Teeth’ is incredible in its visceral abrasions. The circular feedback on ‘Paint Her Face to Simulate the Bloom’ is pure pleasure and the most sublime pain. ‘The Nameless Saint’ stands out with its devastatingly heart-wrenched piano and high frequency whines. It’s the closest thing to soundtracking death’s inevitability that I have heard for a long while. Both terror and redemption are here.

This is superb uneasy listening in the vein of Haxan Cloak, a more considered Merzbow perhaps, with echoes of Fennesz.

It’s essential. PURCHASE

HOX: Duke of York


HOX is a project from Graham Lewis (Klara‘s dad, Wire bassist) and longtime collaborator Andreas Karperyd, and guess what, surprise surprise, it’s on Editions Mego (a label which seems to have grabbed me recently). This album came out late 2015, and scraped into BBO’s Top Thirty of the Year with a brief mention, but now it deserves some more words.

Duke of York has a lot in common with Lewis’ earlier solo efforts, with some beefy updates and fresher sounds. Many tracks have a definite Wire feel, with Lewis’ buzzing bass and distinctive sonorous vocals. Others lean toward the He Said synthpop style. The first three tracks demonstrate this variation. Opener ‘Anthracite’ dives straight into the He Said/Mute/Ebb/Mode slow tech march territory, with a wry spoken commentary. Rocky guitars introduce my personal favourite ‘Javelin’, leading into a fast beat, driving staccato tune, distinctive Lewis vocals, and stuttering guitars. Then ‘Correct Co-ordinates’ is definitely Wire-y. No beat as such, semi-spoken lyric, mutating into an guitar and synth layered texture.

Tense stuttering synths crash into a driving beat and howling guitars in ‘It’s Too Much’, with the title being the only vocal. Direct and to the point. In a more mellow zone, flutey tones and plucked strings open ‘X In Circle’, then a crunchy groove leads into Lewis’ signature wordplay. Deep horns round off the mixture.

Want tribal drums via Nitzer Ebb with Kraftwerk jabs? Instrumental ‘White Space Conflict’ has you covered, while standout ‘Track and Field’ is a fun exercise in bait-and-switch. What starts out as a synth-driven instrumental on Mute records, suddenly transforms into a Warp-released pulsing workout, before veering back and combining the two.

‘Goodbye’ is a strangely naive song, clearly dedicated to a late beloved friend. Its simplicity and basic rhyming lyrics make it clear that this is a sincere and heartfelt tribute. Other than that, the tune is nice, there are some nice strings and boingy synths, with Lewis’ bass rumbling throughout.

To round off the album, ‘Frequency’ a very He Said sound. Simple bass and guitar with distant sounds, then the vocals appear very close in. The chorus is classic Lewis, with the whole managing to be soothing, tense, relaxed and paranoid all at once.

This album is a good collection of functional and interesting pieces. That sounds like faint praise, and it’s true that it’s hard to get too worked up about it, but in the area they’re working, Lewis and Karperyd deliver (and if you know me, you’ll know I’m not the kind to bandy the word “deliver” about). I will continue to be a fan of the Lewises if this is what I can expect. Buy it if you want.


Silvery: Christmas ’74


Silvery love xmas, or maybe just the ghost of xmas music past – the stuff you can still listen to, just, after decades of heavy seasonal rotation… 70s glam stomps in particular. Silvery have done this festive pop thing before, having released a few xmas EPs over the years. Even their rip-roaring cover of ‘You Give A Little Love’ is sort of xmassy, given that Bugsy Malone was a seasonal fixture on kids’ TV in the UK for what seemed like years.

Both Bars On have a tradition of xmas posts, too, though this year we’ve been a bit slow off the mark. There’s a bloggers’ theory that the sort of bands we like are more likely to put out xmas songs because – let’s face it – they’re not worried about fighting off TV show winners on Top of the Pops. So we’ve often had seasonal songs in before. Not sure what’s happened this year – do we know it’s xmas, or what?

Anyhow, Silvery present a couple of clever pop songs with their usual set of references – Victoriana, a glam/punk knees-up, daftness. Great fun. But my favourite, I think, is their latest contribution to the shaggy dog (cat?) stories they began with ‘Animals Are Vanishing (Or, Martian Invasion 1853)’ from Thunderer and Excelsior. This one is an updating of A Christmas Carol and I INSIST you listen to it, and listen to the end. You’ll thank me.

And here is ‘Animals…’ which, again, should be heard through RIGHT TO THE END.

So buy the latest EP here.



Teeth of the Sea: Highly Deadly Black Tarantula


The announcement of a new Teeth of the Sea release is always a seismic event round these parts. I think it’s fair to say they’re a band that unites all four of us in effervescent delight having fan-gushed over their previous albums (here, here and here). With the news of Highly Deadly Black Tarantula a collective ‘Ye Gods! YES!’ could be heard in Manchester, London and Abu Dhabi.

If ‘classic TOTS’ is now a permissible phrase, opener ‘All My Venom’ is such. It feels like a nod to classics (yes, I can use that) such as ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’ as trumpet, guitars, drones, and beats build and weave. What amounts to the single from the album, ‘Animal Manservant’, is even more venomous than its predecessor, with vocals akin to a catatonic fit, macerating beats and the lightest of stargazing melodies. If Perc were to collab (as the kids call it) with Keith Emerson I think this would be the mutated, but nonetheless lovable, offspring.

‘Field Punishment’ is the standout on this release. A chest thumping robotic funk, it’s EBM for an ageing rave generation and conjures images of TOTs bedecked in crisp white vests with legs spread in heroic übermensch stances (and a whole host of other Front 242 or Frontline Assembly imaginings). That’s probably not what they’re going for, but there’s no accounting for interpretation is there?

‘Have You Ever Held A Bird of Prey’ reveals the confidence of the band: four of its seven and half minutes are composed of a bare throb before it erupts into another dirty pulsating rhythm interspersed with keyhole surgery guitars. Please note: I give you those timings deliberately as the exploding of the upbeat section has caught me unawares on numerous occasions (twice involving hot coffee). It’s that moment in Jaws when the heads rolls out – you know it’s coming, but it doesn’t mean you won’t jump.

‘Phonogene’ continues the TOTs tradition of experimental tracks with human voices; this time it sounds like an answering machine having a bastard of a day.  Final track ‘Love Theme for 1984’ finds the band in more melancholic and poignant mood: a beautiful evolving slab of kosmic Berlin School, with hints of Klaus Schulze and Edgar Froese, brought together by tremolo guitar and distant brass melodies. As a final track ‘Responder’ it ain’t, but expecting something similar is a tad unfair.

Indeed, whilst Highly Deadly Black Tarantula is no Master in its overriding impact, it’s still undoubtedly and by far and away one of the best things you’ll hear all year. And that’s something we can all agree on. BUY



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