The Wire

Audio

Listen to an exclusive Helm mix

November 2011

An exclusive mix compiled and annotated by Luke Younger, aka Helm and one half of Birds Of Delay.

01
Joseph Beuys
"Ja Ja Ja, Ne Ne Ne"

My first encounter with the work of Josef Beuys was during my first visit to Berlin about 6 years ago. On the last night my host took me to a bar which was a hangout for local musicians, artists and pissheads. People were drinking and spinning records and around four in the morning when things started to get hazy, one of the DJs dropped this and it split my mind open momentarily – after all, you don't get many DJ's playing odd sound poetry records by European conceptual artists in London bars. I didn't understand anything about the piece at the time, but it helped to heighten the absurdity of the situation. I was later told by a friend that it was inspired by a funeral wake that Beuys attended where he heard choruses of people saying "yes, yes, yes", "no, no, no" in German whenever someone would speak of the deceased. I recommend hearing the whole thing in one sitting at least once, as the piece is over an hour in length and becomes progressively more deranged as it goes on.

02
Yellow Magic Orchestra
"Prologue"

YMO are one of my favourite groups and also one of the most unique and interesting pieces of the electronic pop puzzle. This is the final track from their Technodelic album – probably their best and most experimental record.

03
Severed Heads
"Hello Donald, Merry Xmas (Edit)"

Before Severed Heads went all EBM in the late eighties they made some very fucked up collage/Noise/early Industrial music that shares similarities to some of the early work of Boyd Rice/NON and even the Los Angeles Free Music Society at times (this piece in particular), but with a really odd sense of humour. The looped samples in this one crack me up every time I hear it.

04
Hieroglyphic Being
"Je Suis Musique"

Hieroglyphic Being aka Jamal Moss is, in my opinion, a visionary and true innovator. He's worked on the fringes of dance music for years but never received any commercial success within the genre and remains a cult figure. You could probably put this down to the fact that a lot of Moss's work (especially as Hieroglyphic Being, IBM and IAMTHATIAM) is often at odds with the genre. There is a sonic kinship with industrial music and the pieces are always characteristically primitive and rough around the edges. You can hear it in this track with the filtered white noise and rough drum machine thuds.

05
Ramleh
"The Hand Of Glory"

Ramleh haven't had the most straight forward history and it's made even more confusing now as the "rock" and "power electronics" incarnations of the group coexist in the same era. "The Hand Of Glory" was a single released in 1983 on the Broken Flag label (reissued by Harbinger Sound and Hospital Productions a few years back) and is arguably their, and power electronics, finest moment. The buzzing synths and hysterical vocals create an incredible spiral of tortured psychedelia that drags you under every time.

06
Bernard Szajner
"Welcome (To Death Row)"

Bernard Szajner is a relatively recent discovery for me and I have been listening to his music ever since I heard this track. I don't really know a lot about Bernard aside from the fact that he is French, plays synthesizers, was a member of the absurd French minimal wave/synth pop band the (Hypothetical Prophets) and has some great photos of himself on the net. So the rest will have to remain a mystery for now.

07
Peter Hammill
"Jargon King"

Peter Hammill will probably be remembered more for being the frontman of Van Der Graaf Generator, but if you dig into his solo records you'll find that he embarked on some curious excursions into weirder territory. Such as this track "Jargon King" from his 1980 album A Black Box, which could sit quite comfortably on any To Live and Shave in LA record from the last 12 years.

08
Underground Resistance
"Transition"

Underground Resistance are a bit frustrating for me. On the surface they intrigue me and draw me into their world, but more often than not I am underwhelmed by what I find there. There are gems to be found though, which make up for those disappointments, like this track. It's 10 minutes long but could last for an hour and I wouldn't care. The vocal (provided by a man simply credited as The Mercenary) is perfectly delivered and has an almost hallucinatory feel to it.

09
Robert Ashley/Idea Fire Company
"Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon/Stranded 1"

A powerful piece by the composer Robert Ashley where an anonymous female gives a disturbing account of a sinister and unexplainable act that was performed on her. Meanwhile in the background Ashley arranges percussion and atmospheric sounds that appear almost ritualistic.

This is mixed with a piece by Idea Fire Company from Massachusetts, USA. Born out of the Noise/post Industrial music of the 80s, IFCO was formed over 25 years ago by the core duo of Scott Foust and Karla Borecky. Over the years they have released seven albums and despite remaining fairly obscure, they are enthusiastically embraced in the hearts of those who know them. Their extraordinary dedication to their aesthetics and personal vision may have cost them a career in the shadows, but it has paid off bucket loads with regards to the quality of their music. Scott also runs the distributor/label Swill Radio which stocks a whole manner of quality records by similar minded artists, and has also been responsible for three classic albums by the now legendary group The Shadow Ring.

10
Pet Shop Boys
"Always On My Mind (Video Rip)"

I've always been fascinated by the idea of the duo in electronic music and the differences between the role that each member plays. In the case of PSB (and also Suicide), you have the mysterious guy in the back who works the machines, and the other guy who provides the charisma and engages the audience. PSB have obviously played up to that throughout their career but it's part of their charm. This is a YouTube rip of the video for "Always On My Mind" which is probably one of the best music videos of all time. The voice you can hear is the actor Joss Ackland, who plays the part of an eccentric passenger in the back of a cab which is being driven by the group.

11
The New Blockaders
"Changez Les Blockeurs (excerpt)"

My favourite Noise record of all time. The sound is so simple, stark and confronting that you can't help but wonder how it was made. It paints a weird picture in your head. I am thinking of a radio being turned on and off, a creaky old bicycle being ridden into some oil drums and a woman walking across a wooden floor in high heels.

12
Whitehouse
"Police Arrest, Live Action 22"

Before I witnessed the live spectacle of Whitehouse, I had this recording which painted an exciting image in my teenage mind. It was downloaded years ago from their MP3.com page and has remained on my parent's hard drive ever since. Recorded at their twenty second live action in London, it documents the moment when the 'filth' stormed the venue and shut the gig down. I still can't work out who is giving a very young Philip Best an almighty bollocking at the end. Click here for more info.

13
Call Back The Giants
"Passage To Arms"

This comes from my favourite record of 2011 which is The Rising by Call Back The Giants. CBTG are Tim Goss (who was in The Shadow Ring) and his 11 year old step daughter Chloe Mutter. "Passage To Arms" bookends the album, but I desperately wish it was longer than it was because it's a gorgeous piece.

14
Cocteau Twins
"Lorelei"

The Cocteau Twins' second and third albums are maybe, on a sonic level, the harshest pop records of all time. Their guitarist, Robin Guthrie, apparently said that he was more interested in how the guitar was recorded than what notes were actually played, which is something that I can relate to.

15
NON
"Romance Fatal Dentro De Un Auto"

It's a shame that a lot of the early work of Boyd Rice (and working under his NON guise) is often overlooked due to the superficial parts of his character taking favour amongst his fans and the press. His image now is almost that of a cartoon character and as the last decade has shown, he seems to have hit a brick wall artistically too. It's easy forget that before the Satanism and Social Darwinist elements came into play and infected his work, Boyd was one of the most challenging and innovative American artists of the late 70's and the first artist signed to Mute records (who found their own hit makers with Depeche Mode a decade later). It's great to hear these early NON records and be reminded that he was once not only capable of making some beautiful and powerful noise records, but could also turn them into fascinating objects with their locked grooves and extra holes that were hand drilled, off center.

Luke Younger is featured in The Wire 333 in an article by Matt Wuethrich.

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