Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Mex - Do You Wanna Fuck Around? (2017)

Just to kick off in what will probably seem like one hell of a tangent, independent art cinema is, perhaps surprisingly, very much an unfamiliar realm for me. I've seen the odd thing inevitably borrowed from Ted at work, but most of those were weird and terrifying, and probably not representative of your average independent art cinema production. My friend Noel made purchase of a Ben Dover video whilst visiting London and so we watched a bit of that seeing as Noel was kipping on my sofa. For the uninitiated, Ben Dover produced a whole string of independent art cinema videos in which himself and a bloke with a video camera travel England, proposing sexual intercourse to random women working in shops, service stations, or just out walking the dog. The encounters seem casual and opportunist, even if they're almost certainly staged, and the appeal is probably mostly in the cheap and cheerful realism. Ben Dover's independent art cinema looks as though it could happen at the end of your road with one or more of the neighbours; and Ben Dover himself resembles a self-employed plumber more than a mogul of independent art cinema, although I suppose it could be argued that he sort of is a self-employed plumber. Anyway, all I can remember from the one Ben Dover production I watched was a scene in which our man enters an actress whilst persuading her to additionally stimulate the penis of the bloke with the camera, who accordingly chirps, 'This is indeed an unexpected bonus!'

Weirdly, it turns out that Mex once came fairly close to providing soundtrack music for Ben Dover; or at least I'm sure I read that somewhere. Do You Wanna Fuck Around?, subtitled Soundtrack Reflections on a Golden Age of Vice, is therefore an album of what could have been, music for imaginary independent art cinema productions. Naturally it's instrumental, barring snatches of dialogue invoking celluloid seventies blueys more than Ben Dover encouraging giggling cashiers out of their knickers. Musical cues come from psychedelia, bits of the Velvet Underground, and things which have since been reclassified as acid jazz in certain quarters - organ swirling over a big fat beat with blues guitar licks squirting hither and thither, at least as wild and sensual as those films always seemed to think they were despite so often resembling Abigail's Party with budget cuts in the wardrobe department. Doubtless owing to the inspiration of similar sources, whilst this could almost be a funkier, wrinkle-free Led Zeppelin in terms of instrumentation, musically it makes me think of Fatboy Slim, or rather what Fatboy Slim should have sounded like, that same sort of punchy bass heavy go-go but without the whole element of trying too hard.

As might be discerned from the first paragraph, I'm hardly an authority in the field of independent art cinema, but it seems to me that the one thing Mex gets wrong is that I don't recall ever seeing a bluey with music this good. In fact, the few I recall had awful midi-synth soundtrack music of a general type which ended up recycled as vapourwave and Go Kart Mozart. So here is an album which is actually better than the thing it's trying to be, if you see what I mean, and another argument for Mex as one of the most underrated artists and producers in the biz.

Procure yourself a copy by following the link to Mex under Some Stuff at the top left of this page.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Atari Teenage Riot - Burn, Berlin, Burn! (1997)

I expected this to sound like Altern-8 with a bit more welly, but as I now realise - admittedly two decades after everyone else - the hardcore of Alec Empire's Digital Hardcore label refers as much to the sheer racket of Bad Brains and other 500MPH American punk bands as it does to anything more closely associated with a dance floor. Many years ago when I was in Academy 23, Pete Williams - our drummer - told me that it was his ambition to combine punk rock and industrial music; because it was 1993, and everyone and their milkman had some fucking project on the go, because no-one would be seen dead admitting that they just wanted to rock the fuck out. It had to have a higher purpose, and inventing a cross between Bourbonese Qualk and the Cockney Rejects was Pete's, give or take some small change. Anyway, leaving aside the sheer arseache of anything invoking the much overused term industrial music, I guess Alec Empire beat him to it. The tools of composition may be the same as whatever it was 2 Unlimited used in construction of their mammoth eurosmash No No No-No No No No-No No No There's No Limit, except the samples are mostly a wall of punk rock guitar and the tempo knob of the drum machine has been twisted around as far as it will go; and surprisingly, the production is kind of rough and dirty, so it actually resembles early Nocturnal Emissions or something off the first SPK album more than anything. I expected noisy but sort of clean, maybe a variation on that Trent Reznor sound - but no, it's just a big fucking distorted noise, a bomb going off, over and over at rollercoaster headache velocity with some girl yelling about the evils of capitalism until she gives herself a sore throat.

If that sounds like a criticism, it isn't supposed to be. Like any form of music overdriven to the point of absurdity, the noise works on an almost physiological level with appreciation coming as much from the point at which it stops as from the actual distorted signal. It works as a slab of overwhelming rage delivered in short bursts, yet with the yelling conveying a much stronger sense of purpose than any of those Cookie Monster metal bands to which Atari Teenage Riot bear superficial sonic resemblance. This is what Sigue Sigue Sputnik failed to deliver combined with what riot grrrl managed only some of the time, but louder, angrier, and - against all expectation - more fun. I expect this also explains why the Prodigy turned their back on children's novelty records round about the same time.