BBBlood is the alter ego of London based noise wrangler Paul Watson. He’s been refining his brutal and soiled sounds since the early days of this century with a muddy stream of releases and copious live dates in London and all over the place. Live At The Crater Lake is a fine addition to this discography, a document of Watson’s 20-minute set at the Leeds festival of the same name in March 2013.
When I caught BBBlood live a few weeks ago at Café Oto, Watson kicked off his part of the proceedings with a cheeky bit of sound collage, chopping and layering all sorts of samples and found sounds into a tasty stew.
Here, though, he eschews such fancy-pants stuff, giving it what could be described as The Full Earthmover for the entire set, throwing out chunk after chunk of grimy sound-rubble to batter our brainboxes and traumatize our ear holes. A filthy low-end torrent dominates, with Watson giving it large and battering us with wave after wave of mucky nonsense. The sound of falling buildings, to be sure.
The, about halfway through the foulness abruptly drops out for a few seconds to leave just a high pitched metallic squeal. It stops, then starts, then stops again, as if a plug has been pulled, before lurching back into assault, tougher and more gangrenous than before. Another good bit comes around 13 minutes, with a lovely buzzing bit of feedback that seems to hover in the air above the crowd.The result of all this is a more sophisticated, if still chaotic, maelstrom. Less a teenage metal freak’s solipsism, more a virtuoso stab of aural overload, with all the thrills and spills that this implies.Yet, multiple listens do yield up some more refined treats. The first few minutes set up a nice sense of tension, giving us an ominous and buzzing thrum overlaid with rusty clanking, like a bunch of smashed up gear being chucked into a skip. Later, we can just about make out hints of voices and electronic burbles peer through the murk.
I have a real soft spot for live albums that show some kind of interaction between audience and performer, all too rare in these days of clinical performances and even more clinical recordings. I suppose Lou Reed’s Live Take No Prisoners is the acknowledged classic of that genre, with Lou’s wholesome monologues providing much entertainment for all the family.
(My favourite, if I can digress a bit, is a live recording of northern goth favourites The Cult, around the time of their Dreamtime album. Released as the B-side on the cassette version of that album, with all of Dreamtime-proper squished onto the other side, this recording sees chippy frontman berating the audience for its less than enthusiastic reception of the band’s workmanlike run-through of its current set. “We’re playing our hearts out here, AT LEAST YOU COULD SHOW SOME FOOKIN APPRECIATION” mithers Astbury at one point, at others deploying the most passive aggressive ‘thanks’ to the crowd I’ve ever heard in my life. Astbury’s fury always used to cheer me up no end as I listened to the cassette after a grim day battling through theories of price elasticity for my A-level economics exam.)
On Live At The Crater Lake, however, the tables are turned, and we hear quite a lot of what seems to be a pretty lairy crowd. “It was a tough gig to play as the crowd surrounded me from all sides and were roughing me up, so I played loud,” Watson told me in a Twitter exchange. Sure enough are plenty of heckles and hollers, and every time I listen I’m certain that Watson is seconds away from being torn asunder by a whooping mob of urchins, a bit like poor old Sebastian at the end of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer.
There’s comedy gold around the 15 minute mark, when, during one Watson’s unexpected drop-outs, we hear what can only be described as a bloodcurdling howl. I can’t really make out what this person is saying, but she seems to calling “PLAY SOME FUCKING VOLUME!!” which is quite funny and should be printed on a t-shirt without any delay, please.
In any case, by the end Watson’s won ‘em round, as proved by the cathartic yelps of approval as he cuts out for a false finish (I think our screecher lets rip with a far more conventional ‘FUCK YEAH!!’ at that point), before taking everyone surprise with another 30 second salvo of toxicity.
Live At The Crater Lake is wonderfully abrasive warts ‘n’ all blast of BBBlood. Pure warrior style, it highlighting his inventive take on debris-ridden analogue noise. I’m surprised he didn’t need a hose down after it.
The inability of the English to cope with the extremes of temperature is a well known one. Two days of the mercury rising is enough for most whilst two weeks of 25C+ is considered to be something of a national emergency worthy of headline news, continuous 18 point header fonts in the Daily Express and tips from the government on how to keep cool. I have to admit that while I do like to get out of bed in the morning knowing that my wardrobe for the day will consist of nothing more than a pair of shorts and short sleeve shirt I do find the heat to be somewhat draining. Thus it is was that last Friday afternoon I found myself sat in a queue of traffic with sweat rolling down my face all caused by me having to do nothing more than strenuous than breathing. Not having air conditioning and swimming pool here at Idwal Towers I find myself resorting to gin and tonics, I.P.A.’s, decent lagers and several open windows as an aid to fighting what we in England call ‘a scorcher’ and what in many countries is called ‘just another day’.
The small dark room from whence these missives emerge becomes so hot I sometimes wonder if it has a tin roof. Upon entering the room beads of sweat appear unbidden on my forehead and my clothes begin to stick to me. After two or three sweaty gasps I’ll grab whatever it is I’m after and make for the Poang and for what passes as breeze coming in through the front door. Thus armed with a pile of review material I’ll forgo the outdoor festivities that seem to consist of annoying everyone else with barbecue smoke and shit music and instead don headphones to soak up some vibes.
Seven cassettes and a CDR sampler later I emerge happier for knowing that with Soundholes we have someone who mans [womans?] an eclectic cassette label. I like Soundholes for the format and the aesthetics, for its genre scope and that it introduces new artists/bands to me.That some of them may be made up names or people going under various monikers only adds to my enjoyment and happy confusion.
As evinced by trying to Google tape loop constructivist Tina Turner whose two sides of Basinski like decay, are along with ‘Journey of the Mind’ the highlight of this particular package. Both decompositions have that wonderful languorous feel of being adrift on a mill pond, voices drifting in and out of your consciousness, chamber orchestras being deflated and sunk, things going by slowly in reverse. One side of Journey of the Mind also brings to mind Gavin Bryars soporific mid 70’s classic ‘The Sinking of the Titanic’, another colossus of decayed drone with the all too easy ability to pull you under. Perhaps the Tina Turner work is more forceful and less relaxing, a bit more urgent and star burst-y, think cycling multi-key Nitsch drones recorded on to Boots C120’s and degraded all the way down to a series of rough utterances.
More tape manipulation comes in the shape of Duncan Harrison but here the end result is harsher in parts and more chaotic overall with an array of wailing sirens, church bells, Islamic chant, reversed vocals and general tomfuckery [all ending in a TNB-ish trash noise-a-thon] being the ying to a yang that begins all spectral vocally but soon ends in a murky noise/drone.
And there is noise too, because where there is tape there is noise. BBBlood with some steam train noise, bubbling lava subwoofer noise, cresting waves noise, each side book ended with some kind of chill out ambience. ‘Being’ is also noise, needle fluff noise, Jap noise, everything in the red noise and then you turn it over and its even more in the red noise than the other side.
Roadside Picnic have ‘out there’ keyboard dabblings and spacey synth dabs, space age Noh music, low end rumbles and giant sized Sci-Fi organs emitting monstrous farts. One of the several tracks that they’ve managed to cram on to this C46 is all but silence as recorded in the middle of a nighttime forest with distant nocturnal birds and the spatter of light rain on tent sides.
Perhaps the stand alone release here comes from U Boat with some vocal explorations aided and abetted by sparse drum rattles, small gongs and wooden blocks. Like Sunny Murray sparring with Phil Minton. The vocals are of the running out of breath variety or what the Toddmiester might call ‘gurglecore’, as if some Lithuanian witch was casting spells in a rhyming kind of hymnal way and although I was left mightily non-plussed by it all I couldn’t help but like them for what they’ve achieved. Perhaps best listened to alone, at night, in the dark, when you're in a very receptive frame of mind.
Which leaves the sampler CD. Ten tracks all segued into one 46 minute lump where you can try and spot Optrex Ten Pints Never in and amongst BBBlood, Merit, Developer, Pax Titania and KPLR amongst a few others. Noise, drone, lots of things in-between and Oneohtrix doing the analogue boogie synth bit. Not bad at all and available to stream from the Sound Holes Soundcould.
[Yesterday there was an old woman in the pet shop. She was sat on a bag of feed worn out by the heat. A cup of refreshing hot tea to hand brought to her by the shopkeeper kept her from keeling over completely. She looked up at me and said in a weary voice ‘eeee its too ‘ot for me, I’ll be happier when it cools down a bit, I like a breeze you see’. This is probably the same woman who 16 weeks ago complained that it was too cold and that snow in March was evidence that the world had gone mad and that we were all better off when Labour were in power. And now the heatwave is no more. Thunderstorms and three inches of rain in eight hours last night. She'll be happier now.]
By far the best recording I've heard from this harsh noise project from Dayton, Ohio. Had the pleasure to see Being live in Gothenburg a couple of months ago (foreign harsh noise acts travelling through town isn't exactly something that happens every day). Was really into the first half which was basically just two contact mics being handled via two pedals each. Cords were moved slowly towards the table, sizzling and snapping. When it went into full harsh noise mode it all kind of confused and too messy for my taste, but still a pretty good show. 'Bent In The Shape Of Horns' starts out on the slower note with contact mic'ed breathy crackles, but eventually evolves into saturated but thick and at times heavy MSNP-echoed harsh noise. 'Silently Signal' on the B-side has this weird feedback running through the course, almost harmonising the distorted action. Not quite as striking as the A-side, but good shit nonetheless. Really into the sound quality on both sides, rotten tape decay but still somewhat clear and vibrant. All sounds cranked up to the absolute maximum of what the magnetic tape can tolerate, but keeping it just under the level where it all would have ended up in a shitty mess.
FÖRDÄMNING(Transcribed) Pick up a copy of Fördämning #2. Copies still available. Interviews with Idea Fire Company and Harbinger Sound are particularly excellent.