Friday, April 6, 2012

Nurse With Wound - Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella

i'm going to let you in on a little secret; one of the main reasons i got into writing about music was solely as an excuse to sit down and listen to it. I have a very active mind, that tends to bounce across 15,000,000 topics in a day, until i'm a drooling imbecile by 12:30 a.m., after having successfully lived 12 lifetimes in 24 hours.

I am fascinated, and curious, by records that are considered 'classics,' that have a fetishistic quality about them. I feel like this feeling of religiosity oftentimes is due to the music leading the listener into uncharted territory, revealing a brand new continent of unexplored thoughts, associations, inspirations, values. A good example would be Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac; forward thinking art-rock from the early 00's, right? But if you read interviews from around that time, Thom Yorke claimed that those records were Radiohead' s attempt to make classic German psychedelic rock, and that if you liked their last two records, you'd do well to listen to Can and Neu, and Bowie's Berlin records, and i ended up getting turned onto a whole galaxy of acid-fried krautrock.

In the case of Chance Meeting, NWW's first album, release in 1979 on Steven Stapleton's own United Dairy label, there are several different traditions, weaving into an intricate tapestry of sound and ideas; between the S&M cover art, the title that references "Maldoror" by Leuatremont, and the infamous NWW list, with hundreds and hudreds of obscure art-house bands, some of which supposedly never even existed, Steven Stapleton and cohorts lead the listener down a hall of mirrors to the inner sanctum of 'serious' continental 20th century experimental music, the likes of Stockhausen and John Cage and Xenakis, with the utopian psych-rockers, like the Amon Duul's or Faust; to the then current school of Industrial terrorists like Throbbing Gristle, this record leaves you with a lot to chew on.

Musically, the title of the record is pretty astute: a chance meeting indeed - hippie guitar heroics ("he sounded like fucking Santana") meet with shards of feedback and ring modulation, mixed with tiny vignettes of tape and harmonium. Steven Stapleton has claimed that he was trying to make legitimate surrealist music, like a Salvador Dali painting put to tape; there is a rhyme and a reason, but a very tenuous and deranged one. This music can cause intense reactions in people, the abrasive nature of some of the sonics, and the abstraction and defiance of form or structure, make it a pretty uncommercial listen. It sounds almost friendly to me, 14 years after hearing it for the first time, but that's just because hours and years spent drilling into the NWW list and Steven Stapleton's back-catalog has driven me utterly, and unequivocally insane.

Part of what i am hoping to accomplish, by considering and drawing attention to older records, is the question, 'Does this stand up, in this day and age?' Steven Stapleton, along with John Fothergill and Heman Pathak for this record, had never made music before bullshitting their way into a recording session. What you get is the youthful and cacophonous exploration of sound, structure, and technology; unfettered and free, in the Albert Ayler sense of the word. Its exciting, and interesting to listen to, but makes Chance Meeting... any different or better than 17,500 youtube channels, soundclouds, and blogs out there, with people begging you to scope their sounds, other than this record is considered classic, a masterpiece? Does it hold up? Is it worthy of yr time and attention, possibly yr money? I feel, in the case of NWW, Steven Stapleton is a genius, an artistic force to be reckoned with. It seems like many meticulous hours were spent on these four tracks, and there is something to be said for care and craft. On top of that, Stapleton was well versed in the entire canon of underground music of the 20th century, and firmly grounded in the European surrealist/dada arthouse aesthetic, wicked smart, misanthropic, and ultimately hilarious.

The British proto-industrial has long held a special place in my heart and mind, since i was a fledgling goth kid with a head full of coil and acid, discovered art, magick, and my own soul, simultaneously, and are largely responsible for the creature i have become. I hope to post more of the records that have been hugely influential on my journey, in the coming weeks. It was nice to have an excuse to pull this one out and give it a 19th critical assessment, to see the ways in which i have changed, and the ways in which i remain unchanging.

Listening to Nurse With Wound will blow yr mind. It'll change the way you perceive sounds, the way you hear music, and the whole world becomes a macabre sonic automaton, a Brother's Quay music splayed out before yr eyes. It can make yr life more haunted, more meaningful, more romantic, more abstract, but it is not the easiest paths. Expect migraines and possibly night terrors. Spontaneous erections and weeping. Madness. Sublimity. Good art. Goodnight.

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