MEMORY HOGS: a collection of ominous and metallic sounds not available in any shop

This is a compilation of 2020 weirdo music put together by one my fellow participants in the music-writing enterprise known Frank’s APA. For fear of setting the copyright police on him I will refer to him here as SB. I had the great idea of listening to the compilation and writing my impressions of the tunes in real time. So that you can listen while you read I include embedded YouTube videos of the tunes.

LINGUA IGNOTA ‘O Ruthless Great Divine Director’


Piano accompaniment, Ms Ignota’s somewhat overwrought operatic vocals. I keep hearing her saying “Everyone I know”, though looking at SB’s notes I see she is saying that everyone she knows is a fucking cop. I suspect a logical implication here that if i) everyone she knows is a fucking cop and ii) ACAB, then iii) everyone she knows is a bastard. Time to get some new friends then, Ms Ignota.

It gets a bit multi-tracked symphonic vocals as it goes on but it does not have the same “holy Jesus this is intense” quality as the ‘Do You Doubt Me Traitor‘ track from the Caligula album (heard on a previous compilation from SB) Though it does build and she sounds like she is completely losing it and speaking in tongues by the end.

Oranssi Pazuzu ‘Uusi teknokratia’ (from Mestarin kynsi)


As this one starts it sounds like it might get a bit metally, though there is a flutey sound in the background that gives things a certain Hawkwindy ambience. Then some grunty vocals come in but they are not overwhelming, at least not initially.

I see they are from Finland, that land of extreme music, so to some extent I feel like I should be comparing them to Maria ja Marsialaiset, who are another Finnish psych rock band notable to me for having an all woman line-up that includes one of my buds from the world of Belle & Sebastian fandom. But Maria ja Marsialaiset are rock and not metal and probably the kind of thing that might show up at the kind of psych discos my friend Mr W used to put on when there were events, which is not something I could say for Oranssi Pazuzu.

I think I would probably enjoy seeing these fellows live if they were playing at a festival that was not entirely dominated by this kind of music.

Oh wait it’s gone a bit quiet and ominous… is this a long fade-out or a prelude for some final gruntfest before the close?

It was a long fade out.

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou ‘Ancestral Recall’ (from May Our Chambers Be Full)


I like how Emma Ruth Rundle has the kind of name someone might have if they were playing Indietracks (the indiepop festival that takes place in a railway museum) despite not sounding even remotely indiepop. But I’m not entirely clear here where Emma Ruth Rundle ends and Thou begins. It all sounds a bit metally with lady vocals that alternate between being a bit quiet and almost whispery before going full on shouty screamy. So are all the vocals from Ms Rundle or does she do the quiet ones and someone from Thou does the shouty ones (which, on reflection, might not actually be lady vocals)? If the latter then maybe Ms Rundle on her own would actually be more at home at Indietracks than I initially thought.

Uniform ‘Delco’ (from Shame)


More metally music. The vocals seem a bit distorted rather than being grunty, screamy or shouty. Good hessian music. I am actually headbanging as I sit at my computer here.

Clipping ‘Looking Like Meat’ (feat. Ho99o9) (from Visions of Bodies Being Burned)


I think it was seeing Clipping live at the Helsinki Worldcon that really brought home how their unique selling point is combining rapping with Warp-style beats (though I am sure that many musical experts will be able to let me know of many other other acts who did exactly that long before Clipping did and/or explain that actually Clipping do not sound anything like any of the Warp acts).

Overall though I am left with the sense that Clipping are an act I really need to see live to truly get.

There is some bad language on this track.

Mary Lattimore ‘Don’t Look’ (from Silver Ladders)


She play the harp but she play it different to other harp ladies like Joanna Newsom or Áine O’Dwyer. Three minutes in and this is starting to sound a bit ominous. And now the instrumental palette is expanding beyond the harp. It is very likeable; further investigation may be required.

Villaelvin ‘Ghott Zillah’ (from Headroof)


This makes for an interesting contrast with what went before as it opens with what could be the sound of someone using a sledgehammer to break through a wall. It is an interesting piece though in that the ominous noise is not married to grunty metal or drill n bass music like momma used to make.

Himukalt ‘Another Body’ (from Sex Worker II)


OK this sounds like something from that guy who just happened to be named after a serial killer who made the record about the floor crawling with cheap pornography and stuff. Lots of static, ominous accompaniment, creepy spoken word vocals at the edge of hearing.

When this was originally described in the pages of Frank’s APA by SB, I suggested that perhaps the album’s depiction of the world of sex workers and sampling of their speech is exploitative, serving up visions of a disturbing lived experience for the edgy delectation of hipsters. Listening to the track now I am not quite sure what I make of it. There are some snippets of conversation from what might be sex workers here, but they are a bit indistinct, making it hard to put them down as informative or voyeuristic. It is all pretty ominous though.

Darren Korb ‘Through Asphodel’ (from Hades: Original Soundtrack)


Initially it is ominous and melodic, almost Balkan influenced, but it feels like there is going to be a break where heavy guitars and grunty shouty vocals come in.

Guitars coming in now, but it is still melodic metal. Actually looking at where we are in the track (barely two minutes to the end) I now think it unlikely there will be a big break, for all that it is getting more rhythmic. I think this would all have been less of a surprise if I had registered that it is from a video game soundtrack, as it definitely feels like the musical accompaniment to action of some kind.

Full of Hell, HEALTH ‘FULL OF HEALTH’


The song title makes it sound like this will be a track by some kind of wholesome all-American band with lovely teeth singing about the joys of the straight edge lifestyle.It does not sound like that but rather boasts the heavy guitars and grunty vocals I was expecting on the previous track.

Duma ‘Kill Yourself Before They Kill You’ (from Duma)


The title reminds me of the tagline to the film Futureworld, which was some kind of sequel to Westworld: “The only way to survive is to kill yourself”. I think the film was about people battling robot versions of themselves but when I was small and saw a clip from it on Screen Test I thought it looked so terrifying (people being blown up in explosions etc.) that the tagline meant that things were so bad for the characters in the film that suicide was their best option. I don’t think that’s what the people behind this tune had in mind. The track might be described as electronic metal – something with a metal sensibility created without obviously using traditional metal instruments.

NORDRA ‘Remembering’ (from Pylon III)


Oooh, this starts like the soundtrack to some 1970s horror film. I see from SB’s notes that this was written for a dance piece, so I am somewhat imagining it being for some kind of Suspiria knock-off, though it gets a bit less 1970s horror as it goes in, while still sounding a bit… ominous. It’s quite short by the standards of the pieces on this compilation and might perhaps be best appreciated in the context of the full album. I like it though, good music for when you want to create and edgy and threatening vibe.

Divide and Dissolve ‘8VA’ (from TFW)


Another piece of what might be called dark ambient, although sounding like it might have been made from treated instruments rather than pure electronic fiddling. OK then there are drums, which are a bit less ambient, but it still feels like mood music rather than a two-tapper. And then some wind instrument that sounds almost Middle Eastern. Jazz metal (except not metal)?

Ben Babbitt ‘The Clearing’ (from Kentucky Route Zero – Act V)


And this is another game soundtrack tune. I am unfamiliar with the game though combination of banjo twangings and what sounds like field recordings of the natural world (in Kentucky) makes me wonder if this is an unauthorised game adaptation of Deliverance.

And so it ends.

Disapproving Cat
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My Invisible Jukebox

In popular music journal The Wire they have this recurring piece “Invisible Jukebox”, where they play music at a special guest without telling them what it is to see if they recognise it and then to hear what they have to say about it. The pieces are usually relevant to the guest’s own work – things that influenced them, things that they influenced, sometimes their actual work itself, etc.

In less well-known paper of record Frank’s APA my bud William Crump had the great idea of doing his own invisible jukebox – putting his digital music collection on shuffle and then writing about the tracks as they came up before checking what they were. And now I have done the same. I shuffled through my iPod and these ten tracks came up. I wrote about them while listening to them and then afterwards checked what the tracks were. Read on and marvel at my inability to recognise tunes and scoff at the pedestrian nature of my music collection. Italicised comments are later notes.

Track 1 The Shop Assistants ‘Nature Lover’ (1986)

Big guitar intro. I think this is the Shop Assistants or maybe some other indiepop act who based their entire career on pretending to be the Shop Assistants. It is not a song I am very familiar with but I like the singer going on about how bored she is by everything. The song is also quite short.

I decided a while ago that the Shop Assistants are not actually that great but this song is quite appealing.

Track 2 LCD Soundsystem ‘Disco Infiltrator’ (2005)

This is electronic music of some sort. I think it might be LCD Soundsystem. There is somewhat perky dance music and vocals about being a disco infiltrator. I bet that is the title of the song. If it is LCD Soundsystem then it must be from the first album as that is the only one of theirs I have.

This is a bit of a toe-tapper: not necessarily a total banger but the kind of tune that you would happily bop away to if it came on at a nightclub. I am going to look a bit silly if it turns out not to be LCD Soundsystem, but it is reminding of how they were a pretty good outfit before they decided to mutate into clones of the Arcade Fire.

It’s going a bit plinky at the end.

Track 3 Emmanuelle Parrenin ‘Ritournelle’ (1977)

This sounds like it might be folk music of some kind. I am hearing some kind of funny stringed instrument at the start, though whether a bowed or bouzouki type thing I am not sure. Then it starts sounding like the instruments might be a bit treated, suggesting that we are in the world of people who are progressing traditions rather than preserving them. I have no idea what it is though, my ignorance of folk traditions shining through here. Romany music, Balkan music, could be anything really. I wonder will there be vocals. No, it faded out.

And this comes from “Further Fore”, a CD-R compilation put together in 2012 by the mysterious figure known only as Devastating Dave.

Track 4 Karlheinz Stockhausen ‘Bläser-Akzente Nach B’ (1969)

Some kind of discordant orchestral introduction here – but will it resolve into some kind of Steven Boyer style ominous metal or something else? Actually no it just cut to the next track. I suspect it might be a bit from an orchestral piece that was divided up into a lot of short tracks, perhaps by Stravinsky.

It’s from Hymnen, Dritte Region – Electronischen Musik Mit Orchester, the third part of Stockhausen’s reworking of various national anthems. The track title might be incorrect. You can hear it here, where it is listed as track 18, “Russische Brücke (Russian Bridge): Gruppen-Dynamik (group dynamic levels)”

Track 5 Magnetic Fields ‘How Fucking Romantic’ (1999)

This is ‘How Fucking Romantic’ by the Magnetic Fields, from 69 Love Songs. One of the songs on that album I might normally think of as filler. A capella. Short.

Track 6 John Cale ‘Fear Is a Man’s Best Friend’ (1974)

Piano introduction then some bloke comes in with vocals. Until I heard the singer’s voice I thought it might be Sparks but now I have no idea what it is. Oh wait, is this John Cale? Vocals about being on the prowl. “Life and death are just things you do when you’re bored”. I think the chorus is something about fear being a man’s best friend, so perhaps this is a song called ‘Fear’ from the album of the same name. What’s it doing in my iTunes collection? I didn’t know I had anything by John Cale solo. Or maybe a compilation of his crossed my path a while ago, that must be it, your honour.

And it is from Close Watch – An Introduction To John Cale, which I had obviously ripped to iTunes and then forgotten about.

Track 7 Sonic Youth “Drunken Butterfly” (1992)

This is Sonic Youth. Kim Gordon vocals. I’m not 100% sure I know the song’s name but I do know it. It’s the one with the “I love you, I love you, I love you, what’s your name?” chorus. Probably from Goo or Dirty.

This is reminding me of how much I like Sonic Youth and their music that manages to be nod to the world of edginess while being epic at the same time.

And it is from Dirty.

Track 8 Mavis Staples ‘Down in Mississippi’ (2007)

A woman sings. Possibly an African American woman. She sounds like she is singing some kind of blues tune, lyrics referencing Mississippi etc. But I think this is something relatively recent: it is clearly not a vintage blues recording as the musical accompaniment sounds a bit too polished and recent. And as the song goes on the lyrics reference the civil rights struggle and Martin Luther King himself in a way you would not get on the vintage records.

I am really curious as to what this will turn out to be and how it comes into my collection. I bet it is from some kind of Mojo compilation.

It’s from a 2007 end-of-year CD-R compilation put together by Lorraine G.

Track 9 Little Johnny Taylor ‘Zig Zag Lightning’ (1966)

Some class of Northern Soul track I think. “If you love me baby I’d do anything you say”, the singer reports. Oh wait, there is some brass coming in, maybe this is Southern Soul (i.e. the good stuff). I’ve no idea who this is but as Northern Soul and Southern Soul are both stuff you buy by the yard it does not really matter.

It’s from the compilation The In Crowd – The Story Of Northern Soul.

Track 10 Beach Boys ‘California Girls’ (1965)

And this is ‘California Girls’ by the Beach Boys. It is a great song even if for many of our generation it has been poisoned by the cover version unleashed on the world by Dave Lee Roth.

Listening to this is reminding me of what a great pop act the Beach Boys were in their heyday. And I am reminded of the conventional Beach Boys narrative, that Mike Love is the villain of the piece with his opposition to Brian Wilson’s moves in a more progressive direction. But is that a rockist argument? If Love wanted to stick to pop songs like this then who is to say that he was wrong?

I’m also reminded of the reported time when some of my Frank’s APA buds went to a karaoke place and sang ‘I wish they all could be Brian Eno’ to this tune.

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Anne Dudley Invisible Jukebox (Zang Tuum Tumb And All That)

“The Burger and the King: the Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley” (1996)

This documentary was made for the BBC’s Arena programme by James Marsh, a heavy hitter who also made Wisconsin Death Trip and Man on Wire before moving on to feature films. The premise of the film is simple enough: tell the story of Elvis’s life through the food he ate at different stages in it, thereby exploring the King’s ultimately problematic relationship with sustenance. We see Presley’s life as shaped by the poverty in which he grew up, with his later craving for copious amounts of fatty and unhealthy food a reaction to his early years of hunger. But is that a reductive argument? Lots of people grow up in poverty but they do not all develop problematic relationships with food. They do not all grow up to Elvis either.

The film is quirky, humorous and poignant. To some extent it is a sad film, as you get this sense of Elvis as ultimately a lonely individual who lived an isolated existence. Yet Elvis himself remains unknowable, as the film is based on interviews with associates, employees, and random Elvis experts. The King’s voice is heard in archival interviews, but he remains ultimately mysterious. We perceive him through what the others say about him and what he eats, constructing a sense of him from that.

There is an affection for Elvis in the film. The film does not really dwell on the more unsavoury aspects of his life and you are left with this picture of him as a somewhat simple soul who somehow became a godlike figure, with an appetite for food to match. Those of his employees and associates who appear largely avoid breaking the spell (apart from his stepbrother, who talks about being fired for asking Elvis where he was going to put a second pizza). Their narratives may be somewhat self-serving, of course – they all to some extent seem to have been enabling of Presley’s self-destruction, either cooking his unhealthy food for him or smuggling pizzas and burgers into him when he was in hospital and supposedly on a strict diet. Yet they were his employees and ultimately I think it was for Elvis to decide what he was going to eat, not for his servants to dictate his diet to him.
I think perhaps the most appealing person in the film is Mary Jenkins Langston, Presley’s longtime cook. There is something charming in her accounts of making the terrifying fat laden food that Elvis loved. And Elvis clearly appreciated her efforts, employing her till his untimely death and even buying her a house as a gesture of the regard in which he held her.

The quirkiness and humour come from the way the film is put together. Opening shots of a row of Elvis impersonators tucking into burgers and soda give way to interviews with characters that often come across as a bit odd. The nurse near the end who boasts to female viewers about having given Elvis back-rubs (“Girls, I’ve done it all!”) seemed almost to have sprung form a Werner Herzog documentary. And then there are odd episodes like the time he flew to Denver on a private jet to sample a restaurant’s sandwich that someone had told him was especially tasty (he did this without leaving the plane). But the lasting impression is of a life shaped by poverty, of a man whose early diet was supplemented by squirrel meat (film includes helpful recipes on how to fry squirrels) and who hated upscale restaurants because he never learned to eat properly with knife and fork.

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Elvis impersonators (BBC)

Elvis Presley eats a burger (Carnival Saloon – The Burger and the King: A conversation with director James Marsh) (read this interview, it is brilliant)

Mary Jenkins Langston (Shared: 7 Of Elvis’s Favorite Foods, And How You Can Make Them)

Watch it on YouTube:

Welcome to Pleasant Green

As you know, I have been enjoying The Lovecraft Investigations, the trilogy of audio dramas loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft’s fictions. These were made by Julian Simpson for the BBC, and poking around online revealed that Simpson had previously made a number of other audio dramas that partially overlap with The Lovecraft Investigations, to the extent that some have started referring to a Pleasant Green Universe. Unlike the trilogy, these are no longer available for download on the BBC website, but if you have mastered the mysteries of the Internet Archive and its intellectual property defying ways then it is easy enough to track them down. Although there are links between many of these, they are self-contained dramas, so they might be good places to start if you want to dip your two into the world of spooky audio drama.
I meant to listen to these in date order but by accident I listened first to Bad Memories (2011). It starts with some students breaking into a derelict house and finding a load of dead bodies in a basement. Then it jumps forwards to an investigation of corrupt audio files found on a digital sound recorder of one of the dead people. We follow a sound expert as she extracts and cleans up the audio files, which in stages reveals what happened in the house. The recordings seem at first to have been made by someone purporting to be journalist who is interviewing the man of the house, a prominent architect, but there is clearly something else going on. It is not too long before we start hearing snatches of electronic voice phenomena on the audio recordings, bringing me back to my misspent youth spent listening to the flexi-disc that came with The Unexplained (find it on YouTube if you dare).

Bad Memories is absolutely terrifying. The listener knows the people in the house are doomed (not a spoiler, they are DNA-identified as the people in the cellar in the first five minutes) so there is a mounting sense of dread as the drama moves towards its inevitable conclusion. The use of the audio files to present events in the house is an impressive narrative device that focusses our attention on sound, and the EVP emphasis makes this something that could only work properly as an audio drama. I cannot recommend this one highly enough and I urge readers to check it out.

Fragments (2006) brings us to actual Pleasant Green, an apparently peaceful town or village in Kent from which people commute to jobs in the City of London. Again we have sound recordings as a plot device in a multi-layered narrative. A teenage girl is being interviewed by the police. She appears to have murdered a local man but her responses to police questions are enigmatic. Separately we have snippets from sound recordings made prior to his death by the murder victim, who appears to have been spying on the village with concealed cameras and hidden microphones. Fragments is intriguing but for me did not pack the same kind of punch as Bad Memories. Probably still worth your time.

The Listener (2008) brings us into science fiction territory in a drama that bears some relationship to themes found in fiction by Philip K. Dick. The protagonist is a police operative who suffered brain damage in a terrorist attack, destroying the brain’s memory centres, leaving him with no memories from before the attack. He can only record new memories externally thanks to a pioneering new technology, but as the drama goes on he begins to realise that these external memories are being tampered with and that he is not really the person he thinks he is. Overall verdict: pretty good but I found the moral equivalences between the bad cops and the bad terrorists a bit jarring here.

Kokomo (2013) is not a dramatisation of the popular Beach Boys song but rather is concerned with government investigators desperately trying to respond to a computer virus that is causing global IT networks to collapse. I listened to it a few weeks before the cyberattack that shut down the Health Service Executive here in Ireland, so when news of that broke I had concerns. Much of Kokomo is taken up with a negotiation between a government agent and the three people behind the cyberattack, who go by the names Pantalone, Harlequin and Columbina, with some clever conforming by them to the character’s parts in the harlequinade. That might sound like a fairly static narrative (four people in a room talking), but the drama leads us on a trail of twists and turns over the course of its 43 minutes. I definitely recommend this one.

Fugue State (2015) is also set in Pleasant Green. Or a Pleasant Green: I’m not sure this is the same place that was in Fragments or even the one that was in The Lovecraft Investigations, for all that there are definite overlaps with the latter. In this one something strange has happened in Pleasant Green. The people seem to have shut down and no communications are coming out bar some kind of weird numbers station broadcast. A government agent was sent in to investigate, but when he staggered out of the village he collapsed into a coma (the fugue state of the title). A doctor tries to bring him back to wakefulness by playing him sounds designed to reactivate his memory while other agents struggle to decipher the numbers broadcast. It all gets a bit Sapir-Whorf. It is good, though the resolution reminded me a bit of the 2016 film Arrival (which in turn was based on a 1998 short story).

Thus far the dramas have nodded to each other and shared links based on recurring cast members, but now I bring you to three standalone dramas that are explicitly joined to each other, with recurring characters and setting, these being Mythos (2017), Glamis (2018), and Albion (2018). These three feature the Department, a shadowy organisation of the British government that investigates weird stuff, with characters who show up in The Lovecraft Investigations. I was not mad on these, to be honest. The upbeat jokey tone meant they felt very different from both the other dramas previously mentioned and from Simpson’s Lovecraft adaptations. By making the protagonists themselves semi-supernatural, the Mythos series turns the uncanny into something familiar, thereby shearing it of its air of threat. And in their relentless archness I was reminded of the worst aspects of nu-Doctor Who. These three may not be worth bothering with unless you have fallen into completist modes of thinking, though your mileage may vary.

An odd feature of these dramas is the recurring appearances of various Julian Simpson regulars: Nicola Walker especially, but also Jana Carpenter, Phoebe Fox, Steven Mackintosh, Mark Bazeley and Tim McInerney. I don’t know if it is the way she acts or the way her characters are written, but I kept thinking Nicola Walker was playing the same character in all of these (and that’s without going into the reveal that occurs late in The Shadow Over Innsmouth).

Overall these dramas are definitely worth your time. As you can see, I think some of them are better than others but there is a cumulative effect to them that makes even the less good ones enjoyable. As noted above, they are not currently available to be streamed or downloaded from the BBC but you can find them on the Internet Archive. I think they might also be on Soundcloud.

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Recording Bad Memories (Sweet Talk Productions)