Various artists - Bourgeois Kerb Stomp (4 stars)

Bourgeois Kerb Stomp

Industrial dub power trio Ex-Servicemen split three ways for this experimental/noise cassette release


Self-described ‘industrial dub power trio’ Ex-Servicemen breaks down into its component parts for this three-way split. Cognisant of both the usefulness of technological ghosts and the fetishistic potential of physical objects, Herhalen (a Glasgow-based independent cassette / download label, run by Anthony Morrow and Chris Storey, and ‘devoted to experimental music, drone, noise and oddball electronics’) have issued this release both in pragmatic-but-intangible digital form and as a tantalisingly arty cassette package (each including a uniquely evocative Polaroid snapshot).

Largely crafted from drum machines and feedback, Lenina’s three short tracks consist of treble-heavy ear abuse and fatally obscured harmonics, with zero concessions to structure or development – the tracks start, transition and end mid-climax. There are clear strata though, with a rich molten vein running deep beneath the crusty grime and crud topping. ‘False Widow, False Panic’, the last and best, arrives in a tantrum of degraded guitar noise rammed face-first through a £20 cider-drenched amp not long for this world.

Ship Canal’s two ten-minute-plus contributions are more low-key. On ‘The Stigma of Drinking Alone’, spoken-word samples and emerging wooze entwine, while percussive crackles, maniacal cinema Wurlitzer and subliminal dub basslines ramp up the disorientation. The effect is much like vomiting off the end of a pier in a decaying seaside town. ‘Communicating Directly With The Restaurant’ finds Mr Canal reeling off a record of takeaway transactions – a greasy autobiography of barely remembered big nights out and quiet nights in – as the world around him spirals into queasy abstraction and skittering beats.

The most diverse offerings come from Splashy the Blame Shifter. ‘Petrol Station Homophobe’s whirring machinery and sparse, dusty piano result in something quite melancholically beautiful (or beautifully melancholic). The extreme-pans of ‘Excitement as Officer’ bounce charred, fetid synth pulses back and forth across your brainspace, then melt away into remote, dead-factory ambience. Finally, ‘South of Heaven’: a raging 12-minute torrent of scalding, churning harsh-noise tar and gleefully malevolent brutality.

Bourgeois Kerb Stomp is an inspiring, varied triumvirate, proving that DIY’s outer fringes offer not only gloriously intoxicating noise, but subtlety, depth and naked, grubby humanity.