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.
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.
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.
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.