Stapperton is Johnathan Lee, a lovely man who I once sat next to at a noisy improv gig in Gateshead without having slightest idea of who he was, despite having received a cassette and accompanying – handwritten! – letter just a few short weeks before. That tape was this split with Bir, aka Larry Crywater (who you may also know from marvellous recordings as Maurice’s Hotel Death) its relatively recent release date only slightly mitigating the fact that my pre-release copy had been sitting on my review pile for … well, far longer than I’d care to admit. It’s out now, anyway, on Chicago’s Lurker Bias, a rewarding label to check out if you like the darker and noisier end of the experimental music spectrum. (I can personally recommend Cop Fetish’s Stone of Incest as well as the more recent Roadside Picnic/Bee Spit tape, although almost anything on the Bandcamp is worth noise-heads taking a punt on.)
Split releases are usually a game of two halves, which can force the reviewer to be somewhat undiplomatic about the side they don’t favour. Fortunately, this one is strong on all fronts, balancing aggressive fuzz (the Bir stuff) with electroacoustic gloom (the Stapperton side). Bir throws out some punchy noise vibes across their four tracks, with irregular percussive jolts roughing up the general blankets of static grizzle. Joan Collins Factory is right on the money, a spluttering drum machine spitting out springy snare snaps and funky beeps in a groove sufficiently locked to get even the most recalcitrant leather jacket moving, even as debris-filled streams of slurry curdle around it. Other tracks offer stacked banks of distorted grot in manner one might expect, but they’re grainy and detailed enough to push beyond cliché. Mondegreen in particular has a tasty dropout right near the end, so much so that one feels almost weightless as it hits. Nice stuff.
Stapperton’s cuts are a more muted, but they too explore interesting territory. The grit-teeth voltage groan of Extracted is a palate cleanser for the manifold scour of these tracks, with Deer 6’s ghoulish screech yelping like an eternally looped lament of a fawn dying alone on the moors. Semi-Elliptical Portal takes a while to shackle a lip-smacking PE thrash onto its languid growl, but when it comes it hits hard, its treated field recording whose shriek is as trebly as tinfoil armour. All of which sets thing up nicely for the radio-ham hissy fit that is Shortwave Analgesics. The close-mic’d panting – apparently sourced from a cassette designed for GPs – running throughout projects a claustrophobic intimacy that gives me the creeps, buddy, but I guess that encroachment on my personal psychic space is deliberate. And as a way to discombobulate without resorting to the usual shock tactics, well, I’ll vouch for it.