I call it the gargleplex. A loose constellation of artists for whom the human voice, in all its enigmatic beauty, is a central element of their sound making. Yes. I know. I made it up. But bear with me.
The Dictaphone wrecker that is Posset has a prime spot in the gargleplex. It encompasses vocal free improvisers like Ingrid Plum, Phil Minton or Maggie Nichols, post-Cageian chancers such as THF Drenching, Luke Poot or Duncan Harrison, and cyborg poets in the mould of Viv Corringham or Iris Garelfs.
These lot – Posset included – don’t give a toss about the habitual role of vocals in music as carriers of linguistic meaning. They prefer to explore the vast sonic hinterland that is, potentially, available to anyone with a pair of lungs, a throat, a mouth. Even when something approaching lyrical content is deployed, as in Yol’s tense, fractured poems, this forms just one element among an irregular mosaic of grunts, howls, pants, coos and murmurs. Thus the voice regains its uneasy, unsettling weirdness.
The technology used for recording or manipulating those utterances can also play a key role. Gargleplexers may use it to change their voices, harnessing the infinite possibilities offered by digital processing. Or they may want to highlight the imperfections of their chosen formats. Tape, for example, delivers both texture and juxtaposition, while those Posset Dictaphones are capable of obscuring the sounds they capture almost entirely in a torrent of spindle-driven harshness.
Here are two Posset releases that delve into the far reaches of the gargleplex, plus another that, while not quite inhabiting the gargle realm, yields an equal haul of delights.
Posset: Totally Corporate!
‘Totally Corporate’ is pure Posset. Unsteady whines of low-battery motors drive slurred, narcoleptic utterances. Cavalier swipes of the fast-forward button prompt well-wound screeches and linguistic gobbets that, torn from their context, form pure mouth-sound. This is proper aural muck and grit and needs to be wallowed in. So, while I have no idea whether Mr. Posset (aka Joe Murray, as you well know) is actually reading the track list for Napalm Death’s ‘Scum’ into a broken tape recorder, as his piece of the same name would have it, it’s no biggie. Perhaps if I sped up these corroded phonemes like some reverse nutjob investigation into Beatles-related Satanism, I’d find out. But I prefer the textural, rather than textual, nuances that seep into my ambience as the cavalcade of entropic splutters plays out.
Elsewhere, cheeky urchins recite strings of numerals, taunting us by withholding any significance. Always the mutter of conversation is framed by squidgy burbles and fine-ground fizzle. That a Posset album can range through this disparate material without needing any kind of unifying theme and still be a wondrous listen is one of life’s perennial mysteries. But satisfying it is, from the slap and tickle garble of ‘Memory Piece for Shipley Art Gallery’ that honks and chatters like herd of pissed-up geese trying to remember the words to their favourite Minor Threat deep cut, to the muted, growling scuffles of ‘FLAMFARNFEN’, and the hot-water bottle drones, clanging bells and daemonic murmurs of ‘Homage to Robert Thorn from his son Damien’. A keeper.
Posset: Incumbent Failure Ambassador
Produced for Bells Hill, Whitley Bay’s finest kitchen-based cassette and CD-r label, ‘Incumbent Failure Ambassador’ contains three slices of Posset that adopt a more mordant stance than other recent outings. To be fair, the brief was to produce something ‘sedate, skeletal and vocal’, criteria to which Murray has fulfilled with restrained aplomb. Here, tubercular gasps moan out in solitary lament before getting mired in juddering electro-sludge. Familiar ferric grizzles are recast as banshee wails and huffing tempests. ‘Rusty Xam Bass Wax’ matches buzzing insectoid clouds with blurts of feline outrage. Both dance to the beat of a clonking, honking rhythm that shifts from chilled grooviness into terrifying ritual omen in roughly the same time it takes for me to fish my teabag out of my mug and chuck it in the bin.
‘Goob-Huf-Huh’ has an opaque bass throb that places it closer to some electroacoustic grind than the usual jaxx-ination. Abstract slithers scuff the smooth façade, until a rush of pitched-down cut-up blather dumps a linguistic slop bucket over everything. Between them are the circling whistles of ‘Technological Music’, its guttural chimes prancing over woozy silicate drones that contain just enough Frippertronic whine to lighten the dourness. It may be an outlier in the Posset catalogue, but ‘Incumbent Failure Ambassador’ is well worth your time. If you can get your mitts on one of the un-numbered 18 copies, that is.
KEK-W & Posset: TWANGERS!
‘TWANGERS!’ transforms the classic mode of school-age noise mischief – the flip of ruler on desk – from everyday nuisance into considered sound art. Twanging in its native form has perennial interest for generations of cheeky blighters. Indeed, just the other day I was informed, by a younger member of the WNNS clan, about the various disciplinary processes meted out to contemporary teenagers foolish enough to disrupt their pedagogic environments with such techniques. But it has been ill-served by experimental musicians up until now.
Of course, the equipment deployed for ‘TWANGERS!’ is far from your common or garden classroom measuring stick. These twangers are purpose-built for the job – the specifications are available on the Bandcamp – their various clangs, rings and scrapes offering wider sonic potential than yer bog-standard boinngggg. The duo recorded a bunch of these outputs and then sculpted them into a set of gritty, layered compositions, whose constituent elements snap together like parts of an esoteric mechanical object. ‘Twang Three’ sets up a rather fetching wiry skank, through which threads a mournful plucked melody, the rubbery sustain-free notes decaying almost as soon as they’re flicked into life. Even better is ‘Twang Six’, a jolly clockwork jaunt whose aluminum lollop sheds dusty, syncopated shards as it flops around its strange cycle. A lovely tribute to goofball invention.