LP, 2008, RRR, Lowell. Sold Out
artwork by Jamie P. Keenan
Just spent a pleasant while listening to the LP “They Live” by Dave Phillips. This is my first album by the man. I do have some Dave Phillips work on various compilations, but this is the only full length album I own. A fact that will need some rectification. I got this one from my good friend Steve Underwood who once or twice a year mails me a parcel of stuff…..thanks Steve.
The sleeve gives nothing away. The whole package is one of non information. Swastikas replace the stars of the states of America on the front and that of the stars on the flag of the European Union on the reverse. Nice touch, but probably damaging sales in Germany and Israel. The LP is called “They Live”. Could be a soundtrack homage to the great John Carpenter film of 1988, or it could be a performance called “They” recorded “Live”? Could be neither. It’s on RRR Records and carries no catalogue number…I tell you, information is kept to a grand minimum here.
I know Dave Phillips as a performance artist, a relative of Sudden Infant and a member of Der Schimpfluch-Gruppe. He was also a founder of the thrash punk band Fear Of God, whom I’ve never heard. It is sometimes a worry getting stuff (audio) by a (mainly) visual artist. Often the releases are documents and mean little to folk who weren’t at or in on the event, so the disc went on the turntable with a little trepidation and a back up plan of sorting the washing out if it all went bland. No plan B needed, from needle to the record I was hooked. Attentively hooked. The start is of whispers and a struck bass guitar (amplified) - it reminded me of something. It was very Einsturzende ish maybe really early Laibach, the whispering turns in to chattering, in to straining, in to struggling. Passionate multi-layering of the voice. Very unsettling and in beautiful stereo. Side 2 and the bass is replaced for some time by the sound of (to these ears) a muted klaxon and the voices have become scratched and bowed violin strings. (Don’t know why but Mauthausen Orchestra sprang to mind - not the Italian nolise outfit either). It all builds in to an orchestral sized cacophony, the voices return as does the amplified bass thump. It all ends on a beautiful lock groove.
I may have met Dave Phillips. I am uncertain. I was in Berlin in 2000 in the middle of the Harbinger Sound Travelling Circus & Freak Show Northern European Tour with Putrefier and Dieter Muh when we stopped off in Berlin and camped at Daniel Lowenbruck’s flat for 3 days. (Berlin gig cancelled). One of the visitors that paid a visit to the flat was an English man who I think was Dave Phillips - we went for breakfast in a cafe and met people who could have been part of Column One. By this time the tour was in week two and time was spent being in an alcoholic fug. Beer was cheaper than water over there back then.
Hunt and find then buy this album.
Dave Phillips has produced one of the sickest slabs of vinyl I’ve seen and heard for some time. This is ghoulish noise from a blackened punk mind, full of agitated imagery comprised of Swastikas embroiled into the symbolic formations of western flags (namely US/EU). Banned from sale in Germany and a press release warning the listener that there is a valid case for them disliking the product is enough hype to at least wet ones appetite to what’s within. Seemingly, with such propaganda, the expectation to be disappointed is present, however, as soon as the needle hit the wax I was quivering with glee behind an angular sofa, like a child trying to escape the Daleks that peer through the saturated tube of their television. I throw down the record onto the deck and allow a random side to begin. This element of luck, this gamble of fate seemed appropriate as things begin. Sound fades in with a crawling vocal cacophony that sings with zombie voices from eroded floorboards. Images from brutal Italian horror movies spring to mind – fittingly full of heat-haze paralysis and the appropriate fascist patronage – colouring the extremities of ones mind. There is an ominous growl that leads the listener to an untimely death, as if into the slow digestive tract of some aged, haggard and malicious prey. The long movements fill minimal sides of vinyl allowing for a brooding intensity to take hold - effecting one with an intoxicating madness. As you flip the record, sounds thicken and vocals creep from the other side making the black slab immaterial, almost as a harbinger of some unhinged evil. As each side darkens, blackened fingers delve into a locked unit that simply divides one from one’s surroundings. I shall leave this brief as the record is simple, minimal and devastating, taking a course of individual bleak interpretation. Experience your own immorality. Come over to the dark side.(Peter Taylor, Digitalis Industries)
Dave Phillips – They Live LP - This is not a noise record, I guess the only description I can give is it’s an anarchist actionist protest record - Side 1 sounds like Otto Muehl having his way with Herman Nitsche, side 2 sounds like Herman Nitsche having his way with Otto Muehl - the cover is plastered with swastikas front and back, sorry export to Germany is strictly verboten - this is not a nice record and I have a feeling a lot of people wont like it – fuck ‘em, I think its excellent… Oh yeah, limited to 500 copies.(Ron Lessard, RRRecords press-release)
Dave Phillips – They Live LP (RRR) - La couverture évoque d’un côté comme un semblant de drapeau ricain avec à la place des étoiles des swatiskas, et de l’autre un semblant de drapeau européen avec le même symptome. La musique est une longue plainte sortie d’outre-tombe, un râle augmenté par des accords de basse, des cordes excitées, des raclement de piano ou des enregistrements de manifestation… Tortures en direct de la prison d’Abou Ghraib ou protest song version musique concrète actionniste ? Loin de la noise régulière du label, un excellent disque grave et sombre.(Metamkine)
As much as I enjoy listening to anything Dave Phillips produces, a large portion of his solo material literally makes me nauesous. Phillips has been a figurehead in extreme sound art since the 1980’s, first fronting the pioneering hardcore/noise band Fear Of God who, along with Napalm Death, basically invented the entire grindcore genre as we now know it before the band broke up in 1989. From there, Phillips moved into even more challenging and provocative sounds with the actionist-influenced Schimpfluch-Gruppe project, who combined the transgressive investigations of the Viennese Aktionists (Otto Muhl, Hermann Nitsch, etc.) with brief eruptions of controlled harsh noise and live performances that involved messing around with assorted bodily fluids and excreta. The recorded works that Phillips has been releasing in the past two decades has built upon that aesthetic, with a particular emphasis on the nauseating effects of contorting his vocals into gagging, heaving, retching sounds that are contrasted with stretches of near silence. His latest solo albums have been extreme to say the least, intense psyche-beatings that tend to violently twist my nerve endings whenever I subject myself to ‘em (much like the work of Randy Yau, who has actually collaborated with Dave Phillips before on an album that came out on Auscultare). On this latest LP-only release on RRRecords, Phillips combines his harsh aktionist performance with an undercurrent of manipulated drones and unnerving orchestral noise for a different, but still disturbing approach. The first side is a seriously ominous slab of plodding, minimalist dirge, where a single kick-drum pulse pounds away in slow motion while a deep metallic drone clangs and dissipates over top, creating something that sounds like a segment of a Khanate song pulled apart and stripped to just a spartan, spacious throb and looped over and over into a monotonous metronome pulse. When the track first starts off, it’s just dark stasis, a super minimal industrial doom throb beating like a black cancerous heart suspended in the middle of an abattoir, but as this piece continues on, the rhythmic pulse is gradually joined by inhuman voices, some grunting in gutteral, animalistic tongues, others mewling pathetic wordless protests, and still other filling the room with the sounds of vomiting and gurgling. The second side blends a sinister cello riff with high pitched violins scraping and humming, forming into a queasy, nightmarish chamber-music dirge that shifts and swells over the course of the lengthy 12+ minute track. The strings and drones build into a frenzied swarm of high-end skree as the piece continues, an endless field of fearsome buzzing that is spotted with martial drumming and the reappearance every few minutes of the cello as it roars over this diseased orchestra warmup in fearsome klaxon blasts, building and building in intensity as different quadrants of the “string section” drops in and out, the swarm of violins possessed by demonic intelligence and playing the same circular measure over and over and over, a relentless hornet-drone of strings swooping into total oblivion as it slips into a futile locked-groove at the end. It’s like hearing a Ligeti piece chopped up and sped up and rearranged into a scathing, scraping blast of monotonous orchestral fury looped over and over into infinity. This is highly unsettling and totally fascinating, and shows an interesting new side to Dave Phillips’s work . The record comes in a provocative jacket design that uses artwork from a UK print of the Philip K. Dick book Man in the High Castle, and is limited to 500 copies…(Crucial Blast)