Bruce Russell and Luke Wood – Visceral Realists (2019, VHF)
Easy there, pistolero! We’ve ‘a salve for yr sorry soul: a slab from Marginal Brevity mainstay Bruce Russell and in this case Dr. Bruce Russell with compatriot Luke Wood (any relation to fellow-fellow compatriot Chris Wood? No matter, me thinks Sean Dyche’ll want this on his platter). ‘Tis a tip toe through gritty analogue tulips! One part commentary on the 45 as a conveyor of messages (the linear notes muse that ‘there’s more information encoded in an old record than in a new one’), one part commentary on the 45 as a medium of delivery. Visceral Realists is eight cuts, each clocking in at just over 3 minute. The preferred medium of delivery for the pop music of yesteryear is discarded (or is it subverted? Or as the linear notes — that phantasm of authorial voice, transcending the limitations of space and time, exerting influence on the possessor/listener/reader — claim, inverted*) and replaced with pallid (in the best way) tape-sick bursts. The sound of the desert on LSD. Oh no, you misread. Not the subject under the influence of blotter, meandering aimlessly through the dessert. This is the very landscape itself being born and reborn under the star of molten lysergic soup.
Just when all is coming into focus again, that voice from nowhere and everywhere speaks again: the linear notes tell this listener that I’m doing it wrong. The LP is, much like what it purports to be commenting on, a 45 RPM disc. And it isn’t until the umpteenth time I’ve listened through that I realize I’ve missed the plot. Once I get my head on straight on the RPMs are clocking in as intended, the record is less murky, but still sputtering out of the speaker cones. ‘Large Diaphragm’, the third cut from the A-Side (or ‘V Side’, so says the label) is rock ’n’ roll swagger dissipating in the sun (funny enough, to these ears, the track is reminiscent of early 1990s Dischord and could easily be an interlude on Red Medicine or part of the Nation of Ulysses sonic agit-collages) before colliding with the rhythmic jouissance of a school yard clapping game. Pattycake in the age of capitalist realism.
On the B-side (‘R Side’), enter ‘Etonian’: an abandonment of the self-aggrandizing and dour lack of playfulness so rife within experimental music(s). Scratchy, skronky, flatulent – something we could all use more of. Aye, this some sonico invocation of Bakhtin’s love affair with the carnivalesque. Double yr money: the listener is treated to a farty segue into the closer, ‘Mobile Index’, an exit tune pockmarked with seasick melodies played on the wholly grotesque Casio (or at least some Casio-esque keyboard). And with that, the bedraggled circus actors squelch their malt liquor and kick rocks out of town. All in all a decent long playing record and the usual suspects (antipodes, spacey-thumbsuckers, Wally Ben-ya-meen-fiends, and anyone whose ever written for Marginal Brevity) are sure to dig it, regardless of yr chosen playback speed.
*Having read a sizeable chunk of B.R.’s writings on art and sound, I am acutely aware of his interest in Walter Benjamin and recognize this piece of wax’s ‘concept’ is about praxis. And indeed, pop music may’ve opted for the iTunes™ single by way of the compact disc, now superseded by the drab 10101010101010s of streaming services, so why not excavate the outmoded for its revolutionary potential…
See: Walter Benajmin, ‘Surrealism the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia’ in One Way Street and Other Writings (London: NLB, 1979), 225- 239; Bruce Russell, ‘Left-Handed Blows: Towards a technique of incognito’ in Left-Handed Blows Writings on Sounds 1993-2009 (Auckland: Clouds, 2009), 1-17; Bruce Russell, ‘Exploding the atmosphere: realizing the revolutionary potential of “the last street song”’ in Reverberations the Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Politics of Noise edited by Michael Goddard, Benjamin Halligan, and Paul Hegarty (London: Continuum, 2012) 244 – 259.