Meeting Michael of His Naked Torso, and him failing to jam crushed glass under my foreskin, was almost a disappointment. Not that all noise band members have to behave like psychotic love children of Dennis Nilsen and DLT, but HNT’s racket does tend to conjure images of malicious weirdos collapsing metal staircases onto school trips of orphans. “Noise band” is unfairly reductive though – added to the skronk guitar and scrunched face screaming is bowed violin and molested cheap keyboard, compulsively itchy stop-starting, and the kind of symbiotic, locked eyes relationship that all the best duos, or lovers, have. They strip away the fripperies of melody to leave a convulsing mess of sonic wreckage, guts glistening like writhing worms. You can peg them as deliberate irritants if you want; I dunno, but if you’re going to be the sand in Cardiff’s musical Vaseline you may as well have big fucking grains.
Anyway, this is all a rambling way of saying: the noise this band makes is great. While it lacks the feral, sex pest attack of their demo CD (ask for it at gigs, they’re nice people), the debut Torso EP (released by utterly brill label The Lows And The Highs) crawls over a lot of ground, and stretches thrills to unsettling levels. Take ‘Moth’ f’rinstance, squatting in the middle of the EP like a bleeding Sumo: snatches of Japanese TV queasily tape manipulated, sped into flickering keyboards before making way for quiet guitar ooze that barely leaves the amps, while sparse percussion ticks like a lonely clock. It’s got a little of Wolf Eyes’s down-tempo dread, and is creepy as fuck. Opener ‘The Inside House Is The Outside House’ is more live performance HNT, scythed chunks of guitar crashing into splattercore drumming, screams compressed into harsh static. It’s the onstage dynamic of matched powers trying to catch each other out, skronk guitar meeting, er, skronk drums, and locking together into twisted, fleshy shapes. Equally tasty is closing track ‘Do As Andrew Does’, more noise wreckage alternating with head-collapsed-on-keyboard-low-end-guff sections. It’s playful, like child murderers.
So, five tracks in total, all rewarding repeated listens. There’s a grubby, wretched tone that’s perversely enjoyable, and hides much sonic strangeness and black humour (check ‘Baby Florist”s weird backwards scuttling or ‘Brutal Devastation”s airy, dancing, brutally crushed keyboard intro). Whether you find sticking your hand in a bucket of slugs a good or bad prospect is kind of irrelevant: ‘Afrikaans’ is a limited edition, beautifully packaged, bilious treat, and squirms in all the right places.
(Oh, and remember I said The Lows And The Highs are utterly brill? In the same package as the above was the latest (last?) release from The Failed NASA Experiment, the musical exploration vehicle of TLATH head honcho Murray Ward. ‘Between Staying And Leaving’ charts the gradual destruction of an acoustic guitar, strung out over eight characteristically fantastic sections of warped and gorgeous sound meddling, as Murray prepares to up sticks from Cardiff to Nottingham. It’s yet another dive into deep and wonderful waters. So long amigo)