Tuesday, 11 April 2017

School of Underground Scrape Part 5

This is largely referring to the Quebecois constellation that features killer fiddle instrumentalism of great interest to anyone wishing to take part in strung resistance.

Black Ox Orkestar - Ver Tanzt
This is by no means a fiddle heavy album, but when the fiddle is in - it is HEAVY. There are some fantastically harsh, down-trodden Yiddish violin sounds in here, a cry from a culture and language that was almost eradicated by the horrors of WWII. Indeed, from my understanding, the revival of Yiddish culture is part of Black Ox Orkestar's M.O. Heart-rending punk klezmer from various Godspeed!, Thee Silver Mount Zion etc, associated Qubecers. Get your ears around it ASAP.

HangedUp & Tony Conrad - Transit of Venus
Duo of violist Genevieve Heidek and drummer percussion slapper Eric Craven who has laid his skin bashing to music by Silver Mount Zion et al. Hangedup are great, Tony Conrad was great, that makes for a fantastic combo which Transit of Venus definitely reflects. Literally sounding like interplanetary transit, including the slow pace, this droneathon is useful for shaking off psychic plaque (yes I know I sound like Julian Cope there..GOOD!) and drowning in cosmic sorrow/joy/ecstasy/oblivion. Listen at maximum volume. 

Godspeed You! Black Emperors - whatever, just the vibe of the early stuff
I've actually listened to very little Godspeed (some out there wouldn't believe that, if anyone cares that is, but it's true) but the early albums full of epic string scrape and long pieces swelling with power and melancholy are fantastic, and no doubt the most recent ones are also great. They don't need my attention. So this is all they get.

Thee Silver Mount Zion Band - various releases
Silver Mount Zion has received a bit more of my attention and much of their work and various offshoots are truly great. Albums like He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light... are full of swirling strings and dark epic sounds that take you deep into open rock spaces. Beautiful music and a great example of house some revolutionary strings can squat in the heavy rock combo and bring the beauty of Anarchy up an extra notch. Essential listening.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

School of Underground Scrape Part 4 - Proto-Scrapers

Heinrich Ignaz von Biber - Various recordings but I can recommend Reinhard Goebel's interpretations of the Rosenkranz Sonaten (Rosary Sonatas) on Harmonia Mundi as a good start.

The original and the best Biber, this 17th century violin virtuoso smashed many of the conventions of the time, making use of harsh-yet-descriptive polytonality (La Battalia is the prime example and I've had the good fortune of playing it with a suitable rag-tag collection of musicians at a series of gigs once held in the former Brisbane Anarchist headquarters of Ahimsa House) and peasant musics in the Austro-Hungarian courts. For the sake of my, as Henry Flynt once dubbed it, "agenda", I chose the scordatura - meaning mistuning or purposeful mistuning more correctly - works such as the Rosenkranz Sonaten which flashing forward to the 1960s so heavily inspired the drone-scrape of the mighty dearly departed Tony Conrad. These mistunings involved tuning the violin's strings away from the conventional GDAE tuning to various more open and resonant tunings allowing for greater resonance and new moods and vibes within the pieces. On a more technical note they made consecutive octave playing and other technical matters that weren't down pat in the violin technique at the time to be achieved with greater ease. Further, these tunings held symbolic significance in line with the Baroque era's obsession with gesture. For instance, in one movement of the deeply spiritual - obviously - Rosary Sonatas, Biber asks the violinist to not only downtune the strings, but also to cross the middle strings over each other, creating a symbolic cross behind the strings in remembrance of the passion - the crucifixion of Christ for those of you like myself who aren't religious/weren't raised Catholic - and the pain associated with it. Add to this the fact that the score is for solo violin and continuo - read: improvised bass line played in the case of the Goebel renditions on harpsichord and viola da gamba, but could be just one bass instrument or keyboard or fretted instrument - this spare style of accompaniment allowing for greater freedom in improvisation for all parties involved. That's right: mistunings, improvisation, wide-open spaces, there's the fucking recipe right there dear readers.

Ole Bull - A Norwegian Pioneer

My own violin is stamped both on the back, beneath the neck, and within the instrument, with the slogan "Copy Ole Bull, Germany". At the time that my father bought the violin for me - around 2002 when I was getting serious enough in my conservatory studies that I needed an instrument upgrade from the hunk of shit we bought off a mate's sister I was still playing since the age of 8 - I was deep in my studies of Beethoven, Brahms and the like, as well as immersing myself in the raging, icy genius of Norwegian Black Metal. With a dark, rugged tone, the instrument seemed perfect for me, and naturally led me to learn a bit more about its namesake. Bull was one of the 19th century's most famous concert violinists and was part of a movement to push forward a distinctly Norwegian identity in music at a time when Norway was still under Danish rule. Legend has it that ol' Ole lost his shit once while working on an opera in Italy and stormed the Danish embassy in Rome with a Norwegian flag. Bull's technique and compositions were heavily influenced by Norwegian Hardingfiel or Hardanger Fiddle music and by the myths and folklore of his homeland. All in all, from a 21st century perspective, this makes him one of the original grim motherfuckers, a proto-Black Metaller par excellence. While being a troll-obsessed nationalist is problematic in many ways - particularly in light of the fascist piece of shit Americans just voted into the White House - I celebrate Ole Bull, and this rare album 'Ole Bull - A Norwegian Pioneer' I found on a very dodgy Black Metal blog years ago - I don't even know who plays on it - because his violin playing and his music, not to mention his legendarily loose lifestyle, make him a proto-scraper of the highest highness. Ole Bull would no doubt agree when I say: fuck tyranny.

Various Artists - Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow! Vintage Fiddle Music, 1927-1935, Blues, Jazz, Stomps, Shuffles & Rags, (Old Hat)
Various Artists - Violin, Sing the Blues for Me: African-American Fiddlers 1926-1949 (Old Hat)

Anyway, enough of the dead white men. The violin underground is most potent because of the ground-breaking timbres, textures, and of course improvisational techniques, of African-American fiddlers. Even further, as will be discussed in another post (or maybe elsewhere), the fiddle music of West Africa, ancient and extraordinary, and no doubt atavistically inherent in the sounds of some of these fiddlers heard in these compilations, could well be the origin of bowed string instruments if some studies are to be believed, in short, the violin has a black history, remember that. The extraordinary fiddling heard on these two compilations put out by the fantastic Old Hat records shows the forward-thinking genius of hard-working people, marginalised and overlooked, and rediscovered on these great discs. Anyway for a more well informed and well researched look at the history of African-American fiddle music look no further than the work of scholar Jacqueline Cogdell Dje-Dje who is also responsible for a very informative if dry and academic as fuck book on West African fiddle music - indeed it is the book on West African fiddle music - Fiddling in West Africa on University of Indiana Press. And while you're at it listen to Eddie South, lots of Eddie South.

This is just scratching the surface readers...

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Scrapes Album Release Ritual in Melbourne 15/1/2017

Upcoming Gig -

15 JAN

Presented by NeuMusak...

The Last Chance Rock n' Roll Bar
North Melbourne,
The Scrapes/Andrew McCubbin & Mel Pritchard/Justin Cusack

The Songs of Baron Samedi Melbourne Album Launch Ritual is finally upon us.


I'll be heading down a few days earlier to join Ryan in Melbourne to work on, and record, some new Scrapes pieces for what will hopefully emerge as our so-called Fourth Full-length Album.

Listen out.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Scrapes Brisbane 28/12

If you're in Brisbane over the next couple of weeks then come along to a rare appearance of we Scrapes (myself and Ryan Potter on guitar) live on a Brisbane stage.

The Bearded Lady, Boundary St, West End
The Scrapes
Primitive Motion
Glam Fail

Doors: 8PM
Tickets: $10 (available at the door)

Excellent poster designed by Primitive Motion's Sandra Selig:

 See you there and a happy Yule or whatever it is you may celebrate this time of year.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Bundled & Gone - Live Compilation NEW

I've put together a bit of a compilation of my live performances in recent years, all over the globe including performances in Ghana, Senegal, NYC, Straya. It's cheap and is a live primer for the upcoming BUSH SONGS RELEASE ON SOFT ABUSE Cheers, Adam

Sunday, 27 November 2016

School of Underground Scrape Part 3

A Guide to Underground Violin sounds:

Fairport Convention - Liege & Lief
Fairport Convention - Babbercombe Lee

Well, to talk about the extraordinary importance of Dave Swarbrick's violin in the history of British music, and in particular the electric folk explosion of the late 60s/70s, is to make an understatement seem, well, understated. So an underground figure? Absolutely not. But the heavy electric fiddle sounds Swarbrick pioneered on his cuts with Fairport Convention not only sent him deaf, but also set a blueprint for just how intense and raw a fiddle can sound without pushing it into the sort of absurd realms your narrator is certainly guilty of. AND whether or not you see Fairport as a dusty old folk rock band your Dad loves, or trail-blazers who originated some of the Gothic electric sounds that would appear a few years later in extraordinary displays like Black Sabbath's Volume 4, there is something of use in much of their early output, particularly in their masterpiece Liege & Lief, though I personally find the Swarbrick dominated Babbercombe Lee to also be of note. But aside from this, explore everything Swarbs did back in the day, including the purely English folk filled solo records, the one that features a sozzled looking Swarbrick on the cover, sawing away at the violin with a fag hanging out of his mouth is of particular note, and his beautiful duos with Martin Carthy. Go on, it's worth it. RIP. 

Steeleye Span - Please to See the King

The hiss and scrape of Peter Knight's electrified fiddle on this Steeleye Span British electric folk classic from 1971 is not so distant from the sound of the more well-recognised wild-man fiddle of Fairport's Swarbs. It rips and tears through the jigs, reels, and ballads present on the one truly dark and forboding Steeleye record Please to See the King, a wintery collection that features Martin Carthy's booming electric guitar, Knight's scraping folk filddlisms and the haunting vocals of Maddy Prior. While Knight's playing itself is not as radical as some of the underground fiddlers I've discussed in these pages, and indeed there's not much "underground" about Steeleye Span or Fairport for that matter, there is a spirit of RESISTANCE in this work in its historical context. And this, my friends, is the true meaning of the underground, NOT "undiscovered", but "resistance", resistance to the status quo, to blind growth, greed and capitalist abandon, a call to return to the land and show it respect and love. There's much to learn here, very useful indeed, and the harsh, gain-knob-cranked sound of Knight's fiddle on this record is hands-down some of the best electric found scream you can achieve, a highly recommended choice for all and sundry, plug the fiddle into the biggest fucking valve amp you and find, straight in, and crank the gain. Cold. Should mention also what sounds like the fantastic drumming on the body of the electrified violin, accompanying the haunting vocal harmonies present on 'Boys of Bedlam', excellent use of the magnifying glass of amplification on the violin's surprisingly useful wooden body. 

John Doherty - Bundle & Go

This is an absolute classic of unique-as-fuck fiddle genius from an Irish Traveler who had lived such an itinerant wanderers existence that for the recording of this particular record, the engineers had to find him a fiddle to play on since he didn't presently own one - bringing to mind other mind-altering not-give-a-fuckers like Blixa Bargeld who by all accounts didn't own a guitar during his trail-blazing industrial noise forays in the early Bad Seeds (the Nick Cave kind of course). Of course to place Doherty - a great traditionalist - in the same breath as Blixa is perhaps incongruous to any of you stupid enough to read this, but there is a simple similarity in the immediacy of personality present in the playing. To depart from this line of thought instead let's reflect on ol' Johnny Doherty's life. A traveler, tinsmith (as were all Doherty's in the area it seems) and fiddler of the Donegal tradition, he would travel from house to house plying his wares (pots, pans and other useful goods, including tin fiddles it seems) or doing odd jobs, after which he'd be rewarded with a meal, some drink and in return he'd entertain with his fiddle and his rhythmically recited oral histories. His playing style is so narrative, packed with what seem to be improvisations impersonating animals, and the characters in the stories these songs tell, sometimes dating back hundreds of years, others more recent (that is the turn of the 20th century to the post-war period, Doherty passed into Saint Cecilia's arms in 1980 having been born at the dawn of the century in 1900). To see a prime example I recommend watching this excellent film and check out the scene where he plays in a pub to a collection of drunk blokes who request a piece that deals with a hunting scene. Bundle & Go is perhaps a limited snapshot of Doherty's life of song and story, hard work, and understated hardship, but it is a beautiful document of how music stays most alive within the oral tradition, and is only hung and dried when written down. Make your own oral traditions, and leave them that way will you.

Alexis Zoumbas - A Lament for Epirus, 1926-1928

The folk and early-mid 20th century musics of the Greek isles, especially the heartbreak of Rembetika, are truly worth exploring for anyone with half a mind. In the depths of this era of migration, refugees, war, terror and fascism (I'm talking about the 20s-50s in Greece but you know we could apply that to now pretty effectively), Greeks in exile produced records of soul-crushing beauty, and none more so effectively then this prize depressive Alexis Zoumbas. Recorded while he was in exile in the United States, these pieces collected by Long Gone Sound's Christopher King, feature Zoumbas' aching, broken-hearted violin, crying for what's left of his homeland. The wild, sliding, moans characteristic of this music, drag you down on your knees to weep for a homeland you never had, or inspire you to dance like a drunk marionette in the style of the ouzo-soaked gangster dandies depicted in Kostas Ferris incredible film Rembetiko (1983). A Lament for Epirus is an essential listen for any violinist, nay ANYONE, wishing to join the cultural resistance, for no truer notes were ever scraped out of bow, gut and wood.

Swans - The Burning World

The violin work on this album by NY industrial darkness peddlers Swans had a big impact on me upon first hearing it some years ago. I love this record and the other Swans records of the late 80s/early 90s that delve into this more neo-folk, folk-noir area, and the violin scraping on The Burning World is played by a host of legendary musos including Fred Frith, Mark Feldman, a Shankar! of the L. variety (double violin whatever that is), and Larry Packer who I hope is not one of those Packers. Rather hilariously, this record is Swans only major label number, recorded in 1989, and it would simply be amazing to think of a major label putting out something as bleak as fuck as this in the 21st century. At the time fans seemed to have thought it was a sell-out from the heavier industrial sounds that preceded it, but in the present context that seems laughable to say the least. The fiddle playing is not hugely exciting in and of itself, but it is inspiring to hear the mournful cries of the violin in the context of such monumental Gothicness. The violin is perfect for Doom and there should be more of it.

My Dying Bride - Turn Loose the Swans

To continue the gloomy swan theme I need to make mention of a band featuring violin that brought the instrument into the hallowed field of Doom Metal. Perhaps the most prolific Doom fiddler they had on board was Martin Powell - who plays violin and keys on Turn Loose the Swans - a leather and chains Goth nutter who also played quite a bit with Melbourne Doom Goths Cryptal Darkness, and laid keys on Cradle of Filth albums like 2000's Midian which was quite a popular listen amongst 17 year olds when I was a 17 year old. The first half of Turn Loose the Swans is great Death-Doom with violin, keys and a dark, grave-roaming Gothic feel that's well worth the trip. Then things get weird on the second side, and electronic and largely forgettable in my opinion. Still, My Dying Bride deserve respect for going so far out on a limb with such a weird album. A following release, Trinity, is a better listen in my opinion, but perhaps less of a milestone chronologically in the significance of violin DOOM.

Völur - Disir

Staying in the Doom and Gloom position, it's worth briefly exploring this recent gem. Volur distinctively feature a trio of drums, bass and elec violin + vocals. The violin is distorted to high hell, of course emulating metal guitar, but it still sounds distinctively violin and catatonic in its wailing. Trance-inducing doom, with Heathen themes and mournful melodies, it's well worth checking out this Canadian trio, buying this tape, and supporting a band who dare to take the fiddle to Doom weepage with such catastrophically beautiful effect. 

That's all in this lesson. Please note THE SCRAPES shall be playing 28/12 at The Bearded Lady, in Brisbane's West End, with Primitive Motion and Glam Fail joining us. Doors at 8pm. Tickets at the door shall be $10. We'll have vinyl copies of The Songs of Baron Samedi with us as well. Come along. Don't be shy. 


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Tonight 17 Nov at The Junk Bar, Brisbane


I will be playing with the mighty JIVE CANYON at Brisbane's finest venue The Junk Bar, in Ashgrove, this evening.


And a sample of what we do from the upcoming 2017 album:

See you tonight if you can make it.