Norwegian Winter/Scandinavian Minimalism

-8°C and occasionally snowy, 'tis the season of frozen monochromatics! Say goodbye to the colours of the rainbow, say hello to white snow and black night, the tidy distinction between the two non-colour colours increasingly blurred until the snow is a polluted grey melting on top of everything beneath those grey skies, which are neither day nor quite night. Need a pick-me-up?

The download above is pure winter music. It's got the industrial atmospherics of a city, yet sounds more like the cosmic hum heard only in an arctic landscape, between winds. The static made by molecular clouds of atoms, the waves inside a stone, a snow crystal or anything else you might care to think of. There aren't any familiar-sounding instruments or other recognisable sounds that otherwise give rise to associations or prejudices, limiting your experience. This is audio as meditation, without mantras, words, melodies, rhythms, patterns or other emotional cues reducing the complex into just one perspective, feeling, thought, memory or hope. This music is a sliding scale free of absolutes, which is what makes it not only difficult but wrong to try and describe it. But if you're skeptical of the old Scandinavian Minimalism, so often neat, sterile and functional, this is minimalism as mysticism, rather than design. If less is more, then the least is the most.

These recordings are by a Norwegian artist whose specialty is sound—an audio savant with an ear that seems to be able to capture what escapes ours entirely. (The record company that releases his music refuses to make its catalogue available in mp3 format, due to the inferiority in sound.) He started out as a minimalist noise/ambient solo artist, but is now almost exclusively a producer who no longer records or performs his own solo material. He once said in an interview that the pride of Norwegian New Age jazz, the internationally acclaimed Jan Garbarek, should be shot for what he's done to Norwegian folk music. (I don't recall him elaborating, but I'm sure Garbarek playing Norwegian folk schematics in the insipid tone of the soprano saxophone and dipping it liberally in synthesizers, taking any grittily sincere significance it may have had and reducing it to housewife demographic «spirituality», would do it.) Now he's making a similar kind of atmospheric jazz himself, as member of an acclaimed improv outfit. He has also worked with Garbarek's artistic kissing cousin, Nils Petter Molvær, who does exactly what Garbarek does, only with a trumpet, condemning the soul of Norwegian music to easy listening for urban dwellers with a nostalgia for nature.

This compilation, however, focuses on our noise artist's solo music, which doesn't err on any side of such bland existentialism. You can buy all of his albums in one box set now (even the ones initially limited to editions of 500 copies), as well as a dreamy remix project CD, all of which come very highly recommended. You can't find better music from Scandinavia (or finer ambient noise from anywhere).

This compilation collects none of those readily available recordings, only the non-album tracks that you can't find in one place or release, and which are more likely to disappear in the respective obscurities of its special interest compilation albums, remix projects, EPs and singles. Most of these tracks tend towards the subtle, insular fuzziness of the artist's later recordings, rather than the more grandiose noise of his early stuff or the experimental instrumentation of his mid-period pieces. Much of it may not be his best material (although some of it comes close), but it's the sound of winter. They're saying this year's going to be a cold one.

So curl up in a ball to conserve your warmth and let your mind drift off to the sound of inside…


Easy Listening Nightmare

Am getting a bit lax, I know, with few uploads and all these viral YouTube clips, but somebody sent me this for the second time and I simply have to acknowledge the immensity of it:

In my restless search through the world of music, I've had my dalliances with easy listening. Bossa nova, exotica, cocktail lounge soundtracks, sleazy soul, big band crooner type stuff… and I only became convinced it's all absolutely psychotic music. It's what sociopaths lacking the emotional cues will put on, because that's what they think other people would like. It's what neurotic, pill-popping alcoholics use to drown out all the failures of their life, constantly muttering at the back of their minds. I mean, what do the hired hand studio musicians feel when they play this stuff? What did the writers and arrangers think when they put all of this together? Is there any discernible human emotion at all, apart from a most audacious denial of the facts of life? Who are these people?

Nothing illustrates these misgivings as much as this piece of Soviet stylee easy listening. I suspect there are no lyrics because any lyrics might get the writers, performers and producers in trouble with one or the other ideologist, fickle and sadistic Marxists partial to internecine power plays that put everyone else at risk of ending up in the GULAG. And so a man with a decidedly unhealthy vodka pallor who already looks like a stiff stiffly walks in, smiling bravely as he croons a song of utter denial of the grim, meat hook realities waiting there outside the studio, and which is keeping a close eye on this man, even here and now as he lip syncs to the least expressive music possible, eschewing not only words but even any kind of sincere human emotion that could possibly reflect the reality of any human being, anywhere in the world.

This is the sound of someone asking you if you're happy, when you know that if you don't pretend to be content they'll cart you off to a torture chamber, because discontent equals dissent—an indictment of what they believe to be true and correct, and if it weren't, they will have been so horribly wrong and have wreaked all this tragic havoc for no good reason, so it's better to force people to smile, smile, smile! and keep up the pretense. That way you ward off guilt and maintain your power.

It's an easy listening nightmare.


Get Ready for the Big Squat!

Today is World Toilet Day! And in the event of the Big Squat, we here at Toilet Guppies are posting our absolute favourite track by incredibly prolific 60-something pervert of distinction, Tonetta:

You can have your Milton and your Shakespeare and Ginsberg and who-have-you, I'll take this any day:
I came across a blanket of shit
Guess some dimwit did it
Not only scat, but piss to boot
When I looked in the mirror, I saw it was you

Well, I protest the wrongdoing
And made me eat the whole damn thing
I learned my lesson about where I shit
And now I sit and do it on the toilet
Like the best of art in history, it's educational for the kids and funny for the grownups. Unfortunately, the schizo-scat track is not yet available for purchase. But for other, almost as mesmerising songs from Canada's finest semi-cross dresser past middle age, go straight to noble enablers of deviation, Black Tent Press, who also carry solo efforts by Paz Lenchantin of longstanding Toilet Guppies favourite Entrance (currently the not-so-favourite Entrance Band) and Papa M A/K/A David Pajo.

And while we're on the subject of toilet business, do you remember this one?

Happy Toilet Day! And remember: Open defecation hurts women the most.


Net Nuggets 35: Red Money

Red Café feat. Diddy & Fabolous: «Money Money Money» [mp3]

Toilet Guppies isn't rap's biggest fan. But if you need a break from touchy-feely singer/songwriter fare, cathartic rock'n'roll, catatonic ambient, mindfucking electro or spine-warbling noise, here's one of the very few rap rarities in Toilet Guppies' collection—a yet to be released track from 2008 by Red Café. I have no clue who he is, but apparently Diddy a.k.a. P. Diddy a.k.a. Puff Daddy a.k.a. Puff a.k.a. Puffy a.k.a. Sean John a.k.a. Sean Combs makes an appearance (seen below, shocked at the appearance of a one dollar bill among his regular, heavyweight denominations).

I know, I know… but the track is actually good. It's easily the best song about money Toilet Guppies has ever heard, with eminently quotable lines such as «Blocka blocka blocka / Money money money / Any given day I'm pourin' honey on your money and I murder everybody»!


Never Mind the Salsa, Here's... Hispanic Garage Rock!

¡España! A land untouched by Toilet Guppies… Most of the people who check out this blog do so from IP-addresses in Indonesia (hello, Indonesia!), so in an attempt to break Spain and the 30 per cent of South America that isn't Brazil (no offense, Indonesia), I have put together a primer of Spanish-language rock'n'roll, as a tribute to all my Spanish friends (all three or four of 'em—and that's counting the Catalans), one Mexican acquaintance, some Peruvian regrets and three Norwegians I know who are trying to learn Spanish.

For a northern European infected with Protestantism, it's immensely beautiful to see how in Spain people know how to enjoy life and the moment they're in. Like when they're indulging in an absolutely delicious cuisine (one of the world's tastiest!) that, once you take a bite, sends a message throughout your entire body that this shit is unhealthy, the mortality it reminds you of making you feel more alive, not like you're merely preserving your body with all these nutritionally correct foodstuffs.

Spain! The land where they still indulge in bloody, brutal animal sacrifice in public. (Still in touch with what it is to be human, warts and all…) Where you can buy witchcraft paraphernalia in run-of-the-mill specialist shops that aren't even considered weird or unusual. (Keeping the mystery alive…) Where the brown eyed girls' voices are as sensually rough and gravelly as the coffee is smooth and rich… Where the sun actually warms!

Even in the bars, they give you napkins made out of paper that doesn't absorb, so that you have to use a ridiculously extravagant amount of them. And due to a complete and systematic lack of bins in these bars, like a naughty child you have to gleefully throw all those discarded tissues right onto the nasty floor, until at the end of the day you're sat in an oversized ashtray and they finally sweep up the rubbish and the ashes and cigarette butts (because no health freaks refuse you to smoke in public in Spain!). Only then will they put all of that trash in a bin liner that, in more practical cultures, it all went straight into in the first place… And let's not forget the siesta—two hours of sleep or fucking in the middle of the work day, which snowballs your schedule to the point where you don't eat dinner until ten at night—again, against the express advice of your physician.

These self-indulgent, non-functionalistic routines, rituals and ways to go about everyday life, some of them bordering on the idiotic, all amount to one defiant rebellion against the grinding boredom, grim inevitabilities and unhappy accidents of human existence. Rationality's got nuthin' on the complexity and immensity of life, to the point where living your life sensibly isn't sensible at all, so you may as well move to Spain and enjoy yerself!

Or, in lieu of that, listen to some great Spanish-language music, from Spain and equally groovy (if not more so) South America—where mothers pushing prams sexually harrass you in the street and little Lolitas on scooters wolf whistle like hardened construction workers as they drive past. Where the girls are fiery and prone to a violence that defies the dull demands and expectations heaped upon their gender.

Naturally, in the long run the Latin passion, heat, possessiveness, faked intimacy and lack of both punctuality and a neat social order will prove grating on a northern European, but let's pretend I'm not Norwegian for now and that the New World of South America is the Promised Land. In such a promised land, I would like the soundtrack to sound something like this:

These dilettante rockers didn't invent or even re-invent the wheel, but they made something that lasts to this day—a mix of fun, sex and anxiety that's unaffected by nostalgia, irony, pretentions of cool, etc. In addition to a couple of deranged Peruvian originals (check out the cojones on track 21! And 22 gives Norwegian black metal a run for its money any day), there's the unexpected rendition of Desmond Dekker's golden ska oldie «Israelites», as well as a whole host of Spanish language covers of British and US American garage rock staples like «Hey Joe», «Gloria», «Pushin' too Hard», «Little Girl», «Take a Heart», «19th Nervous Breakdown», «For Your Love»… There's the ultimate version of «Wild Thing», rather freely translated as «Loco te patina el coco», performed by some joker calling himself Juan El Matemático (who competes with Los Johnny Jets for best artist name on this comp). Bo Diddley's no-nonsense warning «Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut» becomes even less of a compromise as «Hey, monstro».

Incidentally, there's only one group on here from Spain (I think—some of them I don't know where the hell they're from). Others are from Mexico, some Colombia, some Peru, one from Brazil. I suspect Argentina, Chile and/or Uruguay (or was it Paraguay?) may also be represented, but who knows and who cares, it's all in Spanish and it kicks culo. Some of these tracks are so obscure you wouldn't even be able to find them on secondhand vinyl—you're lucky to get them as low bitrate mp3s after thoroughly scouring the Internet for amateurish Third World music obsessives' dodgy uploads, so don't come pissing and moaning just because some of the tracks are as low as 160kbps and full of vinyl crackle and hiss. The wildest music most true to the spirit of rock'n'roll was never about high fidelity, anyway.

So, roqueros y roqueras, bring out the tapas, cocaine and sexism, and rock out to these scuzzy southern sounds of the '60s. ¡Viva España! and all of her former colonies and la revolución! Rock y roll!


Hate's Back!

For all you toilet goldfish lucky enough to live in or around London, one of the most notable young bands making the rounds these days—no-nonsense bludgeoners of ennui, HTRK (pronounced «hate rock»)—is back, after recent tragedies such as the suicide of bass player Sean Stewart and the death, from cancer, of producer and collaborator Rowland S. Howard. On Saturday 27 November, the band, now a duo, premiers its new material at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, with added visuals by Conrad Ventur.

The purveyors of oversexed sounds that conjure the feeling of lazily masturbating to take your mind off of everything that's lined up to be digested, dealt with or simply endured, are back!