For the sake of clarity let’s just say what the God Unknown Singles Club isn’t. It isn’t, as far as I know, like Tinder for atheist leftfield music lovers. What it is is a series of double ‘A’ side 7″ singles, that are steadily growing into an essential collection of music that provide a unique insight into the current scene. Indeed because each band submits just one relatively short track, there is a sense of their sound being somehow distilled and amplified. I asked Jason Stoll, God Unknown founder and bassist with a number of eminent bands (including Sex Swing, Mugstar and Bonnacons of Doom), what his thinking was behind the club:
I came up with the idea purely to be able to put out great music / bands I have been exposed to from doing shows and meeting people at festivals. There are so many great bands / musicians out there making some of the most amazing sonic works of art. I also liked the idea of doing 7”s as it challenges people to work in a succinct way, to try and get it into a 6 minute track. When as you know a lot of bands, mine included, tend to work with longer structures.
Well when you look at the list of contributors, below, you begin to see what an undertaking this project is; but also the richness of the contributors. I guarantee that if you look at that list you will see bands that you love, bands that you’ve heard of and are curious about, and those that are completely new to you. This, surely, is a win win; and while the first two volumes of the club are long sold out I thoroughly recommend that you download that digital files (c’mon pay money for these they’re worth it, I have) from the God Unknown bandcamp because these are the best compilations going at the moment… for me bar none!
Part of me would like to go through each of these singles track by track but that would be a massive undertaking to read it, never mind write about it; but I am pleased to say that first singles of volume three are now out and available to buy on the God Unknown bandcamp so I thought that I would have a look through those since the tracks are completely new to me (Vols 1 & 2 are now very familiar).
The ten tracks over the first five singles of Volume 3 are in many ways a distillation of the Singles Club as a whole. There is a great variety of music here, from the melodious to the dissonant, from the relatively well-known to the more obscure… but above all the music is interesting and, in different ways has an experimental edge to it.
First up is ‘Triangles’ by Thor and Friends, featuring Swans’ percussionist Thor Harris, who works with other musicians from around Austin, Texas with this project. This is a wonderfully minimalist piece that acts as a perfect introduction to the series with its lilting rhythms and probably the best use of a xylophone that I’ve heard in a long time. This chilled out, yet very engaging piece, is well coupled with Woven Skull, an Irish band who I have featured before on Psych Insight Music. Like Thor and Friends a lot of their music is quite minimalist in approach, but their track here ‘The Cracking of the Limbs’ is more ‘out there’ combining elements of psych and folk (without it necessary being psych folk, if that makes sense). Nevertheless there is a certain traditional feel to this track, but with more contemporary element laid on top and left to percolate through.
The second single of the series sees Grumbling Fur, who for many will require no introduction. The London duo, Daniel O’Sullivan & Alexander Tucker, are themselves no strangers to the experimental music scene themselves being involved in a diverse number of other projects. Here they have contributed a gem of a track, ‘Doubleman’ that combines a number of genre in a really convincing way. There is a dark melancholy to it that nevertheless seems to hit your emotions full on. In a sense Father Murphy does the same thing, but coming from a completely different direction. The Italian duo deliver a trademark track, ‘Deliverance’ with deep beats tolling below dissonant electronica and wailing vocals. Like most of their output it is direct and unsettling, acting like a siren that reduces your resistance as it pulls you onto the sonic rocks.
Charles Hayward, former drummer with This Heat amongst others, and long-time solo artist in his own right, has contributed a track, ‘Enzyme Plume’ on the third single of the series. In a sense it appropriately follows Father Murphy given that there is more than a little nod to occult psychedelia here. For me there is a really sinister element to this track which is blended really well with percussion that borders both on free jazz and more urban beats. I really like how all the elements are brought together here in a way that it really coherent. He is joined on this single by Tomaga, another percussion-led act that have contributed something that, while very different, also blend ideas together in a way that is far more than the sum of their parts. Like most of their output ‘Squeek and Chatter’ uses analogue synths in a way that feels both experimental and accessible.
Next up, on single four, is Rainbow Grave, the sort of heavy band that I imagine when you stand in the middle of their native Birmingham on a dirty night you completely get (that’s how I first understood Black Sabbath by the way). Rainbow Grave are the sort of band that are just relentless, pummelling away until you just have to give in. On the evidence of this track, ‘Death Pyramid’, I’ll be looking into them more thoroughly because this is a really top bit of nihilistic noise that makes Napalm Death seem almost utopian. On the other side is Orthodox, a Spanish band that sounds like anything but. This is brilliant stuff, a strangely fucked-up melange of instruments that just fit together in a weird way… this is on the edge of my accessibility and, you know what, that’s just how I like it. This Orthodox track, ‘Spain is the Place’ is stretching me, daring me to like it. Well I do dare… this is may favourite single of the five I’m covering here. Brilliant!
Mainliner keep up the pace (I’m already imagining how these tracks are going to sound together when the volume is complete). Founded by Acid Mothers Temple guitarist Kawabata Makoto, this is another amazing track, ‘Black Sky’ that quickly gets up to speed and just has you in its grasp. AMT/ Mainliner are usually purveyors of long drawn out jams, but this is short and succinct. In a way it feels like a fragment of a greater artefact, but nevertheless stands in its out right. This is backed by Expo 70, the vehicle for ambient, drone, experimental musician Justin Wright, here playing something to the heavier end of his broad range. This is a massive fuzz ball of a track, ‘Totality Wormhole’ that seems far too long and involved to fit on the side of a 7″ such is it’s power.
Update begins, and here we go again with another five singles completing the line up for Vol. 3. The sixth single has Minneapolis duo The Blind Shake hammering out ‘Broad Daylight’ with simplistic aplomb. Basically a heavy pounding drum beat with guitar swirling around it… really what’s not to like… route one! The other side sees Manchester band The Hipshakes deliver a typically satisfying slice of psych/ punk rock. In existence since 2001 they are a great foil for The Blind Shake adding a few layers to their sound.
The next single sees two bands that I really got to know well last year. London’s Casual Nun kick it off, in every sense of the word, with ‘Sleet/Knife’, a typically uncompromising piece of noise punk that just drags you in from the very start and hammers you around the head until you’re thankful that this is just a single… full on doesn’t even begin to describe it. Until, that is, you discover that the other side is populated by Luminous Bodies… the double drummer outfit made up of individuals from the likes of Terminal Cheesecake, Part Chimp, Gum Takes Tooth, Apes Fight Back, Psychic Pussies… need I say more… well if I did it would be to say that this is a first rate bit of noise rock with some ace riffage that should by all account have you on a trolley in a corridor in A&E. This is a stunning single all round, probably my favourite along with the Rainbow Brave/ Orthodox offering.
As befits this eclectic collection, the next single could hardly be an more different… yet weirdly still within the collection’s remit. Comprising Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White of instrumental rock band Dirty Three, Xylouris White play a compelling combination of what sounds like Greek folk music and a form of rock that is put through the interesting prism of the lute… with White’s far from standard percussion providing the structural backdrop. Particularly interesting to compare with the aforementioned Blind Shake. Experimental percussion is also to the fore on the other side of this eighth single with Rattle, another duo this time comprising Katharine Eira Brown (Kogumaza) and Theresa Wrigley (Fists). However, while Xylouris White is quite a full-on track, certainly when you consider the instruments used, Rattle’s offering sees far more sparse arrangements with just percussion and voice offering a minimalist yet strangely warm track, ‘All Over The Place’.
The ninth single sees me back on familiar ground with Minami Deutsch, the Japanese kraut-inspired band who tend to lean more towards Neu rather than Can. This band have yet to produce a track that I didn’t like and ‘Boogie Down’ is no exception. This is route one motorik that will having you bouncing around in its solid groove from the beginning… ace as usual. On the other side is the duo KURO, who’s album made my ‘essential‘ list in 2016. Like the Rattle track, this is a minimalist piece that offers plenty of darkness to contemplate. I once heard KURO’s music described as like staring into deep dark mirror, and this track in no exception… compellingly cathartic!
Last up sees Sly and the Family Drones teaming up with Dead Neanderthals for what you would expect to be something doom laden and dissonant. If KURO is like staring into a the dark mirror of your soul, this is what happens if you fall in. Hugely unsettling and frankly rather scary… this is music that ignores your personal space and challenges you to have a go… I can feel the saliva on my face just listening to it. On the other side is an equally uncompromising act, Italian MAI MAI MAI who brings his own unique blend of cultures, instruments and field recordings to the single format with thrilling results. This is a visceral and challenging track that is both sinister and full of joie de vivre, superb experimental music.
Again these two tracks fit together really well, and in the overall flow of the volume. And that’s the thing, not only are the singles themselves well thought out, but there seems to be a logic in the order of their release as well. As a set of 7″ these are really nice to own, as a body of work they are telling a story about contemporary music that I am sure in years to come will be regarded as an essential guide to interesting music of our era. As to whether there will be any more Volumes of the Singles Club, here’s Jason again:
I want to get to Vol. 4 of Singles Club and see where I am after that. That then will be 40 singles and 80 bands. I don’t want to out stay my welcome. God Unknown Records has a lot of LPs coming out next year. New LPs, some reissues and some of my heroes…
Well that sounds like good news whatever the out come… Though the best news of all for me would be if they came out as LP compilations, but I suppose I can dream.
Singles from Volume three of the Singles Club are available to order now from the God Unknown bandcamp, where you can also subscribe to the whole volume, as well as download the first two volumes.
GNOD/ Eternal Tapestry/ Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso/ Anthropropph/ Oneida/ Teeth of the Sea/ Carlton Melton/ Mind Mountain/ Cloudland Canyon/ Lorelle Meets The Obsolete/ White Hills/ Mugstar/ White Manna/ Hey Colossus/ Kinks & Kawabata/ Kikagaku Moyo/Bardo Pond/ Kogumaza/ Clinic/ Sex Swing
Goat / Part Chimp / Man Coach Life Forever / Black Bombaim / The Myrrors / Strange Collective / Henry Blacker / The Bevis Frond / John McBain / Blown Out / Terminal Cheesecake / Sly and the Family Drone / Dead Neanderthals / Anji Cheung / Silent Front / Action Beat / Grey Hairs / Bonnacons of Doom / Cavalier Song & Agathe Max