Home Aged and the 18 Month Hope
44:17 min • Dais Records • October 29, 2013
Walter Beck reviews
After 2009’s The Sound of Porridge Bubbling and 2011’s Sugarmorphoses, Dais Records has gone back into the archives of notorious performance art group COUM Transmissions for the release of the third LP from the vaults, Home Aged and the 18 Month Hope, a collection from the later period of the group, roughly chronicling their early ’70s works. Featuring interviews, poetry, and sound experiments, this album is certainly the most diverse of the archive albums released thus far.
The first cut is an interview with Genesis P-Orridge for the Fanfare Arts Festival, recorded on January 6, 1973. Interviewer Jim Hawkins asks Gen about h/er involvement in the arts festival and how s/he views the whole thing. Gen answers with h/er well-known dry humor, pointing out that it was the organizers who called COUM an experimental arts group, rather than h/er and just sort of sarcastically shrugging off the whole thing.
‘Doo-Dah (Excerpt)’ is the first music bit on the record, performed by Genesis, Spydee, and Greg Foxtrot Echo. A strange mix of bubbling noise, screeching feedback and lo-fi exchange between the three artists, it gives a good solid taste of the sonic direction and experimentation the group was involved in.
Track three ‘Prescott & Williams 1932 (Excerpt)’ is a solo bit by Genesis, constructed of piano experiments and buried singing in the background. Similar to the piano work heard on the COUM album Sugarmorphoses, it’s an excellent example of Gen’s artistic work on the piano, dissonant and discordant.
The first side of the album ends with a live performance, ‘Presents Edna & The Great Surfers’, credited to the entire group. The exact date and location of the performance isn’t given, but it’s a lo-fi recording, almost a bootleg quality (as heard on many of Throbbing Gristle’s live tapes). Soaked in off-beat percussion, feedback, squealing, and distant sounding vocals, this is one of the best examples of COUM’s guerrilla live performances yet released.
The second half of the album starts with a poetry performance by Fizzey Peat ‘Cement Men/My Granny Goes Grave Digging’, recorded by Genesis. The five minute recording is stark and haunting, with Peat developing a disturbing sing-song rhythm throughout the poem. His voice sounds rather young on the record, adding to the creepy atmosphere. The poem is a story of violence, brutality, and self-destruction hidden underneath the seemingly happy and innocent place in which he lives. Towards the end, he begins reciting lyrics from Alice Cooper’s ‘I Love the Dead’ and in the context of the performance, Alice’s words fit in perfectly.
’18 Month Hope’ is a solo instrumental piece by Genesis, done on a distorted violin. Gen keeps the dissonant squealing going for nearly seven minutes, wrenching out the sounds from the instrument. While certainly unorthodox in its sound, there’s a definite undertone of folk and classical music buried in this piece. Towards the end, s/he injects some vocal intonations into the work, adding to the dissonance of the music.
‘Home Aged’ is a work by Genesis and Fizzey, a mix of vocal chanting and ranting, field recordings of birds chirping, and various droning instrumentals. Despite the syncopated rhythm of the whole mix, there’s something strangely peaceful and calming about the work, as though it were a slow and relaxing journey through the mind, as weird and twisted as that mind may be. This track is definitely one of the best examples on the album of the subversive sonic performance art of COUM Transmissions.
The album comes to a close with another interview from Genesis, this time with David Mayor. There’s no time period provided for the interview, but in the brief two minutes it lasts, Gen shows h/er usual sense of humor, joking about the accusations that COUM’s work is pornographic. The end of the interview is perfect, with Gen mentioning Throbbing Gristle, signaling the end of COUM Transmissions…
Dais Records did a fantastic job compiling this album; it shows the peak and eventual end of one of the most transgressive art groups of the 20th century. The mix of sonic experiments, poetry, and interviews offers a rare public glimpse into the world of these weird artists. COUM laid the groundwork for what was to become industrial and noise music, so this album is essential listening for those interested in avant-garde art. But if you want a copy, you had better hurry; Dais Records only pressed 1,000 copies of this important historical album.