This preview of Anklepants’ new band, Clock_yange, will scare the crap out of you

Anklepants and Ratbag are Clock_yange
Photo by Laura Fusato

Our favorite penis-nosed provocateur Anklepants has been having a busy month. Just a few weeks after knocking the entire Internet on its ass with his bonkers Boiler Room set, he’s unleashing a brand-new project this weekend: Clock_yangé (or possibly Clocké_yangé—the spelling seems to vary), a collaboration with a mysterious, tin-foil-faced guitar player called Ratbag. “Clocké_yangé is the übergründé Convict cloud chamber encapsulating Reecard Farché (Anklepants) and RATBAG,” declares the duo’s Facebook page, continuing in the grand Anklepants tradition of sticking accents and umlauts all over the place while making as little sense as possible.

Earlier today, Clock_yangé released what we believe is their first online music, a little two-minute SoundCloud preview of their live set. You can check it out below, but be warned: You may want to listen with someone you’re not ashamed to cower behind. Shit’s kinda scary. Right, Mom? (I cowered behind my mom.)

Rumor has it this unholy duo will unleash their aural onslaught upon an unsuspecting Berlin populace this Saturday. Half the city is gonna wish they left that wall up. (Too soon?)

We’ll leave you with one final fleeting glimpse of Ratbag and his amazing animatronic inverted cross hat. I hope they made extras, because they really need to give one of those things to every member of Mayhem.

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Weird of the Day: Surgical Vacations, “Carolina Pride”

Surgical Vacations

A reader called J.W. Paycheck turned over a weird rock in North Carolina for us the other day, and among the many critters that scurried out from under it was a duo called Surgical Vacations. Googling “Surgical Vacations” gives you lots of search results about places in Mexico and Brazil where you can go to get a boob job, so we don’t know much about these guys, except that they apparently call themselves Buggy Baby James and Flavor Downey Jr. and they’re also in another, equally under-the-radar band called Crystal Innz. Their Bandcamp page tags their music as “comedy rap,” but I think it’s an inside joke. Unless the joke is just that they’re making fun of the ominous production techniques of horrorcore hip-hop.

Weird of the Day: Sturle Dagsland, “Wardenclyffe Aquarium”

Sturle Dagsland

It’s not every day someone puts a band on our radar that truly sounds like nothing we’ve ever heard before, but Norway’s Sturle Dagsland is one of those bands. Made up of brothers Sturle and Sjur Dagsland, their music is both primal and ethereal, thanks mainly to the crazy vocalizations of Sturle, who seems to be part elf.

They don’t seem to have released much music yet, but you can hear a bit more via YouTube and SoundCloud. Our thanks to reader Esa for introducing us to them. Definitely a great way to cap off another epic week here at Weird Band HQ.

Dvar

Dvar

This week’s band is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a bunch of untranslated Russian websites. Meet Dvar, a Russian Goth/darkwave/synth-rock band whose music allegedly has the power to ruin people’s lives. Which we hope isn’t actually true, because we’ve been cranking it all evening. So far the cats are all still alive and no inanimate objects have attacked us. But consider yourself warned.

Dvar (not to be confused with Dwarr, another evil-sounding band shrouded in mystery) is probably a duo from Moscow, but that intel is based solely on a single grainy piece of record artwork (seen above) and the fact that their self-released early material seems mostly to have circulated in the Russian capital. They’ve been active since the mid-’90s, but didn’t really begin to attract much of an audience until 2002, when they got some international distribution through an Italian industrial/ambient label called Radio Luxor S.P.K.R. Their first album for Radio Luxor, Piirrah, is hard to listen to alone. Full of ominous, droning synths and strangled vocals allegedly sung in an ancient occult language called Enochian, it sounds like party music for some cave-dwelling race of gibbering, subhuman troglodytes. No, scratch that—if those cave-dwelling troglodytes spawned a generation of disaffected youth who took to piercing their snouts and sewing metal studs into their loincloths, it would be party music for those kids.

The creators of this creepy shit claim that they don’t actually come up with it themselves. Instead, it is transmitted to them in their dreams by a creature called Dvar, an angel or demon or possibly both, who takes the form of a giant bee. (Bees figure prominently in most of the band’s album artwork.)

Over the years, Dvar’s music has evolved away from its Goth/darkwave beginnings to encompass everything from quirky 8-bit to quasi-reggaeton to, most recently, avant-minimalist compositions played out on unlikely mixes of synths and what sound like medieval instruments, as if Philip Glass and the guys from Sparks were co-leading a troupe of wandering cyberpunk minstrels. The only constant has been those weird, strangled, Enochian vocals, which even over some jaunty chiptune circus pop kind of sound like they’re being delivered by someone or something on the verge of ripping out your esophagus because it thinks you stole its “precious.”

At some point, either the band or one of their labels began calling their new sound “lightwave.” They also began to be represented on their album covers as Gorillaz-style cartoon characters (complete with bee antennae, naturally), but fortunately they seem to have since dropped this gimmick. On their most recent release, the double album Deii, they’ve taken the much more tasteful route of using Renaissance paintings as album art. Renaissance paintings with bees in them, I might add. Yeah, these guys really like bees.

The origin of the word “Dvar,” incidentally, is a matter of some debate, even among the band members themselves. In one of their few interviews (and the only one, as far as we can tell, that’s ever been translated into English), a Russian journalist asked them if it bore any relation to the Hebrew word “Dvar,” meaning “word” or “thing,” and more specifically to the Hebrew phrase “Dvar Torah,” which translates roughly to “sermon.” This was the answer they gave:

It doesn’t have any connections with Dvar Torah, but all the coincidences evidently are nonrandom, if say more exactly, Dvar Torah means “penetration.” And we already feel this penetration.

Elsewhere in the same interview the Dvar guys says stuff like, “Ignoramus, juggles a saber, can leave himself without hands.” So maybe Dvar speaks to them through the medium of fortune cookies.

Oh, about that whole life-ruining thing: Dvar’s biggest online fan, a Russian Goth dude called (of course) Shadow Angel, claims that within just a few weeks of first hearing an early, self-released Dvar album called Raii, his dog, grandmother and best friend all died tragically. “The strange thing,” Shadow Angel wrote in a review of the album, “while my nearest and dearest ones were gone, Dvar became closer to me”:

Their melodies dyed with new colours and hidden tunes arose from the depths. I started to worship them, while my health started to fade. I lost my immunity and now I can catch almost every disease.

Shadow Angel’s response to all this was, of course, to build the Dvar unofficial homepage, which apart from a Bandcamp page is pretty much Dvar’s only English-language presence on the web. Remember, bands: Afflict a Goth with pain and tragedy and you’ve made a fan for life.

Because we’re a blog about weird bands, we’re obligated to mention the weirdest and most random factoid about Dvar: At some point, some genius (possibly someone at Rolling Stone) started the rumor that Dvar was the secret side project of Michael Jackson. The other, more plausible rumor is that they’re a side project of one of these guys.

As far as we can tell, Dvar have never released any official music videos. (They never perform live, either.) But there are a handful of cool fan-made videos of YouTube, most of which are the work of a superfan called freakrobot99. This clip is fairly typical of his creepy yet amusing output.

This is less typical of both freakrobot99 and Dvar, but it’s too fantastic not to share. Apparently it’s a parody/remix of this near-forgotten piece of YouTube detritus, which was a viral video campaign about the disappearance of honey bees launched by, of all things, Häagen-Dazs. I love bees and ice cream as much as the next sucrose consumer, but I still think I prefer the Dvar version.

P.S. Thanks to reader Robert for suggesting these guys.

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Nurse With Wound

nursewithwound

This week we’re adding another band to the Weird List that many of you have been clamoring for: Steven Stapleton’s venerable experimental/industrial/sound collage project, Nurse With Wound. For over three decades, Stapleton and his many collaborators have been producing some of the creepiest (and, on occasion, funniest) music ever to come out of the U.K.—which, considering the Brits also gave us such influential noise mongers as Throbbing Gristle and Current 93, is saying something.

From their very first album, recorded live as a trio in 1978, NWW announced themselves as something completely different. Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella was a jarring mix of squiggly electronics, prog/psych guitar freakouts, primal howls and ominous, ambient noise. Though originally released in a run of just 500 copies, it made quite a splash in the emerging London industrial scene—and not only because of its BDSM cover art.

One of the more interesting aspects of Chance Meeting was the inclusion of the now-legendary Nurse With Wound List, an eclectic, expansive catalog of the band’s many influences, from Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire to Stockhausen and Tangerine Dream—though most of the name-checks were far more obscure than those. A handful of bands on our own Weird List appear, including American rock primitivists Cromagnon and French avant-garde accordionist Ghedalia Tazartes. But overall, I have to admit: When you do a blog like ours, reading through the NWW List is a humbling experience. Clearly we’ve got some catching up to do.

By 1981, founding NWW members John Fothergill and the excellently named Heeman Pathak had left the group, leaving Stapleton to forge ahead as a solo act. Enlisting the help of a live drummer and his friend J.G. Thirlwell of Foetus, Stapleton recorded an album called Insect and Individual Silenced that he himself has since dismissed as “terrible.” Then, after a collaboration with power electronics pioneers Whitehouse (a very bleak and atmospheric record called The 150 Murderous Passions, released with the liner note, “This record may be played at any speed”), Stapleton hit his stride with 1982’s Homotopy to Marie, the album he has since referred to as the first “real” NWW release. Full of tape manipulations and dread, Homotopy became the blueprint for what remains Nurse With Wound’s signature style: abstract, slow-moving, cinematic, occasionally abrasive and even more occasionally terrifying. Depending on your disposition, it’s either music that should only be listened to in the dark—or it’s music you should never listen to in the dark.

As weird as eerie noise epics like “The Schmürz (Unsullied by Suckling)” can get, what really makes Steven Stapleton a world-class weirdo are his twisted and often hilarious spins on mainstream music and pop culture. Take, for example, 1985’s The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion, an early experiment in sampling, NWW-style. Yes, that’s really the cover art on the YouTube clip. And yes, this track really is called “You Walrus Hurt the One You Love.”

Over the decades, Stapleton has released more than 40 albums and countless collaborations (with everyone from Current 93 to Sun 0))) to Stereolab), singles, EPs and compilation tracks, all exhaustively cataloged on the Nurse With Wound website and much of it now available via Bandcamp. More recently, he’s brought back a touring version of the band, with a rotating supporting cast that includes longtime collaborators Colin Potter and Diana Rogerson (Stapleton’s wife) along with newer cohorts like sound collage artists Matt Waldron and Andrew Liles.

It would be asinine to try to summarize a career like Stapleton’s with a single video—all the more so because he hasn’t released any “official” Nurse With Wound music videos. (A few short films have used NWW music, including this one, but they’re not music videos in any traditional sense.) But this fan-made clip for the 2008 track “The Bottom Feeder,” using the stop-motion art of Czech filmmaker Jiří Barta, actually does a pretty great job of encapsulating all that is spooky and brilliant about Nurse With Wound’s best work.

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The mysterious Hanetration returns with fourth EP: “Timelapse”

hanetration-timelapse

Back while we were still on hiatus, we got an email from the enigmatic U.K. producer known only as Hanetration, informing us s/he had just released a new EP called Timelapse. Quoth the Hanetraitor: “It’s less ‘produced’ than my previous stuff; sparse mechanical experiments.” Perhaps to signal that it’s a bit of a departure, this is the first Hanetration EP whose title isn’t an anagram of Tenth Oar, the name of his/her debut EP. That spooky, droning set was followed by the equally spooky Torn Heat and Nae Troth. Maybe s/he will follow up Timelapse with Smile Peat?

Anyway, you can hear all of Timelapse on Hanetration’s Bandcamp page. Where Tenth Oar sounded like a walk on the moors, Timelapse is definitely a trip through urban wastelands, with lots of ominous industrial clangs, buzzes, creaks and metal-on-metal squeals. Even “Opal,” with its Indian overtones, sounds less like a trip down the Ganges than a 3 a.m. cab ride through the slums of Mumbai. It’s evocative stuff.

Stalaggh/Gulaggh

Stalaggh

I gotta say, when it comes to dark, nihilistic bands on this blog, I was pretty sure we bottomed out with Mayhem and GG Allin & the Murder Junkies. Turns out I was wrong. Meet Gulaggh (or, if you prefer, :GULAGGH:), the band formerly known as Stalaggh, and prepare to embrace their motto, “Existence is futile.”

Stalaggh came into its futile existence around 2000, when members of the Dutch and Belgian black metal and ambient music scenes came together for the express purpose of making an album that would fill their listeners with despair. To help achieve that goal, they dispensed with the usual growling black metal singers and instead brought in mental patients. Apparently one of the non-crazy (relatively speaking) members of the band works in an insane asylum and was able to get permission to work with some of the patients, under the guise of it being primal scream therapy. Allegedly, among the many “vocalists” the band has worked with in this way is a guy who was institutionalized for killing his mother by stabbing her 30 times.

Stalaggh released three albums between 2002 and 2007: Projekt Nihil, Projekt Terror and their most notorious effort, Projekt Misanthropia If you Google Stalaggh, one of the first results is an article about Projekt Misanthropia called, “Is This The Worst Album Of All-Time?” (Answer: No. That would be Lou Reed and Metallica’s Lulu.) “Not to go all grandpa on you,” the author of that article declares, “but that’s not music; it’s just noise.”

Well, yes, but it’s morbidly fascinating noise nonetheless. At first, the Stalaggh backstory (as recounted in this interview) set off our bullshit detectors. Black metal dudes round up a bunch of lunatics and record them screaming at each other in an abandoned monastery chapel? That sounds too perfectly horrific to be true. Then we managed to make it through about 20 minutes of Projekt Misanthropia (you can stream the whole damn thing on YouTube) and you know what? We’re pretty sure that’s the sound of a bunch of lunatics screaming at each other. It’s so thick with human suffering and despair that it literally makes your skin crawl. The room seems to get darker the longer you let it play. People avoid eye contact with you for days after you’ve listened to it. It might be the bleakest “music” anyone’s ever recorded.

Not content to stop there, the core members of Stalaggh (who keep their identities a closely guarded secret) formed a new band called Gulaggh in 2008. Where Stalaggh was inspired in part by, and named after, the prisoner-of-war and concentration camps of Nazi Germany, Gulaggh is more directly inspired by the Stalin-era prison camps (gulags) of Soviet Russia. Each album of a proposed Gulaggh trilogy will be named after a different Russian prison camp, and the first album in the trilogy, Vorkuta (the only one released so far), begins with a recording of a Stalin speech.

But Stalin isn’t the creepiest part of Vorkuta. The members of Stalaggh/Gulaggh have one-upped themselves by now incorporating atonally played classical instruments and, scariest of all, the shrieks and screams of women and children: 30 children from a youth mental hospital (it took them over a year to get permission to record them) and a group of what one Gulaggh member calls “damaged women,” by which he means rape victims and ex-prostitutes. The results are, frankly, fucking terrifying. We won’t subject you to the whole thing, but here’s a snippet:

Inevitably, this sort of thing begs the question: Is this “art”? Or is it just horrible, gratuitous noise? In their rare interviews, which mostly seem to be done via email, the members of Stalaggh/Gulaggh tend to sidestep these questions: “We do not like being called any form of  ‘artist’. Art is creative, we are destructive.” But I think the real answer lies somewhere in the middle. By attempting to capture the worst human emotions—fear, pain, anger, hatred, self-loathing, despair—in their rawest form, and placing them in a context that evokes humanity at its worst (the “gh” at the end of both band names stands for “global holocaust”), the mysterious folks behind these projects force listeners to confront their own dark sides with an immediacy that I’m not sure conventional music ever could. There’s some art in that, I think. Then again, they’ve also allegedly prompted at least one fan to nearly kill himself by carving :STALAGGH: into his chest with a knife—so yeah, there’s a gratuitous, sadistic quality to this stuff that certain people respond to, as well.

The thing I actually find most interesting about Stalaggh/Gulaggh is this: Nearly everyone who first hears about the projects assumes that the mentally ill vocalists were somehow abused or tortured during the recording process, or at the very least were recorded without their knowledge or against their will. Wesley, the reader who most recently suggested we check this stuff out (thanks, Wesley!), noted, “Supposedly [the vocals] were mostly recorded in the hallways of a mental institution for the criminally insane,” implying that a.) the patients were unwitting participants and b.) this is what mental institutions usually sound like.

Well, no and no. (We’re not trying to single you out, Wesley; everyone, us included, buys into rumors and false assumptions when confronted with this stuff.) “All patients who have worked with us gave their full written permission,” a band member explained in one interview. “They are not retards, but they suffer from illnesses like schizophrenia, psychosis, borderline, multiple personality syndrome etc. Some of them are a lot more intelligent than normal people.” And, in another interview: “We always tell all vocalists who participate on our projekts what :STALAGGH: is all about. Most of them agree with our ideology….Several of them called recording with us the best therapy they ever had.”

So here’s another level Stalaggh/Gulaggh operates at: It challenges our assumptions about the mentally ill. It turns out you can be filled with almost unimaginable depths of mental anguish and have enough free will to participate in a recording session in which you channel that mental anguish into…well, not music, exactly, but an aural expression of anguish. So the vocalists are not merely the hapless victims of their illness; they are band members and active participants in the Stalaggh/Gulaggh aesthetic, as much as the non-institutionalized people who initiated both projects. At least that’s what I believe. I know plenty of listeners will reject the bands’ explanations about their clinically insane members and just hear sick people being exploited. But I think the reality is more complicated, and more interesting. (Although I do have issues with describing the women on Vorkuta as “damaged.”)

Just to keep us on our toes, however, Gulaggh have announced that the next album in their Stalin-inspired trilogy, Kolyma, will not feature mental patients, at least not exclusively. It will feature vocalists who were born deaf. “Their screams are almost animal like because they have never heard their own voice,” the band explains. “The other interesting thing is that they won’t hear the screams of the others, so it will be much more chaotic.” How it could get any more chaotic than Vorkuta we’re not sure, but Gulaggh will probably find a way.

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