Menial Disorders (Deleted Records, 1980)

Menial Disorders almost defies classification. Jacklin has put together a deviously, disordered collage of compositions. Tape manipulation, radio, random voice, electronic effects and segments of a live performance combine to form an industrial journey through a disordered brain. Aeon

 

Menial Disorders is a confused mash-up of noisy electronics and tapes. To add further confusion, it opens with a segment by L. Voag followed by a live performance by Activity Toys butchering a ‘60s classic in front of a rather hostile audience. The singer observes, ‘There's gonna be a riot soon.’ Brave boys! The rest of Menial Disorders is by Alien Brains, apart from a track by 391, ‘What Makes People Behave Violently?’ All-in-all a classically messy and fuzzy experience from the depths of early DIY history. Die Or DIY

 

Natural Advantages (private, 1980)

 

Nigel Jacklin's experimental collective which on this occasion included such DIY luminaries as Mark Lancaster (Instant Automatons) and Allen Adams (Methods Of Execution.) The non-music presented on Natural Advantages ranges from excellent tape collage pieces to improvisations that sound like day centre music therapy as heard from a closet, or a chimps’ tea party where the tea-set is replaced with instruments. Certainly not Pop music, if it can be called music at all; if anything its a field recording interspersed with some excellent Musique Concrete, all bunged randomly onto tape. Die Or DIY

Live At The Basement  (Aeon, 1982)

Live At The Basement has an oppressive, industrial atmosphere that is at times both disturbing and meditative. There is heavy use of various effects and echo (both natural and synthetic) especially on the voices, which makes much of it difficult to decipher, sounding somewhat similar to the vocals on Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Mix-Up’ LP. Live At The Basement sounds like it was recorded in a warehouse, a large hangar or a disused factory and as a result the overall sound is rather lo-fi and at times there is little in the way of development. However, it never becomes boring, revealing constantly new variations and nuances and the atmosphere is at times both tense and delicate. Industrial Musics

Live At The Basement does indeed sound like it was recorded in a basement – metallic squeals, languorous clanging and echoes in excelsis. Suffused with suffocation and the mysterious darkness that only lo-fi can grant, idle whistling and muffled screams falling from the ceiling; rhythms are begun then abandoned. There is the distinct feel in one’s hand of the rusty tubularity of iron piping, like a suite for haunted Hallowe’en housing. Each lonely sound is truer than the one that came before it. Concentrated strangeness from one of the more remote locations on Earth one might expect to find concentrated strangeness. Hence the Alien, and the alienation. Signal To Noise  

And It’s There (ADN, 1985)

 

Initially highly prolific in the early ‘80’s, Nigel Jacklin’s output began to decrease, ending with a final cassette credited to Verdenskang, And It’s There, a document of collaborations between 1980-85. The credits state that it includes contributions from David Jackman (Organum), Philip Sanderson (Storm Bugs), Meat Means Bloody Murder (rumoured to be TNB) and the mysterious Zena. The level of ‘co-operation’ of the various parties is unclear as there is no track-by-track analysis but I believe it includes extracts from both live performances and recordings made on location at various sites including Wisbech, a South London school, Ealing College, an abandoned swimming pool in Notting Hill and, more exotically, Puerto D'Alcala and The Valley Of Assisi. Although uneven, And It’s There is in places quite brilliant with some exquisite drone and collage work. Mutant Sounds


It
s All History Now 4LP (VOD, 2014)

 

Even if Alien Brains had never existed, Nigel Jacklin would have claimed himself a place in Industrial music history. As a schoolboy at Oundle School, the young Jacklin convinced his music teacher to book Throbbing Gristle to play the school auditorium in March 1980, a performance that sparked a stage invasion and the amusing TG video Live At Oundle School. At the time of that TG concert, Alien Brains were already a year into operations, a useful reminder that a good proportion of the early work of the Industrial and cassette culture pioneers was undertaken while barely out of short trousers. An abstract non-collective, as they described themselves, Alien Brains had no fixed line-up, although participants appearing alongside Jacklin throughout this collection’s four LPs include Philip Sanderson of Storm Bugs, David Jackman of Organum, and Richard and Philip Rupenus of The New Blockaders. No photos commemorate their activities. The closest this box-set gets is a few photos of pieces of battered equipment apparently laid out on waste ground, and a shot of a figure – presumably Jacklin – sat at a piano in a Women’s Institute hut where one of these LP sides was recorded. The box-set’s material, gleaned from various cassettes, plus unreleased live and field recordings, is ambitious but informal, ideas gleaned from Cage and Free music explored in real time. The first Alien Brains recording, 1980’s Menial Disorders, is a thing of amiable lawlessness, a rudimentary collage of repeating bass notes, shortwave radio static, cranky fast-slow-fast rhythms, strummed guitar, metal bashing, and loop-overload that occasionally pulls back to near silence. Later, ideas coalesce; the thick, buzzing sound generator tones of Blatantly Nihilist; Natural Advantages, a piece for meandering solo piano and woodwind; British Interiors, an eccentric half-sung, half-rapped piece about home redecoration set to detuned strings. Perhaps the most satisfying material is the previously unreleased ‘Live At The Last Chance Centre,' a suite of piano, drilling high tones and metallic clatter that veers between cranky action, chilly repose and unusual prettiness. Even over four slabs of vinyl, Alien Brains feel slippery and resistant to being made a matter of historical record. In a brief Q & A in the accompanying booklet, Jacklin speculates that music such as this would not be made in a digital age. Perhaps cassette culture disinclined musicians from shaping and refining a singular style, with makers instead responding to the tides of the trading network (maybe vaporwave is the closest modern equivalent; ephemeral, anarchic, its sounds reflecting the nature of both its creation and dissemination.) As compilations go, It’s All History Now 1979 – 1985 is no missing-link; but as a time capsule it’s a beaut. The Wire

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