Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Nurse With Wound - A Missing Sense (1997 compilation)

As promised on Monday's writeup, here's Steven Stapleton's 'tribute' to Robert Ashley's Automatic Writing.  Over to you, Steve:
"A Missing Sense was originally conceived as a private tape to accompany my taking of LSD. When in that particular state, Robert Ashley's Automatic Writing was the only music I could actually experience without feeling claustrophobic and paranoid. We played it endlessly; it seemed to become part of the room, perfectly blending with the late night city ambience and the 'breathing' of the building. I decided to make my own version using the basic structure of Ashley's masterpiece, but making it more personal, adding natural sound that I could hear in my environment. It should be played at very low volume."
What we get with the NWW take on Automatic Writing then, might be 20 minutes shorter, but is still a wonderful ambient drift that sits alongside the very best of Stapleton's work in that mode.  There's less focus on the vocalisations (I'd guess because they were very much Ashley's signature, and the best Stapleton could do was imitate them), but plenty of NWW signatures - electronic whirring and clicking, mutated smears of trumpet, and a highly atmospheric take on the Farsifa organ sound from Automatic Writing.  Far from being just a knockoff of a superior work, A Missing Sense is magical stuff in its own right - the influence from Ashley is obvious, but the NWW fingerprint is unmistakable.

On this compilation CD, A Missing Sense is followed by a work from a year later (1987) called Swansong.  Purportedly inspired by the anger and hopelessness felt by Stapleton after watching a documentary on the original A-bomb tests, it actually comes across as an oddly calming ambient work mostly comprised of electronically-generated rushing waves and eerie, distant synth melodies.  Near the end, the waves suddenly stop, and the remaining music introduces a bizarre interlude in which a girl (possibly the same one from the Homotopy To Marie title track?) talks about puberty or something like that.  The electronic waves then condense into a constant sea wall of static that gradually fades away.

Lastly, the disc is rounded out by a remixed version of Dadaˣ from Merzbild Schwet.  This mix originally appeared on Ostranenie 1913, released in 1983 to help a friend of Steve's launch their label, and is one of the few NWW records I've been lucky enough to get hold of on vinyl.  The LP cover was a monochrome version of what you can see above, that Stapleton used for the Missing Sense CD.  It's a good mix of Dadaˣ, but I think I still prefer the more spare and spacious original.


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