Thursday, 12 October 2017
Nurse With Wound - Merzbild Schwet (1980)
Back into NWW formative history today, to June 1980. With the friendships of the inaugural trio of Steven Stapleton, John Fothergill and Heman Pathak starting to drift apart, Merzbild Schwet was the first occasion on which Stapleton went into the studio alone. With a growing confidence in finding his way around a mixing desk, and a singular vision that would establish NWW as Staplteton's project (plus whoever else he wanted to work with), Merzbild Schwet is really the start of the Nurse With Wound story proper (even if Stapleton prefers to start it with Homotopy To Marie, as the first one he was fully satisfied with).
Released later that year, Merzbild Schwet offered two 24-minute tracks, their titles (Futurismo and Dadaˣ) reflecting Stapleton's artistic interests, and one of his most wonderfully macabre album covers. My CD, from a reissue box set, has this as the back cover - apparently a printer error. The track titles seem to switch order between various editions too, confusing many a listener - to this day there's stuff on rateyourmusic.com about liking 'the post-apocalyptic story on Futurismo' - nope, that's Dadaˣ, but easy mistake to make... you start to wonder if Mr S did these sorts of things deliberately...
Futurismo, then, is the one that starts with the inspired gag of recording a record scratch into the piece, making buyers of the original vinyl think they had a defective copy - until it speeds up and becomes obvious it's part of the track. The background for most of Futurismo is a mangled tape of a jazz band slowed down and slurred into a sort of tipsy queasiness, whilst various sounds gradually pile on. Electronic noises, spoken voices, unraveling sticky tape, a smear of organ that eventually becomes quite pleasant when it radiates a full major chord... etc etc. The last four minutes change tack entirely to choppy piano and humming static.
All great stuff, but Dadaˣ is arguably NWW's first dark drifting masterwork. Eerie echoes of backwards percussion and assorted honks and creaks provide the backdrop for the main spoken monologue, performed by Eve Libertine of Crass. This short, surreal piece about non-communication gets further reduced into fragments in between another voice speaking in French, stabs of piano, more skronking and howling, and periods of ominous silence before Libertine's full monologue repeats near the end. A kind of ghostly accordion shanty finishes off a track of absolutely essential dark-room weirdness to be creeped out by.