Heavy Metal

Good old Boutique/LTM Records have seen fit to reissue 23 Skidoo's The Culling is Coming, presumably after others like me moaned about its absence in the Skidoo reissue programme a few months back.

Was it worth it? Of course! Here - along with the Tearing up the Plans ep - is the radical, experimental Skidoo; away from the cut-up funk they did so well but that sounds so dated. Here is the loop and bash of industrial ritual, here the avant-garde shout against grey Britain in the early 80s, here... well, it's not quite like that actually.

However startling the LP was in its time [as indeed the actual ´Summer Rite' was live at Womad], it's actually dated as badly as the funk stuff. It's also been re-ordered, which doesn't help matters. The original LP had the Womad concert as side 1 and the Dartington Gamelan ´Winter Ritual' as side 2; half way through side 1 you had a lock groove of furious noise you had to lift the needle beyond to get to ´Healing [for the Strong]', a gamelan track played on scrap metal rather than an official gamelan. Once you'd been healed the recovery process continued with the gentle ebb and surge of the Dartington music...

Here we get it all topsy-turvy: the gentle Gamelan first - a muted ringing enchantment, before the harsh chattering and banging, wild stomp and horn-blowing of the Womad set. But, let's face it, we've all heard gamelan now and it's not quite as 'revolutionary' or 'new' as it once was. The gentle ebb and swell is fine, but it washes over until the looped noise of the Womad set interrupts the calm. Played loud this is still awesome, raw music, primitive and untamed, feral even. But compared to the unleashed power of something like Merzbow it's thin and weedy. Compared to the careful improvisation of, say, AMM it's unfocussed and undisciplined, casual, amateur even... With samples an everyday occurence in the pop world, with cut-ups and collage the only way anyone composes or writes these days, the awful shock of this music has gone. Were we really naive enough to think loops and noise would ever change the world?

Yup, and so were 23 Skidoo. Unexplicably tagged on to this reissue is an appallingly thin and uninteresting 20 minute live track ´Move Back - Bite Harder', where voice loops meander thru time and treatment. Frankly, it's just dull stuff seemingly put in to pad out the reissue. And if it was so important to have two 23-minute sets of music, why ruin the master plan now?

As grown-ups we know [don't we?] that music, however sublime, however intriguing or disturbing, is of its time. Whatever memories I have associated with the original release of this, they are just that: memories. Which, with the track-shuffling and bonus boredom, are fading fast. Methinks 23 Skidoo are trying a little too hard to write themselves into musical history. Perhaps a footnote might be appropriate?

© 2003Rupert Loydell