Where is This - in the privacy of your own home [Bored Bear Recordings - 2009]‘in the privacy of your own home’ was presumably recorded in the privacy of Mark Ward’s residence in Dublin, Ireland in 2007, who only got ‘round to mastering it for release on cassette last year.
It’s Ward’s first release following dabblings with songwriting, singing in a band and creating solo electronica, and finds itself on the outer edge of the harsh noise genre. That’s not to say that it is harsher, noisier and more intense than what has gone before – in fact, quite the opposite – it uses improvised distortion and computerised mangling to interfere with a variety of more conventional styles to spawn a rare pop/noise hybrid.
The first side of this 40 minute cassette opens with a vari-speed military tattoo on drum machine that is eventually drowned out by what could be a mass of distorted bird song, tweeting violently and incessantly before echoing away into space. Having set the tone somewhere between outsider improv and deranged soundtracks, the rest of the side travels through cheap synth riffs from horror films and suggestions of ‘ardkore rave to easy listening lounge jazz vibes and industrial pulsing. But all tracks seem soiled, and to a fair degree, by the qualities of a rapidly deteriorating VHS machine reminiscent of V/Vm’s delerious plunderphonia.
While all compositions feel like they are realised through editing the results of frivolous playtime, side two feels a bit more developed. It opens with the same cheap drum machine, but this time it’s stop/start rhythm is cast over a turbulent soup of static that, come the three minute mark, begins to feel unwelcome in it’s persistence when an unexpected burst of 303 acid burbles messily, evolving into some serious, welcome squelching. Ward’s electronica roots are also evident in the next track, ‘Your Labcoat Appears to be Covered in Bright Orange Stickers’, where alienised steel drums and repetitive intrusions of voice fragments help to form a stomping electro rhythm. The stand out track, however, is possibly the least gleeful in its toying with noise: Ecstasy (Kink) tip-toes around coolly on a steady, clean jazz noir beat (possibly the first time on this album where a sound is used undistorted), but is swiftly joined by overdriven marimba keys that are still slinky and hip despite their deformities until they speed up into what resembles a manic, tribal rite. The final track, ‘Reprise at the Betty Ford’ is similarly infectious with a reprise of side one’s bossa nova buggery and hoovering bass that attempt, but fail, to control a stuttering static that seems to slow down and speed up simultaneously.
The aims are so often the same for those working earnestly within the noise genres – be it to test resilience, to oppose, to overcome or merely to mesmerise – so it is with some surprise that ‘Where is This’ take a different path that opens up an inaccessible style through injecting mirth in the miasma. Deliberately hit and miss, lacking pretensions but abundant in blithe waywardness, ‘in the privacy of your own home’ is, paradoxically, a nightmare of fun.Russell Cuzner