Stefan Hanser is not afraid of hard work. The Anemone Tube front-man has made that abundantly clear with the series of audio-visual compilations co-released by Silken Tofu and Hanser’s label, the Epicurean, to celebrate the Epicurean Escapism festivals. This, the third and final of the series, is characteristically bullish and expansive in scope. A huge amount of effort has clearly gone into these releases, and they’ve done a fine job in representing diverse interests in a disparate scene.
The Epicurean’s periodic collaborations with Silken Tofu began with their release of the Anemone Tube album Dreamscape in 2010. The two labels broadly share a common aesthetic, and it’s clearly a fruitful relationship, but I suspect Hanser plays a strong curatorial role in the Epicurean Escapism series. These are one man’s vision of everything that industrial culture can be. Running the gamut of sound, visual art, literature, and performance, it’s a tradition few people are willing to tackle. It makes sense for two labels to co-release the three volumes as demands on their time and wallets would have been high.
Here, the music on the compilation CD is complemented by a DVD featuring some of Zürich-based Dave Phillips’ sprawling output, ‘Proceed with Inquiry’. A lengthy catalogue also features artwork from the compilation’s contributors and an essay on Phillips from Uwe Schneider of African Paper. It’s all beautifully presented in an A5 cardboard foldout with the Epicurean’s typically precise design aesthetic.
CD openers Sutcliffe Jugend provide a fine warmup with ‘Amuse-Bouche’: a fairly nuanced track of sparse rhythm, digital effect, and (always the highlight) those insistent vocals. Alfarmania is in the mode I’m most fond of: minimal, less overtly ‘harsh’, deep on queeze and with sewer-level vocals—gets me every time. ‘I Blodets Glöd’ is easily the pick of the bunch.
I believe Last Dominion Lost’s ‘To the Master, a Long Goodnight’ is the band’s last farewell cheer to John Murphy. I understand this is also Murphy’s last recorded output before his death in late 2015. It’s an outstanding track: dirge-like percussion with sparse electro-acoustic audio and heavily processed vocals. It’s been great to see Last Dominion Lost active again these past couple of years. Even without John Murphy’s vital contributions, we can look forward to watching their continued growth.
Nikolas Schreck changes tack with the LaVeyan theatricality of ‘Lord Sutekh’s Dream’ and its harpsichord, reverb, morose stage-musical singing. Thanks, but no thanks. Budrūs provide a variation on the theme with ‘Duobė’: overly dramatic shouty vocals over fairly pedestrian ambient industrial. Gerechtigkeits Liga, active since the early eighties and featuring Till Brüggemann of Last Dominion Lost, delivers a dense soundscape of field recording and sample, while Skin Area brings it all back on track with the crawl and creep of ‘Sighs of Warning’.
On the whole, not all to my liking, but some superb highlights nonetheless.
Merely approaching, let alone summarising, the work of Dave Phillips is near impossible. Active for 25-odd years in multiple artistic fields (including appearances on almost 200 releases), his contribution here to the DVD component of the release is characteristically challenging. The work is delivered in three parts: video works, live performances, and collaborations.
The video works are varied with clear effort put into editing and sound composition. They’re often jarring and disorienting, always intimate, and personal. Some are abstract and intangible while others are precise and brutally polemic. There is slap-to-the-face activism in spades, including a sobering piece on humankind’s exploitation of the Earth and its animals (‘How sad, that nature speaks and we don’t listen.‘). Phillips’s use of footage depicting animal vivisection, cruelty, and industrial slaughter is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, as is the screaming text (‘Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance!’). But these pieces are clearly meant to shock and are more about our complacency and willingness to let them happen than about the actions themselves.
The collaborative works are interesting enough, though they are not as strong as Phillips’s solo contributions. He seems to supply audio primarily over his collaborators’ mostly impressionistic visuals. Many could display rather comfortably on a screen in a respectable art gallery.
The live performances are highly entertaining and showcase a theatrical grotesquerie typical of the Schimpfluch-Gruppe of which Phillips is a core member. Indeed, the best of the live recordings here has him on stage with Rudolf Eb.er for a Schimpfluch-Gruppe action in Paris. Contact mikes in mouth, their faces slam repeatedly and unceremoniously into bowls of spaghetti. It’s bleakly humorous and very uncomfortable.
As with the previous two volumes, Epicurean Escapism III is sprawling in scope and meticulously curated. Few labels display the patience or energy to attempt a project of this breadth, and even with the cessation of the series, here’s hoping the Epicurean and Silken Tofu lend their hands to others.
01) Sutcliffe Jugend – Amuse-Bouche
02) Alfarmania – I Blodets Glöd
03) Last Dominion Lost – To the Master, a Long Goodnight
04) Nikolas Schreck – Lord Sutekh’s Dream
05) Budrūs – Duobė
06) Gerechtigkeits Liga – 23/7
07) Skin Area – Sighs of Warning
Dave Phillips ‘Proceed With Inquiry’ DVD | Video Action:
02) Truth Is Invented by Liars
06) Iv Ea Pe
Dave Philips’ ‘Proceed with Inquiry’ DVD | Performances:
01) Schimpfluch-gruppe Paris
02) Abolishing Religion
06) Extreme Rituals
Dave Philips’ ‘Proceed with Inquiry’ DVD | Collaborations:
01) As Long as the Victims May be Quietly Buried (With Remote-Control Rectum)
02) Samstags Nie (With Pakise Akin, Jan Van Hasselt)
03) I Curse You All and All Your Kind (With Remote-Control Rectum)
04) ?10 (With G.X. Jupitter Larsen)
05) Untitled #3 (With Moju)