Matthew Bower has been wrestling pink lightning from electrified strings and circuit boxes since well before most of us had ever conceived of the concept of endless-feedback-as-punk-satori. His fingerprints are all over the furthest fringes of the UK's avant/noise underground, from early actionist/performance work with Pure that saw him share bills and bottles with the original Whitehouse trio through his experiments with scum/rock in Skullflower and Total, the Theatre Of Eternal Music-stylings of Sunroof! and the heavy flesh/metal of the Hototogisu duo with Marcia Bassett of Double Leopards, not forgetting various collaborations with Vibracathedral Orchestra, Richard Youngs, Sunburned Hand Of The Man et al... no matter what you wanna call it, Bower has been the one of the few UK-based players that has regularly delivered it. Writing exclusively for Volcanic Tongue, he's here to sing the praises of the ecstatic US noise group The Skaters.
“Eternity’s Diamond Prison System: The Skaters And Their Attempt To Decipher/Tune In To/Declaim The True Sound Of The Universe In All Its Rich Nowness With No Posture No Musical Style No Past And No Future: Eternal Now" or "The Rubberstamp Of Death" or......
Stop messing with my head with your half baked ragas, dull pseudo ethnic arcana, fake folk etc don't give me 'give and take' improv, and please no 'interesting', I want full-on universal electric blood or nothing (Nothing is pretty good too), it goes against all notions of 'democratisation' of improvising, it seems un/anti natural and un Zen to not just salute the doing, but need a special doing, one that can't be learned or refined... it’s rough but you've either got it or not.
A band I play in was playing some shows in California and we went to San Diego to play a storefront house space with this local trio and they were young and nice in a totally un-world weary way that amazingly didn't grate on an old curmudgeon like myself but was totally inspiring that they were liberated by all the great stuff they liked (because the I/net and almost total access to all musics hasn't generally empowered youthful music, but robbed it of aspiration and originality) and when they played in the magical Californian night, our jaws dropped as they tuned into, and rode, and drew magical designs upon, a beautiful raw wave of tuning, honing on the one sound (containing all kinds of billowing motion)…
They were totally possessed by the sound and focussed upon it and dwelling happily under it like a waterfall. To be possessed by the music can be a very bad thing leading to all kinds of gratuitous wallowing, but when in pure service to the wild spirit of the music it is very life affirming to behold.
James Ferraro of The Skaters speaks of his wish to heal us all with spiritual alchemy: "My idea is to translate effectively both the hellish condition of impoverished communities and also the abstract image of poverty mainly those in which I have been immersed in most of my life. I am naturally inclined to do this to pay homage!! I have seen firsthand the effects of poverty and the mental conditioning of those enslaved by this sort of economic system. I am in debt I feel to translate this message as it is quite a universal one as we are all displaced people alienated I think from ourselves and our land. I am naturally inclined to translate the aura of poverty that exists in black impoverished communities as this is my birthplace. I believe black people in America are still displaced slaves and encouraged by social laws to stay slaves. A slave mentality encourages mental slaves and volunteer slaves!! Yet this condition is a very universal thing and can be translated in a broader sense. We are all displaced disillusioned creatures now!! All of us slaves. The truth exists in both, all the bliss, all the agony and all the silver thrones..."
I would humbly offer up these as the spiritual children of Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, the fact that a lot of their sound is made with broken consumer electronics and effects pedals, to alchemise the voices, the intertwined singing, speaking in tongues and holding up a bright untarnished (or beautifully dusty) mirror to the smiling universe of agony ecstasy playfulness devotional laughter.