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VAW/HELIOGABALUS – Vaw/Kingsland Waste (Difficult Fun)

Posted: November 8th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

Ah, the noble guitar! So many things to so many people. To some it’s a vessel for the summoning of dark spirits; to others it’s an easy way to make quick cash, or a best bet for getting laid. For others still, it’s a warm and obedient friend on long, cold, lonely winter nights.

New Zealand ex-pat Cameron Bain, formerly of a number of varyingly obscure noise and punk bands, and here sailing under the flag of VAW, is someone who appears not to be content with just having a warm and obedient friend to keep him company until spring, but prefers to (is compelled to?) use this friend to summon dark spirits too. It’s a fascinating two-birds-with-one-stone combination, and results in a compelling first side of this split vinyl LP. Mainly the fruits of solo labour, the Vaw tracks are uglybeautiful: dark, scratchy and slightly claustrophobic smears of things that nevertheless contain moments of real tenderness and poignancy. There are wonderful snatches of harmony, sustained afterglows, fragments of chance melodies, all poking out from under a thick layer of dust. Occasionally throughout the set, Sean O’Reilly pops into the cabin to warm his hands at the piano, the shaker or the oboe. It’s low key, lo-fi, but highly satisfying.

The flip side is occupied by oddball duo Heliogabalus, also New Zealand ex-pats, and also veterans of the fertile NZ noise scene. Their side is considerably more rabid, as they channel mischievous poltergeists, rather than the more reflective, melancholy lost souls that Vaw invoke. Interestingly though, it’s all done with acoustic instruments – so instead of rich amp fuzz, we get cascades of feverishly plucked nylon, catgut and steel string, and the layers of silt on this side are entirely due to the joyously outdated recording technology. If at times it seems directionless, that’s because sometimes it’s more fun to just wander around and enjoy being lost than to map out strict routes, and every now and then you stumble across something incredible that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Deranged, and, consequently, quite a thrill.

Difficult Fun

Simon Proffitt

Simon was born near Clowne, Derbyshire and is now an honorary Welshman. In former guises he has created fake diamonds, developed ultra-high-capacity storage devices and been one half of slow-moving, ├╝ber-pretentious record label Fourier Transform. He now spends his evenings recording silence and banging kitchen utensils.


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