Monday, April 28, 2008

Article 191 of alt.surrealism: Surrealist Music: Nurse With Wound

From: hthornbu[at] (Harvey Thornburg)
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1993 05:55:51 GMT

Ok, I've received a lot of mail about this topic. I think anybody who's seriously interested in surrealist experimental music should check out first the work of the basic founder of the genre, Steven Stapleton. Since 1978, he and an ever-changing supporting cast under the name Nurse With Wound have embarked on a variety of surrealistic journeys, committing them to vinyl (and then later re-releasing them on CD) and are still around, coming off what is arguably their best album ever (Thunder Perfect Mind) although you can say that about seven or eight of their releases.

Yes, NWW do consider themselves surrealists, and they draw many ideas from Lautreamont's _Maldoror_ as starting points. In addition, they have at many times expressed their beliefs (on record, with song titles, etc.) in the supremacy of 'Automating' concepts. Listening to their stuff is the musical equivalent of Bunuel/Dali's film 'Un chien andalou.' Most of their work is very dark but humorous in character. They've frequently been thrown in with the 'industrial' crowd which is not altogether a mistake ... They can usually be found (in the US) in the import sections of very good record stores (like Tower - but don't pay their prices... Find some cool independent shops specializing in fringe/alternative stuff ...


Their first three albums are the most nakedly surrealistic, each containing wandering ever-changing treks through the collective psyche of the unknown. Highlights from this period are (song listings) 'Blank Capsules of Embroidered Cellophane' which starts out with eight eerie minutes of chains clinking, then women chime in with random phrases in French, somebody practices saxophone, and computer blips drift in and out. 'Ostranenie' is more developed, with many of the same types of elements except speech samples are spliced into one another very subtly in the background, all given depth by judicious use of delay. About 13 min. into the piece run the sounds of many music boxes; about 17 min. inward the whole thing is fit around striking piano chords, then settles into something different before the piece decides it should end. Sounds like 1000 inmates plotting to take over a mental hospital. 'Dada X' is more of the same, but abrasive while 'Ostranenie' is ambient. Some evil woman chants subliminally in the background. 'Futurismo,' alternatively titles 'Insect and Individual Silenced' consists of minimal electronic backing, more processed 'clinking,' women speaking in Franch and English... the English lines are something like 'We have fallen silent.. I'm afraid we have lost the power of speech .. Insects run buzzing in our heads...' etc. All these pieces have sort of a 'progressive spaciness' that makes them really evil and sinister at times - a state which co-exists with their inherent surrealistic quality. The only problems sometimes are you have to wade through a whole lot to get to the 'good parts.' Patience is an extreme virtue when listening to their early stuff.

From this point they kept getting better and better, although more abrasive around the 1981-1983 period. Their surrealistic techniques were a dash more subtle in an attempted truce between being dogmatically surrealist and conveying heightened emotional states. _Homotopy to Marie_ is probably the strongest in this period. It dwarfs the achievments of their earlier albums except at the total expense of 'listenability.'

From this point they've evolved in many directions at once; highly recommended are the 'Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi companion' which dissects earlier NWW releases with distorted samples of other things in a completely hilarious manner. They've recently been exploring more dreamy, cold ambient states like 'Thunder Perfect Mind' and such.

Album Recommendations:


Automating Vol.2 (but long out of print)
Large Ladies with Cake in the Oven
(re-release of Gyllenskold/Brained with '91-'92 studio outtakes added on)
Sugarfish Drink (compilation of recent singles/EP's)

Noise lovers: Homotopy to Marie
150 Murderous Passions

Hardcore surrealists:
To the Quiet Men from a Tiny Girl
Merzbild Schwet
The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion

Ambient types:
Soliloquy for Lilith (just now released on CD!)
Thunder Perfect Mind

(All the above except Automating vol.2 now on CD)

The Nurse With Wound Discography

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