Friday, 14 September 2012

Nurse With Wound - Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella

Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella was the debut album by Nurse With Wound, released on their own United Dairies label in 1979. The album enjoys a reputation as one of the most singular debuts of all time. It is described by AllMusic as "one of the more glowing examples of late 70's industrial noise" and defunct UK music magazine Sounds summed up their response by abandoning their usual star rating system to award the album a full 5 question marks.

The album came about when Steven Stapleton was working as a signwriter in London in 1978. Completing a job at an independent recording studio, he engaged in conversation with the studio's engineer, Nick Rogers. Rogers, frustrated with the advertising and voice-over work the studio brought in, expressed a wish to work with more experimental bands. Stapleton informed Rogers that he was in such a band and a studio date was arranged. Stapleton, however, was lying and had to hurriedly put something together. He called his friends John Fothergill and Heman Pathak, telling them to get hold of an instrument of some sort. Thus, the first line-up of Nurse With Wound was quickly assembled, Stapleton on percussion, Fothergill on guitar (with built-in ring modulator) and Pathak on organ. The trio didn't have a chance to rehearse before entering the studio, yet the album was completed within 6 hours, with Rogers adding what was called "commercial guitar" on the sleeve. The studio's piano and synthesizer were also used. The tale is so fortuitous as to appear unlikely but Stapleton and Fothergill agreed on the story when interviewed separately by David Keenan for his book England's Hidden Reverse. The album contains 3 lengthy tracks and Stapleton has stated that these were edited from improvisations with some overdubbing.

The album's title came from a famous quotation from Isidore Ducasse (writing as Comte de Lautréamont) in his novel Les Chants de Maldoror, later adopted by artists involved in Surrealism. Stapleton designed the sleeve using an old pornographic magazine. Some copies came in a brown paper bag as a handful of stores were not prepared to have the cover on display; however, both Rough Trade and Virgin took copies without censorship. The original hand-numbered 500 copy pressing was cleared within weeks. Amongst those who bought the album were Tim Gane, later of Stereolab, and William Bennett of Whitehouse, both of whom would later work with Stapleton. One of the most discussed aspects of the album however was the inclusion of the Nurse with Wound list, an A4 sheet with a list of bands and artist who had provided inspiration to the group. It remains a touchstone for collectors of experimental and outsider music. The 2001 reissue of the album contains the bonus track "Strain, Crack, Break", which consists of a heavily cut-up recording of David Tibet reading the list.

The Nurse with Wound list is a list of 291 musicians and bands that accompanied Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella (1979), the first album by Nurse With Wound. The list was compiled by the original Nurse With Wound trio of Steven Stapleton, John Fothergill, and Heman Pathak. It was intended as a homage to the artists which influenced the Nurse With Wound project. It has since become a type of 'shopping list' for collectors of outsider and avant-garde music. Given their obscurity, some of the artists named on the list have been a mystery for many collectors. Stapleton has even boasted that some of the names on the list were invented, a statement absolutely refuted by John Fothergill.

Without self released tapes and vinyl the Industrial scene would not have existed. Often dealing with unpleasant and offensive themes, it isn't everyones cup of tea. For example, Nurse With Wound's Debut release , "Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella", and its artwork depicting women in various states of bondage, caused it to be banned from the Rough Trade co-operative for its politically incorrect images. Therfore it had to be distributed in other ways. Forming an alternative to the alternative!
The music is the usual tape collage of noise and found sounds, and was probably quite shocking back in 1979.Steven Stapleton was apparently offered some free studio time one weekend, and immediately called his record collecting buddies John Fothergill and Heman Pathak, persuading them to buy some instruments - none of them had played music before. The person who offered them the studio asked if he could play a little lead guitar over their "songs " and they couldnt really refuse, hence the slightly santanaesque flourishes over huge cacophonous slabs of chaos The first release on steven Stapleton's United Dairies label.
Nurse with wound are getting more famous nowadays for the "Nurse With Wound List" of interesting bands which was included, you would do well to check out.

I doubt that any of Nurse With Wound realised it at the time, but the list that accompanied the first Nurse With Wound album, (and also the revised version, included with their second) has become almost like a bible for the intrepid musical adventurer. Sporting the enigmatic text: "Categories strain, crack and sometimes break, under their burden - step out of the space provided..." it has become legendary, as a reference list of revolutionary music, and a challenge to Nurse With Wound collectors around the world, who curious enough to want to hear all the music on it. Of course, this is not an easy task, as the full list nears 300 artists, and many are extremely obscure! As Steve once pointed out, some artists are listed for obvious reasons, some less-so, some are there just for one track! 

Well, Biba Kopf once wrote - "who said music had to be nice"?

Even Sounds Magazine were enthusiastic enough to give it five question marks for an unusual review... so, why shouldn't you - an open-minded listener give it a chance (meeting)?

It doesn't matter if it's a dissecting table, a sewing machine or an umbrella - a stunning hardcore it is.

Three themes, clocked well over 40 minutes or so, is nothing but an aural nonsense to conservative ears. But if you scratch beneath the surface, 'Chance Meeting' occurs with free improvisation that easily fits into a fetish silent film or is a weird reinterpretation of Ella Fitzgerald's legendary scat singing.

There are plenty of associations to this - it's all up to your imagination.

Albeit suggesting spooky imagery, the grotesque of 'Two Mock Constructions', 'Six Buttons of Sex Appeal' and 'Blank Capsules Of Embroidered Cellophane' offer typically dark humorous atmosphere; absurd electric guitars sliding in and out of focus with a claustrophobic drone, echo delays and uneasy synthdrum frenzy plus occasional vocals beyond particular description, all vouch for a stunning sound painting!

This compact disc edition is somewhat rare for replicating the original lp - like many early Nurse cd releases from the 90s. Yet I must object how exaggerating the price for a piece of plastic with surrealist music can be. Those interested in buying this particular edition should have in mind, 'Chance Meeting' and the like is a bit of a tricky affair! Once pressed by pdo pressing plant, this cd edition fell prey to the infamous disc rot. Sellers should be reasonable and not mindless profiteers overpricing this one alone up to $ 90.00 while selling a potentially dissolving compact disc.


misterpc said...

hey, check this new NWW re release :

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