Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Nurse With Wound - Who Can I Turn To Stereo

Nurse With Wound
Who Can I Turn To Stereo


Released 1996 on United Dairies
Reviewed by Lord Lucan, 30/06/2000ce


I was scared of(f) NWW for years and years. Despite initially sticking my toe in the water (or perhaps more appropriately: submitting to a baptism of fire) of so-called Industrial music at the tender age of 17 by taking a gamble on buying ‘Dreams Less Sweet’ by Psychic TV, my attitude to most ‘industrial’ music has been one of trepidation. It was always the section in record shops that I looked at out of the corner of my eye; not particularly out of curiosity: I think it was more that as my interests in music expanded, so I kept a wary eye on how close I was getting to this scary nether-world of creepy people who made disturbing and disturbed music.

Looking back, this attitude seems as laughable as being terrified of the child catcher in Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang! (which I was…very). The reason is that the very label ‘Industrial’ is, in most cases, a complete misnomer. Definitely a case of a lazy music press lumping together the more challenging post-punk music and backing it into a corner. Mind you, this wasn’t helped by the groups / collectives themselves most of the time with their sleeve imagery. It is only as I’ve got older that I have really started to catch up on much that I missed out on, although I’m treading carefully!

So to Nurse With Wound. With a name like that they weren’t getting anywhere near my record collection a few years ago. And their record sleeves: all human-meat-fused-with-metal collages. This is the epitome of what I believed I should avoid. However, about two years ago I chanced across a copy of this CD (by the way, the lack of a question mark in the title is intentional). It must have been a moment of satanic intervention or something because I found myself buying this CD despite being in a total void of information about or clues to the contents. The sleeve didn’t help either: no list of personnel, instruments, producer, lyrics or even year of release (the year I've given above I'm not totally sure of) and all on a record label I’d never heard of.

I was totally taken with the music once I was listening to it at home, though. The opening was like entering a mysterious labyrinth, the door slamming behind you, so you have to explore further before being allowed to escape. Either that or walking down the darkened hallway of a Victorian mental institution. This all starts to ebb away, however, to reveal a musical collage with truly ear-opening properties. It’s like nothing I’d heard before, yet influences are somehow there. It has much in common with Krautrock (yes, again!), particularly the tape editing (Can, Faust), as well as the modulation and splice experiments of 20th century classical avant-guardists (Stockhausen, Henri, Cage etc.). But these are just touch points, rather than starting blocks. This music has something deranged about it (like The Residents), but it’s very listenable and not nearly as hard work as I’m probably making it sound (unlike (much of) The Residents.). Synthetic rhythms pitter patter as weird and wonderful noises, often with no immediately apparent source, jump in and out. A surrealist narrative in a gorgeous brown voice with a Spanish accent drops in now and then to give us the impression that a story is unfolding. Each track flows into the next giving the whole album a ‘concept’ feel. The ‘concept’, however is of our own making, as any themes are too oblique to be a concrete concept. Hell, the concept is the NWW sound, not any bash-you-round-the-head-till-you-get-it lyricism. This record is bloody difficult to describe. Mainly because I’m scrabbling around for reference points, but this music sounds like the product of a hermetically sealed environment and a singular aesthetic. Effects are used, not merely as aural colouring-in but for a purpose. If this sounds like serious stuff, then I’m also misleading you, because there are large doses of dark humour here too. I probably also haven’t got across the beautiful nature of much of this record. ‘Yagga Blues’ is a sumptuous piece of exotica. Oh, and moments of genius like using the sampled words ‘…to communicate’ looped, as a mantra rhythm-track just make the hairs on my arms stand up!

Well, I hope this has given you something to whet your appetite. Words don’t do this CD justice. I heavily recommend this album as a way into NWW – it opened a whole can of worms for me! ‘Rock and Roll Station’ (especially the double CD version) is also a pretty good starting point. I’m now exploring back catalogue, which is all unique and fascinating. I’ve been really grappling with ‘Merzbild Schwet’!

If you like challenging music made by someone (NWW is mainly Steven Stapleton’s project) with an extraodinarily gifted ear give it a whirl!


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