Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Nurse With Wound - The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion

Nurse With Wound
The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion


Released 1985 on United Dairies/LAYLAH
Reviewed by Lugia, 04/01/2004ce


Nurse With Wound: "The Sylvie and Babs Hi-fi Companion"
United Dairies/LAYLAH LAY15, no recording date, release reissued 1985

1) You Walrus Hurt the One You Love
2) Great Balls of Fur

This is the supreme audio minefield.

Steve Stapleton and cohorts really outdid themselves with this, the audio equivalent of a ride on a runaway rollercoaster. Starting with overlaid bits of Muzak, it lulls you into some sort of sense of complacency...when all of a sudden, CHAOS. Noise. Sinatra impersonations. Tape machine errors. Loops made from chopping up Rolf Harris records and bad porn dialogue. Insane laughter. Saxes. Stockhausen. The Charleston and cartoon music. Jackhammers. Slash-n-burn editing galore. Trouble.

Bad? No, not at all. Perhaps jarring...OK, it IS jarring...but the havoc ensuing on this release is like some sort of audio funhouse, like Negativland's forays into audio thievery gone berserk. The two collage/compositions that make up this album have sent people I know into paroxysms of laughter. They have also managed to clear rooms. Sometimes, they've even done both at the same time.

Even the record jacket is a study in deception. On the one hand, it LOOKS like some sort of early-60s lounge thing. Save for that annoying track title on the front (all of which are, of course, total lies) that says "Astral Dustbin Dirge". And the players of the "Murray Fontana Orchestra" seem innocuous enough, unless you know who Jim Thirlwell, Sinan Leong, Edward Ka-Spel, Karl Blake, et al actually are. Of course, you can never be sure if any of these people are on here, or it's another Stapleton jape. It should be noted that halfway thru side one, you clearly hear someone say "It was just a prank!"

But quite an artful one! Boy, this thing is trouble. Even after repeated listenings, you're still never quite sure what's about to get thrown at you, and different little bits and snippets keep revealing themselves for years after first exposure. But like Dr. Hunter Thompson's observation that Las Vegas isn't a good town for psychedelic drugs, "The Sylvie and Babs Hi-fi Companion" perhaps isn't a good album for any drug stronger than Tylenol. It's disorienting enough as it is! As an example, the beginning of side 2 with its Hawkwind riff attack that self-destructs into weird noise, free-jazz drumming, windup toys, and then Mr. Ka-Spel himself...if you weren't familiar with the album and you were on anything heftier than Kool Filters, your head would explode "Scanners"-style from the overload.

But you can't really call this 'evil' or 'malicious'. There's a playfulness to the pandemonium here. It's not an album for everybody, to be sure, but for those who need a major fix of chaotic audio, this is one of the paragons of the form. And a massive, MASSIVE mindfuck of a record, to boot!


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