'A weapon of mass distraction wages war on your child with a playstation' - Peter Karkut.
The folks at the Digitalis label first came across the work of U.K. duo Leven Signs via a "chance encounter" with a cassette of their solitary album, Hemp Is Here, originally released in 1985. A search of the Mutant Sounds archive brings up a 2007 post for the album, which is likely to have been most people's entry point to the record. In many ways it typifies the spirit of the blog, taking great lurches in style, having scant regard for the world outside, sounding like it was recorded on a piece of old kitchen roll. Sometimes it bears a tiny resemblance to the wider post-punk narrative being spun at that time, especially when clattering, gamelan-influenced percussion collides into the kitchen sink sound of bands like Rip Rig + Panic. But its most overt tie to post-punk is in its desire to tear up music history in order to not sound like anyone else at all.
Leven Signs is the work of Peter Karkut and Maggie Turner; the latter provides vocals that occasionally sound like a less-stern Nico, all buried so deep in the mix that it feels like she's performing somewhere else, in a distant room, with a different band altogether. What Karkut is doing is anyone's guess. There are perceptible organ tones, noises that resemble slide whistles, percussion that sounds like a recording of one of those wind-up toy drumming bears. It's clear that a lot of work and thought went into Hemp Is Here, especially in the tracks where abstract tape loops are laced around one another, recalling the future voyages into playfulness of the Focus Group. There's also a strong sense of junk shop experimentalism later shared by groups like Pram, where everything is thrown up in the air and loosely arranged after it lands.
Camera Peter Bromley
Editor Claude Bromley
Assistant Justine Beckett
Production 1968 Film Group