Nurse With Wound - Huffin' Rag Blues [Durtro/Jnana, 2008]


Say you've read some Williams James and you want to see God on nitrous oxide, too. Why should the father of modern psychology have all of the sacred fun, after all? What music will give you that right lift, that selfless synergy with the One? Or perhaps you are so abject as to be committing brain-cell genocide with some low-deadly inhalent, seeking some hole of thanatopsis into which to crawl. Where are your huffin' rag blues? Where is your chorus-line of dancing temple-monkeys? Your long, frenetic stock-car race of the soul?

Huffin’ Rag Blues, the latest release from Nurse With Wound, is an album-length meditation/deconstruction of source material that has inspired Stephen Stapleton for decades: lounge music. Fans of Enoch Light, The Three Suns, Esquivel, Edmundo Ros and Ray Martin, among others too plentiful to name here, will love this disc. Those ignorant or dismissive of such influences and their deeply experimental roots may feel as lukewarm as some critics have been in their reception of this album. Sure, by this time there has been an abundance of experimental and plunderphonic “bachelor pad jazz” reworkings, notably the Organ Transplant discs from Stock, Hausen & Walkman and the cartoonish jazz detonations of J.G. Thirwell’s Steroid Maximus releases. The challenge for an avant weirdo artiste like Stapleton is to riff on source material that is already deeply and irrevocably bizarre and experimental in its own right. He does this with loving care, in wonderful hebephrenic stereo.

Granted, Huffin’ Rag Blues has its problems. Lynn Jackson’s vocals on a few tracks are lackluster and patience trying. Some have criticized the album for sounding too produced, apparently ignorant that such hyper-production, with its attendant gimmickry, is typical of the this venerable genre and entirely appropriate for a tribute/send-up/riff. Sadly, it seems ironic that Stapleton’s greatest departure in years is being lambasted for not sounding enough like other NWW releases, though alleged purists may take comfort from the epic “The Funktion of the Hairy Egg,” which is gorgeously freaky and builds into a psychotomimetic stampede of wildlife, including some wild-assed goat bleats presumably recorded live at Stapleton’s Coolorta, Ireland goat farm.

Stephen Stapleton, Andrew Liles, Frida Abtan, Colin Potter, Diana Rogerson and Peat Bog, among many others have created something wonderful here, an unlikely hybrid of sophistication and chaos. Those ostensible hipsters who only know “bachelor pad jazz” from its faddish and shallow revival in the ‘90s may scratch their uglies in befuddlement at this release. For a disc jockey who has been mixing Nurse With Wound and Stereo Action-style releases for a couple of decades, it seems like a natural development. Just as Angelo Badalamenti employed similar sounds from earlier decades as a springboard to create progressive, experimental soundtracks, Stapleton and company have cooked up a lounge sound for the new millennium, a shiny monument to future possibilities of Dadacoustics and Cacaphonics.

Steve Aydt

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Nurse With Wound - Huffin' Rag Blues