Before he became The Caretaker, Leyland James Kirby recorded music under the name V/Vm for many years. He opened his irreverent V/Vm Test Records label in 1996, and since then has developed a reputation for noisy, prankish releases, often reconstituting bits of pop culture to subversive ends.
As V/Vm, Kirby has engaged in all manner of hijinks, often to the chagrin of electronic music purists. (The denizens of Aphex Twin message boards, in particular, were irritated by a couple of AFX spoofs he released). His concepts are provocative and entertaining. 1999’s Pig was a field recording of pigs feeding, apparently mistaken by some as the sound of them being slaughtered — perhaps because the cover was a butcher’s diagram of pork cuts. Sick-Love was a collection of popular love songs that had been digitally degraded, including the glorious “The Lady In Red (Is Dancing With Meat),” which reduces its source material to Satanic rubble:
Then there was “I Wanna Fuck Miss Nicky Trax” and “Made in Belgium,” two 12″ records designed to emulate the Belgian New Beat sound of the late 80s/early 90s, albeit cross-bred with Kirby’s offensive sense of humour (tracks included “Anal Acid [Butt Plug Edit]” and “Cocaine [Pablo Escobar Mix]” and Kirby urged the pressing plant to print ‘Manufactured in Belgium’ on each copy, but was declined).
“Mouldy Dough ***the Official V/Vm Anthem***” was one in a line of V/Vm’s send-ups of tepid pop culture. The record is ostensibly a re-release of “Mouldy Old Dough” by Lieutenant Pigeon, a novelty song that rose to number one on the UK Single Charts in 1972. That song is bizarre in the way only UK chart hits can be. Frontman Rob Woodward alternates between playing the tin whistle and growling out the song’s title, while his mother, Hilda, plays boogie-woogie piano along with a plodding drumbeat.
It is not hard to divine Kirby’s perspective on “Moldy Old Dough.” The record’s cover lays out his opinions starkly:
“as the old adage goes ‘why try to fix something that isn’t broken'” we’d like to add the following words of wisdom, ‘why not re-release the worst ever UK number one single and make it even worse on the B-Side.’ Last seen offending children, beating up Keith Harris and orville duck whilst drinking enough Q.C. sherry to sink a battleship, PIGEON then spent the entire winter season at Butlins Bognor supporting BuCKs FIZZ and Boy George. After this success the PIGEON then disappeared to a life of crime and KEBABS to support his 27 siblings.”
Most of that is fictional, although Bucks Fizz and ventriloquist Keith Harris’ Orville the Duck character were both responsible for other despised UK novelty hits, as collected on this worst-of-the-worst compilation:
Side A of “Moldy Dough” is simply a re-release of the original “Moldy Old Dough,” whereas the B-side is a cacophonous re-working by V/Vm itself. But what makes this release especially remarkable are its accoutrements. With each copy came two small zip-lock bags, one containing a feather, and the other containing some genuine pigeon poo.
Certainly, this is not the only record that’s been come packaged with excreta. There are several records that incorporate blood in their packaging, for example the Indecent Liberties LP by power electronics act Taint, which was advertised as being spattered with “cat/dog blood.” (In fact, Keith Brewer, who was behind Taint, told me awhile back that it was blood sourced from a butcher.) Pushing things even further, Michael Ridge, who runs the Quagga Curious Sounds label, once pressed a latex record that had pubic hair embedded within it.
But this Pigeon disc could be the lone release that incorporates avian excreta, which is no dubious distinction.
A record such as this is an anomaly, but it is characteristic of Kirby’s ethic at the time. Perhaps this is best characterized as a work in the plunderphonics tradition, irreverently re-contextualizing pop culture run-off. In fact, Kirby’s vastly different, seemingly more serious work in the hauntological domain is guided by a similar set of principles, designed to tickle the memory banks. One of his classics under the guise The Caretaker, Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom, repurposed samples of old waltzes by slowing and warping them, then burying them in eerie ambiance. In that case, as in the case of this pigeon feces accompanied disc, the idea is to experiment with collective memory — though the end results are radically different, the process remains the same.