Mars F. Wellink ‎– Anti-Record (Wick(ed), 2001)

In 2001, a peculiar record surfaced courtesy of Mars F. Wellink. That strange record was actually two 7″ records glued together, their surfaces deliberately scratched to the point of no return. It came accompanied by a booklet of silkscreened collage work.

To learn more about this strange anti-record, I tracked down Wellink by email. He explained that it emerged from his work as one half of the experimental music duo, the Vance Orchestra. Essentially, he was making use of their run-off. “Our soundscapes are built up by recycling old records and recording sounds indoors and outdoors,” he explains, explaining that he tends to cull records for cheap from flea markets and secondhand stores. He also collects found objects from around the environment.

“I have piles of stuff,” he explained. When this record came together, he was looking for a way to use it. “All the stuff you collect is the inspiration for a self-taught artist. I’ve made collages all my life.”

He had also developed a practice of combining recycled album covers and his own silkscreen prints to create collages, which served as the basis for previous album art that he’d done. For example, the year before, Vance Orchestra’s At Random Again CD featured a Wellink-designed cover assembled from ads in Japanese newspapers. Their 1998 cassette, Repeater, was contained in boxes made out of old LP covers — meaning each copy was one-of-a-kind.

Wellink’s distinctive collage cover for Vance Orchestra’s At Random Again, incorporating ads from Japanese newspapers.

Extending this practice, he created the Anti-Record using some old 45 RPM singles that had accumulated in his mountain of junk. He explains the process he used to create the anti-record.

First, he used an assortment of tools to “prepare” the records themselves, accounting for the irregular scratches all over their surface. He then played each copy on an old turntable, recording the audio for his personal archive. “Maybe I can use this later on, I told myself.”

Then came the gluing. “Two seven-inch records glued together and labeled — no hole was visible, so the buyer had to damage the object to listen! The cover was made of old record covers and found material and every cover has a rabbit jaw on it. The booklet was made of an old silkscreened poster I made for a performance with an image of Antonin Artaud, decorated with various stamp art and found material. Everything was sealed with an info sticker.”

He acknowledges the conceptual nature of this unusual record, explaining that he is “a great fan of the Fluxus movement,” referencing the interdisciplinary art community that frequently made use of anti-art concepts.

Around the time this anti-record came out, Wellink was also working as a master silkscreen printer at a Dutch production house called Plaatsmaken; these skills were useful for preparing the accompanying silkscreen art booklet.

Only seven copies of Anti-Record were produced in total, which makes it pretty scarce. Those copies were distributed by the Rund um den Watzmann mailorder, no stranger to unusual records. (Previous releases by the Rund um den Watsmann label include a zoetrope record and a three-dimensional LP.)


Thanks to Mars F. Wellink for the interview.

Gayle Ellett – Winds of War CD-R (HC Productions, 2002)

In 1984, the guitarist Gayle Ellett founded the instrumental progressive rock band Djam Karet with three friends. Over the years, they’ve put out dozens of albums, amassing a cult following. Ellett has also recorded music for TV and film, accumulating an extensive catalog of credits.

His 2002 album, Winds of War, is an anomaly. It is an abstract sound collage of field recordings — culled “from ancient Arabic deserts and 1,000-year-old villages, viciously processed and mangled forever by contemporary analog keyboards and other recording studio devices.” According to its press release, the goal was to symbolize the destruction of Islamic culture by the American military.

I spoke to Ellett about this unusual record. Ellett lives in Topanga, California, and around the time Winds of War came out, he was dating a woman who had lived in the Middle East and spoke some Arabic. They chose to travel to Morocco for a vacation, and he found himself captivated by the sounds he encountered there. “I made a ton of field recordings there,” he tells me. “I had a small portable DAT recorder with me that I used to record the sounds of the markets and mosques. I wasn’t sure at the time how I would later use these recordings, but I knew it was a good idea to at least capture the sounds I heard on the streets of Morocco.”

He then ran this audio through his Minimoog analog synthesizer, filtering and modulating the sounds and performing some digital touch-ups on his computer. “Once I heard how it sounded, when I ran it through my analog synthesizer’s filters and modulation system — it took on a rather creepy vibe,” Ellett explains. “And we were, as we are now, in the middle of a huge war in Afghanistan. Basically I was mangling the sounds of their Islamic culture by jamming it through an American synthesizer, and bending and distorting their world to my liking. And so the album began to take on a rather anti-American/anti-imperialism tone to it, and I maintained that theme with the track titles.”

Indeed, titles include “The Liberated City” and “‘Round ‘Em Up.'” He explains that he was inspired by his revulsion towards the anti-Muslim sentiment in the air at the time.

When asked about the precedent for this type of experimental record, Ellett puts it simply: “Everybody listens to John Cage, don’t they?” He explains that experimental music is commonplace in California and, besides, Ellett’s band, Djam Karet, would often utilize reel-to-reel tapes to add layers of found sounds to their live performances.

Winds Of War was released through the early digital music website mp3.com, which ran a service called Digital Automatic Music, in which they would produce CD-R versions of albums at artists’ request. Ellett believes 250 copies were made in total.

Listener response was mixed. “Well, it is a very strange recording! Seriously strange! So many people did not like it at all. But some did find it to be very interesting and unique. But I really made it for myself, not others, so I was happy with how it all turned out.” Only a couple of reviews were done, one from an American prog rock website and another from an Uzbekistani website.

Today, he reflects positively on this release, which is one among many. “I think it worked out really well, in my totally biased opinion,” he says. “I write music in a very wide range of styles, from art-rock to film music to traditional World music, and currently I play in eight bands and I’ve played on over 120 albums. So I am very interested in a really wide range of music, and making this avant-garde album was a unique experience, and a ton of fun!”


Thanks to Gayle Ellett for the interview. Visit his website here.

Knurl – Initial Shock CS (self-released, 1994)

“I was so fascinated with the sounds of screeching and grinding metal.”

Knurl is the noise project of a welder from Toronto named Alan Bloor. Since his first tape in 1994, he has established a reputation for his unique sonic aesthetic. Involved in the punk scene growing up, he developed a taste for loud and dissonant music. Years later, he drew inspiration from the sounds of his welding. “I was influenced by the sound of the saws and grinders in the shop I was working in and thought it would be great if you could get a band to sound as fast and furious as that,” he explained in a previous interview.

Image provided by Alan Bloor.

This reflection inspired Bloor to harness the sounds of metal scraps, which have served as the foundation of his many Knurl releases. Juxtaposed against today’s noise producers, many of whom create their music entirely using computers, Bloor’s methodology seems almost primitive. The majority of his music uses the unmodified sounds of metal attached to guitar pick-ups with no post-production editing. His custom instruments are like metallic mutants; he welds sawblades, threaded rods, and irregular steel shards together to create bizarre noise objects.

Bloor’s first official release dates back to 1994, when he self-released the Initial Shock cassette. It was based on some experiments he had been capturing on tape for his own listening pleasure. “In the early 1990s, I was so fascinated with the sounds of screeching and grinding metal that I would create cassette tapes that I would listen to on a Sony Walkman tape player. The sound pieces would be created from metal being scraped and mashed into the pickups of a bass guitar I had, as well as contact mics being placed on electric fans and car springs. At the time, I was using head phone speakers as contact mics, and running the signal through Boss distortion, and DOD equalizer pedals, and recording it straight onto cassettes.”

Bloor tells me the audio for Initial Shock was originally intended as a soundtrack for a dance performance. “One day my wife and I were going to see an experimental dance company and there was going to be a Q&A after, and she suggested that I take a couple of my cassettes to see if they would be interested in using any of the sounds as a score for future dance pieces.

“The Q&A didn’t materialize and afterwards I stopped in at a local record shop that I frequented and told my friend there about these cassettes I was making. He listened to one, liked it, and told me that I should send out copies to some record labels to see if they would be interested releasing any. 

“I didn’t know of any labels, so he gave me some addresses. This prompted me to create a project name, and a release. I came up with the name Knurl, which comes from the diamond grip pattern on handles and knobs.”

A knurled pattern. (Source: Wikipedia)

Initial Shock was cobbled together from the tapes Bloor had been privately recording for his own listening. “I dubbed off the cassettes in real-time, hand made the labels from card stock and lettering stencils, and once the release was produced, I sent it out to a few of the labels that my friend at the record store told me about. One label wrote back and told me to contact Joe Roemer at Mother Savage Noise. I sent him one and he really liked it. He asked for a few copies and he sent them out all over the world.  I couldn’t believe it when I received a letter from Taiwan asking me to be part of a compilation.”

The total circulation of Initial Shock was very limited. “I only made about 20 Initial Shock releases. They’re not the best recordings, but to me that was the beauty of it. I loved the rawness and the stripped down approach to this recording, and many other Knurl releases.”


Thanks to Alan Bloor for the interview. Visit his Bandcamp here.

Unsolved Mysteries: Heinrich Göbel ‎– ADALOX, NORTON, P80, G121 anti-record (1981)

Who is Heinrich Göbel?

And why did he create a blank record housed in a sandpaper cover?

When Ursula Block’s seminal art catalog, Broken Music, came out, one interesting entry was this sandpaper record, attributed to “ANONYMUS”:

As the picture shows, the “record” itself is a square of sandpaper. Printed on the sandpaper is “Norton”, which refers to Norton Abrasives, a sandpaper company. Adalox, meanwhile, is the trade name for a type of sandpaper that Norton makes. P80 refers to the grit size of the sandpaper (this one is a medium grit.)

I reach out to Jan Van Toorn, who uploaded this anti-record to Discogs. He owns one of very few copies of this record. He explains to me that he purchased it at an art gallery-cum-bookstore in Cologne around 1990. Around then, he saw another copy at a different bookshop/gallery called Bucholz, but he hasn’t seen one since. When he tried to reach out to the original bookstore to find out who Göbel was, they didn’t have any information.

He shared the following images of his copy, which include the sandpaper-abraded surface of the blank LP, as well as an autograph:

Source: Jan Van Toorn

He notes that, while the Broken Music catalog kept Göbel’s name “anonymus,” the catalog for Ursula Block’s 1988 exhibition with Christian Marclay, Extended Play, did list Göbel as the artist responsible — which matches the autograph.

So who was Göbel?

Was it a fake name, an appropriation of this famous German inventor who was falsely believed to have invented the incandescent lightbulb before Thomas Edison? Or perhaps named after this architect who authored an extensive history of European tapestry?

Both Heinrich and Göbel are common last names in Germany, which contributes to the information shortage.

Certainly, this wasn’t the only record, or anti-record, to experiment with sandpaper. Just two years prior, the Durutti Column released their famous album, The Return of Durutti Column, with an outward-facing sandpaper cover (designed to damage other LPs in your collection). Richard D. James used to put sandpaper on the decks during his DJ sets, and the conceptual artist Timm Ulrichs created variably-graded sandpaper records in 1968. But this one is among the most mysterious, since Göbel’s identity — and motivations — remain obscure.

Do you know more about Heinrich Göbel or this mysterious anti-record? Are you Henrich Göbel? If so, please leave a comment or contact me!

Thanks to Jan Van Toorn for contributing the three images of Göbel’s record, and for providing invaluable background information. Van Toorn runs ART RPM and Slowscan Records.