Label: Released on CD by United Dirter in June 2009 and on double L.P. by Norton North in 2015. (DPROMCD72, DPROMCD72a, DPROMCD72b, OPIUM MMXIV-V)
Format: CD / Limited Edition 3 x CD / Double L.P. White Vinyl / Double L.P. Black Vinyl / Limited Edition Cassette
Close to You
The Golden Age of Telekinesis
The Part of Me Which is that Part in You is Now Dead
Yon Assassin is my Equal
The Surveillance Lounge was also issued as a limited edition 3 disc set as 'THE MEMORY SURFACE'
THE MEMORY SURFACE
(Limited editon 3 x CD verison)
The Golden Age of Telekinesis (Early Mix)
Yon Assassin is my Equal (Early Mix)
The Surveillance Lounge is released in three versions. In 2009 as a standard CD and limited edition as ‘The Surveillance Lounge / The Memory Surface’ 3 x CD in poly wallet and in 2015 as a double L.P. (400 on white vinyl /400 on black vinyl).
The double L.P. version was especially remastered for vinyl in 2015.
A cassette version in an edition of 200 copies was released in 2016.Reviews:
Written by John Kealy
Sunday, 14 June 2009
This mail order only edition of Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles’ The Surveillance Lounge is superb. In addition, there are two extra CDs of drastically different versions of the album. Creaking and groaning their way across an audio backdrop that brings to mind the boggling landscapes of Yves Tanguy, the three discs cover the same unnerving mental states as classic Nurse With Wound albums like Homotopy to Marie and Insect and Individual Silenced. It is the first Nurse release since Salt Marie Celeste that has spooked me in any significant way and it is a welcome return to weirder moods after the lighter side of Nurse With Wound that has been explored with their recent live and studio output.
With a title like The Surveillance Lounge, this might suggest that the (un)easy listening style employed on Huffin’ Rag Blues has persisted but that is not the case. When elements of easy listening music do appear, it throws a sinister normality amidst the even more sinister strangeness. On “Yon Assassin is my Equal,” the introducion of a relatively inoffensive lounge rhythm puts me on edge; Stapleton and Liles combine the annoyance of being stuck in a waiting room with an existentialist anxiety. Claustrophobic and paranoid, the music and incidental sounds haunt the listener, creating the sweaty discomfort of a bad dream. The nightmare continues with “The Golden Age of Telekinesis” where there is a fabulous, violent midsection featuring a demonic auctioneer that suddenly cracks open into a quiet, disorientating abyss.
Elsewhere, disembodied voices speak in French and German, bringing to mind the regrettably underexplored Echo Poème Sequence releases. In these moments, the unearthly beauty of Stapleton’s audio surrealism come to the fore. Yet no matter how wonderful parts of The Surveillance Lounge get, the dripping dread is never far away. Stapleton and Liles conjure up an surreality where the sublime is dangerous and the benign is unfamiliar and threatening. The whole experience recaptures that early obsession with Le Comte de Lautréamont’s Maldoror and the darker moments of that novel are mirrored in the viscous quicksilver of “Close to You.”
The other two discs in The Memory Surface are dedicated to earlier versions of The Surveillance Lounge. The album started off as a soundtrack to F.W. Murnau’s Der Brennende Acker before evolving into the album described above. The soundtrack version of the album is a different beast altogether, the vast majority of the music bathed in vinyl surface noise like a fog obscuring a landscape. The effect is reminiscent of Philip Jeck’s work, crusty old records being given a new life in an unintended way. It is impossible to tell how much (if any) of the material is vinyl-sourced but the alien nature of the sounds suggests that whatever sources were utilised have been completely shorn of their original contexts. Elements are recognizable from The Surveillance Lounge but there is a large difference between it and the music created for Murnau’s film.
Also included are early mixes of “The Golden Age of Telekinesis” and “Yon Assassin is my Equal,” which are familiar sounding but still a far cry from the finished versions. They are different enough to warrant their inclusion but overall they lack the intensity of the The Surveillance Lounge versions and the atmospheric allure of the older Murnau soundtrack versions. However, from a phylogenetic standpoint they allow a glimpse into the fossil record (as it were) and provide the missing link between the soundtrack and the album.
The Memory Surface is well worth buying over the standard version of the album. While a lot of Nurse With Wound special editions are aimed at the hardcore fan, this is one instance where the special edition trumps the standard version hands down. What Second Pirate Session did for Rock’n Roll Station, The Memory Surface does for The Surveillance Lounge.
Go ahead, overwhelm yourself. True, you could just pick up the new Nurse With Wound album, The Surveillance Lounge, and bask in its complex web of wyrd. Or you could dive deep into the temporal abyss of The Memory Surface, a three CD set available only through mail-order, featuring the aforementioned album plus “studio outtakes, historical documents, the sequential evolution of an album and a primitive version of ‘The Surveillance Lounge’.” This is your best bet and worth every extra penny.
Let’s begin with the brilliantly named The Surveillance Lounge, which has been heralded by some, those who didn’t quite grasp the ingenuity of Huffin’ Rag Blues, as a return to form for Steven Stapleton. But there is a marked progression here. Stapleton may be sharpening old tools but he is using them to create new and surprising soundscapes that seem convincingly ancient and forbidden. There is an unsettling mood that builds, bristling with what sounds like old EVP ghost-recordings, with layers of atmospherics accumulating eerily until they discharge in bursts of cacophony.
In considering the liner notes to the bonus discs, we’re told,” In 2007 Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles were invited by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation via In Famous to perform a live soundtrack at La cité de la Musique, Paris, to the 1922 Murnau film ‘Der Brennende Acker.’” This soundtrack comprises Akts One through Six, followed by early, drastically different mixes of material from The Surveillance Lounge.
Many of the recordings are artificially aged to sublime effect. The crackle of ostensible surface noise takes us backward in time, where subtly shifting layers of sound induce fits of nostalgic unease. There are hints of dreadful ritual, set in a landscape of ghostly decadence, recorded on some ancient medium. Strains of delicate beauty come and go; glimpses of distant, murky places, insistent spirits of lost eras. Atmospherically, this project is akin to the short fiction of Thomas Ligotti or the suggestive creepiness of Robert Wise’s The Haunting. It quietly invades the theater of the mind, triggering strange associations and feelings: the pain of memory and its mercurial nature, the fine line between consciousness and dream. In doing so, it invites collaboration with the listener rather than passive absorption. What you hear may not be as jarring as the part of you that responds.
To maximize your appreciation of this experience, slap on your best headphones and sit in a quiet, darkened room. No words can prepare you for the sonic phantasmagoria and the singular mood it conjures. Repeated listening may induce an experience analogous to rapture of the deep. Even in a career marked by consistently brilliant experimentation on a radical level, The Memory Surface stands out as a masterpiece. This is adventurous listening at its finest. Absolutely essential. Steve Aydt
Steven Stapleton, who for thirty years has been recording under the moniker Nurse With Wound, is to music what David Lynch is to film: an ambitious experimentalist inspired by the brash antics of Dada and the trippy vibes of Krautrock, whose releases win glowing reviews (“Genius, pure unadultarated genius”) as well as biting critiques (“And no one seems to give a shit”). In some of his more recent releases, like Lynch, Stapleton has dredged the wretched from the mundane—in the Shipwreck Radio series, he and collaborator Colin Potter reworked field recordings from the fishing village of Svolvær, Norway into sonic flotsam; in last year’s Huffin’ Rag Blues, he highlighted the wasted dirtiness of Martin Denny-style exotica. But in The Surveillance Lounge, Stapleton, along with longtime collaborator Andrew Liles and a team of vocalists (including David Tibet, leader of the mystical folk outfit Current 93), dredge the wretched from outright squalor. Nothing if not a monument to panic-inducing terror, Nurse With Wound’s latest full-length gives us some idea of how it would feel to have one’s soul annihilated in the Black Lodge, the demonic lounge hall of Twin Peaks.
Creepy is a great word to describe some of the more memorable selections of Stapleton’s 122 collaborations, albums and singles, and it is an especially appropriate descriptor here. Based on a commission for a live soundtrack of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Der Brennende Acker—which delves into such heavy themes as greed, devotion, and death—the album’s four extended tracks are full of ghoulish drones, jarring transitions, and some of the most unsettling vocals (an unpredictable mix of jabbering, croaking, and clipped yelling) ever recorded. The mood reaches a fever pitch with the cracked-out horse race monologue of “The Golden Age Of Telekinesis,” driven by hypnotic percussion and accented with a child’s screams and bursts of high-frequency feedback. In terms of uncompromising hideousness, The Surveillance Lounge rivals the famously obtuse “game pieces” of John Zorn’s Cobra (2002) and the hilariously offensive Top 40 medleys of the Residents’ The Third Reich ‘n Roll (1976).
But many listeners will no doubt have lost their nerve (to say nothing of their patience) long before they reach the grating musique concrète freakout at the five-minute mark of “Yon Assassin Is My Equal,” and that would likely be the cut-off point for most everyone else. Frankly, even a Bastard Noise fan is bound to be at least a little disturbed by this one. I can scarcely imagine the right moment for anyone in any situation to sit through The Surveillance Lounge. If it had been released in the years when American troops were subjecting detainees to hours of tunes played at ear-splitting volumes, though, it would have probably have gotten a lot of play at Guantánamo Bay.
I would wager that most Dusted readers are already familiar with Nurse With Wound’s lengthy discography of audio surrealism. But if not, you’re encouraged to check out the Brainwashed NWW page and the Wikipedia entry. The thirty-year journey of Steven Stapleton and his collaborators – including frequent partner Andrew Liles on this album – is a tribute to Dada, like a Tristan Tzara text interpreted via abstract sound.
For The Surveillance Lounge, NWW fleshed out pieces composed for a silent film soundtrack and turned them into four long songs, each around the 16-minute mark. To a great extent, though, this can be considered one long flowing text, as the track divisions could fall almost anywhere. With such a surrealist assemblage, one person’s ending is another’s beginning.
This is a very subtle album, which is both its strength and its weakness, depending on your proclivities and expectations. Ominous throughout, and calm more often than not, the music can easily fade into the background – which, ironically, works well when it suddenly bursts into startling cacophony after you’ve forgotten it’s even on. The dynamics at play can be a bit dangerous when put on late at night, as it will either be too quiet most of the time, or too loud in its random eruptions. Headphones are recommended.
If there’s one word that describes The Surveillance Lounge, it’s dread. Seemingly innocent sounds – shifting static, crinkling and clattering – become drenched in foreboding against distant drones and mysterious reverberations. The slow piano of the opener, “Close To You,”; cut-up radiophonic voices, shouts, and screeches; cloudy murmurs and chanting; crazed factory buzzings and electronic fuzz: All of Stapleton’s sounds refuse to lie still. The intense shrieks, howls, whooshing, and scraping of the occasional frenetic passages often come out of nowhere, and quickly subside back to whence they came.
The most memorable piece is “The Golden Age of Telekinesis,” which begins to build with exquisite patience at about the five-minute mark, and is still on its way up several minutes later. Simple rattling percussion accelerates the pulse as freakish sounds become more and more insistent, until it implodes with a sci-fi squelch into near-silence. Few other moments on the album match its intensity, which comes not entirely from the injection of rhythm and more from the passage’s sense of purpose.
The Surveillance Lounge is certainly not an easy listen, and its crazed moments may put off those looking for a purely spooky listen. The quieter points may do the reverse. It took several listens for the album’s personality to come through for me, and I’m still not entirely convinced. But it’s nonetheless a masterly performance if you’re prepared to give it some time. By Mason Jones
Last we heard from Nurse with Wound, Steven Stapleton was mining the depths of ‘30s swing music, desperately trying (and not entirely succeeding) to find a way to turn it into something ironic and/or difficult. While it seems odd, then, to laud an artist usually referred to as “experimental” for backing away from experiments for the sake of something a little less unexpected, that’s exactly what happens, as The Surveillance Lounge seeps in and takes hold of whatever space you’re hearing it in. The release is almost exactly what we have come to expect from Nurse With Wound: long, spooky soundscapes punctuated by noise, sinister voices, and the occasional rhythm section. Despite the demarcation implied by the presence of four separate tracks, the entire 66-minute album is one piece, in that you’d be hard-pressed to tell any of these pieces from the other. The only exception is, perhaps, “The Golden Age of Telekinesis”, as its second movement contains a building percussive rage structured upon tribal, rhythmic drums, and lots of malicious static. The opener “Close to You” starts out with a few pianos, “The Part of Me Which is That Part in You is Now Dead” proves the most frightening of the bunch with its proclivity for startling the listener, and “Yon Assassin is My Equal” surprises most by making the listener wait for a climax that never really comes. All, however, are dark journeys down untraveled paths, and that is exactly what Stapleton (here with cohort Andrew Liles and Current 93’s David Tibet among others) does best.
Steven Stapleton’s latest release as Nurse With Wound marries some of his long-floating tendencies: serenely eerie feedback loops, voices screaming and/or shuddering in various foreign languages, and barely-there piano tinkling. Where last year’s Huffin’ Rag Blues threatened to tip Stapleton’s hand with cringe-inducing moments of beatnik lounge collage, The Surveillance Lounge offers less in the way of surprise, but returns to the starkness and po-faced absurdity of his (cringe) canonical albums. Like all of NWW’s best work, this is one to put on when you want to feel your room slowly close in on you. As good and familiar as that can feel, it’s hard not to feel like NWW’s work is a bit of a shell game at this point in Stapleton’s career—though that should only add to the charm for fans.
Steve Stapleton returns from his dalliance with easy-listening on Huffin’ Rag Blues with another surrealist menagerie of the grotesque. This Surveillance Lounge is overflowing with sinister phantasms, exhuming malevolent fantasies mapped out by Comte de Lautréamont’s foul anti-hero, Maldoror. Stapleton’s been here before, of course: his debut long-player, Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine & An Umbrella, took its title from the pages of the Count’s most infamous horror story.
“I drew register a little exaggerated, in order to create something new in the sense of the sublime that sings of despair only in order to oppress the reader, and make him desire the good as the remedy.” In describing his own compositional methods, Lautréamont illuminates the atomic mechanisms inherent in Stapleton’s work. Nurse’s tapestries convey a sense of unease, a visceral feeling that cloaked assassins lie around the next corner, venturing beyond the smooth dark ambience of their black-vested peers. While screaming out its perversion with decadent pride, The Surveillance Lounge also fails to admit any light. That the “reader” is required to seek the “remedy” elsewhere – that is its one inherent flaw.
A return to form for Stapleton & co after the easy listening sounds of Huffin Rag.This brings go mind earlier erie masterpieces such as “Homotopy to Marie” With it’s continually shifting back drop go disembodied voices scuttling percussion tinkleing piano’s plus the familiar clanks and drones.The mail order only special edition comes wonderfully packaged with two card walleted bonus discs housed in a polyproplene box.Essential listening for the avid NWW fan,with it’s facinating development of the Memory Surface’s evolution sprawling over the 3 disc set. Highest possible recommendation 10/10.