are a result of the chance meeting of Nurse
With Wound's Steven Stapleton and Graham
Bowers, both artists were appearing
Sound City's first art/sound
Cahen located at the Bangor Swimming
Pool, North Wales, in January 2011. Both
were admirers of each others past works and
felt that a collaboration on a new piece
of work could be an interesting and exciting
from the success of Rupture,
a new work Parade was
released on the 3rd of June 2013 as a CD,
a special limited edition Double Vinyl album
was released in April 2014.
Both were released through the Red Wharf
label and distributed by
A small number
of Parade CDs and Diploid (Parade ~ Epilogue)
CDs and the Double Vinyl Album are now on sale.
ExcitoToxicity is the third collaboration to be released on June 23rd 2014, initially as a Limited Edition CD.
The Limited Editons have all been sold.
A Pre-Release of ExcitoToxicity is now available.
The initial pre-release has been limited to a quantity of 100 and contains a unique and individual printed insert of one of Steven's featured paintings, it takes the form of an unusual post-card, stamped with stamps of the world, franked, signed and numbered by Steven and Graham.
The Limited Editons have all been sold.
An excess of most things, both mentally and physically, although exciting and pleasurable, can easily accelerate and rapidly become toxic.
musical track in six sections:
We have thrown caution to the wind and gone overboard on the quality of the 8 Panel DigiPak artwork design and packaging for this release ... why? ... Graham liked all Steven's proposed paintings for the album ... so Steven decided we should feature them all ... on a heavy board in full gloss, on a matte background.
Click on the image for an enlarged view
Chains and Gates
The Worm Within
Jack Hammer Mutation
Of Interest? ~ go to shop
Parade ~ Double Vinyl
Please note that the Art Edition and Limited Edition are now sold out
Of Interest? ~ go to shop
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Examples of three of Steven's individual artworks in the special ART EDITION
musical track in eight sections:
The CD features original artworks by Babs Santini and Graham Bowers, and is available now at the Shop
OFF TO HELL ON A HANDCART
APES AND PEACOCKS
BELLS OF HELL GO TING A'LING A'LING
RING A'RING O'ROSES
A TISSUE OF DECEIT
RATS, CATS AND DOGS
BEYOND THE PALISADE
THE BITTER END
For details on the double vinyl ~ go to shop
A twenty minute composition recalling the salient musical motifs and the final resolution of Parade.
Artworks: Babs Santini
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Of Interest? ~ go to shop
Michael Rodham-Heaps ~ 28th July 2014
Graham Bowers and Nurse With Wound – ExcitoToxicity
It’s hard to get a handle on this word wise; I was really tempted to leave this as a three letter review – just “wow,” with maybe a few exclamation marks for good measure. Indeed I think this impression was cemented in the first two minutes and didn’t seem to waver in the slightest for ExcitoToxicity‘s whole duration. I know I’m incredibly biased towards Stapleton and Co. (I think he’s notched up a 25 year obsession for me already), but the studio dexterity on display here is so good at hijacking your lobes, blancmanging expectations in swerving colour and sleight of hand, you’d be foolish to pass on the experience.
Continuing Stapleton’s recent collaborations with fellow din denizen Graham Bowers, this recent offering brings to mind (for me at least) Spiral Insana‘s mouldering ilk, but refracted through insect eyes. It’s like a hall of mirrors, dribbling with recurring motifs, little bites of the cherry scattered through a multi-headed raggedy man, prism-foddered to differing perspectives, toe dipping the focus in textural honeycombs. Those clatter-caked edgings cerium-bouncing with tasty additions of fuck-off gut-tars, burning on a weirdo(ed) diet of Guru Guru funnelled down the injured panoramas of Amon Düül. You could say this is all over the place — not as chaotic as Parade perhaps, although it certainly shares its tendency to fly off the handle at times (my poor speakers) betwixted by a calm calculated lance or jerky puppeteers hands — seriously, you just can’t fathom how this sets my shadowy heart aglow.
The action commences with “Chains and Gates,” like a kite adrift on sinister thermals, full of temple palms and twilight sines as breathy snakes of uncertainly knot up wisps of Spanish guitar. A tantalising spread of classic Wound topiary, tensile charged, filled with a sense of something unsavoury lingering just around the corner. A vibe suddenly pulled into the chromatic chasm of heavy piano misuse, a violent schism overtaken by a SLAM of beat and layers of grandiose guitar heroics. A raucous incentive (the windows are rattling again), bringing back memories of Peat Bog’s meaty “Bone Frequency” underpinned by an anvil-like chime, chased in disembodied wahs and percussive custards, everything convulsively flittering in your inner ear like a bunch of diced earth worms. Squirming in alternate realities, body-snatched in radio surf and alarm clock noodles. That glinting anvil falling foul of badly-oiled gates to wallow in the protozoics of the beginning once more.
Another two tracks slip by in melancholic whist and scattering metallics. Strange shuffles of alien percussives tapping momentums in ill-fitting shoes. The warping piano and timpani tumble (found on both Rupture and Parade) is all present and correct, squirted between slices of eyeball, radiophonic slivers — the instantly recognisable Huffin’ Rag Blues woman with her West/East Coast drool; broken toys; and more momentary madness. “Dancing Tigers”‘s damaged boy racer wheelies and chugging frets are great too, dump-trucked into an astral dustbin of trickster tinkering. That tap-dancing nail gun stapling oak, jumping the table gaps, floating away on zero gravities, the muted scrape of pearly gates and asthmatic lungs. Beautiful stuff that oxbows the brain in hypno-badness, a spell broken in anvil-like slashes of armour plate and wah(ed) currency. Seamlessly carrying on, the title track is a riveted circus of garbled joy with a heated argument thrown in for good measure, then ambient reflection marred by thunderous piano inners. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Hitting the final furlong, “Broken Symmetry” starts with ’30s flappers melded with brutalised drums, leading to a reprise of the first track. Insides turned outside, branching into a dichotomy, a split layering of loose change falling into an enormous collection plate, beneath which a marginalised Brian May is fret-fucking to his hearts content .The metallic flavour of the coinage overtaking it all in a glorious loosening of limbs. Another great collaboration with Graham Bowers and a worthy addition to the NWW canon towering by my stereo’s side (some would say an industrial accident waiting to happen!).
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John Kealy ~ 1st September 2014
Nurse With Wound and Graham Bowers – ExcitoToxicity
Excitotoxicity is an unwanted process where neurons become over-activated from a surplus of the neurotransmitter glutamate, resulting in cell death and, ultimately, tissue damage and degeneration. Essentially, neurons receive too much stimulation causing the usually well-balanced internal physiology of each cell to become off-kilter and produce excessive levels of harmful molecules that break the neuron down from the inside-out. It is believed to be an underlying part of a number of serious neurological diseases including motor neuron disease, a disease that Graham Bowers has become a victim of. This album is partly a musical diary, an artistic interpretation of neurophysiological processes and a very human response to an unfathomable loss of control.
ExcitoToxicity’s release comes at a time when mentions of motor neuron disease (MND; or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS) are running like wildfire through social media thanks to the ice bucket challenge. In contrast to the scores of healthy, young people light-heartedly "raising awareness" about a disease that many cannot describe let alone imagine, this release from Bowers and Steven Stapleton is a quiet and lonely call from the other side of the coin. It is impossible to listen to ExcitoToxicity without taking account of all the contextual information that the album carries with it from the dispassionate facts of how excitotoxicity and disease occur in the body to the highly personal journey that Bowers has found himself traveling upon. "Chains and Gates" begins from an ominous silence before building into a beat and guitar heavy crescendo. The rhythms are sabotaged and pushed into the background by sparks of sound and bell-like interruptions, much like the regular firing of the nervous system becomes dysregulated and disrupted by abnormal activity within itself during neurodegeneration. The album continues in this manner, setting up musical scenarios and dashing them upon the rocks of atonality.
Much like the duo’s first collaboration, Rupture, which dealt with the damage done to the brain through stroke, the idea of the brain as a tightly controlled musical engine (due to its inherent rhythmic activity in the form of brain waves) is used here to demonstrate how delicate this system can be. Throughout ExcitoToxicity, noises begin at low volumes and repeat while simultaneously rising to uncomfortable and almost painful levels. This is a fantastic audiological metaphor for the physiological process of excitotoxicity as neurons fire and fire and fire until they physically break down. More specific references to MND/ALS are made through the titles, "Jack Hammer Mutation"referring to genetic factors associated with the disorder and "Broken Symmetry" reflects the progression of the disease, with paralysis usually developing along one side of the body before crossing over to the other.
Taking all this together as a concept album, it is very clever. Add in the fact that the music is a step up from previous NWW/Bowers collaborations (which have been brilliant so far) and this makes for a wonderful release. However, just when I become embroiled enough in the album to get lost in its sounds, I remind myself of Bowers himself going through the emotional and physical turmoil of his body closing in on itself as MND/ALS is a neurological disorder that spares the mind; unlike Alzheimer’s or even extreme Parkinson’s, MND/ALS will destroy the motor system but leave the patient fully aware. Therefore, to think of ExcitoToxicity as purely an art project about a disorder does it a huge disservice, it is also the sound of a man coming to terms with his own mortality and how the rest of his days will be spent. Knowing this makes every second of ExcitoToxicity precious and heavy, heavier than any other recorded work I can think of.
John Kealy ~ 20th October 2013
Nurse With Wound and Graham Bowers, "Parade"/"Diploid (Parade ~ Epilogue)"
For their second collaboration, Steven Stapleton and Graham Bowers take the elements that worked so well on Rupture and push them outwards into something more bewildering, but equally as compelling. Pomp, ceremony, showbiz and a cryptic approach to musical arrangements, this is a powerfully odd and oddly powerful work by the duo. As much as I enjoyed Rupture, its heavy subject matter prevents it from being a regular addition to my listening schedule but Parade fills that gap perfectly.
Given the name of the album, it is perhaps no surprise that the music largely has a touch of fanfare and a strong beat to it. Synthesised brass and strings bring to mind The Residents circa Freak Show (their last great one in my opinion) but sound far less rigid. Divided into eight movements, Parade does truly sound like I am surrounded by marching bands. Granted these marching bands are a far cry from the usual mobile orchestras seen at the St. Patrick’s Day parade or at a New Orleans Mardi Gras but the different segments fade in and out like the sound is being made by musicians in transit. The fact that the different segments also tend to be jarringly different is also reminiscent of the parades I would go to as a child; an American high school band followed by traditional Irish musicians followed by dancers dancing to pop music would not have been out of the ordinary. A psychotic brass band followed by frenetic electronic beats followed by eerie noises from the outer dark would not have been normal for sure.
The bonus disc, Diploid, is listed as an epilogue to the main event and with good reason. The single 20 minute piece feels like Parade in redux as the different themes and sounds explored during the album are regurgitated, re-assimilated and reformed into something new. Additions of creepy acoustic guitar and discordant piano add further drama to the sounds, whatever feelings of excitement present in Parade become soured and unwelcoming as if the parade has turned back on itself and was marching into the underworld. It seems almost a crime that this is not part of the standard Parade album because it is a solid way to finish off such a head-scratcher of a release.
Michael Rodham-Heaps ~ 8th June 2013
Graham Bowers and Nurse With Wound – Parade/Diploid
Only listened to this twice so far, but I must say its miles more entertaining than the previous Graham Bowers collaboration Rupture. Gone are the studious symphonics, favourably replaced by liberating wonky oompha chip-chop that scatters the wares more psychsomatically without labouring any fixed point..“Off to Hell on a Handcart” (seriously loving these track titles) is stereophonically awry, a slippery mess of Michael Jackson moonwalk on a blancmange pavement of pomposity. An erroneous comedy monkeying around with your cranium like old-fashioned ‘Wound used to, before everything got protracted and drone swept. There’s too much going on, not that I’m complaining, Mr Stapleton and company haven’t been this satisfyingly doodah since The Surveillance Lounge. A welcome return to form me thinks, as my head feels that it’s swimming in too much alcohol and that internal gyro is about to let things fly. The speakers are working the savage twists and huge swells of bloated Thicke‘n ‘Pharrell over Floyd‘s “Heart Beat Pig Meat.” Surfing those gooey choirs swallowed in monumental dronic croup and collapsed kola crushes whilst an airborne Mr Bowers spits notation like massive globs of multicoloured chewing tobacco.
The pleasures fly by, three tracks in and you’re suddenly immersed in some mighty fine piano insanity, a nailing techno that’s batshit crazy (I’m listening so loud the windows are quaking). A judder jaggered action sequence shuffled into the back of tomorrow fading on eerie rivers of cooling fat whilst the innards of piano wire play on ill winds. “Ring A’ring O’roses” is full of scribbled discordance, a weird shrill and squeaky gravy. The brass skirting round choral creepers and strange percussive indigestions. Old gramophone flavours coming and going to fluffy organisms on hospital trolley wheels; a feed-Baucus-aba-caustic-bizarre-ness fading to a lone whistling bin man. This should be on the education syllabus, it’s definitely on par with trying to read the other side of Ulysses or the unfathomable Flounder by Mr Grass (easy has never been on my agenda).
I’m really enjoying every single minute of this – as the violins and ominous swell of “A Tissue of Deceit” suddenly whips into a munster dance floor of loose scoops of ’30s crooner, cross wired with panel punching beats and against the tide operatics. It’s a mess that almost doesn’t work, but it cusps that disgruntled frontier beautifully in mixed metaphors of interchanging texture, bedazzles you in abrupt swindle. The penultimate “Beyond the Palisade” is a curmudgeon of mental hammering to a Gilbert and Sullivan ribcage of BPM xylophonics. Punishing and ludicrous, leading to the worry beaded soundscape of “The Bitter End,” with its harmonic cloisters oozing away on an orchestrated slow roast to nowhere.
The 20min bonus Diploid is an epilogue to Parade, a slow electroacoustic groping of piano wires and zithery misfirings of notation; a considered vibe that relishes in a restrained chaos blighted in rolling classical touches. Rising horns and twilight caresses. Dark Cage(ean) rumbas and siren calls from beyond, dancing textures between the left and right channels. Swollen beats, cutting off to a rising of rusty hinges and the creakiness of empty swings to a Mozart haze. Classic Nurse territory of scraping and tourniquet tightenings. Berio floods of insecurity at odds with the jewellery box cuteness, liquifications of insects scuttling all over it as decaying notes steam off into cul-de-sac(ean) recesses retiring on a piano viscera fade.
This work is an attempt to
create a musical illustration of the ‘goings-on’
in the brain during the last hour and three
minutes of a life after suffering a major stroke.
the complexity of the human brain’s retained
information and the inherent properties which
constitute a‘life’, an ‘individual’, a ‘person’,
are catastrophically damaged after blood
– ‘life’s fuel’ – ruptures the previously
organised and essential control centres,
absolute mayhem follows.
CD ~ " ... a life as it now is," Vinyl ~ Disk One
CD ~ " ... is not what it was," Vinyl ~ Disk Two
CD ~ " ... and never will be again," Vinyl ~ Disk Four
Of Interest? ~ go to shop
illustration" of the events occurring
in the brain following a lethal stroke is
a dramatic, chilling and emotional portrait.
Musically, it is removed from anything else
Nurse With Wound have done (even if it does
touch on similar influences as the rest of
Steve Stapleton’s body of work) as Bowers
adds a more composerly hand to Stapleton’s
surrealist drift. Bowers and Stapleton have
crafted something unique that does not fit
neatly into any categories, even amongst
Nurse With Wound’s expanded horizons. This
is draining, devastating and utterly compelling.
Bowers’ work in the medical field designing
environmentally controlled rooms for operating
theatres and medical imaging suites has added
tremendously to the power of the piece. Listening
to this from two different perspectives, firstly
from that of an enthusiastic experimental music
listener and secondly from my professional
perspective as a neuroscientist reveals an
impressive and moving synthesis of art, science
and pathos. Concepts such as memory and disinhibition
of neural networks are played out in the music;
a warped sample of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”
from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and
the sound of children’s voices appear to represent
the resurgence of memories in the minutes before
death (possibly due to metabolic disturbances
within the temporal lobes of the brain). The
disrupted electrophysiological rhythms of the
brain are represented in the discordant and
tumultuous rhythms of Bowers’ playing.
Towards the end of the album, various permutations
of "My Blue Heaven" are played,
gasped and hinted at. The protagonist/patient/spirit
promises to see loved ones (whether living
or dead, we are unsure) in their blue heaven.
The effect is moving and unsettling, my own
memories at the loss of loved ones (albeit
not from a stroke) emerging in the fabric
of the music. While I have always found Nurse
With Wound’s music to be enthralling on a
number of levels, this is the first time
I have ever felt Stapleton’s music to connect
in such a powerfully emotional way. I have
been frightened, entertained, humoured and
provoked but never have I felt grief.
The weight of Rupture is crushing; this is not music to turn on, sit back and relax to. It is intrusive, captivating and mentally exhausting. Each time I listen to the album, I feel like another little part of me has changed. Aptly, the titles of the segments sum up not only the medical and physiological implications of a stroke but my feelings as a listener following this work: "A life as it now is, is not what it was, and will never be again."
Linus Tossio ~ 1st January 2012
Sweeping in on modernist orchestrations, Rupture is
a very different kind of Nurse With
Wound collaboration, though there
is plenty which harks back to Steve
Stapleton‘s tape-loop manipulations
of orchestral music both in Nursey guise
and with Current 93‘s earlier
harshly overbearing recordings in the pre-Apocalyptic
Folk days. Here there is an explicit theme
hinted at in the title, as the ensemble attempt
to envisage musically what it might feel
like to undergo a severe brain embolism –
and who better for sculptor and composer
Graham Bowers to work with on such
a project than Messrs. Stapleton, Liles,
Waldron and Potter?
Wall of sound doesn’t begin to adequately
describe the onslaught they unleash together;
once the first few gentle tones of part
one’s calm before the rupture (“… a life
as it now is,”) have been dispensed with,
there’s no stopping the sounds layering
and slathering over each other in an incrementing
palimpsest of composed, found, cut, pasted
and thoroughly mashed up sources, from
bombastic kettledrums and braying horn
sections to the crooning sounds of yore,
flummoxed and banjaxed together. Part two
(“…is not what it was,”) is marked by the
sudden drop from rubbery throbs and a slowing
of the heartbeat pulse as what sounds like
a terribly unprepared piano is given a
strum, plonk and surging snippy surgery
as the cackling, pounding blood music flows
lopsidedly, seemingly up, down and round
the hill with an increasingly demented
air as a marching band engorges itself
Ourobouros-style inside the victim’s head.
The religiose cacophony of the likes of C93′s Dog’s
Blood Rising and Bowers’ own compositional
method (which he terms sound theatre) bubbles
up through the mire on synthetic strings
and sampled roadworks, a symphony of multimedia
detritus emergent as the brain begins to
recurse upon itself, then shatter under
the strain of catastrophic failure. The
stumbling, slurred incoherence of a stroke
sufferer comes via the poor abused piano
once again and shivery strands of synthesis,
smeared and traumatised by tape manipulations
in the throes of Modernist spasms and bilious
There are repeated visitations to rhythmic
devices – clocks, pulsing arteries, bright
shards of painful sound stabbing straight
for the inner ear, bowel-churning rumbles
of the corpus under
stress and strain – whose recurrence builds
into a narrative of dissolution, of inevitable
consequences of the blockage of blood flow
to the brain. Part three (“…and will never
be again”) brings medical emergency sounds
in as the patient stabilises, the whirr and
heave of assisted breathing phasing in and
out of audibility with the immanence of those
pearly gates and white-lit voids chiming
at the brink. The thrum, crunch and crashes
of the orchestral heaves take up the strain,
the musical body undergoing its own catharsis
as the voices return. Indistinct and unquiet,
their speech is hesitant, their laughter
hollow and the moans chorused to a fragmentary
swing coda, jazz mired in a soup of dissonant
brazen memories as the words decay to nullity.
A dizzying descent into malfunction on the most personal of levels, Rupture marks a return to gelatinous surrealistic pillow music from NWW in one of those fortuitous collaborations which was just waiting for the right circumstances to happen.
Richard Allen ~ 26th January 2012
One hour, three minutes and thirty seconds
of death: that’s one way to describe Rupture,
and in this case, the description is literal.
This concept album seeks to “create a musical
illustration” of the dying brain following
a stroke; and damn, is it powerful. The
brain is a miraculous storage facility, but
following a stroke, all of the neurons get
jumbled. The ensuing hodgepodge of
memory and fantasy, important and inconsequential
is fearsome and wondrous all at once. So
much packed into electrical impulses! So
much beauty, so much despair! All of
these conflicting thoughts and feelings are
present in Rupture, an album composed
in a tightly controlled fashion, yet ironically
reflective of chaos.
Shy strings and sullen brass introduce the
stroke: bursts of color like tiny stars exploding
in the brain. A series of drum rolls
leads to an ominous passageway. From
whence do these incoherent voices stem? Are
their chants sinister or benign? (To
quote Jacob’s Ladder, “if you’re
frightened of dying, and you’re holding on,
you’ll see demons tearing your life away”.) Is there
a message embedded in their code? And
what of the radio transmission that follows? Is
it a memory, a phantasm, a TV show? Who
will sort these things out? Why do sense
not? Who in, as wonder? Feel. Truth,
Piccadilly Records ~ Record Store Day 2012
Due to popular demand this work is now available as a very limited double vinyl LP in a special edition for Record Store day 2012.
It's the first collaboration of
Steven Stapleton's Nurse With Wound and composer/sculptor
Graham Bowers. It is, without doubt, one
of the best things we have ever released.
It's an extremely unnerving, but also hauntingly
moving listening experience. The work is
an attempt to create a musical illustration
of the "goings-on" in the brain
during the last hour and three minutes of
a life after suffering a major stroke. It
is multi-layered and is primarily concerned
with the internal chaos caused by the loss
of control of thought processes, responses
and consequential actions, with all types
of incoherent disjointed memories and present
real time events - as well as moments of
lucidity, panic and fear - clashing, merging
It's essentially one long piece, but is presented here over 4 sides of finest quality 150 gm virgin vinyl. . "...a life as it now is,. ...is not what it was, ...and will never be again" The records have been expertly mastered for vinyl and cut by Noel Summerville at 3345 Mastering, who's 30 + years of experience of cutting vinyl speak for themselves. It arrives packaged in a beautiful gloss laminated gatefold sleeve, featuring artwork from both Babs Santini and Graham Bowers and a full colour insert. At the artists' request, it is limited to just 500 copies.
250 copies of these have been created for Record Store Day. This edition will additionally contain an extra insert, each one being a unique hand created piece of art, mounted on black fine art paper and individually signed and numbered by Steven and Graham.