written by Jerry Kranitz
The first four tapes in the Harsh Reality Music label catalog have been digitized and are available online with reviews and corresponding interviews with Chris Phinney. We are off to the races with only 330+ more to go!
Click on red hyperlinks below to view information pages for each of the cassettes. Each of the album info pages contain Bandcamp streaming audio players (which are 120 kbps MP3), as well as links to the albums on Bandcamp where you can download them.
Electronic Cottage readers can listen below to high quality 320 kbps MP3!
Mental Anguish — Better Pull That Plug
features Phinney’s first recordings from 1982 and is a solo effort under the Mental Anguish AKA that he used for many years. The C60 tape consists of two side long improvisations that, though raw and chaotic, showcase the young artist exploring the possibilities of free-wheeling improvisational sound. As Phinney succinctly explains, “I was just trying to make my own stuff and see what would happen.”
The techniques at this point are basic, with Phinney employing an Akai 4-track open reel-to-reel, and little in the way of editing: “It was basically just improv and recording what we had. No overdubs or anything on that particular tape.” Regardless, it’s fascinating to hear him uninhibitedly flexing his creative muscles on these embryonic efforts.
Non Religious Sect — A Thorn In Society’s Palm!!
Recorded in 1983, Non Religious Sect is the first of what would become numerous collaborations and band efforts. Non Religious Sect teams Phinney up with fellow Memphis hometaper Mike Honeycutt, with whom he published the Malice fanzine. Honeycutt would also become a prolific hometaper, recording as Mystery Hearsay and was also a local Memphis DJ.
The tape is a C90 with lengthy workouts that are similar to the freeform improvisations heard on Better Pull That Plug. The duo have more instruments at their disposal and there are moments when the music
is downright… MUSICAL!
Still recording with the Akai 4-track reel-to-reel, Phinney explains that, “It was more just basically us kind of wanking around. He (Honeycutt) had a few more instruments than I had. But he wanted to do some recording so we did a tape for the label. Because he was starting his little label that he did a bit of. And I was doing mine so we got together and jammed.”
Non Religious Sect was an early milestone in that it launched what would become a wildly diverse series of collaborations, many of which would include locals that Zan Hoffman would dub the ‘Memphis Mafia’.
Macroglossia — Articulation Without The Tongue
is yet another collaboration from 1983, this time between Phinney and Richard Martin, who would go on to be a Harsh Reality regular and play on every tape release of Phinney’s long lived Viktimized Karcass band.
The music is still characterized by freeform improvisation that is noisy, sound experimental, and musical. But words are important too, especially ln the 36 minute ‘That’s What I Need’, which includes a comedy exchange rant in which the duo argue about red necks vs. rock vs. punk. Phinney recalls: “He (Martin) was a friend of mine. He knew Honeycutt. We got together and we pretty much did almost the same thing as everybody else. We were a little mellower except for our crazy chant that we went into about everything. Just using every derogatory word we could use as a joke.”
Phinney would later resurrect the Macroglossia name for HR031, this time featuring the quartet of Phinney, Richard Martin, Mike Jackson and Stuart Locke. Regarding the expanded lineup, Phinney’s comments provide insight into the anything goes nature of hometaper collaboration and the numerous ‘band’ names that would crop up in the Harsh Reality catalog: “I know we had Stuart Locke. He’s not even a musician, he’s just a fellow painter. We had him sit in. And Jackson of course is a musician. And that was pretty much kind of the beginning of… me and Jackson started doing our own improv with R.S.V.P., which we’ll get into. We did one tape as R.S.V.P. and then we turned into Cancerous Growth.”
Pungent Odor — Why Should We Play Their Game?
Pungent Odor is the first of the Harsh Reality ‘bands’. Though this was the only Pungent Odor tape (1983), Phinney considers it to be significant as a precursor to the band Skoptzies, who released several tapes and even performed live (stay tuned for Skoptzies in the next batch of tapes).
In addition to Phinney, Pungent Odor consisted of Mick Cock on bass and electric guitar, plus future Skoptzies members Kim Kruger on electric guitar, and Dave Grave on electric and acoustic guitars, bass and vocals. Phinney recalls: “It evolved into Skoptzies and was gonna evolve into something else, but it was me and Dave Grave and Kim Kruger, who was his girlfriend at the time who we had to teach how to play bass. We wanted a chick in the band. She was a big tall lanky redhead.”
Though there is no shortage of experimentation, Why Should We Play Their Game? is jam packed with psychedelic punk, spaced out groove jamming, wild electronics, lo-fi funk, and manic vocals.
Stay tuned for more as we work our way through the Harsh Reality catalog!
I used to run Harsh Reality Music, started the label in 1982 releasing my own music in various groups. They were Mental Anguish, Pungent Odor who became The Skoptzies, Misfeasance, Macroglossia, RSVP which became Cancerous Growth, Viktimized Karcass, Planet Zero.