A Medway Christmas Alphabet: N is for ‘The Night Had No Terror For Us’

‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas*. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.

(On second thoughts, maybe I should have posted this one nearer to Hallowe’en).

Hand of Stabs

Should you ever have any trouble getting yourself – or a small child – to sleep, you might be tempted to go to Youtube and find any one of a large selection of pieces of soothing music, up to eight hours or so in length, to help secure a restful night’s slumber.

There might, entirely conceivably, exist some reason why you might want the exact opposite: to stay awake all night in a state of restlessness and unease; Should you wish to subject yourself to such self-inflicted insomnia, may I recommend the work of Hand of Stabs?

Hand of Stabs are a band like no other. But that’s almost implied in their name. Not for them the conformities of a couple of guitars, a bass, a drum kit and someone of vocals. Instead, their line-up is advertised as follows:

Captain Rex Standish – signal
Jocelyn von Bergdorff – interference
James Worse – pulse

In practice, this means creating sounds and – yes, I would call it music, from all manner of objects, most notably a bicycle wheel. And the result is haunting, eerie and really rather beautiful.

‘The Night Had No Terror For Us’ is typical of their atypical sound. It can be found on the Medway Eyes ME5 compilation from 2013.

A Theremin’s howling ill-wind gathers pace around wheezing squeeze boxes, the most minimal of percussion and a gentle clatter of playing card against bicycle wheel spokes. Added to this is a barely decipherable, distorted with echoes and reverberations until it sounds like a the loneliest of platform announcements at a long forgotten railway station.

Despite the name of the piece, there is something rather terrifying about it: a creepy, other-worldliness which doesn’t fit in with our understanding of what music should be. This, of course, makes it all the more compelling and fascinating.

File under “Don’t have nightmares”.

Find out more about Hand of Stabs on their FacebookBandcamp and Soundcloud pages.

Find out more about music from Medway in my book: Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.

Of course, James Worse, of “pulse” fame, will be familiar not just to lovers of experimental, warped music, but also as a rather astute political commentator. As the following video shows (see 30 seconds in).

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