Boomkat Product Review:
Karl O'Connor’s Downwards mark 30 years in the game with a 30 track / double tape edition featuring label classics, rarities and exclusives, including material from label boss Regis, his pal Surgeon and as a duo in British Murder Boys, plus Tropic of Cancer, JK Flesh, Veronica Vasicka, Female, Ann Margaret Hogan, Fret, Robert Hampson and many others.
Originally founded in 1993 to release the results of Karl’s sessions at the studio of Mick Harris (Napalm Death), Downwards effectively picked up the baton from Birmingham’s early metal, techno and industrial heritage and have run with it ever since. ‘Spasms and Savagery’ finds them still gassed on the thrill of dank electronic mood music for dancing, crying and screwing.
The tapes include magisterial synth music from Simon Shreeve (Mønic, CUB), thru Anni Hogan’s solo piano blooz, William Bennett freaking the fuck out of Russell Haswell, and of course girder strength techno by Surgeon, Female and British Murder Boys, plus archival nuggets attributed to Karl O’Connor aka Regis - the dark ambient noise pollutant ‘Day One’ as Farmer & Karl (an exclusive, early recording from pre-Downwards days, 1988), and we would speculate the recording of Brummie workmen admonishing each other for necking Frosty Jacks on the job, plus a killer new CUB work ‘Informal Beauty’ with Mønic, who also supplies an extra-reticulated remix of Regis’ ‘Blood Witness’.
Never one to rest on their laurels or bask in the gurn of adoring techno nuts, the label has also often wormed into weirder ends, as characterised by Robert Hamspon’s grinding Chasm dub of Veronica Vasicka, or the opiated slug of Karl’s work with Einstürzende Neubauten’s Boris Wilsdorf and My Disco, resonating with the industrial clangour of Nitzer Ebb/DM producer Paul Kendall, while Justin K Broadrick aka JK Flesh brings it home to roost with the knuckle dragging stottish‘Offering’.
We’ll leave it to Karl himself to tell it like it is.
“I’m incredibly sorry for wasting everybody’s time. all artists included here are no strangers to the black embrace of loneliness and have spent all their whole “careers|? crawling around the woodwork of pigeon holes. Not one of them fell into those holes and I love them all for that, the useless bunch of sillies.”
Karl O'Connor, 2023.