Oblivian Substanshall

What can I say about this recording? Cut direct to cassette tape, at the end of our tour of my opera The Third Policeman, immediately prior to Oblivian and I being very naughty boys indeed (courtesy of the good man Monkton Wylde) and staying up all night, it presents the vast majority of Oblivian Substanshall's triumphant and devilishly exciting performance at Howtosaytwo - an event I curated (or rather slapped together amid the million other things that were happening at the time) with Martha Moopette.

Aswell as being probably the best entertainment happening on the planet that night - it featured, as well as the last ever performance of The Third Policeman, live sets from Pete Um, Angela Valid, Elvis Herod, Vulnavia Vanity, The Gale, Martha Moopette as a Christmas Tree-cum-Satanic-Ritual, and of course Oblivian, plus Jonny Anyway's mime, a gingerbread house, a forest of children's art, and an audience of about 10 people - it was also the night where Oblivian pulled out this random fucker of a live show. Usually he will sit with his guitar, weave his little tales, and gently serenade us with his masterful, nonsensical pop songs. On this night, after months of hard slog on a tour of variable rewards, far too many intoxicants, and some high emotions and tempers (particularly from me), Oblivian decided to use, for the first time, some playback in his show. He described the performance-to-be as his "crooner set".

After initial technical problems and me sweating for the umpteenth time that night as a miniature audience waited to see what the cuddly, bespectacled, gentleman in front of them was going to deliver and I fumbled about hopelessly, finally the playback and microphone worked at the same time, and I ran into the other room to check that all was running smoothly (it wasn't).

When after a few minutes I returned to the small room where Captain Substanshall was stationed, I walked into a tiny audience enraptured at Oblivian, who had become the rotund rock frontman to end all rotund front rockmen (the guy from Pere Ubu would quake in his boots and probably spontaneously combust, or at least pull out his own willy and chop it off). Wearing a curly wig over his bald pate and darting between my Ivor Cutler foldy-harmonium, an electric guitar perched on a chair (an audience member said to me "Open string guitar solo! Never seen that before."), and, of course, the microphone, Obliv performed two numbers - "At the Same Time Maybe", and "On and On". Each was an explosion of jaggedy, peculiar beats, heavy bass, and Oblivian variously chanting the repetitive phrases and improvising on whatever was to hand. It was a singularly brave and brilliant performance and the small audience knew that every fucker who'd gone to whatever the fuck else was happening in town that night had missed something very special indeed.

So here it is, recorded direct to the internal microphone of a Coomber 393 cassette recorder, the great Oblivian Substanshall live in Bridport. If I had lots of money (or even just a spare few hundred quid), I would cut this recording to a 10" record straight away. But sadly I don't, and neither does Obliv. That's the price of not playing the idiot game.

I've lost faith completely in the "music should be free" thing. Kenneth Goldsmith's Wire article about "collecting mp3s you've always wanted and not listening to them just so you can say you have them for your sense of self satisfaction" was the final nail in the coffin for me. It does, it seems, cause a devaluing of music and sound-art, but at the moment there is no way else to be heard, so I don't see an alternative. When I'm very rich (and you'd better fucking bet your life I will be, soon enough) then I will release gems like this on beautiful vinyl in beautiful packaging, for as low cost as I can manage to sell them, but for now you'll have to make do with these 320kbps of utter joy.

I haven't known Obliv long, he's become very quickly my close friend and ally, and he ought to be yours too. Download this, then download all his other work on Chinstrap. And why on earth aren't you listening to his weekly show on one of the best, most unpredictable, vital and alive radio stations in the world, Soundart Radio? Go on! Get thee to the radio and FEED THYSELF!

The cover art of this release features Oblivian (centre), Elvis Herod (gurning on the left), and me for some reason touching my cheek (on the right). The image is superimposed with Martha Moopette dressed as a Christmas Tree (hence the pretty lights).

All my love and kisses,

Ergo Phizmiz

The new album from the gentleman, poet, comic and raconteur who goes by the curious moniker of Oblivian Substanshall is resplendent with unforgettable melodies that delight in songcraft, wordplay, and the joy of subverting and playing with the English language like a ping-pong ball on elastic. “Oh What a Novelty” at once looks back to a starry-skied past of straw boaters and gramophone horns, whilst also containing a timelessness that could plonk it anywhere from the present day back to the 1920s. 

The album contains a nostalgia that is not remotely melancholy. Mr Substanshall is a genuine eccentric who revels in the creation of his own distinctive art, suffused with wit, playfulness, and an unpretentiousness that is as endearing as it is refreshing.

If you're looking for references to hang this album from, think of a gentle whirlpool, like a washing machine gracefully on its last legs, in which the ghosts of Ivor Cutler, Waring's Pennsylvanians, Spike Jones, Vivian Stanshall & Keith Moon, Kurt Schwitters, Kurt Cobain, and Max Ernst swim gently in circles on their phantom backs.

The album is produced by Ergo Phizmiz, and comes with a new video “Brilliant Bonkers” by Martha Moopette, starring the great Substanshall himself.

Pass it on, spread the novelty like marmalade!

All songs & spoken-word written by Oblivian Substanshall

Oblivian Substanshall: Vocals, Electric guitar, Bass guitar, Ukulele, Percussion

Ergo Phizmiz: Harmonium, Melodica, Glockenspiel, Ukulele, Violin, Bass guitar, Vocal on “Upside Down”

Martha Moopette: Vocal on “Upside Down”

Video and photography by Martha Moopette

Produced by Ergo Phizmiz

More from Oblivian Substanshall on Chinstrap at "Finnish...But Don't Wait Till You Stop" , "Three Elements Hiss" and "The Greatest Hits of Oblivian Substanshall, and So On".

Surrealism as a method of art has become almost synonymous with advertising over the past 20 years, the original movement's power to disturb and shock eaten away by the overuse of images of talking fish, lobsters in spats, and coat-hanger headed people to sell Tampons, Baked Beans and Spandex trousers.

One area of artistic practice where Surrealism has remained relatively undisturbed by the influence of advertising, however, is sound and music. This is fortunate for us, because the artist who goes by the curious monikers of variously TOSS, Tengemort, and Oblivian Substanshall is undeniably a dyed-in-the-wool Surrealist. A hugely prolific artist in radio, music, cartoons and painting, he has developed, through his regular broadcasts on Soundart Radio and releases on Chinstrap, built an aesthetic that is as singular as it is unpredictable.

The Surrealism of the mysterious figure of Oblivian Substanshall, who is sometimes seen talking into biscuit tins, is not the Surrealism of advertising, but closer to the comic and disturbing imagery of Max Ernst, whilst also harking back to the English nonsense tradition of Lear & Carroll.

His latest release on Chinstrap "Finnish But Don't Wait Till You Stop" is his most diverse and accomplished release yet. A veritable treasure troves of ideas and creative avenues, Mr Substanshall is just as adept in whipping out an unforgettable pop song as he is in weaving a nonsense narrative or a clanging, Beefheart-esque guitar driven opus. The diverse nature of this release is unified first of all by his distinctive aesthetic, and secondly by his voice, which is instantly recognisable, simultaneously as warming as a cup of tea and disturbing as a naked, wizened, bleeding dog-lady turning up in your bed.

So sit down, pour your favourite beverage, and immerse yourself in the barmy and beautiful world of "Finnish...."


This album comes with a new video from Chinstrap's resident film-wizard Martha Moopette, using elements of every track on "Finnish...." to create an intense, strange and hilarious film collage of death and digestion. Featuring Amie Willingale, Talulah Lotus, Autumn Poppy, and a range of dead animals from the streets and fields of Bridport.


Cover photography by Martha Moopette. Cover design by Ergo Phizmiz.
The new release from Chinstrap regular Oblivian Substanshall, "Three Elements Hiss" is a genuinely mad and scattershot collage of techniques, games, riddles, and wordplay. Fragments of songs bounce off ludicrous puns, instrumental music crashes into musique-concrete and audio-verite. Mr Substanshall is one of the most intriguing and prolific artists working today, his work, like all the most interesting contemporary art, is difficult to pinpoint, simultaneously with the potential to be hugely popular and also fiercely avant-garde.

From the man himself....

"Suddenly, or thereabouts, James Joyce meets Edward Lear in a dream instigated by a whole bunch of surrealists set inside the mind of a man by the name of Avida Dollars. Viv Stanshall is busy arm wrestling Spike Milligan for a sausage suspended by strings attached to a liver and an avant -garde hat with mute bells, and reference points to Freud and Wittgenstein." Chinstrap proudly presents "The Greatest Hits of Oblivian Substanshall, and So On".
Volume 1: "If You Can't Help It" - Twelve slices of off-kilter pop from Mr Substanshall's prolific oeuvre. Imagine the worlds of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear & Vivian Stanshall colliding with the spirit of 50s rock'n'roll, who's just taken a crash course in musique-concrete and sound-art. This brings us somewhere close to where Oblivian Substanshall is leaping off from, let's complete the picture with words from the man himself...

"The so called pop and cutting-edge cultural approach I most definitely give a good straddling too. Indeed, it gives me a lot of freedom to exploit and play around with these idioms to my hearts content. And like you pointed out, it's the fragments of these styles of expression which one can re-work, and try and achieve something fresh and amusing with, and hopefully interesting to listen to, or view. It's this looking back to move forward approach that I enjoy or, perhaps that's all there is anyway. It's nostalgic to some extent with a hint to the homage with an idiosyncratic slant. Some people may call this approach post-modern, but I see it as, yes, mixed up alright, and a little schizophrenic, but at the same time, entirely 'contemporary' in its make over, boasting no actual and definite rules to hold you back... It's an elastic art form that can be stretched and stretched and so on... But in saying all that, I don't really like to analyse things too much, I think its better to just get on with it and play,play,play, happily immersing oneself within this 'contemporary landscape', and to be as creative and as inventive as one can possibly be within it."
Download PDF of Oblivian Substanshall's rather smashing drawings, selected for the "If You Can't Help It" release.


Volume 2: "Tengemort & Other Absurdities" - Monologues by Oblivian Substanshall.

Volume 3: "Let's Talk Art" - Oblivian Substanshall takes on the history of 20th century art.


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