It’s only been recently that I’ve been turned on to Tea, for many years a devout coffee drinker, and by and large still am, tea was always a no no – to me a pointless beverage for knitting groups and nans. But in recent years I’ve warmed to the stuff. No longer do I grimace when asked ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ As a child I’d have rather have drank something I’d produced myself than succumb to the leaf. Of course that’s a slight exaggeration but at least you know where I’m coming from. Perhaps it was the time it took to prepare – leaving tea bags to stand or the fishing out the grout from the fresh brew – it just had that immediacy that coffee had. That said my earliest memory of tea was at my Granddad’s. Atop the mantle a tea pot would sit stewing. It would stew for days. When asked my Granddad would reply that you had to let the tea stand so that it could brew. The longer you left it the stronger it was. Blimey you could stand a spoon in it and once poured it resembled molasses, thick, dark and almost like black tar, the film ’the Blob’ would be an easy reference point here. Mind you I was strangely fascinated by tea, well you do when your living in a house with parents and family who partake. The kettle and its whistle offered – as a child – endless minutes of fun and scalded hands through manipulating the sounds by way of messing around with the nozzle – it was aside birdsong and my younger siblings ability to belch a melody my earliest memory of sound. Then me and a friend had heard that if you smoked tea you could get high, laughable as we pretended to be out of it whilst battling simultaneously to stop the tea leaves falling out or else choking on the ingested ones. Mind you my recent attraction has been something bordering on bewilderment. In my kind of advanced years statistics show its very rare to partake of the habit so late in life, its commonly cultured in ones formative years. Perhaps it was the lines after lines of varieties in the local supermarket that mystically called me from the shelves. The variety of flavours – strawberry, lemon and barbiturates (I made that one up – though you never know), the colours – green, raspberry and so on, the strange essences ranging from mountain smoked log embers to three week old bad sock odour the exotic names Lapsang Souchong which admit it sounds like a exotic dancers apparel (and happily features here courtesy of Qua). Coffee alas it seemed just didn’t cut it – it was discounting the three and a half million varieties available at S***b*cks either caff or de-caff.
So where am I going with this besides to the back of beyond and back again. ’Teaism’ that’s where. A compilation compiled and curated by Stefan Panczak better known to the record buying community as Australian musician Inch Time. ‘Teaism’ has been looming on the Static Caravan catalogue list for a while now, the information for the best part of that time scant to say the least. A dedicated website has for a few months simply stated ‘coming soon’ – probably gone for a brew. So assuming it was one of those fabled Static Caravan releases that occasionally pop up – usually with VVM’s name attached to it – so you can (or maybe not – perchance you’ve given up the will to live at this point I know I have and I’m writing the damn thing – or perhaps with all this talk of tea you feel parched and have nipped out for a quick brew) imagine our surprise when this delightfully packaged 15 track set flopped through the letter box.
Tea has always had a unique attachment to pop perhaps its most infamous moment being in the great scandal involving the legendary pre Fab Four beat pop combo the Rutles and so it seems fitting that Mr Panczak should issue the 14 personalised invitations to friends and acquaintances to take part in a collective brew. The remit a simple one – craft and create a melodic moment inspired by the ’art of and / or culture of tea’. Housed inside a gatefold card CD cover featuring artwork by Roy Ananda this set provides for a chance to reflect, relax and be refreshed by the unique artistry woven within.
The set opens to the sound of the (naturally) ’kettle song’ by the multi instrumentalist Max de Wardener – as teasingly brief as it is this simplistic opener made up of a naked though effectively alluring lullaby waltz like strum bedded to the sound of a whistling kettle on the boil could with its hollowing almost tearful like repose easily pass for some kind of whimsical porch lit ode lazily pining to the days passing while waiting for the embers of the campfire to die away. Dave Miller and Manuel Bonrod are collectively better known to the local cognoscenti as the Break Up’s, their ’Assam’ – here for your discerning delight is a bit of a strange beast comprising as it does of an obtuse and abstract multi layered pulsing drone suite dappled with subtle looping dub motifs, head swirling montages and hypnotic wave forms, oppressive yet strangely becalming with the ebb and flow of lunatic binary tides. Inch Time of course needs no introductions here, ’snow jewel’ perfectly showcases his unique flair for the marriage of textures with moods into pristine pocket sized snow globed symphonies. What first appears like some haunting and oblique Radiophonic Workshop handicraft soon blossoms briefly into a twinkle some slice of sophisticated retro glazed library lounge that dinkily sets up camp somewhere between John Barry and Broadcast. As seems to be the case with most of the artists featured here Carlos y Gaby were to this point previously unknown to us, the meditative ‘this tea, makes love to me’ is gorgeously willowy, a backdrop to some far flung idyllic promenade setting at the edge of the galaxy, drawing together the distant orbits of Basil Kirchin and ‘Cobras’ era Stereolab all interspersed by braids of deliciously noire-ish floral arrangements and dream like overtures that dissipate, slipstream and interweave to craft light headed fluffy halos. ’Shennong’ courtesy of Radovan Scacascia or AM/PM as he’s better know to record buyers offers more idling moments of tranquillity, a frosted cortege of clock worked / looping electronic pirouettes that build seductively in stature to create a demurring floorshow of cinematically inclined celestial mirages that appear to consume the listening space, a bit like a sleepy headed though enigmatic early career FSOL thawing out with a youthful Sakamoto providing the heat source.
Serafina Steer should really need no introductions in these pages, as kooky as an army of Bjork’s though as melodically astute and off the wall as Laurie Anderson, though Steer only hangs around for a barely registering 30 second stint she at least leaves her indelible mark like a welcome apparition to endow the proceedings with her unique spectral oddness and then in a flash departing to leave a slightly puzzled chill. Its been too long since we featured anything here by Australian sound manipulator Paul Gough – or Pimmon to give him his more readily recognisable moniker and I’d be the first to admit that our listening environ hasn’t been the same without him. First coming to our attention courtesy of a brace of self released CD-r’s he sent to us in the late 90’s his alien transmissions and strangely absorbing though irrefutably abstract and minimalist drone blip core spooked us. The tear inducing ’Silver Needle’ reveals the passage of time has been put to good use by Gough, the melodic thread more focused and less random as previous, this yearning bruised beauty is beset with an underlying sense of regret and loss, heartbreaking almost forlorn it provides for reflection of a moment passed, the halos of celestial chorus’ opine with a graceful detachment arcing and soaring solemnly amid the flurries of Cathedral like drone swathes. Immaculate in a word.
These days no longer a duo but swelled to sextet, Tunng have long held a place in our hearts, the expansive ’shove it’ uses the Boston Tea Party as its central theme and finds the band in typically exquisite form applying their mesmereic interweaving textures and timeless folk dialects into an engaging Union campfire cutie. Quartet Root 70 made up of members from both Germany and New Zealand stump up the decidedly sophisticated noire laced ’immaculate conception’ – a smoked slice of breezy jazz groove that’s best served up after dark wherein you can stretch out, chill and inhale its head messaging cool cat vibes. ‘teapot waltz’ by Curtis Leaver or Lord Jim as he likes to be referred to when sat behind his armoury of melody making musical toys is a deliciously sepia tinged morsel of shy eyed night pop that twinkles timidly as though rising from slumber, a crisply caressing cavalcade fusing picture box lullaby motifs with a familiar air of timeless magical melody.
‘Lapsang Souchong (Iced Tea Mix)’ by Qua is such a busy bugger, both flighty and flirtatious, to these ears it sounds like a particularly chilled and impish Cornelius shimmying along the Busy Signals for a spot of hypertensive day-glo grooving and into the bargain crafting an alluring aural alchemy that works the 80’s back catalogue of ZTT and Thomas Dolby (among others) through a huge recalibrating grinder. Those of you waiting for the word ‘ethereal’ to raise its head, well now is your moment. Really there is no other way of describing the strange lunatic folk flavoured enchantment that seeps through the spectral rustic charms of the beguiling ‘one liner’ from Dollboy – ghostly, serene and utterly divine – a bit like Robert Wyatt fronting some seriously spaced out and starry eyed Clangers musical troupe – need I say more. There’s something bleak, empty and intrusive about Xela’s ’genmaicha dorou’ as the press release rightly notes with its reference remark to Italian horror scores. Xela is UK based musician / composer John Twells who it appears in the last two years or so has been shifting a positive plethora of ultra limited releases for imprints such as Type, Digitalis, Dekorder and Roots Strata, this particularly chilling and otherworldly spellbinding suite is much reminiscent of the bruised landscapes crafted by Bristol’s Foehn though here indelibly drawn with a becoming tension of both Goblin and John Carpenter – enough here methinks to suggest hearing more will prove something of a treat. Oblong is one of the many musical alter egos of a certain Ben Edwards probably better known to most electronica enthusiasts as Expanding’s rising star Benge. ’Four PM’ is a beautifully conceived slice of undulating piano led classical arrangements metered out and playfully framed in arresting cascades of porcelain prettiness – both frail and fragile yet bathed in a shimmering snow scene aura, enchanting doesn’t begin to touch its murmuring grandeur. Cibelle with Josh Weller round off proceedings to serve up the delightfully skatty and desirably kooky ’mr and mrs Grey’ – warped time signatures, Latino styled acoustic flurries and of course not forgetting to mention Cibelle’s own flighty sultriness disarming all and sundry throughout – what more could you ask for.
Another one please – milk and three sugars thanks.
Key tracks –
Carlos y Gaby ’this tea, makes love to me’
Pimmon ’silver needle’
Dollboy ’one liner’
Oblong ’four PM’