another rescued review from the losing today vaults – this one being a Christmas missive from 2007….x
features – un festin sagital, winston giles orchestra, steve moore, billy d, peril hill, ptv3, sem, edward barrow, green kingdom, the shadow orchestra, xtc, shortwave set, people of the deer, house of love, levitation, mikrokosmos, cardiacs, stars in battle dress, zag and the coloured beads, onomatopoeia, dragons, treblemakers, dionysus, mount vernon arts lab, belbury poly, oggum, nick lowe, aniima, vibratones, cody high school, kelman, ian brown, kate nash, wolf people, ten city nation, unusual and electric, frightened rabbit, the pony collaboration, mpd, circle, the telescopes, muller and patton, owl service, lisa knapp, hobby horse, yellow6, carla, up the royals, one more grain, dj downfall, lam, schizo fun addict, televise, seavault, swedish chef, rose mellburg, the phil collins 3,the original bookkeepers, an emergency, breakneck static, men an tol, danny norbury, serafina steer, dollboy, robin saville, alexandra veanna, harmonium, inch time, ptolemaic terrascope, gilbert, shady bard…..
For Kelly and Mark
Okay a tad later than we originally planned and instead of three missives which was the original idea its just your bog standard Xmas bumper missive all rolled into one like a huge crisp snowball to arrive slightly delayed but hopefully in time to see out the year. The initial bit includes all the my space stuff that you need to hear – like now followed by the singles – fair few admittedly have been around for a while -so apologies to all concerned. As per usual because of the size of this baby it will be split into several parts. Plenty of goodies to be found lurking around these pages – some ultra limited releases from static caravan and trensmat – woo woo and a fair amount of the usual gubbins you’ve no doubt come to love and hate.
There will be another missive before the week’s out were well pick up the bits that fell off this one at the last minute whether that be due to time constraints or bone idleness (I’m betting on the latter) – apologies to all that we’ve let down in the year – you know who you are – it wasn’t deliberate but there have been things happening behind the scenes that made it nigh on impossible to sometimes keep focused music wise – hopefully this coming new year we’ll get our shit together. One thing I will say is that the Lumerians have nailed the next missives Single of the Missives you can up with these psychedelic dudes via www.myspace.com/lumerians – so expect that sometimes over the weekend. We’ve decided to make the landmark 150th missive a killer my space / pod cast special (seriously we already have about 50 sites which we are running the thumb over as I write including some stunning stuff from – Sam Isaac, the distortions, three cautionary tales, the milk house – who sorry for going on sound superb, don’t tread o the spiders, pretty in velvet, a new track from one of favourite bands of the bands of the year – Tabloid, the coffe killers, luke hirst, daniel persson and last up the Wrecking Dead who I suspect will be a egular feature on the singled out turntable in 2008 – so if anyone’s reading this and has a band they feel will quicken our pulse or has a pod cast which that they reckon will have us about the gaff it raptures then email at the usual address or else visit www.myspace.com/thesundayexperience
Albums / singles and the like that are currently quickening our pulses –
The high wire ‘ahead of the rain’ (impatio) – expect glowing words for the teaser single ‘Easy’ via the next missive
Various artists ‘john barleycorn reborn’ (cold spring) – words fail – a superb double disc set featuring the cream of dark folk secret underground – a mammoth 33 track set with an additional freebie download disc that we still haven’t check out as yet – features a cast of waiting in the shadows stars – owl service (see below), peter Ulrich, English heretic, xenis emputae travelling band and alphane moon plus more much more.
Talk ‘reset start again’ (fortune and glory) – been a while coming but well worth the wait we feel – ‘return to factory’ will floor you – think Floyd / Radiohead.
Deserves to die ‘surrender all but our skin’ (grind that axe)
Muller and patton ’jonathan and Bailey’
Mississippi witch ’black gamble witch’ (colony 2) – bad ju-ju boogie
Split second feeling ’lo art’
One more grain ’isle of grain’
The hoax ’and so it went’ (detour)
Various ’post Asiatic – lost war dream music’ (URCKarm) – a superb double disc set featuring a positive cornocopia of strange sounds from the likes of muslim gauze, amps for christ, bill horist, metal rouge, f-space, soriah and much much more….
A superb year for music I’m sure you’ll agree, 2007 shifted gear on last year and continued a trend that’s been something of a celebrated feature these last few year – that being that the underground imprints continue to throw up some of the most interesting and ad hoc sounds to be found having rediscovered its edge and sense of perspective shifting. We won’t go into the highs and lows of 2007 here – mainly for the fact that its been done to death by others to more or less differing standards of revelations and insights – and anyway we can’t be arsed. That said favoured albums, favoured singles and labels we can do.
Labels is easy –
Static Caravan continued to amaze or all the right reasons along the way setting a new task of trying to nail all the ultra limited releases they put out – ecstatic when you did nail one but heartbreaking when you didn‘t – note will Dreams of Tall Buildings- Shady Bard were a revelation (see below) as was Serafina Steer, also worthy of a mention that killer Steve Moore album, while releases from the Owl Service (see below) and Safetyword proved without doubt that these dudes have their fingers well and truly primed on the most essential up and coming sound pulses. Despite a relatively quiet year Pickled Egg whipped in at the final gasp with two certifiable classics in the making – Suzy Mangion’s debut solo full length (Su\zy you may recall was one time one half of the delectable and criminally undervalued George) and APATT – loons from Liverpool and quite possibly the best thing out of their since er – Mugstar. Trensmat – (see below) – Irish noise / experimental label – home to ever presents The Telescopes and a whole host of artists operating beyond the confines of rudimentary pop – ultra limited releases mainly on lathe cut wax and more often than not sold out even before the stamper went down on them at the pressing plant – some mighty fine outings from Mugstar, Circle and Heavy Winged have all served as remarkable calling card for this fledging imprint – next year will see their profile considerably soared with promised outings from Trensmat include a breathtaking list of who’s who acts in 2008 including Kinski, Acid Mothers, more Mugstar, Astral Social Club, Magoo, Part Chimp and as though the prospect of Bardo Pond wasn’t enough to get us paralysed with fevered fits then the promise of what should prove something a beast – an outing by – wait for it – Mudhoney. Roll on 2008.
Various ‘Beta – Lactam Ring ‘Fall 07 / Winter 08’ (Beta Lactam Ring). And talking of samplers / compilations here’s another worth selling the odd family or two in exchange for – the latest CD compilation showcasing their 2008 line from those finest of dealers in the abstract, strange electronica, noise and avant garde. Featuring 16 selected cuts from their recent releases and including offerings on the horizon and due in the finest record racks in the coming months to include outings from Volcano the Bear (whose ‘amidst the noise and twigs’ needs to be heard to be believed), LSD March, Seven that Spells, the ever weirder LA STOP and Earthmonkey whose ‘be hat charge’ as for us one of the albums of the year blending as it did dub, prog and psych into a funky alluring wide screen brew. If you redirect your mouse via http://www.blrrecords.com/blrr.mp3 you’ll be able to download / here he latest Beta Lactam Ring pod cast – a mammoth 4 and a half hour sonic odyssey (yes you did read right – 4 and a half hours!) which we’ve downloaded for a rainy day and which features selections from Chilean ensemble Un Festin Sagital – well weird and wired out there psychedelic ju-ju who you can sample via http://www.myspace.com/unfestinsagital – perhaps the only band on the face of the planet that make Volcano the Bear sound positively pedestrian pop. This revolving / travelling collective have been around since 2004 – to date releasing just under a dozed self financed cd-r’s – here you’ll find an except culled from the sessions for their as yet untitled full length for Beta Lactam Ring – a strangely disquieting pastoral affair that shivers eerily throughout your listening space like some gothic / monastic apparition, dissipating melodies and haunting harmonies are dispatched into the ether to exact a curiously enchanting supernatural glow upon any would be listener.
Elsewhere Art goes pop and Marquis cha cha both continued to give us excited panic attacks each and every time the familiar envelopes housing their releases was stuffed through our door – high lights from each of the imprints came courtesy of Isosceles ’get your hands of’ and lr rockets ‘personality’ via the former and from the latter stranger son of WB though check the link below for a sneak peek of the forthcoming Whitey release.
You can sample stuff via –
Favoured albums –
Radiohead ‘In Rainbows’ – exquisite to a tee, Yorke and Co delivered an album of tenderness
Both accessible and alluring ‘In Rainbows’ harboured the best moments and nuances from their back catalogue and wove the ingredients into a deceptively beautiful collection.
Psychic TV ‘hell is invisible heaven is her/e’ (sweet nothing)
Heartstrings ‘try fly blue sky’ – heartbreaking stuff……sample via http://www.myspace.com/theheartstrings we suggest you fall headlong into the radiating romance of ‘marianna’
Serafina Steer ‘cheap demos’ (static caravan) – Weaving together the absurd, the abstract and the astonishing, Steer applied her classic training to a surreal pop overture that I for one would never have dreamed of hearing without noting it to be the work of Laurie Anderson. Gorgeously off balanced, ‘Cheap Demos’ blended the impetuous with the impish into an intelligent sound collage, sometimes unsettling and never far from perfect.
Shady Bard continued to amaze and ‘from the ground up’ via static caravan didn’t disappoint in the slightest – an evocative and beautiful epitaph to nature go to the end of this missive for their latest limited Xmas treat.
The Winston Giles Orchestra ‘soundtrack for sunrise’ (play up) – irresistible stuff – big band electronics, an effervescent opera of sorts that timidly voyaged the horizons of chill out grooves and bliss out wonderment – gorgeously flighty as addictive as hell – one of very few releases that were a treat from the very start to the finish – key tracks were the fluid ‘welcome to the hotel’ and the horny as f*ck pan psychedelic brew ‘revenge’ just check out the Love like flute florets 3.34 in – amazing stuff.
Finally – okay hats off to Radiohead for their download freebie but for us the best album of the year came courtesy of the Crimea with their frankly awesome ‘secrets of the witching hour’ rock opera – across 11 tracks of such exquisite detail the Crimea wooed, shimmered and strutted with wild colossal abandon – from the opening ‘the Vikings’ sampled ‘All conquering’ to the closing epic styled ‘Weird’ with its Brian May styled guitar pines this bitter sweet beauty beguiled, threatened the emotions freewheeling with exacted pristine precision between flashes of deepening despair rising to the heady heights of ecstatic euphoria – it never left our headphones and guided me for one through the spring / summer months hearing it all these months down the line still sends tingles down the spine – file alongside the Eskimos lost classic ‘something must be transmitted’ and the Makers ‘rock star God’ – pure class.
Best re-issues –
Well two that caught our eye –
Stiff box set which for now has mysteriously gone awol – anyhow a four disc affair culling together everything that was fine and not so fine about the nations favourite indie label – who else would have the nerve to throw together Max Wall and Ian Dury on the same imprint – yea but now I come to think of it – makes perfect sense.
Nick Drake ‘Fruit Tree’ – re-issued in limited quantities following years of featuring via auction sites going for ridiculous prices, culling together the three full lengths and including a DVD ‘skin to few’ (the days of Nick Drake) which replaces the lack lustre (1991 repackaged set) ‘time of no reply’ bonus disc which despite its ad hoc band wagon jumping demeanour did in its favour include a killer version of ‘black eyed dog’. We’ve just ordered the vinyl edition – expect reviews – belated admittedly – shortly.
And we kick off this particular missive with something tasty from Steve Moore who the more clued up among you may well know from his Zombi work and his solo project the latest of which is currently showcased by his very excellent ‘the henge’ available now in limited quantities via static caravan. This time around via http://www.myspace.com/iheartlovelock Steve along with Lauren Theresa shimmy up with some slushy night time lurrrrve music that taps into the whole slickly sophisticated retro disco vibe of the late 70’s Studio 54 scene – four excerpts feature here -’maybe tonight’ takes its cue from Stereolab’s flirtatious cosmic mirror ball set ’margerine eclipse’ and wraps it in sveltely succulently Chic meets Moroder accents that lovers of early career Marr / Sumner ensemble Electronic may well swoon for though all said and done we suspect a bit of a monster hit weighs heavily on their hands in the shape of the glitter dusted Dollar gone super stellar ’love reaction’ with the aid of Cerrone.
http://www.myspace.com/billydsongwriter – hell – okay it may use every single cliché in the Wilson canon but darn it if this isn’t one the best things we’ve heard around here since the Ashley Park debut from a few years ago or that rather spiffing Epicycle full length ‘swirl’. Ohio musician Billy D it seems has mastered the art of Van Dyke Parks pristine pop prowess resulting in the production of a svelte carnival of homely tingling sounds crafted in the myriads of vintage mercurial bliss. Sweetly honey glazed these little beauties are rich with the memories of classic Beach Boys and Beatles pop echoes from the past, from the snow tipped saccharine dipped sleigh bell swept ’Christ in Christmas’ to the delightfully dinky yet ostensibly frazzled, dreamscaping and trippy ’summer song’ with its warping harmonies and melodies that sound like they’ve deliberately skewered backwards and out of sequence – though all said and done we suggest you make ’western world’ your first port of call – a gorgeously syrupy music hall feast festooned with delicately soft west coast lysergic tipped folk accents a la Oddfellows Casino.
http://www.myspace.com/perilhill – we have more than an inkling that this won’t be the last time we hear or indeed feature the lilting tones of this Manchester via Derby and Sheffield based quintet, Peril Hill cut richly intimate folk spectres that are all at once inviting yet strangely distant, a forlorn marriage of tranquil treasures dusted as though being recently excavated and polished up after being found left and abandoned in a undisturbed attic space. Part mournful this trio of rustic gems shyly serenade all the time weaving a warming web beautifully fashioned in spectral overtures whose roots can be traced to the gentler more free spirited to be found amid the late 60’s Cambridge scene. Awash with lulling cascades of softly unfurling acoustics braided by banjos, violas and concertinas these pastel cuties endow a deceptively hypnotic hue upon the would be listening space to illicit their bewitching and hurt brew – the gorgeously dainty ’heir apparent’ is a beautifully tip toeing slice of maypole enchantment replete with a timeless harvest of clockwork like medieval florets though we suggest you rip for yourself the mesmerising and frailly scratchy banjo swept ’vapours in august’ – a CD is kicking about we believe to which you can bet your bottom we will be enquiring about.
http://www.myspace.com/ptv3 – a year that was meant to be one celebrated by rebirth and hope has closed with death and despair. ’Hell is invisible / Heaven is her/e’ marked the long overdue return of Psychic TV – a petrifid collision of references wired up from the 60‘s via Brian Jones, Syd and the 13h Floor Elevators, this was no simple return to the fray that called upon past glories as so many reformations are, this was an ensemble at the top of their game perhaps arguably crafting their most accessible body of work to date. It was a stunning psychedelic odyssey much loved in our gaff and for a fair while earlier in the year a constant feature on the piping through the headphones as we trundled to haplessly work – ’Hookah Chalice’ featured here was its centrepiece a white hot schizoid fuzzed out wig flipping blister forming boogie just check out the re-igniting riffs after the dream-scaping montage half way in – still casts a shiver each and every time. One of the albums of the year. However despite all this what would have been a lucrative tour schedule has had to be cancelled following the tragic and sudden death of Lady Jane – now in disaray, a year end that should have seen Orridge and Co reaping the rewards of a sterling about face has now been catapulted into chaos leaving the band in both emotional and financial ruin. RIP Lsdy Jane 1967 – 2007.
http://www.myspace.com/edwardbarrow – damn this is gorgeous, lovingly wrapped all the way from Paris, Edward Barrow aided and abetted by Fabrice Cloulon crafts alarmingly teasing tastily charismatic morsels of silkily laced pristine pop carved from delicate shimmers made up of lazily spun cascading acoustic riff and the merest trestles of electronic landscapes. Richly textured the hurtfully dreamy ‘again and again’ is a curvaceous beauty that orbits hypnotically with a flailing melancholic design though for me personally nothing quite touches the musical box beauty that is ‘song for a friend’ – brief, sparse and ethereal this gem tip toes seductively with heartbreaking intent – think we need to hear more and very soon.
http://www.myspace.com/semlabel – fledging Paris based label who to date have recently released their inaugural outing in the shape of the self titled debut outing from the Green Kingdom of which you can sample four cuts via this here my space site. A gorgeous collage of sparsely minimalist rustic electronics with a delicate folk ambition emblazoned to its core. The Green Kingdom is essentially Michigan based musician Michael Cottone who delights it seems in composing delicate snow bound treats primed in all manner of honey glazed chilled out ambient textures the best of which without doubt is the divinely beguiling ’wind up wildlife’ – a beautifully curated nursery like picture box braided with the most desirable and alluringly playful clockwork dynamic that lovers of early career ISAN and Plone may do well to stop by for a brief spot of enchantment. Elsewhere the label has just signed up both Letna and Alexandre Navarro – the former a Parisian based artist by the name of Sasa Vojvodic who to date has put out three full lengths with a fourth tentatively titled ’Adria’ due shortly for Sem – the latter again another Paris based musician whose site is devoid of sound files (darn) but who will – we are reliably informed – be releasing an album via SEM in March.
http://www.myspace.com/theshadoworchestra – and we feel that apologies are long overdue to the Shadow Orchestra who debut album we swear we received earlier this year and then stupidly got it lost in the CD mountain – and though we’ve searched high and low for said disc to date no sign. Mainly the creative brainchild of Chris’ Bangs and Warren, the Shadow Orchestra have a unerring knack for crafting demurring ditties cared from out of the sweet marriage of strings and laptop manipulations, partly mellowing, partly haunting these perfectly paraded pirouettes hurt, humble and hypnotise in equal measure – rain drizzled forlorn noire-esque landscapes dipped in the finest spectrally sumptuous electronic collages as were once the remit of the early 90’s Bristol underground scene (Portishead, Massive Attack et al) though pulsating with a sweetly curdling bruised romance and loose limbed classicism that suggests that a super chilled exotica of deep set jazz styled free formed psychedelics lies buried at the core of their collective mindset much reminiscent of a more out there and playful Orb – don’t believe me then check out the rather superb ’Spring’ – here captured being performed live at the Luminaire. Though arm forced up the back and asked to chose then ’rain music’ featuring the vocals of Amy Duncan is torturously tasty an best filed along Heather Duby.
http://www.myspace.com/xtcfans – one of the finest bands to comes out of these fair isles are XTC who in Andy Partridge had one of this nations finest and dare we say most unsung of song writers. We stumbled across this site by accident – and well hell this being Christmas (just) there are a few festive related nuggets prized from the vaults with which to set off your party poppers to – should you – that is – be so inclined.
http://www.myspace.com/shortwavefade – not to be confused with the Shortwave Set who in their spare time go sourcing for antique synthesisers in thrift shops and car boot sales throughout East London – no this lot – no sir – seems this quartet have honed to near perfection the art of crafting power driven effervescent dream pop, freewheeling between hazes of spiral chiming riffs and florescent swathes of keys ’stay as you are’ hits you straight between the eyes, a throbbing lovelorn symphony of stratospheric pop cut through with the kind of swagger and savvy that would cause many peers to give up and seek employment elsewhere while being decoded with one of the most infectious chorus hooks we’ve had the pleasure of hearing all year. There’s a three track EP skulking about entitled ’cover your eyes’ via the ever irrepressible Shifty Disco the lead cut which incidentally features here as tasty as it is though we suggest you direct yourselves immediately to the mellowing ’Anything to Anyone’ which reveals an innately tortured tenderness at the core of their song craft.
http://www.myspace.com/peopleofthedeer – we happily mentioned People of the Deer or as he’s better known to friends and family – Andrew Perez via missive 140 when we accidentally stumbled upon his secret lair. ’Les conte’s sparrow’ is a newly posted track that’s been made available for your discerning delight. Quite gorgeous if you want my humbled opinion, not as obvious as his previous cuts – more measured it would seem and best viewed nuzzled up to the glow of an night lit open fire while outside the soft treads of snow softly dapple the ground. For your trouble what you get is a gently tingling piano spun folk beauty replete with washes of ivory cascades and a lilting faraway idleness much in harmony with the work of Oddfellows Casino, delicately breathtaking its visitation upon your listening space is served with an almost apparition like aura – all in all an engagingly hollowed beauty.
http://www.myspace.com/thehouseofloveofficial – what can we say – its probably not a known fact – but these things did would you believe happen on occasion – but towards the mid 80’s I’d stopped listening to Peel – I know I hear what your saying – sacrilege isn’t it. Well to be honest the music wasn’t doing it – it was a lull period – I‘d basically fallen out of love with it. However feeling particularly bored one night I retuned to the bearded one and something happened that had me racing back to my local record shop (Probe – in case you were wondering). The sound of ’love in a car’ (featured here) and several nights later ’man to child’ a track so disturbingly unsettling and beautifully bruised that we’d dare anyone to get through it without shedding a tear. Perhaps the finest band to emerge from early days of the Creation catalogue and yes I know that’s a major sticking out of the neck given the roster included such heavyweights as Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Ride. But in House of Love the label had a band of such immense repose and beauty that descriptions such as sublime seemed to fall short of truly capturing their essence. Mixing silken strokes of 60’s signatures sugar spun into delicately sculptured spectral montages the band were a rare breed opining gems of subtle pop classicism with discreet and beguiling grandeur, possessing an unnerving knack of being able one minute to lay you low and cut you to the emotional quick (’Blind’) – the next carried aloft on euphoric tides (the shade wearing psyche bliss of the crystalline ‘Christine‘) – in Chadwick they had a front man so inwardly bruised and forlorn to the hand that fate had dealt him who rose beyond tragedy and purred with passion – Bickers the perfect foil and quite possibly the finest guitarist to have emerged on the underground scene since Marr – without doubt head and shoulders above his contemporaries Squire et al, provided the intricate sonic detail, the melodic murmurs, the fleeting finesse and the serene ghost like aural apparitions. Of course the pair are re-united now rekindling their lost art, last years ‘days run away‘ was a low key return to the fray and without doubt one of the years most critically overlooked releases – their debut album has been recently repackaged and polished up via Renascent – which we really must check out given our old vinyl copy is a little worse for wear – though saying that we did spy for ourselves a killer double disc ’Fontana years’ set which we thoroughly recommend if only to hear the divine ’Safe’ – which in my much humbled opinion was the bands finest 5 and a half minutes.
Which neatly leads us to…..
http://www.myspace.com/levitationmusic – oh yes – on departing the House of Love, after a brief period licking his disillusioned wounds Bickers returned with Levitation, dismissed at the time by the weekly music press as being out of sorts with the current wave of home grown shoe gazing and Madchester sorts and across the pond grunge types, Levitation crafted out fluidly expansive terra forming rock based monoliths whose apparent dark heart could be mapped in the out of favour wastelands of early 70’s progressive rock and the recesses of Syd Barrett’s fried psyche, like a half way house coffee shop frequented by pop’s outsiders such as Zappa, Gentle Giant and Faust, Levitation were a multi faceted animal who portrayed within their intricately layered sound structures a myriad of diverging off the radar influences that made them impossible to pigeon hole with a great degree of success – perhaps at the time only Porcupine Tree and Spock’s Beard came close to occupying their out there sphere – key track here the hallucinogenic mirage ’pieces of mary’ – a ferociously challenging head fuck pre post rocking hybrid that inhabits elements of the brooding claustrophobic darkness apparent via ’heaven up here’ era Bunnymen all nailed firmly amid a freewheeling haze of space / kraut / psyche rock workouts.
Which happily leads us to……seamless all this don’t you think…
http://www.myspace.com/mikrokosmos1 – Mikrokosmos is the ongoing project of former Levitation, Cardiacs and Dark Star guitarist Christian Hayes, it provides for a wonderfully crafted interplanetary pan psychedelic experience. These cuts showcase material from the albums ‘in the heart of the home’ and ‘the seven stars’ – the former a thought lost project recorded way back in 1994 the tapes were damaged in a flood only to re-surface complete in 1997 and again shelved and forgotten about. Now or the first time lovingly restored and issued on an ultra limited 500 only set each coming replete with a signed letter of authenticity these babies are set to be future collectors items. As to the music Hayes weaves an ever darkening psych odyssey that fans of early career Porcupine Tree may well be best to check out, ‘Guilding the Lily’ in particular could easily be a distant cousin to Wilson and Co’s ‘radioactive toy’ while nevertheless easily finding itself on ‘Stupid Dream’ without looking out of place, bruised but bleakly beautiful this lonesome shade wearing mantra is slender and spectral, ether driven vocals and looping lysergically daubed cosmic interfaces endow this gem with a quietly epic grace while ‘where now earthman’ is very Levitation in texture and appeal, a swirling wig flipping beauty that retunes itself at key intervals into streams of Beatles-esque interference bled through by minimalist woven ominous omnipresent overtures. Frankly we need to hear more.
And so to…….
http://www.myspace.com/cardiacs – just in case you decided to ignore all our bunting waving and praise heaped upon this gem in the making (see missive 145) ’ditzy scene’ saw the return to the fray of one of this nations true eccentric institutions, worryingly erratic, the great undiscovered genius – this lot through a plethora of line up changes have been honing their acrylic action painting pop for nigh on 30 years now mixing abrasiveness, weird time signatures and wired to the teeth melodies much to the envy of their peers – fundamentally psychedelic though scarred with and tampered with so many diverging reference points (a few of which we suspect they copyrighted as their own) as to make the most seasoned music fan swoon in amazement – all at once abstract, absurd and undeniably amazing they are pop’s fly in the ointment – ’ditzy scene’ is the sound of the Pretty Things ’defecting grey’ thrown into a psychedelic tumble dryer though in terms of insanity and crookedness we suggest you rip the screwball art pop zaniness of ’res’ – totally bonkers and frighteningly infectious.
http://www.myspace.com/starsinbattledress – seems these shy creatures have been plying their trade for a fair few years now – to date one album under their collective belt in the shape of 2003’s ‘secrets and signals’ beyond that there no other information which is rather alarming because these four cuts are stunning to say the least. ‘I spook the language’ (no that’s not a spelling mistake from me) is a gently playful though rather macabre key drenched hallucinogenic promenade parade, think Satie woven in with the Pretty Things. ‘Pinocchio falls in love’ is elegantly ethereal, a dreamy cortege of spidery spectral psychedelics and teasing piano accents that when married together give off a deliciously hazy and trippy vibe while ‘doing well’ is a pepper corned slice of weirdly wafting wonderment that nibbles not only at early career Porcupine Tree but also towards the mercurial melodic flair of Oddfellows Casino. That said our favourite moment comes via ‘Hollywood says hi’ – a crookedly light headed dissipating rock opera of sorts that terra forms sumptuously at any given moment – or so it seems – utilising similar creative curvatures as the Cardiacs in playful moods, this spiralling cyclical cherry pays passing nods to the Sparks and strangely enough – Kate Bush – with the Pretty ‘SF Sorrow’ Things motifs never far from the creative canvas. Quite perfect really.
http://www.myspace.com/zagandthecolouredbeads – insanely good – Zag and the Coloured Beads hail from Croydon, are a five piece and together make music. Any thing you feel you need to know – well of course what do they sound like – well frankly these bright and gifted blighters craft an amorphous freeform progressive psychedelic funk stew – okay not as adventurous and off the radar as the likes of Apatt – but still suitably equipped with that ‘not quite right air’ about them so as to attract fans of Zappa, Soft Machine and dare we say the Crimson as in King – ‘Sweaty thing’ even manages to tailgate spheres more associated with Radiohead while the kooky jazz jamboree that is ‘elongated thing’ has more than a whiff of the Ozrics about but without all the space grooved frippery. Best of the set though – in our opinion that is – is ‘meandering thing’ – we sense there’s a ‘thing’ theme going on here ‘meandering’, ‘elongated’ and ‘sweaty’ – what do you think? This crooked baby is skewiff to say the list – think (well at times) the Cardiacs being zoot suited by Wizards of Twiddly in some freakish cosmic duel whilst slyly nicking and nibbling the coda from Kate Bush’s ‘babooshka’ I kid you not – a bit of a winner around our gaff anyway.
http://www.myspace.com/onospace – my space presence for the Onomatopoeia imprint who are of course home to the quite brilliant wig flipping space cadets ‘they came from the stars’ – who this year to much personal joy actually re-surfaced with a steady stream of releases culminating in a long overdue full length ‘Vs. Reality’ from which via this site you can hear ‘an Angel’s help’. Elsewhere there’s the simply mercurial ivory intonations of William D Drake and the delightfully ‘biorgan taster’ from Stars in Battledress (see above) – well I say delightfully if we were really honest it’s a bit spooky in a Tubeway Army ‘Asylum’ type way – we understand there will be an EP released in the coming year entitled ‘the story of the hood tapes’ – frankly we can’t wait.
http://www.myspace.com/dragons1 – Bristol based six piece – Dragons admirably mix the flair and darkness of early Fields of Nephilm / Sisters of Mercy, the austere blankness of Joy Division (especially on the razored post punk numbness of the sinew snaring ‘condition’) and the pummelling symphonic teeth barred finesse of early career Chameleons (check out ‘lonely tonight’) and for that matter the Kitchens of Distinction into a tormented and epic battleground of searing white hot union of riffs and electronics, in lead singer Anthony Tombling JNR they possess a singer who sounds not unlike a cross DNA experiment derived from the personas of Ian Curtis and Babybird. The sounds are fraught in some ways apocalyptically unravelling bleak portent ‘here come the roses’ proving to be a towering unflinching classic in the making, culled from their debut full length of the same name. Dealt with a pristine production and a voluminous sound metered by intricate storm lashed textures, initially sounding like a ringer for Joy Divisions ‘Isolation’ its soon braided by sheens of 80’s styled goth accents, throw in a spot of PIL, shimmering halos of looping stratosphere piercing keys and a stutter gun attack drum underpin and we are away ascending at velocity towards a critical sonic black hole of cool as f*ck proportions metering out struts like they are fast going out of fashion. ‘where is the love’ is a brooding impenetrable ceremonial black mass seductively tailgating the aural spheres occupied most notably by ‘music for the masses’ era Depeche Mode – bleak but beautifully so it’s a deceptively seducing snowstorm of Ice dripped chiming riffs a la the Mission melded to a paralysing and hollowed claustrophobic tombstone marking a love lost. Certainly a band to watch for in the coming year.
http://www.myspace.com/officialtreblemakers – frankly stunning stuff. Tasty twang terrorism from Montreal, Canada in the guise of quintet the Treblemakers. Seems these dudes have been busying themselves releasing – to date three – full lengths whilst appearing on a few prime cut serving compilations all of which we’ve so far managed to miss – though that said you can bet your arse we will remedy that shortly. Ensconced on California’s esteemed Dionysus imprint – a label who we must admit much to our embarrassment we rarely see these days on our record rack travels (see next my space link).
http://www.myspace.com/dionysusrecords – peddling their wares now for over 20 years – blimey is it really that long, like fellow underground ever presents Get Hip and Estrus, Dionysus are the arbiters of cool – mixing exotica with gnarled garage, pristine power pop and the strange. Their current catalogue from these cool cats features full lengths from Hell on Wheels (a fierce some feline quartet hailing from Phoenix who fuse classily sassy mooching rawk ‘n’ roll with primal strands of key drenched garage goo – think Heartbreakers meets the Ronettes). The Satelliters who hail from Franfurt and number in 5 sound like they’ve just stepped out of a mid 60’s beat pop boutique – an unadulterated and authentic call from the formative years of garage that had us recalling the Troggs in a head to head with the Seeds on their cool as f**k ‘you will never be’. Those loving their sounds a little more scarred and wired may do well to hook up with the Controllers whose ‘another day’ provides for a slice of ravaged no future styled wrecking ball grind that to these ears sounds like a primed on speed 13th Floor Elevators having their but kicked big time by early career Mudhoney. Culled from his ‘Voodoo 2’ set Robert Drasnin applies some smoking bossa nova vibed lounge like easy listening courtesy of the slyly sophisticated snake charming ‘Puente doble’ on which said evidence suggests we need to get this beauty in our life and fast. Also via this site there’s a link to a snazzy gratis (that’ll be for nowt) 25 track download compilation entitled ‘keeper of the secret’ – a sumptuous multi generic collection that manages to shoehorn enough styles and fashions as to make the most would be casual listener swon in admiration – from the 70’s styled smooth chill out symphonies of Stereophonic Space Sound LTD to Scott ‘Deluxe’ Drake’s fast and furious Biafra barricade – elsewhere there’s the Young Playthings who sound not unlike a rough n ready early career Blondie while the Buttersprites we feel need further checking given their ‘panic attack’ is so devilishly addictive while we mentioned Karling Abbeygate in an earlier missive (missive 121 to be precise – tut tut if you weren’t paying attention) frankly gorgeous blending countrified pop with breezy bluegrass Ms Abbeygate is Brenda Lee fused with Patsy Cline and ‘tonight is gonna last’ sounds just like its fallen off the Louisiana Hayride stage – perfect stuff. Those pining for a spot of submariner surf should check out Clouseaux while Ruby Dee and the Snake handlers ‘I remember you’ is by far the best portion of hillbilly country we’ve had the pleasure of hearing since Laura Cantrell’s ‘not the trembling kind’ and boy was that a debut and a half.
http://www.myspace.com/mountvernonartslab – Ah Mount Vernon Arts Lab – one of pop’s sore thumbs and a collective rarely given the credit and acclaim they so richly deserve, children of an era when the BBC Radiophonic Workshop conquered and championed the surreal, the abstract and the oblique. Personally I was much surprised to find these outsiders still plying their trade as its been fair few years since we had the pleasure of hearing anything by them – with a fifth album snucked under their collective belt in the shape of ‘the séance at hobs lane’ (which we really must try and nail as our own) – this aural project is named after the fictional underground train station where the supernatural / sci-fi classic Quatermass and the Pit unravels. Deeply indebted to Desmond Leslie and Tristram Carey these excerpts provide or an eerie encounter with one of electronic music’s most noted experimentalists, primitive analogue disturbances to file alongside that very excellent Ochre outing from a few years back gathering together the incidental sounds featured on the Dr Who story ‘the tenth planet’ – these sparse montages pulsate ominously within desolate landscapes – exploring the same aural trajectories as unearthed by Johnny Trunk, Broadcast and EAR. A trio of tantalisers feature here from the tension racked mooching Moondog like anticipation of ‘the black drop’ to the frequency manipulating whirr core of the bleak and alien ‘the submariner’s song’ while ‘dash wood’s reverie’ wraps the set in fine form sounding like a subterranean score eked from the pen of Barry ‘UFO’ Gray.
And while you are there to may well be advisable to hook up to Belbury Poly via http://www.myspace.com/belburypoly – a bit like receiving an mp3 from the early 70’s these fluffily perky celestial gems sound like they’ve fallen straight through a time fracture from a time often referred to as the space age, an age where Gerry Anderson ruled children’s TV and cheesecloth was legally allowed to be sold in shops and marketed as a fashion item – alas the good old days – okay we never had the trials of rickets or small pox but damn it man some of us had to live through Birmingham bags, tank tops and nylon pyjamas which believe it or not if you rubbed real hard gave off so much friction that you became a magnet for papers, comics and magazines – bit like a walking library with Stan Laurel hair. Alas no information on the band if indeed it is a band who knows it could be a randy toaster for all we know – that said these sprightly minimalist analogue nuggets strike familiar distant chords from a past long since gone ‘Wildspot’ in particular is a sumptuous bossa nova ./ samba styled slice of chilled out boogie that has you thinking of an impishly surreal backdrop featuring Joe Meek colluding with an ice cream selling promenade stall marshalled by Jean Michel Jarre on the set of ‘Vision On’ – ‘pan’s garden’ though proves to be our favourite – a wonderfully scribed spring bouquet of pastoral sweetness and idle some carefree cuteness not so far removed admittedly from the sounds found on that rather excellent ‘Ivor the Engine’ collection put out by Trunk.
http://www.myspace.com/oggum – a quick mention for Oggum records given that we briefly mention them again somewhere about these pages in relation to a planned Owl Service release – all getting complicated this constant seamless toing and throwing is it. Been an absolute age since we heard or indeed spied anything by the Oggum imprint that being because the blighters went awol for a while – our listening pleasure was never the same. One time home to the immense Alphane Moon a band for whom the description drone folk psychedelicists was never lost, the Oggum crew very much tapped into the whole Ptolemaic Terrascope (see below) mind set and with equal impish efficiency released records as regular as the said journal printed issues. Inspired or so it sounded at the time by the late 60’s Cambridge folk scene although appreciably in their hands and the interpretation of their roster – Our Glassie Azoth – this affection had a knack of straying down crooked and overgrown secret pathways via eerie folk drone collages. Still word has it the mighty Oggum are back – we suggest for starters you familiarise yourself in readiness by checking out the pristine pastoral due drop like ‘treflyn – demo 1’ – and don’t forget Owl Service loom large in the background.
http://www.myspace.com/jesusofcoolsresurrection – been absolutely ages since we had anything by Yep Roc – in fact if memory serves me right last thing we heard was the late veteran of rockabilly Ronnie Dawson’s ‘more bad habits’ and the Mayflies USA’s excellent ‘summertown’ debut. A quick spy on the labels web site had us much miserable to discover that we’d missed out on the recent Robyn Hitchcocks retrospectives and repackages culminating – in what looks like – a superb vinyl box set entitled ‘I want to go backwards’ which features his solo stuff ‘eye’, ‘black snake diamond role’ and ‘I often dream of trains’ all re-mastered and packaged up with a must have 5 disc set of bonus material entitled ‘while thatcher mauled Britain’ (is it too ate for a last minute Santa request we wonder). Anyhow I digress – ‘jesus of cool resurrection’ is the tribute site and name of a specially packaged 30th anniversary set (due in February) in honour of Nick ‘basher’ Lowe (a nickname earned in reference to his ability as a producer to quickly turnaround and capture a subjects essence in such a short time) – or more rightly his debut full length from ‘78 – ‘jesus of cool’ (obviously) which in the states was known as ‘pure pop for now people’. Noted producer and former member of Brinsley Schwartz and Rockpile (alongside Dave Edmunds), Lowe was the first artist to appear on the (as was) fledging and now legendary Stiff label with ‘So it goes’. the repackaged 30th anniversary set gathers together all the available cuts from the alternative UK and US pressings additionally including seven bonus cuts. Mixing pub rock (‘so it goes’), 50’s styled bubblegum pop (‘little hitler’), new wave power pop a la Modern Lovers (‘heart of the city’) with humour and veiled sarcasm (check out the lip smacking sugar laced faux homage to the Bay City Rollers ’Rollers Show’) – despite its age the album appears to have succeeded where most of its contemporaries have sadly fallen short in that its stood the test of time. The site also provides a link from you can hear the album streamed in its entirety – well tasty.
Nick Lowe also appears on the cover mounted CD that adorns the festive edition of the Word (#59) with the quite slyly sublime ‘I trained her to love me’ culled from his ‘at my age’ full length – which we really must remember to add tom our wants lists over the coming days. Elsewhere among the 15 ‘best of 2007’ selection – prime cuts as far as we are concerned come courtesy of Amiina’s absolutely spellbinding and lazy eyed ‘rugla’ kindles with the same lilting resonance as was once the remit of Landshipping – elsewhere there’s the beguiling sonic imprint of Epic 45 who – well maybe its just me – appear to have been hogging a fair amount of tabloid column inches for their excellent ‘may your heart be the map’ set – though all said and done it’s the unlikely pairing of Martin and Eliza Carthy with Paul Weller that really stops you in your tracks – culled from the expansive ‘imagined village’ project which includes guest spots from Transglobal Underground, Tunng and Billy Bragg – ‘John Barleycorn’ is a dizzying spectacle of old skool folk meets new world – frankly so good that words fail us – your gathering rightly its on our shopping list forthwith. As to the magazine all your usual stuff which when combined makes this a thoroughly consistent good read – there’s your obligatory the best and worst of Xmas songs – though how Chris Rea managed to sneak into the favoured side of the deal is quite baffling perhaps the writer had been a little early at the sherry – mind you agreed over the worst list – what a motley crew – the kind of line up that has you dreading the winter months and office parties Further in this issue there’s a Doctor Who special focusing on the up coming Xmas special with Kylie ‘omnipresent’ Minogue – of course we love her to bits who doesn’t – just the right size for our Xmas twig – blimey just buy the damn thing.
http://www.myspace.com/thevibrotones – twanged up psyche boogie from Munich, the Vibro-tones are a duo who if we didn’t know any better we’d swear had tripped out of the grooves of the ‘Pulp Fiction’ soundtrack, succinctly blending Morricone’s western styled scavenged dust relics with the conscious clarity of prime time Shadows these dudes devise well oiled V12 powered shade wearing surf nuggets from scratch (non more so than the aridly atmospheric Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet like ‘nova express’), these three featured cuties purr and side wind with devious ease incorporating elements of 50’s sourced primitive grind a la the Link with the uber cool stare you down black heart sheen of the Jesus and Mary Chain – just check out the primal voodoo boogie of ’non so lo’ with its looping riffs and latino accents. That said best of the set is the 60’s invested flower power popping shimmer of the Ramones spliced with early career Pastels ’I come’ – think we need to hear more and pretty darn soon.
And just before we round off this my space part of this particular missive two absolute gem like treats with which to leave you with, first featuring one of the best bands we’ve had the pleasure of hearing in a fair old while….
http://www.myspace.com/codyhighschool – it all started with an email and a link to an MP3, a simple message ’check this out I think you’ll love it’ or at least words to that effect. Several plays of said MP3 later and quick visit to their my space site and we were banging on to them how we needed to hear more, in fact so impressed we even pinged ’holy wholly’ (for that was indeed the track that gave us our introduction to Cody High School) immediately on the losing today top 5 chart which as observers familiar with these things will testify is a rare thing given they are unsigned and relatively untested. With an album at the mastering stage tentatively titled ‘last days of the suicide kids’ which the band are looking to self release, Cody (Come on Die Young – to give them their expanded name) High School are a secretive quartet who having only been together for a few months may well be tinkering about with what could be one of the early album highlights of next year if these three cuts are anything to judge by. Breezy 70’s styled drifting pop is the name of the game all delicately offset with sheens of tenderised pastel hues of west coast exquisiteness and the kind of soft lingering hazy laziness that was one time much the realm of Buffalo Springfield. Perfect to a fault these after glowing gems nibble ever so slightly at the more laid back catalogue of Teenage Fanclub while simultaneously investing elements of ’durable dream’ era Moviola, early career Summer Hymns and the odd dash of mid 70’s era Neil Young, ‘you get so alone’ is ready made for long summer evenings idly wiling the days end away beneath the shade of a tree while the slinky easy thrill of ‘it’s about time’ is so melodically astute in all things early 70’s styled super chilled soul pop it leaves you swooning with its slyly carved side winding buzz sawing codas. All said and done if ‘holy wholly’ had of come pre-packed adorned with New York City plates or tattoos then certain elements of the music press would be drooling and pissing themselves with excitement over this, with its lip smacking pop thrilled deep set snaking honeycombed fuzz buzzing groove – all at once sassy, slinky and sexily demurring this uber cool babe is a shade wearing sizzler that craftily imports the warming gulf streams of the west coast and sumptuously blends them in a deliciously addictive hybrid of glam and 50’s bubblegum wraps. We await that album with fevered anticipation.
And as a parting shot and to ensure your all snuggled up something of a tasty new rough mix from singled out favourites Kelman……..
http://www.myspace.com/kelmanband – bugger me with a big stick the enigmatic and ever so crucial Kelman are busying themselves putting the finishing touches to their as yet untitled second full length due to do record rack damage sometime around March next year. As a sneak peak they’ve posted a rough cut of ‘shut a final door’ – a majestic tear stained beauty wrapped in delicate sheens of shimmer like strums that stab and punch holes in your defences in pretty much the same way as was once the forte of the Flaming Stars though here solemnly peering from the bottom of a hopeless glass of sorrow – undeniably aching stuff – Tindersticks, Wedding Present and Galaxie 500 fans be warned this will seduce, romance, caress and inevitably floor you. A bewitching drunken dandy from the arbiters of pain killer pop.
Ian Brown ‘Sister Rose’ (promo). Ian Brown? What him from the Stone Roses. Old chimp features makes half decent record, well it is the season of miracles I suppose though saying that we‘ve never cared for his solo work so the mere sight of a platter with his name adorned upon it is pretty horrific enough and that‘s even before we put the blighter on the hi-fi. But put it on the hi-fi we did and do you know what I’m happy to say our fingers were out of our ears in a jiffy and the normally reserved for painful listening experiences grimace which we keep in a jar just in arms reach for emergencies was tendered into a sly smile of relief. Culled from his ‘the world is yours’ full length, ’sister rose’ sees Brown getting his shit together in fine style, backed by Messrs Jones and Cook of Pistols fame ’sister rose’ is a hypnotic neo psychedelic snake charmer swept amid swirling strings and side winding riffs that coalesce to create hazily warmth filled eastern mantras atop which the shade adorned Brown ducks dives and shimmies with cool reproach.
Kate Nash ‘Pumpkin Soup’ (Fiction). Rounding off what’s been a pretty phenomenal year for Ms Nash that begun being a struggling unknown armed with a sackful of quirky tunes that quickly rooted themselves in the nations psyche with forest fire spreading word of mouth culminating in a hit album ’made of bricks’ and a shed load of awards. Lazily thrown in with the odiously catch all generic anchor that is the LDN set and often compared to Lily Allen which on one hand is no bad thing but then on the other so painfully off the mark as to make you wonder whether certain people have indeed chosen the right profession to be in. ’Pumpkin Soup’ her best (‘recorded’) outing to date and that includes the annoyingly addictive ’foundations’, sees her assuming a big beat armoury to her sound, the rhythms are still dinky, skewiff, dislocated as they devilishly zig zag their way past your defences – her clever word plays revealing her unending confusion as to playing of the love game is still in tact though this time amid the paranoiac confusion of mixed signals from her beau she’s obviously thought sod this and gone for the direct approach and rather than wearing her heart on her sleeve has tattooed the blighter on her forehead . A hit no doubt.
Wolf People ’Storm Cloud’ (Battered Ornaments). Release number 5 for the highly eclectic imprint Battered Ornaments who in recent weeks appear to have thawed out of their hibernation to come out to play having already planted one quite essential release upon us in the shape of that awesome Beneath Fire and Smoke 10”, now get set to turn heads and minds alike with the long awaited follow up to last years near perfect ‘October Fires’ debut (see missive 101) from Wolf People. This babe comes pressed up on limited quantities of bespoke sleeved 7 inch slabs of wax – 500 in all, the aforementioned debut flew from the racks so be warned no tears when they’re all snapped up. Led from the fore by the princely pied piper Jack Sharp, Wolf People are a travelling band of acid fried drop out minstrels – or so it would seem – who frequent a strange woodland world lost in the mists of time at the crossroads between reality and folklore occupied one would imagine by Cat Weazel. ’Storm Clouds’ sounds like a rarefied trippily spun hocus pocus relic from an era where the likes of Floyd, 13th Floor Elevators and Tomorrow bestrode the hi-fi’s of the clued up cognoscenti with their warped flavours and promises of astral plane trajectories. Embedded with a lushly hypnotic lysergically tipped melodic mantra, ‘Storm Clouds’ is decorated with mind erasing swirls of softly seductive psyche folk treads much reminiscent of Oddfellows Casino as though reworking Cream into chilled states that flickers and flutter in bliss like hazes craftily working their spellbinding potion all the time sumptuously braided by chorus’ of frazzled fuzz laden riffs. The deceptively funky and hallucinogenic ‘Cotton Strands’ over on the flip is festooned with flutes, dreamy harmonies and 60’ pastoral treatments and trips deliciously amid a flashback floorshow delicately underpinned by an exotic floral pageant made up of intertwining melodic threads drawn from Love, Traffic and Soft Machine – all at once enchanting and intoxicating its like partaking of some strangely sweet matured elixir and being inebriated on the timeless vibe of classically calibrated English psychedelic. Quite perfect if you ask me – joint single of the missive. www.batteredornaments.com
Unusual and Electric ‘Under the Skin’ EP (Zirkus). Third EP from Mark and Adam’s Unusual and Electric alter ego which by a quick arithmetic check means we’ve missed EP’s 1 and 2 to much gnashing of teeth – a two track turntable taste machine of sorts which unless I’m very much mistaken makes it not an EP at all as such but rather more a bog standard single affair. Am I being pedantic – I guess so. Anyhow gripping stuff, if this don’t get the toes a tapping, the hips a swinging and the body a gyrating cutting cool shapes on the floor then frankly we suspect you could be a corpse. ‘Mad Dogs’ is one funky little bastard, imagine Roy Budd’s theme from ’Get Carter’ given a sassy mutant skanked up dubbed out drum n bass re-cut by a collective headed up by Wagon Christ and Adrian Sherwood who aside bringing along a shed load of samples, grooves and multi faceted genre crossovers have managed to shoehorn in the odd kitchen sink or two and wrapped all the ingredients into a club floor rumbling party pack power house – kinda like Yello’s ‘the race’ but smoking better grade grass. ‘Deep Pitch’ features over on the flip which should appeal in the main to fans and admirers of the mighty Superimposers and Lemon Jelly – a huge ever growing spongy slice of wig flipping trippyness, a dub-tronic daydream replete with dissipating loops and whacked out chemically enhanced vibes – think upon it as a fried carnival of loony lunatics – of course your record collection needs it. Smoking stuff. www.unusualandelectric.com
Ten City Nation ‘exhibition time again’ (self released). I feel apologies are due on this one (and it won’t be the first release featured here that’s a fair while old). Sadly this was one that got away and got itself lost – a spanking release which we hope isn’t lost on the band – who by now have probably split up and found careers as bank managers or some thing equally evil. Ten City Nation are a Suffolk based trio who judging by the quality of this three track EP could in time prove to be more than a match for most in terms of aggression, intensity and melodic muscle. This trio of tracks reveal an ensemble not content with being easily pigeonholed, while the raging tour de force ‘exhibition time again’ with its pummelling front line assault of searing riff attacks nailed to the floor by a killer chorus hook that’d make the QOTSA weep with jealousy may well be a ringer for early career Foo Fighters with their mindset well and truly attuned to Nirvana’s Wipers obsessed ‘Bleach’ – the parting shot the emotionally crushed ‘everyone’s a tourist’ with it needling intertwining cloud piercing riffs reveals an aching lovelorn mindset buzz sawing within their chemistry. That said both are no match for the monumental and refined ‘the air is on fire’ – dark, brooding and epic, this majestic babe mooches in the parched airless stratospheric reaches prickling and prowling amid cavernous cascades of atmospheric chimes momentarily erupting into life to scowl and strut in fearless fashion – damn smart if you ask me. Well worth nailing as your own. www.myspace.com/tencitynation
Frightened Rabbit ‘Be less rude’ (Fat Cat). Another release that we found snugged down the back of the hi-fi forevermore thought lost. Sadly the press release which we suspect accompanied it is still AWOL. Anyway been a while since we had anything by Fat Cat since we somehow fell off their mailing list – ha ha – these things happen don’t you find. Anyhow Frightened Rabbit hail from Glasgow are now fully paid up members of the ever evolving Fat Cat roster and have (or should have) their self released ‘sing the greys’ full length polished, touched up, repackaged and doing brisk business at a decent record shop near you right about now and such a wonderful thing as we’ve heard it only for the blighter to go momentarily walkies to which as a result a crack squad of seek and search mercenaries have been despatched to root out. Two cuts feature here ‘be less rude’ the lead out track is clipped by a bitter sweetly happy sad shanty like feel upended by lashings of droned out keys (and unless we are very much mistaken liberally toasted with breezy harmonicas) and chugging guitars which all serve to come across sounding like prime time Pavement duelling with ‘Tommy’ era Wedding Present – fans of Decoration will swoon though the puzzling thing is why oh why does it remind me of Eddie and the Hot Rods? Flip side ‘the Greys’ with its stuttered stop start panic attack dynamics has all the urgency and seizure inducing hysteria of a cavalry regiment fronted by the Weddoes heading over hill to the rescue, slowly building to a steady but sure chest beating crescendo leaving not a dry eye in the house – quite a special thing if you ask me. www.fat-cat.co.uk
The Pony Collaboration ‘Fast Lane’ (Series 8). Another of those ‘blimey where the hell did that come from’ finds in the great pile of lost singles that we recently unearthed – although strictly speaking we are ahead of the game on this for once being that we reviewed it originally at Missive 135 which means – thankfully – that this is a spare we’ve been sent. Any how you can’t keep a good record down and blimey this is a bit of a belter. ‘Fast Lane’ is the kind of thing that frequently slips out of the stables of the Track and Field and Fortuna Pop imprints, vivacious, euphoric and a shimmering belle of loveable 60’s summer pop that sounds like some divine meeting between ‘lazy line’ era Belle and Sebastian and St Etienne – nuff said think. Flip side as previously noted is a ringer for the Tindersticks or better still sounds like reclining Kelman – which in our books makes it the bollocks wouldn’t you say? www.series8records.co.uk
MPD ‘Fruits of the forest’ EP (self released). Now I’m hate to sound like I’m beginning to get a bee in me bonnet about these things – but three tracks does not make an EP – okay fair do’s maybe it is just me – I’m suffering from the flu and I’m a tad short on patience – hey ho. MPD (which incidentally is not the Metropolitan Police Department – or at least we don’t think so) is a young and mysterious soul originating from Preston who according to the attending press release was one time member of a short lived combo by the name of Calderbank who split amid musical differences. Retuning to solitude to lick his wounds this shy eyed soul went back to drawing board dispensing of the collaborative assistance opting instead for the slow but painful process of nailing the sounds in his head culminating in the three cuts found on this debut showcasing release. These mercurial acoustic treats weave an alluring spell, the initial moments of ‘electrical’ the opening cut are infused with a bruised noire-ish shade much reminiscent of ‘murder ballads’ era Nick Cave, aching and longingly braided by sorrowful strings it soon unfurls magically as though a parting of the clouds has occurred to silkily woo and enchant with a haunting pastoral exquisiteness as if ’up the downstair’ era Porcupine Tree where flirting with a windswept Radiohead. ’the first time’ perhaps the weakest of the trio of cuts still has enough resolute bleakness about its being as to cut to the bone the steeliest of hearts though for me personally the best is left till last, ’refrain’ takes its cue from the quieter more intimate moments of Verve’s ’Urban Hymns’ before throwing a curveball
Circle ‘Vaahto’ (Trensmat). Is there anything better in life that having the latest fresh of the presses Trensmat release happily doing its thang on the turntable – well now you come to ask yes in fact there is and that’s two Trensmat platters doing their business on the hi-fi. We must admit it was as though Christmas had arrived one month early in our gaff this morning. The arrival of a familiar Irish postmarked parcel was hastily ripped open its contents immediately fed on the eager as hell turntable and the rest of the day subsequently put on hold while we savoured those all important slabs of ear gear. First up on the inspection blocks are Finland’s coolest dudes Circle who over the course of some 16 years now have graced the more clued up record buying cognoscenti with their defining brand of psyche kraut which to date has culminated in a bulging 20 plus album back catalogue. Pressed up in strictly limited quantities of dinked red wax (and which across its run out grooves has scratched ‘take a stress pill and think things over’ – rekindling a lost art) this baby offers up 12 minutes of mind morphing mutations set across two cuts, quite frankly just what the doctor ordered regardless of whether you wanted it or not in the first place. How best to describe both ‘Vaahto’ and ‘spektaakkelin kritiikki’ would be best summed up by having you imagine having your head forced into a psychedelic tumble dryer on the hottest possible setting. Alternatively you might prefer the notional bad assed krautrock. Whatever your chosen preference these brain mushing babies are the bollocks – ‘Vaahto’ is so brazenly uber cool it could house its own fashion collection, repetitive locked down looping mesmerising motorik grooves spliced with distressed harmonicas give this a deliciously dusty aspect to which fans of old school Echoboy and Sunray will swoon in bliss behind their shades to while casually basking amid a mind enlightening snake winding blues mantra that has you imagining a super chilled RL Burnside tangled up in some sort of amorphous progressive primitive space age stew curated by a meeting of mindsets belonging to Goblin and Neu! Flip cut ‘spektaakkelin kritiikki’ provides the best moment of the brace – the bastard offspring of sorts of Barrett’s ‘Lucifer Sam’ though on this occasion shot through with an edgy psychosis that’s been partly fed through Spacemen 3’s fried back catalogue and then pummelled unrecognizable by the minimalist austere scarring of post punk intonations (think Left Hand’s ‘minus eight’ – second mention same missive) – stunningly bleak if you ask me. There’s a by all accounts absolutely essential full length kicking around entitled ‘the blaze game’ via Conspiracy which features Circle and Sunburned Hand of the Man going head to a head for the mother of all jamming sessions under the guise of Sunburned Circle.
The Telescopes ‘Another Whip’ (Trensmat). Would you believe it we’ve actually mislaid our copy – foolishly – so this is just a warning call -of course it’s already sold out on pre-release alone though we advise you check with the usual Trensmat stockists – we’ll nail this blighter down and get it reviewed over the weekend. Promise. Well frankly two Trensmat releases in one missive – that’s plainly asking for trouble – don’t want to get spoiling you too much now do we?
Muller and Patton ‘Hows it done’ (Vexin). We don’t mind admitting that since this little cutie arrived at the singled out shoe box sized record shed its been hogging the hi-fi and into the bargain causing a fair amount of swooning from this here scribe. A taster no less for the simply superb would be lemon popsicle opera that is their second full length – ’Jonathan and Bailey’. Sumptuously blending the cheesy with the classical the duo – Jaye Muller and Ben Patton now relocated in London – apply the key note examples of the pristine pop manual to sound, the completed translation a breathlessly audacious and out of step collection of sugar laced breezy west coast fired tuneage that demands you never leave its presence until the dying crackles of the stylus leaving the run out vinyl grooves conclude. Three teaser cuts feature here all culled from Act 2 of the aforementioned set (which before we forget even has an intermission break – how cool is that?). Think Dean Friedman (especially on the bitter sweet and cleverly phrased wordplay of ‘you obnoxious little brat’), Gilbert O’Sullivan, Alan Price, a youthful Billy Joel and the Beach Boys all locked in a studio charged with the task of concocting a lilting effervescent pop dream. Not since Ben Folds 5’s self titled debut has a musical union been so delicately explicit in their appreciation for the fine art of lovelorn symphonic melodic craft, ‘hows it done’ shimmers with 60’s sultriness and 50’s bubblegum, melting harmonies, 70’s basked zig zagging riffs set to a honey hued re-scripting as were at ‘spread a little happinss’. That said best of the set ‘the Massachusetts slumber party massacre’ manages to arrest your defences like some potently incurable virus, from its ‘over the rainbow’ introduction it freewheels superbly incorporating all manner of enticing tricks and traps with which to draw you in – from the ‘uh oh’ comedic use of the saxophone that strangely sounds like a kazoo, the faux Hitchcockian string slashes, the Beatles-esque dreamscaping flute montages a la ‘strawberry fields’ to the off kilter buzz sawed power pop throb – this goofily purring babe occupies similar pop orbits to both the criminally undervalued Epicycle and the wilfully overlooked Eskimos – frankly there’s nothing else for it other than to pin upon it the joint single of the missive tag. www.vexinrecords.com
Okay plenty of Owl Service related goodies flying around our gaff at the moment – though momentarily we seem to have mislaid their debut album ‘A garland of song’ – and not for the first time since it arrived here romancing its way into our life. Beautifully crafted and sadly out of print at the moment though you should be able to nail yourself a download of it with four additional cuts via www.wovenwhispers.co.uk – though word has it Southern Records have picked it up and are intending to re-release it early next year on CD and vinyl formats (in which case we’ll be nabbing a copy of each – surely we can’t lose a 12” slab of vinyl – can we – oh I don’t know – it has been known). Any how enough tittle tattle – as said several releases have come via our way recently. Those familiar with the Owl Service will be all to aware that this was a one time single handed mystical folk adventure undertaken by one Steven Collins who on the evidence of what we‘ve heard so far appears to have unearthed a somewhat long lost and (we assume) overgrown pathway linking the present to the past along which he‘s seem fit to skip to and forth along with carefree abandon. These days following acclaimed outings via Static Caravan (‘Cine’) and having featured on the simply superb double disc collection put out by Cold Spring records entitled ‘John Barleycorn Reborn’ (where he rubs shoulders with the likes of Peter Ulrich, Alphane Moon, Quickthorn and a whole host of others awaiting affection and love on the underground folk scene) – the Owl Service has expanded into a full compliment even being known to partake in the odd live appearance or two.
Releases via their own Hobby Horse imprint arrive as hand crafted beauties in ever limited quantities – one such being the 8 track ‘Midwinter Concert’ collection. Originally due to be a gig only available affair – however pressing plant cock ups meant it was delayed and made available for a limited period via the Midwich Cuckoos site at www.midwich-cuckoos.co.uk. As said featuring 4 acts cutting up amongst themselves 8 tracks – the attending parties being Sharron Kraus, Nancy Wallace, the Straw Bear Band and of course a trio of (quite possibly) delights from the Owl Service – we say quite possibly because we’ve have tried playing this on all known devices and nowt, even the PC coughs and splutters barking at us that the disc is blank – oh dear. Steven if you are reading this can you re-do please. Anyhow looks a treat and includes the usual inserts we’ve all come to know and love.
Elsewhere – and again long since deleted (there where only 30 hand numbered copies of this skulking around) is the delightful 10 track ’Chime Hours – live in a room, Autumn 2007’ set. Again a superbly trimmed hand made thing of beauty (believe you me these will be serious collectors pieces in years to come) replete with the usual inserts this aural document catches Steven Collins (nee the Owl Service) performing a rehearsal session in the intimacy of his dining room along with his extended family of musicians who helped record ’A garland of song’ preparing for the ensembles first full band compliment live appearance in support of Lisa Knapp. As said ten tracks feature here (six if you don’t count the alternate re-takes) which apart from ’red haired boy’ and ’a child’s calendar’ all feature on the aforementioned deleted debut full length ’a garland of song’. Despite the minimalist setting the recordings are superbly worked and lose none of their integrity – in fact the first take of ’the rolling of the stones’ actually improves immensely on the original, a gorgeously serenading marriage of Gaelic classicism and timeless medieval styled rustic folk eliciting a spellbinding slice of maypole flirting. Elsewhere ’Apple tree man’ is so delicately unyielding it woos and enchants in in a celebrated union that sits somewhere between Dead Can Dance and Circulus both on location on Summerisle. Then there’s the quite transfixing festivities of the violin / mandolin saturated sprightly village green hoe-down that is ’red haired boy’. Yet for us nothing quite eclipses the disarming ’a child’s calendar’ here found examined twice – a frail, fragile and delectably demurring floral bouquet of pastoral beauty that’s both eloquent and enchanting – a honey due lovelorn gem – a trembling treatise to the seasons past.
Alas we don’t like to rub these things in but we must admit to being more than a tad privileged in having our very own limited edition hand numbered 1 of 1 copy of this compilation of various Owl Service releases. Admittedly we’ve had this for a fair while but stupidly mislaid the blighter in the great CD mountain that seems to be threatening to take over our ‘living’ space. 8 tracks feature here that cull together the ’Cine’ and ’straight on till morning’ sets as well as including ’north country maid’ prized from the aforementioned must have ’John Barleycorn Reborn’ double disc set. Of course we reviewed ’Cine’ when it originally came out in its ultra limited to 30 pressing (and again when it was reprised by Static Caravan) – see http://www.losingtoday.com/reviews.php?review_id=3731&band_alpha=t – three sumptuous and faithfully crafted re-appraisals of 70’s cult soundtracks – the Wicker Man, Psychomania and Girl on a Motorcycle. In that same review we also cast an eye over the Owl Service’s impeccable debut outing ‘Wake the Vaulted Echo’ – the cuts that make up the four tracks that appeared on the limited ‘straight till morning’ are commissioned remixes by a select number of invited guest musicians. The Heavenly Music Corporation are the first up with their ‘Tigon mix’ of the lead track ‘Wake the Vaulted Echo’ here repatriated masterfully as a timid and fragile glacial heartbreaker replete with looping piano motifs and a breathlessly beguiling celestial sheen peppered with majestic monastic ambient sweeps. Lazy Comet get to grips with ’the two magicians’ and hook it up as ’magicians on comets’ mix to impart a lazy eyed after lights out seductively off kilter funk some down tempo spot of jiggling bliss. In the hands of Pelican Island ’fine horseman’ is given a deliciously sparse though vaguely warming and alluring shipping forecast styled becalming melting away haziness that’s braided by shuffling beats and an ostensibly out there vibe. The Dave Yates Compartment round up the pack to re-drill ’Interlude I + II’ and give it an eerily trippy almost hallucinogenic transcendental texture – essetial if you ask me though how you’re gonna lay your hands on a copy is anyone’s guess.
Hobby Horse / Owl Service plans for 2008 – well the much tooted lathe vinyl series should shortly see the day – initial releases will see the Straw Bear Band and of course the Owl Service laying down the grooves so to speak, the former are busying away at the ’Eccentric Heart’ project while the latter are planning to release not only an EP tentatively titled ’the fabric of folk’ but are also mooted to be planning a mini album for the legendary (well in gaff anyway) Oggum imprint ’the midnight house’.
And to round up this extended Hobby Horse spot news of a freebie download via the Woven Whispers site (for address see above) featuring the debut release by the Kittiwakes entitled ‘lofoten calling’. Currently busying themselves recording their debut full length this free to rip four track EP provides for a taster of the mercurial delights that await, The Kittiwakes are a Brit folk trio who it seems craft timeless and magical acoustically dappled folk treats – gentle and alluring ostensibly gaelic in sound texture and gorgeously flighty braided as they are by corteges of mandolins, accordions and violins. Led from the fore by vocalist Kate Waterfield these traditional old school village fayre sorts are dedicated and hitherto inspired by the Lofoten Islands which are apparently situated in the upper artic circle just above Norway – we suggest you fall head long in to the arms of the charmingly cute sweetly skipping and knee slapping frolicking feast that is the shanty like ‘Ole Petter’ – delicious.
Yellow 6 ‘merry6mas’ (make mine music). Now something of an integral feature in our gaff at festive time to be listed alongside the Christmas tree, crap telly and general all around grumpiness – the Yellow 6 musical greeting card is a thing we look forward to with each passing year. Been a bit quiet this year as far as our hi-fi is concerned has Mr Atwood nee Yellow 6 so its with much delight that we have this 9 track collection with which to re-acquaint – not that we do really – honest. A brief background on these limited releases – originally started in – was it 2000 – this CD’s packed choc a bloc with outtakes, demos, unreleased and live material used to be pressed up and sent out t people and persons who in some way had supported Jon whether that be deejays, music press, long standing fans and friends alike – they were in the real world like gold dust. That said this years edition we have happened to spy at Norman records – so all is not lost. As said 9 tracks feature here – split between 5 home recordings, a reworking of ‘phase 1’ from last years Xmas sampler along with Carta, a my space collaboration with LAM and two as yet unreleased commissioned remixes for Port-Royal and Televise. Monolithic montages that call upon the spirits of Mogwai, Roy Montgomery (especially on the hurting ‘phase 1‘), Floyd and Gnac, there’s no doubting that Atwood is the master of the understated both in terms of beauty, texture and atmospherics – melting moods that freewheel between the pensive and the ceremony, his delicately deft appreciation of space and dramatic tension balances superbly to craft out pristine ice carved aural sculptures – ‘in some other‘ is a perfect example of this technique – each dissipating chord hugging fast to the voids creating an almost majestically repose. The home recordings find Atwood in familiar comfort zones armed with a lonesome guitar eking out pining sonic signatures invested with transcendental curvatures – ’burning holes in the sky’ the opening salvo treads the climatically arid regions as were once prowled upon by godspeed, looping free spirited drone chord motifs collide into a delicately ominous storm passing contrasting with the reverb laden tenderness of the lulling ’diamond’. ’L#4’ provides the best moment of these private recordings – bedded on trademarked / classic Yellow 6 ground – brooding, bewitching and beautiful is all we’ll say on the matter. I have to admit that I’m prone to agree with Atwood’s assessment on remixes, I always find them pointless exercises unless of course you can bring some thing to the table the best remixes have always been the ones were the original template is radically reworked to fit an environment previously never considered by the creator. Atwood’s reframing of Italian combo Port Royal’s ‘karol bloch’ goes someway to achieving this – a chilled out celestial carousel of ice tipped crunchy beats and cavernous ambient shimmers. The re-working of Televise’s ‘life on Mars’ is better still, stuttering dub tuned vocals a la Butthole Surfers ’hurdy gurdy man’ replete with huge hulking Cathedral-esque drenched feedback washes give this an epic and stately persona though ostensibly trippy and dare we say hallucinogenic aspect. Described as a my space collaboration of sorts ‘LAM -Y6’ is exquisite – a hazy fuzz fuelled cyclical psychedelic odyssey is brought to the fore that applies the type of fringe re-arranging mind evaporating touches as more commonly associated with Sunray this babe is emerges into a hypnotic dreamscaped gem. The cosmically pirouetting ‘down’ is also worth checking into to – a collaboration with Jason Perez (Carta) – imagine space walking in a mallowy animation coloured by the Beatles blue meanies – say no more. A bit of a treat. www.makeminemusic.co.uk
Further listening –
http://www.myspace.com/uptheroyals – disarming twinkle some electronic suites is the order of the day -we suggest you re-tune your radar to the timid though charming ‘internet love’ culled from their current long player ‘afraid to dance’ via Resonant. They also feature on the latest ‘little Darla has a treat for you’ compilation which we’ve somehow missed out on – darn another trip to the record shop I feel is much warranted.
http://www.myspace.com/cartamusic – San Francisco based sonic collective who craft out teasingly evocative morsels of beauty, both timid and frail these little pearls of exquisitely carved and slender in detail montages are cut from the stuff that hold the stars in the night sky. Betwixted between roaming cascades of gently lilting noodling guitars refrains (‘perdido’) and warmth fuelled electronic hazes married to key motifs (’Small lights’) Carta all at once woo, enchant and romance – a full length ’an index of birds’ is tentatively slated for a 2008 release.
http://www.myspace.com/televise – Televise need no introductions here – they’ve featured on the odd occasion via outings for the esteemed Club AC30 (see missive 68) – essentially just Simon Scott – one time Slowdive member who divides his time with the Televise operations to collaborate with Isan’s Anthony Ryan in a project entitled Sea vault (see below). To describe Televise is to say of them – shoe gaze psych tinged florescent folk pop – these selections reveal the mellower persona of Scott’s work we suggest you hook up to the drifting light headed shimmer of the spellbinding rustic roasted Cul De Sac – esue ‘Neon Stone’.
http://www.myspace.com/seavault – heavenly made collaborative project featuring ISAN’s Anthony Ryan and Televise’s Simon Steer (see previous) – apparently these two have already issued a single and an album upon the record public via Morr both of which we’ll have to try and snare in the coming days as our own. ’Mercy Seat’ – what can we say – stunning – a faithful interpretation of one of ’dream pop’s’ great lost records – originally done by Ultra Vivid Scene way back in an age when some of us still had a fringe that could be re-arranged in moments of swooning brought to bear by hearing gems such as this. Here repositioned with a tearfully effervescent sheen that’s part celestial part ‘road to Damascus’ visitation – braided upon shimmering hazes of crystalline fuzz laden bliss its enough to make you weep in joy – now where is my UVS copy? And the treats don’t stop there – not content with up rooting one long lost classic the blighters go and unearth another in the shape of Altered Images near perfect pocket posy of pristine pop ’I could be happy’ – regular readers to these pages will note that Scotland’s finest cannae do nothing wrong in our eyes while onlookers misfortunate enough to have heard us wielding the wheels of steel on the very rare occasions we haplessly spun discs in the dead air between support bands may well have been much bemused to hear this particular nugget popping out between ENT and whatever puzzlingly oblique beauts we’ve had about our person. In the hands of Seavault its gorgeously beset with an almost wonderfully blankly non committal vocal that bleakly mooches about the heavenly serenades of celestial styled electronic twinkles – in short perfect.
http://www.myspace.com/thelam2 – Italian based collective who it seems have a full length currently sneaking in to all the finest record collections in the shape of ‘house of wax’ which after hearing the evidence brought upon by these four showcasing treats we feel we need to have as our own – and sharpish. LAM deal in sparsely layered electronic / guitar ambient textures, partly influenced by Morricone’s ‘fistful’ scores as though relocated in some far flung idyllic South Pacific hideaway especially on the delectable ‘1’ which sounds like some celestial Hawaiian styled apocalyptic gun slinging closing scene from a Western while the dustily arid ‘half a century high’ I a sumptuous slice of daydreaming retrospection rooted with snake charmer riffs and an inordinately perfect chill out smooze.
Schizo Fun Addict ‘Dream of the Portugal Keeper’ (Bracken). Yes I know we’ve already covered this at Missive 145 – but hey we still think its worthy of another slot especially given that we now have in our hands a finished vinyl copy which comes replete with a CD for al you vinyl-philes who don’t want to spoil your copy as well as for those foolish enough among you to trade in your turntable all those years back – don’t you just feel like dicks now eh? Anyhow a teaser for their forthcoming fourth long player ‘the sun yard’ – which we are eagerly waiting with baited breath to hear. This babe features three cuts – just wait till you hear the lead cut ‘dream of a Portugal Keeper’ think Camera Obscura meets L’Augmentation – need we say more – good – then buy. www.brackenrecords.com
Mojo #171 – we haven’t had a proper chance to spec this yet but it’s the one with Radiohead on the cover, inside being interviewed – in fact their everywhere, wouldn’t surprise me if they’d edited, written and printed the bugger themselves. Elsewhere there’s features / interviews with Joni Mitchell, the Cult, Adam Ant – a spotlight on photographer Henry Diltz, Can feature on the ‘how to buy’ section while hello / goodbye trains its sights on the genius of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys. Oh yea there’s also something about a band called Led Zeppelin – you may have heard of them. Glued to the cover you’ll find the now obligatory 15 track CD – this one entitled ‘OK Computer’ which features the multi generic use of electronics in pop. A wealth of talent on show – some household names and some barely known at the local record emporium – among the culprits on show Tubeway Army, Human League (whose ‘Circus of Death’ has had me hankering to re-investigate both ‘Reproduction’ and ‘travelogue’), Tangerine Dream, John Foxx, the Knife and so on – selected prime cuts for me personally Fujiya and Miyagi’s hypnotically chilled and frayed Normal-esque ’Ankle Injuries’, Claudia’s crooked They Might be Giants on glue like ’dead dogs two’ and Severed Heads jiggly head weaving pan house ’dead eyes opened’.
And for something that got a little lost in the review type heap – a rather nifty 7 label freebie compilation….
Various Artists ‘Lets dream it, dream it for free’ (Bearos, Pickled Egg, Static Caravan, Fortuna Pop, Victory Garden, Where its at is where you are, Vacuous Pop). Another of those superb freebie samplers currently kicking around and about no doubt skulking on the counter of your friendly neighbourhood record emporium. This time around a positive feast of talents some you should know and some you will in time get to know. A bulging package featuring 29 cuts from the rosters of seven of the best underground imprints around each offering a smorgasbord of window delicatessen spiced with more than enough cross generic tuneage to entertain the most hard to please punter. First up three morsels from the vaults of where its at is where you are records who frankly have a ridiculously enviable collection of talented souls on their books as these three choice cuts prove. DJ Downfall AKA John Stanley of Tender Trap fame opens the proceedings with the cutely sassy ‘Rediscover Fire’ – think Sophie Ellis Bextor given a serious cutting edge state of the art re-fit fronting a dinkily delivered Euro disko inspired St Etienne doing seismic damage on the dance floor. Swedish Chef (no not the manic Muppet – the London based ensemble) – I suspect are a band we should really be chasing and literally playing to death in the losing today record shed. ’Hilo’ is simply heavenly – some trippy Beatles-esque mellotron, a vocal not unlike David McAlmont and a shyly sophisticated delivery that would have those rather impeccable souls Shortwave Set swooning in admiration for, all at once enchanting and hurting – we want more and I dare say you will once you’ve sampled this cute twinkle some gem. In a career stretching back some 15 or so years Rose Melberg has acquired a formidable body of work to her name – a member of the Softies and Tiger Trap she’s graced the catalogues of the highly influential K and Slumberland labels. ‘Cast away the clouds’ is a sweetly curdling rustic ramble of some measure, softly drifting acoustic pop that transfixes and tenderly captivates that in truth is no to dissimilar to the more lighter introspective moments to be found skulking within Nick Drake’s lasting legacy. Next up the small but well formed Victory Garden imprint – home of Southall Riot (more about them in a second) and the label responsible for ushering upon the world the debut release from Hot Chip. Four selections culled from their finite file tray of free forming pop beginning with our latest loves – it has to be said – One More Grain. Already responsible for holding our hi-fi under house arrest with their rather essential debut full length ‘pigeon English’ – ‘tropical mother I law’ taken from that set and perhaps – in our humble opinion – the best thing there – imagine Lurie’s ‘Get Shortly’ soundtrack being re-sparked and turned on its head by a Van Vliet fronted early 70’s art house Roxy Music – kookily funky head pop – squares need not apply. The Phil Collins 3 – (great name eh?) – sound like they’ve fell off an old taped broadcast of a John Peel show from yesteryear, ‘Greenfly ate my dog’ is an amalgamation of all those wired releases that the bearded one used to spike his show with – strangely enough mostly emanating from Japan or some strange off the beaten track place in the States, bent out of shape, odd, acutely obtuse and disturbed in a way that only the Cravats come near when considering comparisons. You have bee warned – frankly want more. ’Champion Overseen’ I think I might be right in saying is a previously unreleased nugget from the Southall Riot – who though inactive for longer than I care to remember where at one time a regular fixture in these pages – releasing along the way some spiffing ultra limited releases including if memory serves right one full length – which may or may not have been a split subscription only thing on Earworm (damn we need to get our record collection in some sort of order). Anyway oft compared to Guided by Voices, the Riot boys dished up devious slabs of short and to the point candy floss styled morsels of psyche pop that sounded for all the world like stray west coast birthed Elephant 6 gems that had somehow lost their sense of direction, took a detour and had ended up across the pond – needless to say pop archivists in future years will reclaim them and a whole movement will copy them – for now though bliss out to their fuzzy head trip and think JMC boogying with Sunray. The Original Beekeepers have – assuming they aren’t joshing us – been around in some form or other since 1984 (are you sure?) and have so far done a magnificent job of hiding their light under the preverbal bushel that we suspect it was never switched on in the first place, ’Flow’ is deliciously homely sounding – a bit like a shanty murmuring Earlies cast adrift upon the seas in a rusty tin bath, cutely affectionate and enchanting prickly pop that’ll have you laughing, crying and experiencing all the emotions in between along with a few you never really counted on previously – gemlike in a word. Been ages since we heard anything from Vacuous Pop – I suspect they’ve moved onto bigger things and in the process debunked us from their mailing list – such is life. A quartet of spiked pop tunes feature here opening with An Emergency’s ’I don’t think Tom Cruise is real’ – which strangely enough is something that I used to ponder about when I was somewhat younger and with fringe, the enfant terrible of Hollywood land is so wooden that we wonder whether he has an annual coating of cuprinol. Anyhow An Emergency are an Exeter based combo who to date have littered many of the coolest record racks with what seems like a formidable body of work – all of which disappointingly have so far managed to remain at arms length from our slavering hi-fi. This little ditty is your jagged angular hiccupping stop start gnarled riffs type thing that seems equally happy in incorporating happy go lucky pop fused woo woo’s while devilishly pummelling you into next month with its blistering tight as a gnats chuff intricate sonic needlework. youth movies are next stumping up ’when we won’t have to make the freezing scene no more’, originating from Oxford this quintet display an unearthly knack for crafting crushing slabs of wide screened super charged post rock this tasty morsel proving case in point bathed as it is in sublime swells of euphoric stratospheric grandeur that arcs seismically between heads down razor sharp primitive scorched earth grind and alluring out their bliss fuelled sophistication. Upon hearing ’codeword’ by trouble everyday you’d be forgiven for thinking that these lads spend their nights chilling to the back catalogue work of early career Killing Joke – touched superbly with a sense of the austere laced late 70’s post punk they cleverly fuse the bleak edge of Coleman and Co with the attrition of early Chameleons. Breakneck Static – what can we say – totally fuckin mental and really just too brief for its own good, at 26 seconds in length this caustic cutie flips your wig, ruffles your head and spanks your hi-fi – three guys two girls and what a deliciously unholy racket they make – ’oki gen ika ga’ makes melt banana sounds like the shaggs, disturbingly off the wall, frenetic, fucked up and mighty damn fine – word has it there’s a must have split single with An Emergency lurking about somewhere. Essential we’d say.
Of course Static Caravan need no introductions here – they have for the last few years been perhaps the barometer of taste in terms of what’s happening trend wise on the underground, more of a way of life than simply a label , they have been home to some of the finest sounds to have bridged the divide from a secret shared among friends to something achieving a lasting hold in the greater public conscious – Tunng perhaps most notably where given support, love and care when no one else dared touch them while of the current brigade Shady Bard stand head and shoulders amid most of what the majors seem to be buying into these days. Three selections from the Static roster kicking off with the mysterious, and dare we say, deeply engaging Men -An -Tol . Already having enchanted us with the long sold out ultra limited 200 only EP earlier this year, this cut ’Orange Juice and Vodka’ being taken from that set. Easily comfortable in being filed alongside the like of EPOK, Circulus and the Owl Service, Men An Tol head a becoming list of nu-folk talent, this gem treated to an archaic brushing of village green pageantry is threaded subtly with the drifting essence of yesteryears Cambridge folk and a beguiling gaellic airiness. Tasty. We suspect that we may have missed out on Danny Norbury’s debut release ‘Dusk‘ (we’ve hastily added it to our wants list – so when we do nail it we will mention it in full). ’Lullaby’ offered here is barely a minute in duration – a delicate piano signature a la ’Trois Gymnopedies’ by Satie – beautifully eerie, tender and quite lilting in a one eye turned looking over your shoulder kind of way. Serafina Steer – already having delivered one of the best albums of the year in ’Cheap demos bad science’ – ’Peach Heart’ one of that sets highlights is an obscure Lear meets Tim Burton noire-ish gothic deathly white ballad prickled with haunting imagery and delivered in a style that suggests Laurie Anderson transplanted in to the mindset of a youthful Bronte influenced Kate Bush – chillingly gorgeous. We never get to hear enough Pickled Egg ear gear for our liking these days – whether that’s due to the fact that the releases are more staggered these days or simply due in part to Nigel Pickled Egg haven given up on us we don’t know. That said we have just received our copy of the debut full length by Mass Shivers – great name eh – who incidentally feature here with ’Downwind of Amour’ – think the early white funk groove of Talking Heads though fronted by the Manics’ James Dean Bradfield recalibrated by the 90’s era Touch ’n’ Go crew with lashings of head maddening fried up Beefheartian noodling and a healthy nod in the direction of Bowie’s ‘chant of the ever circling family’ going on in the mix. Fulborn Taversham who appear courtesy of the acutely wired ’beachtune’ feature members of Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear amid their ranks along with the indisputably excitable vocal of Alice Grant, think X-Ray Spex whipping Miles Davis good style with Tom Waits masterminding the beating, oft to be found filed under jazz which in itself is a bit of a misnomer because this lot I suspect would be far happier filed alongside the likes of Zea et al. Warped yet addictively tasty. Dragon or Emperor whose self titled debut full length from a while back we still dig out for an occasional spin is one of the many splinter ensembles of the Volcano the Bear family – and before you all groan fearing for your sanity at the expectancy of weird slices of anti pop then think again – ’part of me says’ taken from that aforementioned debut is a molten rock boogie of some measure fusing Led Zep groove with Melvins grind to be dispatched with a vocal that sounds not unlike David ‘Pere Ubu’ Thomas trying out for Beef heart – everything you ever needed to know about decadent 70’s styled street sassiness neatly distilled into 3 minutes of horny hip hugging throb. Apatt – frankly the best thing out of Liverpool right now – they are a class above – sadly we haven’t heard anything by them since they’re debut EP which we reviewed way back at Missive 36 – even then we were hooked by their wilful nonchalance to the burgeoning Mersey scene. ’Happiness’ is without doubt the samplers best moment by some distance an exotic Hawaiian styled ode of stalker intent that melds the oddly unhinged pop vocabulary of Whitetown with the sinister darkly toned language of early career Space both lost beneath the starlit splendour of Stereolab’s self styled bachelor pad down tempo groove all sublimely metered out with doo wops and big band sounding strings – once heard you’ll be spellbound – guaranteed. An album – we hear – is due to surface imminently. Fortuna Pop – the little label with the biggest of souls stump up 5 dainty treasures opening with Airport Girl’s twang-tastic beach boogie ’Black rock sands’ – short ’n’ sweet slickly delivered hip swerving tastiness that pays several nods to the Surfaris. The Mountain Movers – previously unknown to us though we suspect that won‘t be for to long – serve up the delicious ’what the devil wants the devil takes’ – imagine early 70’s cool as f**k Stones overdosing on some of the sleekest vintage Stax there was to be found chilled and classy and perhaps to these ears the best thing we’ve heard since the Panda Gang who incidentally these days go under the name BDI’s and have a stonking debut full length just out that we’ve been swooning to since it arrived here tail end of last week. Few things in life are tastier than the small but well formed bubblegum beat combo The Loves, ’honey’ barely passes the one minute mark yet in that time manages to distil all there is to know about cutesy cute candy pop – think Jan and Dean with the Ramones fused into their blueprint DNA on a 60’s west coast vacation – tangy lovelorn perky power pop of the highest order. And we say this each and every time we hear something from the Butterflies of Love – but seriously – they are one of the most underrated bands around today. Not content with delivering one of the best debuts ever in ’rob a bank’ they’ve cut up some of the best slabs of 60’s invested pop around today – these days loosened of their penchant for the Velvets and to be found excavating in their own imitable way the routes and walkways of Neil Young’s early career work – ’Act Deranged’ shimmers feverishly, a freewheeling countrified pop nugget that subtly pays nods to Dylan and Buffalo Springfield while casually bridging the divide between them and the much overlooked honey glazed homeliness to be found on Moville’s ’durable dream’ – a bit of a treasure if you ask me. My Sad Captains debut ’Bad decisions’ released earlier this yea (see missive 121) is another mighty first outing that will by rights feature on a fair few end of year polls – ’here and elsewhere’ its attending flipside featured here is just simply arresting, a willowy half cousin to the Shortwave Set, that is the Shortwave Set decamped to the wiles of the Southern States of America and partaking in campfire frivolities – hurting but sweetly so – guaranteed to leave not a dry in the house. Rounding up the pack the Chemistry Experiment – too clever for their own good though perhaps its true to say that this sub 30 second slice of throwaway vocal / drums only petulance entitled (well what else) ’drummer bummer’ doesn’t really paint the picture that way – contrary bastards they are – but bloody good all the same. Bringing up the rear of this excellent sampler come five well dispatched volleys from the criminally overlooked Bearos imprint (and I include myself in that damming charge). Opening with the sound of Richard Burke, the autobiographical ’So quick’ is a sparsely sensitive folk hurter that barely clocks in at one minute in duration, despite its threadbare appeal there’s a warmth that radiates throughout this slender plucked acoustics as though June Panic had consorted to appear with the Red House Painters – an album ’the wintered sea’ should be the first port of call for those wanting more. The baker boys I regret to admit we’ve had a CD by sometime last year – though with one or another encroaching on my personal life we somehow got through half a review before it was abandoned. They are of course father and son duo Dave and Gavin Baker – Gavin you may or may not recall has in the past released some tasty morsels of intimate pop under the guise Meets Guitar. The Baker Boys came to be following the pairs long lasting love of archaic traditional folk and bluegrass from the 20’s, ’Redwing’ featured here for your disconcerting delicacy is a deeply engaging meeting of sprightly Irish folk spliced as were with the drifting nuances of vintage southern state mountain sounds, something a certain Andy Kershaw would know doubt lap up by the barrel load – between the grooves silky laces of subtle possum chomping bluegrass and the timeless tread of delta blues echoes filter softly – quite something else it has to be said. ’Your Song’ by Lazarus Clamp happily minus Simon Bates is to put it mildly like imagining the Gibson Brothers boogying with Jesus Lizard – scuzzy gnarled grind for all the family. If the prospect of a bass intro lifted straight from Queen’s ’you’re my best friend’ doesn’t get your appetite salivating then maybe the thought of the idle some sweetly countrified canter of the curvaceous southern belle styled melodies slickly drifting and arcing lovingly may just tempt you. Failing that perhaps vocals that sound not unlike the late Kirsty MacColl may do the trick or as a last resort the delightful late 80’s indie pop lilt of the chiming riffs a la Hey Paulette – whatever the reason ’puppet’ by Clair Horton just has to be heard – okay. Bringing the whole shaboodle to a close Mills and Boon – no not the books ya div but a quartet from Birmingham who describe their music in passing as ’spaz folk’ – this is an edited version of ‘witches cradle’ which we truly feel the powers that be sorely cocked up on when including this given that they’ve managed to cut it just when things were getting to sound interesting, anyhow before we were rudely excommunicated we did get to hear enough to strengthen our resolve that this lot may well be worth checking out in closer details – intricately layered math rock noodling and a vocal that sounds not so dissimilar to a certain Robert Smith – go on admit it you’re intrigued. A faultless collection.
Key tracks Swedish chef ‘hilo’, The phil collins 3 ‘greenfly ate my dog’, Breakneck static ‘oki gen ika ga’, Serafina steer ‘peach heart’, Apatt ‘happiness’, The mountain movers ‘what the devil wants the devil takes’ and Clair Horton ‘puppet’.
Blimey Static Caravan wonderland – not content with recently dropping by our way the killer George Washington Brown, Steve Moore (see Steve’s side project – somewhere above) and the exquisite Binary Oppositions full lengths – not to mention that rather lovely Yellow Moon Band single – now they seek to adorn our hi-fi with some rather special seasonal treats (well sort of – okay well definitely with regard to Shady Bard – fair enough).
Dollboy / Robin Saville ‘Split’ (Static Caravan). We’re not sure when this cute but well formed beauty is due – its not even on pre-order yet. Strictly limited to just 250 copies all pressed of 7 inches of wax and housed in a hand numbered hand finished wrap around sleeves this little gem sees duties being split between Robin Saville and Dollboy. Robin Saville is better known for being one half of the diminutively demurring ISAN (Anthony Ryan his co-conspirator can be checked elsewhere here with his collaborative project Seavault – seamless eh?). ‘player piano’ – as the very title hints at – is a gorgeously willowy key laden suite – gentle, alluring and transfixing it emerges and tip toes from lamp lit confines of a child’s play room to do a delicately lilting pirouette before winding down and returning to rest in the safe retreat of the musical box – one for fans of Raymond Scott’s ‘Soothing sounds’ series, teething tots and small kitchen appliances though do what out for amorous toasters. Flip over for a spot of flighty overtures from the rarely heard Dollboy (well rarely heard in this gaff anyway – though see below for news of an ultra limited release via Harmonium records). Last featured here in these pages with their remix handy work being applied to Tunng (see missive 71) – former member of 90’s remix collective Cooler, Oliver Cherer has recently sneaked out a full length via Arable in the shape of ‘Casual Nudism’ to much acclaim – another record we’ll no doubt be hunting for in the new year. For now though that Dollboy dude gets to grips for a spot of playfulness with Bach’s ‘prelude no.1’ – though postulating as to whether the words classical and fun should ever be seen in the sentence let alone spoken really should seek this out, more uptempo than the Saville companion, Cherer applies some measured and dare we say crooked funkyness to his aural canvas over which he daubs a deliciously radiant landscape of lightly flecked waltzing whirly-pop-ness that strangely enough had us imagining an electro marriage of wonder comprising of the pairing of ISAN and fortdax. Essential of course as though you needed telling. www.staticcaravan.org
You can – should you so desire – and we suggest you do and should – there’s more Robin solo via his my space site at http://www.myspace.com/willowwarbler – we suggest you check out the enriched wistful folk treat that is the mesmerising ‘magpie’ – think pastoral Kraftwerk knee deep in woody textures of undulating drift breezes. You have been warned.
While you’re there it might be wise to seek out Alexandra Veanna via http://www.myspace.com/alexandraveanna a young Israeli duo Maya and Gil who together are responsible for crafting moments of austere minimalism that translate superbly as teasingly beautiful and slender pirouetting honey dripped gems of celestial electronic pop, think of an igloo living chilled out version of Shortwave Set remodelled by the whispery fragile persona of Mum (‘out and in’) or the despondent android boogie of ‘power’ era New Order sparsely sugar twisted with Cobra Killer as on the wistful ‘kaleidoscope’ – while not forgetting the warming daydream ambient treads of the star staring ‘the oak song’ – you can also download their debut album I am like a dog, I never speak but I understand’ for free via this site or for a small fee get a physical copy with postcard inserts and stuff which we did try to order until the web page kicked us out four times on the bounce – oh well – make do with the download then – much gnashing off teeth.
www.myspace.com/60237930 – new label type thing by the name of Harmonium promises to deliver bespoke hand made CD-r’s of some of the nations most celebrated artists currently residing below the slipstream surface waters of underground pop. The first release in this series sees Dollboy (they appear again way down towards the arse end of this missive via a must have split with Robin Saville) dividing up duties with Woodcraft Folk – the former covering the Smiths ’last night I dreamt’ the latter redrilling the Fall’s ’English scheme’ – each release ultra limited to only 100 copies available via a link here.
Inch Time ‘Thought Objects’ (Static Caravan). Already sold out on pre release alone – there are only 150 of these babies around with the first 50 coming paired with a specially commissioned hand painted t-shirt designed by Ben Javens. And so the winter season is upon us, its deathly grip ushering in a steeled silence and eerie chill casting upon the land a shadowy hand as the suffocating breath of the still dark night air extends long and perilously cloaking all with its frosted kiss. Those familiar with Inch Time’s (or as he’s better known to his friends and family back home in Adelaide – Stefan Panczak) previous work or who may have (obviously by accident) stumbled across these pages will indeed be all to aware of our fondness for the richly absorbing fluid marriage of organic / electronic melodic miniatures that escape from the grooves of his compositions. This ultra limited 2 track offering reveals a more darker, perhaps sombre – certainly macabre nature to his psyche, frosted gems schooled as were with the grace of Satie and in the technique of Stockhausen, minimalist ambient suites all at once hypnotic and spellbinding ‘Thought objects – part 1’ – is by and large broadly divided into a triptych of suites – initially beguiling with its thoughtful yet lonesome looping piano motif before slyly thawing out of it self contained orbiting igloo to shift trajectory to depart for realms more readily mapped in the minds eye before returning by way of an eerie collage of chillingly sparse atmospherics from what sounds like bowed glass treatments choreographed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – will appeal to fans of EAR, Stylus and Mount Vernon Arts Lab. ‘Part 2’ provides for a more sedate ornamental affair – marrying twinkling Cantonese bells, delicately undulating piano motifs and a steely reverential stillness swept with mercurial mystery draped within a dreamy landscape of dissipating aural atmospheres – one for switching off the lights to and kicking back for one of those brief but necessary revitalising meditation moments where its just you and your inner self. Tragically tempting. www.staticcaravan.org
And we briefly part with some amazing news that we wouldn’t have scarce believed had it not been for the fact that we actually have a copy in our mits – but after a long lay off especially from these pages where if memory serves me right we haven’t had a chance to fall headlong into its charm for a fair few years (missive 32 in fact) the esteemed Ptolemaic Terrascope is back, now relocated across the big pond – Oakland, California to be precise, new owners / editorial and a face lift to boot (don’t worry Phil McMullen though having relinquished control will still be around and about and imparting his thoughts and observations via the periodicals web site at www.terrascope.co.uk). Issue 36 marks the dawn of Terrascope’s next phase, lavishly presented in a bookish styled glossy magazine this eventful issue features interviews and spotlights with Vashti Bunyan, Davey Graham, Colleen and Sean Smith as well as being equipped with a rather nifty 20 track CD that includes cuts from Six Organs of Admittance, Willow Willow, Doug Yule, Colossal Yes and a rather smart track from Barbara Manning and the Go Lucky’s.
And literally just arriving in our in box just as we were wrapping things up is this little gem from Gilbert – http://www.myspace.com/gilbertlinley – a London based six piece currently signed to the much admired Shifty Disco, Gilbert it seems are adept at crafting slyly off centred pop symphonies from a myriad of sources and reference points, like a pocket ethereal epiphany ‘Willow’ deceptively engages the senses with its sugar rush of dream laden piano florets as though a celestial cortege penned by a song craft union of Van Dyke Parks and Phil Spector – all at once fluffy, flighty and gorgeously ghostly his serenading slice of string laden sensuality twinkles and tip toes with such amorphous abandon it leaves you swooning in its wake. ‘Animal Vegetable Mineral’ is a surreal lightshow that imagines the Residents encroaching on realms more readily occupied by They Might be Giants and those warped space cadets They came from the Stars and relocated on some brain fried landscape dreamed up from the recesses of the out there creative mindsets of the Mighty Boosh crew – quite barking in other words. Weeping violins endow a brittle wintry aspect to the deliciously ice coned ‘sigh’ – an alluring wonderland of frosted felicitations laid upon a bed of shuffling beats and orbital shimmers over which Maud pants and purrs softly – if you want my honest opinion imagine Mum casting their fragile icy amour to Animal Collectives left of centre pop mindset. All said and done though ‘self help for the English’ provides the showcases best moment – it really does sound like Stewart Copeland in his Klark Kent guise – a rollicking brigade of sound festooned by ‘Lucky Jim’ and ‘oh lucky man’ styled college hall baritone braids and swirling brass arrangements – effervescent and quite unavoidably addictive if you ask me – expect releases galore next year – we hope – that is.
And by way of a parting shot for this extended missive something a little bit special with which to fill you with a warming fuzzy glow on these winter fuelled festive days…..
There should be more lighting of cigarettes on records
And what better way to round of this particular year end missive with something a little special……
Shady Bard ‘First, the Winter’ (Static Caravan). What’s becoming something of a traditional treat – the Xmas outing for the esteemed Static Caravan comes by way of an ultra limited 4 track release from singled out favourites Shady Bard. This release is sadly already sold out on pre release alone though your usual record emporium stockists (Piccadilly, Norman etc….) may well have a few snucked under the counter looking for loving homes. Only 150 of these cute little things are around, all housed in hand sewn pouches that include a sew on badge and a ‘church service’ styled programme insert – and as though that‘s not collectable enough in itself there are a handful of special editions which come adorned inside their own little hand crafted box – which we will say here and now are a thing of visual beauty. Within these hand made packages a quartet of disarming gems hang upon a threaded snow theme. Viewed as a whole these are not mere pop trinkets but an occasion, an event – perhaps a celebration. Frail, magical and enchanting this truly is a warming experience to behold – those un-familiar with Shady Bard’s previous outings may well be best warned to expect to be guided gently amid a masterfully spectral suite of church like resonance, as said four cuts feature here – three of which to date previous unreleased the fourth ‘these quiet times’ originally found nuzzling on their near perfect debut full length ‘from the ground up’ is found here decoded with a disarming choral braid. As to the music what can we say – exquisite, poised, melancholic yet absorbing, illuminating and hopeful, in Lawrence Becko a vocalist whose hurt and loss cuts to the quick and possesses a tear stained timbre perhaps only out classed by Robert Wyatt. From the opening heartbreaking frailness of the slender piano pining instrumental ‘Snowstorm 1914’ to the Lowry-esque charcoal charmed Christmas card decorated ‘these quiet times’ with its homely snow tipped harmonies (provided by the Ice Park Choral Society) and softly unfurling twinkle some demeanour, Shady Bard it seems have carved themselves a unique niche, a niche that enables them to capture and conjure an impenetrable song craft style that’s timeless, tragic and yet invested with worldly wonder and an unfailing forlorn grace. ‘Big Snow’ with its thoughtfully cantering trickery begs to be a backdrop to an aftermath of a cataclysmic event while in my much humbled opinion ‘Winter Song’ – by far the best moment here erupts the emotions with such slight of hand ease that it numbs through to the bone, an experience rarely stumbled upon it emerges from a position of dulling reflection to embrace and shower all the would be gathered in a quietly euphoric glow. Remarkable event. Without doubt Shady Bard are the most special of bands – tender and fragile and as such this is a truly special and fitting release to round off a phenomenal year. Roll on 2008. www.staticcaravan.org
Future Caravans on the horizon should see outings for the Accidental, a split release between Blood Music and Ass (the latter of whom Geoff Static kindly sent down a copy of their very excellent debut full length on Headspin which we highly recommend you should drop whatever you are doing and check out right now), there’ll be limited lathe releases from d_rradio and men an tol – both of whom have graced this pages to much acclaim and a compilation curated by the Static crew and Inch Time entitled ‘Teaism’ of which we’ve no idea who features or anything other than to say there’s the mysterious appearance of a dedicated web page at www.teaism.net – talk about being tight lipped.
And that’s your lot for the year – there will be a quickly fashioned missive in a few days time wherein we’ll scoop up all the releases that should have featured here but which due to time constraints were pulled at the last moment – treats featured include stuff by sine star project (stunning), that aforementioned Lumerians release, let‘s wrestle, exit avenue, personal space invaders, rory mc vicar, the maccabees, great defenders, patscan, gavin Thorpe, Nebraska, death by sadie, stone halos, nephu huzzbard, subliminal girls, butterfly bangs, tin man, jo bywater and those long promised sugar drum releases should all see their way to cyber print.
Till next year take care of yourselves and have a wonderfully peaceful New Year….