archiv: Xmas Bumper Xtravaganza (missive 7)

Archive posting – originally featured Dec 2001 on the Losing Today website (www.losingtoday.com) …

features …….

aerosol, animals that swim, asexuals, bedford, blocko, candidate, chris tt, com a, delilia, dorine muraille, echoboy, encre, eska, eu, fat truckers, flamin sideburns, flatpig, fortdax, hypno, i am the world, isan, james yorkston, juergen junker, landshipping, leatherhead, maps and diagrams, metamatics, melodium, matick, mils, my jazzy star, nils, novel23, osaka, ooberman, quasar ken, remote, roricat, shadowy men on a shadowy planet, shinshei, six continents retail, soundtree, stasis, sunday, sunday smoke kit, sybarite, the avalanches, the bee men, the bad cassettes, the dirtbombs, the clientele, the dukes of hand gliding, the folk orchestra, the lone pigeon, the murderer, the saturday people, the soledad brothers, the tables, the toes, theboylucas, vel, zan lyons, zongamin …….

Xmas Bumper Xtravaganza

Delivered by Santa 20/12/01

Eat by Mid January 2002

Blimey the last Singled Out Missive of the Year, much tear shedding in my shed at the back of the garden, though I expect a groan of relief from everyone else. Last, however but by no means not the least, this final feast of the year is a table creaking whopper of a..er..thing. It’s going to be like having all your Christmas’s come at once, like a kid locked in a sweet and toy factory or something like that, okay I exaggerate slightly, in reality it’s more of the same, only like er…more.

As per usual it’s apologies time but on this occasion I’m sure you’ll forgive me but it has been a bit of a  staggered affair getting this missive together, most of these singles I’ve literally just either bought or received, and with it being the last review of the year I was determined to include everything.

Just for a second going over old ground, the next hard copy magazine will hopefully, nay certainly be with you sometime around Easter or if like me you can’t remember when that is April. There should be an Italian version somewhere in the vicinity just before it, no confirmation just yet, but if it does get off the tracks it will be a more regular publication, honest. A few emails have asked about advertising rates, I’m certainly glad to pass them on but in essence the best person to direct enquiries too is fabrizio@losingtoday.com, who is the boss, guv’nor, the don whatever and oh yeah full time web site guru. Talking of the website you may have noticed that a few MP3’s file have started to appear on there, after Christmas these will be more frequent, so if your a label or band willing to depart with your wares feel free to contact either me or Fabrizio.

The demo and magazine reviews that were meant to make up the mainstay of these missives will be addressed in the New Year, it seems I’ve been taken over a little by the wealth of singles being released. Hopefully in time for the first missive of 2002 we’ll have the latest issues of Ptolemaic Terrascope, Sense and Sound Collector to name just two. Again if your in a band, own a record label, run a fanzine please get in touch, demos will be greatly appreciated, and a note at this juncture to Liverpool band Slow Motion Stranger, the CD-r demo album ‘Music from the Motion Picture’ will shortly appear on the home page. While I’m with it those wanting a copy of this Morricone inspired winner should contact www.madafish.com/~slomostranger

And at this point it comes with great sadness to announce the death of Stuart Adamson on 16th December at a hotel in Honolulu. Adamson formed the new wave band The Skids in the late 70’s with Richard Jobson going on to score a few minor hits including the classic ‘Into the Valley’, a song later adopted by Maxell Tapes in an advertising campaign to great success in the late 80’s. After the band split at the turn of the 80’s, Adamson formed Big Country, forever remembered for the way they made their guitars sound, strangely like bagpipes. Achieving considerable success with the singles ‘Fields of Fire’, ‘In a big Country’ and the classic ‘Chance’ and albums ‘Steeltown’ and ‘The Crossing’, Big Country were at one time serious contenders to the dominance of U2. Relocating to Nashville after the band had split in the late 90’s, Adamson had recently formed a new band called the Raphaels. The sad news of his death ends a month of mystery following his disappearance from his family home. May I offer our sincerest condolences to his family and friends, Stuart will be much missed.

And back to the apologies corner again, for those labels that have sent stuff throughout the year and haven’t seen a diddly squat for their troubles, sorry, sorry, sorry. Hopefully before the years out there will be an almighty bulging review special similar to these missives that, if typing finger allows, will give brief mentions to one and all, New Year resolution number two will be to keep on the ball, and in case your asking resolution number one is to come up with more plausible excuses when the pears go badly shaped. Having said that the first proper reviews will feature several goodies from Ochre, a few Planting Seeds, a wealth of Transformed Dreams, the odd Fortuna Pop release, a brace of Slumberland, now come on admit I spoil you don’t I.

So what’s been happening since I last saw you, well aside Liverpool being soundly thrashed by the dreaded Chelsea but still leading the charge of the Premiership, pretty much nothing. A few recent mail outs that I’ve received tell me that the wheels of industry at Victory Garden Records, the home of Southall Riot, are set to turn at frantic pace over the next few weeks. The sharp eyed among you will no doubt be familiar with this labels unusual schedules and strange release formats. Well now they’ve decided to put out a tape only series called SOUL. The first of which will be a stonking 46 minute voyage into the realms of noise landscapes featuring Acid Mothers Temple and a few Southall Riot rarities. Also imminent as I type this and limited to 200 pressings, releases by Stanton, Southall Riot (the legendary Queen Nymphet single that never materialised). The Southall will also feature on a double seven set called ‘Two Minutemen’ from Johnson Family Records who if you remember brought us the wonderful Maquiladora single a while back. The features 15 bands including, pauses for breath, Grover, Reynolds and Billy Mahonie among others. Check out www.victorygardenrecords.co.uk

Staying with Southall Riot just loosely, they also appear on the imminent ‘Bedroom Ambience’ Volume 3 compilation from the esteemed Enraptured Label. Also on the horizon on the same label are some remixed live collages from Flowchart as well as a massive as yet secret remix project by AMP. Contact jackenraptured@hotmail.com

Favourite sons of these listings Earworm will have more top of the drawer releases than fingers on hands in the first few weeks of the New Year. First up will be two 10 inches from The Clientelle, featured later via Slumberland and the long promised west coast pop art band covers release entitled

‘Outta town/outer space’. Add to that the awesome prospect of a triple disc Acid Mothers Temple album and a debut single for the Crane Builders and a newie from Ladybug Transistor, all in all should keep the bad music from the old hi-fi for a wee while. domearworm@hotmail.com

Also shouldn’t forget the enigmatic Pickled Egg Records which all things going to plan should be kicking back into life in 2002 with a new release from Daniel Johnston, a whole longplayer of new goodies and strictly limited to 700. This will be followed by the much anticipated debut album from the amazing Go Team, who for those with long memories, got us hot under the collars with their debut single ‘Get it Together’ last year. If that hasn’t got you going then try the second album from Big Eyes and Marshmallow Coast and the long awaited Gulliver debut. Check out www.pickled-egg.co.uk

Okay as advertised the mega bumpertastic Xmas missive before we all disappear into the darkness for a few weeks hibernation. It’s a strange collection of tunes that we have, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it caters for every taste not counting Stereophonics fans.

We’ve got a few regulars making last minute returns, too many to mention, but Lone Pigeon, Mistreaters and Kicker has recently graced the old gramophone in recent weeks. A welcome back to a few long lost friends, ISAN and Landshipping, a few name changes such as I am the World Trade Centre, who for obvious reasons now become I am the World, one or two bands more recognisable in former incarnations such as the Bee Men who offer home to ex-members of L’Augmentation. Also in amongst the goodies are a few new label debuts, Smallfish Records in particular with two marvellous releases, a couple of coloured vinyls, all white I should add with the odd rogue clear vinyl and a picture disc.

Packed tighter than Scrooge’s padlocked wallet, we’ve some bottom clenching rollercoaster punk, some frankly, damn weird electronica, gentle atmospherics and seeing as it’s that special time of the year, a few festive related goodies. If your still wondering what to buy that dotty grandma, a pic’n’mix selection from this lot will ensure she’s the hippest chic down at the 1930’s Gin and tea cosy night at the local community hall.

This darling has been around for a few weeks now, but I managed to track a copy down on my travels. Strictly limited to 500 copies and pressed on marbled snow-white vinyl, Ooberman’s ‘Running Girl’ from their recent mini album has my vote for being one of the most alluring tracks of the year. On this occasion you get two variants on the same theme. ‘Running Girl- the sweet original mix’ teeters on Barret/Floyd psychedelia tripping with Pretty Things through a snow bound festive scene of Dickensian proportions, a colourful lysergic opera, an awesome track so ahead of and simultaneously so behind the times that’ll take years for the non believers to latch on to. Flip over and you get the Phantom 309 ‘Indie Club Mix’ of the same track, that manages to retain the overall beauty of the original but somehow draws to the fore all the key attractions and gives it a steroid once over. Bloody brilliant. Available from Rotodisc Records via www.ooberman.com

Vel ‘Fine’. Vel you may remember from Singled Out Missive 5, are a young duo from Athens, Greece whose last inclusion in these pages was their head to head split release with Flowchart as part of the Pop Art labels Kontact series. This time in their own right and still on Pop Art, Vel managed to neatly entwine the blissful melodic passages between the 70’s exotic disco vibes of St Ettiene and francophile edges of Stereolab, showering the blurs with a smooth summer spiked sheen doused in flamboyant chirpy pop. ‘Spring Motel’ offers a crispy mix of lo-fi spacey beats that are chilled by a glacial cast, basking in cosmopolitan eloquence. ‘Swimming Pool’ gets my vote as the best track on offer, slightly more reserved, as with the Kontakt single it angles towards the kind of sun drenched hideaways that only exist in dreams, embossed with a 70’s lounge conscious, early 808 State fans will lap it up. www.popart.gr

With a brand new studio album awaiting the mixing touches of Flood and friends due in early 2002, Echoboy attempts to fill the gap with the so-called difficult fourth album. ’46:54:00′ is released on Echoboy’s own Point Blank imprint and housed in a hand made sleeve with a strictly limited pressing of 500 thus ensuring future collectability. An extended lone track 46 minutes in duration hence the title, for those that haven’t had the chance to witness them live well fear not as you can sample, in a manner of speaking, the whole of the 2001 tour from the comfort of your armchair in glorious surround sound. A sprawling improvised epic that’s been made up of recordings taken from every performance of the Spring 2001 tour. The tapes have been cut up and treated to some extended improvisational mastery rendering the original segments totally unrecognisable and in the process creating a wonderfully consuming kaleidoscopic event. A grandiose masterstroke that includes within its ranks some remarkable chamber like space dub and dreamy sequencers. Overall it offers an overwhelming configuration of Krautrock ambience and spacey melodramatics infused with vibrant dub overtures and detached melodies and harmonies. Some delightful blues drenched harmonica sequences and tribal like rawness that at times sounds like a dismembered ‘Tusk’ by Fleetwood Mac.  Reminiscent in parts of post Barratt pre Dark Side Floyd and hinting towards the more celebrated flights to the core of the cosmos marshalled by classic Faust. ’46:54:00′ is a telling epic that directs you through a myriad of cul de sacs, ever evolving and growing in momentum the further it unfolds. A head thumping classic. www.echoboy.com

Changing genres ever so slightly, do you fancy some fun filled punk for your Christmas stocking? How about the ‘Winter 2001 Sampler’ from Boss Tuneage. Not exactly certain whether you can actually get yourselves one of these but I suppose asking those nice guys and gals at Boss Tuneage wouldn’t go amiss so long as you offered to part with a bit of cash in return from some of their bulging catalogue. An amazing 28 track CD accompanies the latest newsletter that’ll have you pogoing until your sick. In among the shards of stomping joy there’s a few unreleased tracks, a few up and coming previews but in the main a window-shopping extravaganza of what this excellent label has to offer. Opening with the furious Manifesto Jukebox who sound like Leatherhead with an attitude problem, the delicious recalling of early Senseless Things with the Tank and the rampant Bedford. The Nils and their three minute anthemic pop punk blasts are certainly worth further inspection and the amazing Asexuals still sound like crystalline Generation X circa ‘Perfect Hits’ with Blocko neatly and quickly wrapping up the proceedings. If there was any further need for prompting, the label will be releasing a special collaboration between Brian James ex Damned and Flatpig featuring ex Stupids in the form of an updated rereading of the Damned’s ‘New Rose’. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Contact www.bosst.freeserve.co.uk

 ‘The Case Wrapped Up’ Eska. After numerous singles for Lovetrain and a Gringo Records album under their belts, Eska return to give the sound system the type of furious overall normally reserved for Fugazi releases. ‘The Case wrapped up’ is the latest four song volley that fuses math rock sensibilities, awkward time signatures and rampant to the edge velocity all within one CD. Acutely compared too often to Mogwai, the similarities are plausibly defined as Eska do partake at stages in contemplative moodisms that from nowhere erupt with such intensity and viciousness that one can only compare it to undergoing some kind of sonic version of the g-force experience. Each song is masterfully worked through, refusing to be locked into any given groove, Eska ably alter and shift the pace just when things are getting a little too comfortable. ‘Flag Etiquette’ is by far the EP’s high point, possessing a take no prisoners mentality and as vicious a freak out as your every likely to hear this side of Sonic Youth and at times possessing the same kind of adrenalin pumping change of gear riff as the Dead Kennedy’s ‘Holiday in Cambodia’. ‘The case wrapped up’ opens the proceedings with a spot of tame post rock noodling that passes off in similar smoothness as the gentler moments from the Snares and Kites album of a few years back. Expect an album in 2002 and a split single for Gringo Records with the New Radiant Storm Kings in the new year, can’t wait. Available from D+C Recordings sorry no website but try www.eska.fsnet.co.uk

With all the seasonal shenanigans currently about I suppose it’s a good idea to include a few Christmas related goodies. Last missives heroes Candidate pop up again on ‘The true meaning of Christmas’ EP Volume 4, which admittedly was out last year, but you know what they say about not being able to hold down a good tune, in this case 10 good tunes as this CD features 1999’s Volume 3 package, heck those guys at Snowstorm Records really know how to treat us. Candidate as previously advertised open the fun with two songs, one being a wonderfully dumbed down version of the East 17 Christmas Number 1 from a few years back ‘Stay another day’. The self-penned ‘Christmas come early’ is closer to their style, gentle, contemplative and amiable work through that’ll leave you numb with awe. Chris T-T whose current album ‘The 253’ I really must track down offers the humorous ‘100,000 turkeys’, a careful retelling of the peasant revolt, or pheasant revolt if you like, placing the turkey’s as the protagonists as they rise us, a kind of war re-enactment of the ‘Chicken Run’ cast as the players. Top marks to the sweet sounding Delila. ‘Spritzers’ is a soft folk derived ditty about the morning after regret of the night before’s drinking excesses, the song made all the more special by the gorgeously fragile vocals, almost reminiscent of Cerys Matthews. The Dukes of Hand Gliding set about the task of making the Flaming Lips ‘Feeling yourself disintegrate’ from the Soft Bulletin album their own, and damn well succeed by stretching the melodies to their atmospheric stretching point, no better excuse for buying this CD can I offer. Bringing up the rear are The Folk Orchestra. ‘All in the bones’ has a kind of eerie melancholia about it that comfortably hits all the right buttons and for some unfathomable reason brings to mind Mary Hopkins ‘Those were the days’ and the Beatles more sorrow laced melodies. Available from Snowstorm Records.

And literally hot of the press and out in the shops in the New Year and after two years of false starts the debut UK release for the very wonderful I am the World featuring Kindercore Records co-owner Daniel Geller and Amy Dykes. This baby has been on constant rotation since those nice people at Track and Field sent me a sneak preview CD-r a couple of weeks ago. Sort of using the Charlatans ‘The only one I know’ as a frame board to work on, this duo go about creating a complex and tight kaleidoscopic fusion of cut and paste up front disco beats and spacey lounge mediums, real mish mash of mesmerising summery pop that’ll have you on your feet and dancing faster than a live wire placed in a sensitive area. And just when you thought the original couldn’t get any mellower, flip the disc and you get a seriously laid back version of the Stone Roses ‘Shoot you down’ that’s been given such a tasty electro afterglow as to have Bob Stanley of St Etienne fame green with envy.

Also featured on the aforementioned CD-r are the A sides for the forthcoming singles from Kicker and Great Lakes to be released in a week or three, need I say more than to say full reviews next missive when we track down finished copies though I can hold up my hands and say that ‘The Long Way Down’ is probably Kicker’s finest moment so far. Not forgetting the Great Lakes, ‘A little touched’ gets a worthy release in it’s own right being that it is one of the immediate highlights from their excellent debut long player. Available from Track and Field Organisation at www.trackandfield.org.uk

Shifty Disco of Oxford continue to ply us with their A’n’R finds. Another thumbs up release for their latest 1000 only monthly singles club release. This time featuring a local project Six Incompetent Retail playing to tribute to the venue The Point and venting their spleen and anger at the commercially minded profit orientated idiots Six Continents Retail who seem intent on ripping out the heart of the City’s pop culture. The Point lives on in memory having recently undergone closure by uncaring owners who wished to treat us further with slimey, shiney plastic bars catering for the wine and cheese brigade. Two songs jam packed with sarcastic fury, the rampantly intoxicating ‘You can shut us down but you can’t shut us up’ and ‘Blunt’ that houses some stylishly meaty ‘Munsters’ type creeping bass grooves. If you’ve never bought a Shifty Disco release at least buy this one and shove a two fingered salute to the suits, who knows, your local venue could be next. From Shifty Disco at www.shiftydisco.co.uk

Vaguely worrying, deeply puzzling are the two releases by Fat Truckers that are currently wowing those in the know. Certain of collectable status in the future that is for sure. Recently seen wowing the faithful as support to Pulp, the Fat Truckers display an astute knack for tangling with various genres and influences.’Teenage Daughter’ is the second release for Add N to X’s Barry 7’s label Cercle, a compulsive repetitive jig that will have you digging around your record collection looking for your Sisters of Mercy singles circa ‘Alice’, a cert for Andrew Eldritch’s voice as your ever likely to hear outside of the Sister man’s house that is. An insistent drone charm that tinkers with a similar voidless menace as Suicide. ‘Multiplex’ on the flip side basks in that kind of cockney geezer delivery so becoming of Ian Dury but distilling it with the kind of social commentary of concrete jungles as so ably espoused by the Specials. A much overplayed devil of a single.

Second release, same band, different label this time as Roadtrain Recordings get the benefit of their mashed up melodies. ‘Favvers Plimsolls’ is a curious bleeder that takes on the porno/ erotic analogue sub culture of Add N to X and take it through the tunnel of love only to emerge from the other side grooving with a synths and wires take on Madness’ ‘Nightboat to Cairo’. ‘Superbike’ on the flip is made of more sterling stuff. A fuzz fuelled psyche ambient dizzy inducing cutie that at first recalls the Spacemen 3 but whereas ‘Teenage Daughter’ imparted a sense of too many nights listening to Suicide, this takes the Alan Vega references to modern day and explores the territories of Revolutionary Corps of Teenage Jesus. Thumping.

And I really don’t know how limited this cutie is and whether or not it’s being distributed privately or whatever, but I know for a fact Probe Records of Liverpool have a few copies so drop them a line. The Tables do not for a second try to disguise their Beatles hearts on their sleeves, housed in a smart 60’s pastiche EP sleeve with Lennon-esque cartoons adorning the front, and for those keen eyed spotters among you, even the bands lettering mirroring early Beatles insignia. But what of the music you may ask, well mighty damn fine I’d reply with a sense of nostalgic lip quivering. Over the years many bands have come to replicate the sound of the Beatles, some have even made millions out of it, but seriously The Tables strike me as a band who, obvious experts in the foibles at the heart of the Beatles, seem to have that added appeal that they actually seem as though they are having fun and I bet they all live in the same street in one massive knocked through house. Four tracks opening with  ‘Life Rewinding’ the Beatles references really kick in immediately, if any criticism need be levelled it’s that it sounds like ELO doing the Beatles, which in reality was what they did, but here sounding at times like Gilbert O’Sullivan doing the lead vocals. Listen very closely and you’ll hear ‘Michelle’, ‘I am the Walrus’ and ‘Rockaria’ all tumbling in the hay. ‘Can’t help myself’ finds them in ‘Revolver’ mode, wonderfully naked sounding, the edgy and raw George Harrison guitar really bleeding through in true rock ‘n’ roll style. ‘Jane’ borrows heavily on the spiritualism of ‘Let it Be’ and ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ but has you envisaging what it might have sounded if Jagger had lent his vocals to the original sessions. By the time you get to ‘I’m gonna let you go’ it’s beginning to get embarrassing references everything solely to the Beatles, so I hope the Tables won’t mind me saying that this is trespassing on ‘Twist and Shout’ with plenty of Chuck Berry-isms thrown into the pot. A remarkable affair, almost as though the Fab Four never went away. Available from plastic boot records at http://www.plasticboot.com or alternatively contact Probe Records in Liverpool at www.probe-plus.com

If electronica is your bag then you won’t go wrong with these two fine cheaply priced compilation CD’s. First up is from the new Bristol based label Pause 2, who recently beat off the competition to sign up media hopefuls EU from Russia. ‘RND_0.34873349921’ features a wealth of underground artists, some well known in the field of electronica, others not so. The aim of the series was not to put out an electronically influenced album, according to the press release that achievement was purely accidental, instead it was seen as an ad hoc way of collecting various disparate genres under one roof and to create ‘an even playing field’ for each to participate on, hence the title RND i.e. RaNDom. An excellent value for money collection that stretches to fourteen tracks and is a worthy buy for new and old comers to futurist muziks. Regular visitor and recent star of Awkward Silence Recordings, Xian Hawkins AKA Sybarite gets things underway with his offering ‘Square One’, a lulling composition with glossed over with miniature flickers of distorted blips that emits an awkward sense of vague alienation. More up beat ‘Turt’ by EU, also currently found on the latest Earworm ‘Witch Hazel Tales’ release going head to head with Roricat and Fort Dax, picks up the pieces for some muted punchy lounge like drum ‘n ‘ bass, a totally uncharacteristic vantage point judging by the stuff I’ve heard so far but well worth cocking an ear or two for. Metamatics is Neo Ouija label boss man Lee Norris getting all sentimental. The press release takes particular in pointing out that once heard this tune will bang and bop in the head for days, boy were they right. A simplistically styled instrumental that drags the emotions from initial sombreness to utter elation, imagine ISAN or Plone’s plink plonk nature being set to some light skipping and fizzing crackles and bleeps, certainly one of the albums surprise high points. Very touching. Com.A from Japan have also had the pleasure of several mentions in these ramblings. ‘Pedophilia Robot’ shows that composition wise they are growing in confidence and stature with every release. A brightly fluffy flourish of dismembered cut ‘n’ paste vocals and oddly repetitive distortion polishes over a sweet lullaby underbelly, poppy and sprightly. Quinoline Yellow’s ‘Sunny delight suit’ is an exhaustive process of furious digital hard drive cut ups that really do give your head the dizzy’s and sounds like a Star Wars light sabre battle on fast forward. Zan Lyons, not seen around these parts since the collaboration with Immense a year or so ago if memory serves right produces some majestic electro sculpturing on his as yet untitled track. Sounding like something more commonly used for Soviet signatories, Lyons weaves his orchestral magic to create an immensely sombre and brooding epic. Theboylucas currently peppering the underground with his debut album canters in with some teasingly curious abstract ambience, featuring within it’s make up answer phones messages within the final edit, recorded in his bedroom and sellotaped together to make a mighty fine breezily proto pop pastiche that offers a lighter perspective to Foehn’s choreographed darker remits. Mati:K is another Japanese experimentalist who on ‘acogui’ certainly takes the albums best track award, pumping beats, disco mentality, shifting track with groovy bass bones and a simplistic plink plonk melody light years in the future. Novel 23 another electronic wizard from the Soviet graces us with some charming ethereal / spooky/ exotic soundscapes while ‘mdtrkiii’ by Maps and Diagrams offers you a chance to relax. sit back, close your eyes and lock out the outside world as you slip into colourful dream states. A totally absorbing collection. Available from Pause 2 Records at www.pause2.com

And it’s been a fair while since we heard from Active Suspension of Paris notable for past releases from the likes of Mils, Magnetaphone, Gel and Osaka. ‘Variable Access’ sees France’s finest label making their first forays into the CD arena with some delightful off kilter electronica spread over 11 tracks. Again like the Pause 2 compilation this series is cheaply priced with a serious value for money quotient on one hand and a useful tool for those wanting to dip their toes in the waters of experimental electronics on the other. ‘Variable Access’ requires a degree of patience, it’s not an immediate delicacy, on first hearing, the sounds suggest complex compositions drenched in dark electronica, repeated plays and nurturing reveals a totally different picture as the melodies begin to shine through the complex rhythms, techniques and in many cases roughened canvas’. My Jazzy Star begin the proceedings, a delightfully gentle pastiche of child like textures that instantly recalls Plone in a playful mood and the Boards of Canada in dream state ambience. Shinshei and Quasar Ken appear to find home in the same track and both approaching each other from different sides at the middle. Shinshei in particular seem to delight in roughening up their poppy drone melodies, think of early Flying Saucer Attack singles and the way the bright configurations were almost buried in layers of noise. Aerosol from Denmark arrange similar serene sculptures and instead marry them to gently funky-ish back beat rhythms. French based ensemble Mils certainly produce the range of styles and atmospherics that I would love to hear on a more regular basis. On ‘moins vite’ they choose to offer a more eerie abstract side to their nature, toying with the more darker elements normally associated with the likes of Stockhausen and early Philip Glass, irregularly ominous and endearing in equal measures. There’s a strange cowboy like vibe running through Hypo’s track, and a sound reminiscent of a accordion being replayed backwards if that’s at all possible, slightly disconcerting but within it all creating a soundscape vaguely similar to early Laurie Anderson but this time mixed by the likes of Cornelius. ‘Triviana Nuire’ by Gel’s Julien Loquet’s side project Dorine_Muraille is something of a departure musically, again a curious blend of sparse multi layered samples woven to awkward rhythmic cycles that creates an overall effect of sounding like someone scanning the airwaves on an old valve radio set. Perhaps the albums high watermark comes courtesy of Encre. ‘Hassan’ is a tensely melancholic orchestral affair that draws reference from the noire canvas’ of Barry Adamson, a truly magnificent score of melodramatic elegance. Osaka prove they knows a thing or two about the construction of vibrant, though chilly, atmospherics with ”A think within a think’ taken from their excellent album ‘Life for Dead Spaces’. Melodium you may remember featured a while back in these missives with their recent Static Caravan single. Continuing pretty much in the same vain ‘Vise Obscur’ is a sombre beauty that has been chilling the hi-fi of late. Imagine the pop happy imagination of ISAN being corrupted by darker ambitions with elements of infant New Order and the Japanese treatment of Com.A casting obscure brush strokes.  ‘Variable Access’ is an absorbing treat to the many wonders that exist outside on the fringes of pop’s orbit. Available from Active Suspension via www.activesuspension.org

Just breaking away from the records for a second, I know it’s not the done thing to mention the competition, but I did have the fortune to pick up a copy of the latest Lollipop magazine, yes I know strange title, almost like an illegal top shelf magazine, you think that’s bad you should have seen the stares I got on the tube home reading it. Anyway this American based magazine has been around for years and now up to issue 56. Catering in the main for the more punk/ hardcore/ darkwave side of the industry it does provide a smart read. Featuring interviews with Jim Thirlwell of Foetus, Nepalm Death and wait for it, the legendary sleeve/poster artist Frank Kozik who was responsible for all those classic Mono Men sleeves in the early 90’s. Also includes as an added incentive a 60 band mp3 compilation featuring the Damned, J.Mascis, Son of Sam, Mira and Kill your Idols to name just five. Available from Borders.

Staying with the garage punk theme, hey don’t I neatly piece all this together, meticulous thought goes into setting all this out, it’s not simply a case of next one from the pile, okay I lied it was the next one on the pile. Anyway just when you thought it was safe to venture out from behind the sofa Sweet Nothing records go in for the kill with three gotta have them now releases. First outta the sack and hot on the heels of their barn storming debut album ‘Hallelujah Rock ‘n’ rollah’ on Bad Afro are those fiendish Finnish funsters the Flaming Sideburns. ‘World Domination’ pulled from the album is in my limited opinion one of the long players weaker tracks, but still containing enough sneering attitude to serve as a foot up the backside for most of the competition. Join in the fun and games as Eduardo Martinez rifles through the dictionary to find as many rhyming words ending in ion as one song can contain. ‘Last time around’ gets back on the tracks, a spiralling blues underbelly set to a furious rock ‘n’ roll tail chasing incendiary laced riff. World Domination? They get my vote, no problem.

Next up the Dirtbombs follow up their debut long player ‘Ultra glide in Black’ with a straight to the edge re-reading of Phil Lynott’s ‘Ode to a black man’ originally on his debut solo album ‘Solo in Soho’ from 1980 or thereabouts. The Dirtbombs ablaze in confrontational mode almost offering out Stevie Wonder in the process, opened with some sleazy harmonica playing, nothing worrying here just exquisitely delivered honesty. Flip to a cover of Lou Rawl’s rhythm and blues classic ‘Natural Man’ again a no nonsense and faithful re-sculpturing in the best rock tradition. Without doubt the best release so far from Sweet Nothing Records. Contact info@cargouk.co.uk

Limited to 500 copies with hand stamped card sleeves and with absolutely no information at all come the Toes. ‘The Kids have been asking 4 it’ damn right they have, and if they haven’t they certainly deserve it. A head turning punishing mother of a rocker enlisting the mashed up three chord fuzz formulae and blasting it out in vitriolic urgency, almost viciously shambolic and dusted down with some of the best no nonsense Hammond heard in these parts all year, MC5 fanatics will no doubt lap this up and why not. ‘Medicine’ on the flip displays some perfect scuzz stoner rock, heavy and sweaty chunky riffs by the pound with the kind of sleaze appeal of prime Mudhoney. Somewhere tagged to the end of all this is some irresistible spaced ambient mellowness via ‘Pure Phase’ era Spiritualised. Available from Meccico Records.

The Murderer are a Brighton based band debuting on the Anvil Record label, again not sure how limited this is, but act quick just in case. Featuring a completely dissected cover of the Turin Breaks song ‘Mind over Money’, the Turins of course debuted themselves on the same label. Seamless links each and every one of them. Totally bastardised as their own here as they dismantle the original and glue it together with jungle ideology aplenty and agroovy while we are here. Immense fun as you fight to get it off the decks only to be overcome with a need to give it another spin, I’m on my third copy already. Reference wise, if you need further prodding, try a twisted mix of Fun Boy 3 and the Gorrilaz. Around the other side and things either get really sweet or intolerable depending on your stance. ‘The littlest road’ pays tribute to the ‘Littlest Hobo’ TV show a programme that still gives me nightmares even to this day. The song, well tongue in cheek and damn weird. Available from Anvil at www.anvilrec.com

Ready for some tasty guitar pop that’s been borne through an eternity of listening to precious Sarah related releases, in the main those by the Orchids and Heavenly, then the six tracks that make up Sunday Smoke Kit’s ‘Passing Shooting Stars’ EP should suitably fill that appetite. ‘I know someone will’ has a memorable side winding riff and a flavour to it that instantly recalls to mind Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and the Jesus and Mary Chain in reflective moods, an irresistible smokey filled song for cruising deserted dust tracks with the top down. ‘Strange girl’ packed with its Go Betweens worldliness and jangly guitars smoulders with twee like seduction, a perfect track to snuggle up to a loved one. Starting out sounding like the Bunnymen, ‘Passing shooting stars’ soon settles down into an achingly sensitive groove, faraway longing rub shoulders with bitter sweet melodies to create a timid torrent that you’ll be whistling for days. Listening to the closing track ’06/13/2000′ with it’s stripped bare nakedness being treated by tiny bursts of feedback distort, reminds you of being caught under a tree in a rainstorm on a summers day in that it’s cool and fresh, but too damn short for it’s own good. Available from Planting Seeds Records at www.plantingseedsrecords.com/ssk

And back just in the nick of time are Bad Jazz Records, just like the London transport system, wait for an age and then two turn up in a row with a third to feature in the next missive from the ever surprising Spare Snare on white vinyl, not that we’re complaining given the impeccable array of taste on offer.

Second split release of the year for Bad Jazz as they team up again with North East Scotland’s Fence collective. ‘Saint Patrick’ by James Yorkston is probably one of the finest releases that strays into american territories that your likely to hear in a long while. An fizzling hybrid of enchanting nostalgic echoes that develops and tracks an elegantly tortured route through countrified folk landscapes, prompted by divinely cheerless string arrangements that wrestle with the fragile Nick Drake delivery. Immaculate to say the least. Across the way, the second appearance this year for The Lone Pigeon former co-founder of the Beta Band and a taster for the imminent debut album ‘Concubine Rice’. Acoustically lo-fi the vibrant casts of ‘Rocks’ pretty much follow the same threads revealed on this years ‘Touched by Tomoko’ collection, however it’s on ‘You think that only boats can sink’ that the Pigeons true genius shines through in resplendent glory. A fractured moment of carefree loveliness, summery, distant and lovingly coated with some princely instances of pop perfection.

Shuffling scarsely a few steps behind is the welcome return for Landshipping, the new project from one half of Metrotone, John Brenton. The ‘Deep Water’ EP features four new recordings varying in styles and providing evidence of the wealth of creative ability within. ‘Sparks I’ has an odd sea shanty feel about it that almost recalls Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ but this time being delivered by the icy forthrightness of Nico while channelling in to Momus. The cavernous sounding ‘Nocturne’ works really well, a sparse intergalactic symphony of sort of reads like an electronic textured version of ‘Twin Peaks’ complete with all the tension. Best of all though is the title track ‘Deep Water’. On repeated listens ‘Deep Water’ with it’s detached female vocals and tides of synth overplays reveals a more than passing taste to Visage’s ‘Fade to Grey’ even right down to the sense of automated motion, a more mellow and ethereal sheen as opposed to Visage’s stylised chic. Peerless. Available from Bad Jazz Records, contact joffbadjazz@hotmail.com

And stealing themselves for another bout of chart domination are the Avalanches from Australia. ‘Electricity’ is the third release from the end of the year album polls regular ‘Since I left you’ again another album that obviously passed me by at some stage. A slam dunkin ‘ feast of samples and hip wiggling dance beats. This promo CD features 5 different mixes of the same song plus a wonderful throw in of the Ernest St Laurent remodel of ‘A different feeling’. Of all the various mixes perhaps the favoured cuts are the leftfield aspirations of ‘Doctor Rochits Dirty Kiss Remix’ that comes close to running into a spot of crafted Japanese electronic weirdness with it’s stretched out sampling and the ‘Original 7″ Mix’ which pretty much offers up everything you need without over elaborating. Any DJ’s worth their salt will certainly have ‘A different thing’ on constant rotation, a floor filling in your face mirror ball of delights of pumping 70’s disco kitsch that’ll have the clubs packed to the rafters, one for the flares and glitter parade. Available from XL Recordings at www.xl-recordings.com

Sunday ‘Universe City/ Afternoon’. The sleeve advises that ‘headphones are required for a full stereo performance’. Your not kidding. As this magazine and website espouses the joys of dream pop maybe for a change I should in fact include a record that fits the bill perfectly. Really haven’t a clue how long this has been around, probably years I’d like to bet, in fact the band are probably Mercury Prize winners and are sitting on the profits of a lucrative career in music, if not they certainly deserve to be on the evidence of these two tracks. ‘Universe City’ is a colossus frontier of edgy atmospherics, it’s easy to bandy about words like ethereal, angelic and sublime but this track is all these and more. A heavenly tryst of desolate landscapes and detached spirit like harmonies that sits between Heather Duby and Hydroplane but with P J Harvey vocals added to the mix. Listening to ‘Afternoon’ on the flip side I’m reminded of Kate Bush’s ‘Breathing’ in terms of it’s deep sense of sparsity, crisp vocals gloss over the tense piano chords to an intense anti climatic finale. Available from Chocolate Industries Records at www.chocolateindustries.com

Smallfish has been a leading light among the many record shops based in London, concentrating in the main on future music styles and eclectic electronic and beats tastes. Now finally putting their expertise and knowledge to the sword as so to speak by setting up an imprint label. The first of these limited seven-inch releases features Remote and Stasis. To add to the fun the two tracks have been mispressed to add a degree of collectibility into the bargain. Remote offer up ‘Silvergun’, a tasty voyage into smooth blip pop territories, lightly dusted with the faintest traces of skipping beats and clearly at home with itself in it’s own little busy world. Stasis ‘Clapped Out’ is a darker affair, impending suspense like bursts lie at every corner all neatly fixed with an insistent and busy back beat. Spooky.

Second release for the Smallfish label offers a little more bite in the form of Soundtree and Juergen Junker. Soundtree ‘Disturbed’ is anything but, inclining at times towards Sonic Boom’s earlier EAR sound collages and pitching a similar chord as to the work of Barry Gray on Gerry Anderson’s UFO series in respect to the incidental themes and end credits. Lush in drone like waves that wash over you with a steady bass in the background that sounds like a pounding heartbeat. Not to be out done but offering a totally different perspective on things is ‘Capital’ by Juergen Junker. Possessing a slightly dragging beat, ‘Capitol’ sounds vaguely like the New York sound that Queen where eager to recreate as their own on ‘Hot Space’. A serious meaty slice of Studio 54 disco funk, Junker reassembles the authenticity of Moroder, Chic and Funkadelic in one breathtaking swoop. As retro as the kids love it, heck they are probably grooving to it right now. A Grid or early Shamen shapes and colours video would work a treat to it. Both available from Smallfish Records at www.smallfish.co.uk

And so to the long awaited visit to these pages of ISAN. I’ve always had a soft spot for this duo, their classic mini album ‘Digitalis’ for Liquefaction still gets a regular dusting down, I consider it my public duty to enthral everyone with their child like innocent melodies.  ISAN are your favourite bits of icing on a cake, not to heavy to digest but tasty and light enough to have you begging for more. Pressed on candy floss pink vinyl and limited to 1000 copies, this time on the eminent Static Caravan records who recently spoilt us with Fort Dax, strangely the divide between the two artists is not as wide as most would have you believe. Both have obviously in some way or another been introduced whether sub consciously or physically to the dreamy delights of Raymond Scott’s ‘Soothing sounds for baby’ series from the dawn of electronica in the late 50’s and early 60’s. ISAN are adept at busying themselves with gently colourful intricacies and scaped backdrops that impart at times themes for undiscovered hidden idyllic hideaways and at others snow tipped shrills of perfection. ‘Exquisite honeyed tart’ is a perfect descriptive title for the lead track, there’s not a lot you can add to that. ISAN court the senses with detached sugared melodies, regal, relaxing and dreamy, like a backdrop to some kind of ethereal escapes. As an added delicacy you get to hear something throughout that sounds curiously like a comb being played. ‘Hugs now. No kisses (Hugo’s sleep time)’ offers proof that this lot have been charmed by Raymond Scott, a wonderfully eerie composition that recalls the Ice Cream van sounds of Tele: Funken who also has a release currently floating around on the same label. Such seamless tying off loose ends. A worthy acquisition for any well ordered record collection. Available from Static Caravan Records at www.staticcaravan.com

Sticking around with old acquaintances, remember L’Augmentation? The Bee Men from Birmingham feature some of these former friends of the parish within their ranks. I think if we had a singles of the missive this would be beating off the competition with a well used stick, but only by the skin of their teeth. Second outing for this 60’s drenched five piece on Hotel Records. ‘Tango Western’ dips into the more darker brass elements of L’Augmentation’s debut album and drip dries them in the basking sun of a purist psychedelic haze. An inspired concoction of skewered arrangements and neatly inheriting elements of the Chocolate Watch Band and the Floyd and having that same off centre authenticity as fellow acid activists the Murmurs of Irma. ‘Braindrops’ keeps the mix bubbling hot, a calamitous fusion of out of sync brass backing and stutter like percussion that give a lopsided warped sensibility about it. ‘King of Caravans’ on the flip side borrows spiritually from the Love’s ‘Alone again or’ and treats it to some ‘Crazy Horses’ mentality in brief flashes and a spaghetti western landscape throughout. Closing this little market stall of delights is the melancholic blissfullness of ‘Goodnight Birmingham’ that’s peppered by some razor sharp guitar moments. A magnificent calling card, play loud for maximum annoyance and total understanding. Available from Hotel Records hotelliam@yahoo.com

Animals that Swim ‘All your stars are out’. Limited to 300 picture disc that gets the vote in this missive for best picture disc regardless of the fact that it is the only picture disc here, who cares it looks mighty nice. ‘All your stars are out’ is taken from the album ‘Happiness from a distant star’ which I must have somehow missed along the way, though you can bet on the evidence of this I will be donning my deerstalker, hunting boots and torches and will not rest until it’s firmly in my grasp. ‘All your stars are out’ is one of those tracks that despite not setting the world alight has that knack of locking into the senses with such subliminal ease that you’ll find yourself humming along with the kind of confidence afforded to better known overplayed tunes and sounding like Cathal Coughlan on happy pills, a touching winner. ‘While you were learning to fly’ on the reverse is a much lighter prospect that blends the melodic magic of the Boo Radleys with early sounding Style Council, a bizarre prospect I know, but some lovely chic swirling brass another one of those cherished moments. Available from Snowstorm Records.

I’ll come clean here, up until a week ago mention the name The Bad Cassettes and I’d have returned with a look of puzzlement. Picked up on my recent vinyl spree, attracted mainly to it’s simplistic sleeve, yep I too have no logic as to what takes my fancy when in a record shop. ‘So what’s it like?’ I eagerly enquired, ‘Oh you know a lot of twiddling, blips and stuff, kind of electronic, you’ll probably like it’ came the reply. With that kind of sales pitch how could I not purchase it as my own. Pressed on flimsy clear vinyl that is one step away from a flexi disc, The Bad Cassettes are apparently leading lights of the San Francisco scene. Their labels web site describes them as ‘ambient micro punk hovering over beautifully a contaminated cut and paste horizon’ and who am I to argue, because that really sums up what this lot are about. ‘Gone’ is really not what your prepared for after all that, strangely tongue in cheek lyrics, train sounds and sound wise, remarkably not dissimilar to Louden Wainright III stripped of his guitar boogie-ing to electro-digital folk instead, addictive to say the least. Flip over to ‘Baby Boogla’ a things do begin to get a little weird. Slightly unnerving, odd and retro and modern all at once, possessing the same kind of sparsity of Human League’s ‘Being Boiled’ being reheated by a turn of the 80’s incarnation of Cabaret Voltaire, groovy or what, eccentric to say the least. An album ‘Bad Mister’ is kicking around which I’ll no doubt spend the rest of my life time searching record shops trying to pin it down. Available from Below Records at www.belowrecords.com

And while we are talking top treat recordings consider the current split release on Slumberland between The Saturday People and The Clientele. I know I say this all the time, but this year has been a great year for classy singles, but every so often something comes along to wow your pants off, and within a handful of plays you know it will stay in some secret corner of your heart forever. Not just one here, but two tracks both vying for that space. Dressed in a 60’s influenced generic die cut sleeve, this single will win a few hearts especially if your tastes dip between 60’s pop and the kind of classicism of bands like the Weather Prophets and Felt. The Saturday People are the sunnier side of the proceedings and have within their ranks ex members of Velocity Girl and Tree Fort Angst, ‘Grace’ is a taster for the bands debut longplayer, which has impressed greatly after only one spin so far. ‘Grace’ is a vibrant cut of shiny bubble gum pop that has a wide eyed colourful tint to it, emblazoned with enough softness and warmth to melt the iciest of souls and smother them in a feel good vibe. The Clientele have been peppering the underground realms with their brand of 60’s harmonies for a few years now. ‘Porcelain’ as the title suggests is a fragile slice of superlative pop that surely suggests that it can’t be long before they make the break through to greater success’. A darker and more haunting cocktail than usual, the band cloak themselves in an array of spectral mysticism, the longing sounds below revealed enough to offer a glimpse of the wonders and possibilities their craft has to offer. Be warned, a few plays of this double barrelled gem, and it’ll grow like ivy so fast that before you know it you’ll be consumed in it’s sumptuous aura. Available from Slumberland Records via www.dropbeat.com/sirland

Something else that is proving to work a treat on the old turntable of late is the latest outing from the London based label Flesh Records with Zongamin featuring Mike Silver of Sonovac on one side and Mike (Silver) Sonovac on the flip. No idea how limited this is, hole in the middle, no sleeve etc…but certainly worth getting for the storming cover of The Way I Walk’. Those among you with a modicum of taste will remember the track being treated to some serious swamp rock treatment by the Cramps in the late 70’s, a classic if ever there was one. Sonovac does the impossible and gives the Jack Scott 1959 belter a complete retread and in the process reclaims it back from the grip of New York’s finest zombie psychobillies, still sleazy sounding but pumped full of charging attitude. Flip the disc and you get the awesome white knuckled antics of ‘Whiplash’, groovy chunky bass and guitar riffs set to stun, urgent and loud and proud with it. Essential. Available from Flesh Records.

And that neatly brings us to Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet who haven’t been heard around these parts for what seems like an age. Another white vinyl release this time on Jetpac Records. This neat festive offering goes under the title of ‘It’s a wonderful record’ a play on ‘It’s a wonderful life’ the seasonal tear jerking film classic. The Shadowy ones are helped out by a surprise guest appearance on ‘Christmas is Coming’ by the Chicago duo Moto, who at the start of their fun filled record to sleigh ride in crispy snow in, sound oddly like Eric and Ernie from Sesame Street. Canada’s favourite twang twiddlers get in the festive mood with ‘Winterfresh’ and ‘Deck the Halls’, the latter Christmas carol classic is given a surf tastic overhaul by the Shadowy dudes. Adding to the sense of mischief is the originally thought out ‘Twelve Answering Machine Messages of Christmas’ you know like a play on ‘Twelve Days….etc..’. In between all the tomfoolery and frivolities the band throw in an excerpt of ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town’ and the late Joey Ramone offers some seasonal wishes of his own. Available from Jetpac Records.

von bondies

the mistreaters

Flying Bomb presents ‘Surprise Package Volume 4’. Yep it’s that time of the year again for sure, another limited vinyl release on orange vinyl to boot that sees some of the garage punk scenes wonder kids setting out into the snow with spanners to re-assemble Santa’s sleigh. Von Bondies previously the Baby Killers are currently doing the rounds with their debut album ‘Lack of Communication’, kick the grotto doors straight of the hinges with ‘Ain’t no chimney in the big house’. The best jailhouse song since Johnny Cash did ‘Fulsome Prison Blues’. Discuss. Von Bondies sneer their way through this sub three minute scorcher, making a neat road kill pie of the Cramps in the process, dangerous and delectable. ‘Santa stole my baby’ sees the return to these pages of the Mistreaters following their recent Estrus outing. Loosely stomping all over the festivities in breakneck style, this is the perfect antidote to all that sentimentality, just watch that Beach Boys ‘Christmas Album’ cower behind the sofa, totally un-Christmas if you decline to include the sleigh bells. Last but not least, and did someone mention sentimentality? Soledad Brothers ‘Hang my Star’ perfectly captures those old blues/ country Christmas tunes, an excellent calmer after the high spirited adrenalin of the previous tracks. Soledad Brorthers also feature at times Meg White of White Stripes fame while the Von Bondies include Jack White’s girlfriend, or so I’ve heard. A mine of useless information or what?  Available from Flying Bomb Records via ammo@flyingbomb.com

Okay that sort of wraps things up for this epic, just to say that among the previously advertised gubbins to feature in the next missive will be Japanese band Green Milk from the Planet Orange who have already pre booked their place in our post festive return with their ‘The Shape of Rock to Come’ CD-r which sadly reached me too late for inclusion in this posting. What I can tell you is that at 32 minutes in length, these two tracks steadily name check Henry Cow, Volcano the Bear and a host of others, as they set about remoulding the lines between pyschedelic madness and art rock genius with slices of prog and post rock thrown into the ingredients for added effect. Those wanting a spot of pre preparation homework and to check what I’m on about go to http://www.geocites.co.jp/Technopolis/1161/gmftpo and order a copy yourselves, worth it alone for ‘Switch On’.

Now to the nearly end bit. All typing errors were deliberate, just to make sure you were paying attention, anything remotely appertaining to some legal action was written by Santa’s helpers and not me, honest. Letters, complaints, and begging monologues asking me to refrain from these missives are greatly welcomed and sent to the special room for analysis who will then hot foot it to your place of residence with a bag of cheesy rhythms and headphones.

Anyway with that done and said or is that said and done, it’s goodbye time, and all things being well with the typing finger I’ll hopefully see you some time next week with a brief synopsis of all the albums I regretfully neglected, never mind it’ll serve as a useful excuse to spend some of those Christmas record tokens on. See I am thoughtful.

All that leaves me to do is on behalf of all the staff writers and the management involved in the magazine is to thank all the labels, bands and readers, seriously without you this would be impossible, so thanks and here’s to 2002.

I’m off to decorate the shed and play that new Bob the Builder album, can’t wait. Here’s hoping that you all have a great Christmas and New Year.

All the best and take care of yourselves,

Mark

 

x

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