Not wishing to pop anyone’s balloons, but having heard this compilation just once, in our opinion, perhaps the finest collection we’ve heard all year mainly because it hones, nails and encapsulates that 70’s wonder, dread and mystic that connected imagination and nightmare alike for the 70’s child and his and her relationship with the gogglebox. None more so was the threat of the cold war, the random but very real dangers of the outside world and future dread and wonder of new futures to come felt more, than that hidden in the shadows of children’s tea time TV viewing.
Governed by strict moral codes that to wander from would arouse disapproval and disdain, the family unit was societies trumpeting boast, its brief was simple, children should be seen and not heard. But as the 70’s ushered in to replace the dour monochrome conservatism of the 60’s there began an age of pre-realism, an awareness of the beyond the fence of understanding. Early 70’s TV especially children’s, was a watershed moment, experimentalism in visualism, animation, puppeteering, sound and of course, most importantly, story telling along with a fast growing and maturing comic culture, had led the nations school children through a prism whereupon they were given a voice and a unique space that seperated them from the rigid confines of the family unit. Here the seeds of free expression, science fiction and dystopic conversation flowed into their inquisitive being, a soft and subtle messaging, an awareness of the ecological, the magical and the fantastical cross weaved and where old belief systems where momentarily remembered and adhered to before being challenged eventually to be lost and forgotten from the 80’s onwards.
‘Scarred for Life’ is a collecting together of nineteen electronic suites that serve as a unique soundtrack for those times, a mammoth and momentous gathering of the finest talent operating on the hauntological margins of sound and I mean momentous, just look at the invitation list – Polypores, the Heartwood Institute, Keith Seatman, the Home Current, Dalham, Vic Mars and many, many more. Lurking on a outer spectrum that finds it tying into the literary consciousness of such tomes as Greg Healey’s ‘not in front of the children’, the invaluable reports collated by the A Year in the Country collective and of course, the Scarfolk organisation. To the crackle and pop of static interferance emerges ‘scarred for life’ by the Soulless Party, an ethereal mysterio graced and ghosted in chamber chants and the chill of ice set pulsars, it makes for a grand entrance setting the collections atmospheric charge superbly in a shadowy shelling. Vic Mars ‘the time menders’ pulls things back considerably, it’s bucolic blossoms arrested with a sense of adventurism and mystery amid secret sleepy village haunts while the Heartwood Institute hatches a wonderfully dreamy pastoral posy enriched with a spring hued carefree courtesy of ‘women against the wire’ beneath which a subtle macabre stirs whilst in opposing formation an unearthliness forever observes and protects. Next up, the Twelve Hour Foundation serve up more of their gloopy kaleidoscopia with the affectionately turned and trimmed ‘Belmont’, a warbling wonderland of impish imagination sitting somewhere between the spy school sounds of Joe 90 and the arts n’ crafts zany of Vision On. ‘Words from the Wireless’ provides more pre teaser evidence of sounds to come after the festive time with his new full length being readied for Castles in Space love with this strange sonic delicacy wired for paranoia pleasure whilst additionally arriving as though dropped from one of those Melmoth the Wanderer eerie’s. Unknown to us previously, Swimming Lessons’ ‘superhighways’ is cut from the same sonic cloth as the aforementioned Twelve Hour Foundation cut, all lovably layered in funk tech lounge loveliness and the minimalist merry of binary blippery. Umpteenth outing this year for the Home Current, hitting a purple patch of late, every release bettering the previous, is there no stopping him, anyhow here with ‘summer in marstand’ which finds him sharing terrains usually occupied by both the Heartwood Institute and Concretism, an edgily brooding shadowy desolate finitely sculptured with a majestic ghosting all scratched with a cloaking cloud of techno traces. Handspan’s ‘fear follows shortly’ is seductively shepherded with a breezily pastoral Roger Limb phrasing all lightly infused with a distractive dainty daubing of wonderment while Cult of Wedge’s ‘the Gamma Children’ takes its cue from the Tomorrow People and Sapphire and Steel as it steps into the eerie. Like the Home Current, its been a busy year for the Pulselovers folk, herewith ‘nice view from up here’, a teasingly jaunty cutie tripped with a delightfully willowy rustic harvesting whose sonic scenting is possessed of the same lazy eyed as accompanies those ever so lovely treats from Littlebow. Monroeville Music Center, another name I’m ashamed to say previously unknown to us deliver the cutely quirky ‘hack and slash’, a gloopy stoner treat awash with mischief and oddness, something which can easily be said of the Central Office of Information’s radiantly cartoonish cheery upper ‘puzzled’ with its squelching playfulness and lilting child like charm almost having us in immediate need of going out and rummaging for our Gulliver platters. Managing to make the dystopic the magical, Dalham’s ability to sonically deceive is a rare creative tool, emerging from a glooming overcast the empirical and beautiful ‘2-3-74’ inhales and morphs with a widescreen impacting that softly stirs with a jubilant classicism while the much loved around these here parts Quimper set aside their usual awkward surreal acuteness to apply a ghostly folk rustic whose lightly toned mysteriousness might find favour with folk subscribing to the output of the esteemed Clay Pipe imprint. Been something of a quiet year for the Listening Center I’m disappointed to say, herewith ‘nowhere, nowhere, we should have known’ which we must admit really does set its reference radar squarely in the Paddy Kingsland back garden of sound, this ‘un steeled with a sense of the dream like unearthly all coiled to a partly obscuring and unsettling fleeting cortege of mind fracturing twists. Another of those remaining absent from these pages these year, Panamint Manse step up to the plate with ‘leftfield intoxicants’ a curiously cute and waspish waltz of rustic orbitals which I really must say had us of a mind to dig out the Go Team’s debuting 7 inch platter for Pickled Egg if only to measure up to that releases nostalgically fried flip sides. Providing something of a day dream hazy, there’s a wonderfully warped playfulness attaching to the Bentley Emerald Learning Resources’ ‘programmes for sick days’, a lysergic lazy eye where all is not as it seems and where the melodies dissipate and dissolve down an ethereal rabbit hole. Just ahead of a limited lathe release for Castles in Space and an excellent showing on Memory Pond, reviews arriving soon, honest, Polypores cuts a calming dash with ‘memorabilia’ an unfurling epic lone star sculptured in porcelain pulsars and radiating across the galactic wilderness feel good call signs. Last but by no means least, Carl Matthews run up the end credits with a spot of oscillating optimism courtesy of ‘be like a child’, an engaging starry eyed faraway twinkled with a magic dust lost in the moment fondness. Phew.
All proceeds for this album will go to aid Cancer Research UK, a charity which is close to the hearts of some of our artists, one of whom is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.