Archive posting originally published on the Losing Today site …… July 2004….
A truly excellent micro label based in Italy who uses to issue their releases on cassette …. I mean who’d have thought it – an insane idea …. ha ha
Missive 38 (Best Kept Secret)
It’s been just over two years since we first received our initial parcel packed full of goodies courtesy of Italy’s Best Kept Secret. Since that time they’ve provided us with a constant flow of top class releases keeping us in tune with the newest and most crucial sounds in the world of indie pop.
By way of our gratitude and more so a return on the unflinching patience we thought it was high time to play catch up on the last dozen or so releases and to share with you why exactly this tiny Italian label ought to be by rights at the top of your shopping list.
The label is the brainchild of Alessandro Crestani, a small cassette only label yes you heard right, cassettes. In an age where it seems the music industry sees fit to have us all fooled into thinking that with each new medium we buy into our total listening experience will be made all the better and into the bargain sells back to us our record collections over and over again, then isn’t it re-assuring to us troglodytes and purists that labels like this still exist, so up yours with your fancy SA-CD’s (though admittedly they do look quite cute!).
On entering the website the first thing that greets you is the immortal banner proclaiming ‘D.I.Y. sounds for the lonesome and broken hearted’ and really that perfectly describes what BKS aspire to. Having recently released their 82nd tape (the Shifties), market wise Best Kept Secret operates to the left of centre of labels such as Red Square, HHBTM and the like whose love of the label greats such as Sarah and Bus Stop is all to apparent, yet that said BKS is not genre specific so that amid the usual flux of strum happy wide eyed kids from indie-ville, there have been memorable space rock / shoe gaze moments (Skywave), the ethereal (Nanook of the North), non conformist whirly pop (the Rotating Stars) not to mention the why get out of bed when someone out there searches for the best sounds on the underground for me ongoing series ‘We are not Alone’ (now up to its seventh instalment).
So in a nutshell hats off to one of the finest plunderers of the seams of indie pop’s rich mines and your ever reliable seeker of the tastiest morsels currently around and shyly hiding out of sight from commercial view. So in the immortal words of one Stan Lee, ‘nuff said……..
Girlinky ‘High kicks beat low punches’ [LIE074]. And what better way to open than with Girlinky welcome regulars and house favourites of these Missives. This adorable 3 track cassette features hot off the press demo material in readiness for their forthcoming second album ‘It’s the sugar rush’ due any day now. This provides Girlinky’s strongest work to date given that it reveals the bands growing maturity in terms of song writing attested perfectly by their recent b-sides which have all shown a willingness to extend beyond their normal cut ’n’ thrust trash twee as proven by the curvy ‘Danger of Death’. Still wickedly barmy coming across like an impish distant relative of Winterbrief and still proudly wearing their BiS t-shirts and streets ahead of those Surferosa dudes the schizoid ‘Let’s have a fight’ with it’s rowdy ramshackle rollercoasting vibe gives you an insight of what Sonic Youth might come up with given a project to produce something in style of early Sebadoh meeting latter era B-52’s on the set of Battlestar Galactica with the restriction of being only able to use Ataris and two chords for instruments. Throw in the dinky ‘It’s the sugar rush’, quite possibly the best thing they’ve done to date, why it reminds us of Dean Friedman’s ‘Lucky Star’ is beyond all comprehension, but there we’ve said it. Boy / girl vocals, ear bending hooks, spacey backdrops all indelibly cut from the kind of precious melody which not before to long you’ll be able to charge rent as it takes up residence in your head. A mighty fine starting point for getting familiar with the Best Kept Secret catalogue. http://www.girlinky.com
Cabrini ‘Cabrini’ [LIE 069]. Previously known as Project Cabrini the Californian duo Austin Bean and Kory Ross have recently been breaking hearts and receiving warm reviews for their debut long player for Red Square entitled ‘show offs get hurt’ (which has sadly passed by our radar…hint, hint). This tape release pre-dates those recordings and finds the Cabrini sound at its most frail and intimate. Not a million miles from the early work of Death Cab for Cutie yet possessing that same wide-eyed naivety as displayed by the likes of Orchids and Field Mice, Cabrini’s flair for creating soft centred pop treats is admirable. Simplistically set around harmonies and an acoustic guitar Bean and Kory delight in creating unassuming nuggets that happily skip about lost in their own infectious sunshiney appeal. Strangely the main pull of ‘Cabrini’ is found on the cassette’s first three tracks. ‘UNA red’ is deliciously catchy, strangely off centre but playfully tingling while in sharp contrast ‘Fearlessly waiting’ (the best cut here) is reflectively tinged sitting thoughtfully looking out from the comfort of a shelter at the summer afternoon showers. Then there’s the lullaby-esque spookiness of ‘He switched on the’ a real thing of beauty, which holds to its heart elements of Archer Prewitt re-appraising the Beach Boys more intimate moments with Animal Collective sabotaging the resulting master tapes. Elsewhere it might be worth peaking in on ‘Dramatized’ which subtly recalls early career Go Betweens being fused with the Pale Fountains and prototype era China Crisis. A more wonderful way to spend 30 minutes we’d be hard pushed to find. http://www.projectcabrini.com
Clare ‘Womb Fantasy’ [LIE 046]. Clare have the honour of being the first of two Japanese bands (so far) to grace the Best Kept Secret catalogue. Essentially a duo, though this time expanded to a quartet, these particular recordings date back to 1999 and we defy anyone who on listening to these 8 tracks aren’t in someway sufficiently moved to replay the album again and again to re-assure themselves that what they thought they’d heard, they had heard. If there is one fault or gripe to be aimed at this collection it’s just that it’s so dislocated in terms of style, but then curiously that’s its endearing charm. Clare create intoxicatingly saccharine based ethereal twee pop hinting subtle references to Dubstar and St Etienne at its heart and ranges from the elegantly statue-esque ‘As you think’ (which sounds like the Cocteau Twins caught in a fluffy space bubble created by a particular laid back Stereolab) to the aching scratch happy chocolate box hypnotic atmospheric scapes of ‘Edge of the Top’. Elsewhere the dreamy spectral haze of ‘Doze’ ushers in the set sweetly before mutating to cross-pollinate varying genres so that the goofy oddball waywardness of the folk 60’s orientated ‘Distorted Moon’ dissolves sensually into the delectable heartbreaking pop motifs of the bruising ‘Winged Angel’ with it’s sensitively arranged piano accompaniment. Add into the overall mix the irrefutably sense of romance best served on the hurting ‘Here I am’ and you have quite a shy gem on your hands and with the promise of three albums being worked on at present how can you resist. http://www.ismusic.ne.jp/clare
Girls in my Pocket ‘Girls in my pocket’ [LIE 075]. And in case you were wondering about the other Japanese band currently gracing Best Kept Secret’s roster then wonder no more. Girls in my Pocket are a quartet who so far have released three singles and this debut for BKS is their first full length. Not a million miles sound wise from 63 Crayons (who incidentally we love) while having serious Teenage Fanclub flashbacks (just listen to ‘Northern Star’ for further proof), and again another band adept on creating memorable slices of naively crafted lo-fi pop that neatly dips between summery 60’s tinged pop (‘Dizzy’ with craftily veers towards New Order’s ‘Run 2’ at times), homely soft psyche as though having members of JMC / Ramones doing West Coast (‘We look at a shooting star’) and hazy off centre spangly fuzz pop (‘December’) which in addition harbours a slow curling glam dynamic that cleverly pays a nod to the Beatles ‘A day in the life’ right at the close. Our favourite though is the cutesy twee pop-isms of the jangly ‘Hello’, breathlessly innocent and perfect for the beach party portable cassette player while the wintry rush of ‘My Blue Star’ takes several leaves out of the songbooks of the Plastic Mastery and the Mayflies and wraps them up as an irresistible homage to Blake and Co. And just when you thought you had the measure of these kids, as brief as it is ‘Carp Metal’ reveals that their not so bad at doing a spot of ENT for fun. All said and done a promising debut. http://www.003.upp.so~net.ne.jp/girls
The Sharp Things ‘Here comes the Sharp Things’ [LIE 068]. Fed up with egos, abusive lifestyles and the brain numbing snobbery of the whole rock scene, Perry Serpa sought solace away from the speed-fuelled buzz to a back to basics paced approach. As a duo with long time friend Steven Gonzalez, the relaxed environs enabled Serpa to ‘get close to the music’ and so the Sharp Things came into being, conceived as a reactionary anti band orchestral collective it’s been known for its fluid membership numbering anything upwards to 12 members at any one time. Several years down the line and here we have the collective’s debut 11 track full length ‘Here comes the Sharp Things’. Quite possibly the most unusual and hitherto best release put out by BKS to date. The Sharp Things aren’t your average indie rock tearaways, their sounds are more laboured, expressive, deeply colourful and above all romantically dramatic. Not an immediate hit to the senses, the Sharp Things are more concerned with making a lasting impression than offering a quick fix, channelling into the same waters as a fused animal from the parts of Polyphonic Spree / Big Eyes and Elvis Costello (c. ‘Almost Blue’) yet only maintaining a kindred spirit in so far as they seem so out of step with what is / was considered contemporary pop. ‘Boys club’ for instance is strangely MOR in texture, part Velvets doing soft early 70’s commercial friendly countrified CS&N.; In a flash it’s gone and what becomes more and more apparent as the album proceeds is that this lot don’t let being pigeonholed so easily, ‘Vacationing’ soothes and swoons, the haunting strains of the strings are teased and lightened by the wintry wraps of brass arrangements yet the clever part is the way the composition swans from imparting elegant love notes to smoky filled jazz realms which overall bear resemblance to not only Black Heart Procession but to Set Fire to Flames. Elsewhere ‘It took forever to get home tonight’ is a monumentally festive like homecoming that swaggers with the same kind of that sounds like a tender take of the Earlies in Prefab Sprout moods skipping happily about in the final scene of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Track a little further for the intensely spiritual (or so it seems) wash of ‘Demon of Love’ which as audacious as it is finds itself eclipsed by the bitter sweet overtures of the grandiose ‘Lies about you and I’. And just when you think things can’t get any better the blighters go and tuck in a little heartbreaking gem like ‘Lament / A million things’ which oozes the same kind of refreshing classicism as so often delivered by Southport’s much under valued Panda Gang and spins in the same kind of untouchable bubble as does hold Edwin Moses and Lefte Banke. An impeccable release and we didn’t even get to mention ‘Lonesome for the man’ but then we don’t want to spoil the fun, heartbreak has never sounded so good. http://www.thesharpthings.com
The Shifties ‘The Apartment / Factory Songs’ [LIE 082]. The latest addition to the BKS catalogue is this tingling 10-track album from Chicago based five-piece ensemble the Shifties made up of various demos recorded in 2001 bolstered by a smattering of live takes and the cut ‘Lonely Christmas’ which they donated to the Red Cross benefit CD for 9/11 victims. Now we’ve played this a few times now, more perhaps, if truth be told, than we usually allow for most releases. Why I hear you ask. Well simply because the Shifties sound twists, hops and disappears out of view when you least expect it, one minute you feel you are settling down to a Sebadoh like lo-fi feast of three chord fun as hinted on ‘Fat Shirley’s’ and the punky tones of ‘Whelmed’ then they are off spinning towards the 60’s to do shadowy kaleidoscopic West Coast psyche pop on ‘Insomniac’ where the unlikely pairing of Donovan and Barrett meet head on. Dare we use the word, but ‘The Apartment’ is quite mellow, opening with the warming pastoral soft folk feel of ‘Tell me why’ and really that’s the key to the whole Shifties sound, there’s a spring hue cast that ring fences the melodies, themselves cutely docile in their own acoustically driven daydream way take for instance the lysergic rustic touch found on ‘Foot out of Door’ which veers ever so close to Elephant 6’s more goofily arranged around the campfire brethren. Best of the lot though are the final two cuts, the infectious ‘Can’t go on’ which sounds like Jan and Dean all tooled trying to pick the bones from Blondie’s ‘Plastic Letters’ and the Ramones ‘End of the Century’ and coming up with an irresistible power pop ditty with more hooks than an Angler’s Club and ‘Instrumental’ which as the title implies is an instrumental (no way) and sees the ensemble getting stuck into some seriously grinding post rock noodling as though Billy Mahonie was auditioning for Costello’s ‘Detectives’ Attractions. Pretty smart stuff we say. http://www.theshifties.com
And Academy ‘Her and Hurt, Hearts’ [LIE 057]. Another superb release from an ensemble based in Wichita, US and who unbeknownst to us have been putting out release after release since 1998, most of which are sadly out of print and from the evidence of this album cassette all (probably) top-drawer gear. When their not creating intricate sonic bubble-scapes like the storm lashed ‘Red wine walls and silk’ with it’s armoury of lush like swirling melodies, And Academy do a neat ethereal take on the Cure as though Smith and Co had been drip fed Prozac and forced against will to sit out in the sunshine as ‘Miracle dare devil’ so ably proves while all the time being booted into shape by the faintest of Spector-esque handy work diligently pulling the strings from the background. Still not convinced, then maybe the dream like inducing cosmically bound up curvaceous chords that cascade throughout ‘Zero plus zero plus zero’ might just make you swoon or the wax and wane like dynamics that softly permeate throughout ‘Swim, bike’. Flip over to side two and things get a little more angst ridden, dislocated, angular and dare we say in our humble opinion better. Unusual time signatures become the byword as And Academy attempt to throw you off the scent, from the almost clumsy moodist mechanics of ‘Warmer dead cold’ which splutters out impatiently almost as if its tripping itself up on its own haste to reach you. ‘Lovers and Daughters’ really is something else as it cleverly manages to thread progressive rock templates with a gritty shoe gaze under carriage and emerges from the fusion with wind swept magnicence. Best of the set though is the uncharacteristically breezily lilting ‘Barbara killed Roger’. Softly basking under clear extra terrestrial skies its what the words smooth and tender were made for, imagine Stereolab at their most serenely carefree making the Pale Saints hearts break. Another essential release I’m afraid. http://www.andacademy.com
Blurred Images ‘On the Horizon’ [LIE 063]. As the inlay card so aptly states ‘music for contemplating and dreaming’. We could put it any better. Eight absorbing prime slices of undulating guitar based dream-scapes is what you get on this solo effort from 20 year old Jose Banuelos AKA Blurred Images. Overall the experience that ‘On the Horizon’ imparts can only be likened to stand on a beach shore at night watching the sea waves ebbing and flowing exacting their calming almost hypnotic effect, except in Blurred Images case those seas would belong to some far flung exotic moon, the night sky lit by the presence of twin suns bathing the waves in an eerie though nevertheless breath taking translucent glow. Banuelos takes his cue from Yellow 6’s more intricately layered sonic symphonies, the melodies glide rather than soar as captured on the heavenly lull of the chorus of hanging chords found within ‘Passive and Paralysed’. Throughout the set Banuelos delicately weaves his spidery chords to curve and bend sensually in celestial formations to wrap around each other to create a brightly coloured canvas that serenely finds the centre point between shoe gaze and chilled out ambience. The driving snowbound contours of the opening ‘Look inside’ betrays a respectful nod to Durruti Column while ‘the world through a window’ invites you to take flight into hidden dream worlds you never knew existed. For us though ‘Outside’ stands head and shoulders amid the chasing pack, treasures unearthed within cavern-esque textures make you think you feel as though you’ve hit upon the entrance to a glorious enchanted grotto frozen and untouched since time immemorial where sounds of echoes tip toe like chilled chatter. Beautiful stuff. http://www.geocities.com/blurredsound
Soda Jerk ‘Pop On’ [LIE 078]. The first of two releases featuring the talents of a certain Ryan Marquez (the other being Apple Orchard). Those who love their pop slightly more powered and spikey will swoon to this, drop-dead hooks aplenty and to die for uh-hoo harmonies and if the mere mention of Velvet Crush, Jags, Teenage Fanclub (especially on the wonderful ‘the things you say’), BMX Bandits (so cute there’s even a cover of the BMX’S ‘Extraordinary’) and the Raspberries gets the pulses quickening then we advise you seek this out immediately. Nine tracks including two lives cuts from a radio session for the Fridge see Ryan and the boys mixing up the ingredients of pop’s rich larder to bake a cake so deliciously feel good you’d swear in the current musical climate of post everything that it was illegal to have so much fun. The curious thing about this release is that despite the obvious homage to all things West Coast pop Soda Jerk subtly underscore the compositions with delicate 50’s bubblegum-esque wraps take for instance the opening ‘Heartcrusher’ which is invested with a neat nostalgic snagging rock blues riff while the summery breeze of the chiming countrified contours of ‘Dead Stopper’ is pure hood down wind in the hair open road drive music. ‘There’s a place for you’ changes tact ever so slightly bringing the pace to a more tranquil level though dims in the presence of the simply beautiful and sparsely touched ‘Extraordinary’ which sits strangely between oddball and Beatle-esque as Soda Jerk wrestle it from the BMX kids to make it their own.
Apple Orchard ‘Paris was a Daydream’ [LIE 076]. And just in case you were wondering about Ryan Marquez’s other band, Apple Orchard. Essentially a stripped down affair, Apple Orchard are duo Ryan and Dale and this slender release features seven home recordings of succulent bitter sweet acoustic pop that to these ears sounds not unlike a chirpier version of the Red House Painters. Obviously the work of people whose youthful nights were spent falling in love and cataloguing various Sarah label related records while scanning the airwaves hoping to hear the latest C-86 hopefuls being played by John Peel. Compared to Soda Jerk, Apple Orchard are a more intimate affair, slow unfurling dozing pop motifs with the merest of melancholic sheens from the opening ‘(When everything is) safer’ the duo slyly hold your emotions to ransom. On the casio tutored ‘Midnight stars and kisses’ the racing heartbeat of the Lightning Seeds ‘Pure’ is slowed to the merest of murmurs but for us it’s the trio of hand holding twee induced tracks awaiting on Side B that are the most likely to have you suffering from swooning episodes especially the playfully tranquil ‘Scenes from the sky’. A brief but beautiful release. http://www.appleorchardpop.tk
The Cellophane Sky ‘Sunset Shadows’ [LIE 061]. The Cellophane Sky is / are essentially Brian Pennington (head honcho of Sandcastle Records) with the appearance and disappearance of friends. These days found focussing on his other project the Plastic Hearts, this cassette collects together twelve home recordings made over a two year period in 1999 and 2000 which we can only describe as teasing curios given that they have a charming thread bare sheen about them as well as the kind of child like softness that makes them unobtrusive or so it seemed with the initial flight of the first couple of tracks where the order of the day was jaunty piano routines (‘Callie Road’) and seductive spacey electro manoeuvres (‘Saint Alia of the Knife’) but then without warning the vaguely haunting ‘Follow the Leader’ (sadly not the Killing Joke classic from yesteryear) comes into view carrying what sounds like a blueprint for a face off between the Orb ( who are allowed only their sample box of tricks) and the Normal. Dipping between a slightly warmer Arab Strap / Rooney, ‘Momentos’ courts with a spoken word collage drifting above a gently gliding melody lost in its own romantic space similarly so to does ‘Getting Acquainted’ where the use of beats and nimbly utilised electronic backdrops have the feel of Cabaret Voltaire mucking about with old New Order tape loops found languishing on the studio room cutting floor. On Side 2 things get a little more focussed, the compositions still bare all the same but endowed with a visible pattern where spacey moods come to the fore and the dynamic shifts from awkward to ethereal. ‘Various modes of travel’ with its exotic brushes of atmospherics and tingling late summer’s day blissfulness will melt the coldest of hearts while the haunting ‘No advice for the unprepared’ has the vocals uncannily sounding like a young Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice). Inspired stuff indeed.
Various Artists ‘We are not alone’ (volume 5)[LIE 032]. One of the label’s ever-present features has been the regular appearance of the ‘We are not Alone’ series of compilations. This fifth instalment features 18 cuts from the world of indie / dream pop. What makes this series so special is the wealth and diversity of the bands that BKS seek out and bring to you, its not your average lazy compilation, its apparent to the most casual spectator that these collections have been meticulously threaded together. As with Volume 7 (reviewed elsewhere) more bands that we are shamed to admit to never hearing of except maybe only Fotomoto (who with ‘Monster and Belle’ serve up some uncharacteristically haunting middle eastern / dub fuelled atmospherics that to these ears sounds like a less wayward version of Scandinavia’s the Knife) and the Burnside Project who here have a crack at Lisa Germano’s ‘If I think I’m love’ and turn it into a click / scratch happy down tempo with a lullaby-esque of sorts dynamic. Ready for a spot of aching autumn hued melancholic pop then the spectrally charged ‘Several moons to you’ by Tarmac should hit the spot perfectly while ‘All my love’ by The Reds, Pinks and Purples sounds like 10CC’s ‘I’m not in love’ left out in the open to be drenched by April showers. If you survive that then you still need to confront the tenderly stripped down introspective elegance of History’s ‘Life’, which should floor most within earshot distance. Flip over to the second side for the skewed pop vision of Australia’s strangely named Hi God People Vs. Huon whose ‘Polo Song’ displays an unsettling aura sounding like a group of people a version of Donovan’s ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ in the spirit of the Butthole Surfers but all reading from different pages of the songbook. Better still Pangs ‘Chronic Flashlight’ is suitably addictive fuzz pop that comes across like a detuned glammed up Glitter doing Ramones licks for kicks though admittedly upstaged by the Breeders / Donnelly kick up the seat of the pants pop punk of Tizzy’s ‘Pushing Positive’ who themselves are undone by fellow label mates the Mitchells whose XTC / Wire post punk mutation ventured on ‘Flashlight Hunter’ is dragged screaming from angular pop heaven. But hands on heart things don’t get much better than Pangloss’s ‘Taste the Sun’ (again from the same label as is home to the Mitchells and Tizzy, are they breeding them or something?) who sound like the Go Go’s doing Lush covers with Sonic Youth in charge of mixing desk duties. And if you ever wondered what Pavement might have sounded like had they ended up in the studio sharing ideas with They Might be Giants then wonder no more as the Mines decidedly off centre ‘False Sense’ neatly does the job for you. Ending it all in the safe loveable hands of San Francisco’s very able the Skygreen Leopards whose ‘Take good care of yourself, Sally Orchid’ is blessed with chiming guitars that have been cutely lifted from the Will Seargent oeuvre c. ‘Ocean Rain’ and gathered together for this amazing shot of Eastern vibed West Coast psyche pop.
Various Artists ‘We are not alone’ Volume 7 [LIE 052]. The seventh addition to the ‘We are not alone’ series features 18 more waiting to be found nuggets from the cosy underworld of indie-ville. Clocking up more air miles than a Virgin airline, this collection calls in at the UK, Australia, all corners of the US for its contributions wrapping up things to sun itself in Argentina and Brazil, while not forgetting to mention that in its midst its home to a former UK chart topper, Whitetown whose splendidly fluffy candy floss ‘No more times’ has a distinct Spector-esque vs the Walker Brothers the last waltz vibe running throughout. Now we’d have to admit that this particular release is quite scrumptious opening perfectly to the sounds of the slow drip seduction of Marine Time Keepers (a duo based in Stoke, Jason and Sam). Their offering ‘Paper Moon’ is as sweet as anything we’ve heard all year, frail, ethereal and utterly disarming as the gentle wave like atmospherics arc around Sam’s drifting romance laden vocals. Other than that no contact details or anything that could be construed as clues which is a great shame, ho hum. Despite suffering soundwise The Condiments summer fuzz-tastic ‘4 and 20’ dips slyly between Brighter and the Shaggs, while Denver’s ‘the prettiest eyes you will ever see’ strikes a personal chord because I used to know someone with the prettiest eyes but that, as they say, is another story. Think of a laid back JMC collaborating with prime era China Crisis, crushing stuff. Those hand holding indie love hearts among might like to check out Magic Crayon’s ‘Scanit’ which in it’s three minute life span deliciously swings from lulling Sarah like summer pop to C-86 Weddoes inspired strum heaven. Elsewhere Australia’s Ashtray Boy nudges into your affections with the vaguely Josef K-esque sounding ‘Room 50 at the Fez’. Flip over the cassette to be greeted by the timeless angelic rustic moods of Jason Smart on the graceful ‘Sleeping Sickness’, while the simply delicious ‘Gael’ by the Spanish Armada if our ears aren’t deceiving us sounds like the Weather Prophets fronted by a vocalist who resembles a mutation between Joe Strummer and Shane MacGowan. The Sharp Things (reviewed elsewhere in this missive) serve up the rather tastily docile ‘Boy’s Club’ and lovers of the Charlatans c. ‘Tellin’ Stories’ might be more than satiated by ‘Una mujer amabile’ by Argentina’s the Mundys. On the evidence of Twelve 24’s perfect pop mutation of the Sunday’s with the Bangles on ‘All too nice’ it might also be time to check out Australia’s Steady Cam Records as they seem to be nurturing nuggets of rarified pop not yet known to the greater public at large, then I suppose the same can be said for Morella’s Forest whose ‘the sand and the sea’ cutely fires its little love arrows hitting the target time and time again.
Tyko ‘Further Transmissions from the Biosphere’ [LIE 072]. Aw now this is getting a bit daft, more pristine space pop this time traversing all the way from Arkansas. Tyko are a quartet and for those who might want to check further have their third album ‘A long way from zero to one’ awaiting release on the ever-dependable Blisscent Records and I can tell you now that we wont sleep until a copy is firmly placed in our mits. This particular cassette is essentially the bands second album ’Transmissions into the Biosphere’ (in its entirety on Side A) with an additional dozen or so previously unreleased lo-fi tracks creating all manner of spacey squiggles over on Side B. Dreampop, yes. Tyko delight in serving up Cathedral-esque motifs threaded by all manner of loops and searing guitars, the nearest reference point would be to imagine the resultant evolution of New Order’s sound (listen out midway through on ‘Central Image’ for the ‘Ceremony’ like nod) had they not met Arthur Baker and decided to leave their sequencers at home to explore mesmerising interstellar bound atmospherics and welded the resulting effects onto the Cranberries (just check out the soothing sensitivity of ‘Floating’). Tyko’s mix of droning synth backdrops washed with layered feedback mightn’t be anything new but then it’s how they utilise the dynamics with the result that the compositions aren’t confined simply to the time honoured tradition of the usual space gaze cadets of bleached out symphonies but are instead spiced and sprinkled with an alluring pop heart (‘Kids in the Biosphere’). Floating seductively almost cosmically induced ‘Elastic Brain’ perhaps the stand out cut here, though having an 80’s vibe manages to sound like Hazel O’Connor being re-worked by ‘Pearl’ era Chapterhouse, then there’s the adorable ‘Summertime comeback’ buried beneath a blanket of dreamy haze and sounding not unlike a blissed out version of the Primitives. Looking for some shake your booty action then ‘Saturn 5’ with its sublime candy glossed pop friction should provide a tangy quick fix. Side 2 reveals the band in more stripped down acoustic settings the summery jangle pop of ‘Pills for a dream’ and the near perfect ‘My front lawn is a landing strip’ providing the lead, then there’s the New Order-ish fuzz pop of ‘Portrait in Letters’ and the down tempo space lushness of ‘Communication laser # 17’. All said and done they all pale into the shadows beneath the shimmering glow of the punky ‘Northern Sky’. A mighty fine release. http://www.tykomusic.com
Chelsea’s Corner ‘When they gain they fall’ [LIE 065]. More space cadets with an obvious taste for huge rollicking power pop hooks are Swedish quintet Chelsea’s Corner led by one Tom Hanning, any information up and beyond that we aren’t privy to as this lot seem to be something of a mystery. Sixteen tracks make up ‘When they gain they fall’ and we’d be inclined to advise lovers of the Stills to hop aboard pretty sharpish because this lot share a fondness for creating epic hook galore melancholia. Chelsea’s Corner are an odd beast, initial listening has full on blistering riffs swarming your listening space, it’s easy to fall into the trap of recalling Gumball and Dinosaur Jnr (especially on the frenetic ‘Beaten’ and ‘Indie Kills’), whereas into the mix traces of Ride and elements of Fugazi occasionally clutter the centre stage for attention (just check out the autumnal glaze quickly evolving to destructive ‘Supertransformation’). Yet repeated listens reveal that maybe, just maybe Snares and Kites’ lost gem ‘Tricks of Trapping’ might have graced the rehearsal room Hi-Fi on the odd occasion, either that or Hanning is a great admirer of Chris Brockaw, which I hasten to add isn’t a bad thing especially when you are treated to slices of prime heart stopping underground rock as found on the likes of the awesome ‘Motion State’ and the fearless ‘How actions pass: zero gone mad’. Elsewhere Chelsea’s Corner expertly duck and dive between punked up shoe gaze that’s be pre-disposed to a mutation of lightly coated grunge and wired post rock that’s packed with enough melody frayed turbulence to keep you keenly tuned in. And as though to prove that they can play the sensitive card when called upon the delicate ‘I’m the million dollar man’ and the simply elegant thrill of ‘Stacy’ are thrown into the mix to leave you in awe. A tremendous debut. http://www.chelseascorner.cjb.net
Pants Yell! ‘Our Horse Calls’ [LIE 070]. This release predates the current album ‘Songs for Siblings’ which is should be presently wowing all the hip kids in indie-ville. Boston based Pants Yell! Are a clever bunch of bastards. ‘Our Horse Calls’ is so out of step and waywardly crooked you begin to question your own ears. What makes matters worse is that even before they’ve been allowed to play a note on the old Hi-Fi you’ve already clocked some of the song titles eg ‘Rou Leed Indeed’ and ‘electroclash is the noose around my neck’ and your now in a state of quandary wondering whether this might be a good idea to pursue. Well in a word, YES, things mightn’t be quite right in the Pants Yell household but let’s face it the song titles alone burn into your head that enquiring desire to check further just for curiosity sake. And yes you are right, you knew you would be, Pants Yell! are not your full shilling for their creaky compositions are wonky and fragile things held together with moments of hurt and combining 99% hope and 1% industry. On first listening Pants Yell remind me in a lot of ways of Pavement, not the Pavement we all grew up to love but the Pavement of those early years and the singles they did for Drag City where despite them being faintly oddball with their sparse dislocated melodies you knew that something special was beginning to smoulder under the surface just check out ‘the gate’s open, we’re going in’ and ‘mic check’. Pants Yell! take the blueprint sideways then up one step and then down three levels, in all honesty their brand of warped folk twee pop shouldn’t by rights really work, elements of the goofier side to the Elephant 6 Collective flicker in and out into their world of child like naivety, compositions so ridiculously arranged as to catch you on the back foot time and time again, and yet that’s the great thing about them, they never tire you. As with Black Heart Procession, another band they share a mutuality with in terms of essence, PY have a knack of making misery sound so jaunty as proven on the inescapable sombre edge of the lolloping casio enhanced ‘song for architect’ though one listen to the fragmented wits end tones of ‘don’t feel bad for being my girl’ might make you think otherwise. Dig a little deeper for ’83 in 03 (for Alan Magee)’, which sees them, veering into Pooh Sticks territories. Strange stuff indeed but cute with it. http://www.asaurus.org/records
And that’s about it for this particular missive, with many thanks to Alessandro for the constant supply of top tuneage and to all the bands featured may you all carry on upstaging the big players. Best Kept Secret can be contacted at Best Kept Secret c/o Alessandro Crestani, via Biron di Sotto, 101 – 36100 Vicenza, Italy or check their website http://www.indiepages.com/bestkeptsecret
Next missive in seven days will feature amongst others a truly awesome release from Croydon’s new secret weapon Ten foot Nun; something equally special from Monkey; a new must have double 7” pack from those Fierce Panda dudes featuring current press darlings Razorlight, the immense Rocks and the Souls plus three more; a dandy little dig into the past history of the very excellent Merchandise; a sterling demo from Penny Red; the latest from house favourites Broadway Project and whatever else we manage to pick up between now and then.
Have fun and as always take care of y’selves,