Record Store Day 2015

WNBARB_RSD2015I didn’t go into town for RSD, instead I stayed south of the river, went to smaller, local stores like Rat Records in Camberwell, Casbah and The Music & Video Exchange in Greenwich and The Book & Record Bar in West Norwood (above). Much calmer atmosphere, no crush or crazy queuing, no crowds. I saw some scenes in the centre of London on the day and it looked like Carnival was on. Read what happened to Mr Thing at his set on Berwick St. in the middle of Soho… not cool.

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I went to West Norwood first, got there at 10am, walked in and pulled one record straight away from my list (the Amorphous Androgynous ‘Wizards of Oz’ comp above). No fuss, no crush, no queuing. They also still had records from RSD 2014 in the racks. I will go to Rough Trade at some point in the next few weeks to see what they have but I joined a queue there on RSD about 3 years ago and never again. It’s not for me, I don’t enjoy buying records that way. If people are all looking in one place I want to be somewhere in the opposite direction.
In all on Saturday I did four records shops, only two of which had RSD records, but I got plenty of vinyl, both old and new (plus books, magazines and a CD).

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Also had time to see an exhibition (Snub 23, see previous post) and meet up with friends and family in the park. A relaxing day that involved going to record stores/shops and helping support them plus the artists and labels. No fretting about whether a record I wanted was going for stupid money on eBay, there’s plenty of time to hunt the one that got away down, I don’t need anything so badly that I have to pay those kind of prices. I should probably also add here, that this is pretty much the same as any number of other days in the year when I go shopping for records rather than making it a one-off.

Posted in Books, Event, Music, Records. | No Comments |

The final 3-Way Mix tonight at the Funk & Soul Club

Above was filmed at the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg earlier this year, check around the 1 minute mark for the stage-diver :)
Tonight DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot and I retire the ‘3-Way Mix’ live set as part of the line up at the Funk & Soul Club at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. It’s been 18 months since we debuted it in Paris and since then we’ve toured it across Europe, to Russia, Canada and Australia, adding a full video component as we went. The 25th anniversary of the ‘Paul’s Boutique’ album it’s based on has come and gone and the third anniversary of MCA‘s death fast approaches. Time to put it to rest and move on…

3-Way Mix LDN poster

Shindig magazine takeover and rebranding

Shindig47There’s something going on that I feel I need to share with readers of this blog as it involves a magazine that I’m very fond of and, of late, have had dealings with. Shindig! is one of the only music magazines I regularly read, possibly the most informative about certain areas of music I’m particularly interested in, but also one that has recently been the subject of a sudden takeover by their publisher.

A little history: Shindig! started out as a fanzine, edited by Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills and Andrew Morten, specialising in Psych, Garage, Beat, Powerpop, Soul and Folk. Volcano Publishing started working with them in 2007, initially publishing six times a year and getting them into record stores and newsagents, inc. WH Smiths. The mag then went monthly and, despite heavily focusing on 60s and 70s artists, also embraced the new and covered many new bands making music in these styles which is what initially drew me to it in 2013 when they featured Broadcast, Ghost Box, Giallo soundtracks and more.

Earlier this week news started to filter out that the next issue (original cover above) had been doctored by the publisher without the editor’s consent and rebranded as ‘Kaleidoscope’ (incorporating Shindig!). Relations between the mag and the publisher had been rocky for some time and things had come to a head to the effect that Volcano Publishing had taken control of the mag, re-titling it as they don’t own the name Shindig!, cutting off email addresses and re-routing Shindig’s website address to their new ‘Kaleidoscope’ pages. See their own statement of intent and events here.

Jon Mills posted on the Shindig Facebook page on April 8th, “there is bad shit going on in Shindigland. Our old publisher is rebranding without Andy or I (who I think everyone knows ARE Shindig!) This new Kaleidoscope title is not Shindig!, although the first issue contains elements of what would and should have been Shindig! #47. It’s a sham and something I know our readers will not be happy about. The editorial policy is not ours. We as editors are not responsible and are as shocked by this as you. A full statement will follow. In the meantime we are working on means and ways to continue Shindig! in the format we all cherish. Our site is no longer functional so please watch this space. More soon.”

Since then there has been a more detailed statement from Andy which you can be read here. There seem to be allusions to the Shindig twitter account being censored so they have set up a new one here. It’s all pretty depressing sounding stuff and I can only feel for them after spending years building up the magazine to a point where the music they were covering and the new musical landscape were in perfect synch. I’d previously pegged the mag as another Mojo but it’s far more than that, focusing on lesser-known, more underground bands as well the more leftfield of the old guard. No endless rehashes of Beatles, Stones or Dylan features year in year out, which, let’s face it, have been examined to within an inch of their lives in other publications now. On a purely personal note it’s galling for me for a number of reasons, mainly because I’d found a magazine that covered many areas of music sadly lacking from other print media that now seems to be being co-opted into something else. I’ve not seen the new rebrand but the cover above is from a pdf of the pre-doctored version so it will be interesting to compare the two come Record Store Day, two days after ‘Kaleidoscope’ has cannily been slated for release. (Side note: I wonder if the new mag is aware of the Italian ‘visual culture’ ‘Kaleidoscope’?)

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Two other reasons to be gutted by these events: I had a letter printed in the next issue, it’s in the version at the top (which won’t see print as is) but whether it will appear in the new ‘Kaleidoscope’ variant remains to be seen (oh the irony of that name too). The letter was praising the mag and its current direction whilst offering suggestions for future inclusions and in light of these recent changes it will unfortunately leave a bad taste in the mouth if they run it. The other pisser is that I was just finishing my first feature for Shindig! as I heard the news – an examination of The Dragons‘ history and the tale of issuing their lost ‘B.F.I.’ LP alongside new interviews with the brothers. It may yet see print as Jon and Andy are taking steps to relaunch but these events are still unfolding so I’ll try to update this as more info emerges.

You can follow their progress at the Shindig Facebook page and Twitter accounts, if you’re a fan of the mag and didn’t know about these events then I urge you to read their posts as it’s quite eye-opening. If you never saw an issue before but are curious about this kind of music and more then investigate Shindig! if you get the chance, it’s the kind of mag that some record stores have back issues of. I’m confident that Jon and Andy will come back in full control of their title because they have a loyal fan base but many will see a new magazine called ‘Kaleidoscope’ in the racks of their record shops on April 18th and not know the background to how it came into existence.

This is a perfectly-timed move for a new title to launch with the artificially-swelled ranks of the RSD audience in the right place at the right time to form a new readership, something I’d bet the publisher is counting on. I only hope that Jon and Andy can recover from this hijacking quickly, keep their team of writers onside and come back doing what they do best. I’d wager that there will only be room for one publication of music of this ilk (although wouldn’t it be nice to be proved wrong – no matter the circumstances of their coming into existence?) Hopefully this split will be for the best for both and even give Shindig! some extra publicity.

*UPDATE: Jon and Andy have a new website up now with their statement about the whole affair on it – visit: www.shindig-mag.com and read what they have to say.

They have a new podcast too with messages and songs of support from all over the world plus that statement again.

Shindig! Broadcast #15 by Jon Mills on Mixcloud

Posted in Magazines, Music. | 7 Comments | Tags:

Epiphanies book from The Wire

acb161e5Love the cover of the ‘Epiphanies’ collected from The Wire‘s back pages. A simple concept: an artist is invited to recall an epiphany in their life, these used to run (maybe they still do) as the last feature in the Wire before the back cover, effectively the end of each issue. The cover illustration in by Reuben Sutherland who is the graphic half of Sculpture who will be playing tonight, April 10th at the Yard in Hackney Wick.

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Grasscut ‘Curlews’ video

Grasscut – Curlews from grasscutmusic on Vimeo.

Love this simple but beautifully realised video for Grasscut‘s ‘Curlews’ by ‘silent partner’ Pedr Browne. It’s taken from the duo’s next album, ‘Everyone Was A Bird’, which will be released on May 18th on Lo Recordings (they also plan to make films for the whole album). I saw them live late last year playing some of the material for the first time and fans will not be disappointed, their way of making and presenting music is very unique. They’ve also just started a radio show called Cut Grass which you can listen to here. And if you can’t wait until May 18th then check out the first single, ‘Catholic Architecture’  – a Robert Wyatt cover – that they released earlier this year with this beautiful sleeve.

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DJ Cheeba’s ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ rescore

Cheeba_Plan9My man DJ Cheeba recently performed his live rescore to Ed Wood‘s infamously so-bad-it’s-good B movie, ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ at the Watershed in Bristol. He’s just put a mixtape version online for all to hear as well and, even though I’m biased and it features two tracks of mine, it’s excellent.
During the live show he uses two decks, a third QFO turntable and even Coldcut‘s VJamm software to remix live. He’s also looking for shows to perform it at and you can get more info about it here. Book him, he’s one of the most forward-thinking DJs utilising new technology out there today as well as one of the most creative.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (music that inspired the BFI re-score) by Dj Cheeba on Mixcloud

Pond LP video & graphics

Finally got round to checking out Pond‘s new album today, not bad, some nice bits on there including this track which looks like it’s been taking styling tips from Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. Particularly love some of the album graphics, the cover of which reminds me of Robert Crumb‘s turn for Big Brother & The Holding Company crossed with Celyn Brazier‘s work for Wagon Christ.

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Posted in Art, Film, Music. | No Comments | Tags:

Cavern of Anti-Matter

COAMfrontSometimes you take a punt on a record and it works out even better than you could have hoped. Perusing the racks of Casbah Records in Greenwich a few weeks ago I chanced upon a 7″ with a Julian House-designed sleeve that looked rather fetching. The band was one I hadn’t heard of – Cavern of Anti-Matter – but a quick glance at the credits on the reverse told me that ex-Stereolab leader Tim Gane was involved so I took a gamble and shelled out for the 45.

I liked what I heard upon dropping the needle when I returned home, an instrumental mixture of drums, electronics and guitar with a motorik groove and just enough of that melody that the ‘Lab made their own to lift it. Next port of call was the web to find more of course and I’d missed two 12″s and an album, all on different labels, over the past two years. The LP, ‘Blood Drums’, is available to listen to from Grautag Records but the vinyl isn’t available for love nor money anywhere on the web it seems, please let me know if you find one because it’s even better than the single. I can’t even find anywhere to buy it digitally! A mail to the label has resulted in nothing and their online shop just has a (soon) sign. I guess they aren’t that fussed about selling once the physical product has run out.

An initial ultra limited 12″ that predates the album is also long gone but available from iTunes and features three tracks from the LP (inexplicably listed separately) in different versions – also essential. There’s also another 12″ with two side-long improvisations although this seems to be sold out in most places or expensive on the secondary market. I look forward to hearing more.

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Zang Tuum Tumb ‘The Value of Entertainment’ reissue

Value_Blitz_advertMay85In May 1985 Zang Tuum Tumb occupied the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End for two weeks with a showcase of their current roster (minus Frankie and some of Art of Noise) entitled ‘The Value of Entertainment’. In October they released their first label roster compilation which largely mirrored the show’s line up but, thankfully, reinstated Frankie into the mix, cleverly word-playing on the bit of studio kit they’d become associated with due to Trevor Horn‘s production techniques.

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‘Sampled’ was an odd duck but then the label was never going to do the obvious best of so far was it? “So what happens now?” intones a voice early on in Art of Noise’s ‘Closing’, which strategically opened rather than closed the album, posing the question, setting the scene, having the last laugh first. None of the hits from the past two years were included, not in their original form anyway, the closest you got was Propaganda‘s ‘P-Machinery’, a track not even 6 months old, and snippets and snatches from the Art of Noise’s debut LP, ‘Who’s Afraid…’ Instead of celebrating the previous 24 months with ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’, ‘Dr Mabuse’, ‘Close (To The Edit)’, ‘Moments In Love’, ‘Duel’ or ‘The Power of Love’ we got cover versions by Frankie and Propaganda, interludes by Art of Noise and a host of new artists who were making their debuts on the label with this release. And quite right too.

The one exception was ‘Disneyland’, the previously mooted double A side of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ single which, if included, may have got them that fourth No.1 after all. It was held over to help sell this compilation (“a bait, comrades” as Paul Morley‘s sleeve notes confirmed) and is still one of the highlights of the set. ‘Don’t be bland in Disneyland, it’s very good in Hollywood’ being the standout line in a short burst of energy that would have bolstered the sagging third side of their debut LP no end.

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ZTT did the unexpected, which is what we expected and wanted them to do and why we love them so much for it. They also knew what we didn’t, that there were tensions in the camps of their main three artists and that the wheels were coming off the wagon. Indeed three members of Art of Noise had already flown the coop and were about to release their debut single for China records, having pulled out of the Ambassadors Theatre shows at the 11th hour. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The compilation acted as a crossover from the first round of signings to the second, introducing Andrew Poppy, Anne Pigalle and Instinct to Zang and cleverly bought the label some more time in the spotlight whilst everyone else was trying to catch up (again). Instinct were the most conventional of the new artists but one that I felt never matched up to the excitement or daring of Frankie or Propaganda, a good support band maybe but never a headline act. Until recently their contribution, ‘Swamp Out’, was their only release on the label outside of their short performance on the rare ‘The Value of Entertainment’ video or even rarer Japanese laser disc. Without wanting to sound unkind, that was probably for the best as it’s not a great calling card.

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Anne Pigalle, a visually stunning model and singer of the Edith Piaf persuasion who’d been seen in all the right places in London for some time, had the look and just about managed to pull off the voice for her two contributions, of which ‘Intermission’ was probably the best track from her debut LP for ZTT, released around the same time. Her inclusion certainly wrong-footed a few but fitted into the label’s European-leanings like a glove. Unfortunately the pop world was just taking a turn for the commercial in ’85, the post punk, new wave, Futurists and synth brigade were about to be steamrollered by the Stock, Aitken & Waterman juggernaut and the fist pumping stadium rock of U2, Simple Minds and Springsteen. There would be little place for Anne in such a world, despite the fact that she was on one of the most forward thinking labels of the time, but the times they were a-changing.

Andrew Poppy, the third newcomer to the roster was a genuine head-turner, a British avant grade composer with previous form as a member of The Lost Jockey, forward thinking and influenced by industrial music as much by his contemporaries. His pieces (or extracts from) were and are things of beauty that were both out of place with the company on the LP but fitted perfectly into the ZTT ethos. He also had an ace up his sleeve; he didn’t need Trevor Horn to produce him, something that every other act up until then had a connection with and one that was rapidly becoming an albatross around both his and the label’s neck. Not a man exactly known for his fast work rate, it was unrealistic to expect Horn to produce every band on the label and Poppy was the first to completely break the mould.

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This new version of ‘Sampled’ has never sounded so good with an excellent transfer from a new master source instantly noticeable. The album was originally released on a single piece of vinyl and cassette, never on CD and it’s great to hear such a clean, crisp version. It’s been bumped up to 75 minutes with two more ‘sides’, the first of different mixes of earlier tracks subtitled ‘Director’s Cuts’. Art of Noise’s ‘Closing’ gets a 21 second extension but it’s so full of jump cuts the difference is hard to tell. There’s a new mix of Instinct’s ‘Swamp Out’ that was found in the vaults although I didn’t notice until I read the sleeve notes. A new version that did stand out was Frankie’s take on ‘Born To Run’ which sounds like an early attempt to get a live sound of the studio recording. Unfortunately it’s an inferior mix to the original release, drenched in reverb with Mark O’Toole‘s intricate bass lines half buried in the mix. The fourth ‘side’ has edits from ‘The Value of Entertainment’ shows themselves and provides the only genuinely exciting new unreleased recording in a live version of Andrew Poppy’s ‘The Amusement’.

Hearing how close the players come to nailing the recorded version’s sound and arrangement is something to behold and this is only a six minute extract from the original 45 minute performance. 30 years later it sounds extraordinary that such a piece was presented at what was, at the time, a pop label showcase, let’s hope the full performance surfaces one day too. The other extras are sadly unremarkable in that they sound like literal room recordings of playbacks of the Art of Noise ‘performance’ complete with faulty mic introduction for the last track. I consider myself a hardcore ZTT fan but this is scraping the barrel by most people’s standards – for diehards only.

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In a calculated move to avoid the obvious and tame the critics who were, predictably, beginning a backlash after Frankie’s winning streak the previous year, ‘The Value of Entertainment’ live show struck out boldly and promised something new. The paired down Art of Noise performance, little more than a playback with dancers, despite Morley’s self-deprecating asides, ended up falling short of expectations. Original compere John Sessions quit after one show to be replaced by a new MC, now disgraced comedian Chris Langham who failed to ignite the crowds at the time and you can see some awkward exchanges backstage in the second half of the DVD that comes with this reissue package.

Of the performances in Time Capsule One – a version of the original VHS release in all it’s grainy 80’s glory – only Propaganda ignite any interest, looking and sounding like a pop band in charge of their material. Pigalle is a rabbit in the headlights and Instinct are breathtakingly ordinary, any art house pretence hinted at in the recordings dashed by a spectre of a tight Brit funk band with average material. Mercifully, Morley vox pops are scattered throughout their performance and a visibly nervous Paul wonders whether he’ll be lynched or booed off once he takes the stage. The second half of the DVD – Time Capsule Two – has further excerpts of songs and backstage banter excised from the original film, taken from the Japanese laser disc from 1986, ending with an excellent photo gallery from the original nights set to part of Andrew Poppy’s score.

Poppy is sadly absent from the whole film, his only appearance in the photo gallery and as backing music for the menu, a real shame, and a missing ingredient that would have added to the *ahem* value of the package. Knowing how thoroughly Ian Peel goes about compiling these reissues I suspect the footage either no longer exists (if it ever did) or wasn’t high quality enough to include. Philip Marshall‘s minimalist design pays homage to the original release with a new take on the Kenneth Martin cover image and the inclusion of unseen photos from the shows by Andrew Catlin. As it stands, in terms of value and entertainment this set definitely fulfills the former admirably, taking care above and beyond the usual call for an oddity such as this but falls a little short on the latter. As a ‘Time Capsule’ it’s perfect, a delight to see mid-80s Soho on film in all its scaffolded, dingy hustle & bustle in contrast with ZTT’s avant pop, its pristine, slick exterior radiating ideas and bucking trends they couldn’t hope to replicate in the everyday gig or performance setting.

At one point in a backstage tour of the theatre Morley chances upon Instinct sound checking and apologies that, “it’s come to this”, a sentiment echoed by his on stage dialogue concerning the Art of Noise’s non-appearance. ‘A Radiant Obstacle in the Path of the Obvious’ was an early ZTT mission statement and you get a sense that he knows that that mission is starting to fail. The label’s acts worked best in the controlled isolation of the recording studio or video edit where the fantasy could be molded, re-mixed and perfected. Once the live element was introduced the illusions created were torn away and, no matter which context you set them in, the theatre or the concert hall, the fallible human side shattered the utopian vision.

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‘Sampled’ saw the beginning of a new phase for the label but it was the end of their first two glorious years where they were at their most experimental and daring. ‘The Value of Entertainment’ was largely savaged in reviews although many conceded that it WAS something different at least. Instinct failed to release another record, Pigalle tanked and Propaganda split into a different version of the group soon after, signing to Virgin with only Claudia staying at the label. Frankie, as we know, returned a year later with the lacklustre ‘Liverpool’ before imploding themselves. Only Andrew Poppy really made a mark from the compilation, going on to release two albums and singles of exciting, forward-thinking material before he too was cast adrift, the third promised LP emerging years later as part of a box set. The label would have one last shining moment in Grace Jones‘Slave To The Rhythm’  before the changing pop landscape rendered their first incarnation yesterday’s news and they began their second phase, cannily reborn and re-aligned to the emerging dance music scene at the end of the decade.

‘The Value of Entertainment’ is out now from ZTT/Union Square Music – CD+DVD+16 page booklet in card digipak that lines up with all the previous reissues beautifully. The Art of Noise ‘at the end of the century’ 2xCD+DVD is also out, review coming soon…

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Retro Synth Ads highlights

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Trawling through the Retro Synth Ads site, looking for info on the Arp Omni flexi disc I posted in the Flexibition, I found all manner of great adverts from the 70’s, a time when designers played with the format a bit more. Here are my pick of the ones I came across although there’s over 5 years worth of posts to go through so I probably missed some. The Arp poster above is my favourite, would love one of those framed, there’s also some beautiful typefaces on display too.

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RIP Gong’s Daevid Allen

News update from the Allen family in Australia: Daevid Allen has passed on. He left today, this Friday the Thirteenth, at 1:05pm.”

The RIP list for 2015 is already stacking up (Terry Pratchett passed away yesterday) and it’s only March. Sad to see so many innovators leaving this mortal coil, breaking out the Camembert and making a pot of tea in his memory. RIP Daevid.

Posted in Event, Music. | 1 Comment | Tags: ,

Boca 45 ‘Dig, Eat, Beats, Repeat’ LP

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Scott ‘Boca 45′ Hendy has a new LP out at the end of March, a collection of old school beats, breaks, raps plus a trio of the highest caliber soul/funk joints I’ve heard in a while featuring Stephanie McKay on vocals. The Good People also feature on one track, ‘People Are You Ready’ which I saw tear up the room when Scott dropped it in Bristol late last year. ‘Dig, Eat, Beats, Repeat’ is out on March 23rd and a very limited run of 300 LPs is available exclusively upfront from the Digga Please? Bandcamp page right now. Here’s a 5 minute taster of the album below…

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Being one of the men behind the new 45Live collective Scott also has a brand new, all 7″ mix bursting with the Funk as well as Hip hop classics and a few left turns like Pierre Henry‘s ‘Psyche Rock’.

Long Distance Dan ‘The Other Side of the Sky’ EP

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Long Distance Dan releases a new EP today, ‘The Other Side Of The Sky’, seven tracks of raw, funky, psychedelic beats on Dusted Industries. Dan has previous form, compiling the ‘Twisting The Frame’ and ‘Cosmic Dust Agenda’ compilations. It’s a digital only release via Bandcamp available as a Name Your Price with an exclusive 45 minute DJ mix to download for buyers who do pay for it.
Here’s a sampler of the EP or you can listen in full on the site.


I provided the artwork for this release because I liked it so much.

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Black Devil Disco Club / Bernard Fevre 70s LP reissues

ARC021-Cover-hi-resGreat news last week that Black Devil (Disco Club) aka Bernard Fevre is reissuing three of his 70s electronic records on May 11th. Two library LPs under his own name: Bernard Fevre ‘Suspense’ (1975) and ‘Cosmos’ 2043 (1977) plus the original six track Black Devil ‘Disco Club’ (1978), restored to its original track quota instead of the bastardised version that RePhlex reissued and remixed over several formats back in 2004.

‘Suspense’ and ‘Cosmos 2043′ are new to me, featuring 11 and 13 tracks respectively of synth-driven library cues with my favourite of the two being the later ‘Cosmos 2043′. ‘Suspense’ is a slightly misleading title being that the first half of the record is made up of tracks of the jaunty synthetic funk variety underpinned by a primitive drum machine. ‘Mister Green’ reminds me of Jake Slazenger in places and things get moodier in the second half. The disco backbeat of the Black Devil release is absent but that’s no surprise with the ‘Suspense’ album being that it’s from the mid 70s.

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‘Cosmos 2043′ is the stronger of the two library releases for me and the cover shows a golden C3-PO-esque droid that screams ‘Star Wars cash-in’. The music is way more developed and a lot looser than the slightly stiff compositions on ‘Suspense’. The drum machine is absent from half the tracks giving it that floaty, space feel like many of the futuristic releases of the time (I’m thinking, Space’s ‘Magic Fly’, Sarah Brightman‘s ‘I Lost My Heart to A Starship Trooper’ and their ilk). It sounds of its time but has aged well and several tracks would fit snugly into the Hauntological set’s playlists, I’d be surprised if The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks doesn’t know this record.

The killer release here though is Black Devil‘s ‘Disco Club’ with six tracks of flanged percussive disco electronica and those unique vocal harmonies. It’s nice to see and hear ‘We Never Fly Away Again’ – only available on the CD release from RePhlex – restored into the line up, a faster take than the rest with a definite debt to ‘I Feel Love’s bass line present. All three are released via Lo Recordings and Sound Obsession in the UK, Anthology Recordings in the US and Alter-K in France on CD, LP and Digital formats.

 

Bernard Szajner ‘Rethinking Z’ mini album

iF3034_Rethinking_ZOne of my albums of 2014 was Z aka Bernard Szajner‘s ‘Visions of Dune’ reissue on Infiné, a 1979 electronic LP based on Frank Herbert‘s ‘Dune’ series. Now Infiné release ‘Rethinking Z’ a remix mini album that includes reworks from Scanner, Ghosting Season and more as well as Bernard himself. As with many remix albums, the results vary but there are several gems here including new collaborations by Szajner and remixes by label mates Clara Moto & Tyler Pope and Siavesh Amini.

You can listen and buy the album here (digital only) and there’s an offer on for a CD version of the remix plus a vinyl version of the original ‘Visions of Dune’ LP for just €20 + postage via Bandcamp.

There’s a documentary just previewed over on The Quietus about Szajner and he’s playing a handful of live dates in France over the next month as well as appearing in conversation with White Noise‘s David Vorhaus at Rough Trade East on Friday 13th at 6pm.

Matt Johnson ‘Hyena’ release and ‘Soul Food’ interview

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A new The The album is always a cause for celebration and today is such a day. As usual with Matt Johnson, you think he’s disappeared and then there’s a flurry of activity that confirms that he’s been very busy indeed. His brother, Gerard’s new film, ‘Hyena’, is out on general release in cinemas today after showings at selected film festivals and already winning a couple of European awards. The Brothers Johnson, as they are fast becoming known (call the lawyers!), are appearing at the Watershed in Bristol on Sunday March 8th for a Q&A with Mark Cosgrove about ‘Hyena’ and the power of the score in cinema.

the_the_CINEOLASERIESMatt’s own Cineola label is releasing the soundtrack on CD in the usual hardback book format which is slowly forming a beautiful series of releases. The 20 track album comes with an 84 page photo book and is available now from the The The shop. A vinyl version will follow shortly on Death Waltz Recordings.

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Last summer I interviewed Matt at Rough Trade East about his classic album, ‘Soul Mining’, and today you can get a free download of ‘Soul Food’, our one hour chat, newly edited by myself with added instrumental accompaniment. Also check out the previous installments of Matt’s Radio Cineola series which contain all sorts of rare and unreleased moments from The The‘s back catalogue as well as interviews with his collaborators.

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The photos above and below were taken by Gerald Jenkins, during the interview and on Brick Lane shortly after.

Matt Johnson Rough Trade Soul Mining Release

Trevor Jackson ‘F O R M A T’ launch

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Thursday night saw the launch of Trevor Jackson‘s first release in 14 years, ‘F O R M A T’, hosted at the Vinyl Factory space under Brewer St. car park on the heart of Soho. The release consists of 12 tracks and is initially being made available on 12 different kinds of media with 1 track per format.

These range from 12″, 10″ and 7″ vinyl, CD and mini CD, DAT, VHS, Cassette, USB card, Minidisc, 8-track cartridge and 1/4″ tape reel. The numbers of the edition drop as the format gets more obscure so while the 12″ is pressed up at 500 copies the 1/4″ reel is in an edition of only 10 available with the complete box set of all 12 formats. Prices start at £10 and slowly creep up as the numbers get more limited until you get to the full box set at an eye-watering £850. There is also a poster of all 12 formats available in an edition of 100 with each piece signed and numbered. See, hear and buy the full line up at www.formatvf.com

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At the opening last Thursday guests were directed into the car park and downstairs to a space with a free bar at one end and a table selling the various formats that make up the album at the other. A second dark, enclosed space housed a wall of 12 huge screens opposite corresponding plinths with two sets of headphones. Each format and track was represented by a different film of it being played on the corresponding equipment, not a one shot YouTube-style video but varying close ups of the act of loading the format as well as associated graphics such as time displays, VU meters, rotating spools and platters etc.


What’s different about how this album came to be is that Trevor had over 100 tracks that he’d worked on over the past 14 years but only finished last year. This isn’t an album in the conventional sense, none of the tracks were intended to work together, they’ve been cherry-picked from the archive and exist in isolation from each other at the exhibition, preview-able via the headphones. Likewise (at the moment) each track exists in isolation if you buy it physically. Even the spaced letters of the ‘F O R M A T’ title suggest a disengagement from each other or maybe that’s just the graphic designer in me reading more into it. There was no playback of the full record and it will be interesting to see how the tracks hang together when the collection is released in two months time.


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About the music, as it’s not been mentioned as much as the packaging and concept yet: everything I heard was instrumental, electronic, stark, minimal and very brittle sounding. Knowing Trevor’s methods and tastes I’d guess that a lot of this has been made using original kit rather than samples and his ‘Metal Dance’ compilations point the way to the sonic palette he’s using. Baring in mind I’ve only heard approximately two thirds of the record (it was a very busy night with only two heaphone sets per track) my description above may be a little skewed.
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The 7″ track, ‘They Came From NY’ for instance, features an unidentified voice intoning a few lines and the ending disintegrates into random background sounds that slowly coalesce into a mutant jazz ensemble before being abruptly cut off. ‘In Your Hands’ - the VHS format that also includes the video – was my favourite from what I heard, an edit of a 7 minute plus ambient piece with a film of a dancing form that had been forced through some sort of video distortion technique.

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My friend Frode Heieren pointed out that if you added up the 11 separate formats they would cost over £300 and yes, the pricing is crazy if you look at it like that. It aligns the work with the art and fashion worlds rather than the music industry, way out of proportion to the majority of similar objects sold elsewhere. The way each piece is sold is in the same manner as the art world too, these won’t be available in shops, only at the show and online, and each piece comes with a signed, numbered card that states which number you have and there’s the difference.

You’re buying part of an edition and the art world dictates that the lower the edition the higher the price. If you want to get into that side of things then you’ll spend the money – personally I bought a 7″ and cassette as well as a poster, certainly the most I’ve ever spent on either of those formats new. You’re getting 1 track per format and I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that that’s a good deal but you’re buying an artifact here on a format of your choice and it’s more about your preferred media than the track it contains.
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If you don’t want to get into that then the whole album will be released in 2 months on vinyl, CD and download. Realistically very few people are going to be able to play a DAT, tape reel or 8 track cartridge so the editions are low and the prices high. That’s going to frustrate the completists but it’s also a very clever way to stop the album leaking in full as it’s unlikely that anyone is going to buy the box set and stick it online.

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The full box set is inordinately expensive though, I thought it would be £2-300 tops and that’s the only bit where the pricing seemed out of whack to me. It puts it into the realms of the 1% and that’s something I’m personally not a fan of. But then again I have no idea how much it all cost to make, source and produce and the Vinyl Factory have never been known to be cheap which is why they’re one of the best at what they do. Trevor has said that there is no way he’s making a penny from it unless the box sets sell as sourcing things like 1/4″ reels and 8-Track cartridges aren’t exactly cheap or easy. Anyone who has experience of pressing records will also know that the lower the pressing, the higher the cost per item. From my own experience, I made 30 playable postcard records for the launch of the ‘Search Engine’ album exhibition in 2012 and, even selling them at £8 each, I only just broke even. But let’s not get into the crass subject of money and costings…

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Most of all, the whole concept and execution is excellent and has had me thinking about music packaging from a different perspective in the same way that a good exhibition or film leaves you questioning things. I found the most successful presentation of the set was actually a framed version hanging on the wall, displaying each format rather than hiding them away in a box. I’d wager that those who bought items on the night probably acquired them more as artifacts of the show and, after a cursory listen, are more likely to display them than play them, certainly with the limited numbered formats. This has been happening for a while now if you speak to record shop owners who quiz their customers on their buying habits with many physical releases.

It will be interesting to see how much makes its way to the secondary market and how they appreciate in value over time, something I don’t think we can discount in this age of investment buying and flipping. A quick web search shows nothing on eBay or Discogs which is refreshing but will these prices seem like chicken feed in years to come? I know that Trevor’s intention couldn’t have been further from any thoughts of long term fiscal appreciation and would have been focused on the concept and presentation and ‘F O R M A T’ is a love letter to the physical in a time when more and more people are interested in owning a tangible manifestation of what they’re paying for again. In terms of innovative ways to present an album Trevor has broken new ground here and, despite the elitist pricing, I think that makes it a success.

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More Rammellzee…

Ramm1&2 colourThe Rammellzee love-in continues… finished colour versions of the Ramm(s) by Dan Lish (love that he flipped the 2nd one) and an old video popped up the other day of a performance by Rammellzee and Toxic C1 at the Rhythm Lounge in 1983. Toxic is cutting up Billy Squire‘s ‘Big Beat’ while Ramm raps but Jean Michell Basquiat also provides graphic overlays and doesn’t actually appear, the video isn’t all that but it’s all about the recording.

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Early Mo Wax designs by Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift

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I love some of these designs from the first 20 or so releases from Mo Wax by Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift. I’ve purposely excluded the more well known releases like RPM, DJ Shadow, Attica Blues and La Funk Mob that came to characterize the label later and focused on the less well remembered artists. The first 3 releases had stickers like obi-strips on white sleeves and later they were printed on the covers.

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MW001 MW002+003 MWx15_back MWFlower2TheSun_front MWlogoSwifty MWFlower2TheSun_back

Posted in Design, Music, Records. | 1 Comment |