Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Ike Yard ‎– 1980-82 Collected (2006)

Style: New Wave, Experimental, Minimal
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Acute Records, P-Vine Records

01.   Night After Night
02.   Sense Of Male
03.   Infra-Ton
04.   The Whistler
05.   Cherish
06.   Motiv
07.   M. Kurtz
08.   Loss
09.   NCR
10.   Kino
11.   Cherish 8
12.   Half A God
13.   Nocturne
14.   20
15.   War=Strong
16.   We Are One
17.   Dancing + Slaving
18.   Wolfen

Compilation Producer – Dan Selzer, Todd Hyman
Electric Guitar, Synthesizer – Michael Diekmann
Voice, Bass Guitar, Synthesizer, Percussion – Kenneth Compton
Voice, Synthesizer, Piano, Drums, Percussion, Electronic Drums – Stuart Argabright
Synthesizer, Sequenced By, Drum Machine, Programmed By, Electronics – Fred Szymanski
Producer, Music By – Ike Yard

Ike Yard might just be the darkest and most experimental music Factory records ever laid their hands on. Yes, they have the rhythmic pulses and cold metallic radiance of Joy Division and A Certain Ratio, but they're coming from a whole different place. New York, to be exact. In fact, Ike Yard was actually the first American act to be signed to the label, and despite any aesthetic similarities, the continental divide from their labelmates is obvious. Drawing on influences as varied as early punk rock, avant garde electronic music, and free jazz, Ike Yard's sound is highly volatile, and at their peak all members were armed with keyboards and other electronics in which they mostly used for improvisation. Maintaining a borderline sense of dancebility, their music seems to take as much of a cue from Louis and Bebe Barron's Forbidden Planet soundtrack as it does any Giorgio Marauder track.

The liner notes cite Iggy Pop's The Idiot as being something as a mind-fuck for the band, and while 25 years ago Ike Yard may have been viewed as a disregard for everything that preceded it, the cold glamour of Thin White Duke/Berlin era David Bowie certainly shows its face in retrospect. In addition to being pale electronic and sheik, they also have the same sense of studio experimentation that's ever so present in the Bowie/Eno collaborations as well as during Faust's early years at their Wumme compound. Although their first EP showcases songs with distinct rhythm and monotone vocal lines, by end of their career these elements seem secondary to their electronic spasms and improvisations. If the unreleased material at the end of the disc is any indication, they probably weren't ever limiting themselves to beat driven music but rather choosing the most "accessible" material for release.

Over the course of their short-lived group, progress is obvious. So obvious in fact, that the group disbanded due to not being able to keep up with themselves. Apparently being overwhelmed with ideas is a curse for some (although a total head-scratcher for me), and the idea that they were progressing faster than anyone could release their music was discouraging enough to throw in the towel (they would have thrived in this era short run/CDR labels). But this single disc captures most of it; the original Night After Night EP, the self-titled Factory Records LP, along with unreleased material and detailed liner notes by various band members. It's yet another reminder of a New York heyday, were everyone involved with a flourishing scene had a band, and most of them were really fucking good.

Ike Yard ‎– Ike Yard (1982)

Style: Electro, Minimal, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Factory America

A1.   M. Kurtz
A2.   Loss
A3.   NCR
B1.   Kino
B2.   Cherish 8
B3.   Half A God

Synthesizer, Guitar – Michael Diekmann
Synthesizer, Sequenced By, Electronics – Fred Szymanski
Vocals, Bass, Synthesizer, Percussion – Kenneth Compton
Vocals, Synthesizer, Percussion – Stuart Argabright
Words By – Compton, Argabright
Producer, Music By – Ike Yard

Ike Yard remain a legendary band of early '80s New York City – at once immensely influential, yet obscured by a far-too-brief initial phase. Their debut EP, the dark and absorbing Night After Night, sounds almost like a different group, so rapidly would Ike Yard evolve towards the calmly menacing electro throb of their self-titled LP.

Originally released on Factory in 1982, the album put Ike Yard's indelible mark on the synth-driven experimental rock scene then emerging all over the planet. While historical analogues would be Cabaret Voltaire's Red Mecca or Front 242's Geography, opening track "M. Kurtz" makes starkly clear that Ike Yard is a far heavier proposition.

With a thick porridge of bass, ringing guitar and strangled/stunted layers of voice, these six pieces are densely packed and perversely danceable. "Loss" sounds like a minimal techno track that could have been made last week, while "Kino" combines Soviet-era imagery with sparse soundscapes à la African Head Charge's Environmental Studies.

Ike Yard somehow pull off the toughest trick in modern music: making repetition hypnotically compelling through subtle variation. The effect of Ike Yard's first LP can be heard in many genres – from industrial dance labels like Wax Trax to electro-punk bands and innumerable European groups (Lucrate Milk, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, etc.).

The fact that the cover artwork does not include any photos of the band, but rather features the original catalogue number (FACT A SECOND) only further illustrates the release's importance and Ike Yard's timeless mystique. 

Monday, 28 December 2020

Tom Waits ‎– Mule Variations (1999)

Style: Blues Rock, Contemporary Jazz, Folk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Anti-, Epitaph

01.   Big In Japan
02.   Lowside Of The Road
03.   Hold On
04.   Get Behind The Mule
05.   House Where Nobody Lives
06.   Cold Water
07.   Pony
08.   What's He Building?
09.   Black Market Baby
10.   Eyeball Kid
11.   Picture In A Frame
12.   Chocolate Jesus
13.   Georgia Lee
14.   Filipino Box Spring Hog
15.   Take It With Me
16.   Come On Up To The House

Producer – Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits

I once took a poetry workshop taught by a guy called Ed Dorn. You may have heard of Ed Dorn. He's a fairly famous guy, as poets go, and he's written his fair share of well- known poems. The first day of Dorn's poetry workshop consisted of him delivering a sometimes scathing and mostly nonsensical monologue that veered from Roman aqueducts to the Russian poet Akhmatova to indigenous North African peoples. The main thrust was one simple point: nobody has written a truly great poem over the course of the last fifty years, and if anyone is going to write the one great poem of the last quarter of the twentieth century, it was not going to be one of us sophomore- year poetry scrubs. Sorry, it just wasn't.

I'd like to take this opportunity to extend Ed Dorn's admonition to the bulk of Pitchfork's readership, and to amend it thusly: neither will any of you write a song as good as Tom Waits' very worst song. Sorry, you just won't. And to reach the levels of one of his very best songs, you'd have to spend the next twenty years training with ninjas in a high mountain monastery, travel from there to Haiti to have bizarre Voudun rites performed over your writing hand, and then sell your soul to Satan for good measure. Better get started.

So far, reviews of Mule Variations have been mixed, ranging from shameless hero worship (yeah, yeah, like this one), to jaded critics claiming that Waits hit his songwriting peak with 1985's Rain Dogs. Some guy recently told a friend of mine that he didn't like Mule Variations because "I saw Waits play in San Francisco in the late '80s, and I just wasn't that into it, cuz I liked Waits better when he was a ballad singer." What does that mean? I have one theory about those dissing Mule Variations: they know in their hearts what Ed Dorn and I have just told you, and crying out "He's slipping!" is a backhanded way of claiming equality with one of the world's greatest living performers.
Zach Hooker / Pitchfork

Kid Baltan, Tom Dissevelt, Henk Badings, Dick Raaijmakers ‎– Popular Electronics: Early Dutch Electronic Music From Philips Research Laboratories (1956 - 1963) (2004)

Style: Abstract, Modern Classical, Experimental, Electroacoustic
Label: Basta

Kain en Abel
1-01.   Henk Badings - Introduction / Dance / Dance of the Destructive Forces 
1-02.   Henk Badings - Conflict, Conclusion, Transition 
1-03.   Henk Badings - Passacaglia 
1-04.   Henk Badings - Arioso 
1-05.   Henk Badings - Conflict, Reprise (Arioso)
1-06.   Henk Badings - Conflict, Finale 
1-07.   Kid Baltan - Song of the Second Moon (Version 2) 
1-08.   Kid Baltan - Night Train Blues 
1-09.   Kid Baltan - Colonel Bogey 
1-10.   Henk Badings - Overture 
1-11.   Henk Badings - Air 
1-12.   Henk Badings - Ragtime 
1-13.   Henk Badings - Intermezzo 
1-14.   Henk Badings - Waltz 
1-15.   Henk Badings - Finale 
1-16.   Tom Dissevelt - Whirling (Sonic R-Entry) 
1-17.   Tom Dissevelt - Syncopation (Orbit Aurora) 
1-18.   Tom Dissevelt - Drifting (Moon Maid) 
1-19.   Tom Dissevelt - Vibration (The Visitor from Inner Space) 
1-20.   Kid Baltan - Mechanical Motions ( The Ray Makers) 
1-21.   Tom Dissevelt - Intersection (Twilight Ozone)

Concert Music
2-01.   Dick Raaijmakers - Tweeklank (Contrasts) 
2-02.   Dick Raaijmakers - Pianoforte 
Film Music
2-03.   Henk Badings - Variations Électroniques 
2-04.   Dick Raaijmakers - Achter De Schermen 
2-05.   Dick Raaijmakers - Fuel for the Future 
2-06.   Dick Raaijmakers - Bekaert: Het Andere Woord Voor Staaldraad 
Sound Scenery
2-07.   Dick Raaijmakers - Ein Reiterstück 

Fantasy In Orbit
3-01.   Tom Dissevelt - Ignition 
3-02.   Tom Dissevelt - Atlantic 
3-03.   Tom Dissevelt - Spearhead 
3-04.   Tom Dissevelt - Zanzi 
3-05.   Tom Dissevelt - Anchor Chain 
3-06.   Tom Dissevelt - Tropicolour 
3-07.   Tom Dissevelt - Gamelan 
3-08.   Tom Dissevelt - Woomerangs 
3-09.   Tom Dissevelt - Waltzing Mathilda 
3-10.   Tom Dissevelt - Pacific Dawn 
3-11.   Tom Dissevelt - Gold and Lead 
3-12.   Tom Dissevelt - Mexican Mirror 
3-13.   Tom Dissevelt - Seconds to Eternity 
3-14.   Tom Dissevelt - Re-Entry 

Alternate Versions
4-01.   Kid Baltan - Song of the Second Moon (Original Version)
4-02.   Tom Dissevelt - Syncopation (Alternate Version) 
4-03.   Tom Dissevelt - 12-Tone Composition for The Skymasters 
4-04.   Tom Dissevelt - Intersection (Early Version) 
4-05.   Tom Dissevelt - Tropicolours (Early Version) 
4-06.   Tom Dissevelt - Waltzing Mathilda (Early Version) 
4-07.   Tom Dissevelt - Quiz Tune for VARA Television 
4-08.   Dick Raaijmakers - Limburg's National Anthem
4-09.   Dick Raaijmakers - Bell Tune 
4-10.   Dick Raaijmakers - Coppélia Tune 
4-11.   Dick Raaijmakers - Sign Tune 
4-12.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 1 
4-13.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 2 
4-14.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 3 
4-15.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 4 
4-16.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 5 
4-17.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 6 
4-18.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 7 
4-19.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 8 
4-20.   Dick Raaijmakers - STER Tune 9
Sound Examples
4-21.   Henk Badings - Sound Examples - Group 1 
4-22.   Henk Badings - Sound Examples - Group 2 
4-23.   Henk Badings - Sound Examples - Group 3 
Sound Materials
4-24.   Kid Baltan - Tape Loop with Basic Rhythm 
4-25.   Kid Baltan - Tape Loop with Rhythm and Bass Pattern 
4-26.   Kid Baltan - Arpeggio's with Echo 
4-27.   Kid Baltan - Figure Moving Downwards, Leading into Whistle Melody with Echo 
4-28.   Dick Raaijmakers - Electronic Boogie Woogie
Sound Material For 'Whirling'
4-29.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Opening Sequence 
4-30.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - First Melody 
4-31.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - First Melody Transposed 
4-32.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Chord of Combined Sounds 
4-33.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Bass Pattern 
4-34.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Rhythm Loop with Bass Pattern 
4-35.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Variant 
4-36.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Chord Sequence with Sine Wave Tones 
4-37.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Second Melody 
4-38.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Arpeggio with Echo 
4-39.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Transposed Piano Chord Sequence 
4-40.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Same as Above with Overdub 
4-41.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - First Melody, Variant 
4-42.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - First melody, Canonic Setting 
4-43.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - First melody, Canonic Setting, Different Version 
4-44.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Fast Broken Chord Sequence
4-45.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Closing Sequence with Echo 
4-46.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Chord of Combined Sounds, Noise Effect 
4-47.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Reversed Echoing Piano Chords, Continuation 
4-48.   Tom Dissevelt - Background Texture for Quiz-Tune 
4-49.   Tom Dissevelt - Multi-Layered Laughter
Sound Material For 'Syncopation'
4-50.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Basic Melody 
4-51.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Reversed Chords, Leading into Melodic Continuation
4-52.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Fast Transposed Piano Chord Sequence 
4-53.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Second Melody 
4-54.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Bass Pattern with Rhythm Loop 
4-55.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Fast Transposed Piano Chord Sequence with Echo
4-56.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Repeated Figure with Echo 
4-57.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Short Oscillator Glissandi 
4-58.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Second Melody, Electronically Chopped, with Echo
4-59.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Short Oscillator Glissandi with Echo, Leading into Broken Chord Sequence
4-60.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Reversed Chord Sequence 
4-61.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Closing Chord Sequence, Leading into Glissando Upwards
4-62.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Broken Chord Sequence with Echo and Background
4-63.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Mixture of Upward Glissandi, Leading into High Electronic Sound
4-64.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sequence of Three Complex Electronic Glissandi Chords with Echo
Sound Material For 'Drifting'
4-65.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Space Effect No.1 
4-66.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Two Alternating Chords with Echo 
4-67.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Melody with Electronic Bell Sounds 
4-68.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Percussive Chord Sequence 1 
4-69.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Bass Pattern 
4-70.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Chord Sequence No.2 
4-71.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Repeating Tympani-Like Tone 
4-72.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Repeating Harp Figure 
4-73.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Bass Pattern 
4-74.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Retro-Chord Sequence 
4-75.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Melody with Amplitude Modulation 
4-76.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Bass Pattern No.3 
4-77.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Space Effect Cross Fading into Alternating Chords 
4-78.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sustained Chord 
4-79.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Repeating Pentatonic Figure 1 
4-80.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Space Effect No.2 (Sine Tone Glissandi)
Sound Material For 'Vibration'
4-81.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sequence No.1 
4-82.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sequence No.2 
4-83.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Space Effects with Echo 
4-84.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Optical Siren (Sound Color Melody) 
4-85.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Noise Attacks
4-86.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sequence No.3 
4-87.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sequence of Chords with Retros 
4-88.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sequence No.4 
4-89.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Sequence No.5 
4-90.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Rhythmic Tape Loop 
4-91.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Chord with Retro and Amplitude Modulation 
4-92.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Metal Sound with Echo 
4-93.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Bass Pattern No.1 
4-94.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Chord Sequence Cut-Out Sounds 
4-95.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Bass Pattern No.2 
4-96.   Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan - Same Pattern, High Pitched
4-97.   Fred Judd - Spoken Letter from Fred Judd to Tom Dissevelt
Author – Dick Raaijmakers, Henk Badings, Kees Tazelaar, Rudie Kagie
Producer, Mastered By, Edited By – Kees Tazelaar

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Tom Waits ‎– The Black Rider (1993)

Style: Blues Rock, Alternative Rock, Music Hall, Noise
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Island Records, Alka-Seltzer Medien GmbH

01.   Lucky Day Overture
02.   The Black Rider
03.   November
04.   Just The Right Bullets
05.   Black Box Theme
06.   'T' Ain't No Sin
07.   Flash Pan Hunter / Intro
08.   That's The Way
09.   The Briar And The Rose
10.   Russian Dance
11.   Gospel Train / Orchestra
12.   I'll Shoot The Moon
13.   Flash Pan Hunter
14.   Crossroads
15.   Gospel Train
16.   Interlude
17.   Oily Night
18.   Lucky Day
19.   The Last Rose Of Summer
20.   Carnival

Producer – Tom Waits

Just when it seemed that Los Angeles’ premier bar casualty could not get any weirder, on his 15th album, Tom Waits teams up with beat writer William Burroughs (who turns up on one song) to score a 19th-century opera. The 20 tracks, written for director Robert Wilson’s re-vision of The Black Rider, back the twisted Faustian tale with dark and wickedly funny melodies. (Onstage, the songs are performed by actors, though it’s hard to imagine these sick numbers done by anyone other than Waits.)

From his first gutter-folk album (Closing Time, from 1973) to last year’s experimental masterpiece, Bone Machine, Waits’ work has grown consistently stronger, more ambitious and less self-conscious. The Black Rider continues that tradition. Its songs offer the morbid excitement of a ride on a decrepit old Tilt-a-Whirl.

The rich, dizzying tunes incorporate graveyard fright noises, bizarre piano sounds and creepy sci-fi whistles into traditional, orchestrated Fiddler on the Roof-style melodies. A clanking, tin-can beat lurches through the material like a frantic Ichabod Crane, while disturbing violin and contorted blasts of French horn trudge along like drunken, determined sailors.

Waits’ wrenching, lounge-loser vocals hawk in ragged, carney-style tones; love songs consist of lines like “I want to build/A nest in your hair.” Burroughs’ voice hobbles through on his one track like a crotchety passerby — “T’ain’t no sin to take off your skin/And dance around in your bones,” he moans in a sexier moment — while in others the evil chatter and whining of anonymous tormented souls exude a hysterically pathetic quality.

Although this odd, operatic collaboration with Burroughs and Wilson does not completely fit in with the whiskey-and-bar-stool concept of Waits’ previous albums, it does continue his intriguing expansion into more surreal realms. His dervishlike approach to The Black Rider makes you gawk like a freakshow spectator in fear, fascination and delight.
Lorraine Ali / Rolling Stone

Jean Jacques Perrey ‎– Moog Indigo (1970)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Vanguard, BGP Records

A1.   Soul City
A2.   E.V.A.
A3.   The Rose And The Cross
A4.   Cat In The Night
A5.   Flight Of The Bumblebee
A6.   Moog Indigo
B1.   Gossipo Perpetuo
B2.   Country Rock Polka
B3.   The Elephant Never Forgets
B4.   18th Century Puppet
B5.   Hello Dolly
B6.   Passport To The Future

Performer – Jean-Jacques Perrey
Written-By – Andy Badale, Mann, Fernand Bouillon, Gary Carol, Gilbert Sigrist, Harry Breuer, Perrey, Jerry Herman, Marie Perreault, Pat Prilly

Without a ship Columbus could not have traversed the Atlantic, without a telescope Galileo could not have charted the solar system, and what the MOOG SYNTHESISER opens up for the future of music is beyond dreams. This enthusiastic proclamation was originally published on the back cover of Moog Indigo by Jean Jacques Perrey (released on Vanguard in 1970). Conveying the optimism of an earlier era, it offered new adventures and promised to make the impossible possible. It was overlooked by a generation.The obscure composer Jean Jacques Perrey was born in a little village in northern France in 1929. He learned piano by ear, teaching himself after receiving an accordion as a Christmas gift at the age of 4. By 1952, Perrey was studying medicine, until he met George Jenny. Jenny had just invented the Ondioline, a keyboard capable of reproducing the sound of many melodic instruments while creating electronic timbres simultaneously. Perrey left medical school to travel through Europe's many cities, demonstrating this ancestor of the modern synthesiser. The Ondioline gave Perrey his first hit, performing with French singing star Charles Trenet and playing alongside Django Rheinhardt on Soul Of A Poet. Their success introduced Perrey to Jean Cocteau, who told him: You should try to become well known across the ocean. You have a mission on this earth, because you were born to create.Through Cocteau, Edith Piaf organised a trans-Atlantic crossing on Perrey's behalf. Relocating to New York in 1960, Perrey became one of the first Moog musicians, creating weird beatnik electronic jams, before inventing what he described as a new process for generating rhythms, utilising the environmental sounds of musique concrete. This was evident on THE IN SOUND FROM WAY OUT and KALEIDOSCOPE VIBRATIONS: SPOTLIGHT ON THE MOOG (both Vanguard, 1966 and 1967 respectively) written in collaboration with Gershon Kingsley, one of John Cage's acolytes of the early 60s. Using only tape recorders, scissors and splicing tape Perrey and Kingsley spent weeks piecing together their uniquely comic take on the future. They also collaborated on sound design for television commercials and won a Clio Award in 1968, writing an extremely wild soundtrack for Volkswagen.Perrey returned to France in 1970, composing for television and scoring for ballet. He has produced numerous solo albums, soundtracks, commercials and therapeutic sounds for insomniacs. On reflection audiophiles agree that Perrey was ahead of his time. Little could he have known that his far out electronic entertainment would attain a credible vogue, a certain 'in-the-know' notoriety, a quarter of a century later. Now Ace are set to reissue this long lost treasure chest, characterised by exotic moods and deliciously weird breaks. MOOG INDIGO, which includes the much in-demand track E.V.A. makes a welcome return, with Jean Jacques Perrey rediscovered by a new generation it's an appropriate release. After all, the 90s are a decade in search of an identity, a sample-scramble where the future lies in the past.(c Desmond K. Hill).

Cornershop - Woman's Gotta Have It (1995)

Genre: Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Wiiija Records, Luaka Bop, Warner Bros. Records

01.   6 A.M. Jullandar Shere
02.   Hong Kong Book Of Kung Fu
03.   Roof Rack
04.   My Dancing Days Are Done
05.   Call All Destroyer
06.   Camp Orange
07.   Wog
08.   Jansimram King
09.   Looking For A Way In
10.   7:20 A.M. Jullandar Shere

Drums – Nick Simms
Guitar – A. Singh, Wallis Healey
Geetar – Ben Ayres
Percussion – Pete Hall 
Sitar, Keyboards – Saffs
Vocals, Bass – T. Singh
Written-By, Producer – T. Singh

In the beginning, God created the drone. And She said, “The drone is Good.” She was talking about the Velvet Underground of course, before John Cale took his viola and skedaddled, but unbeknownst to God, xenophobe that She is, there was another drone out there, a very cool South Asian drone native to India and Pakistan.

How cool are our South Asian brothers and sisters? So cool that they’ve based their classical, folk, AND pop music on the drone. Take your Hindustani Sangeet and Carnatic Sangeet, for instance. Both feature performers kicking out the drone on the tambura, with its four strings tuned to the tonic, and that’s hardly scratching the surface.

Which brings us to Cornershop and its genius of a front man, Punjabi Londoner Tjinder Singh, about whom the critic Robert Christgau wrote, “There are only so many places you can take the Velvet Underground at this late date… but [Singh] has found one.” What Singh did, obviously, was take that wonderful Indian drone and combine it with good old rock’n’roll to create what one critic dubbed “Hindi-pop,” or as I prefer to think of it, that nonexistent but wonderful place on the world map where Lou Reed and the Ganges converge.

On Cornershop’s 1995 sophomore release Woman’s Gotta Have It, Singh and company (Cornershop features three guitarists and another guy on the sitar, and it tells) mingle Indian-flavored drone rockers with such great Indian-free lo-fi indie numbers such as “Call All Destroyer” and “Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu,” which will make you forget all about the great Carl Douglas. And then there’s the irresistible “Wog” (a derogatory term for a dark-skinned South Asian), in which Singh repeats, “This western oriental/going full circle” to the sound of hand claps and some very cool backing vocals by Parsley and Sasha Andres. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the slow and way indie groove that constitutes “Roof Rack.” Love the sound of the meaty lead guitar on this one!

While Singh definitely has what it takes to be an indie hero, he’s at his best when he’s melding his Punjabi roots with indie pop to create a sound as infectious as a mouthful of Ganges’ water. “My Dancing Days Are Done” is a sonic experiment turned duet (love the sitar and Indian percussion), while “Camp Orange” is a funky Punjabi rocker that features lots of children singing.

But Singh really kicks out the Indian jams on album opener “6 A.M. Jullandar Shere,” which boasts a beguiling drone over which Singh sounds like he’s singing through a megaphone. And if this very-Indocentric baby sends you into a trance (as it should) the same goes double for LP closer “7:20 AM Jullandar Shere,” on which Cornershop stretches things out to 13 beguiling minutes.

They’re both great, great songs, but my own personal faves are the guitar rave-ups “Jansimram King” (a slow one that’ll poke you in the eye if you’re not alert) and “Looking for a Way In,” on which Cornershop’s guitarists play the gnarliest distorto guitar this side of the Velvet Underground’s “I Heard Her Call My Name.” Neither is particularly Indian tinged, but both are sophisticated applications of the VU Prinzip. On “Looking for a Way In” Singh and Company obviously decide the best way in is by means of carelessly modulated noise, as both the lead guitarist and the rhythm guitarist segue from VU groove to one wonderfully fucked-up freak-out.

When I asked a whiz-bang guitarist friend how Cornershop achieved said sound he mentioned some boring guitar techniques, before conceding, “It sounds like the guy just pulled a t-shirt over the guitar while playing it.” Eureka! That’s what I’m talking about! And here I thought there was no topping the frenzied guitar sound Philadelphian Ron Gallo got on last year’s “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me”! Well, think again brothers and sisters, cuz “Looking for a Way In” is the real McCoy!

Yea! Heavy and a bottle of bread, whether you prefer Cornershop’s more South Asian-influenced sound or its more westernized melodies, they have created some of the coolest music you will ever hear. From 1994’s Hold On It Hurts through to the present, Cornershop have been producing a sound that racists would no doubt refer to as “mongrelized.” To which I can only say, we’re all mongrels, darlings, so be proud of it. Now turn up the VU-meets-“Quinn the Eskimo” fusion “Brimful of Asha” (from 1997’s funkier and more experimental When I Was Born for the 7th Time) and dance your legs down to your knees. All praise to Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god!
Michael H. Little / The Vinyl District

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

VA ‎– Brain In A Box: The Science Fiction Collection (2000)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz, Rock, Funk / Soul, Blues, Pop, Classical
Label:  Rhino Entertainment Company
           Movie Themes
1-01.   Richard O'Brien - The Rocky Horror Picture Show - Science Fiction/Double Feature
1-02.   Richard Strauss - 2001: A Space Odyssey - Introduction From Also Sprach Zarathustra
1-03.   Louis And Bebe Barron - Forbidden Planet: Main Titles - Overture
1-04.   Bernard Herrmann - he Day The Earth Stood Still: Prelude/Outer Space/Radar
1-05.   Herman Stein - It Came From Outer Space: Visitors From Space
1-06.   Hans J. Salter - Creature From The Black Lagoon: Main Title
1-07.   Ed Lawrence & Fred Caroling - The Incredible Shrinking Man: Main Theme
1-08.   Russel Garcia - The Time Machine: Main Title
1-09.   Bronislau Kaper - Them!: Main Title
1-10.   Dimitri Tiomkin - The Thing (From Another World!): Prelude
1-11.   Laurie Johnson - First Men In The Moon: Main Title
1-12.   David Buttolph - The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms: Main Title
1-13.   Leonard Rosenman - Fantastic Voyage: Radio-Spot Announcement
1-14.   Leonard Rosenman - Fantastic Voyage: Main Title Sound Effects Suite
1-15.   Jerry Goldsmith - Planet Of The Apes: Main Title
1-16.   Gil Melle - The Andromeda Strain: Desert Trip
1-17.   John Williams - Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: The Conversation
1-18.   James Horner - Aliens: Ripley's Rescue
1-19.   John Williams - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Three Million Light-Years From Earth
1-20.   Basil Poledouris - Robocop: Robo Vs. Ed-209
1-21.   Basil Poledouris - Robocop: Main Title
1-22.   Brad Fiedel - Terminator 2 - Judgement Day: Trust Me
1-23.   Jerry Goldsmith - Outland: The Mine
1-24.   Leith Stevens - War Of The Worlds: Main Title & Introduction
1-25.   Alan Silvestri - Predator: Main Title
1-26.   Howard Shore - The Fly: Main Title
1-27.   Danny Elfman - Mars Attacks!: Main Title
1-28.   Don Davis - The Matrix: Anything Is Possible
           TV Themes
2-01.   Bernard Herrmann / Marius Constant - The Twilight Zone: First Season: Main Title
2-02.   John Williams - Lost In Space: Main Title / Season 3: Main Title
2-03.   George Greeley - My Favorite Martian: Theme
2-04.   Ron Grainer - Doctor Who
2-05.   Joseph Barbera / Hoyt Curtin / William Hanna - The Jetsons: Theme
2-06.   John Williams - The Time Tunnel: Main Title
2-07.   Harry Lubin - One Step Beyond: Fear
2-08.   Dominic Frontiere - The Outer Limits
2-09.   Dominic Frontiere - The Outer Limits: Main Title
2-10.   David Rose - Men Into Space: Theme
2-11.   Barry Gray - The Thunderbirds: Theme
2-12.   Barry Gray - Stingray: Theme
2-13.   Donald Rockwell & Tatsuo Takai - Astro Boy: Theme
2-14.   Paul Sawtell - Voyage Of Th Bottom Of The Sea: Main Title
2-15.   John Williams - Land Of The Giants: Main Title - Season 1
2-16.   Alexander Courage - Star Trek: Main Title & Closing Theme
2-17.   Alexander Courage & Jerry Goldsmith - Star Trek - The Next Generation: Main Theme
2-18.   Dennis McCarthy - V (The Series): Main Title
2-19.   Christopher Franke - Babylon 5: Main Title
2-20.   Alf Clausen - The Simpsons: Treehouse Of Horror I (Kang And Kodus Medley)
2-21.   Mark Snow - The X-Files: Main Title
2-22.   Unknown Artist - Changing Channels...
3-01.   The Tornadoes - Telstar
3-02.   Jimmy Haskell And His Orchestra - Blast Off
3-03.   The Marketts - Out Of Limits
3-04.   Jefferson Airplane - Have You Seen The Saucers
3-05.   Graham Parker & The Rumour - Waiting For The UFO's
3-06.   Harry Nilsson - Spaceman
3-07.   Spirit - Space Child
3-08.   Suburban Lawns - Flying Saucer Safari
3-09.   Soul Inc. - UFO
3-10.   Joe Bennett & The Sparkletones - Rocket
3-11.   Webb Wilder - Rocket To Nowhere
3-12.   They Might Be Giants - For Science
3-13.   Lothar And The Hand People - Machines
3-14.   Stan Ridgway - Beyond Tomorrow
3-15.   Milton De Lugg - Theme For The Creature From Under The Sea
3-16.   T-Bone Burnett - Humans From Earth
3-17.   The Ventures - Fear (Main Title From "One Step Beyond")
3-18.   Vernon Green / The Medallions - Rocket Ship
3-19.   Chris Conner - Radar Blues
3-20.   Roky Erickson - Creature With The Atom Brain
3-21.   Kathy McCarty - Rocket Ship
3-22.   Prelude - After The Gold Rush
4-01.   Russ Garcia & His Orchestra - Frozen Neptune
4-02.   Les Baxter - Lunar Rhapsody
4-03.   Ferrante & Teicher - Man From Mars
4-04.   Frank Comstock - On The Dark Side Of The Moon
4-05.   Les Baxter - Saturday Night On Saturn
4-06.   Attilio Mineo - Welcome To Tomorrow
4-07.   Dick Hyman - Space Reflex (Blues In 5/4)
4-08.   Gustav Holst - Mars, Bringer Of War From The Planets
4-09.   Dr. Samuel Hoffman - Theremin Solo
4-10.   Billy Mure - Guitars In Space
4-11.   Russ Garcia & His Orchestra - Nova (Exploding Star)
4-12.   Sun Ra - Space Is The Place
4-13.   Raymond Scott & His Orchestra - Twilight Zone
4-14.   Perrey & Kingsley - Cosmic Ballad
4-15.   Dick Hyman - Moon Gas
4-16.   Russ Garcia & His Orchestra - Monsters Of Jupiter
4-17.   Jerry Goldsmith - She Likes Me
4-18.   Frank Coe - Tone Tales From Tomorrow
4-19.   Leonard Nimoy - Alien9
4-20.   David Garland & John Zorn - On Planet X
5-01.   Buchanan & Goodman - The Flying Saucer
5-02.   Louis Prima - Beep! Beep!
5-03.   The Five Blobs - The Blob
5-04.   The Ran-Dells - Martian Hop
5-05.   Leonard Nimoy - Music To Watch Space Girls By
5-06.   The B-52's - Planet Claire
5-07.   The Dickies - Gigantor
5-08.   Ella Fitzgerald With Sy Oliver's Orchestra - Two Little Men In A Flying Saucer
5-09.   The Rezillos - Flying Saucer Attack
5-10.   Billy Lee Riley And The Little Green Men - Flyin' Saucers Rock & Roll
5-11.   Mojo Nixon & World Famous Blue Jays - UFOs, Big Rigs And BBQ
5-12.   Jimmy Durante - We're Going Ufo'ing
5-13.   The Rubinoos - Surf Trek
5-14.   The Holy Modal Rounders - Mr. Spaceman
5-15.   Satellite Singers - Meet Space Pilot Jones
5-16.   Sheb Wooley - The Purple People Eater
5-17.   Buck Trail - Knocked Out Joint On Mars
5-18.   Bill Carlisle - Tiny Space Man
5-19.   Buchanan Brothers & The Georgia Catamounts - (When You See) Those Flying Saucers
5-20.   Parliament - UnFunky UFO
5-21.   The Kirby Stone Four - You Came From Outer Space

It's hard not to look at Rhino's lavish five-disc set Brain in a Box: The Science Fiction Collection as it sits encased in a large metal cube covered with 3-D illustrations and wonder why does it exist and who is it for. This is an expensive set, retailing at nearly $100, and it's filled with recordings that aren't exactly designed for casual listening. Then again, this box is not designed for listening -- it's designed as a conversation piece, a piece of pop culture, and, most likely, a sure-fire Grammy nominee (and winner) for best packaging. And, if you ignore the fact that this isn't really that listenable, even though it covers nearly every base in its five designated categories -- movies themes, TV themes, pop songs, incidental/lounge music, and novelty tunes -- this is a pretty remarkable package, capturing much of the irresistible kitsch of sci-fi pop culture. Make no mistake about it, even if Ray Bradbury contributes an essay for the hardcover 200-page book, this is all about the wonderfully silly comics, B-movies, and dime store magazines that thrived in the '50s and '60s, then was recycled and ironically revived throughout the remaining three decades of the 20th century. Occasionally, Brain in a Box delves into the more measured, intellectual side of sci-fi -- not just by acknowledging that films like Planet of the Apes were very smart, but spending time on think-pieces as varied as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Matrix. Still, when the second in the set kicks off with Richard O'Brien's "Science Fiction/Double Feature," the incomparable opening salvo from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it's clear that the compilers favored kitsch and camp. That's fine -- that's what makes this set fun. And, truth be told, the book is as much fun, if not more, than the discs, since not only are the essays strong, but the pictures of old movie posters, magazine covers and ads, comic books, ViewMasters, and action figures from '50s tin robots to Futurama's Bender are utterly enthralling -- at least if you're a pop-culture junkie. Does that make Brain in a Box worth all the money? Well, if (and only if) you found that list of artifacts exciting and you like "Telstar," Esquivel, and Tim Burton's Mars Attacks, plus aren't annoyed by Dr. Demento and don't find Dr. Who strangely unsettling; it may be, you may not put it on much, but it looks nice on the shelf and there are all sorts of great geeky treasures inside. Which might mean that it's worth it, provided that you realize you're buying the package for the package, not the music.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine / AllMusic

Rita Braga ‎– Time Warp Blues (2020)

Genre: Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label:  Not On Label

01.   Love Is Noir
02.   Tremble Like A Ghost
03.   Kuningaskobra
04.   You Used To Be Stevie Wonder
05.   Branca De Neve
06.   Ectoplasma
07.   Amore 002
08.   Human Failure
09.   Revelation
10.   Sardine
11.   Pussycat
12.   Drown

Violin – Galina Juritz
Bass, Guitar – Andrea Roca 
Mastered By – Yan Hart-Lemonnier
Producer, Recorded By, Mixed By – Andrea Roca
Vocals, Organ, Ukulele, Banjolin, Synth, Percussion, Producer – Rita Braga

Rita Braga está de volta aos álbuns: Time Warp Blues é o seu terceiro longa-duração e vai ser editado no dia 20 de Novembro. Do novo disco, a compositora e multi-instrumentista já apresentou dois singles, sendo “Pussycat”, que pode ser encontrado aqui, a mais recente amostra.

Como se explica em comunicado de imprensa, “para entrar no universo de Rita Braga, imaginem-se num local que se assemelha a um circo americano do século passado onde, depois de se dirigirem ao interior de uma tenda, se deparam com uma casa de espelhos. Cada um desses reflexos exibe uma faceta de Time Warp Blues, o terceiro disco da cantora e multi instrumentista Rita Braga: a naïve art de Space Lady; os bizarros sons de Bruce Haack; a polirritmia das Raincoats; a cinematografia de Eraserhead e toda uma espiral de fantasmas e viagens no tempo. O que têm todos estes reflexos em comum? O peculiar uso do ukulele por Rita Braga, acompanhada de teclados e caixas de ritmos vintage e banjolele”.

O álbum, co-produzido por Andrea Rocca, em Londres, e que revela momentos em  inglês, português, finlandês e japonês, “é um portal para uma espiral de fantasmas e viagens no tempo, que evoca períodos históricos recentes e nos relembra do futuro distópico em que vivemos. Alguns dos temas são interpretados por diferentes “personas”: “Amore 002” é uma espia sedutora criada por um algoritmo de inteligência artificial; “Branca de Neve” é a personagem dos contos de fada que canta dentro do caixão de vidro, congelada no tempo. O fantasma no single “Tremble Like a Ghost” diz-nos que ainda vivemos em 1984. “You Used to be Stevie Wonder” é um tributo ao legendário músico underground Peter Ivers (que compôs o tema “In Heaven” do filme de culto surrealista Eraserhead), e “Pussycat” é uma versão da artista japonesa Miharu Koshi”.
Ana Ventura / MdeMúsica

Tom Waits ‎– Bone Machine (1992)

Style: Experimental, Ballad, Post Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Island Records

01.   Earth Died Screaming
02.   Dirt In The Ground
03.   Such A Scream
04.   All Stripped Down
05.   Who Are You
06.   The Ocean Doesn't Want Me
07.   Jesus Gonna Be Here
08.   A Little Rain (for Clyde)
09.   In The Colosseum
10.   Goin' Out West
11.   Murder In The Red Barn
12.   Black Wings
13.   Whistle Down The Wind (for Tom Jans)
14.   I Don't Wanna Grow Up
15.   Let Me Get Up On It
16.   That Feel

Electric Bass – Les Claypool
Saxophone – Ralph Carney
Drums – Brain
Saxophone – Ralph Carney
Banjo – Joe Marquez
Accordion – David Hidalgo
Double Bass – Larry Taylor 
Guitar – Joe Gore, Larry Taylor, Keith Richards, Waddy Wachtel
Pedal Steel Guitar – David Phillips
Producer – Tom Waits

For more than twenty years, Tom Waits has chronicled the small wins and grotesque losses of the seedy underworld. Bone Machine, his first full-length studio album since Frank’s Wild Years (1987), continues observing a world of deathly mysteries, half-baked gospel truths and secular ambitions. His drunken bluster to the fore, Waits tramples melodies with an ear for twisting clichés. The music matches Waits’s hollers with plenty of upright bass, late-night piano and over-the-top percussion.

But it’s Bone Machine‘s preoccupation with death that brings these songs to life. The album begins with “Earth Died Screaming,” a surrealist nightmare (“The devil shovels coal/With crows as big as airplanes”); Waits sings in oblivion: “And the earth died screaming/While I lay dreaming of you.” He follows that up with the existentialist tract “Dirt in the Ground,” offering the leveling truth that “we’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground.” Two songs later (“All Stripped Down”), he foresees Judgment Day.

Throughout the album lonesome travelers and restless strangers battle their lives with drink, religion and the active search for somewhere better than here. “A little trouble makes it worth the going/And a little rain never hurt no one/The world is round/And so I’ll go around/You must risk something that matters,” Waits sings on “A Little Rain,” with David Phillips’s pedal steel sweeping through the background. No one needs convincing.

It’s a song older than Waits himself — older than Hank Williams, older than Robert Johnson — that Waits is chasing, the simple mystery of where life goes: “I don’t wanna float a broom/Fall in love and get married and then boom/How the hell did it get here so soon?/I don’t wanna grow up.” Albums this rich with spiritual longing prove the validity of that effort, no matter the odds.
Rob O'Connor / Rolling Stone

Monday, 14 December 2020

Essential Logic ‎– Beat Rhythm News - Waddle Ya Play ? (1979)

Style: New Wave, Post-Punk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rough Arletty, Rough Trade

A1.   Quality Crayon Wax OK
A2.   The Order Form
A3.   Shabby Abbott
A4.   World Friction
B1.   Wake Up
B2.   Albert
B3.   Alkaline Loaf In The Area
B4.   Collecting Dust
B5.   Popcorn Boy (Waddle Ya Do?)

Drums – Rich Tea
Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals – Mark Turner 
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Ashley Buff
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Lead Vocals – Lora Logic
Tenor Saxophone, Backing Vocals, Cowbell – Dave Wright
Written-By – Lora Logic
Arranged By – Essential Logic
Producer – Hugh Jones, Lora Logic

Never released in America, this is a stunning record that remains a benchmark of the punk era. From the bubbling, herky-jerky rhythms of "Quality Crayon Wax OK" to the gleeful honking of "Wake Up," this is the sound of five young English musicians disassembling rock & roll and remaking it in an entirely new way. It's more than just a different way of playing music; it, like the best punk rock, fills you with the feeling of being able to change the world. An underrated record of its time, it remains criminally overlooked by critics even today (with such notable exceptions as Greil Marcus and Jon Savage), as the history of punk is finally being written.
John Dougan / AllMusic

John Foxx ‎– The Garden (1981)

Style: New Wave, Synth-pop
Format: CD. Vinyl
Label: Metal Beat, Virgin, Edsel Records 

1-01.   Europe After The Rain
1-02.   Systems Of Romance
1-03.   When I Was A Man And You Were A Woman
1-04.   Dancing Like A Gun
1-05.   Pater Noster
1-06.   Night Suit
1-07.   You Were There
1-08.   Fusion/Fission
1-09.   Walk Away
1-10.   The Garden
2-01.   Swimmer 2
2-02.   This Jungle
2-03.   Miles Away
2-04.   A Long Time
2-05.   Swimmer 1
2-06.   Fog
2-07.   Swimmer 3
2-08.   Swimmer 4
2-09.   Dance With Me (Early Version)
2-10.   A Woman On A Stairway (Early Version)
2-11.   Fusion/Fission (Early Version)
2-12.   Miles Away (Alternative Version)

Bass – Jake Durant, Jo Dworniak
Drums – Philip Roberts
Guitar – Robin Simon
Percussion – Gareth Jones
Bass, Bongos, Cymbal, Percussion, Piano, Synthesizer – Duncan Bridgeman
Programming, Guitar, Piano, Synthesizer – John Foxx

In 1981, John Foxx escaped the grey concrete of Metamatic, choosing instead towade through overgrown European gardens, drift silently through the mist of fountains and gaze at colours reflected through stained-glass windows. 
Towards the end of 1980, a new single, "Miles Away", was released – although the song did not feature on either Metamatic or The Garden, the sound and style of the track, with it's huge synths and more live parts such as drums and guitar, bridged gave an indication of the shape of things to come, bridging the gap between Foxx's first two solo albums.

The Garden is a complete contrast to Foxx's stark debut, Metamatic, offering a fuller, more organic sound. The return of Robin Simon on guitar heralded a distinctive style for this album, making it somewhat comparable to Systems of Romance – no coincidence, since The Garden features "Systems of Romance", a song originally written for the last Ultravox album, but never completed. For The Garden, Foxx settled comfortably back into the sound and style that he had forged back in 1978.

Foxx had become again obsessed with the overgrown jungles and abandoned cities of author JG Ballard's The Drowned World, and following a walking tour of England, and a time spent living in Italy, a more European flavour began to run through his music. By 1981, with new romanticism in full flow, John Foxx knew he wanted to produce a more natural and textured album – even taking it to the extreme of recording outdoors. In addition to guitar, more real bass and piano were played on The Garden, adding depth and warmth.

Architecture, fountains, swimming, overgrown gardens and churches are recurrent themes in many of the lyrics on The Garden, although tracks such as “When I Was A Man and You Were A Woman” lyrically reflect the city setting of Metamatic. The album's opening track, “Europe After the Rain” takes its name from the Max Ernst painting of the same name; an image featuring a strange organic, overgrown landscape, which nicely ties-in with the Ballard influence.

Foxx's childhood experience of singing in a church choir come into play on the vocorder-treated “Pater Noster”, and the synth-funk of “Blue Light” from Systems of Romance, is revisited for “Night Suit”, which also revisits the familiar “Quiet Men” territory. Vocally Foxx sounds liberated, with a sharper, warmer performance. A real passion is felt on tracks such as "Walk Away", "Europe After the Rain" and the haunting title track, which closes the album. Echoes of birdsong open “The Garden”, which stands out not only as the finest piece on the album, but also one of John Foxx's most emotive songs to date.

“The Garden” fades out to birdsong, which is, in retrospect, a stylistic nod in the direction of Foxx's long-running Cathedral Oceans project, which he started around the same time – although the first Cathedral Oceans album would not see the light of day until 1997.

The Garden was released in 1981, and followed the footsteps of Metamatic in the UK album and singles charts. A number of original vinyl issues of the album came with an illustrated LP-sized book called The Church. It is very a different album to its predecessor – almost like a second debut, yet musically The Garden remains equally as unique, interesting and addictive.

The 2008 remaster of The Garden comes with a mini reproduction of the Church booklet and a second disc containing a selection of tracks, many of which were previously unavailable. This includes early versions of some album tracks as well as the instrumentals “Fog” and “Swimmer 3” and “Swimmer 4” - these two pieces had previously appears on the 1983 Touch Meridians compilation album, entitled “The Quiet Man” 3 and 4 respectively. These tracks give a particularly interesting insight into the unreleased instrumental music Foxx was experimenting with at the time, some of which clearly influenced his Cathedral Oceans work.

XTC ‎– Oranges & Lemons (1989)

Style: New Wave, Pop Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Geffen Records, Virgin

01.   Garden Of Earthly Delights
02.   The Mayor Of Simpleton
03.   King For A Day
04.   Here Comes President Kill Again
05.   The Loving
06.   Poor Skeleton Steps Out
07.   One Of The Millions
08.   Scarecrow People
09.   Merely A Man
10.   Cynical Days
11.   Across This Antheap
12.   Hold Me My Daddy
13.   Pink Thing
14.   Miniature Sun
15.   Chalkhills And Children

Mastered By – Stephen Marcussen
Performer – Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory
Written-By – Partridge, Moulding
Producer – Paul Fox

"I don't know how to write a big hit song", Andy Partridge sings on this album, and if there's one way to sum up the frustration that XTC must have felt throughout their whole career, that's got to be it. Frustration that neither their managers nor their producers seemed to understand what they were aiming for. Frustration that their record company went from being uninterested in them to really uninterested in them once Partridge's stage fright got the best of him. Frustration as they watched other New Wavers such as Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, The Jam, and U2 become household names while they languished in relative obscurity. The irony is that the song the line appears on, 'Mayor Of Simpleton', is about as pure a shot of Grade-A pop as you can find, a slam-dunk smash hit if there ever was one - it peaked at #46 in the UK.

Of course, they brought a lot of it on themselves. Obviously their refusal to tour was a big factor, as was their tendency to ignore any passing fads; while their first four records all fit in well with the post-punk movement, from English Settlement on they've felt like a band out of time. The band had previously been big on being able to reproduce their albums live, but now that they were no longer playing live, all sorts of crazy things were allowed to happen. In the years prior to Oranges & Lemons, the band found themselves trying hard to replicate the bands they grew up admiring - both under their assumed names as the Dukes of Stratosphear, and with the Todd Rundgren-produced Skylarking. All this ranks among the best work Moulding and Partridge ever did; maybe all they really needed was to be born 15 years earlier. It wound up breathing some life into the band financially, too - while Mummer and The Big Express tanked, Skylarking wound up being one of the most successful albums of the band's career. Partially because it spawned their most well-known song ('Dear God', originally a B-side), and partially because it's a really damn good album. But it was not really a great time for Partridge; he was going through turmoil both personally and professionally, as both his marriage and career seemed to be going down the tubes.

Oranges & Lemons is an attempt for the band to loosen themselves up; as the cover implies, they were going to be gaudish and colorful and nobody was going to stop them. After butting egos with the notoriously headstrong Todd Rundgren, the band hired Paul Fox to produce - a fan with no prior production experience. Where Skylarking was painstakingly edited and arranged, Oranges & Lemons lets everything hang out, and wound up as a double album that flies all over the map. The sort of outlandish tunes that previously wouldn't have made it past the demo stage were showcased front and center here. Needless to say, many of the fans weren't really into it; nowadays you generally hear it spoken of in terms of "Well, I like it, but..."   That's a big "but". Indeed, Oranges & Lemons is the first XTC album that gives us a lot to complain about. If only it weren't so long - sure, English Settlement is longer, but the songs there had a lot more substance. Here, they're like candy bars; the first few are enjoyable, but fifteen in a row can make you sick to your stomach. If only the production was better - Paul Fox gives everything a shiny, in-your-face gloss that gives the album too much zip, the sort of thing Rundgren would've nipped out right away. Nearly every instrument is mixed to the forefront; it's too well-arranged to be cacophonous, but there's a degree of sensory overload, especially given the band's newfound tendency to blast synthesizers in our faces. In only there weren't so many instruments. And so on.   It didn't have to be this way - there really is a great album buried somewhere in here, if you're willing to find it. Hell, if you're the kind of person who loves 'Shake You Donkey Up', this may be your favorite XTC album already. Partridge and Moulding come from a long history of overstepping their vocal boundaries, and writing lyrics to match ("I want to take you out and show you to the girls", Partridge sings on a song that is definitely about his penis) - and as 'Wounded Horse' on Wasp Star shows, they'd do this till the bitter end. But their songwriting instincts generally keep their heads above water. Indeed, the songs on Oranges & Lemons may press down hard on the irritating button, but there are good ideas lurking on most tracks. Some of this is hard to redeem - 'Here Comes President Kill Again' is a dull marching tune, Moulding sleepwalks through 'Cynical Days', and 'Miniature Sun' attempts to imitate jazz by overloading the listener with loud honking noises. But otherwise, ideas that should fail wind up working, through rich arrangements ('Garden of Earthly Delights') or undeniably hooky melodies ('Poor Skeleton Steps Out').

  So ultimately whether or not this album holds up for you depends on how much you like the band's boisterous side. While Partridge has matured a lot from the guy who barked all over 'All Along the Watchtower' on White Music, something seems to have brought those instincts back - perhaps having kids, which much of this album is a testament to lyrically. Only now he's got a horn section to play with, and a producer who doesn't seem able to tell him "no". But it's not just Partridge - Moulding gets his goofball moment on the third song, with 'King For A Day', a chirpy single with more than a passing resemblance to 'Everybody Wants To Rule the World'; exactly the sort of thing Rundgren might have a conniption about, but Fox lets it slide. As gimmicky as this album can be, there's no denying that the fun factor is through the roof. Still, Oranges & Lemons is one of those albums that works better in pieces than as a whole. It does boast some of the band's best songs; the aforementioned 'Mayor Of Simpleton' is about as good as pop music can get, and the closing 'Chalkhills And Children' realizes Partridge's lifelong dream of writing a timeless 'Good Vibrations'-type song of his own. Even if the rest of the album provokes an allergic reaction in you, it's worth keeping for 'Chalkhills' alone. I'd also rank 'One Of The Millions' as one of Moulding's best; it's jangly, has great harmonies, and is instrumentally rich - basically everything he does well at once.   Alas, Oranges & Lemons signalled the beginning of the end for the band. Even though 'Mayor Of Simpleton' made a minor dent, the other two singles ('King for a Day' and 'The Loving') didn't, and soon both Moulding and Dave Gregory found themselves working at a car rental spot to sustain themselves between royalty checks while recording their next album, 1992's Nonsuch. Nonsuch was XTC in their full-blown adult phase; recorded with veteran producer Gus Dudgeon, it's refreshingly more restrained than Oranges & Lemons was, and holds up a lot better today. Listening to it today, it feels like XTC realizing that it may be their last chance, and therefore putting everything they've got into making something timeless. But the result was business as usual for the band; heaps of critical acclaim, a few minor singles, and hardly a dent on the charts. From there they'd split with Virgin; we'd hear from them one last time with the double Apple Venus/Wasp Star which was released over a two year period, but as of now it seems doubtful that either member will want to get involved with writing new music again.

On one hand, this is a real shame; today, Apple Venus feels a hell of a lot more relevant and skillful than the sort of albums XTC’s contemporaries were making 20 years into their careers. On the other, their lack of success made it a lot easier for them to walk away once they ran out of ideas, and as it stands now, XTC’s discography is one towering, absolutely essential beast, from start to finish. For even when they massively stacked the deck against themselves on Oranges & Lemons, they still managed to create something that still endears in its own way 25 years later.
Nick Reed / The Quietus

Sunday, 13 December 2020

XTC ‎– The Big Express (1984)

Style: New Wave, Power Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Geffen Records, Virgin

01.   Wake Up
02.   All You Pretty Girls
03.   Shake You Donkey Up
04.   Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her
05.   This World Over
06.   The Everyday Story Of Smalltown
07.   I Bought Myself A Liarbird
08.   Reign Of Blows
09.   You're The Wish You Are I Had
10.   I Remember The Sun
11.   Train Running Low On Soul Coal
Bonus Tracks
12.   Red Brick Dream
13.   Washaway
14.   Blue Overall

Drums – Peter Phipps
Violin, Viola – Stuart Gordon
Vocals, Bass – Colin Moulding
Piano, Mellotron, Synthesizer, Electric Guitar – Dave Gregory
Vocals, Harmonica, Electric Guitar, Drum Machine – Andy Partridge
Written-By – Andy Partridge
Producer – David Lord, XTC

’80s music’ is a phrase that seems to conjure up some very negative images nowadays. Yet as all Louder Than War readers will know, this was actually a hugely creative period in British music with a range of outstanding albums delivered. One of the most underrated in my opinion, and one that never dates because it floats above any genre categorisation, is XTC’s The Big Express. It doesn’t need this article to make the case for this band being our most undervalued, the evidence is repeatedly clear in a string of classic, innovative and hugely influential albums. It’s 30 years this week since The Big Express was released, in some ways a product of its time, but in many others, completely timeless.

Britain was an interesting place in 1984, with the battle of Orgreave the set piece for a polarised political and social scene. The England cricket team had been thrashed 5-0 by the West Indies but an event in Parliament a few months before gave us a hint of a possible influence on this outstanding album.

On December 5th 1983, Hansard records questions to David Mitchell, the Conservative Minister for Transport regarding the future of the Railway Workshops in Swindon and York. The Minister is evasive at best as Gwyneth Dunwoody and Robin Cook attempt to pin him down regarding a failure to place orders that can help to modernise the rail network and save the workshops. Eventually the truth is squeezed out as Mitchell states that orders can’t be justified. The future of the Swindon works was sealed and they eventually closed in 1986.

The impending Swindon Works closure is a backdrop to an album that does not scream about politics or fashion but simply chugs along like the perfectly unique tracks that XTC had spent years labouring on. The Big Express pulled out of the sidings in Swindon in the autumn of 1984 with no pretensions and no huge fanfare, but for me it will always be a landmark album. The political and social issues of the time are in the picture, but like many a classic Old Master, the artist has not focused on one issue at the expense of others. The fine background detail is often as fascinating as the main subject. This brilliant canvas is a broad sweep of issues, large and small, brought together as only XTC were capable of doing.

XTC in 1984 were not the chart-busting force they had been from 1978-1982 when their brand of angular but highly infectious pop regularly graced the charts. What many critics consider their finest album, the excellent English Settlement, had been released two years previously but since then there had been a few changes.

They no longer played live, the punishing schedule they’d endured for years had led to Andy Partridge suffering a stress related illness and taking the brave but creditable decision to quit touring for self-preservation. In a separate development, powerhouse drummer Terry Chambers had quit to start a new life in Australia, which left Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory to operate a guerrilla rearguard in defence of musical innovation from their Swindon hide-out. This they have managed to do successfully into 21st Century, producing along the way rare album gems such as 1986’s Skylarking and 1999’s Apple Venus (which I think Andy Partridge would nominate as their best) and successfully going ‘on strike’ against their Virgin label.

A year earlier in 1983 XTC had released the pastorally triumphant Mummer, an album that still serves as the perfect foil to The Big Express, Venus to Mars in the Solar System of the XTC catalogue. Drums have always been so essential to the XTC sound and Pete Phipps had stepped in for Mummer and kept the stool for The Big Express, and what a performance he turned in. There is a distinct hammering beat throughout the album, with the drums seemingly higher in the mix as the sounds conjure pictures of this great steam engine powering through the mid-80s landscape. This image is reinforced by the cover shots of the band dressed as engine drivers and a wheel-shaped sleeve design that I misguidedly thought at the time would be rare.

XTC: The Big Express – A Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration – album reappraisalLike all good train journeys, The Big Express begins in early morning with one of only two Moulding contributions, Wake Up. This is not one to ease yourself into the day with as the bleary-eyed commuter is smacked between the eyes with the sentiment, “Who cares, you might be dead”, as the realisation dawns with the day that you’re ultimately alone in a harsh world. Trademark Partridge guitar riffs clash with Dave Gregory’s piano to create a suitably unsettling opener which ends with the gentle choral encouragement to rouse oneself.

It would be a good idea to wake up as the Express next heads to the coast for the rumbustious refrain of All You Pretty Girls; a sea shanty type hymn of devotion to the fairer sex. Lusty vocals combine with a powering drum beat to ensure a rattling sing-along but the real joy of The Big Express, the genius even, is the total unpredictability of what station it will stop at next. This is a classic collection of boundary-pushing, genre-bending, irresistible songs that sit perfectly together simply because they do.
Shake You Donkey Up is a full-on ‘country and west-country’ style ho-down with the jilted lover portrayed as a jackass. ‘Look at he long ears, and he big brown eyes, and with them the truth he’s seeing’. This is superb imagery and should be played on repeat on the radio until someone realises there is an alternative to the tired love song formula we repeatedly endure. We return to the seaside theme in Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her with the image of a damp brass band and a sea that’s ‘warship grey’ as a dithering lover attempts to pluck up the courage to kiss his new love. Here is reason enough to label this album as ‘classic’.

The predictable format of a love song, which would be thrashed within an inch of its life during the 1980s, is picked up, turned inside out and presented as something utterly original. The lover who has blown it lumbering round as a donkey while the one who can’t even get started is shivering nervously on the Prom. Four songs in and four totally different styles of music including fiddles, euphoniums, accordions and choirs and we’re just getting started.

The final stop on side one of the journey has a deceptively gentle introduction as Partridge wistfully sighs “Ah well that’s this world over”. However, the pounding drum backdrop ensures that what seems at first an acoustic lament is actually one of the most powerful anti-nuclear songs written in that period. Andy Partridge lyrics are never less than fascinating but here he zeroes in on the most vulnerable spot any parent will ever have, their children’s welfare and future; so we hear of the new born twins’ mother drying odd numbered limbs and the father showing his children a London that’s now reduced to rubble. All this due to Ronald Reagan, the leader with a famous face, and his limited nuclear war theory.

After taking on more coal and water, the Big Express pulls out for Side 2  with a track that you can enjoy if you live in the city or the countryside. However, it’s better for those of us who live in a small town as we don’t get many songs, certainly not of this standard anyway.  Without reproducing all the lyrics, it’s hard to share the full joy of (The Everyday Story of) Smalltown that eulogises the life so many of us lead, but “Smalltown, coughing in the toilet, who on earth would spoil it, would they pull down smalltown” captures the essence of life as sure as a Lowry painting. Kazoo opening and a driving drum pattern merge with brass at the triumphant ending of yet another XTC masterpiece of the mundane.

I Bought Myself a Liarbird is a track that has attracted some debate as the subject of the song is apparently XTC’s ex-manager. However, if we  focus on the use of imagery, “he grew too greedy, bough will break and then we will find that liarbirds are really flightless on their own” alongside an irresistible chorus and guitar riiff  you have a perfect lead into a Cold War classic album highlight.

Reign of Blows (Vote No Violence) takes us deep into the reality of a world where super powers still fought each other, but just used other countries to do it in. “And iron maidens will slam, and by the half-light of burning republics, Joe Stalin looks just like Uncle Sam” captures the era perfectly and with a screaming guitar and thumping drums, you almost feel as if your pleasant train journey through the shires has suddenly taken a nasty diversion through the US invasion of Grenada.

After that, it’s a blessed relief to hear the gentle, almost jazz-like nostalgia of Colin Moulding’s I Remember the Sun. In a manner that is continued with Grass and The Meeting Place on 1986’s Skylarking, Moulding looks back fondly on younger days in what is the calmest part of the journey on The Big Express.  You’re The Wish You Are I Had is something of a conundrum as we try to fathom if the character that Andy Partridge gives voice to is trying to justify an affair, met the woman of his dreams or is “going off his head” in a song of tension-filled verses broken by a joyous chorus.

Like all journeys, this one must come to an end but sadly there won’t be a happy ending. In fact, we’re heading for disaster, both mentally and physically as the thumping and creaking start of Train Running Low On Soul Coal soon gives way to the realisation that this train is out of control. In an instant, the concerns Andy Partridge feels about record company pressures, being seen as ‘old’ in the music business and the fate of the Swindon Works collide as he sings “I’m a thirty year old puppy doing what I’m told and I’m told there’s no more coal for the older engines”. This is a track of immense power and Dave Gregory later described the middle eight as the best thing the band had written up to that point and it is a thing of dark beauty as once again, the band create a vivid image with music that actually places you in the careering carriage as the “Hammer goes down, brakes all scream, me and a couple of empty carriages slide downhill, still, next stop bad dreams ville”.

The Big Express crashes, the journey is over and all that’s left is the sound of the train falling apart as the driver, Andy Partridge, is left on the footplate mumbling repeatedly “me train running low”. Crawling out of that wreckage for the umpteenth time, I’m going to say it, this album is a masterpiece. If you’ve heard it, you may agree; if you haven’t, take the ride and see where it takes you.

XTC then had their longest sabbatical before returning nearly three years later with the sumptuous Skylarking which has recently been re-released with corrected polarity after it was discovered that the recording of the bass had been wrongly engineered. The band will also soon be re-releasing their classic 1979 album Drums and Wires in re-mastered format so there is plenty still to excite the many loyal followers of one of our greatest musical institutions.
Dave Jennings /Louder Than War