You’re all invited to the official launch of the completed box-set project. Free rum and virtual drugs, guest speakers, a performing jazz monkey, impromptu breakdancing, and howling at the Pacific moon. Bring a friend with a friend. A fleet of helicopters are being amassed as I write this. We just need to sort out some pilots….
Okay, here goes. Pull up something resembling a seat, grab a bottle and some Rongovian Tundra, wink at someone skulking in the corner and together myself, Simon Piler, Brendon Hertz and a slightly pissed Jazz Monk will talk you through the records that make up this unique collaboration. The raffle will follow shortly. The strippers arrive at 2am. And if anyone’s still standing at dawn then I’ll see you in the Rec Room for a game of drunken ping-pong:
THE REAL BURNOUTS – “Fully Involved EP”
2009 may well very prove to be the year of the Real Burnout. Where all around us musicians we have loved and listened very closely to, run out of songs, pack up their guitars, slump into funks, and throw in the novelty musical note towel, on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the little city of Utica, The Real Burnouts have been down in the basement cooking up records. This year alone we’ve already seen the following – two full-length records “Post Show Post Traumatic Ultimate Mundane”, and “(In) A World Not Unlike Your Own”, a compendium of unreleased hits “Copious Maximus”, and word on the street is that a fourth unreleased album sits loaded up in the Cozy Home torpedo chamber, that may or may not still be called “Dark”. In fact, The Real Burnouts have been so productive that I half expected an invitation to contribute to The Invisible Box-Set to be met with a completely burned out silence.
But of course when you’re on a roll, well then there’s nothing you can do to keep yourself from keeping rolling. Commander in Chief of the band (Paul Burnout), enthusiastically reported throughout August that he was working on a masterpiece record called “The Disinfection of Walter”, and that they would be playing the album in full accompanied by actors and/or dancers at a Utica music festival. 3 weeks later I got a message to say that this psychedelic symphony had been such a success that “..Walter” was going to be re-recorded in a studio environment. “Don’t worry”, said Paul, “there’s still a week for me to write and record something new”.
And so they did. “Fully Involved” is an eight track EP, recorded in two sittings and only a few action-packed hours. At the wheel are the twin force of two of the Cozy Home’s most eminently original musicians – Paul and Bobby, and as always this creative combination throws up particularly pleasing results. You sense listening to these songs that after the two previous (and arguably uncharacteristically melancholy/introspective) albums, that there are fucking flames back leaping through the veins. On “Fully Involved”, The Real Burnouts go back to sounding like a riotous band rather than one maverick psych-poet floating around in the limbo of his own monstrous imagination. This record sounds like it took weeks rather than hours to put together, from the fuzzy pop opener “My Heart Explodes”, to the punk explosion of “Shot In The Pocket”, this is a fun, and beautifully deranged collection of songs to play. With drugged up anthems like “How Good It Feels” and the aptly titled “Drunk and Stoned” the monstrous imagination comes crashing back to earth with big riffs and equally big drums. The Real Burnouts really do sound fully involved again, and for those of you who have forgotten how excitingly different they can be on their day, then this record should provide a welcome reminder.
FROGVILLE – “A Bug-Eyed Swamp”
Song writers seem to fall into one of two hands. In one are those who can’t help but keep writing, like butterflies flitting from one idea-flower to the next, putting quantity over quality and hopefully somewhere in amidst all those rushed recordings will be something worth keeping hold of. In the other are individuals like Frogville’s Jason Raspa, blessed with the patience and determination to take an idea-flower and keep tending to it, only walking away from it when it’s grown as high as it can.
From the word go, with the swirling psychedelic guitar lines of “I Believe In You”, this is something of an all-out assault on the parts of your brain that instinctively hoover up hooks and retain them, regurgitating them at random intervals throughout your waking day. The first five songs of “A Bug Eyed-Swamp” are the equivalent of a top-heavy bombardment of melody. For those of you going into it blind, I’d be very surprised if you’re not waving the white flag of submission a couple of verses into the upbeat 90s indie-pop of second track “Just Like Sunday”. Three through five are my own favourites – “The Speed of a Crawl” is cinematic and sweeping, a sonic lullaby for the frazzled heads of the 21st century. “I’m A Bee” is comical and catchy as fuck, combining Jason’s reassuringly loveable voice singing “Collecting honey for the Queen / I love her, I think you know what I mean / There’s too many guys in the hive / She doesn’t even know that I’m alive”, with suitably bee-powered musical swagger. The vocals, like the range of guitar riffs, walking bass-lines, steady drums, and liberal helpings of effects and sound tricks that are central to the Frogville sound, are actually each but a part of the well-oiled machine, all of them doing their bit, carrying it forward, letting each song breathe bedecked in blinking lights into the muddy swamp of creation. You won’t play this record to your friends and say “Listen to the guitar on this”, or “What is he doing here?”, but you will put it on and let it play out saying “Listen to all of this”.
Fifth track “The Light You Give” is as close as you’ll get to a standard ballad form – an ageless melodic love song where “The light you give shines”. Simply put – it’s fucking beautiful. From the blistering start, the rest of the record is more of a blur of ideas and sounds. The mainly instrumental and eerily weird title track signals the end of the “song” songs and the beginning of something a little darker and less deliberate. Frogville shows that the psych-pop salvos are just a part of the bigger picture (albeit a glorious part). Equally the machine is at home producing freaky indie guitar blow-outs “Time is Growing”, druggy Jonestown Massacre-esque shoegaze funk amalgamations (”Turns to Gold”), dig up something that sounds like it fell off the edge of “Forever Changes” (”Mexico”), or do lush country drone experiments like the closing “Speed of Disillusionment”. Penultimate track “Face” deserves a sentence or two on its own. Like a lost song from 1966, think somewhere in between The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground, tambourine punctuated tunnel of stark sound and a vocal melody that sounds like something you should have heard somewhere before, but know that you haven’t. Finally available in free digital download format, this is one swamp you want to wade in right up to your bug eyes for.
PERIWINKLE PERISCOPE – “Fraises”
Is there a better band name than this around right now? There is a certain cartoon-like dance to those two words thrown together like curious bedfellows in another world. It has been a while since the debut self-titled Periwinkle Periscope album dropped through my letterbox and kept me entertained with its experimental folk songs and poetry, and was getting to the point where you wondered if perhaps it was another one-off project from one of the most musically curious (or curiously musical) households in the United States.
With a six song instrumental EP in the shape of “Fraises”, thankfully it seems Periwinkle Periscope are an ongoing concern. Written and recorded in four hours, Judy Shimmin provides much the same as the debut record offered, exploratory pieces of abstract sound building up around recurring melodies with strings that twang and bricks of percussion, until some structure forms and rocks gently in the breeze. It feels like if you blow hard enough, then this little record could easily fall to pieces, but if you resist the urge to puff up your lungs and stop, just stop and listen to it swaying, then you see it for what it is. “Fraises” (originally intended to have sung songs over the top, but released as an instrumental record because of the necessary time constraints of the box-set project), is simply the sound of someone surrounding themselves with instruments and playing whatever feels right to them. Guitars buzz and organs bellow, unidentifiable objects rattle and wooden blocks chime. This is a soundtrack from the same cartoon-like world that the words Periwinkle Periscope curl up in. The first time I heard it I was pacing the length of the Main Deck, suddenly noticing how intense everything was, how minute the detail in the most ordinary of things, like a rusty bolt, or a broken window, or a wilted flower once woven into the rigging.
Perinwinkle Periscope’s “Fraises” is a strange little record with its songs that go from A to F. It is minimalistic and at times discordant… not the sound of a classically trained musician, nor in the same ball park as it’s lyrical older self-titled sister. But above all else, it is a lot of fun to put in your ears just to see what happens. Just that little bit more clearly. Here’s hoping that G to Z will sometime follow.
THE FALLING FLOORS – “Hey! Midnight”
Jolan tells us, “While I have three or four albums worth of material recorded, this is the first time I have set out to make a cohesive album.” It turns out that ‘Hey! Midnight’ is very cohesive, a fact which makes for a very smooth and enjoyable listen. We are enveloped gradually; ‘Frequent Dream’ approaches us in waves, like the soft hum of a distant turboprop engine. But as the plane pops over the rise, we are suddenly splatter-painted by it’s twin 20-meter paintbrushes, ‘What You’ve Done’. Immediately danceable, this song is capable of applying retrographic texture to entire landscapes. The first transition is stark, but extremely natural, and one of the highlights of the album.
The Falling Floors have a strength with harmony. Many of the tracks offer complicated, interlocking lines that balance arpeggiating guitars, bass, keyboards, and voice. The whole of it is punctuated by sparse percussion, mainly a sharp snaredrum and some uncannily [!!!] ferverent tambourine. I believe that natural harmonists have a good sense of musical dimension, and it is no surprise that The Falling Floors also exceed at dictating musical space. At times the album becomes soft and impressionistic (see ‘Pink Sky Over the Motorway at 5AM’ or ‘Little Bug’) other times very jaunty and full of pep; (see ‘Honeybee’, ‘Palindrome’, ‘Don’t Try’, or ‘Giving Up and Giving Way’) these tracks in particular give the album it’s remarkable 60’s throwback coloration. And ‘Where We Feel Secure’? It’s just plain beautiful.
Perhaps the most impressive quality that the album possesses is it’s forthright nature. Though these songs are adept compositions, all, I never get the feeling that Jolan and company are obsessed with the technicality of the music to the point where it distracts from the flow and overall perception of a song. Even the palindromic songs end up being extremely listenable, cohesive tracks, a tribute to the organization and planning put into the album. It’s apparent that The Falling Floors are making their recordings with our receptive ears in mind!
Now I wish they’d hand me a towel, I’ve got paint all over.
UBERFUZZ – “An Island In The Moon”
There was a time not so long ago that it looked like it might be all over for Uberfuzz. The toil of live shows finally took its toll and with each record freaking musically deeper and further out, it looked like there was nowhere left for the band to go. Actually the only place left to go was inwards – the band disassembled, leaving only singer-songwriter Paul Le Keux, with sister Kelly to provide the occasional moral vocal support. This new unpressurised environment of going back to writing and recording for the love of making music seemed to work – the five-track “As If It Matters EP” hinted that there was another side to Rugby’s most recent supplier of explosive psychedelics, a much wiser and cleaner sound, a little less synthetic with a more folky exploration of melody.
My own discovery of Uberfuzz was post-masterpiece “Drowing In Honey”, so just the idea of a new record in the works was something pretty fucking exciting. Downloading it and seeing the brilliant old school black and white guitar/moon cover and finally playing it took me way back to my teenage years wishing the train would go just that little bit faster so as I could get home and listen to the new cassette from one of my favourite bands. “An Island In The Moon” does not disappoint. The new polished and conversely more intimate sounds of “As If It Matters” are taken to the next level on the full album. Welcome additions are sitars and tablas, breathing life into the bones – lovers of psychedelia take note: when I say that “An Island…” is a little more folky by design, that doesn’t mean that it’s no longer psychedelic. Take the Velvet Underground-esque and wonderfully philosophical “Epistle to a Wayward Mother”, the spoken word effects laden title track conjuring up the words of William Blake, the vinyl scratched “Wooden” and “Rusty Shack” instrumentals, or even the brilliant sitar jam “Space Raga No.1” – there is plenty worth smoking along to. Yet perhaps with the exception of the deftly wielded sitar, these are treasures that we fully expect to find on an Uberfuzz record. The real rub of “An Island in the Moon” is on the tracks where the layers fall away.
Both the opening and closing covers of “Farewell Angelina” and the cover of The Rolling Stones “Play With Fire” are great examples. You just don’t cover bands and songs like those unless you can bring something else to the floor. If anything, Uberfuzz somehow manage to make this Bob Dylan classic sound even more fragile, and The Stones sound even more vibrant. Meanwhile “Sip of Wild Honey” is Uberfuzz at its finest, but with a folky-pop twist, and “Summer Wine” is the sound of the psychedelic wild west happening in your living room. The trouble with a band honing their sounds and recording techniques is that sooner or later the bubble has to burst, and a point is reached at the end of the line where there really is nowhere left to go. Thankfully, it sounds like Uberfuzz have already been there, stepping off the tracks and walking out into the wilderness whereupon they found that there was still something to sing about, sounds to be explored, and hopefully people like me who will keep listening and download their records like an expectant teenager. I pull back the curtains and grin when I see that the moon looks curiously golden tonight.
THE AMALFI GLOW – “On My Back Looking At Home”
It somehow doesn’t seem real that we’re finally listening to a full-length Amalfi Glow record. The tracks that make up this inaugural TAG release “On My Back Looking At Home” have been slowly amassed, like a tap dripping pearls of electronic sound until the basin finally overflows onto the bathroom floor of the earth and all that’s left to do is climb up onto the ceiling of the universe and look down at the accidental ocean suddenly pulsing and swirling beneath us.
I’m no student of ambient soundscapes, but I know what I like to hear and every pearl from project Amalfi that has splashed out from my headphones in the small hours has left me hopelessly wishing that I could pass them onto 19 year old me, head full of acid with an insatiable thirst to go SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT in my imagination. Taken on their own each pearl has sounded as great as anything I’ve heard from your Orbitals, or Orbs, or Boards of Canadas. Finally strung together though, these beads of experiment seem to find their true form side by side. “On My Back…” does exactly what it seems to have always been unconsciously stretching towards – a journey of sound. I’ve been fortunate to witness first hand El Capitan Amalfi behind the wheel, pulling white rabbit samples and multi-layered beats from the burning bottomless hat, and I can honestly say that it is a truly mind-boggling thing to observe. Even without a head full of acid.
You sense with this record that the sky is the the least of the limits for this long-standing and yet still fledgling project. Like the record itself, The Amalfi Glow is a journey still at the very beginning, pausing briefly to tie up the loose ends before moving on, home finally blinking out of sight behind it. Familiar tracks like the epic “Pagoda” and hypnotic “Mersum” sound suddenly rejuvenated in between new offerings like the thundering urgent beats of “Char-an-choola”, or the ambience of “Let Me Find Joy”. Fans of electronica will undoubtedly get what is happening here a hell of a lot more than I ever will, but if you’re in the same dinghy of inexperience as I am then you could do a lot worse than lying down beneath the basin, grabbing hold of something that resembles a paddle, and push off through the pearls. Acid or no acid.
THE PAINTED SHUTS – “Gargoyles In The Gutter”
The Painted Shuts’ newest offering, Gargoyles In The Gutter sounds somewhere between music performed by a cosmic electro-pop version of the philharmonic and music that should be played during a psychedelic carnival ride (or through submarine speakers in the next Steve Zissou movie). Though there are only two members (Paul Burnout and Smally Wheelies), the album crashes along as if there are many more that make up this symphonic ensemble. The album mixes safari-sounding drums with whimsical synth leads and heavy piano chord-cradling, often incorporating call-and-response style lyrical phrasing. This creates a sound that is at once tried-and-true and excitingly fresh for those new to the band as well as returning Shutites.
At first listen, the music seems light-hearted and almost has a floating feel to it, especially exemplified by the song “Somewhere There’s Infinity”. From the synth arpeggios that start the song to the driving piano to an appearance by James Brown, this song really epitomizes what Gargoyles is all about. At the root of it all seems to be a fun and a joy for cheerful-sounding music. There are marches and waltz references here, and it is hard not imagining these songs being complements to a Saturday morning TV-viewing session. This feeling definitely plays throughout the album, but, upon deeper inspection, Gargoyles In The Gutter isn’t all about flights of fancy, all-out happiness, and ballroom-danceable waltzes.
Listen to the lyrics on tunes like “Make a Lion Out of a Tiger” or “A Patchwork Heart”, and you’ll see that these songs are loosely disguised as upbeat fantastical scenarios (“Be thankful you’re not/Heartless or someone whose heart just exploded/Like this girl on our street who looks like a freak with her long list of lovers/Who stand in her garden with watering cans and pretend that they love her”). In reality, they take some jabs at some of the not-so-lighter side of things. The lyrics and stories contained in these songs make Gargoyles in the Gutter a joy to listen to at least a second time and give the listener a new perspective on the album, which makes it all that more worth it. Two giant white-gloved thumbs up from this guy.
SIMON PILER AND THE ATOM BAND – “KINGTIME”
While I sat there waiting for the grumbling and grimacing supercomputer to warm up, I heard a sound like a fly buzzing furiously against the panes of the one remaining unbroken window of the Communications Room. Initially assuming it to be an Ylfnogard, as the screen burst into life before my eyes, I quickly noticed that the buzzing appeared to have a vaguely melodic sawing swing to it. This was no fly. When I sat down in the seat my iPod must have accidentally started to play – the curious melodic buzzing was in fact Simon Piler belting out “Termination Death” in my pocket.
To review any Simon Piler and The Atom Band record in three paragraphs is asking the impossible of anyone (particularly as I just spent the first of the three babbling about buzzing). After the all-out poetic experimental dream assault of the two most recent recordings “Songs From Home” and “Heimdall”, you could say I am a fully fledged convert to the theatrical adventure of anything generated from the boundless brain of this peripatetic young poet. If anything, “KINGTIME” doesn’t just follow on from its predecessors, but ups the ante and runs away with it under your nose. This is a record of Joycian magnitude – a mythic-poetic tale of one King Narcissus, peppered with song and tales, and filled out with sometimes mad, and sometimes gentle experimental folk sounds. You can’t possibly pretend to understand exactly what is going on, but like a match to the imagination it strikes and you step away from it in flames frantically searching for the nearest puddle of reality to cool down in. With a handy printable lyric book packed with black and white words and wonderful imagery, “KINGTIME” should probably be the sort of thing we fire at teenage study groups. It is a giddy, expansive, soulful, bamboozling, and utterly brilliant multi-media seed for the barren wasteland of your addled imagination. Songs like the wonderfully lyrical “ROLL”, the absurdly infectious and utterly memorable “King TV”, the lo-fi hop of “Dogs”, the pocket buzz of “Termination Death”, and gargantuan understated “The Vulcanist” fall upon on the scorched earth, linked together and sprinkled with Simon’s running commentary, as the tale spins out in the mirror and a garden of pure imagination blooms.
Once you’re hooked on the ideas behind this music there is no going back. You can download “KINGTIME” and try to enjoy it as an artistic feat in its own right, like watching a skinny bearded stunt rider on a rickety red bicycle attempting to leap 18 car-songs from the top of a steep ramp, and toppling with a beautiful laugh to crash through the cracked windscreen of car number one. Alternatively you can do your homework, read the lyric book and track down interviews with Simon where he candidly explains the dream theory and intricate thought that goes into writing his records. The old man sings. The ash of the volcano settles on the earth. And King TV rolls out around every corner, clutching his belly with little beady eyes. This is the fabric of song that doesn’t just ring in your ears, but seeps irrevocably into the veins of your life. It’s KINGTIME!
BRENDON HERTZ AND THE BURNT ORANGE CRAYONS – “Sacrifice”
Discovering the musical world of Brendon Hertz has been one of the real finds for me during this box-set. There’s always a sense of trepidation including someone whose music you’ve never heard in a project of this magnitude. I mean, The Daydream Generation compilations are just one song and if you go one song wrong, then it’s not such a big deal… whereas with the box-set we’re talking a whole record, and potentially a whole record of wrong songs. So even though there was a level of backing with the very credible Simon Piler describing Brendon as “the leader of The Atom Band”, I downloaded “Sacrifice” with my fingers, toes and ears well and truly crossed.
I need not have crossed anything. Twenty seconds into spoken word second track “Neo-Beat Grocery” I realised we’d struck musical oil and breathed an almighty sigh of relief. My head has been crying out for just this kind of approach – indie-beat deliberations on modern America. Okay, so there must be people out there doing this kind of thing – but in three long years of doing this, maybe only one other had been going at it from this direction, and that connection had long been lost. By the time I reached track five, the brilliantly atmospheric acoustic ballad “Jasper Fforde…”, I was wide awake and unconsciously holding my breath. “Sacrifice” is by no means a conventional record. Its identity is in the shifting identity of songs – a lot of fun to listen to, but there’s something else about it; something deeply poetic and ambitious happening beneath the patchwork surface of its multi-faced persona.
Let’s dig on that patchwork surface for a moment because it’s undoubtedly what makes this record so special. For a start, count the genres – electronica, spoken word poetry, experimental noise, psychedelic funk, acoustic folk, 60s pop, jazz, reggae, soul, timeless piano balladry, blues, and an atmospheric indie anthem thrown in for good measure. Yet far from being an intentional spectrum of sound, you instantly recognise that this is a multi-faceted singer-songwriter simply expressing himself in the most direct way possible with the content of the song and the feelings behind the song dictating the form. I really don’t know anyone who would even attempt to do something as wide-reaching as this, let alone anyone who would actually be able to do it so well and in such a short space of time. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all about such a diverse record as this, is that when it comes out on the other side it sounds completely coherent and wonderfully together. With so many styles happening, inevitably there is something for every someone. Candid and cool beat poetry aside, my own favourites are the aforementioned “Jasper Fforde…”, the raw Beatle-esque “Mail From You”, the majestic title track “Sacrifice” (would not be out of place on a Bob Marley greatest hits), the soulful piano and brass ballad “Magic” (what can I say? It’s magic, perhaps my favourite of all the songs), and the melancholic poetic intensity of “Life’s Match”.
If you’re looking for something different then you’ve come to the right place. “Sacrifice” is different from start to finish, like the mix-tape of a love long lost, only with one guy singing his heart out and speaking his thoughts throughout. The musicianship is first class, the voice that carries the songs is ambitious in range and trembles with genuine human emotion, and there’s just enough self-defacing humour tucked away amidst the patchwork folds to keep it from sinking beneath the quicksand of introspective no return. Finally I exhale. 5 kaleidoscopic patchwork stars out of 5.
BECKY N – “4am Video Games”
Becky N’s follow-up to her Two Wheels EP, 4am Video Games, definitely has the signatures of the songwriter’s touch. The lo-fi recording, the sparse arrangements, and the simplicity that is soft to the ear are all here. In fact, this EP may be even sparser than Two Wheels. Most of the songs are cut back to guitar and voice, with some overdubs. When you listen to the new music from 4am Video Games, however, there’s a new element to many of the songs.
Walls of repeating chords on downbeats add drive to songs like “Overgrown” and “4am Video Games”. This adds a sad, droning element to the songs making them perfect for ominousness but also for meditation. I took this EP out for a spin on my bicycle late during a recent fall evening, and it seemed to fit alongside the brisk autumn air well. The darkness of the night combined with the minor sounds of the album and the blinking of traffic lights seemed complementary to Becky’s tone on this release.
Although the dichotomous guitar riffs on “Coma Dream” make this the standout track on the album, the song also shows off a unique sense of timing, lyrical stylings, and the finger-picking of Becky N. Though the overtones are of sadness, Becky N still shows a quirky side on “Sweetie”, which starts off with a guitar part reminiscent of nineties grunge-rockers. The lyrics twist this into an interesting love song, ending abrubtly with the lyric “where’ve you been all my life”, leaving the listener with some kind of longing.
All in all, this album shows a new side of Becky N. It may be a darker, more brooding side, yes, but also something that is searching and hoping. It is this aspect of the album that made this reviewer want to do a lot of soul-searching while listening to 4am Video Games. This album gets one highly-recommended moonlit bicycle ride; listen to it at 4am or not, but this one definitely lends itself to nighttime excursions.
HANDWITHLEGS – “One More Excuse”
Handwithlegs’ contribution to the box-set “One More Excuse” was like the missing piece of an unintentionally technicolour jigsaw puzzle. We’d covered just about every genre known to man (with the exception of Death Metal) and all that was missing was something heavy, something pulsing and dark for the
mad side of midnight when proceedings run away from you and you find yourself locked into some ugly, downwards spiral of drugged up lunacy. If you download this record then be warned – it is LOUD. It is capital letters LOUD. Guitar-like synths fuzz and hammer, drums roar like pounding waves, and there is a sense of absolute claustrophobic urgency to every song. Where I come from, people don’t make music like this. It terrifies them.
This isn’t to say that Handwithlegs is not in the business of writing songs – think Manic Street Preachers “Holy Bible” for the structure and riffs that keep this five track EP burning from start to finish. Yet it seems to have a lot more to do with experimentalism and the deliberate pursuit of a particular sound. If your ears aren’t bleeding by the end of the fifth track then it would seem that the record hasn’t quite done the job. Vocally it’s in stark contrast to previous HWL records – the words still buried within the frenetic squall of sound, but there is a rhythm and starkness to the part-yelled, part-sung lines that brings a new energetic thrust to the music.
Every spectrum needs a dark side. Yet at the same time there is something chaotically fun about “One More Excuse” – both instrospective and exhibitionist at the same time. It doesn’t just sit in the corner. Nobody tells it what to do. It bites your hand off with a grin as if to say “Well what do you expect? I’ve got fucking sharp teeth”. This may be an attempt at making more of a “rock” record, rather than an experimental noise soundtrack, but from where I’m standing it sounds a lot closer to fuck-it-and-see ethos of punk. And punk is good thing. What’s that you say? Ah shit I can’t hear you, my ears are bleeding.
SHINE SHUT – “The Decision”
This album is short, but I’ll admit that it evokes a strong curiosity in me. One could say that it is alluring. May I offer a definition? Allure: to attract by the offer of something having real or seemingly real value. To clarify this word-variable, we’ll need a more specific definition for value. Value: meaning; force; significance. I’ll have to select ‘force’ when considering ‘The Decision’ because the album’s meaning is well past my means of determination. Perhaps that is Shine Shut’s aim in the production of these recordings! Are they to be breathless, airy and ephemeral graspings of idea? This much is possible to estimate from my listening. A portraiture of dynamic life, wrought in chaos. A thematic groundwork concerning consciousness is difficult to signify, I think.
So we are left with force. And no petty leaving; the album grinds and flexes as we are subjected to varying tensile pressures of circuitous, stomping energy. ‘A Build’ is almost swamp blues – it wildly brandishes a dark, inoculated wind across it’s marching ground. There are deep ideas here, that is true, but I am struck at how short of a time they are left to develop! The drop-off droning portion of the song could have been elaborated to great effect; at it’s current pace there is a hurried quality that it carries. And so my curiosity wells up again – is this a story of gestation, or simply of birth? We certainly are not meant to digest the full course of a complex decision, here. Instead, I think, we see only the critical moment of absolute choice; that irreversible waypoint of self-description.
At other times, the album is softer, almost restful. ‘Shelf’ is reflective and even cheery. ‘Is That My Soul?’ seems to offer a speculative resolution of the darker portions; and it’s very tongue speaks-broad in a short, granular breath. Shine Shut calls ‘The Decision’ dream music; an undertaking to which I believe I can claim myself kin. Though we dream musicians may offer the widest spectral output of resultant music, we have one unifying quality that is unique among musical motivation of all kinds. We strive to describe and qualify space. ‘The Decision’ is a good reminder that though the spaces encompassed by the dreaming mind may be extremely complex, they are possible to reconstitute through our wakeful understandings of sound. This is the undertaking of a dream musician, difficult though it may be. With every study of feeling that we grasp at, and every sound we practice making, we become a little more thorough and clear in our descriptions. And so, in the end I am left with my curiosity. And my speculations. And ponderings. That is alright with me.
Thank you, Shine Shut.
JAMES REDMOND – “Dig Deep”
It is the dying seconds of one of the greatest football games of all time. The Champions League final of 2005, Liverpool v AC Milan. Having been three goals down at half-time and all but resigned to losing, Liverpool mount one of the most unbelievable come-backs we have ever seen, bringing it back to 3-3 and taking the game into extra time. The Italians surge again, peppering the Liverpool goal with wave after wave of attacks. At the centre of the Liverpool’s defence is one Jamie Carragher, by no means a footballer who will appear in the annals of world soccer history, but a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and gives it his all, throwing himself into tackles, heading the ball off the line, and marshalling his fellow troops. Carragher clears the ball with another last ditch header and goes down with cramp but the game goes on, the Italians picking up the ball and lining up to stick it in the net. With the camera focusing on the prostrate defender, the Scottish commentator leans into his microphone and urges him to “Dig deep son. Dig deep”. A hobbling Carragher picks himself up off the ground and hobbles in agony into the fray again to rise above the Milan strikers and clear the danger.
Not only is Jay Redmond the Jamie Carragher of the music world, but he is also a very hard man to get hold of when it’s backs to the wall and flying by the seat of your pants time. In fact, he is so hard to reach that he might as well be written into the “Encyclopaedia of Mythical Creatures” beside Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman, and the fire-eater of Atlantis. His entry reads: “James (Lee) Redmond; scouse troubadour and purveyor of perfect pop songs”. There is no profile picture, just an aerial snapshot of some white trainers (presumably belonging to Jay). For half a year I’ve been fortunate enough to play the part of his personal archivist, collating a combination of new songs and lost tracks salvaged from old 4-track cassettes, buried beneath the thick dust and hiss of time. Everything he’s sent my way has been immensely lovable – painted with the same infectious brush of melody as previous collection “Too Much To Think”, all the while the bones of the record solidifying and taking shape.
Everything is in place. All he has to do is come up with a title, tell me which songs to keep, and in what order they should go. I email him a week before the box-set deadline day and get no reply. With three days to go I message him again, explaining we’re reaching a critical juncture like the scene in Father Ted when the priests are stuck in the lingerie section of a department store and are trying to escape via a fire exit without being seen. The day before the box-set goes live I email him one last time with the Jamie Carragher story. 24 hours after the deadline has passed I hear a muffled shout that seems to be emanating from behind a rack of giant granny pants. It says “Smally, please can you put the tracks into order for me, and call it DIG DEEP…”
So I did. Rather than tear what little hair I have out worrying about running order, or which tracks to keep, I took the fan’s perspective. I’d been digging on these songs for so long, that it seemed the right thing to do to let everyone else dig deeply on them all as well. There is much to love. The authentic acoustic-pop sorcery of songs like “How You Feel”, and “I See Through You”, the emotionally charged words and melodies of timeless tracks like “Talk”, “Will She Meet Me”, or the highly addictive songwriting masterclass that is “Movin On”. Serious songs sit seriously side by side with their cartoon parody signature counterparts – tunes like “Greasy Lover” (“Let’s make a baby!”), “Sweet Song”, or “Das Is Gudd”. As easily as James Redmond can communicate the most profound of emotions, he can equally leave you grinning from ear to ear with the comical sounds of quiet anarchy. Finally finding some order for the tracks, all that was left for me to do was find some cover art. So I reached for the “Encyclopaedia of Mythical Creatures” and I cut out a picture of Jay’s shoes. On his behalf, I hope you like “Dig Deep” as much as I do.
THE OCTOBER TERMINUS – “The October Terminus”
Rob Levy doesn’t make enough records. It’s only when he does that I remember how important previous incarnations have been – Travel Labyrinth, External World, Platinum Limb, Sentic Forms… the list goes on and on. Here, in his latest form – The October Terminus – we find a seemingly one-off project from the undisputed master of the experimental song. This self-titled record was written, recorded and mixed over three days with specific constraints concerning how many tracks could be used (6), how many takes could be taken (1), and length of songs (2 minutes 24 seconds). The results are a staggering 28 track collection, musically experimental, full of notes, organic beats, and rattling sounds behind an undisputed abstract lyrical behemoth.
Rob’s own explanation of how the words were written is mind-blowing in itself – “The lyrics, composed the day before were written using a partial aleatory batch technique in which partially-random rhythm plans structure the random choice of words. The chaotic poetry is interpreted and reworked into meaningful stories. The chaotic, rhythmic stories served as the basis and inspiration for the aformentioned improvised composition of songs…” I had to re-read that several times when I first saw it to get any inkling as to what this actually means. You may now take a few seconds yourself to re-read it before we continue.
This seemingly Burroughsian artificially altered language-scape creates the perfect compliment to the Jim Morrison style poetic shamanism of the songs. I always feel like Levy projects sound like they were recorded out in the desert, under the blazing white circle of sun, with vultures revolving and the shimmering heat of exhaustion fogging up the eyes. However, “October Terminus” is no drug-induced shock verse, it is more like a scientific form of holistic human brain re-wiring. There is a mighty fine line between these tracks being enjoyable for the playfulness and textures of words combined with repetitive woodwind and plinking blocks, and this being a soundtrack for some self-imposed psychosis of pure abstraction. Either way, though if you’re anything like me then even if it’s the latter, then sometimes it is fun to put your own head through the grinder and piece it all back together on the other side. After all, I think you’ll find that records doesn’t make enough Rob Levy.
THE WHEELIES – “A Scientific Study Of Cloud Shapes”
I’ll let you make your own mind up on this one.
(From today at lunch time (11th June) we will be broadcasting on loop an imaginary film in the ship’s Film Studio. As always, collective participation is welcomed and crew members are invited to appear in it.)
(Putting the Company song words both into technicolour and black and white – read this for more info)
Daydream Generation lyric book is currently on hold until later this year until I can chase up a few more contributions (right now we’ve got a great pamphlet on our hands, but I’d rather we have a great little book) – thanks to everyone who has submitted something so far, rest assured the time spent typing up will not be in vain.
No deadline as yet for The Utica Flower Company technicolour lyric project
(Help put together a list of our collective influences for an aesthetically pleasing collage of framed pictures – info is the comments section. Pictures can be framed and stored for now in the Aft Hold)
no deadline but we’ll be getting to it soon
(Help put together a collective pool of potential artwork for record sleeves. Details of how to upload to the Flickr account can be found here.)
ongoing until we reach 1000 (we’re currently at 200 and in need of a second Flickr account – details to follow shortly)
(Just shuffle on down to the Sound Lab for info on various UFC recording projects)
ongoing – no deadline
Experimental Collective Record
(30 minute sound explorations to be patched together into one randomly incredible 30 minute fix)
(A catalogue of UFC videos for viewing pleasure)
(We’re going to do to books and writers what we do to records and musicians – let us know if anyone knows any writers out there looking to get published – check out the Ship Library for ongoing discussions)
(For the Company t-shirts)
(all in good time)
You can have a say in both current and proposed projects by visiting the Company Boardroom, as well as suggesting projects for the future yourself.
(Sitting on the Wardroom table is an opened letter with a brilliant green note stuck to it.)
I’ve received some correspondence from an old friend, Prof. G. A. Motzing, though I’ve always just called him Graham. We were friends at university, though I haven’t heard from him in a long while. He’s a natural-born tinkerer, and very good with a scrench! It seems that things couldn’t have aligned themselves better in terms of our route, but I’ll let you read it for yourself.
The letter reads:
“To Simon Piler with The Utica Flower Company, wherever it may find you:
It’s been a long time, so I bet you’re wondering what this message is all about. Well, the folks on the citizen’s band mentioned ‘The Mardi’ a while back. I was surprised to hear about you after so long, and very curious as to what course you’d be taking. In case you’re headed south, I wanted to invite you to come and visit my Antarctic station. I hope I’m not too late to convince you! Here are the coordinates in decimal degrees:
If I’m figuring correctly, your course would be approaching the ice packs at the best possible time of year. (That is, the peak of the Antarctic’s ‘summer’ season.) It can get fairly ugly, otherwise.
You might think that Antarctica is too far out of the way or too cold. You might be right! Well, there is another reason I think your party should visit, though it’s fairly confidential. In other words, you’ll just have to trust me. I worry that this letter could be lost or fall into the wrong hands. So, it should suffice to say that I’ve stumbled upon a rather interesting discovery that may be of some use in your travels.
It would be great to catch up after all these years. Don’t you think?
With warmest regards,
G. A. M.
Post-script: I am assuming that your vessel is not equipped with an shortwave radio, as I’ve tried repeatedly to contact you on the air. Don’t worry about responding to this letter, but if you must contact me, my call sign is KP5GS7. (Of course, if it’s an emergency you can always use my name, but we are trying to keep this operation somewhat under wraps, so if you could avoid blatantly revealing my identity or whereabouts, that would be best!