bleached yesterdays, beached tomorrows
I think this is the first year in a long time that I havenít compiled one de facto ĎSummer Compilationí. There are lots of reasons for this, most revolving around the themes of time, space and energy, or of conflicting needs - so that instead there have been upwards of four or five collections put together mixing the old and the new, each one destined for a spell on the Tangents radio. Another reason though might be that there has been little new to excite me over the past few months, although thatís as likely to be due to my own tiredness and lack of focus as any lack of worth on the musicís part.Not that there haven't been exceptions.

One album that Iíve kept coming back to is the rather beguiling As If By Ghosts album by Dreamend. On the same Graveface label as the estimable Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dreamend tread a post-folk-rock path that conjures thoughts of something like a blend of Rachels, Ride, Slowdive and the ubiquitous God Speed! As a package it works beautifully: from the found Ď40s black and white gone sepia photograph inserted into the cover, through the similarly found negative and page torn from Shadow Land that nestle by the CD itself, to the blurred images printed on brown card sleeve and of course the music itself, this is a magical space in which to become lost for a while, a special place in which to lay down, stare at the clouds and think of nothing but bleached yesterdays and beached tomorrows. Itís the sound of memories half formed and all but forgotten, of ghosts of scents and wraiths of touch coming softly into your head in the dead of night. And it sounds magnificent.

A similar mood is cast by Sasoís I Can Do Nice (Melted Snow), an album I am somewhat shocked to see had an April release date in the duoís native Ireland (although not due for a UK release until late September, apparently). So has it really been sitting on my desk for four months? Sadly, itís entirely possible, although if truth be told somehow it seems to fit seamlessly with this current August view of encroaching cloud and rain smeared window panes, so Iím not complaining. I Can Do Nice neatly blends electronica with a glacial rock atmosphere, and as such is a deliciously mesmeric sound, suffused with the spirits of Talk Talk and Sigur Ros, and possessed of the kind of gently surrealist patina found on the quieter moments of the sublime Sunset Studies by Augie March. Highly recommended.

As are a couple of releases on the always intriguing Geographic label. Reunion of Island Goose by International Airport is a real gem that comes off sounding like some strangely, naturally shambling offspring of a suburban Pavement and The Sea and Cake (and the album was mixed by Airport mainstay Tom Crossley and John McEntire in Chicago, so go figure). The songs seem to stroll all over the place, bumping into themselves, apologising, heading off in new directions, finding walls and fences to leap, sometimes standing still but always with a roving eye looking for the next nook or cranny to explore. This is the sound of sound exploring itself, of instruments and structures being mauled and stroked into doing the things they might not have thought about before but which often as not end up being intriguing patterns and drips of colour that delight and confound. Watch out for lead cut ĎAssociationí as a single (backed with a cover version by Teenage Fanclub) prior to the albumís September release ≠ you wont be disappointed.

No less intriguing or enchanting is the eponymous September Collective album. A collaboration between Stefan Schneider (To Rococo Rot, Mapstation), Barabara Morgenstern and Paul Wirkus (Ďtrue pioneer of laptop musicí according to The Wire), you can probably guess where this is coming from, and I dare say youíd be right: glitch infected pastoral post-techno that washes and weaves around your psyche like the mist rolling down the valley on an early Autumn morning. Melancholic and meandering but never world weary nor without some sight of an end point. Just the thing for summers that go nowhere and end up everywhere.
Similarly melancholic is the The Tongues You Have Tied set by Soltero (three ring records). Making the kind of simple pop tinted folk made by Elliott Smith on his first few albums married to the occasional ghost of Yo La Tengo, Solteroís Tim Howard is etching out an image of sweet, darkly humorous delight. Itís certainly worth checking out. As is the new Brave Captain All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace set (Wichita). Now I kind of lost touch with / interest in the Boo Radleys just around the time of the Giant Steps album. Maybe it was because the whole world seemed to be going overboard with praise and I didnít want to get caught up in the ruckus, or maybe it was just because I didnít think much to the record. I donít know. I do know that I much preferred the Everythingís Alright Forever set, primarily because it was kind of deliciously all over the place, something that I think former Boo Radley Martin Carr has achieved on this new solo effort. Not that it isnít a cohesive album; it certainly is, but itís just that it boasts the same kind of eclectic magpie feel as that early Boo album, with Carr begging, stealing and borrowing from a host of sources to create his new confection. So thereís rattling díníb beats, delicious squelching techno noises, deep rumbling dub bass, canyons of reverberating texture and threading gently through it all a strange Brian Wilson like ear for melody and intriguing arrangement. Strange and addictive stuff.

Similarly strange but coming from a slightly different angle is Half Cousinís The Function Room. This is the sound of organic 21st Century folk music; a music that weaves tales like spells and casts spells with a wicked grin and a fine ear for a melody. Made by Orkney born Kevin Cormack, this album is one that gently twists itself around your head, getting into your brain and hanging out there for a while eating oranges and flicking the pips at your eyelids. Its an album that grins wickedly and seductively; an album full of half suggested memories and half forgotten conversations; an album of natural rhythms and playful instrumentation; an album that sounds like Paul Simon smoking dried mackerel skins, or Badly Drawn Boy without the annoying hat. Or bread. Or songs. So nothing like Badly Drawn Boy at all, thenÖ The only thing that raises doubts would be the misguided cover of the Beatlesí horrible ĎGirlí, but maybe thatís just me and my Lennon / McCartney aversion. Otherwise, a magical and captivating album.

And finally, Migalaís La Increible Aventura album (Acuarela) opens with what sounds like some Polynesian tribal chant, feeding into a sample of Darth Vader confronting Obi Wan at the end of Star Wars, and hence into a great rock landscape of insistent guitar lines and driving drums over pulsing electronics, like Appliance when they remembered their souls. Itís all perfectly cinematic, so itís perhaps no surprise to discover that the album comes with a bonus DVD that has all ten tracks accompanied by short films by visual collaborator Nacho R. Piedra. The films are fabulously low-res but visually captivating, filled with intriguing footage of landscapes, fairgrounds, fireworks, dancers, Sci-Fi Kung Fu fighting men in tiger masks and coffee pots as Darth Vader and Obi Wan. I kid you not. Musically, the album is just as rich, exploring a muscular, obtuse rock landscape like Sonic Youth if they lived in a desert, or Giant Sand if they were born in a boho SoHo loft circa 1979. An incredible adventure indeed.

© 2004 Alistair Fitchett

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