|Still in love with Hayley
April Mixtape part 1
|Kids Are The
Same - Pants Yell!
You should know by now that I think Pants Yell! are one of the finest groups around. As I’ve said previously, they really are at the vanguard of a New Pop rennasiance, and I love them dearly. What a pleasure then to report the imminent release of their Recent Drama set (on Asaurus / Paper Cities), which this cut also kicks off in such a fine way. This is the noise of the clamouring, sun kissing Postcard guitars of Orange Juice and the pitter patter rain on the roof drums of the Go-Betweens when they were in need of two heads, and as such is to be recommended without reserve. The rest of the album is just as fine of course, with another ten tracks of joyously raggedy, gently angular Pop that falls like the dappled leafy glades of Haldon in summer. Pants Yell! make the sound of my romanticised adolescent past, my daydreamed middle aged future and all points in between; and for that I thank them more dearly than you can possibly imagine.
Too Many Kims - The Tyde
Now I loved the first two albums (imaginatively titled Once and Twice) by The Tyde, not least because they were unashamedly infused by the spirit of Felt at their Pop peak (check out the marvellous ‘Crystal Canyons’ for proof) and they’ve delivered another gem in the form of Three’s Company (on Rough Trade). This time around however their sound is more akin to the countrified Powerpop of, say, Teenage Fanclub or Velvet Crush; a noise which is itself a reflection of the marvels of the likes of Big Star of course, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of (and with a front man in the shape of former Further and Beachwood Sparks’ member Brent Rademaker, hardly surprising). The Tyde are one of those groups who understand that notions of ‘newness’ in Rock or Pop are at worst misleading and at best irrelevant. They are a group who understand that digging the key texts from the likes of prime Dylan, Millennium or Burritos and blending them with their contemporary context will always lead to something pleasurable and infectious, and current fashions or trends be damned. Three’s Company is the sound of summer come early, and after the extended greyness we have experienced this year, I say hurrah! for that.
|Your Good Looks
(Will Ruin What Otherwise Could Have Been The Beginning Of A Beautiful
Friendship) - Swissair
Mad About The Boy - The Radio Dept.
Stockholm Doesn't Belong To Me - Most Valuable Players
Hurrah! too for more sounds of Young Sweden. Well, you knew it was coming, didn’t you? Kicking off a trio of tracks is the gloriously titled lead cut from a self-released CDR EP by Gothenburg’s Swissair (and soon to see a cool and collectable 3” release on I Wish I Was Unpopular). I have been indecently seduced by this track for more than a fortnight now, and it shows no sign of releasing its grip on my heart and soul. With a shivering electronic refrain that hovers in the air like Kraftwerk at their melodic peak, and a hauntingly restrained vocal delivery that bemoans the reality of the importance of physicality, this song strikes the delicate balance of cool, unemotional detachment and falling apart at the seams heartbreak. Trust me, it really will be one of the most eerily infectious songs you will hear all year.
So you probably know all about The Radio Department and their lovely Lesser Matters debut on the criminally hip Labrador label. Their Pet Grief follow up is due in a few days time, and I for one am excited to hear what they have been up to. Meanwhile, this instrumental cut from the very fine Are You Scared Top Get Happy collection on the Friendly Noise label will have to suffice as my fix for the day. Now I’ve been aware of this label in the past for their Friendly People Making Noise debut release and the terrific Come On And Bring Back The Brjokén Sounds Of Yore set by Differnet, and so the excellence of this compilation comes as no surprise. Full of mainly electronic sounds, it has the air of an album infused by the spirit of the early Balearic scene, before it was hijacked and given a corporate House makeover. A lot of the tracks wouldn’t sound out of place embedded on one of those old Sabres of Paradise or Boys Own collections, and believe me that’s no small recommendation. So there’s House meets Pop with all kinds of inflections leaping into the mix, from Latin undertones (Testbild!’s lovely ‘Landfall’ is a gurgling bossa groove that mutates into a My Bloody Valentine noise fest before lapsing back into a sunshine Broadcast mood) to stripped pure acoustic bittersweetness and jazz sampled downbeat glitch experiments, all of which is at the very least intriguingly diverting. For those expecting some kind of aural equivalent of the seminal ’80s fanzine after which the collection is named, however, this album may well prove a disappointment: it’s most assuredly not filled with fizzy Punk Pop, and guitars and trebly vocals are definitely in a minority. In terms of spirit and intent, however, this is a record that joins those dots in an imaginative manner. For sure too it’s no surprise that the label’s cataloguing sequence lists art exhibitions and DJ performances alongside actual, tangible product, in so doing reflecting a Factory aesthetic that’s entirely appropriate. Miss this collection at your peril.
Now, there is a remix of the Most Valuable Players’ ‘Stockholm Doesn’t Belong To Me’ on the Are You Scared collection, but this version is the one that graces their You In Honey full set, also for Friendly Noise. Most Valuable Players make quirky tech infected Pop guaranteed to puzzle and please as the sounds veer from toy instrumental naiveté through scuzzy edged bricolage to this, a sound that’s sweetly matched to the spirit of St Etienne’s classic, supremely classy ‘Nothing Can Stop Me’ refracted through the photographic memory of the Northern Lights at winter’s end. Essential.
Super-God (Jos Rodrix) - Som Imaginario
Time to visit the reissue land now, with a cut from the excellent Som Imaginario set on Rev-Ola. For fans of the post-Bossa sound of Tropicalia, this album is a must, and whilst I know next to nothing about the details of this insanely imaginative and exuberant scene, my feet know what they like, and when this comes on they just can’t keep still. This is the kind of thing I would have been gleefully spinning in the Living Room days of yore, slotting in alongside those fabulous Bungalow 12”ers by the likes of Le Hammond Inferno or East Of Suez, all of whom would no doubt have been influenced by exactly this kind of madcap melange of styles.
Conquering Small Spaces Polaris
Vanishing Britain - Epic45
Dark Lake - North Sea Navigator
Moonviewing Parties -The Year Zero
The fine people at Gringo Records sent me a trio of albums recently, and whilst both Lords’ This Ain’t A Hate Thing, It’s a Love Thing and The Unit Ama’s eponymous albums are engaging enough, it’s Polaris’ own self-titled set that really caught my attention. With a muscularly rhythmic presence akin to that of early Tortoise, and a penchant for the rollingly melodic bass line that the likes of Ui (and, let’s face it, New Order) once made their own, this is a sound that seems peculiarly both rooted in the bands’ 1993 inception and utterly contemporary all at once. And with members of the likes of the excellent Bilge Pump and Quack Quack on board, that’s perhaps no surprise. Polaris is a record that veers from light to dark with a deftness Rembrandt would applaud. Make sure you add to the clamour.
Going more downtempo now with another instrumental, this time courtesy of the ‘Vanishing Britain’ cut from the Drakelow EP by Epic 45 on the Make Mine Music label. For those that don’t know, Drakelow is an underground tunnel system originally built in the second World War as a shadow factory, and then refitted in the 1960s and ‘80s as part of the British Government’s regional defence system, and there is a fascinating back-story to this record that involves a tour of the tunnels by Epic 45’s Rob Glover and Ben Holton, along with friends Ant Harding of July Skies and Dan Thompson of Ruraline. No surprise then to discover that this record invokes much the same kind of mythological interpretation of historical landscape as surfaced on July Skies’ albums. There are nods too to the landscape contextualisation of, say, Victoria Astley or The Orb, though thankfully with more rigorous focus. This is moody music that is assuredly not mood music; is music about contextual ambience without being ambient. It’s a record with rewarding depth, texture and subtle melody and should not be missed.
Similarly evocative, though of a thoroughly different time and place, is the ‘Dark Lake’ track from North Sea Navigator’s Make The Blacklist set. Fronted by former Gravenhurst member Paul Nash, North Sea Navigator take the darker side of that outfit’s sound and pursue a Victorian gothic meets psych freakout trajectory. Album opener ‘Sway To The Drone’ pretty much sets the scene and says it all, as the record descends into a post-Velvets discordant and claustrophobic landscape of serial killers (‘Aileen Wuornos’) and dark lakes of this track. Bleak and deliciously disturbing, Make The Blacklist is available on Nick Talbot’s Silent Age label, and a trip to their website shows that the ridiculously brilliant Gravenhurst debut Internal Travels is available again. If you haven’t already got a copy, I suggest you act with haste.
Better act with haste too if you want to snag a copy of the three track sampler EP for the forthcoming Oceania, I Will Return album by The Year Zero on Skipping Stones Records. Languorous Space Rock that recalls Slowdive, Sigur Ros, or the excellent Monster Movie, this is a beautiful teaser that leaves me eager to hear the full album.
Eating Noddemix - Action Biker
Finally, to close part one of the mix, we go back to the Are You Scared To Get Happy collection, for this track by Action Biker. Now Action Biker’s Sarah Pergament has made only a handful of records, and each one has been a perfectly poised piece of Pop frosted with a natural grasp of melody and pared back instrumentation, so it’s no surprise to see her cover this Young Marble Giants classic. It’s a pretty faithful interpretation too, and whilst Sarah doesn’t have the ethereal ice cool voice of Alison Statton, her Swedish inflected English is wonderfully idiosyncratic and to be treasured immensely. It’s another marvelous reason to pick up the compilation. And incidentally, speaking of cover versions, check out Nicolas Makelberge’s brilliant electropop take on Prefab Sprout’s ‘Goodbye Lucille # 1’ (or ‘Johnny Johnny’, if you’d rather) that closes the same record. I mean, come on, has anyone ever bettered that line about your life not being complete until your heart’s missed a beat? Still in love with Hayley Mills indeed.