In The Moonlight Of The Shivering Bay
With a tottering tower of CDs sitting on the window sill, patiently waiting for review, it’s clearly time for another mix. Twenty four tracks of sonic treats to delight and no doubt confuse the soul, split in two because that’s the way mixes were meant to be.

So the opener on side one this month comes courtesy of La Guerre Des Tuques from an eponymous set released by the ever-wonderful Asaurus records of Athens, Georgia. Housed in another of their trademark handmade sleeves, La Guerre Des Tuques is the sound of yesterday reliving today through the vision of tomorrow’s retro sound of the future. Which means that, aesthetically, it’s the Marine Girls busking in the basements of hipster artist co-ops, day-dreaming of doo-wop, bebop, soft-pop and the mislaid punk ethic of anyone who has the will can be in a band. That the players on La Guerre Des Tuques feature members of the mighty, mighty Diskettes should surely only increase your desire to hear them and to clutch this record to your fragile, sparkling heart. And oh, I know it sparkles. I’ve seen it in the moonlight of the shivering bay.

You and The Atom Bomb, meanwhile explode in a multitude of angles and shards that slice the flesh with delectable finesse. Their shivering bay is festooned with broken boats, sinking ships and blood stained oars. And they’re dancing on the decks as the water rises over their ankles, bless them. So think Big Flame with less frantic pauses and obtuse discordance, but with more kissable melodies and a sexier flick of the wrist; or think of labelmates The Playwrights with lighter hearts and heavier eyelids, surfing serenely on their wave of awkward suburban myth making. And this particular track, the ultra edgy ‘Mudwig Bahnoff’, is as supreme a Pop moment as you might care for, being all Maximo Park tuneful aplomb and anaemic Franz’ disco beat. Yum.

And remember, less is more.
I was drawn to ‘’78’ by Tom Thumb and the Latter Day Saints as much for it’s numbered title as anything else. See, this is what bands need to remember: people like me who dearly want to listen to their sounds, and to do some kind of justice to their creative efforts by penning a word or two but don’t really have the time need these kinds of hooks to hang our jackets on after a hard day at work. Give us a nifty song title (and me, I’m a sucker for songs named after years) and we’re apt to stick it on, give it a go, see what transpires. And in the case of this, what transpires is really rather ravishing in a rhythmic melodic Yo La Tengo or Sea And Cake kind of a way. With a sound that builds itself around tightly meshing guitars, pianos and sweetly detached voices, the Kindermusik EP that this track comes from marks the New England based band out as something to watch for sure. On the same Three Ring Records label that brought us Soltero, which ought to count for a whole lot more than it probably does to most people, but hell, that’s not my fault.

Not my fault either that I’ve lost the one-sheet to the 'Perforations' single by Sheffield based Champion Kickboxer. That, and the fact that their Flash based website doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense to me in my current old codger mood means that I can’t say much more than hey! I really like this! It sounds naturally odd, comfortably eccentric (as opposed to wilfully so) and peculiarly like an old pair of shoes that are scuffed and stained with a host of memories and that slip on with the ease of a lovers’ touch.

Much the same could be said of Ghosty, whose Grow Up or Sleep In set offers up ‘Jacqueline’. Certainly its vaguely, naturalistically psychedelic Pop is most welcome, and fills a gap as we slowly realise that it’s been too long since the last Shins record and hmmm, will we ever get bored of the simple delight of a song that stretches its fingers along our spines, clutches our hands in delicate palms and whispers the delicious recipe of cloudless summer skies into our shell-likes? Elsewhere on the album there are fuller, more urgent tunes, and single ‘Big Surrender’ is as pleasurable a raving pop blast as you will hear this year, with fittingly huge hooks that draw you up and in to the colourful swirl of lost afternoons by the lake, beach, forest glade (insert favoured personal place of youthful delights). Oh, and for those of you besotted by the Flaming Lips, there’s a version of ‘Clouds Slove It’ that features Wayne Coyne dueting with Ghosty mainman Andrew Conner. Me, I prefer the version without Coyne, but then I’ve never understood the fuss over the ‘Lips, so once again I ask: what the hell do I know?
Well I do know that I was barely a year old when Don And The Goodtimes’ ‘I Could Be So Good To You’ peaked at number 56 in the Billboard charts. It kicks off the So Good collection on Rev-Ola, and, with its classic Jack Nitzsche production, sets the scene perfectly for a set of delirious dynamic beat pop. This is the sound of summer, sure enough. If only the weather would co-operate. Bah. Still, listening to songs like ‘I Could Never Be’, ‘Happy And Me’ and a cover of The Troggs’ ‘With A Girl Like You’ it’s like summer set up permanent home in your heart. And with session players like Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell and Ry Cooder pushing things along, who’s to say it hasn’t? With support slots to the likes of the Stones, Beach Boys and The Mamas and The Papas to their name, and with connections through Lil Don Gallucci back to the Kingsmen and forward to The Stooges, The Goodtimes really should be marked down as a band whose history you should fully explore.

Now I’ve always had a tough time getting along with the idea of Ravi Shankar. George Harrison once called him “the godfather of World Music”, which is enough to set my teeth on edge for all sorts of reasons. And surely the sitar is one of the most wildly abused instruments of the late ‘60s psychedelic era. The Transmigration Macabre set, recently released on the resurgent El label, however, begins to sway my opinions, and I’m left with a desire to check out the British Art film Viola for which it was written as soundtrack.

Next up is a batch of mainly instrumental cuts, all of which are to greater or lesser extents immersed in a kind of hazy evocation of sunbleached suburban landscapes. First up is Robin Guthrie with a track from his new Continental album for Rocket Girl. Suitably atmospheric, absorbing and intricately simple, this is pretty much everything you might expect from the former Cocteau Twins’ guitarist and producer.

August Stars meanwhile evoke the spirit of the spirit of the spirit of Syd Barrett with ‘Grantchester Meadows 2’, from the eerily somnambulant Music For Twilight EP. Appearing on the highly cherishable Make Mine Music label, this is an eight track set of drones and sonic sculpture that recalls William Basinksi or Eno at his ambient finest. Inspired by geography and the seasons, Edward Hopper and James Joyce, this is a collection of recordings made between 2002 and 2005 that show off the complexity of simplicity; is a collection of recordings filled with longing and sadness for half imagined and almost fully forgotten pasts and moments of love and loss. Expect a set of wholly new material before the year is out.
Also on Make Mine Music are the Make Mine Beijing and Gone But Not Forgiven sets by Schengen and Portal respectively. The former is a playful mix of glitches, fractured beats and weightless electronica that envelopes the soul and entertains the mind in equal measures. There is lots to find pleasure in, but I simply cannot resist the perfection of the Map My World Mix of ‘The City’. With it’s beautiful, simple keyboard refrain looping and overlapping itself, overlaid with a sweet child voice intoning about the suburbs, the avenues and more, this is the sound I always wanted The Orb to make. And if there is any moment more gloriously, naturally beguiling than the moment that voice says ‘sure, whenever’ then I don’t know about it. If I were to be writing of my own set of Moments And Whatnots, then for sure this would be one of them.

As for Portal, well, they compile here a selection of long deleted vinyl tracks, radio sessions, live recordings, alternate mixes and other previously unreleased studio cuts from the past eight years as a kind of punctuation mark to close this particular chapter of multi-instrumentalist Scott Sinfield’s career. It’s a shimmering, quietly spectacular success too, with each of the eleven tracks carrying it’s significance in a mighty but weightless manner. Choice pick for me is the alternate version of ‘Even The Sun’, but really any of the other ten would be worthy contenders.

Now it’s always difficult to break a flow on a mix of the kind set up by those Make Mine Music tracks, but if anyone can be called upon to do that, it would be Julie London, and she wraps up ‘side one’ here with ‘No Moon At All’ from the Rev-Ola released Julie Is Her Name collection. I always have a feeling that the likes of July Skies, Epic 45 and to a lesser extent Portal make soundtracks that are suffused with a peculiar air of nostalgia for an age their makers have experienced only through moments preserved and presented to them through media such as old photographs, scratchy film and scratchier records. It’s not a conscious, deliberate ploy, but rather one that drifts in naturally and is all the better for that. So Julie London’s recordings then contain something of that same feeling; a mediated nostalgia for times and events that even I am far too young to have experienced first hand. And sonically too, there are threads of simplicity that wind themselves from Barney Kessel’s muted guitar and Ray Leatherwood’s subtle bass through into that spectral electronica of today. Not to mention Julie’s otherworldly voice of soft existential eroticism that’s surely impossible for anyone to resist. Of course many of you will be fully conversant with most of the tracks on this collection, and even younger readers should recognise the signature London tune of ‘Cry Me A River’ but regardless, or because of this, you should all be tracking this down and snapping it up.

And that’s it for side one. Side two coming soon.

© 2006 Alistair Fitchett