reviews january 2004

DJ Ordeal, Song 4 U (Sparticus Stargazer) 7"
The idea of Ordeal crouched in an uncomfortable, near-yogic contortion at the altar - a charity shop coffee table with a missing leg replaced by a milk bottle and a housebrick - never leaves my mind as this plays. On the altar, a 4-track recorder and a couple of Revox machines battle for space with toppled piles of dusty vinyl, cracked mugs and overflowing ashtrays. He, dishevelled naturally, has one elbow raised high above his head, the better to angle his index finger onto the pause button of the 4-track. The other arm conducts the symphony inside his head, the symphony he is building with the invisible orchestra locked into the grooves of the records he has scattered around the room. This is Ordeal's genius. Liberally layering records one atop another, he creates. And he does not create five minute cut/paste/breakbeat route one nonsense. He creates new songs. 4 U.

Le Danger/ J. Xaverre, split (Static Caravan) 7"
"Eavesdrop on the exciting world of electronic sound" it says on the sleeve. So I do. Pending further instructions, I listen again. Taking it upon myself to interpret the ultimate intention of the Static Brothers, I proceed to become addicted to Le Danger's Days Of Our Eyes. A solid, repetitive bass groove is the first hit. The reedy, shrill, never-ending keyboard melody is the second, longer, deeper rush. And then you need another. Xaverre, on the other side, offers Skip's Love Theme which is strictly for the comedown, a calming, soothing, gentle caress from the smoothed-out beats and a lullaby formed from pinpricks of tune.

Psychic Ills, Killers 7"
No information save the band, title and a web address on the sleeve. I go to the web site. No information. Here's some information: very edgy post-punk guitars/electronics and a healthy fascinations with psychedelic fuzz. If this record was a number, it would be 7. (Gang of Four plus Spaceman 3.)

Chuck, No, Not Ah! (Sheffield Phonographic Corporation) 7"
In a dusty Mexican village, as the sun begins to sink over what's left of the adobe walls of the old church, a group of strangers congregate at the old fountain in the centre of the main, and only, road where a rickety PA has been assembled. Dangerous wiring irregularities are evident and the group are cautious when taking up the instruments leaning against the single ancient speaker. They look around. They nod at one another. The drummer counts them in and they start tentatively. There is very little sound. A man wearing a large sombrero scuttles from a doorway and jams a screwdriver into the back of the PA. BOOM! Morricone fantasies meet the rock and roll dream and the band play big chords and jabber about jalopenos. And, as if that wasn't enough, the vinyl is thick and blue.

Tempertwig/Air Formation, split (Solution B) 7"
Brat-pack Film Philosophy is Tempertwig's side of the deal. If the philosophy is reflected in the sound, it must be closely related to nihilism, or solipsism, or other isms to do with aloneness. Spoken through a post-bender slur, the words are buried beneath a calm/storm guitar track that'd make a fine instrumental. Looking for comparisons, I find I've already shot my load reviewing the previous demos, as the press release reminds me ("Arab Strap or Tindersticks on a serious downer") so I'll delve further back into the past and remember the Blue Aeroplanes. Air Formation keep their side of the bargain with Seethrustars, a nice surge of fuzzpulsedrone that would've been called shoegazing back when shoegazing was the new fraggle.

The Books, All Bad Ends All (Make Mine) 7"
On the underside of this one is a lovely, if disturbing, tune by the name of Motherless Bastard. It starts off with a sample of a child being told it's got no parents ("Mommy? Daddy?" "They left.") and then winds along a tune that could be country were it not for the speed and the dragging strings. Thoroughly confusing and thoroughly engaging.

Escape Pod, Losing Control (Dead Digital) 7"
It's the slomolectro of Too Pure's entire back catalogue pushed through one of those slicer things they use to shred runner beans and painstakingly glued back together. It's smooth and awkward and crafted and intuitive and about a dozen other opposites attracted. Did someone say the Beta Band? Probably not far off the mark. Losing Control? No way.

McKay, Take Me Over (remix) 7"
I heard this playing in New Look or somewhere when I was out shopping with Donna Donnelly this summer. I'd had it on promo for a while, played it on the radio, loved the way Mafia and Fluxy had dropped McKay's vocal over a reggae groove recycled from Dave and Ansell Collins' Double Barrel (you know it - "I, am the Magnificent..") and wondered why records this good just lie around never crossing over. And then there it was. In a shop full of pop-fan just-teen girls (and us) looking at sparkly tops and hipster jeans. And taking no notice of the record. Life, eh?

Hitch, A Couple of Options (Kinky Star) 7"
A taut, urgent post rock chugalug. Everything present and correct and in the expected place and delivered crisply. I'm trying not to damn this with faint praise. If it was labelled Post Rock By Numbers, it'd be a reasonable description except that there's something about it I like. On red vinyl.

National Park, Secret Songs (Background Frequency) 7"
The second from Background Frequencies continues the good work laid down by the first. Home-recorded sounds on a lathe-cut disc in a handmade sleeve are the kinds of things that appeal to record fetishists, so you lot can stop reading now and just order a copy. For the others, you'll need to know that National Park's No More Rides is the sound of quiet being plucked sadly by a man and his guitar. Now you can order a copy as well. PO Box 72, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia

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