reviews august 2004

Wasteland, October (Transparent) CD

DJ Scud and I-Sound fracture electronic music like a prism splits white light and then collect the scattered elements in old bass bins for dense dub processing. This is the second album of their Wasteland collaboration and the sound is heavy with brooding intensity and the echoes of music you once knew as gabba and rave and noise and techno and dub and points between. The mood and the beats twist and shift before your ears, always in a groove but never quite the groove you're expecting, just like the choicest Techno Animal moments.

Virgin Passages, Virgin Passages CDR

Their first and only mistake was to send an email with the subject Virgin Passages. Luckily for them it got through the spam filter - the lack of spelling mistakes probably fooled it - and luckily for me it ensured the delivery of three beautiful tracks. Two stand out: acoustic guitar and doubled boy/girl vocals work like Sonic Youth unplugged on the gorgeous When The Sky Fell and the same component parts rearrange themselves as haunting folk music for Naked Minds.

Uter/ Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element/ A Roman Scandal/ Denim and Diamonds, split (Asking For Trouble) 2x7"

Four bands on four sides of this debut release from Asking For Trouble. Denim and Diamonds work the hyper Devo angle with the attention span of with the attention span of Devo angle with the attention span of where was I? Tinny and rapid and squeaky and helium and robotic and great. They split a disc with Uter whose Where Is The Lid? kicks off like the intro to pretty much anything from the Jesus and Mary Chain's Automatic album (drum machine and bass atmosphere) before developing into, well, more or less the same. Across the way, A Roman Scandal's Mock The Gods sounds like something The Mission would've enjoyed fed through an aquarium filter, a shortwave transmission in a storm and a bicycle wheel in need of grease. It's no surprise to find they share members with Denim and Diamonds. Finally, Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element suffer an involuntary priapism amongst the fractured and angular shreds of guitar treble cut with film samples.

The discs come in a box with inserts from each band, a mini zine (which explains why there'll probably never be another release on the label) and a mystery gift. (Mine's a street map of Osaka.)

King Honey, Plectrum (Make Mine) 7"

A staccato yet melodic dub rides on the back of a beat that seems to evolve as the record revolves. A rattle, a click and a flex bounce back and forth, colliding with their own reflections, cancelling each other out and giving birth to new permutations. If you told me this was on Static Caravan I wouldn't be surprised, it's just their kind of mellow magic.

Vector Lovers/Alkin Engineering, split (Static Caravan) 7"

We already vector love the Vector Lovers and their smooth electro that slips so sensuously from the speakers. Both their tracks (Tokyo Glitterati and Onsen) sit up at the melodic end of the scale, schooled in the post-Kraftwerk tradition. Alkin Engineering's Powder Blue is from the same family, but a distant, irksome, cousin. Superficially simple but underneath spurning the loop in favour of constant beat alteration and near-repitition, it's a challenge, but a nice challenge.

Roy and The Devil's Motorcycle, Not Enough Madness (Subway Star) 7"

You've heard it a million times before - the sludge of underproduction thickly spread across the age-old riffs, vocals distorted out of recognition, nursery school drumming and the aura of too many smoky bad gigs. But there's something about edgy about Roy's grimy wrangling that makes this million and first time just like the first time.

Champion Kickboxer, Him + Her + Her + Me (Sheffield Phonographic Company) 7"

Round one: I haven't got a clue what he's on about, nor why there's a melody played on milk bottles with a spoon and I'm struggling to find reasons why I like it so much. Round two: it's nothing like as fast as you'd expect a band with this name to be, the only thin link to the noble art seems to be a disorientating, dizzy, swirling sensation - the kind you feel as the count reaches 8 and you try to sit up - brought on by the slow-building mesmeric layers of shifting simplicity. Round three: none of these words does the record justice. Here's one that does: Knockout.

Lionshare, The City Will Go/ The Broken Family Band, Poor Little Thing/ Of Montreal, I Was A Landscape In Your Dream (all Harvest Time) all 7"

The record label grew out of the Harvest Time gigs Simon Loynes has been putting on around Cambridge for the last couple of years. We saw Animal Collective go wild at one (they were brilliant) and we left some acoustic duo playing tedious second-hand blues to just the soundman at another (they weren't.) The gigs were often about giving bands somewhere to play - which is admirable - but, as any musical obsessive will tell you, vinyl is precious and so the quality control here is turned all the way up to 11.

Lionshare have been accused of following the Will Oldham blueprint too closely and their last release, although perfectly crafted, didn't do anything to discourage the criticism. The City Will Go does. Over a warm and complex almost-drone of finger picking and cello, Simon exhales an evocative folk drawl that would virtually carry the story without words. The Broken Family Band don't need me to tell you how good they are. Poor Little Thing is retooled here (the original is on the Jesus Songs album) but still has its full quota of country-sad warmth and charm. I'd love to hear them cover something by Slim Whitman. Of Montreal's I Was A Landscape In Your Dream actually is one of my dreams. The one where someone tries to sing the theremin lines from the Star Trek theme (but gets it wrong) and someone else runs bits of Human League tunes backwards over the sound of a distant doorbell choir.

Join the Harvest Time singles club at PO Box 234, Cambridge, CB3 7ZZ

Puffinboy, Short//Cut (Foolproof Projects) 7"

"It's Saturday morning and the Robocoloured Swap Shop is now open. On line one we've got Puffinboy calling in from Brighton and he wants to offer, erm, he wants to offer his right hand. Is that right, Puffinboy?"

"Yeah that's right, Robo Noel."

"And what do you want to swap it for? Hang on, let me get the top off my pen.. OK."

"I want to swap it for the chance to be Gary Numan for a day."

"Aha, yes, ha ha, erm, ha ha, yes, well let's see if anyone out there wants to do that swap while we, erm, while we have a cartoon."

It never happened, of course, and it never will until the 70s make another dreary comeback once time travel's been invented. Til then, Puffinboy has to amuse himself with tracks like Short//Cut that stab out blocky robot melodies over basic beats with all the glee of early electro.

Blue From A Gun, Can Wirion (R-Bennig) 7"

It translates as Crazy Song but it's not a song. Well, not much of a song to begin with. Mostly it's a surf beat and a surf riff with a touch of the Telstars about it that straps on a big digital fuzz overcoat about halfway through. That's when the crazy kind of singing is dropped in and the title starts earning its crust. Sounds like Sonovac on a very good, and Welsh, day.

: reviews : interviews : live : features : shop : search: contact