reviews april 2000

Longstone, auto://genous (Space Age) CD

Last seen around these parts droning and bubbling away on the other side of a split 7" from Electroscope for Oggum, Longstone have obviously undergone something of a digital revolution recently. Quite apart from the URL styling (the sleeve notes are festooned with colons, underscores, double slashes and so on) the music has acquired a harder electronic edge in the form of crunchy looping beats and beefed-up synthesizer mewling. Some of this probably comes from the input of The Bunnymen's Will Sergeant, the rest from an obvious appreciation for German electro. The basic elements of Longstone's sound are unchanged though. They still rely on a heartbeat cycle to provide the core from which all other elements spill. "auto://suggestion" is nothing more than ambience, machine hum, pops, fizzes and pulsation but, following it, "auto://erotic" is the soundtrack to a cyborg cardiac arrest. A human heart pumps quickly, but firmly, and all seems in order until the attack starts with full-on palpitations of random synth tones sometimes beating out a fragment of tune (or, on a couple of occasions, the sound of a disco syndrum) and sometimes just burbling along. While this goes on, the android, surrogate, heart keeps pumping a beat thick with bass, a marker for the diseased natural organ to follow. It's a breath-taking 10 minute epic that ends with the robot unsuccessful in a confusion of squealing ECG machines. Elsewhere "auto://arp" (ho ho) closes proceedings sounding like nothing less than an army of computer brooms controlled by a young apprentice magician. PO Box 8, Corby, Northants, NN17 2XZ

Hefner, Christian Girls (Too Pure) CDS

Hefner fans will already have several versions of this on other releases but apparently this is going to be the last. In its title it seems an apt follow-up to the wonderful ep of spiritual songs recorded for Peel and released through Top Dog recently. Sadly, in its music it has little going for it beyond alacritous pace and a nice 70's fuzzy edge. Much better is "We Don't Care What They Say About Us" where country slide and organ embellish half a song about love, which is what Hefner do so well.

Gluebellies, You Can (Payola) CDS

You can, but I won't, thanks very much. Gluebellies push all the right (indie) pop buttons rather too knowingly for my taste although the orchestral strings are skilfully dropped in rather than plonked on top as an afterthought. "Another Thing Needful" justifies this review, though. Still unashamedly well-produced and not a little commercial, it's got the drums fuller in the mix, vocals lower and a lovely shimmer on the guitar. Imagine the House of Love with chart ambitions. Box 5319, S-20072, Malmo, Sweden

Dxd, Mr Rose Aime La Pop (Dazzle and Delight) CDS

On the list of ways to guarantee yourself a review in Robots.. two criteria are most prominent. (1) include either android references or "Jimmy" in the titles and (2) produce music with a bit of bite. Dxd manage both on this 3-tracker and thus come up double bonus trumps with bells on. "Mr Rose.." sits uneasily somewhere between techno and disco, veering closer to both at various times throughout its five-minute length but always retaining a sprinkling of staccato electro melody over the top. "Psychotic Jimmy" marries a crackly AM-radio breakbeat to an otherworldly flute loop (less frenetic than ETA's floor-filling similar pairing of a couple of years ago) with choice funk bass and house and boogie-woogie piano. Think a restrained Jools Holland jamming with the Beastie Boys in lounge mode on Later.., Rock Made Week (Super Volcano) CDS

There's a fabulous (ahem) line on the minute sleeve of this CD-3 packaged like a 50p practical joke (you know the kind; Floating Sugar Lump, Black Mouth Chewing Gum...). It says "b-f.u.k. is catriona, vicky and tom (with dan on injection)." Christ, you think, any band with a member devoted entirely to shooting up must be pretty wild. Until you realise that, in fact, the devotion is to poor punctuation and "Injection" is the first, 30-second, track. But it is pretty wild. Anyway, short though it is, "Injection" is perfectly self-contained, a little like Wire used to be although about 20 times faster and with correspondingly more frenzied screaming and pummelling. It's completely at odds with the other 4 tracks which go for art-school insouciance and the splattered version of rock pioneered by Sonic Youth, all casually shrugged-off riffs, studied doodling and laconically-delivered sugar homilies. 21 Ventnor Rd, Liverpool, L15 4JF

Various, Please Rewind And Play Again III (We) CD

In other news, disco finally reached Texas...and was immediately subverted by the breakbeat fanatics at We Records' PRAPA school. Zoolook/Gandalv are the curtain raisers, their "Filter Waves pt 1" a flood of tweaked EQs and pounding 4s; Daniel Taylor's "Mindjam" is roughed-up Parisian disco and Population Zero vs. Vertigo Blue offer, with "Antithesis", something that clearly has Moroder ancestry although distant. DJ Samplistic is an old-hand at these compilations but breaks the mould somewhat with "Tainted Life" which has as much to do with Marc Almond's excellent biography as it does with Studio 54, i.e. nothing. Instead we get instrumental hip hop placed somewhere between the grab-bag craziness of Kid Koala and the stony seriousness of label-mate DJ Vadim. Another old-timer, DR:OP:FR:AM+E, sticks to his guns too, with a slow-rolling, paranoid and drugged-up breakbeat blur before Chris Anderson's timely "Now" beats a strangely tribal techno drum. This is probably the pick of the three PRAPA comps to date. PO Box 751325, Houston TX 77275-13325

Farina, Two People (Pickled Egg) 7"

The David Ackles interview/obituary written by Farina's Mark Brend for last summer's Ptolemaic Terrascope serves as a useful backdrop for this debut 3-track 7". In the piece he describes, lovingly, how Ackles developed from an in-house songwriter sent to the studio himself when Jac Holzman couldn't find any Elektra artists to record his original songs through to a composer of epic and orchestral tunes with insightful, though perhaps inaccessible, lyrics produced by Bernie Taupin and back down to a more solitary, home-recorded, ill-understood and overlooked talent during the years 1967-73. Brend is clearly besotted by Ackles and writes repeatedly of the filmic, theatrical and Brechtian elements of his music, which seem to grow stronger over the course of his first three albums, and the depth and breadth of Ackles lyrical content and emotional palette.

Without having heard any Ackles (although there's some on order) it's impossible to say for sure how close Farina aim to follow his blueprint, but its fairly safe to say that there's every indication they've cribbed a few notes from his work. "Two people" opens like a Tom Waits track with a ripple of piano and a lazy muted trumpet ready to crash into a bluegrass/honky tonk growlfest but Farina casually shrug and turn away, introducing instead a trumpet line that swoons into an understated melody from the as-yet-unwritten West End musical about Hovis. The, initially at least, disarmingly Baby Bird-ish, vocals also underplay their role, threatening to step up a gear a couple of times before a sad fanfare introduces the bouncier second half. Once there, the trumpet cuts loose and an almost music hall feel impinges on the doleful mood, a kind of knees-down courtesy of the piano before degeneration into free jazz parping. A bit of a trip, then, but tempered by "If She Should Blame Him" on the other side. Here, simplicity is the order of the day. A tardy organ furnishes funereal chordage over which a song of regret is sighfully delivered. "Displace" continues the almost religious feel with a fragile choral chant that comes close to the kind of feeling David Crosby put into "I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here." It's easy to turn into an adjective monster on these occasions, so I'll stick to just a couple: unusual and moving.

Luther Blissett, The Open Pop Star (Wot 4) CD

I can't even begin to imagine what manner of strangeness inhabits the minds of the people at Wot 4. For instance, what would lead anyone to suggest a collaboration between Japanese noise-meister, Merzbow, and Ladybird whose sweet tunes bring to mind a basic, sparse Solex? But having done that, what would drive them to stifle communication between the two artists and instead place one track from each of them in the two stereo channels? And who would put money on this being not only a sublime cut but also the best track on an album of esoteric music and even more esoteric philosophy? Wot 4 are unpredictable enough on their own (and they usually only deal in music and video) but here they are joined by Luther Blissett, or the Luther Blissett Project, Radio Blissett or even Lex Luther who provide the text and much of the inspiration. This takes the form, on the first page of the booklet, of denying that they ever existed, simultaneously announcing that this is the end of their organisation, and then claiming that they might carry on anyway!

Each track on the CD is accompanied by some, or no, confusing and dislocated propaganda which may, or may not, shed some light on its origins. Usually it doesn't and the selection of shotgun victim photos purportedly by an allegedly non-existent Serbian artist Darko Maver doesn't do much to straighten things out either. It's no surprise to find self-styled cyber-sadist Stewart Home popping up on the disc with "Monty Cantsin," apparently (according to the sleeve notes) a name adopted by any number of artists as a protest against the denigration of the individual in society.

If you stick to the music you'll at least be spared one dimension of disorientation. Aside from the Merzbow/Ladybird crossover, the genius on this record comes from Deadburger whose "Antigrammatica" perverts the syntax of dance music with a torrent of acid techno and dirty breakbeats spooled out of odd Italian samples and strange electro break-downs; PVC and "Nuovi Alfabeti" which sounds like a bizarre collaboration between INXS and Marshall Jefferson on a very bad day; and TEZ with "The Microslave's Brokenbeat" where a variety of beats are shoehorned into too little space and left to fight it out with some easy-listening smoothness.

If weird electronica is your thing then Wot 4 are your label. If, in addition, rebellious rhetoric, propaganda pamphlets and railing against the Powers That Be float your boat, then the combination of Wot 4 and Luther Blissett will be perfect for you. If you support Watford FC and Luther Blissett was your childhood hero, then I'd give this one a miss. PO Box 68 AB 7700 Dedemsvaart, Netherlands

Recycle, Ritmo (Wot 4) CD

Recycle by name and recyclers by nature, this pair of lunatic Romans are the Wombles of surrealist electronic music. Armed with samplers and sequencers they hoover up the detritus of the last 60 years of recorded music, compact it down and spit out odd-shaped, strange-sounding techno. On the incredible single "Mamma Roma Addio" the source was a riff from the Easy Rider soundtrack, on the album (their second) it's just about everything else! For fans of Aphex, Paradinas, LRD, Bentley Rhythm Ace and other, erm, characters with pop sense, tongues firmly in cheek and broad taste. Comes complete with bizarre video footage for your computer. PO Box 68 AB 7700 Dedemsvaart, Netherlands

The Teenbeat, Fly to the Sun CD

The Teenbeat's world is small but viewed at a very high resolution and with full zoom. They deal with the details in life, the tiny facets of the everyday that pass most of us by. Theirs is a childlike perception of often adult concerns, but also of a childhood past with layers of grown-up reflection. Take the garages at the end of the alley that runs down the back of our terrace. Looking back, the garages were more than just automobile repositories, they were somewhere to smoke surreptitious fags, conduct furtive rendezvous with the girl from the youth club, trap boys from the other local school and sling rocks at them with a catapult, spy on a neighbour's wife hanging out her just-washed bras and panties, drink home-brew filched from a mate's dad's loft while he's on the evening shift, throw up, marvel at the Skins Rool biro-and-compass tattoo across the forearm of the chap from over the road's teenage squaddie son, oggle at the almost unbelievable pictures in a torn copy of Razzle found on the waste ground over the back, lie in the summer sun and spin tall tales of future fame, lie in the summer evenings and spin tall tales of future girlfriends, play football, tennis and cricket in season, cough uncontrollably after a first joint, avoid the kids who sometimes come round to sniff glue, cry quietly (and alone) after a playground rejection, experiment with petrol, matches and the tramp's mattress while he's away down the town centre for more booze, lay glass across the front of the garage rented by the posh bastard from up the road, fumble with the unexpected complexity of the undergarments belonging to a girl from the next street...When you enter The Teenbeat's world you're treated to these macroscopic views of the back of the garages or Anglesey, or the local club, or work or whatever else is on the mind of Adrian R Shaw-the man at the helm, in a loose kind of sense-while the rest of the band make shadowy and awkward Beat Happening noises. You won't want to leave. 25 Redwood Ave, Royston, Barnsley, S71 4JP.

Pentothal, West Coast EP CDS

When you name yourself after the truth drug you've got to be prepared to put up with some honest assessment. Frankly, Pentothal are nowhere near the finished article yet but at least one of these five tracks shows where they might be heading. "T. Shuffle" is-and it may not surprise you to learn that this is a Scottish band-rather Slinty and not unlike Lazarus Clamp although without the polish and complexity that the Clamp can whip up. Still, plenty of potential.

Lolita Storm, Girls Fucking Shit Up (DHR) CD

I've heard bad reports of Lolita Storm live and they're backed up by the hand-held and washed-out video footage tagged on to the end of the album in which the band sound, and look (except for Jimmy Too-Bad at the back on sampler duty), like a nightmare Bananarama trying to overcome the sound of Napalm Death rehearsing an operetta for power tools at the other end of the hall. We had much the same complaint about Atari Teenage Riot when we saw them play in Cambridge recently (except Alec Empire was living out Iggy Pop fantasies rather than Siobhan Fahey ones). ATR suffered from a kind of arm's race mentality in which each track seemingly had to better the last by being more distorted or louder and this obliterated any of the contrast on the recordings. As Empire is the producer here, it's no surprise to find that the same thing is true. In the more malleable studio environment there's greater control and more room for, if not subtlety, then at least the tone and volume variation that gets wiped out live.

The sound is the usual Digital Hardcore testosterone-powered mashing up of high-speed breakbeats and overdriven everything else but, for the first British band to be signed to DHR, there's touches of Bow Wow Wow and the odd track like "O.K. Sid" that could be label-mates Cobra Killer with its ramshackle Trumpton loop. It's not just noise, though, these are 3 girls and one bloke with attitude too. "Anthea Turner's Tears" picks on an easy target, yes, but with an admirably ruthless strike ("...fucking Peter Powell, she tried to make her childhood dreams come true" ) and there's no original philosophy in it, but "she knows that guys brains are found behind their flies" sums things up pretty well in the girl-powered anthem "Red Hot Riding Hood." In summary then, it's 15 blasts (over 2 minutes is an epic) of rasping noise with shouting and attitude. Hard to beat.

Marshall Star, (Get On) Heaven Help Me (Furry) CDS

Incongruous. Calling yourself Furry Records and having a hedgehog for a logo. Incongruous: Taking the kind of pop song that Stock, Aitken and Waterman would've moulded around Jaki Graham for a massive hit at the arse end of the 80s and subjecting it to a sparse, dark and bass-led splicing. Where you expect smooth you get ragged, where you expect a nice simple neo-disco beat you get a jagged stutter and where you'd been expecting to put your handbag down you'll likely find someone's already snatched it. A similar stunt is pulled on "My Love" which destroys a song shaping up to be Lionel Ritchie's "Hello" with twisted distortion. Available from Rough Trade or 14 Court Bushes Rd, Whyteleaf, Surrey CR3 0BG

Various, Hits and Missiles (Guided Missile) CD

About a compilation of Guided Missile bands, there's one phrase that you can guarantee will never be out of place. Here it is: "Most of them sound like the Fall." The sublime Donkey prove the point with their "League of Mature Jazz Friends", a high-speed romp and one of only a couple of previously-released track amongst the 20-odd on here.. Of course, there are degrees and nuances of Fallinity but the essentials are all here: impenetrability, jaggedness, thickness and a heavy undercarriage. The players include The Yummy Fur, Morocco, Country Teasers, Lung Leg, Male Nurse, Gag, Gilded Lil and Bis (Bis do not sound like the Fall). Picks are Donkey's other track, "The Idea vs. The Budget" wherein prog rock dreams are explored with the aid of a huge fuzz allowance; Multiplex Cineman remixing a track from Donkey's last album (are you spotting a theme?) in the style of a mad crazy lunatic with a big drum; and Polythene's Buzzcocks-on-helium-and-acid squall "Killed By The Pigs." Only a fiver: PO Box 11413, London, N19 4AH.

Tangle Edge TAPE

Music for refined palates from Tangle Edge. There's the open-ended nature of prog rock before it became a genre with its own conventions, psychedelic overtones (and other tones), Asian and Oriental infusions, a jazz and blue bottom line and soaring melodies. Yes, there is a lot of guitar soloing and, yes, the band probably do wear bandanas and paisley or tie-dye shirts but, for once, give your preconceptions a rest and see if you aren't enthralled and wrapped up in this... OK, you can light a few joss sticks if you want to. Box 589, 8507 Narvik, Norway

Woodbine, Tricity Tiara (Domino) CDS

Possibly the favourite appliance of the new-space revolutionaries, the Tricity Tiara was also the subject of a John Sims tune if I'm not mistaken. There's one in our kitchen too (a cooker, that is, not a John Sims tune) and I've got no real complaints about it although it is much too narrow to cook pizzas without burning the crust near the walls of the oven before the middle is done. Woodbine are obviously more enamoured of theirs if this haunting, echoey acoustic strum is anything to go by. It's not a comparison I'd've come up with had we not been listened to the album last night but this one shimmers and affects like the woebegone beauty of the Butterflies of Love.

Felix Kubin, Jane B Drowns With the Horses/ Various, Naked and Alone on the Celebrity Circuit sampler (both Diskono) 10"/CD

File under Phono-Terrorism. Diskono would prefer the term avant pop to reverse the perceived wisdom that avant-garde artists should at best ignore and at worst gainsay popular culture. The irony is that there's nothing on here that could, even on the most generous day, be described as remotely resembling a pop song. Or even a song if you discount the Jane Birkin sample that opens Kubin's 10" which, anyway, soon folds itself into an odd loop of disintegrating seaside waves. Of his other three tracks, "Termites" is probably strongest: a drum'n'bass track where the drums have been replaced by the chattering of a mound of computer-simulated insects. It is strangely soporific and probably the most coherent (in a traditional sense) of all the material here. "Wagner 99" and "Father Must Whip the Room" are disjointed and messy. The former the sound of the impending meltdown of a nuclear core, all fizzing and distant sirens; the latter a sprawling precursor to "Termites" in which fluttering oddments of sound dance around each other as if moths worshipping a flame. All four tracks are sonically engaging but (presuming there's some method in the madness) conceptually right over my head.

On the compilation you'll find the currently ubiquitous Kid 606, V/Vm, Office Products, Skagboy and 20 or so like-minded mates. The pick of this sampler is Opopop's "Evol" which, despite in all probability being a contraction of evolution, only manages to threaten to develop from tinny rattlings and scrapings into something bigger. Joel Ongthorne takes the prize for cognomenical inspiration even if "Gallery Improv" is little more than a sketch of randomness.

Mother Goose, High Anxiety (Dat Resistor) CD

When the CD comes in a Petri dish with a tracklisting stamped on a rubber glove you know that you're going to get more than another bunch of indie-by-numbers wetboys. And so it is here. Mother Goose prefer darker sounds. Black, in fact, of the Big and Sabbath varieties. Like pretty much all Finnish bands I've ever heard (apart from some atrocious speed metal a childhood pen-friend once sent) the sludge riffs and jerk/clang clarity of the primary influences are backed up by all manner of secondary crud and the band end up sounding peculiarly one-off. The "other crud" includes weird jazz and Captain Beefheart, odd Balkan folk music, California surf and a love of noise. Look out also for the "Strips" 7" on the same label recorded a couple of years earlier and sounding all the more primitive for it, and the split with Sur-Rur on Black Oval. All three and more are, I think, available from the band. Box 138, 06101 Porvoo, Finland

Vinyl Bill, What Lo-Fi/ Lettuce Prey, Blood From a Stoner Witch (both Best Kept Secret) both TAPE

Some of Alessandro Crestani's indie pop fetishism reaches too high a sugar concentration for my taste. He stays just the right side of my (not at all) sweet tooth, though, by releasing another Vinyl Bill tape on his Best Kept Secret label. When they really hit the spot, as on "Static," Vinyl Bill (not a William with a fascination for shiny trousers, but two blokes, maybe after a record shopping spree) come across like a more lethargic Dawn Of The Replicants. Elsewhere there's hints of reverence for the Velvet Underground, The Byrds as country rockers and Neil Young all recorded with 4-track fog and, in places, Smog.

Also showing signs of a Byrds influence (to the extent that they cover "Mind Garden") Lettuce Prey are more upbeat and far more agreeable than the terrible name might suggest. Although nothing special or wildly original, there's a smile in their songs and on some days that's all you need. via Biron di Sotto 101, 361 Vicenza, Italy

Idiot Son, Sunflowers/Home Soon (Easy!Tiger) 7"

Another strummer of the battered acoustic guitar with all the world's woes strapped high up on his shoulders, Andrew Thompson is the latest discovery of Easy!Tiger's weariness radar. The label has a love for these people; prematurely-aged men who feel that at any moment they might be spirited away from us in a sudden, but not entirely unexpected, episode that's probably the result of their own behaviour back down the line somewhere. The tentative delivery and a disinclination to conclude can be put down to a desire not to hasten their own demise, a textbook case of bitter-sweet: bitter for the Idiot Son, a self-imposed gaol of his own design, but so, so sweet for us, outside the bars with the music.

Discordia, Marina Discordia (Sorted) 7"

A nasty shade of brown with chrome-effect bumpers and grillwork, the aerodynamics of an anvil, a gearbox that required wrestling into second and a rust problem that would shame most ship-wrecks, Dad's hulking old Morris Marina was still a joy to drive for the 17-year-old Possession. The car was a four-wheeled liberator on occasional weekend evenings, enabling travel to such exotic destinations as Coventry, Tamworth, Redditch and Wolverhampton in the name of live music entertainment. Heady days indeed, but not soundtracked by the thunderously sparse hip hop of Run DMC or the beatbox grebo of Pop Will Eat Itself that were his virtually intravenous diet at the time, because the Marina came equipped only with an AM radio and Dad wasn't fussed enough about listening to his Barbara Dickson tapes in the car to fit anything else. Ironically, for such a prosaically-named machine, the closest it ever came to waterside jetties was the self-service car wash with jet spray at the garage round the corner from Gran's house in Smethwick.

It's a safe bet, then, that the good ship Discordia, piloted ably by Captain Malloch, is not celebrating the pinnacle of the British car industry on this release. Safe, because instead of 20 minutes of tortured scrapings we instead get 100-odd seconds of pop perfection, the like of which could not have been inspired by ONP 635T. Starting with an old-school break and horn hits, layers of drowsy melody waft around laconic female vocals in what we'd have called trip-hop a couple of years ago but is now virtually mainstream. Not as edgy as most of the material on the "Muzico Discordia" album, but still with enough oomph in the beat department to satisfy your hip hop side, it's another success for the tourist office of the imaginary land Discordia.

Gulliver, Boujouba (Pickled Egg) 7"

Considerably more mature than the last Pickled Egg single which was in turn an advance on the preceding demo, Hugues Caullet is now making classy, classic French pop music. This isn't the awayday Parisian gloss of your average 60's flick chicks either, but, on opener "Pierre et Marie," a fully-fledged sorrow of melancholy and piano, and in "Le General des Gouttes de Pluie" a late-night cabaret duet for the broken-hearted.

Johnny Domino/Mark Hibbett and the Validators, split (Reveal) 7"

JD offer up the two sides of their own particular coin in "Mex" and "Good Feeling." The first is a wobbly wonk-rock of a song, swerving like a loaded wheelbarrow pushed by an elderly relative. The tune frays at the edges as the band rattle through it, shredding bits and pieces as they pass, and hastily patching them back on just in time for the loud bits. The second track highlights exactly why I said the Domino boys were miserable in our recent interview (slow, morose, underplayed and, dammit, just plain miserable) and exactly why they were able to plead guilty merely to dark humour and cynicism (the chorus/title sung with full irony and bored-sounding "yeah yeah"s.) On the other side, Mark Hibbett once again dons his Adrian Mole-meets-Billy Bragg disguise aided this time by the Validators whose spiky knee-trembling is much more listenable than his solo performances, both here and on the new album for Artists Against Success.

Office Building, City Square (Winter Cow) 7"

Bands often being motivated by a desire for escape from the humdrum of the day-to-day grind, it takes a special kind of inversion to return to the subject of your diurnal torture for a name. Or perhaps it's a way to exorcise that particular demon. Whatever, this group of Finns find inspiration in the reinforced concrete and drabness of the 60s town-planner's vision of Utopian harmony, scratching up 5 songs seemingly recorded in a dank underpass at 8:50 on a Monday morning as the 9-5ers trudge past. The infectious disenchantment of the commuters permeates what might've been cheerful, but bendy, power pop in the hands of someone like Pavement and turns it into a mixture of sad, but bendy, power pop and suicidal busker scrapings. $5 from Vaino Averink, O f 23, 00560 HKI, Finland

Pope John Paul III/Adam Beebe (both Mishap) both TAPE

Came with a challenge, this pair, in the accompanying letter: "You like avant-garde music, don't you?" As if to suggest that slagging the tapes off would somehow mean I could never play "Dog Pound Found Sound" (a 2-CD location recording of the obvious) again and would in future have to devote myself entirely to Billie, Westlife, Steps and Co. So, as I settle down with Five's new one, I can safely say that the mangled distortion of Adam Beebe's solo concoctions does very little for me. The sound of a TV in the next room with two angry squid fighting over the remote and a tractor revving up is very probably avant-garde, but perhaps rather too avant for me.

Apart from the name, there's nothing much avant-garde about PJP3 (and even the name has been used before somewhere, I think) but they've got Camper van Beethoven's knack for moulding weird little tunes out of weird little sounds and weird little words, and a chameleon's capacity for swift changes. Towards the end of side 2, "Cliche" is a superb ragged distorto rap/rant with elements of Digital Hardcore although at a much lower speed sandwiched between "What'll they think of next?"---a deadpan Lou Reedish noodle---and "What'll I do?" the Irving Berlin number recorded with a full helping of cheese on a Bontempi set to faux-country and a ridiculous 80s pop-metal guitar. This is the kind of music Robots.. was made for: challenging, pop, strange, funny, serious, varied and edgy. 846 Pine Flat Rd, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA.

Carbon Arcade TAPE

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead. Or so they say. Carbon Arcade would probably beg to differ (carbon, graphite---y'see?) as, indeed, they do in the tricky field of instrumental guitar bands. Whereas most are now charging down the motorway Mogwai ran along the winding dirt tracks trodden out by Slint and others of their tribe, Carbon Arcade are detouring along little-known (in indie circles) side roads and country lanes. Much more pastoral, in effect, with neither the intense highs or white-out lows but instead a constantly-swerving and undulating middle way. It doesn't always engage fully and on occasion sounds a bit muso but when it works best, as on "Loafs and Fishes," it can sound like a short Stone Roses intro stretched out. Moorburn Rd, Laargs, Ayrshire, KA30 9DF.

By Coastal Cafe, A Call to Jamie TAPE

The title song is little more than hiss relieved by a microtune plucked out on something that sounds like a cheesewire; "Yvette" is 3 chords, a thump! whack! muffled beat, asthmatic harmonica and Marilyn's ingenuous nursery school singing while "At Home She Does Marvellous Things" sounds like something you might concoct with a Simon toy. If you haven't come across the faery tale joy that is By Coastal Cafe before, you'll probably be thinking about skipping on to the next review about now. If you have come across the faery tale joy that is By Coastal Cafe before, you'll probably be greedily anticipating the innocent pop they can charm out of essentially nothing. If the term hasn't already been appropriated by a chin-stroking German electronic movement, I'd like to introduce you, ladies and gentlemen, to Gestalt Pop.

Various, Quick, Cheap and Nasty (Hairy Parents) TAPE

When Parlour Talk's Scoutleader Deed said told me that he'd happily go back to making tapes with, and for, his mates if everything went belly-up at Acid Jazz I wasn't entirely convinced...until I'd heard "Quick, Cheap and Nasty," that is. The six tracks on here come from a cast of characters rejoicing in names like Beef, Lamb, Meats, Streisand, Alan Lamb, DJ Name and Mayor Quimby along with Deed himself and the other MCs from Undivided Attention who also guested on Parlour Talk's "Padlocked Tonic" album. "Draggin a Piece of Fur" is sparse beatbox hip hop of the '86 school (think Ice-T's "Ya Don't Quit"), all echo and fractured scratching and probably the least individual of the four finished cuts. More characteristic of the Hairy Parents' ethic are "Dub No. 1" which embellishes a minimal dub bass line, simple beats and lyrics jetted in from the other side of sanity and delivered with full West Country vowel spread, and "Science Manual Modular 4" where some starchy scientist is cut up alongside some twisting dark synths and a skittish loop while the rappers learn "how to chat bollocks in a verse." The final two tracks, "Klause (a)" and "Klause (b)" really sum up what the crew are all about. Irreverent weed-soaked easy-listening experiments in which the UA MCs freestyle over Klaus Wunderlich Hammond organ until one or the other breaks down in a fit of laughter or expletives. It could so easily have been an in-joke but the rhymes are so ridiculous and delivered with such obvious glee that it's more of a joke-in. 4 quid to Hairy Parents, PO Box 125, Bristol, BS16 5YL.

Undivided Attention, Missed Treatment/In a Change to the Scheduled Programming (Hairy Parents) 12"

From the same bunch, this debut 12" proffers the two A-sides, their instrumentals and sundry beats'n'pieces for DJ usage. "Missed Treatment" pounds unrelentingly with the same kind of vibe Moby summoned up for "Honey" while Deed, Spye and Majesta trade lines at speed from deep in the mix. A tub-thumping floor-filler marred only by the (presumably ironic, but) appalling and unnecessary guitar solo which is also "helpfully" supplied as a separate track. On the other side, "A Change..." sounds like an off-cut from "Padlocked Tonic," the same smooth grooves slipped over a simple breaks, dual DJ scratch action and tag-team rapping on the general theme of how good they are but taking in their "GCSE for DJ and MC" and the art of pushing a broomstick through the spokes of a bike wheel. Glorious and yours for only a fiver from Hairy Parents, PO Box 125, Bristol, BS16 5YL. Also available: "635 Cubic Feet," the demo that got Parlour Talk a record deal (6 quid).

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