reviews february 2002

Moon, A Second Blue (Burning Emptiness) CD

So anyway, I wasn't supposed to review the first CD Moon sent me. But there was so much that was beautiful in the mess of blurred, unmixed fragments that I couldn't help but scrawl a few lines down between bouts of the kind of headphone intensity I used to reserve for Loop and Spaceman 3. The quality control was lacking, but the creativity control was turned up to 11. On this second – the first "proper" – release, they've trimmed hours and hours of improvised drone/FX/noise/melody down into 40 minutes of daydream bliss. There's seven tracks split into two "sides," two tracks on the CD, just like the old days (and don't get me started on the old days) and, just like the old days, you can lie on the mouldy mattress in your smelly bedsit, curtains drawn, eyes closed, can of Chequer Bitter half-drunk, spliff gone out, cold chile half-eaten balanced precariously on the coffee table edge, and dream of being drawn up and away into the ether by the power of raw waves of liquid guitar. B+D Del Nista, Chemin de Saint Marc, Mauran, 13130 Berre, France

And Then Nothing, Submerge/ Stormcrow, Pardon My French (Moth) both 7"

Two releases on this label that might be said to roam the same territory. And what territory indeed! This terrain is dark, dubby and truly funky hip hop where the dance inclined may do their thing and deceptive simplicity prevails. And then there's always the beat.

And Then Nothing's Submerge finds intrepid English explorers seduced by the dark rhythms of this strange world, whilst the flip brings out the groovy guitars. Stormcrow take great delight in looping some colourful language on Pardon My French and dubbing out on the superior b-side, Schtomp. Moth Records, PO Box 20459, London, SE17 3WN (Laurence)

Ex-Rental, Before They Were Famous CDR

The "quotes" from Bowie and Morrisey on the sleeve show Ex-Rental can invent the talk, but can they walk the walk? If we ignore the wanna-(PS)B errors-of-judgement, the answer is yes. Stick some essence of Almond, some dangerous disco and an android perfection into a boogie box and you'd be about there. Before they were famous? Maybe. Before they drop the pop and go for the jump-up jugular? Hopefully.

Yellow 6, Lake:Desert (Ochre) CD

If dreams were oil on the still waters of the brain, Yellow 6 is the chap who operates the cranial slide projector and slowly stirs as the gentle swirls of slow-looping drones make pretty patterns on the retina. It's the UFO club in your head. PO Box 155, Cheltenham, GL51 0YS

Toby Slater, Consumption CDR

Wave Runner are half of the Cuban Boys. They've remixed Toby Slater's anti-corporate rant to thumping local nightclub dancefloor effect. No surprises. Both The Cubans and Slater have some major label trauma to exorcise and The Cubans are nothing if not populist dancefloor.

Marshmallow Coast, Ride The Lightning (Pickled Egg) CD

Schooled in musicology as he so obviously is, it can’t have escaped Andy Gonzales’ notice that Metallica released an album entitled Ride The Lightning in 1984. Given the choice, back in 1984, I reckon I’d have plumped for the ‘Ca over the Coast. But then, cock-thrusting rhythms, intense in-your-face ultraspeed and black blackness are the kinds of things a young chap needs to get over acne, frustrated adolescent longings and the urge to masturbate 5 times a day. These days, gentle rhythms, relaxed and thoughtful pacing and multicolour multitextures are more likely to get my burgeoning pot belly rippling with pleasure as I reach for another Werther’s Original and a mug of Ovaltine. Thrash metal still helps the orgasm addiction, though. But that’s another story for another time.

Marshmallow Coast’s Ride The Lightning, is based in the Athens, Georgia scene and a lifetime of musical scholarship. Which isn’t to say you should just lump it in with the rest of the psychedelic retromaniacs and records made by people with their head up their past. Despite the hints, nods in the direction, and overt flattery, of what went before, this is a thoughtful and original affair. Unlike many of Marshmallow Coast’s local contemporaries (see The Olivia Tremor Control) Syd Barrett is the band leader rather than Sgt. Pepper, there’s classical and jazz deviances and the songwriting has been studied as hard as the melodies. 19 College Avenue, Leicester, LE2 0JF.

Solar Plexus CDR

Superficial and lazy – okay, more superficial and lazy – commentators waste no time in slotting Solar Plexus into the folder marked Belle and Seb copyists. But there's much more here than a band following the folkish path to indie record buying hearts. There's the naïve loveliness, the learning-to-gel sheen, the essence of self-discovery and a gentle that you just don't get elsewhere. Ducksong is the pick of the three, something that wouldn't be too far out of place on my fantasy record where Vashti Bunyan re-records her lost 1970s classic, Just Another Diamond Day, in my front room.

The Cost of Living, CDR

The Cost of Living are like being on the dole: so few notes, so much time. Post-rock, then, but still capable of wringing something worthwhile out of essentially the same old binary oppositions: harsh/gentle, loud/soft, intense/laid-back. Not the most original thing you've ever heard, but sometimes quality is enough.

Big Eyes, Love Is Gone Mad (Pickled Egg) CD

It seems like Big Eyes are growing up fast. The first record was a breezy affair, sketches of songs and instantaneous reaction. A child. The second record was more considered. Clumsy Music it was called – although it sounded anything but clumsy – and the name is suggestive of the teenager struggling to find their feet. Love Is Gone Mad is the third. It would be cruel to say middle-age has set in, but there’s certainly a lot of room for reflection in these grooves. (Even though it’s a CD, yes, grooves.) Less song-based than before, it seems, the music sounds like it was written by the Czech string quartet who watched a few Morricone-scored films on slow-motion and with the colour turned to noir. Or maybe the jazz group who watched a few Barry-scored films on slow motion with the colour turned to noir. Empathy seeps from the speakers as the album wends through its sorrowful length, peaking early with Country Dust, but never falling below superb. 19 College Avenue, Leicester, LE2 0JF.

The Gimp Twins, Flu CDR

"Dedend clad redurn doo Doddingam" as the blocked-up chap on the advert used to say. His solution was Tunes. It would be tempting to say Flu was shit just so I could use the gag, but unfortunately it isn't. It does lack tunes, but they're not exactly at a premium in slow, moody, psychedelic techno punctuated by the occasional cough. Flu: not to be sneezed at.

Laura Watling, Twenty Five (Sofa) CD

Mellifluous - lovely word, that. I can't think of a better way to describe the honeyed tones of Laura Watling's singing. This CD sees her strummy pop at its sweetest and most caressing on half a dozen tracks with an admittedly rather pleasant instrumental on the end, but it's the voice that really delights. Wong Pui Pang Bruno, PO Box No. 47001, Morrison Hill Post Office, Hong Kong (Laurence)

Steve Escott, Issue 2 CDR

If Issue 1 was electro nihilism, insular and solipsistic, Issue 2 is electro openness, inclusive and pluralistic. Issue 2 is Steve's emergence into the world after therapy, the old harsh textures and complicated mazy drones replaced by simple, inviting, embracing loops and jazz-edged drum'n'bass. Steve is a cured man! (And Ochre should give him a call.) 80 Hawthorne Street, Leicester, LE3 9FQ

The Visit, Shambles (Cockfest) CDR

Terrible name. Terrible title. Terrible first track. Terribly sorry, fellas.. But then Silence The Poet kicks off. It's a yearning surge of melodic post (yes!) rock (yes!) with a real song threaded deep into its weft. Direct, purposeful, meaningful and over in under 4 minutes. The Visit can come again.

Sonic Torpedoes, Hazy CDR

Sometimes the ghost of a memory is enough to make something new sound like something you used to love. Sonic Torpedoes' Hazy is that something new, the something I used to love was the point at which indie and rock bands discovered samplers and DJs.

The Knockouts, Aeba Suki Suki (Mademoiselle) 7"

Mademoiselle have turned out some fine girl punk/garage records and this one hits that spot once again. Five groove-crazed chicks from Japan, apparently, who if they really, really concentrate can will themselves into being the hippest beat club in Sixties' west coast USA. Not a high score on the originality-o-meter but perhaps they don't care cos the groove-o-meter is off the dial. PO Box 19049, London, N7 7WU (Laurence)

Empty Vessels CDR

"We dream of the bland whine of lifestyle supplements around us like cheeky nubile mosquitoes" say the Vessels, and continue: "the first song is about Syd Barrett (sort of; and women, obviously) and the second is about my urge to stuff myself down a drain." Songs about Syd are OK by me, especially when they sound like Pete Astor was involved. Songs about drains I'm less keen on, but if they clank and bang like this one does over the top of a bass that's half dub, half acid I'll always be

Foxgloves TAPE

One bloke makes as little noise as possible on an acoustic guitar while the other sings. It's hardly revolutionary but there's something magical about these two atmospheric folk songs. Scratching about for comparisons, it's how I might imagine Young Marble Giants sounded if I'd only ever read old Melody Maker articles about them. Glasfryn, St George Road, Abergele, Clwyd, LL22 7HB

DJ Ordeal, Magic Trick CDR

In my imagination, DJ Ordeal lives in a dank, dark and smelly bedsit where he spends his days asleep and his nights chiselling out unlistenable tracks from his 80s pop and electro record collection by riding the pause-button on his ancient 4-track very hard indeed. Magic Trick is my only evidence: a hiss-laden collision of telly samples and throbbing synthetic basslines, loops that don’t and beats that blur as the belt on the turntable slips. It worries me that I like it so much.

CleanBoy*MessyGirl, Clean To Mess (Clover) TAPE

CBMG, as those in the know call them, have simplified the home-made pop sensibilities of their former incarnation, Kumari, and on this tape the loveable duo adhere to a minimalist two-guitar and singing format. Nobi (CleanBoy) does most of the singing while Tomomi (MessyGirl) offers only occasional support, but remaining intact is the complete charm and simplicity of their music. Seven songs including a Beat Happening tune are lovingly wrapped in a 3D cover complete with appropriate spectacles. Wonderful. (Laurence)

The Abrahams CDR

It’s all about the songs with the Abrahams. And they’ve got great songs. Six of ‘em here and they tickle my country and folk fancies like you wouldn’t believe. There’s nothing complex, just songs rendered simply, soulfully and perfectly.

Dear Nora, Make You Smile (Magic Marker) 7"

Been out for a while this one and in a better world we'd all know it by now - Dear Nora would be turning down begging interview requests from music journos and selling records by the truckload. Back in the real world, it's not like that of course, and Dear Nora content themselves with turning out great tunes such as the four on this record and bypassing the weary treadmill of superstardom. A basic three-piece fronted by Kathy Davidson who give support to the theory that talent and brilliant songs are no substitute for empty posturing, overblown hype and anaemic, production line, music-by-numbers. A great record all the same. PO Box 9342, Portland, Oregon 97207, USA (Laurence)

Various, Appropriate Pop CDR

"I must confess/ I paid for these/ Paid for these" Britany Boobies is the uncredited jewel in the crown of this neo-Viking act of musical rape, pillage, plunder and destruction. The method (see anything by V/Vm) is well known now: take anything you like (appropriate, verb) especially if it is well known (pop, contraction of popular) and whack it over the head with all the weapons at your disposal. Toss in some raggedy-arsed beats and a load of distortion and you're there. This is just great.


(some of these reviews also appear in edited form in Careless Talk Costs Lives)

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