reviews january 2000

Cardiff Nil, demo TAPE

"Stretch" with its inhibited, Yorke-ish vocal, its irritable fidgeting sub-Cardiacs changes and crisp live production is the score draw from these four. The others suffer from 4-track murk but benefit from interesting piano and trumpet enhancements, especially "Get ourselves together" which sounds like a (contradiction alert) male Luscious Jackson.

Pan Pipes, Transmission form CD

I'm convinced that South American pan pipe groups travel around the city centres of Britain to ambush me with the only tune that pan pipe and shrunken guitar bands ever play. It's probably the result of an unlikely childhood trauma, but the merest hint of a pan pipe is enough to send me into a cold sweat. So I'm not really the bloke you want reviewing your record if you've called your band Pan Pipes...

At least there aren't actually any pan pipes on the album itself, which instead consists of a kind of compendium of late 80s/early 90s indie. "Child" has the tarnished sheen of Scorpio Rising's groovy Spacemannerisms, "Planet gong" is The Cure in love on a Friday and, at the other end of the week, "Kill your idol" adds a bit of metal to Happy Mondayish baggy. It's an odd record but, for those who spent their nights in indie discos 10 years ago and don't mind admitting it, it's worth a pop. c/o Tabanelli Andrea, via lume 30/c, Bubano (Bo) 40020, Italy

Southall Riot, Quality goods (Victory Garden) 7"

If there were European warehouses---like the ones that used to handle the butter mountains, meat heaps, tinned plum peaks and asparagus hillocks---and they contained piles of pop bands by genre, then, next to all the industrial-sized corrugated iron barns containing the dancing seals that jig across our television screens all day long and the slightly smaller units with your favourite indie chartsters inside, you'll find a shed with a small sign on the door (a door that has been forced open), which says "maverick, pop." If you were to look inside you'd see a couple of dishevelled blokes warming their hands around a candle and slotting their last 10p into the meter so they can listen again to their latest record which veers from the trash glam of "Kiss me robot, I love you" to the droning low-tech "Jeststream." Round the back you might glimpse The Freed Unit waiting for their turn on the candle. 24 Boscombe Rd, London, SW17 9JL.

The Freed Unit, Chewingumouth (Rocket Racer) 7"

"The idea is, there is no idea.. or something" said Gary when I asked him about the FU philosophy. If a little ambiguous, it does at least sum this bubblegum pink disc for me. "Chewingumouth" initially sounds slightly out of trim, slightly too slow and even just plain slight but after a couple of plays suddenly flips, like the stickers you used to be able to get that changed picture when you tilted them in the light, and the other view is a gentle acoustic (plus machine hum), pastoral glide with killer psychedelayed chorus. PO Box 620173, San Diego, CA 92162, USA or PO Box 5083, Leicester, LE2 0WX

Parlour Talk, Padlocked tonic (Acid Jazz) CD

More West Country than West Coast, Parlour Talk straddle the yawning abyss between the Wurzels and the Beastie Boys like a hip hop Colossus. With stylishly burred rhymes that include "Ruth Madoc" and "paddock", Y-fronts, able semen, the choice between brown and white bread and "choccadoobie!!!!", Scoutleader Deed and DJ Sir Beanz OBE are cruising the Weston Super Mare prom in their stretch combine harvester smoking a stalk of wheat and sucking, in a mean-looking manner, on a stone bottle of strong cyder. The jokes run thick and fast, the beats are crisp and correct, the references are parochial, it's British hip hop, how can you resist?

Mazarin, Watch it happen (Rocket Girl) CD

Where the "Wheats" 7" is 3 minutes of folkish splurge loaded up on the heady rush of Neutral Milk Hotel, "Watch it happen" is 35 minutes of folkish splurge.. etc etc. But to leave it there would be unjust since, even though "I should be sleeping" is cut from that same cloth, there are moments here that could be lost Simon and Garfunkel demos and touches of genius like "December's coming," a seasonally-affected slur of electro pop. One of my albums of the year already.

Sonovac, Human Fly (Flesh) 7"

Looks like a dark psychobilly bootleg, sounds like the Meteors with pedal-powered synthesizers and is in fact a Cramps cover/homage by the Silver siblings. It's a glammy, dirty, grinding slowcore romp and, apart from sounding nothing like previous Sonovac releases, it's just about perfect. Look out for the Soft Verge album as well, also by Mike Silver of Sonovac, it's neo-krauty electro with some class.

The Butterflies of Love, How to know.. (Fortuna Pop) LP

How to know the Butterfllies of Love? Through their record collection---it's the only fair way. Shelf after shelf of cherished vinyl, each disc caressed into a protective sleeve, cross-referenced and filed alphabetically by genre, fill a whole room, the top corner of each adjacent LP adjusted for perfect alignment. Exquisite regimentation, perfection and affection, like the thin layer of dust that settles between weekly cleanings, is in the atmosphere and woe betide the visitor who displays less than the requisite level of reverence and respect for the circles of shellac and the emotion trapped in the grooves. Visitors are thus rare. But additions to the collection are more so, the Butterflies being very particular about what they admit into the hallowed treasury. The new entrant undergoes a period of quarantine in which its character is dissected and its craftwork is compared to the effortless skill that flows from prized plates by Galaxie 500, gentle Velvets, The Chills, Big Star, Elliot Smith, Spaceman 3... If it is viewed favourably, and few are considered worthy, then it becomes a new favourite nephew and is ceremonially recorded in the complex card index before being slotted into its prepared position with a fingertip touch.

And if you think it's hard to get into the Butterflies' hearts, you should try getting out...Every one of the 12 tracks on this debut long-player is a sliver of soul extracted not with the swift slice of a surgical scalpel but with a blunt and rusty hacksaw; each of the songs is a gemstone cut so that the fire inside shines out, but reflects more back in; and all of the 3-minute hymns to humanity were only allowed onto the record once they'd been accepted into the Butterflies' own home.

By Coastal Cafe, Me/It's the pixies (Pickled Egg/demo) 7"/TAPE

By Coastal Cafe have been the subject of excessive eulogy on more than one occasion in this organ so I'll merely note that "Me" is 5 tunes picked from their numerous demo tapes and one Will Oldham cover. The originals are notable for two things: the higher-than-usual fidelity, and Martin's attempt at Lydonesque sneer filtered through Albarnesque petulance. It goes without saying that the second single from these two Swedes is essential. "It's the pixies, they play tricks on you" is the most recent demo and continues in the fine tradition of its predecessors. Martin and Marilyn sit down somewhere with a selection of instruments and an old, and preferably broken, means of recording them. They mess around until they have a sound they are happy with and then tear off three songs full of crackly underworked pop charm in quick succession. Kapellv. 19, S-35262, Vaxjo, Sweden.

Man With no Pseudonym, direct/ Future Airlines, If surreal unite both TAPE

Instrumental hip hop with a side-order of slightly strange atmospherics from the Man Who Should Really Take Time to Think of a Name More Befitting Music of this Quality. Picks of his bunch are "Nuns in space (dub)" (actually on a follow-up tape rather than this demo) which boggles as you might expect and "My thinking" with its stentorian scientist sample and strict beats.

Future Airlines---well, there's a Future Pilot already---turns out to be a mate of the Man.. which explains the initially surprising discovery that a version of "My thinking" appears on his tape in a chuckling speed disco style. Better, though, and with a touch of the Cuban Boys' irreverance, is "Centrifugal borse" in which the Magic Roundabout theme is tossed around like Bronco Billy's nuts. MWnP: 61 Carroll Close, Newport Pagnell, Bucks, MK16 8QL or FA: 25 North Square, Aberdeen or

When, Psychedelic wunderbaum (Jester) CD

Definitely one for the Terrascope troupe, When are a duo, a sampler and the words of Tom Wolfe and Aleister Crowley. Opener "Time ago" is straight out of the Olivia Tremor Control top drawer, all surf-psychedelia and schizoid shifts whereas "Extremist cow" and "Snowful" up the technology ante with obvious beatbox and samples from what sounds like those lavish musicals where dancing girls make patterns with umbrellas for an overhead camera. The idea of combining psyche and techno which was previously confined to trance music is now liberated for rock and When are rejoicing in the freedom. "Young feet flush" is operatic pomp and brass overload imploring the listener to turn on, tune in and drop out, and the album's closing track, "Track 10" is a bad trip comedown of merry-go-round blur. Voices of Wonder, PB 2010, Grunerlokka, N-0505, Oslo, Norway

Various, Verona del 99 (Elefant) CD

Elefants never forget. In this case, a gigantic memory recalls the heady Sarah days of yore and the, ahem, illustrious history of the Eurovision Song Contest with occasional bursts of what some might term "good stuff." "She used to make me smile" by the Automatics revives the early Stone Roses groove and gentleness, HD Substance's 10-year-old demo track, "Happy zombie," is floating europop twang; Le Mans are sombre in a slyly trip hop-meets-budget synth way and Gasca's "Mal ladron" slowly deflates like a less-confident Gulliver. PO Box 331, Las Rozas 28230, Madrid, Spain

Livener, The Long Lost ep (Intromit) CDS

The elegant ennui of "Long lost" pulls threads of Portishead's majesty and mastery of soundtrack dynamics into a guitar band set-up. Record Collector likened the band to the Auteurs and that's not far off the mark either. The same track appears on the Intromit compilation, a 10-track sampler for this new Nottingham label, with the other highlight being My Darling Nihilist's awkward Primussing about in the form of "Crushed." PO Box 5828, Long Eaton, NG10 4PH

Weird Uncle Betty, In porn we trust (Dune) CD

If Uncle Betty is either of the women on the cover then he certainly is weird. I like to think he's the one with chubby calves squeezed into white cowgirl boots because the vision of those legs stomping across the dancefloor finally gives big beat some meaning for me. Yes, "In porn we trust" is the tail end of the big beat animal, subverted for extended play into a seedy underworld of perv samples and titles like "Sticky fingerz,", "Betty's dirty peepshow" and "Wet'n'shiny." Nothing you haven't heard before on your Fatboy, Chems and occasional Prodigy tunes, but with a hint of the hump'n'grime of Khan's recent porno album and a (dirty) sense of humour. Via Marconi 32, 50131 Firenze, Italy or

Not from there, Juanita's cocktail party (Infectious) CDS

There was an NZ band called Lig doing the rounds a while ago. They didn't really get anywhere but released a couple of good singles and a so-so album. Not From There have nothing to do with Lig and come from Australia---there's a gag in this somewhere---and I mention Lig only because the title track bears some resemblance to them but beefed up into a heavy rotten roller of grind and Sonic Youth. Also on this single, "Las Vegas 2000" is an anti-lounge epic Suicide-slowed-down slog. PO Box 2127, Ashgrove West, Australia, 4060

Lazer Guided, demo CD

Easily the best yet from Lazer Guided who, freed from the temporal restrictions of split singles, stretch into langurous chiming chordage that, if honesty is to be the watchword, owes more than a passing debt to the scene that once celebrated itself. No bad thing though, and with recording quality also increased, songs like "New pop" point, if not to quite such a lofty goal, at least the right (Dinosaur Jr) direction. 10 Mellor St, Alleton, Derby DE24 9BX

The Understudy Inferior, Downtown heaven (Bedrm) CD

How much would you have to pay for an octopus with a cold? Sick squid. Which, by a strange coincidence, is exactly the amount you'll have to fork out for a copy of TUI's debut LP (at or I mention this irrelevance (the octopus) because the absurd and unexpected play a large role in "Downtown heroes," not least on "Bad lover blues" which we liked a lot on the preceding demo and which features a strangled guitar solo so obsessively awful that you have to fear for Mr. Inferior's sanity. Elsewhere it's elastic, erratic beatbox and guitarwerk that probably sounds EPIC on a tennis reacket in front of the mirror on the wardrobe door but here sounds more like Les Dawson on a tab of acid in front of 500 grannies at Wolverhampton Civic Hall---but so strange, so specifically wrong that it perfectly paves the way for the disturbing monologues about schoolgirls wriggling on the high stools in science class. Direction abruptly changes on "Tear the world down" which is teasmade techno: lo on both fi and sophistication but refreshing for it while closer, "The west" uses tear-jerking strings to lull the listener in and brings Les Dawson back to a bit of piano to send them packing. A strange record, but I like it. Kind of.

Zuno Men, I'm going to like you even if you hate me (Co-op) CD

It's skiffle really, played by 30-something men on trampolines for people who go down the Bull and Gate just to watch the support bands and rate them on a scale of 3-7 for Fall-similarity (nothing less than 3 is worth getting out of the bedsit for). Inspired by Beefheart and anyone else with a skew loose, it's awkward pronk and prance, odd lyrics, lengthy titles and lashings of cynicism ("Stay in with me" is THE song for New Year's Eve, 1999). Not a million miles away from Gag, and no surprise given that Gag personnel are involved, albeit on different instruments. I suppose they'll hate me, but I like it. 16d Fraser Rd, Walthamstow, London, E17 9DD.

Cho'pin, Minkus (Pigdog) CD

"All recordings by Cho'pin except those that obviously aren't" declares the sleeve in lieu of the usual copyright message, aptly summarising the Cho'pin approach to toil on the audio mangle, an instrument on which he/she/it wrings the changes so deftly that the identity of source material is, erm, immaterial. "Minkus" is spawned by the same parents as recent releases like Trash Records' "Mr Million" compilation or Speedranch and Jansky Noise's "Execrate" both of which decontextualise, deconstruct, defile and den defibrillate to spark some life into the old musical dog. Think drum'n'bass despoiled with lashings of overload and a dash of DHR noise, ECG blips and crazy-ass nonsensical beatings. Then turn up to 11. Tremendous. 13 Parkgate Drive, Greatmoor, Cheshire, SK2 7DL

Robot, Super dynamic sound system (Pigdog) CD

From the same stable (sty? kennel?), Robot retain some semblance of song and live instruments but no semblance whatsoever of sanity or sequence, a combination which results in "Martian Eskimo," a squiggle of squiggles, drum loops with timing deficiencies, weird samples and amateur tape- manipulation scratchiness or "Hey hey" where learner synth cuddles up to stumbling beats to form the background onto which a juvenile Mark E Smith slaps gleefuls "HEY!"s through a Tandy microphone. "Boo!" is the sound of R2D2 tuning, or maybe skinning, up and "Space chant medley (Sun Ra)" is cosmic only in a fractured hip-hop-at-the-end-of-the-universe kind of way. Also tremendous.

Speedranch and Jansky Noise, Advanced configuration power interface (ACPI) CD

Recorded at the Scala in March 99, "ACPI" is 30 minutes of SR and JN putting their noise to the grindstone, live. Imagine testing a jet engine in your bedroom while your dad takes a chainsaw to the rest of the house and your little brother invites the hard kids from school round to do dangerous things to cats. The filtered barrage is not constant and, presumably as whatever instruments really make this racket interact, occasional regularities emerge, rise to the surface, pulse for a few seconds and then disperse, reabsorbed by the aperiodicity and undulating hum/buzz. I find it strangely relaxing through headphones and actually fell asleep while writing the review...not something I would think you could say had you been at the event.

Along with the gig the 30-odd samples on the CD are intended to be manipulated by the "AudioMulch" software on the accompanying floppy disc into your very own noise collage. Add to this the inclusion of copious consumer detritus---unique to each disc---and you have what, in the trade, we term a

Electrelane, Film music (Indenial) 7"

What we're calling a Ronseal Record---it does exactly what it says on the tin. Think stylishly-shot 60s spy fiction with organ heavy soundtracks and you'll be in the right area. Heavier than the likes of L'Augmentation, and less jolly too, we're talking "Funeral in Berlin" territory.

22 Metre Band, Music for radio (AFD) CD

Punning band names (this one's a shortwave radio thing) are the bane of a reviewer's life. It's hard not to form detrimental preconceptions when you see one although 22 Metre Band isn't that bad considering I'm expecting a tape from Spag Bollox to arrive any day now. The music consists of modishly strange tunes interspersed with vaguely intellectual experimentals (the resurrection of Frippertronic tape/guitar effects, for example). "Americans in Europe" claims to be the first track (...EVER!) to teach Greek as it plays and sounds like a jazzy adjunct to the Art of Noise's "Close to the edit" suite and "Central line" is a Fridge-like breakbeat monosurf. "Dynotron" consists of bits of old jazz records and rippling synths with percussion courtesy of Steptoe and Son's old wagon being pulled along an unmetalled track by a charging bull. Around these rigid pillars winds a menagerie of tape manipulations and radio snippets, tunes, not-tunes and a track constructed from samples of the London Underground (perversely not "Central line"). F3, 52 Fosse Road South, Leics LE3 0QD um/1752

Dopplereffect, Gesamtkunstwerk (International Deejay Gigolo) LP

It was something of a revelation when I discovered, ahem, a few years ago, that someone other than Jimmy Saville and Dave Lee Travis could be picked up on the radio in the kitchen. Once Janice Long and John Peel had been discovered, a radio in my bedroom had them soundtracking homework and falling asleep respectively. I picked up a few bands from Janice Long but Peel was where it was really at for me. The strange thing was that, at the time, he only seemed to possess three records: the one that sounded like the Fall recorded too fast; the dub one; and the one that sounded like this record by Dopplereffekt. Constructed from trace elements of Kraftwerk and the NY electro that followed, it's anonymous, primitive, minimalistic, perfectly-crafted, clinical, Plastikman nostalgia, occasionally humorous in a fetchingly-stern way, soft, strong and very long. Cold on the surface, yes, but so skilfully programmed that the warmth of the machine in operation breaks through and embraces.

Sand, Beautiful people are evil (Satellite) LP

As a theory it's flawed---a contradiction requires only a single counterexample and here I am---but as a double album it's without blemish, other than those purposely crafted, that is. At times like a heavy air-raid, at others like a heavy Muslimgauze, a dub/jazz bassline battle, post-rock-ish cyclicity, urgent Bullitt funk and a touch of fragmented breakbeat. It's all tied down by fluid double-bass and an inspired edge which might not make for easy listening but makes taking the record off difficult.

Various, Barrio nuevo (Soul Jazz) LP

Ricky Martin might be living the crazy life but if he's your first and only source of Latino spirit then it's you that's loca. Luckily, Soul Jazz are on on hand with a timely compilation that throws down 13 thick chunks of Latin funk, rock, disco and soul, showing the breadth of cross- fertilisation that was coming out of the Hispanic enclaves---the Barrios---of the major US cities in the 1970s.

Bobby Rodriguez offers straight salsa in the vein of the more famous "Mas que nada" (which might not, of course, be salsa); Mandrill---along with War and Labelle, the most well-known artist on the record---do the "Fat city strut" with seasoned Starsky and Hutch swagger and a strangely psychedelic vocal break. Chakachas combine tight Chic guitar with a clip-clop lope and brass on "Jungle fever" and Jimmy Sabater's "Yroco" is a street jam bursting at the seams with afro funk and sassy swing. "War is coming! War is coming!" sing War with the power of James Brown, a hint of disco and the messianic groove of Parliament, showing a band that had recovered from having Eric Burdon (of the Animals) as a member in the early 1970s and the Kongas' "Anikana O" is a lengthy early disco revision of a conga symphony.

"Barrio nuevo" does not claim to be anything other than a selection of cuts in which there's a distinct Latino element whether from emigrants fusing their South American culture with those around them in North America or an influence in the other direction. And in that it succeeds.

Meme, Kinematic (Loca) 12"

In which pitched-down jungle thunders over cocktail glockenspiel and the odd sample invites you to keep playing the record until you understand it. A meme, if I remember right, is a theoretical item of collective memory, passed between minds in a manner analagous to the way that germs pass between bodies. Quite what "Kinematic" is trying to tell us is anyone's guess but, given the graceful clamour of the sound it makes while it does, I don't much care.

Various, Modern music for motorcycles (Twisted Nerve) 10"

Also comes on a tape in one of those chunky boxes that computer games were packaged in back when 16k was more memory than you could imagine and rubber keyboards were the height of playground chic. Unless you owned a Commodore 64, of course. Twisted Nerve were probably the kids who had a Dragon 32; in on the thing and with arguably superior equipment, but relegated to the fringes and destined to fall further as the latest games failed to materialise on their machine.

The outsider mentality persists to this day and manifests itself in these 7 tracks which tease strands of elsewhere from what would, in other hands, be just there. Dakota Oak we already know; new signings Alfie make chewed-bubblegum 60s pop; Sironical and label-man Andy Votel's "Cock diesel" is tick-tock techno trapped in a tin box; Mom and Dad sound like a glam FGTH recorded over a Barbie transistor radio and Badly Drawn Boy turns up at the end for a wonky blues romp.

DJ Paedofile, The kids are alright (Trash) 12"

Following a fleeting appearance on the "Where the fuck is Mr Million?" compilation, DJ Paedofile emerges once more, blinking, into the daylight to deliver an ep's worth of disconnected thrum'n'waste which fit well into the Trash aesthetic. It's a 9-track tantrum, a waspish reflection of half-understood adult concepts in the form of a regurgitation of half-digested adult media. Film dialogue and news broadcasts are sampled and rendered context-less in the swirling machinistic gyrations constructed from off beats and pieces. It stutters and tilts and self-defeatingly aborts anything that seems to be getting a bit of a groove on, replacing it with an icy blast of white noise and shooting off in another direction. Music for the disaffected (M)TV generation.

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