reviews june 2001

Gnac/Smooth Operator, split single (Octane Grammophon) 7"

Gnac's tunes usually swirl slowly, morph into new shapes, split and reabsorb like an oil on water projection. In The Bumpy Air is no different; easy listening for people with stylish loft apartments, a soft-focus deconstruction of the muses of Stereolab. Smooth Operator are as graceful and stylish as Gnac, but Alaska is less oil-on-water and more moods in a hot air balloon. Unusual, yes, but an intriguing and gentle drift punctuated by bursts of flame static, sunset after love-lost keyboards and more drift.,, or Torikatu 1 b 28, 53100, L-Ranta, Finland

Frankie Machine, 54th & 3rd (Artists Against Success) 7"

If you had suffered in the pursuit of amour, if your heart had been rent in two, if the very life had been sucked from your soul, if you had ever lain by the telephone into the early hours willing it to ring, if you have ever been so emotionally decrepit that you'd cried when Postman Pat found a stray kitten.. If. If so then you'd still be several floors up from the desperation basement where Francis Machine is strumming his guitar and struggling to get his half-whispered words out between choked-back sobs.

The Monsoon Bassoon/ Max Tundra, split (Weird Neighbourhood) 7"

The Bassoon cover Tundra's Life In A Lift Shaft like the Cardiacs after a year-long diet of Too Pure's early catalogue - a strange but highly digestible blend of lounge tunes and slash'n'crash weirdy guitar bits. Tundra covers The Bassoon's Commando by turning into a one-man cinematic recycler. Hammer Horror, Keystone Cops, Barbarella and more are forced into the sampler, mangled and spat out in a rapid-fire burst of chaotic noise. If you could dance to this you'd be a rubber octopus - with excellent taste. PO Box 7279, London, E5 8XQ

Fish From Tahiti, Greendyke Viaduct (Sorted) 7"

7" vinyl is outdated, gramophone style 7"singles are outdated, gramophone style 7"singles in a faux-50s EMI style are very outdated, gramophone style 7"singles in a faux-50s EMI style featuring a beatbox last used in anger by The Age of Chance are HAPPENING AND NOW! On Planet Robots, anyway. Greendyke Viaduct and Industrial Floss are the furthest-out of Fish From Tahiti's recent singles - just a loop and a twisted burp (Floss) or the sound of a mouse being squashed (Viaduct) - but I'm mesmerised by that drum machine, it sounds like it might grow up one day and become Beat Dis. PO Box 5922, Leicester, LE1 6YG

Khan, No Comprendo (Matador) CD

Fuck Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Fuck Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Fuck Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Fuck The Travelling Wilburys and fuck any end-of-charity event rock millionaire singalong. For all sorts of reasons, but mostly because celebrity bunk-ups are as desirable as going down on a skunk with personal hygiene problems. Khan doesn't share this point of view, and so ropes in Jon Spencer, Julee Cruise, Hanin Elias (of Atari Teenage Riot) and others to come up with words for his instrumental tracks. Spencer turns in a couple of electrobilly paranoia numbers, Julee Cruise settles somewhere between easy listening and torch song and Hanin Elias crawls out the beatbox underground as a straight Peaches.

James Figurine/ David Figurine, split LP sampler (Catmobile) CD

Figurine being their day job and the split album (4 tracks apiece) being an outlet for solo work. James favours songs backed by slightly skewed electronics while David leans the other way: electro foremost, song to follow. By carrier pigeon. David's Our Pure Efficiency is the obvious highlight, a meeting of Warp-ed electro and an 80s pop song, this could have a Mantronik remix and be on one of those classic Streetsounds compilations.

Gag, Caveman Shuffle Suffers Known As Patty (Flitwick) 7"

If they jerk a bit less than they used to it's because Leighton Crook has become interested in a "fudge of noise." This means nothing to the sane people of the world but for the 500 fools who care to write to Flitwick for a free copy of the single, it means that the new Gag record only sounds like a tag-team wrestle between half-a-dozen bands instead of 20. PO Box 26, Flitwick, MK45 1ZU

By Coastal Café, Baten (Strings of Nashville) 7"

Baten - Boats - was a demo tape a year and a half ago but Strings of Nashville have shown their admirable taste by turning it into (one of the last, sadly) By Coastal Café vinyl outings. These prodigious Swedes are now living in different countries which makes practising hard, but they've got a carbootful of unreleased tapes some of which will be seeing the light shortly on a farewell Lissy's 12". Of these tracks, Slimy Boy is Martin and Marilyn's musical plea for piano lessons - two Toytown keyboards and Noddy melodies race each other to a clumsy and rapid finale; Speedy Motorcyle is an inspired, messy reading of Daniel Johnston's original and Dreamhouse is a love song that belongs on K Records. By Coastal Café make me dream of summer evenings, new-born lambs, listening to friends make music and fun. Styrmansgatan 36b, S-602 27, Norrkoping, Sweden by_coastal_café

Kluster B/ The J Foundation, split (Bearos) 7"

Jungle Jim cobbles together the left-overs from a decent hip hop record (the bonus beats that were discarded, the electro stabs that were too over-the top, the out-of-tune bass that was too quirky) with a faulty 4-track and some sellotape. It rocks like Ben Nevis. The J Foundation's A Pearl For Every Girl pits jazz funk against weird. Weird loses but its no surprise to find that ex-Broadcast (now Pram) personnel were involved. For dessert they whip up a Gameboy gambol of tricky bleep madness. PO Box 7179, Birmingham, B29 6RA

Ben Calvert, The State of Travel (Bearos) 7"

Post-Folk, a new acoustic movement (ahem) according to the Bearos press sheet. Less of the post, I'd say, less of the new, and not so much movement. Which leaves acoustic folk. And this is folk music - Ben Calvert would have fitted into the Incredible String Band or Donovan's psychedelic moments. Counting Carriages is the pick of these four beauties, an almost-lament made only sadder by a lonely trumpet.

Bridget Storm, Polar Baby Part 3 (Bad Jazz) 7"

At the start of side B, Elvis Injection curls up into a tiny ball and hopes you won't notice it. A song of such soft, fragmentary loveliness, but with the timidity of a baby lamb, it is Hope Sandoval with an inferiority complex.

Home Science, End The Year (Pickled Egg) 7"

I had a chemistry set when I was a kid. It was never the same as the ones in comics - no Dr Frankenstein's laboratory for a young Possession, just five test tubes and some crappy holders. In an attempt to create The World's Smelliest Stink Bomb I mixed all of the chemicals (there were three) in a test tube and heated it up over the methylated spirit burner (a glorified candle.) Nothing happened. Home Science eschew the alchemical approach, preferring to experiment with degrees of melancholy and yearning in their garage. Carol K is Wilco working to rule but still putting 100% in and End The Year is Olivia Tremor Control on a go-slow.

The Late BP Helium, The Weeping Soul (HHBTM) 7"

The Beatles as played by a clockwork band with limited production skills. Still it is somehow gorgeous. There must surely be an Elephant Six connection.

The Members of Tinnitus, 28-33 (Promenade) 7"

Please, no-one ever send me another 7" packaged between two roughly-hewn pieces of plasterboard. Quite apart from the weight, the amount of crap that falls off every time I pick the bastard up is just too irritating. TmoM probably like this aspect of the release, the sleeve matches the music - irritating as hell, but with the intrinsic attractiveness of the freaky. That's why I keep showering the carpet with bits of plasterboard flake and putting this one back on. 6 tracks lunge drunkenly between surf music imitating jazz, surf music imitating thrash, jazz in a lo-fi Bablicon style and two records being played at once (Cable and crackly jazz.) One for you Ochre and Oggum collectors and musical naturalists.

Fort Lauderdale, Traces of Places Until The Morning (Memphis Industries) 12"

If Harold Faltermeyer has been a paranoid depressive with a Tubular Bells fixation then Axel F would have sounded like Miami Girls In Slow Motion and Crockett and Tubbs wouldn't have made it to the flab-laden final series. If Melvin Bragg wanted the South Bank Show theme remade by Monks from the order of Dub Spirituality then it would sound like The Shadow Of My Former Self. Fort Lauderdale are playing in the dressing-up box with rampant delight and glee.

Siamese Twins, Entangled CD

Saxophone and drums. About a million freeform, and several hundred straight, permutations of the above. Headphone music.

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