reviews march 2003

Goto80, Bushrunner/Datagroove (Penpal) 7"

It takes approximately one third more time to listen to a 45 at 33. Time is money, they say. It’s certainly easy to waste both, but you won’t be wasting your time if you pitch Goto80 down to the slower speed. This simple manoeuvre turns a pinging synth electro fun trot into a growling dub electro mood crawl seemingly made on a Commodore 64 ("Commode" according to the flyer.) And with Monty Mole graphics and BASIC at heart, this could never be a waste of your money either. c/o A Halldin, Temperaturgatan 91, 418 41 Gothenburg, Sweden

Avarus, Luonnon Ilmiata (Boing Being) 7"

When I was about 15 I had a Finnish penpal called Leah. She asked for a picture of me. So I sent one. She sent one of herself back. She looked like a young Stephen Hendry who’d grown his hair at the back. I was hardly at my best back then either, though (spotty, bowl haircut, NHS glasses) so let’s not be unfair. Anyway, she asked for a tape of the music I was into so I sent off a tape of Pop Will Eat Itself, Run DMC and LL Cool J. She didn’t like it much. She sent me a tape back. One side was the poodle content of any issue of Kerrang from around that time, the other side was imitations of the same by Finnish bands with impenetrable names and tight spandex. I don’t recall whether I ever listened to it all the way through. (But let’s say I didn’t.) Even with hindsight, I don’t regard this as a major event in my musical education, but it’s one that I think back to now and again, when something like this Avarus single drops out of the sky. When something sounds so little like anything else and so little like anything at all my ears prick up and my imagination runs riot. In my head, some individual plugs a knackered guitar into a crap amp and riffs doggedly away at two notes for five minutes while his dog quietly grumbles in the next room and water drips from the roof onto a collection of oil drums in the back yard. This is hypnotic stuff and almost all the Finnish music I’ve heard since that first tape has been this way inclined. I wish I was still in touch with Leah, I could ask her why. Hyytialantie 9, 35500 Korkeakoski, Finland

Big Eyes, I See Creatures EP (Pickled Egg) 7"

The creatures I see while this one’s playing live in dark woods, in Eastern Europe. What Big Eyes you have Grandmother. "All the better to seeee you with, my dear." It’s creepy gypsy folk music rich in emotive violin and dusky, shadowy atmosphere. PO Box 6944, Leicester, LE2 0WL

The Scaramanga Six/Les Flames!, split (Wrath/Valentine) 7"

You Do, You Die! shout The Scaramanga Six with such venomous glee and backed up by such a brick shithouse of a riff that you have to believe them. Cardiacs and Motorhead are mentioned in the press release. Never as obtusely mentaloid as the one nor as single-mindedly balls-out as the other, this is still a rock’n’roll experience worthy of the high aspirations. Les Flames! (named after the cremation of half of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, factoid fans) revisit the angular motorik chug of Robots.. favourites Johnny Domino (where are you?) with a dash of bar-room punk anthemia. Wrath, The Cardigan Centre, 145-149 Cardigan Road, Leeds LS6 2EN

Meets Guitar, The Great Slip (Johnny Kane) 7"

Gavin Baker, the man never sleeps. Which is lucky on this occasion for fans of acoustic guitar strummed in gentle ways for autumn days. On the other side, he puts reticent vocals onto ever so slightly more forceful playing and for reasons I can’t really put into words makes me think of Dinosaur Jr unplugged. PO Box 52, Windermere, LA23 2YB

The Relict/Below The Sea, split (Johnny Kane) 7"

Gavin Baker, the man never sleeps. Which is lucky on this occasion for fans of English folk music wrapped in a warm fug of analogue recording equipment. On the other side, Pascal (from Glider) slowly descends a cliff on a clear day, slips into the sea and continues downwards accompanied by Fuxa’s organic band. . PO Box 52, Windermere, LA23 2YB

Blood Music (Promenade) 7"

There’s a daytime side and a night time side. The last track of the evening is a cover of Somebody Put Something In My Drink by The Ramones. It has probably never been rendered this way before. Unless somebody put something in their drinks. A Casio pre-set vamps almost inconsequentially along while the words are yelped and something screechy plays a short solo. It is brilliant and you will go to bed happy. The day started well too. After the introduction (in Swedish) the day side dawns to the sound of A Telegram For Rosemarie, a love song ("It’s not a problem that you already got a kid") accompanied by Daniel Johnston’s piano. 24 hours in the life of Blood Music.

My Little Problem, ep (Becalmed) 7"

I don’t really like talking about my little problem. As the last of these five tracks is called Few Words, you could assume Simon Jones hasn’t got much to say about My Little Problem either. If you were into 100 Pets’ album on Pickled Egg, you’ll have some idea where this is coming from. If not, here’s the deal: skewed pop knack for fragile tunes on peculiar instruments runs through the whole thing, and on into your head. You wonder just how someone imagines this sound, and then how they get it down onto tape sounding so natural and right. 268 Walthall St, Crewe CW2 7LE

Printed Circuit, I Heart My Jen Sexy (Irritant) 7"

Printed Circuit’s bitz’n’bass clickdisco is just what any self-respecting robot would blast out of his/her on-board soundcard come Saturday night. Funk up the sound of your modem connecting, sample the noise your hard drive makes and jigger it into a beat, lock your elbows, swing your arms, put a silver oil can on your head. If you only had a heart, you could join me in saying I heart I Heart My Jen Sexy.

The Pines, Please Don’t Get Married (Becalmed) 7"

Country music is storytelling music. A few simple words, a few simple twangs, a gentle swing of the fringe down the sleeves and whole life histories are told in an instant. On Please Don’t Get Married, boy and girl swap verses and share the chorus and sound like something you might pick up on charity shop albums called 20 Golden Country Greats (what do you mean, you don’t buy country compilations in charity shops? You should.) Please Don’t Get Married keeps to the simple rules and simply rules. 268 Walthall St, Crewe CW2 7LE

The Chemistry Experiment, Round The Corner Dutch Zebra (Fortuna Pop) 7"

Just where do they get the titles from? Fridge magnet poetry sets? I like to think it’s a kind of alchemical process involving test tubes, Bunsen burners, iron filings and torn-up dictionaries. Just where do they get the music from? Are there fridge magnet staves and semi-quavers? I like to think it’s some kind of alchemical process involving test tubes, Bunsen burners, iron filings and tasteful record collections. Gulag Arpeggio is trademark Chemistry Experiment: three tunes at once (squiggly krautlectro burbles, bassline long lost by U2 and something gently indie) and a great song on top.

Vermont, The Kinetic (Tblissi) 7"

Another band that favour multisongs but this time it’s serial rather than concurrent. Two Weeks From Everywhere switches between jerky rock and sweet, sweet sugar then rounds things off by bashing the ivories for a noisy ending, the kind of ending that you only realise is quite so noisy when it stops. Kinetic is about right. 15 High London, 121 Hornsey Lane, London N6 5NP

Oddfellows Casino, Put The Bird To Sleep (Pickled Egg) 7"

This glorious track was on the CD with Robots.. #10 (order one now) and we were delighted about it. It starts off as something Wilsonesque at a lonely piano and somehow, seemingly logically, dissolves into a curdled electronic fade-out. The album is out now as well. PO Box 6944, Leicester, LE2 0WL

Marsha Qrella, I Want You To Know (Monika) 7"

The Tobi Higgs remix on the b-side is the one to go for. Higgs transforms the original song into something halfway to Balearic but keeping the qrirky appeal of Qrella’s vocals and the not-quite-right feel to the rhythm. It’s like being locked into a nightclub that’s falling down a flight of stairs. No contact details, sorry.

Baker Brothers, Ready, Aim.. (ARSE) 7"

When was the last time you bought a funk record? 1976? They still make them, you know. I got mine from Fopp’s new Cambridge shop. Look downstairs in the back corner where the sevens are relegated to. This one starts off with a shouted "FIRE!" (good joke, lads) before locking into a groove so deep you’d need ropes to get out. A huge and heavy rubber bass provides the fluidity and razor sharp guitar does the trimmings.

Saloon, Girls Are The New Boys (Track and Field) 7"

I hope for the girls’ sake that they aren’t really the new boys. You might think your life is difficult, ladies, but spending some time in my trousers would show you how hard it can be. Ahem. Saloon sidestep such smut and turn in another classy performance, building a mini epic in the way that Quickspace used to, without quite so much rattle.

Trilemma, Crowded Wilderness EP (Kitchen) 7"

I’ve got a lot of time for Trilemma. Not only do they do it like they mean it. But they really do mean it. This is their debut "proper" release, but they’ve been busy for a while putting stuff out through fanzines for free (Robots.. included – the first 100 subscribers to #11 get a copy of their debut album) and on their own Blue Minnow label at cost price. The four tracks they chose for the single are small-town England on vinyl. That is, piss-soaked subways and ring-roads and concrete tower blocks and constant grey skies and The Sun and dole queues and McJobs and far-distant aspirations. Quiet, angry and introspective, Trilemma reflect their surroundings onto themselves and into their music, and it comes out perfectly underproduced, glistening and chiming under the unglamour. 6 Oakshaw Grove, Trentham, Stoke, ST4 8UB

Zongamin, Zongamin (XL) CD

Fidgitibeat. Scraggamuffin. Drum’n’scrape. Zongamin. From the same Flesh label (via XL) that brought you the eccentric and varied delights of Sonovac comes Zongamin and his eccentric and varied vision of pop music. In Zongamin’s world, pop music should be perverted and rough, should feature whiplash effects or crackling fuzz or basslines that sound like they were last dusted off by The Cramps. It should have electronic edginess and post-punk moodiness. It shouldn’t ever, ever, have a chorus. But it should be full of viciously spiky hooks. Did I mention that he’s Japanese? Does that help?

Kentucky AFC, Bodlon (R-Bennig) CDS

Tingling, tinkling, tinkering that could be something from fellow countrymen Gorky’s, so floatingly effervescent is it. That’s Bodlon. Lleddfol is another mix, also full of grace and light. Ymfodloni adds a hissy Casio preset beat and somehow makes it even better. High View, Gwalchmai, Anglesey, Wales LL65 4RS

The Girl With The Replaceable Head, Ride My Star (Bust Stop) CDS

If I could replace my head, I’d buy a multi CD changer, load it up with all the stuff I’d got to review, take my head off, put the remote control near my nose, put another head on and go to work. While the work head was doing all the everyday stuff, I’d be busy getting on with the serious business of listening to music. By dabbing my nose on the right button, I’d be able to skip through all the dross and rewind all the good stuff. I’d compose witty reviews until my body came home and tossed the drone head into the cupboard then I’d type the reviews up and have a pint with my tea. That’s what I’d do if I had a replaceable head. Every day. Bliss. I’d have to do vinyl at evenings and weekends, obviously. But even so, a lot better than the current state of affairs. The girl with the replaceable head probably does the same kind of thing. Perhaps she’s got a cheerful head that does the day-to-day tasks while she dedicates herself to the writing of bittersweet happy/sad songs like these. Ride My Star glides along on a countryish plaintive pedal steel string bend while the girl buries herself in reverb and shimmer and the story. or TGWTRH, 34 Worley Ave, Low Fell, Tyne & Wear, NE9 6AL

Octagon Man vs Depth Charge, I Dream (DC) 12"

Sheep samples. Electronic. I Dream. One person. Two identities. Is either of them the real one? My supposition: Octagon Man Dreams of Electric Sheep. Could this be some kind of tribute to Blade Runner by J. Saul Kane? If Philip K. Dick had only mentioned Defender, Pac Man and Space Invaders every couple of breaths, then I might be persuaded that I’m not reading too much into Today’s Top Scoring slice of retrolectro funk.

Beatbox Saboteurs, A Jolly Good Show/ TV Themes (both House of Beauty) both CD

I have a well-documented, large, fluffy and very tender soft spot for the Cuban Boys. That is, the side of the Cuban Boys that took great delight in whacking cartoon samples and old faux-disco records through a hi-NRG mangler and chuckling loudly to themselves as Radio One aired the results across all programming and the band ended up close to a Christmas Number One. But now the Cubans are pretty much over, a nightmare time with EMI having splintered them into, on the one side, the creators and protagonists of something called Scumpop and, on the other, the Beatbox Saboteurs. Luckily for us, the Beatbox Sabs have come away with the playful Cuban attitude and at least one of the samplers. Armed only with these tools and a large collection of DVDs, they’ve re-edited a load of songs you’ll know from stage shows, films and telly programmes, stuck new beats under them and thrown a few squelches and buzzes in for good measure. And guess what? As craphanded as it sounds, it’s brilliant. Did you ever think Benny Hill’s theme would benefit from a touch of twang? How about a bangin version of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum? Or Screentest? Or I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside? You didn’t? Then let the Beatbox Saboteurs think it for you.

Grandmaster Gareth, Introduction To Minute Melodies (Awkward) CD

My favourite today is Dr Dre Buys A Pint of Milk where Dre gabbles "drinkapintamilkaday drinkapintamilkaday drinkapintamilkaday" over a couple of tiny loops and a pocketful of scratching. Yesterday I liked I Got My Monster And You Got Yours which is just Gareth reciting the title through a distortion pedal and banging on a couple of piano chords, a drum and a single string of his guitar. Tomorrow I think I might go for Squarepuller, a piss-take drill’n’bass’n’cheese’n’bumblebee (yes, really) number that’ll probably only endear him to Squarepusher. Each of these lasts for a single minute. And there are 27 more just like them. Except different. The first great thing about blipvert cuts like this is that you only get the good bits of an idea. The Grandmaster hasn’t had to scratch around for ages stretching out the bones of something worthwhile into a 4-minute song. He just has the idea, bangs it down and moves on. And the other great thing is that, like when you have a 10p mix from the sweetshop, you just can’t stop once you’ve started. A cola bottle. Yum. One of them white mice. Yum. I fancy another cola bottle. Yum. A liquorice lace. Yum. Each one a simple delight, each one the appetizer for something else. Minute Melodies. Yum.]

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