reviews october 2000

Wigwam, Shaker Loops (Peace Corps) 12"

For that 4am post-campfire whisky bottle ambience without the discomfort, insects, cold, poor personal hygiene and hangovers, slip on this 12" and shut your eyes. Wigwam are the people who knew all the sing-a-longs earlier on when the party was happening but prefer their own contemplative and lengthy soft songs of yearning and silence now that it's over.

DJ Teebee, Space Age Remix (Certificate 18) 12"

The lost episode of Scooby Doo. The one where Scooby and Shaggy take Fred and the girls to an underground club that turns out to be haunted by a zombie DJ who has adapted the Glitterband stomp into a creepy, bandaged shuffle. He spends his evenings forcing punters to listen to his dubplates and shouting about pesky kids. Or you can play it at 45 like you're supposed to.

Sensational, Beat, Rhymes and Styles (Matador) 12"

Former Jungle Brother Sensational (he appeared on J.Beez Wit Da Remedy) delivers for this second Matador outing a humble mumbled jumble of low-key rhymes, off-beats and cropped samples. This is music made in the shadows, hunched up under a primitive beatbox and a turntable stacked high with minimalist jazz records by a paranoid, wired and tired man. Timing, as in Steve Reich's tape experiments, is a loose and constantly changing parameter, which is what really gives this its edge.

Duf Davis and the Book Club, End of Summer Blowout (Orange Entropy) CDS

His last album was a maelstrom of poorly-tuned guitar and Jad Fair poetry. These four tracks are a bit of a departure from that. My Lawyer Can Kill Your Lawyer comes closest by playing the riff from Smoke on the Water like a drunken fool for several minutes too long over an annoying pinging drum loop. It is quite compelling. Lawyers might be needed for Tension Headache too, as its subtitle (and only lyric), Annie DiFranco Sucks, is sure to annoy at least one person, if not with its content then with the irritating 2 chord throb. It's Your Ego Man is best, though. Eschewing all but a big drum and acapella verses it deflates the self-opinion of that chap, the big fish in the small pond, that we all know and hate.

Flowchart, Gee Bee (Endorphin) CDS

Flowcharts, I recall from my long-gone days at college, were brilliant. Not because they provided a clear representation of complex processes, because they illustrate graphically the execution path of an algorithm or because having an agreed formalism makes collaboration and the furtherance of knowledge more practical. No, they were brilliant because you got a plastic stencil with loads of odd shapes on it for doodling while Syd (our Computer Science teacher) droned on into his long yellow beard.

Flowchart, I recall from my just-gone listen to their latest single, are brilliant. Not because they provide a little plastic stencil (although they should) but because they combine multiple simple processes into one evolving and complex whole, because their formal take on minimal techno somehow retains a flexibility that others in the field lack and perhaps because Flowchart aren't afraid to bleed in a new sound every few bars rather than every few days.

The Doors, Riders on the Storm (Elektra) 12"

Two 'Ibiza' mixes confirm all your fears about the merits of messing about with classic tracks. Two Nightmares on Wax mixes confirm the musicality of both them and The Doors, the spirituality of the song and the strength of the herb that is available if you know where to look. The Sofa mix has to be experienced horizontally.

Deltron 3030, Virus (75 Ark) 12"

The Automator, Kid Koala and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (as Deltron 3030) are seers, forecasting a hip hop future in which a super virus brings "dire straits to your environment." This will be accomplished through tight beats, strong rhymes, turntablism and the anti-social notion that I LOVE YOU just didn't cut it.

Six By Seven, Eat Junk Become Junk mixes CDR

Available on tour or from the Mantra web site ( the mixes come from Two Lone Swordsmen and Zan Lyons and, as is usual on those occasions when remixers with some integrity get source material not exactly suited to their aims, they opt to "lose" most of the original in favour of pummelling flashes of white noise and the wail of a banished demon (Lyons) and deep and dark techno (Swordsmen). Credit to both of them for top quality work, but credit also to Six By Seven who must've known they'd get this treatment and presumably are hoping to influence their fans' tastes somewhat.

Basement 69, Torn, Worn and Full of Holes (Super Lava) CDS

Basement 69 would like to be The Stooges. That might seem a little on the short side for a review but brevity is to be treasured, don't you think? They aren't there yet, of course, although Mother Nature is a good effort and Naked To You could be Crazyhead on a rough day (and that's a compliment in my book.)

The Brazen Hussies, Living in Fear of Reprisals (Year Zero) CDS

You know how you can roll up a tube of paper into a cone and make a foghorn noise through it? Well, like looking through the wrong end of a telescope, if you put your cone the other way around in front of a microphone, you get a recording that sounds like it was made in a bucket. The Brazen Hussies know this already but play their scratchy garage songs anyway.

Ant, Cures For Broken Hearts (Fortune and Glory) CDS

Fated to be forever known as Ant-the-drummer-from-Hefner, Ant, the drummer from Hefner, quietly slips out another 5 tracks of his underplayed and personal love songs. Like the once similarly-fixated David Gedge, Ant's lyrical focus is the details of a relationship, the tiny things that blow up into major things. Unlike the young Gedge, Ant does not favour frenetic six-string shredding, instead preferring to strum a (probably) battered acoustic guitar softly and late at night, half-whispering to avoid upsetting the neighbours and because he can't quite believe that his thoughts are escaping like this.

Add N to Fu(x)a (Rocket Girl) CDS

Picture the scene. Barry from Add N to (x) and Randall from Fuxa in the studio. They have one day to record a 2-track single using only the equipment they can find or make on site. Carol Smilie presents, we'll call it Unchanging Tunes.. Not one for the TV executives, perhaps, but certainly something that Rocket Girl might be interested in. And it happened. Except for Carol Smilie and the title, although it would've been close to the mark. And Another Thing is that parping march from the Jungle Book when the elephants stomp in but looped on a single bar and with atmospherics. Hypnotic and mostly unchanging. Add N to Fu(x)a, meanwhile, drones in a grubby way with heraldic angels aaah-ing away in the background. To stick with the home improvement theme analogy, if you mix blue paint and yellow paint you can be certain you'll get green. Likewise, if you mix Add N to (x) and Fuxa, you get.., Retrograde Noumena (Super Volcano) CDS

The only thing bubblegum about this second single is the packaging. Think sweet shop cute on a 3" CD. For the rest it's art-school rock, either short or long and then occasionally, deliberately, 3 minutes; intense and then almost carelessly open; self-indulgent and lazy followed by torrentially engaging. Pick of the 4 tracks is Intermin which somehow combines Prolapse grit and vocal interplay with Sonic Youth's louche moments and the kind of ebb and flow that Can could.

Erac 9, Years From Here (Rocket Number 9) CD

More proof that Sweden really is the home of cracked guitar pop. Apparently over 10% of the population bought shares in Telia, the national telephone company, recently. And it immediately dropped in value. It's no wonder they don't seem to be concentrating on the musicianship at the moment. Years From Here is J. Mascis with a bent acoustic guitar and a walkman. He's lying in the bath, holding the guitar horizontal above the water and sketching out song after song. Occasionally he sings through a toilet roll tube for effect or sits up so that he can play faster. But mostly he just drawls out his pretty (fragile) tunes and lets them echo off the tiles and onto the tape. c/o Kihlberg, Tellusborgsvagen 64, 12637 Hagersten, Sweden.

Various, Chocolate Menta Mastic (AD/AA/DAT) CD

That old thing about falling down a flight of stairs has been done to death. It gets trotted out every time the indie reviewer gets asked to put down a few words about some mildly noisy band on a genuinely indie label and there's no press release to rely on..

Chocolate Menta Mastic's stairs have been crushed by a JCB and replaced by a tangle of heavy metalwork. The tunes on here don't just fall onto this dangerous scrap heap but first chuck a dustbin load of nuts and bolts down and then slide a skipful of copper pipe after them. The compilation is subtitled "Harsh experimental electronic music" and really that just about sums things up. If you're looking for even the remnants of a tune then you're in the wrong place. If you'd like the semblance of what was once a beat then think again. If the vestiges of logical thought behind the music are important to you, then steer well clear. If you think Autechre are big girl's blouses, then you're in the right place. CMM is an hour or so of not random, but certainly not ordered, beatings and scrapings, white noise and pauses. 9 Clifford Rd, Stirling, FK8 2AQ

The Cuban Boys, Old Skool for Scoundrels (Prim & Proper) 7"

There's no two ways about it, The Cuban Boys are four disparate characters (five, if you include the driver who stood as Midge Ure in large, heavy overcoat motionless behind a synthesizer at their recent Scalarama gig) with a fixation on cheesy, shiny pop music, film samples, a disco beat, John Peel and taking the piss. They have no shame and will steal just about any sound including a Pokemon alarm clock shouting "Pikachu!" It's simple and obvious and frequently tiresome but, really, you can't help but smile and sometimes even laugh out loud at their bare-faced cheek. 340 Athlon Rd, Alperton, Mddx, HA0 1BX.

Superstar Disco Club, 4 Tales From A 4 Tracks (Monster Truck Corp) 7"

If you picked up the Welcome To.. album on Che, you'll have an idea what these songs might sound like if they hadn't been engineered by a Spanish goat in a studio with Greek manuals. We're talking demo quality at best (but it is red vinyl), rough'n'ready Pixies-influenced French noise pop. Like the line between genius and madness, the fidelity divide is tricky to gauge accurately. SDC remain just on the side of the angels and fuzziness is an enhancement. Best track is Ticket In Your House where a dirty great bass line dominates while Amelie sings and drops out while she screeches. Garage bands are where you'll find their roots. c/o Amelie Allemand, 181 bis rue Solferino, 59800, Lille, France.

The Static Waves, Wear the Suit (Sounds of New York) 7"

Across their tape album The Static Waves were a little, shall we say, variable. I pointed this out in a review. Michael from the band had the grace to agree but was disappointed that I compared the band to Cable at one point ("Cable were fucking shit" he said.) I'd thought of it as a compliment.. On such differing viewpoints do the worth of a review hinge. In the interests of clarity (on this occasion, anyway), let me say that The Static Waves sound nothing like Cable here. What they do sound like is the Pavement rehearsal where Steve Malkmus' metal-obsessed younger brother provides a single, powerful riff to the outright annoyance of the rest of the band. I like it. or 2.50 from 5 St Nicholas Way, Wigginton, York, YO32 2GW.

Morphine, Bootleg: Detroit (Rykodisc) CD

A shot of Morphine, or 14, should do the trick. It takes something strong in these jaded days, days when our tolerance levels have been heightened by the constant attrition of media and the ubiquity of mediocre music. Morphine still, even after their demise, can cut through this dreck for us and have a serrated edge that will tear at the enveloping gloom of pop culture. Just give us a fix.

Recorded by a fan in 1994, this album remains, by virtue of there still being no-one else doing anything similar half as well, ahead of its time. Post-rock was and is a tedious and largely useless term but if it had to apply to anything, Morphine could stake a pretty good claim. The mainstay of rock music is the electric guitar, so to deliberately reject it and then to replace the instrument with saxophone would appear to show what Morphine were trying to leave behind them. In this forward motion, they created a bass-heavy slow-core sound with enough breadth that during their 6-year span they never ran out of permutations. The music on this boot, as on their "proper" records, broods and throbs, bruises with power and yet can be incredibly subtle. If you haven't experienced Morphine yet, you don't know what you're missing.

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