reviews october 2002

All Girl Summer Fun Band, All Girl Summer Fun Band (K) LP

The band names tells you a lot and the album does pretty much what it says on the cover. More information? Four spirited young ladies from the US (including Jen from the Softies) who do that girls with guitars/ punk/ sixties pop/ exuberant harmonies kind of thing – and do it very well too. Songs about being dumped at one in the morning in the middle of nowhere and then the car breaks down, comparing the relative merits of respective boyfriends, having the most awful crushes, and their very own theme songs. A soundtrack for any summer. (Laurence) K, PO Box 7154, Olympia, Washington, WA 98507, USA www.kpunk.ocm

Apartment Star, She’s Walking Down (Galaxy Train) 7"

Sunshine 60s jangle, sung in English with a Japanese accent. A little touch of psyche and tunes too, it’s simple it’s pop and it’s rather perfect. (Laurence)

Le Not, La compilation de la lenoirliste CDR

From France, a CDR in a handmade sleeve. One of those compilations you buy on a whim and end up congratulating yourself for. Mainly French with some English bands, plenty of guitars, some samples and some strings conjure up a range of nocturnal moods and atmospheres. Cinematic, enigmatic and just the kind of thing that reminds you why you bother seeking out obscure records by obscure bands on obscure labels. (Because sometimes it’s worth it.) (Laurence)

Dear Nora, Dreaming Out Loud (Magic Marker) 7"

Legend has it that one day Katy Davidson retired to her room with a borrowed guitar and 4-track recorder and didn’t emerge until 24 hours later following an intense burst of creative inspiration which saw her write, play, and record the intimate treasures on this vinyl. Pedantic cynics might point to the necessity of toilet and coffee breaks but the less mean-spirited will content themselves with the delight these eight offerings afford whilst giving them the umpteenth spin on the turntable. Nothing more than great songs with melodies, strong lyrics and gentle harmonies that reveal a genuine talent at work. Hats off everyone, this lady’s a star. Look out too for the full band album, We’ll Have a Time, als on Magic Marker, recorded in Amy Linton’s (Aislers Set) basement. (Laurence) 4306 SE 34th, Portland, Oregon, OR 97202, USA

Various, Secret Home Party (Little Pad) 7"

From Tokyo come five American bands, the idea being that it’s like they all come round to your house and play a song each at your very own impromptu party. It would be a very good party too, if perhaps a little crowded and rather an awkward job to get that piano through the door, but definitely worth it. In between making sure everyone’s alright for a drink and explaining away some of the more embarrassing items in your record collection, a hush would fall over the assembly for the gentle beauty of Mirah, the twinkling effervescence of Jenn Turrl and the reflective genius of Dear Nora. Once the neighbour who’d come round to complain about the noise had been made welcome and settled into a spot with these new friends, rapt attention would resume for the fragile melancholy of Dennis Driscoll, and the to the surprise star turn of the party, the Oliver Brown Trio, where the ukulele master consprise with the enigmatic Andrea Perkins to produce something truly wondrous. Yes indeed, what a party it was, and with this souvenir in its hand-made sleeve as a keepsake, one that’s always fondly remembered. (Laurence)

Various, Fusebox Sampler (Fusebox) CD

Four bands, but only stubborn Stain remain after a quick rinse and spin. Stain, hmm. Somehow we know that the stains Stain were thinking of when they named themselves and their album (Stainville) weren’t gravy, red wine or grass. So their two tracks on this 4-band label compilation could only be called one thing: Spunk Rock. Thank you , Cambridge and good night. Sputnik compacts Gold Blade and The Membranes into a few glorious minutes of riffage and frantic drumming and, for extra brownie points, sticks a couple of choruses of Hey Hey We’re The Monkees over the fade-out. Day Out is a punker Crazyhead. Both could do with losing a bit of flab but Stain have made their mark while Last Caress, Llewelyn and Stare (the bands you’ll skip over on the CD) haven’t.

Jeremy Dower, Music For Retirement Villages Circa 2050 (Chapter Music) CD

In 2050 I’ll be ready to retire. Ferchrissakes, I’m ready to retire now but no-one’s offering to pension me off. By 2050 and once I’ve saved some money (yeah!) I’ll be just about in the mood to dribble down myself whilst watching daytime TV and yearn for music that sounds like an Esquivel LP painted by Salvador Dali. That is, lounge music melted and warped by the heat of a bright, bright Sun. Shyness Can Stop You From Doing All The Things In Life You’d Like To is the pick of the titles. It could have originated in Austria, from the Pole stable, all chillout modernist dub, cuboid groove, gently enticing ambience and those melting melodies. Don’t wait til you’re checking into Dunroamin’ with your collection of souvenir plates to hear this stuff. Do it now. PO Box 4292, Melbourne University, Parkville, Vic 3052 Australia

Minimum Chips, Portfolio (Chapter Music) CD

I’m no expert on Australian music, and to be honest I don’t recall ever having heard anything of or by Minimum Chips before this fell through the letterbox, but I do know what I like and it pains me that it’s taken 8 years for the music on Portfolio to get here. Minimum Chips make simple sounds complicated and complicated sound simple. The basic 4-track setup and guitar/keys/drums are the simple sounds that produce the complex instrumentals, the individual threads that through warp and weft intertwine into a coherent whole. The cool-handed confidence to handle whatever they try with ease is what makes it sound simple. So what if the world and his dog have been making post-rock for the last few of years? This was ahead of the pack when there was no pack, and time hasn’t done it any harm. Think of the way Trans Am can just start playing and spirit you away. Minimum Chips have the same knack. PO Box 4292, Melbourne University, Parkville, Vic 3052 Australia

Various, Audio Wonderland (Enraptured) CD

This is the latest in the Bedroom Ambience series and comes on two stellar discs. That’s two discs whose 24 tracks will turn your bedroom into the inside of Sonic Boom’s head just before it dissolves, into the inside of The Cathedral of Eno just before Evensong while the organist is slowly warming up the pipes and into the inside of a camp disco just before things start to really kick off.

Dreamy and sleepy but on the flip side throbbing and edgy, it could take days to describe the depths of this record. So I’m going to be Little Jimmy Horner, and pull the plums out of Enraptured’s spacerock pie: Southall Riot as always deliver a frazzled slice of the good stuff; Susie and Kate’s debut offering is a gently trippy delight and Santa Klaus shows that he doesn’t waste his 364 days off every year – he spends them making tinny motorik stompers. Vagus Nerve’s Cosmic Copulation pings and grinds around the moans and groans; Lakescene are stuck in a beautiful groove and Ma Cherie For Painting offer an urgent and charged mess of piano and paranoia. Others to look out for: Bassman, Portal, Radio 9, The Land of Nod, Avrocar, Phobos 3, Slipstream. And the others. Jack spent ages putting this record together and it shows.134 Replingham Rd, Southfields, London SW18 5LL

Various, Bread and Roses/ Live at the Complex 3 (both Entartete Kunst) both CD

According to the sleeve and the handwritten note inside, Bread and Roses is an "all- wimmin" compilation named for a workers strike in Massachusetts in 1912 in which women carried banners demanding bread and roses – "because hearts can starve as well as bodies." They wanted better working conditions, but also time for culture, education and a life outside of the textile factories. They eventually won.

Today’s women are protesting too, but the issues are many and varied although orbiting around a ferocious dissatisfaction with the blindly capitalistic philosophy of the US and its consequences. Poetesses and beat mistresses take turns to express and emote, the power and clarity of the bare spoken word contrasting with dense, swirling electronic noise. Doily is the only contributor I’ve heard before, and she delivers the same kind of fractured breaks that her Broklyn Beats releases have laid down. Pick of the rest, Drowning Dog are Doily’s paranoid half-sister, winding a deadbeat vocal around a mesmeric loop of utter despair on Dicks Sister and more or less the same over a Naomi Klein sample on You Up For It? Without the focus, without the unity, without the numbers and support it’s hard to see what difference a compilation like this is going to make. But that doesn’t make worthless, least of all on a straight musical level.

Live at the Complex 3 steers clear of any issues beyond fucking shit up for electro fun. Eddie The Rat kicks things off with I Ovulate In Mode, all freaky downbeat jazz and spooky singing. It’s like Mouse on Mars in the middle of a very bad acid flashback. Drowning Dog do more good things with Broken Hands which stops and starts a beat, lays down a couple of layers of fluctuating depression and gets slowly drunk. DJ Slo-Mo is worthy of the name, dragging out wisps of nothing into a brooding monster, Dr D.X. Neutrino offers some tinny electro and the theme from an unreleased sci-fi movie and Screamo Leemo does gabba house on Lone Spurts. POB 411194, SF, CA 94141-1194 USA

Twink, Twink (Dyspepsidisc) CD + book

OK, so in your time you’ve bought a few records because of the name of the band, or the picture on the sleeve. We all have. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. So start reaching for your credit card now. Twink is music made by a cartoon rabbit. You’re interested. On toy instruments. Impulse purchase imminent. It comes with its own book and fairy story. Buy! Buy! Buy! Mike Langlie is the man behind Twink. He’s not a cartoon rabbit, although Twink is, but he does make music with toys and a sampler. It’s just like you imagine it should be, all plinks, plonks, chirrups, boings, and zings, pasted together with charity shop beats and a sackful of hummable melodies. It’s Tom and Jerry at the Toytown Orchestra. c/o Mike Langlie, 55 Bartlett Ave, Belmont, MA 02478, USA

Los Planetos Del Agua, Too Many Bricks and Not Enough Sea (Antenna) CD

Too much post and not enough rock, some less patient souls would say of Los Planetos Del Agua. Too much froth and not enough coffee, we might say by way of a reply laced with intrigue, meaning there’s always plenty of music of fleeting interest for those with short attention spans, so why don’t they just nick off and half-listen to it? The rest of us can close our eyes, clamp the headphones on and be instantly elsewhere. The Aguans are never afraid to stick whatever comes naturally into a track so their take on the post-rock thang is more detailed, deeper, less rigid, inclusive, bendier and wendier. Los Planetos Del Agua are like Sweep The Leg Johnny – with two brooms. PO Box 6083, Burton on Trent, DE14 2ZX

Y Camerau Cyflymder, Cyfleoedd (Catchpenny) CDS

The Speed Cameras, in case you were wondering. Speedy 4-track scratch-rock, in case you were wondering. Speed fuelled snatches of lo-fi brilliance where the bass sporadically bursts high into the mix and the drums are tinny, in case you were wondering. The speed that time goes by – I could have sworn it was 1986 again, in case you were wondering. I like it, in case you were wondering. Blwch Post/PO Box 88, Yr Wyddgrug/Mold, CH7 4ZQ, Cymru/Wales.

Puerto Muerto, Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore! (Fire) CD

Imagine a meeting at sea, aboard a wooden, sail-powered ship, where folk singers from all times and continents have gathered to trade songs. The Spaniards are first up, they add a dash of pimento flamenco to the meeting. The old sea dogs interject with a couple of shanties and then someone from the Deep South sings a country song he vaguely remembers. An English folkie contributes something for the Morris dancers and Big Star are on hand to provide guitars. It goes on for hours. Someone has a tape recorder, so they record, edit down, press some copies up and laughingly title the resulting release Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore! 21a Maury Rd, London, N16 7BP

Various, Sy/Co (System Corrupt) CD

From the same nice Australian people that brought you the Appropriate Pop CD recently, Sy/Co is more of the same radical beatings – without the pretence of their being any kind of theme. Film samples and stuttering schitzoid gabba rammed up against static/distortion/noise and the sound of an orang utan with diarrhoea trying to get his gran out of the jungle toilet. This and more is here with the picks coming from The Pilfenators with Didn’t Prepare (we can tell) and Anti Kati with Erroneous Kinetics.

Syntetika, 100% Syntetika (Shaped Harmonics) CD

"We don’t like the way how electronic music develops lately.. the main thing in music for us is melody and harmony." So say Syntetika, and so deliver Syntetika. Their debut album is an hour of elegant, understated, enveloping techno. Apart from the Cyrillic script on the sleeve, you wouldn’t know the duo were Russian, such is the cosmopolitan nature of technology and the impossibility of keeping ideas and sounds within national boundaries. The ideas and sounds on here reflect The Orb and Eno and hints of Muslimgauze and house music stripped of the pumping 4-4 and loved-up dub and sunset.

Super_Collider, Raw Digits (Rise Robots Rise) CD

"I want to make music that makes me want to live my life, not scratch my beard." So says Jamie Lidell, one half of Super_Collider along with Christian Vogel. I’d like to make music that would stop beards from growing, but that’s another story. Lidell has achieved his aim - unlike me - through multifarious technovariations.

Various, Awkward Volume 1 (Awkward) CD

It’s the debut release from a new label. Nice hand-made packaging, but I’ve been here a thousand times before. I’m in a poor mood and I’m certain things are going to go downhill from this point on. I’m very wrong. Misty’s Big Adventure kick a hole in timeworn low compilation expectations with Singsong, a nursery rhyme meets lo-cost big band extravaganza that seems to be sung in a single huge breath. The Beemen keep up the standard on Loose Beams, where Spaceman 3 get down and get with it in a scratchy jam that steals lines from, of all people, Robert Palmer. Kettle plug Stephen Hawking into the mains and dance around the resulting synthesised vocal nonsense to synthesised retrodisco nonsense. Hamfist from Grover is a delightful untune of cheery post rock (yes, I said cheery post rock) and Horse Feathers inject jig into Morricone on Two Tales. Dogfood take the (dog) biscuit. Rita Grant is the archetypal debut indie label compilation fodder – a song that goes on way too long, too slowly, sung by a poor singer with tinny backing and a record collection containing too much by The Field Mice – but I still somehow love it. Og’s Bunkadoo Band round things off with The Rise and Fall of the Golden Child and I’m left looking for ways to say that the exception proves the rule. Awkward Towers, 50 Addison Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7EW

Girl Talk, Secret Diary (Illegal Art) CD

My brother used to read guitar magazines when he was a boy rocker. I was more into Run DMC and the local Birmingham grebos but I used to flick through his mags anyway. One thing always puzzled me: chops, something the bands and writers seemed to thing were crucial to being a Good Musician and making Good Honest Rock Music. My only experience of chops at that time was the regular Thursday night tea of pork chops, boiled potatoes, tinned peas and watery gravy and I couldn’t see the link. Even when I discovered what the hell they were talking about, it didn’t make much sense – who in their right mind would listen to Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen gurning terrible as they spunked up another load of indulgent guitar cum when they could be listening to a bunch of talentless tossers like Pop Will Eat Itself whose nascent love affair with the sampler was summed up in one glorious, inspirational lyric: "You don’t have to have integrity/ You don’t have to have ability/ So listen kiddies, it’s true what they say/ You don’t need respectability" (from (Fuck this Grebo Shit) Hit the Hi-Tech Groove.) Greg Gillis – Girl Talk – has his chops but also heartily rejected the Vai option, and for this we should be mighty thankful. On Secret Diary he samples like an audiomaniac on a mission – Jackson 5, 2 Unlimited, Destiny’s Child, check, check, check – and then slaps the resulting snippets onto his computer like an asylum resident forcing jigsaw pieces together, all the while jerking the beat and tuning his radio in and out. Greg's chops are audio karate, and he executes them like a black belt. The New Wave of New Chops anyone? Somehow I don’t think Kerrang will approve.

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