reviews march 2004

Serge, playMeLoud (Miss King) 10"
I think I've discovered the perfect record. This is it (in case you thought I was talking about some poll-topping populace-pleasing bollocks.) Perfect? Porquoi? (1) Length. None of the nine cuts outstays its welcome. I have a friend whose philosophy in life is "get in, do your business, get the hell out." Serge's songs are its musical realisation. Nine songs in 19 minutes. Perfect. (2) Tunes. There are tunes popping out at all angles. It's like an arm-wrestling competition in an elbow factory. Perfect. (3) Words. Serge are French. They sing in English. They fit the words to their angular tunes. There are thus three layers of otherworldliness (French intonation, second-language pronunciation, those tunes.) Perfect. (4) Music. Serge were obsessed by70s Bowie, Wire, Kraftwerk, Eno, Gary Numan and Neu when they made this record. Perfect. (5) Coloured Vinyl. White. Perfect. (6) Spare copy. Every record comes with a CD backup. Perfect.

Dreams of Tall Buildings, Threehundredandthirtythree EP (Experimental Seafood) 10"
More white vinyl, this time packaged in a white sleeve with a white photo attached inside a white carrier bag. Purity is the general impression. Then you put the record on. Heaven is the general impression or, if not heaven, then at least its earthly staging posts: churches and cathedrals. The vaulted ceilings and spacious halls that give such soft, soft ambience where any tickle of sound is transported away and back, returning disseminated but still somehow recognisable are here, on this disc. Imagine playing some Boards of Canada at low volume at the back of St. Pauls. This record is the sound that comes back.

The Panacea Society, Do Me Rattle/God Is Sexy (Trace) 10"
The story is a good one. Panacea were a hippy/psyche commune/band playing in and around Bedford in the late 60s and early 70s. Trace records came across some old reel-to-reel tapes of Panacea demos at a car boot sale and turned them into this release: two demos and two remixes. The original tracks are exactly what you'd expect from a band who'd been listening to garage rock and dropping out on a rapid cycle. The remixes clip and edit the songs into tight beat workouts. Trace, 26 Moira Place, Cardiff, Wales.

Hasslehound, Scaring the Grass in the Garden (Pickled Egg) 10"
If there could be a prototypical Pickled Egg release (and that's a very big IF) Hasslehound would have come close to making it. Simultaneously accessible and awkward, simultaneously "now" and "then," simultaneously exotic and everyday, simultaneously familiar and different, Scaring the Grass in the Garden pulls all ends of the Oeuf oeuvre into one compact 10" bundle. Stylish sixties melodies smooth themselves up against what could be a Polish folk song, outer space jazz and even a Jew's harp sounding groovy. If you haven't tried the egg thing yet, now's a good time to take a crack.

Thomas Mery, I Matter (Dora Dorovitch) 10"
At first glance, you might think Thomas was a bit self-possessed. He matters? In his tiny mind, probably. At first glance, you might take me for the kind of superficial twat who makes judgements based on first glances. (Welcome to the music business.) Of course, neither of us is that shallow which is why we give Thomas the benefit of the doubt and find ourselves swayed by his touching, pulsing, fragmentary electro. If he'd strapped himself into an EEG machine run through a delay and fiddled with his acoustic guitar while watching films that made him cry and recorded the results on a tape that only ran intermittently, he might've come up with this sound. Otherwise he must be some kind of genius. Which means that he matters.

Buck 65, 463 (WEA) 10"
Remix of the album version (also helpfully included for the seemingly small number of us not in the I Own The Buck 65 Album Gang) that was (having now heard it, I can say this) much in need of a remix. Buck 65's hobo rock is tightened up and bottomed up now thumps along like a good 'un should.

Earsugar, The Toy Sound of Earsugar 10"
Two tracks, GuitarSplinters and FaustChick, which suggest that all the spaces in Earsugar's word have gone into the music. Two tracks, GuitarSplinters and FaustChick, which mould speckled electronics around somehow audible spaces. Two tracks GuitarSplinters and FaustChick, of spaced-out glimmer, shimmering in the air as they hang and then dissolve and reform.

Various, Expstatic (Expanding/Static Caravan) 10"
A disc'o'tech from two self-styled "best kept secret" labels. The self-stylists neglect to elaborate on whether they are labels which are best kept secret or labels which are the best kept secret. You can see merit in both sides. This is also true of the record, it being a picture disc and all.

On the Static face, Lilienthal, Hulk and Marcia Blaine School For Girls do the electronic soft-shoe, keeping one foot barely on the gas while the melodies are picked out sparingly and the urge to groove is stirred but not shaken sufficiently to get beyond the neck flex. Lilienthal brushes a wash of acousticity and song over his tune; Hulk is slightly disturbing in the Theme-Park-At-Night way and Marcia Blaine (whose Pink Sticks single is a must-get, also on Static Caravan) go for incidental music chimes and a thickish break.

On the Expanding side Benge, Stendec and Vessel do the electronic soft-shoe, keeping one foot barely on the gas while the melodies are picked out sparingly and the urge to groove is stirred but not shaken sufficiently to get beyond the neck flex. Benge's effort ripples and echoes and slightly dubs; Stendec cultivates the glitch and manipulates it into tricky shapes around a warm core and Vessel is half 70's US cop drama, half dark room.

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