SPACE ROCKET: Hot Gadulka Suicide (7″, Boing Being BONG12, 2000)

I have no real recollection of how this record found its way onto my shelves. I know I didn’t buy it, so I presume that it was sent to me either as a gift* or as a review copy. If it was the latter – apologies, Boing Being and Space Rocket, as I don’t think I ever did review it. But at least it’s getting a brief mention now, only a short nine years later…

Let’s piece together some evidence about this band and this label based on what’s on the sleeve, what’s on the inserts and what’s on the disc itself:

  1. From the sleeve: Boing Being were a label from Finland, based in the impressively named Korkeakoski which looks, from Google Maps, like quite a small place.
  2. From insert number one: Space Rocket are a free jazz/noise band, and have members with names including Hjalmar Uitto, Man As A Lamb, George Webber, Sonny Cheeba and Timothy Z. Lapland. I suspect some of those names may not be real.
  3. From insert number two (a very nice-looking insert, printed in silver ink on blue stock): No idea. The text on the insert reads ‘Hands up who wants to rock / Pylon / Rocks And Whips / CDR 35FIM $6’. What does this mean?
  4. From insert number three: Boing Being also released comics, such as the one advertised on this insert, Glömp4, which looks to be a selection of Finnish artists.
  5. From the disc itself (which is beautiful salmon pink vinyl): Boing Being have a keen eye for nicely-designed things, such as in this record’s label design which has some elegantly-spaced, minimalist typography.

Boing Being are still an operational label, as their website confirms, and look! They’re now up to a tenth issue of Glömp as well as having around 30 musical releases under their belt as well. It’s always heartening to see independent labels lasting for years and getting better and better. Nice crazed-looking website they’ve got there, too!

*Having now looked at the Boing Being website, and the list of previous releases, my detective skills may have paid off: they released a few things by Warser Gate in the past, a member of whom I used to be in regular contact with. His name was Kev. Maybe Kev sent me this record as a little gift? If so – thanks, Kev!

14 ICED BEARS: Hold On (12″, Borderline BORD 12 001, 1991)

14 Iced Bears - Hold On

This 12″ is from the latter days of 14 Iced Bears, who first (I think) released a couple of 7″ singles on Sarah in the late eighties. Despite sounding as shambling and perky as many an indie-pop band of that time, they always seemed to be slightly edgier, with one foot in strange neo-psychedelic territory. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t like a modern incarnation of Country Joe & The Fish; it was just as if they had imbibed more psychedelic substances than, say, the Field Mice. Perhaps I’m wrong? All I have to go on is the music, after all.

A strong memory created by hearing the 14 Iced Bears band name is a fantastic compilation tape made for me in around ’93 by my good friend Rob, which had all kinds of marvellous stuff on it (Sultans of Ping FC! Swervedriver! Pond!) alongside the 14 Iced Bears track ‘Come Get Me’, which would nowadays sound completely wrong unless it was played on slightly warped, very worn cassette format. I haven’t seen Rob for years – I bumped into him in the streets of Oxford ages ago and that was the last time, I think. He was living in Brighton – maybe he still is? – and was in Oxford for a wedding. I’d lent him my Crybaby Wah-Wah pedal a little while before losing touch – I don’t want it back; I hope he made/is making good use of it!

Borderline Records (the label on which this 12″ was released) was, and I believe still is, a Brighton-based record shop (which extends some kind of Brighton-connection-circle, perhaps). There have been a few instances of real, physical indie record shops also releasing their own product – Borderline in Brighton, Swordfish in Birmingham, and Hospital, Time-Lag and Aquarius out of America are a few I’m aware of… are there others? Do the two things – selling records and making records – go naturally together?

OUR LOVE WILL DESTROY THE WORLD: Yellow Nirvana (7″, Trensmat TR019, 2009)

When the randomly-generated number came up and pointed me in the direction of this record, I have to admit that at first I had no idea what it was and could not recollect even the slightest fact about it. But as I scrolled through my spreadsheet to reveal Trensmat as the label behind the record, things started to make sense.

Trensmat started up (out of Dublin, I think) a few short years ago, and since then has kept up an impressively relentless release schedule – around twenty releases within perhaps three years. Their first couple of releases were of such quality that they were quickly added to my ‘labels that I’ll happily buy everything from’ list.

Lately their releases have been in this format – a very limited edition lathe-cut record (mine is number 014 – I don’t know how many exist), wrapped* in a mysterious sleeve that also contains a CDR with the recordings from the record along with more. I like this combination format: CDRs are great for listening to music, but don’t look too beautiful; lathe-cuts’ sound quality can sometimes leave a little to be desired, but they look fantastic and somehow otherworldly.

One thing Trensmat has been good at is introducing me to some weird and wonderful new artists (normally at the noise/weirdo folk ends of things). In the case of this record however, I’d actually heard of the artist – or at least the artist behind the name. Our Love Will Destroy The World is in fact Campbell Kneale of Birchville Cat Motel, who is something of a minor starlet in the very specifically The Wire-type axis of odd musics. Once he released a record in collaboration with Neil Campbell of Vibracathedral Orchestra (amongst a million other things). You have to love the rarity of that kind of team-up being able to happen! If I ever come across somebody with the reverse of my name, I’m releasing a record with them whether they like it or not.

*A note about the wraparound sleeves used by Trensmat. They have their opening on the left-hand side, rather than the more traditional right-hand ‘book-style’ opening. This maddens me, for some reason. It’s like when a record’s spine is printed the other way up to usual. What are these people thinking?

THE SMITHS: How Soon Is Now? (7″, WEA YZ 0002, 1993)

I really like this song, but I am in no way a Smiths aficionado. I only own a couple of their records, and I think I’m slightly younger than those music fans that had a deep and meaningful relationship with their band as they traversed their awkward teenage years. (A combination of hip-hop and indie pop helped me through that time personally, but that’s another story…) As such, I don’t have an extreme and possessive sense of ownership about the Smiths, as seems to be the case with many people of a certain age. But, as I said, I really like this song. This one and ‘This Charming Man’ are my favourite Smiths songs, if that counts for anything: although probably not, as I haven’t heard all of their songs and therefore can’t really state much of a watertight opinion on them as a whole.

This is some kind of reissue single; I presume that the original came out on Rough Trade at some point before 1993? The reason for the reissue seems to be as a promotional device for the Best… compilation that’s none-too-subtly advertised on the rear sleeve. It must be nice for major labels to press up thousands of copies of a record purely to promote another record. It compares strangely to my own experiences of pressing up one thousand records at maximum and finding it to be an incredibly difficult, time-consuming and somewhat stressful job. (But ultimately very fulfilling – even if hundreds of records still reside in my attic waiting for the very slow sales to continue rolling in…)

I’m sure there is an essay or two to be written about the Smiths’ artwork, with its many stills from films of the ’50s and ’60s. A psychology student could no doubt read all kinds of meanings into the significance of the stills as regards their connections with the music. For me, they just look nice, and make me want to see some cool old movies. This one is from Blow Up, is it not? That’s an odd movie. Before explaining the significance of the film in terms of the Smiths’ music, can somebody first explain the meaning of the mime-tennis scene at the end of the film, please?

GAG/ABLE MESH: Condo 63/Mountaineer/Holiday Faces (7″ flexi, Audacious AUDACIOUS 2, 1993)

A brief meditation on the inherent problems in trying to order records, that feature more than one artist, on the shelf – such as in this example, which I’ve just spent ten minutes trying to find. What’s the best way to go, assuming an alphabetical ordering of records is the baseline requirement?

  1. Arrange in order of the first-named artist quoted on the sleeve?
  2. Arrange in order of the first-named artist to appear on the A side of the record?
  3. Arrange in order of the label name for the record?
  4. Arrange in order of the title of the record?

I use method number four as a rule, but the obvious problem with that is that not all multi-artist records have titles. So in those instances I use method number one as a backup. In the case of this particular record, however, I had decided at some point in the past that the title was ‘Audacious Two’ – seemingly because that was the largest text on the cover. So I’ve exposed a weakness in my system; a flaw: I was fully expecting this to be shelved under G for Gag and it took some time for me to realise otherwise. What to do, to counteract this kind of thing happening in the future?

  1. Give up on any kind of ordering system, and just make my shelves a free-for-all?
  2. Use another system, such as sleeve colour, date purchased, or something else?
  3. Throw all of my records away?

On reflection and after careful consideration, I can tell you with a calm sense of urgency that none of these three suggestions…

  1. Will ever happen.

So I’m stuck with my system and all of its wonderful foibles.

Anyway. I’ll never tire of records and fanzines with this kind of look – the single-colour printing and layouts made up of typewritten text and pasted-in imagery drawn from all kinds of sources (clip art, old comics and magazines, photographs, drawings). I remember that when I bought this flexi through the mail from the chap in Bedford who released it, I was immediately impressed with the idea of packaging a fanzine around a record. Not that it was a particularly original or devastatingly new idea, but it allows in this case, where the fanzine is in 7″-sleeve-sized format, for ease of shelving amongst other records. Despite the aforementioned problems that this may create.

The flexi is great, a clear sliver of plastic containing music from Gag, who were brilliant in a Captain Beefheart-gone-indie-pop kind of way. The fanzine is a decent read, too – stuff on Henry Rollins, bits about Gag and Able Mesh, some personal ‘slice of life’ bits of writing and a few reviews. I always like reading reviews in old fanzines as they remind me of all of the links and networks that used to exist. In this case, the reviews include opinions on a marvellous old fanzine called The Melody Haunts My Reverie and the first release on Imperial Recordings, whose releases I’m sure I’ll randomly come to on here at some point. There is much to say about that label and its releases, when I get to it.

TRANSPARENT THING: Car (7″, Wurlitzer Jukebox WJ 35, ?)

I don’t know when this record was released – the sleeve or insert doesn’t offer any hard information. Why can’t these people include the correct information for efficient record-keeping, eh, eh?

In fact, it’s very likely that the year of release could in fact be printed on the rear of the foldover sleeve, but the type on there is so eye-wateringly, brain-splittingly tiny that it’s hard to tell. Well; in all honesty, I’m being slightly facetious. It’s not like the type is unreadable (and I’d never want to come across as one of those dimwits who looks over a piece of design and whose only comment is ‘urrr can’t the text be bigger?’ – that comes just behind ‘I’m not really sure about the colourrrrDUH’ in the whydon’tyouhavearealopinionandwhycan’tyouseebeyondtheendofyournose annoyance stakes). The combination of small type size and swash-heavy script typeface, however, does result in much of the text being just on the right side of challenging to decipher. Maybe that’s the point of this sleeve, though? From the photography on the front and the back, which seems deliberately hazy, washed out and overexposed, to the small type size, and the printing of everything onto a lessen-the-contrast-even-further shade of yellow paper, it seems that perhaps a general feeling of woozy vagueness is being created on purpose. According to some of the microscope-friendly rear sleeve text, the design is by Christopher Douglas @ Flypaper. A cursory glance through Google results suggests one of the following things:

  1. Christopher Douglas and/or Flypaper have no presence on the internet.
  2. Christopher Douglas and/or Flypaper now operate in spheres outside of design – perhaps a businessman, an author, or even as simply the title of a movie.

Who knows? Wurlitzer Jukebox was always like this, in their presentation as much as the music contained within their releases: vague, enigmatic and a momentary glimpse of something that proved difficult to capture.

MANTRONIX: Music Madness (LP, 10 DIX 50, 1986)

In 1986 when this record came out, I was around thirteen years old and the existence of hip-hop and breakdancing was evident enough for me and a few pals at school to feel confident and knowledgable enough to form our own little breakdancing crew. After all, we’d all seen movies like Beat Street and Breakdance and listened to a lot of badly-recorded tapes of whatever repetitive beats we collectively managed to track down through random radio dial whirling and home taping. Admittedly, our middle-class Midlands-based upbringing may not have been the same experience as if we’d grown up in the rough corners of late ’70s New York, but regardless, the Electro Breakers (as we cringingly named ourselves) were formed, and enjoyed many a playground-based dance off during a few months’ worth of breaktimes. We must have been doing something right, at least in the eyes of our obviously hip teachers, as the highlight of our brief career was to host a physical education class for an hour, teaching classmates how to pop, lock and spin whilst remaining effortlessly cool, clad in matching Nike tracksuit tops.

Some of the artists I remember from those scratchy old cassettes include Roxanne Shanté, LL Cool J and Mantronix, amongst others whom I’d surely recognise but never knew of a name to attach to the sounds. I wasn’t much of a record buyer back then, so unfortunately I don’t have an outstanding collection of original early hip-hop and electro vinyl, but nowadays I’m very slowly picking up records here and there to, effectively, recreate those old cassettes that are now long gone. So, this Mantronix album was acquired at a charity shop somewhere – I can’t remember where – a few months ago. As is so often the case with these things, however, it was something of a small disappointment to play it after a twenty year gap. It’s good, but it’s not as revolutionary or inspiring as it seemed to be back then. I guess that’s what comes of knowing more about music, putting things in perspective and forming your own timelines and histories of sound? The genuine thrills become few and far between. That sounds sad, but it’s not supposed to – I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not about to reform the Electro Breakers, though.

HULA HOOP/HOOD/BLAIRMAILER: 3 Band Flexi With… (7″ flexi, Tangled TANGLED 006, 1993)

Flexis are cool. People don’t make them that much any more, as far as I know. Maybe it’s difficult to make them these days. Maybe I should investigate, and if I can, just make a flexi for the hell of it. And hey, if I did, it might be like this one, as it’s a good one. Not only does it involve Hood, everybody’s favourite band that nobody has heard of but who are really very good indeed, but also Hula Hoop, who I remember did an excellent split album with Boyracer, and Blairmailer, who I  remember were something of a big (indie) deal in Australia in the early nineties.

This flexi came free with a fanzine called Open Your Eyes, amongst other things – back in the crazy early nineties there were all kinds of hook-ups and cross-promotional activities going on, with flexis being given out free with several fanzines, fanzines given out free with flexis, and so on. That fanzine was very, very well written and I distinctly remember it as being the first place I ever read the phrase ‘post-rock’. This may not mean much now, as the phrase is attached in one way or another to pretty much every independent band that doesn’t sound like Coldplay of the past ten years. But it was a strange and mysterious new phrase back then – which I think was attached to not what you might expect (the often-referred to as ‘slowcore’ of Slint, Codeine etc) but instead to the gliding modern swoops of Trans Am and the noisy tension of Rodan. Actually, Rodan were kind of post-rock-meets-slowcore, but there I’ll end my categorisations before I tie myself in pointless pigeonholing knots.

I’ve actually got several copies of both Open Your Eyes and the associated Hula Hoop/Hood/Blairmailer flexi – for reasons I can’t exactly remember; but very possibly due to my vague plans once to act as an independent distributor and hence buy in several copies of a thing in order to sell it on (for no profit, by the way) after that. Anyway. If anybody reading this wants a copy and can stump up a couple of quid to cover postage, let me know, and I’ll ‘hit you up’ as they say.