BRETT NAUCKE: Seed (LP, Spectrum Spools SP 034, 2014)

Brett Naucke - Seed

Said out loud, I’m not sure if Naucke is ‘now-ker’, ‘nork’, ‘nowk’ or something else entirely. That, potentially, isn’t important.

This is a very recent purchase, I bought Seed after reading its description on the Editions Mego website – Spectrum Spools is one of their associated labels, along with Ideologic Organ, Old News and others. This is the wording, repeated on the inner sleeve of the record, that piqued my interest:

Seed was written & recorded using ritual variations of a singular patch for modular synthesizer in Chicago, IL & field recordings made in Miami, FL November 2012 – July 2013

What’s not to love about that description? Determinedly wacky synth-related shenanigans; field recordings; a cool American location; a hot American location. Win! The track ‘Luau’, available on the Editions Mego website as a sample, sounds moodily ambient, with a bit of an Aphex Twin edge perhaps, and a slow distant burn of industrial noise hovering around its edges. So it is across the eight tracks of the album – it all takes place at a slow pace, with the carefully-constructed sounds unfurling amongst one another to create an effect that’s simultaneously cloying and ‘open’-sounding. I’m not a huge aficionado of Editions Mego-type work, and so perhaps this album is dreadfully stock in context of the other releases of it and its associates – but to me this sounds quite new, rather special and like music that triggers pleasant memories whilst creating fresh ones.

The artwork (by Nina Hartmann, who I can’t seem to accurately track down online) is an abstract, vaguely organic collection of shifting forms, spanning the whole of the front and back cover. The Spectrum Spools logo – a delightful chunky circle containing the colours of the spectrum – features on the back cover, and those colours are repeated to good effect as a set of colour bars on the spine. Here’s hoping that Spectrum Spools releases all have these bars on their spines – if they do, they’ll look beautiful lined up on a record shelf. On the inner sleeve, monochrome imagery (in light green) looks to have taken aspects of the cover image and stretched and distorted them, like the images have been run through a broken fax machine. Simple? Yes. Effective? Yes.

Links: Brett Naucke (website currently down, as at 27 April 2014) / Spectrum Spools

THE HUMAN LEAGUE: Open Your Heart / Non-Stop (12″, Virgin VS453-12, 1981)

The Human League - Open Your Heart / Non-Stop

My random number generator, before picking this record for me, suggested five or six 7″ singles – problematic, as my 7″s are still not in an easy-to-handle order, meaning that I can’t quickly track down any of them in particular. Note to self: sort this out.

Anyway, to the first record picked that I can easily locate. I’ll never tire of The Human League – they bridged several musical gaps for me, from being around when I was very young (as radio/TV-based pop music), through reflecting the kind of ‘pure pop’ moments that I craved in my late teens and twenties, and ticking a variety of post-punk/electronica boxes that appeals to my more po-faced muso side.

I picked up this record at some point within the last twenty years – certainly not when it was released, but probably as a charity shop find. One issue for the record-buying completist can be a love of a more mainstream band – it’s easy to get lost in a morass of endless releases and formats; is it really necessary to track down the 7″, 12″, 12″ remix and cassette version of every old single? For me, it’s a no – such format-itis makes me realise that what I really like is collecting all of the music rather than the releases; albeit tinged with some desire to make sure I’m grabbing the music in any different versions that were released, and as its ‘original’ release, whatever that may mean.

‘Open Your Heart’ is a superb song, a fine combination of off-kilter electronics, post-punk-seriousness in the vocal style and unashamed melodic pop. ‘Non-Stop’ pushes things slightly too far in a cutesy-childrens’-TV-theme direction for my liking. Despite having a clear break between songs on the record, they’re bracketed together as a single 8 minute 15 second piece. Art, innit.

And art always seemed close to The Human League’s collective heart, in terms of their records’ packaging. Check out the white space, the careful positioning, the sparse use of colour and the typographical spacing on this record’s front cover; on the back a single line containing the bracketed word ‘Instrumentals’ is justified by spacing the left and right brackets to the edges of the measure, while the word itself is left centred. Nicely done. The band also had the whole ‘Blue’/’Red’ thing going on – their band name augmented with a colour which, according to Wikipedia, was to “to help buyers differentiate between the band’s musical styles”.

Cover design is credited to ‘Adrian and Philip’ – presumably frontman Phil(ip) Oakey along with Philip Adrian Wright (renamed as Adrian to avoid confusion?), who was the  band’s ‘Director Of Visuals’. More bands need a ‘Director Of Visuals’. There’s also a credit for ‘Layout And Co-ordination’ given to the mysterious ‘Ken (at A.S.)’. That’ll be designer Ken Ansell, then of Ansell Sadgrove, now Creative Director at London design agency Clinic. Perhaps Oakey and Wright did the conceptual bit, and Ansell gave it life?

Links: The Human League