Category Archives: 7″

SONIC YOUTH: Helen Lundeberg (7″, SY-0001)

Sonic Youth - Helen Lundeberg

This is the first 7″ record that my random number generator – the website I use to decide which record from my collection to write about – has pointed me towards. That’s a little intentional, as until very recent times my 7″ records were in no order whatsoever, and it would’ve been tricky to track down any specific one. However! I spent a couple of weekend days a little while ago organising them into alphabetical order and, naturally, life now feels much more intentional and relaxed.

This seems to be only the second Sonic Youth record I’ve written about here, which is somewhat surprising, as their records occupy quite a hefty chunk of my collection overall. Quite an odd record, this one: I think it was released by the band, but I can’t remember. It doesn’t state a label, or indeed a release date, on either its sleeve, its labels, or the insert included within the sleeve. Discogs tells me it was released in May 2006. I will have almost definitely bought it as soon as it was released, such was my approach to any new Sonic Youth release; I think it was ordered online and delivered mail order.

Not a great deal to say about the sleeve design; the front and back are almost identical, except for in the positioning of the letters. One side has ‘SONI / C YO / UTH’, the other has ‘SONI / CYOU / TH’. Dull stuff. A stencil font (the font is actually called Stencil, as well as being ‘a stencil font’), black on white, no nonsense. It’s a relatively commonplace design, although not entirely unpleasant.

The insert seems to have been cut to its square shape with a rusty butter knife – it’s all rough-edged and crappy-feeling. It shows nothing more than the lyrics for the two songs on the record (‘Helen Lundeberg’ and ‘Eyeliner’), presented in plain old Verdana, black on white, no nonsense.

A weird record, a weird release. So little effort seems to have been put into the physical presentation of these two songs. The songs are fine – latter-period Sonic Youth; i.e. melodic and nothing like as freaked, spaced, or zoned out as in their earlier days.

HOOD: Silent ’88 (LP, Slumberland SLR 59, 1996)

Hood - Silent '88

Hood always felt very much like an English band – specifically, Northern English. Their songs had a gritty, blurred, romantic, hopeful and bleak combination of things going on. For a while, it seemed like they were on their way to becoming a bit of a Big Deal; Silent ’88 represents their ‘let’s break America’ album, in as much that it was released on the always excellent Slumberland Records. They went on to sign to Domino, play All Tomorrow’s Parties, gather a growing amount of positive vibes from around the globe before… fading away. How appropriate for a band that felt like they were documenting thoughts and memories, rather than contributing to an overall grand plan either within their own minds or within a wider context.

Slumberland, by the way, are a great American label, having released hundreds of records with a discography that stretches way back to the late 1980s. They’ve released Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine, Stereolab, Lilys, Boyracer, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Crystal Stilts and, well, endless lists’ worth of good stuff. They were always plugged into the rich underground world of pop-influenced independent music; and in fact they still are, as they remain active to this day. Their priorities were often right; for example, the rear sleeve of Silent ’88 includes the message “thanks for buying this record on vinyl”. There are treats within, as the sleeve not only includes the album, but also an A4 photocopied insert and a four-track 33rpm 7″ single.

There’s no credit given for the sleeve or insert artwork, but I’d hazard a guess that they’re at least in part due to Hood mainmen (and brothers) Chris and Richard Adams. Throughout their career Hood’s artwork maintained a strong feeling of mystery and a conscious air of DIY – from the hand-coloured artwork of early releases to their last, which still used the familiar Hood logo, photographs taken by band members, and hand-scrawled/typed track listings and notations. That hand-scrawled writing was in the familiar handwriting of Richard Adams, who was an active participant in the vibrant 1990s fanzine/letter-writing/tape-and-record-exchanging scene and from whom I received many letters.

Some great song titles on this album, by the way: “Trust me, I’m A Stomach”; “Delusions Of Worthlessness”; “Smash Your Head On The Cubist Jazz”; “Being Beaten Up”.

Links: Hood / Slumberland Records

SEAWEED: Deertrap (7″, K IPU 16, 1990)

Seaweed - Deertrap

The K label, and in particular its International Pop Underground series, are an item on my mental ‘over time, I’ll collect all of these records’ list. It’s not a hugely pressing task, it’s more that in the occasional quiet eBay/Discogs-searching moment I may stumble across a bargain or two and decide to go for it.

So, this Seaweed 7″, along with another International Pop Underground record (Beck’s ‘It’s All In Your Mind’) found their way to me over the past couple of weeks. Seaweed are a hazy memory of a name, and listening to ‘Deertrap’ take me right back to the early ’90s boom of indie rock. It’s typical of the time at which hardcore music was morphed and sculpted into something different, something poppier but no less noisy. Just a little slower, I guess. Out of this time came the grunge ‘thing’, spearheaded by Nirvana’s world-conquering popularity. It was a fervent and inspirational time that also – in no small part due to the passion and dedication of labels like K – spun out Riot Grrl and a new wave of networked independent music-making that was exciting and endlessly productive.

I didn’t know (or couldn’t remember) a whole lot about Seaweed before writing this. So, Wikipedia to the rescue. They disbanded in 2000, but reformed in 2007 and continue to this day. In the past they toured with Green Day, Superchunk and Bad Religion. They had a song on the Clerks soundtrack. Good stuff. The K label’s International Pop Underground series started in 1987, and that too continues to this day (although it’s been quiet for the last couple of years), with over 130 volumes so far. According to the K website’s page about ‘Deertrap’, this record was “recorded in their first flush of youthful enthusiasm before they recorded their first album and went on to grunge-era stardom.”

There’s very little on the sleeve to hint at who created the artwork for the record. The only credit provided at all is to producer Dan Pelton. It’s not the most exciting record sleeve, and the kerning of ‘Seaweed’ leaves a little to be desired, but the graceful sweep of the shape on the front isn’t unpleasant, and the black-and-white-Xerox feel of it has a certain punk charm.

Links: Seaweed on MySpace / K

YUKI TSUJII: I’m Rubbish But I Love You (7″, Blank Editions The Solo Series 006, 2014)

Yuki Tsujii - I'm Rubbish But I Love You

Reading about a record that’s a limited edition, has handmade elements to its packaging, and that is somehow unique as an artefact, is always a way to find my interest piqued. So, my first record from Blank Editions, but the sixth in their ‘The Solo Series’ of releases that has also included records by Charles Boyer, Joseph Coward, Douglas Hart, Thurston Moore and Ted Milton, was meant to find its way to me soon after I read about it.

Yuki Tsujii is a member of ‘Japanese four-piece acid punk band’ (thanks, Wikipedia) and on this 7″ record gives us two parts of ‘I’m Rubbish But I Love You’, an organic drone piece/field recording construction that sounds equally pleasant at 33 or 45 rpm. At 45 – which I think is the correct speed – it’s a concise, shimmering piece, somewhat akin to Library Tapes being played on the other side of a forest; at 33, it’s additionally eerie and (obviously) more lingering.

The packaging – presumably the work of David Santiago Blanco, one of the two people behind Blank Editions, who is also a designer – is a combination of ‘pro’ and handmade. Professionally-printed labels on the record, a printed wraparound tracing paper image on the sleeve coexist with a photocopied additional wraparound and a hand-stamped envelope which purportedly contains a leaf taken from a Hackney park. (I’m not sure about the latter; I didn’t open the envelope yet).

Links: Yuki Tsujii on Facebook / Blank Editions

MIAOW: When It All Comes Down (7″, Factory FAC 179-7, 1987)

Miaow - When It All Comes Down

I must admit, I (recently) bought this record purely because I’m a huge fan of the American band Unrest – they covered ‘When It All Comes Down’ and held a strange obsession with Miaow singer and guitarist Cath Carroll, naming a (fantastic) song for her and using a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of her as the cover image for their Perfect Teeth album. It’s a great song, and the Miaow version is jaunty, melodic and good listening – indeed, proof that Unrest’s version is a very faithful cover.

Miaow were a band from Manchester who were active in the 1980s (including contributing a track to every indie-pop fan’s primer of choice, C86) and Cath Carroll has done a lot of interesting things. Here are a few of them, plucked from a (hopefully correct) Wikipedia page:

  • She played in a band called Property Of… in the late 1970s, along with former Warsaw drummer Tony Tabac
  • She wrote for NME and City Limits
  • She married Big Black guitarist Santiago Durango
  • She’s written books about Tom Waits and Fleetwood Mac

This record, released on Factory, sports a disarming image on its sleeve; the sleevenotes don’t mention who created it, but do mention ‘Sleeve: Cath/Brian/Slim Smith’ – yet another string to Carroll’s bow, with the input of ‘Brian’, who isn’t a member of Miaow (anybody know who Brian is?) and Slim Smith, a designer with a huge catalogue of impressive work. Oh, and here’s proof that not all Factory sleeves were designed by Peter Saville!

So, some nice connections to end with: Avant-prog group Henry Cow release a 1974 album named Unrest. Avant-indie group Unrest name themselves after this album from around 1983 onwards. Avant-pop group Miaow slot somewhere in between.

(A final footnote: if the record sleeves looks a little wrinkly, well, as Milli Vanilla would say – blame it on the rain…)

Links: Miaow (on Wikipedia) / Factory Records (fan site)

HELP SHE CAN’T SWIM: Suck Our Band EP (7″, Vacuous Pop VPOP06, ?)

Help She Can't Swim - Suck Our Band EP

There are few things in life quite as satisfying as a 7″ single pressed on really heavy vinyl. This EP is an example of this; a substantial and shiny frisbee of a platter that thunks pleasingly down onto a turntable and feels like it must sound better than a poorly-pressed, bendy, thin, cheap record… right?

There’s no release date mentioned on this record anywhere; as far as I remember it was released in around 2004 or so (and Discogs seems to agree). Help She Can’t Swim were a breed of band that was prevalent in those early ’00s; independent, fun-loving, very colourful, noisy, accidentally fashionable, and joyously free of the weight of sarcasm, irony or self-aware po-faced-ness. Musically they were something of a mashed-up combination of Bis, Heavenly, Lightning Bolt, Nirvana and The Raincoats. At the time, the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival was at its height of yet-to-become-super-popular popularity, and Help She Can’t Swim were the type of band that would decamp en masse to Camber Sands to get drunk and listen to noisy bands. They were probably one of the many bands that staged surprise ‘chalet gigs’ – they didn’t need to be on the official line-up, they just played a gig wherever they felt like it, Summer Holiday-style.

This record was released by Vacuous Pop, an Oxford-based label who at the time were at the epicentre of Oxford’s own take on that ‘ATP music’-related scene. Run by an amazingly energetic and positive guy called Ady, Vacuous Pop released records by bands including Cat On Form (a member of whom went on to form Blood Red Shoes), The Edmund Fitzgerald (members of whom went on to form Foals) and Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies (members of whom went on to form, erm, Youthmovies). Ady also promoted some of Oxford’s best ever gigs, as well, and these created some of my fondest memories of gig-going – for a while, Oxford seemed like the centre of the nation’s musical scene, and some tiny venues played host to some incredible bands.

Ady was kind enough to commission me to produce posters for most of his gigs, and every one of them was a joy to put together. I was involved in the creation of the artwork for this Help She Can’t Swim record: not so much in the art direction, as the band provided the elements and very strong guidance as to how they wanted it to look. They supplied their images on a disc! This was sent in the post! Crazy, pre-broadband days. I was more of an artworker on this task, making their vision come to be, and handling the mundanities of getting artwork print-ready for duplication. This, and the other Vacuous Pop releases I assisted with artwork on, are proud nuggets of design work for me.

This record should be numbered (“Record number [blank space] of 500”, it says on the rear sleeve), but my copy is not numbered. Does that make it rarer than one of the numbered copies? Is it one of the 500? If so, what number should it have? Who knows. I don’t mind.

Links: Help She Can’t Swim on Wikipedia / Vacuous Pop‘s not-updated-in-an-age website

OLIMPIA SPLENDID: Nuttu Nurin (7″, Fonal FR-93, 2013)

Olimpia Splendid - Nuttu Nurin

I bought this record recently, after reading an excitable and positive review in The Wire magazine. I thought I’d go direct to the source, and so ordered it through Finnish record label Fonal’s website – I do so enjoy receiving parcels from far-flung lands in the mail.

Olimpia Splendid are, like the label of this release, from Finland. As a band, they’ve only been around for a couple of years, and this (I think) is their debut record. As musicians, though, they’ve been doing things for longer, and I enjoy reading about their previous exploits as it reminds me of the fun to be had reading about the unknown bands that existed before another unknown band. In this case, as Fonal’s website has it, Olimpia Splendid “formed the band in the Summer of 2010, having also played in the likes of Toblerones, Bananas, Snällas Blood, Hertta Lussu Ässä, Hockey Night and Kuupuu.”

Bands called Toblerones and Bananas are both okay with me. Two of those bands are actually somewhat more meaningful; I have an album by Kuupuu, released a while ago on the wondrous Time-Lag Records; and was involved in the organisation of an Oxford gig that presented Hertta Lussu Ässä along with Taurpis Tula (featuring David Keenan, who now runs the Volcanic Tongue record shop and distribution nerve centre), Virgin Eye Blood Brothers and The Thumb Quintet. It was a great gig, the likes of which I miss taking place in Oxford, and the description of my fellow promoter of Hertta Lussu Ässä staying at his house is marvellous: “Three tiny, tiny Finnish girls all lined up in a row in matching sleeping bags like peas in a pod.”

This 7″ record is really good – ramshackle, atonal-yet-tuneful-in-a-mid-period-Sonic-Youth-kind-of-way, weird for weird’s sake, and a bit screamy. There’s also a touch of The Fall in there, through a filter of faltering krautrock. For a garage band noise single, it’s got very high packaging values – a sleeve with a spine, good professional printing on decent-quality card, and it was even shrinkwrapped. (The shrinkwrapping is a little of a problem for me, though, I must admit – it’s always too difficult to get into without slightly damaging the sleeve. Damn.)

There’s no indication of who produced the artwork for the record, or indeed what exactly is going on in the photograph on the front cover. “Let’s use that photograph of somebody with a blanket over them standing in undergrowth next to a sign that says Poliisien Kesäkoti” – did that conversation actually take place? Thanks to Google Translate, I now know that Poliisien Kesäkoti is Finnish for “The Summer Home Of Police Officers”. That doesn’t really help to decode the photograph or its message. “Nuttu Nurin” means “Jacket Inside Out”. Hmm.

Here’s a video for ‘Jukka-Pekka’, one of the three songs on this record, by somebody called James Yuovinen:

Olimpia Splendid – Jukka-Pekka from Hevosburger on Vimeo.

Links: Olimpia Splendid / Fonal

KAREN NOVOTNY X / SAMANTHA GLASS: Join Hands / Near 86th (7″, Deep Distance DD16, 2013)

Karen Novotny X / Samantha Glass - Join Hands / Near 86th

There’s rather an air of mystery surrounding many aspects of this split 7″ single, pressed on white vinyl. Karen Novotny X is not an individual but a band; they take the A side and spin at 33 rpm. According to the notes on this record’s insert, their track was recorded in East London between winter 1979 and spring 1980 – whether this is actually true is another matter. This and their other releases are all quite recent, and the internet yields nothing that helps to position Karen Novotny X as anything other than a recent band. Unless a couple of different record labels have conspired to release archive recordings at around the same time; and unless nobody had heard of and written about this band before very recently; and unless somebody has taken it upon themselves to run a Facebook page for them which to all intents and purposes looks to be full of the things a currently-active band might share to promote themselves, well, I posit that they’re a band of The Now. Regardless, ‘Join Hands’ is nice, a kind of John-Carpenter-at-a-slow-disco tune that suggests a love of analogue synthesisers and spooky minimal electronica of the late 1970s.

Such aural pleasures are somewhat shared with ‘Near 86th’ by Samantha Glass, which occupies the 45 rpm B side of this record. Now, Samantha Glass isn’t exactly a person as such; it’s a pseudonym, alter ego or alternative name of somebody named Beau Deveraux, who has released cassettes and things through Deep Distance as well as other labels like Not Not Fun. The preferred jam of Glass/Deveraux is a smooth kind of hypnagogic-pop-it’s-okay-to-like – 1980s-tinged but more in terms of world-of-wonder electronic repetition than bombastic, hyper-compressed vocal tunes.

Deep Distance releases tend to come in stock label sleeves*, and this one is no different, although this is augmented by a hand-numbered insert, one side of which makes for a very mysterious mono cover image. As with many of the label’s releases, the artwork was put together by Dom Martin who runs both Deep Distance and sister label The Great Pop Supplement. The collage art used on the insert is by Ingrid Christie – this one, I think – a fine art graduate from the University of Central Lancashire who also completed two years of a science degree, including a 100% grade in mathematics. Apparently. Science + Art = Spooky Record Sleeves, it would seem.

Links: Karen Novotny X / Samantha Glass / Deep Distance

THE LEGEND: 73 in 83 (7″, Creation CRE 001, 1983)

The Legend - 73 in 83

This record is notable for a number of reasons including:

  • It’s the first 7″ release on Creation Records, who of course went on to dominate and reshape the independent music scenes (feel free to argue that point among yourselves) and release records by Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain, Oasis, Jasmine Minks, The Loft, etc…
  • The Legend (often written with an exclamation mark – The Legend! – but nothing so jaunty on this record’s sleeve or labels) is Everett True aka Jerry Thackray, a fine journalist who’s been around for a long time, and who is himself notable in his own right for a number of reasons including:
    • Championing Nirvana and the Seattle/grunge scene right from the start
    • Launching the magazines Careless Talk Costs Lives and Plan B in the 2000s; both excellent magazines, both missed.
  •  Six – six – ‘players’ are credited on the rear sleeve, which is a surprising number if you’ve ever heard the songs. They’re certainly of their time, very sparse, worthy, student-politics-y and, well, pretty poor. Not really a repeat-player, this record, unless I’m feeling like punishing myself.
  • It comes with a free flexi! This is the good stuff, really – a two-song 33 rpm flexi featuring charmingly naive and poppy songs by Laughing Apple (featuring Alan McGee, who of course ran Creation Records and Andrew Innes, who went on to feature in Revolving Paint Dream and Primal Scream) and The Pastels.

The design of the sleeve – a vaguely agitprop-looking and not altogether unpleasant layout – is credited to Communication Blur which was also the name of a fanzine run by Alan McGee in the early 1980s and, presumably, an alter ego for McGee as graphic designer. He’s also credited as one of the ‘players’ as well as getting a production credit here. Busy fellow. Starting as he means to go on, really, as throughout the lifespan of Creation Records he was pretty heavily involved with most aspects of everything.

Update 07/01/14: Thanks to Jerry/Everett for filling me in on a bit of extra detail to do with this record! Apparently the drums and guitar on the record were both played by McGee – the songs came out of a band that Thackray/True and McGee had together for a short time – and the sleeve design was in fact by Ken Popple, the drummer on early Biff Bang Pow! releases. There are lots more True-isms to be had at his excellent blog, The Electrical Storm.

THE SEE SEE: Featherman (7″, The Great Pop Supplement GPS109, 2013)

The See See - Featherman

It’s been a while since I posted here – I’ve been sans turntable for a few months now (I know, it was cruel and inhuman) but I’m celebrating seeing in 2014 with a new one, which arrived today. So let’s get back to business!

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before, The Great Pop Supplement is one of a few labels whose releases I’m pretty likely to pick up as soon as they come out. Because of this I’ve got quite a few records by London’s The See See, who I imagine are one of the artists released by GPS with the highest count of ‘product’. It’s lucky that they’re good, otherwise I’d have a pile of The See See records getting in my way.

This 7″ comes packaged in a sleeve with a spine, which is always a pleasing thing – nothing wrong with giving such records a bit of bulk and presence; they deserve it. The artwork here – a fish-eye pastoral photograph thang encircled by liner notes – is repeated on both sides, meaning that the sleeve can be held and flipped around with nothing changing. It’s the text on the spine that dictates which is the front and which is the back, unless we decide to use the ‘other way round’ way of reading text on a spine, like they do (for example) in Germany. The sleeve design is by El Señor Gómez & Srta. Swallow, which I was convinced was some kind of in-joke name until a quick Google search turned up their (rather fine) websites here and here.

Musically these are three good songs for a grim, chilly winter day, like it is today. ‘Featherman’ is a slice of sun-kissed melodic guitar pop with at least one foot in late 1960s California; ‘Let Me Be The One (For You To Love)’ is a slightly more psych-tinged romp of a song with a wicked descending-note chorus; ’35 Across The Water’ is halfway between the two – eyes-of-wonderment vocals leading the lyrics around a richly tuneful slice of pop-psych with an oh-heck-now-we’re-heading-into-space outro.

Links: The See See / The Great Pop Supplement