Category Archives: Coloured vinyl

EARTHLING SOCIETY: England Have My Bones (LP, Riot Season REPOSELP040, 2014)

Earthling Society - England Have My Bones

“Good old Riot Season…”, to paraphrase an old Yellow Pages television advert. “They’re not just there for the bad things in life”. They are there, though, as a relatively frequent, always reliable source of all things noisy, heavy and ‘out there’, with a previous release list that includes names like Hey Colossus, Shit And Shine, Aufgehoben and Acid Mothers Temple.

England Have My Bones is a new release from the label, and so I bought it very recently. Earthling Society was a new name to me before Riot Season began mentioning this record being in the works some time ago and, based on the record, yet another band to add to my “I’d better get to owning their other releases” list. From Fleetwood in Lancashire, they can be quite neatly summed up by a list of the acts they’ve supported in the past: Julian Cope, Damo Suzuki, White Hills, Hawkwind, Groundhogs and Blue Cheer. That’s not to encircle them with nothing more than a list of influences; on the basis of England Have My Bones they’re rather more than that. It’s a spiritually heavy-sounding album, but it’s not packed full of riffs and volume. Those things are there, but they’re packaged in a contemplative, psychedelic way that’s takes a heavy blues guitar sound in Eastern, hallucinogenic directions. The four tracks include a heavier, guitar-ier version of Alice Coltrane’s ‘Journey Into Satchidananda’.

The artwork initially wrong-footed me into thinking that this would be a more typical sludge-rock/doom kind of record: the gothic script and black, ominous imagery wouldn’t be out of place if it were wrapped around such a release. It’s clever stuff, though; the image has a Northern English feel – grubby power station towers belching out smoke, and pylons silhouetted against grey skies. Its reflection both horizontally and vertically not only provides a convenient black strip for the band and album name, but also notches up the sense of mystery in the image. The rear of the sleeve is a lighter, ‘English pastoral’ scene, depicting a field and a tree – although they are drenched in thick fog. It also shows a sheela na gig-esque folk image above the track names, suggesting perhaps a connection with some arcane folk beliefs. The sleeve design is by Andrew Smith, who runs Riot Season. The package also included an A3 poster promoting the record (the sort you’d see up in a record shop), along with a few flyers for upcoming gigs featuring Riot Season acts.

Here’s their take on ‘Journey Into Satchidananda’:

And for reference, here’s the Alice Coltrane version:

LES RALLIZES DÉNUDÉS: Electric Pure Land (2LP)

Les Rallizes Dénudés - Electric Pure Land

As seems befitting for a release by the influential, yet reclusive Japanese avant-garde band” Les Rallizes Dénudés, this double album – the first from the band in my collection – provides few hints in its packaging to what it is, who released it, when it was released or what it contains. Indeed, except for a series of stylised Japanese letters on the back cover, the only text is the band and album name on the spine, in incredibly small, widely-spaced letters.

So, I don’t know what label this is on – if any – and if it has a catalogue number. I’m not sure when it was released, although it only began to appear in and on a variety of reseller catalogues and websites within the past couple of months. None of these carry any particularly insightful information, but what I can glean is that this three-side set – one of the sides of the clear vinyl double album set is blank, smooth and without music – is that it’s a document of a live recording from 1974.

If what Wikipedia says is true (and I think I’ve heard this from other sources also), the band never released anything official, and all subsequent albums and CDs that have become available are bootlegs, mostly of live recordings. I’m somewhat in awe of the fact that in today’s know-everything internet age, a band can still exist with such a shroud of mystery and wonder.

Musically, the recordings here are pretty rough, but unquestionably powerful. Clutching at mainstream straws, there may be a combination of Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Can going on here, but that doesn’t really sum up the sonic oddness in this record; more recent acts such as Mainliner, Acid Mothers Temple and Fushitsusha reveal more of a Les Rallizes Dénudés influence perhaps, in an almost wholesale embracing of feedback, and little fear in operating almost entirely outside of conventional musical rules, while retaining a meta-melodic sense of tune that’s rather compelling.

The artwork, as mentioned, is sparse, portentous and enigmatic: an eclipse on the front; those Japanese characters on the back; images of solar flares across the inner gatefold; two paper inserts showing images of mysterious chunks of (moon?) rock. Cosmic.

Volcanic Tongue (from where this record was purchased) often say things better than anybody else in their descriptions of records, so I’ll end with their description of Electric Pure Land: “When Rallizes generate this kind of insane, form-destroying/higher minded six string euphoria it feels like they are the only group on the planet, taking the sound of the guitar as a conduit for electricity to its ultimate post-psych/noise ends.”

HELLVETE: Ode (LP, Deep Distance DD15, 2014)

Hellvete - Ode

I’ve mentioned before how I have a few ‘go-to’ labels that I’ll tend to buy all new releases from – ones that have proved themselves enough in terms of consistency and quality to pretty much have me opening my wallet instantly upon receipt of a ‘new release’ email.

Deep Distance – an offshoot of The Great Pop Supplement – is becoming such a label. The Great Pop Supplement were in this category years ago, with a combination of great music (tending toward the post-rock, 60s-tinged or psychedelia worlds) and nice packaging; Deep Distance follow suit in terms of packaging, but seem to focus on more electronic-based music. (Or, perhaps, less guitar-based).

Hellvete is a new name to me, but according to this have released several things on a variety of labels thus far. It’s a one-man project, from the mind of Glen Steenkiste, and Ode is a two-track album, one per side, each consisting of a long, sustained, pure drone. It’s not a drone in the sense of Sunn o)))’s brutal rumbling; instead, these two tracks are exultant, bouyant and amazingly uplifting, with rich layers of slowly undulating tone providing endless forward motion. It’s a little like the final moments of 2001: A Space Odyssey have been stretched to infinity – constantly approaching a perfect point in sound, yet never quite achieving that impossible aim.

The record is pressed on crystal clear vinyl, which is befitting to the purity of the sounds it contains. No credit is provided for the charming illustrations – or treated photographs – on the front and back cover, which show lacework that places organic scenes into a complex lattice structure.

Links: Deep Distance / Hellvete

VARIOUS: Crystallized: Celebrating 15 Years Of Rocket Recordings (2LP, Rocket Recordings LAUNCH060, 2013)

Various - Crystallized

I bought this two-album set very recently, after discovering the outstanding weirdo noise outfit Anthroprophh and taking myself on a Spotify-led journey through various releases and connected bands. After being somewhat blown away by the sounds on this compilation when listening online, I read that the physical release came on spattered clear/black vinyl and featured a die-cut sleeve, and needed no further convincing.

It’s a superb collection for anybody that’s into out-there sounds, distorted noise rock/Krautrock/space rock or, indeed, experimentalism in all its forms. Rocket Recordings have carved out a niche as a label with high standards of quality control and releases that include rather a who’s who of the recent modern (real) psychedelia scene, such as Teeth Of The Sea, Gnod, Shit & Shine, Goat and Anthroprophh (all of whom appear on Crystallized) and White Hills, Oneida and Mugstar.

The vinyl here is a joy to behold: two slices of clear space with smeared black/white spatters emanating from the centre. The artwork, too, is special: credited to Luke Insect (who has worked on a vast range of music packaging that stretches from The Prodigy to Wolf People via Young Knives), it consists of digitally-treated illustrations of intersecting shards of crystal, printed in silvery-grey and black and coming together in the held-aloft centrepiece on the sleeve’s front. The shape being held up on the cover is die-cut into the sleeve, meaning that the content of the shape’s interior can be changed at will to a selection of images across the two records’ inner sleeves. On the rear sleeve, an exact replica of the shape – nice attention to detail there – is printed as a black backdrop to the track listing. It’s a great looking artefact.

Anthroprophh, by the way, constantly remind me of the movie Anthropophagous, an unpleasant 1980 horror about “an insane, violent, and grotesque killer that slaughtered the town’s former residents”. This was one of the films to appear on the infamous 1983 ‘DPP list‘ – aka the video nasties list – created by the UK Director of Public Prosecutions as a knee-jerk reaction to the lack of rigid certification of video cassettes at the time. Since then many of the films on the list have been released with varying levels of cuts – a market still remains for avid collectors who seek out ‘pre-cert’ video cassettes of the original releases. I once collected a few of these, and subsequently gave them away to a local charity shop: visitors to that branch of Oxfam may have got an unexpected surprise while browsing the shelves…

Links: Rocket Recordings

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

VARIOUS: The In-Kraut Vol. 2 (2LP, Marina MA 67, 2006)

Various - The In-Kraut Vol. 2

After many months of living with a jumbled record collection, I finally organised everything into alphabetical order over the past couple of days. (LPs, 12″s and 10″s, at least – the 7″s can wait until another time…)

Part of this process inevitably meant reminding myself of records that I forgot I owned, or that I had no previous recollection of owning. This double album is an example of the latter – I’ve got no idea when I bought it, or from where. Not that that means much, as I’ve a Swiss cheese-like memory; but the record’s date of issue (2006) means, I guess, that it entered my life at some point during the past seven-or-so years.

Compilation albums – which are, of course, in a separate section to the main A–Z stream of my newly-alphabetised collection – are interesting things. The way I listen to them tends to mean I gloss over the individual artists and musicians involved, and instead lump the whole thing together and attach a broad-brush ‘feeling’ to the record. The feeling attached to The In-Kraut Vol. 2 (at least now that I’ve given it a couple of listens to refresh my memory) is one of nostalgia for heady Easy Listening-drenched days in the mid-to-late 1990s. Obviously this record came out later, but it’s still packed full of (mainly instrumental) fuzz guitar/organ freakout/funky/library music/soundtrack/comedic/’jolly and optimistic 60s/70s attitude’ in its twenty songs.

The rather questionable compilation title at least does the trick of summing up its subtitle, ‘Hip Shaking Grooves Made In Germany 1967–1974’. To be honest, the source of the recordings is pretty moot, as this type of music sounds the same regardless, except for in the case of a couple of songs here with German-language lyrics which have, at least, a kind of bizarro charm.

For those that might be interested, the artists featured are:

  • Paul Nero
  • Hugo Strasser
  • Christer Bladin
  • Ambros Seelos
  • Tommy Haggard Orchestra
  • Hazy Osterwald Jet Set
  • Charly Antolini’s Power Dozen
  • James Last
  • Mary Roos
  • Klaus Weiss Orchestra
  • Hildegard Knef
  • The Dometown Gang
  • Rolf Wilhelm
  • Joy & The Hit Kids
  • Dieter Reith
  • Carlos Fendeira
  • Kai Rautenberg & Orchester Jürgen Ehlers
  • The Inner Space
  • Uli Roever
  • Hase Cäsar

Not too many well-known names in that list – for me, anyway – except for James Last, who is in fact German, despite his records routinely popping up in UK charity shops for the past couple of decades.

The artwork for the record, by Stefan Kassel, is pretty standard Easy-Listening-Compilation-Sleeve stuff, but a nice example of it – well-chosen, happy-looking female fashion photographs on a simple block colour background, plain and simple typography, and a splash of excitement in the front cover’s bottom left German flag-referencing concentric circles. It’s a gatefold sleeve, and opening it reveals an aspect of this compilation that’s rare in the field – detailed liner notes on each of the tracks it contains. Good work! The records are also pressed on white vinyl, which affords them a stylish mod sensibility.

Links: Marina

SLUDGE NATION: Monkey On My Back (7″, Rhythm King LEFT48, 1997)

Sludge Nation - Monkey On My Back

Strange one this, as it represents a certain watershed moment in my music writing/reviewing life, rather than being a record that I have any deep affection for (or, indeed, any recollection of what it actually sounds like, beyond vague noisy pop-punk memories).

In the very early 1990s, inspired by the indie-pop scene and some very talented and creative friends of mine, I started to write fanzines which contained, as well as semi-personal ramblings on life, reviews of records, tapes and (sometimes) CDs. Initially, these reviews were purely of things that I had purchased myself, and were therefore likely to be positive and enthusiastically written. Over time, I built up a network of contacts/friends around the world and this slowly branched out into the world of PR companies, ‘professional’ music people and musicians who wanted to spread the word about their work through the fanzine network.

This meant that I began to get completely unsolicited listening materials, and don’t get me wrong, this is still exciting when it happens today. For a while, I eagerly reviewed every single thing I was sent, figuring that if somebody took the time to package up and post something to me, the least I can do in return is to listen to and write about it. This lead to a slight issue: what if I didn’t like things that I was sent? Initially, my feeling – probably influenced by the traits of the mainstream press – was to be completely honest and often humorously offhand, even rude, about records. My attitude was “if they can’t handle a bad review, they shouldn’t have sent me this in the first place”.

Over time, though, it can get wearing, being a remote critic of the work of musicians who generally weren’t U2-level stars who’d already been through the mill and developed a thick skin. A lot of these were up-and-coming, trying-to-make-it-in-this-business artists whose outlook just happened to differ from mine. After trying (and failing) to justify some negative reviews, after the musicians contacted me to pick me up on what I’d said, my attitude changed.

In the context of writing on a small scale, about small-scale musicians, I see little point in writing negative or cruel things. Not reviewing at all is preferable to writing bad things; having been of the receiving end of negative reviews, I understand now that they might be taken more seriously than a reviewer may ever realise. (We’re not talking life and death here by the way – but a negative review can really affect whether a little band gets people to buy their record or go to their gig).

So what am I saying? That all music should be tolerated, no matter if it’s (in my opinion) absolutely worthless? Well; kind of. Not saying anything is my policy these days, when faced with reviewing something that I can’t think of anything constructive or positive to say about. In my own small way, I feel like I’m adopting a ‘live and let live’ attitude that’s better for my karma, soul and general well-being.

What’s this got to do with Sludge Nation? Well, this record, despite being pressed on glorious yellow vinyl, marked a very specific turning point, when I suddenly realised that there’s more music out there than I realised, and much of it is far from what I enjoy listening to. Music PR companies fling this stuff out there with a scattershot approach – they’re not carefully hand-picking reviewers for the most part – and they won’t let up even if you resolutely ignore their advances for years. (I’ve been doing just that in some cases, yet still receive parcels addressed to a fanzine that I wound up over fifteen years ago).

If you’re going to write about music, my advice is just to write about music that you enjoy. Writing bad things about a band won’t make the world of music better; it’ll just make some people feel worse about themselves.

BOYRACER: More Songs About Frustration And Self-Hate (LP, A Turntable Friend TURN 20, 1994)

Boyracer - More Songs About Frustration And Self-Hate

This is a great album and one that I listened to very regularly soon after its release. I was a big fan of Boyracer in the 1990s, as they bridged a gap between the indie-pop and the noisy weirdo music that I was simultaneously listening to a lot of at the time. They were more on the indie-pop side of things, but not afraid to veer into odd feedback or song structures on a whim, and this resulted in no end of catchy-yet-strange songs. This record is vibrant clear red vinyl, and the sleeve also contains an A4 photocopied insert that includes, as so many records did at the time, the actual postal address of one of the band – no PO Box number or faceless URL here.

That postal address was a house on Spofforth Hill in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, which was also the street you’ll see in contact addresses on early Hood records. Hood, who towards the late 1990s got signed to Domino and for a brief period were ‘almost a big thing’, were very closely allied to Boyracer – as well as members living opposite eachother on Spofforth Hill, for a time they shared and swapped band members and appeared jointly on no end of compilation records and tapes (including several that I released myself). For a time I wished I lived on Spofforth Hill, to be part of what seemed like a very vibrant mini-scene centred around a single street: I was in touch by letter with members of both Hood and Boyracer for some years, and between them they furnished me with a lot of musical knowledge in the form of mixtapes, recommendations and through their own music.

A Turntable Friend was an indie-pop record label based in Germany, who were a bit of a ‘German Sarah records’ – indeed, Boyracer released records on Sarah as well as A Turntable Friend. There’s a good discography of everything released by the label on the TweeNet website, which also includes a not-comprehensive-but-not-bad list of Boyracer releases.

The inner sleeve of my copy of More Songs About Frustration And Self-Hate is signed by Stewart and Nicola of the band. This makes me happy today, as it did on the day the record arrived after my purchasing it directly from that house on Spofforth Hill.

CALVADOS BEAM TRIO: [Untitled] (7″, Bearos BEAROS014, ?)

Calvados Beam Trio

Groovy packaging on this record. I’m a big fan of the use of transaparency and opacity effects in design, especially when it’s used to mess with your mind a little bit. Not sure that it’ll come out in the photograph, but the sleeve contains a clear insert with green lettering. This lettering is arranged with every other word reversed, every other word capitalised, and a few letters reversed out. The sum total of all of this is the simultaneous creation of three messages:

  1. The reversed words spell out one message.
  2. The capitalised words spell out another, different message.
  3. The reversed out letters combined spell out the band name.

It’s an acrostic, typographic slice of genius, I tell you. But I’m not going to tell you what the first two messages are – track down a copy and work it out for yourself! It’s all carried out in such a way that’s incredibly subtle, and when combined with the semi-opaque vinyl it creates a great look. Clear or semi-opaque vinyl is always great – and it’s made better with some interesting stuff wrapped around it.

I once played a gig supporting Calvados Beam Trio, at the now-closed Jug Of Ale in Moseley, Birmingham. I don’t remember many specifics but I’m pretty sure that they were incredibly good, and were very accomplished musicians. I do remember the crowd; they were rabid enthusiasts who certainly loved to interact with the artists. I wouldn’t say heckling so much as friendly banter. Friendly, yet relentless and loud. Sometimes that kind of crowd can be a lot better than a bunch of arms-crossed chin-strokers who are watching live music for appreciation at the expense of fun. The best combination is, obviously, a bit of both.

A real shame that the Jug Of Ale isn’t operational any more – I saw quite a few great gigs there. I was once supposed to see Heavenly play there (in around ’92 I think?) but they’d cancelled. I instead found myself at a nightclub called Snobs, which (based on a quick internet check) is still going. I think it was actually good fun. Who’d have thought it?

VIBRACATHEDRAL ORCHESTRA/THE TELESCOPES: Live at AUDIOSCOPE04 (10″, Fourier Transform TRANSFORM007, 2005)

Aha, good work, random number generator. You’ve selected a record that I have several interests in. Firstly, I created this record. Kind of. Now, I wasn’t involved in the music, you understand, but Fourier Transform is my record label. It used to be a label owned and run by my good pal Simon (yes, another Simon) and I, but he bowed out a little while ago. So now it’s ALL MINE! The feeling of wanting to release a record; working with the artists to get it all together and then seeing it come to fruition in the form of boxes of real, physical items, is pretty unbeatable. The day I received delivery of these records – in a car park outside my workplace, proper classy – was very exciting. Did the cover artwork come out? Was the blue vinyl everything I hoped it would be? On all counts – hell yes. I was very happy.

And two great bands, to boot! Vibracathedral Orchestra are semi-legendary – in fact, maybe even full legendary by now – and The Telescopes, well, they were part of my formative music-listening years. When I bought their Creation Records 12″ singles back in the very early ’90s, and quickly dug back into their earlier work, I would not have conceived of actually releasing their music in the future. It’s funny how things work out. This record came about as a most welcome side effect of the Audioscope festival that I run with my good pal Stuart (yes – another personal connection and yes, another good pal). They both performed at it in 2004 – hence the name of the record, which is two live recordings of their performances. Audioscope is an annual knees-up which we organisers like to think presents some exceptional music to an appreciative crowd. We’ve been running it since the year 2001, and happily passing over all of our profits each year to Shelter. Shelter, unfortunately, always need as much money as can be pushed their way – it’s a shame that we have to continue to support them, in that respect. I wonder if their work – eradicating homeless and bad housing throughout the UK – will one day be complete…

Whilst I realise that my dabblings in the so-called music industry have been entirely on a tiny scale, and amount to nothing much more than dabbling around the edges of label running and gig/festival booking, I like being involved in this stuff. In fact, I think I like it partly because I’m not deeply involved enough to have to take it all very seriously. I can free up my creative urges and childish whims as I choose, without it getting me in trouble with anybody except myself, and I have got to meet interesting people and do cool things without the novelty ever wearing thin through being worn down by relentless everyday drudge. (At least, that’s what I expect working full-time within the music industry might quickly become – can anybody out there confirm? Is it really ‘relentless everyday drudge’?)