Category Archives: Electronica

MARRS: Pump Up The Volume (12″, 4AD BAD 707, 1987)

MARRS - Pump Up The Volume

This may be the first 4AD release I’ve mentioned on here, and I’m pleased it’s come about, as 4AD is a label with almost invariably good artwork. As the spine of this 12″ proudly states: “Art Direction & Design : Vaughan Oliver; Photography and Set Construction : Panni Charrington; MARRS”. So, in a traditional Western left-to-right reading hierarchy, the credits for the design and photography come before the artist.

Vaughan Oliver is, of course, something of a legend in the area of music design. Through his work for 4AD, he’s responsible for the very familiar, now iconic visuals for releases by Pixies, Lush, The Breeders, Cocteau Twins and a huge number beyond that rather obvious selection. On this Marrs 12″, there’s a typical use of jarring layout (the orientation of text elements is designed as shown in the image here, if we use the opening of the sleeve being on the right as a guide to ‘correct’ positioning), mysterious imagery (the rear sleeve, also shown here, depicts a highly colourised image showing what looks like Elvis atop a burger, holding a bottle, surrounded by guitars, swans, TVs and maybe a gun), and a strong sense of typography and space (large blocks of colour, the distinctive use of somewhat bland typefaces). The circled AA device is a particularly nice, albeit subtle, way to denote a ‘double A-side’ record, where both sides share equal importance.

Panni Charrington, based on having a distinctive name, and hoping that Google is quite clever in joining together the dots of the internet, seems now to be known as Panni Bharti.

This was a pretty revolutionary record. MARRS are summed up neatly by Wikipedia: “MARRS (stylised M|A|R|R|S) was a 1987 recording collective formed by the groups A.R. Kane and Colourbox, which only released one commercial disc. It became ‘a one-hit wonder of rare influence’ because of their international hit ‘Pump Up The Volume’.” That hit was everywhere around the time of its release, and in part heralded the introduction of ‘dance’ music, and sampling, into the mainstream musical mindset. Although I bought this actual record much later than its release – it was a charity shop find in the mid-2000s – as an inquisitive and inventive 13 year old, as I was in 1987, ‘Pump Up The Volume’ was one of tunes I listened to a lot, recorded from the radio, and self-remixed into several different versions using a double-tape-deck player, which allowed one tape deck to play while the other recorded.

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