Category Archives: Freebies and inserts

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

CHARLES HAYWARD: Anonymous Bash (LP, Samarbeta SBR001, 2014)

Charles Hayward - Anonymous Bash

Charles Hayward was a founding member of This Heat, who released some of the best and most inventive records of the late 1970s and early 1980s – which is saying something, as there was a lot of inventive, good stuff going on at that time. I first heard This Heat when their track ’24 Track Loop’ turned up on a compilation that I was hearing in somebody’s car; it sounded so otherworldly yet mindbendingly modern – bearing in mind that I was listening in the mid-2000s, rather than the late 1970s – that I rushed to hear more and to source This Heat records.

Anonymous Bash was released very recently by Samarbeta, and is the result of their first experimental residency programme, described thus:

The Samarbeta residency program is an innovative way to progress and encourage the production of new and adventurous music and encourages musicians to come together and collaborate. The outcome of the residency is entirely flexible, it could be a new work, an identity, a visual project, the discovery of a new instrument, a collaboration, a live show and everything in between.”

As it’s new to me – the record only arrived yesterday – I’ve yet to give it more than a quick listen; but on that first taste it appears to share the This Heat trait of exploratory rhythmic progression, of vaguely post-punk sounds occupying an awkwardly danceable stage. The players list mentioned on the release’s Bandcamp page includes mention of all kinds of exciting instrumentation including bombo drum, bata drums, feedback tape delay, flute and sax; so it augurs very well.

The album package itself (in its limited ‘handmade’ edition) is a joy to behold. Hand-assembled and hand-finished, it folds out three ways to reveal the record within, with the left and right opened panels holding two printed card slots into which a variety of extras have been placed. These extras are an eight-page booklet explaining the residency project; a DVD (which apparently contains some ‘making of’ footage); and a download code card. There’s a stamped slogan: “Hand Made Not Machine Made” above the unique edition number – mine is 011 of 150. The design is credited to John Powell-Jones, a Manchester-based illustrator, artist and screen printer: he’s done a fantastic job.

Links: Charles Hayward / Samarbeta / John Powell-Jones

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:

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

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.”

-a+M: Dials (10”, Lancashire And Somerset L&S 005, ?)

-a+M: Dials

The random number generator that I use to pick a record to write about on here dumped me right at that awkward ‘pre-alphabet’ part of the list – the place where artist names start with numbers or symbols rather than a common-or-garden letter.

So, the mysteriously-named -a+M, and an equally mysterious record. This and a couple of other things from the Lancashire And Somerset label were, I think, bought at the same time, as I like the label’s style and wanted, a little while ago, to get a mini-overview of some of their releases.

I have no idea who -a+M are, the label’s website doesn’t offer much help, and it’s not the kind of name that lends itself to easy Googling. The rear sleeve does suggest that there was once a website at www.minusaplusm.co.uk, which would have been helpful (I hope), but it’s no longer in existence (unfortunately).

The record contains eight tracks of mellow acoustic guitar instrumentals, with two guitars weaving their melodies into each other in a way that hints at post-rock complexity and structure, but with a sound that feels more like experimental folk music. It’s not unpleasant at all, and it has a sonic clarity that’s refreshing and precise.

The artwork is based around a Dials concept led by the record’s title: the front and back cover shows cleaned-up and modified graphics of this fallout decay and dose guide: ‘The Commander’s Radiation Guide’, manufactured in the 1960s by a German company called Nestler. It’s been altered to include the artist name on the front, and the label name, track titles and catalogue number on the back. A 10″-sized numbered insert (mine is 264 of 300) shows two images of what I presume to be dials that were part of the inner workings of this radiation guide and calculator. It’s a really nice-looking artefact, this record; it would be great to see a limited edition of one that was packaged in a real Commander’s Radiation Guide, screwed together in the centre and mounted on a packet with date stamps and handwritten notes, as the two-dimensional sleeve suggests may have once existed.

Links: Lancashire And Somerset

THE OSCILLATION: Cable Street Sessions (12″, Cardinal Fuzz CFUL024, 2014)

The Oscillation - Cable Street Sessions

Cardinal Fuzz has become one of my favourite record labels of recent times – they seem as concerned with a high quality of finish and design on their releases as I think any label should be, and their records all spin around the axis of noisy, guitar-based psychedelic/experimental music. Win, and indeed win.

Cable Street Sessions is a new 12″ by The Oscillation, who have here four pretty intense, pretty aggressive repeato-fuzz pieces that include a cover of The Deviants’ ‘Somewhere To Go’. They’re a superb live band – I’ve put them on a couple of times before as part of the festival I co-run, and never not been impressed. They’ve also got some interesting connections – drummer Valentina Magaletti has been in about 15,000 bands in the past, and has been a name that consistently crops up as one makes one’s way around the independent music world; bass player Tom Relleen is also an excellent booking agent (one of the good guys in an industry that seems increasingly full of… not-so-good guys).

A designer isn’t credited either on the sleeve or the insert that comes with this record; although the photography on both is by Anita Awbi. It’s a fun design, with the heavily treated cover photograph psych-ed up with its repeated distorted circle motif, and typography that shifts things in a slightly gonzo/punk direction. And, of course, it’s printed onto reflective mirror board, to up the stakes in terms of shininess and can’t-take-a-photograph-without-accidentally-doing-a-selfie-ness. (It also reminds me of The Verve’s A Northern Soul album packaging, which was similarly reflective).

“Some of the heaviest and best kraut-a-delic music out there…” says the label’s website about this record. They’re not far wrong.

Links: The Oscillation / Cardinal Fuzz

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

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