Category Archives: Hand-finished

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

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

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.

AMERICA-UK: There’s A Place (7″, Easy! Tiger MUSE001, 1997)

America-UK - There's A Place

1997, the year of Tony Blair’s Labour Party victory in the general election… and the year of release of this single. Some kind of political statement is being made, perhaps, with the cover art (unless it’s just a sly interpretation of the artist’s name). Tony and Cherie, eating a tasty burger, Tony wearing a tie patterned with the American flag. On the back, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill sporting a Union Jack bowtie, Hillary with a half-drunk pint of bitter. What does it mean? Something, I’m sure. The cross-pollination of ideas between the UK and the USA, or something more cynical. Who knows?

I know who knows. The guy that did the cover art. That guy is, in fact, also the guy that released this record. I think his name was Jon, but at this point, honestly I can’t remember. Let’s just assume that Jon was (and indeed is) his name. I met Jon at a fanzine convention that was part of the 1997 Sound City event that took place in Oxford. I lived in Reading at the time, and met up with a fellow fanzine writer named Kim to visit the convention. Jon was a nice fellow, we had a good chat, and I was very impressed by his illustrations – as I recall, this record wasn’t out at the time, but he had available a selection of his fanzines that all sported examples of his fine illustrative (and typographic) style.

At the time, I was running my fanzine Circle Sky and asked Jon if he’d contribute some illustrations to a future edition. He agreed. Good stuff. Now, remember, this was pre-internet for the most part, and in hindsight I’m pleased and impressed that it led to a postal ‘conversation’ that ended up with my receiving two excellent original ink-on-paper illustrations of Primal Scream and Mogwai, to go with articles on those bands that I was running in the fanzine. I still have them somewhere. I should dig them out.

Useful information: Now, at the time of writing, it’s obviously not pre-internet, so I can link to this. It’s diskant’s ‘Mogwai Artzine’ from 1998, to which Jon – as I can now confirm his name to be – contributed a (different) Mogwai illustration. You can see it here. It’s good, isn’t it? I also contributed to the Artzine, as did several other people – some of whom I still know, some of whom I don’t. It’s nice that stuff like this got put together and published, I think.

ALLEN CLAPP: A Change In The Weather (7″, Four Letter Words 004, ?)

Allen Clapp - A Change In The Weather

This record – as a package – is a little thing of beauty. Some aspects of it that appeal to me are:

  • The sleeve: it’s a type of standard seven inch single inner sleeve, elevated to the status of The Cover by way of some really nice, what look to be hand-stamped (or perhaps screen-printed) pieces of lettering and illustration. Very simple, very cost-effective, and very successful.
  • The record itself: it’s one-sided. Physically, I mean – not musically. I really like the odd surprise of a one-sided record – flipping it over to see, well, nothing. It’s cool how alien that looks when you’re so used to the appearance of grooves on a slice of vinyl. Ever tried to play the smooth side of a one-sided record? The stylus freaks out, skips all over the place and then flings itself to safety.
  • The insert that comes with the record: it includes details of this record’s original price, and that of the other releases on Four Letter Words at the time. The most expensive item is a fanzine plus flexi combination, which cost just two dollars including postage. As is confirmed by text on the insert, this is ‘budget pop’.

Four Letter Words records was run by a guy called Maz, who Wikipedia tells me was in the Mummies. I never knew this before now. It’s a surprising clash of cultures – on one side the indie-pop, hand-finished recording scene you see represented here; on the other, a garage punk band who dressed in tattered bandages and were somewhat legendary. I guess it’s all punk rock, DIY, independent thinking, though, isn’t it? Allen Clapp had been friends with Maz since the early 1980s; they grew up together in California. Isn’t that nice? This record was released in the very early 1990s, as I recall, but as is the case with so many indie-pop releases, it’s difficult to track down an exact release date.

For fun, I thought I’d look up how much it’d cost today to release a one-sided seven inch record – let’s say, in an edition of 300 copies, which is what I imagine the scale of this Allen Clapp release to have been. But, you know what? I can’t find a single place on the internet that seems to offer this as a service. Maybe I’ve found a gap in Google? Maybe there’s just too much music now, and nobody feels they could adequately represent themselves on just a single side of seven inch vinyl?

C JOYNES: The Running Board (7″, The Great Pop Supplement GPS29, 2008)

Here’s an interesting situation. For the first time, my random number generator has pointed me at a record that I know I own, but which has become misplaced in my carefully-arranged (or perhaps, not so carefully arranged) A to Z seven inch shelves. It’s just not to be found. Can’t find it either under J (my first instinct) or under C. It’s not even near the places that it could or should be. This is mysterious, as I know that I have not lent it to anybody, and I certainly haven’t thrown it away or sold it. I rarely lend records to people (not least because people rarely have record players these days); and I haven’t gotten rid of a record since an unfortunate incident involving the cheap sell-off of a pile of now-rare-as-hens-teeth hip-hop albums that I (in hindsight) erroneously offloaded in the early nineties.

So, the photograph shows a patch of ground where the record would have been placed if it had been found. The tags and categories used for this post are either drawn from memory or from the spreadsheet I used to catalogue my records. That spreadsheet includes information about inserts, numbering, and so on. Should I be embarrassed at having such a spreadsheet? I’ll tell you know, it was incredibly enjoyable to put together. I assembled it ostensibly for insurance purposes – should burglars ever feel like making off with one of the most extraordinarily difficult and heavy things that they could choose to – but in reality, I put it together as a way for me to comprehensively reminisce about them all. It was that process that led me into starting this blog, in fact.

Anyway. If I ever track this record down, I’ll update this post accordingly. As it is, a couple of points to leave you with:

  • I can’t remember what C Joynes or this record is like at all. I vaguely recall some kind of scrappy fingerpicked guitar folk music.
  • The record is on the always fine The Great Pop Supplement label, so if you could see the packaging and inserts, you’d surely agree that it’s a nice looking artefact.

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’?)

JASON AND THE ASTRONAUTS: Burn Down The Boys School (7″, Unlabel UN015, ?)

Jason And The Astronauts - Burn Down The Boys School

I bought this 7″ a few years back. I’m not entirely sure when. The label unfortunately didn’t feel fit to include a ‘released on…’ date anywhere within the package. Shocker! Don’t they know that some people live for these facts? Cataloguers of the world need information. Just like in The Prisoner. And like that show’s Number Six, Unlabel defiantly state “you won’t get it!” with their lack of detail.

Unlabel once released a CD album every single week for an entire year, and beyond that they’ve released several tonnes’ worth of vinyl and compact discs, representing and cataloguing the post-rock/underground music scene pretty comprehensively for some years. I’m always impressed when an independent label sticks to their guns, and Unlabel have done that to an extreme level. Bravo. My one criticism? It’s that the packaging on some of their releases in the past hasn’t been entirely up my street, being a kind of über-rational framework of design that includes artist name, track name and imagery in a ridiculously tight and consistent layout.

This record’s packaging, however, is a joy to behold. I’m a sucker for individually-mounted photographs on record sleeves, and have a few examples of such a thing. I presume that there is a different photograph on each of the 200 copies of this record in existence; or at least I hope that there is. The plain brown paper stock is neat-o, too, and works in beauteous harmony with the monochrome photograph and simple typewriter-style lettering.

Musically, I can’t remember what this record sounds like – and unfortunately I’m in no position to find out right now, as I’m deeply involved with listening to my new Lula Côrtes CD that arrived a few days ago. It’s all floating flute and weirdo world music, combined with some of the odd instrumental feelings created by 1970s film soundtrackers Goblin. As I recollect, Jason And The Astronauts are ramshackle, slightly post-something indie noise pop kinda thing. And if that string of words doesn’t make you want to hear more, I don’t know what will…

MAKITA: Rover (7″, The Great Pop Supplement GPS03, ?)

Makita - Rover

Another release on the always-beautiful Great Pop Supplement label: this one looks particularly fine, with its tracing paper wraparound sleeve, hand-finished with a stamp and a comic strip cut from what looks to be an old Dandy or Beano. This is one of GPS’ earlier releases, back when every one came as a limited run of just 111 copies. Mine is hand-numbered 60, and also contains a tracing paper insert. Tracing paper a-go-go. Tracing paper is often favoured by the hand-production indie pop/post rock crowd, and with good reason. It virtually never fails to look cool and special.

I really like the style of the cartoon that’s affixed on this sleeve – that classic British comic strip style with faked halftone textures painstakingly finished by the illustrator, and the addition of sound effect-type words like the ‘SPELL‘ in the third panel here. It’s such a classic and particular style, and it always seems so effortless and sketchy – whilst being in fact completely consistent in characterisation and pseudo-realism. Love it.

AVOCADO BABY: Queenboy And The King Girl (7″, Slampt 10, ?)

Avocado Baby - Queenboy And The King Girl

Good old Slampt, possibly one the UK labels closest to the ideals and dynamics of those legendarily inclusive US independents like K, Kill Rock Stars, Dischord and so on. I was led into their world through my tangential involvement in Riot Grrl; moving quickly from receiving a mixtape from a friend containing a Huggy Bear track, to buying Huggy Bear’s first 7″, to having my mind blown by the sheer weight of positivity and creativity that existed at a grass roots level within a ‘movement’ that was very quickly derided and sneered at by fools and people that couldn’t grasp the concept of not being involved purely for fame and/or fortune. Phew.

I wrote a lot of letters to and from Slampt’s Rachel and Pete, and still have a lot of the records, tapes and fanzines that they released over the years. The fanzines always looked great, and the crowning glory of Slampt was Fast Connection, a short-lived but grandly-envisaged dossier of reviews, opinions and comment covering a scene that had grown up around their label and many others. The magazine laid the way for longer-standing publications like Plan B and Loose Lips Sink Ships, and so a lot of people owe it a lot, whether they realise it or not!

Avocado Baby was the Slampt in-house band, playing ramshackle-as-you-like indie-pop with an arched eyebrow and a subtly-hinted threat of violence. Great packaging on this record – photocopied hand-stamped sleeve with (on the back) a page torn from a recipe book pasted on. In small writing on the front it states ‘Avocado tape too!’, and indeed I still have that tape – A Million And Nine – and remember it fondly for its sheer lo-lo-lo-lo-fi quality. My copy was marred by a quarter being plagued with a strange tweeting noise over some tracks: such are the hazards of magnetic tape, I guess.