Category Archives: Numbered

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

-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

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

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

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.

VARIOUS: Saturday Night Special (7″, Leadmill LEAD002, 1995)

Various - Saturday Night Special

I have no recollection of when and where I picked up this record. It was definitely some time after its release date of 1995 (or, specifically, 14 August 1995 as an associated insert confirms); instinct suggests it was at some point during the last three or four years from now. What I mean by that is that I remember it not being part of my collection, and I also remember it being so. My mind triangulates the change from one state to the other as being in the realms of ‘quite recently’, rather than ‘very recently’, ‘ages ago’ or something else.

This record raises a number of questions:

  1. Music venues releasing records: Leadmill Records was run by the Sheffield Leadmill venue, which is trumpeted on the back cover as Melody Maker’s 1994 number one live venue/club in the UK. How many other venues have released records? What makes the people running and booking bands at a venue decide to release records? Does this only happen when things are going extraordinarily well and there’s enough money flying around to plough a grand or two into a vanity project?
  2. The use of the word ‘still’: The aforementioned trumpeting back cover blurb starts by saying ‘The Leadmill is still a live music venue & club based in the heart of Sheffield…’ Why still? Was it once not going to be a venue? Does the word suggest a wearied acceptance that this building is always going to be a venue, whether we like it or not?
  3. Choice of bands on the compilation: The bands on this compilation are Man Or Astroman, Perfume, Back To The Planet and Blakeman. MOA and BTTP are (or at least were) well known bands at the time; Perfume and Blakeman, not so much. Blakeman are the subject of the record’s insert, an A6 postcard which includes the band’s contact address as… The Leadmill! So – who were they? The Leadmill house band? Promoters at the venue? The bankrollers of this record?
  4. Strange record side naming: Instead of Side A and Side B, or Side 1 or Side 2, this record’s sides are referred to as ‘maureenlipmanside’ and ‘bobhoskinsside’. What the hell is that about? What does it mean?
  5. Awful cover art: Who saw this cover art and thought ‘yes! that’s it! that’s exactly what our record needs!’ – apologies to whoever put it together, but I think the cover is horrific. Confusing and unattractive. Why a gun? Why a target over a telephone dial? Why ‘It’s Good To Talk’? In capitalised words?

So many questions.

My favourite out of the bands on here is Man Or Astroman. They’ve long been on my list of ‘bands I should buy loads of records by’. All I have beyond this track is a taped copy of one of their albums. I used to play that tape a lot and whilst the combination of surf-style garage rock and 1950s science fiction samples may sound cheesy and not fun, I remember it being – to use a word I’ve never used before – hella fun.

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.

OUR LOVE WILL DESTROY THE WORLD: Yellow Nirvana (7″, Trensmat TR019, 2009)

When the randomly-generated number came up and pointed me in the direction of this record, I have to admit that at first I had no idea what it was and could not recollect even the slightest fact about it. But as I scrolled through my spreadsheet to reveal Trensmat as the label behind the record, things started to make sense.

Trensmat started up (out of Dublin, I think) a few short years ago, and since then has kept up an impressively relentless release schedule – around twenty releases within perhaps three years. Their first couple of releases were of such quality that they were quickly added to my ‘labels that I’ll happily buy everything from’ list.

Lately their releases have been in this format – a very limited edition lathe-cut record (mine is number 014 – I don’t know how many exist), wrapped* in a mysterious sleeve that also contains a CDR with the recordings from the record along with more. I like this combination format: CDRs are great for listening to music, but don’t look too beautiful; lathe-cuts’ sound quality can sometimes leave a little to be desired, but they look fantastic and somehow otherworldly.

One thing Trensmat has been good at is introducing me to some weird and wonderful new artists (normally at the noise/weirdo folk ends of things). In the case of this record however, I’d actually heard of the artist – or at least the artist behind the name. Our Love Will Destroy The World is in fact Campbell Kneale of Birchville Cat Motel, who is something of a minor starlet in the very specifically The Wire-type axis of odd musics. Once he released a record in collaboration with Neil Campbell of Vibracathedral Orchestra (amongst a million other things). You have to love the rarity of that kind of team-up being able to happen! If I ever come across somebody with the reverse of my name, I’m releasing a record with them whether they like it or not.

*A note about the wraparound sleeves used by Trensmat. They have their opening on the left-hand side, rather than the more traditional right-hand ‘book-style’ opening. This maddens me, for some reason. It’s like when a record’s spine is printed the other way up to usual. What are these people thinking?

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…

LAST PARTY: Fax Me Wacko Jack Seed (7″, Dishy DISHY 3, 1993)

Last Party - Fax Me Wacko Jack Seed

Dishy Records fell under my indie-pop-record-buying gaze due to their first release being by Hellfire Sermons, whose releases I eagerly hoovered up in the early nineties. As was very much the done thing for me at the time, I continued to buy subsequent releases from the label, and this not only bolstered a growing seven inch record collection but also introduced me to some bands and music I’d never have investigated otherwise. I seem to remember that this Last Party release was something of a coup for Dishy, at least as much as their flyers and whatnot made it seem. It was as if they were some kind of underground legend and it was a Big Deal that some new songs were becoming available. To this day, I still don’t know anything at all about the band beyond the existence of this record, so maybe there’s a whole tranch of enjoyable music out there still to check out. One day, perhaps, one day…

This record is numbered – it’s number 472 of, if memory serves correctly, 500 copies. The number is handwritten onto a small silver star which is then stuck to the back of the sleeve. That might seem insignificant, but having been involved in the hand-numbering and hand-finishing of even small-run record releases myself, I feel the need to say kudos to whoever at Dishy sat numbering 500 small silver stars and then stuck them onto to 500 record sleeves. These personalisation things always seem like a good idea until you get into the actual work, but hey, once that’s done you realise yes: they were good ideas. Hard work maketh the record, or something.