Category Archives: LP

THE SONIC ALL-STARS: The Sounds Of Star Wars (LP, Pickwick SHM 941, 1977)

The Sonic All Stars - The Sound Of Star Wars front cover

Nestling near to The Sonics, Sonic Boom and Sonic Youth in my collection, The Sounds Of Star Wars is a far less intimidating and weighty prospect than any of those three Sonic-y outfits. I bought this record at some point in the past 15–20 years, although I have no idea exactly where or when. I have a long-standing relationship with silly Easy Listening records, and tend to pick up good-looking examples whenever I notice them in charity shops across the land.

The Star Wars tie-in here doesn’t result in a fantastically-valuable piece of vinyl: Discogs at the time of writing has over 40 copies of the album available, for as little as 50p, if you’d like your own. It’s actually a pretty good record, if somewhat ridiculous. Various Star Wars tunes, including the main theme and the Cantina Band’s song, are offered in an odd synthesised format, and it all feels oddly detached and joyless. It does, however, veer occasionally off into new and made-up places, giving it at times the feel of Tangerime Dream during their more mainstream times. Here’s the end title:

Bruce Baxter, the ‘conductor’ here (although perhaps, in reality, more like the guy who played this all on a few synths in his home studio), may also be responsible for work relating to Jesus Christ Superstar and Tommy (according to Discogs) and/or the music for Phil Cool’s dire 1980s comedy series Cool It and something called Doctor Snuggles (according to IMDB).

The artwork is uncredited. The front cover is a masterpiece of airbrushing, and is the kind of thing I would have endlessly attempted to recreate when I became airbrush-obsessed in the late 1980s. The back cover features a surprisingly creepy and odd face looming out of an all-black background, and some brilliantly bizarre copywriting. See for yourself:

The Sonic All-Stars - The Sound Of Star Wars back cover

THURSTON MOORE: 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose VDSQ – Solo Acoustic Volume Five (LP, Vin Du Select Qualitite VDSQ-005)

Thurston Moore - 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose front cover

Thurston Moore was, of course, the frontman of my all-time favourite band, Sonic Youth. He – and they – are therefore responsible for a hefty wedge of records in my collection. As a band, their output is pretty huge and varied in style; as a solo artist, even more so. This album was released in 2011, according to Discogs, although no release date is given on the sleeve – the only date mentioned is that the recordings for the album were made in ‘early 2010’. Sonic Youth ended in late 2011, after the unfortunate shenanigans going on between Moore and bandmate/wife Kim Gordon, so this album was released at around that time. Before and after that time, Moore is/was involved in a relentless number of solo and side projects – he’s famously a fan of records, musical history and the avant garde, and seems keen to make his mark in recorded form whenever possible.

Jack Rose, for whom this album is named, was a much-loved American experimental guitarist, who sadly died in 2009. The ten tracks on 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose, performed on an acoustic twelve-string guitar, are in a Jack Rose style, but are I think original Moore compositions. The rear sleeve mentions “song titles courtesy Byron Coley”, suggesting that the pieces on the record were played and recorded first; named second. Vin Du Select Qualitite released ten of these Solo Acoustic albums, including work by Chris Brokaw, Sir Richard Bishop and Bill Orcutt. Read about the label, and its output, here.

The artwork for the record is in the style of the whole Solo Acoustic series: thin white card stock, typography in Trajan, and a high-contrast monotone image on the cover. It feels like it’s letterpressed. On the rear, simple centred type has credits and a track listing. It’s clean, neat and slightly boring, although I don’t know who is pictured on the cover, so perhaps that carries a story that would add depth. The design is credited to Anthony Pappalardo, which is the name of a famous skateboarder, according to Google. Is this the same person? Who knows. An ‘Artist’s Edition’ of the record also exist, with ‘limited exclusive artwork’. It’s signed and numbered by Thurston Moore, limited to 100 copies, and on coloured vinyl.

YOU’RE SMILING NOW BUT WE’LL ALL TURN INTO DEMONS: Contact High (2LP, Cardinal Fuzz CFUL013)

You're Smiling Now But We'll All Turn Into Demons - Contact High

Nestling down at the far end of the alphabet – in between Young Knives and The Zodiac – it’s the heftily-named You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons. This is a band that’s hovered around my radar for quite some time; I seem to remember that they once sent a demo and asked about playing the music festival that I help to organise, many years ago. It didn’t work out that time, I’m not quite sure why, as they’re a good band with a strong line in fuzz rock that ticks a variety of boxes for me: a bit late-1960s, a bit Melvins-esque noise, a bit Hawkwind.

This album was released in 2014, according to Discogs, but there isn’t a year mentioned on the sleeve or on the records. I bought it around the time of its release, not only because hearing about its availability tweaked my “oh, them!” memory banks, but because the Cardinal Fuzz label is a reliably strong source of decent music that’s likely to be positioned somewhere or other up my street. The label’s run by a hard-workin’, good egg named Dave, who also produces – every now and then – a great-looking and great-reading fanzine called Optical Sounds. According to the blurb on this album’s Bandcamp page, Cardinal Fuzz was partly kicked off in order to release this YSNBWATID album: “One of the main reasons we at Cardinal Fuzz entered the choppy waters of record making was with the sole intention of doing justice to this gloriously fuzzy psych/garage monster on the format it truly belongs.”

The record’s front cover, and a photograph on an insert contained within, hints at the four-piece band – I’m presuming it’s the band members shown – being part of some kind of robe-wearing, Satan-hassling cult. There’s some groovy-style hand-done typography on the sleeve, and the back cover (shown below) follows in its style, with a tritone high-contrast image of the band members. (A tritone is, of course, The Devil’s Sound; how appropriate). The artwork overall is credited (on the insert) to the band. The insert also mentions that the record was mastered by one ‘Peter J Croissant’: I don’t believe that that’s a real name. Those jokers.

The album is out of print now, but can be listened to and downloaded via Bandcamp:

VARIOUS: Pebbles Vol. 5 (LP, BFD BFD 5022, 1979)

Various - Pebbles Vol. 5

This record popping up as a random choice for discussion acts as a useful reminder: I need to continue building out my collection of Pebbles albums. I’ve got quite a number of them, but there are at least 28 ‘official’ volumes in the series, so I have some way to go.

I’m sure everybody knows it already, but if not, the Pebbles albums are self-described as follows: “only the best and rarest recordings from the 1960s, including original punk rock, psychedelic, mod, girl group, and surfing music. If purchased on their original labels, these records would cost thousands of dollars. Now, thanks to Pebbles, they are available again”.

BFD Records was based in Kookaburra, Australia. Or was it? Wikipedia suggests otherwise, and it’s an interesting read. (In brief, there is no city or town in Australia called Kookaburra, and BFD may not even be a real record label!) In some ways though – to use the title of a song by The Lyrics that appeared on Pebbles Vol. 2 – “So What!” This is a legendary, comprehensive, brilliant series of albums. Not every track on every one is gold, but the sheer scale of the whole Pebbles set is breathtaking. Choice cuts on Pebbles Vol. 5 include:

The Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2: ‘I Wanna Come Back (From The World of LSD)’

The State Of Mind: ‘Move’

…but, really, just buy all of the albums and listen to everything. That’s my aim; as stated above. I bought this one some years ago, somewhere, some time; possibly at a record shop in Reading, UK. My first Pebbles was bought way back when at the (locally) legendary Langland Records in Wellington, Telford, UK. These records get around! From Kookaburra (well, possibly) to… everywhere.

The first few Pebbles shared a similar cover style, as shown by this one. I really dislike the imagery on this one, though – it’s just not cool.

UNCLE WIGGLY: Non-Stuff (LP, Hemiola HEM 7, ?)

Uncle Wiggly - Non-Stuff

The lot of a small-time reviewer is an odd one. I reached merely moderate levels of coverage and/or influence with a series of fanzines – and an associated cassette tape label – back in the early/mid 1990s, selling fanzines to people around the world and maintaining an enjoyable and rich amount of postal-based correspondence with huge numbers of people. However, you’d think I was single-handedly running NME based on the longevity of mailing lists on which I seem to have found myself; only after several moves of house have the postal submissions for reviews been stopped, and I still receive emails asking for demos to be listened to.

Back when review submissions took the form of actual, physical discs and cassettes, it was a rare treat to accidentally stumble onto somebody’s press list and to receive wares from labels I actually wanted to hear. Hemiola was one such label – a Leeds-based emporium that released great things by bands including Fly Ashtray, Cha-Cha Cohen, Eggs, Unrest, Dymaxion and Kenny Process Team. These may not all be familiar names, but they’re all good bands that are worth looking up. Uncle Wiggly are too; an (I think) New York band that combine slacker-esque indie rock with odd hints of Krautrock repetition and experiment, all wrapped up into a fuzzy melodic ball. Here’s side A of Non-Stuff, with the lead track ‘Kakaphonic’ elegantly summing up the feel of the album:

Some facts about Uncle Wiggly according to Wikipedia and Discogs: They released records on the marvellous Shimmy-Disc and Teenbeat labels. Non-Stuff was only ever released in this format, even though “many consider this to be their finest work, deftly combining their art-rock influences with some killer pop tunes”. The band has not played together since 2000. Band member James Kavoussi played in Fly Ashtray before Uncle Wiggly existed; and continues to play in Fly Ashtray to this day.

No credit is given for the album sleeve design – with its understated typography (including, in my opinion, a pretty ugly typeface for the band name) and somewhat sinister cut & paste photographic montage. The back cover shows a distorted, TV interference-like image, which is credited to Tonya Smay. If it’s the same person I just found on LinkedIn, she has a massive amount of experience in digital art and animation, including working on a Kanye West video and the “Yahoo 2014 Logo Rebrand Animation”!

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

VARIOUS: Impact: The Breakthrough To The Exciting World Of Stereo Sound (LP, Columbia STWO 2, 1968)

Various - Impact The Breakthrough To The Exciting World Of Stereo Sound

I have quite a number of these ‘demonstration’-type records, no end of them were released through the 1960s and 1970s to show off the worlds/galaxies/spectra/etc of new stereophonic (or, in some cases quadraphonic) capabilities of, at the time, modern music-playing equipment. Most of the ones that I own were bought in the 1990s, during a time when I – like many others – influenced by a strange combination of Britpop, kitsch and Stereolab, scoured charity shops for records that might include a glimmer or two of easy listening excitement. The hit rate is generally pretty low with these records, but what they do offer is a tiny glimpse into what may have been spinning on the stereograms of shagpile-carpeted, wooden-panelled ‘dens’ or listening rooms during a very decadent time in history.

Here’s the track listing for Impact: The Breakthrough To The Exciting World Of Stereo Sound. Your call on whether any or all of the below represent a breakthrough, or indeed something exciting:

Side One

  1. David Rose And His Orchestra: ‘The Stripper’
  2. Norrie Paramor And His Strings: ‘Soul Coaxing’
  3. Mr. Acker Bilk And The Stan Tracey Big Brass: ‘Stranger On The Shore’
  4. Pepe Jaramillo And His Latin-American Rhythm: ‘Sucu Sucu’
  5. Franck Pourcel And His Orchestra: ‘Love Is Blue’
  6. Ron Goodwin And His Orchestra: ‘Legend Of The Glass Mountain’

Side Two

  1. Joe Loss And His Orchestra: ‘Wheels’
  2. The Norman Newell Orchestra: ‘Live For Life’
  3. Basil Henriques And The Waikiki Islanders: ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’
  4. Ralph Dollimore And His Orchestra: ‘The Fool On The Hill’
  5. Manuel And The Music Of The Mountains: ‘A Man And A Woman’
  6. Jack Emblow (Accordion): ‘Ritual Fire Dance’

It seems that every Joe, Ron and Norman had their own orchestra back in the day. The tracks of note here are Mr. Acker Bilk’s swingin’, sexy and ever-so-slightly-sleazy ‘Stranger On The Shore’, the rhumbas and cha-chas of Pepe Jaramillo’s ‘Sucu Sucu’ and Joe Loss’ ‘Wheels’ respectively, and the marvellous Hawaiian gliding melodies of Basil Henrique’s reading of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.

The cover artwork bears the familiar, strident logo of Columbia sub-label Studio 2 Stereo, with the dynamic Impact text offset by the bizarrely staid and serious-looking typesetting of ‘The Breakthough To The Exciting World Of Stereo Sound’. No design credit is given on the sleeve, but the photograph used – which shows ‘glass fracture by shot gun pellets’, apparently, although it’s quite hard to tell – is courtesy of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, a ‘British research establishment’ that in time was subsumed into the Ministry of Defence. Friends in high places, these easy listening types!

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

THURSTON MOORE AND MARGARIDA GARCIA: The Rust Within Their Throats (LP, Headlights LPH21, 2014)

Thurston Moore and Margarida Garcia - The Rust Within Their Throats

Thurston Moore isn’t backwards in coming forwards when it comes to releasing records. As a die-hard Sonic Youth fan, I do what I can to keep up with the ever-expanding circle of music that surrounds both the band and its members’ diverse array of side projects and current activities; but it can be a time-consuming, confusing process. Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, particularly, enjoy a seemingly never-ending schedule of record releases, across a range of labels, formats and – for want of a better word – genres.

The Rust Within Their Throats was released earlier this year, and is Moore in ‘abstract guitar experiment’ mode. In a duo with Margarida Garcia – a Lisbon-based sound artist who has also worked with Chris Corsano, Loren Connors, Alan Licht and many more – his work on this LP takes the form of two side-long pieces. Moore (on electric guitar) and Garcia (on electric double bass) create yawning, claustrophobic caverns of sound, the original instrumentation only partially recognisable beneath hefty waves of echo, feedback and stretched, detuned stringwork. It’s at time reminiscent of some of the pieces included in the SYR series of Sonic Youth records, but it feels more confident and focussed.

I became aware of this album while doing something else on the internet – as is so often the case – and it led me to Headlights Recordings, one of countless shadowy experimental record labels that have a lot of product, and that seem to always have existed as something completely outside of any semblance of a mainstream music industry.

The artwork here is not credited to a designer. It includes two black-and-white etchings (source unknown, to me at least), portraying stormy, troubled waters. These are remarkably right for the music on the record, which often sounds like the creaks and cries of a distressed ship, and the typography on the sleeve and the record’s label provides a sense of classic maturity, with centred, carefully kerned letters providing information with no small amount of understated elegance.

Links: Thurston Moore / Margarida Garcia / Headlights Recordings

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: