Jul 30, 2010

Wake Ooloo. Stop the Ride.

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The last Wake Ooloo album, in case anyone was waiting.


Jul 27, 2010

James Ferraro. Marble Surf.

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If you're unfamiliar with James Ferraro...remember the guys in high school who planned to start a band and then change their name for every release, and it didn't matter if anyone knew how to play an instrument? James Ferraro actually did that. If he's most well known for anything (and he isn't), it's probably The Skaters. As a "solo" artist, he's had more identities than it's worth listing here. He's probably the only person who's more prolific than Acid Mothers Temple. You could spend a lifetime trying to track down all of his releases and never be sure you'd found them all, or if they were even the right ones. It can be pretty hit or miss, too, depending on your patience for lo-fi, scrambled tape messes of wasteland-psychedelic samples and alchemical keyboards and random noises that sound like they were rescued from a box of betamax tapes. That whole alternate 80's universe that bands like Wingdings, Sun Araw, Dolphins Into the Future, Infinity Window, Matrix Metals, et al are floating in? James invented it. I think he's kinda genius, but it's an acquired taste.

Except for Marble Surf. This is simply the most endlessly beautiful thing I've ever heard. In a post-post-Eno way, he's composed a slow-motion, ocean-sized waterfall of washed-out angelic choruses, watery steel drums, and dreamy synths that repeat the same basic structure for forty minutes (there are two tracks, but they're essentially the same piece of music). Eno proposed the idea of "holographic" music that would be indistinguishable from any other part of the recording no matter where you started listening to it. Marble Surf does it in a way that's gorgeously, almost psychedelically hypnotic rather than ambient.

At first it might seem like he's just set a brief snippet of music on repeat, but as you get drawn in it's clear that he's actually playing this. Musical cues come in at slightly different points on each loop, making it sound shiveringly, shimmeringly alive and organic, like light sparkling on water. Even when new instruments do arrive, it's so subtle and matched to the grand astral pageantry of the whole that you hardly notice they weren't there before. It's a cloud-floating heroin-basted rimjob from jesus in a Terry Reilly calypso dream. It's J.S. Bach for the polaroid-transfer, new-age tapes set. It's weightless and epic and magnificent and ecstatic and transcendent all at once, and it's the best fucking thing I've ever heard.

Marble Surf

Jul 24, 2010

St. Christopher. You Deserve More Than A Maybe.

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Sarah 015
Released: February 27, 1989
01: You Deserve More Than A Maybe
02: The Kind Of Girl
03: The Summer You Love


Jul 23, 2010

The Scrotum Poles. Revelation.

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I assume that when you've named yourselves The Scrotum Poles you're not expecting chart success, or that many bookings (of course, you could say the same thing for The Butthole Surfers, and things turned out OK for them). I figured it was a riff on The Sex Pistols, but the band claims the name came from a book called The Choirboys. I'll let you write your own Catholic Priest joke.

They did pretty well for themselves considering they mostly recorded in their bedroom to two-track tapes. The one time they went into a studio proper, the sound engineer realized that all their instruments were incorrectly tuned and spent the afternoon putting them to rights, only to be forced to detune them when the band couldn't figure out how to play their songs in the proper key.

I first heard them on one of the Messthetics compilations where their song Pick the Cat's Eye's Out was one of the clear standouts. (I should point out that "cat's eyes" are what the British call highway reflectors, and that the band is not singing about blinding helpless kitties.) According to the band, they found the lyrics written on the back of a set list left behind by another group, Bread Poultice and the Running Sores. Yes, I'm sure that sort of thing happened all the time back then.

The record starts out with a great bit of down-tempo post-punk melancholy, Why Don't You Come Out Tonight, which puts me in the mind of Seventeen Second's strumminess. Then there's Night Train, which may or may not sound like a cross between LiLiPUT and the Swell Maps. After that they go pop, and they do it really well. There's the aforementioned Cat's Eyes, and sing-along Helicopter Honeymoon. Radio Tay rounds things out with some straight up punk.

It's all brilliant. Like most DIY bands, they make up for lack of skills with outsized enthusiasm, but even beneath the poor recording equipment (and residual vinyl pops and crackles) it's obvious they knew how to write a great pop song, which is no simple thing.

Here they are charmingly acting like a bunch of adorable dweebs.


Jul 22, 2010

The Tunnelrunners. Plastic Land.

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Formed in 1977 and broken up by 1981 (to return to college like so many others before and since—damn you, higher education.), The Tunnelrunners barely played any gigs (most people stumbled into their shows by accident), and sold about twenty records (the last one to show up on ebay went for something like £700). Thankfully, someone found a copy and reissued five of their raw, hang-on-tight masterpieces.

Plastic Land, especially, features some fantasticly joyous guitar lines soaring through the lo-fi fuzz and rhythmic thrash. Bright and sharp and melodic, it makes me think of the sound you'd get if you played the evolution of C-86 in reverse and steered a course that took the attitude and songcraft but not the cuteness into early punk. It's rather Buzzcocks-y now that I listen to it again (especially Words, which must have been written with that band in mind). I Can, You Can, Fall In Love has that sweet-tart punk buzz with just a dash of the Beatles to throw you off the scent. They were more DIY than punk anyway (the lead singer had decidedly unpunk long, shaggy hair and a mustache, although this was the glorious period before punk came with quotation marks around it), but far more talented than most of that scene. Every one of these few songs is just perfect and makes me wish they'd stuck around longer and recorded more.

What a rush. I fall in love with it even more every time I spin it. Copies should still be available from Sing Sing records. Only six bucks!

Plastic Land

Jul 9, 2010

Robyn Hitchcock. Invisible History.

1 Blurt

1. Astronomy Domine
2. Outlaw Blues
Recorded 1980 at the Hope and Anchor. Also on Two Halves for the Price of One.

3. Postman's Knock
Recorded at the Portland Arms, November 1978. Left off Live at the Portland Arms album.

4. Look Into Your Mirror
Companion Piece to Of a Walnut, which eventually surfaced on 1976-81. Session recorded in 1977 in Robyn's living room.

5. Smoothie
Underwater Moonlight outtake.

6. Innocent Boy
Possible outtake from aborted 1978 Radar album.

7. The Man Who Invented Himself
Different mix from original test pressing of Black Snake Diamond Role.

8. Nightride to Trinidad
9. Kingdom of Love
Disco remixes by Steve Hillage.

10. Listening to the Higsons
Portastudio recording from 1982. Drum machine programming by Vince Ely of the Psychedelic Furs. B-Side to Eaten By Her Own Dinner 7".

11. Dr. Sticky
B-Side to Eaten By Her Own Dinner 7".

12. Surgery
Fegmania era outtake.

13. Calvary Cross
Live on 1986 US tour.

14. Legalized Murder
Globe of Frogs outtake.

15. Ruling Class
Queen Elvis outtake. Peter Buck on guitar.

16. More Than This
17. The Ghost In You
18. Birdshead
Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop, July 1988.

19. Fairplay
20. Linden Arden Stole the Highlights
Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop, May 1991.

Invisible History

Jul 3, 2010

Christine's Cat. Your Love Is...

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Sarah 013
Released: July 1989
01: Your Love Is...

Your Love Is