Friday, 10 March 2017

A brief account of the record labels that were run by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs of the band St Etienne


Caff

Active between 1989 and 1992, Caff records released 7-inch singles by The Field Mice, Galaxie 500, Manic Street Preachers, and Jean Acorn, among others.

The name of the label was a reference to Sherie's Cafe, which, during its 44 year history, occupied three premises along the Commercial Road in Limehouse, East London. Bob Stanley worked there on a part-time basis between 1988 and 1992.

Cafe regular, Colin Grey, recalls: “Bob was obsessed by the singer May Mills*. There was a large framed black and white photograph of her hanging above the cash register. She was standing in the middle of her parent's cafe in Liverpool, in her stage costume, serving tea to the dockers who were about to clock on for their 4am shift. I think Bob liked the photo because there was no artifice about it. These were the people that May grew up with. After performing, usually in Blackpool, she would be driven back home, where she would help out her mum and dad, at what was a busy time of the working day for them.

Many of the bands who released singles on Caff recorded at Sherie's after it closed for the night.

It was a throwback to a bygone era where the The New Seekers still reigned supreme on the jukebox,” says Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers.

Despite the success of St Etienne, Bob continued he continued to work at Sherie's up until 1992 when owners retired and moved to Spain, and the cafe closed its doors for good. The premises briefly reopened as a ladies boutique called Rabbit before standing derelict for several years. In 1997, the row of shops that it occupied was demolished to make way for flats.

* May Mills was popular during the late 1940s and early 1950s and sold out theatres across northern England. Her unwillingness to be away from home, even for a night, prevented her from gaining wider success in her lifetime. She died in a car accident on April 4th, 1956, while returning home from a show in Salford.




Icerink records

In 1992, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs signed the lease on a small studio adjacent to the New Era Ice Rink, in Hackney, East London. It was here that artists such as Earl Brutus, Shampoo and The Colins would all record early works.

Joan Guy, who interned at the label recalls: “As soon as we had a new pressing, either Bob or Pete would rush it next door where they would gauge the reaction of the music on the skaters.”

In this way, Supermarket by Supermarket was judged “an ice filler”. Early white label copies of the single came adorned with a sticker that read 'Guaranteed ice filler'.

For a while Icerink also sold a range of ice-creams that were named after the label's co-founders. The Orange Stanley was an ice lolly 'flavoured with the juice of three different types of orange.' The Wiggs Bar, was a wafer and ice-cream concoction rippled with a berry sauce.

The exact flavour of the sauce depended upon the time of year and the fruit that was available,” recalls Wiggs.

Orange Stanley was the title of a St Etienne B-side that was ear-marked to appear on the How We Used To Live EP, but was dropped in favour of a remix of the title track.

In 2015, limited quantities of Orange Stanleys and Wiggs Bars were sold at independent record shops as part of record store day. Inevitably the wrappers appeared on Ebay not long after. 




Royal Mint

A relic of Bob Stanley's brief collaboration with the Bank of England.

Sarah Cracknell (lead singer of St Etienne) remembers: “Somehow Bob found out about a vinyl pressing plant in the Bank of England. It was used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to write cheques in the form of seven-inch acetates.

One night at the Daynes Wood Folk Festival, Richard James (the Aphex Twin) was telling us how he had perfected the art of recording music onto water. He was going to bombard a nearby reservoir with an album that he had written specially for the occasion and then watch the chaos unfold as people drank his tunes.

Bob mentioned that he was recording in the Bank of England. James began wondering out loud whether it would be possible to sample the chancellor's speeches and use them to write your own vinyl cheques. Fortunately, Evan Dando from The Lemonheads began playing acoustic covers of Oasis songs, and we all dozed off before we could become hardened criminals.”

Only a few records were pressed by Royal Mint. These vinyl releases were classified as currency and were not eligible for inclusion in the singles chart.





emidisc

Absent from the London skyline since 2001, the EMI Disc is periodically the subject of dewy-eyed campaigns calling for its return.

Colin Britchfield (Bass player in The Colins – 'We were like the Ramones, but from Hammersmith') said: “You could stand on Primrose Hill with a pair of binoculars and, from a certain angle, you could make it look like the EMI disc was a UFO that had embedded itself in the side of the Centrepoint tower.”

The disc, which balanced atop a 183 foot tall ground spike, housed a small recording studio that was accessible via a cramped staircase.

You really couldn't get anything larger than a guitar up to the top,” recalls Stanley.

They had to bring the studio up in small pieces and construct it on site. There were also some instruments that they built from scratch in the studio: A baby grand piano and a unique instrument that could function as a double bass or a cello.”

Many visitors to the studio found the stairs a challenge.

The stairs almost killed me,” says Stanley. “There were times when I slept in the studio because I couldn't face the thought of having to climb them the following morning.”

Another peculiarity of the studio was the ever-present vibration caused by wind circulating around the disc.

You couldn't edit the vibration out, so you had to make it a part of whatever it was you were recording,” remembers Wiggs. “Sometimes I wake up and I can still feel it. I have spoken to a few other people who worked in the studio and they tell me exactly the same thing. We are thinking of setting up a support group.”

The EMI Disc was hastily demolished in 2001 when the disc began to shift and tilt on its axis.

One evening the girls from Kenickie were running from one side of the studio to the other. It felt like the disc was moving back and forth. I'm pretty certain that's what did it in,” says Stanley.  




Eclipse

Named after an adjacent building development plunged the record company headquarters into perpetual darkness.

We were forced to listen in the gloom with no visual distractions and actually that proved to be beneficial,” says Stanley.

All Eclipse vinyl releases came with the message 'Draw the curtains, turn off the lights' scratched into the run-out groove.

Eclipse is probably best known for its reissues of the Winchester-based funk diva - Floss Cotgrove - and the album Ring the Bells by Beryl Belle, which was named in MOJO magazine as one of the best reissues of 2006.



Croydon Municpal

Part of Croydon Council's ambitious global outreach programme, this label explores the vibrant culture that has made the south London borough a hub for music that draws upon influences from across the world.

Although we are often seen as a label focused on releasing compilations of vintage exotica, in reality all of these songs are contemporary recordings by local Croydon artists.” explains Stanley.

The drive to export Croydon to the farthest corners of the world sees Stanley and Wiggs making regular journeys to the nearby Tilbury Docks, where boxes of the latest Croydon Municipal releases are handed out to the crews of visiting container ships. 


Friday, 29 April 2016

Liane Carroll

Liane Carroll

Annie's Jazz Club, Thorpe Hall Golf Club

19th April, 2016

Annie's Jazz club, which is currently celebrating its 8th year of 'bringing London to you' (the 'you' in this case being the coastal fringes of Essex) has a nomadic history. During the early days, it was hosted by a variety of pubs, in and around Southend-on-Sea. In recent times it has settled into an unlikely new home at the golf club, in leafy, well-heeled Thorpe Bay, where it convenes every Tuesday evening. It is a popular night out, drawing a lively and appreciative crowd, with an average age sitting somewhere between 60 and 70.

A return visit from Liane Carroll, a singer and piano player, who combines vocal jazz with salacious anecdotes and asides, has sold out the small venue. In the main bar, where a row of tall, plate glass windows overlook a manicured fairway and some distant sand traps bordering an adjacent green, every available space between the tables seems to be occupied by a chair. Waiters, bearing steaming plates of food, manoeuvre sideways along narrow trails through the shifting labyrinth, squeezing past members of audience, who are advancing single file, in snaking columns, in the opposite direction, towards the bar.

Eventually the room settles down and the lights are dimmed. Visible over a sea of nodding grey heads, ensconced behind a small electric piano, in front of a shuttered trophy cabinet, Carroll is a perpetually smiling presence, her eyes closed and her head tilted back and bobbing in the general vicinity of the microphone. She has one of those effortless, malleable voices that sounds like it could go anywhere, and seems to be carried along on an outpouring of joy, as she roams freely back and forth between the lyrics of other people's songs and her own scat singing.

Her sense of mischievousness, which is not evident early on, gradually comes to the fore over the course of three sets, or “trimesters” as she calls them, aided and abetted by tall glasses of “cucumber water” procured from the bar.

She pauses in the introduction to one song to ask an elderly gentleman who is struggling to remove a red sweater whether he is okay. “I've got some spaceships,” she says, referring to what appears to be a bag of sherbet saucers on top of the piano, which she playfully threatens to flick at anyone in the audience who falls asleep. She recalls her recent purchase of a Nutribullet: “It's supposed to be healthy but so far I've only used mine to make pina coladas.”

With Carroll the poignant and the absurd go hand in hand, neither one encroaching upon the other. It's like watching a skilled high wire artist who delights in throwing herself comically off-balance.

Her plaintive rendition of Misty - a vulnerable and open-hearted declaration of love - incorporates a lengthy instrumental break, the piano settling into a holding pattern while she tells the following joke:

(I am paraphrasing here)

My uncle was walking past a club in Essex when this blonde girl comes tumbling out through the front doors. She looks him up and down, then she says:

'Why have you got L and R painted on your boots?'

My uncle replies: 'It's to remind me which boot goes on which foot.'

'Oh,' says the girl. 'Is that why my knickers have got C&A written on them?'”

(For the benefit of American or millennial readers, C&A was a popular clothing store in the UK back in the 80s and 90s)

Mixed in among the standards are a smattering of relatively contemporary songs. A brisk run through Donald Fagen's Walk Between The Raindrops. Taking It With Me from the Tom Waits album Mule Variations. You Can Let Go Now (subtitled by Carroll as “the Imodium song”) originally by the soulful crooner and former Doobie Brother, Michael McDonald.

More anecdotes follow:

- A childhood piano teacher who threatened to cut an inch off her hair for every mistake that she made.

- A nomination for Best Vocalist in the (then) impending Jazz FM awards. She hasn't been invited to perform at the ceremony so doesn't fancy her chances, but is going anyway for the canap├ęs.

- Her recent “adventures with dentures” that prompted her to cancel what would have been a live performance on the BBC, due to her concerns that her teeth might fly out of her mouth in front of an audience of millions.

Before the final set there is a raffle. All jazz clubs should have a raffle. It cuts through any chin-stroking pretension and brings an air of conviviality to the room.

Annie (founder of the club) is summoned to the piano to duet while protesting “I've got a Fisherman's Friend in my mouth.”

Cue more raised eyebrows from Liane, who launches into another anecdote that showcases her delight in sowing the seeds of chaos: During a lunch at The Roslin Hotel earlier in the day, Annie's dog was mistaken for Liane's and much admired by the staff.

He's not mine, “ she told them, before adding untruthfully “but I looked after him while your mummy was in prison, didn't I.”

As the evening draws towards its end, and with Annie's birthday a few hours away, a cake is brought on stage and we all sing Happy Birthday.

Liane introduces Seaside, the title track of her recent album, then, at the last moment, decides to perform Bye Bye Blackbird instead, inviting the audience to repeat her scat singing back to her, which we pull off in a rather overly-mannered and straight-jacketed fashion. She ends on a flourish, improvising lyrics thanking Annie and the other guest musicians who have joined her on stage, the golf club and everyone in the room for coming to see her play.

The genuine applause that follows apparently merits an encore.

Oh, do play Seaside, Liane,” begs one lady in the audience.

She acquiesces and the evening concludes on a touching note.


Liane Carroll will be playing three more times at Annie's Jazz Club in 2016, and, no doubt, at other venues across the country. This will include a performance at the Proms where she will be collaborating with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Impaled Northern Moonforest - Impaled Northern Moonforest



Impaled Northern Moonforest 
Occasionally a band will find itself in a situation where its members must compromise if they are to achieve their creative vision. By way of example, when the California alternative rock group - Camper Van Beethoven – reconvened, nine years after an acrimonious split, they recorded a song-for-song cover version of the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk, as a test to see if they could still work together.

Similarly, when veteran members of Anal Cunt decided, at 3 o'clock one morning in 1997, to form a black metal band, they were faced with the uphill challenge of realising their dream while not waking up somebody who was sleeping nearby.

To quell the volume, the drums and electric guitars, which would have traditionally formed the backbone of such a combo, were dispensed with in favour of gentler acoustic instrumentation. Percussion was generated by the vocalist, Seth Putnam, frenziedly slapping his palms against his knees and a mattress.

Commentators on YouTube, where Impaled Northern Moonforest's meagre canon of songs now languishes (mostly unheard, and apparently unwanted by any record label) have noted that the irregular drumming patterns bear a strong sonic resemblance to a frenetic act of unfettered masturbation.

These comparisons are probably fanciful. Putman - a man who, shortly before his death from heart failure, at the age of 43 - was photographed standing stark-naked, with a syringe dangling from one arm, while in the act of being orally pleasured by his wife, would certainly have had no qualms about listing his penis as an instrument had it been used as such.

Impaled Northern Moonforest's attempt to parody black metal was further hampered by Putnam's limited knowledge of the genre. By his own admission he didn't really listen to black metal and regarded any band playing this style of music who had formed after the mid-1980s (about 99% of all black metal bands) as poseurs. He appeared to mock his ignorance of the genre in a song recorded by Anal Cunt a few years earlier: Living Colour Is My Favourite Black Metal Band deliberately confused the African American rock band Living Colour, with the output of a fringe element of corpse-painted, mostly Scandinavian metal bands, whose lyrics often explored Satanism and pagan folklore.

The music that emerged from Impaled Northern Moonforest's debut 3am rehearsal session was a rapid-tempo strain of Eastern European / hillbilly folk, with garbled vocals reminiscent of the demonically-possessed 12 year old girl from The Exorcist. Abrupt shifts in tempo are commonplace. In line with the attention deficit disorder that determined the duration of much of Anal Cunt's repertoire, the songs are short, ranging from 20 seconds (Entranced By The Northern Impaled Necrowizard's Blasphemous Incantation Amidst The Agonizing Abomination Of The Lusting Necrocorpse) to the relatively lengthy (and, in my opinion, overlong) one minute and 28 seconds of Nocturnal Cauldrons Aflame Amidst The Northern Hellwitch's Perpetual Blasphemy.

The self-imposed limitations governing the choice of instruments, and a lack of familiarity with the genre, were not the only difficulties faced by the band. After recording their 13 song demo, Putman mislaid the hastily-conceived cover art which contained the only record of the track-listing, and so was forced to come up with new song titles. Since a few of the demos had already been mailed out with the original covers, a request was made on the band's website for anybody who possessed a copy of the album to get in touch.

A further error of judgment was Impaled Northern Moonforest's decision to forgo a contemporary model of marketing and distributing their music, choosing instead a release schedule that was governed by the whims of a powerful necrowizard. This practice resulted in an indefinite delay in the release of the band's only 7 inch single – Return of the Necrowizard. It was this postponement that arguably stymied their commercial growth and rise to mainstream popularity.

One thing that is immediately noticeable during a cursory first listen of Impaled Northern Moonforest's recorded output is how quickly their sound develops and matures. There is a marked stylistic shift between demo one (recorded in March 1997) and demo two (recorded in September 1997) as the band grow in confidence and ambition. This upward trend continues during the first 10 or so seconds of their belated comeback single Return Of The Necrowizard, which momentarily rises to a level of quality that one might honestly describe as “quite good” while also maintaining a straight face.

Demo one opener - the atmospheric Grim And Frostbitten Moongoats Of The North – begins with somebody (presumably Josh Martin) imitating a frozen arctic wind while, in the background, Putman rasps and gargles like an angry caged demon with Tourette Syndrome. With the grim and frostbitten stage set, there is a sudden eruption of fast-paced, off-kilter, out of tune strumming, garnished by the aforementioned rapid-fire knee-slapping percussion, as the song accelerates towards its rickety, trembling climax.

Moongoats functions best as an aperitif and scene-setter to its more varied sequel - Forlorned Invocations Of Blasphemous Congregations Of Lusting Goat Sodomizing Satanists. This is, in my opinion is one of the better Impaled Northern Moonforest compositions, comprising a 55 second acoustic black metal rock opera. It begins with what could be interpreted, by somebody who has never heard any Latvian folk music, as a Latvian folk song, played on an acoustic guitar at roughly three times the normal speed, and accompanied by Putnam's indecipherable satanic ravings. At 27 seconds there is an abrupt transition as the guitar affects the kind of plodding strum that characterises the late Nirvana frontman – Kurt Cobain's - acoustic home demos, before the tone once again shifts to a fast-paced bluegrass clog dance. In many ways the song represents the black metal of equivalent of The Beach Boys' Surf's Up or Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

The scampering up-and-down the scales, and the choppy tempo changes that characterise the demo are supplemented in the coda - Transfixing The Forbidden Blasphemous Incantation Of The Conjuring Wintergoat – by chiming horror-movie keyboards - a random succession of sustained glacial notes before the inevitable explosion of frenzied banjo thrash joins the thrilling melee and the song assumes the dimensions of something that might have once graced the stage of The Fast Show's Jazz club.

Six months later, Impaled Northern Moonforest reconvened to record their second demo. Never one to rest upon his laurels, Putman's thigh-slapping percussion had improved markedly, scaling new levels of complexity. Whether his growth as a musician was brought about through iron will and dedicated practice, or was the result of a meeting with the devil itself, at a grim and frostbitten crossroads, I cannot, or will not, say. The complicated hand-to-knee-patter that opens Lustfully Worshipping The Inverted Moongoat While Skiing Down The Inverted Necromountain Of Necrodeathmortum and it's successor, Awaiting The Frozen Blasphemy Of The Necroyeti's Lusting Necrobation Upon The Altar Of Voxrfszzzisnzf represents, I think, a special and extraordinary feat of rhythmic mastery.

Add to the off-kilter percussion, the atonal guitar strum and the sustained discordant keyboards and you have conjured a sound that very accurately predicts the direction of late period Radiohead, in particular the Oxfordshire band's recent attempt at recording a song for the Bond movie - Spectre. I am not saying outright that Radiohead ripped off Impaled Northern Moon because I don't want to be sued by Thom Yorke. However there are similarities and a case could be argued that the musical landscapes evoked by the nascent black metal band lie at the root of Radiohead's reinvention and the grandiose orchestral concoctions that they periodically record in stately homes up and down the UK.

The second demo also marked a broadening of lyrical themes, with an interest in winter sports evident in Masturbating On The Unholy Inverted Tracks Of The Grim & Frostbitten Necrobobsledders – a song where randomly depressed sections of a keyboard give way to random jabs of noise as the band set sail on the choppy waters of acoustic black jazz metal.

Fittingly the band's finale - a 7 inch single titled Return Of The Necrowizard represents the high point of their creativity. A loop consisting of a deep guitar strum,  followed by some delicate finger-picking, is accompanied by robust beat-boxing, thumped out on a mattress. I find it extraordinary in this age of drum machines and samplers that such rhythmic perfection can be achieved using live instruments. Even Putnam can't maintain it for very long. The considered beat quickly degenerates to a rapid patter before the song regresses to the tried and tested pattern of insane hill-billy bluegrass and mostly incoherent ranting.

An accompanying animated video  depicts the levitating Necrowizard raining down fire and destruction upon an Eskimo village, melting igloos and reducing the inhabitants to red wet stains in the grim and frostbitten snow.

Unfortunately the band never ventured past the demo stage of recording. Putnam, when asked, said: "I can't imagine anyone wanting to hear a full length I.N.M. record, or I can't imagine us wanting to record that much. Anything's possible though.”

On the Impaled Northern Moonforest website (which endures despite missing the content of its downloads page and its community forums) there remain tantalizing hints of some unreleased material: “Seth has written a song title that contains about 10 variants of the word "Abazagorath" (such as Abazagoration, Abazagorizing etc.) and will give it to me for the site when he finds it.”

With the not entirely unexpected death of Putnam in 2011, it would appear that this song and others like it have been lost to the ages.

He is in hell now, playing in a thrash zydeco band with Satan, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.




Impaled Northern Moonforest - Forlorned Invocations Of Blasphemous Congregations Of Lusting Goat Sodomizing Satanists



Impaled Northern Moonforest – Impaled Northern Moonforest
(Menace To Sobriety Records)

Release Date: At some point in 2000

Track Listing and Timings

Demo One

1. Grim And Frostbitten Moongoats Of The North 1:04
2. Forlorned Invocations Of Blasphemous Congregations Of Lusting Goat Sodomizing Satanists 0:55
3. Gazing At The Blasphemous Moon While Perched Atop A Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Forsaken Crest Of The Northern Mountain 0:34
4. Bloodlustfully Praising Satan's Unholy Almightiness In The Woods At Midnight 0:45
5. Nocturnal Cauldrons Aflame Amidst The Northern Hellwitch's Perpetual Blasphemy 1:28
6. Transfixing The Forbidden Blasphemous Incantation Of The Conjuring Wintergoat 1:00


Demo Two

1. Masturbating On The Unholy Inverted Tracks Of The Grim & Frostbitten Necrobobsledders 0:45
2. Awaiting The Blasphemous Abomination Of The Necroyeti While Sailing On The Northernmost Fjord Of Xzfgiiizmtsath 0:38
3. Lustfully Worshipping The Inverted Moongoat While Skiing Down The Inverted Necromountain Of Necrodeathmortum 0:44
4. Awaiting The Frozen Blasphemy Of The Necroyeti's Lusting Necrobation Upon The Altar Of Voxrfszzzisnzf 0:51
5. Summoning The Unholy Frozen Winterdemons To The Grimmest And Most Frostbitten Inverted Forest Of Abazagorath 0:39
6. Entranced By The Northern Impaled Necrowizard's Blasphemous Incantation Amidst The Agonizing Abomination Of The Lusting Necrocorpse 0:20
7. Grim And Frostbitten Gay Bar 0:31


7 Inch Single

Return Of The Necrowizard 1:12

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Drink - Capital

Disclosure: Jude Rogers – freelance writer extraordinaire and wife of The Drink's drummer Daniel Fordham – was involved in the Smoke: A London Peculiar website, which published some of my work.


The Drink - Capital
Listening to Capital - The second album by London-based, dark-folk oddity, The Drink - reminded me of the early 1980s, when indie music seemed to occupy a strange parallel dimension, adjacent to what was going on in the mainstream. 

In this pre-internet age, left-field bands, cocooned in their own worlds, on the periphery of the British music scene, hoved haphazardly in and out of my orbit: Momentarily blinking into existence on FM radio waves, via a John Peel Session; read about in small articles in one of the weekly music papers, but perhaps never heard; occasionally granted a flicker of wider exposure in the form of an incomplete, context-free snippet from a chorus, accompanying a still, black and white photo, during the Indie Top 10 singles countdown on The Chart Show.

The Drink draw on the spirit of this era, along with countless historical DIY efforts to recalibrate pop music according to some alternative template. There is a sense of a band going their own way; who, at times, seem lost in a sea fog between the algorithmic structures of American post rock, and a kind of far-flung, Anglicised island folk music.

The spindly guitar that methodically works itself into complicated shapes, as if negotiating the twists and turns of an intricate, blackboard-bound mathematical formula, doesn't so much provide structure to these songs as it does define their outer limits. There are moments on Capital when it sounds like a less scattered approximation of the dexterous Congolese Soukous style of finger picking - a technique that, in sub-Saharan climes, showers the listener with peels of warm notes. Relocated several lines of latitude to the north, these exotic chord structures shake off some of their equatorial looseness, gaining angles and, during the advancing mantra of The Coming Rain, a purposeful forward momentum: It's a song that skips about on an undulating African rhythm, tethered to a vocal that multi-tracks partway through, affecting a slow dissolve into a false ending, before picking up again where it left off.

The ten tracks here are unusually detailed in their construction, with some deliberately unbalanced or marginally out of tune. This makes them intriguing but difficult to fathom on early listens. The wilfully off-kilter Hair Trigger is sonically equivalent to one of those gravity-defying modern skyscrapers that look like they might fall down at any moment – a fidgety, a-melodic rhythm that jumps back and forth, or hangs on the spot, while the drummer attempts to lay down a stabilising beat underneath.

Potter's Grave – another peculiarity that seems to have been meticulously pieced together from a grab-bag of ideas – is built around an intricately looping guitar that assumes a holding pattern during the lead-in to the chorus.

Adding fluidity to this cat's cradle of sound, with its zigzagging advances and retreats, is Dearbhla Minogue, whose untutored vocals float around the higher registers and recall front-women like Rosie Cuckston (Pram) and Alison Statton (Young Marble Giants). Unlike Cuckston, who was happy for her voice to crack as she strained for the top notes, Minogue stays within the limits of her range. It's a style in keeping with the overall approach of the band, who will meticulously explore the outer limits of a musical idea, but in a very controlled, restrained and methodical manner.

Capital is an album of curiosities; odd lines that rise from a sea of lyrical abstraction, such as the oft-repeated “If you do well in school I'll take yah to the swimming pool” on Potter's Grave.

I'll Never Make You Cry simulates walking in on a 1960s girl group, in the early stages of demoing a version of a much bigger song, with place-holder lyrics and a ponderous bookmark of an instrumental break. This non-traditional, approach to vocal downtime is repeated on Hair Trigger with its sketchy, negative image of a guitar solo, absent power chords.

The Drink tread a fine line, carefully micro-managing their sound, but stopping short of allowing these underlying complexities to get in the way of the songs. On Capital there are moments of genuine tension and atmosphere. The ominous organ drone and guitar creep that opens No Memory has the air of a developing off-shore weather system. It's a song that carries itself forward, rising and falling on slow-building swells. The drawn-out coda, ghosted by stray backing vocals, peters out before it can fade away, as if the band who have thrown so many ideas into this album, in its final seconds finally ran out of notes to play.




The Drink – Potter's Grave



The Drink – Capital
(Melodic)

Release Date: 13th November, 2015

Track Listing and Timings

1. Like a River 3:04
2. You Won't Come Back at All 5:00
3. Potter's Grave 4:01
4. Roller 3:27
5. Hair Trigger 4:30
6. I Can't Sleep 3:56
7. The Coming Rain 5:12
8. I'll Never Make You Cry 3:31
9. Month of May 3:23
10. No Memory 5:35

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Wand - 1000 Days

Wand - 1000 Days
Earlier this year, the Californian band - Wand - released their second album.

Titled Golem, it was a record that staked out a camp on the fringes Stoner Rock territory with its fusion of metal and psychedelia.

Wand's third long-player - 1000 Days - is a far lighter and nimbler record than its predecessor, comprising 12 short songs, all cut from the same cloth, that draw upon the US garage-band psychedelia of the 1960s and early 70s, and its folkier, whimsical English counterpart.

As a band who have released two albums in 2015, Wand work quickly. The songs on 1000 Days all sound young and light on their feet, unburdened by any traces of over-thinking that might have drained their vitality.

The opener - Grave Robber - which, on the basis of the title alone, one would peg as a monolithic slab of plodding doom metal, comes racing out of traps on a panel-beaten metallic whoosh of indeterminate origins. It's an encouraging mark of quality psychedelia when you can't pin down the instrument that is source of the peculiar noises that are ricocheting around on the periphery of the mix.

Elsewhere, a cymbal dissolves into a boiling gaseous cloud; a meandering electronic keyboard note, accompanied by underlying chirps and burbles, is carried along on jangly rhythm guitar, and the song moves ahead of itself with such urgency that it barely pauses for its middle eight.

The acid-drenched 1960s vibe that infuses every nook and cranny of 1000 Days could leave a listener with the impression that their brain architecture is slowly reconfiguring itself into a mandala:

Passage of a Dream incorporates drawn-out guitar swan-dives, like the engine of a small jet aircraft on a steep controlled descent, prior to dissolving into metallic cacophony.

Lower Order's opening - a heavily compressed bass that mimics an over-revved motorcycle engine - lingers as a sustained note throughout the song: A relentless churning groove that, following a splintered guitar solo and some magisterial keyboards, changes in tone, warping over on itself to show off different facets of the same raw material.

The album highpoint - Sleepy Dog – a song with its eyes fixed upon the heavens, offers the grandest of false endings: A staggered bass and guitar climb-down from a chorus trailing interstellar synths, that segues into a spaced-out, instrumental false coda. This is followed by some scampering drum fills as if the rhythm section is attempting to regain traction, and then one final chorus that devolves into a squalling power chord.

Situated on the album's most far-out extremities (otherwise known as track 5), the instrumental interlude, Dovetail, is a drumming circle consisting of hollow vessels, lacking any bottom end, and more solid percussion, ghosted by phantom strafed beats on the verge of being smudged out of existence; all of it set against a heavily-distorted single note that sounds like it's in the process of being stretched-out in a wind tunnel.

The record's acoustic moments often pre-empt the arrival of heavier material. Broken Sun begins as head-nodding campfire music - a bassline that creaks like somebody rubbing wrinkles into the surface tension of a slightly over inflated balloon. By the midpoint it has utterly transformed into a ponderous heavy metal beast that recalls Black Sabbath, with an increasingly stroppy whinnying guitar solo that struggles to wrench itself free from the restraints of rhythm section.

There are gentler moments, such as the title track whose opening line “Ceement boy and Ceement girl walking alone in the sunlight” recalls the pastoral Arcadian whimsy of Robyn Hitchcock, as does the closing song Morning Rainbow - a gentle acoustic paean to Lucifer with lyrics that suggest an olive branch offered by the creator to his favourite fallen angel; the ominous parting words: “We will see the world together in it's terror.”

With nary a pause between the end of one track and the beginning of the next, 1000 Days is a breathless journey, lasting 33 minutes, but with enough ideas to fill an album of double the running time. 

 


Wand – 1000 Days
(Drag City)

Release Date: 25th September, 2015

Track Listing and timings

1. Grave Robber 3:33
2. Broken Sun 2:44
3. Paintings Are Dead 1:46
4. Dungeon Dropper 2:14
5. Dovetail 4:06
6. 1000 Days 2:43
7. Lower Order 3:39
8. Sleepy Dog 2:37
9. Stolen Footsteps 2:52
10. Passage Of The Dream 3:39
11. Little Dream 0:37
12. Morning Rainbow 2:35