33 1/3 Part 15

boards-of-canada-the-campfire-headphase

Boards Of Canada -’The Campfire Headphase’ (Warp, 2005)

As anyone who has any interest in leftfield electronica will have realised that this is the twentieth anniversary of the seminal Warp label. Formed in Sheffield in 1989, the label has given us Aphex Twin, Leila, Autechre, Broadcast and Boards Of Canada, as well as subsequently diversifying and bringing us Battles, Maximo Park and !!!

Many people cite the Boards Of Canada’s brilliantly named Music Has The Right To Children as their defining moment. I would humbly suggest (heretically and offensively so, no doubt, to some) that, actually The Campfire Headphase is their finest moment. This is the sound of the scots duo experimenting and producing little less than gold. It’s the sound of winter, and how, amongst the cold, and wet, there’s something really beautiful there.

I suppose as much of this is to do with the situation is was in at the time when I first heard this record. About 2003-5 two things happened that had a major impact on me, not just musically. I was working in Fopp, and getting exposed to a lot of music that I hadn’t heard before. So after I finished in July 2005 and went off to teach, I had expanded my music collection to include more than just indie and metal, and there was much more by way of dance, hip-hop and electronica of all shapes and sounds. More importantly and more significantly, I met and eventually started going out with the lady who is now Mrs. 17 Seconds (well, hey, it doesn’t do to rush these things. And anyway, how many married couples do you know whose relationship has started with ‘Get your coat?’ Exactly). The one day Mrs. 17 Seconds introduced me to all sorts of electronica and chill-type music I hadn’t really heard before – Royksopp, Bent, Bonobo and Zero 7, amongst others. One day in Avalanche she heard The Campfire Headphase and put it on her Christmas list. And brother 17 Seconds bought it for her.

That Christmas, brother 17 Seconds was doing panto up in Aberdeen (as you do). I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Aberdeen. Then the next day drove nearly three hundred miles in my ancient battered car (which pretty much gave up the ghost not long after) to the Lake District to see my beloved. We had one day together before she was back working during the day. In the days before new year, I got on and wrote a scheme of work for school. This was the soundtrack as I sat in the basement of the to-be-in-laws and tried to come up with ways to excite disaffected students.

So this is what the album reminds me of: wooing my wife, romantic gestures, long drives, winter -how it’s bleak and beautiful. oh yeah, and that there’s more to scottish music than skinny boys with telecasters.

Boards Of Canada -’Chromakey Dreamcoat.’ mp3

Boards Of Canada -’Constants Are Changing.’ mp3

Album Review -The Cinematics

the-cinematics-love-and-terror-2009

The Cinematics -Love and Terror (Orchard)

The follow-up album to their 2007 debut, A Strange Education, Love and Terror shows that the Cinematics have taken a quantum leap forward as a band. To play the two albums side by side is to show how they have gone from being a fairly run-of-the-mill indie band, to a band who are firing on all cylinders.

Hopefully by now you will have heard the two singles that have been extracted from the album, ‘New Mexico’ and the title track. What the Cineamatics have graudated to is writing an album full of anthems, building on influences like early U2 (check those ringing guitars!) and the Bunnymen and created something rather special. With the addition of tracks like album opener ‘All These Things’ and ‘Lips Taste Like Tears’ this is the sound of a band coming into their own.

The birth pains of this album may have been painful -house firebombings, label bankruptacy, police hassle -but this is a band who are going places, and who deserve to have as much attention paid to them as possible. Whatever the issues that went into making this album, I hope the band feel it was worth it. I do.

****
Cinematics -’Love and Terror (radio edit).’ mp3

Cinematics -’New Mexico.’ mp3

The Cinematics website/The Cinematics myspace

Presenting…Girls

girls

Yeah, yeah, yeah…so this lot have been all over the blogs of late, but having only just got the album yesterday and been extremely impressed by the album (****, I reckon), I figured that if there was anyone who hadn’t heard them, they might like to, as well.

Girls hail from San Francisco – and have given themselves a name that is almost as impossible to google as Sexy Kids gave themselves a name that you really didn’t want to. This is gorgeous, old-style indie-pop, and if anyone feels that it lacks on orignality, it more than makes up for it with the emotional scope. If ‘Hellhole Ratrace’ or its’ b-side ‘Solitude’ don’t move you, consult your psychiatrist.

There’s all sorts of influences on here -Elvis Costello and The Beach Boys come to mind. There’s also a few parallels with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, and it seems likely that both bands will do well in the end of year polls, which really cannot be far away now.

According to press releases/legend/myth/interenet etc.. Girls frontman Christopher Owens grew up in the Children Of God Cult. After a traumatic childhood (brother dies, Dad leaves, Mum forced to prostitute herself) he eacped, made his to San Francisco via Texas and met Chet ‘JR’ White with whom he formed Girls. The vocals are heartwrneching and the album begs to be played again and again.

There are some folks who are grumbling on the net that this lot are favoured by hipsters and so therefore aren’t worth a listen; I beg you to reconsider and make up your own mind…Go and check out debut album, entitled, umm Album, and start by enjoying these tracks and videos here.

Girls -’Hellhole Ratrace.’ mp3

Girls -’Solitude.’ mp3

Girls’ myspace is here

33 1/3 Part 14

the-fall-this-nations-saving-grace-2

The Fall -’This Nation’s Saving Grace (Beggars Banquet, 1985)

The Fall are a band I first saw in 1987 on long-forgotten ITV show The Roxy, performing ‘Hit the North.’ . It wasn’t a road to damascus type moment, but i thought they sounded pretty cool. Throughout the next twenty years I slowly fell ever more for them, eventually actually managing to see them live in late 2008. I’ve lost count of how many of their albums I have, and whenever I think I’ve got somewhere, there’a whole load more.

The Fall seem to be a band that you either get or you don’t (Matthew at Song, By Toad and the good Mrs. 17 Seconds, two people whose opinions I respect very deeply cannot stand them). And we know whose favourite group they were. But there’s something oddly addictive about The Fall, a world that drags you in; word that seemingly make no sense whatsoever, and lots of sense, often at the same time.

There are many great Fall albums I could have singled out – but I’m going with this one. A present on my 18th birthday from my friend Paul (cheers!), this just hangs together so well as an album. It’s where the poppiness that started to creep in once Brix Smith joined and they signed to Beggars Banquet (whatever Mark E. Smith might say) join together perfectly. It starts off with ‘Mansion’ – a wonderfully gothic track (the Fall were never considered a goth band per se, and yet…). Some of the tracks on here aren’t just ‘alternative dancefloor fillers’ -ha! – damn it, they’re anthems.

Thanks to this album, I started to investigate The Fall albums in ever greater detail, started to understand music that wasn’t just off the beaten track but off kilter, and the reward that that’s continued to bring. Paul told me ‘Spoilt Victorian Child’ was his favourite track on the album, and I think it’s still one of my favourite tracks to this very day. Mad situationist rockabilly, and all the better for it. To my shame I don’t think I even knew who Damo Suzuki was when I got this. Oh well, I know now…

If you want to start with a Fall album that showcases them at their very best and isn’t too inaccesible, start here. Then just keep going…and going…but you’ll always find yourselves coming back here.

The Fall -’Spoilt Victorian Child.’ mp3

The Fall -’L.A.’ mp3

Presenting…Neon Indian

neon-indian

I’ve been kinda busy working my through the 33 1/3 series of late, so it feels like it’s been ages since i wrote about any new artists.

Anyway, this one comes courtesy of me opening the RCDC LBL email today. I’ve been aware of the name Neon Indian for a little while – rather like Girls, one of those acts that a lot of blogs seem to be covering and getting advertisements for on eMusic and I keep thinking: must get round to investigating…

Well, I’m glad I did. Because this is something special and different that seems to be both retro and yet looking to the future, and the amount of blog loving that the album Psychic Chasms seems to be getting is nothing less than what it deserves frankly. Neon Indian is the project of composer Alan Palomo who hails from Austin, Texas and put together some field recordings and made something special. It’s eighties…yet it’s not…just hear it and listen for yourself, the mix of dreampop (and here I don’t mean shoegazing type stuff, I MEAN pop that sounds dreamy), guitars, weirdness that’s oddly addictive…And the guy’s only twenty-one! Age really ain’t nothing but a number when it comes to art it seems.

This music also seems to be filled under hynagogic pop, chillwave, glo-fi…see also the Emeralds and this article here. The sound of 2010? We shall see…
There’s no Indian summer here in Scotland today, but when these tracks come on, I think I see some hope and light in amongst the oncoming winter of discontent and despair. And we all need a little of that…

Anyway, I’m off to get the album at eMusic. You coming?

Neon Indian -’Deadbeat Summer.’ mp3

Neon Indian -’Terminally Chill.’ mp3

Neon Indian myspace

33 1/3 Part 13

massive-attack-blue-lines

Massive Attack -’Blue Lines.’ (Virgin, 1991)

There are many albums that grab you from the off. To my shame, however, this was a band and album that I was aware of, and kinda liked but didn’t grow to appreciate until the end of the decade.

More fool me. Because the record that stands up most from 1991 is this album, over Screamadelica, Out Of Time, Bandwagonesque, and (whisper it) Nevermind is the debut album from the Bristol collective. It still sounds fresh and peerless almost twenty years after its’ release.

And it’s a thoroughly -and I mean this as a compliment – British record. Sure, it takes aspects from American and Jamaican music, but this is a record that showcases the best in what goes on in the UK. And not a skinny white indie boy in sight. It wasn’t even a record from London, it was from the West Country and featured amazing talent: the legendary Jamaican singer Horace Andy and launched the careers of both Shara Nelson and Tricky. It was music like this that as the nineties progressed, and I realised that I’d adopted a King Canute approach to much dance music, that I realised just how diverse and different it could be.Here there were live instruments and drums, it wasn’t just samples, people rapped in English accents, and weren’t aping the gangsta approach from the US. In 1989 Soul II Soul seemed to represent much of the future, but they ultimately failed to deliver over time. Massive Attack not only built on their potential – they took it to places few could have imagined.

It’s telling that I wasn’t the only person who was slow to catch on: though it was a commercial as well as critical success, it took a while to completely filter through. Track six, the timeless ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ is now my favourite song of the last twenty years. As a fourteen year old I liked it, but wasn’t moved to buy the album at the time. Silly me. It was 1998 before it came no.1 in a poll of the best songs of all time. It’s certainly moves the heart as well as the head – how can something be so amazing, making you feel happy and sad all that the same time?

As well as ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ there are so many other classics on the record; it’s a debut that is just so strong, that as great as many of the other albums Massive Attack have made, none of them have been quite as amazing as as Blue Lines. And for my money, a stonger debut than Oasis, Suede or even Portishead. Final song ‘Hymn From the Big Wheel’ feels almost as religious as the name hymn might suggest. Opener ‘Safe From Harm’ captures urban paranoia perfectly – even if the video they made was seemingly repeated by themeslves for much of the next decade.

A faultless album, that really is a perfect ten. This is Britain taking its’ influences from overseas and producing something for us all to be proud of. Dance music coming of age. Phenomenal.

Massive Attack -’Safe From Harm.’ mp3

Massive Attack -’Unfinished Sympathy.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 12

the-smiths-the-queen-is-dead

The Smiths -’The Queen Is Dead’ (Rough Trade, 1986)

Looking back at the other posts I have done in this series, the thought occurs: however bloody awful my life may have felt at this point (and a boarding school is not a place where people are expected to share feelings, it’s not British don’tchewknow), I was discovering music that was new to me at a fast rate around around the early years of the nineties.

This album was leant to me by another student in my year at school, who was also showing extremely precocious growth towards learning about indie music. He claimed to have spent £36 on a vinyl copy of The Cramps’ Bad Music For Bad People, backwhenthirtysixpoundswasalotofmoneytospendonarecordicantellyou. Actually, Nick – dubbed the little Irish Pixie by the RE teacher for some reason (he actually came from near Newcastle, I think), loaned me quite a few Smiths albums. This was the one that stuck out, and I greedily tapped as much of their stuff as I could. Given that Rough Trade was just about to collapse, leaving the albums only available on import for several years, this was actually a wise move on my part. Morrissey’s solo albums never seemed to go out of print, but his seminal work with his old band could be hard to get hold of original copies, unless you wanted those bloody Best I and II compilations.

This album made a huge impression right from the opening chorus of ‘Take me Back to Dear Old Blighty’ before it storms into the title track. In fact, I think I told Nick it was the greatest album ever made, after Never Mind The Bollocks. Depressed as I was getting, there was a huge amount of humour in the record, ‘Vicar In A Tutu’ ‘Frankly Mr. Shankley’ ‘Some girls are bigger than others…’

Then again, there were the darker moments: ‘I Never Had No-one Ever’ ‘I Know It’s Over’ which matched my mood. Like so many before me, and indeed after me, Morrissey seemed to know how I felt (and I really thought he was the only one who did). It wasn’t just lyrically, of course, the album’s just phenomenal musically too: JOhnny Marr is amazing, and Mike Joyce is clearly having the time of his life on the title track and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again.’

The standout track, though, was and is ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’ This sad ode oddly evoked for me a story I’d read sometime in an RE textbook, about a conversation in a car between an Irish preist and a young jamaican lad in Liverpool. the latter was about to lose his Mum, and I sorta connected the story with that. It was nothing to do with it, of course. Several years later the track was on the car stereo on a school trip that four of us were on, ostensibly to do with our A-Levels (actually we did go to the Lectures we were meant to in Sheffield, we were also in the oub at lunchtime when we were underage, and I certainly looked it!). Another Nick was driving – and we nearly did collide with a ten track – listen to the song, if you don’t get the reference.

It also formed a bond with my brother, Miles, in a perhaps unlikely way. Miles is a massive cricket fan and his cricketing hero was one Mike Atherton. Mike Atherton was a big Smiths fan, and cited this as his favourite album, which inspired our kid to get into the album.

And finally, when I went travelling in the middle-East after I left school, amongst the many friends I met there was a South African girl named Lara. We bonded over a love of The Smiths and The Cure, and vowed that when she came to England, we’d go and see them both together. We made it to The Cure in late 1997, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. As for Moz, we finally saw him together at the MEN Arena in 2004, when it was Morrissey’s 45th birthday. The last song? ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’

The Smiths -’There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 11

sonic-youth-goo

Sonic Youth -’Goo’ (Geffen, 1990)

I first heard this when I was about fourteen, about six months after it was released. I’d never heard a note of their music, but an older friend played it to me one night. It was played with a variety of other stuff – Jane’s Addiction, The Cure, bits of Pink Floyd that weren’t ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ and impacted on me quite sufficiently. I’d got the Sex Pistols and The Clash albums a month before; within a month I’d hear Disintegration and The Queen Is Dead.

Did I know the word ‘alternative’ as in ‘alt-rock’ then? I must have done, or at least, was becoming aware of the concept. I knew what ‘indie’ meant -and this was in a pre-britpop sense. This wasn’t jangling guitar music -I’d seen The House Of Love on Top of the Pops doing ‘Shine On,’ had a taped copy of The Sunday’s Reading, Writing and Arithmetic – nor was this heavy metal either. This was a pre-nevermind world and I was ripe for having my mind opened.

I bought a copy – on cassette, since replaced with a second-hand vinyl edition a few years later, a couple of months later. Many people have raved about different aspects of the album -contributions from J.Mascis and Chuck D (both of whom I was only vaguely aware of, at the time), songs like ‘Kool Thing’ and ‘Tunic.’ The song that blew my mind was the opener ‘Dirty Boots.’ I didn’t have a clue what they were on about – I may naively have assumed that ‘Jelly roll’ was some sort of desert -ha! but boy, was it a fabulous noise. ‘My friend Goo’ -’My friend Goo says hey you!’ another great track that opened side two. ‘

Perhaps what also appealed was the parent-baiting that lay therein, or the potential for it. ‘Mary-Christ’ as a title alone sounded faintly blasphemous in an oddly alluring way (useful when your dad’s a minister, you’re thought of as a geek and to top it off you sing in the school choir and dare to enjoy it). Then, of course, was the cover. ‘I stole my sister’s boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat and flash. Within a week we killed my parents and hit the road.’ Did I wish my parents dead? Of course I didn’t, but when you’re stuck in England’s smallest county, NME is your lifeline to the world (no internet then, remember) even cartoon nihilism helps numb the pain.

It was also a sense of the pre-internet way in which music was often found out about by word of mouth. You might read about things in NME (or Melody Maker, for that matter), but at this time Radio 1 was hopelessly conservative musically, and would never have played this on daytime radio. To a young adolescent mind, hellbent on reinvention (and desperately craving acceptance), this music seemed a way through. To be seen to be listening to music outside of the Top 40 added an air of difference to you.

Within a very short space of time, ‘alternative’ music and the way of life became more obvious as the marketing men and women realised that as with many things, teenagers with even a little bit of money to spend would spend it in order to reinvent themselves. But cynicism aside, I’m proud that much of this album was my entry into a world of ‘other’ music.

Sonic Youth -’Dirty Boots.’ mp3

Sonic Youth -’Tunic (Song For Karen).’ mp3

Sonic Youth -’Kool Thing.’ mp3

Hear the whole album at Last FM.

Presenting…17 Seconds Records’ latest signing!

the-wildhouse

Yup! very excited to announce the latest signing to 17 Seconds Records, Dundee’s The Wildhouse. The band consist of Paul (who sings and plays guitar), Peter (who plays guitar and screams) and Sheila (who plays the drums. More to the point: plays them standing up like Mo Tucker!) They make great noisy guitar pop and do not appear to do surnames, capital letters or bass players. Their manifesto can be glimpsed here.

The band have so far released two record on their own ‘uh huh records of hollywood’ – Hyenas and Poet:Saint. Their third album is to be entitled Jackson ’56. So…we at 17 Seconds Records will shortly be releasing a digital fve track EP entitled The Wildhouse Sampler and the first two albums on digital. We will also be issuing Jackson ’56 sometime in 2010.

The Wildhouse’s myspace can be found here and ours can be found here.

For the meantime, the band have graciously agreed that we can give this away as a free download. It’s called ‘Ficca’ and it’s fab.

The Wildhouse -’Ficca.’ mp3