Here's some reviews of some records that the Tangents crew have been sent or have actually bought (shock horror!) over the past few weeks. Hold onto your hats!
Helen Love: Does Your Heart Go Boom (Che).
I bought a Helen Love record once, a long time ago. It was called 'Joey Ramoney' and showcased their adoration for said NY punkers admirably. I figure I played it a half dozen times, smiled a lot and forgot about it. So now, several years down the line a new Helen Love single drops into my hands and I smile a wry one as I slide it into the CD tray. Because what do I hear? Ah, Ramones obsessed punkpop. Of course. Which is no criticism per se of course, just that maybe I'd prefer to stick with my Ramones records, which probably says more about my age than anything else, but whateverÉ All that said though, I stuck with this one, and on my second listen it twigged that someone kept going 'Atari Teenage Riot' which made me grin madly, and then on the third listen I got the lines about Kula Shaker and Bush. At those I laughed openly. As you would, and which is, in case you were wondering, an endorsement of this single as a Fine Pop Moment. Thoroughly enjoyable bubblegum for old punks to laugh at britpopkids by. Can't say fairer than that now can you?
Deborah Anderson: Lonely Without You (Mo Wax)
On which the delectable Ms Anderson sounds thankfully less Bjork-like than on her Krush escapade (still a great track thanks mainly to the spaciousness provided by Krush's beats). Instead, here the vocalist on Alex Reece's far too smooth major label debut 'Feel The Sunshine' fields another drum and bass backing, which, although thankfully less honey dripping than 'Sunshine', is still not as dark and spacious as I'd have liked. So instead of being naturally sinister, this ends up feeling almost cartoon gothic, something approaching the Cocteau Twins of 'Treasure' goes breakbeat, as opposed to Ms Fraser circa the scratchy and affecting 'Garlands'. There are a few mixes here, and the Stereo MCs turn in a great instrumental version which sounds excellent mixed with Mary Margaret O Hara. All in all though, hardly essential Mo Wax. Even if (especially because?!) it comes in lurid pink vinyl.
Arab Strap: The Girls Of Summer EP (Chemikal Underground)
You might as well know it: I have had a soft spot for Arab Strap ever since I was led into the dark recesses of their sublime 'The Week Never Starts Round Here' LP at the end of 1996. I love the way they paint their stories and songs in chiaroscuro, casting the darkness of their sound and the overall bleakness and existentialism of the tales with the lightness of peculiarly straightforward and realist humour. I also rather like the fact that various Belle & Sebastians guest on their records (Chris and Isobel on 'The Clearing', now Stuart Murdoch and 'wee' Chris again on the track 'Hey!Fever' on this EP), but you could probably have guessed that by now if you've been looking at Tangents for a while.
Of the tunes, well the aforementioned Hey!Fever has a great story, thumping drum machine and keyboards and ends with the refrain from The First Big Weekend, to which it is obviously some peculiar relative. The refrain here however veers off into Gospel territory with The Andrew Polson Singers and Debbie Poole apparently adding that essentially soulful soaring sound. Triumphal, no less. And of the other three tracks? Well more of the same only slightly off on meandering sidewalks, exploring moods and tones, although my other favourite must be 'One Day, After School', because it scratches so effectively the experience of teenage obsession and rejection. It's also a great kind of mirror image of the 'Deeper' character grown older, with the same suffusion of naivet and fumbling innocence, with the song similarly ending on such a hilarious line that you can't help choking on your laughter and tears.
All of which means that I love this record to death, that I've been playing it non-stop since I got it and that I can't believe you haven't reached the same stage yet too.
The Sea & Cake: Two Gentlemen (Thrill Jockey)
Wherein three tracks from the essential recent LP 'The Fawn' are given pretty radical remixes by Bundy K Brown, 'Designer' and Jim O'Rourke. Such is the extent of the remixing that even the original titles have gone. Best of the titles is the bizarre "I took the opportunity to antique my end table" by the ubiquitous Mr O'Rourke, although if truth be told none of the actual sonic restructuring ever quite reaches the interests and intrigues of the titles. What does justify the entrance fee, however, are the two new bona fide Prekpop songs and titles. Of these 'Early Chicago' presents the best shot of subtle techno sorcery with an 80s tinge of polished urban desolation that I've heard all year, whilst 'The Sewing Machine' is similarly a delight that all Sea & Cake devotees will lap up with pleasure. Confusions, contusions and consolations. What more d'you want?
Some Drum'n'Bass platters:
Photek: Modus Operandi (Science)
So if you have the Science 12s, you pretty much have this collection and you'll know exactly what to expect. Tense, terse soundscapes for the urban jungle of the fin de millennial UK. Or so the accepted rhetoric goes at least. And from the sounds of The Hidden Camera it seemed to be an accurate claim. It all fitted with that one record, but with it's expanse reiterated here, a year (time moves so quick, it may only be six months but I forget so muchÉ) later, well it feels a bit like the witterings of a lost soul trapped in a series of x-files re-runs. I can't help feeling that Parkes has been treading water since the release of the excellent and invigorating dual pronged attack of The Water Margin and Seven Samurai 12s ofÉ ooh, simply ages ago. A lifetime ago. More should have happened, and that it hasn't particularly begs the question as to what exactly he's been thinking about all this time. And so there it is: Modus Operandi; a disappointing, and I'm even to tempted to say, irrelevant record. There's better out there, folks.
Matrix: Double Vision / Sedation (Metro Recordings)
The dual axis of brothers Optical and Matrix are truly names to be reckoned with. This, the first release on Metro shows off a blinding talent with two essential cuts of minimal, dark drum'n'bass. 'Double Vision' is the more up beat of the two, packing a punch that rolls around a great bass line, but it's the flip 'Sedation' that's doing it for me. Stripped bare and pure, this is an aptly titled tune. It winds around your psyche and leads you down dark corridors of pleasure. Bleak and barren but with more threat than the recent Photek record can muster for sure. Go out and get this.
Thunder: Seven (Thunder)
Totally unknown to me, which is part of the thrill of finding records like this, it's a good laugh to have a record by Thunder in my collection. Recalls the days of Thunder the rawk band that people used to say were great and, ahem, I like the irony. Whatever, this Thunder is far from being rawk. Instead it throws a dark cloak over the area, punctuated by some amazing blaster flashes of red and green.: It's the grimy brown and damp menace of the movie with the box ending stabbed through with the techno lo-fi of battlestar galactica. Cooler than cool. Reverse track 'When I' is less interesting, more run of the mill d'n'b fodder, but for 'Seven', well this is one Thunder record you need to be proud to own.
Here's where we mix back into non-d'n'b, but using this as a segue:
Laila France: Trans Cocktail Airlines 12" / Orgonon LP (Bungalow)
East Of Suez: Original Soundtrack Recording 12" (Bungalow)
Port Friendly: Welcome to Port Friendly CD (Cloudland)
Hailing from the unlikely shores of Denmark (well come on, how many other Pop artistes of worth can you name from Denmark? Apart from when Lawrence pretended to be two young boys from that fine country when he did his Supermarket sweep for Bob Stanley), Port Friendly made note first with an excellent 7", 'Take Me To Paris', and have followed it with the very fine 'Welcome To Port Friendly' full lengther. Because this is a rather fine traditional Pop record, you can play spot the influences with gay abandon. With the results that I say: inflections of Orchids vocal, a Red House Painterese melancholy chime, perhaps even a Codeine slice of slo-mo gloom for good measure. Certainly an East Villagesque love for minor chords and bittersweet melody. Occasionally the sound goes overboard and gets tied up in rock bindings, but for the gentle treasures of 'This Perfect Sound' 'Coastal Fever' or the lush 'Take Me To Paris', this is a record that will grow to be a treasured find for the autumn.
To Rococo Rot: Paris 25 EP (City Slang)
This is the trio of German techno wizards about whom someone in the NME apparently remarked: 'it's okay, they're foreigners'. Not sure how to take that but if it means that To Rococo Rot can be even more enthusiastically embraced as being an antithesis to the rock boordom of the UK's dreary cultural imperialism gone to the brickies yard, then I'm all for it. Imagine a soft insistent clock ticking around in your head, seductive in it's clicking. Imagine an amorphous bubble of sound so thin you can see just the faintest of distortions to the world beyond. Do this, and you're imagining To Rococo Rot, here returning after the glorious success of last years' 'Veiculo' LP with an EP that twists mixes of two tunes from that LP in with three new compositions, each one beautifully absorbing the fabric of delicate perfumery and reflecting a dance music perfectly figured for hardened frailty. Like the finest of the forgotten Felt instrumentals given new voice in an electronic age of poetic bliss. The world is as soft as lace indeed.