Sunday Morning

Action Biker
Sunday morning, and I'm falling... falling into the depths of despair. It's back to school tomorrow and there's a still a million and one things left unachieved from the week's holiday. It's always the same. Books and magazines unread or at best skimmed, websites not designed or updated, bicycle not ridden for far too bloody long, emails left unanswered, blog left unattended, piles of records and CDs left unreviewed... There's just too much stuff in the world. I seem to be spending so much time these days just trolling through boxes and filling bin bags. Yesterday I sifted plastic boxes of computer, video and audio equipment. It was a nightmare. So much junk; I mean, how many old IDE cables does one really need? I chucked six in a bag to donate to the ICT dept in school, along with, erm, countless video and audio cables. I'm sure someone can use them. Ditto the three printers, two monitors, two PC towers, network switch, omni-cube, keyboards, mice etc that are otherwise taking up space in my attic. So the Art dept is now going to have a lovely bunch of old-ish but perfectly serviceable PCs to supplement the shiny new PowerBooks. Let nobody say I don't give anything back to school...

But enough of that. What I really wanted to use this Sunday morning for was to get to grips with some of those aforementioned CDs and records. Lets start with the vinyl , because let's face it, there's something undeniably Popist about the very format of the 7' single. The 10' single too, for that matter, and both of course are more aesthetically pleasing than the 12' format which, whilst lovely for it's vast artwork possibilities, is nevertheless just that little bit, ah, on the large and unwieldy side. Or so I think today at least. Ask me tomorrow and I may think differently. Actually, ask me tomorrow and I'll probably just growl about bloody kids and their damnable perkiness, but that's beside the point.

So. Vinyl. Those lovely people at WIAISYA records in the depths of Berkshire (I used to live, briefly, in Berkshire you know) sent me a couple of grand singles recently, both of which had a lovely number one hand penned on the corner of the sleeve. I don't think I've ever had the first of any numbered run before, except in things I've made myself (and even then I've often given that to someone special), so that's kind of neat in itself. Of course it's possible that ALL the press copies are numbered 1/400, but that's neither here nor there. What IS here (and possibly there) is an Action Biker 7'. Yay for Action Biker! (even if it should be Action Biker! Or Action! Biker! - it definitely needs an ! because Action Biker is all about the ! moment in Pop). Action Biker is all about the ! moment in Pop. I had to say that again, because it's important, and because Action Biker is important. The press release thing says ´Swedish Juliana Hatfield style casio pop' which is a bit misleading really because I don't hear Ms Hatfield at all (it's possible I'm not listening properly of couse), and instead I hear the echoes of the lovely Miss Lispector (Ah, the elusive Julie, where are you?), as well as the drifting reminder of Sophie Johnston, which is some mighty recommendation in case you were wondering. As for the casio pop bit, well, yeah, it's all madly euphoric tinny electronics, cheeky sequencer runs leaping up the stairs three at a time with a grin on their faces and a heart brimful of pink candyfloss. Possibly. Someone will mention ´80s synthpop when writing about this single, but it wont be me.
The other number 1 from WIAIWYA is a delicious white vinyl 10' from DJ Downfall. I wasn't overly taken by The Curse album that appeared earlier in the year, but this sounds better, although I'm damned if I can pin down why. Maybe I'm just in a better mood now, because this Sinking Into The Quagmire EP is brimming with magic. There's the League Unlimited Orchestra sounding ´Sex Machine' on which CherryBomb demands a range of speed changes, to which you can just imagine a crowded dancefloor all slavishly obeying the commands of the tempo; the electro-gothic ´Black Pants' with Canadian poet Monica S Kuebler intoning her mantra over the top of a pounding beat that sounds like Laurie Anderson collaborating with Coldcut. Flipped over, and you'll find Jackie Jackie floating on a bed of liquid air and telling us all about an earnest encounter, before Alice De Ville comes along and spray paints pink lovehearts all over the bedroom wall with ´Rediscover Fire', a track which I swear is going to be damn bear impossible to shift from your record player or your head for days.

Meanwhile, over at Becalmed Records there's another 7', this time a five tracker by My Teenage Stride. The two cuts on the 45rpm side are fine slabs of the kind of Pop that dreams of Brian Wilson cavorting with the Pastels of 1986 in an underground venue bedecked in posters of Alain Delon with slides of Christine Keiller and Sadie Mae Glutz projected on the walls. Fine stuff.

Flipped over, ´Hamburg' sounds like a bit like a demented take on ´Don't Go Back to Rockville' as played by, say, The Quids, or maybe The Thanes. Or perhaps The Bachelor Pad, to whom all three tracks on the 33rpm side sound remarkably similar, which in case you are wondering what the hell I'm on about means that they sound like they were recorded on a portable Tandy tape recorder (condenser mic, naturally) in a broom cupboard using equipment scadged for 10p in a car boot sale down in Oakhampton. Or in other words again, they sound like teenage hormones erupting inside tight leather pants and exploding from beneath Clouds like bowlcuts. Or in other words yet again, it sounds fucking ace.

I'm told this will be the last 7' on Becalmed, because there apparently isn't the market for ´em much anymore, which is a great shame, because this is the kind of format an act like My Teenage Stride really demands. It's also a bit unfortunate not least since I've only just decided that yeah, I'm going to be a record label at last, and I'm going to do 7' singles... The label will be called Unpopular Records though, so maybe it's apt that it'll be 7' singles after all.

One of the singles that I'd dearly like to release would be by Shade Tree. A four song demo by this bunch of Swede's recently appeared in my PO box, and it's been enchanting me ever since with it's stripped bare purity of vision. A fragile countrified gentle Pop that hints at the glories of, say, Gram and Emmylou, or Gene and Carla, Shade Tree make my heart ache.
Speaking of the Bachelor Pad, as I was just a moment ago, for anyone wondering what they actually did in fact sound like, your luck is in because thanks to the good people at the Egg Records Restoration Programme, you can hear a tasty selection of their fare on the An Introduction to 1988 - 1991 CD. The Bachelors crop up on four tracks, the pick of which might be the glorious ´Meet The Lovely Jenny Brown' or perhaps the manic live rendition of ´Mirror Boy, Mirror Girl'. Or either of the other two... The Bachelor Pad are joined on the CD by other Egg records luminaries the Prayers, Church Grims, Change of Seasons and Remember Fun. Matinee lovers will already know what the latter sound like thanks to Jimmy's resurrection of their ´Train Journeys' EP, and this CD is similarly either a marvellous recollection of times gone by or a blast of freshness blowing in on the tides on Pop archaeology.

Blowing back to Sweden now, and a change of tack with the ever intriguing Friendly Noise label, who follow their excellent Friendly People Making Noise compilation with Come On And Bring Back The Brjokén Sounds Of Yore! by Swedish trio Differnet. A hard copy collection of tracks previously to be found as MP3s and on ultra-limited release CDRs, this album is a real treat that features electro-treated voices gurgling like silver streams over, under and around scratchy glitches, booming bass implosions, bursts of static, tender strings and keyboard tinklings. It's all rather special; a meditative hour spent dissolving into the orange of the Haldon hillside.

In a similar vein, though dwelling perhaps within the land of more traditional instruments rather than the world of electronics, is the Moments Of Suspension collection from It's Twilight Time records. Subtitled ´a collection of curios from the curiosities cupboard', the choice pick of those then would be a typically blanched and lovely moment from Overflower, whilst the aptly named Incandescent Sky also offer a track of sweet ethereal autumnal abandon. It's a shame, however, that four of the seven ´curiosities' here are hardly worth a glance. The awkwardly formed Knitting By Twilight are responsible, with all of their tracks overpowered by the irritation of harsh sounding midi drums. At least, that's how they sound to me; they remind me of the dreadful experiments I used to make about 9 years ago when I got my first PC soundcard and a copy of Cakewalk. Not good. ´A collection of forgettable knick-knacks crowding a couple of sparkly gems' would have been a much more accurate title, but it's not the sort of tag-line that sells records, is it?

So, now a Sunday afternoon, and I'm still falling... The books and magazines remain unread, the websites not designed or updated, the bicycle not ridden for far too bloody long, the emails left unanswered and the blog still left unattended. But at least the pile of records and CDs is smaller. Thank goodness for small mercies.

© 2003 Alistair Fitchett