singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
9 October 2014
(listening with headphones)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove
TEAD Vibe 1.5 / Pulse 2
Lehmann Black Cube Linear
Sennheiser HD800

The last few Great Pop Supplement records I’ve bought have been so good, and I already have so many, that I decided to try to plug some of the gaps in my collection. So, most of the stuff on this page is ‘GPS and Related’. Expect the weird and the wonderful

Dreams of Tall BuildingsVideo Rose
13" lathe-cut triangle

This record is disgusting. Not the music, we’ll get to that later, but the packaging. It comes sandwiched between two pieces of what may or may not be cheap carpet underlay, cut into 13” sided equilateral triangles. The whole lot has then been wrapped in metal foil, had some kind of geometric pattern pressed into it, and the ‘dotb’ logo branded on the front. Very, very carefully unpicking a seam (fingers covered in horrible stickiness, minor, heartbreaking, tears in the foil) lets you slide out the record.

I’d love to be able to say this is the first triangular, lathe-cut polycarbonate 8” single I’ve ever bought, but it’s not. Yawn. So old hat and predictable. Stick it on and obviously it sounds terrible. Distorted, noisy, and distant. But, oddly, that rather suits the music. Hypnotically repetitive, droney fuzz. I like it. All the effort of the packaging rather relegates the music to incidental status, which is a shame, because it’s good.

DoTB did another record which is sandwiched between two pieces of hardboard and can only be opened with pliers. I keep it flat, filed with my surprisingly large (three, last count) collection of records in wooden sleeves. (Sleeves, not boxes.)

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Normally at this point I’d make some lame remark about “not having heard the first three”, but in this case the first three do exist, and I have them.

It’s the kind of thing you probably think of when you think GPS. Dark English folkiness, with screechy fiddle and some kind of harmonium type thing. And yeah, there’s a saw, probably played by someone in leather trousers with a beard that looks like out-of-control pubes.

In common with the first three, the sleeve is a partial cut-out of some old tower or other, and it’s very appropriate.

B-side (annoyingly, at a different speed from the A) is prettier, an acoustic guitar and saw, with something rattling away in the background, and an intermittent counter-melody which reminds me of some of the odder music from Twin Peaks.

As they say, “interesting”. I’m not particularly likely to stick this on at a party, but I know I’ll keep buying the series until it ends. V is already out, and I guess we may well make the VIII promised by the title. Obviously I’m too far in now to not get them all. It’s like an illness isn’t it?

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Weird format #2, and this one is new even to me. It’s an “audio postcard”. This means a cardboard postcard with what seems to be some kind of thin plastic coating on one side, into which is pressed a spiral of Archimedes, encoded into which is music.

The sticker on the cellophane packet points out that “by the nature of the format, playback quality is not at the optimum levels enjoyed on other Deep Distance product”. 10p postcard, meet fifteen-grand record player…

So, to the big question: how does it sound? Well, mostly, it sounds like surface noise. It makes the reprehensible fidelity of the DoTB lathe-cut sound like a Sheffield Labs Direct Metal Master. Buried somewhere under there, though, is a toe-tappingly groovy instrumental. There’s good melody, a nice organ sound, and it brings to mind Füxa with a snazzier drum machine.

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On a beautiful burgundy vinyl, in a die cut futurist sleeve with, disappointingly from GPS, no inserts. What we have here is very German, very 70s. Space rock, I suppose, in the original sense. B-side is tighter, clickier, sounds not unlike late-mid period Stereolab, and I like it a lot. Too short!

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On Deep Distance, sister label to GPS. (You can tell the same person hand-numbers the sleeves.) You may remember Karen Novotny X from earlier. Let’s see what they actually sound like. They sound good, like the early synth music I used to get on tapes from my friend’s cool big brother when I was 12. All made on Poly 800s and Junos and CZ-1s and whatnot I bet. I like this. I have no idea when this stuff was made. Could be now, but GPS and Deep Distance have been releasing new pressings of lost/old recordings.

Samantha Glass is/are/were ploughing/ploughed a similar furrow, and manage/manages/managed to sound even more 80s. Less inventive/wilfully difficult than the other side, and not as good.

Sound quality, by the way, is excellent.

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Let’s take a break from GPS and Related. Local (to me) band doing slightly melancholic, retro-tinged guitar pop. Sounds not unlike The Crookes, and, recorded by the same person, they sound not entirely unlike The Crookes. Regular readers (yeah, right) will know they’re a band for whom I have a proper soft-spot, so this had better be good. Because you know when someone says “Hey, you like Band X, you’ll love Group Y, they sound just like them”, and you automatically hate Group Y, because you know they’re just a rip-off of your Band X. (Even though they almost certainly aren’t.)

I appreciate good words. I enjoy a good melody. I dig a good groove (man). But, above all, I love sound. That can mean cheap digital synths, abstract noise, miles of chained effects pedals, a nude piano, or, perhaps above all, a simple, great, guitar sound. What we have here, is great guitar sounds. Rich, full of character, and beautifully played. To me, this record is worth putting on just to hear the guitar sound, and everything else is gravy.

It’s good gravy though, with decent lyrics and a great singer. Everything sounds thought-out, worked, and polished: clearly it’s music that’s important to the people who make it, and if it’s not important to them, why should it ever be important to you? They come across as a band who mean it, as opposed to “we’re doing this for a laugh”. (c.f. almost everything else on here.)

Sleeve art is a nice multiple-exposure on the front (I think it’s the Botanical Gardens) and a back cover which looks like the back of the first Suede LP, but is spoilt by an incongruously large bar code.

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Back to GPS, on thick, heavy, what I might call “unhealthy semen” coloured semi-clear vinyl. Riff-heavy, on fiddle and bass, with all the instruments in either one channel or the other, like they did in the 60s because it was a novelty. Bloody annoying through headphones. As I’m likening everything to something tonight, let’s go early Velvet Underground (those twangy guitary twiddles and a member of the violin family) with a singer who sounds like Dean Wareham, or possibly the dude from Ten Benson.

Absolutely bloody everything in this batch is 33rpm on one side, 45 on the other, and I only realize when I’ve sat back down. Do these people think it’s clever? B-side has a faster tempo as well as a faster rpm, but uses the same ingredients (less Ten Benson guy) to equal effect. Best thing tonight.

5

Apparently re-releases of album tracks from the early 90s, and it sounds like a proper old-skool home recording. Now everyone’s got ProTools and a MacBook and a KeyGen, you don’t get that character any more, though the general fidelity is greatly improved for sure.

It’s beautiful, deceptively simple acoustic singer-songwriter stuff which makes a genuine emotional connection. I don’t normally go for this kind of music, but it’s just so damn good it’s impossible to resist. I evidently need more Woo in my life. Proper cult stuff by all accounts, and I shall be hitting Discogs first thing in the morning.

5

Two GPS staples, neither of which I’m the biggest fan of, doing the same song. I imagine it’s a cover, but I don’t know of whom. Woods’ take is my favourite of the two, with lots of hum and washes of noise, and a dreamy. spacey echoey vibe. Earthing your guitar is overrated. Keep it in space.

mv & ee do their version live in a room full of the kind of whooping pricks who make me not go to see bands any more. There are four types of people who go to see bands now. In descending order of audience share: people who go to talk to their stupid friends as loudly as they can, constantly; people who go to get something to use to increase their “social media presence” by holding a phone in front of your face for an hour; people who pay little attention but whoop and whistle as loudly as they can to show how totally into it they are; people who like a band and want to see and hear them. People talk about fast food and trouble in the Middle East as the worst American experts, but I’ll take either of those over that whooping thing any time.

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I loved the last Two Sunsets record I bought, and this one is on half clear, half blue vinyl, so we are off on the right foot. Big buzzy synths, loads of phasing, a hint of vocoder, and it’s pop, but it’s far out, in space. And far out in space, if you see what I mean.

There’s a very awkward key change for the last chorus, the kind you always get in a Westlife song at the point where they get off their stools and stand up. I enjoy the sound of this record a lot, and as the a-side approached the end, I was hoping for eight or nine minutes of phased noise, but it didn’t happen.

The B-side is great too, and reminds me a lot of those Porcelain Raft singles I liked so much a few months ago.

4

There’s a point where record collecting passes from buying music to object fetishism. This is by Death and Vanilla. Released by Great Pop Supplement. Square, transparent, red vinyl. Does it really matter what the music is like? Side A sounds like Ha Ha Sound era Broadcast, side B is some kind of Scandinavian pastoral thing. Both excellent. Did I mention it’s clear, red, square vinyl?

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