singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
17 January 2016
(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

Last week I raved about a record on a label called Box Bedroom Rebels. As soon as it finished, I fired up the computer with the intention of hoovering up as much back catalogue as I could.

Ten minutes later I was mad as hell at all the eBay and Discogs flippers who buy whatever the label releases, then try to resell it immediately at quadruple the price. No dice, shitkickers. You’re not getting my coin. I’ll pay going rate for stuff that’s rare; you have to, but £24.99 for something I can still get from the label for £5.99? You, sirs, can go and eff yourselves, because it’s you that make it impossible for people who love the music to get the music. It’s Record Shop Day (see pages passim) every day in some parts.

The effect of the resurgence of vinyl on independent labels who never lost the faith has been widely documented: pressing plants over capacity bumping exciting new releases down the queue so Sony (or whoever) can repress the theme from Ghostbusters . But the effect on the hardcore record buyer (e.g. me) hasn’t been good either. Yes, we have access to more shitty back catalogues than you could shake a stick at. Yes, we have “first time on vinyl” for some toss by Sleeper or something (I’m going out on a limb now) that was never mixed or mastered for vinyl; awful cheap cardboard sleeves (that Slint box-set was a travesty); and racks heaving (fnarr fnarr) with represses of stuff charity shops were practically giving away from about 1985 - 2012. I think it’s fair to say that at the moment, the majority of record releases are reissues.

But that’s not the problem. The problem is prices. Two or three years ago, I think I was paying something like £12-14 for most albums: these days, most are £22.99 or more. And, physically, they’re worse quality. So much new vinyl is full of pops that cleaning can’t shift, and at least slightly dished or even warped. Singles have gone even crazier. All my life the price of a single has pretty much tracked the price of a pint. Now even some artisanal craft-keg triple IPA bullshit that tastes like perfumed soap, served by a sleeved, bearded, man-child in Shoreditch is unlikely to break the £4 mark, but 7” singles are being knocked out at £7 or £8. Or more, for some utterly pointless Bowie picture-disc reissue.

Box Bedroom Rebels singles aren’t cheap, but they can’t be. These things are made with love, with the highest QC, creativity, and attention to detail, by a person. A real person, who gets it. That said, they aren’t £8 either. At least, not until some scrote has completed the value adding process of buying it and immediately relisting it on Discogs.

You get a lot of music for your money too. I’m not normally a fan of the 33rpm 7” single, but it’s not normally done like this. Good fidelity, and in the few I’ve heard so far, (see below) no filler.

Side A holds Gorgeous, resolute, spare, largely instrumental music that a lazy reviewer might compare to Mogwai. But it lacks the overblown pomposity which comes with the bizarre idea that you invented Slint, after making a career of ripping them off. Therefore, it is superior. B yields mainly acoustic (though fantastic electric guitar on the final song) mournfulness. This shit makes you listen I mean, really listen. Fantastic music.

The packaging is lovely. The artwork is themed on cold coastal photography, which fits the restrained power of the music. The envelope contains a fortune telling fish. I didn’t open mine. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen.

5

Low-budget retro electronica here. The blurb inside the envelope (sealed this time with a high voltage warning sticker) says 8-bit, but I’m old enough to have made 8-bit music, and it didn’t sound like this. That said, the original Fairlight was 8-bit, so maybe they’re telling the truth. A bit of outboard processing can work wonders on primitive synths, and there’s definitely some of that going on, giving a gentle lushness to proceedings.

4

Adult books don’t sound like their name or their artwork made me expect. They do high intensity, surfish indiepop, with a pleasantly bitter edge, and more proficiently performed than most of this kind of stuff is.

Nice to hear Sega Genesis get a mention.

3

Slightly out of my element here, as I’ve never had anything like as firm a grip on electronics as I have with guitary stuff. Hyperactive, glitchy C64 loading music; bonkers stuff I can’t describe; the best on-hold music the future could ever produce; a soundtrack from the decent Philip Dick film adaptation someone will hopefully, one day, make. Brilliantly engaging, eclectic, and a bit mad. I listened to the lock groove on side one for at least five minutes before the penny dropped. Best one I’ve heard. The AA side one is perfect too, but I was ready for that.

Artwork is suitably sci-fi, and the envelope is sealed with an electrical PAT test sticker.

5

There’s a theme developing with the names.

At some point, one of these has got to be crap. The hit rate is far too high so far. It’s not this one though. Definitely not this one. There’s a scattering of styles across the five songs, from a fuzzed-up assault on 80s pop to lush corridor balladeering. But we aren’t talking about the “we don’t know what to do” approach where everything is a pastiche of something else. The parts make a coherent whole: here’s a complete, great, album, boiled down to its essential parts. Stock to demi-glace.

Highlight must be Dreaming on the Waves, an amazing epic. It’s so good, so catchy, so timeless you’d swear you’d heard it before, but you’ve not. And look at it. Buried halfway through one side of a 33rpm 7” that they only made 250 of. The name “Lost Tapes” is apt. Playing this record feels like finding a lost treasure, and it sounds old, lo-fi, loved and lost, but here I am, someone new, loving it all over again. I’d already given this a ‘5’ halfway through track two. At the end of the second side, I haven’t budged an inch.

5

Finally someone’s broken the self-titled pattern. Are Yosoy also going to be brave enough to be the first band to make an average (or below) record?

No, of course not. They make very German, dark, minimal electronica. Introspective and intelligent. Cool, but not cold. The songs are very strong, so they don’t have to trade on the sound of the vintage synths (though I am an absolute sucker for a vintage synth).

4