singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
14 April 2018
(listening with headphones)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Benz Micro LP-S
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove Mk 2
TEAD Vibe Phoenix / Pulse 2
Luxman P-1u
Sennheiser HD800

My favourite record shop had a sale on 7” singles. “I’ll have some of that”, I thought.

Sounds like Psapp, which, if you’ve heard them, you’ll know what I mean. Plinky plonky woodblocky rhythms with a nice melody and a cheap sounding keyboard. They always sound a little bit jungly-ey to me, but as in “Carry on Up the…” rather than “…is massive”. It made me nod my head quite a lot, and also bob it from side to side. But for me it’s a bit, well, what to call it? I think the word might be “professional”. A little bit too slick and clever I like my music to be sort of, well, shitty. Let’s hope there’s lots of shittiness coming tonight. The sleeve has a spine. I don’t like seven inch singles with spines, like I don’t like single-record gatefolds.

3

This is on Warp. I still miss Warp. (The shop.) Warp the label apparently use the same cloud provider I do. I am as indie in my choice of cloud platform as I am in my music. Amazon can suck it.

This is not a million miles away from Psapp, but more metal-ey. As in “banging together bits of…” rather than “Death to all But…“. There’s a sort of looping fruit-machine jackpot vibe to it as well. I didn’t really like it very much. I think it sounded too ’80s, but it also slightly made me think of Stomp (as in the show, rather than the Steps song) and that’s not a thing I want to think about. (I’m not that mad on the Steps song either.) Very repetitive, very polyrhythmic, very droney, but somehow, oddly, not very good.

2

God knows what this is. I probably thought it was “Giorgio Morodor with Mark Moore” or something. It’s on Elefant though, so it should be decent. (Mind you, I thought something similar about the thing on Warp earlier.) Unusually for Elefant it’s on black vinyl, proving you truly can’t depend on anything these days, and the whole world really is going to hell in a handcart.

Side ‘a’ is called My Lively Youth, which is not something I can relate to. My life has never been lively. It sounds like, I dunno, late ’80s Johnny Mathis or something, but obviously with not so good a voice.

I wish it was Giorgio Morodor and Mark Moore. Imagine that. That would be something. Either one would be enough.

The ‘b’ is a Sean O’Hagan remix, which you can tell by the way it keeps sounding a bit mid-period Stereolab. It is worse that the original because it introduces a naff holiday reggae feel, but better because it is cut-up and choppy.

As I get older, and keener on having far fewer possessions, I find it increasingly difficult to justify my policy of never getting rid of records. Take this. I didn’t like it, I’ll never play it again, and it’s going to take up space in my house until I die, then someone else who I care about will have to deal with it. Doesn’t make much sense does it?

1

This is on Static Caravan, though picking by label is not working for us so far. It was recorded at “Rebellious Jukebox” studios, which also sounds hopeful. The record is a nice purplish-burgundy coloured thing, with radial white streaks. The stage is set.

When it kicked off I thought it was going to be great, but it turned out just to have a great intro. The song proper is alright, but I don’t know what the heck you’d call it. Is there such a thing as “intelligent disco”? Well, there is now, and it’s this. Nice one-finger bassline, disco-ish rhythms, and, you know what, everything so far has sounded kind of similar. Everything’s too slick and well-done these days. In my day you had proper bands like Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink and New Bad Things, who didn’t know their arse from their elbow, and were brilliant. Bloody kids.

The ‘b’ is a remix, by Maps, who I know best as a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song. More intelligent disco (this is catching on, right?) but this time with singing, which probably makes it marginally less intelligent. It’s more disco though, because in the grand disco style, it explicitly references dancing. It does that in a stripped down, neon, Berlin-ish context. Pretty boring.

2

This is number 6 in the LAMC series. I love a 7” series I do. Bloody love it. Those Ghost Box ones are the best, because of the sleeve art. I think I have a couple of others from this series, but I haven’t gone full-on “must have” with it.

Years ago I loved Sacred Heart. I bought quite a lot of other Cass McCombs records, and never listened to them. They’re all still here, either on the shelf or on the DS. I should play them. I might still like them. I like his voice, and I like his lyrics. He’s very smart.

He doesn’t sound overly happy here. I think he’s been messing someone about. Tut tut. When I was 14 I had a “girlfriend”, and I said something to her that still makes me wince if something reminds me of it, which this record did. I was a child, and I didn’t understand the power of words. I’m so sorry, so regretful, thirty years later. I hope she doesn’t remember it like I do. But I learnt, and I’ve never said or done anything so hurtful again. I can’t make things better, but I can do my best not to make them worse.

Where the ‘a’ was singing and guitar, the ‘b’ is singing and a pleasingly out of tune piano. At my school (same one as the “girlfriend”) they had an out of tune piano, and I would sneak into the music room (I didn’t do music) and play it sometimes. I couldn’t play very much – still can’t – just a few left-hand chords and making up patterns around them with the right. Sort of like Lick My Love Pump. I played it very quietly because I was self-conscious, and wasn’t supposed to be playing it at all. But I loved the sound of that piano so much. It sounded like this, and the playing is almost as simple as mine was, but more effective. But I don’t go for emotional singers, or “proper” music of most kinds. Don’t like much really, do I?

3

This is older than everything else tonight, all the way from 1998. It’s on Clairecords, who did some good shoegazey stuff.

I was hoping for a lot more noise. You know, that kind of waaah-ing phased jet-engine type thing. But it’s more on the frantic strumming side, with hints of Polvo, who would have been hot when this came out. Could have been something, had it been through about fifty distortion pedals.

‘b’ is called What the Hell Do You Want? which reminds me of a David Shrigley drawing. Look it up. In a book.

This is a proper recorded-on-cassette job, with whooshy tape noise and everything. I have what most people would consider an absolutely insane hi-fi, but I pine for the days of shitty recordings. Stuff digitized on a laptop just isn’t the same. It sounds better, of course, but it’s all too easy. There’s no suffering for the art, there’s no “moment in time” feel because you can have as many goes as you want, and edit and correct. You might argue this is better, as it lets the artist more accurately fulfil their vision, but I say bollocks, randomness and imperfection are vital in art.

There’s plenty of both of those on the final track, which marries the second out-of-tune piano of the night with a drum machine playing down the hall and a too long backwards bit. It’s the best thing we’ve had so far.

In case you were wondering, “blue is the colour of…” the sleeve. And also the middle of the record.

3

Finally. This is crackers. At first I thought it was a bit like someone playing a game on a Master System and dying all the time, but it diversified. And it sounds like it’s on the wrong speed, though the label clearly states 45rpm.

This, my friends, is Not Proper Music. At last.

It reminds me a little bit of Squarepusher, and little bit of the stuff Chris Morris did to confuse old people on Brass Eye. As the kids used to say: “chicken oriental”.

4

You wait twenty minutes for a deranged chunk of experimental noise, then two come along at once. Whereas Suggested Surgery was all punch and rhythm and sound, Metal is someone rummaging through a load of, well, metal, whilst someone else, I think, does some abstract jazz drumming. Compelling.

Flesh switches things around, with drumming to the fore, and the rummaging around off to one side. It makes me think of television from when I was a child. I can easily imagine Fred Harris pretending to be a badger to this.

4

There are many things wrong very with the world in 2018. Off the top of my head, religious fundamentalism, single-use plastic, The Donald, rampant infantilisation, the Internet, and the £12 7” single. This had 50% off it, and no matter how good it might be, was still overpriced at six quid, even with its nice screen printed sleeve.

It’s Record Shop Day either this week or next, which I’m sure will be presenting to an indifferent world a whole host of £12 7” singles. (AKA £25-off-eBay-the-same-day 7” singles).

I can’t help but racially pigeonhole Deerhoof as Melt-Banana for kids. I really am that stupid! I also always think I like them more than I do.

This is quite good though, simple, blocky music with one of those vintage synth sounds that everyone has these days. A catchy melody, albeit with a slightly Beatles-ish childishness. Good riffage though. In fact, MONSTER RIFFAGE! Particularly on the ‘b’ which sounds like they made it up as they went along. I think this is my favourite Deerhoof record. It made me play hand-drums on my bean bag. (This is not a euphemism.)

4

Loses points immediately for having exactly the same label on both sides of the record, but wins them straight back for the bass sound, then gets bonus points for just being Shrag. Indiepop is like sweet wine. It must have some acidity to ground it, otherwise any significant amount of it is sickly and unpleasant. Shrag always have plenty of acidity. The ‘b’ is a little vin ordinaire, but the ‘a’ is a 1er cru.

4

Nice orange vinyl, with a great photo of a child being pushed in a buggy by a massive ’50s robot. Girl One seem to have got the drum machine off Automatic, and they’re going all The Normal with it. For my money, they’re trying a bit too hard to be genre here. They do great indiepop, but I suppose you don’t want people to always sound the same, do you? The Russian is topical (even though the record’s a few years old, so actually it’s not) and 97 Tables is the best thing here. Slow and meditatively hypnotic.

2

I can’t think of anything either. I think it’s my age. I used to have so many more ideas. So let’s stick to bare facts eh?

Swedish guitar pop. Four songs. Competently recorded. Good guitar sound. Pleasant voices. Informative insert. Every song seemed to finish after a minute, then carried on. Probably didn’t need the bongos. Definitely didn’t need the whistling. They do a song about staying in on your own, which is a song that needed writing. “There is nothing better in life than writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro on a Saturday night instead of going to the pub.”

They’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done countless times before, but they’re doing it well. The ‘b’s are better than the ‘a’s.

3

I’ve been looking forward to this one. I like Orca Team, and HHBTM is one of my favourite labels. It’s pretty much what you expect. Classy guitar indiepop seen through an I-Wasn’t-There late ’50s/early ’60s lens. For some reason makes me think of a really polite Cramps. (Though I always suspected Lux and Ivy would be very polite in real life. God love ‘em.)

The insert says “these songs are to be listened to while having a nice outing in the sun”. Yeah? Then why have you put them on vinyl? Even I don’t take a record player outside with me. It also says “please enjoy”, which I did.

4

As in Valerie and Her…; they’ve even nicked the visual style of the opening titles for the front cover. We’re back on HHBTM, and we’re looking backwards again, with a sort of drumming and echo that you could imagine Bill Haley liking. My first thought was “blimey they sound like Orca Team, and checking the insert, it’s the same singer. You know how it is with these indiepop types, they’re always in-half-a-dozen bands.

The ‘b’ is harder to pin down, with rolling arpeggios and a distant dreaminess. It’s all pleasant but a little disorienting.

As Frank Sidebottom said: “I am Bill Haley. Look out, here comes me saw”.

2

“All Sorts”, geddit? Cos much of what’s here is to some extent to do with sweets. ‘a’ is about reptiles, but the ‘b’ quotes old chocolate adverts. Personally I couldn’t eat a Caramac if you paid me. Far too sweet.

On the same black and white vinyl that The Rev. Horton Heat once passed off as “cowhide”. No sleeve art, just one of those poly sleeves that eventually goes hard and splits down the seam.

2

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Living in a Box - Living in a Box”, and you’re right. You can’t be going calling your songs after yourself. Or maybe you’ve seen the sleeve, with the roller skates on, and you’re thinking of Heather Graham in Boogie Nights. Have you seen her lately? She looks exactly the same. Amazing.

This record confounded me on so many levels. First, it has an arrow on the middle, which points anticlockwise, though a record goes round clockwise. I couldn’t bear to look at it. (I cleaned it in reverse, so needless to say, I had the last laugh.) Second, it doesn’t sound at all like I thought it would. You’d think “Coasting, roller skates, this’ll be dreamy summer pop” Right? But no, you get spiky post-punk-ish surf stuff. Okay. That’s all the levels on which it confounded me. Maybe not all that many.

3

Brilliant sleeve. I love the image, and I love that it’s all glued together. Sounds like shit too, and you know where I stand on that. The drums are barely audible (which is probably no loss), and the guitarist sounds like they probably can play, but refuse to. Then this random DX7 string pad cuts in from somewhere off-stage. The vocalist throws out the odd line like a cataleptic John S Hall. Or perhaps imagine if Slint had made Spiderland up as they went along, totally baked, and if they had never practiced.

My attitude to this record encapsulates my complex relationship with music. It’s very hard to make any case for it being in any sense a “good” record. I couldn’t say I liked it, yet I am happy it was made, and that exists, and that I have it.

2

On K, another of my favourite labels, and definitely my favourite initial. The sleeve bears the magic words “featuring Calvin Johnson”.

On the ‘a’ Basemint do a marginally psych ’60s garage style thing. On the ‘b’ they appear to be soundtracking a party, and want to make me say “daddyo”. Calvin’s involvement is minimal. He says “yeah” a couple of times, with loads of spring reverb. Genius.

4

Off HHBTM and on to Box Bedroom Rebels, which of course means I’ve got to do a decent paragraph on the packaging.

Lovely folded sleeve, printed both sides and, naturally, numbered. A lyric card, printed both sides again. (This stuff isn’t cheap to do, you know.) The envelope contains a patterned plastic sleeve which holds three colour slides. I have two Kodak and a Fuji. On one someone has written “can you see the hummingbird”? I can’t, but I was squinting through it whilst holding it up to a light bulb. The slides fit the tone of the music. Happy times, past times, in the sun. There’s also a postcard, which has a still and a quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is less easy to fit to the theme. The confetti has “30”s in it because this, astonishingly, is the label’s 30th release. I don’t know how Kevin finds all this great music, or how he has the love and patience to put the packages together, but thank whatever you thank for these kinds of things that he does. A BBR release is always a treat.

Oh, the music, yeah. Nearly forgot. Summery and jangly pop. Blissful. You can almost smell the wild herbs in the warm air. But remember what I said earlier about indiepop running the risk of being too sweet? Terri vs Tori add a pinch of wistful melancholy to keep things grounded.

I can’t pick a standout from the six tracks, and I can’t pick a straggler either. And there are MORE TO DOWNLOAD. Honestly, if you aren’t buying every BBR release the day it’s available, you’re cheating yourself. And in times when a 7” David Bowie reissue will set you back twelve quid, it’s worth pointing out that of these things are less than half of that.

The only record that wasn’t a leftover sale item, and perhaps not coincidentally, the only one that’s going to get a

5