singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
2 May 2019
(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

More second-hand stuff. It seems barely anyone releases singles any more.

Opening up with yer actual Beat Happening. This, according to the double-sided photocopied-on-yellow-paper sleeve, is International Pop Underground Vol. 1. (It also says vol. 2 is Girl Trouble, and I think I have that too.)

Look Around is sunny and breezy, and Calvin sings in his upper register. Not exactly Mika, but he’s having a go.

That Girl is more standard. Pretty much one note, angsty, proudly amateurish. Titular girl sounds pretty cool to me. No wonder Calvin likes her.

4

Tonight’s not shaping up to be the easiest-listening night. Pussycat Trash were a bunch of lo-fi no-hopers from, I think, Newcastle. I also think they, or their label, were chummy with the K lot.

They aren’t quite as I remember them here: less noisy and more coherent. I expected more shouting, more fuzz, more chaos. It all surfaces from time to time, but they’re a bit less one-note than I thought.

A bit Huggy Bear-ish.They seem to have something to say, but I can’t put my finger on what it might be.

Right enough, but I can’t see anyone offering them a million quid to get back together.

2

Another in the “Awkward Silence” series of split 7s we looked at a few weeks ago.

Tarentel did their usual thing. Simple, mellow, intertwining motifs (a la Lick My Love Pump). Lilienthal (actually the magnificently named Arrow Kleeman) did a similar thing, but glitchy, before that was a thing.

The inserts tell me Awkward Silence mail order was handled by Norman Records. I’ve been buying stuff from there since they did a photocopied mailout. You’d send a cheque and a list of stuff you wanted, and get back some of the list and another cheque for the price of the stuff you ordered but was sold out. Happy times. And everyone bought what they wanted to hear, rather than what they thought they could flip on eBay.

4

I’m not sure what this is actually called. But where its sleeve fails in the conveyance of information, it succeeds aesthetically. Silver with blue printing, with some bastardized electronic diagrams, it’s a handsome thing.

The label says the ‘a’ plays at 33 and the ‘b’ at 45, but I couldn’t tell which was which, so I played both at both. I think they’re probably both better at 33. It’s nice to have an option.

One side is several minutes of noise. It’s a bit like someone trying to tune something in, without knowing what they’re trying to tune in to. I liked it.

The other side is rhythmic, repetitive, and relentless. It goes pretty mental at the end with sort of ray gun type noises. I liked it also.

This record was released by Static Caravan in 1998, and has a little insert telling you your mail orders must be paid for with a cheque to G. Dolman.

They probably got to know G. Dolman quite well at the local bank, turning up every week with his envelope full of cheques for £2.49. They probably had a nice little chat. How are things going? Another record out? What sort of music is it again? Ooh, sounds a bit funny to me, I like that Tom Jones. Lovely. Social interaction. I think we used to quite like it, though we now think we didn’t, which is why we’ve run away from it, sitting anxious in our houses, peering round the curtains waiting for people to bring us things instead of going out to get them. Thank God that the places that sell things which are less easy to deliver, like your food, have started phasing out people. Keep your head down, scan the stuff yourself, and scurry off without ever having to look anyone in the eye. Phew, what a relief. Imagine if someone you didn’t know smiled at you and asked how you were. That would be terrifying. I bet G. Dolman’s branch is closed now. It’s probably an estate agent’s.

3

Happy Flowers. Now there was a thing. Two grown men, calling themselves Mister Anus and Mister Horribly-Charred-Infant play hardcore-ish metal and scream Infantile lyrics. A sort of ADHD King Missile.

Here, as the title suggests, we have a selection of numbers performed for schoolgirl-loving national treasure John Peel. It’s a bone-fide EP. Five songs. Clear vinyl.

First song, My Head’s on Fire is fairly subdued by their standards. It appears to be a cover of something by someone called Weird Paul Petroskey, but mentions the Happy Flowers staple of eating (or not eating) vegetables, so I’m not sure where it came from. Then they do Mom and Dad Like the Baby More than Me, complaining about a new-found lack of attention. In 1990 that kind of thing was comic; now of course we have a whole world declaring their specialness and screaming for attention as loudly as possible; sometimes “teaching the world a lesson” if they don’t get it.

Later we get I Dropped My Ice Cream Cone, in which a full-grown child rants about ice cream and has a tantrum over the strangest guitar playing a guitar player could play. These Peas are So Green is crazy hardcore riffage with two adult males yelling the title over the top. They don’t make them like this any more. Though they do have cereal cafés.

Peurile sleeve art features “Evil, beastly chicken-thing contemplates tax policy”. Magnificent.

4

I liked KaitO back in the day. Poppy, spiky, kind of irresistible, but just interesting and odd enough to never be very popular. Their song sounds too fast at 33, but is excellent. A proper rush. I can’t tell a word she says, and I like all the funny noises. (I kept thinking the phone was ringing.) The drummer must have been knackered by the end.

Homophonically monikered Cato are much more laid back. I’d have loved their song to be five minutes of the introduction. They have a pleasant shoegazey sound to them, and personally I’d have turned up that guitar and buried the drums and vocals. Still quite good though.

Our insert archaeology tells us that The Sickroom Gramophonic Collective not only accepted cheques, but postal orders and, in a move of admirably global scope, international money orders. I wonder if anyone ever sent them a postal order? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. Though I have sent a fax.

4

Is this the same Cato? Doesn’t sound like it. Pure coincidence anyway. I bought the KaitO/Cato thing because of KaitO, and I bought this one because it’s on Lissy’s; a late ’90s label I enjoyed.

It’s fuzzed-up guitar-pop with a bit of a ’60s west coast feel, and the occasional pedal-to-the-floor noise onslaught. Not bad, but nothing special. I preferred the ‘b’.

3

There were, I think, four of these, and it’s really hard to tell which one you have.

The insert explains that the series of records provides machine components which you can use to build your own machines. Through, presumably, the use of samplers and computers and all that nonsense.

Most of one side is a slightly frightening half-human stamping machine which thumps away merrily for a couple of minutes before degrading, misbehaving, and ultimately, I think, failing. The remainder of that side is ground-loop hum.

The other side has more variation, and is much less rhythmic. The first track is glitchy and jarring, but fighting against what may once have been a pretty funky drum loop. It’s been distorted and modulated until it’s just pulsing noise, but it remembers its essence, and keeps trying to break through the grey murk above it.

The remainder is harshly digitised ambient noise. Grainy and broken to a point where it almost sounds mechanical.

I wonder if anyone made any machines from these components. Probably. Years ago I went through a Brian Eno phase, but I couldn’t buy any of his old albums because they were getting hoovered up by people who wanted to sample them.

2

An interesting three-colour printed sleeve, with two small girls being either terrorized or amused by a small dog.

Musically it’s capable female-fronted indie-rock, which isn’t my thing at all. (Indie rock. I’m all for a female front. Sorry, that came out wrong.) There were a lot of bands like this in the mid 1990s, and I ignored them all. Tsunami could play, for sure, and they have a lot going on, but it all leaves me cold.

World Tour ups the riffage and is all the better for it, but it’s still not really my bag.

2

Some Record Shop Day rubbish, but it’s Harry Dean Stanton, and you don’t leave Harry Dean Stanton sitting on a shelf with a bunch of crappy reissues.

I loved Twin Peaks so much. I loved every single thing about it. But one of the things I loved the most was Carl. Old, tough, poor, so gentle and decent. Carl is dignity incarnate, and the song he sings, before Richard runs over the little boy, is sweet and beautiful. It adds nothing to the story, but Twin Peaks wasn’t about story, it was about building a world and a feeling, and the beautiful simplicity of Carl’s song adds much to that world and that mood.

The fold-out RSD-nonsense sleeve makes it clear that Sophie Huber, with whom I am not familiar, has made a film about Harry Dean, called Partly Fiction. In that film, he sings lots of songs, of which these are two.

Before he starts singing Tennesee Whiskey, Harry tells us “this is a living-room rehearsal”, and that he doesn’t need to “do a performance”. He sounds old. Very old. And he sounds lovely. Very lovely.

On the flip he sings Cancion Mixteca, from Paris, Texas. It too is sad and beautiful. Harry Dean Stanton, I think, was a man of great soul. You can see it and hear it in everything he did.

I didn’t know whether I wanted to watch Partly Fiction or not. You build up a mental picture of artists you admire, and finding out the truth about them destroys that picture and lessens that ideal. It doesn’t have to be a bad truth, it only has to be different to the one you’d imagined. The real truth usurps your own, and you lose something personal.

But, I did watch Partly Fiction, and it was terrific. Harry Dean Stanton seemed just how I thought he would, possibly because, as he explains, he always plays himself in films. People often say that as if it’s a bad thing, but I think that’s what art is. The creative expression of what you know.

4