singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
24 August 2020
(listening through speakers)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Benz Micro LP-S
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove Mk 2
TEAD Vibe Phoenix / Pulse 2
TEAD Linear A mk 2
TEAD Model One

Tonight we have three Box Bedroom Rebels 7”s. If this site had a regular reader, that Regular Reader would know that in this ever changing world in which we live in, one of the few things on which we can depend is the quality of Box Bedroom Rebels 7”s.

Record collecting is dead. Let’s talk about why.

I heard there was a new BBR record out, so I went to the website to buy it. (Though I like to support my trusted record shops, I like to support labels direct even more.)

Once I got there, I found I’d missed two other releases, and one (this one) was sold out. I searched A Well Known Auction Site: nothing. I went to Discogs. Plenty of copies there, all at a miniumum of four times the original price, even though Piccadilly Records still had unsold copies.

I can’t tell you how much I hate the people who hoover up all the interesting new releases, and just stick them on Discogs at unrealistic prices. The worst instance of this I’ve seen lately is the single Paul Weller did for Ghost Box. I’ve collected Ghost Box for years, and I’m only missing some of those super-rare CDs from the very early days. (I don’t collect CDs.) I missed the release of the Weller single. It was £7. I’ve seen scores of copies on Discogs and A Well Known Auction Site, and I’ve seen maybe two or three offered at under £50.

Record collecting used to be about luck and persistence. Whatever you wanted, if you went to enough shops and fairs, flipped through enough racks, talked to enough people, you’d find it. It might take years, but one day, there it would be, and wow, what a thrill. You could probably afford it too.

Now, your ability to get the records you want does not come down to your shoe leather, your passion or your knowledge; it’s purely about what’s in your wallet. The worlds saleable records, pretty much, are on Discogs and eBay, with prices starting from 20% more than it’s ever sold for in the past. There are no bargains any more.

Records once were goods, not commodities. They were a medium, not a fetish. They were democratic. We bought the things we wanted. There were no superpowers transferring everything to a secondary market.

I don’t know who the hell buys these things I see on Discogs. Who pays two and a half grand for a Minor Threat single? Or a hundred and fifty quid for a mediocre shoegaze LP you can download for a fiver? (Or free, if you’re that way inclined.)

Back when I bought the bulk of my records, something expensive was maybe £25, and not that many things were expensive. Today, something expensive might be five hundred quid, and millions of things are expensive.

Anyway, I got this, at a fraction of what the flippers want, and now I’m listening to it. It’s a bit post-punk for my taste, but there’s some shoegazishness to it too, like the definite Kitchens of Distinction vibe of In the Morning.

The sleeve art gives nothing away: just the facts, black on orange (other colours are/were available). Functional, DIY, and to the point, just like the production. Inside there’s a gatefold print with suitably hazy photography. And yes, there is a group photo.

Don’t play this record quietly: it doesn’t work at all. But give it a bit of clout, and it clicks. They have a great zzznnnnnng guitar sound, and a cymbal that sounds a bit like a gong.

3

Not all BBR releases are of new music. Some, like this, re-circulate songs released through channels even more obscure than a run of 250 7” singles put out by a one-man label in Manchester.

I’d never heard of Constant Smiles before, but one of the many inserts herein explains that they are an albums-only band with a substantial back-catalogue. This EP cherry-picks six tracks (with four more via a Bandcamp download), and assembles them as a gorgeous EP which takes in six years and multiple genres.

We get windtunnel shoegaze, rough-handed folkiness, slapback-soaked psych, and creeping cosmiche, but each style incorporates elements of all the others, making a focused, coherent whole. There’s also loads of tape hiss and a terrific bit of fiddle.

Even by BBR’s standards, Constant Smiles EP is Insert City. The customary envelope contains the customary postcard and customary little bag of confetti (hearts and stars), this time joined by a bagged square of something unidentifiable and brown.

The photography on the sleeve and inserts is out of focus, slightly spooky, cold but also cosy: like the music.

At the time of writing there are still copies of this available from the label. I have no idea why. Get one. Do it now, I’ll wait. And if you put it on Discogs, you’re dead to me.

5

Another reissue, mostly. An insert explains that four of the six tracks were on a digital-only release last year.

I find myself hopelessly adrift in the world of digital releases: I need the endorsement of a third party. If someone goes to the trouble of putting a record out, that someone truly believes in the content of those grooves. I can digitally release the music I make if I want to, and believe me, it’s awful. (I’m experimental electronics’ answer to The Shaggs. But I enjoy it, and that’s what counts.)

CIEL sound great. Singer’s voice, bass, everything, really. They have good songs too. The whole thing is high class. Top class. First class. Any class you like, so long as it’s a good one. It’s pop music, but it’s glacially cool and with pleasantly rough edges.

Pop music is an overlooked and under-rated art form. Though, I think, less than it used to be. Everything’s taken seriously now though, isn’t it? You can’t just enjoy having a go at something, you’ve got to buy all the gear and watch YouTube videos about it and exhibit or compete or change your diet or go to classes or try to get on the Olympic team.

Anyway, while you’re buying that Constant Smiles EP you should get one of these too. Class. Seriously.

5