singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
22 April 2018
listening with headphonesAvid Acutus
Benz Micro LP-S
Linn Klimax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove Mk 2
TEAD Vibe Phoenix / Pulse 2
Luxman P-1u
Sennheiser HD800

I’ve ranted at length about Record Store Day before, but my anger is abating. That may be because I’m mellowing in my old-age, or down to my new technology-lite, improved lifestyle, but I think it’s because it doesn’t feel like a big deal any more. It’s run its course, and not worth getting worked up about now. Pretty much no one of any artistic relevance participates any more, and instead of getting upset that I won’t get something by someone I’ve supported for their entire career, I can simply get smug that I’m not daft enough to pay fifteen quid for the demo of Let’s Dance.

12" single

The one thing on this year’s list that I wanted. I thought I’d never get it, but when I rocked up at Tall Bird just before closing time on the day after RSD, they still had the only copy they’d bought. It wasn’t cheap, but never mind: I’ve already sacrificed by principles, so a few quid won’t make any difference.

I assumed this would be a collaborative piece: the father of ambient and the father of whammy-bar-through-a-distortion pedal teaming up like, err, ham and cheese in a ham and cheese sandwich? (I was hoping to come up with some superhero analogy there, but I don’t know much about them.) But, it seems like they got a side each. This, in keeping with the theme of RSD, seems like a bit of a swizz, and a bit of a let-down.

The Weight of History is Eno ploughing a similar furrow to The Ship. I didn’t expect vocals on this record at all, and I certainly didn’t expect almost a minimalist choral piece. But that’s what you get. It has a frayed intensity that isn’t present on The Ship. Perhaps it is collaborative after all?

Only Once Away My Son is much more Kevin Shields. Sheet upon sheet of screaming noise, atop a slow heartbeat. Comforting but uncomfortable.

The whole EP sounds like they overloaded everything. At times I wasn’t sure whether my cartridge was tracking properly, and if my Benz can’t, I wouldn’t give those John Lewis plastic record players much of a chance. The sonic signatures here are clipping, fluttering tape, flapping speaker cones. Kevin Shields brings the noize, and it works. Both tracks, though slow, have a tense, breathless excitement.

You hear the word “awesome” lot these days, perhaps, like “literally” or “artisan”, to the point where the word now means nothing. The only thing you can legitimately call “awesome”, in my opinion, are the sea, forces of nature, and the scale of the cosmos. If you could call music awesome (which you can’t) this would be getting close. I played it loud, and it had an almost threatening depth, constantly on the brink of being overwhelming. It’s extremely forceful music. It’s art.

10" single

I’ve always had a lot of good will for Tanya Donnelly, but I’ve never truly loved much she’s done since she left Throwing Muses. The first couple of Belly EPs were good, and the first album’s fun, if a couple of songs too long . Star generally wasn’t much cop though, and I’ve not been particularly grabbed by her solo stuff. But, y’know, Green, Not too Soon, Now They’ll Sleep… As I was paying for the Eno/Shields thing I spotted this laying on the counter, and I thought I’d give it a punt. So here we are.

It’s kind of what I expected. Pleasant, slightly country tinged, well written, sung, played, recorded, all of that. (She’s always been an easier listen than Kristin.) I almost lost interest during the first track, but Human Child and Starryeyed saved it, particularly the latter.

Hushabye Mountain fits the Tanya Donnelly “thing”. Her voice, the way she sings: soothing, but a little “off”. They covered Dream on Me years ago to similar effect. I’m happy to say this is a better record than I expected, and even if I don’t follow her work so closely any more, deep down, I’ll always be a fan.