tue 16/07/2024

theartsdesk on Vinyl 82: Human League, Hawkwind, Roberta Flack, Kid Acne, Photek, Rudimentary Peni and more | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk on Vinyl 82: Human League, Hawkwind, Roberta Flack, Kid Acne, Photek, Rudimentary Peni and more

theartsdesk on Vinyl 82: Human League, Hawkwind, Roberta Flack, Kid Acne, Photek, Rudimentary Peni and more

The most extensive regular record reviews in the known cosmos

Wheel up the black plastic© Miguel Á. Padriñán

VINYL OF THE MONTH

Mito y Comadre Guajirando (ZZK)

mitoMito y Comadre are Guillermo Lares and Shana Comadre, a Bogota-based pair of Venezuelans whose debut album is produced by Christian Castagno (a man who’s more likely to be found helming outings by Iggy Pop, Arcade Fire and others). The duo are deep-dipped in their heritage, embracing an array of traditional instruments that I can’t even locate by name via Google (the quichimba, the macizón, etc). Such ignorance is no hindrance to adoring this music, heavily lathered and danceable funk and lively upbeat spirit, with electronic twiddlings and bleeps raising the temperature further. It’s a set that does what only the best music can, conjoining forward-thinking imagination and new sounds with a colour-splashed, bright contagiousness, and a demand to meet you on the dancefloor.

VINYL REVIEWS

Def.fo Eternity (Def.fo)

defThe cover art suggests a cultural collision between old school hip hop and prog rock but, built over smartly honed, loping beats, Liverpudlian producer Tom Powell’s debut album is wall-to-wall easy-going West Coast-marinated harmonic pop, lush and tuneful. Recorded partly at the city’s Ark Studios with his father, Steve, a man who’s been behind the sound desk for a range of local music icons, from Echo and the Bunnymen to the Wizards of Twiddly, the production is crisp, tinted with late-Period Beatles’ orchestrated psychedelia. That said, these songs would still stand up if strummed on an acoustic guitar. Def.fo seems a curiously unsuitable adopted stage name for such opulently constructed, richly layered pieces, but that's by-the-by; the songs do his heavy lifting. Arrives on wee-yellow vinyl in info inner sleeve.

Human League Secrets (Demon)

humanI’ve never seen this album on vinyl before, although there’s not the usual sticker saying First Time on Vinyl so it must have been. It’s rare to see this album at all. First released in 2001, it was the Human League’s great lost opportunity, the comeback that never was, which, for a while affected the band. They put everything into it and the results are great, classic Eighties Human League but given a boshin’ millennial makeover. The problem was that their record label completely dropped the ball (or went bust? I can't recall), so it was hardly heard. It deserves to be. Spread over two records, the first side alone belts out two whopping singles “All I Ever Wanted” and "Love Me Madly?” (which contains a classic Phil Oakey couplet, “You’re like the woman out of Species/I think I’m gonna go to pieces”) but the whole thing stands up, songs interspersed with tasty instrumental synth interludes. It’s one of the band’s punchiest and catchiest and deserves to be known as such. Includes a 12” x 12” photo/lyric/info insert.

Champagne Dub Rainbow (On the Corner)

champersAnyone remember when acid house originator Danny Rampling later formed a band called The Millionaire Hippies? That white-suited, wealth-aspirational, slick side of the house scene never appealed. “Champers with Rampers,” we used to sneer down Bagleys Warehouse sweating to the Essex-ecstasy mayhem. When I saw the band name Champagne Dub on this record, similar thoughts crossed my mind. I needn’t have worried. It’s Maxwell Hallett, drummer-producer with Soccer96 and The Comet Is Coming, with his thoroughly warped version of dub, When there are vocals it recalls The Slits and long-lost weirdoes …And The Native Hipsters. When it doesn’t have vocals, it’s an even more brain-mashing gumbo wherein bassline splodge crashes into drone aesthetics and clanky sludge. It’s one to put your head into, for sure. Comes with a 12” x 12” art/info insert.

Ëda Diaz Suave Bruta (Airfono/Earthly Measures) + Natascha Rogers Onaida (No Format!) + Various Hit the Bongo! The Latin Soul of Tico Records (Tico/Craft) + Ana Frango Eléctrico Me Chama de Gato Que eu Sou Sua (Mr Bongo)

edaA bunch of delicious releases all bedded down in Latin flavour. French-Colombian  singer Ëda Diaz and her producer Anthony Winzenrieth have put together a bright, refreshing debut that fuses Latin American styles, from salsa to dembow, with precise, pin-sharp electronics. Diaz also plays the double bass, which is threaded in too. It’s an album that swerves easily between naturalistic sunshine and hints of wibbly tech-zonk that take the whole thing to new places, Diaz’s voice sweet and to the fore. Summery and exciting in art inner sleeve. onaidaThe ever-reliable No Format! Records have picked up globe-trotting musical explorer and pianist-singer Nastascha Rogers for her latest album, Onaida. Of Dutch-Amerindian origin, Rogers fell in love with Cuba, the music of which spices the album up, whether via the pattering backing of the batá drum or revolving, finger-picking guitar play. She adds her own very feminine energy, and the result is warm and bubbly rather than frenetic, but its core of piano’n’voice are ably supported by dancing rhythms. Comes in info inner sleeve on white vinyl. bongoMob-affiliated music biz player Morris Levy’s New York label Tica was at the heart of all things Latin during the 1960s (and on into the early 1970s). It had a roster of artists including Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba, La Lupe, Tito Puente, and Celia Cruz and the Hit the Bongo! collection showcases a glorious range of what they were up to, from the formal grooving of the early Sixties to delightful late-Sixties cash-ins such the Joe Cuba Sextet’s “Psychedelic Baby”. The whole lot is an absolute joy over two records, with a well-written history on the gatefold by Acid Jazz’s Dean Rudland. Finally, and bringing things bang up-to-date, Ana Faria Fainguelernt, AKA Ana Frango Eléctrico, is the 20-something anaqueen-pin of the Rio de Janeiro underground. Her third album shouts out why and consolidates what came before. It takes the city’s sounds and melts them into breezy bedroom electro-pop and brassy disco frolicking, all tinged with exotica easy listening fluffiness. An enclosed lyric/info/art/photo booklet explains that it intends to show “by means of sound, understandings and feelings about queer love”. In English and Portuguese, it’s absolutely pop music, which anyone from Daft Punk to Mika could dig.

Rudimentary Peni Farce EP (Crass) + Zounds Can't Cheat Karma EP (Crass)

crassTwo reissued 12”s from the Crass stable of bands. Raging London outfit Rudimentary Peni’s 1982 Farce EP is exactly what people who’ve heard about Crass but not listened to their label’s output would expect from them. Which is to say it consists of a gaggle of songs that thrash at the gates, with vocalist Nick Blinko howling about religion and rape and more (not all in the same song), his shrieking desperation adding to the scorch of the lyrics. It's no surprise to hear that it's been influential on US hardcore metal. The reissue also comes wrapped within a reproduction of Blinko's original poster art. Theartsdesk on Vinyl is more enjoying Zounds' Can’t Cheat Karma EP which comes in gatefold with a with a bloody and anarchic poster by one “Dr Inadequate”. Zounds were a traveller-hippy adjacent punk outfit from Reading and this 1980 12" contains three songs – “Can’t Cheat Karma”, “Subvert” and “War” – whose social agenda is raw in the lyrics but packaged up with rough-edged, faintly dubby tunesmithery not a million miles away from The Ruts and The Clash.

Mayuko Songs to Whistle When Strolling Along the Abyss (Sinnbus)

mayukuThe debut album from Mannheim-based Canadian-Japanese-Polish-German femme trio Mayuko most immediately makes me think of Björk. It’s not that singer Michelle Cheung sounds especially like Björk, it’s more the way they combine unexpected electronic flights of fancy with elegantly calibrated vocalising, the whole touched with something from modern classical. They are a singer, a bass player and a drummer, but their music is primarily electronic, a tiny bit of Billie Elish in there too, mostly slow numbers, thoughtful, opaque lyrics, warmed by layered cybernetic shimmers and clicks. There are also a few chunkier ones that beckon towards vanguard dancefloor action. Not the usual and worth watching out for. Comes in lyric/photo inner sleeve.

Hawkwind Space Ritual (Cherry Red) + Soft Machine The Dew at Dawn/Slightly All the Time (My Only Desire)

hawkSpace Ritual, a space-rock classic, was 50-years-old in 2023 and this picture gatefold double set on transparent vinyl now arrives at theartsdesk on Vinyl. Recorded on tour in Liverpool and London in 1972, it’s deservedly regarded as a highlight from Hawkwind’s enormously long and convoluted career. What’s great about it is that, at its best, it’s closer to punk, the Mary Chain and Spacemen 3 than the band’s virtuosic proggy contemporaries. Albeit the stoned, “cosmic” spoken word pieces place it firmly in the period it was made. And Lemmy’s on it too, alongside a golden ‘Wind line-up of perma-fixture Dave Brock, maverick psyche-poet Robert Calvert, sax loon Nik Turner, their swooshy noise-maker DikMik, fellow synth-head Del Dettmar, and the sturdy, relentless rockin' backbeat provided by Simon King. If in the mood for its murky, Brit-kosmische, hot knife mud-riffin’, there’s not much that better fulfils the need. Songs aboard include a lengthy “Orgone softAccumulator”, “Master of the Universe” and “Sonic Attack”. Comes with info/art poster. Soft Machine derive from the same era, although of the current band only guitarist John Etheridge was involved in the band’s distant past (although not in the early-Seventies classic line-up). Be that as it may, the A-side of this new 7” single is a likeable thing, a lightly skanking take on the late British jazz trumpeter Harry Beckett’s “The Dew at Dawn”. I can take or leave the jazz-fusion B-side but the A is worth seeking out for those that enjoy quirky jazz tidbits.

Early Life Forms featuring Marc Ribot Early Life Forms featuring Marc Ribot (Eubelius)

earlyBelgian guitar experimentalist Vitja Pauwels and his band Early Life Forms invited Tom Waits sidesman and alt-guitar don Marc Ribot to do a one-off jam with them at a festival near Antwerp in December 2022. The caveat was that the band would not prepare, so it would be an improvisation based around ideas that Pauwels had worked up. The results could have been appallingly self-indulgent but the group mostly keeps things funky, up and percussive, a Memphis soul Hammond never far away, with occasional dips into blues and Americana. Even an abstract no wave-ish jam entitled “Drum Circle” feels ripe for a dance. Clearly it’s about Pauwels and Ribot fret-sparring, but these seven pared-back tracks retain the ear and don’t outstay their welcome. Comes with a 12” x 24” art-photo poster of them performing.

Roberta Flack Lost Takes (Arc)

robertaIt’s odd to think that Clint Eastwood’s 1971 bunny-boiler DJ-stalker yarn Play Misty For Me kickstarted Roberta Flack’s career. Eastwood chose her version of folkie Ewan MacColl’s classic “The First Time That Ever I Saw Your Face” for the film. The US public lapped it up and, three years after the 1969 release of her debut album, First Take, they pushed it to the top of the charts, and made the single the best-selling of 1972. We owe this collection of cuts recorded six months prior to that album to the ubiquitous Gilles Peterson, who has been allowed access to Warner’s archives. Roberta Flack, then a night club singer, was famously prolific when she laid down her earliest recordings. This double set on photo gatefold, with a poetic essay on the back by the writer Harmony Holiday, uncovers a bunch of songs that hold their own against what came later. Accompanied only by her own piano, Miles Davis bassist Marshall Hawkins, and Bernard Sweetney on drums, she delivers songs such as “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, “Frankie and Johnnie” and “Ain't No Mountain High Enough” with soul-jazz class that, contradictorily, is both emotionally raw and classically cool. Beautifully recorded and pressed to plastic too.

Kid Acne Hauntology Codes (Lex)

kidKid Acne remains one Britain’s most reliable sources of untrammelled old school hip hop. And, when I say “untrammelled old school hip hop”, I mean simply… actual hip hop, rather than pop music of loosely Afro-American origin. With Chicago producer Spectacular Diagnostics (AKA Robert Krums) creating the beats, stewing up a heavy, hectic gumbo of rolling rhythms and samples, Acne gives us a his very British word-collage (likely the only hip hop album this year – or any year - to mention “trimming privet hedges”). Guests King Kashmere, Cappo and Sonnyjim pop up and deliver, but Acne and Krum own this head-swimming trip. It’s not all jolly, the grimness of the day-to-day world is also reflected, but overall, positivity wins through via sheer skill and dry wit. Comes in photo/art inner sleeve on yellow vinyl.

Daniel Avery Drone Logic (Phantasy/Because) + Photek Modus Operandi (Science) + Juno Reactor Bible of Dreams (Demon)

danThree anniversary reissues for electronic dance albums that pushed out of their niche and garnered wider appeal. When Daniel Avery first appeared (and Jon Hopkins, for that matter), I liked the music well enough, but never really understood the fuss. I’d been listening to art-techno for decades, from Cristian Vogel to Warp Records and far beyond. What was new? Listening again to the tenth anniversary reissue of Avery’s debut album, I’m now unencumbered by such up-my-own-arse attitude and can acknowledge that it’s a crisply produced whopper, akin to Leftfield or Chemical Brothers in Teutonic mode, ripe with big room potency, every track imbued with photekNineties techno noisiness. When it came out, many clubland taste-makers were sucking the cock of the first wave of slow-the-BPMs down Ibiza-Insta-plod, so this was a muscular counterpoint. 1997 was the year when the major labels thought drum & bass was going to blow up, go overground, and make them millions, with Goldie leading the charge. They signed everything that moved. But it didn’t blow up, and they didn't. Still, it was entertaining that faceless producers such as Photek - Rupert Parkes to his mum - were given a chunky budget (by Virgin, in his case) and able to create hi-fi buff versions of the sounds they’d been smashing clubs with, one ear attuned to the music’s potential as ambient music for chrome-lined smart urban apartments. Parkes is now a successful film/TV/games composer in Los Angeles but his reissued 1997 debut album consists of three slabs of vinyl, impeccably produced, remastered fat, boasting drum & bass that balances functional junodancefloor heft with refined precision, polished and crafted, rollin’ rather than bangin’. Also from 1997 is Bible of Dreams, the fourth album from Juno Reactor, released at the height of the dance media embracing (or at least mentioning and being rude about) psychedelic trance. The album, some years later, made head Juno Reactor bod Ben Watkins a mint when the track “Komit” was woven into the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack, beginning his association with the resurgent franchise. But back in ’97 Bible of Dreams, now reissued on double in art inner sleeves, was simply that rare beast, a psychedelic trance album that was (a) musically original and exciting and (b) actually embraced the semantic meaning of the “trance” definition (unlike, say, Paul Van Dyk). Embracing global music tropes and plenty of bongo action, tunes such as “Congo Fury” “God is God” and “Swamp Thing” are riven with righteous lysergic dancefloor energy.

Various Stills (String and Tins)

stillsThis album on informative info gatefold collects together ten modern classical pieces created in response to self-selected art from London’s Tate Britain Gallery. They range dramatically in style and scope. A few examples: Joe Wilkinson’s layered choral elegance in response to Arthur Hacker’s Christian mystical 1892 painting Annunciation; Kaspar Broyd’s plush and aptly romantic horns’n’strings for Henry Chatterton’s 1856 portrait of prototype teenage solipsist Thomas Chatterton after his 1770 arsenic suicide; Jim Stewart’s jazz’n’strings’n’noise’n’found sound micro-suite for Christopher Richard Wynne Nevison’s 1920 New York image The Soul of a Soulless City. The latter might be my favourite. The variety here maintains interest.

Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine 1992 The Love Album (Chrysalis)

carterIt seems almost surreal that two-men-and-a-drum-machine punks Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine were briefly one of the biggest acts in the land. As this album’s title flukily suggests, that brief moment was 1992, when the duo headlined Glastonbury and had a No.1 album (with this). 1992 now comes as a lyric gatefold double, transparent vinyl, one blue, one yellow. It speaks of another time, when sneery anger at the powers-that-be was cultural currency (as opposed to whiny anxiety and “self-care”). Also dating it are multiple references in the lyrics. For instance, to “the grebos, the crusties and the goths”. It will make the old recall when there were countercultures rather than Insta-ready aesthetics. Despite their sometimes thin-sounding production, the songs are some of their best, blending music hall satire, grubby observation, ragged guitars and tinpot synth backing. It closes with the delightfully unlikely and melodramatic “The Impossible Dream” (from the musical Man of La Mancha), which divided people even at the time. For those not inclined, it’s likely just a cheap-sounding sliver of history, but for others it’s a ragin', from-the-gut, revel that holds together well. It still has appeal at theartsdesk on Vinyl Mansions, and the second disc of B-sides and offcuts, such as “After the Watershed (Early Leaning the Hard Way)” is a welcome addition too.

Various Eddie Piller & Dean Rutland present Acid Jazz (Not Jazz): We’ve Got a Funky Beat (Acid Jazz)

acidThe Acid Jazz head honchoes present a second selection representing what they might have played out as DJs in the mid-Nineties. So this is about acid jazz not Acid Jazz. Consequently some of it is just a few steps sideways from a Brand New Heavies B-side, such as The Ballistic Brothers’ trumpety film theme trip hop on “Delancey Street… The Theme”, but there’s also juicier fare, along the lines of The Hightower Set’s percussion-tastic “Eschucha Mi Funk” and the bongo-hop of “Russian Roulette" by Night Trains featuring Afrika Bambaata on vocals. Not all gold for theartsdesk on Vinyl then, but for those who dug this kind of stuff back then, it may well be. Comes in an inner sleeve portraying the covers of the 12”s from which the album draws.

ALSO WORTH A LISTEN

Hyperculte La Pangée (Bongo Joe): Third album from a Swiss unit who do things their own way. La Pangée is, loosely, ecologically-themed, albeit it’s all in French so that’s really just what I’m deducing from my meagre grasp of the language (or, let’s be honest, mostly from the press release!). Their sound sometimes has an almost Afro-beat feel but also comes across like it could have been made in Factory Records’ version of Manchester circa 1980. What stops it being properly funky is the sense of doom and foreboding, the heaviness that weighs it down, the sulky Kings of the Slums strings all over the beats. It’s haunted Afro-goth dance music, and none the worse for that.

Joe Henderson Power to the People (Craft): For this 1969 album, tenor sax don Joe Henderson had a killer line-up: Herbie Hancock on keys. Jack de Johnette on drums, Ron Carter on Bass, and, on a couple of tracks, Mike Lawrence on trumpet. It’s the sound of a man immersed in the social turmoil of the times, throwing himself at the future (or, at least sonically, the beginnings of it). The explosiveness derives from Henderson experimenting for the first time with an electric backing band, dipping in and out of a sound that veers his hard bop close to the funk that would come next in his career. Comes on gatefold.

Kevin Ayers Joy of a Toy (Esoteric): Remastered from the original tapes, owned by Harvest, EMI’s hippy-dippy Seventies imprint, the late-1969 debut album from Kevin Ayers is a classic of post-LSD English whimsy, tinged with those music hall flavours that The Beatles molded into their more acid-flipped music. Also hints of Syd Barrett’s fragile-sounding eccentricity. Fresh out of Soft Machine, it’s the sound of Ayers making an impressive start, but he would go on to more fully realise his musical vision as the Seventies progressed. As it stands, though, for fans of artists delicately tiptoeing about the pastoral sunshine of folky Sixties optimism, it’s a mild-hearted, sometimes child-like treat, laced in baroque orchestrations. Comes in photo inner sleeve.

Natalie Joachim Ki Moun Ou Yi (Nonesuch) + Toumani Diabate & Ballake Sissoko New Ancient Strings (Chysalis): Two albums with differing degrees of an African feel within them. New York musician Natalie Joachim has storied form in the modern classical world but her new album is a tribute to her Haitian heritage. She combines layers of her emotive, sad-sounding voice with orchestration, tricksy electronic rhythms and a bleepy Afro-futuristic feel, proudly modern but with rich black Caribbean roots, particularly acknowledging feminine suffering. It’s melancholic but ear-interetsung. Comes with 12” x 12” photo/info/lyric inner sleeve. The album by Toumani Diabate and Ballake Sissoko, on the other hand, is from a quarter of a century ago and is already long-acknowledged for its beauty. In fact, it’s a sequel, hence the “New” in the title. As explained by producer Lucy Durán in the 12” x 12” four-page photo/info booklet, the fathers of these kora players, founder members of Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali, created an album of kora duets in 1970, Ancient Strings, a national classic. That the new album was recorded in a  single night in 1997 gives pause for thought, so complex and hypnotic is it. These two play off each other with absolute instinct and the result is light, airy, full of a plaintive joy.

Various Hadestown: Original Broadway Cast Recording Boxset (Sing It Again): To celebrate the return of the multiple-Tony-winning musical Hadestown to London’s West End (at the Lyric), a limited-edition triple album boxset of the Grammy-winning album now appears (it even has a QR code on the front to buy tickets). US folk singer Anaïs Mitchell wrote the original concept album in 2010, its idea being the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice but with Hell as Depression-era America. The music veers between Americana, chorus interludes, Dixieland flavours, and Louisiana Creole intimations, with the words all tailored to the yarn its telling. The whole thing is a wild conceit yet mostly gets away with it, or likely would if one was watching the show. This three-disc set includes audio of the entire show as well as a 12” x 12” photo/info booklet.

Andy White Good Luck I Hope You Make It (Alt): Belfast troubadour Andy White has maintained a career forever, a billion albums under his belt, even if he never quite escapes the albatross of sometimes being likened to Billy Bragg (there being no room for more than one politically motivated 1980s singer-songwriter). I have never been keen on his output but his latest album combines kind of spoken word/rapping commentary on contemporary mores with a cheap drum machine, like a particularly literate 1990s Madchester-flavoured hip hop demo. It is entertainly different from his usual.

The Doors Alive She Cried (Elektra) + The Velvet Underground Live at Max’s Kansas City (Rhino) For the first time since its original 1983 release, the second Doors’ live album reappears on plastic. It was was recorded at concerts between 1968 and 1970. The cuts chosen draw from the band’s more rolling, bluesy side (as opposed to their speedier garage-punk side). As well as an extended “Light My Fire” and “Moonlight Drive”, there’s a snappy take on “Love Me Two Times” with a suitably blitzed Jim Morrison intro. Also present is a version of “Little Red Rooster” with Jon Sebastian on harmonica and a raucous take on “Gloria”. While not as mind-bogglingly excellent as The Doors’ Absolutely Live, it’s still a great snapshot of a band I’d give my eye teeth to have seen live. Comes on transparent fir-green vinyl in photo/info inner sleeve. The sticker on the sleeve of The Velvet Underground’s Live at Max’s Kansas City describes it as “legendary”. It sort of is. Or was. A set recorded on a cheap portable cassette player in August 1970, now appearing on double on “orchid & magenta” vinyl. I’ve never heard it before and am somewhat disappointed. I guess it’s legendary because back in ye olde days (which I well recall) getting hold of anything by Iggy and the Velvets was a tricky business, so this would have been prime fodder, a set from their summer residency at the famous New York City venue, packed with most of their best-loved songs. It was recorded just before Lou Reed quit the band (John Cale had already gone and Billy Yule is on drums because Moe Tucker was pregnant). It sounds like it would have been great to be there, but I’ve listened to it twice and, while I tend to enjoy lo-fi roughness in music, I’ve failed here to get beyond the shoddy sound.

Wings Band on the Run: 50th Anniversary Edition (Capitol) + UFO Lights Out: 2024 Remaster 3LP Deluxe Edition (Chrysalis) + The Waterboys This is the Sea (Chrysalis) + Saint Etienne So Tough: 30th Anniversary Boxset Edition (Heavenly) + Evanescence Fallen: 20th Anniversary Edition (Craft) + Spiritualized Amazing Grace (Fat Possum): And so, a chronological run-through of a bunch of high profile reissues from various eras (with varying degrees of appeal!). First off, Macca’s third Wings album from 1973, Band on the Run, which arrives on two half-speed-mastered records, one the original album (US track listing) and one containing a set of rough mixes, entitled Underdubbed. Given how polished the final album is, these are, indeed, rawer, but hardly your usual demo fare. Mind you, sometimes the lack of syrupy orchestration is a boon, especially on jolly, pub fireside strummer “Picasso’s Last Word (Drink to Me)”. The album contains one defining Seventies single, Macca at his glam-stompiest on “Jet”. Also notable is the title track, and the synth-touched instrumental “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five”. Wings sound throughout like a band who’ve been listening to reggae, relaxing with some "pot", and almost accidentally creating pop. Macca just can’t help it. Comes with two Linda McCartney polaroid posters. Four years later, in 1977, Brit rockers UFO released their sixth album. By this point they’d already been through a psyche-rock phase and a blues-rock phase and Lights Out sees them balanced between heavy rock and something more poppy, string-swathed and instrumentally opulent, vaguely akin to early Queen (albeit without the distinctive vocals). It contains a cover of Love’s “Alone Again Or”. This triple vinyl gatefold edition has the original album alongside a double of a live show from the Rooundhouse. The latter is more rockin’. Next we hurtle forward to 1985 and The Waterboys’ breakthrough third album, This is the Sea, which is reissued on limited edition clear vinyl. Call me churlish but I’m one of those who never “got” the album’s most famous track, “The Whole of the Moon”. Decades later, I developed an affection for their next album “Fisherman’s Blues” but, while the lyrics tug at the ears, the U2-ish epic stance and Eighties production of This is the Sea still doesn’t reach. Never mind. It has enough fans already. By 1993 the Eighties were the distant past as the post-acid house decade blossomed. Saint Etienne couldn’t have existed at any other time; determinedly English indie obscuritans making baroque Balearic with a twee-pop female vocalist… and having hits. One of their bigger ones, the nostalgia-fest of “You’re in a Bad Way”, is on So Tough, their second album, which now arrives as a boxset. Effort has been made. It's a treat for fans, with then original album remastered large on two records alongside a set of rarities, such as the chugging baggy-sounding “Orpington Blues” (basically an extended version of the album’s dubby “Railway Jam”), and never released cuts such as the fluff-disco “Last Thing on My Mind”. There’s also a 7” with two versions of luscious slowie “Hobart Paving”, an arrangement by Van Dyke Parks and the Sixties-sounding Alan Tarney Mix. Also in the box is a 28-page 12” x 12” book of interviews, essays and photographs, a poster, a sticker, and a reproduction press release. Jump a decade to March 2003 and Evanescence were massive and, perhaps, the exact opposite of Saint Etienne. The US band’s debut album, Fallen, welded together elements of heavy rock, gothic aesthetics and cinematic orchestration, under the auspices of in-fighting core duo Amy Lee and Ben Moody (he soon left). It sold millions, somehow dragging in both metal fans and people who like Sarah McLachlan, Sarah Brightman et al. The 10th anniversary edition is on marbled mauve’n’white vinyl on double in gatefold featuring B-sides, demos, and radio sessions, including an acoustic “Going Under” and a solo piano take on the gigantic single “Bring Me to Life”, the latter being the album’s stand-out sing-along. Move onto September of the same year, 2003, and Spiritualized’s fifth album appeared. To these ears, it’s a pleasant surprise. As a Spacemen 3 fan, I was never convinced by the more indie kid-friendly Spiritualised, although Jason Pierce’s smacked-out gospel thing can be potent. But Amazing Grace sees Spiritualized go back to the garage for a rough and ready set of riffers, with the odd broken soul interlude. Think it might be the best thing I’ve heard by them.  Comes on gatefold.

Vivabeat The House is Burning: The Best Of 1979-1986 (Rubellan Remasters): Los Angeles synth-pop band Vivabeat were very briefly the talk of the town when they became the first act signed to Charisma Records (at Peter Gabriel’s behest). Their sound is slightly ahead-of-its-time, in that it doesn’t have the post-punk, we-are-robots vibe of early Brit electro-pop; it’s but more like a cross between XTC, Roxy and mid-Eighties one-hit-wonders such as Animotion and Alphabeat. There’s a US rock song element to what they do (even a reggae feel on “Working For William”). This new collection comes on vinyl a mulch of purple shades and contains four previously unreleased tracks that are worth a listen. The tunes are often catchy, of their time, and it’s also enjoyably arch, bordering on camp.

Claude Cooper Stay a While (Friendly) + James Alexander Bright Fall For You/Viper Flames (Athens of the North) + Bob Marley Selassie is the Chapel (JAD): Three 7” singles. Bristol producer Claude Cooper’s 2022 album Myriad Sounds is an exercise in playful funkin’ around the territory where Sixties films themes, psychedelia, jazz, library music and exotica blend. It’s a little cracker. The flipside of his new single “Dance Tonight” has some of it’s full-band welly. The A-side, “Stay a While”, is more sample led, a horn-fired, beatsy, chop-around that recalls The Avalanches. I prefer the B. Comes on bright pink vinyl. Hampshire-based James Alexander Bright’s double-A offers a low-funkin’ jazz cut, "Fall for You", with whispery soul singing. It’s more of a groove than a song. The flip “Viper Flames” is a good title and more dancefloor-friendly. Comes on dinked/jukebox-centre-holed vinyl. The Bob Marley single is a limited-to-2000 number with rare 1968 song “Selassie is the Chapel” on the A, raw-sounding, acoustic guitar and drums, and indebted to the doo-wop of Frankie Lymon et al, while on the B-side is 1971 Tuff Gong single “Lick Samba”, a cleanly produced slice of Marley settling to his prime (later covered by Gilberto Gil). Full-time aficionados may know these songs but they are worthwhile additions to theartsdesk on Vinyl’s Marley knowledge.

John Bramwell The Light Fantastic (John Bramwell): The frontman of defunct Manchester alt-indie outfit I Am Kloot releases a new album, which arrives in photo gatefold. Swathed in strings, it sounds as if it could have been made in the mid-Seventies, those Byrds/Eagles/CSN harmonies in place, touched by Sixties-flavoured psychedelia gently here and there. The songs are strong, his voice distinctive, the lyrics engaging and, were he a new artist, the usual arbiters of middle-aged taste would be all over it. Not massively my thing but does what it does well; deserving of attention and a slot on the acoustic stage at Glastonbury.

Eels So Good: Essential Eels Vol 2 (Eworks): I started to re-investigate Eels relatively recently when I fell in love with the nasty throb’n’whoops of “Fresh Blood” upon its use as the theme to HBO’s The Jinx (one of the best true crime docs of all). It’s on this collection which takes frontman E’s output from 2007 to 2020. The general tone is thoughtfully downtempo with the occasional fuzzed-out rocker such as “Peach Blossom”. As well as his bigger tunes over three sides, it also includes songs he wrote for the films Shrek the Third, Yes Man and Prisoner’s Daughter, and a couple of jolly unreleased bits, the throwaway instrumental “Jazz Hands” and the morosely enjoyable seasonal “Christmas, Why You Gotta Do Me Like This”. Overall, a thumbs-up from theartsdesk on Vinyl. Comes on clear green vinyl in gatefold in picture sleeves with a 12” x 12” photo booklet with brief summations of each song by the man himself.

Marika Hackman Big Sigh (Chysalis) + Laena Mayers LUV (Songs of Yesterday) (Taxi Gauche): Two albums by female singer-songwriters who don’t take the predictable path. Critically acclaimed Marika Hackman has a devoted fanbase but has, as yet, failed to take a leap to the next level of commercial success/profile. Her sixth album, Big Sigh, fires her well-wrought indie-singer-songwriter numbers through the prism of bedroom pop, alt-rock, twitchy, soupy electronica, and reverbed ambience. It keeps the ears interested. Comes in lyric inner sleeve with a black’n’white art print on card of the cover art. Laena Myers makes less attempt to be approachable. A Los Angeles artist involved with various ventures, including the rock band NUMB, her debut solo album veers between relatively straightforward singer-songwriter fare and pieces that interlace tone music and scratchy strings. These are songs rather than experiments but there’s a lot of minor key dirge and lyrics such as “Resentment is the cancer of our dreams” and “Did we die hand-in-hand drinking cyanide?” so the overall tone borders on the morose. Comes with 12” x 12” lyric insert on vinyl that looks like cloud-smoke spewed over an old Eastern Bloc industrial city

Kula Shaker Natural Magick (Absolute): Speaking as someone who regarded Britpop as a retrogressive bore, it strikes me as preposterous that Kula Shaker were regarded as somehow less authentic than the rest. Less “real”? Come on! The whole lot, Oasis aside, were a plastic ageing rock journo wet dream (Oasis were too, but at least they were a genuine phenomenon). So Crispian Mills is a posho. So what! This isn’t to say I love ‘em. Far from it. But if you’re into all that Britpop malarkey, then this latest album, which has already made No.22 in the UK album charts, is packed with catchy Beatles-y numbers and songs dipped deep in early-Nineties “baggy” flavour. The title track even had me jigging around. Comes in photo/lyric inner sleeve on orange vinyl that looks like an oil machine sun.

Gotts Street Park On the Inside (Blue Flowers): Leeds trio Josh Crocker, Joe Henry and Joe Harris who, respectively, play bass, keys and guitar, have, between them , worked with (produced/co-written) Kali Uchis, Celeste and Mabel. On their downtime, however, as Gotts Street Park, they revel in downtempo jazz grooves, smoky, late night fare, a smidgeon of Portishead in there, with singers such as Pip Millett, Rosie Lowe and Olive Jones adding sensuously laidback vocals. Their pop credentials bleed into things. The whole has a smoked-out Amy Winehouse feel but is its own thing. A classy, likeable listen. Comes with 12” x 12” photo/info insert.

Metallica Kill ‘Em All (Blackened): Part of the charm of Metallica’s 1983 debut album is it’s not-very-good production. It gives their speeding riffin’ a punk charm, sets it apart from all those widdly guitar New Wave of British Heavy metal sorts who haunted the early-Eighties. In fact, it’s not even that fast by later standards. Having just kicked the abrasive and mashed-up Dave Mustaine out of the band (although he does receive a credit on four songs), brand new and near-virtuosic replacement Kirk Hammet acquits himself well. Unlike most later Metallica material, it combines Iron Maiden’s gallop with Motörhead’s relentless vim and, yes, pop sense. The result is winning. Comes on bright scarlet vinyl.

AND WHILE WE’RE HERE

  • Mexican electronic producer Alejandro Barba records as Dellarge and his latest album is entitled INRI which, in this case, stands for Industria Nacional del Ruido Infinito (which translates as “National Industry of Infinite Noise”). It is, apparently, “Inspired by the scenic beauty of his studio's surroundings at Lake Pátzcuaro”, but I’m not hearing that at all! It’s a clonky, gloopy set of head-fizzlin’ synth-tonica, moody but poky. It’s on the excellently named Modern Obscure Music label and comes on transparent blue vinyl with a poster and 7” single, also blue vinyl, containing remixes of two album tracks by Pedro Vian and Silent Silent Servant.
  • Some would say that it’s not befitting for a bunch of men in their fifties to sing “White light, white heat/Reach for the lasers/All eyes on us/Calling all ravers”. Theartsdesk on Vinyl thinks otherwise. Why not? I’m sick to death of the stay-at-home sofa-bums. So, yes, the “Unbelievable” crew return with a fifth album of goofy, bouncy Pop Will Eat Itself indie-dance. It’s called All the Beauty and the Chaos on their own eponymous label. Effervescent spirit and solidly plucky, ready-for-the-live show tunes are present. Comes on art/Lyric inner sleeve.
  • Antwerp-based Rwandan-born Hubert Tuyishimi records as Porcelain Id and their debut album, Bibi: 1 on Unday Records, combines quirked electronics with strummed guitar and likeably offbeat songwriting.
  • German-born, Amsterdam-based saxophonist Susanne Alt’s latest, Royalty for Real on Venus Tunes, could happily lean further into getting a groove on but, as it is, offers light jazz that sometimes rides a steady tail wind.
  • Holly Walker, who has sung with Maribou State in the past, now joins forces with one of this century’s underheard players, Jamie Woon to release (under her name) a debut album Unsung on Woo Baby Records. It’s laid back and electronic, relatively sparse-sounding, but centred on her soulful songwriting. Comes in lyric inner sleeve.
  • French electronic dance producer Fakear gives us his latest album, Hypertalisman on Nowadays Records. Those ancient enough to recall “dream house” in the mid-Nineties, will not be surprised at its contents, ie melodic 4/4, lush and ripe for warm beaches, easy-going and MDMA-cuddly. Comes on creamy vinyl splotted with yellow.
  • 20 years ago Swedish death metallers Opeth surprised their fans and Kerrang sorts with Damnation, an album, now reappearing on Music For Nations, which contains a set of songs pitched somewhere between Seventies prog and Seventies singer-songwriter fare. Moody but lightly stoned in tone, it’s a worthwhile collection. More metal acts should attempt this (if they have the songwriting chops!).
  • Myele Manzanza is a prolific, globe-trotting New Zealand jazz drummer and musician. His latest album is Crisis & Opportunity Vol. 4, subtitled Meditations, on DeepMatter Records. It’s straight-up, jazznik jazz, piano, double bass and drums. The notes on the photo/info inner sleeve refer to the music’s “interior mood” and that’s right; it’s thoughtful and unobtrusive.
  • Nashville-based singer-guitarists Malarie McConaha and Tim Hunter go under the name The FBR and have a debut album out, Ghost, on Limestone Music Group. Their sound is bedded in country – their harmonies certainly are – but theirs is a full band sound, marinated in rock, southern soul and even a dash of hip hop. The songs are tasty and well-wrought. Could maybe do with more production oomph but it’s still persuasive. Be interested to see them live. Ones to watch.
  • Canadian musician C.Diab’s new album, Imerro on Tonal Union Records, combines his bowed guitar with smushy, blurred warm-sounding electronics, all intended to sum up remote Vancouver wilderness. It’s fuzzily ear-interesting in places.
  • Female-fronted Australian indie band Middle Kids’ third album delivers catchy, buzzy songs, guitar-based but with bedroom pop touches, takes its time, and features a likeable array of rhythmic backing. It’s called Faith Crisis Pt 1 and comes transparent yellow with a 12” x 12” lyric insert on Lucky Number Records.
  • Montreal-based Swede Erika Angell, from alt-indie lot Thus Owls, releases her debut solo album, The Obsession With Her Voice. It’s on Constellation Records and is whispery and downbeat in tone. However, whether lathered in submerged strings or against minimalist pulse’n’echo, it’s sonically alive. Comes in art inner sleeve with 10” x 10” photo/lyric insert.
  • Norwegian jazz-pianist and composer Liv Andrea Hauge releases the first album by her Trio, Ville Blomster. It’s on the reliably unconventional HUBRO label but while tracks sush as “Vår” boast treated instrument scratching and room-ambient rustle, much of it is easy-going, classically-touched and relatively straightforward, calm but not dull.
  • The James Taylor Quartet were a much-beloved live turn in the pre-acid house Eighties, repping for retro-Sixties indie sorts, with a dash of brash mod punch. Very much if its time, their 1987 mini-album Mission Impossible laid out their wares, driven Hammond-led covers of Lalo Schifrin, John Barry, Herbie Hancock and Burt Bacharach, and now reappears on Acid Jazz
  • Jan Bang is a kind of Norwegian Brian Eno, albeit with jazzier credentials, a production polymath who is best-known for his behind-the-scenes work with others. His first vocal album since 1998 is mellow and melancholic, whispy and floaty, vaguely redolent of Peter Gabriel. It’s called Reading the Air and appears on Punkt Editions in info inner sleeve.
  • Berlin-based Irish singer Michelle Daly’s album January Skies received a positive response when it appeared a couple of years ago on Bandcamp. Now it’s out on vinyl on her eponymous label. Unlike so many singers who’ve been successful in the classical/opera field, Daly doesn’t go in for hideous melismatic showboating or Sarah Brightman-esque fluff-goth, Instead her debut contains BBC Radio 2-friendly Mark Ronson-esque funk-pop with a jazzual swing. Comes on bright blue vinyl that’s approximately the same shade as her dress on the cover.
  • Hurray For the Riff Raff is one of the more unlikely band names. Because it doesn’t sound like a band name. But New York singer Alynda Segarra’s outfit have used the name for well over a decade-and-a-half, dipping into a variety of indie-folkish styles. The Past is Still Alive maintains trajectory, chewily lyrical, veering into rock but not too far, classily musical but loose. It’s on Nonesuch and comes on “translucent orange crush vinyl” in photo/lyric inner sleeve.
  • The Snuts’ previous two albums have not pressed theartsdesk on Vinyl’s buttons. The latest, though, has its moments. On Happy Artist Records, Millennials mashes a jangly indie template into festival-friendly, clattery electronic bedroom-pop, somewhere between Get Cape. War Cape. Fly and The Go! Team. Comes on buttercup yellow vinyl in art inner sleeve that peers out of the album’s die cut window frontage.
  • The second album from gravel-voiced Liverpudlian smoocher Brad Stank is called In the Midst of You. Mingling hip hop stylings with woozy fondued-out jazz, sofa-bound and a little bit stoned, there’s a post-modern wryness there but, musically, it’s fully owned. On Sunday Best records, it arrives on white vinyl in photo/info inner sleeve.

DIDN’T GRAB THEARTSDESK ON VINYL BUT ON SMALL INDEPENDENT LABELS SO WOULD BE RUDE NOT TO MENTION

  • Jack Francis Early Retirement (Archtop): Lyrical Southampton singer-songwriter’s second album is American-tinged and comes on butter-ish vinyl in photo/info inner sleeve with 12” x 12” card lyric insert.
  • L.A.B. L.A.B. VI Easy Star): Well-established at home, New Zealand band’s sixth melds a blues-reggae feel with singer-songwriter stylings. Comes with 12” x 12” lyric insert.
  • Affection Place Smouldering Fire (Affection Place Music): Return of short-lived late-Seventies/early-Eighties Lyons post-punk band, featuring Magazine’s Dave Formula, a band whom they sound like, but more gothy. Comes with 12” x 12” photo/lyric insert.
  • Jan Nemeček Dissolved (Refractions): Belgrade musician’s latest set of experimental electronics of the layered ambient tonal variety.
  • His Lordship His Lordship (Psychonaut Sounds): Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne and drummer Kristoffer Sonne offer up a David Wrench-produced debut of purposefully dumb-goof Fifties-touched rock’n’roll in a Jim Jones vein. On transparent vinyl in photo/info inner sleeve.
  • Skeewiff Something Like That? (Jalapeno): Jolly Brighton party tune duo fire out a set of 12 crowd-pleaser cover versions in their patent funk-hop style, ranging from “Misirilou” to “These Boots Are Made For Walking” to The Muppets’ “Mah Na Mah Na”. Comes in info gatefold.
  • Daniel Land Out of Season (Hinney Beast): Elegy for outsider Britain from dream-pop crooner. Comes with art inner sleeve and 12-page booklet.

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