Hello, happy new year, hope you've not been too traumatised by your first few days back at whatever it is you do.
Nice christmas? Any good prezzies? My best was an umbrella, which I explicitly asked for. Make of that what you will.
After a short break for Christmas and such, WE TOO ARE BACK, open today and as normal again (Mon CLOSED, Tue 12-7, Wed 12-7, Thur 12-8, Fri 12-8, Sat 12-7, Sun 12-6). We're still waiting for a missing box of Neutrals to find its way to us from Sweden, but for the most part all online orders received in the past fortnight or so are shipping this week or, where relevant, are ready for you to come collect.
Sanjay and Carla are in Vietnam for some reason, back in on Sunday, so Kenny's in Thur-Fri and I'm solo on Saturday - my first proper day on the shop floor after two months in the shit-flecked, sleep-starved child-rearing trenches. So come hassle me and take advantage of the fact that I still don't really know how to work the till. No I haven't got any money either, but nothing takes the edge off being skint like blowing your very last coins on a one-sided Henning Christiansen 10", eh.
Yes, it's always a relief when we're all allowed to forget that the previous year happened and to focus instead on the NEW. It's only week 1 and we've already had a few things come through our door that we can almost guarantee will be propping up our best-of-2018 list in 12 months' time. But we'd be remiss if we didn't flag up the re-stocks/re-presses of a few in-demand releases from '17, so scroll to the bottom of this email for some such highlights.
Time to begin afresh, AFRESH.
See you soon you c**ts, we missed you xxx
THE ASTRONAUTS IT'S ALL DONE BY MIRRORS LA VIDA ES UN MUS | LP | £12.99
What a way to start the year. This LP of bittersweet, off-me'ead, existential hippy-punk by The Astronauts, originally released in '83 and reissued here by LVEUM, is precisely the thing to restore your faith in humanity and repair your tattered sense of self (hello, January). A life-affirming, parallel-universe pop masterpiece which has become a cult/freak favourite over the years, vouched for by fans of whimsical English psych, free music and, more improbably, peace-punk. Lol Coxhill plays sax on three tracks. It's almost too good to be true.
Supposedly Ray Davies never touched acid - but what if he had? Instead of Village Green Preservation Society we might’ve got something like It’s All Done By Mirrors: a ranting and raving requiem for a beautiful flawed Albion that has vanished - if it ever existed - or at least lost its marbles, now scared of its own reflection and likely to be found wondering the fruit & veg section of Morrisons with a blank expression on its face, dried spittle at the corner of its mouth, and no shoes on. As ever, the scalpel of Mark Astronaut's genius flashes brightest and cuts deepest in his most tender ballads: the radiantly melancholic ‘Typical English Day’ and ‘Fatigue’, the zonked folk-rock epic ‘Day To Day’ (the shambling elegance of the arrangements echoing Coxhill's work with Kevin Ayers in The Whole World) ...if these songs don’t bring salt tears to your eyes, there's something deeply wrong with you.
The lyrics are on another level, dreamy and mad and meticulous, Mark coming over like some kind of chatterbox Barrett/Betjeman hybrid with a drop of Officer!'s Mick Hobbs and Deep Freeze Mice's Alan Jenkins in there…the sound of a mind unravelling in an allotment shed, a very English despair: romantic and self-deprecating and hopelessly spangled. "I take a few drugs because I feel like the kick / and I smash up the room till I make myself sick / and it’s a laugh, not a grin -/ ‘What a nutter!’ they say, / ‘It’s part of the act though, he’s really OK.”
Reissue of sublime and numbed-out ambient techno from '93, sprung from two separate releases on U-Trax. Both sides gold: the murmuring voices and all-round desolated Detroit vibe of the Convextion-esque 'X-Manray', the dubbed sax and lapping drums of 'Echoes From Tau Ceti' and, this being The Connection Machine, tear-jerking string-pads guaranteed throughout. It really doesn't get much better than this, essential purchase! Available in very limited colour-splatter vinyl as well as standard black.
If you think you know all there is to know about Henning Christiansen (who said yes?!) then think again: the haunting and fragile lullaby-like Min døde hest (My Dead Horse, 1970) OPUS 55 is unlike anything in his catalogue, and surely the most accessible (not to mention EXQUISITE) thing he's ever had a hand in. Sung by Lene Adler Pedersen, accompanied by Bjørn Nørgaard (piano) and Christiansen on violin, this eccentric but heart-rending piece of folk/art-song was based on a poem written by Nørgaard and first appeared on Danish national TV as part of Vietnam war protest broadcast Hesteofringen (The Horse Sacrifice). Not as good as 'My Lovely Horse', mind, but not far off. Single-sided 10", edition of 350.
Moody-as Miami bass slammers, new on WT. Don't pay too much mind to the A1, it's all about the rest really. Dystopian electro indebted to Dopplereffekt, Pretty Tony and the Dutch West Coast isn't exactly headline news in and of itself, but this Miami-raised, Brooklyn-based producer gets the balance between swaggering, cold-mission machine-funk and more ethereal, psychedelic elements absolutely spot-on. If you're needing a soundtrack suitable both for a yard-dance for your night-drive to the docks to dispose of a dead body, accept no substitute. A keeper.
Two more extraordinary excursions into deepest dub coma from Chi, aka Hanyo van Oosterom, and something of a missing link between Detroit techno and UK DIY (!). It was Rod Modell's (Deepchord) discovery of an obscure old Chi Factory cassette that led Astral Industries to releaseThe Original Recordings(2016) as well as the previously unreleasedThe Bamboo Recordings(2016) andThe Kalikatsou Recordings(2017).Here, van Oosterom pays tribute to Modell with two sprawling remixes of Deepchord's 'Red Lantern' (from AI-01, released 2014, and currently being listed by some bastard for £222 on Discogs). These radiant dronescapes are more amorphous and ambient with a capital 'A' than anything on Bamboo or Kalilkatsou, and share something with Modell's own Waveform Transmission material (see one of our favourite albums of 2017), Reinhard Voigt's underrated Sturm project, zoviet*france's smacked-out Just An Illusionand even Foxx/Budd's drowned-world instrumentals. Its lush, bleary, amniotic ooze was apparently achieved by the most lo-fi of means, working from YouTube clips rather than original masters and manipulating them with Audacity ("the only computer based system that feels like the tape recorders I used to work with," he says), time-stretching and pitch-shifting, mixing different layers and adding old-school monophonic “old speaker” effects, delays and loops, including field recordings, voices and samples from his own early ambient cassettes. 180g vinyl, with typically wild Astral Industries artwork, already sold out at source. Don't miss this one.
It's not quite reached Coil (record time there) or Arthur Russell levels yet, but has Drexciya reissue fatigue set in? We would've said yes, but then stuck onMice Or Cyborg and had to eat our hat / scuba mask. This final (?) transmission contains some of Stinson's wildest gear - check the wacked-out techno of 'Lab Rat 2' (the drunker and sloppier cousin of The Other People Place) - but also no shortage of unreconstructed, deep-sea electro prowlers (your time, 'Lab Rat 4'). The gothic-tinged '5' and '6', meanwhile, out-Dopplereffekt Dopplereffekt - cold as ice but teeming with life. Truly one of the most flawless and future-proof entries in the 'ciya catalogue, don't say we didn't flag it. Remastered and repackaged with typical care and respect by Clone, who released the original in 2003.
Re-press now in stock. Mind-blowing revive from Holidays... minimalist jazz-folk/art-song from 1974, featuring Alvin Curran and Steve Lacy. Recommended for fans of Norma Winstone / Azimuth, Brannten Schnure, Emmanuelle Parenin and the like.
Re-press! When this dropped in November it sold out before our copies even reached us. One-sided white label pressing for Gremlinz and Overlook’s baad remix of Future Cut’s classic ‘Horns’ – an out-and-out war riddim if ever there was one. Also a promising start for this new downlow imprint from the Abstractions/UVB-76 lot. "Sending this one to Renegade Hardware 1995 - 2017. With Clayton’s Blessings. One Time For The Fog Horns. LTD edition.” Real horrorshow.
Back in stock! Thrilling Alga Marghen: a salvaged reel-to-reel recording of a key ’69 performance by prodigious drummer Jacques Thollot and band. Not a name usually mentioned as part of the free jazz canon but a storied figure among a certain breed of freak (indeed, he's on the NWW list), Thollot was a drummer at Paris’ Blue Note jazz club by the age of 13. It was the start of a career that would see him play for the likes of Chet Baker, Barney Wilen, Don Cherry and Pharaoh Sanders. Intra Musique thrums with a timely (revolutionary?) psychedelic energy and is grounded in Thollot's perfectly controlled and anarchic drumming (tautology entirely appropriate in this case) - the bedrock-cum-dervish around which piano (Eddie Gaumont, who died shortly after this performance) and alto sax (Michel Portal) tiptoe with fragile tension. Together they shift effortlessly, often abruptly, from uninhibited death-throe skronk to passages of sublimely lyrical balladry, and all points between ("Jacques Thollot is not just one of the greatest abandoned jazz composers: he is the one who abandons himself to all its forms.” - A.M.) Add to this the hiss, crackle and at times red-hot sound of the recording and you’re transported right back to the Paris-in-flames of the late 1960s. A powerful and resonant artefact. Edition of 350.