Hello pretties… newsletter a day late again (is anybody keeping tabs?). Was all ready to go yesterday afternoon but got derailed by various things - chiefly my having a massive hissy-fit in the children’s section of our local public library (every bit as undignified as it sounds).
So what news? YES: tickets are now available for our first birthday party/purge, which takes place at Bar A Bar (stone’s throw from the shop) on Friday 20th April, with guests John T. Gast, Mother Mark and the whole blessed Wah Wah Wino crew (Morgan Buckley, Omid Geadizadeh, Olmo Delvin), plus our own poor beleaguered Kenny (spent a long time deliberating whether he too was worthy of the bold. Of COURSE he is). Online tickets available from the website for £10, and paper tickets available in-store for a couple of quid less. Hope to see all able-bodied Londoners - and some of the rest of you - there, OK?
Speaking of Kenny, he took the reins for the first Low Company radio show on NTS - playing muzak from Blod, Wipers, Lucas Trouble, The Fates, Xvarr ++. You can listen back to it here.
Alright, let's get this over with-
OLD AND RED
MEN SCRYFA | CD | £6.99
New CD-R from Thomas Bush, on his Men Scryfa private press. A strange and compulsive breadcrumb trail...a game of two halves, as well: the first rooted in the kind of digressive DIY synth-pop and faux-naive keyboard mood-pieces common to his work in RAP with Guy Gormley (check their Originals tape on Jolly Discs); the second heading deep into the woods and a timeless, unsettling, avant-folk abstraction. The opening one-two of 'Down Street' (Robert Wyatt in a crumpled Sergio shellsuit) and 'Champg' (Lucozade-crazed Casio highlife) offer only the subtlest intimation of the gloomier, more introspective fare to come: that descent begins with the near-gothic 'Flood' which, thanks not only to Bush's self-lacerating, semi-improvised vocalese but also the driving, minimal accompaniment of organ, drum-machine and mellifluous bass-work, feels very much like the beautiful bastard child of (early) Eyeless In Gaza.
Behind the shaggy-dog fishing anecdote (!) at the heart of 'Presence: Martin', sickly-sweet, unheimlich drones yield to lush, impressionistic solo guitar somewhere between Vini Reilly and Roy Montgomery...gets under your skin, that one. But the climax of this brilliant album is the rangy, undulating Kernowek death-folk epic 'Ripe' - that spidery guitar again, with Karin Bähler Lavér's otherworldly vocals and sparsest percussions all suspended in thick cobwebs of reverb and delay - like Entlang spun out into opioid oblivion, or an even MORE dub-demolished F ingers (do you think we might like it?). By contrast the emotionally ambiguous ambient of 'Requiem For Forest Glades' (think Call Back The Giants, or Another Green Eno with a blindfold on and one hand tied behind his back) feels like a veritable hug in a mug.
Edition of 88, "each with some individual character", mastered by Rupert Clervaux. Also back in: limited copies of John T. Gast's 2013 Scryfa 12", Exile.
ISTANBUL / WOODSTOCK
BLACKWATER | 12" | £9.99
Don’t know much about the origins of this 12”, and the accompanying spiel about “geographical drifters” and “outer national grooves” is ever so slightly off-putting - it certainly doesn’t do justice to the certifiably strange, intoxicating, serpentine sounds within - its two pieces all the more potent for being concise (do we need any more 15 minute tracks in our lives?). Would recommend this to anyone who dug the Georgia record, for instance, but this is an altogether more oblique, abstract thing. ‘Istanbul’ - which apparently began as a field recording “snared while hanging out of a speeding taxi, somewhere between Karaköy and Beyoğlu, but totally transcends that, swelling to an almost 154 or GAS-like symphony of rainy ambience. But it’s ‘Woodstock’ that stands out, its shimmering chimes receding to reveal a dense tableau of swirling synth-tones and dub-drunk percussion… imagine if Pole (who coincidentally mastered this record) made a folk record?! So f*****g good. Edition of 200 in hand-stamped sleeves with opaque insert and individually numbered photographs…brilliant release… can’t imagine these will stick around very long.
KOREA UNDOK GROUP
I DISCHI DEL BARONE | 7" | £7.99
The Korea Undok Group LP on Penultimate Press - which scooped up tracks from the Canadian outfit’s tape output - is a firm favourite round here, one of those records that we never tire of and which manages to stay continually relevant (whatever the means). This 7” on the redoubtable I Dischi Del Barone is apparently the first completely new KUG music to appear on vinyl, although “new” is the last word that comes to mind when faced with music that sounds so thoroughly weathered and world-weary. For those of you unfamiliar with their output, it takes as its starting the point the smudgy, dub-corroded outer limits of industrial/post-punk tape music, and extrapolates into, well, the abyss. Understated though. The title track and A-side of this record purports to “concern memory and its disintegration over time” - a claim that a lot of music of the past decade or has made, but this stuff has a depressive intensity that makes your average card-carrying Hauntologist sound like Slade. Not that KUG is immune to the pop narcotic - the closing sequence finds Talula St on vocals channelling Cocteau Twins’ Garland for some seriously caved-in karaoke. Hand-stamped 7” comes in an edition of 200, “respecting standard Canadian language rule, with English & French sides”, and housed in white cardboard sleeve with postcard attached. Still waiting for these little buggers to actually land (fall-out from The Beast?), but they should turn up tomorrow.
THE COUNTRYSIDE IS GREAT
EM | 12" | £13.99
I think we can all agree that the recent spate of Japanese ambient / fourth world / electronic pop reissues, for all the jewels it’s turned up, has perhaps been a bit much. Moan moan moan MOAN…I know. But I mean why does it all this stuff have to be rediscovered and repackaged at once? It’s like waiting for the bus and TEN of them turning up. There’s scenius, sure, and then there’s taking the piss. But then I suppose the reissue “industry” has always been about exploitation… not exploiting the music or the artists making it (at least, not necessarily) but exploiting YOU. You like Japanese synth curios? OK here’s ANOTHER and ANOTHER and ANOTHER and ANOTHER. And there IS undeniably an appetite for this stuff - driven by, what, the fact that every time you leave YouTube to its own devices for five minutes it recommends you summat by Yasuaki Shimizu?!! But at a certain point you just think, fuck off. Not to the music itself, or the musicians responsible (god forbid), but to the people peddling it. Hmmm. Anyway, this is an impotent and illogical and self-defeating rant for another time.
Koki Emura’s EM Records is at completely the other end of the spectrum, anyway, and free from any such taint…based out of Osaka, and at it for 20 years, they’ve quietly amassed an awe-inspiring catalogue, and in all honestly EM ought to be more widely recognised as one of the world’s very best labels. While they’ve released their fair share of Japanese music, their output has never been Japan-o-centric: with room for work by David Rosenboom, Wicked Witch, Khan Jamal, Nicolas Collings, Roland P. Young, Pip Proud, Brenda Ray, Finis Africae, Sheriff Lindo… I mean, fuck, just browsing through their discography now I’m reminded how much their taste has influenced our own. So, at the risk of stating the obvious… lifetime achievement award for EM. Hip hip etc.
But let’s talk about the record at hand, Emerson Kitamura's glorious The Countryside Is Great… it IS a pellucid Japanese synth record, which DOES have loose affinities with Fourth World and the rich lineage of post-YMO digi-pop, but it’s not a reissue, it’s new music, and it stands out, absolutely.. It’s the fifth and final 12” in a series of releases supporting the film Bangok Nites (dunno, look it up). Keyboardist Kitamua is a renowned session man, active from the late 80s through to the present day; these self-produced tracks, made with his “trademark old-school rhythm box”, are just amazing, existing in an oneiric nether-world between wonky lounge/exotica, pristine electronic pop and dubwise DIY a la General Strike or Pickle Factory… dub is the common denominator here, every track riding on stripped-down but carefully cushioned steppers’ rhythms. The luminous, free-floating, rub-a-dubbed cover of George McRae’s early disco belter ’Rock Your Baby’, with exquisitely creamy vocals from mmm (mi mae moe), sounds like Stereolab without the stick up their arse, floating heavenwards on minimal percussion and Kitamura’s gauzy pads. His version of ‘Lam Phloem Salab Khonsawan’ is on the face of it little more than a compellingly twee J-pop miniature but turn it up, and squint a bit, and it’s an ultra-sparse, avant-dancehall digi-killer that wouldn’t sound out of place on, what, Paid Reach, while the closing version of ‘The Countryside Is Great’ is an uplifting, anthemic, aqua-fresh steppa not a million miles away from Tapes. I can’t think of anyone of you who won’t dig this phenomenal, unusual but totally unassuming record…ignore all those overpriced, overpackaged reissues (you know the ones) and spend your hard-earned on this instead.
Also: best title of the year, no?!
DRAW YOUR PATTERN
IDLE HANDS | 12" | £8.99
For those who know...crisp, bleepy but rigorously dubbed techno rollers from Bristol. Possibly our favourite Idle Hands ever, in fact. The wrecking-ball breakbeat pressure of 'High Pass Rambo' speaks for itself really, check the clip, but the more subtle 'Draw Your Pattern' is every bit its equal: a tensely coiled, chord-driven stepper that revisits (at least in our minds) that near-mythical era when Peverelist et al were cross-pollinating so fruitfully (when cross-pollination wasn't a THING) with the Hard Wax lot (or maybe even further back, when those records didn't exist yet and Pinch was practically willing them into existence by mixing garage into Basic Channel in empty Room 2s. We were there, gurning, totally unaware of the coming insurrection. LOL.). Put more simply: if like me you ever wish that Livity Sound gear had much more of the bleak, Isolationist feel of early Pev, this is the track for you. Essential 12", and eyes now firmly on Dan Habarnam, last glimpsed turning out lean, mean dnb on Cylon.
Right that'll do.
good night and GOD bless