Cherry Red 1984. MRED60
This post is a request for information as much as anything else. I heard it on Peel and bought it – the usual story. I listened to it quite a lot and bought their second album too. I had an idea in my head that they were a kind of semi-legendary proto-rap group, pre-dating its popularity and as a result not really sounding like anyone else. However my efforts to find out more about them have failed – I can’t find anything at all. Clearly they can’t have been as groundbreaking and influential as I thought.
So, since I was wrong about them, can anyone fill me in?
The album is full of the sort of gritty social commentary I like and a mysticism I’m less keen on. The rapping is much more poetic than is usual and very effective. However it’s a 30 year old rap record so the backing is pretty primitive.
I can’t imagine why I’m writing this blog tonight. The house movers are coming in the morning and I’m surrounded by boxes and exhausted. An escape from the tedium of moving house maybe.
Butterfly 1995. BFLT30
System 7 is a most unlikely outfit. It’s somewhat fluid, but is based around Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy. Hillage especially has a very long history in music, starting with the crazed drug addled psychedelia of Gong in the late 60s and early 70s. Hillage looked particularly ridiculous in those days but don’t be fooled either by that or insantity of what they produced – it was innovative and adventurous music. Check out Camembert Electrique for what I think is their best. He then went on to become a somewhat legendary guitarist – Rainbow Dome Musick is especially good. Giraudy was less prolific but was involved in Gong.
Fast forward quite a few years and Hillage and Giraudy have become very much part of the rave scene and are producing well reviewed electronica. Now in their 60s, they’re still doing it. The technology might be unexpected, but in a way it’s continuing from where their earlier outings left off, tapping in to the party/festival/druggy end of music, and for my money doing it pretty well.
I usually play what I’m writing about while I’m writing it, but the Neu! sample in the Voodoo mix distracted me and I ended up having a bit of a Krautrock fest instead.
I’m afraid postings here have been a bit sparse lately. That’s because I’m emigrating which is a bit of a nightmare and doesn’t leave much time for this sort of thing. To make matters worse my beloved turntable is dismantled and boxed up for the journey. It’ll be great when I get there (South-West France) but right now I’m really hacked off with the whole thing. When I’m settled in and have an internet connection, normal service will be resumed.
DJ International 1986. LON LP 22
House music was pretty exciting when it first appeared. The problem though was buying it – there were few “names” to follow and the record shops which stocked it were very intimidating for a geeky indie kid trailing around record shops in a cheap suit in his lunch hour. I did brave those shops from time to time asking for something I’d heard on the radio, but most of the time it was compilations like this one which made the genre accessible. This is a very early example and it includes most of the important early movers. It sounds primitive and not all the tracks work so well nearly 30 years after the event, but the best of them are superb. Steve “Silk” Hurley’s monumental Jack Your Body charted as I recall, but it’s the thumping bass line which really makes it work. Mr Fingers has appeared here before. As as for the rest, Marshall Jefferson’s contribution is a monster and more-or-less defines the genre, while JM Silk and Farley Jackmaster Funk aren’t too shabby either.
Mercury 1989. Mercury 876 231-1
Electribe 101 were a short-lived project championed by Peel, as was so much on this blog, but which folded due to an unjust lack of commercial success and stupid arguments with their label.
They were, in theory a house music band, composed of 4 electronics geeks from Birmingham and a rather wonderful but improbably named German singer; Billie Ray Martin. The result was a slick but soulful sound which sounded rather incongruous when Peel played it, but he was spot on about how good they were.
Billie Ray Martin, as befits someone with such a great voice has had a long and interesting career since, but I’m not at all certain what happened top the rest of the band. By an odd co-incidence this track was written by Larry Heard, aka Mr Fingers.
Rising High 1994. RSNLP23
By 1994 I was getting a bit bored of indiepop and had moved on to experimental electronica. There’s not been much of that here because by then I’d almost stopped buying vinyl after a traumatic washing machine flood damaged quite a bit of my stash (now resurrected thanks to a fancy record cleaning machine). For some reason though, this did get bought on vinyl.
It’s an overlooked ambient classic, following on from the KLF’s liberation of the genre from the highbrow (Eno) and the crusties (Tangerine Dream). It makes more than a passing nod to those pioneers, but it is also very much of its time – in a good way. I’ve always been quite label-centric, and this partly caught my eye because of that; Rising High produced some of the most interesting electronic releases back then.
This doesn’t seem at all experimental listening to it almost 20 years after its release. It’s accessible and melodic, albeit with some very long tracks. It worked well as I read the paper with the rain hammering down outside.
Warp 1990. WAP5R
Yesterday’s reference to my ongoing obsession with LFO reminded me that I never got around to posting the remix, so here it is. The mix itself is very much inferior to the original, although nearly every electronic track ever made falls into that category. It doesn’t work because much of what made the original so magical is obscured. For me its real value is for the third track, Quijard which for reasons unknown has escaped Warp’s generally excellent re-issue programme. It’s classic LFO from what was for me their best period.
One Little Indian 1991. TPLP32
I bought this by mistake quite recently. I was in Polar Bear records in Brum, and there it was, a Shamen album I don’t have for £1. It was only when I got home that I realised that it’s actually every version of Move Any Mountain plus a load of samples on a triple LP. I like the track, but 19 versions? Actually according to discogs the album is mispressed and one of the mixes is repeated, so if they’re right, there’s only 18 versions. It finishes with the components of the original tracks because, in the words of the band, “We’re sick of remixing this fucker, so here are the bits, go do it yourself”. They make for an odd and unexpectedly pleasing listening experience.
You might ask why I bothered ripping the whole thing? Well taken a side at a time over several months it was fine. Anyone who managed to make it through this in one sitting deserves a prize.
This is a silly album, but I quite like the OCD nature of it, and I guess if you’re a fan it’s worth having. Some of the mixes are even quite good, especially the ones without Mr C’s rapping.
Les Disques Du Crépuscule 1988. TWI749
This is, in my humble opinion, the mighty Cabs best period. It’s a compilation which gathers together various somewhat random tracks from the early 80s.
It kicks off with the three parts of Sluggin’ Fer Jesus, recorded in the US with the band horrified/enthralled by the insane money grabbing right wing TV evangelists they saw on hotel room TVs. They take the crazed rantings and superimpose a minimal electronic backing. Yashar was a Factory single which combines a sample from Outer Limits with oddly eastern sounding electronics.
It’s side 2 which is the highlight for me. The dark, menacing Invocation might just be my favourite Cabs track, and the album closes with an amazing and unlikely cover of Isaac Hayes’ Theme From Shaft. That the Cabs should cover a classic funk track is unexpected of course, although their use of rhythm was on occasion quite funky, but this manages to be both very faithful to the original while still retaining the menacing minimal Cabs sound. The classic guitar work on Hayes original is accurately reproduced electronically – a trick you’d think would be impossible. The lyrics are entirely unsuited to the Cabs style, but even that they manage to make work. Truly astonishing.
Juice Box 1994. JB26
This single is taken from Black Secret Technology which I posted a while ago, but it’s such a great track it deserves another outing. The beautiful vocals are provided by a pre-fame Finley Quaye in quite a jazzy style which works well with the sparse jungle backing from Gerald. It’s the least experimental track on the album, although of course the remixes here mess with the simplicity, but it really doesn’t need any embellishments – it just works really well as it is.
Gerald Simpson is one of the most important and innovative electronic musicians of the last few decades, and he’s never less than essential listening. He has a new album out which I’d have bought had he not issued it through the infuriating Bowers & Wilkins.
Soul Jazz 2003. SJR 071-12
Kit Clayton was a fairly constant presence on the glitchy electronic compilations, usually on Mille Plateaux, that I spent a lot of time listening to in the late 90s and early 2000s, and this 12″ is pretty typical of his output. It’s very much the geeky, computer based end of elecronica, which back then was the most interesting part of the genre.