Virgin 1979. VS276
I bought this when I was 13. Back then I didn’t have much access to music – just the old records my Mum had and chart stuff. I hadn’t figured out there was good stuff on the radio if you knew when to listen. On the way home from school, I had to change buses outside Woolworths, which of course was never a good place to find interesting music, but they had a very well stocked and generously discounted bargain bin, so it was one of the few places I could actually afford to buy anything. They were blessed with a terminally incompetent buying department, so they were forever getting stock of stuff no-one record shopping in Woolworths would ever want to buy – and then have to almost give it away to shift it. Unfortunately in 1979 I didn’t know enough about music to spot these gems, so ended up with the the quirkier end of what had been in the charts recently.
This single still has the Woolworths price ticket on the cover – 20p. I kind of liked it then, but I like it a lot more now. It’s an extremely deadpan electronic cover of the RnR classic, Money. Back then I didn’t even know it was a cover version – maybe I enjoy it more now I understand how it sends up the original. I love the primitive electronics, the snooty vocals, the bonkers effects which don’t really fit with the music, and how the whole thing, especially the lyrics, somehow fits. The B side is even better – an insane dub version. Dub versions get done to death these days, but back in 1979, it was a pretty radical thing to do, especially to an electronic record. The Flying Lizards did more dub experimentation in the 90s which I’ll post later. In a way though this single, their second, started a rather dull period for the Flying Lizards. Money was an unexpected hit, so they felt obliged to churn out endless similar covers of classic songs. It got old very quickly.
Parlophone 1989. 12RS 6227
When I got back from shivering and being rained on in France, it was good to see a fresh batch of Cabs stuff over on Everything Starts With An A. He posted the two albums from their much maligned major label period, when, in the words of Yeah Yeah Noh, they made a move for chart position. His comments are absolutely spot on – this is not vintage Cabs by any means, and at the time their fans were horrified, for reasons which are obvious if you compare this material to their indie label output. It’s commercial electronic dance music, with more than a nod to New Order and even the Pet Shop Boys in places. So to compliment his posts, here’s the first of several singles from the same period.
Part of Parlophone’s ineffective marketing effort was filling record shops with very cheap singles containing endless remixes to try to catapult the Cabs into the charts. I didn’t buy the albums having read the withering reviews, but couldn’t resist these cheap-as-chips singles – in fact I don’t think I even paid for some of them.
This single is taken from the album Groovy, Laid Back and Nasty and includes a rather unnecessary four versions. Given the band’s legacy of inventive and experimental electronica, this was disappointing stuff, but taken on its own terms it works pretty well and I recall playing it quite a bit. It deserved to chart and to get lots of attention in mainstream clubs, but neither happened.
Studio !K7 2002. !K7131EP
(Matthew) Herbert is a conceptual artist as well as a musician which means there’s always more to what he does than the sound you hear. He also has a set of rules which he applies to music making. No drum machines, no synthesizers and no samples (of other people’s work).
This single is taken from the album Bodily Functions which was created using recordings of the human body, at least for the rhythmic parts. That doesn’t mean it’s a joke record full of fart noises – it’s really not obvious where the sounds come from. In fact it’s classy electronica with a jazzy feel, as is the case with much of his work. So jazzy in fact that he played the Mosely Jazz festival last year (or was it the year before – I forget). The unconventional sources for some of the sound have, in some ways the same effect as bands who use obsolete electronic technology – it’s subtly different to what we’re used to hearing because the sound pallette it draws on is different.
Bodily Functions has been re-issued with an extra CD of related material, which oddly contains none of the tracks on this 12″. Addiction is on the original album. So download this, then go out and buy Bodily Functions. You’ll be glad you did.
Wooden 1988. WOOD 6
This single barely sold at all, and is now largely forgotten. That’s not because of the quality of the music, nor of the performers. I suspect the problem was than no-one had any idea who “Us” were and Wooden had virtually no distribution.
In effect this single is by A Guy Called Gerald, with Edward Barton on vocals. It’s from the same period as Voodoo Ray, and I think is almost as good. Like its better known companion, this is a superb slab of acid house; minimalist and menacing. Barton’s odd vocals work surprisingly well in this context, as does the sample of the hateful Edwina Currie indulging in a spot of victim blaming. As you’ll know if you follow this blog, I like politics in music, and this works well on that score. If you’re familiar with the UK you’ll know of the huge and ever growing gulf between the wealthy south-east and the rest of the country. Back in 1988 it was bad enough, but it’s grown substantially since then, and it’s good to see musicians expressing their anger about it, and the politicians who seek to perpetuate the divide.
Modern Artifacts 2012. MA006
The quality of unofficial remixes of classic tracks seems to be going up and up. Is the technology getting better? Or their popularity causing DJs to up their game? I have no idea but this is a particularly good example of the genre which, unusually, got an official release last year. It now seems to be sold out everywhere, so it’s ripe for a posting here.
The original version, on Gil’s last album I’m New Here is essential listening. This version adds a welcome layer of menace. For my money it’s better than the Jamie XX remix of the same track on his LP We’re New Here.
Beyond 1994. RBADLP 08
This wasn’t an album I intended to rip simply because it’s so long – a quadruple. However two things made me change my mind – firstly how good it is, and also because my newborn son (Sam) really likes it. Laid back bass heavy electronic music seems to be his thing, so sitting around listening to this was even more of a pleasure than usual.
Electronic Eye was one of a multitude of aliases for Richard H Kirk. He’s best known as a founder member of Cabaret Voltaire (2 earlier posts for them here and here), and he also appears on this blog as Sandoz. He’s produced such a vast body of work, I can only claim to have scratched the surface, but for me this is one of his best and stands up as one of the best electronic albums of the 90s.
It is perhaps a bit long – the ideas here could have been condensed down, but the best tracks (Bush Channel Stepper and Data Crime stand out for me) more than make up for it. Still with an album of this quality, a bit of self-indulgence is more acceptable than usual. I prefer my electronica dark, and as you’d expect with the subject matter (surveillance, hence Electronic Eye) this album delivers on that score too.
Factory 1984. FACT 85
This album is something of a forgotten chapter in the history of Factory. It was the band’s only album, although there were also a handful of singles. Label aside, this release has a few claims to fame: firstly Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris, half of New Order play on the album, composer Carter Burwell went on to score all the Coen Brothers films, while the singer, Stanton Miranda worked with Kim Gordon pre Sonic Youth and appeared in Silence Of The Lambs among other well known films.
On to the music. Well, it’s 80s synthpop, but there’s rather more too it than that, as you’d expect from its provenance. The New Order sound is obvious in places, and the genre is taken somewhere which is by turns avant garde and really quite dark. It’s very much of its time, but I think the artistic merit of the album shines through anyway
Sire 1979. SIR 4020
I stopped listening to chart music a long time ago. I guess that’s partly because of my advancing years, but it’s also because records like this never make it these days. It’s completely bonkers and the idea that someone at Sire thought it would sell is hilarious. These days the dead hand of the marketing man has squeezed this sort of thing completely out of the mainstream. I was 13 when this came out and bought it because I thought it was funny, and nearly 35 years down the line it still is.
The A side is a very deadpan electronic cover of Bill Haley’s awful Rock Around The Clock. In fact it was more than just hilarious – it was groundbreaking too. OK, Kraftwerk had been making electronic music for ages, but this was one of the earliest attempts at entirely electronic dance music. Describing it as hilarious implies that it’s just a novelty record, but it’s actually very effective.
The B side, Moskow Diskow is much less of a novelty record, but really that’s only because it was written by Telex. The style is very similar. I played it to a friend who’s much more into clubbing than I am and it turns out it’s a bit of a classic. I guess you can’t really get away with playing the A side in a club, but I can see that the B side would really work with the peculiar sound really old electronic records usually have.
The incompetent A&R guy at Sire had the last laugh with this one though – against the odds it charted.
Sub Rosa 1996. SR110
This is the third and final compilation released in tribute to the late French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. The first is here, and the second, which is a companion to this one, is here. Essentially this album is a remix of Folds and Rhizomes; the various artists have swapped tapes and reworked each others contributions. It’s a pretty successful project – after all the contributors mostly represent the cream of 90s electronica. As usual, I reckon Mouse On Mars is the highlight, both the Scanner remix of Subnubus and their remix of the fourth track which seems to include everyone.
This is mostly minimal electronica. If you want to know more, the links above give a more detailed description of what to expect.
Monkeytown Records 2012. MTRRSD2012
I went a bit mad at record store day last year, so here’s another of my purchases. This is an exclusive track from Mouse On Mars, presumably an out-take from their excellent Parastrophics album. MOM have been around for a long time, but maintain an experimental, edgy feel to their electronica. I saw them play Llubljana a couple of years back and it was impressive how funky two geeks behind a load of electronic equipment managed to be.
Slack as always I’ve only just noticed the B side isn’t by MOM – it’s labelmates Prefuse 73 who I know absolutely nothing about. It means the file is tagged wrong – you’ll have to correct it yourself if it bothers you.
If you want more, the new album I mentioned above is worth a punt. Buy it direct from the band and cut out the tax dodging middlemen.