Colin Hamilton takes a look at some of the LPs you might have missed over the summer.
Volume 14 -Reading 95 special
The people from Volume put together exciting compilation albums and release them with a CD sized booklet packed with 192 pages which feature lots of useful information about the artists. This release is a double CD which is packed with surprises.
The first surprise is the opening track from the Teenage Fanclub. It features Kim Fowley singing about the joys of the Reading festival. He starts off sounding like Bob Dylan, but by the time he's finished it could be Tom Waits. The Teenage Fanclub play an incredibly subservient backing role. Surprise number two. Carter USM's contribution, This One's For Me, does not feature any shouting, loud, fast drumming or embarrassing puns. Number three: Stereolab's version of The Theme From Get Carter does not have a French female singing ba ba bab ba in the background. (Well not until fairly near the end anyway.) Surprise four ; The Guided By Voices Track last's for over ninety seconds. The biggest surprise of all is that Heavy Stereo's demo version of their single Sleep Freak does not sound like Oasis in any way what so ever.*
Also featured, Drugstore covering Sugar Sugar, the refined sounds of Ian McCulloch's Electrafixion and the hotly tipped Cast, who have John Power, the ex-Las bassist, in their ranks. Disk two has the skate-surf -thrash of White Zombie, a live version of Sleep Well Tonight from Gene a new track from Buffalo Tom. If you were at Reading this is a useful souvenir of the event and will remind you about thirty six of the band who were there. If you didn't go, listen to this and find out what you've been missing.
*Well maybe just a little.
The Twenty Seven Points -The Fall -Permanent
Many bands release live albums filled with tracks which are barely distinguishable from the original versions, bar the applause between them. A large number of bands touch up the vocals and correct any errors with their guitar solos before they release them as live recordings. The Fall don't seem to be worried about the odd flaw in their latest live release. In fact they don't seem particularly worried about anything. Tracks finish halfway through, intros are played for too long and members of the audience verbally abuse them between songs. It's not pretty.
It features recordings from Prague, Tel-Aviv, London, Glasgow, New York and of course Manchester. The material is taken mainly from the last five years output. Return, Ladybird, War, Lost In Music and Free Range are all there as are weird pointless rants such as Glasgow Advice or mundane conversations such as M. H.'s Joke. One of the features of watching The Fall is that the quality of their performances is so diverse. One night they can dreadful, the next back on form. This album seems to be an attempt reflect the full spectra of their live output which is laudable but does not produce a compelling album. Though it is reasonably engaging first time round there is not a lot on it that will motivate you to play it again and a fair amount that you'll want to skip should you actually play it for a second time. If you want to own a live Fall album buy A Part Of America Therein, available on C.D. with the mighty fine 10« Slates. It's cheaper, better and in all ways superior.
Gideon Gaye -The High Llamas -Alpaca Park
Do you remember the days when you had no problems? The times when the sun always shone and all you had to do was fill in the hours? There was no need to worry about the rent being paid, food being on the table or finding a partner to suit your needs. Life was about relaxing and taking it easy, confident that the future would be fine because there was no reason that it shouldn't be. Gideon Gaye is the sound track to these times. It's a tranquil, feel good album for those times when your not rushing around.
It starts with some strings which are politely interrupted by a piano and gradually, The Dutchman begins to take shape. On first listen it almost sounds too slow but future listening, and there have been a lot of them, reveal that it just takes a little time to appreciate the pace. This is a beautiful, album filled gentle harmonies, and string sections which carry you away. Sean O'Hagen's lyrics are meaningless but this, of course, is the point, Gideon Gaye is not supposed to confront you with questions and dilemmas. It's sole function is to sweep you off to the land of your daydreams were there is nothing to worry about. This album has been released once and, despite critical claim, failed to sell well. Do yourself a favour second time around. Buy a copy, relax and spend a little time in the laid back world of The High Llamas.
Thunderstorm -The Atmosphere Collection -Rykodisc
If an album ever had an accurate title then this is it, Thunderstorm is an hour long recording of a thunderstorm. If you're a fan of Thunderstorms then this is the CD for you. It comes with a little booklet which tells you everything you've ever wanted to know about thunderstorms and possibly a little more. There's information about the life of storms, a history of lightning strikes and other general facts to fill you with awe and reverence. There's also a small piece on the technical side of the process complete with data about the types of microphone and recorders used, just in case you want to record your own storm. (Note: This is followed with a safety warning that lightening can be dangerous. Please take professional advice before attempting any amateur recordings)
On to the CD. It is an hour of rain falling interspersed with thunder claps. It is followed with twenty three individual thunder strikes for those of you who need the instant gratification of hearing a couple but haven't got an hour to spare. It's basically the best of section. The CD is best heard in the dark when it is cold and you let your imagination run free. I listened to it while I was alone in a tent and it was a moving experience. This CD also has many uses. If you have background noises when you are trying to sleep this will drown them out without engaging your brain to the extent you're too entertained to sleep. Take care just to programme the first track though or you will wake up to the sound of twenty three consecutive thunder strikes. Also, if a pet upsets you revenge is now quick and simple. This is far more than just a simple music CD, the entertainment is only limited by your imagination.
Best strikes in chronological order.
The Chemical Brothers -Exit Planet Dust -Junior Boys Own
The Dust Brothers were Tim Rowlands and Ed Simons, a couple of DJs who, by taking driving backing beats and mixing rock samples with them, became the name to drop on the club circuit. Unfortunately for them the moniker Dust Brothers was being used by an American Jazz band so they had drop the name themselves. They became The Chemical Brothers and Exit Planet Dust is their first album.
Leave Home, the first track is typical of their work. It features a voice repetitively announcing "The Brothers gonna work it out" as a bassline pounds away in the background. This serves as a backdrop for numerous other sounds, always engaging yet never too cluttered. Chico's Groove is another high point. It drifts lazily along with an entertaining beat and a deep bass sound ploughing through the heart of it. Song to the Siren ( not the Tim Buckley song has another infectious beat. Despite being described as 'live at the Sabresonic' it does not sound any less pre-recorded than the other tracks on the album.
Life is Sweet features the voice of Tim Burgess of The Charlatans. It is not really a song because his voice is mixed well below the bassline making it difficult to hear the lyrics. There will be no apologies though, basslines are what The Chemical Brothers are all about.
Reef -Replenish -Sony
While many are discussed as being the next big thing Reef are rapidly getting on with doing it. They seem to be measurably more important by the minute. At the Phoenix festival they were booked to play on a small stage in the middle of the bill. By the time the festival took place they had been promoted to the main stage.
Reef are essentially a rock band, their typical sound is hard edged which immediately engages you. The music is based heavily around Jack Bessant's pulsating bass lines, over these Kenwyn House plays his distinctive guitar licks. Singer, Gary Stringer's characteristic vocals provide a powerful focus. The single Naked is the essential Reef track, a forceful song with an edge that maintains the interest of the least committed listener. Feed Me and Good Feeling are song from a similar vein.
Reef though are cleverer than just the one noise though. Replenish and Mellow are far gentler tracks which nevertheless have Reef written all over them.
At the Reading festival Reef played to a packed tent. Watch out for them at Doddington next year.
Ejector Seat Reservation -Swervedriver -Creation
My how Swervedriver have suffered over the years. At the start of their careers they had the honour of being pigeonholed with Ride. They did not pick up the recognition they deserved, however, because Ride were the pretty band who'd look better on the front cover of a music magazine. Even when Ride stopped making great records they could get by on their looks. While Ride rode a wave of popularity, Swervedriver became a bit of a joke. If an indie version of Bevis and Butthead was made you can rest assured that one of them would have a Swervedriver T-Shirt on.
The new album is reasonably entertaining. It features a less pacey but more developed sound than the earlier days. The song Son Of Jaguar `E' is presumably a follow up track to Son Of Mustang Ford which is featured on an early single. It's a slower tune, far more atmospheric without it's predcesors driving beat, which was the reason for Swervedriver's critical acclaim. It's not all slower though, I am Superman is far pacier and far nearer the original Swervedriver sound. It is doubtful the Swervedriver are going to win any new fans because it isn't as good as their first album and if nobody cared when they were at their best, I doubt anyone will care now.
The Heavyweight Selection -XL-Recordings : The 5th Chapter -XL-Recordings
This CD showcases some of the wide-ranging talent on the XL roster. Their biggest name, of course, is The Prodigy. Their contribution is an exclusive nine minute version of Speedway, 'the secret knowledge' mix. This though is by no means the best track.
It begins with Liquid with Niagara. A multilayered array of sounds which rise and fall beneath a formidable beat. The wonderful Don't Laugh by Winx features an infectious sample of a laugh which is played at various speeds over a simple loop. Rok Da House by Tall Paul blend straight in after it. Subliminal Cut's version of Le Voie Le Soleil is heavily piano based and very reminiscent of the Chicago house scene circa 1986. Other bands featured include Yum Yum, Emperion and Pleasent Chemistry. All the tracks have been seemlessly mixed together so that each one blends into the next. Without the counter on the CD player it would be impossible to tell where one track finished and the next started which makes for over sixty minutes of uninterrupted entertainment.
If you are unaware of XL's position in the dance market or simply want something that you can enjoy without buying the obvious chart orientated merchandise then this is the album for you.
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