Felt – The Splendour Of Fear

Folder

  • Released: 1984 on Cherry Red Records
  • Genre: Indie Pop, Dream Pop

What I love about Felt is how Lawrence and Maurice Deebank shared the same spirit in aesthetics. Their song titles seem to have been carefully stringed together with the most ornate words of the English dictionary, with a dash of Lawrence’s eccentricity. Combined with Deebank’s classically-trained background, which allowed him to drop elegantly melancholic Spanish melodies against Lawrence’s acerbic poetry with ease, the early Felt line-up produced a tier of top-class albums that still sound pretty amazing some 30 odd years on.

The Splendour Of Fear is a pretty special album in the early Felt canon, mainly because of Lawrence’s magnanimous attitude towards Deebank’s guitar-playing ability. Indeed, four out of the six tracks are instrumental in nature. It isn’t a bad thing though. Out of their entire discography, this is the most elegiac-sounding record and the essential gist of the Lawrence/Deebank partnership. The World Is As Soft As Lace betroths Deebank’s pearly guitar line to Lawrence’s Verlaine-esque warble, which also features a favourite Felt line of mine:

And all my great plans get blurred
By the softest touch, the gentlest word.

In The Stagnant Pool, Lawrence’s obtuse lyrics take on a much more macabre feel with vague biblical references, delivered with Deebank’s guitar playing that borders on pathos:

The stagnant pool,
Like a drowned coffin,
Still as a deceased heart,
Haunting the ghost of the noble crusader

A Preacher In New England shimmers, blurs and melts into a blinding pool of emotion, with Deebank creating his own brand of wordless through his guitar. He recalls huge cathedrals of sound that twist and wind artfully at his fingers, making your heart skip a beat – and then finally leaps into wondrous oblivion, fading out like a receding dream.

It should be noted that Maurice Deebank left Felt shortly after recording The Splendour Of Fear, and also subsequently recorded his only record Inner Thought Zone in the same year. There are similar parallels to this and The Splendour Of Fear, so you might want to check out Inner Thought Zone as well if you liked this.

Glaxo Babies – Nine Months To The Disco

Folder.jpg

  • Artist: Glaxo Babies
  • Released: 1980 on Heartbeat Records
  • Genre: Post-punk, experimental 

Ah, Glaxo Babies. They happen to make the same strain of mutant music along the likes of The Pop Group, and why wouldn’t they? They also happen to come from Bristol, the multi-cultural city that also spawned trip-hop in the early 90s’, and brought much more joy and mischief to post-punk in the form of funk/dub/jazz mashups. There’s another group that could be counted as the yin to Glaxo Babies’s sound: Maximum Joy, who made cheerier, raucous funk, along with fellows Rip Rig + Panic. But that’s for another review anyway.

Glaxo Babies formed in 1977 with original members Tom Nichols, Dan Catsis (current guitarist for The Pop Group) and Geoff Alsopp, and subsequently brought Rob Chapman onboard as singer. The line-up went through another drastic change (a completely new line-up, in fact, with Rob Chapman leaving after recording a few tracks) before they recorded Nine Months To The Disco. As a result of this, their approach to the record became much more experimental, throwing in liberal doses of jazz, sound-collaging, funk and dub and finishing the recording of the music within a day. Wow. Hats off to these guys, because it doesn’t sound shoddy at all. Glaxo Babies put out another album, Put Me On The Guest List in 1980, and continued to record music periodically until their demise in 1990.

In a nutshell, the closest approximation of Nine Months To The Disco would be something like the result of bringing bloodthirsty savages to a disco party. Tribal drums underpinned with tight, primeval bass riffs, sans the overt politicizing of The Pop Group – but with an ominous undercurrent.

Maximum Sexual Joy has oodles of orgasmic bass and funky scratching, with what appears to be a delirious masked orgy and neanderthals having some fun tearing people apart in progress, while Seven Days has the most intense driving bass rhythm ever, with the fractured piano improvisation fading in and out throughout. The eerie synths sweep in and out of the song like a pale spectre. Free Dem Cells finally sets the party alight, and sees trebly guitars face each other in a Gang Of Four-style showdown, with the drums and bass serving as the spectators instead, egging the guitars on with glee. I love the drums on this one – the high hats sound crispy enough, mmm. Album closer Shake (The Foundations) sees them ditch the genre-bending and go full out funk, which may come as a relief for some people, although it may also come as a disappointment to other people. Just saying.

 

 

Decades / Failures – 002

Folder

  • Artist: Decades / Failures
  • Genre: Post-punk
  • Released : 2014 on Dead Tank Records, self-released on Bandcamp

This review came about as a recommendation from Instagram user and fellow music fan lightningpaw, who suggested checking out Decades/Failures’s music. Thanks for the recommendation, lightningpaw!

Decades/Failures is Philadelphian Adam Juresko’s post-punk worthy moniker, and I suspect, a knowing nod to two of Joy Division‘s songs. Swathed in glacial synths, complete with distorted baritone and haughty gothic overtones, 002 manages to retain the philosophic introspection of Joy Division and Kraftwerk-aping early New Order, but suitably updated for the millenium with very pretty synths.

I (Never Wanted To) Believe cracks out the cavernous reverb, and the thudding drum machines and primitive synths recall the ceremonial sombreness of early New Order (Movement and Power, Corruption And Lies), while Gentle Forces ‘s industrial clackety sound is reminiscent of the eerie ascending elevator effect on Joy Division’s Insight. The song gradually gains momentum with the addition of ominous bells and fuzzy synths, but cuts off again with the same effect on the intro. Tell Me How is mired in Interpol-esque melancholia, complete with the same tidy rhythm, while the synths weave themselves around the bass like gossamer-thin spider silk.

As a whole, despite the obvious influences 002 is still a joy to listen to, especially for fans of  the primitive electronic sound that was prevalent in the late 70s to the early 80s.

Killing Joke – what’s THIS for…!

image

‌• Artist: Killing Joke
• Released: 1979 on E.G Records
• Genre: Post-punk

Paul Ferguson’s drums take centre stage on their second album – which I am totally in love with, because they sound fucking massive. Think spatial, earthquake-inducing vibrations. And then combine that with some tight bass riffs. You can see where I’m going, don’t you?

Killing Joke stripped out the new-wavey synths from their self-titled debut, and came up with an album that was downright brutal. Industrial, dystopian, psychotic – that pretty much sums it up. Jaz Coleman adds to the psychotic element with his distorted shouty singing – if you watch any KJ videos he’s really intense. You don’t mess with Jaz.

Tension has an amazing drum beat (duh-duh-dum, duh-duh-dum) which manages to tattoo itself on my memory (and simply refuses to go away), and Follow The Leader resembles something that I heard vaguely on a post-punk mixtape, and actually dug it: skittery synth beats combined with that metallic drum sound. I need to dig that mix out someday.

The guitar riffs are also totally headbang-worthy, which left me thinking that Killing Joke actually also lean towards heavy metal as well. A quick Last.fm inquiry on the artist page, and I single out a comment from a user, that half- confirms my suspicion: “anybody, pls, kill all the idiots and faggots who label the last KJ album as ‘post-punk’. I’ve finally found another band to quell my moshing instincts.

Here’s Tension. Enjoy!

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Folder

  • Artist: Joy Division
  • Released: 1979 on Factory Records
  • Genre: Post-punk

I could wax endless lyrical about Unknown Pleasures, but you know how overdone all those reviews are…

It seems only right to listen to Joy Division today, on the 36th anniversary of Ian Curtis’s death. I cracked out Closer earlier, and my mind was mired in my own thoughts while listening to The Eternal in the car. The weather was befittingly Mancunian in description, shrouded in angry clouds that finally burst in the afternoon – grey, forbidding, exactly the way I like it.

The very first time I listened to Unknown Pleasures, it was on a normal commute to work. I wasn’t instantly seduced, but I used to work at a lab – and the best part was that you had a room all to yourself, where you could do your own thing and not get bothered by other people, so I would queue a couple of albums and get to work throughout the day. It was in this environment that I got acquainted properly with this album. Soon I got pretty obsessed with Unknown Pleasures. I would pore over Ian’s inscrutable lyrics in my mind, and I also remember having a mini epiphany to Shadowplay. There were colleagues in the workplace, but due to misunderstandings on each other’s part we fell out soon after, and I became solitary once more. Ian’s voice was a solace to the boring work. In hindsight, I realize how ironic it was. We got trapped in our own loneliness. I quit my lab job after three years.

Listening to New Dawn Fades through proper headphones makes me realize again how vital Martin Hamnett’s production is, particularly with the drums. To recount one of my favourite Hamnett stories – he made Steve take his drum kit apart and record each bit separately (snares, bass drum) to prevent the sounds from the bits of his drum kit from spilling over into the recording mike. The airless quality of the music enhances that eerie, spatial atmosphere so that each instrument is crystal clear – you practically jolt to the sound of smashing glass on I Remember Nothing. In fact, I think I’ll be reading his track-by-track guide to Unknown Pleasures while listening to it. Fantastic raconteur, that Hooky.

As a treat, here’s Unknown Pleasures mastered from the original master tape, in full Youtube glory!

 

 

 

Gang Of Four – Entertainment!

Folder.jpg

  • Artist: Gang Of Four
  • Released: 1979 on EMI Music
  • Genre: Post-punk, dance punk

Getting their namesake from a notorious group of influential Chinese Communist Party members, who were later imprisoned for treachery, Gang Of Four belonged to a cavalry of politically-minded English post-punk bands who mixed ideology with their music (think The Pop Group and Scritti Politti). However, while The Pop Group scared some music fans off, either by way of Mark Stewart’s banshee voice or their free-form fiery jazz-influenced music, Gang Of Four made their music enjoyable for all of us by plying their jagged guitar riffs with a dance sensibility. We can’t quote Kant or Nietzsche, or deliver confounding Marxist speeches as well as these guys, but we can fucking bring the house down if we dance. Maybe a government in the process as well. All in a day’s work, eh?

If you’ve heard Franz Ferdinand’s sexy machine riffs or Rage Against The Machine’s politically-infused lyrics, then you can probably see Gang Of Four’s shadow right there. It’s not difficult to see why Entertainment! is a post-punk favourite. Kurt Cobain listed it as one of his top 50 favourite albums in his personal journal. Pitchfork (rolls eyes) listed it as the eighth best album of the 70s’.

The punk is definitely there. All angry, occasionally fuzzed-up guitar, but it doesn’t degenerate into a testosterone-charged mess. The sound is sleek and tight in the way post-punk sounds like.The funk influence makes itself felt by its rumbling bass lines. You can’t miss em’. There’s a ton of them smexy beats on Not Great Men, and on Damaged Goods where the sexual dilemma of the 2010’s manifests itself 40 years earlier (“Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you/But it’s only lust”). The controversial one, Anthrax, has a deliciously fuzzed-up intro which also resembles Franz Ferdinand’s The Fallen (or should it be the other way round?). Why is it controversial? The rather cynical lyrics, that’s why. (“Love’ll get you like a case of anthrax/ And that’s something I don’t want to catch”).

Here’s a boombox-worthy sample: At Home He’s A Tourist below.

 

 

 

Records on repeat for the week: March

 

71ia203pg0l-_sl1300_

Françoise Hardy – La Question (1971)

I guess this must be how people expect music from France to be: all breathy and voluminous; sexy…(insert appropriate adjectives here). She is no longer the tall, awkward girl fumbling with her guitar on The Yeh-Yeh Girl From Paris but the femme fatale who is quite aware of her own power over men. Her voice has a certain allure that draws the listener in, which is nicely complimented by Brazilian guitarist Tuca’s sparse pickings – and the orchestra! Wow.  Just wow. It’s hard to pick three songs, damn it all.

Highlights: Viens, Doights, Si Mi Caballero

different-class-cover

Pulp – Different Class (1995)

I’ve been listening to Jarvis’s lyrics more closely this week and they are a masterclass in working-class rage, thinly disguised in the form of Jarvis’s nerdy-glam teacher persona. It’s seedy and Day-Glo all at once. Pulp makes life an everyday soap drama worth watching.

Highlights: Common People, Pencil Skirt, Sorted for E’s and Wizz

cs492953-01a-big

Maurice Deebank – Inner Thought Zone (1984)

If you like the Durutti Column or Aztec Camera then this is perfect for you. Maurice Deebank recorded Inner Thought Zone while still with Felt; he would leave shortly after the making of Ignite The Seven Cannons in 1985. Maurice Deebank was the perfect foil to Lawrence’s poetic raconteur – with his classically trained chops he could conjure a melancholy, dreamy poignance to Felt. He brings that to Inner Thought Zone, with lots of that melancholic jangly sound now complete with wind-swept synths. What is left of Felt’s romantic allure are song titles such as Silver Fountain Of Paradise Square and my personal favourite – A Tale From Scriabin’s Lonely Trail.

Highlights: Golden Hills, Pavane, A Tale From Scriabin’s Lonely Trail

Momus – Tender Pervert

  • Artist: Momus
  • Year released: 1988 on Creation Records
  • Genre: Post-punk, alternative

“I think a common theme is “aggression against normality”, from the left wing terrorists in The Happy Family album through the Maoist intellectuals and fake homosexuals of Tender Pervert, the baby-hating, doppelganger-haunted narrators of Ping Pong, right up to the eccentric ‘Thunderclown’ on the new album, my characters don’t accept the world as it is. The corollary is that they respect otherness, and try to model other ways of living: parallel worlds. I think of this as basically a (post-Christian) Calvinist mindset.” – Nick Currie aka Momus in an interview for The Quietus

After a stint in the musical wilderness, I finally found myself bereft of records to review. Nothing seems fully satisfying after that glorious moment of truth – that you now only crave music that sounds like a frenzied jazz band playing in a mental institute. I still don’t know whether if I should feel happy or terrified, actually. (See this review for more information.) So…I present thee: Tender Pervert!

Continue reading

Records on repeat for the week

Hello, hello!

Nah I haven’t abandoned this blog yet, if you were wondering. I’ve been busy with real life (and annoying bouts of Word Streak With Friends, oops) but I’ll post some records that I’ve been listening to lately.

Craft Spells – Nausea (2014)

Gorgeously crafted melodies with a crisp, airy production. The pianos leave their dainty footsteps on the sonic landscapes that Justin Vallesteros creates, complete with lush violins. On songs like Twirl and Breaking The Angle Against The Tide, the guitar lines are reminiscent of the Pastels and Felt. On the whole, the album makes for a refreshing listen.

Highlights: Komorebi, Laughing For My Life, Breaking The Angle Against The Tide

Rip, Rig + Panic – God (1981)

In the same tier as The Pop Group (Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith were from the band) but with Neneh Cherry (yes, the Buffalo Stance singer!) and Andrea Oliver on vocals and a much funkier rhythm section. On Try Box Out Of This Box, the band mixes dub elements with a swooning saxophone and jazzy pianos. As a whole, the album isn’t as frustrating as Y, but the vocals are quite wild!

Highlights: Knee Deep In Shit, These Eskimo Women Speak Frankly, It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Brrod 

The Other Two – The Other Two & You (1994)

I absolutely adore New Order’s music, and this is no exception. The duo, made up of Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert – the brilliant drummer and the lovely lady responsible for some of the synths on New Order records – show the world what they’re made of. Selfish, with its airy melancholia and Gillian’s girlish vocals begs for repeated listening. I love how the album starts out all synthy and almost teenybopper-y but then hits you in the face with harder tracks like The Ninth Configuration. This was recorded a year after New Order’s Republic, but Gillian’s vocals inject a bubbly optimism which is not evident in Republic.

Highlights: Selfish, Innocence, Loved It (The Other Track)

Books as albums – why not?

Recently, I was re-reading Anais Nin’s Delta Of Venus. I also happened to have Kate Bush’s The Sensual World on repeat, which, god bless her, is one of my favourite records from Ms Kate herself. Kate’s breathy, whispered “Mmmmmm” and “Stepping out of the page/ into the sensual world” fit the description of Elena perfectly in Delta Of Venus (the Elena chapter), where her blooming sensuality is aroused fervently by her lover. It takes on a ferociousness that threatens to consume herself – but she discovers herself in the process.

This set me thinking: Are there any books out there that demand the perfect music to be read to? So…ta-da! I present thee: two books and two records with very similar themes!

Bonus points: Listen to the records while reading the books, AND let me know what you think.

one

Anais Nin’s Delta Of Venus and Kate Bush’s The Sensual World (specifically the title track)

Anais Nin’s beautiful ability to set the imagination ablaze is perfect for her erotica books. Wait – before you turn away in disgust, let me stress that her erotica CAN be appreciated as literature, and rightly so! Obviously, sex happens – but Delta Of Venus is written in such a way that doesn’t explicitly state the obvious. She invests emotions in her characters – through sex their femininity, and thus their understanding of themselves grow. The Sensual World has Kate singing about the same subject matter. However she never gives the game away, but merely hints at it (To where the water and the earth caress/and the down of a peach says “Mmm, yes”). It was inspired by Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses. I haven’t read Ulysses but I don’t think it has the same subject matter as Delta Of Venus!

two

Yukio Mishima’s Confessions Of A Mask and Momus’s Tender Pervert (specifically The Homosexual and Bishonen)

Momus is a Yukio Mishima admirer and a Japanese culture fan, and I’ve always thought that The Homosexual was written with Confessions Of A Mask in mind (or vice versa?). Kochan, the titular character in Confessions Of A Mask, struggles with his burgeoning homosexuality but strives to keep it under wraps by pretending that he is a straight male. Some people have postulated that Confessions Of A Mask was semi-autobiographical due to the apparent similarities between Kochan and Mishima, but we’ll never know the truth, eh? The Homosexual also rotates around this self-denial, but the character exacts revenge on all his name-callers by sleeping with their wives, and savouring the delight he brings to their women (nasty!).

Momus’s Bishonen explores the desire of a young man, considered effeminate by his peers, to die young in a glorious death as wished by his stepfather. Incidentally, this “death in glory” ideal is presented in Runaway Horses.

So…do you have any recommendations for similar books and literature in this vein? Let me know!

what SISTER RAY says

Reality is for people who are scared of unicorns.

Sableyes

Sabbles woz 'ere

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

postpunkbrazil

Brazilian post-punk bands in the 80s

Zelda Reville

“Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are.” ― Anaïs Nin

Can You Get to That?

(I want to know) if you can get to that?

ipekseyhanpoyrazkarayel

Asla İdeallerinden Vazgeçme Asla! Never Give Up Your İdeals Never!

Sky Writer

Donna Cunningham's Blog on astrology, healing, and writing.

SongSavers

plowing into the field of music