Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Chaotic Wall of Noise Assailed My Lugholes

Manitoba - Every Time She Turns Round It's Her Birthday
Manitoba - Cherrybomb Part II

‘Up in Flames’ was one of those albums that took me completely by surprise. So much so, that after a single listen, I didn’t go back to it again for a couple of weeks. I’d been expecting more of what Snaith delivered on his debut ‘Start Breaking My Heart’. I’d enjoyed the brief mashed breaks detour, but as far as I was concerned, it was time for a return to the warm, pastoral electronica with which he’d made his name.

I slotted ‘Up in Flames’ into the CD player, pressed play and a chaotic wall of noise immediately assailed my lugholes. It wasn’t even an electronic mess - it was layered acoustic guitars, organs, flutes, sun-kissed double-tracked vocal harmonies, clattering drums – all mashed together like potatoes in a giant pot. Pitchfork described it as “unified sound”, where every single instrument is tied so tightly to the next that it is impossible to prise them all apart again. It threw me completely. It felt a bit like opening a Christmas present that’s a really distinctive shape, like a bike, and finding that it’s in fact a series of completely unrelated objects, put together in such a way that it resembled the bike you really wanted it to be. Mind thoroughly blown, I consigned it to the shelf.

Stupid, stupid me. The really ridiculous thing was that if Snaith had released it under a pseudonym or if it had been his debut album, I’m sure I would have loved it straight away. It was just my initial expectations that held me back from full enjoyment of an album that has since become one of my favourites of the decade. I don’t know what happened to Snaith between the recording of the two albums, and if I didn’t know better, I’d suspect he’d ingested a lorry load of psychedelics and borrowed Brain Wilson’s brain for a bit. How else can you explain such a staggering transformation in sound? Sonically, it’s up there with ‘Loveless’. First, consider that Shields spent years and god knows how much of Creation’s money in state of the art studios to create what is undoubtedly a sonic masterpiece. Then balance that against the fact that Snaith recorded ‘Up in Flames’ in a bedroom studio, on a laptop, for a few thousand quid, in about 18 months, playing every single instrument himself, and you’ll see that the two albums do deserve to be spoken of in the same breath. And Snaith was only 24 when he made ‘Up in Flames’. Having made that bold comparison, Spiritualized and Mercury Rev are probably better reference points – the adventurous, psychedelic grandeur of the whole album recalls the Rev’s ‘Boces’ and the more chaotic moments from ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space’.

Unlike me, most reviewers got it first time, though Q magazine didn’t share the love, saying, “Most tracks follow a simple formula: the vocal from Don't Stop by the Stone Roses + layers of chimes + dog barks + crashing drums = mess.” Which is actually a rather succinct way of summing up the album without resorting to the kind of flowery language I oft indulge in. Playlouder decided Snaith must be, “a lunatic and a fool” (yes, but in a GOOD way), whereas Stylus Magazine deduced “‘Up In Flames’ is a record in love with music made by a music lover.” Of this there is no doubt.

I don’t really have a favourite song on the album. Like all the truly great records, it works best when you listen to the whole thing from beginning to end. 10 songs, under 40 minutes. It blows you mind and then fucks off again. Perfect.

Final word to the man himself – “There's all this lazy, complacent shitty electronic music where everyone uses the same keyboard sounds and shit drum sounds. Fuck that! Electronic music can sound like anything you want it to so why does it all sound the same? People aren't very ambitious. Why be an imitation? Why not try be on some next level shit? Some Brian Wilson/Timbaland type shit?”

I’m posting the epic album closer ‘Every Time She Turns Round It’s Her Birthday’ as if you don’t already own ‘Up in Flames’, it should persuade you to part with your hard earned dosh to own a copy. The phenomenal drum outro is worth the cover price alone, but the whole song is an incredible psychedelic space rock odyssey. As a bonus, I’ve also put up ‘Cherrybomb Part II’, a previously unreleased track which surfaced on the 2CD Special Edition of the album. It’s a beautiful, simple song, and acts a bit like those palate cleansing dishes you sometimes get between the courses of a properly good meal – clearing the mind in readiness for more intensely flavoured songs.

NB: If you want to hear more songs from ‘Up in Flames’ there’s a few on the TWNR Ghetto over on the right-hand sidebar.

Tomorrow – an enforced name change means packaging headaches for the Leaf label, and sends Snaith into creative overdrive…

Buy Caribou from Norman Records
Caribou website
Caribou My Space


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Flying Assholes

Manitoba - Ach Who

In the period between ‘Start Breaking My Heart’ and Snaith’s second album ‘Up In Flames’ he recorded a 12” for Leaf, amusingly titled ‘If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport’. It was released in January 2003, just a few months before the psychedelic magnificence of ‘Up In Flames’, but was a massive curve ball in terms of the direction he was heading musically.

‘If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport’ picked up where the remix of ‘Dundas, Ontario’ left off, with the title track and b-side ‘Ach Who’ consisting of mashed, frenetic two-step breaks, sub-low basslines and squealing brass. There's a brief momemt of respite during 'Ach Who' where the beat drops and we get an interlude of pretty, twinkling melodies. But it's not long before Snaith gets bored and shovels the beats back to the forefront. This was proper (experi)mental breakbeat gear, representative of the music Snaith was playing out when he DJ’ed. Having settled in London, Snaith (along with Four Tet, who also explored his love of grimey two-step garage on the 'Glasshead / Calamine' 12" from 1999) was probably influenced by the sounds he would have heard banging out of London’s pirate radio stations. Maybe it was something he needed to get out of his system. Whatever the reason, this was brutal, futuristic rave music, and a million miles away from the unique proper songs and live instrumentation of ‘Up In Flames’, which I’ll be moving onto tomorrow.

Seelenluft - Manila (Manitoba Remix)

I’m also posting the Manitoba remix of Seelenluft’s ‘Manila’, released around the same time. The original was a rather charming number, featuring a surreal rap from 12-year-old Compton resident 'Mike Master' Michael Smith. For some reason, Snaith saw fit to unleash the rabid dogs of mutant two-step breaks and deranged jazz experimentation to tear the original to shreds. The bit where he uses the vocal sample sounds like opening the door on the rehearsal room of a pissed up experimental jazz orchestra tuning up. Then someone turns on 11,000 hoovers and the beat drops back in, along with the filthiest of bass lines. Sick, Sick, Treble SICK!!!

Buy Caribou from Norman Records
Caribou website
Caribou My Space
Seelenluft at Klein Records


Monday, August 27, 2007

Dan Snaith Rules, OK?

This week at The White Noise Revisited we are going to be celebrating the music of Dan Snaith or the artist formerly known as Manitoba who now records under the pseudonym Caribou. I am a massive fan of Snaith’s work, and last week he released his fourth album, and first for City Slang, ‘Andorra’. It’s an absolutely brilliant album, so I’ve decided to dedicate this whole week to the man and his music - a kind of career overview if you will, starting at the beginning and working towards ‘Andorra’ by Friday. It’s been one hell of a musical odyssey for Snaith, and his sound has developed so much over the past seven years that the complex electronics of his original output bear little relation to the sun-kissed psychedelic pop of his latest opus. Somehow it’s a journey that makes sense, and hopefully the songs I post over the next few days will join all the dots.

For starters I’ve changed the music on TWNR Ghetto, which is over on the right-hand sidebar for those of you who’ve never used it before. It now features 10 of my favourite Manitoba/Caribou songs (demonstrating my biased love of his second album ‘Up In Flames’ – an absolute psychedelic classic), which I’ve listed at the end of this post, including information on which album or single the songs originally featured. Hope you enjoy it. I’ll probably keep it up there for a month or so, mainly because it is quite fiddly and time consuming to change it all around. You might need to empty your cache in order to update the player.

I first came across the music of Dan Snaith when I picked up his debut single, a four-track 12” EP released on the Leaf label in 2000. Snaith is a classically trained pianist and masters-qualified Pure Mathematician, and both of these elements were represented in his early work. A combination of skittering percussion, twitchy electronics, rainbow melodies, half-heard children’s voices and snatches of found sound marked Snaith out as one to watch. Despite his obvious geek credentials and though complex in its construction, the EP was also warm and bursting with creativity, balancing the computer’s heart against more human elements. The EP drew press comparisons between Snaith and Boards of Canada, owing to the warm, analogue melodies and samples of children’s voices.

Manitoba - James' Second Haircut

I’m posting the track ‘James’ Second Haircut’, which was the second track on the EP and also featured on the subsequent debut album ‘Start Breaking My Heart’, which was released on Leaf in 2001. A reflective post-rock guitar riff is set against rattling electro percussion and a pretty melody - classic Manitoba.

‘Start Breaking My Heart’ was well-received by the press, and along with his contemporary Kieran ‘Four Tet’ Hebden, Snaith wooed the critics by adding elements of crazed jazz fusion and a cacophony of horns into the mix on songs like ‘Paul’s Birthday’ and ‘Mammals vs. Reptiles’, demonstrating the influence of artists like Sun-Ra. As with all Snaith’s work, ‘Start Breaking My Heart’ also showcased his love of percussion, with off-kilter drum breaks and sudden explosions of rapid-fire laser beats in evidence throughout the album.

Manitoba - Tits & Ass: The Great Canadian Weekend

Snaith followed ‘Start Breaking My Heart’ with the ‘Give’r’ EP, which took a slight detour from the sounds of his debut as a remix of album track ‘Dundas, Ontario’ took in hammering, two-step style breaks. Over on the flip it was business as usual (barring the title) with ‘Tits & Ass: The Great Canadian Weekend’ which slowed things down a tad with a cascading live drum break, a pulsing bass, sampled voices and an exquisite melody. I’d imagine the title is probably ironic coming from a Maths-geek, though I guess maybe even Snaith likes to let his hair down and indulge himself every now and then. But maybe not like that.

More tomorrow…


1. Dundas, Ontario: Manitoba (Start Breaking My Heart LP)
2. Hendrix With Ko: Manitoba (Up In Flames LP)
3. Skunks: Manitoba (Up In Flames LP)
4. Hello Hammerheads: Caribou (The Milk of Human Kindness LP)
5. Thistles And Felt: Manitoba (Jacknuggeted B-side)
6. Cherrybomb: Manitoba (Hendrix with KO B-side)
7. Crayon: Manitoba (Up In Flames LP)
8. People Eating Fruit: Manitoba (Start Breaking My Heart LP)
9. Kid You'll Move Mountains: Manitoba (Up In Flames LP)
10. Barnowl: Caribou (The Milk of Human Kindness LP)

Buy Caribou from Norman Records
Caribou website
Caribou My Space


Tuesday, August 21, 2007


It was exactly one year ago to the day that The White Noise Revisited was born. Over the ensuing 12 months, myself and the sporadic team of scribblers I assembled have written 136 posts and uploaded almost 300 songs for your downloading pleasure. In that time I have interviewed one of my all-time musical heroes (Mark Gardener), we've been featured in The Guardian and I have watched the amount of people visiting the site and downloading the music increase dramatically. I'm really proud of what we've achieved. OK, so it's hardly an original idea - I pretty much nicked this whole website from the venerable Spoilt Victorian Child where I started my blogging career - but I think we write with enthusiasm and passion and aren't guided by any notion of following the zeitgeist. I absolutely love doing this, and probably do it as much for me as I do for any loyal readers we may be lucky enough to have on board. But it's the love that is all-important. I LOVE MUSIC. I don't know what I'd do without it. I know I tend to go on a bit but I hope that if I'm communicating anything at all it is this. I have no idea how long we'll be around for, but as long as I still enjoy doing it, I like to think there'll be a hole on the internet filled by The White Noise Revisited. Right, rant over - to the music...

I wasn't really sure what to do to celebrate our first birthday but in the end I decided to put together a 'Back to Mine'-style compilation, featuring a handful of my favourite songs of all-time, along with a few more recent tracks that I've been enjoying. If you talk to anyone who's actually been back to mine after a night on the sauce, they'll tell you that I find it impossible to play songs in their entirety. About halfway through whatever song I’m playing I’ll suddenly think of a different song I’d rather hear, or it will remind me of another tune I’m desperate for my compadres to check, so I’ll leap up and change the record. I sometimes don’t even get past the intro! There’s usually a constant stream of chatter about each song as well, which I’m sure must get very annoying. My fallback option is often to stick on Spacemen 3's 'The Perfect Prescription' because, in my humble opinion, it is the greatest album ever recorded. I own a white label test pressing of 'TPP' and it ranks among my most treasured possessions; something I’d definitely try to save if my house was burning down.

For this 1st birthday selection, I'm not including any of the songs I've already posted, so certain tracks that you would definitely hear if you came round my house after the pub aren’t included. ‘Rez’ by Underworld or ‘We Come to Rock’ by the Imperial Brothers are a couple that springs to mind. This definitely isn’t a life defining compilation – far from it. In fact, I think most music obsessives would agree that your favourite songs change every single day, and are dependant on a complicated array of factors. ‘The White Noise Revisited: All Back to Mine’ is more a snapshot of the sort of songs that made me who I am today, whoever that may be. Rather than posting the individual songs, I’ve uploaded it as a 14-track zip file, so I hope those who want to can download it. It’s about 80MB. Let me know if you’re having trouble and I’ll see what I can do.

Download the compilation here -

The White Noise Revisited: All Back to Mine

1. Happy Mondays – W.F.L. ‘Think About the Future' The Paul Oakenfold Mix

This song represents the moment when my life really seemed to get going. It reminds me of tasting hedonism for the first time, and breaking away from the feeling my destiny lay with getting good A-level results and going off to university. When you’re off your head, none of that seems important. It was a time of outrageous fun and great indulgence - bunking off college and going down the three-in-a-row muzzy’s; driving down Rhododendron Mile in Russ’s Renault 5; spinning out in the back of Bob’s Bubble in various lay-bys; Boothy with his head in the fridge; playing Find the Stereo; parties in the garden of 1 Arbutus Close; pints in the Cellar Bar; squdigy black; purple ohms; Maximes... It’s a proper anthem for me and mine, and a great way to kick off any party. Plus, I’d forgive Paul Oakenfold any of his superstar DJ excesses for turning out this stomping mix.

‘W.F.L. ‘Think About the Future Mix’ – Mix by Paul Oakenfold’ is taken from the Factory 12” FAC232. Buy it on eBay now!

2. Aleem - Confusion

Out of all the electro songs I could have picked this may seem like a strange one, but I’m picking it because it brings back such evocative memories for me. It reminds me of being at school and starting to be interested in girls. I’d be sat in my room doing my Maths homework or whatever, listening to ‘Electro 8’ and ‘Confusion’ would come on, and I’d suddenly start thinking about the girl I sat next to in English and whether I’d dance with her at the next school disco and if I did whether my mates would take the piss and disown me. Twelve is the weirdest, most confusing age I think, when you’re teetering on the brink of realising there’s more to life than kicking a football around with your mates. Of course, if I had danced with her, it would have been to a soundtrack of Wham! and Duran Duran, as they didn’t play Aleem at the school disco. The bottom line is that it’s an awesome, funky party track, like all the songs by the brothers Aleem, but while everyone else is grooving away, I’ll be reminded of my time spent as a tortured, lovelorn 12-year-old. Who needs Morrissey?

‘Confusion’ is taken from the NIA 12” NI-2147. Search eBay for Aleem.

3. Ultramagnetic MC's - Ego Trippin'

Keith Matthew Thornton aka Kool Keith is the greatest rapper to ever pick up a microphone and ‘Critical Beatdown’ ranks as one of the five best hip hop albums ever recorded. ‘Ego Trippin’’ was the crew’s debut single, released by Next Plateau in 1986, which featured on ‘Critical Beatdown’ in an edited, remixed form. This is the original full-length version. From Kool Keith’s bizarre, complex approach to rhyming, to the phenomenal production skills of the hugely underrated Ced Gee (also a mean MC), the track thunders along with the relentless lyrical flow, thumping bassy production, and the ‘Substitution’ drum break. This is five minutes of pure, classic hip hop. If an alien was to come to my house and ask me what hip hop is I’d play this. Plus, I know the words off by heart so it’s as close to karaoke as you’ll ever get round my house, with a biro for a mic, and wonky hand gestures aplenty.

‘Ego Trippin’’ is taken from the Next Plateau 12” NP 50051. Buy ‘Critical Beatdown’ from Amazon.

4. Aaliyah - Try Again

I went through a phase at the turn of the millennium of loving R’n’B. It was around the time that Timbaland was getting into his stride, and R’n’B tracks by artists like Aaliyah were popping up on mix tapes by electronic artists, such was the futuristic mentalness of the production. I first heard Aaliyah because Plaid put one of her songs (‘Are You Feelin’ Me) on their legendary ‘Radio Mix’, alongside loads of cutting-edge electronic tracks and it sounded unlike anything I had heard before. I eventually picked up the ‘Romeo Must Die’ soundtrack and ‘Try Again’ was the standout track. Nowadays, all the R’n’B producers are trying to outdo each other with their crazy minimalist production skills and hip samples, but they will never do it better than Timbaland on ‘Try Again’. It still sounds like it was made in the future, with Terminator-beats and that insane, squelching acid line, with Aaliyah’s honeyed-vocal gliding in and out of the metallic grooves.

‘Try Again’’ was released as a single on Blackground Entertainment in 2000. Buy the ‘Romeo Must Die’ soundtrack from Amazon.

5. Ivor Cutler Trio - I'm Going in a Field

I never realised what a huge impact Ivor Cutler had on my life until a friend sent me a whole load of his songs shortly after he died. As I have documented many times on this website, like most music lovers of a certain age I used sit up all night recording songs from John Peel and more often than not, Peely would drop in a song or a session from the late, great Ivor Cutler. At the time, they went right over my head. “Who the fuck is this weird, old Scottish dude?” I used to think. However, when I actually listened to his songs in isolation I realised just how many of them I recognised, and how brilliant he was. He had seeped into my consciousness, and now I don’t feel any compilation is complete without him to jar your senses. ‘I’m Going in a Field’ is credited to the Ivor Cutler Trio and is taken from their 1967 album ‘Ludo’, which was produced by George Martin and released on Parlophone. ‘I’m Going in a Field’ is childlike, whimsical, weird and wonderful. There’s times when it comes on my iPod when I think it’s Boards of Canada, because of the warm, analogue synths that open the song.

‘Ludo’ was re-released by Rev-Ola. Buy it from Cherry Red.

6. Ride - Polar Bear

Like many a pretentious teen, I was really into J.D. Salinger . I prided myself on having read outside of the GSCE stock text ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, so immediately picked up that the lyrics of Ride’s ‘Polar Bear’ were lifted from the Salinger short story, ‘Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters.’ I probably thought that facts like this would make me attractive to the opposite sex, but strangely enough, they didn’t. ‘Nowhere’ is a fantastic album, one that was an enormous influence on my life in so many ways. I kept most of the reviews from the time, and slipped them inside the sleeve of the vinyl. I think Ride were the first guitar band I felt a real connection with, coming out of the period of my life when all I would listen to was hip hop and electro. Consequently ‘Nowhere’ is a pretty good representation of where my head was at in 1990 and every single song reminds me of a specific moment from that time. I love the way the song builds from the phasing guitar and crashing cymbal intro, through Andy’s heartfelt lyrics, some trademark Ride harmonies and the pummelling conclusion – all these elements combine to make ‘Polar Bear’ an absolute gem.

‘Polar Bear’ is taken from the Creation LP ‘Nowhere’ CRELP074. Buy it from Norman Records.

7. Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence

To me, this pop perfection, and if you’re throwing a party you need a few songs that everyone knows and loves. This is the 7” version, remixed by Mute head honcho Daniel Miller and some bloke called Phil Legg. None of that really matters, but this is the sort of information I feel the need to share. I wish I could stop. For once, I’m going to leave it at that, and let the music do the talking.

‘Enjoy the Silence’ is taken from the Mute LP ‘Violator’ CDSTUMM64. Buy it from Amazon.

8. M.I.A. - Bird Flu

It’s time to drop something new, just to show this oldish head is still keeping up. I’m still not convinced that I actually like M.I.A., but if this mix is to be truly representative of the back to mine experience, ‘Bird Flu’ is a necessary addition. The track is so-called because M.I.A. felt the beats of the track were totally sick. I love hip hop, I love mental production skillz, and I love artists who chuck all their influences into one big cauldron with little regard for what genre-box the resulting mess can be pigeonholed in. I reckon M.I.A. ticks most of these boxes, and ‘Bird Flu’ sounds like a world music Adam & the Ants fronted by Roxanne Shanté, and that combo is something I’ve only ever heard in my dreams. Maybe she will be one I fall in love with in the end.

‘Bird Flu’ is taken from the XL Recordings album ‘Kala’ XLCD281. Buy it from Norman Records.

9. Feedle - Song for Cats

By now at my imaginary post-pub party, everyone would be in a pretty bad way, spinning out on the sofa and making little sense. So I’d probably stick on something like this rather odd song from Feedle to wreck a few heads. Starting out with an intricately plucked, Oriental melody, a wall of what sounds like a thousand distorted gongs breaks like a huge wave over everything. Somewhere in the wall of noise the melody still exists. It’s very clever, incredibly beautiful and marks Feedle out as one of my favourite people making music in the world today. You won’t believe what he’s got up his sleeve…

‘Song for Cats’ is taken from the Illicit Recordings album ‘Leave Now for Adventure’ ILLCD009, which can be purchased from Norman Records.

10. Principal Participant - Principles

This is another new one. Once I hear this song by the mysterious Principal Participant, I feel strangely compelled to listen to it repeatedly, so it would definitely get a rewind or two at my party. It’s just so damned addictive, with that cyclical synth loop, jackin’ percussion and melodious acid tweakin’. Its genius lies in its repetitive simplicity. ‘Principles’ is guaranteed to get everyone still able up and dancing again after Feedle’s wall of blissful distortion has rendered them momentarily incapable.

‘Principles’ was released as a 12” by Part One earlier this year, and can be purchased from Phonica.

11. 808 State - Flow Coma

Acid house was my punk rock. Or something. You know how when punk broke, anyone who could play a couple of chords decided to start a band? Well, when acid house broke, the same rules applied, but this time an 808 and a 303 was all you needed. Of course I couldn’t even programme the microwave but that’s hardly the point. ‘Flow Coma’ is a seminal track from the acid house scene, recorded when A Guy Called Gerald was still in the group. Raw and complex, it sends minds into lysergic meltdown, while still ultimately being made with the dance floor in mind. An education and a mighty acid mindfuck all rolled into one.

‘Flow Coma’ is taken from ‘Newbuild’, the Creed Records LP STATE002. It was re-released on Rephlex in 1999, and is available to purchase from Norman Records.

12. Black Dog Productions - Carceres Ex Novum

‘Bytes’ by Black Dog Productions is a masterpiece, possibly the greatest electronic album to be recorded during the hugely fertile ‘Artificial Intelligence’-period of the early 1990s. The album was released under the umbrella group Black Dog Productions, but each track was credited to individual artists. ‘Carceres Ex Novum’ was by Xeper, an alias for Ken Downie working on his own, away from fellow Dog’s Ed Handley and Andrew Turner who would go onto become Plaid after an acrimonious split. ‘Carceres Ex Novum’ is a haunting song - sombre yet still groovy, with a mashed-up break perfect for 3am when it’s time to start winding the party down. It’s a wonderfully textured song, apparently recorded in a short space of time after Downie woke up one day with the idea for the track, which indulged his fetish for Arabic melodies. There’s lots of people out there who think ‘Bytes’ sounds dated. They are wrong.

‘Carceres Ex Novum’ is taken from ‘Bytes’, released on Warp Records CD WARPCD8. Buy it from Norman Records.

13. Spacemen 3 - Come Down Easy

“Take it down , take it way down low…” so says Sonic Boom and he’s right. It’s time for people to sod off home, or more probably, fall asleep on the sofa. ‘Come Down Easy’ does what it says on the tin. Taken from that aforementioned genius long player ‘The Perfect Prescription’, it’s a kind of acoustic waltz, with Sonic’s liturgical lyrics based on Led Zep’s ‘In My Time of Dying’ (nobody cares Joe, they’ve all passed out)… For those of you still with me, this version is the one from ‘Forged Prescriptions’, a double CD re-release from Space Age Recordings, which is slightly different from the original recordings as it features additional guitar parts Sonic discovered during the re-mastering process. I know this album so well that I would normally be a purist when it came to posting original recordings, but I actually think this is the better version.

‘Come Down Easy’ is taken from the Glass Records LP ‘The Perfect Prescription’ GLALP026 . ‘Forged Prescriptions’ is available to buy from Norman Records.

14. Minotaur Shock - Primary

Now everyone’s asleep and dreaming and this is the last song of the night. I’d probably try to stay awake to hear it as it’s such a gorgeous piece of music. It’s a strange song as it feels so sad, but also full of hope - uplifting and desperate in equal measures. I’m not sure what the composer intended, but to me it’s one of the greatest last songs on an album ever and the perfect way to end the night.

‘Primary’ is taken from the Melodic LP ‘Chiff-Chaffs and Willow Warblers’ melo009. It is currently deleted but occasionally pops up on eBay.

For those of you who made it all the way down here, I'm also running a bit of a 1st Birthday competition. The prize will include an actual CD copy of the compilation. I'll knock-up some sort of artwork for it, so the winner will be the proud owner of a totally unique, homemade TWNR compact disc compilation. I'll also lob in a few other treats - not sure what yet but something good, promise. In order to get your hands on this prize (which will no doubt end up being worth an absolute fortune when I become famous) e-mail me at, telling me your favourite last song of the night, and your reasons for choosing that particular song. If I get enough (or any) entries, I'll stick some of the best ones up. And I'm also looking for new writers, so if I really like what I read, I may well invite you on board!

I'll announce the winner at the weekend.

Before I go I just want to say thank you to Dave, Graham, Graeme, Domino and Simon, without whom...

Joe x

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Two Fates Entwined Under The Sun‎

Blue States - Stereo 99

There’s not much margin for error when you’re setting up a record label. Unless you’re backed by a major or have got plenty of money to lose, it’s imperative you get it right straight away or pretty soon the money will vanish and you’ll be sliding into a pit of debt with the thousands of other labels that never quite made it. Luckily for the Jacob brothers Ollie and Matt, founders of the north London-based Memphis Industries, half-Greek man mountain Andy Dragazis aka Blue States sent them some home demos back in 1998, which they liked very much. The first release for both label and artist came in 1999 – the ‘Blue States Forever EP’, which saw the artist favourably compared with the likes of Zero 7, Bent and Lemon Jelly in the weird netherworld of downtempo and chill-out. The debut album followed in 2000, and ‘Nothing Changes Under the Sun’ (‘Stereo 99’ from that awesome debut is posted above) really put both label and artist on the map, receiving rave reviews and selling in the sort of quantities that would make even the major labels turn an envious shade of green. The success of ‘Nothing Changes…’ gave Ollie and Matt the financial building blocks to establish their label, and allowed Memphis Industries to grow into its current incarnation – a brilliant imprint with a varied roster, which now includes other success stories including Field Music and the Go Team!.

For Dragazis, the journey was a bit bumpier. His second album 'Man Mountain' (featuring vocals from Ty Bulmer, who would go on to form New Young Pony Club) was licensed to XL Recordings, and away from the homey environs of Memphis, expectations for Blue States to crossover in the manner of Groove Armada and Zero 7 grew. The album was another corker, packed with string-laden gems and including the haunting ‘Season Song’, which featured on the soundtrack to Danny Boyle’s zombie horror flick ‘28 Days Later’. However, the anticipated crossover failed to materialise and Dragazis headed back to Memphis where he made the decision to move away from the tiresome downtempo tag and formed a proper three-piece indie rock guitar band with a couple of mates. The resulting album was the awkward ‘The Soundings’, heavily influenced by a teenage love of Ride and My Bloody Valentine, but with Dragazis’s orchestral arrangements still intact. But the vocal delivery of Chris Carr divided many people, with a contingent of Blue States’ loyal fans still longing for a return to the good ol’ downtempo days of ‘Nothing Changes…’. The ostensible failure of his third long player seemed to leave Blue States in ashes, with Dragazis licking his wounds and opting to build his own studio in Whitechapel, with the intention of producing other bands. He started by recording his friends’ The Eighteenth Day of May’s debut album for RykoDisc and went onto co-produce former label mates The Pipettes’ album for Interscope. It was during his time writing and recording with The Pipettes that Andy decided to give Blue States another crack, but this time on his own.

Blue States - Holding Ground

This brings us up to date and to the fourth Blue States album ‘First Steps Into…’, released by Memphis Industries on September 3rd, 2007. ‘First Steps Into…’ is a cracking return to form for Dragazis, feeling rather like a return from whence he came as Blue States is, to all intents and purposes, a one-man band again – albeit with drumming assistance from Sam Walker and backing vocals from former squeeze Serena Strong. Despite harking back to past glories, ‘First Steps Into…’ is definitely a progression. The album opens with the otherworldly ‘Allies’, which comes on like a bizarre collaboration between Coldplay and Joe Meek – seemingly a chiming torch song ripe for lighter waving at festivals, but in its heart, a weird, electronic pop song from a distant planet, with chipmunks on helium singing the anthemic chorus. Most other labels would probably have demanded 9 more songs like this and waited for a Top 30 album and invitation onto ‘Later… with Jools’, but Memphis Industries are more than happy to indulge their old mate Dragazis’ true gifts, so instead we get a varied 13-track album of considerable craft and melodic wonder.

‘First Steps Into…’ heads back to the Vangelis territory first visited on his 2000 debut with songs like ‘First Steps… Last Stand’ and ‘The Electric Compliment’, which remind of an updated take on the incidental music to the amusingly dubbed 1980s Euro dramas I watched as a kid or even the cult cartoon ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’. The former is propelled by a funky drumbeat and buzzing bass, with rippling harpsichords and swelling Spector-esque production. Elsewhere the instrumental, cinematic sweep continues as ‘Red and Shine’ distorts the beats and turns the bass up, and ‘What Can Be Done to Right a Wrong’ has a breezy, Northern Soul tempo and is probably only lacking a vocal to turn it into a summer hit.

‘Holding Ground’ is a slicker, more synthetic take on My Bloody Valentine’s sound, as a faraway vocal is joined by fuzzy guitars and a polished, strident piano line, and ‘Down the Days’ sees the return of the otherworldly Joe Meek electronic production and chipmunk vocals, in a companion piece to the album opener ‘Allies’. The stunning ‘100’s and 1000’s’ is another standout track, as 3-minutes of ambience and orchestral wonder transforms into a psych-pop song worthy of The Polyphonic Spree in their prime. The album concludes with the rocky ‘Last of Old England’, which builds from the bells of a Greek orthodox church, into a driving, string-drenched instrumental of some aplomb.

If I have one complaint, it’s that I did find it hard initially to warm to this album, despite its creator’s obvious brilliance. There’s just something about music made by these genius musical auteurs with their own singular vision that is sometimes difficult to love. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that its creation precluded collaboration in the recording process in a traditional ‘gang of four’ style, in which complex songs come from multiple personalities. Anyway, this minor gripe certainly shouldn’t take anything away from this terrific album. Dragazis seems to finally be comfortable back home at Memphis Industries, and the fates of the label and artist that seem so inextricably linked have come together once more to deliver some nuggets of musical gold.

The video for 'Allies'...

'First Steps Into...' is released by Memphis Industries on September 3rd, 2007. Pre-order the CD from Memphis Industries for £7.99
Buy Blue States catalogue at bargain prices from the Memphis Industries shop
Blue States website
Blue States My Space


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blissfully Suspended in the Salt Tank

Salt Tank - Pacific Diva

Salt Tank - Olympic

Salt Tank - Final Charge (D.Up)

I finally left home in 1992, aged 19. Packed all my possessions into a trunk and took the short 50-mile trip from Dorchester to Bath, and the Halls of Residence at Bath College of Higher Education. BCHE (now Bath Spa University) was situated a few miles outside the city, so we had to rely on a sporadic free shuttle bus to get us into the city and back. If you wanted to go to a club or see a band, you ended up shelling out for a cab back as the last free bus went about 9pm. Like most poor students cash was always in short supply, so we were looking to the SU Bar to provide us with entertainment staggering distance from the Halls. Cheap booze will always be entertaining, but the odd live band made a refreshing change. Unfortunately, acts willing to come to our isolated campus were rare. The most prominent was the Arch-Drude himself Julian Cope. He played a blistering two-hour set, and spent most of it prowling around the audience. I touched his shoulder and he sang in my face. Had I been a bigger fan, I would probably have never washed the spittle from my cheeks. Back to the Planet couldn’t stay away, but their brand of crusty agit-ska wasn’t really what we were clamouring for. Neither were local outfit K-Passa. Foot-tapping folk rock was more my Dad’s bag. Nope. We wanted techno, but techno never came, so we resorted to sitting in our box rooms with the latest Colin Dale or Spiral Tribe mixtape rocking the stereo, wishing we’d been clever enough to be accepted by a better university.

It wasn’t until my second year, once I’d moved out of Halls and into the city, that techno finally came to BCHE in the form of the London-based production duo Salt Tank - Saturday 15th October 1994 to be precise. I don’t have that good a memory but Salt Tank have a list of all their live dates on their website. Salt Tank were a criminally underrated act comprising of two studio boffins (David Gates and Malcolm Stanners) who signed to the same label as Orbital (Internal) on the strength of two well-received EP’s; ‘ST1’ and ‘ST2’, which were released on their own label and championed by Weatherall. I first came across them when I bought the ‘ST3 EP’ from HMV, where I was earning a few extra quid on a Saturday. ‘ST3’ featured seven tracks of predominantly blissful ambient trance, with most of the tracks based around themes found in the opening 9-minute epic ‘Pacific Diva’, with its haunting melodies and lush trance soundscapes. The seventh track, ‘Eugina’, was an edited version of ‘Pacific Diva’, and went on to be Salt Tank’s breakthrough track when it was re-released as a stand-alone single in 1996. The EP also featured remixes from Astralasia and Zion Train, chucking new age and dub elements into the melting pot.

They followed ‘ST3’ with the imaginatively-titled ‘ST4’, subtitled ‘Laguna Calorado’, though the lake in Bolivia which featured in pictorial form in the accompanying CD booklet is actually called Laguna Colorado, so that may have been an embarrassing typo! ‘ST4’ was a six-track EP, opening with the epic ‘Olympic’, which marked them out as worthy contemporaries of label mates Orbital. Like the Hartnoll brothers, they enjoyed spinning out tracks over 10 minutes, taking the listener on musical head-trips. ‘Olympic’ entered into progressive territory with driving percussion, a euphoric melodic loop and culminated with an acidic trance coda. This was serious music for the mind and feet. ‘ST4’ also featured ‘San Francisco HM’, a drum-heavy song utilising breakbeats and mystical, droning Eastern pipes. ‘San Francisco HM’ was produced by Cisco Ferreira and Colin Bean, who recorded as The Advent, and also worked on tracks on ‘ST3’.

Salt Tank recorded a Peel Session in 1994, which was released as the ‘ST5 EP’ and comprised four tracks. It featured the fantastic ‘Final Charge (D.Up)’, which is probably a pretty good representation of the kind of material they were playing live at the time they graced the SU bar at BCHE. ‘Final Charge (D.Up)’ was another epic 10 minutes of constantly evolving, organic techno and trance, reminiscent of peak ‘Brown Album’ Orbital. It feels like four songs all wrapped into one, combining guitar loops, pounding techno drums, breakbeats, squidgy acid lines, atmospheric synths and vocal samples. I honestly don’t remember much about seeing them live, which probably means it was a top night, but I will always have a soft spot for Salt Tank for eschewing the traditional venues of the college circuit to come and play for us. Thank you!

They released their debut album ‘Science & Nature: ST7’ in 1996, which felt like more of a ‘Best of...’ as it picked up tracks from the previous EP’s and placed them alongside newer material. They never really noodled, always dealing in songs with proper tunes and strong melodies that your postman could have whistled. Despite a lengthy recording career that only faded in 2004, they will probably be remembered for ‘Eugina’ (some of the versions featured a sample of Tori Amos' 'Me and a Gun'). It wasn’t even their best song, but it seemed to appeal to a broad range of clubbers, and enjoyed another lease of life on Lost Language (Trance offshoot of Hooj Choons) in 2000, when it became a staple in the sets of DJ’s like Digweed and Sasha. Bizarrely, they remixed Duran Duran’s ‘Girls on Film’ in 1999. I’d love to hear how that one turned out if anyone’s got a copy.

Official Salt Tank website
Salt Tank discography
Search eBay for Salt Tank


Saturday, August 11, 2007

You're a Walking Miracle...

Anthony H. Wilson: 20th February 1950 - 10th August 2007

Without whom...

Joy Division - Transmission (Live at Les Bains Douches 18/12/1979)
Happy Mondays - Rave On

"When you have to choose between truth and legend... I say choose the legend."

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Brilliant unofficial Factory blog, history and archive here
Tony Wilson at Wikipedia
Factory Records website
Buy Joy Division at Amazon
Buy Happy Mondays at Amazon


Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Drop Of Winter Sun

Mosca - Moments Never Forget
Mosca - Another Summer Spent In Forests

It must soon be time to add electronica to the list of great Scottish exports, such is the quality of the music being produced in the region at the moment. Following excellent recent long players from Rubens, Dextro and the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, comes Mosca’s ‘Winterland’ - a stunning 10-tracker available to purchase as a download from the Glasgow imprint Herb Recordings. Mosca is the pseudonym of the Falkirk-based producer Jason Taylor. He’s been around for a while now, releasing a handful of well received EP’s on various net labels including last year’s ambient EP ‘Of Need and Belonging’ on Herb, but ‘Winterland’ has the feeling of being his debut album proper, containing a selection of recordings made over the past two years.

From an inauspicious start (the BoC-lite opener ‘1976’), ‘Winterland’ soon journeys on an upwards trajectory with ‘Moments Never Forget’, as shimmering Cocteaus’ treated guitars and a solid break (with a juicy distorted bass drum) are gleefully illuminated when Taylor launches a gorgeous spiralling melody to orbit the track. Elsewhere, ‘Those Eyes, That Smile’ works around a series of pulsing drones and skittering percussion, closing with swathes of church-like organs, ’ In Retrospect This Was Never A Good Idea’ is dark, glitchy programming and ‘This Ocean Beach is Ours’ is brooding ambience.

However, ‘Winterland’ really starts to scale the craggy peaks of brilliance when its creator focuses on his key strengths – strong melodies and sumptuous beats, the likes of which these ears haven’t heard since ‘Music Has the Right to Children’. ‘Our Light Shone So Brightly’ is a fine example of Taylor’s craft, cheekily utilising the funky drum break from Ultramagnetic MC’s ‘Feelin’ It’ to provide the backbone for layer upon layer of psychedelic, analogue melodies and a lion’s yawn of a bass line. Even better than this is the euphoric double header of ‘Another Winter Spent in Hibernation’ and ‘Another Summer Spent in Forests’. These two tracks mark Taylor out as the natural successor to Ulrich Schnauss, as cathedral-sized, melodic walls of sound and awesome drum programming collide. What he’s doing is by no means groundbreaking, but the layering of sounds is expertly handled, the production is second to none, and the end result is incredibly uplifting. This is machine music with real feeling, inspiring a broad range of emotions within the listener – play it loud to salve the soul.

‘Winterland’ is the aural equivalent of a dram of the finest single malt; it slips down effortlessly and gently radiates warmth from within. Maybe it’s the August release date, but the album seems to me to be perfect summer music and it’s unlikely you’ll hear a better collection of electronic music all year. Highly recommended.

Buy 'Winterland' from Beatport or search iTunes
Mosca at My Space
Herb Recordings website
Herb Recordings My Space


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Reggie Summers

I’ve been waiting to do a big reggae and dub post for a while now, hoping that the weather will improve sufficiently for me to write about my favourite summer music. Since I’ve had this post on the boil, the heavens have opened and half the country is flooded, but it looks like the weather might finally be turning the corner this week. I guess it doesn’t really matter if the sun is shining or not - in fact reggae (lazily used here as an umbrella term for reggae, dub, roots, ska and dancehall) has the power to make me feel all sunny inside regardless, but I do associate it with summer vibes. It inspires warm memories of living in Camberwell, sitting in the back garden of my garden flat, slurping on Carib beers with lime poked in the top of the bottle and listening to the dubbed-out thump drifting from the sound system of the man who lived three doors down. I was always under the impression that the guy had a party every Sunday afternoon, as he didn’t just play the music, he chatted over it in a traditional sound system style, leading me to imagine a room crowded with friends and family, enjoying his hospitality. However, it was only once he’d moved out and I got chatting to his next-door neighbour, that I found out he lived there on his own, and the Sunday jams were his way of combating his homesickness. I wish I’d known, as I would have loved to have gone round and checked out what I imagine would be an unrivalled collection of reggae and dub tunes.

I don’t have a vast collection of reggae music or claim to possess any in-depth knowledge of the genre. It’s just music I enjoy, which makes a nice change, as I don’t feel any of the pressure to collect or urgent need to know the musical history inside-out like I do with other genres. In fact, 90% of the reggae music I own is contained on a handful of compilation albums from the phenomenal Soul Jazz Records stable. After eulogizing Morgan Khan’s Street Sounds series in my last post, I would have to add that Soul Jazz have done what Khan did for electro for reggae, by doing the hard work for the listener and releasing one quality compilation after another, all packed with the finest reggae songs around. I (natty) dread to think how much it would cost to buy all of these songs individually, so hats off to Soul Jazz for making affordable, quality comps bursting with top tunes! In particular I recommend the ‘Dynamite!’ series (now up to volume 6), and any of the Studio One comps (though ‘Studio One Rockers’ is my favourite). Studio One is the most revered record label in the history of Jamaican music, and home to the peerless producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd (pictured above). To follow are a few of my favourite tracks from some of the compilations, so enjoy and make the most of the sunshine.

Wayne Smith - Under Mi Sleng Teng

‘Under Mi Sleng Teng’ by Wayne Smith was the song that kicked off digital reggae or ragga, as it was the first ever song to utilize to a fully computerized riddim. Created on a Casio Music Box, the riddim was discovered by Smith and either the session musician Tony Asher or the keyboardist Noel Davies, depending on which story you believe. The riddim was based on the riff from Eddie Cochran’s ‘Something Else’ and following its discovery, was slowed down and rebuilt by Asher in Prince Jammy’s studio. Jammy also produced the track, and released it on his own imprint, Jammy’s Records in 1985. It’s a corker of a tune, and the riddim became a phenomenon and was used over 180 times, by artists including Tenor Saw, Cocoa Tea, Johnny Osbourne and Sugar Minnott. I have to hold my hands up and say the first time I encountered it was as a sample on SL2’s raggamuffin-rave anthem ‘On A Ragga Tip’ in 1992. I eventually heard the original when I picked up the ‘300% Dynamite’ compilation. Lyrically, it must be about about smoking weed, though it’s impossible to find out the original definition of ‘sleng teng’ as the phrase is now synonymous with the riddim.

Everything you need to know about the origins of the Sleng Teng riddim can be found here
Wayne Smith at My Space

Sister Nancy - Bam Bam

Another one from ‘300% Dynamite’, as Sister Nancy rides the Stalag riddim created by Winston Riley, who also produced the track. Sister Nancy was one of 15 siblings, who included brother Robert aka Brigadier Jerry, reputed to be the number one cultural DJ in Jamaica. ‘Bam Bam’ was Sister Nancy’s biggest hit, and in a world dominated by male artists, her unique, spiky flow gave her an edge. I love the dubbed out echoes on her vocal and the snares, plus the awesome bassline. A classic.

Sister Nancy at My Space

The Cimarons - We Are Not The Same

This track is an absolute belter, it’s like the Jackson 5 doing a reggae song with fabulous widescreen production and a sensational lead vocal from Winston (Reid) Reedy, sounding like a ringer for a young Jacko. It’s a hugely uplifting song and I love the use of strings and brass. Originally Jamaican natives and session musicians who worked with artists like Jimmy Cliff, the Cimarons immigrated to the UK in 1967, where they hooked up with Reedy. ‘We Are Not the Same’ originally appeared as the b-side to the Trojan 7” ‘Over the Rainbow’, released in 1974. It features on the ‘400% Dynamite’ compilation. Pointless piece of trivia - Reedy was in the video for Macca and Stevie Wonders’ ‘Ebony and Ivory’!

The Cimarons are playing at the Jazz Café in London on Monday 20th August 2007. Tickets are available here
Winston Reedy at My Space

Brentford All-Stars - Greedy G

‘Greedy G’ is an absolute peach (mmmm, peaches) of a track from the Brentford All-Stars; a proper dance floor groover from the Jamaican outfit who recorded for Coxsone Dodd during the 1970s. The song has enjoyed various lives since its original incarnation, particularly on the rare groove circuit during the 1980s where it became a bit of an anthem. It was sampled by the likes of Boogie Down Productions (‘Jack of Spades’), Brit hip hopper Derek B, (‘Good Groove’ - which is where I first encountered it), and also found favour with Coldcut, who lifted it for ‘That Greedy Beat’. It was also re-released by Greensleeves Records in 1987, with an extended remix featuring a rap from T-Ski Valley, which wasn’t as good as it could have been. I’m off the point a bit – the original, as in most cases, is definitely the best and features on the ‘Studio One Rockers’ compilation. The rhythm track is all JB’s funky drums and groovy bass, subtly dubbed out in the trademark Coxsone style. A cheeky twanging guitar break and Booker T-style organ fades in and out and inspires big ole smiles and plenty of jigging about.

Horace Andy - Skylarking

Another song from the ‘Studio One Rockers’ album, this time from Horace Andy, one of Jamaica’s best-loved vocalists, with his distinctive falsetto style. ‘Skylarking’ is taken from his 1969 album of the same name, once again produced by the mighty Coxsone and released on the Studio One label. The man has tonsils made of gold and must gargle with honey as his voice is soooo sweet. I love the slight warble that gives his delivery a real purity. You should also check his breathtaking cover version of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, which features on the Soul Jazz comp, ‘Studio One Soul 2’. Horace touched a whole new generation after working with Massive Attack, singing on the seminal ‘Blue Lines’, as well as the follow-up ‘Protection’, and 1999’s ‘Mezzanine’ album. Most recently he appeared on ‘Radiodread’, a reggae reinterpretation of Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ by the Easy Star All-Stars, where he sang ‘Airbag’.

Horace Andy at My Space

Soul Jazz Records website, where most of the catalogue is now available to purchase as mp3s
Full Soul Jazz album discography and shop here
Online tribute to Coxsone Dodd and the Studio One label here