wed 22/05/2024

theartsdesk on Vinyl: Record Store Day Special 2024 | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk on Vinyl: Record Store Day Special 2024

theartsdesk on Vinyl: Record Store Day Special 2024

Annual edition checking out records exclusively available on this year's Record Store Day

Pile in

Record Store Day is tomorrow! At theartsdesk on Vinyl we’ve been sent a selection of exclusive RSD goodies. Check out the reviews, then check out your local record shop! See you amongst it.

THEARTSDESK ON VINYL’S CHOICE CUT OF RECORD STORE DAY APRIL 2024

The Near Jazz Experience featuring Mike Garson Character Actor EP (Sartorial)

njeIt’s been a while since we heard from this unit. The NJE, as they're mostly known, consist of sax’n’brass player Terry Edwards, who’s played on a billion tunes you love (from PJ Harvey to Hot Chip to Tom Waits), Mark Bedford, who’s Bedders from Madness, and Simon Charterton, drummer, once in post-punk-funkers The Higsons with Edwards. On this 500-copy limited edition they're joined on the title cut by regular David Bowie band pianist Mike Garson for a piece that starts jazzular but ends in hypno-thob. It’s from their forthcoming new album. On the flip are four off-cuts from the album sessions that range from stripper jazz to abstract glitch. The whole things bodes well for what’s next and will prove to be a rare and tasty companion piece.  

VINYL REVIEWS FOR RECORD STORE DAY APRIL 2024

Miles Kane and The Evils Mr Midnight EP (Modern Sky UK)

milesMiles Kane has tried his hand at an array of musical styles, most famously as half The Last Shadow Puppets, but he’s also proved himself solo as a capable indie journeyman, maintaining an album chart career. This 10” single, though, sounds like a man unconcerned with his career trajectory, just letting his hair down, having a blast. It’s Kane, with regular collaborators Sunglasses For Jaws, indulging, unfettered, in four zingy surf instrumentals, harking back to Duane Eddy, Link Wray and the like, but with a punk-blues snap redolent of Richard Hawley’s recent Little Bangers compilation of obscure old guitar instrumentals. It’s unexpected and full of righteous twang

Kristin Hersh Clear Pond Sessions (Fire)

hershKristin Hersh is a lifer, committed to the music, always has been, her output, from Throwing Muses to prolific solo fare, speaks to psycho-musical individuality. She was there before grunge and she’s here long after, her work often laced with a Cobain-ian desperation, but treading to the shadows, unconcerned with trends. Clear Pond Sessions is a three-track set of stripped-back versions of songs from last year’s Clear Pond Road album. These were hardly deranged rock-outs to begin with so now they’re even barer, more vulnerable, even on catchy driving numbers such as “Ms Haha”, let alone the quietly pensive single “Dandelion”. Another timely reminder of an under-celebrated talent.

Sun Ra Meets The OVC Inside the Light of the World (Strut)

sunStrut have delved into a rich and interesting seam of music history for this release. Let’s take a time-ride. Long before the advent of the counterculture, which blossomed during the 1960s, there were “heads” exploring methods of mind expansion. One such was mystic-synaesthesic Russian composer Alexander Scriabin who, towards the end of his life, at the start of the 20th century, explored the possibility of cosmic bliss via a fusion of music and light, with his clavier à lumières, a “light piano”. This was an idea taken up many years later, in the 1970s, by Boston (US) boffin Bill Sebastian who invented his own psychedelic version, The Outer Space Visual Communicator. Naturally alien cosmonaut jazz maverick Sun Ra was drawn to all this and the pair worked together, on various occasions, including for VHS video releases. Now, in gatefold double, some of these recordings have been painstakingly reconstructed, and even including a sprightly new version of “Love in Outer Space”. Even without the retina-boggling, this is a welcome and well-recorded addition to the Sun Ra catalogue.

Anne Briggs Anne Briggs (Topic)

briggsBy the time Anne Briggs recorded her eponymous first solo album in 1971, she was already 10 years into a wild career that had influenced most of the biggest names of the folk revival. British folk perennial Topic Records celebrates its 85th anniversary by reissuing this debut album, remastered loud and pure by Scottish recording institution Calum Malcolm. The music is almost all acapella versions of proper dug-up folk numbers, delivered in the tradition of Irish unaccompanied singing, even on the few that have a sliver of guitar and/or bouzouki backing. The songs include “Blackwater Slide” which Briggs taught Bert Jansch, and there’s also her own poignant “Go Your Way”, wherein we can hear intimations of Sinéad O’Connor’s tones. As much of interest are the four bonus, never-released songs from the recording sessions, included on a 7” single with cover art based on a sketch of Briggs from 1967. Briggs also contributes sleeve notes. A well-curated package.

Lulu The Man With The Golden Gun/A Boy Like You (Demon)

bondThis one’s all about the FABULOUS picture disc. If you like Bond themes – and we do at theartsdesk on Vinyl – then you’ll know, and likely have, the song already. Many Bond theme nuts are derisive about Lulu’s “The Man With the Golden Gun” and it’s certainly no “Live and Let Die”, but I’ve always revelled in its kitsch preposterousness, a match for Roger Moore’s arch, ridiculous Bond. It has outrageous camp lyrics and a cabaret sizzle that’s great fun, and is paired here with its original B-side, the brassy throwaway soul-pop of “A Boy Like You”. It arrives on 12” but, for some reason, rather than spreading the music over the sides, and despite it being 45 RPM, the songs are each squeezed into thin bands as if they were album tracks, and sound that way too. But for showcasing on the shelves of any loud Seventies-themed pad, it looks grand!

Gene Clark No Other Sessions (4AD)

geneGene Clark, like Gram Parsons, is one of alt-country’s great lost icons, those damaged heroes whose gorgeous output was not fully recognised at the time, as they wilfully self-destructed. Upon its release in 1974 Clark’s album No Other was his great hope for the future, but the zeitgeist didn’t embrace its lushly layered, wistful songs, which pushed Clark further down his already booze’n’coke addled plunge. It has, of course, been recognised since as one of Seventies country-rock’s understated beauties. 4AD now release a set on double that allows listeners to hear these songs in various less-embellished demo forms. It’s a great idea because, despite the honeyed FM radio stylings of No Other, they deserve to also be heard raw.

Average White Band Live at Rainbow Theatre, 1974 (Demon)

awbScottish funkers Average White Band eventually achieved largescale transatlantic success during the 1970s, remaining today best-known for their disco-funk whopper “Picking Up the Pieces”, here present. This live album, however, is a memento of a London date supporting the Billy Cobham Band, just before they departed for the States and began their true rise to mega-success. It therefore includes the impressive stickwork of original drummer Robbie McIntosh who died only a couple of months later at Los Angeles party of an accidental smack overdose (he mistook it for cocaine). Unlike their breakthrough second album AWB, these cuts sound raw, the groove dirtier, although no less polished with soul music chops.

Pixies Live From Red Rocks 2005 (Demon)

pixiesRed Rocks, the natural amphitheatre in Colorado, is one of America’s more legendary venues, an epic space whose bowl-slope and giant sandstone sidings give the impression God himself designed it for concerts. Thus everyone from The Beatles to The Blues Brothers, and, arguably, most famously U2, have played there. In June 2005, it was Pixies turn and, from the sound of this double set on dual-hued orange vinyl, it was a night to remember. The crowd really give it some as the band, not that long reformed, and still containing Kim Deal (who makes her presence felt), deliver a vibed-up greatest hits set that rampages along. This is its first time on vinyl.

Shane Latimer Residuum (Diatribe)

shaneShane Latimer is a Dublin musician whose work explores soundspace, which means to say that when you come to the Record Store Day vinyl version of his 2022 album Residuum, you’re not going to be humming it for days. Instead, Latimer is in the business of rendering guitars strange and otherly, feeding patterns through computers and samplers, until he’s made them sound like signals beamed in, fizzed and twitched, from across the globe, or even the universe. Such music is often best heard in short bursts, allowing the listener to see the process by which it’s created, but the recorded version has its own filmic sense of the uncanny.

The Bevis Frond Live at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco (Fire)

bevisWhen I was an elf, back in the late 1980s, The Bevis Frond was an arcanely whispered name that represented psychedelia so obscure and indie that even many indie obscuritans weren’t sure what it was. As the years went by, hirsute London musician Nick Saloman, for Bevis Frond was he, slowly cut his own swathe via multiple releases, combining guitar-y late-Sixties psyche-rock with an English indie sensibility. By 1999 he was still on the fringes (still is!) but there was enough interest to allow Stateside visits, and from one such came this album which, a quarter-of-a-century later reappears via Fire Records (in their own 40th anniversary year). It’s a double that showcases the band promoting their then-latest album, North Circular, but also dipping deep into their back catalogue. Saloman’s combination of prosaic, self-depreciating between-song banter, thoughtful lyrics and fuzzed-yet-showy, sometimes tricksy, guitar play fall into an unlikely middle-ground between Swell Maps and Frank Zappa.

Kenny Garrett & Svoy Who Killed AI? (Mack Avenue)

svoyUS saxophonist Kenny Garrett is one of contemporary jazz-fusion’s bigger names. He’s known for mixing it up with all kinds of music, bringing jazz to new corners, and has worked with everyone from Miles Davis to Cameo to Q-Tip. It’s no surprise, then, that he was drawn to Russian-American producer Svoy – AKA Misha Tarasov – very much a musician’s musician. Garrett has worked with him on various occasions but Who Killed AI? is the first time the duo have explicitly headed into “proper” electronica. It’s a set that veers between floaty chill-out and more hectic drum & bass flavours, as well as a skittering version of “My Funny Valentine”. It rides the genre divide with aplomb and sounds like the pair are enjoying themselves.

Heavy Lungs x DITZ Live at the BBC (Alcopop/BBC)

ditzFlying noisily out of the traps on staunchly propulsive rhythm sections, these two sides represent, respectively, Bristol outfit Heavy Lungs and Brighton punkers DITZ. Both bands are Idles-associated and sound it. Heavy Lungs’ set even includes a cover of that band’s anthemic “Danny Nedelko” fronted by none other than… Heavy Lungs’… Danny Nedelko. Originally recorded for Deb Grant & Tom Ravenscroft's New Music Fix show on BBC 6Music, Side A also consists of Heavy Lungs punk-funkin’ raucous “All Gas No Breaks”, “Head Tilter” and “(A Bit of a) Birthday”, while Side B has four DITZ cuts. The latter are more space-rock psychedelic, albeit still fearsome. A vitally energized double-header that arrives, limited to 1000 copies, on garish green and pink-puked vinyl.

Travis Biggs Solar Funk (Demon)

travisTravis Biggs is one of those dudes who rare groove crate-diggers mention in hushed tones. His main claim to fame was as sidesman on keys to Isaac Hayes during his Seventies disco experiments. Around the same time Biggs, who was from Detroit, fired out a couple of albums of his own in 1976 and 1979. Solar Funk is the second of them. The music on board is primarily instrumental jazz-funk but pushing cheekily at genre boundaries, varying between smooth, new age space grooves, synth to the fore, and the far eastern sountracking of the terribly spelled “Tibetian Serenity” (as sampled by J Dilla). Best of all is the violin-fuelled pure percussive funkin’ of the title track. Comes on sunstorm splodgy orange vinyl in a picture/info inner sleeve with extensive notes (although it still doesn’t reveal if Biggs is still alive; I couldn’t track down his mortal status anywhere!).

Mal-One Listen up Punk! Punk Art Poetry (PunkArt)

malMal-One is a multi-discipline London artist who’s probably best-known for exhibitions that draw on a lifelong fascination with his home city’s 1970s punk movement. He’s also an author and he assisted in some capacity with the recent-ish TV series Pistol. His Record Store Day release showcases his interest in multimedia art, arriving in an inner sleeve decorated with the collage cover art of previous releases, as well as a poster and a 12” x 12” 12-page lyric book. Except they’re not so much lyrics as poems, because this a spoken word poetry album. Mal-One’s poems are more socio-historical snapshots, delivered in a prosaic voice, vignettes of particular moments from punk's 1976-77 prime. In the age of YouTube and so on, I’m unsure who listens to spoken word albums, but I suppose you could say the same about Spotify in regard to music. Yet here we are. A curiosity, nonethelesss.

Steven Wilson Harmonic Divergence (Virgin)

wilsonWilson is that guy from Porcupine Tree, the one who, as much as Radiohead, has made prog acceptable in the 2020s. Unlike Radiohead, he’s happy to acknowledge his prog aspects. He’s also well-regarded these days for his production and remastering skills, a SERIOUS musicians’ musician with sprawling, eclectic tastes. His 2023 album The Harmony Codex is now given a Record Store Day remix make-over. The big names on board are Manic Street Preaches, with a U2-ish take on “Economies of Scale”, Ewan Pearson with the nigh-on-10-minute sedate Balearic chug of “Time is Running Out”, and Mogwai with a fuzzed Bernard Herman-esque journey, another nigh-on-10-minuter. But of equal interest is Wilson’s drummer Craig Blundell’s industrial-ish deconstruction of “Actual Brutal Facts”. Comes in art inner sleeve.

Spoonfed Hybrid Spoonfed Hybrid (4AD)

spoonThe early Nineties was a time when many musicians who enjoyed making an in-yer-face racket with guitars, bass and drums were challenged by the rising tide of electronic experimentation that was changing the nature of pop. Two such were Ian Masters of Pale Saints and Chris Trout of AC Temple, who got together as Spoonfed Hyprid. Not for them the 4/4 BPMs of house, though. Instead, on this 1993 debut album, the pair mustered woozy wonk-pop, production playfulness evident, but tethered to floating-into-the-air songs, not so very far from Ultramarine, or even the by-then-defunct Talk Talk. Its delicate, occasionally narcotized stuff and and comes paired with a second record of demos and outtakes. Radiohead fired out Kid A seven years later but some of these songs are already traversing the same terrain.

Ghost-Note Mustard n’ Onions (Mack Avenue)

ghostIt says on the cover sticker, “Band members of Snarky Puppy, Prince, Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar…”. But most of those references pertain to the band’s founder, Texan drummer Robert “Sput” Searight. Ghost-Note’s third album is a double in gatefold that arrives on a splurge of yellow-orange eco-mix vinyl (meaning it’s made from the offcuts of other pressings, an environmentally friendly option). The contents have a brassy New Orleans feel party but via some serious bass-slapping funk, lots of clapping and shouting, lots of live feel. The whole thing exudes a rampant upbeat energy which sounds readymade for festival-land.

Keane Live at the Paradiso 29.11.05 (Island)

keaneI have no love for Keane. At all. So I am not the person to ask. But for those who want a copy of this Amsterdam concert, which includes various of their “biggies”, it contains two records, one white, one red, within photo/info inner sleeves with an overview from the band about the night in question. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

 

 

Christian McBride/Edgar Meyer But Who’s Gonna Play the Melody? (Mack Avenue)

meyerTwo bassists whose musical backgrounds meld with ease on their new album. Christian McBride has accompanied artists ranging from Sonny Rollins to Billie Eilish, as well as being Artistic Director of the Newport Jazz Festival. If he’s the jazzer with classical infections, Edgar Meyer, originally from Tennessee, is deeper dipped in blues and folk, and has played with everyone from Béla Fleck to Yo-Yo Ma. What they have in common is an interest in rendering their genre-forms elegant, classy rather than ragged. Bowing and plucking, this two-record set takes in standards such as “Days of Wine and Roses” and Bill Monroe’s “Tennessee Blues”, per force giving them a new form due to the all-bass instrumentation. But, of as much interest, are the many more tunes of their own. Even those who don’t enjoy it would have to admit that the stately yet rhythmic-percussive originality of this double set very much does its own thing.

Kristin Hersh Hips and Makers: 30th Anniversary Edition (4AD)

kristinA second Kristin Hersh release for Record Store Day. This one’s a reissue, 30 years on, of her debut album, which reached the UK Top 10 upon its original release. A pared-back exercise, it’s not a million miles away, in places, from R.E.M. in ballad mode (indeed Michael Stipe appears briefly). At the time it was seen as a counterpoint to Hersh’s “day job”, rockin’ out with Throwing Muses, then peaking commercially, post-grunge, but it now stands on its own, a set of isolated, heartfelt micro-dramas, painted with calm, sometimes abstract observation, now replete with a second record that contains B-sides and string versions, the latter emphasising the late night melancholy.

Greg Foat & Gigi Masin The Fish Factory Sessions (Strut)

gregOne online description called these two a “dynamic duo”. This, they are patently not. Instead, what they deal in is piano noodle and synth wash. Greg Foat is a British jazzer and keys session dude, while Gigi Masin is a cult Venetian ambient producer, best-known for his obscure Eighties album Wind. Together they sound as you might expect and this four track set derives from, as the title indicates, recordings made in London's Fish Factory Studios. Two tracks, “Sabina” and “Viento Calido”, are reversions from the duo’s Dolphin album of last year, and the other two are new. Life is hectic, money anxieties niggle, wars rage, and this this music is aimed at those who need soothing, four long pieces wherein friendly piano noodle is submerged in new age washes and cuddly synth motifs. It’s so laid back it’s easy to imagine taking a lie-down and nodding off. Whether this is good thing depends what your soul requires. Comes on viny a washed out pale blue.

The Black Watch The Morning Papers Have given Us the Vapours (Dell’Orso)

blackI admit I'd never heard of The Black Watch and thought they were a new band but, when I Googled them, found they began well over 30 years ago. They are one of those bands that revolve around a single figure, in this case one John Andrew Fredrick. Their latest album - of multitudes - appears on yellow transparent vinyl and contains 11 songs that major in Eighties indie jangle-pop. I’m not persuaded but those in thrall to 4AD Records of yore, with a smidgeon of C86 and shoegaze, may enjoy.

We welcome any and all vinyl for review. Please hit thomash.green@theartsdesk.com for a postal address.

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