A Tasty Volume

If I was ever asked to produce a list of three favourite ways of spending my free time, it would probably end up looking like this;

Music Books Food
Imagine my surprise then when I recently unearthed this little item; A cookery book published via Rega Electronics. Rega are of course responsible for possibly the best budget turntable line ever made, the Planar. I have owned several of these fantastic record spinners over the past quarter century and can certainly attest to their well-earned reputation for digging out huge amounts of hitherto unheard sonic detail from vinyl discs.

I have tried in vain to find out more about this curious publication as it contains no information other than giving 1991 as it’s year of publication. A search for the author, Pamela Clift has also drawn a blank but I presume she was involved in running the company at some stage as she recounts several amusing anecdotes which occured at various Hi-Fi demonstrations over the years.

The recipes themselves are fairly typical examples of the kind of food you would expect to find served at late 1980s middle class dinner parties throughout the Home Counties and offer no real surprises. The photography veers between garish and insipid, rendering even the tastiest sounding dishes unappetising and the font used is spectacularly amateurish. What makes this book worth the slender price of admission however is the cover which depicts slices of beautifully pink Marget de Canard duck breasts with a blueberry, raspberry and coriander leaf accompaniment – all served on the glass platter of a Planar 3 turntable!

Entertaining Rega Cover

I can’t ever see this volume becoming a highly sought after collector’s item but it’s cover photograph has most definitely earned it a place on my bookshelf.

NOTE – Using your prized turntable as a serving platter may lead to all manner of food/audio discrepancies and is therefore not recommended under any circumstances.

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Self-Titled

After playing through a pile of recently issued albums, I made the discovery that my three favourites had something in common; they were all debut, self-titled releases. A strange coincidence indeed, but what could this possibly mean? Maybe I was reading too much into this unlikely occurrence and so instead of trying to decode any possible hidden significance, I simply decided to carry on listening. Here are a few of my thoughts;

Acteurs – Acteurs

This mini LP from Chicago duo Acteurs is an accomplished exercise in repetition, post-punk aesthetics, bass manipulation and all manner of electronic experimentalism. Opening track Cloud Generating manages to squeeze more tightly wound dynamism into it’s four minute running time than most bands manage in a lifetime. I’m looking forward to hearing these ideas further developed across a long-form release in the not too distant future.

Mystical Weapons – Mystical Weapons

An improvised, free-rock freak out of an album from Deerhoof’s extremely talented sticksman Greg Saunier and son of famous parents, Sean Lennon. I’ve had this one on repeat play for a few days now and am still finding scores of new detail bleeding out from it’s labyrinthine grooves. This is an incredibly rewarding listen, an immaculately recorded and endlessly inventive series of modern psychedelic vignettes covering all bases from solo piano miniatures to progressive explosions.

TM 404 – TM404

My personal favourite however is this stunning release from Swedish producer Andreas Tilliander who has crafted an album of blunted, ambient acid which was coaxed out of his collection of Roland machines and recorded in one take without overdubs. I have a huge love for the sounds that these notoriously difficult to program boxes generate but here, Tilliander manages to pull them away from the dancefloor and into a much more introspective space. I have played this album several times whilst driving at night and I can’t think of a more apt soundtrack at this point.

A Mysterious Object from Pye Corner

Pye Corner Audio – The Ever-Present Hum

On returning home after a trip away at the weekend, I was pleased to see that my wonderful surly postman had roughly manhandled another batch of happiness through my letterbox. I excitedly scooped up the small padded envelope and began to gently prise it open as Junior Ubsubscriber looked on to see what marvels this new package may contain. As I removed the clear plastic cassette box from the bubble wrap, she turned to me in a very perplexed manner and said “but what is it?”

Tapeworm CassetteI have attempted to explain the mystery of how vinyl records work to Junior Unsubscriber on several occasions in the past but she’s having none of it. Being of an age where all it takes to make music come out your speakers is the tap of a screen, I somehow think that all my talk of microgrooves and magnetic particles is akin to teaching her the finer points of nuclear fission. She simply stood there looking at the cassette as if it were an impossibly ancient relic or an unknown object of extra-terrestrial origin.

Later in the evening, I finally got the chance to sit down and give this little oddity a proper listen. I have to say in advance that I’ve been an obsessive collector of Pye Corner Audio releases since picking up the first volume of Black Mill Tapes in 2010 and so I was in a state of high anticipation.

Text on the inlay card offers the following piece of information from The Head Technician; “These two pieces are an exploration of the setup I use for my live shows. I wanted to come at it from a more compositional angle however. Using only a looping delay pedal and two synthesisers, they became a meditation on the sounds that surround us, but often go unheard.”

Pye Corner Audio Tape Inlay

Part One (Motorway) pitches bucolic synth tones above a murky pulse, flickering with the kind of warbling effect you might hear on a cassette which has spent the past few decades sitting in a musty shoebox. It somehow puts me in mind of Edgar Froese’s 1975 mellotron classic Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, although played out against the faded splendour of a forgotten provincial English coastal village rather than equatorial forests. Part Two (Treetop) is an altogether darker, more sinister piece and combines a wonderfully unsettling drone with billowing, gaseous sounds which gradually combine with an eerie arpeggio to close out the track..

After last years’ magnificent Sleep Games album on Ghost Box, this short transmission is a huge side step from the usual Pye Corner Audio sound but somehow manages to dovetail rather neatly into the Head Technician’s overall aesthetic. The Tapeworm site (here) is already listing this limited run of tapes as sold out and so tracking down a copy may prove a rather difficult, although highly rewarding task.

It’s comforting to know that tiny, homegrown labels such as Tapeworm exist in 2013, floating defiantly amongst the endless waves of corporate spreadsheet music. It’s up to us to support the efforts of such people to ensure that we still have something worthwhile to intrigue and inspire at least a few members of our present touchscreen generation.

Calm in the Chaos

We all knew it was coming. The weather forecast said that we’d probably have a little  snow over the course of yesterday evening, yet I was still shocked to see a fair covering of the white stuff when I arose at 6:30am this morning. I drank my coffee and wondered just how long the school run would take in the present conditions – a journey which usually requires around 45 minutes, give or take. As I set off with the new My Bloody Valentine album enveloping me in it’s warm cocoon of reverb, my mood was distinctly upbeat.

All that all changed as soon as I arrived at Crookes however, the conditions rapidly deteriorated and the stiff wind drove huge flakes of snow into a blizzard. It was almost a whiteout. After successfully dropping Junior Unsubscriber at her school (which was thankfully open), I trudged back to the car in quiet contemplation and witnessed the first of several collisions as drivers attempted to negotiate the perilous hill which leads down to the main road.

Crookes

After a brief moment of deliberation, I decided that the safest course of action would be to leave the car where I had parked it and walk back into Sheffield from where I could plan my journey home.

As I reached the bottom of Crookes Valley Road, the clouds began to break and I decided to take a shortcut through Weston Park. The bright light of a February morning leaked from the clear blue sky through heavy, snow-filled clouds making the deserted park look utterly beautiful. I stopped to take a few photographs before setting off, happy that I had taken this detour away from the seemingly endless procession of cars with their stressed occupants. Everyone was going somewhere important today, but no one was getting there on time.

On either side of this little oasis of calm, commuter chaos reigned and I was reminded once again how we tend to overlook these fleeting moments of pleasure as we go about the mundanities of adult life.

Weston Park 1

Weston Park 3

Weston Park 2

Weston Park 4

The Steinvord Conundrum

Steinvord – Steinvord EP

On Friday, I spent most of the day listening to this recently acquired five track EP on the Rephlex label featuring a fine collection of breathtakingly complex Amen break manipulations flecked with eye-wateringly fierce 303 squiggles. After several plays, I decided to try and find out just who this Steinvord chap is and immediately found hundreds of posts across dozens of message boards discussing this very subject. After five minutes of browsing, it became clear that no one actually knew the true identity of Steinvord, he would have to remain a mystery. The general consensus of opinion however broadly fell into two camps; that this was the work of Mr Richard D. James (The Aphex Twin himself) or a collaboration between the aforementioned Mr James and Mr Tom Jenkinson (The Squarepusher). It would seem that, in the absence of a new Aphex album, almost everything put out on Rephlex these days has to be RDJ in disguise.

This kind of conjecture is rather amusing to read as some poor listeners struggle with the horror of knowing that the Aphex Twin discography in their iTunes library can never be correctly labelled without such information. Others take an altogether more analytical approach and point to minute sonic clues as proof of their creator’s identity. As for me, I can honestly say that this is a sterling release irrespective of who’s behind it. Yes, it picks up many of it’s reference points from the previous work of James and Jenkinson but it’s hard not to make such parallels given how incredibly influential they’ve both been.

And so I found myself in a bit of quandary, how to sum up a release like this in a slightly more hermetic manner than merely presenting a list of it’s obvious influences. I needed the opinion of someone who wasn’t as familiar with the Aphex Twin or Squarepusher back catalogues as myself and so I decided to play it to Junior Unsubscriber to see what she made of it all. After a short while, she said that it was “good… and weird too”. When I asked her what she meant by weird, she explained “well, I just don’t know what’s going to happen next.” Finally, after a few more moments of intent listening she said “I like the drums, they’re sharp.”

So there you have it, I think that I’ll play her a few tracks from the new My Bloody Valentine LP later in the week and see if she avoids all the lazy comparisons to Loveless.

Steinvord EP