25.12.10

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & THE MAGIC BAND : Bat Chain Puller (1976)

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I'm not going to bang on about Don Van Vliet's recent, premature passing, except to say that the world already seems a grimmer, greyer place knowing that he's not busying himself out in the middle of the desert someplace, throwing paint at a canvas & chuckling to some cryptic private joke... As Tom Waits told The Guardian last week, "Once you've heard Beefheart, it's hard to wash him out of your clothes. It stains, like coffee, or blood."

By way of tribute, here's the original & unreleased Bat Chain Puller album in EXCELLENT quality (i.e. infinitely better than Ozit's woeful Dust Sucker collection a few years back). This earlier, less acerbic version of 1978's Shiny Beast LP was recorded in early '76 by an economy sized Magic Band comprising John French (drums), Moris Tepper (guitar), Denny Whalley (guitar) & John Thomas (keyboards). Eliot Ingbar & Bruce Fowler had both left the band at the end of Beefheart's extensive '75 Bongo Fury tour & were therefore absent, though Fowler rejoined in time to appear on the re-recorded Shiny Beast renderings of these songs.

Provisionally intended for release on Frank Zappa's DiscReet label, the semi-completed Bat Chain Puller tapes were frustratingly caught up in protracted legal goings-on between Zappa & manager Herb Cohen & "temporarily" shelved. Beefheart, however, had already sent a cassette to Virgin Records' London office to see if they might be interested in releasing the album in Europe. A few dubs were subsequently handed out to sympathetic journalists, & inevitably bootlegged, before a deal had been finalised, hence...


Rest in peace, Captain.

21.12.10

TANGERINE DREAM : Live At Coventry Cathedral 1975

I KNOW THE HOLE IN BABY'S HEAD

Roky Erickson, filmed in 1986 at Austin State Hospital, Texas by Douglas Mobley. This unsettling clip is included among the plentiful extras on the You're Gonna Miss Me DVD...

15.12.10

RED LORRY YELLOW LORRY : This Today EP (1983)

This Today
RLYL
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Red Lorry Yellow Lorry formed in Leeds in 1981 & , initially viewed as acolytes of J__ D______, were spurred on by the wave of interest surrounding the emerging drum machine driven, gothic rock sound of local acts The Sisters Of Mercy & March Violets. RLYL were definitely a "rock" band rather than a purely "gothic" one though, their thunderous assault having much more in common with the parodic rhythm & blues of The Three Johns (&, yes, Joy Division) than Yorkshire's ethereal snakebite & hairspray coterie. The intense combination of Chris Reed's booming vocal, the droning shit storm of electric guitars & the seismic doubling-up of electronic & live drums stills sounds pretty powerful to me. That's not just sentimental middle age, I hope?

The This Today 12", released via York's celebrated Red Rhino in 1983, was/is a round-up of highlights from the band's initial trio of 7"s for the label. The lead track, the sombre "Beating My Head", is a complete re-recording of the original, rather undeveloped 1982 single version (which was actually lifted directly from the demo cassette that got them signed). The remake is, for once, irrefutably superior to it's predecessor: in slowing the pace, piling on further layers of crackling guitar noise, & excising the intrusive Psychedelic Furs-style sax, it's vivid sense of foreboding becomes almost stifling. Overleaf, the cryptic, derisive "He's Read" remains not only my favourite RLYL song, but one of my favourite songs from that era full-stop.

A further run of excellent singles (all since compiled by Cherry Red) led to their debut LP, the ominous Talk About The Weather, a seldom acknowledged period archetype that's dated significantly better than concurrent albums by The Sisters Of Mercy, Skeletal Family or, God help us, The Mission.

RYLR reformed a few years back to perform live & released a handful of new songs through their website. Chris Reed currently performs solo, & semi-acoustically, as ChrisReedUnit.

5.12.10

FLYING SAUCER ATTACK : In Search Of Spaces (1996)

FSA (f)
FSA
I was up in Manchester a couple of weekends ago &, during my usual slightly frantic trawl of the city's record shops, spotted that Vinyl Exchange had a copy of this Flying Saucer Attack CD, tagged at a crippling £50!

An atmospheric mosaic of gentle psych-folk melodies ("rural psychedelia") & jarring freeform feedback, Flying Saucer Attack (named after a Rezillos song, of all things) started out as the solo project of Dave Pearce ("guitar, vocals, noise"), with on/off help from then-girlfriend Rachel Brook (drums). Formed in Bristol in the early 90s, FSA spearheaded a transient low-fi shoegaze "revival" that embraced several other loosely connected & similarly minded local acts, including Light, Crescent, Third Eye Foundation, Amp & Brook's own, apparitional Movietone. Starting out as a bedroom-based DIY operation & initially recording on a domestic hi-fi tape deck, FSA's limited edition, hand-assembled early vinyl releases (via 1st generation Avon punk label Heartbeat Productions) were not only wildly collectible but also musically unorthodox enough to attract the attention of ace U.S. underground label VHF &, eventually, our own Domino Reccord (latterly the Tesco of alt-rock), both of whom issued several excellent FSA collections over the next few years .

In Search Of Spaces was released on Bruce Russell's sadly dormant Corpus Hermeritcum label in 1996 in a once-only edition of 1000. It's a 50-minute assemblage of extracts from a number of FSA live performances, recorded on the band's only bona fide tour in 1994 & spliced 'n' diced by Russell himself. It contains no songs as such, just collaged (often overlapping) sections of unstructured, experimental, strung out improvisation - the spaces between the songs in fact. It's strictly limited pressing & long term unavailability means that it's been unjustly written off as a peripheral release despite it being one of FSA's most interesting & impressive works, rivaling both the enduring "Soaring High" 7" & their landmark John Peel sessions. It's definitely worth grabbing a hard copy for yourself if you can find it at a reasonable price (i.e.less than 50 quid!) - it's packaged in a lovely, tactile letterpress cardboard sleeve with a selection of unusual hand-printed odds & ends secreted within. Nice.