And we're merely following the lead of loads of great labels who have all lined up a raft of new records already this year. Aguirre, A Colourful Storm, Horn of Plenty and Low Company all leading the way so far, and there's a good number of pre-orders now listed on the site, too - Don Cherry, Grauzone, Graham Lambkin, Angel Bat Dawid, Reds, Pinks and Purples, Dry Cleaning, Dolly Mixture++
A few other things worth noting are the collection of Stereolab 7"s that just arrived, and the various copies of Distort zine (produced by your man from Total Control) imported from Australia.
Considering we can't really do anything, there's quite a lot to be done!
Speaking of which, this week's highlights >>>
Rat Columns - Pacific Kiss
Tough Love, 2021
Not many years pass by without some kind of musical contribution from David West, and, like Fall records, here he is again as Rat Columns, perhaps his most perfectly realised form. Well, my favourite, at least. Rat Columns is, ostensibly, a pop band, albeit the kind of underground alterna-pop band as first imagined circa 1984 and ossified around C86. With Pacific Kiss, DW serves up his boldest and most extroverted collection to date, a lost Creation classic of Revolving Paint Dream/Servants power pop. West is certainly a DIY-or-die punker in spirit, as his stints in Burning Sensation and Total Control attest, but he's also got a pretty defined instinct for open-hearted romanticism and unabashed melodicism that seems born of another world -in a sense it's like an international pop underground imagining of that old adage that 95% of great pop music is about love and/or dancing. Never one to shy away from heart on his sleeve declarations, Pacific Kiss does nonetheless feel particularly poignant and personal - I Can't Live on Love, Feeding the Fire, She's Coming Home all seem to spark from the same troubled-love origins, good old bright and erudite earnest indiepop. But it's the Soul Kiss I and II tagteam that close the second side where the album really soars, the latter recalling the VU chug of early RC classic, 'Fooling Around'. Along with Cindy, Reds, Pinks and Purples et al, this is The New Sincerity of indiepop. And there aint no shade without sunshine.
Ulla - Inside Means Inside Me
Boomkat Editions, 2021
Made during the first lockdown in 2020 and initially released only on cassette that same year, Ulla's follow up to Tumbling Against A Wall is now made more widely available with this vinyl pressing. Comprising what Ulla details as "recordings of candid conversations, a walk to the river, a call from my mom", Inside Means Inside Me is an aptly titled exploration of self and interior worlds, and through that reflects in its own way the shared cultural experience of these past twelve months. It's a massively undersold follow-up to Tumbling..., building on the underwater dreamland sound design now characteristic of the Experiences Ltd stable and leaning back into the decayed liminal spaces of turn of the century minimalists Voight, Jan Jelinek, Microstoria et al. We're hardly short of this kind of thing right now, but Ulla has the emotional range as well as the ear for (micro)detail to stand apart. The incorporation of personal conversation and found sound is effective in positioning the human right at the centre of the music, Ulla's own human experience first, but you can also find relatable moments in these conversational snippets - the anxiety of the unknown pushing up against tranquil, amniotic sonics. The 'lockdown album' is inevitably gonna become a worn out trope, but Insides Means Inside Me stakes out an early highpoint in a weird genre. Still find it odd this was only released on cassette first time round (and with that, only available via one website - 'exclusives' eh?), but now it's here for a lot more people to hear, take advantage.
His Name Is Alive - Hope Is A Candle: 1985-1990 - Home Recordings Vol. 3
Final installment in Disciples' excavation of the His Name is Alive archives, drawing on the tape experiments Warren Defever recorded as a teenager. Those familiar with Defever's work, both on 4AD and these recent reissues, will know him as prodigious and prolific, but it's still worth noting how far removed this music is from conventional understandings of 'teenage music'. Nearly entirely instrumental, these 13 songs are at once rich, expressive, abstract, unhurried, shapeless and vast, suggesting a private emotional language sophisticated beyond its maker's years. Tell me these are new recordings, and i wont doubt you. I understand a number of these songs were included on the demo that caught the attention of Ivo Watts Russell, and there's definitely that stamp of dreamworld ethereality and pregnant mystery that defined 4AD's imperial era, yet they're almost entirely free of the bombast of, say, Dead Can Dance or Cocteaus. The muted percussion of 'Disappear', for example, recalls the fourth world tropes of Hassell and Eno, and in 'Pass', 'Nearby' and 'Halo' you can hear various strands of the post-industrial neo-folk inspirations shared by Coil, O Yuki Conjugate and Muslimguaze. It's clear Defever was on a unique path from the off. This grabbed the ears of 4AD way back when, and it's gonna do the same now for a whole load of new listeners, so i think we can now start thinking of this as the eternal music it always was.
Kara-Lis Coverdale - A480
Gate, 2021 (orig. 2014)
Latest in what now looks like a series of recent reissues/first time vinyl pressings from Kara-Lis Coverdale, this time focusing on her debut from 2014. Slightly unusual it's taken this long to get to vinyl, not least because straight outta the gate it was obvious K-LC had the touch, but i think it probably speaks more for shifting tastes and a greater overall interest in minimal composition/ambient listening that we're now getting a second bite at this. That said, there are aspects of A480 that timestamp it, the synthetic textures of the various electronic manipulations possess a hyperreal quality ala James Ferraro, Laurel Halo, OPN etc. Mostly though, i'm hearing a singular talent here, a rebirth of the Mille Plateaux/glitch aesthetic a good few years before everyone started jumping back aboard that ship - here Coverdale shows herself equal to Popp, Mathieu, Voight et al. As the song titles suggest - each prefixed with an A and given a different sequential number - these are iterative compositions, evolved from the same source but imagined in new shapes. The earlier pieces fit the hyperreal tag, but it's on the penultimate A477 that Coverdale marks her own territory, a 15min+ ghostly modulation that rotates around a glitched harmonic phrase. It goes on for ages, and ends too soon, like a distant sister to 'Do While'. Major stuff.
Sseige - Fading Summer
What kind of sick pervert releases a record called Fading Summer right in the middle of a snowstorm? Where's the hope? In Youth's defence, Sseige's debut originally popped up on cassette back in 2019, and is only now finding its way to vinyl. Quite the timing, though for these small scale releases, it's always a good sign when an album makes that transition from limited to cassette to wider release. Youth are also responsible for the great Sockethead album from last year, and Sseige's music makes a lot of sense alongside that record. Not quite as aggy, Fading Summer still has that nice rough-around-the-edges DIY charm, presented as a series of vignettes with one eye on the continuum, the other on the outer edges of the dreamier aspects of 80s electronics. The analog angles of 'Chromatic' and 'Swan' drew me back to Zomby's Devotion, touched as they are with that same monochrome elegance. 'Angelo Azzuro' is The Cure's 'A Forest' reborn under neon, 'Regina' is it's own primitive take on 'Xtal', and 'Boxe' has the heavily nostalgic neighbourhood-at-night feel of Ulrich Schnauss, while the numerous ambient passages are both spacious and hiss with a static that's got a fair bit of the West Mineral/Experiences Ltd in its DNA. A lot to take it and probably only half the story, such is the ground covered here. A mixed and charming collection, with, as it turns out, not too many thoughts of Summer at all. Rename it Fading Tundra and you might just end up with this season's must have.
Sexual Harrassment - I Need A Freak
Dark Entries, 2021 (orig. 1983)
Dark Entries' double disc reissue of Lynn Tolliver's provocative disco-not-disco classic, a partnership so obvious i'm surprised it's taken this long - DE has built its empire on re-presenting these kind of alternative pop masterpieces, and I Need A Freak is as worthy as any of the accolade. The title track was also a pretty major hit first time around, selling 100k copies, unsurprising given how outrageous and flamboyant it is, sort of an R-rated precursor to what comes later down the line with electro and DJ Assault. Sex sells! While most will be here for that particular track, for me it's always been about 'If I Gave You A Party', an all-time go to mash of B52s sauce, NYC downtown artfulness, and post-punk Ohio outsider weirdness. Those are the obvious highlights, but as a concept, it's a perfectly realised collection - minimal electro(nics) and neon-lit lust & sleaze, a forever-ever combo. Essential item, and best thing Dark Entries have done since those early Cowley records.
Mosquitoes - s/t
World of Echo, 2021
--PRE-ORDER: out 5th March--
A reminder of yesterday's announcement:
Clive Phillips, Dominic Goodman, Peter Blundell are Mosquitoes, a somewhat inscrutable London-based outfit in operation for something close to seven years now, and have released music across a host of celebrated and broad-minded underground labels. Give or take the occasional interview in the less-straight parts of the music press, this is as much formal biography as their music has thus far allowed, for there's something essentially unknowable at the centre of what makes Mosquitoes what they are. So murky is their early history in fact, the first two self-released Mosquitoes records seemed to disappear from sight before really becoming visible. As more records have emerged, those first communications accumulate new meanings, acting as vital documents in tracking the evolution of a band who stand at the vanguard of contemporary British music.
The second of these records, recorded to tape in summer 2016 and first released as a single-sided 12" under the name MOS-002, is arguably the first true iteration of Mosquitoes. Now fittingly renamed Mosquitoes for its reissue as a dubplate-style 10" on World of Echo on 5th March, these five cryptically titled, shape-shifting tracks, see the trio embrace a near-genre-less fluidity, and in doing so express a unique combination of both freedom and intent. By design or instinct, Mosquitoes stand at their own inverted rock nexus, presenting a music that's turned inside out, and in doing so, music that twists the listener the same way.
In that sense, Mosquitoes plug into a long lineage of DIY savant iconoclasts, those outliers who would deny orthodoxy in order to excavate new languages and ideas - The Dead C, This Heat, the anti-formalism of No Wave, David Toop's General Strike. As such, Mosquitoes rely on a musical pluralism in order to take it apart - you must know how something is made before you reassemble it anew. Labelling this an EP may possibly underplay the breadth and ambition of what's on show. Later records would arguably be more cohesive, but what stands as particularly startling with this early work is their fearless and all-encompassing dive into the avant garde. Consider the anti-rockism of the scorched earth 90s re-imagined through a distinctly avant filter of free jazz and dub aesthetics. And it's the latter which perhaps shapes Mosquitoes most, dub the perfect vehicle for the articulation of such wilful anti-formalism. Make no mistake, this is music that's unafraid to be tough, to demand something of the listener and to not ask permission. And to bear witness to a rejection of formalism so aggressively pursued is to be reconciled.