To begin, a thank you and an apology.
Thanks to all those who turned out to support on Record Store Day last Saturday. It's not the reason we do this, but it's a moment to at least reflect on being lucky enough to still be able to do it. Given the year we've all had, that's not to be taken for granted. And also sorry to anyone who was looking for the Optimo tape - due to some manufacturing errors we were unable to sell it on the day. It will, however, be available for the next RSD on Saturday 17th July. It's worth the wait.
On we go to new and semi-new bits below. And an advanced heads up that we'll be unleashing a brilliant second hand collection in the next week or two - stay tuned.
I'm now off to patent a World of Echo branded mineral water in the hope of Ronaldo drinking it at a press conference and raising WOE stock by a good £4b. We all have a dream >>>
Various - Everything Was Supposed To Be So Easy
Left Alone, 2021
Been a minute since Left Alone released anything into the physical realm, but here they are again with this mighty fine cassette compilation that doubles down on the UK underground focus of those two fantastically presented zines from a few years back and their stellar online mix series. Malvern Brume, who you might remember from that album on Alter last year (i think? what is time?) is the only familiar name here, and his two contributions are perhaps the best i've heard from him, psychogeographic Sebaldian electronics couched in winter city fog. They also serve as a nice primer for the unknowns and newcomers that constitute the rest of this collection - honestly, this is music so finally attuned to my tastes and somehow surprising me by coming out of my own backyard, i'm wondering if i've been asleep at the wheel... The similarities with the i stumble and then i fall comp on A Colourful Storm are unavoidable, covering very similar sonic ground, tied up with a similar conceptual bow - i.e hauntological abstract electronics, dubwise explorations, coldwave minimalism and decayed ambience, all presented with that thrillingly permission-less DIY attitude. It all hangs together so well there's little point in picking out highlights, though i will say that the Great Area track reminds me an awful lot of Caroline K, which is both high praise and a pretty good indication of the spirit undercutting all of this creative action.
Space Afrika -Untitled (To Describe You) [OST]
Space Afrika follow up last year's digital-only hybtwibt? mixtape with the soundtrack to the new short film by Manchester-born visual artist, poet and filmmaker Tibyan Mahawah Sanoh. In all likelihood, it's a film i'll never see, yet the techniques and approaches taken, both here and on that aforementioned mixtape, does lend the music created by Joshua Inyang and Joshua Tarelle a cinematic quality that allows it to live free of that context. Sound collage is the key device, fragments of speech, found sound and deep sonorous electronics cut-n-shut in that unmistakably hauntological way, a time-dilating series of vignettes that minitaurise and abstracts the grander symphonic qualities of Burial circa Rival Dealer, communicating an altogether different truth that feels very much Space Afrika's own. Collage is a notoriously hard technique to get right (often the preserve of the unimaginative), but Inyang and Tarelle use it effectively to create a kind of episodic narrative feel, not so much layered as with Burial, but sequential, a haunted wander through the maze of identity and self. Alongside the original ten-minute long soundtrack are three additional tracks recorded around the same time, and they act as wider canvas shots of the zoomed in on fragments consertinered into one in that score, fleshing out our understanding of its genesis. Beguiling and moving lost in the dream hypnotics with a rare compositional flair. You don't just guess at making sounds like this - masters at work no doubt.
Papiro - La Finestra Dentata
With a front cover like that you've immediately got my attention, though it's a little misleading of what lies within - there's a lot more light here than shade. Swiss-Italian producer Marco Papiro has been making left-of-centre electronic music for over two decades now, releasing across a host of underground imprints, including most notably a great record on Planam in 2014. This latest for Marionette (who recently gave us that celebrated David Fenech LP) draws on various studio and live recordings made between 2016-2020, the length of time affording this collection a kind of retrospective feel, at various points reflecting Papiro's explorations of komische/krautrock, drone, IDM, ambient++. At it's best, it recalls the neighbourhood-at-dusk pastoralism of Ulrich Schnauss, the bounce and chime of LFO's Advance and a little Boards of Canada ghostbox ambience. A very Marionette-style release in its ability to be at once both inner-looking and ebullient. Jah bliss.
Vacant Gardens --
Under the Bloom/Obscene
Tall Texan, 2020/2021
FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY we have (very few) copies of the two Vacant Gardens pressed by Tall Texan. You'd be forgiven for missing both, given their local distribution and micro-pressings (they made 100 of each!), but this is music deserving of a much wider audience. VG are the duo Glenn Donaldson of Reds, Pinks and Purples (and a billion others) formed with vocalist Jem Fanvu, turning out two densely composed and immaculately presented records in quick succession. The pedigree speaks for itself, but there's magic here beyond the sum of its parts. Donaldson is an adaptable and expressive guitarist, his magpie eyes allowing him the dexterity to shift convincingly between styles, and with VG he's channelling late 80s gloom-laden dreampop with a particularly drum-machine driven British bent - think Pale Saints, Slowdive, Lush, early Ride et al. I'm likely to be a fan of anything Donaldson turns his hand to, but Fanvu shifts this particular take on noisepop skywards, her vocal oscillating between gossamer delicacy and grandiose melancholia with silky ease. Given how close together the releases of Under the Bloom and Obscene were, my initial assumption was that these songs were all made around the same time and split into two albums, but it might just be that they hit a winning formula on first strike. Under the Bloom is charming and obtuse, testing the edges of the collaboration, always at the point of threatening some ecstatic revelation, whereas Obscene seems to bloom outwards in a rapturous blast of shoegaze radiance. You know the kind of gold standard shoegaze stuff when you hear it - ineffable sadness that hides the sun. Sun's out, glums out. Blister in the slums.
Robin Stewart - Albatross EP
Robin Stewart opens up the archives to provide the opening salvo for new imprint Ipaadi, serving up five tracks written back in 2017 before he'd started releasing music under his own name outside of Giant Swan. Stewart's music, whether alone or with GS, has often possessed a futurist element, though what timestamps these recordings is the industrial bone-dry metallic synthesis inherited from his parent group, which is less evident in later work where he moves much further out into the dub-zone. Imagine these the soundtrack to the shitty space of 80s sci-fi - the malfunctioning technology of a future centuries down the line, where you can move silently through subspace but can't get the air-con to work. There's no way any of these tracks should have been left unheard on someone's hard drive and they remind me in part of those early Chris Carter experiments - primitive, hard, explorative, operating at the edges of another breakthrough still to come. Stewart has said he'll never make music like this again. Respect to Ipaadi for ushering what he has made into the light.
Takuma Watanabe - Last Afternoon
The second release on SN Variations' sister label Constructive is a pedigree-rich debut from Berklee-graduate Takuma Watanabe, featuring contributions from Robert Ashley affiliate Joan La Barbara and Bjork collaborator, Akira Rabelais, as well as being mastered by Jim O'Rourke. Wow-wee. With those kind of names involved the results are inevitable, and this is a refined but gently probing example of modern minimal composition that draws immediate comparisons to contemporary greats Kara-Lis Coverdale, Sarah Davachi and Felicia Atkinson. Amongst the stately arrangements, Watanbe allows a little dissonance to wander in the door, static and drone staining the obvious virtuosity of the ensemble performers, recalling Michael Nyman's Decay Music, and in its intimate moments of unforced experimentalism could easily sit amongst the records made during lockdown for the Boomkat Documenting Sound series. A debut of rare poise and unhurried vision.
Various - Strain, Crack & Break: Music From The Nurse With Wound List Volume 2 (Germany)
Finders Keepers, 2021
German iteration of the Finders Keepers collation of the NWW list, a shorthand index for the lazy (wo)man who finds the full list itself a little intimidating or impenetrable. Nothing wrong with any of those things. The usual prog, free jazz, psych and folk obscuro-oddities abound here, and because it's German, there's deepdives into the fringes of krautrock experimentalism, upturning stones where most didn't even realise there were stones. No-one starts their journey here - and it's still unfathomable to me how this exists straight out the gate for NWW anyway - but as we said about the first Strain, Crack & Break, this is still a great place to come when you feel bored with everything else. Given the time period, there's a high-minded avant garde approach to much of this music, an attitude retired somewhat by the DIY autodidactism of the 80s, but there's a free spirited wildness that can be returned to repeatedly. There was little commercial imperative or value to this music, so who was it made for? What drove its creation? Questions that no doubt drew Nurse With Wound down these alleyways in the first instance. These freaks of art are timeless monsters.
Various - Nice Try, Sunshine
-SECOND PRESSING RESTOCK-
The first pressing of this great comp is perhaps the fastest selling record we've had in this year, so it's only good news that it's back in print again. I liked what we said first time around, so here it is again in case you missed it
The current Gothenburg scene has been key to showing off the more avant garde tastes and interests of Swedish music, but the twelve songs presented on Appetite showcase a very different facet of its recent cultural history and with it reminds me of the my first associations with music from that part of the world. Taken from the early part of the 20th century, this is the Sweden of Jens Lekman (who appears right at the end of this collection), erudite indiepop both arch and hopelessly romantic, which mostly jangles and sometimes sparkles, too. Much of this reminds me of golden era Slumberland, though you can also hear trace elements of the very specific Swedish mutations that would push indiepop forward via the various artists making up the Labrador, Service and Yours Sincerely rosters. Indiepop is often seen as formulaic, though Nice Try is actually fairly sonically diverse, defined more by a shared spirit than overly defined aesthetic. They're not all winners, but where it shines, it's blinding - the punk bounce of Signed Papercuts, Florian's wallflower pastorialism, Rough Bunnies' Karen Mark's style new wave elan, the gentle experimentation of Paddington FC... Consider it the Swedish answer to I Wont Have To Think About You. Only 250 copies. This one wont hang around long.