The Cat's Miaow - Songs '94-'98
LP / LP & 7" | RELEASE DATE: 15TH JULY 2022
On July 15th, World of Echo will release Songs '94-'98 by The Cat's Miaow, an 18 song collection of material spanning the band's recorded output during those years, and includes one previously unheard song written shortly before the band morphed into Hydroplane. It will be available on both digital and vinyl formats, the latter of which comes in two different additions - a standard black pressing limited to 500 copies, and an additional black pressing of 250 which includes a 7" of the Third Floor Fire Escape session and a zine containing artwork from various 7"s and cassettes, available only via Bandcamp and World of Echo. Further words below courtesy of Jon Dale.
Songs ’94-’98 is a smart selection of material from The Cat’s Miaow, an Australian indie-pop group that gifted their decade with some of its finest songs. Released on World Of Echo, the album draws from the group’s string of excellent seven-inch singles, a small clutch of compilation contributions, and features one previously unreleased song, “I Take It That We’re Through”, recorded in 1998. Part of the burgeoning international pop underground of the nineties, The Cat’s Miaow’s legend has only built over subsequent decades, as more people discover this most quixotic and curious of groups: a recent appearance on A Colourful Storm’s compilation of Australian indie-pop, I Won’t Have To Think About You, is testament to their enduring influence. In part emulating the selection of tracks on the 1997 CD-only compilation, Songs For Girls To Sing, Songs ’94-’98 is also the group’s first ever full-length 12” vinyl collection – and if you score a copy of the initial edition, there’s an extra 7” featuring all the songs from their “Third Floor Fire Escape View” recording session.
The Cat’s Miaow started out in 1992 as a home-recording duo, Bart Cummings (guitar, bass, vocals) and Andrew Withycombe (bass, guitar) taking time out from duties with Girl Of The World and The Ampersands (respectively), knocking out songs on Withycombe’s four-track. Soon joined by Kerrie Bolton (vocals) and Cam Smith (drums), the quartet spent the next five years quietly, slowly working away in the suburbs of Melbourne, recording gem after gem of independent pop. Like many of their Australian precursors or peers – The Particles, Even As We Speak, The Cannanes – The Cat’s Miaow were more successful overseas, a sadly typical phenomenon within the Australian musical landscape.
The Cat’s Miaow were always worldly and stylish, anyway, each seven-inch single a refined artifact, each song a peaceable jewel. You could hear some relationships with other music – someone (if not everyone) in The Cat’s Miaow was a Galaxie 500 fan; there’s a minimalism to the playing and melodies that recalls Young Marble Giants, Marine Girls, Beat Happening – but the spirit in these twenty-four songs is endearingly individualised, the result of a hermetic vision, an ideal of what a simple, unadorned pop song could be. They had a winning way with simplicity, songs like “Autumn”, “Crying” and “I Can’t Sleep Thinking You Hate Me” passing by in the blink of a moistened eye, and when they stretched out, as on “Firefly”, you can hear hints of the drifting ambience they’d perfect in their other band, Hydroplane.
It’s not much of a surprise that The Cat’s Miaow found a receptive audience, and no small amount of support, from the networked communities of indie-pop labels and fanatics that developed in the nineties – they released records on imprints like Drive-In, Darla, Bus Stop and Quiddity, shared a flexi-disc with Stereolab, and appeared on countless compilations over the years. But they also understood the importance of the local: their first few cassettes reached the world’s mail routes via Wayne Davidson’s legendary Melbourne tape label, Toytown; they turned up on a split single with Davidson’s group, Stinky Fire Engine; they appeared on a tribute cassette for one of Australia’s finest, The Sugargliders, and indeed that’s Josh Meadows of said group playing wah guitar on “Stay”. The Cat’s Miaow also rarely played live – one launch gig, for the Munch video compilation, and a few parties – which is a great way to maintain mystique.
Cosmopolitan yet homely, dedicated to their craft, The Cat’s Miaow always felt a little like a group moving in slow motion, using that pace and focus fully to embrace the art of the perfectly stated pop song – every element in place, no flash and no fuss, no excess, just the core of the thing. Few managed to tease such fierce poetry from such understated, elegant means. From Australia or anywhere - Jon DaleTRACKLISTING:
1. Hollow Inside 2. Light the Beacon 3. Not Like I Was Doing Anything 4. Note On The Table 5. You Know It's True 6. What Time Is It There? 7. I Can't Sleep Thinking You Hate Me 8. Smitten 9. Portland, Oregon 10. Let Me Brush the Hair From Your Face 11. Stay 12. Shoot The Moon 13. Barney & Me 14. Firefly 15. LA International Airport 16. Crying 17. If Things Had Been Different 18. I Take It That We're Through
1. Third Floor Fire Escape View 2. Autumn 3. Nothing New 4. Climb My Stairs 5. Short-Sighted 6. I Really Don't Know
O Yuki Conjugate - A Tension of Opposites: Vol. 1 & 2
Dbl LP | Edition of 500 | RELEASE DATE: 1st April 2022
Vol. 1: 1. Obverse 2. Retrograde 3. Contra 4. Antipode 5. Discrepant 6. Crosswise 7. Anomic 8. Inimical 9. Antonym 10. Sunder 11. A Far Cry
Vol. 2: 1. Unfolding 2. Entracement 3. Ravishment 4. I Don't Know I'm Not A Dream
Recorded during the first few periods of lockdown and originally released as a cassette midway through 2021, O Yuki Conjugate's A Tension of Opposites Vol. 1 & 2 is now to be released as a limited edition, double-disc gatefold LP via World of Echo on 1st April. The enforced conditions of its creation represented a new way of working for O Yuki Conjugate founders, Andrew Hulme and Roger Horberry, a pioneering duo who have worked as close collaborators on multiple projects for almost four decades now. As such, their writing is for the first time divided in two and recognised as distinct, Horberry contributing the shorter eleven tracks that make up Vol. 1 (subtitle: At Variance), and Andrew Hulme the longer four that constitute Vol. 2 (Into the Pleasure Garden). It's fascinating to hear their approaches separated.
At Variance is defined by its mostly short-form approach, characterised by an airless ambience that recalls the late 20th Century modern minimalism of Thomas Koner, Markus Popp and the Mille Plateux universe, while in other parts, an element of the grander aspects of Eno circa Discreet Music, though retaining a characteristically gritty feel. Into the Pleasure Garden provides a notable contrast, forgoing the lightness of the preceding eleven tracks and embracing what might be understood as some of the more 'classic' elements of the OYC sound: their storm cloud-forming, heavy weather, post-industrial, fourth-world dystopia. Together and apart, OYC celebrate their 40th birthday this year, but remarkably, even under challenging circumstances, their music still retains an almost mystical power.
Future releases in the series are planned for later in the year and will continue with this approach, charting the outer reaches of the individual members musical inclinations. In the meantime, it might be worth giving some thought to start considering this pair an institution of sorts, or at least their own cottage industry.
Tara Clerkin Trio - In Spring
12" EP | Edition of 1000 | RELEASE DATE: 1st October 2021
TRACKLISTING: 1. Done Before | 2. Night Steps | 3. Memory | 4. In Spring
But it's true this time.
In Spring is the second record by Tara Clerkin Trio, a Bristol-based group who appeared to emerge from below the radar of near-all in early 2020 and in the presence of one of the most captivating records of that year. This latest 23 minute, four song collection, recorded in various stages and locations over the last twelve months, does nothing to detract from those first impressions, refining the woozy and shimmering oddness of their debut into an avant-pop sensibility that is increasingly their own.
If the group did arrive fully formed, what that form was did feel supple and hard to grasp. They were, in a sense, essentially new sounding, or at least ghosts between the established lines, and with this new record have doubled-down on their inherently Delphian instinct. At its heart, In Spring is a record of subtle contrasts, experimental yet familiar in its intimacy, obviously modern though tied to certain lineages, and driven by a pop logic which is also free-form and seemingly improvised. Their approach to sound is perhaps the guiding principle here, less concerned with genre as it is texture and feeling, drawing from jazz, folk, modern composition, trip hop and downtempo electronica, yet evading all of those categorisations. Tara Clerkin Trio are too generous of heart to be ripping up any rulebook, they simply seem oblivious to its need.
Their geography does provide some context. Bristol's progressive sonic heritage inescapably bleeds into these four tracks, the enclave of open-minded artists around Planet Records in the mid 90s perhaps the closest point of comparison. There's that same magpie spirit which is both futuregazing and aware of its past, though is mostly set on finding its own path. This is in essence what defines Tara Clerkin Trio, feeling their way through freedom of instinct and curiosity, forging their own desire lines. Not so much taking the road less trodden, just walked at their own winding pace.
And I'll do it again"
Ringing in my head
While I try
Stefan Christensen - Cheap Things
12" LP | Edition of 500 | RELEASE DATE: 6th August 2021
TRACKLISTING: 1. Cheap Things (For Adam and Hannah) | 2. All of the Time | 3. Tributary Star | 4. Singlemindedness | 5. Wandering Gaze
In many regards, Cheap Things represents an apex of the universe Christensen has fostered over the last decade, both collaborative and highly personal. Indeed, many of the key names from the C/Site and adjacent world contribute to the record in some capacity - David Shapiro (Alexander/Center/Headroom), Kyrssi Battalene (Mountain Movers/Headroom), who takes a lead and has repurposed the final track for Headroom, Ian McColm (Heart Of The Ghost) and Rick Omonte (Mountain Movers/Headroom) sit in on drums and bass, respectively, while John Miller (formally of Mountain Movers) recorded a couple of the songs at his home studio. Cheap Things is a record labeled with Christensen's name, but it's certainly also one born of community and like-minded creative enquiry, longtime characteristics in his increasingly dense catalogue.
Though the work that comprises this catalogue has always remained engaging, there comes a sense of event with Cheap Things not necessarily present in some of the more off-the-cuff experimental cassette releases issued in both this and past years. This may be in part attributable to the time invested in recording these five songs: starting in mid 2018 and finishing throughout the various periods of lockdown in 2020, this is the longest amount of time Christensen has spent working on a record. Recording itself is an integral aspect of the way in which Christensen creates his sound, relying on the freedom of home studios, the analog limitations of four and eight tracks, and the unique results gained from tape loop manipulations. Such processes add an element of both warmth and spontaneity to the work, though one crucial difference is that much of Christensen's other work is written with, what he calls 'little pre-planning', whereas Cheap Things is defined by a much more precise and pre-formulated vision. The result does feel strangely and more obviously definitive.
There's a life to these songs beyond their recording, the roots in fact stemming all the way back to Christensen's first solo release in 2015, the record on which the title track first appeared, albeit in rudimentary form. Written in response to the death of a friend from an overdose, Christensen was motivated to re-record the song when hearing that at the start of lockdown another friend from the same circle had died in similar circumstances. Over the years the song has grown in length and intensity, and reaches its ultimate form here, an acoustic drone that pulses with a near-spiritual reverie. It's fitting testament to the people it commemorates, and sets the tone for the remainder of Cheap Things, which through its unique melding of folk, noise, experimental and avant blues traditions appears to provide a cathartic release from the various experiences of grief, illness and stress. Much like the music of Tomokawa Kazuki, Mikami Kan and Neil Young, who have informed the album in various ways, the intent here seems to be to communicate big ideas with modest means. Cheap Things, then, is unusually titled, if not expressing the infinite and the eternal, at least suggesting that in striving for the bigger ideas we might find truth, or perhaps just some piece there of.
Mosquitoes - s/t
10" | Edition of 300 | RELEASE DATE: 5th March 2021
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.
Mutabor! - Two Wishes
12" | Edition of 300 | RELEASE DATE: 6th November 2020
TRACKLISTING: A. '1001 Nights' | AA. 'Treats'
World of Echo debuts on the other side of the counter with a reissue of Two Wishes, the solitary 12" by Anglo-German collective, Mutabor!. Seemingly lost to time, Mutabor! were first brought to World of Echo's attention when drummer/singer, Gary Asquith, played at the shop's first birthday celebrations while promoting one of his other bands, Rema Rema. And so the story goes...
Mutabor! emerged wraith-like from the monochromatic grit of Berlin's art punk underground late in 1981 when Asquith left London to set up temporary residence in the city following a chance meeting with Malaria's Bettina Koster backstage at a Birthday Party gig at the Lyceum earlier that year. Beguiled by the possibilities of collaboration, musical and otherwise, he was soon to make his own contributions to what was an already fecund scene. Partnering with Koster, and Gudrun Gut and Manon Duursma also of Malaria!, Mutabor! were publicly birthed via an impromptu performance at punk rock polestar the Risiko. Asquith found himself playing percussion in what would be a first, while the rest of the band ossified in front of him in typically idealistic post-punk democracy. Little documentation of the performance survives beyond that which exists in the memories of those playing - that itself shaky enough - though there was clearly sufficient encouragement for them to commit to a recording session.
Later that winter, the four booked time at Music Lab, the studio operated by Harris Johns, for what would ultimately be their only studio visit. Two songs were laid to tape, and soon after a photoshoot was to take place at Koster's flat, resulting in a handful of images that, along with the music, comprise the sum total evidence of the band's existence. 1001 Nights and Treats both found their way to Peter Kent, a co-founder of 4AD who had recently left the label with the ambition of starting his own imprint. Entitled Two Wishes, the two track 12" was to be the first and only release on Loaded. It seems that Mutabor! were to represent a series of firsts and lasts, a trend that continues now as they open the World of Echo imprint.
It's fitting to think of Mutabor! in these prescient terms given how they sounded. Berlin at that time shared a spiritual axis with New York, the conceptual & aesthetic discordance of no wave and a nascent off-beat dance culture underpinning much of the respective creative activity. There are shared signifiers, but even in that context, Two Wishes sounds oddly out of step, moving to its own unusual rhythm. 1001 Nights stutters along on a tribal beat that seems to run independent of skronking sax, spidery guitar lines and deadpan vocal incantations, the ghosts of two songs meeting in some kind of incompatible voodoo union. On the reverse, Treats slows down and dims the lights further, as Asquith sardonically recites desirous threats as an increasingly malevolent sax and guitar grinds behind him. No surprise the darkness within the music given the parent bands and the backdrop of a crepuscular early 80s Berlin, though there remains a complex compositional element to these songs that suggests a broader spectrum of emotion - desire, romance, and ultimately, infinite possibility.
Recut and mastered, Two Wishes is now presented with the original front cover artwork alongside additional imagery, including a 16 page booklet, all culled from Asquith's own archive. A brief bolt of energy at a crucial juncture in music history, Mutabor!'s story is emblematic of the mutli-verse of post-punk and the creativity its ideology necessitated.