22.10.14

THURSTON + BECK : Mind Wars (Fonograf cassette, 2012)

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Mind Wars is an entirely instrumental improvised 2-track cassette collage, issued on cassette (manufactured by Burger Records) in a once-only edition of 270 hand-numbered copies, that was sold exclusively on Beck's 2012 Australian tour. There are no recording details included, but I suspect their collaboration was a long-distance affair.

If you are/were a fan of the messier Stereopathetic Soul Manure / Master-Dik annexes of these sonic elders' oeuvres then you'll probably enjoy this, though I imagine it's unlikely "listener enjoyment" was anywhere near the top of their must-do list when they recorded it.

Misdrawn

18.10.14

TRASH : On & On With Lou Reed (New World of Sound 7", 1992).

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Trash were an on/off New Zealand pseudo-"supergroup" (currently inactive), bringing together the licentious talents of Bruce Blucher & Paul Cahill (who'd previously played together in Cyclops & The Alpaca Brothers) with drummer par excellence Robbie Yeats (veteran of The Dead C, The Verlaines, The Renderers, King Loser & numerous others). The three of them also joined forces as Brown Velvet Couch, accompanying vocalist Viv Crowe, for an obscure one-off 7" on the short-lived Roof Bolt label in 1994.

Trash were decidedly less highbrow than most of the other bands they'd performed in - but exhilaratingly so. As you can doubtless surmise from it's titles, their debut 7" had it's tongue lodged firmly in it's beatnik cheek, but that doesn't make it any less terrific a record. A muttering, stumbling hangover of a 45, it's surprisingly ended up being one of the most fondly remembered releases of Dunedin's frenetic early '90s era, with a couple bearded / balding gents of my acquaintance laying claim to it's being one of their favourite 7"s ever. Even John Peel, whose support for the NZ scene was, on reflection, curiously half-hearted, deemed to spin it once or twice. No doubt it's unruly amateurism reminded him of Swell Maps, Mekons & the like?

Recorded by authentic NZ legend Peter Jefferies in July 1992, & released on New Jersey's New World Of Sound later the same year, both sides of this long-deleted 7" sound as snottily splendid now as they did nearly two decades ago. Tellingly, it culminates in an anonymous peal of salacious, chest-rattling laughter worthy of Sid James himself, & that's always a good sign isn't it?

16.10.14

DELTA 5 : Live at Berkeley Square, California, 29th September 1980 (Cassette recording).

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Striking while the iron's still hot, etc here's an excellent Delta 5 live recording from the pivotal "Stateside jaunt" (© 1987 Q Magazine) I mentioned below. I can't remember how it came into my possession, but I think it may have been a radio broadcast of some sort? Despite them performing most of the cold-shouldered See The Whirl LP, the D5'S attack here is far more brutal here - barked vocals, intermittent explosions of atonal guitar, unorthodox but insistent rhythms - a ruthless, hectoring harangue that makes The Gang Of 4 sound positively slick by comparison. And, yep, the encore is a fractious cover of The Mekons' evergreen "standard". Sound quality throughout is sufficiently spot-on for Kill Rock Stars to have included a couple of songs from this recording on 2006's Singles & Sessions compilation, but now you can hear the entire shebang. Fantastic stuff, frankly.

Set-list: Train Song / Anticipation / Try / Triangle / Circuit / Now That You're Gone / Colour / Delta 5 / Mind Your Own Business / Leaving / Journey / Innocenti / Shadow / You / (Happy birthday to Ros) / Make Up / Where Were You?

A strong smell of Ralgex

10.10.14

DELTA 5 : See The Whirl (PRE LP, 1981).

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I had a real problem with See The Whirl when I was younger. By the time I'd "discovered" them, the Delta 5's original run of inspirational Rough Trade 45s was already held in high esteem & this, the only full length record they released during their brief tenure, had been written off as a compromised, embarrassing major label failure, & I was one of it's many dissenters. Nowadays, predictably, I beg to differ...

Delta 5 were the third, lesser known wing of the Leeds University art school post-punk triumvirate, alongside The Mekons & Gang Of Four. Inspired by the formers' galvanising concept of "spontaneous amateurism", all 3 bands gestated in catalytic tandem, initially sharing a rehearsal room, instruments & a homemade p.a. system. Additionally, D5 bassist Ros Allen played in an embryonic version of The Mekons, while Mekons' guitarist Jon Langford doubled up with the D5 at a handful of early shows & designed some of their sleeves. It was this fledgling line-up's demo tape that caught Geoff Travis's ear & led to Rough Trade releasing the D5's defining "Mind Your Own Business" 7", a mutant 2-bass dancefloor throb that combined the GO4's conversational left wing ideologies & abrasive punk-funk with the radical feminist dialogue & amateurist "make-do" collectivism of The Raincoats.

Following a couple more well-received R.T. 45s & a triumphant American tour (with GO4 & Pere Ubu), the band left Rough Trade for PRE, the "cool" subsidiary of the terminally un-hip Charisma label (home of Genesis & Lindisfarne) who had already poached (&, some might say, debilitated) The Scars, Tuxedomoon, & The Monochrome Set from the independents. Though the band's attempts to engage with a larger audience made complete sense (GO4, remember, were much bigger in America than at home by this point), the commercial concessions demanded by Pre were more than likely doomed from the outset. Though lyrically as barbed & articulate as ever, it's polished production meant that the resulting See The Whirl LP being quickly dismissed as a bowdlerised & bloodless affair by band, fans & critics alike. Embellished with all manner of "unnecessary" additional instrumentation - & featuring Bad Manners' horn section on several tracks! - it sounds (on reflection) like a Marxist Haircut 100 in places, though the fractured guitar discord of old still simmers beneath it's lavish veneer (on the lacerating "Journey", for example - possibly my favourite D5 song). A disillusioned Delta 5 fell apart shortly thereafter, releasing a final single, the oft-overlooked "Powerlines", before retreating into obscurity. Typing this, it feels like I've read heard this story a thousand times before: best intentions, scuppered by a predominant obligation to recoup.

Surprisingly, Kill The Whirl has never been reissued, though Seattle's Kill Rock Stars valiantly attempted to address matters with 2006's Singles & Sessions 1979-81 compilation - collating the Rough Trade 7"s, some Charisma-era B-sides & various BBC recordings to present an alternative, & much harsher, version of the PRE LP - the one the band themselves perhaps wishes they'd released?

N.B. Ros Allen provides several insights into the band's formation & break-up here.