19.1.11

PETE SHELLEY : Sky Yen (1974/80)

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Ex-Buzzcock continuum... Sky Yen is a very rare record indeed. And, no, I don't actually own a copy (more's the pity).

Released on his own, short-lived Groovy label in 1980 in a once-only edition of a 1,000 copies, Sky Yen was actually recorded in March 1974 while Pete Shelley (née McNeish) was still a student at Bolton's Institute Of Technology. It's a primitive Tangerine Dream/Cluster-influenced D.I.Y. oscillator workout that harks back to Eno's caustic Roxy-era experimentation in "The B.O.B. (Medley)", etc - the result of too much time spent sniffing Humbrol modelling glue whilst listening to No Pussyfooting with the curtains drawn, perhaps? Joking aside, Sky Yen is actually a rather impressive achievement - Shelley constructed the oscillator himself from a kit with the intention of soundtracking a film made by fellow student Howard Devoto, & the beginnings of "Boredom"'s 2-note avant garage guitar solo were definitely gestating somewhere deep within it's mordant sheets of lacerating electronic static, I think? Prior to hearing it, 12 year old moi had only previously encountered this type of acutely experimental kosmiche abstraction during the harsher passages of Vertigo's Kraftwerk reissues, or via our local library's scratchy Stockhausen LPs (the latter surreptitiously tucked away behind dogeared copies of Selling England By The Pound & Deceptive Bends).

Bizarrely, when Sky Yen was eventually released in 1980, financed by Shelley's Buzzcocks earnings, it was reviewed in Smash Hits by (of course) the legendary Red Starr. Unfortunately, he wasn't too keen on it: "No Songs, no tunes, no band, no vocals - just 2 sides of solo oscillator droning gently away, note by note, up & down, softly distorted by echo, occasionally sounding like an aeroplane. The second side is more of the same with rather less echo... The title indicates a desire to drift off into the wild blue yonder & this is the soundtrack... Why anyone would want to actually buy this double dose of droning unless they had trouble sleeping is (a) mystery." He must've been in a particularly bad mood that week as he goes on to roundly slag off Television Personalities' "King & Country" as well (there's a nice pic of The Red Krayola though!).

Coincidentally, Sky Yen inadvertently mirrors Throbbing Gristle's formative experimental sessions, which were taking place at their Martello Road safe house around the same time. It also sounds remarkably similar to the much earlier exploratory impulses of the record I'm planning to post next...

LINK REMOVED: Sky Yen has now been reissued c/o Drag City, along with the rest of the Groovy back catalogue.

7 comments:

  1. "sky yen"'s a beast ... i got mine from selectadisc in nottm many years ago for a few quid new ... you cd barely give that sort of stuff away in the 80s ... i just checked discogs tho + it seems to be not tooooo expensive to pick up 2nd hand = http://www.discogs.com/sell/list?release_id=690665&ev=rb ... i like yr blog, BTW

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  2. Bottom dollar on Discogs in £12.99+, affordable but still a bit of a stretch! It's the sort of LP that I'd need 2 copies of, for simultaneous play, etc... Did you ever find any of the other Groovy (label) releases?

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  3. Anonymous10.12.11

    Good lord...i was just grazing thru when it came to my attention.. not only do i have a copy of this somewhere on the property but also that fellow seems to be stood in what 'de yoof dem' would refer to as my 'backa yard'..(the sleepy hamlet of openshaw) ..mrs beetons rez is to the left of shot with the ochre entre and sideings..whilst to the rear is the 'stevens annex'(ghastly post modern structure)..totaly ruined the inherant history and ambience imbued in the old place ,i know you'll agree mr Novemberer..pity that chaps head wasn't cocked a little more to the right..rather spoils my breakfast..Ah but i fear i'm remanissing..Hey HO!...regards Mr crowe

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  4. It's a man's head on a child's body. Hey ho indeed!

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  5. Anonymous11.12.11

    Gracious your right!..hadn't noticed..ufo's you know ,i'd ban the blasted lot of ,em ..pip pip mr crowe

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  6. great album. i was lucky enough to find the LP in a $1 bin a few years back

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  7. VERY lucky, I'd say! Nice one...

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