27.10.12

THE INSTANT AUTOMATONS : Peter Paints His Fence EP (Deleted, 1980)

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I was in London earlier this month, primarily to see Mark Stewart perform live, but also to take a look at The Hayward Gallery's Someday All The Adults Will Die! exhibition.

Comprising of just 2 small rooms & - frankly - a corridor, it's mish-mash of punk, proto-punk & post-punk ephemera was nonetheless rather eye-opening - if only because, while perusing it's fastidiously annotated exhibits, the sobering realisation dawned on me that records & fanzines I revered as a gawky juve are now considered museum worthy, & have been preserved under glass accordingly. Grim news indeed!

Co-curated by Johan Kugelberg & Jon Savage, & sourced from their own private collections, Someday... presents an enjoyably lopsided selection of tenuously related messthetic artefacts, reflecting the energetic, scattershot aesthetic of an era that, by it's very nature, remains virtually impossible to classify. It's certainly the first time I've seen links traced between Jamie Reid's iconic Sex Pistols Situationalia, The Contortions' funk-informed No Wave skronk, & Cabaret Voltaire's formative Dada-esque experiments, for example. Though I'm still not convinced that an authentic connection necessarily exists, it's the dots stenciled betwixt those oft referenced "pivotal relics" that prove most entertaining - affably anarchic cut & paste handbills & cottage industry 7" one-shots by ludicrously named no-hoper ensembles, emerging from leafy backwaters & soot-blackened inner city fallout shelters alike, for whom even Letraset often appears to have been a prohibitive expense.

One of these records, The Instant Automatons' Peter Paints His Fence E.P., stood out by virtue of it's artlessly artistic sleeve - a refreshing appropriation of white space amidst the faded photocopied newsprint & splenetic felt tip scrawl. Self-released in 1980 on their own Deleted Records imprint, it was their first (& penultimate!) appearance on vinyl, following a series of home made cassette-only collections. In Mark Automaton's own words: "Take a lyricist with his head in the clouds & a bizarrely eclectic range of influences. Add a techie with an overactive soldering iron & a copy of Practical Electronics. Stir in a junk-store guitar, a bass made from floorboards, a D.I.Y. drum machine kit, & a cheap synthesiser. Filter through an echo machine, & a range of sub-standard recording equipment. Leave to simmer in a North Lincolnshire farmhouse for 2½ years. Throw in a well-seasoned rock 'n' roller with a Mick Ronson fixation & a nice line in crunchy guitar licks, & add a dash of saxophone. Bring to the boil & serve up on assorted vinyl platters." Alternatively, imagine The (early) Mekons without the Marxist art school posturing. If Daniel Treacy had been into Faust rather than The Creation, The Television Personalities might've sounded something like this.

In the egalitarian spirit of that not-quite-forgotten era, The Instant Automatons have made much of their manifold back catalogue available online for nowt. Their thoughts on becoming bona fide objet d'art are thus far unrecorded, however.

● When the pubs close


25.10.12

THE CURE : Let's Go To Bed (12" versions) (Fiction, 1982)

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Being old - but not that old - the first Cure record I ever bought was a double pack copy of "The Hanging Garden", 50p from Woolworth's ex-chart bin. The second was "Let's Go to Bed" - another cheap as chips purchase, but this time as a terribly exotic 12" single, replete with impossibly extended "disco" versions. Not that blotchy 15 year old moi was frequenting too many discos, of course. Though I quickly realised that it wasn't one of Robert Smith's finer moments, it nonetheless remains one of my personal Cure favourites &, though I'm not generally prone to rose-tinted reminiscence, it affords a pleasant reflection on slightly clueless, burgeoning goth days. I must've spent a small fortune on Boots' hairspray back then (urgh) - I think it was my mum who taught me to backcomb my hair properly in the end!

Smith wrote "Let's Go to Bed" - a sarcastically upbeat deliberation on pop music's propensity for crass sexual imagery - while detoxing in The Lake District, recovering from from Pornography's oppressive visions & exhausting chemical excesses. Bassist Simon Gallup had departed at the end of the Fourteen Explicit Moments tour &, with Smith moonlighting as guitarist for Siouxsie & The Banshees, rumours persisted that The Cure - effectively just Smith & drummer Lol Tolhurst - had quietly disbanded. Ironically, on it's eventual release (on Fiction) in November 1982, "Let's Go to Bed" was the first in a long run of chart hits that would stretch into the 1990s. The b-side, "Just One Kiss", is far darker but just as good, & Smith has often expressed regret that it wasn't released as a single in it's own right.

To my knowledge, & despite a surfeit of Cure-related singles & oddities collections, neither of these protracted mixes has been officially reissued - give me a nudge if I'm mistaken.

Horrifically, "Let's Go to Bed"'s hook has recently been pillaged by R&B floozy Rihanna for her prurient "S&M" single. Do yourself a favour & don't look for it on Youtube.

● I don't care if you don't


13.10.12

SURGEON : This Is For You Shits (Warp, 2007)

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This Is For You Shits is one of a scant handful of mix tapes that Anthony Childs - aka Surgeon - has officially sanctioned to date. Released on Warp Records in a "once only" edition of 1000 sombrely packaged copies, it's been a sought after collector's item for some time.

Childs' is renown - notorious, even - for his left field tastes in acerbic electronic sound &, it probably goes without saying, This Is For You Shits is not your bog standard techno set. Incorporating intransigent selections from Autechre, Throbbing Gristle, Aphex Twin, Whitehouse, Squarepusher, British Murder Boys, Monolake, & Surgeon himself, it's abrasive surfaces & serrated edges make for a rather caustic 62 minutes.

The title, incidentally, is a Suicide reference - Alan Vega legendarily addressing the crowd as such during a particularly fraught late '70s performance of "Dream Baby Dream".

● Shits