In the documentary Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, Leonard Bernstein describes pop music as something elemental, legion, unstoppable even ‘which pours over this country (America) like the two oceans from both coasts’.
That was 1967. Who knows what he’d think about the sheer amount of music available on tap to us all at the click of a streaming service.
Vinyl demands your time. It requires you to engage in a kind of tactile communion with the artist before you’ve even heard a note. Imagine a Slow Music Movement. Why not? Music is important –it’s not just ‘content’- and what better format then one that requires you to put time aside to engage with the art. Flux have selected some of the coolest slabs of wax currently cocking a snoot at your Shuffle and asking you to enjoy them for what they are. Physical media. It’s a beautiful thing.
This Month’s Vinyl Releases
Ruthann Friedman – Constant Companion (Now Sounds)
Not strictly a vinyl release but certainly worth your time as an original will set you back a fair few pounds – and, as with all Now Sounds re-issues – the liner notes are fantastic. Ruthann’s best known for penning perennial sunshine-pop hit, Windy, for The Association. She also embarked on a solo career around the late 60s. Much like other troubadours of this era (Vashti Bunyan springs to mind) Ruthann’s career was derailed by life and all its complexities. Constant Companion sounds nothing like the choral pop of Windy and is instead a set of intimate, sparse folk meditations that evoke Laurel Canyon at twilight. Interestingly enough this vibe wasn’t quite what Ruthann wanted for the album. Included here in an extra cut called Glittering Dancer, a still-born single in its time that features the kind of stacked, Van Dyke Parks helmed production Ruthann really desired. It’s also one of the finest songs on here.
Gulp – Season Sun (Sonic Cathedral)
This is Mom and Pop, er, pop of the highest order and comes just as summer reaches its peak. Guto Pryce from Super Furry Animals has enlisted his wife to sing over his new batch pop-psych confection. The results are simply lovely akin to a sun-kissed Broadcast. It comes on see through vinyl too which is always a good thing.
Air – Music For Museum (Vinyl Factory)
Messers Donckel and Godin require no introduction of course. They certainly deserve to be commended for this move, teaming up with British label The Vinyl Factory to create a limited, vinyl only release in conjunction with the Open Museum Project, Lille. Air have always been effortlessly cool with their aesthetics so it’s hardly a surprise that the product is no less than stunning – double, transparent 180 gram vinyl housed in a glossy sleeve with a fold out poster come liner notes. The music itself is as bespoke and is far removed from their usual prog-pop. Music For Museum recalls kosmische masters like Cluster (and Eno) and Harmonia, all celestial synth drones and washed out ambient soundscapes. You’ll want to bathe in it.
Taylor McFerrin – Early Riser (Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune)
Taylor is the son of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin. Whilst there are no larynx gymnastics on display here, Early Riser possesses a sonically progressive sensibility that would certainly make McFerrin Snr proud. Taylor excels at the kind of semi-instrumental astral-jazz-funk Flying Lotus brought to a contemporary audience, like a digitally refracted and mulched Roy Ayres or Stevie Wonder at his most imperious. Thundercat turns up and does his fretless bass thing, celestial Rhodes and Moog melodies abound and so does the kind of woozy sense of detachment quite often found on a Brainfeeder release. A debut that speaks of better music to come.
30km Inland – Stolen Shore Lines (self released)
Probably one of the most quietly sublime pieces of wax I’ve heard this year, 30km Inland do much to exemplify the fact that the very best music is under the radar. Perhaps even subterranean. Such is life. This little pearl is the labour of love of one Xavier Mati whose day job is as a tree expert and conservationist. The same tenderness is applied to his music, guiding friends Ines Naranjo, Peter Wix and company with careful hands across a suite of semi-instrumental songs that will appeal to fans of Sam Prekop, Jim O’Rourke and the Peguin Café Orchestra. A hushed delight both intimate and cinematic.
The Asteroid #4 – The Asteroid #4 (Bad Vibrations)
Philadelphia birthed and now residents of Northern California, The Asteroid #4’s decade plus careers has seen them try their hand at cosmic Americana, krautrock, space-rock and baroque whimsy across their albums. No wonder Anton Newcombe is a fan. Their eponymous latest takes on all of the aforementioned elements, channelling these influences here as an eclectic re-birth of sorts. As such, The River could be from Workingman’s Dead whilst Ghosts Of Dos Eress nails the whole neo-psych-Manuel Gottsching vibe with swagger. The sound of a band (at last?) full of confidence.
Jennifer Castle – Pink City (No Quarter)
Toronto born Jennifer Castle first beguiled and garnered a cult audience on her debut album, Castlemusic, which at its best sounded like an earthier Mazzy Star. Pink City consolidates her craft splendidly. Truth Is The Freshest Fruit and Working For The Man are Canyon-esque in their melodic fullness in part due to Owen Pallet’s string adornments which weave in and out like they fell off the scales of the Wrecking Crew circa ’69 whilst tracks like Sparta or Sailing Away could be Judee Sill at her most country-baroque. There’s still a starkness at work here, an emotional one at least which renders Castle’s work affecting.
Silver Servants –Silver Servants (Second Language Music)
Small and perfectly formed, Second Language Music is one of the most inspiring British-micro-indie-cottage-industry-labels in operation. Many releases come in limited, bespoke packaging exemplifying the importance of beautiful physical media. Silver Servants is a SLM super-group of sorts. Like Cream – only good – consisting of various label acts improvising and recording a suite of songs over a four year period in London’s Soup Studio. As diverse and as disparate as the results might have been it’s a testament to the artists’ shared ideology and creative intuition that it all hangs together wonderfully. Recalling the all-hands-to-the- pump (organ) bonhomie of Smiley Smile, Silver Servants takes in ornithological doom-folk (A Crow Will Remember You Face), euphoric pastoral-pop (Still More Voice), rustic exotica (Jerusalem), Brokeback style-post-rock (Further Away) and everything in between. A big hearted success.
Summer Vinyl Releases by Rich Hanscomb