Reviews originally published in Issue 60 of Electronic Sound magazine, December 2019:
Scarred For Life
(Castles In Space)
In 2017, square-eyed writers Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence published Scarred For Life, a doorstep-sized paperback detailing the terrifying TV shows, films, comics, and – indeed – ice lollies that had blighted their 1970s childhoods. Count Dracula’s Secret, anyone? Now, musician and fellow telly addict Kev ‘Soulless Party’ Oyston has assembled luminaries from the hauntological world to produce material inspired by their own jumbled memories of the era, for an accompanying album whose proceeds are laudably heading to Cancer Research UK.
So Cult of Wedge contribute ‘The Gamma Children’, clearly the theme to some long-lost, spooky HTV series, almost certainly starring Simon Gipps-Kent; Pulselovers’ wistful ‘Nice View From Up Here’ is an homage to legendary Public Information Film stalwarts Joe and Petunia; and The Twelve Hour Foundation’s ‘Belmont’ is so redolent of some godforsaken daytime BBC Schools and Colleges module that it should, by rights, only be heard through the tinny speaker of a Rediffusion TV in a wooden cabinet. For extra verisimilitude, follow it up with ‘Programmes For Sick Days’ by The Bentley Emerald Learning Resource, which may be the finest-ever musical evocation of staring through a rain-soaked window while applying calamine lotion to chickenpox blisters.
Meanwhile, Vic Mars’ ‘The Time Menders’ is a bombastic, Farfisa-drenched nod to Sapphire and Steel; and The Central Office of Information contribute ‘Puzzled’, which sounds for all the world like the theme to some forgotten, pre-teatime BBC1 quiz show: I defy anyone over the age of forty to hear it without picturing cheering cub scouts, BBC Micro graphics, and Richard Stilgoe in a pastel-shaded sweatshirt.
There’s a poignant contribution too, from early synth enthusiast Carl Matthews, whose 1984 track ‘Be Like A Child’ rounds off the album. Carl’s life was tragically cut short by cancer, but he leaves an impressive body of work, including this wonderfully wistful piece; a delightfully analogue-sounding recording from a man who blazed a trail as a pioneer of the original era of cassette-based DIY electronica.
Elsewhere, Keith Seatman, Polypores, The Home Current and The Heartwood Institute join the fun… and terrific fun it is, too. To be listened to with a slight temperature, and a note from your mum excusing you from games.
Interview with Kev Oyston here:
THE HOME CURRENT
An Evening With The Home Current
(Castles In Space)
Can there be any more prolific and versatile composer of electronica than Martin Jensen? Danish-born, but now resident in Luxembourg, Jensen has produced four full-length albums and one mini-album in the last six months alone; running the gamut from the spiky 80s electropop of Civilian Leather to the poignant, wartime reflections of The Ardennes. This latest release, however, is a heartfelt homage to the late 1980s and early 1990s dance music that soundtracked his youthful adventures as a club DJ.
Composed from scratch as a seamless, hour-long mix, it acts as a companion piece to November’s Palermo Traxx Vol 2; both records evoking an era of throbbing, minimalist house music; of mysterious white labels and scrawled DJ feedback sheets. Jensen cites short-lived Copenhagen club night The Candy Jungle as a seismic influence on his musical tastes, and his clear love for this halcyon period of inventive dancefloor-fillers pervades every (delightfully old school) beat.
This Has No Longer Been The Future
Neil Scrivin has previously made haunted electronica (literally – previous album ‘This House Is Haunted’ was a radiophonic exploration of the 1977 Enfield Poltergeist case) under the nom-de-plumes of Phono Ghosts and The Night Monitor, but this more personal album is released under his own name; perhaps fittingly for what is clearly a heartfelt evocation of his 1980s childhood. Recorded in 2010 but unreleased until now, it continues themes explored on Scrivin’s 2007 album ‘Tomorrow’s World’.
So clattering Boards of Canada beats and woozy synths conjure fuzzy memories of both concrete new towns and summery daytrips to Jodrell Bank, and opening track ‘Back in 1980’ manages to be both wistful and joyous; its chanted mantra of “Disco, Bowie clones, Blitz kids” sitting atop a pulsating Frankie Goes to Hollywood bassline. Although the menacing, head-pounding ‘Roentgens’ – named, as owners of the Chernobyl box set will testify, after units of radiation exposure – hints at a more sinister side to the decade.
Paul Kirkpatrick‘s fourth studio album is a touching examination of the nature of memory, whose utilitarian titles (‘Memory One’, ‘Memory Two’, ‘Reconstruction One’, ‘Memory Three’) belie beautifully nuanced ambient explorations of childhood remembrance, regression therapy, fake memories, and dementia. Cellist Rachael Dawson also recites moving verses of poetry by Mary Oliver, Derek Walcott and Sandeep Kishore; in particular, her recitation of Oliver’s ‘In Blackwater Woods’, accompanied by Kirkpatrick’s immaculately arranged electronica, is both haunting and heartbreaking.
(Spun Out Of Control)
The opening sounds of birdsong, subsumed by an ominous, orchestral swell, create the perfect tone for this meditation on a “woodland walk gone sour”. Since 2009, Glasgow’s Alan Sinclair has produced “synth terror” (his words) inspired by 1980s horror flicks, but Nature’s Revenge is brooding rather than horrifying; with ‘Magic Is All Around You’ even evoking images of playful tree spirits… until ‘Fell Runners Embrace The Void’ arrives to darken the mood somewhat. A hugely enjoyable and typically cinematic collection, with a glorious fantasy art cover.
Electronic Sound – “the house magazine for plugged in people everywhere” – is published monthly, and available here: