Friday, March 27, 2009

the end of an era

This month, Nottingham's Selectadisc closes its doors after 43 years in the city. I've been going there off and on for the best part of 23 of those years, from my late school days, through college and into my University life - there were perfectly good shops in Sheffield but I frequently got the train back, walked across town and bought something before heading home for the weekend.

I can't pretend that I've frequented it all that often over the last couple of years but when I heard about its closure (from The Guardian, of all places), I couldn't resist one last rifle through its racks.

It was as saddening as a visit to any closing business can be, but the shutting of Selectadisc struck me as the end of an era. I'll never again be able to go into a shop and flick through the stock, read the descriptions and recommendations, maybe hear something playing over the speakers, and come out with a big bag of things I'd never heard of before. I know there are online stores but you need to know what you're looking for - the joy of a shop like Selectadisc was that you'd stumble on things completely by chance.

I decided that my last purchases would be strictly vinyl and preferably something I'd never heard of before.

The Free Pop Experimental Concept - Planetary Gospel

Turns out the "concept" is funky soul-jazz with wacky way-out space effects - fantastic! This is from 1969, a Portuguese duo (Jess & James) teaming up with American jazzer Scott Bradford and a Belgian mad scientist called Arsene Souffriau. Buying music really doesn't get much better than this.

Free Design - Don't Cry Baby

This is from Free Design Sing For Very Important People, which was sold to me on the slightly disturbing cover artwork and the fact that Free Design, the renowned soft-psych vocal group, had done a kids album - I always found their stuff pretty twisted and this album really doesn't disappoint. Plus it includes a couple of their signature songs (this track taken from CD for faster posting).

Free Design - Bubbles

Yes, the staff could be a little grumpy and sneery. But it was better than nothing, which is what we've got now.

Buy - The Best of Free Design
Buy - Free Design... Sing For Very Important People (import CD)
Buy - The Free Pop Experimental Concept from SystemRecords
Visit - Free Design (wiki)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

the spangle makers

Sigur Ros? Pah! THIS is how you make the unintelligable strike a real emotional chord, my friends.

As has been mentioned before in these pages, as a teenager I had a major Jones for most things 4AD. Cocteau Twins have been in my head for a while now - here are some of my favourite tracks by them.

Cocteau Twins - Lorelei (from Treasure)


Yes, the drum machine places this track firmly in the Gothic 80s, but I'd totally forgotten how agressive and LOUD Robin Guthrie's guitar is on this. Check the ferocious scrabbling from 2.54 to the end. Whoosh! Shouldn't be that surprising as he always did look a bit "handy" (see above).

Cocteau Twins - Orange Appled (from Love's Easy Tears)


At their very best, CT dealt with beautiful sounds and heady, rush-filled classic pop structures. And that's even before we get to the gob-smacking vocals.

Cocteau Twins - Cico Buff (from Blue Bell Knoll)


Hard to write about them without falling into the traps of over-the-top music journalism ("sonic cathedrals" and all that). Sometimes you just need to shut your gob, listen, and say, "that's f**king brilliant".

Buy - Cocteau Twins CDs (Amazon)
Buy - Cocteau Twins music (4AD)
Watch - Cocteau Twins (YouTube)
Visit - Cocteau Twins (wiki)
Visit - Cocteau Twins (site)