Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Art Form Unknown

Okay, well, I've abandoned that stupid 00's round-up idea cos my brain won;t work like that, and really, well, who cares?

So, I was wondering around the internet and I thought that it makes more sense to put people on to things that I'm consuming nowdays. In a weird way though, I can tie it in with an appreciation of yesteryear. What am I on about>

Asaurus Records is BACK on the scene. People out there may not be familiar with Asaurus, and I can honestly say that I don't know how/when/where I came across them but it must've been around 2004-5 I suppose.

Asaurus was (and, I suppose is again) a CDr label that put out some amazing stuff, and stuff that you may well be familiar with, even if yr not familiar with the label. Capstan Shafts, Colin Clary, Mathletes, The Diskettes, Pants Yell!, and Red Pony Clock all did stuff on Asaurus before they label when on hiatus a couple of years back.

I'm not sure what Asaurus has lined up for the future, but you can bet it'll be good stuff. It's a good idea to keep an eye on their new Facebook Group, as that seems to be where the updates are at for the moment, rather than the website.

So, it's because of the announcement of Asaurus's hiatus that I was lead to the MySpace of a band that up until now I thought had only ever done 2 songs (both on Asaurus compilations), but it turns out that The Art Form Unknown (AKA The Artist Formerly Unknown) have LOADS of stuff recorded, if not available to the public. I'd love to get my grubby mits on those tapes and put them in my ears.

Neither of the 2 songs that got me all hot & bothered about The Art Form Unknown are available on their Myspace, the details of the compilation they were on is listed below.

Okay, so, what was I talking about? Basically, remember these two things: The Art Form Unknown, and Asaurus Records. Woo!

DETAILS: ASA035 / CDR / $3
RELEASED: July 13th, 2004
DESCRIPTION: Pop compilation of enormous proportions. Originally released by Me No Know Records.
TRACKLISTING: The Artist Formerly Unknown (feat. Emilliene) – How Are You? / The Broken Hearts Club – Abbotsford and Flemington / The Arcade Fire – No Cars Go / Elliott the Letter Ostrich – Jethro’s Stolen Wheels / The Galactic Heroes – Tweedles / Melamine – A Dock Rat Now / Professor Pez – Never Got It / Paper Tiger – Mars in May / The Measles – Rebekah Elmaloglou / The French Horns – 45 / Bad Flirt – Boxing Astoria / Awesome Animal Ambulance – Operation Kitty / Seasick Crocodile – Treetop Love / This Bank Holiday – He Prefers the Movie Novelization / Sinkcharmer – Nothing To Me / Teradactyl – 110% / The 32-bit Handhelds – Woodchuck to Grey Squirrel / The Escargo-go’s – The Life of a Total Square / The Fresas – The Dance / The Solvents – Dancing on my Debts / Big Game Hunting – Ready or Not / The Operators – What the Mailman doesn’t Bring / Sarah Plain and Tall – Winter Song / The Protean Self – Tag, I’m it

DETAILS: ASA034 / CDR / $4
RELEASED: September 16th, 2004
DESCRIPTION: The challenge: Record a song using only battery-powered kiddie keyboards and your voice. Millions tried, but only seventeen survived. This is their story.
TRACKLISTING: Patterns in Paris - I Spy / The Art Form Unknown - Values Monetary / The I Love Ryans - Witch Dr / The New Sound of My Bossa Nova - A Story / Colin Clary - Remember in November / Megamoog - Goodbye / New Grenada - Lightning Parade / Elliott the Letter Ostrich - Kennedy Wears a Colostomy Bag... / Seiss - If We Are Holding Hands How Can I Touch Myself? / The Original Beekeepers - Nina / Dentist Dispense - All Girls are Lesbians / The Bad Spellers - White Day / The Goslings - Panopticon / Super Famicom - Wishes Dangling on Dead Desires / This Bank Holiday - She's Spiritual, But Not Religious / Andrew Octopus - Soapbubble Revolution / Young Model - Battle for C64 (Atari Sucks)

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Okay, so I've been super-lame at this. I will blog maybe once or twice about records of the past decade, then on to exciting interviews. Okay?


Murry the Hump, Mj Hibbett, Gag Airport Girl, Max Tundra Schaumgummi

MJ Hibbett: Oi, Hibbett!

2001 has a lot to answer for. Yea, yea I remember where I was when I heard about [i]The Attacks[/i] (I had just baked a vegan chocolate cake, one of my very first attempts, and not one of my more successful), but I also remember the first time I saw MJ Hibbett live. It was in August at The Jug of Ale, Moseley. I went along because I had the Work is A Four Letter Word ep and maybe someone local I liked was playing (Could it have been The Regulars?). So I went a long and was AGOG and Hibbett's solo set. I don't think I had ever before seen anyone play that way. And rarely since have I seen a singer-songwriter who is not completely caught up in themself and all muso-ish. I joined in singing songs I didn't know ('Oi, Hibbett!' Etc.) and bought The Validators first album and three 7" singles for the pincely sum of 8 quid - Mark said it was because he was moving house, though even if he hadn't been he'd've probably done some sort of deal just because I showed interest.

All those records were played A LOT for the rest of the year, and of course they aer still played regularly today.

Arab Strap: I'll tell you a story about that later
Murry The Hump: My Dealer drive a three-wheeler

I know I went to see Arab Strap as well as Murry The Hump at Ronnie Scott's on Broad Street (it was the only excuse to go to Broad Street, it is now a lap-dancing place called The Rocket Club). I spent a lot of time listening to 'Mad for Sadness'. I'll let you in to a secret; when I was a teenager, I thought you had to choose which band you liked Arab Strap or Belle & Sebastian. I was - and some would argue, still am - a cock.

The Murry The Hump album, 'Songs of Ignorance' was a bit of a disappointment to me, but it still had some great songs: Booze & Cigarettes, The House That Used to be a Ship, Vodka & Wine.

Gag: Girls are dancing, they are good at it. Boys are dancing.. with their mates.

I had never heard anything like Gag's album 'When People Start Slapping Meat on Marble', nor had I ever heard of a record label giving away all of their releases for free, as Flitwick Records did. I wrote a review for the zine I dd back then and seem to recall likening one song to Jack Frost sneaking into your garden to piss down the drain. I think maybe Gag were reasonably well known 10 years earlier, but I didn't know anyone who knew 'em, still don't. That album doesn't seem to be available anymore, but you can download other stuff by them from the Flitwick Records website.

ballboy: Licensing laws mean nothing to us

I'd been introduced to ballboy through John Peel's show and instantly became smitten. The three EPs as collected on Club Anthems 2001 were played repeatedly on my stereo. One of my favourite ever moments in pop is still from their Brum gig of 2001. The soundman had called time on ballboy's set (as it was a Sunday, this was at only 10:30), and Gordon couldn't convince the soundguy to let them do one more song, so he started playing 'They hang flags from cranes upon my wedding day' anyway. The mic went off, the lights went out, Gordon carried on playing (he was using an acoustic guitar), stood forward, right at the edge of the stage, with the only lights coming from the drinks fridges behind the bar. I swear the Flapper & Firkin held it's collective breath the the duration of the song.

Max Tundra: 'I'm not sure if this is meant to be experimental or something'

I had never heard of Max Tundra when I saw him supporting Brassy in at the (original) Little Civic in Wolverhampton. I remember being confused and impressed by his set and later in the evening asked him if he had any records I could buy. It was quite a short but confusing conversation from what I recall. It took me a while to get round to picking up the album, and I think I bit off a bit more then I could chew, but listened to it repeatedly looking for something. I still do that, and I've never been sure what it is I'm looking for.

Schaumgummi: Tina Turner Marshmallow

I don't remember when it came out or when I bought the records, but I spent a lot of 2001 being obsessed by Schaumgummi. Seriously people, Schaumgummi.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

My stereo circa 2000

This is meant to be a look back, not at what I consider to be the best records/bands of each year, but of the contemporary bands that I was listening to most at the time. I've been a bit flexible, but mostly the bands were around at the time and had released records in the year being written about or a few months earlier. So, although I don't necessarily listen to these bands any more, it's what was on my stereo then. I'm sure I'm guilty of revisionism, that's inevitable, but I've tried to recall what was important to me back then.

2000 - Quickspace, Life Without buildings, Idlewild, Marine Research, Chicks On Speed

Quickspace: Pre-Steps, Pre-Blair, Pre-Who Wants To Be A Millionaire..
Although Quckspace had been around since the mid-90's (having formed from the ashes of Th' Faith Healers). I first heard them in a John Peel Session in late '99 (I think). I was completely hooked and there was little chance that,if you were within earshot of me for the next 12 months that I wouldn't have tried to play some quickspace to you (in those days I had a Walkman with me at all times). The Death of Quickspace and Precious Falling were never far from my stereo and songs such as Quickspace Happy Song #2 and Semtex made it on to every mix tape I made for a couple of years. sadly, Quickspace just seemed to melt and disappear in the early 00's.

Life Without Buildings: Do we need order?
Life Without Buildings were another band that I fell deeply in love with at this time. So much so that I was even the first person to start a site dedicated to the band (other than the official site). I first heard them in session for Steve Lamacq and found Sue Tompkins' voice irresistible. I loved the jittery-stumbling guitar sounds that everyone compared to Gang of Four - something I didn't understand at the time and still can't see today. 4 singles, 1 album and one posthumous live album is all they left behind.

iDLEWiLD - A flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs
Half way through 2000 idlewild released 100 broken windows. At the time I wasn't that impressed by the album, though i think it's aged pretty well. At this point they'd lost the youthful exuberance that excited me so much about the band. This is why, even after this record came out you'd still have found me listening to the singles that preceded that album (the b-sides were consistently brilliant). The previous album, Hope is Important was short and patchy. Their first CD release, Captain, was to me a revelation. Urgent, chaotic, poems with beautiful pop sensibilities. It seems hard to imagine today that idlewild could have been young and exciting considering the awful dadrock folk shite they've become famous for over the last 23 albums they've put out. I still recommend anything from 100 broken windows and back though. Self-healer was my introduction to idlewild, and to say that it was down hill from there is an exaggeration, but not much of one.

Marine Research: Robert Llewelyn likes Marine Research!
Another band that I first heard in '99 (and again due to John Peel). It took me a while to track down a copy of the album (eventually in Reddington's, Birmingham when it was still on Cherry Street) because in these days I couldn't order stuff online and I didn't know anyone who'd heard of Marine Research. It seems almost unbelievable today that there was a time when I didn't know who Amelia Fletcher was. I think this was may have been my first contemporary indiepop purchase (now I think of it, that's not at all true, but I still consider this album to be a watershed for me).
The keyboard player, Cathy was a presenter of Channel 4's Scrapheap Challenge along with Robert Llewelyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf).

Chicks On Speed: She brushes her teeth 5 times per day
I heard For All The Boys In The World (again, John Peel) and had to buy the album. I had no idea what to make of it but played it again and again and AGAIN. Even in 2002 the guy next to me in halls threatened to throw my stereo out of the window if I didn't stop playing this record. According to the interwebs the record is considered to epitomise Electroclash. Or something.

Honourable Mentions: Peeps Into Fairyland, Supercute, Jesus Couldn't Drum, Montana Pete, Solanki, Soulwax, Add n to (x), Country Teasers

Coming soon: 2001..

Does anyone actually use any of these links? They take me fucking ages to sort out.