The Null Device
Posts matching tags '4ad'
Today, the Guardian's New Band Of The Day is Tamaryn, a San Francisco-based duo very much in a shoegaze/dreampop vein. The article, for some reason, takes the angle of drawing a dichotomy between Jimi Hendrix' guitar sound (said to be influential, though not really) and the MBV/Cocteau Twins sound (which can be heard everywhere these days).
The song titles – Choirs of Winter, Haze Interior, Cascades – are almost shoegaze parodying, but it's not all formless FX pedal fondling. Dawning, in particular, stands out as a fab pop song, like Slowdive doing a Fleetwood Mac cover. Stevie Nicks – now there's someone else who's been more influential than Hendrix lately.I can vouch for the new Tamaryn album, The Waves; if you're into the Cocteau Twins, Curve or Ride, you could do worse than to give them a listen.
Also in the Graun recently: a piece on the 30th anniversary of the 4AD label, the seminal post-punk label whose monochromatic record sleeves and understatedly expressionistic records adorned the homes of the more sophisticated goths of the 1980s, alongside black and white poster prints and VHS tapes of Fritz Lang movies. Now, of course, it's no longer Ivo Watts-Russell's personal label but the Matador group's boutique imprint, though is still home to interesting artists.
The Guardian has a rare interview with Elizabeth Fraser, the singer from the Cocteau Twins, in which she talks about the breakup of her relationship with Robin Guthrie and the disintegration of the band, her subsequent relationship with Massive Attack's Damon Reece, and her gradual return to music:
She and Guthrie were lovers for 13 years, during which time the difficulties any relationship faces were compounded by being in a band together. "We were so close, but certain responsibilities were too much for us," Fraser says. The birth of their daughter Lucy-Belle in 1989 "didn't impact as positively" as she'd hoped.
There were resentments on both sides, she says. They were "outgrowing each other" and Fraser was increasingly unhappy in the band. She resented "doing what people wanted all the time" and began to break free, a process documented on the unusually direct lyrics of the 1993 album Four-Calendar Cafe. The situation was sharpened by Guthrie's dependency on alcohol and drugs, revelations (which came from him, after the band's split) that shocked fans. But Fraser's own unhappiness was unnoticed by her colleagues.
Reece understands that the process of putting her back together as a singer is an ongoing process. "I feel sorry for the general public because I hear her singing in the house and it's truly amazing," he says. "But she's absolutely genuine in every way possible. Which can be very frustrating, but is an amazing attribute to have. I've worked with many singers, and a lot of them are fake. The world is a sadder place without Elizabeth singing."
MP3 blog Systems of Romance has posted a copy of an LP by 4AD band The Happy Family. The album, The Man On Your Street came out in 1982; it was somewhat less monochromatically gothic than the average 4AD band of the time, and even quite funky in places (the post-punks, it seems, did like a good groove). The band was fronted by a young student named Nicholas Currie, from whom the world would be hearing more over the next few decades.
Tonight, Your Humble Narrator went briefly to the 4AD showcase at the Institute of Contemporary Art, seeing Cass McCombs; he was nothing like what I expected (I was expecting a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar; I got a band who sounded more like the Jesus and Mary Chain, with bits of Yo La Tengo, Slowdive and The Cure's floatier moments thrown in). Not that I'm complaining, of course.
I didn't hang around for the other bands, though, instead departing for the Barfly in Camden to see Swedish indiepopsters The Radio Dept.. And they were excellent: four members, with guitars, bass, keyboards (a synth with a "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS" sticker and a toy electronic piano), a laptop and a conspicuously unused drum kit. They did a briefish set, playing mostly tracks off their album, and one new track soon to be released on a single in Sweden. For those who haven't heard them, they're a combination of sweet, jangly indiepop, shoegazer (with judicious use of reverb, skronky guitar feedback and vaguely Slowdive-esque basslines) and subtly distorted vintage drum loops.
Pioneering glitchtronica label Warp plan to sell their entire catalogue online -- as high-quality MP3s, not some sort of sadomasochistic DRM rubbish either. Certainly a good sign.
(Mind you, given that The Designers Republic are doing the site, chances are it will be inaccessible without Flash, so I probably won't be using it. Not until someone comes up with an "enable Flash for these sites but disable it for everything else" Mozilla patch.)
(Btw, anybody remember 4AD's foray into MP3 sales a few years ago? They had their entire back-catalogue available as 128kbps MP3s (somewhat naff, but better than nothing) for US$1 each from an outfit named Atomic Pop, replete with postage-stamp-sized JPEGs of artwork; unfortunately, they went tits-up some time later. I still have the copy of This Mortal Coil's 16 Days/Gathering Dust I bought from them.)
Not that long after having released remastered editions of the first few Cocteau Twins albums, 4AD are rereleasing the entire Pixies backcatalogue. The rights to the albums have reverted to 4AD (they had been shared with AOL Time Warner's Elektra imprint), and as such a rerelease is planned. The rereleases won't be remastered and won't feature any hidden tracks. Oh, and Death To The Pixies is being withdrawn to make way for a new best-of.
Funny how 4AD, one of the most interesting big-indie labels of the 1980s and 1990s, has become a sort of post-new-wave K-Tel. Nowadays all their releases appear to be either (a) rereleases from their legendary back-catalogue, (b) new albums by artists who were big 10 years ago, or (c) new albums by artists poached from smaller indie labels, which the critics say aren't as good as those artists' earlier and more obscure releases (i.e., Sybarite, Piano Magic).
Oh yes, I picked up the new Piano Magic album, Writers Without Homes, today. Currently am halfway through it. The packaging is very nice (4AD's house design firm v23 were involved), and so far, the album sounds mellow and understated, with poignant bits of atmosphere, song and spoken-word about lives, stories and such. I think it'll take a few listens to fully get into though.
When I watch old films in which animals appear, I get sad because those animals are certainly dead now. And that certainly prompts my private epitaph and I have to say it out loud "That dog is dead. That cat is dead. That horse is dead..."
Interesting to see that Simon Raymonde, of Cocteau Twins/This Mortal Coil fame, is involved on some of the tracks here. (This sort of cross-pollination, I've noticed, is something characteristic of 4AD acts; what, with This Mortal Coil, and Robin Guthrie producing the first Lush album, and so on...).
According to the 4AD newsletter, the new Piano Magic album, Writers Without Homes, is coming out on 10 June. Given how good their last one (Artists' Rifles) was, it should be something to look forward to.