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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Review: Position Normal - Stop Your Nonsense (Released 1999 on Mind Horizon Recordings)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2005

Position Normal was the name chosen for the glorious sound operations that were put together by ex-art students Chris Bailiff and John Cushway.
Virtually every second of this incredible lost album, is a joy to behold.
Yet I can't say why, it just has this great way to relax you while also putting a smile on your face.

I remember seeing a one page feature in one of the UK music glossies of the time, heralding their arrival. The article also had a photograph that showed two men wearing what looked like belisha beacons on their heads.

Thinking about the belisha headgear in that photo and only previously hearing two tracks, I thought I'd better get myself a copy.
I was immediately hooked.
Could this be a british version of The Residents?
A more updated Renaldo & The Loaf maybe?

For a more focused pinpoint, I'd say the best reference would be Nurse With Wound's -"The Sylvie And Babs Hi-Fi Companion", an album that cleverly (and heavily) plundered various lost 'easy listening' and comedy vinyl records, although this PN album is a very blissed out affair and 'easier' on the ears......and the brain!

What makes 'Stop Your Nonsense' so good, is the fact that Bailiff and Cushway have not only collected some real gems from 1990s car boot sales and charity shops, but have also managed to record their own sounds up against them with such precision, that you can't tell the join at times.

It's also hard to tell whether they used a tape-splicing block or the likes of an akai s1000 sampler, but it doesn't really matter as they've left a good amount of hiss and surface noise from the vinyl sources and it all glues together perfectly.
The tracks herein have the words 'eccentric', 'british' and 'nostalgia' stamped all over them (although the focus is mainly on London).
The abundant use of childrens voices seem to cast a truly psychedelic, drowsy haze throughout.

Starting off with the short but sweet- "Heavy"- there is fuzzed riffage with just guitars and bass, until the heartily blown recorders kick in (!) and you can't refrain from cracking a smile.

"The Blank" uses further discordant guitars and bass, which are covered with kids tv game show samples, lounge style piano and the fading in and out of vinyl surface hiss.
"Jimmy Had Jane" sees PN crafting all the music with their own hands (very laid back, yet so effective), while one of them recounts the tale of some burnt-out doe-eyed night clubber.....

"Jimmy had, Jimmy had, Jimmy had Jane.....

.....on the back of an eastbound's not right....'s just not right....pickled egg, pickled egg, pickled egg eyes....
.....mayonnaise when you's's's not right......"
hmmm.....a perfect 5 minutes that one, it's as if you are caught up in the same roomspace as the stoned-out babblings of the underdog, as the track falls asleep.....only to be woken up by the next cut- "Whoppeas"- featuring a street recording of a london market, as a trader yells-
"three banches o'strawberries for a pahnd!!"- whilst what sounds like music from a Carry On film (maybe wafting out from a nearby bookies?!), only to make way for a tweaked hint of smokey jazz - nice!

"German" starts with an answer-phone message :
"Doreen, it's auntie betty calling...hope you got home safe"

-well, let's hope she hasn't been on the same train as Jimmy eh....

....this track features the voice of a german chanteuse which is doused in reverb and twisted via a filter that is a simple idea, but very effective as the backing music fades out and morphs with the twist of the dial.

"Drishnun" is all lolloping french pop that soon drops out to-"Bucket Wipe"- which is also a short dream with temolo and delayed guitar alongside wispy analogue synths.

"Nostrils and Eyes"
33 seconds- 

"Eyes and eyes....nostrils and eyes...not an eyelash, but a prick will make no eye at all...." 
-so says a voice possibly plucked from a bbc archive and jiggled about, that it needs no musical aid.

"Pepay Pepememino"
A solo guitar picks out a line until the subtle backing joins an easy jamboree of double-bass and whistling swing.

This is another track that doesn't utilise any 'old vinyl', well, to start with anyway, but has one of our hosts voices subject to varispeed tape jerks-
"I've been missing you....just like rabies...." 

-which then dissappears to reverbed piano (and vinyl hiss).

"Light Bulbs" is the one track that reveals they're using a sampler, unless they're a deft hand at slicing magnetic tape. The voices used here are darting up and down, once again- another piece of crazed whimsy, just clocking a minute and a half.

Exactly the same in length is- "Hop Sa Sa"- the kids voices on this are great, mixed into some brief acoustic samba, which then cuts off short to a lone adult voice saying- 

"Gone....really gone" 
...I'll say.

More samba tomfoolery with- "Unda Da Sea"- with additional pots and pans percussion and handclaps, tinny sped-up rhythm boxes and (yet again) cut down just before it reaches the two minute mark.

"Only On Da Water"
Lightly spiralling guitars with more amusing kids speech - 55 seconds!

The last track- "Bedside Manners"- begins with a looped, hissy and very tinny drum track, with some sleepy guitar phrases thrown in, there begins a very odd and echoed monologue which seems to be the observations of some doctor with very creepy and clipped speech and clocking in at four whole minutes, brings this CD to a close......
.....until there is a total silence for about five minutes, then a solitary synth beebs and boops and then a very sleazy voice repeatedly intones "Yes", leading to the phrase- "soon your fingers may itch" other voices repeating "Yes" and ""No" in equal measure.

If you see this CD anywhere, snap it up pronto!

Written by Tim Jones november 2005

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