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Friday, 4 February 2011

Review: Richard Thomas - Shoes And Radios Attract Paint (Released 1997 on Lo Recordings)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2004

"When I was 11/12, I became very reclusive. I felt uncomfortable in the school environment, it was very cold and unloving. I spent a lot of time experimenting with tape machines, radios, records (78s), natural+domestic sounds and toy keyboards......"
-Richard Thomas (from CD sleevenotes)

There is such a personal touch to this incredible music that seeps emotion and tells a mental story with each track.
Richard Thomas was born and raised in South Wales and took up residence in London in 1997.
Gaining a reputation as a contending improviser and abstract composer, he has (since this first album) gone on to work with an impressive amount of luminaries such as the Wormholes and Squarepusher to name just two (the list would fill this page), and is also a member of the fantastic Bohman Brothers' 'Extended Family'.

Utilising almost everything he can lay his hands on- you name it, it's probably been used in some form or other- drumkit, melodica, assorted toysoys, clocks, transducers, self-made instruments - the list is, in a word, endless.
What is even more alarming, is that this recorded work, although labelled with the 'experimental' tag, is VERY accessable throughout.

The discs opener- "The Horla/Occupying The Distance Shredder"- begins with gurning and twisting office equipment sounds, a stringed instrument loop, which moves around with trumpet phrases subject to oxide speeds whilst all manner of muted voices and photocopiers (!) build a healthy scaffolding to frame this heartwarming welcome.

There seems to be a natural air for melody within each track and Thomas seems to be able to pluck music from everything he touches.
"Echo-Locator 2"- uses sparse percussion and a bass guitar phrase, repeated, but not insistent as the familiar 'stoner trumpet' floats above.
analogue synthesizer shots also enter the picture, but are used sparingly to great results.
It's like the occupants have gone out shopping, leaving the house empty, whilst ALL inanimate objects come to life, free of their oppressors!

"Darbytuff (Tempered)"- is a mournful track which again uses the brass instrument to good effect and evokes the image of that Thomas loneliness, whilst the stirring South Wales landscape hovers in the background before his sojourn to the big city over the border.

"Sumo Groupies/Antelope Valley High"- has kissing synth oscillations, bass, harmonica and the omnipresent office equipment chuffing out light rhythmic shunts.
"Stanton Ductile Warrior"- is solo low speed brass with flecks of flute or flageolet, which themselves have not escaped the oxide treatments. This is dreamy sunshine catnapping caught on tape.

"Valley Of The Interlocking Spurs"- utilises a music box style melody while computer squiggles mesh with clicks, bangs and all manner of 'found' percussives, oh and the omnipresent (but not overpresent) trumpet blows a tipsy refrain while dissapearing over the brow with the music box.

"Return To Pow-7"- commences with lo-fi shudders, recorder squeaks and whistle squawks before a formidable groove moves in with drumkit and double bass.
Next is "Gurl Trivia", one of my favourite moments.
A young girl's Taped voice wanders amongst all manner of enchanted sounds which are reverbed together to make this a very otherworldly experience.

"Ordure Rechauffe" -has Thomas giving the drums a good (but lo-fi) thwack, more tape manipulated voices join the un-rhythm before it dissappears back into the speakers.

"Waxy Flexibility" -closes this fascinating debut, the trumpet now gets locked into a strange loop pool of liquid percussives, a moaning baby (or is it a slowed down brass instrument ?) and treated guitar and low note synth before is collapses with all the sounds fading out, at the same time elbowing for space before a similar 'Darbytuff' theme brings it to a close.

These sounds are already all around us, we sometimes need someone else to re-arrange them to relax us.
Richard Thomas does this as second nature.

Written by Tim Jones march 2004

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