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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Review: Various Artists - Perspectives And Distortion (Released 1981 on Cherry Red)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2003

One of the great lost compilation albums from the 'post-punk' twilight years.

Side One:
*Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey - "Bright Waves"
A fade in of some drifting solo female voices, multi-tracked and with no other instruments other than the 'treatments' credited to one Philip Sanderson.
In fact, as was revealed years after, Ms.Thomas and Ms.Vezey did not even exist.
Sanderson had hawked his way onto the album saying he had contact with these two angel-voiced ladies and was helping them out in the studio.

*Matt Johnson - "What Stanley Saw"
Like his work with The Gadgets, he manages to provide a kind of psychedelic sounding music at times via the use of drum machines, synths and guitars and pin-pointed by his distinctive vocals, sounding like an upper register Ian Anderson at times- 
" a murder in disguise...I'll never get over you..." 
-he chimes in whilst stabbed electric piano and strident electric guitar edge up for the finishing line, the track then ending with some sort of lightening bolt strike that leads into....

*Virgin Prunes - "Third Secret"
.....and it's that strike that runs into mournful piano chords and takes you into a kind of scaffold-as-gamelan nocturne as the Prunes use silence to good effect in between their metal clanks to achieve the track's unusual and eerie atmosphere...

*Lol Coxhill - "The Calm..."
The Calm is made up of some smoothly overlaid phrases and what I like about Coxhill's reed playing is that he always has the ability to sound melodic, even when using various techniques like different tape speeds put to great use on the album "Slow Music" which was a collaboration with Morgan Fisher.

*Lemon Kittens - "...In Wooden Brackets"
This piece was recorded at different times and locations but is spliced together by the deft fingers of Karl Blake and Dannielle Dax.
After the uncertain beginning, a drum machine comes driving in with some extraordinary vocals from Dax, while the electro-percussion turns to glass beads. Cymbals provide a crash mat as Dax's vocals become more settled, a tremolo organ holds up, but then more splinter percussion enters the fray with some clump string plucks (?) from the guitars only to desolve to the breathing backward reeds and the storm is over.

*Eyeless In Gaza - "You Frighten"
Another duo here, that of Bates and Becker.
Martyn Bates really is one unsung artist, along with the late Billy Mackenzie, they both had a great style of voice.
Bates lays a spreading vocal sound over Becker's Keyboards making you think of a sound akin to a youthful Terry Riley and a youthful Peter Hammill ducking and diving through the stratospheres.

*Kevin Coyne - "Hello Judas"
This track, from one of the U.K.'s most unsung songwriters, was quite a suprise with it's theatrical, almost Noel Coward type feel, jaunting along until the track breaks with a couple of truly inspired lines-
 "I was snooping in the sour cold day...peering through the a lion before prey..."

*Mark Perry - "Dear, Dear"
Beginning with a peel of a tiny ritual bell, except that it's not recorded in a temple but what sounds like the TV room of a south london working men's club! Perry narrates a short tale of a man named "Tony".

Side Two:
*Ben Watt - "Departure"
I never did venture much into Ben Watt's material, so I won't pretend to appear that I did! Well, honesty is the best policy after all, but what I can say is that during this track of 1 minute 36 seconds and utilising guitar harmonics and solo voice, it sticks in your head for a long time and you always think that the track is at least twice as long as it actually is.......and nice it is too.

*Two Daughters - "Return Call/We Are"
Using clarinet and percussion and a good spray of tape hiss, this track is by the people that have been lost in the mists of time.
Two Daughters took part in the legendary debate that was headlined 'Forgive Us Our Synths' which was in the good ole Sounds weekly UK music newspaper. They even got the thumbs up from then Nurse With Wound member, the enigmatic John Fothergill.
They did have a great cassette release out that I remember hearing at one time, they may have had another out at some time, such was the difficulty of keeping up with the 'Wild Planet'/Cassette underground scene in the UK at that time..

*Kevin Harrison - "People In Space"
This is a snappy little gem consisting of a multitude of echoed guitars and drum machines and some summer season strummed guitar, fading back to a place from whence it came.

*Thomas Leer - "Kings Of Sham"
Having recorded the brilliant album- "The Bridge" with the late great Robert Rental for Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records label, Leer comes up with a great electro-plod stomper which has a very hypnotic middle eastern melody line running throughout......think Kraftwerk in the 'Bush of Ghosts'.
Again, like a lot of people featured here, he's seemed to have sadly vanished from the music underground.

*Five Or Six - "Folded"
An odd track, but again fitting into the jigsaw.
Spoken and half-sung ghost voices simmer over David Knight's tape sound collage which is clustered in the background and which sounds like some of the stuff that Brian 'Lustmord' Williams would concoct.
I don't know what happened to members Cassie, Harper and Whittock (solicitors maybe?) but David Knight was later in Shock Headed Peters with Karl Blake and now records under the moniker Arkkon where he makes very interesting electronic pieces, utilising guest vocals from the likes of Blake and Lydia Lunch.

*Morgan Fisher - "Foreign Correspondent"
From the days when he provided hammond organ (at the age of 16 years) for the sixties hit "Everlasting Love" by Love Affair to his dabblings in experimental netherworlds in the early seventies and then more chart success as part of Mott The Hoople, going on to his Residents influenced Hybrid Kids project and not forgetting the classic 'Miniatures' album comprising 51 one minute tracks by all and sundry in the avant-garde, outsider and post-punk world, it can be said that this man has been there and done it - twice!
This track is from 1973 and kicks off a great start point which sounds like an outtake from Throbbing Gristle's 'Journey Through A Body' album- eventhough this track was recorded a good eight years before. I just love that squish-panned synth sound.
The track then kicks up a sprightly european feel, with keyboard crossings which sound like cantebury cad- Dave Stewart in his Egg / Hatfield days.
Morgan now lives and records in japan.
A great track from a crackin' chap... snappy dresser too!

*Robert Fripp - "Remorse Of Conscience"
A slice of Bob's frippertronic pie here, with a sinewy keyboard and guitar line.
The process being developed from Eno's observed / Terry Riley patented tape loop systems- yeah, bring out the jam jars indeed.

*A Tent - "No Way Of Knowing"
A tape delay festival in this track of shape-shifting melodies and very controlled tape delay at that, sometimes it's easy just to let go and send the needles into the red but it takes studied hands to keep control.
Again, don't know where the individual members went.

*David Jackman - "Untitled"
Here we are for the last track, and the album bookended by the 'Snatch Tapes' henchman.
This track is before Jackman founded his Organum project, but you can see where a lot of that later work had sown the seeds and consists of a smidgen of his experiments with bowed cymbals, recorded at different speeds and bolstered with real time bowing..... a journey's end.

Written by Tim Jones august 2003

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