MAGIC MIX

MID-TERM REVIEW 2018

TOP 10 COMPILATIONS / REISSUES

Alongside that long(ish) list of Piccadilly approved albums, we've decided on our top 10 compilations and reissues for the first half of 2018 by way of a good old fashioned balloon debate. I'm pleased to announce that my choice, Charles Bals' weird, wavy Balearic selection 'Club Meduse' took the top spot (I'm nothing if not a mass debator), followed swiftly by the candlelit folk, eerie ambience and sweltering pop of Agnes Obel's Late Night Tales. Andy, Martin and Millie made strong cases for "Paris In The Spring", "Chairs Missing" and "We Out Here" respectively while Darryl threatened to take his balloon home if we didn't pay The Heads their due respect. Dave, Matt and Mine were less successful in their efforts, but there are no losers here - each one of us Piccadilly peeps would stand by every entry in this chart, and Andy might fight you if you disagree...
For the third volume of compilations curated by confirmed crate diggers, Spacetalk invites you to take a trip to the magical Mediterranean resort of Club Meduse in the company of Beachfreaks Records co-founder Charles Bals.

A creative director, designer and curator by trade, Bals spends the majority of his spare time searching for superb, unknown, small-run music releases made between the 1970s and 1990s. While some of these are made available for other enthusiasts to buy via Beachfreaks' mail-order service, many more make it into the racks of Bals' private collection. With Club Meduse, Bals is sharing rare, hard-to-find and just plain brilliant gems from his personal stash for the very first time.

For Club Meduse, Bals was inspired by countless magic childhood summers spent playing amongst the rocks, beaches and warm seas of the Cote D'Azur. The compilation, then, is a soundtrack to the greatest soft-focus, sunlit teenage summer holiday you've never had, with a gaggle of forgotten musicians and overlooked artists for company.

Take a barefoot stroll from the campsite to the beach with Ara Macao, whose warm and lucid "Canyon" is a softly-spun delight, before splashing in the crystal clear waters to the accompaniment of The Clean-Hands Group and their 1984 Balearic blue-eyed soul gems "Night Fly" and "Shake It On".

As the sun comes down, clamber across the cooling rocks with the tumbling, sun-kissed guitar solos and sparkling analogue synthesizer motifs of The Keyboys' leisurely "Savannah" ringing in your ears, before using the words of Gemini's "Take A Chance" – undoubtedly the most Balearic record to emerge from Sweden in the last 50 years – to get flirtatious under the moonlight.

Should you fancy a dance down the camp disco, Bals' selections will gently ease you onto the dancefloor and into the gaze of the boy or girl of your dreams. The fuzzy Italo-boogie of the C.V.Q Band's "Whatever You Do (Instrumental)" will get you going, while Miss's 1984 French electro gem "Hip Hop" should guarantee a celebratory conclusion to the night's party. 

“To me, sounds have always been more interesting than words,” says Agnes Obel. “I love it when the voice becomes an instrument and you almost forget it’s a human voice.” Never is this more apt than on this beautifully programmed and bewitching selection of music.

Agnes’ 2010 debut album Philharmonics went platinum in France and Belgium and, unsurprisingly, quintuple platinum in her native Denmark, where she also won five Danish Music Awards (equivalent to the Brits) in 2011. The follow-up Aventine, released in late 2013, was imbued with the same measured calmness as her debut. It went platinum in Belgium and gold in Denmark and France.

For the mix you have in your hands it feels almost as if Agnes has scoured the world looking for kindred spirits – or kindred songs. There’s a quietude about it all, the antithesis of a rush hour, like a frozen lake on a Sunday morning. This is aided by a veritable cornucopia of new Obel material, including a haunting reading of Danish song ‘Glemmer Du’, Inger Christensen’s ‘Poem About Death’ set to original music, and an Agnes original, ‘Bee Dance’.

Among them, there’s the enigmatic Jamaican singer Nora Dean who weighs in with the hypnotic and slinky Duke Reid production, ‘Ay Ay Ay Ay (Angie-Lala)’ and the sparse, sardonic ‘Party Girl’ by Michelle Gurevich, so good it inspired the eponymous French movie. There are the plangent voices, The Bulgarian Folklore Choir, Nina Simone, Ray Davies and Agnes herself, ringing true. Somehow, Ms Obel makes even makes the electronic tracks bow to her needs as with Yello whose ‘Great Mission’ is more Martin Denny than Underworld and cult Greek composer Lena Platonos’ ‘Bloody Shadows From A Distance’ pulses gently rather than throbs and Can’s recently rediscovered ‘Obscura Primavera’, unusually hushed.

"I was surprised at how much time I ended up spending on this. I collected all the songs together with my partner Alex and we just spent time listening to records, trying to see what would fit together. Some of the music I’ve included here is on mixtapes we made when we were just friends as teenagers. Each one of the tracks produces stories in my head." - Agnes Obel, February 2018


FORMAT INFORMATION

2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

“Paris In The Spring” is a collection of the new music, put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, that emerged from France between 1968 and the mid-70s, an extraordinary blend of several previously independent strains – French chanson and yé-yé, American jazz and funk, British chamber pop – shot through with the era’s underlying mixture of optimism, uncertainty and darkness. This is the first collection of its kind, released on the 50th anniversary of the Paris uprising.

Serge Gainsbourg – a jazz pianist with a chanson past and a pop present – was in a position to play a key role in soundtracking France in flux over the next five years. His “Histoire de Melody Nelson”, with its heavily atmospheric arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier, was the acme of this new, unsettling French sound. “Paris In The Spring” includes other equally dazzling Vannier arrangements (for Léonie) and Gainsbourg compositions (for Jane Birkin and Mireille Darc).

Prior to 1968, 60s French pop had been dominated by yé-yé, the country’s unique brand of upbeat pop, a world of primary colours, minijupes and discothèques (a French invention, after all). Its stars either faded fast after May ’68 or adapted to the new era: Jacques Dutronc (‘Le Métaphore’) and France Gall (‘Chanson Pour Que Tu M’aimes un Peu’) discovered a moody side they had previously kept hidden, while Françoise Hardy released the Brazilian-influenced, after-hours classic “La Question”, from which we have picked ‘Viens’.

New bands like Triangle emerged, influenced by Soft Machine and Gong who became regulars on the Paris club scene. French library music from Janko Nilovic and film soundtracks (François De Roubaix, Karl-Heinz Schäfer) reflected the era’s edginess. All are represented on “Paris In The Spring”, making it a continental cousin to Stanley and Wiggs’s hugely popular 2017 Ace compilation “English Weather”

4 - Wire

Chairs Missing

    Wire’s first three albums need no introduction. They are the three classic albums on which Wire’s reputation is based. Moreover, they are the recordings that minted the post-punk form. This was adopted by other bands, but Wire were there first. These are the definitive re-releases. Each album is presented as an 80-page hardback book – the size of a 7-inch, but obviously much thicker. After a special introduction by Jon Savage, Graham Duff provides insight into each track. These texts include recording details, brand-new interviews with band members, and lyrics.

    This stunning set of presentations also includes a range of images from the archive of Annette Green. Wire’s official photographer during this period, Green also shot the covers for Pink Flag and Chairs Missing. Promotional and informal imagery – in colour and black and white – is featured throughout the books. Most of the photographs have not been seen for 40 years – and many have never been published anywhere before.

    With "Pink Flag" Wire tapped happily into punk's energy and iconoclastic tendencies, "Chairs Missing" is, perhaps, a little truer to their own instincts. They didnt completely shed the past completely; the joyful "Sand In My Joints" and grinding "Mercy" have more than a hint of "Pink Flag" about them, but their 1978 offering is moodier and much more textured than its predecessor, the addition of swathes of electronic sounds moving them firmly into post punk territory, a genre they helped to spawn. There is pure pop beauty on here too, of which "Outdoor Miner"  and "French Film Blurred" being the most gorgeous examples. 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Martin says: Their most varied L.P. and possibly their finest hour (or so). Straddling the fire of punk and the colder, darker charms of brooding electronic post punk, it also contains within its grooves moments of melodic magic. Worth buying for the outrageously amazing "Outdoor Miner" on its own.

    A primer on London’s bright-burning young jazz scene, this new compilation brings together a collection of some of its sharpest talents. A set of nine newly-recorded tracks, We Out Here captures a moment where genre markers matter less than raw, focused energy. Looking at the album’s running order, it could easily serve as a name-checking exercise for some of London’s most-tipped and hardworking bands of the past couple of years. Recorded across three long, fruitful days in a North West London studio, the crossover between each of the groups speaks to the close-knit circles which make up the scene.

    Surveying the way that London’s jazz-influenced music had spread outside of its usual spaces in recent years, this album bottles up some of the vital ideas emanating from that burgeoning movement. Giving a platform to a scene where mutual cooperation and a DIY spirit are second-nature, it’s a window into the wide-eyed future of London’s musical underground.

    Ubiquitous, much-lauded saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings is the project’s musical director. His own recent projects span from South Africa-connected, spiritually-minded jazz players Shabaka and the Ancestors to Sons of Kemet, who match diasporically-connected compositions with viscerally-direct live shows. His entry on the album, ‘Black Skin, Black Masks’, is typically difficult-to-define: with an off-kilter, shifting rhythmic backbone, repeated phrases – mirrored between clarinet and bass clarinet – shape the track with an alluring hue. His input ties together a deft, genre-agnostic sensibility that’s shared through all the players on the record.

    Theon Cross – who’s also part of Sons of Kemet with Hutchings – starts his track, ‘Brockley’, with the solo, distinctive low rumble of his tuba. Winding and mesmeric, it sees tuba and sax lines winding together in rhythmic and melodic parallels. Ezra Collective – whose drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso has toured with Pharaohe Monch – run a tight, Afrobeat-tipped rhythm on ‘Pure Shade’, with the final third changing gear into a melodic, momentous closing stretch.

    Joe Armon-Jones, whose ludicrous chops on the piano have seen him touring with the likes of Ata Kak, showcases earworm-like, insistent motifs on ‘Go See’, balanced with a playful, improvisatory approach with room for ad-libbing and solos a-plenty. Taking a softer tact than many of the other entries, Kokoroko – whose guitarist Oscar Jerome has been making waves with his solo material – spin a lyrical, steady-paced meditation on ‘Abusey Junction’, matching chanted vocals with gently-played guitar.

    Nodding to spiritual jazz influences, Maisha’s ‘Inside The Acorn’ is a wandering, explorative rumination, balancing delicate washes of piano and percussion with sharp interplay between flute and bass clarinet. In contrast, Nubya Garcia’s ‘Once’ is taut and carefully-poised, her tenor sax guiding a carefully-built energy to an explosive conclusion. And finally, Triforce’s ‘Walls’ is a performance in two parts: starting with Mansur Brown’s languorous, lyrical guitar, the second half switches up to a low-slung, g-funk-tipped groove.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: The trusty Brownswood label at the rescue again to point out all the new music you should be listening too, We Out Here is a collection of London’s blooming and ever-growing young musicians Jazz scene. This captures the vibe and hub around upcoming Jazz, elements of traditional raw Jazz elements matched with swooning percussion. The contemporary style reaches back into its essential past and is shone in a new era of up and coming artists.

    6 - The Heads

    RKT!

      Timely reissue of the first 3 releases The Heads put out on the ROCKET label, form their first split 7” release (with Lilydamwhite) in 1998 to their much lauded SESSIONS 2 freakout 12” from 2002… compiled here in their remastered glory, the Heads we quite prolific back in the late 90s / early 00’s, and in between the Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere album and Undersided album they released their jams and raw rehearsals via the burgeoning ROCKET Label..

      Compiled here with extensive sleeve notes from Rocket founder Simon Healey, this limited 3LP (1000 copies) and 2CD (1000 copies) set captures the band at their most laconic and free… psychedelic sprawling morass or sound and aural distortion grooves akin drawing from their wide influences…also from simply plugging in and letting go…

      Big Brother, Dom Jolly, Playstation 2, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo, weak pills and cheap skunk, 3310s, foot and mouth, Soham and Pual Burrell - that was the world when "Original Pirate Material" first dropped in 2002 - blowing up Kazaa and Audiogalaxy and finding its way to your mate's CD player on an iffy CDr. To say it was a breath of fresh air is an understatement, this groundbreaking album filled the air with a green fug, challenged the yanks for the MCing crown and twisted the polished sheen of UKG into a laptop-crafted fusion of skanking bass and housey beats. While breakthough hit "Has It Come To This?", "Turn The Page" and "Let's Push Things Forward" remain era-defining anthems, every single track here is the tits. "Sharp Darts" sounds like an utterly wrong Wu Tang joint, "Same Old Thing" and "Geezer's Need Excitement" are rough, tough and proper grimey and "It's Too Late" is bloke-poetry on a heartbreaking anthem tip. Elsewhere "Don't Mug Yourself" royally takes the piss out of you on the back of the bus and "The Irony Of It All" offers a hilarious review of boozed up townies and stoned students. And then there's "Weak Become Heroes", the e'd up ravers anthem that's still the best track of that decade. 

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Patrick says: A lot's changed since 2002, but "Original Pirate Material" retains a flawless, genre defining classic and the best thing Mike Skinner's ever done. Stick it on, and stick your middle finger up at the Criminal Justice Bill - mega!

      8 - Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock

      It Takes Two

        As hip-hop moved into the mainstream in 1988, Harlem duo Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock changed the game with "It Takes Two", one of the undisputed classic singles of the genre. The group's debut album, It Takes Two, which featured the title track as well as the dance hits "Joy and Pain" and "Get On The Dance Floor" has been newly remastered in high definition from the original tapes and pressed on red opaque vinyl--its first appearance on the format since its original release thirty years ago.

        Following the freak beat festival of Wolf and Wandt’s ‘Instrumentalmusik’ comes a release that’s been in the pipeline since the organic imprint first took root; the first reissue of the beautiful ’Señora’. Beguiling and brilliant, this private press princess makes you want to dance, dream and do cartwheels, then breaks your heart when you realise you’ll never meet her - a rare beauty indeed. So it’s time to let Basso play cupid and introduce you to the love of your life.

        Eagle eyed associates might recognise the sleeve as Basso’s everyday avatar, chosen in tribute to his favourite jazz-funk record of all time. Originally released in limited quantities back in 1981, the self titled ‘Señora’ was the sole release from a quartet of German groove greats, coming together in one ecstatic union of rhythmic precision, smooth riffing and melodic mastery.
        Take opener ‘Paul’ for example; a continent away from the West End, this sublime slice of raw guitar, silken keys and gliding bass could have made Mel Cheren proud. From there we’re taken on a journey through the syncopated slide of the jazzy ‘My Way, Your Way’, the samba sway of the mild and mellow ‘Easy Going’ and the poetic piano of ‘Pearl’, a triumphantly esoteric tone poem to close the A-side. ‘Señora’ ups the tempo on the flipside, galloping through tight triplets, fusion guitar and mind expanding synth play. The B2 brings a strolling bassline and tender tonality, executed with all the ease of the Sunday morning which dawns on the extended and expansive cooler which brings the LP to its final emotional release.

        Light a candle, change the linen and put the rosé on chill, you’re about to fall in love with Señora.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Patrick says: Gorgeous, glorious and groovy, 'Señora' is the German jazz-funk holy grail, long lusted after but only rarely spotted. Now, thanks to Hamburg's Growing Bin, you can finally put this masterpiece of rhythmic precision, melodic magic and soothing samba on your turntable and in your ears.

        The latest edition of K7!'s ever essential DJ Kicks compilations sees Forest Swords take on curatorial duties. Following acclaimed albums on Ninja Tune and Tri Angle, soundtrack and installation work, and remixes of the likes of Bjork, Matthew Barnes aka Forest Swords has curated a 25-track compilation that draws a line between past inspirations and his current peers. "During all of the nights that shaped me as a music fan there wasn't really a focus on DJing etiquette; sticking to genres, perfect transitions – it was all pretty DIY and purely like having someone cook up their personal mixtape in front of you, to surprise you and to explore different sounds" says Barnes. "That kind of rough-around-the-edges approach is so much more exciting to me than something sterile and seamless and I wanted to carry that spirit into this compilation." Chosen over the course of a few weeks in winter 2018, the mixed version was cut on Barnes' laptop during a wintery cross-country train journey. Like much of his own output, his DJ-Kicks skirts around pristine electronics and embraces more organic textures: 80s post punk (Anna Domino, Dead Can Dance), classic 90s British electronica (Orbital, Mira Calix), and smokey digi-dub (Rhythm & Sound), all rub up alongside some of the most forward-facing producers working today (Demdike Stare, Laurel Halo, Fis). The compilation sifts through rhythms, shifting speeds and emotions: from pop icon Neneh Cherry's primal thudding to the zombified throb of exclusive Forest Swords track 'Crow' via Deena Abdelwaheed's clattering deconstructions to the euphoric two-step of Djrum. It's a collection of tracks that feels as restlessly curious and weighty as Barnes' own work


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