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SMILING C

Inimate British pop for fans of Spike, The Cleaners From Venus, Felt, Durutti Column, Black Ark Studios and Aladdin. Charming lost tapes from the early ‘80s, treasured only by family members until now.

"Jim and I met at university in Liverpool in nineteen seventy-five and immediately began making music together. We both had rooms in the same big Victorian house in the centre of town and our evenings were spent hanging out in the nightclubs of Toxteth, like Dutch Eddie's where the DJ played Trinidadian music all night long.

Liverpool has always been somewhere with its own distinctive culture, poetry, and music. In the nineteen seventies it was absolutely magical. The city was still bathed in the afterglow of the Beatles and there was a kind of creative anarchy about the place. There was this band called Death Kit who used to put on multi-media events with people in fancy dress and random bits of theatre. We'd turn up completely out of our heads and it felt like we were deconstructing ourselves as individuals.

After we left college, Jim began living in Cambridge and I returned to London where I'd grown up, but our musical relationship continued. We knew people who were making commercial sounds and having success with them but that wasn't what we wanted to do. We performed occasionally, albeit very erratically, mostly as a duo but sometimes with other musicians.

What we were really interested in was musical exploration. Jim built a studio in his back garden, bought some multi-track recording equipment, and began experimenting. We wanted to produce something that was just for ourselves. We were undoubtedly very naïve but naivety and innocence were hallmarks of that time.

In my childhood, I'd been fascinated with the story of Aladdin. Now that fascination began to be reflected in the music we were making. Here was a story about a boy who transforms his world and enters the magical realm. That seemed to be exactly what was happening to me. For all sorts of reasons, I hadn't particularly enjoyed my childhood but now I had managed to step out of the everyday reality, to find a place where I belonged and where I had a kind of power.

The name we used for the band came from a song recorded in 1949 by a singer called Mel Torme. There's a line in that song that goes, "Careless Hands don't care when dreams slip through." That seemed appropriate since dreams were part of the territory we were exploring.

I had got married immediately after leaving college and by now I had a daughter who was afraid to go to sleep at night. She wanted me to be present in her dreams with her. That became the inspiration for a period during which Jim and I tried to recreate the shifting landscape of the night-time imagination.

Unfortunately, the choice of name turned out to be horribly prophetic when in a freak accident Jim fell into a lake and was drowned. It seemed to me that for some time, he had not been paying enough attention to his own life. So I wasn't exactly surprised when I heard the news but I was completely devastated. After Jim's death, I put away his guitar and never played again. I went on to make a career as a novelist.

Most of the recordings we produced were lost over the years. A bunch of master tapes was accidentally thrown into a dumpster and others were left in the attic of a house I lived in at some time during the nineteen nineties. This album has been pieced together from fragments that somehow survived the cull."

- Brian Keaney November 2020

STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Following on from the AMAZING The Bernhardts EP, Smiling C uncover more heartfelt, earnest, DIY wave and indie from the North of England. Loving this label at the moment. Careless Hands sound like Durutti Column's most dreamy offerings played at a never-ending afterhours party in Hulme Crescents circa '87

TRACK LISTING

Lawrence
Seeing Double
Turning
New Lamps For Old
Just Like Strangers
Diana
On The Bridge
Face In The Mirror
Dream My Dream
Looking For A Secret

Arthur Russell meets The Style Council on this EP retrospective of lost Mancunian sophista-jazz-popoutfit, The Bernhardts.

The Bernhardts are Simon Milner (vocals, trumpet), Steve Hopkins (keyboards), and Neil Fitzpatrick (percussion, guitar), a trio that formed in Manchester in the early ‘80s. Simon and Neil have been good
friends since grade school, and before The Bernhardts, they released a few singles at the end of the ‘70s with their pop-rock outfit, The Smirks. On the side, the pair played regularly with their self-styled ‘jazzpunk’ ensemble at various local bars and venues. Steve was playing keyboards and producing music for Pauline Murray, John Cooper Clarke, and the Invisible Girls, and Manchester bands such as Jilted John, Dislocation Dance, the High, Chris Sievey, and Happy Mondays. He happened to attend one of Simon and Neil’s late evening punk-cabaret shows, captivated, he approached them about collaborating.

Stylishly laced in tuxedos, with their hair elaborately coiffed, the three played around Manchester as The Oscar Bernhardt Ensemble, a group dedicated to the romantic jazz nostalgia of the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. By night, they transformed into Rio Fortune (Steve), Claude Walloon (Neil), and Oscar Bernhardt (Simon), conjuring yearning memories of a distant musical era. Away from their gigs, the trio assembled under various names for their studio experiments. They captured and updated the spirit of the decadent ‘20s as The Rum Babas, their interests in Eastern melodies saw them as The Rickshaw Gang, but ultimately, as all their influences spun together and the recordings developed, they simply went by The Bernhardts. Meddling around in the studio, they would add drum machines to some of their favorite jazz standards, giving an electronic tinge to classics like “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and “Moonglow”. The concept expanded into a fantasy that a 1930’s group had been abducted into outer space to run a cabaret in the stars; it was space-age meets sequencers. They crafted a handful of original songs that they felt were fit to shop around to labels.

The band got busy on the phone, posted out demo cassettes, and managed to set up some A&R meetups for a potential deal. It was a challenging experience to pitch their outer space voyage to less imaginative labels, but they landed a place on Parlophone with some determination. Together with producer Mike Howlett, they polished a handful of their songs in various studios around Manchester. This EP compilation contains released and unreleased songs from those sessions; a sampler of the different sides of The Bernhardts. Each song, intricately woven, paints the picture of the sophisticated celestial moods the group was trying to capture.

Although the group had radio play, played occasional promotional gigs, and had the backing of a major label, it was difficult for them to expand to a wider audience. The Bernhardts members eventually moved on to other projects a couple of years after their sole single, “I Hear You Calling”, was released. They shifted focus slightly, playing together as Distant Cousins along with Simon’s wife Doreen whom he’d met during The Bernhardts’ recording sessions. Currently, the group still maintains good friendships and strong interests in music. Neil plays indie-pop with his daughter Hann, Simon can be found busking regularly around Manchester with The Charleston Charlies, and Steve has returned to running a Latin-soul-jazz quintet after taking a detour to earn his Ph.D in laser physics.

STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Jubilant and sincere, arty indie pop which sounds like Arthur Russell meets Orange Juice in the Talking Heads studio. It's fun, musical, heartfelt and another chapter of rainy city music you're probably not aware of yet. Mega!

TRACK LISTING

Send Your Heart To Me
I Hear You Calling
Crescent Moon (Instrumental)
Love Breaks In

Tunel Hacia Tí (Tunnel Toward You) is a collection of early compositions by Germán Bringas of Portales, Mexico City. This album features songs from his lost cassette ambient jazz opus, "Caminatas" (Hikes), it’s spiritual successor, "Exposción Al Vacio" (Vacuum Exposure), and unreleased works created between '91-'00. Every instrument heard on this release was played by Bringas, and recorded in a studio in the back of his home. Sixteen unheard works from the Mexican jazz synesthete. Bringas plays with a delicate balance between experiment & pastoral spaciousness, sounding like Coltrane scoring a Tarkovsky film.

Germán’s pieces are informed by his synesthetic experience. As he plays, he witnesses color coordinating with each note. His earliest experience of this cross-sensory ability came from playing his parents piano when he was young. Exploring the keys, a spectrum of color presented itself, and he began searching for colors he preferred. He discovered an enticing shade of blue, which unbeknownst to him at the time, was a jazz chord. In the following years, he attended school at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música and was classically trained in piano and composition. The Conservatorio was extremely demanding, and didn’t appreciate his innate talents to play by ear. He was fed up with the indoctrinating way they taught, which coincided with a lecture he attended by Carlos Casteñeda. Inspired by the teachings, he left school behind to start a group with his friends to practice meditative exercises loosely based off Casteñeda’s Tensegrity movements to expand the body and mind. His friends and he spent years going into the woods and training as quasi-disciples of the Castañedian path. In those times, Germán developed a new approach to music, letting go of the formality of his classical training, and rediscovering his childhood experience to play from feeling. Learning trumpet, saxophone, and native Mexican instruments all to his own design, he followed his synesthetic experience to guide his compositions. He was compelled to record the discoveries he was making, so he produced a string of cassettes, only enough to pass around to friends & local collectors.

In his earliest works, you can hear the influence of his time spent in the tranquility of the woods colliding with the frenzy of the city he grew up in. Combining inspiration he obtained from ECM Records virtuosos, Mexican Rock-in-opposition, visionary jazz artists, and otherworldly sci-fi films like Blade Runner and Stalker, his songs ebb and flow between serene synths and chaotic bursts of emotive horns. In addition to these compositions, he started an experimental music club in his house in Portales called Jazzorca. At Jazzorca, which is still running to this day, he would share his pensive movements with a small group of dedicated music lovers. Germán truly created a world of his own through these works, and his sound is singular when held up to Mexican music from the same era.

Currently, Germán makes drums out of propane tanks in his backyard, he produces experimental CDs under his own label, and plays live regularly at Jazzorca. You might catch him strolling through his neighborhood in Portales at sunset, soaking in the influence of the city sounds and their associated colors he witnesses.

TRACK LISTING

Libre
Exposicion Al Vacio
Painani Iii
Nuevas Visiones De Luz
Caminatas
Escarpadas
Bailarina
El Cielo
Tunel Hacia Ti
Blues For Lyle
Sim Y El Campo
Beyond Skin
Runner Blues
What Nobody Took Care

Kevin Mccormick & David Horridge

Light Patterns

In 1970, Kevin and David met whilst they were working in the Labour Exchange Office on Aytoun St, Manchester. Both played guitar and had been searching for other musicians who played atmospheric music. Kevin had been playing in small clubs in Manchester and David performed in a few local bands. One evening, they jammed together at Kevin’s family home, and quickly realized that their playing blended together to form the basis of the sound they had been looking for. In the late ‘70s, the music scene in Manchester was bursting with new bands and music.

However, Kevin and David had little in common with the local acts, being disciples of a more meditative approach. They followed a path of their own, reaching for an otherworldly sound that they heard from artists like John Martyn, David Crosby, Erik Satie, Terry Riley, Eberhard Weber, Alice Coltrane, and Ralph Towner. They experimented combining their acoustic guitars and David’s bass with various effects pedals and techniques to try and achieve a warm and expansive sound that rides the line between ambient, jazz, and psychedelic folk Music.

Towards 1981, they had written eleven songs and accompanied a few with Moog synthesizer laid down by Rob Baxter. All were recorded on cassette decks in their simple home studios. They named this collection of music “Light Patterns”, after a poem Kevin had written. With Light Patterns complete, they set out to find a label to represent their music. They started playing a few gigs in Manchester; Band On The Wall, the Gallery, and other venues, such as Rotters which local promoter Alan Wise had organized. They set up with small amps along with their effects and played as though they were back at home. As Kevin remarks, “It was unusual, to say the least, to play such venues in a low volume chilled out way. However, people listened, often in shocked curiosity, and some even asked for tapes.”

Peter Jenner, of Blackhill Enterprises, eventually picked up the album for his new label, “Sheet”. Peter had managed lots of experimental bands and solo artists, including Pink Floyd in their early Syd Barrett days. He always favored outsiders! The tapes were taken to Strawberry Recording Studios in Manchester, who were surprised when Kevin and David walked in with just a couple of home-produced cassette tapes. Fortunately, they liked them and agreed to master the album. It was then sent to Portland Recording Studios in London for final mastering to vinyl. George Peckham, aka “Porky”, did the pressing with a personal message in the deadwax; “Kaftans, Candles and be Cool Man”. The artwork for the album cover was done by the late Barney Bubbles, a truly visionary artist.

After the album’s release, the pair continued to play together regularly until David moved away from the city. Kevin still resides near Manchester in the rolling hills outside of the city. He continues to experiment with dreamy music in his loft, and we are set to share a selection of his ethereal archival and current compositions in the coming months. David lives a quiet life in a small coastal town in the South, he likes to sail and is an avid cricket fan. We’re excited to make Light Patterns accessible again for the first time in nearly 40 years, remastered from the original tapes. As the original press release said, “Put the album on, lie back and enter the land of no floors”.

TRACK LISTING

Glass Dreams
Last Chances
Coast Lines
Dance For Two Strangers
Jules Jen
Sandpatterns
Reflections
Quickdance
Highlife
Sunshowers
Special Places

Shams Dinn

Shams Dinn

    For their first ever reissue, Smiling C connects with the Arabic rapper Shams Dinn to release a compilation his best songs, including the hit "Hedi Bled Noum". The compilation covers his entire career of with songs made between 1985-1990, most of which went unreleased at the time. One of the few Moroccan rappers to ever be recorded on vinyl back in the 80s, Shams Dinn was a pioneer of Arabic flow. Starting his career because he wanted to be a positive light for the Arabic immigrants living in France. He earned his status participating in freestyle competitions, and performing in small clubs around Europe. His career came to a turning point when he was asked by a major label to record a full LP. Unfortunately, the label decided they didn't want to promote Arabic music (largely because of the Gulf War) - and asked Shams to translate the Arabic to French. Shams Dinn wouldn't stand for that, and he was dropped from the label. The following years he worked at a school, teaching kids how to rap and express themselves through words. The reissue comes with newly imagined art, and an inner sleeve with interview and photos. 


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