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WORLD OF ECHO

The Cat's Miaow

Skipping Stones: The Cassette Years '92-'93

    The Cat’s Miaow return to World Of Echo with Skipping Stones: The Cassette Years ’92-’93, their second compilation for the imprint, and the fourth in a loosely defined series of reissues associated with the group (also including The Shapiros’ Gone By Fall: The Collected Works of The Shapiros and Hydroplane’s Selected Songs 1997-2003). It’s a smart selection of songs by one of Australia’s finest independent pop music groups, whose initial run, across the nineties, was as mysterious as it was bewitching. A generous double album featuring thirty-five songs drawn from The Cat’s Miaow’s history, Skipping Stones lets listeners in on a bunch more secrets.

    An even deeper pass through the archives of The Cat’s Miaow, Skipping Stones is a welcome follow-up to 2022’s Songs ’94-’98, which pulled together material from seven-inch singles and compilations. Diving into the four cassettes that the group released over a two-year period, Skipping Stones is full of surprises, rich with unexpected and inspired detours, while reminding everyone just how clear and distinct The Cat’s Miaow’s music was from the very start. Looking in from the outside, they always felt like a group that knew just what they were doing, but intuitive as they are, they weren’t forcing anything: these songs always sound exactly what they need to be, rough edges, playful moments and all.

    It's also a fascinating snapshot of one arm of the ‘international pop underground’. While they were clearly listening to music from the US, UK and elsewhere – there are glimpses of Galaxie 500, Spacemen 3, Beat Happening, and The Pastels in some of the songs here – The Cat’s Miaow also feel, consciously or not, part of a continuum of Australian underground pop that takes in The Particles, The Lighthouse Keepers, The Cannanes, The Honeys, Even As We Speak, and The Sugargliders (who they would cover several times). Like those before them, The Cat’s Miaow balanced opposing forces in their music: naivete and knowingness; fragility and strength; worldliness and world-weariness; play and seriousness; heartache and pleasure.

    The four cassettes that Skipping Stones draws from – Little Baby Sour Puss, Pet Sounds (both 1992), From My Window, and How Did Everything Get So Fucked Up (both 1993) – were released or assisted by Toytown, a Melbourne cassette label of rare taste, savvy and intelligence, run by Wayne Davidson. Toytown felt like the perfect early home for The Cat’s Miaow, their cassettes rubbing shoulders in the label’s catalogue with brilliant groups like Sukpatch, The Ah Club, Kitty Craft, and Land Of The Loops. The local context is just as important, too, with The Cat’s Miaow sharing their time and creative vision with friends in The Ampersands, Stinky Fire Engine, Girl Of The World, Super Falling Star, Pencil Tin and The Sugargliders. And cassettes were an important form of exchange – cheap, easy to reproduce, not too expensive to send interstate or overseas, they were the most accessible DIY format for any group starting to spread the word about their noise.

    All of this is to say, the thirty-five songs here landed in several different contexts, national and international, which goes part-way to explaining the group’s curious cosmopolitanism, the style and spirit in their sound. The Cat’s Miaow may have been bedroom dreamers, but their songs were richly informed, with the sweetest of girl-pop moves sashaying into walls of tremolo-d and distorted guitar, jangling six strings tangling with melodic bass that’s pure Peter Hook/Naomi Yang, while the gentle trickle of a drum machine or the earthy twitch of brushes on drum skins provided the spine for Kerrie’s and Bart’s lovely, unforced singing.

    There are a clutch of gorgeous songs here that would reappear in a different form on later releases, classics like “The Phoebe I Know”, “Third Floor Fire Escape View”, “Not Like I Was Doing Anything” and “You Left A Note On The Table”, but plenty of other magic too, all of it finding its way to vinyl for the first time (some tracks appeared on compact disc via the compilations A Kiss and A Cuddle [Bus Stop, 1996] and Songs For Girls to Sing [Drive-In, 1997]). Remarkably, The Cat’s Miaow have also recently released a split single with Rocketship featuring newly recorded material and returned to the stage for their second-ever gig.

    But this double LP on World Of Echo feels like the very core of the thing – some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful, effortlessly lush and deeply moving pop music you’re likely to hear.

    TRACK LISTING

    Disc 1 - Side A
    How Did Everything Get So Fucked Up?
    Make A Wish
    Hollow Inside (original Cassette Version)
    Faded (original Cassette Version)
    Not Like I Was Doing Anything (original Cassette Version)
    Disappointed
    I Wanted None Of This
    Fire Damage
    Halo

    Disc 1 - Side B
    From My Window
    Aurora
    It Might Never Happen
    Nothing's Ever Quite That Simple
    Brighter Star
    The Phoebe I Know (original Cassette Version)
    Little And Small
    Sleepyhead
    Dust From A Memory
    A 50s Ballad
    A Few Words
    From My Window

    Disc 2 - Side C
    Pet Sounds
    Third Floor Fire Escape View (original Cassette Version)
    You Left A Note On The Table (original Cassette Version)
    Short Sighted (original Cassette Version)
    I Hate Myself More Than You Do
    Talking To Trees
    Ice Cream
    Saviour For The Hurrying Man
    Ferry No. 6

    Disc 2 - Side D
    Little Baby Sour Puss
    Nothing New (original Cassette Version)
    Climb My Stairs (original Cassette Version)
    Autumn (original Cassette Version)
    I Really Don’t Know (original Cassette Version)
    Sunday
    Memphis ‘54
    Walk On By
    Georgie

    Guests are Jessica Higgins and Matthew Walkerdine of Glasgow, UK, both formerly of the bands Vital Idles and Mordwaffe. They have been closely tied with DIY music, art and publishing for over a decade. Using (amateur) electronics, singing, speaking and field recording they make songs which blend the rhythms of popular music and contemporary approaches to collage, sampling, improvisation and repetition. As inspired by film and art as they are the legacies of twee underground and avant garde experimentalism, their loose, domestically twinged compositions explore feelings, atmospheres and moments which are hard to articulate and the quite literal notion of being a “guest”.

    “I wish I was special” is their debut record, and with it a chance taken to explore terrain not previously covered by their other groups. The ideology of DIY practice appears integral to these eleven compositions, side-stepping virtuosity in favour of instinct and impression, unafraid to press unknown buttons and walk head first into mistake, finding inspiration where convention might not otherwise allow one to tread. The results are confoundingly fresh, sharp-of-mind, and unusually intimate. There’s an obvious intelligence at play here, and no little humour of course, but crucially there’s also a sense of the personal, a first-thought/best-thought (auto)didacticism that celebrates shared understanding and implicit trust. What, ultimately, we might view as the fearlessness in radically being yourself around another. It’s an approach that draws some comparison with the private musings of Flaming Tunes, Idea Fire Company’s domestic electronics, or perhaps even Annea Lockwood’s framing of emotional connection within avant garde structures. More so, Guests represent a compelling continuation of DIY post-punk experimentation that values intuition over prowess, and with it guides the listener into unexpected spaces that somehow comfort as much as they challenge.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Matt says: World Of Echo are fast becoming one of the most creative cult labels of recent times. After discovering the mighty Tara Clerkin Trio, they introduce to use this beguiling new act. Imagine if Dry Cleaning quaffed a load of Quaaludes and tried their hand at DIY electronix, and you might get the idea behind Guests.

    TRACK LISTING

    Talking About Talking
    A Veneer, A Promise, Whatever
    (my Cooperation)
    Arrangements, As In Making Them 
    (something Romantic)
    (anemones)
    Terrazzo
    Melodrama
    (glossy!)
    Chalky Outline
    (ha Ha Ha)

    Tara Clerkin Trio

    On The Turning Ground - 2024 Reissue

      Not far off two years from the day, Bristol's Tara Clerkin Trio return to World of Echo and the EP format for a five song collection of quixotic, emotional redolence. But do not mistake their absence for inertia. If their musical output has been a little sparse during those in-between years, limited to a few solo ventures and an astonishing ten minute long piece as a trio, their time has otherwise been richly spent: continuous writing and recording, extensive live performances across Europe and Japan, a cultivation of local and more far-flung artistic connections (musical and otherwise), and a monthly NTS show that, through the voice of others, speaks most obviously to their own unorthodox interests. It's the conflux of that winding activity that leads indirectly to On The Turning Ground, 26 minutes of probing, thoughtful composition that draws from no one specific source. Their inspirations might be centreless, but the trio still possess a very obvious anchor in the form of their hometown. Bristol stands as a city of multitudes, heterogenous and vibrant in such a way as to allow it to renew and remake time and again. Tara Clerkin Trio drink from that same well, duly reflecting a rich musical heritage built on fwd-facing electronic subcultures and experimental urges. As such, On The Turning Ground finds them subject to their own subtle internal evolution, the pervasive sense that you've caught them mid-bloom, on their way to becoming but never anything but themselves. The two instrumental pieces that bookend the EP stand as a perfect case in point, displaying an increasing mastery of compositional space. Pensive and restrained, 'Brigstow' and 'Once Around' both emanate an interstitial quality that's not so much after- as in-between-hours, miniature dub-folk symphonies held together by the kind of tacit understanding that remains the preserve of only the closest of family units. If those two tracks are shaped by a sense of shifting temporality, then the three vocal-led pieces that comprise the record's core feel like a gentle ossifying of aesthetic into something approaching their own unique form of avant-pop. 'Pop' is, of course, a broadly subjective concept, but there's no avoiding the overt sparkling melodicism of songs like 'Marble Walls' and 'The Turning Ground', undeniable re-directions of that late 90s impulse to bend pop sensibilities into off-centre terrain, to render the familiar new again. This is what Tara Clerkin Trio do, gently pulling the ground from under your feet, turning you to face something you'd not quite seen before. To view the world as they do: sideways, sometimes, all of the time.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Brigstow
      2. World In Delay
      3. Marble Walls
      4. The Turning Ground
      5. Once Around

      Tara Clerkin Trio

      In Spring - 2024 Reissue

        In spring, Again. But it's true this time. In Spring is the second record by Tara Clerkin Trio, a Bristol-based group who appeared to emerge from below the radar of near-all in early 2020 and in the presence of one of the most captivating records of that year. This latest 23 minute, four song collection, recorded in various stages and locations over the last twelve months, does nothing to detract from those first impressions, refining the woozy and shimmering oddness of their debut into an avant-pop sensibility that is increasingly their own. If the group did arrive fully formed, what that form was did feel supple and hard to grasp. They were, in a sense, essentially new sounding, or at least ghosts between the established lines, and with this new record have doubled-down on their inherently Delphian instinct. At its heart, In Spring is a record of subtle contrasts, experimental yet familiar in its intimacy, obviously modern though tied to certain lineages, and driven by a pop logic which is also free-form and seemingly improvised. Their approach to sound is perhaps the guiding principle here, less concerned with genre as it is texture and feeling, drawing from jazz, folk, modern composition, trip hop and downtempo electronica, yet evading all of those categorisations. Tara Clerkin Trio are too generous of heart to be ripping up any rulebook, they simply seem oblivious to its need. Their geography does provide some context. Bristol's progressive sonic heritage inescapably bleeds into these four tracks, the enclave of open-minded artists around Planet Records in the mid 90s perhaps the closest point of comparison. There's that same magpie spirit which is both futuregazing and aware of its past, though is mostly set on finding its own path. This is in essence what defines Tara Clerkin Trio, feeling their way through freedom of instinct and curiosity, forging their own desire lines. Not so much taking the road less trodden, just walked at their own winding pace. "Done before, And I'll do it again" Ringing in my head While I try To feel.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Done Before
        2. Night Steps
        3. Memory
        4. In Spring.

        Not far off two years from the day, Bristol's Tara Clerkin Trio return to World of Echo and the EP format for a five song collection of quixotic, emotional redolence. But do not mistake their absence for inertia. If their musical output has been a little sparse during those in-between years, limited to a few solo ventures and an astonishing ten minute long piece as a trio, their time has otherwise been richly spent: continuous writing and recording, extensive live performances across Europe and Japan, a cultivation of local and more far-flung artistic connections (musical and otherwise), and a monthly NTS show that, through the voice of others, speaks most obviously to their own unorthodox interests. It's the conflux of that winding activity that leads indirectly to "On The Turning Ground", 26 minutes of probing, thoughtful composition that draws from no one specific source.

        Their inspirations might be centreless, but the trio still possess a very obvious anchor in the form of their hometown. Bristol stands as a city of multitudes, heterogenous and vibrant in such a way as to allow it to renew and remake time and again. Tara Clerkin Trio drink from that same well, duly reflecting a rich musical heritage built on fwd-facing electronic subcultures and experimental urges. As such, "On The Turning Ground" finds them subject to their own subtle internal evolution, the pervasive sense that you've caught them mid-bloom, on their way to becoming but never anything but themselves.

        The two instrumental pieces that bookend the EP stand as a perfect case in point, displaying an increasing mastery of compositional space. Pensive and restrained, 'Brigstow' and 'Once Around' both emanate an interstitial quality that's not so much after- as in-between-hours, miniature dub-folk symphonies held together by the kind of tacit understanding that remains the preserve of only the closest of family units. If those two tracks are shaped by a sense of shifting temporality, then the three vocal-led pieces that comprise the record's core feel like a gentle ossifying of aesthetic into something approaching their own unique form of avant-pop. 'Pop' is, of course, a broadly subjective concept, but there's no avoiding the overt sparkling melodicism of songs like 'Marble Walls' and 'The Turning Ground', undeniable re-directions of that late 90s impulse to bend pop sensibilities into off-centre terrain, to render the familiar new again. This is what Tara Clerkin Trio do, gently pulling the ground from under your feet, turning you to face something you'd not quite seen before. To view the world as they do: sideways, sometimes, all of the time.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Matt says: Quietly and consciously amassing a cult base through some carefully considered releases, Bristol's Tara Clerkin Trio might by the avant jazz / punky-dubby-acoustic-industrialists you never knew you needed until now. Beautifully hushed and intimate music that's not afraid to push the envelop when necessary. Another triumph.

        TRACK LISTING

        Brigstow
        World In Delay
        Marble Walls
        The Turning Ground
        Once Around

        Movietone

        Movietone - 2023 Reissue

          Originally released in 1995 by Planet Records and reissued on CD in 2003 by The Pastels’ Geographic Music imprint, this is the first time Movietone has been reissued on vinyl. An expanded double-LP edition, it includes the extra tracks from the 2003 CD (their first two singles, and an unreleased demo of “Chance Is Her Opera”), and adds three more unearthed gems: demos of “Alkaline Eye” and “She Smiled Mandarine Like”, and an early take of “Late July”, recorded in a garden by Dave Pearce (Flying Saucer Attack) in 1993. Taken together, this is the definitive collection of music from the first phase of one of Bristol’s most remarkable groups.

          Movietone was the cumulation of a series of events, explorations, and discoveries, starting at secondary school – the group’s core membership of Kate Wright, Rachel Brook, Matt Elliott and Matt Jones met at Cotham School in Bristol. As for many other groups, their early years were all about experimenting, and finding ways to ‘make do’, a DIY sensibility that would inform Movietone through their decade-long lifespan. From formative rehearsals in a shed in the garden of Brook’s family home, to recording early material to four-track in Redland Library, and on into the Whitehouse and Mr Grin’s studio sessions for their debut album, Movietone’s music fell together in a creatively unpredictable, yet conceptually rigorous manner.

          By the time they released Movietone, they’d found a home with Bristol’s Planet, run by author Richard King and James Webster, who had both released their first two singles, “She Smiled Mandarine Like” and “Mono Valley”. There was other music happening around them in Bristol, too, from the Jones brothers’ avant-rock outfit Crescent (who were Movietone’s closest conspirators), through Elliott’s jungle/electronica project Third Eye Foundation, and Brook and Elliott’s membership of Flying Saucer Attack. A closely knit community, Movietone are the centre of this nestling architecture of groups.

          The vision in the music, mostly, belongs to Wright, but Movietone ran in democratic creative consort. Listening back to Movietone, you can hear this democracy in action through the wildness of the music, which is balanced by the poetics of Wright’s lyrics and melodies. Full of half-captured memories and entangled abstractions, there’s an elliptical, ruminative quality to much of the writing here that shows the deep influence of the Beat Generation writers, along with a twilight environment captured in the songs that’s pure third-album Velvets, Galaxie 500, early Tindersticks, Codeine. Unpredictable interventions – the crashing glass in “Mono Valley”, the sudden explosions of “Orange Zero” – point towards the noise blowouts of My Bloody Valentine, the unpredictability of Sonic Youth; Wright’s understated vocal cadence suggest a deep, embodied understanding of John Cage’s Indeterminacy.

          Movietone would go on to make three fantastic albums for Domino – Night & Day (1997), The Blossom Filled Streets (2000) and The Sand & The Stars (2003) – and their Peel Sessions were released earlier this year on Textile. Still held in high regard by artists like Steven R. Smith, and The Pastels, whose Stephen McRobbie once described them as “one of the great unknown English groups,” it’s an absolute thrill to listen to Movietone anew – still inspired, still seductive, still magic, still mysterious.

          TRACK LISTING

          Side A:
          Chance Is Her Opera
          Heatwave Pavement
          Green Ray
          Orange Zero
          Late July
          Darkness-Blue Glow
          Side B:
          Mono Valley
          Coastal Lagoon
          Alkaline Eye
          3AM Walking Smoking Talking
          Three Fires
          Side C:
          She Smiled Mandarine Like
          Under The 3000 Foot Red Ceiling
          Orange Zero (single)
          Chance Is Her Opera (demo)
          Side D:
          Late July (demo)
          Alkaline Eyed (demo)
          She Smiled Mandarine Like (demo)


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