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The Shapiros

Gone By Fall: The Collected Works Of The Shapiro

    World of Echo are pleased to announce the release of Gone By Fall – The Collected Works of The Shapiros, a 12-song compilation by a here today, gone tomorrow pop group formed by Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, The Pines, Glo-worm, Castaway Stones, Belmondo, etc.) and Bart Cummings (The Cat’s Miaow, Hydroplane, Bart & Friends, etc.), while the latter was in Washington, DC in 1994. Tapping into that city’s inspiring independent pop scene, looking for like-minded souls, Berry and Cummings were joined by Scooter, a.k.a. R. Scott Kelly (Veronica Lake, Belmondo, Sabine, etc.), and Trish Roy (Belmondo, Heartworms).

    The Shapiros may only have existed for a few weeks, during August 1994, but during that brief window of opportunity, the quartet recorded twelve gorgeous pop songs – nine originals, each a model of concision and restraint, and three covers, which gift the listener some of the coordinates to the group’s sound, a meeting point of C86 and the Brill Building Sound: lovely versions of Beat Happening’s “Cry For A Shadow”, 14 Iced Bears’ “Cut”, and The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”.

    The material was recorded over three days at Mulberry Lane, the basement studio of Archie Moore – who, at the time of the sessions, was busy as one-fifth of Velocity Girl – and released via time-honoured formats for independent pop: two seven-inch singles, one split single with another Cummings project (Pencil Tin), and a few stray compilation appearances. The band in many ways was driven by Berry, who organised the release of The Shapiros’ first two singles, through the Fantastic and Popfactory labels. This is unsurprising: as co-founder of the long-lasting Chickfactor fanzine, Berry was a significant and supportive presence in independent music in the USA.

    The songs on The Shapiros are perfectly formed; they’ve no need to say any more than what’s necessary, and this elegance of form lends them a timelessness that, for some, might seem outsize to the brevity of the project’s existence. But great things often happen in passing, capturing the sparks of a situation and the enthusiasms of new and unpredictable encounters. For Cummings, being in Washington was “the most fun I’d had in my life up to that point,” and he’s quick to point out the significance of what had happened in the city in recent times: it was a stronghold for creative independent pop music, with bands like Unrest, Velocity Girl, and Glo-worm, and thrilling pop singles being released at a fierce clip by labels like Teenbeat and the early Slumberland Records. The Shapiros’ music is a particularly seductive kind of blissful pop. The reverberant chime of a guitar, the subtle sweep of brushes on drums, a gently pulsing bass guitar, all perfectly played and placed, frame a beautifully unaffected voice, one that’s understated without being detached. It’s music that understands how small gestures are often the most deeply affecting. And though it may speak quietly at times, it’s strident and strong; clear and direct. They may have only recorded twelve songs and played two gigs (one supporting Lois and The Magnetic Fields, the other Nord Express), but what a body of work to leave behind – diminutive in the best possible way; every second of these twenty-five-or-so minutes of Shapiros magic counts, every moment matters.


    1. Paris Kiss
    2. Cry For A Shadow
    3. Month Of Days
    4. Gone By Fall
    5. Makes Me Smile
    6. Cut
    7. Do You Know
    8. Hundred Times
    9. He Said, She Said
    10. Cross Your Mind
    11. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
    12. When I Was Howard Hughes


    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.


      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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