I could do with something fun right now. Couldn’t you?
This is the very thing, a slab of fruity foolishness from Phil MFU – the eponymous Man From Uranus – who is also part of the brilliant Vanishing Twin (and Broadcast, before that). Library sounds, you ask? Psychedelia? Moog noodling? Tick tick tick – plus a whole load of inspired mucking about. It reminds me of both the superb compilation A Psychedelic Guide to Monsterism Island and Fantasma-era Cornelius, which are pretty good reference points.
‘Energy Charger’ opens up with some 8bit-ish upbeat enthusiasm, before ‘Stationary Object’ takes us into more reflective, mind-altering territory. And that’s the two sides of this album, really. ‘Cucumber Sword’ – cough – is probably the best example of the first sort of track, with some very excitable shouting/rapping from Taishi Nagasaka (Fat White Family). Look, the video pretty much explains the whole song:
After that we’re back into glitch-y tones, slowly stumbling rhythms. ‘Death Dreams of Opulence’, you say? Yes, and Neone Meate Dreams of the Octafish! RAM tapes, home of MFU, has a thing about amphibians – as the Orlando/TOMAGA split cassette made clear – and here’s the Man with a chorus of ‘Alien Frogs’, who are not advertising crap beer:
The penultimate track, ‘Cosmik Telephone’, is interrupted by what I can only describe as a dissolve sequence soundtracked by the Clangers, before busting out some full-on skronk. If this is a telephone conversation it sounds like the colloquy of elephants – maybe a trunk call? ‘Dream Trains,’ which closes the album, starts with no wave guitar and clonking drums before moving on to the calmer sounds of goods trains clanking past while contemplative piano plays.
This is a thoughtful, fun, inventive, where’s-that-going?! album and I urge you to give it a listen.
Buy from RAM Tapes Bandcamp page whydon’tcha?
Cathy Lucas – of Fanfarlo and Orlando, both BBO favourites – has recruited members of Tomaga, Floating Points, and Broadcast, as well as film maker and artist Elliott Arndt to form Vanishing Twin. The band are named after Cathy’s identical sister who was, apparently, absorbed in utero, so that she’s still part of Cathy (sort of. google it).
The album covers a lot of ground, as that list of reference points might suggest, but the tone seems to be set by a gentle collision between psychedelia and soundtrack/library music, held together by lovely percussion and Cathy’s voice. ‘The Conservation of Energy’ possesses a perfect pop sheen, while ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ makes me think not just of those 70s/80s US gamebooks but of Sara Lowes‘ own adventures in gentle psych. Beautifully produced by Malcolm Catto, there’s so much space in these recordings that this is about as cosmic as it gets – without a drone or fuzzed guitar in earshot.
And having a film maker (and flautist/percussionist, natch) on board means the videos are pretty damn amazing. This, for ‘Vanishing Twin Syndrome’, made me wonder (when my eyes had stopped leaking) if they were gently mocking a certain Swedish voodoo outfit:
And this video for ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ ticks many BBO boxes – brutalist architecture, peculiar figures in spacesuits (one playing a multiplug extension like a melodica), disembodied organs. It’s a bit like the BBO xmas party!!!11!
This is a rather special album from Soundway Records; a perfectly realised idea that’s also a musical adventure and certainly so much more than just a cheesy concept. I really think you should get yourselves a copy right now from their Bandcamp page.
So because we are always on the pop pulse, I missed the news that the great Fanfarlo have shut up shop. I hate it when bands we have loved (since 2008!) fold, but at least you can hope that each member will go on to produce interesting new music. That’s certainly the case with Cathy Lucas’s new project Orlando, who share this cassette/download release with Tomaga. RAM Tapes (or The Association for the Re-Alignment of Magnetic Dust to give them their full title) re-use old tapes for that essential crackle and pop experience, and the theme is suitably 80s: video game soundtracks, kerbside frogs, ghost mazes, etc. It’s too sophisticated – at least to these cloth ears – to be just more chiptune landfill but it’s extremely playful all the same. The Orlando side is closer to Cornelius in terms of its invention and charm; the Tomaga side is a little more spacious, dubby, dronish. As an album it’s a pretty irresistible combination.
Orlando’s opening track brings you the croaks of a telepathic amphibian, a bit of bossa nova and a steely science-fictional theme, all in 3 minutes and 25 seconds.
While Tomaga’s ‘Giant Bitmap’ made me wonder whether Pacman ever got the cold sweats while cruising those haunted midnight mazes…
Highly recommended. Of course the tapes sold out long ago but the download is available from Bandcamp here. We look forward to the next RAM Tapes release.