Posts Tagged ‘Quirky’

Cack Records – 7th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I rarely review the same album twice. I mean, really, what’s the point? Admittedly there are occasions when I’ll revise my opinion of a record or a band – I absolutely hated The Fall the first time I heard them on Hip Priest and Kamerads, but came around a couple or three years later. And yes, it’s inevitable that people go off bands or records after a period of time: some of the stuff you listened to in your youth is just embarrassing 15, 20 years later.

But the arrival of a picture-disc vinyl pressing of Touch & Go, the last album by Mr Vast does inevitably demand a revisitation of sorts. Unlike many albums I bang reviews out for, I have actually listened to Touch & Go since, because for all its zaniness, the endless procession of quirky oddball moments, and oddly 80s electrofunk vibe, it has some undeniably great songs on it, which are more than pure novelty.

Mr Vast released Touch & Go almost exactly three years ago, to an off-tune synth-disco fanfare of parping trumpets and the pitch that ‘he’s lost the fucking plot’. And so it was that Vast’s second compendium of cack pop crash landed on the planet. And I dug it. Writing for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ I draw comparisons to Har Mar Superstar and made some reference to 80s electroclash in an attempt to grapple with the whappy, tone-bending synths and bouncing basslines which are a dominant feature of a dizzyingly eclectic album, commenting that ‘if you think theatrical oompah and a self-help relaxation track with a twist shouldn’t feature on the same album, the perhaps this isn’t the album for you. But if you thrive on incongruity that goes far beyond postmodern hybridity, then Mr Vast is your man…Half smart-arse, half plain weird, wholly unpredictable, Touch & Go is as whappy as hell, for sure, but the execution is far from cack-handed’.

And I stand by that, although I’d certainly throw in certain similarities to the Bonzo Dog Band when considering Vast’s quirky, irreverent and exceedingly British eccentricity. Split into two halves across the ‘brekkie’ and ‘supper’ sides, the sequencing of the tracks is perhaps more noticeable in rendering an album of two distinct halves, with the second (‘supper’) side being more trippy folksy and less frenetic than the first (brekkie).

But what the vinyl release brings to the party is… groove. Naturally – it’s vinyl after all. Chances are, those who buy it will have already heard at least some of the music on-line, which again limits the need for further critical analysis of the music contained here. But as an artefact, as an experience… This brings new dimensions. Visually, it’s striking, to say the least, taking the concept of the original cover art to a new level. The rendering of something being something that it is not places it in the domain of the vaguely surreal, while the vibrancy of the shades is eye-popping. It’s a nice, thick chunk of wax and nicely mastered. And it comes with a doyley slipmat. It’s the first record I’ve ever seen with a doyley – and this one is gold and shiny! Of course, the track-listing has to go somewhere. Flippancy aside, in a world oversaturated with product and pointless tat, and a world of conformity and uniformity, Mr Vast is a glowing beacon of individuality and a maverick icon representing art, delivered with a demeanour of not giving a toss abut criticism or commerciality. This in itself makes Vast a hero; the fact the album’s a left-field corker only adds to his heroism.

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And there’s more here

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Mr Vast Vinyl

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Telephone Records – 8th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Wakefield-born and Glasgow-raised Martin Creed probably has a fair few detractors. The Turner Prize has a peculiar tendency to wind people up, art fans and critics and the general populace alike And so, while in art circles he’s known as a self-effacing, playfully provocative artist, to many, he is known as being the 2001 winner of the Turner Prize-Winner, who became infamous overnight for his installation piece, Work no. 227: the lights going on and off.

For many, such a work would be an unbearable albatross, but Creed is one of those people who’s always onto the next thing before the dust has settled around the thing before, and he’s a true polyartist, who has, seemingly, no fixed medium of choice, instead preferring to let his creative impulses flow through whatever medium he feels fits best. And throughout his career, the ever-idiosyncratic Creed has made music, with Thoughts Lined Up representing the latest in a long line of releases.

Judging by the cover image, and Creed’s spectacularly diffuse output, the title seems rather incredible. By which I mean, it’s hard to believe he could line up his thoughts in a queue for the checkout: this is a man who thrives on chaos, disorder, who eschews organisation and conformity in favour of free-flowing creativity, anarchy and all things random.

The title makes more sense in light of the artist’s own explanation of its meaning, which is refreshing in its simplicity: “It’s called Thoughts Lined Up because that is literally what it is,”, he says, “just all these bits – these thoughts – put in a row one after the other, trying not to worry about what they add up to. Most of it started as audio notes recorded on the Tube or in the street – just little everyday mantras that you say to yourself as you go along; things that come up in your head, and that help keep you going, or that sometimes you want to go away…”

And so, the end product is an album that in many respect is a one-stop compilation, a work which wouldn’t be much further from a concept album if it tried – unless that concept was a haphazard collection of songs thrown together and sequenced one to twenty-four out of conventional and commercial necessity. One kind of gets the impression that if all of the album’s songs could have been arranged to play simultaneously, then that’s how they would have been presented. The thoughts are lined up, in a sequence, but this isn’t a linear album or a collection of songs unified by anything beyond the mind from which they emerged.

According to the blurb, the album was Recorded at ArtSpace, Brixton, and mixed by Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios, the album was recorded to 1-inch tape in one week just before Christmas 2015, and mixed with sonic impresario Liam Watson, in glorious mono, on the ex-Abbey Road EMI desk at Hackney’s legendary, analogue-only Toe Rag Studios. Yes, mixed in glorious mono. On the one hand, given the audio technology we have now, however much one may adore the inimitable sound of analogue, to master an album in mono is simply perverse. On the other, it’s another manifestation of Creed’s rejection of convention, and at the same time can be seen as an observation on the way listeners actually hear music nowadays: just as everyone seems to be obsessed with shooting optimal quality photos with digital SLR cameras only for them to be viewed on piddly mobile phone screens via Facebook, so the idea of superior audio recordings to be consumed through shit iPod phones, laptop and mobile phone speakers seems absurd. And Martin Creed revels in those absurd contradictions, and does so with grace and humour, and not with one eye firmly set on the mass markets.

And so, the songs are amusing, entertaining, whimsical, wonky. Some sound half-finished, many evoke the spirit of the Bonzo Dog Band, while others call on psychedelic folk traditions, and other still call to mind the choppy sound of the early Fall albums, and Creed is unafraid of cumbersome or cliché rhymes. It’s a haphazard, hit-and-miss affair, but it’s zany and it’s fun and Creed’s singularity and disregard for marketability is admirable.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/167247762

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Martin Creed Online