An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

An Interview With Pieter Nooten

I don’t really get excited about celebrity, people are only human after all. Most celebrities are famous nowadays for having no talent whatsoever. I do have a great respect for some people who are talented though and show signs of being more than the average human. I then add greater respect for those talented humans that also have some semblance of realism and modesty. So that is probably why I don’t admire that many people as you can probably imagine. I find most people with talent have an equally sized ego to go along with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know from personal experience, that in order to be able to perform in front of peers, you need to have some sense of ego to be able to pull it off successfully. There is nothing worse than watching an artist that has no faith in their self or their art. Then, of course, there is the matter of living in a world full of people with talentless ego’s who have an insane jealousy of those with real talent.

The saying goes that history is written by the victors. In the modern world is seems to be written by those with the biggest mouth and the biggest ego. Thankfully, in the modern age, there are also other folk with a passion for truth and an eye that can see past the egos and feather displays.

Were am I going with this, you may ask? Well, one musician I greatly admire is Pieter Nooten. Pieter was one third of Clan of Xymox in the eighties. The Clan of Xymox album Medusa made my all time top ten albums (see previous blog entry). Pieter Nooten was the man who edged Clan of Xymox away from being just another goth band, or just from being New Order mark II. I am very fortunate to have been able to put a few questions to Pieter just this last week :

Before meeting Anke and Ronny (who formed Clan of Xymox), what kind of bands were you playing with?

When I was around 16 I used to play drums and later the bass guitar; always involved with local indie bands. Later I bought one of the first tascam 4track cassette recorders and got into composing.

Was there a clear direction in music style when you joined Anke and Ronny (Clan of Xymox), or did your sound develop?

I met them in Nijmegen in 1980 when they were a duo and we got on together immediately, being influenced by the same bands and sounds of the time. We desperately wanted to merge the new developments in music (affordable synths, drum machines, triggering etc.) with the new guitar music of that era.

Was Subsequent Pleasures self released? Why were most of the original copies of Subsequent pleasures destroyed?

I was not involved with the making (or destruction) of SP.

We met Dead Can Dance when they toured The Netherlands for the very first time and Brendan introduced us to Ivo Watts.

How did you personally feel about the way the band was represented by 4AD’s artwork?

They came up with the basic design. We were great fans of 23 Envelope.

Brendan and I became quite good friends for a while; he was –just like me- a big admirer of medieval and baroque music as well as more contemporary minimalist composers like Arvo Part. Brendan and I should have worked together but it never happened.

What was it like to work for 4AD? Did you have any good relationships still going today?

Oh yes. Friends for life I would say, even though I may not speak to them on a daily basis. I still keep in touch with Brendan, Vaughan and Ivo.

On the Medusa album there are some wonderful, even progressive, changes and styles, which is unlike most of the similar genres typical output of the time. Where did this influence come from, and were these non-traditional methods of non verse - chorus structures universally enjoyed within the band, or did it cause tensions?

At that time I was massively impressed and influenced by contemporary classical music as well as the more experimental pop acts (Tuxedo Moon, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, This Heat etc…). I definitely wanted Xymox to develop an influential and ground breaking sound. But Ronny wanted to become famous and produce more commercial sounding material.

Did you have any influence in producing the Medusa album?

Absolutely. I wrote a lot of the material for that album (AND the first). At the time we were all involved with the mixing and production of the albums. john fryer was the main producer and we listened to him but also came up with our own suggestions. Sometimes we would all be hanging over the mixing desk, one changing e.q's and someone else adding velocity etc

How did the work for This Mortal Coil work come about, what are your memories of that experience?

Ivo had a tape of demos of me and simply asked me to deliver that particular song for TMC. John Fryer, Ivo and me recorded it in London.

Have you found a greater appreciation recently for your work done with Clan of Xymox, now that the more recent incarnation of the band shows a distinct lack of your flare?

What can I say… I do get mails now and then. I am proud of what I was capable of at such young age and happy that this inspiration has never left me. On the contrary, it has evolved. My music becomes more and more mature and drifts slowly further and further away from pop music.

How much did you contribute to Anka’s album? What was it like to work with her again? Are there any plans to work with with her again in the future?

We both worked on Cocoon Time when we both lived in London and everything seemed to work out, before the record company that signed us sort of collapsed, as a prequel to what was going to happen to most of them later on…Anka and I have always worked together pretty nicely; we did most of the technical stuff with Xymox.

Absolutely. Mind you, I lost interest in most pop music at a young age already and my influences have always been kind of different. I do NOT have anyone in pop music to look up to so I am not trying to sound like anybody or anything. The music I write now, comes freshly from or should I say to, an open mind.

I have seen references that say you are the father of Dark wave, do you see any truth in that? Do you have any pride in your contribution?

I have never said such! Dark wave? What is that to begin with? Ha-ha.

It’s more cutthroat and backstabbing now than it was back then. But also, there is more opportunities then ever before. There is no money to be made from albums, and maybe that’s a good thing. Artists need to get out of their comfy zone to get noticed.

What are you working on now and what is inspiring you?

I have almost finished my next album. Nothing inspires me more then wonderful music but I am afraid it’s mainly music written centuries ago. This said, it doesn’t mean I am closed of from the present. I keep a close ear to any new music that’s out there.

To find out more about Pieter Nooten :

The music industry has never been kind to it’s artists, do you think the music industry is any worse today?

Is a more ambient direction a subconscious path or a consequence of age?

What are your memories of Dead Can Dance from those early encounters? Have you ever thought of working with Brendan Perry or Lisa Gerrard?

Do you recall how Clan of Xymox became involved with 4AD?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

How much is it worth?

Congratulations to Elizabeth who won the Cocteau Twins Italian 7” single of Pearly Dewdrops Drops. Watch this space as there may be more to come, seeing as I still keep buying releases twice!

There are changes in record collecting, and there have been interesting changes in 4AD collecting over the past couple of years. A couple of years ago, if you searched on ebay worldwide for “4AD”, there used to be on average 3 to 4 hundred pieces for sale. Now if you search for the same thing there can easily be 1500. In fact, a search done today returned 3741 items for sale. Smarter sellers are realising the best key words to use when adding an item on ebay.

This is probably a reflection on record selling online everywhere. There seems to be a myth that any vinyl, no matter how awful the music is, is collectable. I’m constantly finding the average middle aged couple has a couple of boxes of vinyl stuck up in their loft. When I ask why they are in the loft, they all seem to think that they are worth something and one day they will get around to selling them for a vast fortune.

Of course anyone who collects vinyl will know that the vast majority of vinyl is practically worthless. In the scheme of art collections around the world, vinyl is a poor mans hobby. The most valued item I can think of is the Quarrymen’s (The Beatles before they became The Beatles) single “That’ll be the day” of which only one (the original) exists and is owned by Paul McCartney. This has been valued at about £250,000. That sounds a lot of money, but this is the one single rarity that most likely dictates the value of all vinyl values below it. Very rare Beatles vinyl that was on general release fetch a couple of thousand pounds. Your average 1963 “Please Please Me” album will, if in really good condition, fetch £20 to £100. If your album is a late 1963 release then the value has fallen to half of this. This is the most famous in the world, and your original album from 1963 may not even be worth £10. Yet the myth prevails that your dusty and moldy set of Bay City Rollers LP’s will fetch a healthy sum when it comes to selling them!

Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Many folk are really shocked and disappointed when they find out how little their vinyl is worth. This myth is probably not helped by the marketers on ebay. I’ve mentioned before how the same single can be purchased for £1 and can also be found for sale at £30. I believe the professional market purposely has some stock over inflated in price, knowing it will never sell, but helps push the average price of a release up. This is also why there are so many items for sale as many items are overpriced tactical additions. Right now there is a Pixies Doolittle German LP on a buy it now price of 133.48 Euros??!! This shouldn’t be any more than 20 Euros at the most. It must be gold plated!

The market is on the up. Values are going up. There was even suggestion to investment bankers a year ago to look into music collections as a viable alternative to wine and gold. Music does have a fickle following though and the popularity of music’s followers determines the value of any music’s collection pieces. In 20 years, there may be no market at all, as the general public loses any interest in the physical value of music. If that happens the value of collection pieces will hit rock bottom.

So why am I collecting if what I collect could be worth nothing in time? As signs are showing recently of a trend in a disinterest in the physical release of an album or single, I believe an intended experience by artists and bands to enjoy a full package including the covers, books and anything included within it, will be lost. This will be a diminished experience as a set of MP3’s will be just a small portion of the intended piece of art. This full experience needs to be preserved. I think this also includes how the same art was packaged for different audiences and countries.

I hope that the trend reverses and people see more the worth of a physical product. But this isn’t helped by the industry, that will obviously make lots more profit out of a download file than a fully produced CD.

The market is changing, which way it will go is anybody’s guess

***Find me on Facebook***

Saturday, 26 November 2011

What is Goth???

First of all, let me remind everyone that I’m giving away a free Cocteau Twins 7” single, the winner to be decided on the weekend of 3rd December 2011. See my last blog entry for details.

This last week or so I’ve been setting up my facebook profile under my alias (an alias I have dragged with me for 17 years now, thanks Mr Kingsley). I keep noticing little arguments and squabbles about the definition of goth, the culture and music. It’s so funny....nothing changes.

I have always admitted to being unashamed of being a goth. But more of a home and slippers goth nowadays. The definition has changed every year for the past nearly 30 years. The music, I think, can never be defined. Probably because the early goth music, the real stuff and not the 2nd, 3rd, 4th set of pretenders, was so diverse. The bands were more defined by the post punks that listened to their music. By the late 80’s goth music in the UK was becoming narrowed in it’s variety. Post punk was going massively out of style and became so “yesterday”. The tag “goth” became more of an insult than a description. The big bands the goths followed at the time, Sisters of Mercy, Mission, Cure, Fields of the Nephilim, All about Eve, Cocteau Twins and Dead can Dance, all hated the term, constantly making a point of refuting even the suggestion that they were goth bands.

By the early nineties, goth in the UK had become a very underground and inward looking scene. Goth had become more about a whole culture than just about music. It was about respecting death and darkness, getting the “meat” out of life, reading literature that dealt with culturally  uncomfortable issues, such as death, deformity, depression, exclusion. It became a feeling more than a simple definition.

Because of this, goth also became elitist. As the culture became inward looking and protective, the music became elitist and inward looking. The vast amount of UK goth bands in the early 90’s were just copycat bands of the big bands of the late eighties. Goth had started as a single step from punk and glam, with a do-it-yourself inventiveness and a daring to try anything in style and direction. It was varied to such a degree that even 30 years on, the older goths still argue over who is inclusive and who is not because of that variation in style. By the late eighties the style got narrowed into a stadium rock direction. The early nineties copycat bands hardened the rock edge to the point that punk and inventiveness had disappeared completely. As some goth bands blended into death metal , anyone wearing black clothes and eyeliner was a goth.

Goth’s downfall has always been it’s elitism. For me, what goth is is defined by a feeling. An attraction to dark romanticism, a real romantic, not just someone after a shag or trying to be better than someone else. Mixed with a spirit of invention and exploration, it is also a deep love and a need to understand and respect the darker and negative aspects of human life. As I define goth this way, I have met very few goths in my life, even though I have supposedly been surrounded by goths for a great portion of it. As I don’t know what is in a persons heart and desires, I cannot say that anyone is not a goth either.

Too many people spend too much time, deciding who around them is goth and who isn’t. Which for me shows a lack of love and respect and adds to the elitist element that has become all too common in the modern goth culture. If you wish to define yourself as a goth then that is part of your relationship with yourself and your own definition of it.

As for the music, to really get an experts definition, the best person on the planet is a journalist called Mick Mercer. The best person to have heard and seen it all and documented every bit of it.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Competition Time!!!

Even with the best database or tracking spreadsheet, I should imagine all of us accidentally buy a release that we find we already have. This happens too often to me. I’m just not careful and thorough enough at times and don’t realise my mistake until the point I excitedly unpack the delivery and add it to my collection...

DOH!!!....I have that already, f..ff...fff...forty two and half!!

Sometimes this is good. It gives me a chance to compare the two releases and on occasion find out that there is a slight difference in matrix, or a code, or a small piece of text. Which then adds as another piece of the vast puzzle of release versions and variations.

Occasionally though the releases are exactly the same. But this can be good in this case. As you, good reader, have a chance at a freebie. In the spirit of respect to all you collectors and those who appreciate the gems of 4AD. I am willing to give away this weeks’ dumbass duplication to an appreciative reader. Postage included.

This weeks spectacular cock up, is in the shape of a Cocteau Twins, Italian release of Pearly Dewdrops Drops 7” vinyl single on Virgin Records from 1984.

I have pondered for a while how best to do this in order to minimise some greedy git trying to get it, just to sell it on ebay. Well firstly, it isn’t in mint condition, but then when it’s for free I hope a collector would just appreciate owning a copy. Secondly, I would love to know why you would like this in your collection. Hopefully that will put off, or at least make it a little more obvious, those of you who are genuine and against some arse that wants to make an easy cash in.

Out of the genuine looking requests I will pick out a lucky winner at random.

To apply, send an email to me using my name (all one word) at Let me know why you would like this release for your collection and how you define your collection. I have no interest in anyone’s email address and will not be using your email address for anything other than informing you of your success. I will certainly not be passing your email address on to anyone else and will not use it for any mailings etc (just to clear that up)

Get your email in by the 2nd December 2011 and I’ll randomly choose a winner that weekend.

Good luck all and I look forward to reading your responses

***Find me on Facebook***

Thursday, 3 November 2011


I’m sure I’m not on my own wondering where the time goes. Or wondering how I can find the time to do the things I want to do while not being a hermit, a bad husband and not being completely anti-social.

I work full time and sleep. So out of the normal day, I’ve lost 16 hours straight away. Out of the remaining time I need to eat, exercise, walk and feed the dog, groom myself, smoke, do home chores, shopping etc etc. The time that is left is mine then to split between my life priorities. These are
Spending time with my wife (outside of the above tasks)
The 4AD project
Other music
Going “out”

The Playstation currently gets the lowest priority, which is annoying as I do like to play. But Playstation time is very selfish, especially as my long suffering wife, as most level headed wives, doesn’t go for the first person shoot em up war games. So the best use of this spare time is killing two birds with one stone, watching a movie with my wife.

This leaves my 4AD project with about an hour a day if I’m lucky. These blog entries can take me all week to write up, correct and post. Which takes time away from looking for collection pieces, keeping up to date on a handful of blogs and facebook, emails, looking after the Discogs data, and planning future blog possibilities. Most of the blog work I do is done at work. I go into work an hour early and work on my 4AD project stuff before I start work. This time is precious and usually quiet, not always though. But just to compose an email would in theory only take five minutes, but of course it never does, so I’m usually lucky to get my Discogs inbox cleared, send out an email, check one or two forums and that’s the morning gone.

I need a secretary.

This isn’t just a load of excuses. I bet many of you have the same issues. At least I’m fed (sometimes too much), warm, working and have a loving wife and a stupid dog. 

So to recent purchases :

Pixies - Here comes your man - UK Cd single
Pixies - Bossanova - Czech cassette album
Ultra Vivid Scene - Special one - US Cd Single
Cocteau Twins - 4AD Catalog sampler - 1 sided promo cassette

Friday, 28 October 2011

4AD Top Ten Albums

So after I gave you my all time top ten albums, you lucky people, I thought I would share the pick of my top ten 4AD albums. In rough order of release, these are the albums that have led me to want to collect 4AD. They show a great diversity of style for release from the same label.

So here goes -

Bauhaus - In the Flat Field

One of the enjoyments I get from music, is finding something different, something new that is totally different to anything I have heard before. Most of these albums did that for me. I discovered Bauhaus in the late eighties, by which time they had completely gone as a band and split into their separate projects. The first Bauhaus album I discovered was Mask. Mask was led by David J’s bass, a sound at the time I was obsessed with. Bauhaus did it differently to everyone else though. In time I appreciated this debut album more than Mask. It has an eccentrically English feel to it, unhinged and steeped in a old world of perversion behind closed doors. Steampunk?

The Birthday Party - Junkyard

Junkyard hurt your ears. It was loud, unapologetic, raw, and wonderfully disjointed. The birthday party were a rip off of The Pop Group, but took the idea further. In a similar way to Siouxsie Sioux’s vocals, all the instruments sounded out of tune and yet together somehow worked. It sounded ,on first passing, as though a bunch of 5 year olds were playing punk, until you notice interesting time signatures, mad silences, and complicated runs. The more you listen, the more you enjoy and love hating it at the same time.

Clan of Xymox - Medusa

Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares - Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares (Volume 1)
I started listening to this only recently as I continued to pick up more pieces to the collection. Two things seem amazing about this album. On the first few plays, you can hear some of the sounds that must have influenced Lisa Gerrard as she heard the folk music of many cultures as she grew up. The second surprise is the picture that forms in your head of the quite young choral singers that must be making up this choir, the voices sound so youthful and alive. I got quite a shock to see the photo’s of the general choir member, generally middle aged and showing faces of wisdom and experience. Hardly the angelic innocence that washes over you as a listener. You can only be impressed that this sound is the countries folk music. It’s a reflection of the geographic place Bulgaria finds itself, stuck between East and West mixed with Baltic influences with a disregard for the 12 note western standard.

Various - Lonely is an Eyesore

This album is a 4AD legend. It nicely wrapped up 4AD at a point just before the introduction of a new direction for 4AD with the signing of The Pixies. The whole album flows like a concept piece, which is remarkable to say each artist is different in their own way and yet the album feels as though it keeps a constant theme running through it. It changes mood from a sampled covered opening track from Colourbox which wakes you up and pulls you straight in into This Mortal Coil’s mellow Acid, Bitter and Sad. Yet the transition seems seamless. The Colourbox track may be brash, but it still retains enough calm within it to allow This Mortal Coil to follow. This sums up the whole album, nothing is out of place. This also came in several formats, the original LP had a wallet like sleeve, with all the 4AD releases so far, listed on the inside with a key as to whether still available or deleted. There was also a limited edition release, which had a 4 sleeve foldout inner and 12” colour book all in a card box sleeve. Then there was the ultimate 4AD release, some would say, a wooden box version of the album. Limited to 100 copies, 70 of which were given to 4AD band members, staff and the like and only 30 sold to the general public. This was a wooden box containing the LP, cassette, CD and video of the album, along with individual pieces of artwork unique to every box.

Lush - Scar

This was only a mini-album, but still an eye-opener for me. At the time, Indie music was taking off in a big way in the UK and hidden within this surge was a style called shoegazing. I personally never liked the shoegazing scene. For me it had too much of a fixation with the beat generation of the sixties, which never did anything for me, yes, even the Beatles. Although Lush were kind of lumped in with the rest of the shoegazing crowd, I heard something strangely new. This was the first time I had heard loud fast guitar music mellowed with a soft slow and sensual female vocal floating along the top of the white noise. There was also a track called Etherial, and to me this title summed up the music completely. Now the term Ethereal is used to describe even Dead Can Dance, which I still class as world music. Ethereal still conjures up for me what Lush introduced me to, the musical battle of noise and angelic harmony. They never did this again and got sidetracked into Britpop

Pixies - Doolittle

In 1990 in the UK, everyone was going Pixies mad. This was their fourth album, but this one got them a lot of attention in the UK. I had never heard anything like this before, it was completely new, had a sexual depravity akin to Bauhaus and was also mentally unhinged. Doolittle was a revolution in music for me like punk was more than a decade before, yet it took nearly two decades for everyone to slowly realise it. When you heard Nirvana a couple of years after this, Nirvana sounded like very poor, quick fix imitators to me. I never rated Nirvana either. In the UK, this had a special release at independent record shops which had the LP with a 12” book, a set of 12 postcards all in a Pixies Doolittle plastic bag. Very nice

Dead Can Dance - Aion

This Mortal Coil - Blood

I listened to this constantly in 1992. This album can keep you gripped musically, but it’s also fascinating as a project. There’s so much to find out about This Mortal Coil. The session musicians are from all over 4AD and beyond on this album and many of the songs are cover versions. The track that always leaves me close to tears is the cover of the Byrds “I Come and Stand at Every Door”. An individuals musical history of discovery is always interesting. I heard this version years before I heard the Byrds original version. This Mortal Coil’s interpretation of this song is incredibly moving and powerful. The original version is very good, but very much of its time in a sort of hippy, preachy way. So I prefer This Mortal Coil’s version. But is that because I heard that one first??

Lisa Gerrard - The Mirror Pool

Lisa Gerrard works on a level unlike no-one else. A true independent and individual artist. She has a way of expressing music that is deeply spiritual and beautiful without having to use any traditional language. To see Lisa perform live is a opportunity not to miss. This was Lisa’s first solo album after a career as one half of Dead Can Dance. Originally released on CD, it was later possible to get the album on vinyl, which is a real treat. The Mirror Pool is possibly less accessible to a pop fed audience, even less so than Dead Can Dance possibly are. But as with all great music, time devoted to it is paid back in multitudes. I always wonder when I hear music like this, how can anyone that says they love music, not be swept away with an album like this?

Most of these albums are from the first decade. Although many believe the nineties were 4AD’s best decade, I feel the nineties were the turnaround in music, where the number of artists shot through the roof, but the diversity fell dramatically. This was typified even in 4AD.

I would recommend any of these albums, the Lonely Is An Eyesore compilation would be fine introduction though.

Until the next post, thanks for taking the time to read through a man’s dribbling fondness.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Celebrating 1000 views

We have hit a huge milestone. Well, for me it’s a huge milestone. There has been a thousand views of this blog since it’s beginning. That may not seem like much to some, but for me it’s a minor miracle. I was extremely excited by having 20 views, and then 50 views. I never expected this amount of interest at all. A big thank you to everyone that has taken a look at this blog, many many thanks to those that have returned for a second or third read. A big sloppy kiss to those that have signed up to this blog and a humble and subservient puppy like leg humping to the two great people that have took time to leave a comment.

I have been away on holiday for the last couple of weeks, but hope to regularly get back to updating this blog, starting with a top 10 4AD albums

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Lifetime of Music in Ten Albums

The hardest thing for any serious music fan to do, is to give any sort of favourite band, song, album etc. But it’s also loads of fun. So I decided to compile what is one of the hardest things to compile, a top ten album list.

Of course, this list is likely to change on a daily basis. But I’ve tried to be as subjective as possible. So this is a list of albums that I have always thought to be sheer brilliance. Also, I have included only albums where there isn’t a single track that lets the whole album down. With one exception. The only order they are in is by release year.

And the relevance to this blog I hear you ask? Well, two out of the ten are 4AD. That may not seem much, but out of hundreds of albums that have been the soundtrack to my life, it is quite incredible that two are from the same independent label.

Budgie - Never Turn Your Back on a Friend

Apart from the Roger Dean gatefold cover, this was is an incredible album. A clean and crisp recording, the whole album is like a set of sessions rather than an over produced set of layered tracks. All the songs seam natural on this album. The song lengths reflect where they should go and for how long they should go on for and not a second too long or short. So it has a mix of quick hard rock anthems and thoughtful journeys that don’t over indulge. They never did it again as good as this.

Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn

This is the one exception to the rule. A perfect album, with an awful twist at the end. A vocal track about about the joys of riding your horse. Apart from this terrible little ditty, the album is magical. The album has two tracks, where as usual Mr Oldfield plays thousands of instruments. The magic though is in the play of styles that runs through the songs. This is a mixture of classical, folk, medieval, tribal, all rolled together seamlessly as though he’s asking “how else would it sound?”. It’s also modest and not loud and brash. It takes genius to get that balance.

Joy Division - Closer

I was listening to this album quite a lot before I knew of it’s significant back story. One of the most Gothic albums ever made, but don’t dare ever say that. I love the schizophrenic element to this album, one minute up, the next minute right down to the very bottom. The depth this album reaches is beautiful in it’s darkness and yet manages it without any pretension, just sincerity. Then when you think you have understood the gravity of it’s aura and go on to discover the back story to this album, an even greater depth that you thought wasn’t possible is added.

Shock Therapy - Shock Therapy

An early “Industrial” pop album from the US, it’s raw, honest and at first you don’t notice the depth of the lyrical content. The music mixes the styles of Killing Joke, Alien Sex Fiend and Death Rock with a synthpop edge which would be more akin to the industrial pop bands of the 90’s. Filled with a satisfying mix of catchy riffs and mental conflict, it has a surprising depth which is given an added dimension with the unfortunate circumstances of it’s lead man, Gregory ‘Itchy’ McCormick who died in 2008 aged 44.

Clan of Xymox - Medusa

Not every band are completely original, but some perfect their genre. Clan of Xymox were great in the UK if you were elitist in your musical tastes. The music is very accessible, but by the late 80’s and early 90’s were not in the “it” crowd’s repertoire of music. I was shouting to every DJ in the early 90’s about how good this band were and no-one took me seriously. Now they are the darlings of the underground Goth movement when their music has become dull and predictable. Pieter Nooten is the shining star on the album and Clan of Xymox are the lesser for his absence. Mixes Joy Division, The Cure and Depeche Mode together with almost progressive changes and switches, that stop the songs becoming typically pop structured. Medusa is filled with emotion without going too deep, but deep enough.

The Cure - Disintegration

This was the second in what was to become a trilogy of albums. (Pornography, Disintegration, Bloodflowers). This is a perfect album and considered by many to be The Cure’s best. Very serious, purposefully depressive and fueled by Robert Smith’s drug of choice, it’s glimpse into what may have become of Joy Division in another world of what if. Disintegration also has a rare quality, of making the user slightly annoyed at the more upbeat tracks, but they help unhinge the listener before knocking you straight back down again.

Dead Can Dance - Aion

Dead Can Dance have led an interesting musical journey, from Post Punk debut to almost African jingly janglies on the final album. Aion was the halfway point which perfected a sound before quickly moving on to other styles. Even though it mixes classical, tribal, medieval and rock, it mixes in just the right amounts. Brendan Perry still gets plenty of great bass lines in, and the percussion moves you in a primeval way. Lisa Gerrard’s vocals are not classical, but unique to...well, herself. Many bands have tried to imitate this album but have fallen well short. It’s a fine line to walk to achieve an album like Aion succesfully. Many imitators are either too far on the rock end to be interesting, or too far on the cheesy end of attempting classical music and failing miserably. Dead Can Dance are genius.

Spock’s Beard - Beware of Darkness

Progressive rock is not to everyone’s taste. Some of it is way too over indulgent and on the other end of the spectrum, too boring, rigid and afraid of itself. Since the seventies turned on prog, it was very uncool to do anything other than 4 minute pop or rock songs. During the 90’s, the tide turned and now in the new century most types of music are at least tolerated. Spock’s Beard were not afraid to be out and out prog rock. But they also learned the lessons of the seventies. Although Beware of Darkness is typical of Yes and Gentle Giant, it has little to no pretension and has tongue firmly placed in cheek. It’s a fun album, but incredibly genius and clever and yet remains very accessible. Unfortunately, Spock’s Beard never did it again.

Tea Party - Transmission

It’s all been done before. The Tea Party picked up in the 90’s where Led Zeppelin stopped in 1980. The Tea Party have always leaned heavily on Led Zeppelin, especially with the hint of Indian and middle eastern percussion and strings. But this album has a depth I’m afraid Led Zeppelin never had. A depth even the lead singer Jeff Martin has said he never wants to go back to. The lyrics on Transmission making reference to Huxley, Orwell and Zamyatin, about death and the afterlife, have such depth and power, that you get completely lost in it’s dark waters. While still holding on to the Tea Party blues and the eastern influences, Transmission also mixes in industrial and plenty of keyboards.

The Girl & The Robot - The Beauty of Decay

I try to steer clear of newer albums making a top list, as time does change things when it comes to music. And a list like this usually has longevity as a proof of reckoning. But two recent albums were in close running. The one that didn’t make it was an album called R.E.T.R.O by a band called Mind in a Box. But pipped to the post is this Swedish duo under the moniker of The Girl & The Robot. Synthpop duos have been around for thirty years now. But the female fronted synthpop duo is a difficult variation to master. Eurythmics managed it with the Sweet Dreams album. But it’s rare to get the level of warm vocals mixed with cold minimal synths. The Beauty of Decay is a wonderful album. Dark enough to keep you gripped, warm enough to fall in love with and cold enough to make you shiver. A rare treat and I’m ready for a new album from them!!!

So that’s my top ten albums of all time.

It’s about time some of you readers added some comments. Get a google account and stop me talking rubbish, otherwise I’m likely to think that everyone agrees with every scrap of rubbish I come out with. I would love to read some of your top ten albums.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Dead Can Dance

If I remember correctly, I first discovered Dead Can Dance through the Lonely Is An Eyesore 4AD compilation album.  They had two tracks on the compilation. The first was a track called Frontier. What a eye opener that track was!  Partly classical, but with a tribal percussion running all the way through.  I was transfixed with the liner notes saying that the main percussive instrument that Lisa Gerrard bangs away on, was a water drum of some kind, and they struggled to get a full recording from it in one go as the water just kept leaking out of the drum due to the aggressive nature of being belted for three minutes by Lisa.

I had never heard anything like it before.

The second track and the compilations closing track, was called The Protagonist.  This was a slow 9 minute droning piece that slowly built up a momentum from near nothing to a barrage of what sounded like brass instruments.  This track I wasn’t so sure about.  I had come across this kind of slow build up repetitive atmosphere style on a couple of albums from my earlier youth.  There is a track on Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and another on Mike Oldfield’s Ommadawn that did a similar thing.  They built up layers slowly on a repetitive loop. I also heard a similar thing in classical music, such as Saturn The Bringer of Old Age from Gustav Holst’s The Planet Suite.  As a youngster I didn’t appreciate these kinds of pieces as much as I should have.   I was always tempted to skip over them.  Of course, this was the impatience of youth. I learned to appreciate them much more as I grew older.

So for a while Dead Can Dance took a slow burn with me.  I bought a Clan of Xymox album called Medusa around 1988 and got heavily into that. I bought the first Dead Can Dance album in 1989. This was the debut album from 1985. This wasn’t an album that I just got straight into. I was discovering so much music at the time that the album got lost in the collection for a short while.

I was getting heavily into the Goth scene at the time, a scene which was becoming more transfixed with the rock element of itself than it’s punk foundations.  I was more fascinated by it’s experimental punk origins than where the scene was by the early ‘90’s.  To my amazement, in a high street newspaper and magazine shop in 1990, was a book called “Gothic Rock” by Mick Mercer.  Goth was so underground at this time that to see an A4 size book on the high street was a shock.  It was a fascinating book, full of interviews with Goths in the UK, fanzines and most of all a full ten year history of Goth bands.

Within these hallowed pages was a surprisingly small section for Cocteau Twins. If I remember correctly they were roughly described as pretenders of Dead Can Dance.  This was a shock.  I had picked up the Blue Bell Knoll album a little earlier and loved the sound, but was shocked at this opinion.  Cocteau Twins had been releasing music from 1982 under 4AD and yet Dead Can Dance hadn’t released their debut EP until 1984.  I assumed, if anything Dead Can Dance were the pretenders. The debut Dead Can Dance album was a little early 80’s obvious in it’s style on a quick listen, and without study seemed nothing groundbreaking at all.

Then in 1990 the Album Aion came out, which I bought not knowing what to expect.  This time I was more determined to give it a bit more time and patience than the debut album I had only passively listened to. Aion was a world away from the debut album, so far away that I wondered if this was the same band at all. Medieval sounding, baroque with unusual instruments and powerful and yet what some at the time may have said, bordering on cheesy keyboard pad sounds. This album was going to take a bit of work to understand. But over the next year I really found the power it held, and realized it’s incredible beauty. During this time I also found out that Dead Can Dance had been together since 1980 writing music and preceded Cocteau Twins by a small margin. I also found out how unhappy Brendan Perry was with the production of the Dead Can Dance debut album and how it didn’t properly capture the band at the time.

So maybe Cocteau Twins were the young pretenders?

After “getting” what Dead Can Dance were all about, I started picking up every album they had done and were releasing.  I went over the debut album again, afresh.  Along with Aion, this is my favorite Dead Can Dance album now. It is quite different from the rest, but unique and powerful. I
find it a shame that the debut album seems to have become a work of slight embarrassment to them.  They never play anything live from this album either as Dead Can Dance or separately.  I think this album rings loudly with the Goth tag, which every band of this era has tried desperately to drop.

Dead Can Dance toured in 1990.  I was right in the middle of personal crisis at the time and couldn’t go and see them, which I regret deeply.  I never saw them live while the band were still together.  It wasn’t until 2005 when they briefly got back together to do a tour that I got the rare opportunity to see them live.  Seeing them live was an incredible experience, an experience you feel that you are deeply sharing with the rest of the audience.  The atmosphere was one of awe,  appreciation and respect.

However, a couple of years later, I had the privilege of seeing Lisa Gerrard live and that was an experience on an even greater level.  From the very start, the atmosphere in the theatre was not like anything I had experienced before.  A spiritual power came from stage that enveloped the whole audience.  You could practically see an aura of light passing from person to person.  By the end of the first song everyone in the audience was nearly in tears, and by the end of the performance, many were.  I have been to hundreds of bands, ranging from Death metal to classical, yet I have never had an experience like that before or since.  I’m not really a hippy dreamy tree hugger, but I know this description makes me sound like one.  The whole performance and mutual love and respect from my fellow audience members made the evening an experience I will never forget.

The news from the Lisa Gerrard camp is that Dead Can Dance are reforming in 2012 to do an album together and tour. I would strongly advise anyone reading this post to keep an eye out for them and see them when they tour, otherwise get your hands on a copy of Aion or Dead Can Dance and open your senses to a world of beauty

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Slap my thighs and call me Betty

I seem to be slowing down in my blogging. One of the reasons is perhaps down to the fact that I’m a bit useless at motivating myself to buy stuff. I must admit that in the great scheme of things, justifying spending money on second hand and old records and CD’s etc, seems a bit of a waste of money. Don’t get me wrong, food, heating, and the other necessities of life are an absolute priority, but once all those things are paid for, how do you justify what you spend the remainder on?

Here’s a run down of purchases from the last week or so.

Cocteau Twins   Aikea-Guinea UK CD Re-release
Pixies    Dig For Fire UK CD
Dead Can Dance   Spleen And Ideal UK CD
Colourbox UK CD
Bauhaus    Ziggy Stardust Greek with 4AD labels
Cocteau Twins   Head Over Heels    US CD
Breeders, The   Pod    German CD

The general stuff like this has to be collected in order to have a complete collection. But it’s hard to get as excited as a release I don’t have any copies at all of as yet, yet alone something rare and unusual. But then I suppose there is some excitement in finding something unexpected. The Colourbox CD listed here was a little unusual. The release on Discogs had an expected matrix the same as the catalogue number. The Matrix on the one I had though, had a completely different matrix, and slightly different to the same release I already had. So on closer inspection, I find out there are at least three matrices for the same release. Although 2 of them have “Made in France” on the disc, but I still believe they may all be UK releases.

I always think too much before buying anything. The same goes for my 4AD collection. There is always a hesitation before buying anything for the collection, and the more general the release, the greater the voice in my head argues over justification.

I will make a sincere effort to mentally beat myself into submission and slap myself around the chops a few times in order to get my daft brain in the correct collectors frame of mind. Come on Mr Halfhead, sort yourself out!!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Carpe Diem (Seize the fish)

Someone asked me last week how far through I am with my collection.  That’s a very hard thing to measure. When I first compiled a list of what had been released in the first decade, I had about 350 items listed, of which I had less than 100.  Over the next year or so the number of items on the list grew bigger and bigger and the amount of items I acquired did not keep up.

Before transferring my Excel spreadsheet list to Discogs, I had gathered a list of over 750 items to collect and still growing.  Of these I had about 350 items.  But the list was still growing faster than I was accruing items.

Things have changed a little now.  Because my collection is on Discogs, the wish list has been neglected.  I plan to expand my wish list on Discogs, but this only covers confirmed releases.  My list included items that were only rumours and I had never seen any proof of existence.  Discogs doesn’t allow additions for rumoured releases, they have to be proven releases, preferably by ownership.

My collection has more than 450 items now and, at a guess, I’m about halfway through what I know is out there.  The list of potentials is still growing even now though.  But then in a way, wouldn’t the day when I have everything be the saddest day of my life?  Probably.

I will make sure I enjoy the journey……………..

Sunday, 7 August 2011

How many melons can the morons monopolise!

After reading comments about recent problems between Throwing Muses and 4AD, I felt the need to have a moan about the major record industry in the world and reveal a couple of insights into the UK industry.

Musicians are artists. They do what they do for love, anger, sex, thrills, a need to emotionally expose themselves or to just enrich the world with a natural talent. The big difference between an artist and a fake, is the drive for money. There are plenty of musicians that make music regardless of money and there are a rare few who are lucky enough to have made some money from it.

Musical history is overrun with stories of exploitation, cheating, theft and abuse of artists by the industry that makes money out of these people’s personal struggle with life. In the late sixties, some independent record companies were started up in an appreciation of the artist and their work and tried to protect them from these carnivores of human emotion. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from some the excuse “well, they are a business and a business has to make money”. Business is the modern monster in our society. Anything is justified in the name of business and money.

In the late seventies during the punk revolution, groups of people and artists were so sick of the abuse by these vultures, that they set up independent record companies of their own. Out of these many independents came record labels such as Factory, Mute, and Beggars Banquet. Out of Beggars Banquet came 4AD. These independents loved the music they signed up and signed artists under a culture of fair play and a combined interest to get this art out to people who would appreciate it. This was a total contrast to the major record labels whose interest in music was irrelevant, they may have just been shipping units of melons for all the care they had in the artists.

Nowadays many of those independents are themselves majors (or have been swallowed up by them). The original management have gone elsewhere along with their keen spirit and desire for fairness. The same greed that powered the majors is now once again starting to creep into the independents. This is causing a new revolution in small independent labels with the same love of the music and sense of fair play. Many new artists don’t even see the need for record labels and do everything themselves.

Meanwhile, the majors are struggling to make ends meet and are losing huge amounts of money and business. The funny part of it is that they are bemused as to why!??! That’s because you are not selling melons, you morons!

I have seen how far removed the majors are from their customers here in the UK. The UK was once a centre for groundbreaking, world selling music. The industry here has spent so long trying to control the market and making the products they sell cheap on overheads and short lived in interest, that the market here has become mostly disinterested, uncaring about copyright and narrow in it’s variety of taste. I have seen a growing number of artists that are doing well around the world, getting little to no coverage in the UK as they don’t fit the majors agendas. If you can believe it, huge numbers of major artists from around the world with many albums to their name, cannot be bought in the high street and have never been available except by import.

The independent spirit was what attracted me to 4AD’s music in the first place, and many others. It has been sad to see in recent years this spirit get lost and forgotten. This is also another reason for collecting the first decade, where the spirit of independence was very much alive.

Come on 4AD get your MOJO back!!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Record Collector's Wife

Okay, bit of a change today, Helen here, Jonny’s wife.  Jonny has asked me to contribution to his blog this week and give you an insight into what it is like to live with a collector and what I think about it – so here goes…..

When I met Jon in 1994 he already possessed quite a lot of 4AD stuff but this was just because he liked a lot of the bands on the label, particularly Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Lush, etc, not particularly because he collected it but just because he was always buying music.  I can vaguely remember a conversation about starting a proper collection at some point in time, I think it was when he decided to make a list of what he already owned to ensure he didn’t buy things twice as he was losing track of what he had and had not got.  It went something along the lines of how cool it would be to own everything 4AD had produced in the Eighties, my response being well why don’t you go for it! 

Did I know what I had let myself in for I hear you ask?  Well, having been on quite a few record shopping trips with Jonny, I was well aware of what was probably in store.  Bizarrely enough, the reverse has happened!  Let me explain, pre-4AD collection, we would go into town and check out the local record shops quite regularly and, of course, would have to find out if there were any record shops in any other towns or cities we visited.  On entry to said record shop, Jonny would basically start at one end and end at the other, looking for anything and everything to take his fancy.  I would groan inwardly, look for a while and after about half an hour would make my excuses to meet him later and take my strategically packed book and find a bench somewhere to wait. 

Slight diversion here but whilst I am on the subject, please note any record shop owners who may read this, why don’t you ever think of us poor wives when designing your record shops??  In all the shops I have visited (and there have been many believe me) I have only ever been in one that had a sofa and a coffee machine – I was in heaven.  Anyway, back to the point…….

So that was how it used to be.  Once Jon decided to take his collection seriously, he obtained a list of 4AD releases for the relevant period, catalogued what he already had and highlighted what he didn’t.  This meant record shopping was now a much more selective experience, the sections to be scoured were smaller and as his collection grew so that he had most of the general released stuff, the items he was after became rarer and rarer.  To the point now that he hardly ever goes record shopping to an actual shop (I suppose the recession plays a big part in this too, as independent record shops don’t really exist in many places any more), most purchases are now done online.  The good side for me is I no longer have to go record shopping, the down side is that it is far harder to keep track of your spending online as no actual cash is changing hands!  Jon has a perpetual guilt trip about this and gives himself a strict budget and feels bad if he spends a lot.  I keep trying to tell him I don’t mind about this but I think it’s the Northerner in him which means spending money does not come naturally. 

So, what do I think about his collecting, do I think it sad?  Absolutely not!  There are many things my husband could collect and spend his time and money on, 4AD records is not a bad one to be collecting (did I mention that I am actually a HUGE Dead Can Dance/Lisa Gerrard fan and really like most other stuff on 4AD).  To my mind, he doesn’t go out drinking every weekend, he doesn’t spend a fortune on going to football or cricket and he’s definitely not the sort of man to spend loads of money on clothes or new fangled male cosmetics either.  Of all the hobbies he could have, it’s not a bad one is it??  Carry on dear xx