Friday, April 18, 2014

Birthday Party: Mr. Clarinet (1980/AD 114)

    While released initially in 1980 in Australia, this single released in the UK on 4AD contains two of my favorite Birthday Party tracks. The A-side Mr. Clarinet features the gnarliest farfisa organ sound I've ever heard. It snarls, I'm serious. The song itself has some of the menace that the band would be known for latter, but here contains some of that bouncy punk sound that would be gone by their album Junkyard. The bass here is also very springy which adds to the bounce, making this a very messed up dance song.
      The B-side is Happy Birthday, with the goofiest lyrics i think Cave has ever written. It's about a kid's birthday party, him getting a samurai sword as a present, and a dogchair, whatever that is. The music itself is much in the vein of the Hee-Haw EP released in 1979, being fairly skeletal in arrangment, and not fairly dramatic or frenzied. The track still kicks ass though and Cave can really whoop.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Camera: IV Songs (1980/BAD 19)

     The last official 4AD release of 1980 (I still need to cover the reissue of Birthday Party's Mr. Clarinet), and the last studio release by In Camera. IV Songs sees the band move in a sparser direction, which their Peel session around the same time of this would also show (it was later released as Fin in early 1982). The first track actually begins the ep on the right foot. The Conversation is an effective piano piece with some percussion; eerie but not cheesy. The Attic, is a better PIL rip-off than Mass could have attempted. Fragments of Fear is my favorite track here, with a lurching bass-line and a very gothic atmosphere (actually this fits at home with the second side of the Banshees Juju). Legion sounds like an attempt by the guitarist to out-Rowland S Howard Rowland S Howard. It's not bad at all, and shows a melodic side while retaining the atmospheric metallic wall of noise guitar. I quite like this EP and it shows a strong step up from their single earlier in the year. If this had better production, I can only imagine how frightening this truly could be.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dance Chapter: Anonymity (1980/AD 18)

         Here we have the band, that was supposed to be Joy Division's successor. Not quite. This December 1980 single is by the group Dance Chapter, who in the scheme of things is probably the most forgettable group 4AD ever signed in the 80's. That doesn't mean it's bad, it's just their total output here is two releases, that never featured anything beyond ok. The A-Side Anonymity is ok, swinging back and forth between good and really bad lyrics ("his night light is nearly extinct"?). They actually are decent musicians, and have a slight dance-punk feel that only a few bands had at this time.
       The B-Side is New Dance. For something, I really don't like the main chord progression here, it's too major key. The chorus is decent though and starting around the 1:30 minute mark, the song picks up, with the vocals double tracked, the guitar getting more power and everything getting frenzied. Overall an ok single, but not essential.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bauhaus: Telegram Sam (1980/AD 17)

        Released in December 1980, Bauhaus's 4th and best single on 4ad consists of two covers and one original. Their cover to Telegram Sam is fairly different from the T. Rex original, being faster in pace, more punky, and overall full of energy and catchy as hell. It's fantastic and I prefer it to the original. The second track, Crowds. is the odd one out here, I can't say I love it, with the piano being too clink-clanky, and Murphy's vocals to melodramatic. This is also too dry for my tastes, I would say a little reverb would have been better.
      The final track, their cover of John Cale's Rosegarden Funeral of Sores, might just be my favorite Bauhaus track throughout their discography. The bass line is just so dark and provactive, the guitar tones by Ash are fantastic and totally suit the atmosphere, and Murphy's melodrama perfectly fitting the disturbed nature of the lyrics. Also the "chorus", with the two chord guitar chug, is fucking fantastic. It's really a testament to both Cale's songwriting skills and Bauhaus ability to make that their own. Aside from Crowds, an Amazing single and the best single by the label so far.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gilbert and Lewis: 3R4 (1980/CAD 16)

         The second album released on 4AD, in October 1980, was by the former Wire Members, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, this time under the their own names instead of Cupol. This four track album features two long drone, instrumentals, called 3.4 and R respectively, separated by two short tracks called Barge Calm.
         The album, itself is fairly similar to Eno's Ambient 4 in intentions, creating a mood without a melody or chords. While this album isn't as amazing as that record, it does succeed in taking me somewhere, which in this case is some rainy new england coast seaside. The short Barge Calm tracks are practically identical consisting of metallic shaker type instruments. 3.4 begins with a two note ostinato with some added metallic sounds throughout the track. Around 7 minutes, the sounds lessen and a bass guitar with a fog horn sounding synth takes over. Then marimba like percussion followed by ambient guitar sounds are added. The whole track has somewhat of a menacing feel to it, but a rather subtle menace, behind a cloudy surface.
             The Track R is abit longer and makes me think of a nearby industrial ship ward, with hard guitar scratches, a vocal synth drone, some low metallic sounds. Around 8 minutes, with additional vocal synths and low bass sounds, reaches the climax of the album, this synth choir continues till the end with towards 18 minutes some introduced distant wooden percussion. It's a beautiful ending to a drifting, atmospheric album that while not that memorable, is decent while listening to nonetheless.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Modern English: Gathering Dust (1980/AD 15)

        Modern English are back and it seems they discovered Hawkwind. This single was released in November of '80. The sound here, while still post-punk, is heavier, features more spacey electronics, and has the best production yet of any 4AD release. The track itself, Gathering Dust, is fantastic. It begins with just hi-hat, and the guitars, and slowly more is added to mix, until the chorus, where the dynamics, let loose. It's a very dramatic track.
       The B-Side is called Tranquility of a Summer Movement. It begins with some bird sounds, some guitar sounds that sound like a dog moaning, and backward vocals. Around half-way the rest of band joins in and the pace slowly picks up until the end when everyone is double speed. While not a horrible track, it lacks an real memorability and aside from the dynamic shifts, doesn't have much direction. Notably this is the first release with artwork by Vaughan Oliver who would become famous for his record sleeves with 4AD.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mass: You and I (1980/AD 14)

          After Rema-Rema disintegrated, 3/5 members plus a new drummer, created Mass, and boy are the results underwhelming. Peel said something along the lines of "the most consciously morose music I have ever heard" upon listening to this song. All of the spring from Rema-Rema is gone and bleakness for bleakness's sake has taken over. The A-side consists of some child wailing in the background with very simple organ/bass lines and the singer mostly reciting the title of the song. The end of the song has a cool chime ring but that's it.
          The B-side called Cabbage is a better track featuring the ugliest (in a good way) bass tone I have ever heard and a really sludgy sound. This song tries to establish a similar feel to This Heat's Deceit but the musicians aren't good enough to do so. It's an ok track.

Rating: 1.5/5