Pennyblackmusic Presents: Heist & Idiot Son + The Volunteered & Simon Bromide

Headlining are Heist with support from Idiot Son , The Volunteered and Simon Bromide
Hosted at the Water Rats London, Saturday 10th September. Doors open 7:30; First band on at 7:45; Admission £10 on the door or £8 in advance from We got Tickets
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# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - On Labels and Geographic in Particular

  by Scott Miller

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Miscellaneous - On Labels and Geographic in Particular


For those of us who are constantly on the search for new music, a good record label can be one of the best friends you could ask for. Anyone who's gone to a record store and/or record site in the last

For those of us who are constantly on the search for new music, a good record label can be one of the best friends you could ask for. Anyone who's gone to a record store and/or record site in the last 6 years may have noticed that everyone and their mother has a CD out (and their mother's friend will have one coming out shortly) and, while it's great that things like inexpensive music technology and the internet have enabled people to create what they wish without the help of big record labels, the sheer mass of music available is enough to send all but the most diehard running from their independent shops in frustration. So, now we're running up the street ready to chuck it all and read a good book, when our old friend the record label strolls up and points us in the right direction. "Remember that groovy single you bought on Groovy Records last month?" he asks. "Well, yes, that was quite a corker!" you respond (see, you're calmer already). "Well, there's a new groovy single by an even groovier new band out now on none other than the same Groovy Records!" he says as he takes your hand and leads you back in to the shop where you promptly drop your hard earned cash and discover this week's new favourite band. There are, of course, different levels to labels, from one's that are stylistically all over the map (noble but not necessarily reliable) to one's whose identity seems to almost overshadow those of the bands they put out. By the latter, I mean labels like Factory, Sarah and 4AD that could put out a record by a band who formed yesterday and it would still sell due to the cult following of the label's 'sound'. You'd have a hard time convincing me that in the case of all three of the aforementioned labels, at least one band on their respective rosters didn't form as a result of the label's existence (or maybe Manchester just naturally produced twenty mopey Joy Division influenced bands in the course of a year by coincidence), but regardless, I doubt I would have gotten in to the Stockholm Monsters any other way. Then there's the art angle, where the records on a label all have a recognizable cover design and, for me, that's really effective. Think of all the early Creation singles - all (or most) were designed by Chromatome Design and they just look cool - you can just tell that something beyond the norm is going on there and you're drawn to it. That's part of the reason they go for so much money these days (even the bloody X Men singles!) - you're not only buying a record, but also a point in time that was historic, not to mention, really happening. But I know there's more to a really great label. For me, the trust that builds up regarding my favorite label's releases, the art that elevates it from a piece of vinyl to an artefact, etc. are all part of something bigger and for the last weeks, I've been trying to articulate just what it is. Then this hits me. The reason I'm drawn to an aesthetic is because it helps me paint a picture. In the case of an aesthetically inclined record label (or band), you could say that each release is like getting a letter from a pen pal that you've never met. While each letter may be different in mood and content, it's clearly written by the same person and, as you receive more letters, you get a clearer impression of what this person is like. You may find (at the inevitable face-to-face meeting) that this pen pal is perhaps not quite what you had pictured (I thought you'd be taller & blonde), and it's only then that you realise that you've been prescribing traits to this person that YOU personally find desirable (without any particular basis in fact) and now the reality is somewhat of a letdown. OK, now in the case of people & relationships, this may not necessarily be healthy behavior, but it's a habit that I quite enjoy when it comes to music. I like not knowing everything about what's behind a label or band because it allows me to participate in the artistic process by speculating anything I please. (Did I really need to know that Clinic were four regular dudes from Manchester?! They were more fun when they were a squatting artistic collective fronted by a tall German woman who sat around listening to soul 45s and free jazz - really folks, this is what I pictured!) So yeah, aside from being trustworthy & cool, aesthetically strong labels make me use my imagination to put together a puzzle (the releases being the pieces) of my own creation. 4AD was a bunch of insane 18th century goths living in churches, Sarah was a bunch of tea-drunk cuties who saw everything in monochrome, El was a convergence of THE most eccentric people on the planet.....right? This is the part of my articles that I particularly enjoy, because this is the point where the kind folks at Pennyblack start thinking "wasn't this article supposed to be about such and such?" Well, yes it was and now I'm getting to it. I've been intending to write an article about Geographic Records (Stephen Pastel's new-ish label) for months now, but I couldn't quite figure out what to say. It's my favorite new label and I wanted to write about more than just the individual bands, because after all, the article's about the label (but isn't the label, in turn, about the bands?) then it was briefly suggested that I get in touch with Geographic and that's, I believe, when the point about NOT wanting to know everything about something I like started to become a a jumping off point for the article. So before I go any further, my apologies to anyone who thought they were going to be reading anything factually illuminating about the behind the scenes operations of Geographic Records, because I don't intend on finding out. No, instead you're getting my unfounded impressions about what aesthetically connects the artists on, and behind, this label - judging solely by the music put forth. Let's start from the beginning. The first release on Geographic was a single by Japan's Maher Shalal Hash Baz - fronted by a classically trained jazz musician who decided to unlearn everything he knew and instead compose songs that would then be played in an open-minded environment by people ranging in musical skill from novice to expert, but more importantly, played from the heart with all the exuberance of youth and none of the reserve of traditional knowledge. The songs usually have sweet slightly off key singing which still manages to be infectious, horn and guitar lines that colour beautifully outside the lines and performances that hang on a thread that never quite unravels. The idea being that the imperfection suggests endless possibilities as opposed to the one possibility of perfection. I read an interview with S. Pastel where he says that M.S.H.B. got him excited about music again and really, this makes perfect sense. Not only is S. Pastel deservedly one of the patron saints of shambling pop music (when it was still unpredictable and fun), but he's also a reportedly huge jazz fan (which he writes about in Glasgow newspapers from time to time). As someone who, myself, is a fan of both jazz & sloppy pop-as-punk, it's easy to see where the newfound enthusiasm comes from. Those are two styles that for one, don't sound possible to merge, and two, sound like it may be an awful mess if you did succeed. But M.S.H.B. make it sound like it's the most obvious idea in the world - simply by exploring the ideas that jazz is nothing more than free communication while dispensing with it's dictionary definition & stuffy reputation, and that pop music doesn't need to be verse-chorus-verse. And that, if there is one, sounds like it could be the Geographic mission statement - the connection that S.Pastel was looking for to take him from his position in the pop world as old hand, to a new place where he could play and have fun again. Let's look at some of the other records. Bill Wells, who has a jazz combo that's played around Glasgow for years, seemed to come in to the same playground as S Pastel, but from the other direction. His Geographic LP finds him putting aside some of his more traditional ideas of jazz to instead create moods and atmospheres that suggest long days, train rides, evening. And the fact that Belle and Sebastian's Stevie Jackson is one of the trio makes perfect sense and serves to further blur the genre lines. International Airport's fantastic and aptly titled 'Nothing We Can Control' LP is another loose collective ala M.S.H.B., but has a stronger core of Glasgow pop in it's sound,and the ideas on this particular LP float in and out with remarkable ease & beauty. Sleepy vibes, strummed guitars, impossibly thick accents, and melodies that dance around and then disappear. And as the title suggests, everything sounds like it's just happening naturally. Empress's Geographic LP floats about in a particularly hushed place - there's drums but no bottom or backbone - just pure SOFT. Like a little girl singing sweetly beneath your window during troubled sleep. I'm going stop talking about the artists now, as that wasn't my intent, and just float to a conclusion like I myself was on Geographic. The impressions I get from these records, from this label, are: that that music you hear in your dreams and can never duplicate is still worth striving for. That freedom will find it's own structure.That the perfect melody should always remain just out of reach. That music can paint pictures, suggest ideas, be complete in it's incompleteness, involve the listener in the creative process. Be intelligent without being difficult. Ask questions......have you ever watched leaves fall in the park and not been able to fully accept that their dance was random? Seen a book in someone intriguing's back pocket that's title you can't quite read? Brilliantly misinterpreted a lyric? Woken up to find an article written? Just asking.

Label Articles:-
Geographic (6)

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