Song, by Toad

Posts tagged tye die tapes

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Final Fresh Fringe Friday

 This evening is the last of my shows for Fresh Air Radio as part of their Fresh Fringe programming. I’ll be continuing to do mini features on record labels I love because… well, I started and I haven’t got through all of them yet, so I might as well finish don’t you think?

This week we shall have Olive Grove Records, Armellodie, 4AD and Tye Die Tapes, amongst others, so if you are fans of this lot then I suggest you tune in, because it’s going to be special.

Yesterday I went to see Liverpool vs. Hearts because, at the last minute, a friend was able to offer me a ticket.  It was fun, despite being a pretty poor game.  I guess because I get to see so little live football at the *cough cough* ‘top’ level there is still a novelty value to it.

Add to that the fact that Tynecastle is a tiny little stadium, with steep stands very, very close to the pitch, and that there was a cracking atmosphere in the ground, and the whole thing still felt pretty intense, even for a match which was in itself quite insipid.  Also, Jonjo Shelvey is absolutely rubbish at football.

Anyway, Fresh Air Radio, yes, here we go:

On air from 6-8pm UK time – listen live here.

And in the meantime, here are five utterly pointless questions for you to answer as you wait breathlessly for two hours worth of glittering radio perfection later this evening. Or something like that.  I’ll have been drinking anyway, so it might at least be funny.

1. What spectacle do you quite enjoy just every once in a while, thanks.
2. What landmark was actually far less impressive than you expected.
3. And which rather impressed you?
4. Is it going to be a heavy weekend or an easy one?
5. What did you draw all over your school books when you were a kid?

Radio show playlist will appear live below as we go along:

Shape Records
1. Islet – Entwined Pines
2. H. Hawkline – Black Domino Box
3. Sweet Baboo – If I Died Would You Remember That You Love Me?

4AD
4. Kurt Vile – Society is My Friend
5. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Who
6. Grimes – Genesis

Sways Records
7. The Louche – Only in a Dream
8. Money – Goodnight London
9. Ghost Outfit – I Was Good When I Was Young
10. Weird Era – Summer Heights

Olive Grove
11. Randolph’s Leap – Bile
12. The Son(s) – Radar

Bathetic Records
13. Angel Olsen – So That We Can Be Still

Night People
14. Peaking Lights – Lifed
15. Terror Bird – Married Women
16. Ela Orleans – I Know

Tye Die Tapes
17. Slowcoaches – 2:54
18. Fawn Spots – Spanish Glass
19. Ethi0pians – Buddha Tone (Organ Version)

Armellodie Records
20. The Scottish Enlightenment – Necromancer
21. Thirty Pounds of Bone – Uyeasound (Toad Session)
22. Chris Devotion & the Expectations – Tell the Girl

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Ethiopians – Beautiful Marmalade

 It may irritate Tye Die Tapes, who were looking to publicise an entirely different release, but I am writing about this album as a result of a minor synaptic leap, which can happen when incoming PR reminds you of stuff you meant to write about ages ago, but somehow didn’t.

They were suggesting I may want to feature their newest release by Blood Sports, which of course I may yet do, but for some reason this reminded me that I have never really covered their first release on Song, by Toad.  And I should have, because for all it tails off a little, there some moments of brilliance on it.

I am talking about Beautiful Marmalade by Ethiopians, which you can buy here for as much as you care to pay. It is a long-sold-out release by a band who are, I think at least, from Cleveland.  Although they may not exist anymore, as the only real evidence of them is a MySpace page which seems as eerily silent and yet uncomfortably garish as you would expect from a MySpace page these days.

Anyhow, it won’t surprise you to hear that this is a lo-fi garagey pop record.  Not frantic and punky, more a sort of slacker take on sprightly guitar pop, albeit one which lapses into a disinterested slur at times. The most immediate pop songs are in the first half: Buddha Tone, A Theme to Try and Rusty Arms are brilliant tracks, but after that the record goes off the rails a little.

I don’t mean that in a bad way exactly, but tight, relatively energetic pop songs give way to more grumbly, ambling, directionless tone which has some great moments, such as closer Grab Those Great Ones, but perhaps loses it a little around the middle of the record.  It’s a relatively small criticism though, because this is a highly enjoyable release, and I just wish I could find a copy of the actual tape to buy somewhere.  But sadly it looks like it sold out ages ago, and even eBay doesn’t bloody have one.

Ethiopians – Buddha Tone (Organ Version)

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Ethiopians – Rusty Arms

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Tye Die Tapes, Slowcoaches, Fawn Spots and Rich American White Kidz

Tye Die Tapes are a Sheffield-based tape label, and they’ve worked with a remarkable number of good bands for what I assume is a relatively new venture – Thee Ludds and Sealings, for example, never mind the ones I am about to mention here.

Their newest release is Rich American White Kidz by a band called Sun Sister, and is a fine piece of Summery guitar pop. I mention this because it’s their latest, but it’s not necessarily my favourite of theirs.  That (dubious) honour goes to the fantastic Slowcoaches, who played an Ides of Toad gig up here in Edinburgh a month or so ago.

 Their We’re So Heavy tape is already sold out, but Tye Die are making more soon, apparently, and I highly recommend it.  It’s boisterous, ballsy and lo-fi with more than a hint of old-school punk and really early indie about it, and the tunes are cracking.

The first two tracks in particular, We’re So Heavy and 54, are genius.  We had this tape on in the van for the drive up to St. Andrews for the Fence Collective’s Eye of the Dug festival last week, and I just let it go round and round and round.  I’m not sure Mrs. Toad was impressed, but um… well, sod it.

Side B, I’ll confess, doesn’t quite hit the heights of Side A, for my money, but this band have a terrific knack of, just as you think think a song might be starting to plod a little, pulling something out of the hat.  The last song Drag is a case in point: it starts out relatively formulaic, but ends with a cracking descending guitar riff and another splendid, Pixies-esque shout-along chorus.

  Gravelines, by York band Fawn Spots is another recent release, and another good ‘un. It’s perhaps a little less hook and melody-heavy than Slowcoaches, but still driving, persistent and forceful.

At times, particularly on highlight Broken, they can sound like a more frazzled garage Interpol, but it’s not a comparison which bears all that much scrutiny.  The band themselves mention No Age, Husker Du and Xiu Xiu, and apart from not hearing much Xiu Xiu in there, I don’t really know enough about the other two bands to really comment*.

As with a lot of these tapes, I think this is the band’s debut release, so much of Tye Die Tapes’ stuff is pretty unpolished, but I honestly don’t think that matters.  They have a remarkable collection of releases, and pretty much all of these bands sound really promising.

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Zines, Tapes & Freebies

I touched on some of the questions about which I am going to circuitously ramble today when I wrote about Thee Ludds and the tape label in Sheffield they’re working with called Tye Die Tapes. Specifically, I want to follow up a little on this paragraph, from the end of the post:

I am starting to see a lot of these garage bands gravitating towards labels who do a lot of tape releases, split releases, and stuff like that.  It’s usually small scale and DIY, and quite a few rack up a fair few releases in this manner before going anywhere near an album.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I am not entirely certain where albums even fit in this aesthetic, actually.

It’s been this way in the States for a while but, within the bounds of the kind of music I’m into at least, it certainly seems that at the moment a lot of young folk in garage bands are not focussing on finding someone to release their albums, nor just slapping stuff up on the post-MySpace digital ventures and hurling it blindly out into the void, as I have heard so many journalists and bloggers complain in the past.

It seems like increasingly they are forming loose-knit communities based around tapes, maybe the odd 7″ and, oddly enough, zines and releasing their music on free EPs, tapes and splits, be they vinyl or cassette.  In terms of resurrecting obsolete technology I find this kind of fascinating.  But I like it.

It seems like an odd combination of digital and analogue sensibilities, too, which I also like.  A lot of these labels are making rough DIY videos and using those and Bandcamp pages to get their music out to as wide an audience as possible.

They’re also recording a lot, which is an advantage of the digital era which I think is underappreciated. Recording is cheap and easy now – your songs can go from your living room to a fan in Kazakhstan in a couple of hours, and there is no real reason you need to have one, polished, definitive version of your songs anymore, an idea I think was unnecessarily reinforced when recording was expensive.

This was driven home to me during the PAWS Toad Session we recorded recently.  The band talked a lot about allowing their fans to actually be able to watch the evolution of a song, from rough demo, to lo-fi band version to something recorded in a professional studio.  In fact, they wondered why anyone would really care about a song without having some idea of where it had come from.

In fact, I think this is one of the reasons the passion for tapes has kicked off so much recently: they reacquaint people with the actual craft of making music.  The initial explosion of MySpace and digital music in general was amazing, but it swiftly resulted in there being this infinite miasma of music out there, which got so thick it started to make our heads spin.

The rise in vinyl purchases seemed to reinforce the idea that digital music simply didn’t do enough for a lot of committed music fans.  It was too plentiful, too nebulous, and too throwaway. They wanted something to ritualise their passion, and something which in some way symbolically represented it in the way an iTunes library never can.

Looking at these tapes and zine labels, I kind of get the impression that the same thing happened to a lot of musicians. Sure, they can record and release anything they want to now, but being in a band is a creative thing – it’s a craft – and that fact seemed to become increasingly lost in all the talk of viral marketing and Garage Band software. Besides, if you never actually do get signed, as most don’t, then having a website and some mp3s to show for all your blood, sweat and tears seems like a pretty poor return.

Looking at these tape labels, particularly those which include things like zines and, not infrequently self-designed t-shirts and dodgy homemade YouTube clips, they seem to be trying to reconnect with the actual craft of music.  The recording and re-recording of songs seems designed to emphasise just how much work making a really good song can be – it’s not just about a mic, a MacBook and a MySpace page.

Vinyl is too expensive for some, but what’s the point in firing another anonymous mp3 out there into the void?  If you’ve worked that hard on something, you need to show your work some respect, find some way of embodying what it means to you before you can really expect other people to allow it to mean something to them.

So these DIY musicians are sitting there dubbing their own tapes, one at a time, they are using photocopiers, glue and scissors to do their own design work and they are creating objects of care and of craft.

So you could say that they are simply rejecting the digital world in order to reacquaint themselves with a past (which is often wildly romanticised and in some cases they are too young to remember anyway) when music is supposed to have meant something more, and that’s fine, but I think it’s a little simplistic.  This music is going on Bandcamp, the videos are being shared on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, so they are still embracing many elements of the digital world. It’s not a Luddite movement.

In fact it seems to embrace the best of what the right combination of forward facing and backward facing technology can do for you these days.

And, if you want to explore some of these labels, here are a few I have been getting into recently:
Sways Records (Salford)
Comfortable on a Tightrope (Manchester)
Tye Die Tapes (Sheffield)
Gnar Tapes (Portland)
Night People (Iowa City)
Gerry Loves Records (Edinburgh)
Cath Records (Glasgow, but very new and yet to have any actual releases, I think)

And a couple recommended to me on Twitter:
Auris Apothecary
Scotch Tapes
Secret Furry Hole
Analog Edition
The Tapeworm
Loud and Quiet Cassettes
Tired Tapes

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Thee Ludds

I first mentioned Thee Ludds a while back when I found their split 12″ on Palmist Records.  That was the first I had heard of the Leicester band, but it appears they have a couple of releases knocking around, including a cassette release on Sheffield-based Tye Die Tapes.  I am really starting to feel a bit dadrockish with my CDs at the moment!

Incidentally, anyone else finding the fashionable return of Sweater Shop-style nineties knitwear a bit unsettling?

Anyhow, this lot make garage rock/punk/pop/whatever/youknowtheusual, which is given something of a psychedelic flavour by the organ sound.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of Lil Daggers on our own label, actually, albeit with slight inflections of ska and mod which make it seem just that little bit more English.  More punky than swampy, I suppose you could say.

In any case, from the admittedly fairly scant evidence thus far (try their SoundCloud page to make your own mind up), these guys seem to have a really strong grasp of the basic ingredients of successful garage rock: keep it short, punchy and catchy.

I am starting to see a lot of these garage bands gravitating towards labels who do a lot of tape releases, split releases, and stuff like that.  It’s usually small scale and DIY, and quite a few rack up a fair few releases in this manner before going anywhere near an album.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I am not entirely certain where albums even fit in this aesthetic, actually.

Thee Ludds – Astral Plane

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Thee Ludds – Where to Begin

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