Indie Basement (12/2): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Oh my god it's December, it's finals week and I haven't gone to class all semester! Oh wait that's my recurring anxiety dream, but the first part of that is true. We're running out of new releases but there's always something to write about in Indie Basement, at least for a couple more weeks before I start posting best-of lists. Today we've got don't-call-it-a-remix-album albums from Metronomy and SAVAK, a box set for underrated '90s UK band The Auteurs, a covers EP from Ride's Andy Bell, and jammy UK indie rock traditionalists Langkamer.
Over in Notable Releases, Andrew listens to Babyface Ray and more. Other stuff from this week that might be of interest: Ride are playing Nowhere in full and The Charlatans are playing Between 10th and 11th in full on a joint North American tour in early 2023; The Brian Jonestown Massacre announced their 20th album; and Robert Smith talked Wish on Tim's Twitter Listening Party, and Tim himself (of The Charlatans) told us about his favorite stuff of the year.
As I mentioned its December and with the holidays coming up quick, don't forget the Indie Basement section of the BV shop for the classic indie music lover in your life. It's full of vinyl, books, and merch from Love & Rockets, The The, Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, King Gizzard, Pavement, Wet Leg, Mo Troper, Arctic Monkeys, Beach House, Broadcast, Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, Talking Heads, Spoon, Lilys, Cocteau Twins, Can, Dinosaur Jr and more. Records make great gifts!
Head below for this week's reviews.
Metronomy - Small World Special Edition (Because Music)
Sebastien Tellier, Katy J Pearson, Bolis Pupul, Jessica Winter and more collaborate with Metronomy on new versions of songs from 'Small World' -- much more than a remix album!
When Joseph Mount started Metronomy in the mid-'00s, he quickly became as well known for his remixes of other artists as his own songs. (Gorillaz, Klaxons, Goldfrapp...kd lang?) Back then Metronomy had much more of a distinct sound -- watery, claustrophobic -- that you knew it was his work just by hearing it. Mount doesn't do so many remixes for other artists these days and Metronomy moved past that sound after 2011's The English Riviera, but they've gotten very into collaborations again. For the special edition of this year's terrific Small World, they've invited some of their friends and favorite new artists to work on new versions of the album's songs. These nine tracks are not remixes, with most of the artists recording totally new versions of the songs, sometimes as duets with Mount, while others are basically covers. All of them are good, all of them are very different from the '70s-ish pastoral pop originals, and a couple are even improved upon.
In the latter category: Jessica Winter takes "I Lost My Mind," which on Small World is a pretty spacerock ballad, and turns it into glittering cosmic disco somewhere between ABBA and Giorgio Moroder. Other great collabs: Katy J Pearson turns "Love Factory" into a dreamy duet with Mount, trading vocal lines, taking the spotlight in the chorus, and adding some spine-tingling harmonies along the way; Sebastien Tellier, whose classic "La Ritournelle" Metronomy remixed in the '00s, turns "I Have Seen Enough" into a louche Francophone slow jam retitled "J'en Ai Assez Vu" with Tellier and Mount both singing. Similarly, PPJ reimagines "Things Will Be Fine" as gentle tropicalia for her cover, Panic Shack deliver a punk rendition of "It's Good to Be Back," and Charlotte Adigery partner Bolis Pupul takes the jaunty "Hold Me Tonight" and turns it into a quaalude bubblebath. A lot of remix records get called "reimaginings" but this one really is that -- not unlike Kings of Convenience's Versus album -- and truly makes for a great companion piece to Metronomy's album.
SAVAK - Error / Delight (Ernest Jenning Recording Co)
Brooklyn art-punks hand their most recent album over to Mogwai, Colin Newman, Plus/ Minus, Nate Kinsela and more to be remixed and the results are pretty great
SAVAK's fifth album, Human Error / Human Delight, was released back in April and is their best, most-assured record yet, with catchy songwriting cozying up to angular post-punk hooks and lyrics that mixed the personal with the political. They've now handed the songs over to friends, contemporaries and heroes to have their way with. Error / Delight is just the kind of remix record you'd expect from SAVAK, if that's something you could expect, taking these songs in surprising and cool directions.
For a band with post-punk leanings and roots in the '80s/'90s DC scene, a number of these remixes go in dubby directions: Michael Hampton (The Faith, Manifesto) makes album highlight "Oddsmaker" a little more sinister with subtle echo and reverb, while both Birthmark (Nate Kinsella) and The Department of Human Genetics (Eli Janney from GvsB & Greg Oreck of Thugfucker) go in a sort of trip-hop direction. Crooks on Tape (Brainiac/Enon's John Schmersal and Skeleton Key / Enon's Rick Lee) take "No Blues No Jazz" to industrial Sheffield 1979, Light Beams twist "Baltimore Moon" into skronky party music, and Mogwai deliver the closest thing to club music here with their synthy, throbbing remix of "Set Apart."
The best remixes present what seem like entirely new songs that work as naturally as the originals. Immersion (Wire's Colin Newman and Malka Spiegel) basically turn the driving, angular "Cold Ocean" into their own song, giving it a sultry late night sheen. Best of all is The Patois Counselors who reconstruct the very punk "My Book on Siblings" with a nervous, stiff groove and almost breezy guitars -- it was so different that the band's Sohrab Habibion thought the wrong file had been uploaded until he heard the vocals kick in. Error / Delight holds together surprisingly well as an album, too, thanks in part to SAVAK and their remixers understanding where each other were coming from, even if they didn't know where it might go.
The Auteurs - People Round Here Don’t Like To Talk About It: The Complete EMI Recordings (Cherry Red)
Luke Haines' underrated '90s band gets its due with this 125-track, six-disc box set
If there was Indie Basement Bingo, Luke Haines would definitely get a square. I've probably written about him 10 times in the five years this column has existed, whether with his solo records, collaborations with Peter Buck, or reissues of his past groups. He has a long lineage, going back to The Servants who had a song on NME's influential cassette comp C-86. Haines didn't lead a group, however, till the '90s when he formed The Auteurs. The group's glammy leanings got them lumped in a little with Britpop but Haines wanted no part of it, with a poison pen lyrical bent that had him lifting up the furniture in a perfect home to see what was hiding underneath. Nostalgia's not his bag, man, though he's not scared to dig up the past.
The Auteurs were a perfect '90s band, forming in 1991 and breaking up in 1999, and they did all the stuff you were supposed to do then: sign to an indie that was secretly owned by a major (Hut Records via Virgin), have a cellist, get on the cover of NME, work with Steve Albini, refuse to play Top of the Pops, get remixed by a cool IDM producer signed to Rephlex, and break up before you go downhill. People Round Here Don’t Like To Talk About It collects almost everything The Auteurs released in one six-CD box set and it'll be out February 10 via Cherry Red.
The band's best records were their first and last: 1993's New Wave, which remains charmingly sardonic, uninterested with trends of the time, and has most of their best-known songs ("Showgirl," "Junkshop Clothes," "How Can I Be Wrong?"); and 1999's How I Learned to Love the Bootboys, which was heavy on synthesizers and debunking '70s nostalgia. In between was 1994's louder, crunchier I Was Born a Cowboy, which contains "Lenny Valentino," the closest they ever came to a UK hit, and also 1996's After Murder Park, which Haines made with Steve Albini and was written while recovering from a fall that broke both his ankles and resulted in some very dark songs like "Unsolved Child Murder" (its opening lyric gives this comp its title).
This box set also includes the 1996 album Haines made under the name Baader Meinhof which was a concept album about the West German left-wing Leninist/Marxist militant group of the same name (it's great), as well as his 2003 album Das Capital, credited to Luke Haines & The Auteurs which had him rerecording Auteurs and Baader Meinhof songs with an orchestra, giving them all a cinematic Scott Walker/Bond Theme twist (also pretty great). There are tons of b-sides, outtakes, acoustic versions, alternate takes and mixes, and demos, totally 125 tracks in all. The only thing that's missing from this "Complete Recordings" set is the 1994 The Auteurs vs μ-Ziq EP that had Mike Paradinas ripping apart tracks from Now I'm A Cowboy. You can listen to that on the streaming service of your choice, though, and this has more than enough to satisfy fans of one of the '90s' best cult bands.
PS: Luke Haines' new album with Peter Buck is awesome.
PPS: I interviewed Haines eight years ago and it's still an entertaining read if I do say so.
Andy Bell - Untitled Film Stills (Sonic Cathedral)
Ride singer-guitarist covers The Kinks, Pentangle, Yoko Ono and Arthur Russell on this pretty EP
Ride co-leader Andy Bell released Flicker earlier this year, his second solo record of the pandemic and a great double album that had him digging through his archives, turning unused musical ideas into fully realized songs. He followed that up this fall with a series of thematic EPs related to the album, and the final of those is Untitled Film Stills that has him covering four songs that were influential to the making of Flicker. All of them are given the same hazy, shimmering arrangements heard on Flicker, making them his own while keeping the core of the original intact. Best of the bunch is the final track on the EP, a cover of "Our Last Night Together" by Arthur Russell (who inspired the song "World of Echo" from Flicker). Russell's original sounds almost like an accidental, but beautiful, demo that was recorded from another room, all voice and cello; Bell keeps the sense of space but his version is much more layered, calling it "World Of Echo meets This Mortal Coil doing Skip Spence," which is dead on.
The EP opens with Yoko Ono's "Listen, the Snow is Falling" which was also famously covered by Galaxie 500 but Bell's take is lovely in its own right (and would make for a nice addition to a holiday playlist). There's also a skipping version of Pentangle's "Light Flight," which was also the theme tune for '69/'70 British television series Take Three Girls and is perfect with Bell's breathy vocal style. His voice is also a match for "The Way Love Used to Be," one of The Kinks' loveliest songs (from the soundtrack of Percy, which was a comedy about, not kidding, the first penis transplant) and he keeps the wistful air of the song intact while adding some gorgeous atmospherics.
Bell will be busy with Ride in 2023, both touring (America with The Charlatans!), and with a new album, but it's been great spending the pandemic with this new side of his musical world.
Langkamer - Red Thread Route (Breakfast Records)
UK band channel Pavement on their enjoyable new EP
Langkamer are a four-piece out of Bristol, UK and are helping balance out the city's current music scene that's still thought of as the Trip Hop Capital of the World. (I can feel Geoff Barrow writing an angry tweet already.) These guys make jammy, lightly twangy '90s style indie rock that falls somewhere between Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Electrelane, and Pavement and they do it very well. (More modern comparisons could include Lewsberg or Hooton Tennis Club.) The Pavement comparison is hard not to make with a super-catchy song like "Hamlet," which leans into its giddy "Cut Your Hair"-cribbing hooks. The rest of Red Thread Route is a little more laid-back, pleasingly so, with pastoral noodling that never loses sight of the song.
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