Bill’s Indie Basement (1/19): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Greetings from the Basement! As far as I know this week's edition marks the first BrooklynVegan post to feature an album sung entirely in Cornish (by a member of The Pipettes). We've also got French Canadian guitar pop, the reissue of an early-'80s obscurity made by two Doctor Who-obsessed teens, a new album and retrospective box set from post-punk icons The Monochrome Set, and a new album from pleasingly depraved Australian band EXEK.
If you need more Indie Basement-approved music, this week also saw: the announcement of a new album from Everything But the Girl's Tracey Thorn; the soundtrack to Netflix series The End of the F***ing World by Blur's Graham Coxon; a great new song from Canada's Preoccupations; and I recommend that new XTC documentary that's on Showtime.
Former Pipettes member Gwenno Saunders' full-length solo album, 2014's Y Dydd Olaf, was a bewitching set of krauty pop based on a sci-fi novel and sung almost entirely in Welsh. The followup, Lo Kov, will be out March 2 via Heavenly and, while not a concept album as such, the LP's songs are all centered around Cornwall, a county in the Southwest of England that has held on to its Celtic Roots. The album's sung entirely in Cornish, a Brythonic language that is native to Cornwall and that almost nobody speaks anymore. Gwenno does, though -- her father, poet Tim Saunders, is Cornish -- and Le Kov is her document of a living language. "This album is a combination of accepting the culture which your parents have valued enough to want to pass on to you, regardless how small, and utilising it in a positive way to try and make sense of the world around you, it’s also about having to accept and respect the nuances that make us all different and discovering that all of our stories share the same truth."
The first single is "Tir Ha Mor" ("Land and Sea"), a slinky bit of pop that swirls around the vortex of Serge Gainsbourg and Broadcast, but with her own Celtic Sea vibe. Her breathy vocals and the thick-in-the-mouth sound of the Cornish language make it all the more otherworldly. It's a tribute to Peter Lanyon, a St. Ives School painter who learned to pilot a glider so he could “get a more complete knowledge of the landscape,” and died crashing his plane in August 1964. “Marghek an Gwyns was his Bardic name,” says Gwenno. You can watch the video for that song, and check out the LP tracklist below:
Le Kov tracklisti:
1. Hi a Skoellyas Liv a Dhagrow
2. Tir Ha Mor
4. Eus Keus
6. Den Heb Taves
7. Daromres y'n Howl
10. Koweth Ker
Let's avoid the English language a little longer, shall we? Montreal band Bleu Nuit make warped pop and -- like Corridor and to some extent Preocupations -- make a sound that might be best described as melted. Arpeggio'd notes wobble around the perfect pitch; meanwhile, what should be a cheery organ parts end up sounding slightly demented. In a good way! A fairly new band, they've released two EPs so far, most recently a self-titled 5-song tape in October 2017.
The single from Bleu Nuit is "Une Tempête," the catchiest two minutes of the tape. For those who don't speak French, the band say it's "an attempt to verbalize a feeling we can’t really describe. It’s mainly about people judging each other over a first impression, and the way these people behave using basic human mechanisms to hide their emotions." The video, which premieres in this post, has the band clowning around in front of a green-screen, as test patterns, disco balls and doppelgangers float behind them:
Bleu Nuit will soon be on a short Canadian tour with LUGE. Catch them in the following cities:
Bleu Nuit 2018 tour dates
26.01.18: w/ H de Heutz, Chiffres @ Psychic City – Montréal presented by Analogue Addiction
27.01.18: CKCU.FM 93.1 live session @ Ottawa
27.01.18: w/ H de Heutz, LUGE @ The Record Centre - Ottawa
28.01.18: w/ LUGE, POORAGE @ Into The Abyss – Hamilton
29.01.18: w/ LUGE @ Villa Villa Lobos – Guelph
Melbourne's EXEK, which began as a solo project for Albert Wolski (Slug Guts) before growing into a proper band are back with their second album, Ahead Of Two Thoughts, which is their first for Superior Viaduct. With a dark-n-dubby aesthetic, EXEK recall Metal Box-era PiL, The Pop Group and This Heat, and have a bleakly humorous worldview not dissimilar to The Intelligence and Spray Paint. If you like any of those bands (and if you've made it this far into this column, you probably do), EXEK do it really well. With some sax floating through the songs, it's even a little sexy...in a super depraved kind of way. The album's out next week (1/26) but you can check out "U Mop" and "Weight Loss (Henry's Dream)" right now and both are excellent.
I belong to a few record nerd Facebook groups, the kind of places where a know-it-all like myself learns daily there's a lot I still have never heard, even in genres I feel very well versed in. Such was the case with early '80s minimal wave duo Solid Space whose sole record, 1982's Space Museum, was reissued on vinyl and digital late last year via Dark Entires.
Dan Goldstein (keyboards/vocals) and Matthew 'Maf' Vosburgh (guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals) began making songs together when they were 14, acquiring an array of tinny drum machines and synthesizers, which played perfectly into their love of sci-fi and Doctor Who in particular. The Cybermen, one of the Doctor's most famous recurring foes on the BBC series, grace the cover and there's a song about one of the most famous episodes to feature them, "Earthshock." Despite the low-fi recordings, there's no denying Goldstein and Vosburgh were talented songwriters and inventive arrangers, and Space Museum fits right in with this era of post-punk that gave us the pre-pop Scriti Politti, Dalek I Love You, and Fad Gadget. (One wonders if Django Django has ever heard "Destination Moon.") The Dark Entries' new vinyl pressing sounds great, too.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, British post punk legends The Monochrome Set made a kind of effete, tongue-in-cheek pop that skewered social mores with a twangy, jangly sound which would influence The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian, La Femme and others. And despite singer Bid‘s flip witticisms, they were exceedingly good at instrumentals too. No one else was quite like them. Bid and Lester Square reformed The Monochrome Set in 2008, released Platinum Coils in 2012, and toured the U.S. in 2013. Lester Square left the band around the time they released 2014's Spaces Everywhere but Bid and the current lineup (which includes longtime member Andy Warren) kept going, releasing Cosmonaut in 2016 and will release Maisieworld on February 9 via Tapete. There's been little attempt to alter the sound The Monochrome Set had figured out on their 1978 debut single "He's Frank," which is all for the best. Bid sounds droll as ever, and that surf noir sound doesn't really date. You can stream three songs below. Meanwhile, Tapete is also releasing 1979–1985: Complete Recordings which, as the title suggests, collects The Monochrome Set's first four albums plus two discs worth of singles, including classics like "He's Frank," "Eine Symphonie Des Grauens," "405 Lines," "The Lighter Side of Dating" and "The Jet Set Junta." Limited to 700 copies, the box set also has an extensive booklet with new liner notes from Bid.