Cultural Studies – Recycled Press (Sub Continental)
Electronic European/American duo release their
Largely spoken word, Recycled Press is a punchy
and occasionally raw sounding album combined with dancey, electro beats it
offers an alternative slant on modern day pop.
Considered as a musical genius Oskar Pompa spent his formative years in
Slovakia and after a chance meeting with American ‘Eric’ at Spector Studio in
Brussels, The Cultural Studies was formed.
Recent single The Automaton, aside from being the
album highlight, is a fascinating and sometimes amusing diction on the World banking
system. “I want my money back” is the
catchy strapline which accompanies a frenetic backing with Eric sounding very
much like actor Bill Murray. In fact,
once that image is in your head, it’s hard to shift.
It is the spoken word, almost poetic style that
sets this album aside from its contemporaries.
Cosmic Journey has a backing at times with more than a hint of Taking
Heads’ Once In A Lifetime and it’s those comparisons that add to the albums
On efforts more akin to singing, the album loses
a little impetus. Yellow Dance for
instance descends into a mediocre pop track without the edge that its
predecessors contain but normal service is resumed with Car-Men a thoroughly entertaining
diction over a pattering backbeat.
The title track tackles power, corruption and
lies within a wonderful electro-reggae beat, and Bastardification, aside from
having one of the best song titles of the year, deals with the tabletisation of
society. Shapeshifter is slightly
experimental in its backing with added vocals over a delightfully unconstrained
flexibility. A tale of vampire sorts has
some Pet Shop Boys influence and terrific pounding percussion.
Amongst the incisive percussion of album closer
Supernature, Ricky Gervais gets a mention in the same line as squirrels and the
continued black humour of Recycled Press is once more present amongst the
It’s not a perfect album, but it’s
imperfections make it some essential listening and there are plenty of ideas
abound from the duo which bode well for future releases. When The Cultural Studies get it right, they
get it spot-on and it’s those moments which make them one to keep an eye on.
I only chose the title for this article because I couldn’t
think of a song called Favourite Record Labels rather than give it the name of a
Haircut 100 song.
There was a time in the late 80s when you could tell a band
by the single/album artwork even if they didn’t put their name of the title on
the sleeve. New Order spring to mind,
or even Pet Shop Boys and a plethora of unknown artists too – probably why they
remained unknown. There was also a time
when you liked everything that a label put out.
Once upon a time labels, particularly the indie ones (when
Indie meant Independent before an attempt to create a genre was made) had music
of a theme, in so much as you almost knew you’d liked everything they put
out. Factory, Mute, Kitchenware, Rough
Trade, 4AD – you were guaranteed to enjoy almost every release. Sadly, those days are long gone as are many
of the labels who have either disappeared or been swallowed up by a jealous major.
Another thing that is gone is my The The t-shirt. I loved it.
After struggling unsuccessfully for many a year to buy one, I got a work
colleague who made shirts for Stag and Hen parties to make one out of the bands
logo. It was the dog’s bollocks. White logo on black T. I was twice stopped at a Blancmange gig and
asked where I got it. One fateful day, it
was unintentionally put it in the clothes dryer and the vinyl lettering melted
into an horrific mess. My wife was
sorry. I was gutted.
It would seem however, that some labels are back with their
themes. If you like one album, you’ll
probably enjoy the vast majority of what they do. Two of my favourite labels are like that, the
third is admired because it’s catalogue is so brave and extreme, that they
shine above anything that any major could ever do.
The first label is On U-Sound. In 1985 Bop Bop by Fats Comet was the first
track I heard as it spewed its incredible break beat from Radio Lancashire’s On
The Wire. It gobsmacked me, I’d never
heard it’s like before and with OTW the two became an obsession that I carry to
this day. Unlike the labels, I don’t
always like every track on the show but the diversity is incredible.
After Bop Bop I sought out more from Fats (the ‘dick-around’
version of Tackhead and the same line-up) – Stormy Weather, King Of The Beat, Dee
Jay’s Dream. The beats were loud and
clinical and made you want to move every part of your body. A purchase of the On-U sampler album Pay It
All Back Vol 1 introduced me to the likes of Singers & Players, Dub
Syndicate and New Age Steppers and the amazing Mark Stewart. His treatment of Jerusalem is still ahead of
its time more than thirty-five years later.
Tackhead are a huge favourite of mine. The cut-ups and the willingness to be
different were second to none. Gary
Clail. African Head Charge. Little Annie.
Little Axe. Andy Fairley. Somebody stop me.
Needless to say I have an On-U t-shirt. Disturbing the comfortable. Comforting the
Thrill Jockey Records is an enigma for sure. My introduction to them was with Total
Folklore by Dan Friel. A mish-mash of
crunching, distorted sounds over bass heavy rhythms and general electro
anarchy. It was wonderful, but the thing
about Thrill Jockey is their reluctance to conform whether it be the faux funk
of Brother JT or the gnarling thrash of White Hills to the gorgeous harp of
Mary Lattimore, not every album is a classic but therein lies much of the charm
of the label – they seem to give something less than a shit about how it’s
received and more about their enormous credibility for being so bold.
For me, 2014s best album was by The Skull Defekts. Dances In Dreams Of The Known Unknown
pictures on its sleeve what appeared to be a medical cross section of a penis
and a vagina. I could be wrong, but one thing I’m definitely correct about is
its absolute brilliance probably making it one of my all-time favourite albums.
My Johnny Cash t shirt features the great man display a huge
middle finger in the classic image – the equivalent of the Thrill Jockey
outlook no doubt.
Formed in 2012, Glitterbeat is a mere baby in the World of
record labels but in a short space of time has impressed me no end. Specialising in “vibrant global sounds from
Africa and beyond” Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts) and Hugo Race (The Bad Seeds)
have formed not only a stunning label but also an amazing act themselves in
Dirtmusic. The 2013 album, Troubles was
nothing short of perfection mixing traditional Malian sounds with Westernised influences.
With a roster including the likes of Dennis Bovell, Bassekou
Kouyate and Jon Hassell/Brian Eno the label pumps out albums at a quite
startling rate and expands on the original base of Africa to South America,
Turkey, London and more.
Glitterbeat too seem to be governed by a ‘release what we
like’ philosophy and is probably the nearest thing you’ll find to an ‘Indie’
label nowadays. The recent Hanoi Masters
compilation with a mix of Vietnamese contributors was a joy indeed.
So, my favourite three labels. It’ll probably change at some point but for
now it’s as it is.
Now where’s my Marc Bolan t-shirt?
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year’s Music Complete marked a triumphal return for Manchester’s
finest. Hailed as their best album for
over a quarter of a century, their first for over two years was a critical and
commercial victory. Such was its success
that the remix album contained within the special edition vinyl has now been
released in its own right by popular demand.
band that needs very little introduction are back to their finest, possibly the
best they have ever sounded. The now
polished sound of the band, no doubt influenced by the work technique (sorry)
of Mute suits them perfectly. The
characteristic bass and synth sounds are still there and its unmistakably New
Music is billed as extended mixes rather than remixes, and the result is ten
tracks on cd for the first time with the addition of Singularity which appeared
on the single release package. Whether
it be the Giorgio Moroder bass throb of Plastic or the memory of True Faith in
Academic, each track glows in its own glory.
like a Greatest Hits package, Complete Music goes one step further than its
master and adds further depth and insight to an already great album. Six and a half glorious minutes of drawling Iggy
Pop on Stray Dog epitomise a group having the time of their lives with heroes
guesting on their own compositions.
maybe makes Complete Music so special is that it brings together echoes of New
Order past and present. Their
distinctively recognisable sound with the typical remix quality hits fine form
on Nothing But A Fool which is classic fodder, whereas The Game sounds as
though it is as it was originally recorded, and there is perhaps the strength
of this album. No track sounds like a
‘remix’, each and every one sounds as though it was recorded as a lengthy
version then edited for their 2015 album.
Music is a special album from a special band making some of the finest
dance/rock of their careers.