Welcome to the nineteenth installment of the Reckless Records Blog, all the records stores in Soho are getting prepped and ready for Record Store Day on 16th of this month. Boxes are being delivered and squirreled away, not to be opened until the time is right, staff are bracing themselves for a busy day of serving and question answering and trying to keep their minds in the game whilst what has become a giant street party rages on outside their doors.
This week’s blog is a post-indie-noise-electronic-math-rock special! All the albums and artists featured this week are of a similar oeuvre and will light up your ear holes with their offerings. I’m going to be writing about classic artists like Mogwai, Shellac, Slint, Godspeed, Tortoise and Jim O’Rourke. Plus a bunch of others.
Right, let’s get this moody show on the road:
Mogwai are a classic Post-Rock outfit from Glasgow that started in 1995 with their debut release Young Team, they went on steadily releasing an album every year to two years, earlier this month they released Atomic a soundtrack to a Mark Cousins documentary. Guitarist John Cummings (an early member of the group) quit the team recently so we’ll have to wait and see what Mogwai offer up next in their post-Cummings time. There are probably my two favorite Mogwai releases:
Mr. Beast, probably one of their most accessible albums from 2006 it features some beautiful piano pieces and even some vocals which is rarer for them. Come On Die Young, from 1999, album is truly outstanding, everything you want and expect from a Post-Rock album loud and quiet, moody and dark, it super-sonically whacks you round the face. This edition is a deluxe, limited edition boxed set release with four LPs and a DVD.
Next up are these three Tortoise albums that span quite a large chunk of their career. Tortoise are a group that have had a revolving door of members from the Chicago music scene including the core members Doug McCombs, John Herndon and John McEntire. Although McEntire is considered to be the driving force behind Tortoise, he does contribute a lot to their sound, they have had contributions from a wide range of artists that make up their sound.
Tortoise, their debut album on the Thrill Jockey label from 1994, this is a heavily atmospheric almost jazzy album and has the first (although non-musical) input from Sam Prekop designing the sleeve. The core three members mentioned previously are the only musicians that feature on this album. John McEntire’s drumming on this album is what solidified him as the driving sound behind this brilliant band:
It’s All Around You, from 2004 on Thrill Jockey, this album is a lot fuller in comparison to their first album, it still has the same Jazz inspirations but has a heavier electronic input with fuzzy overtones and an almost Loungey feel to it. Like something you’d hear in a dentist’s waiting room if your dentist was John Peel.
Beacons Of Ancestorship, from 2009, this album still has the same themes as any Tortoise album but features a heavier mechanical sound with dirgey, bordering on maniacal IDM sound. It’s more like a metal album in places.
**side note** If you’re into all this Tortoisey sound then check out McEntire and John Herdon’s (with Dan Bitney who also features in Tortoise) side-project Bumps, dey goooood.
Jim O’Rourke is another Chicago musician who’s collaborated and heavily influenced the scene, he’s massively prolific and during his early career released multiple albums a year on his own and with others. His most successful (and accessible) releases are titles on Drag City: Bad Timing, Halfway To A Threeway, Eureka and Insignificance.
Simple Songs is his 2015 release through Drag City and harks back to the familiar sound of the previously mentioned titles on this label. He’s now based in Japan and this album was recorded and mixed in Tokyo, featuring a lot of Japanese artists. It’s hard to put a label on O’Rourke’s musical style as it’s so far-reaching and this album is definitely in a similar vein. It’s like Indie Lounge Experimental Art Pop but there’s humour in there too… just listen:
Godspeed You! Black Emperor are a Canadian group that started (like most of the artists featured this week) in the early nineties and continue to produce music released in the Constellation Kranky label. Their tracks are usually pretty epic, lasting twenty minutes as standard and weave in and out of quiet and loud sonorous and haunting melodies. Described by an ex-staff member as feeling like you’re going a bit mad.
F#A#∞,from 1997 is their first official release on a label, its two tracks: one twenty minutes, the other seventeen. They kicked off exactly as they went on, as subtle as it is loud this album takes you on quite a journey through the beginnings of them working through their style as a group.
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, is probably their best known release to date, by the time this came out they had really found their stride as a group. It’s broken down into four movements that have subheadings and different parts of their own. My favourite is probably this one which would be the beginning of side C on the LP. The way it whips up into a frenzied state is typical of them but beautiful if you can handle it.
Yanqui U.X.O, is from 2002 and again split up into movements with lots of things happening in each section. There are two very long tracks that continue into the next rack and then one stand-alone, lengthy number in the middle. This was the time the group moved the exclamation point in their name from Godspeed You Black Emperor! to Godspeed You! Black Emperor as it is a more correct translation of the Japanese documentary they got it from (nerd!)
Slint are a band that really don’t need any introduction, they’re a group that had only two releases over the space of four years but still have legendary status due to this album:
If you haven’t heard Spiderland (you haven’t heard Spiderland?!) then it’s definitely the best place to start down the long and convoluted road that is Post-Rock, they really are known as the pioneers of the genre without really intending to I suppose. Dave Pajo is uncredited on this album but he’s appeared with Tortoise as well as many other outfits and on his own as M and Arial M (among others) but really could be seen as the granddaddy of Post-Rock. The famous photograph on this sleeve was taken by Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) another person who is heavily in this scene and had a lot of involvement with other groups an artists within it.
Another group, although not considered post-rock at all but from the same era and area, that need no introduction are Shellac. Steve Albini is a man who has achieved hand’s down legendary status in the music industry and this is band; Shellac
At Acton Park, Shellac’s second release and first on Touch And Go from 1994, it’s a bass driven (like all Shellac albums) assault on your eardrums in the way that Shellac do best.
Dude Incredible from 2014 was the first Shellac release for seven years, it doesn’t fail to deliver everything you’d want from a Shellac album despite the particularly long hiatus that thankfully wasn’t indefinite. The sound is slightly more mature in the sense that you can hear the voice of an older man but they’re still just as lairy and in your face with what they’re bringing to the table. Heavy heavy drums!
Lastly this week an example of something slightly different but with similar overtones. F*ck Buttons (usually spelled without censorship) are a Bristol duo that now have three spectacular albums under their belts. They describe their music as “Rainbow Rock” and once you’ve heard them, you’ll understand why.
Tarot Sport, their second release on ATP is a hypersonic disco for the ears, it’s so upbeat but darkly furious at the same time. I play this album quite a lot in the shop and it never fails to get a “what’s this playing?” when it’s on. They’re pretty out there and it’s so, so loud that it’s very hard to ignore. They say Rainbow Rock, I’d say Noisey Dark Pop.
Slow Focus is their most recent release from 2013, also on ATP. It’s similar to their previous albums but has a slightly more atmospheric feel. The slow unwinding slightly nightmarish feel of their tracks is something that, I think, will be a feature of their career. It makes me think of some kind of contemporary soundtrack to Ted Hughes’ Iron Man
As always, a playlist of all the tracks featured on this week’s blog can be found here.