Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sad times. Choices from the PIAS distributed labels.

The last few days have been crazy, confusing and incredibly sad times in London and across the UK. 

Hearing on Monday night that amidst all the chaos the Sony DADC warehouse had been set ablaze and realising what effect this would have on many dear friends, colleagues and labels I have had huge respect and love for was a terrible feeling.

Gordon from Young Legionnaire and Bloc Party tweeted saying he'd like to see my list of tips for albums you could buy to support the many PIAS distributed labels that have been affected by the Sony DADC fire, so here it is.

I can't find a definitive list of current PIAS labels, so apologies if any of these are no longer on their roster. I'm pretty sure they all are though. I'm also not going to put buy links on here. If you want to by them then you know where you like to buy from - try to start with the label's own digital store if they have one.

Here we go, alphabetically by label, one album per label (mostly)...

THE SOFT PINK TRUTH Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want... (Accidental Records)
First of two (hugely different) albums of punk rock covers on this list. Here we find Drew Daniel of Matmos making inspired house/electro versions of the likes of Minor Threat, Swell Maps, The Angry Samoans and Crass. Genius from start to finish (especially the Black Box "Ride On Time" reference in "Out Of Step"... unless that is only in my head.)

OUTSHINE FAMILY Galeria De La Luz (Black Maps)
Hugely under-rated album from Australia's Matthew Nicholson, I've lived with this album for a long time and I am yet to fall out of love with it. Some moments are just Matt's voice and delicate guitar, at others he is joined by over 50 players at once - every listen reveals something new. Hard to classify or sum up satisfactorily but maybe along the lines of "Late Talk Talk meets Sufjan Stevens' entire career via a lengthy rummage through the Morr Music catalogue"?? Or something. If you were to buy only one album on this list, well, maybe it should be this one.

LUKE ABBOTT Holkham Drones (Border Community)
Mad love to Gold Panda for turning me on to this one. Exceptional electronic buzz, pulse, click and whirr with a heavy krautrock (Cluster!) edge to it. This was the choice for a Mercury Prize nomination from an artist who should have gotten one himself! A high recommendation then.

MAGOO The Soateramic Sounds Of Magoo (Chemikal Underground)
First up, this is NOT the rapper of the same name. They're a band from Norfolk. This one takes me all the way back to university when I lived with a woman who grew up with members of the band. Not seen her in years. Listened to this record a lot back then though, as well as the follow up Vote The Pacifist Ticket Today. They're both great. Later I shared a flat in London with the dude who plays drums on this record. Not seen him in years either. Just realised I do not actually own this so I will buy it myself too.

ROBERT WYATT - BUY THEM ALL! (Domino Record Co.)
If you are yet to delve into the magical, MAGICAL world of Mr Wyatt then there has never been a better time. A living legend and a musical genius; I dream of the day he is offered an end of year honour, simply so he can turn it down. Start anywhere in Domino's reissue series - nothing will disappoint - but my personal favourites are Shleep and Rock Bottom. (Honourary mention also goes to Jim O'Rourke - again, if you have never delved into his work then grab anything on Domino - he's another undeniable musical genius.)

CRESCENT By The Roads And The Fields (Fat Cat Records)
Dark, dubbed-out, entrancing lo-fi layers, monotone mantras, saxaphones, melodicas, organs. Pastoral but still with an angst that suggests city life... another one for the fans of late Talk Talk, Bark Psychosis, Pram etc. Honorary mentions also to everything by Max Richter and Johann Johannsson on the 130701 sub-label also. 

Groenland Records... buy some Harmonia or Neu if you never have. Hugely important music.

SUPERCHUNK Majesty Shredding (One Four Seven Records)
Indie rock does not get much better than this. From the off, this is hits and riffs and riffs and hits. Brilliant. Their best album ever? It probably is, according to the biggest fan of the band I have ever met (he is also part owner of this label though, so...) Just listen to "Learned To Surf" to experience four minutes of the catchiest music you'll hear this year.

CHRIS BROKAW Incredible Love (Rock Action)
Did not know Rock Action had released this! Fantastic album from a man whose career has also included time in such hugely influential bands as Codeine, Come and The New Year. The title track also soundtracks one of the final scenes of series one of "Eastbound & Down", so you know it's great, right?! 

JEFFREY LEWIS 12 Crass Songs (Rough Trade)
Could have picked so many records on Rough Trade but enjoyed this one so much when I listened to it again recently, so there you go. 12 unique takes on 12 anarcho-punk classics. I do wonder what Steve Ignorant made of it. 

SONGS: OHIA Ghost Tropic (Secretly Canadian)
Maybe the first album I ever bought on Secretly? Took a chance on it as it was album of the month in the Neal's Yard Rough Trade store around the time I moved to London and have loved it ever since. Have also bought it three times... left my LP out one day and it got melted by the sun, bought a CD and lost it, downloaded it. No regrets. Worth buying thrice. Bleak but so beautiful.

CHRIS BOWDEN Time Capsule (Soul Jazz)
What a wonderful record. What ever happened to Chris Bowden? Why is he not a huge, superstar producer?? Maybe because he does not want to be. I know he still makes music but nothing I have heard comes close to this record, sadly. Deep, deep jazz that has elements of Jean-Claude Vannier, Charles Stepney and maybe David Alexrod next to the more obvious influence of Coltrane. 

BOBBY CONN The Golden Age (Thrill Jockey)
The enigma that is Mr Bobby Conn... This album was produced by the aforementioned Jim O'Rourke, and features a fantastic band (Glenn Kotche, Josh Abrams, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Jeb Bishop amongst others). It's a bizarre mix of glam rock and all manner of 70s overload, moments of chamber music (the start of "You've Come A Long Way"...which then descends into fantastic cowbell rock!), Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier (the strings on opener, "A Taste of Luxury"!), bossa nova ("The Best Years Of Our Lives") and so much more. Mental record. Always puts a smile on my face.

Touch & Go Records / Quarterstick... where to start?! Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, Slint, Shellac, Rachel's, Rodan, Shipping News, Big Black, The New Year (and Bedhead), Nina Nastasia, Polvo... just dive in. 

GRUFF RHYS Hotel Shampoo (Turnstile Music)
Another one that should have got a Mercury Nomination! Probably the best collection of Gruff's songs to date, and that really is saying something, eh?! Like his many amazing albums with Super Furry Animals, every single song is filled with more ideas than most bands have across an entire album (entire career?) but they are put together with the delicate touch of a true craftsman - the subtlety is on another level. Like a stoned take on Todd Rundgren's classic "A Wizard, A True Star" (an absolute personal favourite), there is never a dull moment. Without a doubt this should be up for a Mercury. Elbow?! FOR FUCK'S SAKE! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!

BLACK DOG Bytes or Spanners (Warp) 
What can I say? Truly two of the greatest electronic albums of all time. Both utterly essential and both sound fresh to this day. Production that puts so much modern electronic music to shame, brimming with ideas and never short on melody. Classic material. When I listen to the new Zomby album I am always left thinking he could have made Spanners for this generation, if only he did not have such a severe case of pot-enduced, attention deficit disorder. The ideas are almost all there... they just needed the effort to expand and combine them all into something as complex and impressive as either of these albums. 


  1. Ben - In solidarity, here are my favourite [PIAS]UK distributed Albums -
    Red Apple Falls - Smog : the greatest ever Sunday morning LP
    Heaven or Las Vegas - Cocteau Twins: I don't know why this still sounds so fresh.
    What Comes After the Blues - Magnolia Electric Company: Gene Clark and Townes Van Zandt would both have been proud to have written something as majestic as Dark Don't Hide
    Sebadoh vs Helmet - Sebadoh: Just for the greatest ever twisted love-song Brand New Love
    This Nation's Saving Grace - The Fall: impossible to pick a fave Fall LP but this stands alone as a great LP by anybody
    Constant Companion - Doug Paisley: my favourite of last year. A slow burner - sweet rather than hip - great voice
    You Are Free - Cat Power: Even if just for Names
    Flyin' Shoes - Townes Van Zandt: because it's TVZ
    Greatest Palace Music - Bonnie Prince Billy: Took me a while to take to this but once I clicked with Gulf Shores, the others came into focus.
    Here's to Taking it Easy - Phosphorescent: Mermaid Parade was my song of last year.
    On Fire (plus Peel Sessions)- Galaxie 500: When this first arrived I thought they'd go on for years making great albums
    Either/Or-Elliott Smith: Before he started appearing on way too many soundtracks - this is still a great bunch of songs.

  2. May I just add to the pot

    Banjo or Freakout LP on memphis Industries
    An England story - the Culture of MCs in the UK on Soul Jazz. In fact, anything on Soul Jazz (give or take)

    Big up to all the labels... Stephen @ Upshot