Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Jon Dale points me to the press release for The Primitive Painters reissue

"Deciding to make their tribute to this style of music the duo turned out 10 tracks of gauzy, melodious electronica in a white hot fever, one after another over the ensuing months. Settling on a name for the new project they picked ‘The Primitive Painters’ taking inspiration from the band Felt. 

“We are both children of the C86 movement,” explains Jörn. “this attitude of noisy art school influenced rock like Primal Scream, MBV, The Jesus & Mary Chain really inspired us to take a DIY approach to our music.”

So it is confirmed! 

Something in the air? At Pitchfork, Philip Sherburne reviews an album by Auscultation wherein producer Joel Shanahan "expands his palette, mingling shades of ’90s ambient techno with distant echoes of the Cocteau Twins’ dream pop."

Meanwhile, Ian Hodgson writes in with some of his favorite shoegazetronica tunes of t' 9ties - mostly shoegaze groops remixed by Electronic Listening Music notables. 

This is his All-Time Fave

Never heard that, although I liked Slowdive and Bandulu

Another Slowdive remix suggested by Ian  - this one by Global Communications alter-ego Reload

Clean forgot this lot....  seem to remember reviewing a single of theirs that toted a hefty load of ELM / IDM remixes. Perhaps it was this very one? 

Curve were such music press faves, weren't they? Well, Melody Maker faves, let's be honest - but I like to think of MM as being the music press by 1990 (always amazed to come across people who were still reading NME by that point). A group that's completely itself evacuated from popular memory. I must say I was never really convinced by them - a bit too much the canny ZeitGeist surfers, I felt,  like the Eurhythmics in their day.   My colleagues went gaga for them, though. 

Another band I completely forgot existed

I do appreciate the name, though - something of a reference point for your post-Lacan theorists of jouissance as "ineffable pleasure-spasm", Theresa. Perhaps it was the Hildegarde of Bingen tune by  The Beloved ("The Sun Rising"?) that turned these dreampoppers in a techno-ish direction. Or maybe they heard the dark-bliss pleasure-spasm of One Dove's "White Love"... 

Of this next track, Ian says "10/10 this one I reckon"

I had a major Cocteaus jag the other week -  tried to do that daft thing of listening to the entire urrrrv in one go, from start to finish (well, I didn't bother with the twilight-phase albums when Elizabeth starts singing in very plain English). The stretch from Head Over Heels and Sunburst and Snowblind to Aikea-Guinea via  The Spanglemaker and Treasure is sublime and almost immaculate .... as is the stretch from Love's Easy Tears via the Harold Budd collaboration to Blue Bell Knoll.  Before the first flush of genius, they're warming up, finding their unique voice; after the second flush, they're losing it, losing their way, heading into the diminishing returns zone. But there's that mysteriously middling and unmemorable patch of Victorialand, Tiny Dynamine, Echoes in a Shallow Bay, where the magic touch just goes away for a bit. And then it comes back, full strength - perhaps more even more consummate. Very odd - who else has that happened to?

Ah I remember, there was a whole album of Chapterhouse remixology wasn't there?   

Seefeel are exactly in the zone

And this is the ultimate shoegaze into ambient techno nexus - one of my own abfavs and a pinnacle of t' 9ties

Ian points to Mark Van Hoen as a key figure in this blurry indietronic zone. And also Ulrich Schnauss as the one who inherited and furthered the idea.  

He also mentions M83 as a later iteration 

M83 and Ulrich S fall into "the same box: sort of quality hi-lush electronica that crosses over (good songwriting)", Ian notes, adding mischievously, "And ends up as soundbeds on motorsport montage clip shows."

For me, the problem with a lot of it is that it gets a bit too wispy and clean-sounding.... and pious. A sort of saintly pallor. 

(A religiose vibe that actually came back a bit in the 2010s). *

It picks up the aforementioned "The Sun Rising" / Orbital "Halycon" etc vibe in the chill beatific side of house ... and melds it with the "mist gathers at the base of the ruined abbey, ghost choristers waft sighingly through the cloisters" vibe of lots of shoegaze.... 

Which I did love with this Slowdive-covering-Syd beauty

Well blimey, that is actually a release on the Sonic Cathedral Singles Club.

"Sonic cathedral" being the parody meme taking gentle piss out of the kind of praise prose poesy that wrapped itself around Cocteaus, 4AD in general, dreampop etc etc, back in the day - yours truly being a perpetrator

Ah and this has reminded me of another nexus in the shoegaze / electronic-listening / ambient / early post-rock / Stereolab-Saint-Etienne typestuff / etc confluence - Darla Records

Who started a series of releases called The  Bliss Out - named after a certain book

Here's a best of The Bliss Out

*    from that 2012 post on the New Exquisite / New Religiose i.e. Juliana Barwick, Julia Holter, Grouper

the hallmark: those pure airy vocals, more often than not wordless, or blurred to the point of indecipherable... multitracked into a choir-of-one... warp 'n' wefted... tapestried... heavy on the reverb ... where plainchant meets enchantment

the sound of the Ineffable... being effed

i don't think the intent is particularly retro or to hark back to anything (other than to the pre-modern or primordial)... but clearly it's influenced by the late Eighties... and it can't help reminding of that moment, if you're of a certain vintage yourself

where late 80s post-Goth/4AD-type stuff connects to current conditions of music-production is that Goth-Lite was primarily studio music, it was all about layers, sound treatments, effects... it broke to large extent... with the performance model of rock recording (Cocteaus DCD et al did play live, of course, but their live shows were attempts to duplicate the textural richness of what was concocted in the studio, rather than the other way round: the studio recording as attempt to simulate/approximate the energy of a live performance). So obviously that translates to the solo artist + digital audio workstations in a bedroom scenario of today, where live performance is an optional afterthought to careers created through blog-buzz

artificial reverb, that other hallmark of the New Religoise, figures as an irresistible temptation to producers looking to add "space" to recordings that are otherwise by their mode-of-construction a bit airless and dry

along with the outerspace/innerspace associations of the "sonic cathedral" effect...


Tim 'Space Debris' said...

I would extend that 2nd Cocteau Twins period to HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS.

After that I could rarely engage.

Four Calendar Cafe was devastatingly disappointing. I was crushed by its blandness. I think I still am a little.

Tim 'Space Debris' said...

RE: Curve

The mark they have left is via who they influenced. Garbage sometimes sound uncannily like Curve except Garbage were million selling alt-pop titans. Both groups though were kind of phoney manufactured groups chasing alternative trends. Other parallels include second chances for both front women, well actually for Shirley Manson it was her third bite of the cherry. She had been in 80s/90s band Goodbye Mr McKenzie then Angelfish who were a record company manufactured vehicle for Manson. One of the Garbage dudes saw her on MTV and that was that.

Toni Halliday had several bites of the cherry too. She was in group State Of Play with, funnily enough Simon, members of Eurythmics live band. They did an LP in 1986 which nobody cared for. More Eurythmics connections continue here as Toni was then signed to Dave Stewart's label (Anxious Records) for a solo LP that failed to make an impact on anybody despite engineering and production from Flood and Alan Moulder. Toni then formed Curve with State Of Play/Eurythmics bass player Dean Garcia and their wild card was Alan Moulder on production, mixing, engineering and sometimes guitar duties. Curve were also signed to Anxious Records during their most successful period 1991 to 1993 where they did catch some chart action in the UK. They had 5 UK top 40 singles and the first two LPs went to 11 & 23 respectively.

One of Toni Halliday's best tunes was her guest appearance on Leftfield's debut LP Leftism. The tune 'Original' was a classic 90s radio staple.

*More Toni Halliday trivia: She married legendary engineer/producer Alan Moulder.


Wow Tim i had no idea there was a direct connection between Curve and Eurhythmics, i just thought of it as a analogy - duo (stunning female singer / nondescript but able music journeyman) - composite of hip music-press ideas packaged with traditional musical skills / songcraft / studio smarts - sense of industry lifers adapting to the current hot sound

But that's most people in the music biz really, they almost all move along with the trends... there was an amusing 'ouch' type item in he NME once on Gary Tibbs, comparing the completely different looks he'd had in The Vibrators, Roxy Music, Adam and the Ants.

Anonymous said...

There's also this odd thing that Mark Clifford of Seefeel got up to w/ Sophie Hinkley & (at times) Robin Guthrie... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZdBDNVZHpk

Ecstasy Of St Theresa, I thought by the stage of the 'Free-D' album had pretty much sailed into Bark Psychosis, post-rock waters. I remember interviewing Jan from Mouse On Mars back around the time of 'Iaora Tahiti' and having a chat w/ him about that EoST album...

The Chapterhouse / Global Communication full-album mix was for 'Blood Music', their second one... 'Pentamerous Metamorphosis'. (The GC remix was miles better than the orig album.)

Guy Blackman did a mix of some of this stuff on NTS - https://www.nts.live/shows/perfect-sound-forever/episodes/perfect-sound-forever-18th-september-2019