Andy Partridge - Pink Thing

Recordings like this encapsulate the true spirit of this blog. Whilst I try and primarily post songs by acts who (for whatever reason) slipped into obscurity, it's sometimes the case that interesting rarities come from big named acts. The first ever post on this blog was a 1974 demo by The Stranglers: one of the biggest punk/new-wave acts to ever emerge out of Britain. Here, like with that post, I've got a track from a band considered '70s/'80s royalty. XTC are a group I really admire, for their arrangements, virtuosic performances and idiosyncratic songwriting. This demo of Oranges & Lemons cut 'Pink Thing' strips away the band's usually clean cut production to leave simply the songwriting genius of Andy Partridge. The song was released as part of the Fuzzy Warbles 8-part CD boxset, a collection of demos, bootlegs and general rarities, recorded almost entirely by Partridge himself. One of my Partridge favourites, the track is probably best remembered for its perverted lyrical wit ("when I stroke your head I feel a hundred heartbeats high, pink thing"). This recording is extra dirty, with its low-fidelity production adding to the track's sleaze.

Label: Ape House
Year: 1989/2004
Genre: New-Wave, Lo-Fi, Pop

Rocket or Chiritori - Star

Rocket or Chiritori was the project of Japanese schoolgirl Satoko Shibahara, whose musical 'career' lasted from the ages of fifteen to seventeen. Between those ages, Shibahara recorded a collection of messy, rickety low-fidelity indie pop songs. There is something incredibly intimate about the recordings; it feels as though you are in her room with her, or in her diary, or even in her mind. What makes the music so personal is in how untreated and raw the recordings are. Her vocals are practically indiscernible, the instrumentation is naïve and the general production is a warm encapsulation of teenage angst and exploration. Yet, underneath the mess lay songs that could, with sufficient polishing, be hits in a variety of styles. 'Star', as featured in this post, wouldn't be out of place in the K Records roster, or among Scottish indie pop acts like The Pastels or The Shop Assistants, or, even, in an American college movie. I guess that implies that there's a degree of unfulfilled potential here but, at the same time: would professionalism enhance these recordings in any other way than aesthetically? No. They are perfect as they are, as snapshots into the life of a young girl, from another time, from another culture. The recordings are her.

Label: Cardinal Records
Year: 1997
Genre: Indie Pop, Lo-Fi Pop, Experimental, Anti-Folk

Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet - Manège

Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet was a group consisting of siblings François and Bernard Baschet and Jacques and Yvonne Lasry. The Baschet brothers were inventors of instruments (namely the Cristal Baschet), while the Lasry siblings were more conventional percussionists, and together they produced eerie musique-concrète, informed strongly by classical composition (the album No.4, from which Manège is taken, features interpretations of Vivaldi and Bach compositions). The group were a success, producing music for the Jean Cocteau film Le Testament d'Orphée and also supposedly being approached to produce the original Doctor Who theme (which of course was eventually performed by The Radiophonic Workshop). This piece, Manège, is like a trip on a haunted carousel, characterised by creepily disjointed percussion and homemade metallic inventions.

Label: BAM
Year: 1965
Genre: Avant-Garde, Classical, Musique-Concrète

НИИ Косметики - Пушка

Formed in 1984, НИИ Косметики offered an antidote to a cultural landscape of blacklists, interrogation and oppression in the Soviet Union. Musical groups under the Communist regime tended to be registered and monitored by the government, as demonstrated in the formation of Moscow Rock Lab, an official organisation set up to oversee the actions of Soviet rock groups. Sure, the Rock Lab encouraged musical diversity. But it was government-sanctioned diversity. НИИ Косметики (whose name translates as Scientific Research Institute of Cosmetics) rebelled against this. They largely functioned underground and put out risqué lo-fi pop jams, songs that transcended new-wave or new-romanticism and instead fell among the experimentalists of the time. With songs like Пушка, the band showed their intent in remaining obscure. The song's title translates as 'Gun', the track length is over seven minutes, and Michael Yevsenkov's vocals are difficult to gage on first listen. If you combine that with the fact that they'd never have broken into the US, it's quite remarkable that they've survived, even in certain niche corners of the internet. The West was terrified of Communism, of the Soviet Union, even of the cyrillic alphabet. Russian vocals were too much, especially when coming from a rather shady source in the Moscow underground. Back home they weren't exactly a hit, either. They didn't conform to the Rock Lab. The KGB weren't fans. They remained cult heroes purely to a certain demographic. And I kind of like it like that. There's a scent of mystery around this group, a feeling that oozes out of every wailed vocal part, scratchy synthesiser and shimmering guitar. It absolutely makes sense that Ariel Pink is a fan (and almost certainly an adherent), given some rather uncanny similarities in their sounds. Success or not, it's safe to say НИИ Косметики put out some stunning pop songs.

Label: ?
Year: 1987
Genre: New-Wave, Experimental, Synth-Pop, No-Wave