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When women created a new sound – August tracks of the month

By Martin Smith | 1 August 2016

The Marine Girls (Tracey went on to form Everything but the Girl

The Marine Girls (Tracey Thorn went on to form Everything but the Girl


Sharon signs to Cherry Red Compilation (RPM 2016) CD/Download

Before the arrival of the Riot Grrrl music scene in the early 1990s, many would argue that there were two previous eras of great women singers – 1960s soul and late 1970s punk. In both eras women were nearly always ‘just’ the singers. But in the early 1980s a huge number of bands emerged where women were not only the singers but musicians as well.

This wonderful compilation brings a number of the lesser-known bands from that era together (Tracey Thorn would go onto bigger and greater things). It is a kaleidoscope of musical styles covering post punk, mod revival, rockabilly, cow-punk, soul, funk, reggae dub and pop. The label Cherry Red Records would epitomise this sound. The anti-rock, anti-virtuosity aesthetic of 80s indie-pop was shaped by the sudden involvement of these young musicians.

As you would expect the songs cover a wide range of human emotions and subjects. There are melancholic and introspective love songs by the Marine Girls, Grab Grab the Haddock and Strawberry Switchblade. There were also bands that were absorbing and reinterpreting US soul and funk songs, which were to play such an important part of 1980s pop music. Check out Sunsets Guns version of William De Vaughn’s Be Thankful For What You’ve Got and Tracie’s The Boy’s Hairdresser.

What makes this double CD essential are the tracks that tackle some of the social and political issues of the early 1980s. First up is Eleanor Rigby’s I Want to Sleep with You. Eleanor Rigby was one of the underground heroes of the revival Mod movement. This three-minute single about desire and sex originally came with a free condom. The Sun hated it and the BBC banned it, that was reason enough for me and thousands of others to buy it. Last is Janet Armstrong’s punky dub killer B-side Exploited, and its political message is as hard as nails.

Henri Texier (Bonobo Remix) – Les Là-Bas (Ninja Tunes 2016) 12/Downlaod

The musician and DJ Bonobo has remixed Henri Texier’s psych-tinged folk-jazz track Les Là Bas. It is if possible even better than the original, which can be found on the B-side.

Henri Texier is a French bassist and Don Cherry collaborator. Les Là Bas is the opening track of Henri Texier’s 1977 album Varech, if you see it make sure you grab a copy.

Aaron Holm – The Boy (Dissolve Records 2016) CD/LP/Download

Aaron Holm is a Seattle-based producer and musician who writes and performs experimental ambient and electronic compositions. His previous works have mixed field recordings with musical soundscapes. Holm has been in retirement for the last decade focusing on creating computer software.

Now he is back with a new single Little One and a new album The Boy.

The music has echoes of Steve Reich, Brian Eno and Mathew Herbert and takes you on a journey exploring the violence and isolation of the inner city boy as he grows up to becomes a father.

The Boy’s emotional peak comes at the end with children singing Catch A Falling Star which Holm received on the day of the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings. As Holm explains in the album’s press release:

The voices in this track soothe broken hearts and the loss of innocence and brings the boy full circle from childhood to fatherhood.

There is no video to accompany this review.

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports (Virgin Music 1978) CD/LP/Download/Audiocassette

I want to introduce this month’s curveball album with a personal anecdote.

A couple of weeks ago I DJ’d at a couple of electronic dance music events in Montreal. My set finished at 8am, the promoter then wanted to shut the club down and set up on a terrace for an afternoon of chilled electronic and jazz music. A big-crowd, 200-strong refused to leave, so while the sound guys and VJ packed up their stuff I put on my old copy of Brian Eno’s path breaking album Ambient 1. The plan was simple, bring the mood right down and hopefully let the revellers drift off. But that didn’t happen, instead everyone sat on the floor and for the next 40 minutes people just zoned into the music.

I guess from the reaction of the crowd, and the fact that a number of people were desperate to find out who the artist was, most had never heard the music before.

Some music critics have labeled Eno’s Ambient series of albums as “Muzac” (lift music). For me Eno’s music is the complete opposite. “Muzac” is music with its originality and soul stripped away, while Eno’s ambient sound is music stripped back to its essential and beautiful elements.

If you haven’t heard the album before, get hold of a copy, set aside some downtime and immerse yourself in its beauty. And if like me you have it, but haven’t listened to it in a long time, it’s time to revisit Eno and his visionary recordings.



4 comments

  1. Roger Huddle said:

    Really like music for airports. First heard complete work by New York’s Bang On A Can. Cherry Red a must for me this month. Cheers.

    1 August 2016 at 9:57pm
  2. martin said:

    Hi Roger, also look out for the Bonobo/Texier track its right up your street. Have you got the Jack DeJohnette album ‘In Movement’. The Garrison and Coltrane sons really excel.

    1 August 2016 at 10:10pm
  3. Richard Dillon said:

    Henri Texier – a new name to me, and something new to dig around in…thanks, Martin.

    2 August 2016 at 10:35am
  4. martin said:

    Hi Richard, Texier has rightly been called the French Dave Holland. In the 1970s and 1980s he played a number of benefits for leftist causes. Some of his early albums that you used to be able to pick up for a few Euros now go for silly money. But you can still get great albums like Remparts d’Argile and Respect easily. He has also recorded a wonderful album
    ‘Paris-Batignolles’ with Joe Lovano.

    2 August 2016 at 11:00am

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