erasing clouds

5 Music Reviews

by anna battista, dave heaton

Ave Marina: Ten Years of Marina Records (Marina Records)

In 1960 an Italian song entitled "Marina" sung by a guy called Rocco Granata, reached the top of the charts all over the world. Honestly, I never liked it and I always tried (without any success) to find the reason why such a cheesy and stupid song became so famous. There is another 'Marina', though, I've always been fond of, and that's Hamburg-based Marina Records. This record label became quite well known among true music lovers for its releases, often penned by Scottish bands (apparently the people @ Marina simply adore Scotland/Scottish music from Postcard Records on). To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Marina has released a double CD compilation, Ave Marina, containing 38 tracks, some taken from its back catalogue, some others unreleased. Marina darlings Jazzateers, Sugartown, Cowboy Mouth and The Pearlfishers are all here, together with composers Peter Thomas and Van Dyke Parks and with an assortment of tracks from the best Scottish pop bands such as The Secret Goldfish and Adventures in Stereo. Each song is different from the other, from rock to pop from lounge to dance. Very honourable mentions go to Josef K's "Heads Watch" from the 1980's album Endless Soul, and to a bunch of unreleased tracks by Article 58, Malcolm Ross, James Kirk, Edwyn Collins, Roddy Frame, Kim Fowley, Green Peppers (aka Jim McCulloch of Soup Dragons and BMX Bandits fame) and The Primary 5 (a group put together by Scottish musician and songwriter Paul Quinn, who is often remembered in connection with Teenage Fanclub). There is a major fault in this album: there are too many tracks on it. Oh well, that means you won't have time to listen to anything else this summer apart from Ave Marina. Happy Birthday, Marina, then, and many happy returns.--anna battista

Delivery Room: Special Low Price Sampler (The Leaf Label)

Who isn't suspicious of low price samplers? I often see them as an excuse for record labels to sell you the worst stuff around. Mind you, there can be exceptions, as for example this Leaf Label sampler, which is actually a quite pleasant and surprising album. Opening with the vaguely Brazilian rhythms of "Pick Up Sticks" featuring Bill Wells, Stefan Schneider & Annie Whitehead, taken from their recently released album by the same name, Delivery Room contains, among the other tracks, the electro-dream "Memoria" (Sutekh's Trisagion Mix) by Murcof; "Essen", by Icarus, which reminds the best Macrocosmica; the mesmerising "Crayon" by Manitoba; the Four Tet evoking "Ritournelle" by Colleen and last years' darlings Asa-Chang & Junray with "Parlor". You'll definitely get lost in the textures of this compilation, in between its piano melodies and its sensual, sad or joyful tracks, because this is the sort of experimental/electronica music that sends a shiver down your spine.--anna battista

Pants Yell!, Songs for Siblings (Asaurus)

Sometimes it takes a second go-round to make me pay attention. I've had Pants Yell!'s Our Horse Calls, a cassette collection of demos on the great label Best Kept Secret hanging around my home for a while now, but I didn't realize quite how great it was until I put on their new CD Songs for Siblings and was immediately blown away by it. Here's 9 sweet, sad, happy, beautiful pop songs about love and all of that, played in a sparse but crisp way on a few instruments (guitar, bass, drums, sometimes a few notes on a keyboard). The CD kicks off with a great manifesto ("We don't believe in love/we don't believe in our parents") that might be sincere and might be a bit tongue-in-cheek, for they definitely have a sense of humor, part of what makes their music so charming. Everything here is sung with a sincere smile, or at least it sounds that way. Which isn't to say this is all sunshine and ice cream (though they have a lovely child-like tilt, along the lines of Jonathan Richman or a less sloppy Beat Happening)...there's truly affecting moments of heartbreak and hurt, as on one of my favorite tracks, "Public Gardens" (as in "I cried while walking through the public gardens"). It's just that Pants Yell! have a gift at writing and playing songs that are both light as air and serious as a broken heart. The songs on Songs for Siblings wrap themselves around your heart in a genuine way, by capturing giddy and sad feelings equally, within songs you'll want to hear again and again and again.- dave heaton

Pepito, Everything Changes (Static)

"Everything changes," Pepito declare in the title track to their album Everything Changes. And that forward motion is reflected in their sound, an intoxicating blend of influences and directions; there's atmospheric electronics, infectious pop melodies, bouncy texture and tempo shifts, lyrics in Spanish and English that are stylish but deceptively somber. This is the place where robots and cityfolk meet to dance and dream, the imagined city that's made of fears and violence but also video games, sunshine, and love. Jose Marquez and Ana Machado, the duo from San Francisco (by way of Cuba and Mexico) who make up Pepito, have crafted a sound which is both seriously pleasurable and quite futuristic (meaning fresh, not robotic). But..."Everything changes every single day," the line goes, "and everything's the same." Pepito aren't idly dreaming about a utopian tomorrow. These songs contain tears, too, which makes the dancing and singing along all the more meaningful. Pepito are on some sort of cutting edge, but they're also pop musicians, who know how to pour their feelings into exquisite melodies and sounds. - dave heaton

Mark Tranmer, Scoop Of Ice-Cream Moon (Kooky)

The first album by Mark Tranmer under his own name, after the Gnac releases and the collaborations with The Montgolfier Brothers, is a record with a heart and a poetically bizarre title. Scoop of Ice-Cream Moon is a bit more intense and perhaps darker than Gnac's previous works. The twelve instrumentals on this work are either long tracks such as the one that gives the title to the album or very short epiphanies that only last a few seconds (see "Chance Harmonic"), yet they all have the magic of little poems. This evocative album opens with the soothing "Again" which conjures up in your mind images of long lost loves and wintry landscapes, and sets the tone for the rest of the songs, dark lullabies for our era such as "Hypercrystal", hopelessly sad, yet intrinsically beautiful. The seventh track, the hypnotic "By Association", is the best track with its subtle spooky musical textures and could definitely be used as the soundtrack for a magic-gothic film a la Tim Burton. Anything else to say? We can only add that Mark Tranmer is a miniaturist of adventurous sounds. --anna battista

Issue 24, June 2004

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