Red Church - Marilyn Rose Veil (Marilyn Rose Veil) and Afloat - The Near Jazz Experience (Sartorial Records)
I had these two on, over and over, back to back while I was cooking, driving and then again the other night. And then again, and again. There's a cool groove about both; and while I prefer "Afloat" to "Red Church", my tastes ain't yours (thankfully).
"Red Church" is nothing like "Afloat", when each finishes, the start of the next is a bit like getting to the top of a staircase and trying to climb another step which isn't there. A bit startling. Could be dangerous.
The seven songs on "Red Church" all favour Veil's huge voice; and here she must owe a debt of thanks to the very talented guitarist Henry Hugo, the ex-Argentinian New Australian (via Switzerland - and no, he's not a banker or a money lender in his spare time).
Most of Hugo's songs he recorded in Zurich, with overdubs and mixing by Hugo and Dugald Jayes (who adds an air of brash mystery to the proceedings) in Melbourne. Mark Steiner helped by recording Gunnar Motland's drums on a couple of tracks. Lyrics and vocals ... this is where "Red Church" comes to life.
There's a distinct sense of European cinema, droll groove and drama here, dotted with slow builds, dramatic ladders and that soaring voice. Hugo's distinctive twang adds a loping spaghetti van Cleef air, while the drums maintain the interest on the original deposit. Buy it here.
"Red Church" gets four bottles, but as I say, I got most invigorated and hyperventilatory over "Afloat", which gets seven bottles. "Afloat" is way beyond excellent or essential in my book; "Red Church" is something far better than the usual "indie" clodhoppers; like all the best LPs, both repay with repeated listens.
"Afloat" is another ... well, I was going to write "proposition", but really, ot is more like another world. But first ...
Some 18 years ago, multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey, Blockheads, Gallon Drunk) and the Scapegoats did a radio session for John Peel of the BBC. Several years later, when I heard it for the first time, I was gobsmacked.
First, because TES had done a Peel session of Fall songs (all brilliantly interpreted via Jamaica) I thought, because the 1999 TES session opened with a rupturing version of "Ace of Spades", that the next three songs would also be Motorhead covers, and listened accordingly (er, no. Unlike rather a lot of folk on social media, I own about two of their LPs and couldn't claim to know every song).
The result of this mistake was to hear Motorhead apparently taken down a certain path, grunting and bellowing, into territory which resembled free jazz, but wasn't. Few of you enjoy The Stooges song "LA Blues" - that's free jazz, kind of, btw. What Edwards and chums achieve is a freedom within a genre. Think of it again: The Fall via Jamaica. Motorhead with sax.
So. To "Afloat". A teasing, twitching opening track leads to a three-piece which knows how to swing, how to break the swing and honk like demons with their feet in the mincer, how to blurt raucously and to rein it all in, drag us back to our seats, mesmerised. There's not a wrong note, not a single unnecessary sound, not a blind musical alley on the entire disc. The groove, all the way through, is solid, stone, and loose.
Rather a tall story? Not a bit of it; these guys play for the love as much as the (coff-coff) money; you'll recall Madness, I'm sure? Their bassist Mark Bedford is in there, and Simon Charterton on what might be loosely described as percussion (ex-Higsons, he's also played with Pete Saunders and on Alex Harvey's last LP), and of course El Tel, Terry Edwards. For a three-piece, they make one hell of a racket, then catch you as you swoon into their arms.
"Afloat" is a lurid pulp-jazz thriller, taking the genre kinda as its terrain, but coming - and therefore developing - from a much broader direction (think guns, psychosis, pubs, "mineral salts" and rude women). You know how jazz bands just play something they call jazz, right? and how some rock bands unwisely foray into jazz (thinking about how those jazz bands play jazz and trying to mimic it) and boring us all to death with terribly clever musicianly stuff which we don't really care about because what we want is to DANCE and be MOVED and be TAKEN ON AN ADVENTURE, GRANPA ..?
Oh, shut up, of course you do. And that's the attitude the NJE have, where you find yourself unexpectedly on the dancefloor (or, in my case, the living-room) getting sweaty with strangers and having your feet trodden on (or, in my case, knocking over the TV and finding myself getting sweaty with a sofa just as the door opens, "Oh, hello dear, didn't hear you come in. Er, lovely to see you again, your Eminence...") before drifting into the sort of baroque movement which would put your local orchestra to shame. The NJE conjure up dragster races instead of greyhounds. And, alcohol. Certain substances. And, sex. Glorious, sticky, heaving, muscular sex. And ice-cream and jelly.
And that ain't the half of it. "Afloat" can be obtained here. Also, if you are so inclined, you can make certain Robyn Hitchcock, Lydia Lunch, Higsons, and Gallon Drunk transactions there as well. It's rather a spiffy label.
- Red Church