Goldfrapp – Black Cherry

Ten years ago this week – or, if you want to feel even older, exactly a decade ago – was the release of one of my favourite albums of all time, Black Cherry by Goldfrapp.

Coming two and a half long years on the heels of their exceptional debut Felt MountainBlack Cherry was an immensely exciting release. Just weeks before, they had unleashed the slightly grimy magnificence of lead single Train, and now we had a whole album to look forward to, mixing the lush beauty of the previous album with the dark electro goodness of the single. And there wasn’t a hint of disappointment.

Kicking off the album are the raw sounds of Crystalline Green. It’s difficult to convey exactly how exciting my first listen of this album would have been. The closest Goldfrapp had come to this kind of sound previously was their brilliant cover of UK Girls (Physical) on the bonus disc of their debut album.

The single Train follows, sadly nothing like the commercial success it deserved to be. Without a doubt it’s up there among the best singles of 2003, perhaps only eclipsed by the second single. The rhythm drives ever onwards, and by the time its four minutes are almost up you’re wondering if it will ever actually come to an end. Sadly, it does.

It’s followed by the fourth single Black Cherry, with its lush overtones reminding you why Felt Mountain was such an exceptional album. The general trend of darker track followed by more gentle track follows for much of the rest of the album, as the feedback-driven Tiptoe mixes into the beautifully soft Deep Honey.

My favourite track is Hairy Trees, which is entirely seductive in its softness. Couple that with a rather cheeky lyric (“Touch my garden” and so-on) and you have something rather special. From its very first flute chords, I don’t see how you could describe it as anything other than absolute bliss – total aural perfection.

Third single Twist is up next, perhaps a little less exciting than some of its neighbours, but still quite exceptional. It kicks off with sharp analogue howls which help carry you from innocuous verses about rabbit stew into perhaps one of the most overtly obscene singles I can think of.

The second (and also fifth) single Strict Machine follows, rhythmic, somewhat glam, and entirely beautiful. All the other acts who were copying Goldfrapp‘s style at this time really owe them a huge debt, as do the British record buying public for allowing it to scrape number 25 and number 20 respectively. It deserved better, frankly. The single version, mixed by Dave Bascombe, is probably the best of the bunch, but Goldfrapp‘s own We Are Glitter version on the reissued single is pretty exceptional too.

Then comes Forever, again the quieter counterpart to its predecessor, and not unlike the title track in its general feel and mood. And as with the first single, the album is nearly at an end. The last track Slippage is the only vaguely weak track on an otherwise perfect album, but calling it weak is really only comparative – this is, without a doubt, one of my favourite albums.

You can grab Black Cherry on iTunes here or alternatively through all the normal outlets.

Preview – Conjure One

Conjure One, having seemingly only released their excellent album Exilarch a couple of years ago are now back. Or is it Delerium? It’s hard to tell sometimes.

Either way, the new single is called Under the Gun, and came out last week. This is the Rank 1 remix:

Chart for stowaways – 13 April 2013

Here are the top ten albums for this week:

  1. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine
  2. Karl Bartos – Off the Record
  3. Boris Blank – Avant Garden Vol. 4
  4. Boris Blank – Avant Garden Vol. 3
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Architecture and Morality
  6. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation
  7. Claudia Brücken – The Lost Are Found
  8. The Presets – Pacifica
  9. Gary Numan – I, Assassin
  10. Various Artists – Le Pop 2

More next week!

Various Artists – Control

The story of Joy Division is, of course, a particularly fascinating one, which is why it’s been told in two very good films already. The second came out in 2007, was directed by music video genius Anton Corbijn, and was entitled Control.

One of my personal claims to fame is that I accidentally went to the premiere of the film in Manchester, which was a real privilege. In particular, meeting Corbijn (in his gold trainers) and seeing what turned out to be quite an exceptional film.

The soundtrack is something of a journey too. The three little new tracks from New Order, at the time on yet another of their regular hiatuses, open, close, and form the centrepiece of the album. The rest of the album is often a dark and experimental exploration of the kinds of music that influenced – or in some cases was influenced by – the sound of Joy Division.

The first full track is The Velvet Underground‘s What Goes On from their debut album in 1969. The Killers‘ cover of Shadowplay follows, with a very strong Joy Division flavour, and is followed by The Buzzcocks with a lively and slightly chaotic live version of Boredom from 1977.

Even at their weakest, every track on the album is an interesting listen, and you can definitely hear how Joy Division may have been influenced by them. Dutch prog rock band Supersister‘s She Was Naked and Iggy Pop‘s Sister Midnight are both good examples of the sort of unusual experimental recording and songwriting which clearly helped make them the band they were.

In many ways the whole album is just a compilation of the more interesting music from the 1970s. Sex Pistols crop up with a live version of Problems. Roxy Music are on there with the pleasant Hammond Organ rumblings of 2HBDavid Bowie turns up a couple of times, with Drive-in Saturday from 1973’s Aladdin Sane and Warszawa from Low (1977).

The inevitable high point of the album apart from the competent live cast recording of Transmission is an exclusive edit of Kraftwerk‘s essential 1974 hit Autobahn, as well as a few reminders of why exactly Joy Division were so special in the first place.

In summary, then, Music from the Motion Picture Control, to give its full name, is a perfect companion to an exceptionally good “motion picture”, and comes highly recommended if you haven’t heard it yet.

Preview – Sparks

It’s irritating to report that we’re still running a little behind schedule with these previews. Sorry. Leaves on the line or something.

Anyway, Sparks are back with a live album, and it’s out now. It’s called Two Hands, One Mouth, and this is the title track:

Record Store Day 2013

There’s something rather exciting about Record Store Day – loads of your favourite bands start throwing out obscure releases on bizarre formats. Not downloads, but real, tangible formats.

There’s also something rather disappointing about the whole thing. Of all of the releases I’ve heard about and wanted on Record Store Day, I’ve never actually seen a single one of them. Partly because I’ve always been out of the country every year so far, but partly also because I have a sneaking suspicion that what happens is that it’s actually a day for private dealers and too-keen collectors to swamp record shops and buy all the good stuff out. Anything worth having will be up on eBay within the day. Which seems to slightly defeat the object to me.

In fact, the only release from previous years that I remember having seen is the cassette version of Goldfrapp‘s last album Head First – which is a brilliant idea, but the knowledge that I’d never actually listen to it was what stopped me from buying it at that point.

Anyway, this year’s Record Store Day is this Saturday, and I’m actually going to be in the UK this time, so we’ll see if I can keep hold of my wallet while it happens. Here are some of the highlights of the releases that I spotted:

  • Bent – From the Vaults 1998-2007 (unknown format, 500 copies)
  • Booka Shade – Black Out: White Noise EP (12″)
  • David Bowie – Drive-In Saturday Night (7″ picture disc, 3000 copies), The Stars Are Out Tonight (7″ white vinyl, 5000 copies) and 1965 (7″)
  • Calexico – Spiritoso (LP, 2200 copies)
  • CaribouStart Breaking My Heart (LP), Up in Flames (LP) and The Milk of Human Kindness (LP)
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Animal X (7″ picture disc, 2500 copies)
  • Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love (12″, 4000 copies)
  • Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know? (7″)
  • Brian EnoNicholas Jaar x Grizzly Bear (10″, 2000 copies)
  • Frankie Goes to HollywoodThe Eye Has It (7″ shaped picture disc)
  • Garbage – Because the Night (10″, 5000 copies)
  • The Human League – Don’t You Want Me (12″)
  • Inspiral Carpets – Fix Your Smile (7″)
  • Junior Boys – Even Truer Remix EP (12″, 400 copies, “regional”)
  • MGMT – Alien Days (cassette single, 2000 copies)
  • Moby feat. Mark Lanegan – The Lonely Night (7″)
  • Mike Oldfield – Theme from Tubular Bells (7″)
  • Pink Floyd – See Emily Play (7″, 5000 copies)
  • Röyksopp – Ice Machine (10″)
  • Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun (12″, 982 copies, “regional”) and Hvarf / Heim (double LP)
  • The XX – Jamie XX Edits (12″, 1600 copies)
  • Various Artists – Astralwerks 20/20 (seven 7″ box set, including rare and unreleased tracks by KraftwerkAirThe Chemical Brothers and others, 100 copies, “regional”)
  • Various Artists – Factory Records – Communications 1978-1992 (10″ or 12″ including tracks by Joy DivisionNew OrderDurutti Column and Happy Mondays, 1000 copies)
  • Various Artists – Music from the Motion Picture Drive (LP picture disc of the excellent album with tracks by Kavinsky and Cliff Martinez, 1000 copies, US only)

Which should be more than enough to keep you busy. I’ve no idea what “regional” means. Thanks to the New Vinyl blog for helping with information about the releases. The full list is here for the USA and here for the UK.