Grand Union: Spanish Dust Indian Rust


Grand Union’s ‘Spanish Dust Indian Rust’ is a compilation of tracks from the band’s two EPs recorded in 2001. Grand Union were a band born of frustration and grounded in the live experience and these recordings place great value on happenstance and spontaneity. There are weird and wonderful samples, the searching for ‘sounds that may not even be possible’, but now you can hear the band. In some instances (‘Rocks And Sands’, ‘She Lies Down’) recordings of their rehearsals were deemed to have the right vibe and blown up in the studio even if ‘the take’ was captured by the single stereo microphone of a portable minidisc player. The LP opens with ‘Hercules’, a twisted farewell to the 20th Century. Howard Hughes, Elvis, Hendrix, Apollo, Big Oil, TV and The Radio – all the mythical beasts. Floating over the twisting dial a veteran A&R manager bemoans his group for ‘living in a fantasy world and looking for sounds that may not even be possible’. This is the mission statement. ‘The K-loop’ is a sickening riff on the end of a chemical relationship, lurching from some protean sampled form of stuttering Hip Hop into supercharged Rock ‘n’ Roll. And then there’s ‘Rocks And Sands’. The song was written in 2000 about the Luxor massacre of 1997. Rippon himself spent part of his childhood in the Middle East and experienced first hand the tensions and culture clashes – big oil, big heat and big religion. Written from the viewpoint of a suicide bomber the song is a perfect expression of the empty desert at the heart of all violence – ‘it’s all over the rocks, all over the sands’. And then there’s the withering blow to the Western media’s voyeurism, the 24-hour news cycle, embodied by the camera-wielding tourists who became Luxor’s victims. ‘Please Don’t Lie’ is the lonesome prayer of the information age – each of us trying to hold on to something in the face of a digital tsunami. ‘Tumbling Rains’ is a lament over Lucas’s beautiful acoustic guitar work – a different view, another window into the band.’This Is Where You Are’ explores the paranoid anxiety that exists just below the surface of life at the turn of the millennium. ‘She Lies Down’ mixes minidiscs and 80’s synths – all media, all formats blurred into one. ‘Santa Maria’ takes on blind faith in gods and miracles. The LP closes with ‘He’s A Good Man’ – a tender letter to an alcoholic father.

Dylan Rippon: Hail! Taikonauts

HRWZ016 Hail! Taikonauts

‘Hail! Taikonauts’ is Rippon’s second instrumental album. The various recordings were made over a three year period between 2004 and 2007. It is also a concept album. Inspired by an exhibition of Chinese Communist Poster Art and Lynn Pan’s book ‘Mao Memorabilia The Man And The Myth’, Rippon became intrigued by the power of nations to create their own narratives no matter how far-fetched or outlandish. ‘Hail! Taikonauts’ is an imagined silent movie, filmed in China and starring Chinese actors. The movie is created as a piece of beautiful propaganda with Rippon’s fantastical music set to each scene. The synopsis of ‘Hail! Taikonauts’ also serves as a cue sheet for each track and can be read in full here. This is certainly a far-out album in Rippon’s discography but there are many moments of true beauty. The blissed-out acoustic electronica of ‘Cedars’, the awe-inspiring claustrophobic soundscape of ‘Vallis’, the strange and wonderful ‘Aristarchus’. Picture the film in the epic proportions of Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ or Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ and let the music transport you. In order to work the listener has to contribute their own visions, their own dreams. Rippon’s magic eye again demonstrates spooky foresight. The story was sketched in 2007 in all its bizarre hallucinatory glory. On December 1st 2013 the BBC reported that China’s first lunar rover mission had successfully launched. There is a Long March 3B Rocket on its way to the Moon as you read this. By 2019 all those dreams may be true.

Dylan Rippon: Needles On Strange Acoustics

HRWZ012 Needles On Strange Acoustics

With ‘Needles On Strange Acoustics’ there’s an uncompromising dedication to looseness. Opening track ‘Night Fire’ is a swamp-song instrumental right on the edge of town. There’s Brian Jones-style slide playing, kitchen sink percussion, the purity of the single take. Beck’s ‘One Foot In The Grave’ (1994), Stina Nordenstam’s ‘And She Closed Her Eyes’ (1994), Bill Callahan, J. Mascis and Ween are the big contemporary influences. There are also touches of The Stones (‘Rocket In My Soul’), Crosby Stills & Nash (‘Loose Ends’) and Dr. John (‘Night Fire’). In some of the songs Rippon can be heard exploring further afield with his e64 sampler, warping the sound of guitars and pianos into new forms. ‘All Alone Arcturus’ begins with a de-tuned and inverted guitar figure that owes as much in its creation to My Bloody Valentine as it does to Muddy Waters. The album is a collection of recordings made by Dylan Rippon between 1995 and 1997 and most of the Needles recordings were taped onto a Tascam 244 4-track cassette recorder and there’s a unique warmth and presence throughout. Lo-fi to the core – the songs are gloriously naive and juvenile in the best sense of the word.

Grand Union: All That Indian Rust


Grand Union: All That Spanish Dust


Grand Union’s debut EP recorded in the spring of 2001 was released in May of the same year as a CD limited to an edition of 200 copies. The EP opens with ‘Hercules’, a beautiful farewell to the 20th Century. Howard Hughes, Elvis, Hendrix, Apollo, Big Oil, TV and The Radio – all the mythical beasts. Floating over a twisting dial a recording of The Grateful Dead’s exasperated A&R manager bemoans the group for ‘living in a fantasy world and looking for sounds that may not even be possible’. Words that spoke to the heart of Grand Union. Rob Lucas’s fluid bass playing perfectly complements Larratt’s laid back feel on the drums – a new bedrock for the samples and loops that were such a big part of the Solar (the band that evolved into Grand Union) sound. ‘This Is Where You Are’ and ‘Santa Maria’ explore the paranoid anxiety that exists just below the surface of life at the turn of the millennium. ‘He’s A Good Man’ is a heartbreaking letter to an alcoholic father. ‘Tourist Call’ closes with frenzied guitars screaming over a recording of a nurse recalling the Battle of El Alamein which she witnessed first hand. There’s a sense of release, a celebration of futility and mortality – ‘it’s just a tourist call for you in this world’. The hapless tourist, gazing from a distance, collecting memories, ticking boxes but somehow disconnected from reality is a theme Grand Union would return to again.

Solar: Six Suns


Six Suns is a double album compilation of the Six EPs released by Solar throughout 1998-1999 on their own label Diablo Fuel. Recording on to tape, either a Tascam 4-track or an AKAI 12-track, using an e64 sampler to generate beats and loops, Solar were part of the 90’s lo-fi revolution – the collision of new digital technology and the analogue world. They stood in direct opposition to the Britpop scene and believed that each record they made was an opportunity to discover something new about the world. Listening to the breadth of influences crashing into found sounds and bizarre loops across the 24 tracks in this album is quite a trip. And we’re just talking about the sonics – the songs themselves are even more remarkable. ‘Pale Morning’ and ‘Somebody On My Side’ are great country songs that would not be out of place beside the work of Gram Parsons or Leon Payne. ‘Everything That I Need’ is a psychedelic sneer at the world of aspirational consumerism – a ‘Satisfaction’ for the post-E generation. There are electronic wonders such as ‘Seconds’ and ‘Journey To The Centre Of The Sun’ and looped-up voodooed experiments in rock ‘Headshake’ and ‘New Killers’. ‘Sure’ kicks it off – playlisted by Xfm and featured as a single of the week by the NME – it’s a thrilling walk through dystopia, guitars bents so out of shape they are barely recognisable. Like Drury’s artwork the music is a window to another world – in some way familiar, tinged with kodak-colour nostalgia – at the same time brand new and still fresh some 15 years later.

Solar: The Six EPs

Solar’s Six EPs were recorded over 1997-1998. The basic setup consisted of a Tascam 244 4-track tape recorder, an AKAI 12-track tape machine, an EMU e64 Sampler and a couple of microphones. The first EP ‘Sure’ was released on the bands own label Diablo Fuel in January 1998. Featuring Pete Howard (The Clash) on drums the lead song was playlisted by Xfm and was described as ‘tubthumping dub’ by the NME. ‘Pale Morning’, a beautiful tribute to Gram Parsons recorded on 4-Track, features Morgan Nicholls (Muse, Gorillaz) on Hammond Organ and is as far removed from the lead track as it is possible to be. Together the Six EPs feature everything from hardcore country-blues (Somebody On My Side) to minimal electro (Drifting Knowing) via voodooed psychedelic rock’n’roll (Thin Air). Magical lo-fi, reverb-laden loops, pitched down and then up, bit-crushed and inverted and everything saturated with the hiss of tape.

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