Tuesday, March 5, 2013

P022: Cabeza de Vaca – Shoegaze techno.

Dedicated to DJ Wayne.

It has been up already a week, but it has been a busy time for me so I did not get to cross-post here on Mind Bomb the new Cabeza de Vaca show on Scanner FM!

Thematically it is a personal show since my origins were totally Luddite and guitar-based for many years and several of the songs have roots in particular epochs that mean little to anyone else but me. The MBV remix, for example, was an  occasional track at the old Fruition, Firm and Loft clubs back in Perth in Australia in the early 90s and always caused consternation amongst the indie kids as to whether it was ok to dance to or not. It is hard to quantify the divide between clubbers and indie kids, but I am sure it exists today, but back when electronica really broke through it was a vicious war for turf between the two and it seemed like there was almost no common ground by some unwritten law. Certainly the later days of the Firm there was a mini-club in the room next door that played house and techno circa 91 and 92, but was invariably empty. Raves did happen from time to time, but it didn’t seem like there was much scene back then, but I am probably wrong. In anycase, Andy Weatherall was a champion who crossed divides, not only for his remix work with MBV (which has its flaws), but also for his work with others like Primal Scream and amongst others Happy Mondays. Not shoegaze, I know, but if you are looking for crossover material from the time it is a good example. In particular, the Club Mix of “Hallelujah” by Weatherall is a classic and was used to great effect in the film “24 Hour Party People.”


There were some other tracks that I just couldn’t squeeze in as well which is a shame. Some I wanted to flag up include the DJ Spooky remix of Lush’s “Undertow”, the best track off their second album “Split”. Spooky’s remix is long, but it doesn’t ever really feel boring, always adding in a new element right to the end. It’s a big shame that Lush didn’t push more collaboration’s with dance artists as their sexy image, their psychedelic sound and the twin voices of Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson would have been a dream.


The Telescopes were another curious band of the era. They changed almost more than any other group, starting as a gothic-styled band with a heavy guitar sound and a rich source of poetic lyrics from Steven Lawrie on their seminal “Taste” album, original released on What Goes on Records. Their switch to Creation slowed them down at first for the essential “Precious Little” EP, before psychedelia kicked in for a glorious run of three EPs that accumulated in the eponymous album that bore more of a jazz influence. Amongst the three Eps was “Celeste” with its radio friendly title track, but also a “megamix” of sorts in the 9-plus minutes of “Celestial”. Hardly a perfect track, perhaps dulled a little by the repetitive bass and drums, but the psychedelic top end is extraordinary, whereas the long-range effect over the 9 minutes certainly papers over the cracks. A lost moment perhaps, at least in terms of the dance floor, but after that they still had “The Third Wave” album and more in them, and they still more or less exist today.


The inclusion of Bark Psychosis was a hard choice to make as it is not essentially a dance track, but it does sound like a guitar band trying to appropriate the sound. As well, the chunky bass and guitars do tend to signal Graham Sutton’s future forays into drum n bass territory with Boymerang, a one album project, like the reformed Bark Psychosis in the early 2000s. Another missed opportunity for all?

Finally, Slowdive finish off the show with another of their masterpieces and a surprising turn after their other masterpiece that is “Pygmalion”. Never has there even been such a big contrast between sounds of one group in such a small time. The isolationist and depressive minimalism of “Pygmalion” was far away from the sentimental and elegant “5 EP”, four tracks of genuine shoegaze techno that was ultimately a step too far for the band who broke up there after. Definitely a missed opportunity, and one that has not yet been followed up on by anyone sufficiently. There was even a remix EP of the EP, but sadly it didn’t quite reach the same heights, however, there is a surprising number of Slowdive remixes out there for the crate digger.


Finally, I cannot finish without mentioning Speedy J’s EP “Shoegaze” that came out on Electric Deluxe in 2011.


Until next week!

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