• Make Do & Mend Pt. 1 | J Simpson

    In August of 2011, a warehouse burned. A warehouse with A LOT of records in it. The Sony DADC warehouse was set on fire during riots taking place in London, and some of the lost inventory were for the independent distributor PIAS—who distribute records for 4AD, Warp, Soul Jazz, Thrill Jockey, and the heroes of this story, Finders Keepers.

    Finders Keepers started back in 2001 with an eponymous compilation. Expert diggers Andy Votel, Dominic Thomas, and Doug Shipton started the label with the intent of unearthing “psychedelic / jazz / folk / funk / avant-garde and whacked-out movie musak,” for the faithful. Faux vampire soundtracks, Czech new wave, more funky Indian breaks than you can shake a divining rod at, these guys live and breathe dusty vinyl (probably to the detriment of their lungs and delicate psyches). They have become a reliable source of curious psychedelic artifacts, packed with dense liner notes, and often luxuriously packaged on vinyl. There’s is a model of care and craft, and when their inventory burned, the community stepped up to help them stay afloat.

    Being an impoverished music enthusiast in this day and age, trying to accurately describe sounds and alert folks to good music is part of the way that I support the various scenes. Also, being an obsessive in this day and age means being drowned in sound and hearing novel acoustics, from waking until sleep. If you don’t learn to slow down and experience whatever you’re hearing, it becomes bland white noise—garbage in the data stream. Labels like Finders Keepers, and other expert archaeologists, give their lifeblood and sweat to find the most esoteric slabs of wax and funnel them back into the culture. I give my sweat and sleepless nights in response, acting as scribe, trying to jot it all down. It’s what I attempt to do with the 66.6 series: fanatical obsessive sonic archaeology.

    I impudently volunteered to review all 10 EPs of the Make Do & Mend series, released back in 2011. Make Do & Mend consists a series of EPs, released bi-weekly for 5 months, with big names like Jarvis Cocker, Demdike Stare, Belle And Sebastian, Prefuse 73, and fellow archivists Sublime Frequencies putting together mixtapes of their favorite tracks from the Finders Keepers catalog. I quickly came to realize that the standard ‘This is what this sounds like’ music journalism was not going to cut it. It would take a novel to describe the bread crumb trail of obscure 7”s, weird soundtracks, and the movies they come from and the supermarket of genres contained on these 20 sides. This gives me an opportunity to try several of the emerging styles of music writing that are prevalent these days. It’s a joke—pretending to be an authority on even the slightest percentage of sounds that surround us now. The best we can hope for is an inquisitive mind, open ears, and an appreciative heart.

    MAKE DO & MEND 01 - Jarvis Cocker

    The first installment was brought to you by Jarvis Cocker, multi-cultural frontman of Pulp. He brings us a sampler of Japanese children’s music, Caribbean funk, proto-Techno, and Australian motorcycle gangs. 

    “Listen you dandelions

    don’t try to be daisies

    don’t try to be tall like the trees

    did some of you try to be pink?

    be content

    be yellow

    its not failure if yr not a pink dandelion”

    A quaint Mancunian accent intones over some mayfair flute and faint guitar plucks, courtesy of Carol Batton, a poet who disseminates her words on the streets of Manchester. ‘Beeing’ sets the mood for this first installment of MD&M, and this opening verse could be a cross-stitch sampler hanging in the Finders Keepers’ office. Quickly veering from childlike verse, and the lysergic orientalism of Yamasuki, a project of French pop composers Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde, which sounds like Damo Suzuki leading the Langley School Music Project, with a Judo master punctuating the verses like Kuni from UHF. This combination of childlike wonderment and soul-burning psych grooves is a decent synapses of Cocker’s contribution to the cause. Almost every track is a winner, many soliciting comments from my roommates, causing me to walk back and forth to cull exotic names from the playlist. My personal favorites are ‘Le Roi Des Mouches et la Confiture De Rose’ from Jean-Claude Vannier’s misplaced masterpiece, L’enfant assassin des mouches. Finders Keepers unearthed this gem in 2006, one of their most noteworthy achievements to date, rekindling Vannier’s career in the process. The alarm-clock musique concrete, Within You Without You strings, and middle-eastern percussion tickled my cochlea in all the right ways, and reminded me to listen to Histoire de Melody Nelson again.

    Jarvis must’ve been on a roll: the futuristic space-disco of ‘Super Man, Super Cool’ is a banger! Slinky, slippery funk synth, motorik drum beat, acid rock guitar licks and gospel chorus sung in french and James Brown’s horn section playing the Munsters theme song; its Detroit techno made by a live band in 1978. Cache Cache, a Finders Keepers’ subsidiary, restored this to wax in 2010, and Jackie Chalard has been one of the choicest of this series thus far.

    Billy Green brings us a roadtrip across Australia: ‘Death Trip’ from the ‘Stone’ Soundtrack, “The Gravediggers” bring us a new kind of motorbike gang, and then its on to Trinidad with Amral’s Trinidad Cavalier Steel Orchestra cover of War’s ‘The World Is A Ghetto’. Its a feast for breakbeat fanatics, a real slick downbeat and ambient Calypso. That’s the thing with these Finders Keepers’ comps, you have to be a geographer and an ethnomusicologist to even try and write about them, they’re so all over the place. Or, you’ll end up as both, along the way.

    We have a lot of ground to cover, so I’ll hesitate from describing every track.

    The one I’ll leave you with is ‘Silver Chord’ by Jane Weaver. She’s one of the originating sorceresses of the Bird offshoot of FK. I’ve been fond of The Fallen By Watchbird, and have even pulled this out live. It’s gorgeous. Her voices sears my soul, true pagan worship. This is harps and angels, freak folk done right, here joined by Wendy Flower. It’s this kind of track that makes it spellbinding to be a music journalist.

    1 down, 9 to go.

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    MAKE DO & MEND 02 - Demdike Stare

    It was because Demdike Stare that I delved into this project in the first place. I decided to become fascinated by their gaze, and use it as a salve against my musical ADD. Sometimes  you’ve just got to take a stand.

    MD&M 02 was probably the highest profile of the bunch, most notably for 2 exclusive DS edits and a sneak peak at a forthcoming Jean Rollin soundtrack, Fascination (paired with Requiem For A Vampire). We are introduced once again to Billy Green, of the Stone roadtrip fame. Demdike’s ‘Double Drop Crash Edit’ takes us far off the highway and into the outback. Headswallowing didgeridoo and tribal bells, ghostly choirs of djinn: Demdike Stare get trancey as only they can.

    For a long time I was only listening to the EP1 version of this, which was released as ep1 with the two remixes and a track from Slant Azymuth, so it was kind of a trip to hear the whole thing, with all the funky filler. They’re essentially a mixtape band, building their golems from pre-recorded slivers of the choicest wax; they will introduce you to a million new bands.

    ‘The Dragon’ by Vangelis sounds like Scottish techno with fiddle and lo-fi acid guitars, like Chrome dancing with the Dead’s parking lot. It’s 15 minutes of stomping, eye-crossing tribal getdown, advise caution while operating fast machinery. It’ll put you in the theta state in the morning, and having you talking to ghosts by mid-lunch. He apparently does a lot more than just airy synthscapes.

    ‘Demdike Stare's Les Vampires Emeutes Mash Up of Horrific Child’s ‘L'Etrange Mr Whinster’ is my favorite. I heard Boomkat call it “a full five minutes of hopunchbacked loops and petrified chorales from the back of the top shelf,” and I couldn’t really improve upon that (as usual). It’s whispery and sinister, Suspiria-like and pounding and terrifyingly detuned; the kind of a thing to stop a party cold. It’s like a witch party in a dream.

    ‘Contast’ by Fusioon should again make some instrumental beatheads very happy, or perhaps purveyors of abstract electronics. There’s lots of squiggly organs to bend, and some sweet chorus-y guitar. Very similar in kosmic mood to 01’s ‘Tocatta Y Fug’. They remind me of Keith Emerson’s prog-funk excursions; come to think of it, there’s a bit of a Goblin Giallo fog over this whole affair, as well. ‘Disco Title Music From Dahshat’ comes on like a dance party in a temple in Calcutta; funky bongo action and Hindu chanting, some overdriven exotica flutes and spy guitar, burned from the vinyl. Bappi Bahiri popularized the use of synthesized disco music in Indian films, and was accused of plagiarizing other composers without paying royalties. He seems to be an interesting character with a lot of music—and it seems like his career was full of crazy, otherworldly sounding funk breaks. I will have to investigate further.

    ‘Violent Library’ by Acanthus is an abstract drum ritual in the middle of the comp. It brings to mind the ritual processions of funeral folk druids like Sylvester Anfang II or Comus. Come worship...

    Bruno Spoerri is practically becoming a household name, ever since FK released Gluckskugel to critical acclaim. Since then, a number of his original albums have been restored to print on a handful of sweet labels, appear on compilations, and are remixed by young practitioners of the electronic black arts.

    Originally coming from a jazz saxophone background and stopping for a moment to practice psychology, DJ Dino Lötscher and Andy Votel convinced Spoerri to dig into his sound archives from 71-80, in hopes of unearting a pleasurable treasure trove of audio ingenuity and bouncing tones of self-discovery. It’s brilliant stuff and well-recorded. ‘Background Rhythm 4’ is a ghost in the machine, a virtual heaven, a Fellini nightmare. The vocals will just not come into focus, a rain-soaked blur of nauseating ascent; bloodcurdlingly futuristic, in an old-fashioned kind of way.

    I got introduced to the fried grooves of Selda Bagcan a couple of years ago, thanks to Finders Keepers. (Actually, I think I heard her on Oh No’s track ‘Heavy’ first). I’ve always been a huge fan of middle-eastern scales, so Selda’s sitar leads and perfect breakbeats are a no-brainer, plus she wails like an Indonesian Janis Joplin. I think she was a persecuted political prisoner at some point. ‘Utan Utan’ will please your cocktail-sipping company.

    ‘Visitors’ is a visitation from Jean-Paul Massiera, it’s like a Dario Argento car chase in space with Phil Collins on the radio. It’s kind of queasy and greasy in its triumphant ‘80s electro. It seems like the gratuitous ‘song’ on the horror movie score, interrupting the surreal atmosphere of dread. This will sound good on a cassette deck as you head to the ice cream parlor.

    ‘Main Theme from Sitting Target’ takes us back to the cinematic roots of Finders Keepers’ soundtrack fetish. A ponderous Morricone funk workout; space western. Beatdiggers beware this, there’s wailing sax and gothic grindhouse organs. There’s even some industrial lo-fi clutter. Creepy slo-mo western breakbeats, absolutely glorious.

    We conclude our listening journey with ‘Des Ecuries’ by Phillippe D’aram returning us to the decompression chamber of our own atmosphere, in some more weightless dystopian dream mass. If HAL were to have sang opera...

    This concludes the second chapter of our installment.

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    MAKE DO & MEND 03 - David Holmes

    3 records in, you start to recognize familiar names from FK’s stash: Acanthus, Jacky Chalard, Jean-Claude Vannier are joined by Lollywood prince M. Ashraf and his chanteuse A. Rishdi, and you meet The Vampires Of Dartmoore for the first time. Ashraf’s tracks are sourced from the highly popular ‘The Sound Of Wonder,’ (with the eponymous track kickstarting this party), and ‘Hello Mr. Hitchcock’ comes from ‘Dracula’s Music Cabinet,’ an artificial OST from the Vampires’ that is begging to be bled by the zealous b-music sample fiend. ‘The Sound Of Wonder’ is almost unbearably light-hearted and positive, with its bellydancing exotica. More fare for the tiki bar.

    MD&M 03 is a more rockist fare than the electroacoustic derivations of the first 2. There’s a snotty European vibe, (see ‘L’Etrocute’ by Jesus, full of French pathos), mixed with Pakistani wonderment and Czech dream logic. David Holmes’ contribution to the cause seems much more cinematic than the sound-collages of the previous volumes; ‘The Song Of The Siren’ by Zdenek Liska is an angelic underwater chorus, from the Czech version of the Little Mermaid (Mala Morska Vila)((which is really dreamy and lovely and highly worth seeing)). Its all Disney acapella for 2 minutes, before unexpectedly segueing out with some imaginative sound design (what exactly is going on?). ‘Le Frisson De Vampires’ by Acanthus is another soundtrack cut, with some ghoulish croaking and ghastly chanting over surf guitar. This is the most epic of prog rock, presaging sludge metal by 2 decades - it could be Pink Floyd scoring a Hammer Horror flick.

    There are 4 main feelings expressed on Make Do & Mend, compiled by renowned digger and DJ David Holmes.

    1. Pakistani Wonderment/Lollywood chic - Two tracks here from M. Ashraf, one of the most famous music directors of the Pakistani film industry. ‘Dama Dam Mast Qalandar (The Song Of Wonder)’ is frighteningly upbeat, bellydancing exotica with hip-swaying vocals. The music reminds me of Ethiopian jazz, with its rolling organic lope, but instead playing with a synthesized sitar, and an accordion, oddly enough. ‘Live and let live/love and let love’; perfect for your next Bollywood cocktail night. (There’s a couple of tribal drum breaks in this one, for those that are looking.) ‘Too Ney Kaha’ features Nahid Akhtar on vocals, a bouncy breathy vixen who seems to be driving the men wild. The music is pure beach party funk, there’s more bongos than a Shackleton record, (plus some surf and wah guitar), mixed with some onomatopoeia ‘plosive action, some pure Indian rhythm speak in action! A strange track, could’ve come from the Ghost World soundtrack.
    1. Freaky continental attitude - ‘Rockers En Liberte’ by Jacques Barsamian, ‘La Collecte Des Coeurs’ by Jackie Chalard, ‘L'enfant La Mouche Et Les Allumettes’ by Jean Claude Vannier. So many passionate, snotty French accents! ‘La Collecte...’ by Jackie Chalard is my favorite of the bunch, taut mysterious prog-funk, some searing acid leads lingering with muttered garbled voices in the distance. It’s a trip; it takes you for a voyage! ‘Rockers En Liberte’ is just plain strange; a glam band playing with a children’s choir, run through a stereo imager. So much whooshing! The Jean Claude Vannier track is another one from L’Enfant Assassin Du Mouches, truly one of the gems in Finders Keepers’ crown, and no better reason to keep these fine folks in business. There’s a surreal cut-up sound collage at the beginning, there’s a narrative at play: church bells, footsteps, traffic, maybe stomping out a cigarette. There’s a grinding, nightmarish racket, and the scene seems to jump cut to a garish Go-Go burlesque cantina. It really puts images in your head, but they’re very inconclusive and malformed. ‘L’electrocute’ is a sneering, whining synth seduction. The bass hops like a Playboy bunny, there’s even skeezy bump-n-grind brass. This track has more attitude than anything i’ve heard this year.
    1. Soundtrack Outtakes - My favorite cuts from this record. ‘Hello Mr. Hitchcock’ by The Vampires Of Dartmoor is a creepy goofy surf samba, the music interrupted by a Slovenian sounding accent ringing up the master of terror and threatening his life. Don’t worry, there’s b-movie organ and xylophone, as well. I might be worried, if I were Alfred Hitchcock. ‘The Song Of The Siren’ by Zdenek Liska, from the soundtrack for a Czech version of The Little Mermaid (Mala Morska Vila)((which is really dreamy and lovely and highly worth seeing)). It sounds like a Disney host of Seraphim; if you have ever fancied the ghostly ambient vocals of Panda Bear’s Young Prayer, this will flip your wig. It ends with more abstract sound-design; it is these interludes (which ‘L'enfant La Mouche’ features as well) that make this record so fun and stony to listen to. Movies of the mind!
    1. Other - ‘Witchhunt’ by Twinkranes and ‘I Like Blue’ by Yellowhammer. ‘Witchhunt’ is a modern offering, from a 2009 release on Twisted Nerve. Twinkranes have a classic synthpunk vibe—think Suicide, with Cosmic progressive tendencies. The vocals are smooth and robotic, rising above the tumult. This track rages and never relents; this band is a rare find, worth the price of entry alone. Their synths are sick! Burning analog geist, played in octave, with a machine drum beat. ‘I Like Blue’ by Yellow Hammer is some Syd Barrett lo-fi pop by way of Yellow Magic Orchestra. I think ‘Kyber Mail’ by Sohail Rana is the strangest track on here (saying something); it sounds like a train rolling through an 8-bit landscape, cruising through carousels, over hills and under dales. This seems like it may have been made for children, but it certainly seems to set the mind alight with visions. Goofy but imaginative. David Holmes has produced for Yellowhammer in the past; this track was selected from an upcoming compilation.

    It seems like David Holmes has really picked the rarest and the best from his personal stash. Not a stinker in the bunch. Will get you re-interested in film music, I can almost guarantee.

    I’ve got 7 more to go. I’m running out of time. {the clock strikes 12}

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    MAKE DO & MEND 04 - Gruff Rhys

    Gruff Rhys, alongside maybe John Cale, is the most famous Welsh person I know of. He is the singer for the band Super Furry Animals, who’ve always had a flair for Welsh pride and psychedelic pop. There’s definitely some Welsh rare beat on here, but that is not all! Yamasuki are back with ‘Aisere I Love You’, a track that sounds like your junior prom, if your junior prom took place on an army base in Kyoto. Nahid Akhtar makes another guest appearance, playing the exotic princess on Nazir Ali’s ‘Society Girl’, which is the craziest mix of polka, go go, and freakbeat rave-up. It’s a theme song for an otherworldly Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

    Album opener ‘Ghost Rider In The Sky’ by Susan Christi, a cowboy song originally written by Stan Jones in 1948, has found the most permanent residence in my playlists out of the bunch. It sounds like Nancy Sinatra with an Amen, a fingerpicked acoustic guitar blowing in the wind. It’s a story about a cowboy; a vision of “red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky,” chased by damned cowboys. He would have to join their endless hunt, if he didn’t change his wicked ways. It’s a novelty country song, but it’s haunting and catchy; the arrangements and performances are outstanding, tasty hints of brass and funky drumming. ‘Ghost Rider In The Sky’ was originally released on Christi’s excellent opus from 1970, Paint A Lady.

    My other favorite track out of the bunch, and the most contemporary, is the middle-eastern jam ‘Fire In My Head’ by Voice Of The Seven Woods. Tribal tabla percussion and microtonal guitar meets some funky drumming and burnt-out electronics. This is like the 7th hour of a trip, when you’re starting to get paranoid and speak to spirits. Ironically, it sounds more authentically middle eastern then a lot of the music found in this series that actually comes from the Middle East. They’re trying to appeal to Americans, and the Western record buying public, while us Anglos are trying to assuage our guilt, erase our past. Voice of the Seven Woods is the project of Rick Tomlinson, along with Chris Walmsley on drums and Pete Hedley on bass. They’re frequent collaborators with the B-music collective, along with Gruff Rhys and Andy Votel. Every album i’ve heard by them has been solid and different. Worthy of attention.

    Many of the other tracks on this release come off as novelty or filler. Perhaps it’s the alien nature of the Welsh language, or the silliness of the children’s music; it’s the least cohesive out of the bunch, or the one I listened to the least. Selda does make an appearance, with ‘Yaylar’, always a good thing! The more Selda Bagcan in your life, the better!

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    MAKE DO & MEND 05 - Zola Jesus & Prefuse 73

    This, along with the Demdike Stare joint, was the most anticipated and most listened to of the bunch. I’ve been a big fan of Zola Jesus for years (I saw her play at a Spanish mission in Austin, TX.) and I was curious what her gothic sensibilities would pluck from the back catalog. 05 also features an exclusive remix from Scott Heron (Prefuse 73) of Japanese children’s choir Yamasuki.

    At this point, your practically friends with some of the artists on this disc. Between all 10 eps, you can pretty much hear the entirety of Lubos Fiser’s soundtrack for Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (which you really should hear from start to finish); you’ll hear Jane Weaver, Jean-Claude Vannier, and Voice of the Seven Woods again as well. The heft of it seems cinematic in scope; adventurous instrumental music, evoking mysterious mov. The fact that most of this issue is instrumental makes it easier to listen to on repeat than many of the others. Its kind of easy listening exotica, flutes and tribal drums, demonic choirs. There’s less crunchy funk and persian breakbeat than a lot of the other discs, and I just love the ghostly choral romance of Lubos Fiser and Zdenek Liska, who composed the Mala Morska Vila soundtrack. The entirety of this disc is free from kitsch and clutter, and you are reminded how lovely and whimsical and strange some of this music is. ‘As She Entered’ by The Predicate Production is a chillingly beautiful sliver of modern classical with tape music filigree—it’s grand for this avant-garde edge to be filtering back into people’s holes.

    And that sort of reveals the real advantage of a series like Make Do & Mend; how name and notoriety can sell other music, how musicians link up and help each other out. Zola Jesus and Prefuse 73 are pretty big names in certain circles. Probably quite a few people heard these records, and this is NOT music that would be heard otherwise. It’s freaky in all the right ways. To pick a few, I’d say “Europium Alluminate (with Demdike Stare)” by Jane Weaver, “The Sermon” by Lubos Fiser, and “The Song Of The Siren (main theme) by Zdenek Liska. Your apartment can be transformed into a tropical pagan temple, with a reel-to-reel spinning in the corner.

    Of all the records to check out, to get a hint of what Finders Keepers are all about, this would be the one.

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    This concludes Part 1. Make sure to check out our forthcoming March issue to read J’s take on the last five EPs!
    J. Simpson is a writer and musician, living in Portland, Or. He is the principle author of the Forestpunk blog, Forestpunk.wordpress.com, as well as the co-founder of the Bitstar arts and music collective, www.facebook.com/ratbits, with his partner Lily Valentine. He is dedicated to better living through better hearing.