Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey: Round 85 – Tom’s Selection

BurningSpear-MarcusGarveyI’m going to start off by laying my cards on the table…I know next to nothing about reggae! Sure, I have owned Legend for many years now (along with pretty much everyone else) and have even gone on to add a number of Bob Marley albums to my collection, but other than that my experience has been limited to hearing the occasional Shaggy or UB40 song on the radio. I always suspected there were deeper and more rewarding veins to mine than that…but where on earth to start?

Well, good ol’ John Peel, that’s where. I mistakenly thought Peel had put a Burning Spear song in his Desert Island Discs’ collection – it turns out the song I was thinking of was Man Kind by Misty in Roots. No matter, Peel was my inspiration as I distinctly recall him playing Burning Spear at relatively regular intervals during the 15 years of so that I was an avid listener of his. At the time I would have probably have only given a Burning Spear song a cursory listen – I would have been far more interested in hearing the new Paris Angels, Telescopes or Chapterhouse offering! – but, since then, time has elapsed (and record club has happened) and my musical tastes have broadened significantly. And although the three aforementioned bands are all cultural behemoths who shifted the musical world (and, some would argue, society itself) off its axis, I would attest that Marcus Garvey the album might just be an even more significant work than anything offered up by this indie triumvirate!

Having finally acquired Marcus Garvey only recently – I tried to buy it online a few years ago but it never arrived – I was immediately surprised by its accessibility. I was expecting a much darker record, possibly due to the band’s name, possibly due to the fact that I knew Burning Spear to be a politically charged collective, possibly because Peel tended to gravitate towards the more challenging end of the musical spectrum. However, although the subject matter of the songs is highly political – Garvey himself was a key figure in the black rights movement of the mid twentieth century – the music is warm and inclusive and, although I would be the first to admit that I will always feel like an onlooker when listening to reggae, there is nothing on this album that feels alienating.

In fact, despite being released in 1975, the one thing that immediately stood out when listening to the album for the first time was the quality of the production. Every sound can be heard in crystal clarity and there is so much space in the recording that the excellence of the bands’ singing and musicianship is difficult to ignore. It’s almost impossible to not make comparisons with Bob Marley – I was trying to think of another genre of music where one single figure or band towers over the rest to the same extent…and couldn’t! – but I have to say that Marcus Garvey is, for me, a more successful album than any of the Marley albums I own (I have Burnin’, Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration). That could be because the Legend cuts have become so ubiquitous that it is almost impossible to hear them with any sort of objectivity any more and, as a result, the album tracks feel less significant than they really are. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Marcus Garvey is just a better album, perhaps, in part, due to the fact that Burning Spear were not trying to write singles that sold in their millions and could concentrate on producing an album that works as a cohesive and complete whole, rather than just another collection of songs.

So, now that I have dipped my toes in the waters of roots reggae, I am keen to expand my horizons beyond the four albums and one compilation I currently possess. Where to go next though – Misty In Roots? Steel Pulse? The Congos?… UB40? Any recommendations would be gratefully received.

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Round 85: Nick’s choice – Mbongwana Star: From Kinshasa

mbongwana-star-from-kinshasa-450sq_0Metacritic aggregates reviews of stuff – movies, games, TV, and music – and assigns an average score based on the (presumably mean) average of the scores of all reviews. It’s a useful resource for monitoring critical consensus each year, and also for seeing the obvious differences between the methodologies for how different types of reviewing work – films get panned far more often than records, for instance – and I’ve been using it for a decade or more.

One album that jumped out at me early in the year was From Kinshasa by Mbongwana Star; with a ‘metascore’ of 88, it was one of the highest-rated albums of the year so far, and I’d never heard of it (I’m not sure how I’d missed the glowing lead review in The Guardian). When some vouchers for that rainforest shop (which I normally boycott) unexpectedly fell into my hand a few weeks ago, I decided, never having seen this in my local record emporium, to take the plunge.

Before record club, though, I’d only listened to this once, and even then not managed to get all the way through: finding time to listen to records all the way through (rather than putting them on and then being distracted by something more important, like poo, or nappies, or nappies full of poo) is tricky with an almost-one-year-old in the house.

Off that single, distracted listen, plus last night’s record club spin, From Kinshasa sounded almost exactly as I’d expected, in that I’d not really known what to expect: heady, Congolese percussion, cloudy, fuzz-coated electronics, dirty, cavernous basslines, beautiful singing (presumably in Lingala), and guitar work that oscillates between (what I understand as) the soukous style, and something far more post-punk. It is, as the Guardian review suggests, a complete culture clash (with a fascinating backstory involving Staff Benda Bilili, several generations of Congolese musicians, and a producer/bassist from Ireland by way of France), that by turns sounds like experimental rock music, hip hop, dub, dance music, and what I’ll refer to (from my limited exposure and experience) as more traditional African music (I’m aware that Africa is a massive continent with thousands of cultural traditions and that this is a sweeping generalisation).

A bit more googling reveals that the album was intended to be called From Kinshasa to the Moon (the opening track is still called this), which makes the weird spaceman on the cover make a little more sense. ‘Mbongwana’ means ‘change’, and, like most change, From Kinshasa is exciting, confusing, and a little ominous. Luckily it’s also absolutely terrific.

Graham listened: It’s great when something like this comes up where I have no idea what it is going to be like, no reference points for anything like it and yet it still clicks with me straight away. It was great for all the reasons Nick says and transcended so many styles but never lost its groove. The African continent may just be about to enter my CD collection.

Rob listened: A great DRC moment. Nick attempted to set this one up, essentially telling us that he’d bought it based on a number at the top of a set of reviews and hadn;t even listened to it right through yet. None of those details are bars, of course, but they illustrate that perhaps we didn’t have overwhelming expectations as ‘From Kinshasa’ started to spin. It started probably as we might expect. A little dubby, a little afrobeat, a little non-specific African (for me to claim I could place it more specifically would be disingenuous, in fact I don’t remember Nick mentioning Soukous on the night, but I thought that style of guitar was at least one that I had heard quite a bit of before, and I didn’t hear it here). It fit nicely as a closer, almost a summariser, of the three records that had preceded it. We carried on chatting, agreeing that the record was pleasant, wondering vaguely what time we would get home, or get the washing up done in my case.

And then, as it progressed, the record began to weave a set of magic spells. We’re talkers at DRC and many a very fine record has been completely obliterated by our squawking, usually on completely unrelated topics. It seemed for all the world as if this one was going to follow suit, but from about half way in, various of us kept dropping out of the conversation and focussing in on what was happening in the music. It’s hard to explain, but there are incongruous details running through this music that acts as mesmeric lures. An unnecessarily frantic rhythm here, a skranging Gang of Four guitar loop there, an unplaceable, unshakeable loop that could be a keyboard, could be a guitar, seems most likely to be an ice-cream van over there.

By the time it finished, we were all listening pretty closely, variously agog at different times, and all wondering whether we’d just talked all over one of the albums of the year.

Tom listened: Wow. This one came roaring out of the blue, unannounced and unheralded; even by Nick, who hadn’t even listened to it all the way through before playing it to us.

From Kinshasa was an epiphany for me – an album from the African continent that sounded like nothing else, a music that tapped into the heritage and culture of the (somewhat appropriate) DRC but very much pointed a way forward into uncharted waters, a marrying of the old and the new, of tradition and modernity, of the developing world with the ‘western’ one. The one thing that fascinated me most of all was how Mbongwana Star did this – what was it in the sound of the album that produced this impact? Unpick any particular part and, in isolation, it was recognisable, familiar even; but melded together…wow!

One of the very best new discoveries that DRC (record club that is, not Democratic Republic of Congo) has provided me with thus far. I will be getting this album!

Everything But the Girl – ‘Walking Wounded’ – Round 85 – Graham’s Choice

What to bring to Round 85?

Simple really. During the week after the 1280x1280
clocks go back and on a wet and miserable night outside, a CD that has drifted through doors, windows, cars and holidays all summer, seemed like the perfect antidote.

I have no history with EBtG, other from thinking they sounded “nice enough”. I’m not even sure that I’ll explore them any further, but this impulse purchase of their 1996 album,  has just hit the spot all summer.

There’s a style of drum n bass I’d probably normally avoid, but somehow the cleanness/expression/lack of expression/control (we spent a long time searching for the right word and never found it) of Tracey Thorn’s delivery and the wash of keyboards over the top just makes it work superbly. That same delivery held me back from exploring their more acoustic/jangle pop work in the past as the fit just didn’t seem as good. The remix of ‘Missing’ from the previous album caught my attention back in those days as something more interesting.

There are huge slices of melancholy, loneliness and regret amongst the lyrics, but somehow the groove moves you positively through the whole album without bringing the listener down with it.

Maybe in Record Club terms this album represent the closure of a circle (note to self, there must be a great prog’ song somewhere called “Closure of a circle”, seek and deploy next round). Probably started with, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ at Round 53 (unlikely to be ever written up for many reasons), ‘Vs’ Round 58 and ended up with this at Round 85. Funnily enough 85 is 58 fully turned around,  on that bombshell…..

Nick listened: This was great. I’m hoping I can find a copy for £1.99 like Graham did, because I want to own it. I enjoyed the singles enough (nearly 20 years ago!) as I was just starting to engage with music outside the realm of indie guitar nonsense, but the intervening years (and the education my ears have undergone) have made this sound richer and deeper. And if the (frankly gorgeous) drum programming and synth sweeps date this – almost to the month for connoisseurs, I’d wager – then the songwriting and delivery balance that out by being timeless. Brilliant.

Rob listened: Nick, I may be able to save you a couple of quid. I have a funny feeling I’ve got two copies of ‘Walking Wounded’. Tom’s theme for next time threatens to drive me into the loft to delve amongst the CDs, so I’ll have a look under ‘E’ while I’m there.

I remember this coming out, in fact I think I reviewed it at the time. Most of my reviews from back then are lost to the mists of time, fortunately. However, if forced to speculate, I think I would have been sniffy about ‘Walking Wounded’ for all the laziest reasons. I would have had EBTG down as dancefloor arrivistes, sliding themselves into the scene at just the point where it moved from the warehouse to the dinner party. All this as if I knew anything about drum and bass beyond half a dozen records…

There is a line of enquiry around the gentrification of underground dance music, with the co-opting of hardcore and jungle, those most explosively disruptive scenes, sitting at centre stage, but listening to ‘Walking Wounded’ now, and every time it’s come back around since it was released, the love and devotion for the music is plain the see. Fair enough, it feels lightweight (or perhaps simply light on its feet) but it’s also exquisite, bristling with a burnished sonic sheen, sprung tight by delicately constructed beats and all washed over by Tracey Thorn’s rich, refreshingly unshowy vocals. As Nick says, it may be very easy to carbon date ‘Walking Wounded’, but nonetheless, the older it gets, the better it sounds.

Tom listened: I had always discounted Everything But The Girl as being far too fey and whimsical to ever consider choosing to listen to. Of course, Tracey Thorn has crept into my record collection through the back door as she is a guest vocalist on Massive Attack’s Protection album (and her voice works fine there, although I always wished it had a bit more soulful depth to it…I guess I just missed Shara Nelson’s vocals). But I have never actively sought out an Everything But The Girl record (the band’s name itself is a total turn off to me) and, from the occasional clip I heard on the radio, their early stuff sounded exactly as I would have imagined. Not for me.

Walking Wounded came as a very pleasant surprise though. I liked Tracey Thorn’s voice on here – her unemotive (some less kind persons might say flattish) singing slots straight into the colder landscapes of drum and bass led trip hop and the whole album drifted by in a relatively captivating blur – if that’s not a contradiction in terms! I certainly preferred it to other, similar, fare (Lamb, Beth Orton, Morcheeba) who were releasing records around this time.

The Housemartins – ‘London 0 Hull 4’: Round 85 – Rob’s choice

The Housemartins - London 0 Hull 4I’ve come back to the Housemartins a couple of times in the last year or so. First time around I went to their second record, ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death’. My recollection was of this as their tightest collection, shot through with stiletto-sharp pop songs and heart-rending ballads. I was right about the latter at least.

Most recently, partly meandering around trying to find something to bring to record club, I played ‘London 0 Hull 4’ properly for the first time in more years than I would care to remember. I was shocked by how vital it felt, how strangely contemporary it sounded, its exquisite references worn lightly but stylishly, and by how current and critical its subject-matter unmistakeably is.

I liked it plenty at the time, and it meant something to me, but coming to it now I feel as if I hear a much more resonant, better album than back then. Back then, 1986 to be precise, I was young. The Housemartins were seen as a step sideways from The Smiths, a band they never truly resembled in any way other than as the only other indie guitar group to make significant showings in the charts in the mid-80s. At the time this music seemed more straightforward, easier to understand, use and pigeonhole than that being produced by Morrissey, Marr and their muckers. No difficult things, like messy teenage feelings, being dredged up to deal with here. The Housemartins were making simple, mostly fast-ish, music about things like being unhappy about the Queen, or wars, or going to the pub. Those things were easy to understand. Painless. Nothing to worry about.

Things are different now. Things are pretty similar now.

I can remember what it was like to be a confused teenager. Perhaps you can too. One of the reasons I can remember so clearly is that The Smiths skewered the feelings of isolation and unloveability. They are pinned to my heart. But now, listening to The Smiths, much as I still love them, sounds like looking back at a past version of myself preserved in a glass tank. I know I was that person, but I’m not any more. The Housemartin’s however never carried an emotional punch for me. I loved lots of their songs, but that was all. It’s a shock then to discover that now, almost 30 years later, this is suddenly music that sounds raw, current, meaningful, challenging and relevant.

Paul, or P.d. as he styled himself back then, Heaton  declared that he hated writing love songs and found writing political lyrics easier. They inscribed their debut album with the phrase Take Jesus – Take Marx – Take Hope and ‘London 0 Hull 4’ is an evangelical album, preaching against the scourge of poverty and inequality of all sorts. Back then I had zero perspective on most of the things Heaton was singing about. I knew ‘Happy Hour’ wasn’t a straightforwardly happy song, but couldn’t square that with the way it was taken to the hearts and dancefloors of the nation. I thought ‘Flag Day’ was pretty much about him not liking the sale of commemorative poppies, which confused me a bit and briefly made me wonder whether I should be against that too. I’m pretty sure I thought ‘Sheep’ was about sheep.

Now this record and those songs stand clear as hard edged, punches un-pulled, social and political polemics, as sharp in observation and blunt in impact as anything Minor Threat ever wrote.

‘Flag Day’: “So you thought you wanted to change the world? Decided to stage a jumble sale. For the poor. For the poor. It’s a waste of time, if you know what they mean, try shaking your box in front of the Queen, because her purse is full and bursting at the seems.”

‘Get Up Off Our Knees’: “Famines will be famines, banquets will be banquets / Some spend winter in a palace, some spend it in blankets / Don’t wag your fingers at them and turn to walk away / Don’t shoot someone tomorrow that you can shoot today”.

‘Think For A Minute’: “‘Cause nothing I could say could ever make them see the light / Now apathy is happy that it won without a fight”

And how about that jaunty hit single? The one with the fun-tastic stop-motion video everyone was twisting along to back in 86?: “It’s another night out with the boss / Following in footsteps overgrown with moss / And he tells me that women grow on trees / And if you catch them right they will land upon their knees”

Just to ensure I’ve made my point, I’ll be blunt too. ‘London 0 Hull 4’ has a message that feels at least as sharp, important and vital today as it was back then. If you happened to be a dopey teenager when you first heard it, then it will mean much more to you in austerity Britain, as disabled people die months after being told they are fit to work, refugees fleeing western bombs are crushed under trains as they flee towards their liberators and the basic safety net for the most vulnerable people in our society is slashed and torn while those responsible for our economic cataclysm continue to get richer.

Got that? Good.

More importantly, ‘London 0 Hull 4’ also sounds hugely different to the record I internalised all those years ago. I recall an acoustic, jaunty jangle, somewhere on the axis between psychobilly and C86. In my defence, I had listened to barely anything back then. My reference points were few. Cut me a break, okay?

Revisiting now it’s clear that The Housemartins were a completely different outfit altogether. They reach back to hard-driving Northern soul and were closer to Dexy’s Midnight Runners than any of their supposed indie contemporaries. They were also richly informed by gospel, both in its multi-part harmonies and its sense of music as a force for social and spiritual change. Ultimately this music is closer to Sam Cooke or Aretha Franklin than to Talulah Gosh or the Chesterfields.

Their songs are buoyed along by Norman Cooke’s bouncing bass and propelled by Hugh Whitaker’s biting drums, topped off with sparkling guitar and Paul Heaton’s still angelic voice. I wasn’t ready for it at the time but, heard now, this is an astonishing debut record from an outfit who self-deprecatingly styled themselves “the fourth best band in Hull”. Nonetheless, they were mature enough to show full commitment to their vision right across the album, and confident enough in their sound to step back and pen swelling protest anthems like ‘Flag Day’ and ‘Lean On Me’.

They followed the album with their only number one single, ‘Caravan Of Love’, which I include here for similar reasons. I loved it at the time, when it’s a cappella delivery seemed a dazzling technical novelty. I got a my first proper record player for Christmas 1986 and I played this record over and over and over. Heard again years later it’s simply a beautiful piece of music, arranged and performed exquisitely, resonant with meaning and history. It’s a brave band that take on the Isley Brothers. With ‘Caravan of Love’ The Housemartins significantly surpass them.

It also informs further reflection on the album that preceded it. ‘Caravan’ was far from a novelty. In fact the band used to perform a cappella sets as the ‘Fish City Five’, even supporting themselves on occasion. ‘London 0 Hull 4’ is full of gorgeous, vocal harmonising, another clear line from the band’s origins and inspirations.

I’ve been thinking about bringing this, or it’s follow-up ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death’, to record club for a long time, on the basis that I doubt the others know them all that well and they have some good tunes. One of the reasons Record Club is so meaningful, for me at least, is that it forces a deep immersion in the music you choose to present. The effect here has been pronounced, turning a record I liked a lot almost 30 years ago into a record I absolutely love and revere and can’t stop playing right now in 2015.

Nick listened: This album was brilliant – wonderful, even – but “Caravan of Love” – which I remember well but haven’t heard in probably 25 years – was exceptional. Rob’s cost me a tenner by playing this because I need to go and get a ‘best of’ now. Fabulous choice.

Graham listened: Didn’t see this coming and didn’t at all expect what I got from it. Always had the Housemartins pigeon-holed as smiley happy people not to be taken at all seriously. At release I was far too busy scrabbling around with more heavy/serious/sometimes awful bands to go any deeper in to this band, other than to recognise some catchy singles. Always perplexed by Caravan of Love and wondering where that fitted with them. An amazing track, but it was by the Housemartins? Anyway, tonight the music and the story was a thoroughly enjoyable education.

Tom listened: I’m sorry to rain on your parade Rob, but I just couldn’t get past Paul Heaton’s voice – I guess he’s kind of the equivalent for me of what Samuel T Herring was to you, before you saw that footage of him on that TV show.

Although back in the day I never really fell for The Housemartins, I remember liking them well enough and I was particularly fond of bopping around to Me And The Farmer at school discos and the like.  It was what was to come next – The Beautiful South – that tarnished my view of The Housemartins for, what would now seem to be, forever.

I find it odd that I have such an adverse reaction to Heaton’s vocals as they are, on the face of it, pretty innocuous. Obviously the others at record club don’t share my misgivings either but we all have our blind spots I suppose and this is one of mine.

Talk Talk – Laughing Stock – Round 83 – Graham’s Choicej

Setting a new tardiness  record in DRC 71tOFUGVgOL._SL1205_write up’s is generally my responsibility and the above is my latest contribution. Asked by Tom to bring something we talked about in Round 82 was easy for me as I had originally planned this for the instrumental theme for Round 82. Before we get too deep in the detail of this not actually qualifying as “instrumental”, I was all ready in Round 82 to come up with reasons/excuses about how this album had been “instrumental” in my musical education and how “instrumentally” it contained some content which I value above any other album. I’m confident all those reasons would have easily put fellow members mind’s at rest over an apparent bending of the theme by me,  for really the very first time….

Anyway, it never made it to the CD player as in the search for an antidote to the “challenge” of Haxan Cloak, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was deployed as a bit of light and shade to  accompany curry takeaway.

Between Nick and I, we have now managed to complete a hat-trick of Talk Talk/Mark Hollis albums moving through from Spirit of Eden, Laughing Stock and his single solo offering. Three albums that shaped my tastes to the point that I didn’t need to explore this genre anymore. They are each complete and anything else I might try “because if you like this, you might like this etc..” just doesn’t work. I can go back to them all for memories and rekindle the impact, particularly the first two had on me. I regard them all, but particularly Laughing Stock, as unique and precious.

Others can, and have written more eloquently than I about the spontaneity and experimentation with recording techniques and improvisation that Hollis used to produce exquisite moments of melody, rhythm and drama on this album, but nearly 25 year’s later it still has the moments when everything else has to stop around you while you anticipate what is coming. The beginning and the end of the guitar part on Ascension Day being the best, of many examples.

Rob listened: Is that it with the Talk Talk now?

I quite like Talk Talk, but then I quite like a lot of bands. Some of the sounds this band makes seem remarkable. However, as we’ve established over a number of rounds now, I don’t love Talk Talk, in fact I find them a little disappointing because each time I approach them I want to finally fall hard for them and I never do. I am always enchanted by the love my fellow Record Clubbers feel for them however, no matter how much I enjoy acting the anti-Hollis curmudgeon. If I were to pick any of their records, this would probably be the one. Who knows, maybe one day, maybe after another 15 appearances at DRC, it will be the one.

Nick listened: I rarely listen to Talk Talk these days, for various reasons: I’ve internalised the sounds and emotions of their records so much that I don’t ‘need’ to very often; there’s lots of other music that is great to listen to instead; my wife doesn’t like them that much; and, most pertinently I think, the last two albums in particular aren’t very easy things to listen to. I have to be in the right mood. I don’t feel like they’re records I can just throw on and have playing away in the background. Does that make them more precious somehow than records I can have playing merrily away and pay little attention to? It’s hard to say.

Laughing Stock is more awkward than Spirit of Eden, more emotionally and sonically extreme. It strikes me as being profound in a way that very few – perhaps no – other records are. The opening moments of “New Grass” – those skipping drums, that dappled guitar breaking through the murky emotional clouds left by “Taphead” – are still amongst the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.

Which is all to say that Rob’s a disgusting savage with regards this band, basically.

Tom listened: Having discovered Spirit of Eden a couple of years before and having fallen head over heels in love with it during the intervening time, I can still recall the sense of  heightened anticipation I experienced as I placed the needle on the play in groove on my brand new copy of Laughing Stock. I could only have been disappointed! And I was…only a little, admittedly, as Laughing Stock is a fine, fine record, but nevertheless, something about it seemed more mannered; a tad overthought, less organic and therefore less natural sounding than its predecessor. I put the time in, expecting it to click, but I have never quite lost that sense of bewilderment and discombobulation when listening to Laughing Stock – whereas Spirit of Eden always left me wanting more, Laughing Stock seemed to be taunting me, challenging me to try to work it out whilst knowingly winking to its older sibling that it had set me an impossible task.

I guess what I am trying to say is that whilst I admire and respect Laughing Stock, I will always find it hard to love it in the way I do Spirit of Eden.

Aldous Harding – ‘Aldous Harding’: Round 84 – Tom’s Selection

aldous-harding-aldous-harding

Well, Nick wanted quiet, so I thought I would bring something that is barely there, in a literal sense as well as sonically.

In fact, Aldous Harding is barely anywhere….a record that neither Rob or Nick had heard of is rare indeed. A record that hasn’t got an Allmusic review is hallowed ground. In fact, Aldous hasn’t even got a wikipedia entry, which must mean that either she doesn’t actually exist, is less than two years of age…or that she is from New Zealand.

Which of course, isn’t the case. Not EVERYBODY I take to record club is from New bloody Zealand! Having researched extensively by, y’know’ reading books and stuff, it turns out that Aldous ‘Keith’ Harding was born in Chipping Sodbury in the year 2000. Solely proficient in the playing of spoons, it is actually her pet chimp, ‘Mr Crumble’ who takes the lead on most of the guitar solos on the album. The jury is out as to whether the music on this, her eighth album, is ‘black’ or ‘death’ or, indeed, ‘black death’ metal but the pounding drums and terrifying vocals have to be heard to be believed.

No matter how many times I hear it, her hidden track cover version of Showaddywaddy’s Under The Moon Of Love never fails to move me to tears. A departure from her earlier work, Aldous Harding the album has a pop sensibility that underpins every damn note on the record – imagine Tribe of Toffs’ John Kettley is a Weather Man crossed with Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell…III, and you’ll be close to the overall sound of the album, the chiming guitars from Crumble coalescing with Harding’s finest cutlery to produce sounds that echo glories past but are, frankly, unlike anything else in recorded music. Don’t believe me? Well do yourselves a favour and go buy yourself a copy of this fine slab of vinyl and then get back to me if it isn’t one of the best things you’ve heard all year!

PS Aldous…If you ever happen to stumble upon this ridiculous piece of writing (and with your internet presence I doubt you will), I most humbly apologise. I actually think your album is a wonderful, wonderful thing; one of the most delicate, arid and quietly devastating records I have heard in a long time.

My post is really just a silly way of pointing out how over-reliant we are on the internet, how rare it is that we can stumble across gems like this, whilst knowing so little about the person who made them. My discovery of your music (with so little to go on..thank you Marc Riley on 6 Music), and the time I have subsequently spent with your songs, has brought me great pleasure.

Rob listened: In accidental keeping with Tom’s conceit of obscuring his real thoughts on this record with some other writing, a veritable palimpsest if you will, I wrote up and, I thought, published some rather erudite comments on Aldous Harding a couple of weeks ago and they seem, on my return, to have disappeared.

It was quite refreshing to hear a record none of us had heard of, including Tom more or less, and which was practically unfindable online. No preconceptions, no-one telling us what to think. Just like the old days, perhaps. The record turned out to be an intriguing listen, working inside a range but within that displaying wilful variety between tracks. ‘Aldous Harding’ was a fascinating counterpoint to the Grouper record. One is an artist who obscures her true intentions underneath layers of fog and reverb. The other makes it difficult to know her by skipping around wildly between styles and approaches, within a crystal clear sound. I hope the internet discovers Aldous Harding soon.