Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Everybody get POINTLESS!

This time last week we sneakily posted a link to the first Tricky Disco-related re-edit, THUMBS ALOFT's rather ace (but silly) 'Stick Around'. At that time, it was fresh from the edit block, and had yet to be road tested by any DJs. Well, last weekend that changed… and the reaction couldn't have been better.

12.10am, Friday 23rd February 2007. Location: Empathy @ Timbuk2 Club, Bristol. Nervously, I cue up 'Stick Around'. John 'Tokes' Potoker's excellent 'Dance Mix' of Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' is playing, to a so-so response. As it begins to fade, the time comes. With a quick flick of the wrist (well, flex of the fingers) I slam in POINTLESS EDITS 01. The reaction at first is good; those on the dancefloor continue to strut their stuff, while a couple of people join the floor. With about a minute gone, more people appear out of the darkness and start dancing. Two minutes in, the vocal drops, and suddenly a whole wave of people get busy. A couple of punters stop on route to the bar and get on the dancefloor. By the time the climatic final minute rears its head, the dancefloor is more or less full. A woman comes up to me and starts enthusing. "I LOVE this record! I used to have it on 7"." I can't resist: "not this version you don't!" I turn to look at Dave, my DJ partner for the night. He just grins: "it sounds even better loud!"

I left Timbuk2 that night convinced we were on to something with 'Stick Around'. I played it again at Normalise on Sunday, and again the reaction was excellent. When I got back in work on Monday, reactions started trickling in from some of the DJs we'd sent it to. "Love the edit!" gushed Jim from Crazy P. "I played it on Saturday to great effect. Well done!" Then there was an email from Justin Unabomber, who asked for a CD (and complained Chris Duckenfield and Moonboots had been sent MP3s before him). Another DJ I barely know - a music PR in London by day - said it was "immense". All week reactions have been coming in like this. In fact, the only bad reaction has come from Bill Brewster, who called it "pointless". Yep, that's the idea.

Whatever happens next - and there's plenty of talk of radio plays and the like - I don't think any of it will match that feeling on Saturday night when it "went off" for the first time. That moment will always stay with me, however many edits, original tracks and remixes we end up doing.

If you fancy checking out 'Stick Around's "awesome dancefloor power" for yourselves, I'm DJing in Bristol on Friday night (March 2nd). Mutant Pop at Arc Bar. It's gonna be the last tune!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007


Ssssssh! It's a secret! Keep it under your hat, but clicking on the heading of this post will take you to a free download of the first ever Tricky Disco re-edit, or 'Pointless Edit' as we're calling it. It's by Beard Styles (one of our residents and a close associate), it's called 'Stick Around', and it takes an ex Beatle in a whole new Balearic disco direction. It's more dancefloor than a skipload of narcotics and a boot full of handbags combined. Hurry, though, cos when it's been downloaded 100 times that'll be it. Gone. Forever (well, unless you email us and ask nicely).

For those who can't be bothered to click on the link, you can cut and paste this URL:

Peas be with you :)

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Tracey Thorn comes 'Out Of The Woods'

When I first heard that Tracey Thorn was working on a solo album with Ewan Pearson, Charles Webster and other left-of-centre electronic producers, I have to admit to getting a bit excited. While I was never really much of an Everything But The Girl fan – though I do have a soft spot for some of the dancefloor remixes of their work – there’s something about her beguiling vocals and bittersweet lyrics that really pushes my musical buttons. She could sing our dirge of a national anthem and still make it sound heartfelt and melancholic; hell, she could probably sing a list of British place names and it’d still sound bloody brilliant.

It goes without saying that ‘Out Of The Woods’, her new solo album, was always going to be a bit of an event for this music fan. Thorn’s last appearance on vinyl was back in 2005, when she memorably guested on ‘Damage’, the stand-out track on Tiefschwarz’s disappointing ‘Eat Books’ LP. Before that, she’d not sung a note since deciding to ditch music for the full-time demands of motherhood. To top it all off, her last solo album was released back in 1982, when she was little more than a punky student with a passion for off-beat acoustic music. For the record, that album's called ‘A Distant Shore’ and now sounds as if it was made not only in another era, but possibly on another planet. Featuring a confrontational Thorn with little more than her acoustic guitar for company, it was widely acclaimed at the time. Listening back now, it not only seems quaintly lo-fi, but also rather flat; the Thorn of 'A Distant Shore' had yet to fully develop as a songwriter or vocalist, giving the whole thing a strangely monotone feel. She's certainly come a long way since then.

Of course, the rarity her solo material and appearances on wax wouldn't mean anything if 'Out Of The Woods' was a total stinker. Luckily, it's a fantastic album. As you’d expect, there are moments of quiet beauty, intense melancholy and heartfelt introdpection, yet noticably these are tempered by a clutch of uplifting pop songs, classic dancefloor cuts and even a memorable cover of Arthur Russell’s wonky disco standard ‘Get Around To It’. It is, all told, an excellent album.

There are a number of reasons for this. The first, of course, is Thorn herself. She is a much underrated songwriter – something which annoys her immensely, you suspect – and here gets a chance to really strut her stuff lyrically. So, we get the life-affirming pop-positivity of single ‘It’s All True’ (that Ewan Pearson/Sasse/Darshan Jesrani-produced number which was memorably remixed by Martin Buttrich), the remarkable reminiscing of ‘Hands Up To The Ceiling’ (where our hero looks back to her early musical inspirations) and the fragile lovelorn musings of ‘Easy’. And that’s just for starters: lyrically, ‘Out Of The Woods’ is fascinating. It is, of course, all delivered with Thorn’s usual mix of heartfelt fragility and supreme confidence.

Then there’s the prouction. Much of the album was produced by Ewan Pearson, who wisely takes the ‘less is more’ approach. While his hand is clearly evident in the album’s mix of the traditional and futuristic, he never smothers Thorn’s songs in thumping beats, camp disco strings or dark, appregiated basslines. Tom ‘Cagedbaby’ Gandley goes for a shinier pop sound on his two contributions (of which 'Raise The Roof', the album closer, stands out), whilst Charles Webster treats ‘Nowhere Near’ like something from his 2001 album ‘Born On The 24th July’. Darkmountaingroup’s Alex Santos provides the album’s most obvious contemporary dancefloor moment, opting for a dark minimal/deep house throb on ‘Grand Canyon’. Vector Lovers man Martin Wheeler is also involved, looping up pianos and punching out electro beats on ‘Easy’. But for all the headline producer involvement, you never get the feeling that this is anything less than the album Tracey Thorn wanted to make; it hangs together that well.

Perhaps the most striking thinh about ‘Out Of The Woods’, though, is its marriage of contemporary electronics and quirky, odd instrumentation. Opener ‘Here It Comes Again’, for example, sees Thorn’s distinctive vocals riding a beatless sea of harmonium, strings and celeste (a kind of dreamier glockenspiel, fact fans). ‘Falling Off A Log’, meanwhile, boasts extensive use of an Omnichord, a little-known Japanese instrument which is operated by pressing chord buttons and “strumming” a touch plate. The aforementioned Arthur Russell cover ‘Get Around To It’ bizarrely features the world’s craziest sax solo – provided by Gabe from the Rapture – while ‘Nowhere Near’ has flute and flugelorn from legendary deep house sessioneer Pete Wraight (Charles Webster, Brooks, Atjazz etc).

It all adds up to an album that’s so easy to love, you’ll find yourself listening to it almost endlessly. Beguiling, bittersweet and brilliant, it’s proof – if any were needed – of Tracey Thorn’s immense talent. Now she’s ‘Out Of The Woods’, here’s hoping we’ll hear a lot more memorable records like this.

• Tracey Thorn's 'Out Of The Woods' album will be released by Virgin Records on March 19. Click on the header of this post to listen to clips of tracks at Tracey's official MySpace page •