Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Catching up with Jigsaw Records - Zebras, Lavender Faction, Gravy Train and more!

It took the release of the new Zebra's album for me to dig a little deeper into the recent catalog of the label responsible for it, Jigsaw Records.  A label I might add that's not solely tethered to the present, but also has an eye on the past, and a decidedly obscuro one at that.  Today we're going to examine not only said Zebra's record but three of their most intriguing reissues of late.

With a sonic penchant that incorporates the pastoral clarity of bygone country-mates The Go Betweens, while occasionally grazing the dream-pop meniscus of Lush, Brisbane’s Zebras are the should-be “it” band that the world is virtually ignorant to, outside of Australia anyway.  Making it seem all too easy and effortless, the Zebras impeccable concoction of chiming, strummy chords frequently dovetail with co-ed vocals, courtesy of Jeremy Cole and  Edwina Ewins.   Songs as breezy and twinkling as the sublime “Try,” “Grace,” and “Berries” yield nary an imperfect maneuver…so much so that they arouse suspicion.  I need not bestow any more virtue onto the Zebras, as this record is capable of meeting that end, though I’ll cut the line by recommending Siesta to those with a preference for Beach House and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.  

The reputations of certain bedroom indie labels are so arcane and under-the-radar it takes yet another label to shine a spotlight on their output.   The Newcastle, UK based Woosh imprint enjoyed a lifespan of merely two years (specifically 1988-89) and in that humble expanse of time the bulk of their releases amounted to 7" flexi disks bundled in fanzines.  Jigsaw Records has digitally compiled these recordings into Ten Little Records: The Woosh Collection.  None of the eleven featured acts went onto any commercial prominence, though to their credit, The Pooh Sticks lived out a portion of their tenure on a major label.   In terms of sheer domination, The Nivens chart no less than seven times here, carrying on in brisk, chiming fashion clinging tightly to the C86 aesthetic, best exemplified by "Yesterday."  Other pleasant surprises include the Holidaymakers, and The Sunflowers who dole out a steaming garage punk nugget in the form of "Bubble Bus."  The Pooh Stick's "Hard on Love" is a vigorous and visceral as all get out I might add.  Finally, Ten Little Records ends on an especially high note with an exclusive form Illinois' Choo Choo Trains (aka Paul Chastain and Ric Menck who would later transfer their train fare for Velvet Crush).  It sure sounds like Matthew Sweet is on the mic for the Choo's contribution, "Many Happy Returns."  Just sayin.  Many tracks here were sourced from vinyl as a last resort, but as for my primary complaint, "dude, where's my liner notes?"

Next on the docket, England's Gravy Train who ladled out three singles in the early '90s.  Hmmm, don't recall these guys being written up in NME or Melody Maker, but then again I missed quite a few issues of both.  At any rate, Thank You For Nothing! is just the thing for that post-C86 hangover, compiling all of those 7" sides, compilation appearances, and some miscellaneous and previous unreleased smatterings.  Randomly hopscotching from good to decent to just kinda "there," Gravy Train, at their most inspired, incorporate some of the finer facets of the Mighty Lemon Drops and The June Brides, albeit within a demonstrably more homegrown context.  There's a staggering 28 songs here, and with that in mind I'd recommend Thank You... to be absorbed in considerably smaller doses.   

And finally, The Lavender Faction, another across the pond export I've been meaning to study for a number years, even having gone so far as to downloading some low-bitrate MP3s eons back that I barely listened to.  As was the case with the aforementioned Gravy Train disk, Tear Down the Walls is a discography compiler of the Faction's predominantly vinyl catalog distilled to a handy digital release.  Format specifications aside, if you're hankering for a blissed-out merger of dream pop and (slightly) chilly post-punk you'll find a good many of this early '90s quartet's offerings to be downright mesmerizing.  "Harbour Me," "Ride," "Crawl Down," and the title track among other pearls, strike a near-perfect melange of manicured feedback, splashes of tremolo, and succulent melody.  Hinting at the likes of Swevedriver, Bailter Space and beyond, the Lavender Faction had some immense moments to bestow in a catalog that was achingly sparse. 

All four of these titles are available direct from Jigsaw.  Digitally, Bandcamp has you covered, as does Amazon and iTunes.  Below is a link to a five song sampler from the records I've just outlined.  Enjoy. 

1 comment:

Jim H. said...

Check out Unlikely Friends on their streaming site. My album of the year, so far.

Thanks for your blog, as always. Great stuff.