Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
This week I have been mostly listening to…some French people, some Japanese people, and some trip-hop…
Air – Modular Mix – Source Lab 1995 & Talkie Walkie – Parlophone 2003 (2015 vinyl reissue)
On the sage advice of Jolyon Green I just treated myself to this superb pressing of the Air LP, Talkie Walkie, which I sadly never owned on vinyl. I got sent a 4-track vinyl sampler at the time and decided that I could live with the album on CD. Then to my regret it was too late and the limited vinyl pressing had rocketed to 3 figure prices. I had to buy a copy of the Lost In Translation soundtrack just to satisfy my need for Alone In Kyoto on vinyl. Then I saw Jolyon post on Instagram about the brilliant audiophile repress. It’s about the price of a new 12”, and I’m very glad I finally have a copy.
This led me to dig out the very first record by Air, Modular Mix. This 12’ was released late in 1995 / early in 1996. I heard Kelvin Andrews play the superb Motorbass ‘Stein House Remix” at some gig early in ’96 and it completely blew my mind. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy a copy anywhere. Kelvin had picked it up in Manchester’s Decoy Records – as had Richard / Moonboots, as Si G had managed to get a handful of copies in – this was before we poached him for Vinyl Exchange – but they’d all gone. No-one seemed able to order anymore copies, not Eastern Bloc, not Fat City, not Manchester Underground, no Birmingham or London shops had heard of it, so in total desperation I got a pen and paper and copied down every scrap of info about the label that it was on that I could find, and rang them up in Paris. My pitiful French was saved by some lovely person with excellent mastery of English. I explained I was a DJ from Manchester and I loved the record, but couldn’t find any copies anywhere in the UK, and the lovely French person said, not to worry, they would gladly send me a copy! A week or so later it arrived, along with another record on the label, Source Lab, some stickers, and a lovely handwritten note from Nicolas Godin. It reads: “Special dedication from Air: Bonne ecoute (good listening), Nicolas”. How bloody ace was that. I have played this record hundreds of times in the subsequent years. I recall opening my set at Bam Bam with it. It’s even more precious as the Motorbass remix never made it onto the UK release.
Keeping it Gallic!
Serge Gainsbourg – Aux Armes Et Caetera – Phillips 1979
Serge goes to Jamaica to record with Sly & Robbie, Ansell Collins, “Sticky” Thompson, The I Threes, etc. What’s not to love? How balearic is this??? This is a beautiful LP. The original French Phillips pressing sounds lovely and warm on this cold and rainy winters afternoon, but there’s lots of good CD editions with bonus dubs, DJ versions, etc., around as well.
Keeping it Gallic: Numero trois!
Nino Ferrer – Nino and Radiah – CBS 1974
I first became aware of Nino when Jan Hammered bought me the 7” with The Garden on the flip for my birthday many years ago – a VERY good birthday present I might add. I heard there was also an LP, and heard good things, so finally treated myself to a copy. It’s not cheap exactly, but not THAT expensive. It’s well worth whatever you might end up paying for a copy. Another beautiful LP, it`s full of gentle, sun kissed, folk-pop. Very mellow, almost a bit yacht rock, and extremely balearic. the musicianship is stunning – featuring famous players like library music legend Marc Chantereau – of Voyage, Arpadys, etc. – and ICE – a.k.a. The Lafayette Afro Rock Band. There honestly isn’t a weak moment on the album.
Keeping it Gallic: Numero quatre!
Arpadys – Arpadys – Polydor / Sirocco 1977
Well, the Nino Ferrer naturally took me on to this one. Stunning cosmic disco from a collective of French library music legends – Marc Chantereau, Georges Rodi, Jean-Pierre Sabar, Pierre-Alain Dahan, Sauveur Mallia and Slim Pezin. We made our way to discovering this LP via Danielle Baldelli, as it was a favourite of his at Baia Degli Angelli, and perhaps Cosmic as well. The only LP they recorded under this name, it has everything from the intense 90 mph space -disco of Monkey Star, the languid Funky Bass and the ‘spacey’ vibes of Spatial Reggae. There are only 6 tracks but they’re all killer. It`s another one that’s quite pricey, and I think it’s been bootlegged a couple of times, but someone should really do a legitimate reissue. Music for the masses! Vive la France!
I also treated myself to this beautiful new compilation from Light In The Attic…
Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds Of Japan – Light In The Attic 2021
When I say beautiful, I mean in every way, shape and form. The music included within, almost all of which was completely new to me, is quite astonishing in its quality and inventiveness, as well as its pioneering use of electronics and brilliantly unique sense of melody and song construction. The vinyl itself sounds incredible, with the label taking the unusual step of pressing it on 2×45 rpm 12”s rather than at the standard 33rpm, making it sound huge and warm. The physical design is completely stunning – from the haunting painting on the front cover, the beautifully written and illustrated sleeve notes on the inner sleeves, to that fact that they’ve also printed the interior of the sleeve in the same beautiful shade of indigo/purple as the cover painting. Oh, and as it’s Japanese, it has an obi. Who doesn’t love a record with an obi?
A glittering example – quite literally – it’s cover has glitter all over it! – of a modern masterpiece…
Massive Attack – Heligoland – Vinyl Factory 2010
Like most right minded people I know, I regard Massive Attack`s first two LPs, Blue Lines and Protection – and its subsequent dub version – as modern classics. After Protection, Mushroom left the band, and it marked a move into much darker, experimental territory. While I like dark and experimental music, I do feel that the subsequent LPs were missing something.
True story: Working in Vinyl Exchange during the spring of 1998, pretty much everyone who worked in the shop was a big fan of Massive Attack, and the boss, Jo Bindley, returned from one of his buying trips with an advance promo CDR of the then new LP, Mezzanine. We’re all really excited to listen to it – I can’t remember the full starting line up, but I’m guessing Steve, Kath, Si, Ade and myself. We pop it in the CD player and blast it out of the downstairs system. When it finishes, I turn to Si G, now sporting something approaching a grimace, and say “Well Si, what do you think?” He turns to me and says, “Sounds like they’ve been listening to too much Brian Eno, and not enough Barry White.” It`s hard to disagree.
While I do quite like Mezzanine – I own all the singles, Balearic Wife has the CD – I skipped the next LP completely, and it was quite a long time – over a decade – until this, Heligoland, erm, landed, which seemed to me like a real return to form. It’s still dark and experimental in places, but there’s room for the tracks to breathe a little, so it doesn’t feel so claustrophobic. Plus the songs are really good, with Pray For Rain, Paradise Circus, and Atlas Air counting amongst some of their best work, and while there are some great vocal collaborators – Damon Albarn, Guy Garvey, Tunde Adebimpe, Horace Andy and Hope Sandoval – it`s Martina Topley-Bird who steals the show and really stakes her claim as their lead vocalist. It looks amazing as well, with a triple gatefold sleeve housing the double LP , 12”, and CD, plus a beautiful booklet of Robert Del Nadja artwork to compliment the stunning cover art – which has GLITTER! I really love this LP. If you don’t know it check it out.
After a brief pause for football, we`re back with another LP with Bristol roots…
Tricky – Maxinquaye – 4th & Broadway / Island Records 1995
It seems apt to follow on from Massive Attack with this. Balearic Wife and I have been really enjoying listening to this again over the last few weeks. I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve listened to it in almost 25 years. After initially completely loving the singles from this LP, and then feeling the same way about this record, I went off Tricky quite dramatically. I think this can all be traced back to an absolutely shit gig at the Hacienda. I can’t remember the date, but it was sometime between 1996-1998. How did I come to be there? Well, interesting story. I was still working at Vinyl Exchange at the time, and just along the road from us, Dry Bar, decided to hold a pop quiz – well, let’s enter a team we thought! I think the team consisted of myself, Steve Yates, Rob ’The Guv’nor’ Bright, and owner Jo Bindley, but we did all get quite heroically pissed, so there may have been more staff members involved, I just can’t remember. Anyway, despite Olympic levels of alcohol consumption we won! First prize was two tickets to the Tricky gig at The Hacienda. Most of us were fans, so I have no recollection of why I got given both tickets to use, but I went with my great friend, and at that time housemate, Hester Lucas. The gig was awful! The Hac could be moody at the best of times in the `90s, and this was moody with a big extra strop on! The place was lit with what appeared to be nothing but the fire exit signs and emergency lighting. Tricky was fucking mangled to the point that he could hardly string two words together, and he proceeded to walk on and off the stage at random intervals. The music was a cacophonous throb which made the building rattle, and the place was thick with weed smoke to the point that you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you. I think Hester and I had one drink and left. So, I haven’t listened to Tricky since, and when I came across this LP in a box while looking for something else a few weeks ago, I did think I might sell it. Surprisingly Balearic Wife and I have enjoyed listening to it immensely. The vocals from Tricky and Martine are joy – with a beautifully authentic British sound. The music is subtle and complex. The only thing that lets it down a little is the Public Enemy cover. Suffocated Love is a real high point.