Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
This wonderful new – old – LP arrived this week…
Penguin Café – A Matter Of Life … 2021 – Erased Tapes 2022
Originally released – minus the ‘2021’ bit – back in 2011, this was the first proper album from Arthur Jeffes` Penguin Cafe, but it was only available on CD. Thankfully those nice people at Erased Tapes have now decided to give it a proper – and by that, I mean vinyl – release.
It’s not just the title that has had a makeover though. The LP contains the track Harry Piers, a beautiful piece of music that Arthur originally wrote to perform at his father Simon Jeffes` memorial service in 1998. In a sense it might be where the idea for Penguin Café germinated. Arthur’s updated and re-recorded the track for this version of the album, reflecting the way that the song has evolved through the process of playing it live over the subsequent decades.
For those of you not quite sure what’s going on here, Penguin Café are a band formed by Arthur Jeffes with the intention of performing the music of his father, Simon Jeffes, founder of Penguin Café Orchestra. Over time this idea evolved, with Arthur and the band now composing original material in a similar vein to the original PCO. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.
The entire LP is a totally beautiful collection of music, and I have no idea why I haven’t bought it before – I guess the clue is in the format. I’ve seen Penguin Cafe a couple of times live, and loved them instantly, first at the RNCM in Manchester, on their initial tour, and then at a beautiful church in Hove a few years ago. But it wasn’t until the last 2 albums, and their excellent collaborative 12” with Cornelius, that I started buying their records. I’ve rectified that now, and I’m very pleased that I have.
As well as the aforementioned Harry Piers, they’ve beautifully reimagined the old Penguin Café Orchestra track, Paul’s Dance, as The Fox And The Leopard, and on Side 2 the woozy and wonderous 9 minute epic that is From A Blue Temple is my current favorite – but the whole LP is just lovely.
Treat yourself, go on, you’re worth it.
A brilliant, and slightly Balearic, re-edit that is now over 2 decades old …
Lemon Jelly – Soft / Rock – Self Released 2001
I can still remember the day this was released; it caused a minor stampede from Vinyl Exchange to Piccadilly Records, over the road on Oldham Street. It might have been Danny Webb who mentioned it, or perhaps Phillipa gave Kath the nod that something a bit special had turned up, and probably wouldn’t still be in stock after lunch time. I think Ade was the first, then one by one, as a member of the VX staff played their new copy on the shop deck, another member of staff said, “I’m just nipping out” and sprinted over the road to buy one.
If you are sadly unaware of what this record is, let me get you up to speed. It’s basically two very clever re-edits. The side with “Soft” written on it is the real gem for me, but we’ll come back to that. The flipside, “Rock” is a re-edit of the Black Crows` cover of Otis Redding`s Hard To Handle, and rather jolly in a noisy, guitar riffing and break-beat kind of way. In “Soft”, though, what you have is one of the simplest and most basic edits that I’ve ever heard, and therein lies its genius. Taking Chicago’s classic, If You Leave Me Now, and just looping and looping it, allowing the chorus to break out for just long enough to go back into the lopped refrain. I have to admit to liking the Chicago record anyway. Maybe if you don’t, then this doesn’t work for you, but it’s really beautiful and simple and became an instant favourite with the Manchester music family across lots of crews…and look at how bloody ace it looks. It must have cost a fucking fortune to make. Each coloured vinyl copy comes housed in a sleeve made from a pair of Levi’s jeans, and they all have a flavoured condom inserted into the pocket. I made sure mine was a chocolate flavoured one. I sometimes wonder if it’s retained its flavour after all these years. This was reissued in less elaborate packaging, so not impossible to find, but still a bit pricey. A lovely record.
I’ve been listening to these stunning remixes of one of my favourite bands an awful lot over the last 2 years … a lockdown rediscovery …
Pet Shop Boys – Young Offender (Jam & Spoon Remixes) / Liberation (E-Smoove / Murk Remixes) – Parlophone 1994
I am a HUGE fan of Pet Shop Boys. Some would define their imperial phase as running from the release of Please to the album, Behaviour, but I’d like to make a case for extending it by one to include the wonderful Very. Whether you agree or not, Young Offender was the fourth and final single to be lifted from that LP, and it’s a bit of a strange release. They are two of the finest songs from the album, but given very radical makeovers.
The A-side is actually Liberation, and the E-Smoove Mix does it’s best to turn a beautiful ballad into a club track – complete with rap!!! I mean what? It actually works quite well. The Murk mixes though, are a mess, and I was a big fan of Murk back then.
On the other 12” Jam & Spoon turn in two utterly transcendent remixes of Young Offender. They were having something of a moment, in a time before trance music was shit. The main mix – Jam & Spoon Trip-O-Matic Fairy Tale Mix – is one of the reasons why trance wasn’t shit. It’s awash with beautiful, ethereal synth pads, and squelchy riffs, set to a skittering, twitchy, and delicate, breakbeat. This is when trance was subtle and gentle.
On the other side, on the unimaginatively titled, Remix No. 2, they go somewhere even more magical, slowing the track down into a dub odyssey that Andrew Weatherall or The Orb might have come up with. It’s nothing short of breath-taking, clocking in at just over 9 minutes of utter Balearic brilliance. Utterly beautiful. I was lucky enough to get sent this lovely promo double pack at the time, and played this particular remix an awful lot in my warm-up sets, at the Jolly Roger night that LuvDup ran. Neil and Chris actually turned up to a LuvDup night, Hell at the No1 Club, just around the time that Can You Forgive Her was released. Adrian got them to sign his promo copies! Well jell!
A couple of Balearic beauties that are approaching – or have just had – their 40th birthday…
The Impossible Dreamers – Spin / Life On Earth – 100 Things To Do 1982
This is a track that I was completely unaware of until I landed in Manchester’s burgeoning Balearic scene in 1991. Luckily for me it had already become an anthem at Justin Robertson & Greg Fenton’s night, Spice, and then at the pairs separate Most Excellent and Glitterbaby parties – which meant that most of the people who wanted a copy probably already had one, making it easier for me to find. That said, it still took quite a long time to get a copy, but then as is the way with these things, once you’ve found one, loads turn up, a bit like buses.
I’ve subsequently turned around many copies of this record, mostly after finding them in the £1 bin in Kingbee Records, in Chorlton – which is where this one comes from. This is probably the nicest copy I’ve ever owned – still in its original shrink wrap and sporting its OG £1.99 price sticker – from the Virgin Megastore on Market St, as well as its £1 sticker from Kingbee. This must have been a big favourite of Manchester’s post-punk kids in the early `80s. Odd that it had somehow decreased in value.
Anyway, to the music. The Imps – as they were known – formed at Exeter University and had a mildly successful run in the music biz. This was their second single, and its success got them a deal with RCA. The A-side is a pretty good slice of post-punk-funk, with a nice dub reggae vibe. Similar in sound to acts like Maximum Joy, Shriekback, and the output of labels like Y and 99 Records. However, flip it over to the B-side and you have Spin – almighty cacophony of intense drums and percussion, a wobbling bass-line, a spiky piano riff, and some shrieking! It is an absolute monster of a Balearic classic! One of those “What the hell were they trying to make here?” type records. I love this record, it’s just nuts!
This phenomenal mini-LP from Sheffield electronic music pioneers, Richard H. Kirk and Stephen Mallinder, aka Cabaret Voltaire, has just turned 40 years old. It was released in April 1982.
Cabaret Voltaire – 2X45 (Feat. Yashar) – Rough Trade 1982
I hadn’t heard of the Cabs in 1982. I would discover them with the Sensoria single, in 1984, and it wasn’t until much later that I would hunt down the incredible piece of music, that is Yashar.
The October 1983 edition of The Face magazine – the one with the photo of Annie Lennox on the cover, the same one that they would go on to use as the cover of their LP, Touch – had an incredible article called, Looking For The Perfect Beat, written by Steven Harvey, all about the exploding New York City club scene. The article talks about The Loft, The Paradise Garage, Better Days, The Funhouse, etc, and a list of DJs like Larry Levan, David Mancuso, Tee Scott, and on and on. It was an incredible piece, and in the days before books had been written about the history of dance music, was a totally sacred text..and it also contained a chart!
This chart was just incredible. I copied it into a notebook, which I took record shopping. In its ‘Anglo’ subsection, The Cabs` Yashar was listed, so I had to track it down. I was blown away when I finally heard it – an eerie collage of sampled voices, electronic drums, rattling percussion and Middle Eastern / North African influences, but played on terrifying synthesiser pre-sets. It must be heard to be believed. Obviously, Yashar was a big record at the time, getting remixed by John Robie, and released as a 12” on Factory Records the following year (the remix might deserve its own post), but I was discovering it anew. The rest of 2X45 is also great, but I rarely get past Yashar.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over on Instagram, at @jo_lambert_print – personally I think they’d make damn fine record sleeves / disco bags.