Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Blang Records - Lucky Dip (Blang 2005 - 2015)

Article by KevW

It may have been ten years ago that London's Blang Records launched its first release, but the roots go back to the turn of the century and the Blang nights that label boss and Sergeant Buzfuz main man Joe Murphy put on as part of the antifolk scene of the time which had spread from across the Atlantic. While the label (wrongly) and his band (perhaps more correctly) are still associated with that movement, this eighteen-track compilation paints a much more varied picture, dipping in and out of a plethora of genres and showcasing the diversity of both the label's releases and of good music in general. If you're disillusioned with new music and what you've heard on mainstream TV and radio in the past decade, then you've been looking in the wrong place.

"I've got something to say with this beautiful music" - that lyric from politically-charged post-punks Thee Cee Cees' rousing recent single 'Soapbox' could be a rallying cry for the album and its ethics. If we look at the folk and antifolk side of the equation, then great things can found from Emily Capell and her excellent 'Who Killed Smilie Culture?' single from last year; Matt Dolphin's pensive 'Deptford Shore' which is closer to modern alt-folk and piles on the atmosphere; Lucy's Diary who give us 'Revolving Doors' which has its roots in the genre but coats the song with lush production and is gently brooding, and Dexter Bently's 2008 track 'Killer Kane' can also be linked in, although it has definite indiepop leanings and talks of '70s and '80s rock and pop stars. Sergeant Buzfuz themselves provide something of a centrepiece with the closing track this year's ace 'Balloons For Thin Linda' album: 'Truth and Lies' is part Harvest Records circa 1971 and part modern indie-folk, but it also has a poignant feel. The most traditional folk here comes courtesy of Slate Islands' 'Internal Exile' which could really have been written and recorded at any time in the past few decades and is a stirring song with a Celtic feel.

Antifolk was a rebellion of sorts, and historically genres such as rock 'n' roll and punk were seen as a reaction to what else was on offer. There are plenty of guitar tunes which owe a debt to those game-changing styles to be found on 'Lucky Dip'. Sheepy have been one of the label's best discoveries, and their anthem to getting messed up, 'Ket Party', removes all of the cheese from what could be described as "pop-punk" with some witty lyrics and load of memorable melodies; 2007's 'Rock 'n' Roll Points' by Filthy Pedro is the kind of scuzzy lo-fi gem that could have grown out of the C86 movement. If conventional, late '70s British punk is your thing then look no further than 'King Of Leyton' by Crash & The Disasters which could be a period piece, and Corporal Machine & The Bombers' 'Five A Day' is cut from the same cloth but both sound fresh rather than dated. One of the label's most prominent bands have been David Cronenberg's Wife, and their Fall-esque track 'Jonny Bentham's Dilemma' is mildly abrasive but with a melodic (if quite dark) heart.

Then there are acts who've successfully experimented with a range of styles. Milk Kan takes more urban sounds, merging an indie-punk attitude with hip-hop, reggae and contagious pop hooks; it's difficult to precisely place Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences' 'It Takes A Nation Of Idiots To Hold Me Back' which is another song with something to say and borrows from '80s post-punk and indiepop, as well as folk and more; there's a tropical bent to the Tom Waits meets Kevin Ayres psychedelic pop of 'Sexy Dentist' by Malcolm Kaksois, another early release from 2007.  David Cronenberg's wife appear again as their track 'Sweden' is remixed by Oculus III and transformed into an ambient, psychedelic drone number with a tribal vibe. The wonderfully curious 'Germans In Space' by Dan Edelstyn and the Orchestra Of Cardboard is something of a lost classic with it's odd vocal intonation, cluttered percussion and almost found-sound psychedelic touches.

Perhaps fittingly, Thomas Truax's 2012 track 'March Winds' wraps things up in a stately manner with cinematic strings and a bedtime, lullaby feeling that looks to the future: "the plough keeps on rolling, the river keeps on flowing, can't say where they're going, but I'm going too". It's an apt way to end this section of the journey, a journey that's taken in a lot of different styles and discovered some fantastic bands and musicians. Here's to the first ten years of a truly independent and innovative label, bring on the next!

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