Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fresh ~ ME REX ~ Tea Leaf ~ Blue Tiger at Leith Depot



Saturday, October 13, 2018

National Album Day 2018: In praise of Bodenständig 2000 - Maxi German Rave Blast Hits 3 (Rephlex Records, 1999)

For all of the speculation back in the '90s about Aphex Twin purchasing submarines or roundabouts, you'd have to imagine that at least some of those braindance millions went towards propping up Rephlex Records, the label he and Grant Wilson-Claridge ran, given the heroic amount and sheer eclectic breadth of records the label released during its lifespan. Invariably, many of these were works of incontestable (if damaged) genius that would nonetheless be just slightly too weird to meet immediate acclaim, and were often to be found heavily discounted in HMV warehouse-clearance campaigns a year or two later (five Rephlex CDs for a tenner?), but have inevitably become collector's items in the years since.

One such serendipitous bargain purchase for me was Bodenständig 2000's Maxi German Rave Blast Hits 3. As well as the ridiculous title, it had an incredible beyond-good-or-bad cover, even by Rephlex's standards (they always did a good line in reductionist Atari-generation graphic design), which was somehow only improved by the presence of the £1.99 sale sticker. But it was the music contained within that really blew me away, back at the turn of the millennium. A compilation of work by the titular Germans, it plays like the greatest (admittedly slightly odd) party album ever, moving from epic 8-bit chiptune anthems to euro-party-rap, to random-sounding audio collages (the one with the pig samples may give you nightmares. The eerie electroprog tune about the small boy disappearing inside his computer definitely will).

It's almost all incredibly melodic, danceable and fun. In short, like so many of the fabulous oddities released by Rephlex, it's that record digger's dream, that lucky-find holy grail that's weird and obscure and sounds a million miles away from anything in the mainstream, but is, crucially, also incredibly good (if you had a copy of it on a tape, you'd probably quite fairly assume you'd never in a million years find another copy and just rip that to the internet instead). In fact, one track did reach a much wider audience, with In Rock 16 Bit being used for a TV commercial, and the acapella track Saureschnauze became more widely known when Bjork cited it as a major influence on her Medúlla album. If you want an album to remind you of how imaginative, fun and without boundaries (there is a Christmas song) electronic dance music can be, then try to give this one a listen. The band would later move away from music somewhat, focusing for a while on a new type of motorised skateboard instead, but this collection captured a snapshot of unique musical minds at their most unfettered.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Matias Aguayo & The Desdemonas - Sofarnopolis

Still from Cold Fever video, by Matías Aguayo and Céline Keller.

It's the 14th of September 2016, an unwelcoming Wednesday night in Edinburgh, and I've forced myself up from the comfort of my sofa to go and see Berlin's Matias Aguayo and The Desdemonas at Sneaky Pete's. "Is this how you dreamt it would be?" asks Aguayo at one point, between songs. It turns out to be the central lyric of the next number, in which he's seemingly talking about the dystopian future-present our childhood selves would find themselves living in today, but the question could equally apply to our expectations of the gig. Best known as figurehead of the flawlessly-cool Cómeme label, and as a producer making infectious, highly-imaginative, personality-filled house music, what drew me out tonight was the promise of hearing that creativity translated to a traditional rock band line-up. But in truth his band, The Desdemonas, create an even fuller, more complex sound than I had expected. The noirish edge I had anticipated is there, in the heavy b-movie creep of the basslines, and a guitarist ringing out reverb-spooked tremolo strums that would make Robert Rodriguez weep. As well as singing, Aguayo sometimes plays a bizarre-looking homemade keytar, or percussion. Another guy plays synths. Did I mention the synths. The unexpected element for me are the occasionally epic, teutonic synths, creating a collision between a cold wave front from Berlin, and the warmer atmospheres of Aguayo's Chilean heritage, the latin dance rhythms underpinning it all (the drummer is kept very busy).

Aesthetics aside, from track to track we're treated to a bewildering array of song types, from seductive sex jams to apocalyptic synth pop; it's hard to categorise at all. Fortunately this is not a weakness, as Aguayo himself is a natural performer, with the personality to hold something so potentially chaotic together. The venue is not very busy, and I find myself at the front of the stage, Aguayo, who has been dancing throughout, undulating sensuously before me. In tight trousers, smartly-heeled boots and a polkadot blouse, he looks for all the world like a ghost from the heyday of '80s or early-'90s indie. Entranced by his dancing, all of my feeble hetero passcodes are unlocked one by one, and within no time, I'm his. I'm by myself and he's close enough that it feels like he's dancing for me, with me. Fortunately, at this stage I've only had one beer.

Later, whilst performing the previously mentioned song about our dystopian present, he will body pop and footslide with some of the best dance moves I may have ever seen from a live performer. Admittedly, I've never seen Justin Timberlake live. Perhaps he would have been better. But in a small, intimate club on the Cowgate, in the gutter of the city, to watch something like this is just joyously incongruous and fantastical. I think these might really be some of the moments I live for: in a small, unassuming venue, seeing something genuinely not quite like anything I've seen before - the true wonder of pop music. It's still out there, somewhere, as we once dreamt of it, in naive childhood wonder, FM dreams beamed beneath duvets via walkman radios. In a gig that feels, at different times, like a bar band from an unknown, superior South American remake of The Lost Boys, or the first genuinely good band to play at the Bronze (apart from Cibo Matto, obvs), or Chris Isaak's little-known midlife breakdown post-punk vampire-biker-themed jam band, we find, finally, simply, transcendent pop wonder.

Fast forward to November 2017, and the album the Desdemonas were teasing last year (they toured it across Europe, without any of the material having been released) has now finally arrived. Is it how I had dreamt it would be? Not entirely - it features some mellower numbers, and ambient interludes, and perhaps more smoke machine than the gig did. It's dreamier, and darker, whlst simultaneously lighter in other places. If anything, it seems to show an even broader collision of influences, is even harder to adequately describe. And the song about the dreamt-of future seems to be missing. Perhaps it was me who dreamt it? Much like the gig, the album is entirely its own thing, not quite like anything else out there. Titled Sofarnopolis, it's apparently a conceptual narrative, with clues filled in by Aguayo's accompanying comic strip art. Perhaps it was never about what we dreamt it would be after all, but about Aguayo's dreams; and they seem to be wild, intriguing, oblique fantasies of a different, more exciting time. In this parallel world, perhaps a young Aguayo is laughing to himself as he foresees his future self on the cover of the NME and Melody Maker, the biggest latin-indie-synth-goth pop star of a decade that never was... whoever's dream it is, it's a future past that's a joy to visit.

Sofarnopolis by Matias Aguayo is out now, via Crammed Discs.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Quick poster for a gig I'm hosting next month. Amazing line-up!

Glasgow's league-topping indie five-asiders, Spinning Coin (Geographic), bring us Permo! Support comes in the form of an ultra-rare appearance from London-based lo-fi legend Keel Her (Critical Heights, O Genesis) and her band, plus a full-band set from Glasgow's best-kept secret Rocky Lorelei.

Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh
Saturday 18th November


Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas but-not-Christmas Cards

A mysterious and generous benefactor has kindly let me use some of their complimentary greetings card printing order. It was a short notice thing, so I whipped up some designs based on posters I did for Braw Gigs and The Gentle Invasion.

I've decided to try to sell 'em, with all proceeds going to Re-Act Refugee Action. I don't have a huge amount, and it's stupidly near Christmas, so I'll be selling them in person this weekend, like a gorilla in the mist - I'll be at Kid Canaveral's Christmas Baubles in Pilrig Church tomorrow night (Saturday 19th), and the all-ages Re-Act Rumpus fundraiser at Leith Dockers Club on Sunday 20th. And, quite possibly, at the Song, By Toad xmas gig at Henry's after that (if I'm still standing).

If I can infiltrate a merch desk/cake table/quoits arena at any of these events I will, otherwise, sorta assuming that anyone that's in Edinburgh and reads this will know what I look like? Come and give me a festive prod. Unless I'm DJing. Which by the way I am, at the Rumpus on the Sunday. Please be warned that as it's an all-ages thing, I'll be playing Fraggle Rock records exclusively - please see Uncle Travelling Matt postcard-shaped 7" photo example below.

Okay. Oh, and if you want some of these and won't see me this weekend, I'm sure we can sort something out... just drop me an email... perhaps they'd make good Easter cards?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

These Winds Are In My Heart

Things have been a bit quiet at Peanut Snake this year, but don't worry, I've just been working and reading a lot of books. And last week I drew this poster (plus upsy-downsy variant) for the Lau Nau gig at Summerhall in Edinburgh next month, a joint promotion between Braw Gigs and the Nothing Ever Happens Here series.

I haven't seen Lau Nau play live since the Homefires festival ten years ago (!), but that was a wonderful set, so I'm really looking forward to the gig. She seems to have moved towards the audio-visual in the intervening years, with her new album for Fonal an instrumental soundtrack, so not really sure what to expect, which is fine by me!

About the same time as I finished this poster, I started reading The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany, which I'm really enjoying, and includes a couple of scenes, with a tumbling troll, and a drifting princess, which were weirdly synchronous with my poster image.

"And at that moment a wind came out of the northwest, and entered the woods and bared the golden branches, and danced on over the downs, and led a company of scarlet and golden leaves, that had dreaded this day but danced now it had come; and away with a riot of dancing and glory of colour, high in the light of the sun that had set from the sight of the fields, went wind and leaves together. With them went Lirazel."


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Braw As A(n octopus's) Craw

So, it seems that Record Store Day is once more just around the corner. And I'd just like to suggest that you might wish to add James Yorkston's "The Demonstrations of the Craws" to your panic-list.
I know exactly what you're thinking: "But Pual, you know I can't even begin to think about buying that, or anything else, not even the "Shirley Inspired" Shirley Collins tribute album, not when all of my mental energy for this next month will be expended purely on worry over how I will get my hands on a copy of the original Graeme Miller & Steve Shill "Moomins" theme music on 7" from Finders Keepers with fuzzy felt cover."

And I understand, completely. But this JY 12" contains demo versions of songs from one of last year's best albums, and I did the artwork, and it has a sort-of Shaking Stevens octopus on it, and there are only 500 copies being pressed, so just take a deep breath and scratch it onto your list, as I'm sure it will only bring you relief once you've done so.

And if you find you're still hyperventilating, perhaps trying watching a few episodes of the original Moomins animation on this wonderful archival site; should calm you down in no time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fossil Records

Whilst going through my flat and burning old clothes, I happened upon a hole leading into 2007, climbing through which I was surprised to at once discover Hardsparrow's long thought lost OLO Radio mix! Although the waves of time have naturally acted to erode this artefact, degrading it to a mere 96kbps, it still contains recognisable objects and forms which I hope will bring delight to both the amateur and semi-retired researcher.

Hardsparrow - While My Stylus Gently Weeps (OLO Radio G32) by Peanut Snake on Mixcloud

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Grey Waves ~ Faith/Void

I contributed some one-off hand-drawn sleeves for the limited artist version of a really nice 7" put out by People In A Position To Know. Two killer tunes from Grey Waves (Jesse Hughey and Eric Judy of Modest Mouse)! You can see the mixed results of my doodlings below. All ink on pastel. Do not rub on your face (only joking, I fixed them with some ancient, foul-smelling spray I found in a chest in the attic*).

One or two of these will have gone to other contributing artists, but PIAPTK have three of them for sale here, and the band are also selling through their bandcamp - perhaps they got one too? I dunno, but you could ask them...

Big thanks to Mike at PIAPTK for organising such a great project! I think there was an exhibition of the sleeves in Seattle too - top stuff.

* But perhaps don't rub them on your face anyway, just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Creeping Death From The Stars

Here's a fairly swiftish poster for a gig that is occurring this Saturday - the return of Ultramouse (er, you remember that, right?), and featuring Glasgow's Insect Heroes playing alongside Death By Raygun (over from Tokyo), and GGGHOST TOWNNN (up from Bournemouth). A night of noisy psycho garage and reach-for-the-stars banjotronica - should be a lot of fun! Here's the Facebook thingy: http://www.facebook.com/events/1392191907742793/