Thursday, July 27, 2006


VIRGINIA ASTLEY - From Gardens Where We Feel Secure CD (Rough Trade)
Here's an embarrassing confession: I bought this on the recommendation of an airline magazine. The first time, probably the last. Flying back from Sydney about 3 months ago, I noticed a review for this in the music section of the magazine in question (which must've been a Virgin publication) and was instantly intrigued. Firstly, it was because I'd never heard of Virginia Astley (and this was originally released in 1983), and secondly because the description of the music - a combination of meditative, piano-based hymns mixed with English barnyard sounds - made it sound rather interesting. Well, I bought this on eBay a few months ago and it more than lives up to expectations.

If you read Astley's All Music Guide entry, you may find some curious information: sister-in-law of Pete Townsend; one-time band member in the Ravishing Beauties w/ Kate St. John of the Dream Academy (yeah, them!); worked w/ Siouxsie and the Banshees in the late '70s, and an all round CV of Britannia tweeness to rival Kate Bush. In essence, not usually my bag. But this, her LP from 1983, one of only three made in nearly 25 years, is, as expected, something which is awfully pleasant to play on a sunny day.

With ascending/descending Satie-esque piano lines carrying the bulk of the melodies, with occasional oboe and what sounds like a children's choir in the distance, I'll forgive you for thinking this to be New Age Hell at first glance. That is, if you haven't yet heard it. More to the point, this is much closer to the sublime minimalism of Eno's classic Ambient series of LPs (Discreet Music, Music For Airports, Apollo, etc.) than anything w/ a Windham Hill logo on its jacket, so excuse me whilst I make some cucumber and avocado sandwiches, guzzle lashings of ginger beer and enjoy the sounds of From Gardens Where We Feel Secure. As a guilty pleasure, the guilt is starting to wear off.

Some other goodies...

1) PEARLS BEFORE SWINE - These Things Too CD
More on these guys at a later date. I now have a far more accurate decsription for the Supreme Dicks: they sound like a PBS covers band.
2) HAZEL DICKENS & ALICE GERRARD - Pioneering Women of Bluegrass CD
3) CLUSTER - '71 CD
Superb reissue of this zone-out electronic Kraut gem of the mighty Water label.
4) VARIOUS - High Explosion: DJ Sounds From 1970 to 1976 3-LP box
Three LPs of the best toasting 'n' rapping ever from Jamaica's hotshots of the '70s. Not a dud in the whole lot, if I was a better written-word critic of reggae, I'd attempt a full-length rundown. Until that happens, I'd advise you get yer mits of this Trojan bounty.
5) MARZETTE WATTS - CD
One of those ESP catalogue-gaps I discussed below, now filled. And nicely, too. Hot 1968 free blast w/ Byard Lancaster and Sonny Sharrock on board.

1 comment:

robin said...

Astley's subsequent compilation of EP tracks and her 12" Melt The Snows are also very nice, but then the tweeness set in for double measure and the holiday was over. After that it's a life doomed to massive popularity in Japan -- where else?