Sunday, 16 March 2014

Fruits de Mer Records – March 2014

I’m always banging on about how good it is to receive one of Fruit De Mer’s excellent packages of promotional material; well, this time I’m even more pleased because the bundle of promo CDs in support of their vinyl releases for this month contains amongst its excellence a Double 7” by Crystal Jacqueline and The Honey Pot which gives me a opportunity first of all to deviate from the review of FdM’s offerings and make a plug for Crystal Jacqueline’s excellent Sun Arise album [Mega Dodo Records] which I enthused about in R2 a couple of issues ago:

“Busy and involving, invoking halcyon 60s psychedelic haze and daze, and really quite smashing, is this debut album from The Honey Pot’s Crystal Jacqueline, produced, played-on and partly written by fellow Honey Pot member Icarus Peel. It’s a record that creeps up on you with all its beguiling intricacies and doesn’t easily get out of your player or off your mind.

It has a darkness to it that’s quite appealing and cuts through the potential saccharine of its loaded psychedelia references that range from a brooding cover of ‘Play With Fire’ with its allusions to St John’s Wood and heiresses that make it seem almost an historical document, to what feels almost like an obligatory Alice In Wonderland piece and onto that great slice of 60s acid-trip visions, err, Mary Poppins. It has to be said, though, that the version of ‘Fly A Kite’ included here is just breathlessly wistful, a proper and heartfelt reading.

So in a way it has a great nostalgic feel to it, safely tucked away in a cultural hinterland; but it’s that mix of sweetness that’s not cloying and darker depths, note in this context also Jacqueline’s vocals on a cut of The Troggs’ ‘Cousin Jane’, that makes it so palatable. As Alice might have said, it’s curiouser and curiouser.”

So getting that mention out of the way first (if you think it sounds right up your street from that review, go and get it – it will be!), FdM’s release is a mixture of Crystal Jacqueline tracks and those from Icarus Peel’s band The Honey Pot, which features Crystal in any case. Now, I don’t often watch ‘Reality’ shows, Strictly… aside, though I will confess to sifting through the audition rounds of The Voice, but when I do the it seems to me that the judges are always talking about “attack”… that rendition was full of attack, you approached the song with attack, that sort of thing. Well, among these covers, I’d particularly note that The Honey Pot approach their version of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ with a lot of attack. Full of attack, it is. I mean, it’s ripe for attack anyway, but this is a really splendid run through, better than The Damned’s version circa The Black Album, and that was pretty good itself. Meanwhile, Crystal Jacqueline does a terrific take on Pink Floyd’s ‘Remember A Day’ and among the other songs, she also does more than justice to ‘I Had Too Much To Dream’ (didn’t The Damned have a stab at that as well?), while The Honey Pot give a delicious poppy lilt to Mighty Baby’s ‘Egyptian Tomb’. This release is seven tracks, spread across two 7” singles in a gatefold sleeve and an eight page booklet. I know FdM have released a Crystal Jacqueline single previously; I’d overlooked that one but since the Sun Arise album, I’ve determined not to overlook any more.

Dragging myself away from that one, Schizo Fun Addict have a cult movie 7” featuring as the A-side a track from the 1977 Italian horror film Suspiria, which I’m talking about with authority of course… but have never heard of… and a B-side, ‘In The Long Run’ taken from Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, which of course I’ve heard of [behave] and which actually captures 70s tackiness in all its technicolour glory… I smiled all the way through and really liked it! On the other hand, Bristol-based Schnauser’s release is a bit of a Curate’s Egg for me, headlined as being ‘As Long As He Stays Perfectly Still’, the A-side is actually covers Yes’s ‘Astral Traveller’ and at this notion I have glazed eyes and a vacant expression for I have never understood Yes and never found their appeal, though the ‘headline’ track, covering a number from Soft Machine Volume Two I found more interesting, even if,again, Soft Machine have never really been my glass of Coke. I’ll pass along from this one as it didn’t really float my boat.,

Moving right along then, Scandinavian duo Us And Them have a three-track single, including one original track. I’ve never heard Sandy Denny’s ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ before, and the promotion for this single identifies it as a lesser-known entry in the Denny canon, but the Us And Them take on it is crystalline, fragile, affecting and moving, the thinnest china, so delicate that it might shatter and be lost from a single glance but lovely and precious to behold. Alongside it is a cover of an interpretation, as it were, a take on Donovan’s appropriation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’, followed by an Us And Them original, ‘Do I Know You’, a sparse but elegant piece. Way outside of the remit of this blog, of course, but FdM’s releases are becoming so well-loved that anything they conjure up is worth investigating.

Finally, then, a three-tracker from Bronco Bullfrog, whose reason for existing seems to be to try and catch and bottle their impression of 60s pop-psych, which they do pretty well in their whimsical, slightly silly and off-kilter, manner, on the release’s lead song ‘Time Waits For Norman’, which, while it’s something of a 1066 And All That version of the later 60s sound, the bits that you think you remember, is a suitable amount of fun for sure.

Fruits de Mer Website

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