Friday, 18 February 2011

Music Review: Section 25 - From The Hip

Section 25 - From The Hip (Factory Records 1984)

(I wrote this review on 18 Jan 2005 for Head Heritage website) 

The Process
Looking From A Hilltop
Prepare To Live
Program For Light
Beneath The Blade

Recorded August 1983, released March 1984.

Section 25 wrote and recorded their third album at Rockfield Studios in Wales and mixed the tracks at Revolution studios in Manchester - finally releasing the album in March 1984.

'From the Hip' was more melodic, polished and musically eclectic than their previous releases ('Always Now' and 'The Key of Dreams') and saw the band sonically exploring further genres and dynamics. Some reviews have commented on the album being more commercially driven. Whilst it does have a more hi-fi than low-fi quality about it, a more accurate description would be to suggest that the sound had become more adventurous.

As many Factory releases had been previously, 'From the Hip' was issued in a Peter Saville sleeve with no sleevenotes, band information or even album title. The typography (by Trevor Key) was originally to have been rubberised but the cost of doing this may have exceeded Factory's budget at the time. Instead, the sleeve featured a line of surveying poles ascending a mountain. Saville at the time was still into his computer colour coding so the colours on the surveying poles supposedly represent the title of the album.

The record begins with an Eno-like ambient track called 'The Process'. A slow build up of synths and gentle guitarwork evolves into rolling tympani style drums and lush vocals. The track comes to rest just as 'Looking From A Hilltop' begins with a crack of the whip electro clap signature. A pitch alterating electroid rhythm drives the song onwards, whilst a echoed jet sound features throughout the duration; giving the feeling of listening to this track as experiencing vertigo. This piece could even be interpreted as nearly a definitive dance mix of ‘Beachy Head’ by Throbbing Gristle. Even the vocals have a hint of Cosey about them. 'Looking From A Hilltop' is a dance tune which still sounds fresh today and will do in 21 years time.

'Reflection' opens with a sequenced synth pattern before a song evolves …. “..You and I, you and I forever, open up, open up to me, it's so high, it's so high we're breathless, can't you see what you do to me…” is sung in a trance like state accompanying the hypnotic music perfectly.

Side 2 opens with the techno power surge of 'Program For Light'. The track is a heavily based Roland TB-303 stomper which predates Orbital and wouldn’t sound out of place on their ‘Brown’ album. The crystalline track explodes at the end, shedding shards of light down onto 'Desert', which is beautifully evocative with use of acoustic guitars and echoed piano. 'Beneath The Blade' is a rawer sounding track in the style of previous Section 25 releases and doesn’t quite get to achieve much in the context of this album in my opinion -.even though it offers a different sound to the previous songs. 'Inspiration' is another lush dance orientated trance song which closes the album.

The record produced enough interest to enable the band to undertake a North American tour. However, in 1985 Vin Cassidy quit the group, followed by Angela Cassidy the following year. Larry and Jenny Cassidy continued the band and released a follow up album called Love and Hate in 1988. The group disbanded shortly after and reformed in 2000 to start writing and recording new songs. Sadly, Jenny Cassidy passed away in November 2004.

'From the Hip' features the trademark trance sound of the band but distilled though an incredible musical mix of electronica, dance, ambience and new wave… predating the sound and make-up of many albums being produced today.

Since this review was written, Larry Cassidy sadly passed away in February 2010.

Larry Cassidy - Plan K, Brussels, 12 Dec 2009 - Photo taken by D Clarkson

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Chan Fang 禅房/Buddha Machine Generation III in Retro Red

I was delighted to get this all new latest Buddha Machine today from Piccadilly Records in Manchester. I had a choice from retro Red, Blue, Black, Clear and Forest Green.

The Buddha Machine series has become one of the most talked about ambient music releases of all time. The latest machine is a clear plastic music box about the size of a cigarette box but with volume and pitch shift. The device features four extended-play loops by Beijing duo Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian, aka FM3 and operates via 2 AA size batteries.

'Chan Fang' translates as "Zen Room," and sees the duo swap drones from their first two Buddha releases for classical loops. The tracks were composed and performed on the Qin, a seven string zither. Turn on 'Chan Fang' and soundtrack your life. Tweak the pitch to match your mood. Enjoy a bubble bath with an exotic soundtrack!

The four extended play loops are : 01 Chun 春    02 Qiu 秋    03 Xia 夏  and 04 Dong 冬

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Old Amusements Signs

Took these photos last weekend in Rhyl, North Wales, on way home from a weekend road trip which also took in Bangor and the coast.