Posts from 24th April 2000

24
Apr 00

XTC – “Playground”

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XTC – “Playground”
THE WEDDING PRESENT – “Sports Car (Acoustic)” (From the Cooking Vinyl compilation ‘Delicatessen Two’)
I bought the Delicatessen Two compilation because it had a new XTC track on it, the first I’d heard from the upcoming Apple Venus Volume 2. Now, the threat with AV2 was that it was going to be XTC’s ‘rock’ album, which filled me with dread, since XTC haven’t been able to rock effectively since they stopped living on amphetamines sometime in the late 70s. And my dread was well-founded: “Playground” is limp pun-strewn power-pop which really isn’t worth very much of your time. Since even XTC’s good exercises in bouncy retropop (“Earn Enough For Us”, say) tend to be overshadowed by the swirlier or more pastoral stuff surrounding them, a whole album of this is not something I’m too excited about.

So was the compilation (budget, don’t worry) a washout? No, actually. It’s been years since I heard a ‘new’ Wedding Present song, and since their early-90s records had soundtracked more shameful crushes that I like to remember, I’d filed them away as a band I’d ‘grown out of’ – even when going back and writing about them. But one listen to “Sports Car” and it all came back: David Gedge still writing pared-down conversational lyrics which drag themselves in slow circles round collapsing relationships, still writing simple pop melodies to go with them. “Sports Car” in its acoustic version gets round the classic Wedding Present problem (Gedge’s phlegmy voice) by being sung by someone else, and the toned-down instrumentation gives the song a weepy fragility which the band generally only imply, but other than that: business as usual. From a rational standpoint you’d imagine there were only so many times Gedge could work the formula, and of course we’ve heard it all before, but then hey, so have the people in the songs.

AUTECHRE – Drane

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AUTECHRE – Drane (from the Peel Session disc, recorded 13 Oct 95)

The track itself is a 10+ minute expanse of typical twittering Autechre percussion and childlike melody, progressively more and more overcome by a slightly watery, buzzing drone. But since it’s Autechre, that doesn’t really do it justice – you’ll have to listen yourself. Suffice it to say it’s good stuff if you like trippy minimalistic freaky alien machine techno.

This review, if you could call it that, is really a stepping-off point for some broader musing. This track, along with the other two (“Milk DX” and “Inhake 2”) from its album, is claimed to be live somehow, in that it was recorded in real time on John Peel’s radio show.

Problem is, I’m not sure if I can tell the difference. This being electronic music, the easy-to-spot cues from “more human” music are absent: quicker tempos, missed notes, less-polished sound, etc. Furthermore, the music is typical for Autechre in the way that it leisurely develops, in true minimalist fashion, one or two ideas over the course of a ten minute track. Development like that is easy to reproduce “live,” I suspect, simply because you’ve got the time.

So for me this is a thorny one: it seems as if whether or not we’re to take “Drane” as “live” Autechre comes totally down to authorial intention. What would my English professor think? And more importantly, given that I can’t tell the difference, is there any worthwhile distinction between “live” and Memorex?