Monday, 24 March 2014

We’re on a very special mission with Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab

It’s been too long – way too long baby – it’s been too long. But hey I’m back – it’s good to be back (do we reference that these days – probably not) There’s a whole heap to write- half finished posts and notes – they’ll surface over the coming months.

So where to begin (again)

This is about Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab – oh and what a laboratory this is – and their forthcoming long player – Beyond the Silver Sea. All shimmers and strums – harmonies and hums.  A tale of finding the future and living there – I guess. I had received a random message from Mr Stuart Kidd – yes he of The Wellgreen fame (well they are in my house – i mean famous in my house – not that they live in my house) about new projects – new sounds and a possible  place to start a review.

So through cables and code I ended up in my soundcloud (hey, hey, you, you get off of my (sound)cloud) listening to the experiments of two wonderful musicians and their attempts to create an almighty concept album on 4-tracks of tape. The Beatles had four tracks – these guys too. See what you can do with your imagination. And as I always point out – this isn’t retro – this isn’t looking back – it’s just trusting the tape to do its job - to record the experience. Before we begin - I just need to say - they haven't put a date on its release- they're hoping to get a vinyl release soon - so here's to that. So let's talk about the 'Beyond the Silver Sea'. 

And what an experience it is – a mini rock opera –in between The Wellgreen,  running a record label The Barne Society and thumping the skins in the Roogie Boogie band – Stuart had found time to write a (a quick one) musical opus of sixities psychedelia and analogue science fiction.

So let me make sense of this positive sixties psyche and take you ‘Beyond the Silver Sea. Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab are Joe Kane and Stu Kidd with narration and additional material by Adam Smith (because there’s a story in all of this). Now I should be wary of a concept album for the 2000s – it might all go Kanye West or Sasha Fierce (remember that) or Beady Eye (there are a concept band aren’t they?)

So this album starts with a story – a narrated tale of ‘Max’s’ endeavour to escape his restrictive life in a world where no sense reigns and escape to a place ‘beyond the silver sea’.  Instantly recalling Brian Wilson’s attempts to tell us his tale of a magic transitor radio on a side of seven inch vinyl inserted as an afterthought in the Holland album – there was a worry coursing through my veins – what with the Stanley Unwin forced surrealness of ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and I tried not to recall that ‘War of the Worlds’ record – you know it was in all the Woolworths’ as a child (all the Woolworths)

But I’m here to listen But luckily for you ane me – this turned out to be a Tommy – a concept you can listen to – through and through.

And if I’m honest the story took a slight back seat at first – but slowly it began to fit – it started adding sense to the whole heap of sounds coming my way – this mish-mash of The Small Faces, Brian Wilson blended with a heavy dose of The Who and some Teenage Fanclub tuneage.  It’s an album full of twinkles and strings, harmonies and things (In Lieu of Something Better) where reverb and open chords tell of confusion and discord as Max’s attempts to ‘get out of this place’ get more confused and affected by time.

Through these backroom bedroom recordings come some wonderfully crafted tunes – recalling the Dukes of Stratosphear’s attempts to confuse and dazzle in equal measure. This could be a lost classic (an odessy and oracle we never knew about) or a confident pricking of the past and then presented as a new future.

There’s an analogue elegance between the layers of sounds and each and every play lends itself to references and nods of the knowing. I can hear the work of the mighty Ray Davies seeping into the albums seams creating psychotic reactions  in this Glasgow city – an alternative Detroit -  squelches and soothing sounds. There’s a hint of The Seeds in here too. Oh you can tell what I’m saying it references and remixes that era – those tunes through country, rock and bossa nova. Simple love songs – simple pleasures – garage psychedelia  - there’s a wonderful song called ‘Painted Birds’ – now it’s part of the narrative – a narrative of smoke filled cafes and new wave jump cuts as we hot foot it through Camden 1966 – all heavy fringes and dark eyes – tight trousers and getting high ,high, high.

So do I believe in the silver sea – do I want to escape?  There’s experimentation in this four track heaven – the sounds spring out of nowhere – a translated and transformed – there’s a moment where Chas and Dave meets Back to the Future uptown as a cockney knees up descends into Lee Perry’s spacedub in the form of ‘Pie,mash and liquor’. It’s an album torn out of time and rooted in the past yet knowingly moving on.  It has humour at its heart.  Serious songs from smiling faces – or smiling songs from serious faces?  Whichever way you want it – it works.

As Max’s journey takes us to The Storehouse of Fools in a quest to get away from it all with Trixie at his side (except she isn’t) this place of ramalamma boogie woogie – all denim (the band and fabric) with lasers and lights then head into the Townsend fury and Foxy Lady honky tonk of ‘Dr Chester’s Pleasures’ as we are taken to the stars. You see anything is possible when you can commit it to tape – when you can experiment – reshape – chop and mix – sprinkle this and turn out that.

So we journey ever onwards – beyond the silver sea to ‘The Stars My Destination’ all Lennon squawk and shimmer a lonely ‘other’ planet boy cry. Dr Cosmos’ Tape Lab have produced radiophonic workshop organic indie music for 2014 and beyond – it’s conceptual – it’s bombastic – it’s fantastic. A kind of subtle fairy animals (you get me?)

Finally we reach our destination. Way beyond and further. Ready for ‘The Long Sleep’ – it’s got this early baggy feel to it – sort of (World of) Twist otherness. There’s a hint of Gary Numan  cutting a duet with The Zombies rolling over and over (it may have been the time of day I listened – but that’s what I’m hearing in the chorus) All Barberella backbeat – squelches and reverses – slipping down to simple chords and harmonies falling into air and space.
Dreams falling into line on tape. 

Yes the whole thing is ambitious and at 44 minutes you’ve got to put the effort in – otherwise you might lose the story thread. But once that’s all seeped into the unconscious you just listen – and let the lab carry out its experiments on you.  All put down on four tracks of tape – as I said – if it works for The Beatles – then it’s going to work for anyone. And it works for this talented twosome.

You know we can find the things we want to be - beyond the silver sea.

So who wants to join me – beyond the silver sea?

As this long player is yet to be released - you can do no harm in checking out their rather fabulous soundcloud site. There's lots of songs and snippets from the album. It should be out very soon - so you can buy it then.

Go to it here

Here’s some information too:

Stu does- vocals, drums, glockenspiel, percussion, monotron, casiotone, acoustic guitar, lead guitar
Joe does- Vocals, tack piano, bass, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, electric harpsichord, Moog synthesiser, organ, melodica
Recorded July to November 2013 on a Tascam 424 Mk. III four-track recorder