Archive for the 'Digital Vinyl' Category

Digital Vinyl #2: Ultra Vivid Scene – Mercy Seat

Almost exactly a year ago I posted Digital Vinyl #1 in the sincere hope that it would become a regular feature and that by now, many of my old vinyl rarities would have been made available to you in shiny modern mp3 format. This has obviously not been the case; but then, a new year, a new beginning? Maybe.

Mercy SeatUltra Vivid Scene was the musical nom de plume of one Kurt Ralske, a New Yorker who married programmed drums and synths with anaemic, fuzzed-out guitars and his own fey vocals to create a brand of indie pop that was dark and catchy; often dreamy, occasionally twee. It’s no surprise, then, that he signed to the burgeoning 4AD label in 1987, releasing an eponymous debut album in 1988. It was a good album, but one track stuck out like a sore thumb: “Mercy Seat”, with its propulsive, overdriven bass line and glistening guitar parts, was an instant classic, my favourite track of 1988, if memory serves. Coincidentally, 1988 was also the year that Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds released their Death Row epic “The Mercy Seat”; almost identical titles but the similarities end there.

In 1989, “Mercy Seat” was re-recorded and released as a 12″ single, along with an excellent cover of Buffy St. Marie’s “Codine”, a new song called “H Like In Heaven”, and the original version of the lead track. The new version of “Mercy Seat” was augmented by a long, languid intro that almost doubles the track’s length. It is a beautiful piece of music with Ralske’s guitar snaking around celestial voices and organ, and THAT bassline, the genius of its simplicity, stripped of the distortion that defined the original yet losing none of its authority. It takes three minutes for the intro to resolve itself, when we reach the point at which the original version began, when we realise that this wonderful three minutes of music has served its purpose to maximise the impact of the beginning of the song proper. It is a glorious moment and the rest of the song plays out as a more laid back version of the original, with a more expansive sound, more space between instruments, but lacking wall of fuzzy guitar that helps to make the original so compelling. Both versions have their considerable merits and its difficult to say which is the better.

Ultra Vivid Scene made two more albums: Joy 1967-1990 (1990) trod the familiar ground of the debut but was a big improvement in terms of songwriting and sound, while Rev (1993) featured a full band and was a marked departure from the earlier material with longer songs, plenty of acoustic guitars and a darker, more intense sound. It was a promising new direction, but that was the last we heard of them.

Ultra Vivid Scene – Mercy Seat (extended version)

Ultra Vivid Scene – Codine

Ultra Vivid Scene – H Like In Heaven

Ultra Vivid Scene – Mercy Seat (LP Version)

Posted by The Ledge on 26th January 2008 at 1:15 am | comments (6)
File under Digital Vinyl,kurt ralske,mp3,Reviews,Single Reviews,ultra vivid scene.

Digital Vinyl #1: The Triffids – Field Of Glass

In this new Indie Credential feature I’ll be raiding my vinyl collection for some rare nuggets from yesteryear. I’ll rip them kicking and screaming into mp3 format, pops and crackles intact, and serve them up for your listening pleasure.

The Triffids - Field Of GlassThe Triffids’ Field Of Glass EP is a genuine lost classic. Released in 1985, the EP is a record of their Peel Session recorded in November 1984 and produced by Mark Radcliffe, who was then an in-house producer at the Beeb before embarking on his glittering DJ career. Radcliffe did an excellent job in capturing a performance that was so visceral and intense that it’s no wonder that the three songs were never re-recorded for a proper release. To my knowledge none of these recordings have ever had an official CD release.

Listening to the three tracks it’s fairly obvious that lead Triffid David McComb was in a bad place at the time. McComb was an alcoholic and heroin user whose substance abuse led to a heart transplant at the age of just 34 and eventually to his sad, early death two years later in 1999. The first two songs, “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Monkey On My Back”, deal directly with McComb’s drug abuse and are infused with bitterness and desperation. They’re brilliant songs but I’ll post them some other time.

The song which gave its name to the EP tells the tale of a loner who has some unrequited love issues with a rich girl who’s just finished school. He pleads with her to ride with him on a baking hot summers night and she goes along. Driven mad by the intolerable heat and by her rejection he murders her. Or at least that’s what I can make out. McComb’s performance on this recording is incredible; he completely inhabits his role as the protagonist, giving voice to his inner demons, howling into the black night. He is matched every step of the way by his band with Martyn Casey’s imperious bass, Robert McComb’s twanging guitar and Jill Birt’s eerie organ propelling the song along, stacking up the tension, getting faster and faster until it all breaks down and the band leave McComb to himself as he becomes more and more tormented and deranged. When the band burst back in at the end to glorious effect the song comes full circle and suggests that our anti-hero has been fantasising all along. What is clear is that, not for the first time, a Peel session produced something out of the ordinary, a performance that could never be repeated to such devastating effect.

The Triffids – Field Of Glass

Posted by The Ledge on 21st January 2007 at 10:17 pm | comments (13)
File under Digital Vinyl,mp3,Reviews,Track Reviews.