Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Nothing* Is Ugly

Except some things... But V-Sign is definitely not among them. A new record label started by Andy Wake over 15 years after his previous label (Medium Cool) was put put on ice. And "everything* is beautiful" is just about the best motto ever. Slightly disappointing however, is his reluctance to release things on vinyl - or even cd. If he thinks that the kids don't buy vinyl he couldn't be more wrong. Some of this year's fastest selling records have been vinyls - like the Pains of Being Pure At Heart & Parallelograms split-single and the Vivian Girls album. There's plenty of vinyl in my shopping list here in the sidebar too. So, the first V-Sign item is a download single from Manchester group Daybreaks, who are not really my cup of tea but still I would have liked it a lot more on a slab of plastic. But you should make up your own mind after listening to "Here I Am" on Myspace.

In other record label news Matinée promises releases from The Electric Pop Group, The Guild League, Strawberry Whiplash, Would-Be-Goods and maybe Keris Howard this year. And that is on top of the imminent eps from Bubblegum Lemonade and Northern Portrait! It's about time I said something about Northern Portrait's first ep The Fallen Aristocracy since the next one is almost here.... I remember hearing "Crazy" and "A Quiet Night In Copenhagen" for the first time and not quite believing they were from Denmark. With even just an ounce of their perfection they could have swept the floor with every Danish pop band in recorded history. In full glory they are comfortably playing ball in Sweden's premier pop league, scoring a few goals past Happydeadmen even. That's the band I keep returning to when trying to describe Northern Portrait's music; they have almost exactly the same sound, with the twin jangle of acoustic and electric guitars. That first time was at the start of my new degree last autumn and I was sitting behind a uni computer in one of the cellar room, earphones plugged in, wondering to myself if I was actually humming along audibly. Now I can sing along all I want to, cd spinning in my stereo, and I do, because these four songs are all could-be radio hits. I tried to get Northern Portrait to play at Don't Die On My Doorstep when we had bands, as they're just a bridge and a tunnel away but I think they still haven't done any gigs. And right now they are probably busy mastering the new ep Napoleon Sweetheart and then recording for the full-length. No rest for us.

At the same time I got The Electric Pop Group's Sunrise EP, following up on their debut album. That was good, but what an improvement this is! (Decent artwork does it a world of good as well.) The first time I heard these guys I wondered how they could simply have appeared out of thin air. They didn't. I just recognised Martin was one of the members of the bygone and scarcely noticed Aquadays - that's why that guitar-playing sounded so familiar... His current band garners surprisingly frequent namechecking of Brighter and Razorcuts for not sounding very much like them. On the new ep there's song called "Summer's Day" which is the first to land in Brighter territory because of the novel use of acoustic guitar and the lack of a drum track where previously they have relied completely on the combination of three electric guitars. All the songs are solid, competent compositions - all by Erik it would seem? In "I Could See the Lights" they are at their most accomplished, the major-to-minor chord-change in the chorus of "This Is the Town" is effectual and it's nice that the drum beats are a little more varied than before. There are still lots they can do with the arrangements, the bpm control on the drum machine, and there's still a few to many chorus repeats. All four songs are over 3:30 actually, which is ok on an ep but for the next album I hope they've cooked up some up-tempo hits that can be played after "Does Love Last Forever?" on the dancefloor!

1 comment:

Andy Wake said...


Respect to you for giving the new label a plug despite our first release not being to your taste. 'Here I Am' by Daybreaks is certainly heavier than most of the things you usually review but believe me, there's a much spacier almost Chills like feel to their new stuff.

I just wanted to correct one thing. The single is on CD and available via mail order and at selected shops in Manchester. We were offered a distribution deal for the label but the potential retail price of around a fiver for a single was taking the piss in my opinion.

As for vinyl, it's still a beautiful format but in all truth no teenagers I know (including the group) have turntables. Sadly too, they tend to buy or share their music online and that probably accounts for the closure of record shops left, right and centre.

Finally, if there are any groups out there with a firebrand spirit in their veins who are looking for a label please do get in touch.

Andy Wake