Album Reviews

Various – Now Is The Winter Of Our Discount Tents

(Twisted Nerve) UK release date: 1 August 2005


Now familiar to all as the ‘non-record label’ famously engineered by Andy Votel and Damon ‘Badly Drawn Boy‘ Gough, Twisted Nerve release this lucky dip of thrift-store musings, one-man/woman jams, spacewalks, and b-movie balladeering. Now This Is The Winter Of Our Discount Tents offers something for everyone. Apart from probably quite a lot of people. And they really should know better.

Is it a label sampler, or is it a (second) greatest hits collection? If its the former (and I kinda hope it is), only Twisted Nerve could offer up Little Miss Trinitron’s Shegurus Clockwork Woodpecker as an entree. If apes raised Tarzan, then Little Miss T was surely reared by Joe Meek‘s Blue Men.

Imagine Cat Stevens‘ Was Dog A Doughnut given analogue breath through the medium of accordion, and you’re still only a tenth of the way to getting the gist of La Trinitron toyshop treatise of Happy Birthday. Elsewhere, things on Discount Tents rarely attain this level of thickfreakness, and the esoteric hinterlands of Twisted Nerve offer more than just mucking around with vintage home computers. Although actually, there’s still plenty that…Now Is The Winter Of Our Discount Tents doesn’t so much as traverse this islands verdant backwoods as drop in for tea, sympathy, and choice recreational aids. That’s not to say that its deft sequencing isn’t simpatico with artists of more conventional discipline.

Martin Rebelski‘s Stickers On Keys is sparkly ambient, assimilating Brian Eno and Terry Riley as if they were spiritual ancestors, not just architects of a specific style. Aidan Smith flirts uncomfortably close to the current glut of abstracted singer / songwriters before giving in to acid-chaotics. In a way, Smith’s Basslines And Shapes’ sharp u-turn sums up this collection’s zig-zag wandering. You never know what’s around the next corner.

For example, it might be foreknowledge of Damon Gough’s Bruce Springsteen-worshipping, but its hard not to think of unlikely inspirations for some of these tracks. Misty Dixon’s magnificent Misty Disco wants to Fade To Grey and be treated like a Ladytron, but a beardless Eurythmics springs more readily to mind. Supreme Vagabond Craftsmen’s Central Region Maximum Sex Talk (whew!) is Sting bemused by magic mushrooms. No need for the taste police to get involved though. Even handicapped by potentially fatal associations, these are minor masterpieces. It’s not right, but its most definitely OK.

Top billing though goes to the cogitative greatness of Team LG’s The Way We Do It, a tick-tick rhythm somehow combining the eastern glow of the records of Javanese pop-singer Detty Kurnia with a specifically home-grown ethereality. Familiar, yet exotic. Earthy, yet lunar.

Discount Tents keeps you on your toes. Even as Mick Ronson seems to unexpectedly appear at the last few bars of The Liftmens Meat Raffle (but as he would sound now, that is via a medium), you’re left in no doubt that this may be the winter of our discount tents, but its a summer made glorious by these sons of Greater Manchester and their camp followers.


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