Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.


Now for the third and final part of this issue's feature on Jigsaw Records. First up, Manchester's AMIDA with their album Boring Birth. The music here combines the jangly and tuneful aspects of indiepop with an angular, ramshackle nature, at times powered by an aggressive energy. It's a spiky sound which owes much to post-punk (particularly, though not exclusively, those post-punk bands who would become influential on the indiepop scene that was to follow, and could be considered a sort of proto-indiepop), and early indiepop itself. Jigsaw consider Amida to sound like a mix of The Monochrome Set, The Wolfhounds, and those noisy bands who everyone seems to forget were included on C86, and I would agree with this assessment. Josef K is another reference point that springs to mind, and there are hints of The Fall in songs like For July. Whilst Amida seem mostly inspired by 1980s bands, I occasionally hear reminders of the sort of noisy punk-pop familiar from the 1990s underground, of which Boyracer are one of the best examples. Wholly different from everything else on the album is IDST, which is essentially an alt-country song, and as such sounds rather out of place among all the angular post-punk and proto-indiepop-inspired tracks, but they return to their usual style on the final track Her Long-Cherished Wish.

CRAIG SALT PETERS has an album on Jigsaw entitled Songs for Hungry Ghosts. The main emphasis of the music here is on upbeat lo-fi indie-rock with an added pop sensibility, often featuring rattly or chugging rhythms. There's also an openness towards venturing outside the world of indie music to explore other styles. The Pick Up incorporates 1950s-ish arpeggios and jazzy retro keyboard. Daydream changes moods throughout, from chugging lo-fi indie rock to a more laid-back pop style, and finally an instrumental section that hints at psych-rock. I found this seamless movement between styles a nice touch, although the song isn't as original as it could be, as part of it is borrowed wholesale from The Everly Brothers' All I Have To Do Is Dream. Where Demons Dare juxtaposes the rawness of punk-pop with elaborate rock guitar soloing. Full Moon Constitutional is slow, melancholic and dreamlike indiepop that's simultaneously understated and sophisticated. Going Places is a lighthearted, fun instrumental that rattles along like a train. Day in Pensacola is laid-back acoustic pop with whistling and tinkling wind chime sounds. The Year We Lived in Liberty is a positive lo-fi pop song with the effective addition of triumphant jazz horns. Let It Shine is another poppier track that features guest vocalists for some nice vocal harmony work, as well as introducing flute and African rhythms in the instrumental section near the end. Patience is a positive and catchy song with one of the strongest tunes on the album; I'm having a tough time dislodging its chorus from my brain. I would think it must have been a deliberate choice to leave this song for last, so that listeners will continue to be reminded of Craig Salt Peters' music once the album has finished.

CONSTANTIN VEIS, formerly of Fantastic Something, now has a solo project called The Glamorous Life Savers, whose Resurrected Elsewhere album is out now on Jigsaw. This is a really lovely janglepop album with a strong melodic emphasis. The songs have the potential to appeal to fans of 60s music or folky singer-songwriters just as much as to fans of indiepop. The First World I Ever Made is melancholic folky pop in the vein of the Kitchen Cynics, with a hint of Peter Lacey. Excess Rings of Mellow Tones also starts off reminding me of the Kitchen Cynics, though as the song progresses it acquires a sunshine pop touch from the use of harmony vocals and synthesised horn section. Swing the World by its Tail begins with some airy and dreamlike "ooh-ooh-ooh"s, before launching into a sunny and positive jangly pop song. Barb Wire Cuts is a brilliant 60s-ish song, treading broadly similar ground to The Sea Urchins, drawing inspiration from the same sort of folk-rock and mod sounds that inspired that band. A really uplifting album, I'm really glad I got to hear this!

Siesta, by Brisbane band THE ZEBRAS, is a very fine album combining jangly indiepop and the shimmering atmospherics of dreampop with a classy and ambitious synth pop sound and super-catchy melodies that mainstream songwriters would kill for. Although clearly a product of the indiepop milieu, there's a certain character to the songs that makes them sound like they should be big hits. The music has the ability to bridge the gap between the classic underground indiepop of the 80s and the chart pop music of the same decade, whilst thankfully losing the embarrassing, disposable aspects that often plagued the latter genre. A really exciting album from a band I'm keen to hear more from.

The next release from Jigsaw is one I'm particularly excited about as it is by a band I remember from my early days in the indiepop scene, namely THE DRISCOLLS, who were prolific contributors to indiepop compilation tapes at the time and also ran their own label, Tea Time Records, which put out fantastic records by The Driscolls, the related band Mousefolk, and various other great bands. Jigsaw have released an extensive retrospective double album, straightforwardly entitled Complete Recordings 1988-1991, which compiles all the band's singles and compilation tracks plus eight previously unreleased songs and a radio interview. The sound quality is variable, a number of tracks being taken from crackly vinyl and hissy cassettes. P.C. Roberts, a great catchy song I remember from Windmill Records' Are You Ready? compilation tape, unfortunately seems to have been taken from a cassette that has degraded over time, as the sound drops out at one point. This is however the only track that suffers a particularly serious loss of sound quality. It could be argued that because these tracks originally appeared on vinyl and homemade tapes, the surface noise adds authenticity to the listening experience.

The Driscolls had a retro sound, equally influenced by 60s pop, mod and psych-rock as the more melodic side of punk, their punkier tracks recalling bands like the Buzzcocks or The Undertones. They were able to pull off the vintage thing to such a high degree that you'd be forgiven for thinking many of these songs really were from the eras they were influenced by. In keeping with the vintage flavour of their own music, The Driscolls also provide cover versions of three 1960s songs: Father's Name Is Dad by Fire, The Beatles' She Said She Said, which is reinvented here with a touch of spacerock, and a heavy and spaced out version of The Lemon Pipers' Green Tambourine. It's been great to rediscover songs by The Driscolls that I hadn't heard for over 20 years, in particular the aforementioned P. C. Roberts and the fantastic Circles, originally released on another Windmill tape, Corrupt Postman; I loved this song back then and am pleased to say it still sounds great all these years later. The majority of tracks here are actually new to me so this album has been a real treasure trove of brilliant songs to discover. The radio interview has lots of titbits about the pros and cons of running their own label, and it provides a fascinating snapshot of the way DIY record labels were run during the pre-internet era. To sum up, this is a really great compilation and Jigsaw Records are to be congratulated for introducing The Driscolls to a new audience. I wonder if they will also be releasing a Mousefolk retrospective in future?

LUNCHBOX's latest album, Lunchbox Loves You, combines the sugary sweet melodies of bubblegum pop with fuzzy noise and woozy atmospheric effects. Tom, What's Wrong? seems on the surface to be a whimsical song about a panther-size cat, but digging deeper beyond this and the song's catchy pop tune reveals a more melancholic mood, with lyrics about emptiness and yearning. What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You is catchy lo-fi pop with male and female vocals and a guitar solo with a level of rockishness not often heard within indiepop. Die Trying is brilliant psych-tinged dreampop. I Go Mad introduces triumphant trumpet and sunshine pop flute, adding a deceptively positive mood to a song about feeling sad and lonely. Tonight is Out of Sight is a lighthearted noisepop track with a punky energy and the unexpected addition of mariachi horns. Whilst there is a cute, fun attitude about the music here, it would be a mistake to dismiss Lunchbox as superficial or cloying; the dark moods hidden within the lyrics and the willingness to experiment with music genres not usually regarded as an influence on indiepop shows there is far more depth to Lunchbox than may be initially assumed.

BLOOPER's So Very Small EP contains 4 songs of really enjoyable powerpop. That's powerpop as in retro pop with a splash of garage rock, harking back to the 60s whilst still remaining relevant for the present, rather than the punkier understanding of the term which is essentially a completely different genre. Blooper also incorporate aspects of surf into their music, most prominently on the instrumental track Bummer. If you enjoyed the sort of music associated with the Rainbow Quartz label, or more recently Sugarbush Records, Blooper are definitely a band to watch out for.

SISSY FUZZ were part of the same Denver music scene that spawned The Minders, Apples in Stereo and Dressy Bessy. Their output was however much smaller than that of these other bands, as they only existed for a short while. During this time, they released a 7" on Japanese label 100 Guitar Mania and a track on a Happy Happy Birthday To Me compilation, as well as recording a few other songs which only ever appeared on homemade tapes with a limited circulation. Jigsaw have collected these recordings as the 10 track album Footnotes, in a laudable effort to introduce this lost material to a new audience. The music here is lo-fi, fuzzy, strummy, sometimes quite ramshackle noisepop with a melodic emphasis. Sometimes there's a slightly off-centre feel to the songs, sometimes they have a 60s tinge about them, though viewed through a 90s lo-fi indiepop lens. There's a raw, DIY quality about Sissy Fuzz's songs, and despite the occasional nod towards 60s garage, they were generally less retro than their local contemporaries. I can see their stuff appealing more to fans of the K label than to fans of Elephant 6. DIY noisepop fans are in for a treat with this compilation.

The latest Jigsaw release I have is the album Alternate Identities by Spanish band YELLOW MELODIES, comprising B-sides and alternative mixes of selected tracks from their New Identities album. You Make Me Fall in Love (Cherry Sounds mix) is an ambitious cosmopolitan pop track, combining bossa nova, mariachi and sunshine pop aspects with a punchy chorus akin to 60s freakbeat or garage. Little Princess is janglepop with a gutsy kick. Another No One, originally by Suede, appears here as delicate and melancholic indiepop with a touch of folk. Friday Night (Bakala Remix) reinvents the original song as an 80s-ish dancey pop number. No More Parties (radio session) is indiepop combined with reggae and steel drums. No More Classes is an instrumental in which frenetic punk noise meets celebratory and uplifting brass. At various points elsewhere on the album, Yellow Melodies flesh out retro indiepop songs with synths, driving rhythms, bursts of noise, disco beats, or horns. Cover versions of REM, Beatles and Monograph songs, as well as the aforementioned Suede, give an idea of where at least some of their inspiration comes from.

Jigsaw Records are still very busy with new releases. Since I received the albums and EP featured here for review, they have put out CDs by Marlovers and Meeks, and later this month (October) there are plans for retrospective compilations by The Lavender Faction and The Gravy Train. The last of these is one I'm particularly keen to hear; The Gravy Train are another band I remember from my early days in the indiepop scene. They had great songs out on A Turntable Friend and a slew of compilation tapes including one on my own label. This album compiles all their singles, most of their compilation tracks, and a number of previously unreleased songs including ones intended for an LP that never materialised.

For more information on Jigsaw Records, visit www.jigsaw-records.com


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Text Kim Harten, 2014.