wired for sound part 19: naked lights saves rfm from a kicking

October 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Naked Lights – Chime Grove (Sanity Muffin 20)

At approximately 11pm on the night of Tuesday 27th September 2011 I was walking home through the leafy suburb of Moortown here in the beautiful city of Leeds, jewel of the North.  I was in high spirits after a trip to the Fox & Newt to see Phil & Mel’s hard-throbbin’ synth duo Human Combustion Engine.  Terrific stuff.

However, as I turned a corner not far from my house, a car – standard Japanese teen-mobile but not emitting any bass or chat – silently rolled up beside me and they looked me over.  I might have been unnerved by this had I not been distracted by my walkman suddenly cutting out.  Suspecting the tape may be a little ‘tight’, not unusual in a newly wound cassette, and that a ‘pull’ had stopped the mechanism, I took the walkman out of my pocket, took the tape out the walkman and banged the tape on my thigh in an attempt to ‘loosen’ it up.  This little charade took place in full view of the lads and, as the music got back into its groove, I looked up to see the boys exchanging glances with each other.  They pulled away.

I didn’t put two and two together at first but now I’m sure that had I pulled an expensive looking iThing from my pocket I’d have suffered a humiliating and possibly violent mugging.  My ostentatious display of techno-luddism may well have saved me.  Take note kids: downloading can be hazardous to your health.  Stay safe and listen to tapes! 

And who was it that saved the day?  Why: Sanity Muffin, of course!  In particular the tape above.  Now we’ve heard about its crime fighting capabilities it’s time to find out what it sounds like.  Well, for the first few listens I could barely hear the music due to the vigorous nodding-in-approval I was doing as I ticked off various influences and reference points.  “Ah – the unquantized synth-led soundtracks of straight-to-video early-80s John Carpenter rip-offs.  Boss,” I thought to myself, “ooh, now some angular post-punk agit-pop robo-funk.  Lovely,” etc.  After a while though I became able to appreciate this business as a whole. 

There are 19 tracks on the tape – many short sketches, some fully realised ‘songs’ – but the disparate styles are unified by two features: the production and, for want of a better word, the vibe.  The production is simple to the point of being absent: a track can start wholly in one stereo channel and then double in volume when the second channel kicks in, tracks can be swathed in the sort of fuzz generated when the sound guy has his feet up on the mixing desk and is concentrating on the cigarette he is rolling.  Don’t think for a moment this is laziness though, because it definitely is not; they could have aped the alienating 80s sheen so fashionable right now but have chosen not to.

I guess this could be for financial reasons (it must take a lot of time and money to make an album that sounds like Foreigner or Phil Collins – just ask Bon Iver) but this is more likely to be an aesthetic decision.  Naked Lights, as the name suggests, like to peel off the varnish and examine the interesting blemishes and wrinkles underneath.  Ignoring the unforgiving Californian sun, they remove their aviators and move in close for a better look.  I like this very much. 

Buy here (please note two tape minimum for orders outside the USA).

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