stereogram

Have you ever wondered what (if anything) do Greenwich Village, New York in the 1970s, the soundtracks of Tarantino’s films, Andy Warhol’s sources of inspiration and America’s and Great Britain’s ‘60s and 70’s music scenes have in common? One of the many answers, should be Stereogram Recordings. And just before your imagination starts to race let me say that there are many ‘umbrella’ labels in the indie genre and very few manage to unveil a true character through the artists they represent. Most record labels in the indie genre share a love and passion for music, yet it is evident that not all of them manage to avoid representing a very specific sub-genre of a very specific style. Stereogram Recordings is one of the labels that we have been following for a while now and we have noticed that Jeremy Thoms, the founder of the label seems to have found not one, but many complementary denominators in the music of the bands that are represented in the label. Since the internet era has cast a heavy shadow to both the independent and the mainstream scene it’s all about how much one adheres to the idea that ‘God is in the details’ that differentiates one ‘umbrella’ label from the other. I think that Jeremy Thoms keeps an eye on the ‘big picture’ that the sound of Stereogram likes to draw, a picture of 1000 pieces created on the axes that the music scenes of some parts of America and some parts of Great Britain were developed.

Based in Edinburgh, Stereogram Recordings has so far released the albums of 9 bands, none of which fits in any of the once clearly defined music genres. The bands by descending order of number of releases are: Band of Holy Joy, James King and The Lonewolves, Roy Moller, The Cathode Ray, The Fabulous Artisans, New Leaf, Milton Star, Lola in Slacks, St Christopher Medal. Some of these bands might even be inspired by the same musician yet none delivers a similar or even comparable result. There is one thing that one has no doubt about, the passion for music and the commitment of musicians to release music of such a quality that nothing less than our full attention can grasp it. None of Stereogram’s bands play ‘easy to digest’ music and none of the musicians rely on simplistic melodies or ideas. This is apparent in all of the lyrics of all of their songs and can also be noticed through the multitude of social, artistic references that are being made in their videos.

Should it be ignored that Jeremy Thoms (The Cathode Ray, New Leaf, The Fabulous Artisans), Johny Brown (Band Of Holy Joy) and Roy Moller, all consider that music, spoken word, theatre and the space in between are inseparable elements ? I don’t think so. In different ways and intensities, these three musicians have incorporated both the theatrical and the surreal aspect of poetry in their performances throughout the years and this is another strong element in the sound of Stereogram.

Jeremy Thoms

Since the late 1970s Jeremy Thoms has participated in 6 bands and has formed 8 bands; The Cathode Ray, The Fabulous Artisans and New Leaf are three of his latest bands some of the albums of which have been released by Stereogram Recordings. The Cathode Ray, a.k.a Jeremy Thoms (vocals, guitar, keyboards), David Mack (drums and percussion), Steve Fraser (guitars) R-3860922-1347212520-6152.jpegand Neil Baldwin (bass), have released two albums in Stereogram, their homonymous debut album in 2012 and ‘Infinite Variety’ in 2015. Having started with clear references to America’s 60s music, the band has enriched their sound immensely in the second release. ‘Infinite Variety’ might have artwork that brings to mind psych rock but the overall atmosphere reveals that the band’s references lie elsewhere.  Neil Baldwin and Jeremy Thoms have played music together in the past in the bands  A Girl Called Johnny (1986), and Paparazzi (1987),so they have common points of reference based in common experiences. This is an aspect that has a positive role to play in the impression that the band leaves as a whole. You will R-7863644-1450434273-4889.jpegprobably ‘see’ Lou Reed appearing through the notes of Nowhere At All and feel the influence of David Bowie and the glam rock scene in Creature of Habit. Percussion play a major role in the atmosphere of The Cathode Ray in general and this has become more evident in the second album where the garage, psych rock and punk influences blend with electrically charged guitar trembles and lyrical suspensions and vocals. It wouldn’t be unjustified, if for a fleeting moment the music of The Beach Boys and the pop music of the 90s (i.e. Resist, Don’t Waste Your Words, This Force of Nature) came to your mind. The band’s live appearances have been occasionally accompanied by visuals and their official videos reveal both a fascination for psychedelia imagery (‘Resist’) and references to Arte Povera movement ( ‘Backed Up’ video). Roy Moller has contributed to ‘Infinite Variety’, and Jeremy Thoms has
worked on the design of  Roy Moller’s album. As in all Stereogram Recordings albums, the sound is clear and deep in both the vocals and the instruments. There is neither a musician nor an instrument that I have not been able to identify in any of the albums of any of the bands and I think this has a lot to say about the quality of music that is being produced.

The Fabulous Artisans a.k.a Jeremy Thoms (instruments) and Neil Crossan (vocals) is a band that was formed in 2007 and follows the path of The Naturals (formed in 1992 by Jeremy Thoms). They have released the album entitled ‘…From Red To Blue’ through Bendi Records in 2008 and the singles ‘Belongs To You’ and ‘These Open Arms’ in 2013. Listening to their relfabulous_artisanseases an
interesting combination of influences comes to mind namely the part of 90s pop that was represented by PULP and the rhythms and melodies that somehow characterized the new wave scene. Marc Almond and David Bowie both came to mind at times while the artwork of this band’s releases reveals a fascination with the art of  Picasso, Modrian and the Russian Constructivists.

New Leaf were formed in 1994 by Jeremy Thoms (guitar/vocals) who was joined by Andy Kelly (lead vocals) and Neil Baldwin (bass),Simon McGlynn (drums), John Hall (keyboards), Andy Walker (guitar/saxophone). The aim of the band seems to be the channeling of their fascination for western/country music. New Leaf have released three albums “On Safari” (1994), “Stereophonic” (1997) and “Panorama” (1999) and Stereogram Recordings has released a compilation album spanning the period 1994-1999.

It is also important to mention that Jeremy Thoms has provided in the past the soundtrack to the poetic performances od Sid Ozalid and that he has composed music for film (i.e. soundtrack to Terry Pratchet’s ‘Jungle Quest’ and ‘Tribal Visions) and tv programmes.

Band of Holy Joy

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The Band of Holy Joy don’t need any introduction in my opinion. With a heavy and rich discography over the last 32 years, this is a band that makes poetry out of seemingly ordinary and insignificant things. Having started with a fascination for Brecht’s theatre and the desire to blend creatively the borders between a concert and an interactive theatrical performance, the first incarnation of this band released music that had both the soothing and the disquieting quality of a music box. Having the decisiveness of punk and the immediacy of the beatniks, Band of Holy BOHJJoy, I have found that the music of the early days of this band also expressed the revolting energy of a perceptive and sensitive person who has been found in the middle of a jungle of ugliness. After 2010, the band made a stylistic change in their music without losing any of its perceptiveness (as is evident through the lyrics) while the theatrical element has taken a different form through the always emotionally generous delivery of lyrics by Johny Brown. The music now makes references to the folk songwriters of the late 1960s and has the soothing and bitter element of a Joan Baez song and the vindicating energy of an unapologetic protester. A strong element of the band’s work is the visuals, courtesy of Inga Tillere. The visuals give a dreamy quality to both the videos and the live performances even if the subjects of the lyrics paint a more bleak atmosphere. The juxtaposition of both the lyrics and the visuals, captures ideally the whole spirit of Band Of Holy Joy.

The last album by Band of Holy Joy was entitled ‘Land of Holy Joy’ and was released by Stereogram Recordings on September 2015. You would probably need a whole week and maybe more but I would prompt you to listen to the whole discography of Band of Holy Joy in order to have the full picture that Johny Brown has been painting since 1983 when ‘Favourite Fairytales For Juvenile Delinquents’ was released on cassette.

If you want to show someone the world, the discography of Band of Holy Joy would be a good place to start I’d have to say…

Band of Holy Joy, The Cathode Ray and  Roy Moller will play live at a night-tribute to the sound of Stereogram on April 15, 2016 at Sebright Arms and there could not be a better opportunity to get a taste of the bands’ music than this night!

(Link to ‘Stereogram – An Introduction Part 2’ :  http://blaue-rosen.com/stereogram-recordings-an-introduction-part-2/)

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