Thursday, August 28, 2014

VENGEANCE IS OURS! ~ sayeth The Cramps

In the spring of 1976, The Cramps began to fester in a NYC apartment. Without fresh air or natural light, the group developed its uniquely mutant strain of rock 'n' roll aided only by the sickly blue rays of late-night TV.

While the jackhammer rhythms of punk were proliferating in NYC, The Cramps dove into the deepest recesses of the rock 'n' roll psyche for the most primal of all rhythmic impulses —rockabilly — the sound of Southern culture falling  apart in a blaze of shudders and hiccups. As late-night sci-fi reruns colored the room, The Cramps also picked and chose amongst the psychotic debris of previous rock eras — instrumental rock, surf, psychedelia and ’60s punk. Then they added the junkiest element of all — themselves.

Now, to spread their unholy gospel to the rest of the universe, The Cramps have exhumed their first-born and brought back Vengeance Records, their own label that originally issued the two classic singles “The Way I Walk / Surfin' Bird” and “Human Fly / Domino” in 1978. Having made a pact with indie distributor Revolver USA, Vengeance Records inaugurates this resurrection with the simultaneous re-release of seven back catalog items this October (including color vinyl LP releases).

The mission is to continue releasing The Cramps records until beyond infinity.

RockNReelinInAucklandNewZealandXXX
Over-the top live show from Down Under, recorded at the 100th show of the 1986 tour. CD includes three bonus tracks.

Smell of Female 
Recorded at the famous Peppermint Lounge in 1983. Distills a cross of swampwater, moonshine and nitro down to a dangerous unstable musical substance, captured live like a crazed animal.

A Date With Elvis
1986 import-only release. Sociopathic advice, paeans to poontang, and a soulful cover of Charlie Feathers.

Stay Sick!
Sex-classic originally released in 1990. The dark side of rockabilly in a jugular vein. Pure jungle music. A favorite among rock 'n' roll sickos worldwide.

Look Mom No Head!
Rock 'n' roll in its full regalia form, with celebrations of intoxication and sexual prowess. Includes a duet with Iggy Pop on “Miniskirt Blues.”

Big Beat From Badsville
A haul-ass careening monster of a record with songs of mutilation, shape-shifting, she-devil-worship and pussy.

Fiends of Dope Island 
These charm school rejects apply their sinister handiwork to a volatile combination of incantational rock ’n’ roll hexes and crypt-kickin’ blues rave-ups. Get dixie-fried!



Look for these Cramps titles on Midheaven, in stores and via your favored online digital outlets on or around October 28, 2014. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Midheaven.com Redesign and Relaunch!

Revolver USA's midheaven.com website has been redesigned and relaunched! It’s been streamlined and made faster and user-friendlier, with CD-resolution FLAC downloads and much more! Both mailorder customers and stores will find the browsing and ordering process easier and more fulfilling. Visit us today.

Stores: if you don't already have access to the B2B side of things, email arthur@midheaven.com for info. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vashti Bunyan "Across The Water" track stream available now

Noisey is premiering the first track off Vashti Bunyan's Heartleap, "Across The Water". 

Heartleap will be released in North American by the DiCristina label on October 7th.

More information has been posted on Pitchfork, FACT, and, of course, here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Vashti Bunyan's Heartleap released October 7th on DiCristina!

Nine years after ‘Lookaftering’, her last album of new material, legendary British singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan returns with a breathtaking new LP. Recorded largely in her home studio, ‘Heartleap’ is a unique and entrancing collection of ten songs forming what Vashti is adamant will be her final album.

Vashti’s third album follows her rediscovery - after thirty years in the wilderness - with the 2000 re-release of ‘Just Another Diamond Day’ (a bona fide cult classic that made # 53 in the Observer Music monthly’s ‘top 100 British albums of all time’), and the critical success of 2005’s ‘Lookaftering’. With ‘Heartleap’ she has delivered an album with a classic sound, where – for the first time – she herself has been in control of the whole process, from writing and arranging to playing and recording. Working predominantly from a studio set up in her Edinburgh home, the record was slowly pieced together, and reveals an artist at her peak, capturing her songs within fluid settings that masterfully marry content and form.

Both ‘JADD’  and ‘Lookaftering’ saw Vashti‘s songs arranged and framed by others. Joe Boyd’s production and Robert Kirby’s arranging of the former remain timelessly classy, whilst Max Richter’s elegantly beautiful production of Lookaftering was enhanced by contributions from a raft of supporting artists - all eagerly adding their colours. Vashti is justly proud of ‘Lookaftering’, but ‘Heartleap’ is a more personal record, standing solely on the merits and patient endeavour of its author rather than being buoyed by and filtered through the cachet and collaborative creativity of a powerful supporting cast.

The vast majority of ‘Heartleap’ was recorded and edited by Vashti, who “wanted it to be more akin to my very first recordings, the ones even before ‘Diamond Day’. I wanted to try to emerge from the shelter of others and stand out in the open. It would have been much easier had I worked with a producer and an engineer - I would not have had to spend so much time on editing - but that’s been the interesting part. If I’d taken these songs and gone into a studio with them they might have turned out very differently, perhaps more 'produced' - but not as near to how I hear them for myself.”

Recording her vocals when no one else was around to overhear - freed Vashti up to deliver more confident performances. Equally, working without the induced pressures of studio deadlines enabled her to craft it slowly and lovingly in her own time, weaving together tracks out of numerous takes. Predominantly guitar or piano led - with additional instrumentation building throughout - the songs have no underpinning bass-line or percussion, giving each instrument and voice the chance to pace itself.

Where the synthetic instrumentation on Vashti’s ‘Lookaftering’ demos was rejected in favour of recording the warmth and organic nature of real acoustic instruments, ‘Heartleap’ retains those electronic voices, alongside  studio-recorded string and recorder arrangements  - the two mixed in a delicate balance between the synthesized and the organic. Freely admitting that she can’t actually play the piano, Vashti built the keyboard parts from single notes and multiple one-handed takes. No-one else would have made it or played it that way and it’s that voice, her own voice, that helps lend the record its power and marks it out as distinctive.

 “The whole point of the album was finally to learn a way that would enable me to record the music that is in my head, by myself. I neither read nor write music, nor can I play piano with more than one hand at a time, but I have loved being able to work it all out for myself and make it sound the way I wanted. I’ve built these songs over years. The album wouldn't have happened any other way. Sometimes when I replace the arrangements with real instruments they don't work in the same way. The extended notes of the clarinet on the song ‘Heartleap’ for instance could not be played on a real clarinet. I can't 'play' a musician playing their instrument - I can't make them play each note as I want it, but with a keyboard and a music program I am the player."

Concise as ever, Vashti’s lyrics open out a series of locket-like miniatures - stories of family and friends, lives and loves, memories, dreams and realities; of differences in perception and the gaps between people / meanings / understandings; of coping, getting by, surviving. “All the songs are based on real stories or real people, 'Mother' especially. 'Blue Shed' was written when the house was still full of young people slamming doors and yelling. (I do miss them now). 'Gunpowder ' is about an ex-partner with whom communication can still be difficult."  There is no vast sweep or ambitious stabbing at the grandiose in her lyric writing, yet in their honesty these close-focused articulations draw you in and resonate with heartfelt emotions and universal truths.

The luminous musical arrangements act with the lyrics illustratively - ‘Jellyfish’ ripples and floats from side to side, “and is soft apart from the vibraphone which is quite harsh - like the dream it's about. The kalimba and the tumbling guitars in Across the Water are to give the song the sound of waves on shingle, and the piano on 'Mother' is to sound a little like the old un-tuned upright piano I overheard my mother playing sometimes, 'briefly unbound' from her duties as wife and mother."

Recording in studios in California, New York and London - but mostly alone in her own studio - it took in total seven years to put together these ten songs. The first was written in 2007, the last just two months before mastering. A hiatus in recording came with the untimely passing of Robert Kirby in 2009. Robert had arranged three songs on ‘Just Another Diamond Day’ and the pair had just reconnected and planned to work on new arrangements together - just weeks before he died. It would be another two years before she took the decision that she must arrange the music herself, with Robert always in mind. The subsequent three years saw her gradually picking the thread back up and working with renewed purpose. Slowly more songs found their way out of her. Gems like ‘The Boy’ - which she’d sat on, fretted over and intended to ditch - were prised from oblivion. Seven became ten and those around her finally began to really believe that an end was in sight. The right final mix frustratingly eluded her until the album magically came together in a week in May 2014 - when it was balanced and mastered beautifully at the hands of mixing engineer Martin Korth - and mastering genius Mandy Parnell at her Black Saloon studios in London.

The album’s striking cover artwork is once again taken from a painting by Vashti’s daughter, Whyn Lewis, and forms a neat companion to her hare painting featured on ‘Lookaftering’, giving the impression (besides both album’s titles being portmanteaus) of a pair of bookends. Whyn describes this painting (titled 'Hart’s Leap’) as being “about getting away unscathed… about confidence and self-assuredness, and wisdom. The deer is leaping forward while looking backwards - and it has a little grin. It is said that deer make a large bound of joy when they know they are escaping. The deer is linked with the deerhound shown on the deer’s collar - what it has been escaping from. The deerhound in this case really is just allegory for the thing that chases or hounds you. Life is most appreciated when it is challenged.”

One of the final songs to be written, the gorgeously gauzy, autobiographical title track came to Vashti all of a sudden in March this year, as she was gazing at Whyn's painting. Recorded straight off, with only minor changes made in the final mix, it closes the album perfectly. A bittersweet song, it cryptically catalogues and a whole life’s worth of loving, losing, letting go, getting through; of heartbreaks and happiness and the lulls in between – through a minimal, modular, repetitive structure with recourse to just a handful of compound word variations - surges and tugs between head and heart. Simultaneously aching and hopeful, it looks back with both pain and joy, with resigned acceptance.  If it truly is to be the final word on a final album, then it is an utterly fitting and devastatingly beautiful one.

Like the deer on the cover painting, ‘Heartleap’ moves gracefully, enchantingly. Overcoming adversity through sheer willpower, its very existence is a dazzling triumph.

‘Heartleap’ will be released on FatCat in UK / Europe on October 6th and in North America via DiCristina on October 7th.

Vashti will play a run of UK tour dates in smaller settings with guitarist Gareth Dickson (her first since 2010) in support of the album, with more dates to be added in early 2015.

UK Tour Dates:

07 Oct - MAC, Birmingham, UK
08 Oct - St. Pancras Church, London, UK
09 Oct - St. Pancras Church, London, UK
11 Oct - The Band Room, Farndale, UK
12 Oct - St. Philip’s Church, Manchester, UK

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Robotic Empire presents a tribute to Nirvana's "In Utero" for Record Store Day

On Record Store Day, April 19th, Robotic Empire will release In Utero: In Tribute, an LP of Nirvana's In Utero being covered in sequence:

1. Pygmy Lush – Serve the Servants
2. Circa Survive – Scentless Apprentice
3. These Arms Are Snakes – Heart-Shaped Box
4. Thursday – Rape Me
5. Jay Reatard – Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle
6. Young Widows – Dumb
7. Mean Jeans – Very Ape
8. Thou – Milk It
9. Whirr – Pennyroyal Tea
10. Daughters – Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
11. Ceremony – Tourette’s
12. Black Math Horseman – All Apologies

The Jay Reatard and Mean Jeans tracks are available for streaming now on Noisey

The album is also up for preorder on iTunes

Monday, March 03, 2014

Revolver USA and Midheaven Have a Flipboard Magazine

There are many ways to keep up with Revolver and Midheaven-related labels and artists. On phones and tablets, one of the better ways is Flipboard (it works on the non-cellular web, too), and, as of today, we've made it easy.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 78 Project

The 78 Project is shipping now. What is it?

It's an LP. It's a download (FLAC and otherwise). It's a film. It's a website.

All tracks are exclusive to the album. All recordings were made live, one-take, with a 1930s-era Presto direct-to-acetate disk recorder.

Who's included? Rosanne Cash, Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Marshall Crenshaw, The Wandering, Valerie June, Leah Siegel, Adam Arcuragi, Reverend John DeLore & Kara Suzanne, Amy LaVere, Joe Henry & Lisa Hannigan, Vandaveer, and Dawn Landes.

The LP and download have a street date of February 4. They can be ordered at Midheaven.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays from Revolver USA and Midheaven





“Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.”


- Frank Zappa 

Monday, December 16, 2013