Label: Tlön Uqbar
Review date: Jul. 13, 2007
There’s a lot to be said about mix tapes, but you’ve likely heard it all before. Where the conversation gets interesting is that point where DJs are asked to choose their favorite songs, unmixed, for a modern collection, available for the enlightened thousands to hear. Cherrystones, a.k.a. Gareth Goddard, a man who’s been fortunate enough to ride out a path on little but taste and abilities, has walked this path before. He’s a member of the B-Music collective, a group of like-minded record sourcers and cultural excavators who have tapped into a pathological streak of wild records from foreign cultures whose flashbulbs burned out decades ago. Beyond hip-hop, the beats they mine are twisted vamps, hirsute rave-ups, European appropriations of American funk, mined through the largess of progressive rock. Turkish folk singers gone nuts with a flange pedal, soundtracks to obscure Czech cinema, dollar-bin refugees whose studio-tightened grooves collapsed against the tidal shifts in the music industry and carpets of dust; all find a home under B-Music’s deft fingers and patchwork mantle. Anyone with a decent budget and an understanding of music past Serge Gainsbourg’s Melody Nelson album could likely pull off what they’re doing, but the fact remains that they’re doing it, and not shilling to the troll-like collectors’ market in the process. The results of their search are quite visible and open to all who have the senses to appreciate them, via zines, websites, and a troika of reissue imprints dedicated to getting this music back in the limelight.
There’s not a whole lot of room to move in the rarefied space these gents have developed. Cries from an embittered peanut gallery of vinyl hoarders have lambasted the collective for popularizing their vinyl fetishes, and forging further competition in an already narrow market. One has little trouble comparing this struggle against that episode of “The Twilight Zone” where Burgess Meredith survives nuclear holocaust, only to break his last pair of reading glasses. As a further affront, they get away with a successful run as club DJs, airing out sides of triple-digit value to the perils of pub life and party fouls. They roll like rock stars, answer all questions asked, even allow patrons to check out the vinyl they’re spinning. To the curmudgeon, “that’s not fair at all.” But it’s precisely how they’ve developed the social element that makes the amount of ground they cover so easy to take. They’re not hard men to like, perfectly willing to get on the level of their fans, and able to support musical re-education through chemistry.
Pitched between Andy Votel’s and Dom Thomas’s coriander-scented offerings, David Holmes’ soundtrack abstractions, and Gerald Jazzman’s primo funk and soul excavation, Cherrystones is afforded a fairly wide berth with respect to his rediscoveries. Quite simply, he’s their rock guy. When he’s not making music under his own name, or as Godsy, he’s busy digging and compiling tracks of an overtly powerful and psychedelic nature, bridging post-punk’s most manic howls to the rambunctious uptick of ‘60s French pop, the flamboyant codicils of glam rock, and the dirty grunt of hard-charging rock. Wild youth, eyes reddened with mischief and amphetamine, envisioned gleeful destruction to these sounds decades ago. He’d sussed these sounds out previously on Rocks (2002), cataloguing the Niagara and Pugh breaks that DJ Shadow staked a career off of, and the jaunty Hidden Charms (2004), from which David Holmes plucked Dynastie Crisis’ rarity “Faust” for the soundtrack to Ocean’s 12. After a pair of “promotional use only” mix CD-Rs, Word is his latest paean to the lost art of the past, and surprisingly trumps his previous offerings – for now.
The 15 tracks collected here come from different countries and decades, including the ‘80s, a barrier that many DJs of his ilk fear to cross. That’s alright, though, as the mania stoking the flames beneath these tracks can easily be viewed as torn off the same blotter. In form and function, Word cuts closest to Cherrystones’ DJ sets, where time and place are tossed to the wayside in favor of the flashing lights of unknown artists’ unbridled mania. This isn’t a collection of dance music, or breaks, or genre, but rather drug music, plain and simple. Word merrily runs the 3 A.M. choogle of Dead Moon (to which he likens Can’s “Mother Sky”) up against the basement bomb blast of George Brigman and Split, happily sandwiches the mid-‘80s glam of Roger C. Reale’s raucous cover of the Troggs’ “I Can’t Control Myself” in between the elliptical oddity of Fusioon and Kontakt Mikrofoon Orkest. His universe finds a place for the extraterrestrial chitin of Chrome and the careful French prog of Lard Free on the same disc. Through careful track selection and sequencing, he makes it all seem like this music was meant to live together. The only caveat is the exclusion of Jacques Dutronc’s “A La Queue Les Yverlines,” a needling French belter that appeared on the since-deleted Poptones import pressing of this disc.
If it all feels like a stunt, well, it partly is, but that’s why you’re here – to be amazed. With Word, Cherrystones achieves what his previous offerings hinted at – the illusion of safety to leave behind one’s own personal tastes and let said self be guided by another’s. And if you can put that sort of trust in the selector’s hands, imagine what you’ll be able to find on your own.
By Doug Mosurak