The Total GroovyAlbum | Various Artists By Stewart Mason
Pete Shelley's experimental-hippie side comes through.
At the height of the late '70s DIY rebellion, Buzzcocks leader Pete Shelley quietly started his own label. But from the deliberately outdated hippie slang of the label name on down, Groovy Records couldn't have strayed further from post-punk orthodoxy. The three 1980 releases collected on this CD box set are arty noise-prog experiments with a defiantly hippie-era aesthetic, more Silver Apples than Throbbing Gristle. Shelley's solo record Sky Yen is the most notorious: recorded in 1974 with a homemade oscillator, it's a formless and often tedious bit of self-indulgence akin to George Harrison's Electronic Sound. But at least it makes clear that Shelley's quick transformation into a synth-pop solo artist with 1981's Homosapien wasn't as radical as it seemed to many. The Free Agents album is barely more traditional, featuring a side of homemade tape loops by Shelley's mate Francis Cookson, backed with a side-long live free-improv freakout by Shelley, Cookson, Barry Adamson and Eric Random: ESP-Disk fans may well find it to their liking. But the true gem is Hangahar, credited to Sally Smmit and Her Musicians. Mekons singer Sally Timms and her cousin Lindsay Reed trade improvised wordless vocals before roughly the same crew who recorded the Free Agents LP; the two side-long improvisations have the pleasant spacey, freewheeling vibe of vintage krautrock and often touch on genuine prettiness. It's by some distance Groovy's most accessible release. The Total Groovy also features Strange Men In Sheds With Spanners, a previously unreleased set of home recordings made by Shelley and his Groovy cohorts between 1981 and 1985. More playful and spontaneous than the rest of the box, it at times sounds like a precursor to modern indie-electronic experimentalists like Lindstrom and Prins Thomas. (Format note: along with this specially-priced box set, Drag City has issued all four discs as vinyl LPs, sold separately.)
|Groovy Records: Critical Connections|