Various - Rough Trade Shops - Heavenly 25

by Ian Fraser Rating:7 Release Date:2015-09-18

In an age where playing it safe is all too prevalent as a result of which you’re likely to experience more gripping tension in your local stroke club, this Rough Trade doubler justly celebrates a golden label that has been prepared to champion unusual and experimental talent and which is now celebrating its silver anniversary. The result is a wonderfully inconsistent rummage through the idiosyncratic, interesting and alternatingly inspired and only occasionally inept collection from the current roster of acts.

“Hermits on Holiday” is the title track of the debut album by Drinks, Cate Le Bon/Tim Presley’s oddball foray into deconstructed minimalism on which the divine Cate’s heavily accented, disarming voice cuts over a Beefheart-like backbeat. Lauded and panned in seemingly equal measures, Drinks probably epitomise the polarising potential of Heavenly better than anyone. Otherwise on CD1 the Welsh lot are well represented both in number and in terms of standard as H Hawkline emphasises the accent on quirkiness – his “Moons In My Mirror” revealing him as something of a male-voiced Le Bon, while Gwenno bags the sublime dreampop award with “Y Dydd Olaf”. Hooton Tennis Club manage to distil the first couple of Roxy albums into three minutes or less whereas King Gizzard provide the jazzy and elasticated Zappa moment with an edit of the ten minute “The River”, a stand-out track from this year’s “Quarters”. The class of New Psychedelia are as you would expect well represented. Wytches’ “Digsaw” (remember 90s Britpop Division Two-ers Space?) has appeared elsewhere but when you’ve this much edge and energy who cares while retro-groovers Temples start promisingly before treading water at the edge of their own little daisy meadow. TOY by contrast sound like an energised Ultra Vivid Scene and none the worse for that. Oh yes and honourable mention to gravelly old growler Mark Lanegan, sounding less gnarly and more upbeat here (“Sad Lover”). For those who prefer his noire sound, though, help is at hand as his very own tribute act Duke Garwood weighs in with “Heavy Love”.

Over on CD2 and we are treated to loads of record store day releases only otherwise available on vinyl. There are plenty of highlights ranging from Mark Lanegan’s rendition of “Needle of Death”, showing that in 20 years he could end up doing one those late-period Johnny Cash interpretation albums, to the wonderfully woozy collaboration between lovely Jane Weaver and the impressive TOY on “Fell From The Sun” which almost redefines the concept of beauty.

Heavenly 25 demands repeated and possibly compartmentalised listens to get the best effect, but really this defies the fettering rigidity of formula and, like all decent compilations, gives you that irresistable itch to scratch below the surface.

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