Volume Fifteen: Technology Alert (Volume, 1995)

Review
Nothing else looks as dated as Volume Fifteen. The faux metallic-looking slipcase and the reference to a “cross-platform” CD-ROM instantly set it firmly in autumn 1995, coinciding with the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 95. “The splashiest, most frenzied, most expensive introduction of a computer product in the industry’s history” (New York Times) I hated CD-ROM and Quicktime videos – they would regularly crash my PC – and Volume got in on the act with a three track second disc bringing the total number of tracks here to 20. Given a choice, I always opt for RAM over ROM & a standard earth issue CD machine.

If you close your eyes, the opening track will materialise by itself. Rhythmicon’s oblique Spring & Magnets Return To Steam which is credited to John Carne on Discogs. Still in darkness, my mind goes back to the Spectrum Forth cassette, released by Artic Computing in 1982. I didn’t own it but I remember the colour advert in ZX Computing, the shades of mysterious blue. The rather serious text accompanying the track gives us a dry Wire-like overview of the Theremin without a HHMB quip to be seen. Next are Life’s Addiction who consisted of Tim O’Riordan and Alison Shine; Quiet Storm is deathly dull, a cross between bad jazz and obnoxious trip hop. Mistake number three comes from the anodyne Solid whose amateurish Outside appears to be their sole work. Banishing the nightmares are the Cocteau Twins with a new track from their final era, Circling Girl. It’s heavy on the guitar throughout although does have a soft intro. It would later appear the following summer – slightly reworked – on Violaine CD2, their final single. Green sleeve. The interview is A+ & gives us a good insight on the Fontana era with Milk & Kisses an imminent arrival.

Baby Bird’s Alan Ladd dates from just before his Babybird pop era, around the time of four solo albums being issued in quick succession. None of them deserved the plaudits; what’s on offer here is a pleasant enough dirge that screams of missed opportunity. Thankfully redemption awaits from LHOOQ and the glacier trip hop monster Vanishing, all crisp rhythms and soft vocals. It’s nicely paired with a Tranquility Bass remix of The Shamen’s MK2A with the interview giving a good summary of the band’s career. Next is the rather hypnotic Hypo Full Of Love from Alabama 3 where hip hop meets the blues. Shoot me up. And then the scattered beats of Ultramarine and the rather restrained Altered Ego which melds with a rather jarring remix – courtesy of The Advent – of New Order’s 1981 classic Everything’s Gone Green. “Lost in music. They look like mechanical toys.” The timeline in the book makes for an interest read and rightly praises Substance as a masterpiece.

“Spring-heeled Jim winks an eye
He’ll do, he’ll never be done to”

Joi’s Everybody Say Yeah is given a radical remix treatment by the elusive Spring Heel Jack, something which brings forward the track’s British Asian dubby jungle foundations. Next is Jack Scot With The Nectarine Nro 9 and the pretentious poetry of Thierry Lacroix which in turn melts before the abrasiveness of 4AD’s Scheer with the pleasant Don’t Know Why. The hellfire schtick of Gallon Drunk looms large in The Flaming Stars’ Bring Me The Rest Of Alfredo Garcia; I remember seeing the Peckinpah film on a double bill with Major Dundee during the summer of 1994. And in one of the most surprising twists on this rather straight-ahead comp comes Bad Seed Mick Harvey who was pushing Intoxicated Man, his Serge Gainsbourg covers album. Who’s In, Who’s Out is a perfectly formed orchestral fuzz flourish that perfectly complements the main course. Poptastic brasseur.

Emerging from the shadows are State Of Grace whose Perfect & Wild bridges the gap between Curve and Mo Wax. Then there’s a chance to digress in the album review round-up. Leo Finlay calls Blur “Britain’s best guitar band” as he showers praise on The Great Escape while Goldie’s Timeless gets a full two page spread. The “non-smart ass St Etienne” are Dubstar whereas Lloyd Cole’s Love Story is seen as return to form. Elsewhere there’s plaudits for Oasis, Blur, Smashing Pumpkins and Whipping Boy. Closing out the CD are The Wannadies with the catchy into-the-sun vibe of Let Go Oh Oh. I rarely play the second disc given its hellish CD-ROM properties. Here we go… Law One’s Better Get Ready is nine minutes of bad trip hop, Alien Sam’s Ant Tamer relies on samples & clunky beats while Bonjour Monsieur Basie’s Ambient Jazz Suite No 2 is is bleak and Pole-like.

Favourite tracks
Alabama 3 – Hypo Full Of Love (The 12 Step Plan)

Cocteau Twins – Circling Girl

Mick Harvey – Who’s In, Who’s Out

Lest we forget
LHOOQ – Vanishing

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