The Woodleigh Research Facility ‘The Phoenix Suburb’ (Rotters Golf Club)

Sabres/Sabrettes dream team gang up again for a right old romp

As you may or may not know, there’s a new Andrew Weatherall album out in February. ‘Convenanza’ is the first outing his own name since 2009’s ‘A Pox on the Pioneers’ and his first long-player since 2013’s excellent collaborative offering with Timothy J Fairplay as The Asphodells. So it is for reasons best known to his very own Rotters label that they’re serving up this Weatherall/Nina Walsh joint effort a month or so before the main attraction.

Landing in such close proximity to an eagerly awaited Weatherall album would seem like folly indeed, but when music needs making, music needs making. Walsh should require only a little introduction. A composer, performer and producer, she first hooked up with Weatherall providing vocals on Primal Scream’s ‘Original Sin’ before teaming up to form and run the Sabres of Paradise and Sabrettes labels and working together on and off ever since. You get the feeling the pair probably just fancied doing this, dusted down some old kit, set up shop and embarked on plenty of mucking about.

Hence the eight tracks here sound more like a jam than anything else. Slow and low that is the tempo, each time locking down a groove over which they run amok with a menagerie of sounds. The whole shebang is a deliciously squelchy and delightfully playful as you’d probably expect. It has a lovely analogue feel and in places you can hear the ghosts of electronic pop music past, nowhere more so than on ‘Aeronauts The Next Phase’ which thanks to a distinctive drum sound comes on like ‘Enola Gay’ (a sound that’s reprised later on the dubby, string-soaked ‘Emancipation Garage’) or on ‘The Question Oak’, which is an insistent coattail tugger with its hypnotic melodic almost Depeche Mode synth line. The record is most fully formed on the last two tracks – the down and dirty ‘Dumonts Assistant’ with its distinctly Sabres nighttime vibe and ‘Taqiya’, a 60s-flecked upbeat thumper, which sees Youth pop up as a guest. Can’t argue with that really… except opinion in the office was divided over ‘The Phoenix Suburb’.

Of course, if it was a blinding masterpiece it’s unlikely that it would have seen the light this close to the new Weatherall solo album, but Rotters isn’t the usual sort of label and they should be saluted for having the nads to stick this out. What you appreciate increasingly in this world of instant gratification is that not everything needs to be held up as the gold standard, nor does everything that gets released need to be an instant classic. And maybe that’s the thinking here – give the people what they want and they’ll perhaps discover something they didn’t know they needed. ‘The Phoenix Suburb’ is deeply satisfying record and one that’ll be increasingly be getting an airing as people cotton on. And cotton on they undoubtedly will once the new Weatherall album lands.

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