Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oxfam Record Shop


The new Oxfam record, film and art shop opened on South Street in Exeter yesterday. It joins the bookshop and the general Oxfam shop into which it was previously incorporated, along with the Hospicecare book and record shop a little further down South Street. What with Rooster Records and the Read and Return bookshop just around the corner in Fore Street, this will hopefully become a little cultural shopping quarter, a place apart from the privatised canyons of the Land Security ‘Princesshay Centre’ (now part-owned by the Crown Estates, ye peasants take note - your city is no longer your own) and the soulless clone town prop facades of the high street. There’s some good stuff in store at the moment. In the folk section there are LP re-issues of Sandy Denny’s The North Star Grassmen and the Ravens (one of my longstanding favourites) and Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief plus Alan Stivell’s classic Renaissance of the Celtic Harp. Someone immediately snapped up the gatefold second pressing of Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left, I’m afraid. There are some good jazz LPs awaiting the return of our resident expert, including a batch of ECM records. These include John Surman’s lovely Withholding Pattern, on which he weaves multi-tracked, folk-inflected themes, which reflect his West Country background, on soprano and baritone sax, bass clarinet and recorder floating over looping electronica patterns. There’s also a CD set of John Coltrane’s complete Village Vanguard sessions from 1961 (at 5 cds, even more complete than the previous complete Village Vanguard release), recorded in the company of Eric Dophy, who plays a fantastic bass clarinet solo on the sublime India (which is also included in a version with added oud credited – although it always sounds more like a tambura drone to me). This also includes a couple of takes of Coltrane’s version of Greensleeves, which had been recorded in the studio earlier in the year, with orchestrations by Dolphy, for the Africa/Brass album. It’s interesting to hear it here without the additional brass. It’s very much a minor key modal stream of soprano sax weaving and dancing its way round McCoy Tyner’s ebbing and flowing cycles of chords in the manner of his versions of My Favourite Things. There's a double LP compilation of Tyner's 70s recordings for Milestone too. They vary between moods of reflective calm and outbursts of pounding, tempestuous energy.

There’s an LP boxset of Olivier Messiaen’s Catalogue d’Oiseaux, the fruits of his expeditions to the mountains, fields and forests of France to record the songs of birds and absorb the atmosphere of their habitats, which he subsequently translated into a pianistic language. There’s also a CD of Ligeti’s piano etudes, one of the Sony Ligeti Edition series. Brian Eno’s face stares out from one of the record bays on the cover of his Before and After Science. There was a copy of the original Rough Trade Young Marble Giants LP, but I suspect someone’s nabbed that already. When I was in, someone was enthusiastically purchasing the bfi Brothers Quay dvd set, too (thus affording me the chance to mention the excellent exhibition of the worlds of their animation sets contained in a peep-show arcade of wooden boxes. There's a CD of Godspeed You Black Emperor's Slow Riot For Zero Kanada EP (actually well over 30 minutes long) with its black cover handsomely embossed with gold Hebraic lettering. Godspeed are revivifying themselves to curate an All Tomorrow's Parties 'Nightmare Before Christmas' festival at Butlins in Minehead this year. They've chosen a wonderfully varied line-up, which includes Romantic (in the artistic sense of the word) singer Josephine Foster, black-clad Japanese improviser and sometime hurdy-gurdy mangler Keiji Haino, psychedelic adventurers Bardo Pond, dedicated amateurists Maher Shalal Hash Baz (again from Japan), turntable experimentalist Philip Jeck, free improv sax player John Butcher, Krautrock legends Cluster and heroic minimalist piano pounder Charlemagne Palestine. Before you get too excited, I should point out that it is now sold out. A Throwing Muses maxi-EP of their track Dizzy is propped up on a display stand, as it has a rather nice 4AD style cover which looks like it might have been done by Russell Mills. It features a couple of live tracks along with a track called Santa Claus, so it's perfect for Christmas, which seems to be the current consumer season now. All this and monkey mobiles too. A splendid browsing experience is guaranteed for all.

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