The eighties are an oddly venerated decade, one which started in Britain with post-punk and the New Romantic movement and ended in the lysergic chaos of acid house. In the provinces though most of the time these felt like abstractions; for most people life was still taking place not in London but down at your local Tiffany's, bubbly pint pot in hand and white suit and skinny tie wrapped around the body. These "Normal" lads and lasses had a different soundtrack to their existence, one in part provided by the acts that populate this, the latest in the Late Night Tales series, mixed by Tom Findlay of Groove Armada.
Chronicled expertly at the time by Morgan Khan's ground breaking Street Sounds compilations, musically this was a combination of soul's pristine, honeyed gospel vocals and the studio trickery of seminal Minneapolis producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the duo that would go on to help make Janet Jackson's Control one of the biggest selling albums of all decade. Khan's series brought together a wealth of releases into a single place where otherwise collectors might have spent a small fortune on imports, mixing obscurity and bombast with an assured ear, along the way making disciples out of soul and b-boys alike.
Sometimes rare grooves then, but equally, you can raid your parents collection of Now That's What I Call Music vinyl and you'll find that this was equally one of the pre-eminent chart "Sounds" of the time. The formula was typically straightforward: male or female diva, fret less bass, occasional frostings of incidental guitar and some padded synths, courtesy of the near ubiquitous Nord Electro keyboard. Rapidly gaining Transatlantic appeal, the end product counted as what at the time was classed as sophistication, an airbrushed sort of aphrodisiac for the Soul Glo generation.
Late Night Tales has been spinning us the finest funky throwback tunes for some years now and the artists the series has offered the opportunity to curate to us over time have always been interesting, surprising, and varied from the likes of The Flaming Lips to Groove Armada and even Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys). As the series reaches its 30th, St Alban's intellectually toe-tapping Friendly Fires have the perfect combo of head, heart, and feet to lead us into our dreams.
While the trio have always nicely fit into the 'band' label their records clearly demonstrate an affinity towards the forces that drive dance and techno as well as current guitar band trends. Their status as one of the great crossover bands of modern times was confirmed upon the release of 2011's Pala which saw their influences from bands like Talking Heads blended with the technical dance of Boards Of Canada and the pristine production standards of modern heavyweight Timbaland. As such then their Late Night Tales outing is packed full of classic disco romps such as Dennis Parker's 'Like An Eagle', the lo-fi modern dub of SBTRKT who offers us the most recognisable track here in the form of 'Hold On' and that's not to forget all the bombastic, out-there pop that's clearly been a massive stimulus in the direction of Friendly Fires' sound.
As it says on the tin, this is a record to be played as your night winds down and, coming in at an impressive 78 minutes, it's an LP worthy of the name. Not to subdue you too early then, the first third of the record focuses on this disco element with the likes of Joe Simon's 'Love Vibration', some Dutch disco from Renee and of course the funky 'Carry On Turn Me On' by Space. It's a great heated start to get the blood pumping when you return post-rave to your cold living room with eight people you don't know who are chewing their cheeks furiously. As the conversation inevitably turns madly theoretical the music too morphs into some of today's finest art-poppers (Bibio - 'Don't Summarise My Summer Eyes') and then into the warm fuzzy blanket of the shoegaze scene and the likes of the Cocteau Twins' haunting pop number, 'Cherry Coloured Funk'. What's so good about compilations like Late Night Tales is it gives lost classics, up and comers, and songs you've simply never heard before the chance to plant their seed in you thanks to a band you already have some sort of trust in.
Continue reading: LateNightTales - Friendly Fires Album Review
The latest edition of the Late Night Tales series is effectively the DeLorean that can whisk you back in time to the blue-eyed soul era that birthed some of the most laid-back, summer friendly soundtracks in existence. Assembled by Tom Findlay of Groove Armada fame, the man has done himself proud in putting together a compilation of smooth as hell classics just in time for summer.
Continue reading: Late Night Tales, Music For Pleasure Album Review
When you manage to pip the likes of 5ive and Steps to the much-coveted title of 'Best Newcomer' at the 1999 BRIT Awards you are pretty much set for a successful and lasting career. Now fifteen years old, Glaswegians Belle And Sebastian present the second volume of the Late Night Tales compilation series in which a particular artist picks their favourite tracks worth staying up for. Everyone from the Arctic Monkeys, Four Tet and the Flaming Lips has produced a compilation, an ordeal that evidently was so fun that Belle and Sebastian just had to make another.
Continue reading: LateNightTales, Belle and Sebastian vol. 2 Album Review
There's always been the feeling that the Late Night Tales series was more one for the connoisseurs than some of its contemporaries. When compared to say the bottle of Jagermeister and deep pan Hawaiian post-club experience of the Back To Mine imprint, throughout its history, everything from the mission statement to the diverse roster of tune pickers (For example Arctic Monkeys, Flaming Lips, Four Tet) has given Late Night Tales the more sophisticated air of an erm, "jazz cigarette" aided chill out.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Midlake's Late Night Tales Album Review