Speedy Wunderground marks its first birthday with the comp of the year!
Some labels seem like they have been around forever. Speedy Wunderground feels like this. The actual truth is that it has only been around for a year. One of the reasons for this feeling is that they release a new 7” single every couple of months. So far they are up to seven and it feels like they haven’t even got started yet!
Speedy Wunderground is the brain child of producer extraordinaire Dan Carey. After getting sick and tired of record labels sitting on finished tracks for months before release, Carey decided enough was enough and started his own label. The concept is simple. One song. One day. Dan invites a band (or artist) into his studio and they have a day to write, record a song. Over the course of the next week Carey and engineer Alexis Smith mix and master the song, then send if off for pressing. A few weeks later the finished product arrives and can be sold. What could go wrong? If the first seven releases are anything to go by very little!
“But what about the B-Side Nick?!” I can hear you asking. Good question reader let me explain. If the song that is recorded is a beast (Steve Mason, Scotti Brains and Childhood we’ll deal with you later) the B-Side is a dub version crafted by Carey and Smith. These dub versions aren’t half arsed throwaway tracks. In the case of Toy & Natasha Khan, the dub version outshines the A-Side.
The label is prefect for this age. Musicians, producers don’t want to wait for up to a year for their new music to come out and fans don’t want to wait either. Also as vinyl is throwing off it death robes and making a comeback fans was high quality product to play on their decks. All this is feeding into Speedy Wunderground’s hand.
As Carey’s CV is chocked full of some of the biggest and best bands and artists round picking the releases must be pretty easy. It’s a musical equlivant of being Manuel Pellegrini “I want him, her and them!” Rumour has it that in the pipeline there will be releases from Django Django and Baxter Dury to name two. The only down side is that there are only 250 per pressing so you have to get in quick, or you may miss out and have to pay over inflated prices.
Here is the complete Speedy Wunderground’s discography
SW001 Steve Mason and Emiliana Torrini-I Go Out
The first release of a new label\imprint is sometimes the most important as it sets up the whole thing. Steve Mason handles the whole thing perfectly by allowing Carey (and backing band Toy) to reimagine an old Black Affair electro demo track as a twisted psyched out rocker. The song starts off simply enough with a call and response verse, under pinned by the kind of music we’ve come to know and love from Mason. It isn’t until the three minute mark that the song starts to show its true colours. There is an explosion of sound and the song goes up a few notches. This is where Side 1 ends. Side 2 continues, but the music is slightly darker and heavier. It’s a perfect introduction to everything that Carey and the label stands for. This is the stand out release!
SW002 Archie Bronson Outfit-I was a Dead Duck
Next up is the Archie Bronson Outfit to get the Wunderground treatment. Veterans of the studio and recording circuit this must have appealed to them. The song they produced is four and a half minutes of swirling, bassy lo-fi dance funk. If you’re thinking of a more ‘indie’ ESG, you are on the right track. The middle eight is the stand out passage. It is moment when band and producer merge to create something wonderful. The B-Side is the first dub version of the series. It takes the main riff and expands it through woozy synths and vocal refrains.
SW003 Toy & Natasha Khan-The Bride
After backing Steve Mason, you wonder that Toy will come up with. The answer is something almost other worldly. It opens with a simple, yet beautiful, piano line. Natasha Khan starts singing in almost hushed vocals, then BAM the song switches a gear. The pace increases, tension and drama are now introduced. Just when you don’t know what will happen next the original piano line reappears. After a verse, the song starts to build pace again. It’s reminiscent of cyclist who has lead for the majority of a mountain stage summoning the last ounce of energy to get the win and keep his title hopes alive. (Here Come) Dub Bride is the flip side. This is a master class of how to dissect a song to its most basic and elemental parts, yet to end up with something that is more powerful than the original.
SW004 Scotti Brains-Keep Your Eyes Open Boy
Keep Your Eyes Open Boy is another double sider. This song I think it closest to Carey’s original idea for the label. In an interview he once said “When you’re recording something, there’s a moment that comes just after everyone having learnt the song enough to be able to play it, where it just sounds amazing, because it’s slightly on edge, because no one’s 100% sure – I want to record that bit. Not the bit once it’s been rehearsed and played and played. It could be better once it’s been gigged for a while and turned into a real thing, but it’s that moment where everyone’s like ‘oh, shit!” The song sounds like a seven minute jam track, but that doesn’t take anything away from its charm. It runs the gambit of indie, space rock, krautrock, prog and psychedelica. It’s seven minutes of joy!
SW005 Kate Tempest-Hot Night Cold Spaceship
So far all the releases have sounded a similar. One aspect that marks a label against another one is the depth of its catalogue. On the fifth release Carey opted for the up and coming (yet relatively unknown in most circles) Kate Tempest. This release is a no brainer. Dan Carey recently produced Tempest’s debut for Big Dada, so getting her involved in this series makes perfect sense. In previous releases the lyrics have taken a back seat to luscious music, but SW005 turns this on its head. The music is not the main event here. Tempest’s vocals and words are. This is everything we have come to expect from her. Street philosophising with a moral twist. The music sounds like Underworld’s Born Slippy but reimagined for the after clubbing generation. Hot Night Cold Spaceship (Mr Dan’s Monday Morning Dub) sounds like a totally different track. Instead of stripping the track down, he’s layered it up. This is a stand out release, possibly the best release of the series so far.
Childhood bring the sound back to indie rock. This is another double sided track. Childhood are another band who were recording their album with Carey and he decided to give them the Wunderground treatment. I think that the results speak for themselves. This is just under seven minutes of indie ambient dream pop with a middle 8\transition last pulled off by Franz Ferdinand. It good, but compared to the other five releases this falls a bit flat. The second side doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere. Scotti Brains worked well because it was a free flowing jam track, Pinballs however feels like it needed to be reined in a bit.
The most recent addition to the catalogue is Juce! They are a three piece group from London. They’re sound and style is late 80’s early 90’s. Bomber jackets, pony tails, disco tinged pop songs. It works well and is refreshing to hear. This is the most refreshing release to date. It does against the grain of what is going on at the moment. The dub version is ESG tinged which only adds to its charm!
So there you have it. Speedy Wunderground is one. To mark this occasion they are putting out a compilation of all the releases so far on the 26th May. The CD version comes with bonus tracks and is the compilation of the year so far. So let’s raise a glass to Dan Carey, Alexis Smith and all at Speedy Wunderground who has made the last 12 months slightly better by putting out some of the best music I’ve heard in recent years. As Carey says it’s “Just for fun and for the sake of music” and if that isn’t worth a toast I don’t know what it! I can’t wait to see what they put out in the next 12 months!
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