Monday 28 October 2013

Break in service

Sorry about the recent lack of posts. Rapidshare recently changed their system and have become totally rubbish. Just as soon as we back up all the previous files and rehouse them with a different server, normal service will resume.

Monday 26 August 2013

(The original) Third Spain 1980/81

Most people with an interest in the north Wales music scene will be aware of the mid-80s group Third Spain who released an LP on the Central Slate label in 1985. Not everyone will be aware however of a completely different but identically named group who existed five years previously.

'An Invitation to Dance' programme.

The original, and in many ways superior group was a trio of Alan Wilkinson on drums and vocals, John Cratchley on bass and vocals and Scott Saunders on guitar and vocals. This group was a decidedly more 'arty' group than the later, more rock-orientated combo, with live performances all given individual names and showcasing material specially written for the event. Programmes were given out at the performances and it is these programmes that help us piece together the history of the group, as only a few of the performances were ever recorded. We have managed to locate recordings of 'An Implicit Threat' from Plas Coch on 23rd September 1980 and 'The Death of a Myth' from the same venue on the 2nd December 1980, the latter being billed as the group's 'final performance' and unusually, comprising a 'greatest hits' set of material that had been previously performed at other shows. However we have also unearthed a 'reunion' event from 22nd September 1981, where the group got back together to support the Miaow Beasts at Plas Coch.
"Another Spiffing Wheeze' programme.

'An Implicit Threat' programme.

"The Death of a Myth' programme.

Further programmes found in our archive reveal events titled 'Welcome to September', 'Another Spiffing Wheeze' and 'An Invitation to Dance', none of which appear to have been recorded. We have however found an undated short three song set by the group that appeared to be part of a multi-band show at Plas Coch which also featured Distant Cousins, Fay Ray, The Verbs and .

'Welcome to September' programme (front)

'Welcome to September' programme (back)

As far as we can tell, it seems that the original Third Spain played live on eight occasions:
2nd September 1980
23rd September 1980
14th October 1980
28th October 1980
6th November 1980
22nd November 1980
2nd December 1980
22nd September 1981
although sadly less than half of these events appear to have been recorded - a particular shame as the group had a tendancy to not repeat songs, leaving much of the repertoire lost in the mists of time.

It appears from the programmes, that in addition to the core trio, Third Spain were on occasion augmented by guests that included Mark Thomas, Alan Holmes and Martin Wilson. Alan (Holmes) and Scott were of course to be reunited in the later Third Spain, who even covered the original group's 'In the Twilight' for their 1985 LP. When the compilation cassette 'Dark Steps/Waiting for Light' was released, members of Third Spain and A Silly Tree combined forces to perform their contributions live at the launch party on 31st March 1981. This 'supergroup' was referred to on various promo materials as Third Tree, Silly Spain and Hispanic Arboreals.
Poster for 6th November 1980

Poster (with last minute bill change) for 2nd December 1980

Poster for 28th October 1980

An Implicit Threat: Plas Coch 23rd September 1980

1  The Timeless Trail
2  The World: A Brief Guide
3  interval
4  Lesson One
5  The Incident

The Death of a Myth: Plas Coch 2nd December 1980

Dreamtime 1:
1  Autumn Spirit
2  Two Shadows
3  Waiting for Light
4  Eskimo Love Song
Dreamtime 2:
5  Map
6  Insect Time
7  Hanging Tree
The Break:
8  The Call
9  Business as Usual
10  In the Twilight

Plas Coch 22nd September 1981

1  Business as Usual
2  In the Twilight
3  Fire's Gone Out
4  The Call
5  Hanging Tree

G.U.M. benefit night Plas Coch

1 Hanging Tree
2  The Call
3  In the Twilight

get it here

Sunday 25 August 2013

Sarah's Room (1980)

In 1980, Sarah temporarily left Bangor to tour Australia and New Zealand for a few months, leaving her room at 32 College Road vacant. Never ones to miss an opportunity, her housemates seized the chance to turn the space into a temporary recording studio, with John Cratchley (resident of the room directly above Sarah's) installing all manner of microphones and recording paraphernalia in the abandoned room. For several weeks, every visiting musician was dragged into the room and encouraged to 'perform'. The results of this project eventually saw the light of day on a cassette on the Black Vinyl Tapes label appropriately titled 'Sarah's Room'.

unfolded cassette insert
Sarah's Room  (1980)

1  Can't Stop
2  Jewel
3  White Sky
4  (Just Like an) Advert
5  Shara's Moor
6  Jewel (reprise)
7  Betterway
8  Cross Country in Slow Motion
9  Football
10  Hanging Tree
11  Cross Country Continues / Jewel (re-reprise)
12  JASM
13  I am Patient
14  Down the Hill
15  White Sky (reprise)

get it here

Friday 23 August 2013

A Path to Follow (1981)

Between Autumn 1980 and Spring 1982, weekly music nights were held upstairs at Bangor's Glanrafon Pub every Friday. Generally these would feature a couple of local or visiting acts playing regular sets in a friendly pub style environment. Sometimes however, these nights were augmented by more elaborate theme nights where special one-off performances were presented, never to be repeated. We have already uploaded one example in the "Psychedelic Night" from 27th October 1981, and now we are pleased to dig out another of those 'special' nights from our archives.

Dating from earlier in 1981 - the exact date is lost in the  mists of time, although was most likely around April, A Path to Follow drew on a pool of mostly Bangor based musicians who collaborated in various combinations during the evening. Although loosely thematically linked, the evening's six distinct sections covered a wide range of styles, taking in jazz, country, industrial electronica, psych rock, neo-classicism and even medieval mystery plays.

Programme (outside)
The Travelling On section of the evening was performed by an early incarnation of The Ghostriders who at the time were a duo of Dav Devalle and Rob Parry, augmented by tapes of 'found sound'. A particularly rare treat lies in classical guitarist (and ex-Some Noise bassist) Martin Parry's beautiful compositions for the Steps section, arranged for his own guitar and Rebecca Ward's violin. The programme, reproduced here, lists a second medieval mystery play as part of the running order, but there appears to be no recording of it... perhaps it was dropped due to time restrictions.

Programme (inside)

Nobody seems to quite remember the full list of personnel for the evening, but it certainly included Scott Saunders, Dav Devalle, John Cratchley, Mark Thomas, Rob Parry, Rebecca Ward, Martin Parry, Alan Holmes, Phil Layton and Sarah Andrews... and several others, possibly including Annie Williams, Paul Stroud, John Wilce, John Wyer and Rhona Wyer.

1  Eat  12:57
2  One Division  14:50
3  Steps  16:56
4  Jazz Interval  20:23
5  Travelling On  30:09
6  Waiting for Light  10:38

Get it here

Thursday 22 August 2013

Pondman - In Between (2002)

In Between album cover (section of painting ‘Barclodiad y Gawres I’ by Mary Lloyd Jones)

Fiona and Gorwel Owen have been central figures in the Welsh music scene for around 35 years, through their own music with Sgidia' Newydd, Eirin Peryglus and Plant Bach Ofnus as well as their invaluable contribution to the likes of Datblygu, Super Furry Animals, Igam Ogam, Ectogram, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Rheinallt H Rowlands, Pop Negatif Wastod, Ffa Coffi Pawb, Cut Tunes, Vaffan Coulo, Fflaps and many, many others who had passed through their legendary Ofn studios in Rhosneigr and Llanfaelog.

In 2002, they released an album under the name Pondman that stood in stark contrast to their previous pioneering electronic work, comprising as it did, a selection of beautifully arranged subtle low-key acoustic songs. In Between saw Gorwel forsaking his trusty mini-Moog and Akai S3000XL in favour of the more pastoral tones of the acoustic guitar, weaving a delicate lattice around Fiona's ethereal and richly poetic voice. An all-star cast of guests helped out on the album, including Wales' leading exponent of the ancient crwth, Cass Meurig, noted jazz double bassist Owen Lloyd Evans and various members of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci.

Pondman live: L to R: John Lawrence, Fiona Owen, Cass Meurig, Gorwel Owen (photo: Gwion Llwyd)

The record was released on the couple's own independent label Yamoosh! and immediately drew enthusiastic reviews:

‘Suitably for people whose operations are so out of the trend-loop, this is a deeply, often thrillingly unique record’ – Noel Gardener / Honk
‘This is a fantastic album. In Between is full of beautiful pastoral melodies and feedback/drone sun-drenched backing’ – Wil Williams / SNOG Online
‘Creadigol ac ysbrydoledig’ – Catrin Dafydd, Golwg
‘Strange goings on in deepest Wales, extemporised pastoral psychedelia’ – Taplas
'Imaginative, low-key and finely judged … always beautiful and sometimes profound’ – Malcolm Lewis / Planet

There was a six year wait for the follow up Spring Always Comes, for which the couple retired the Pondman name, crediting it simply to Fiona and Gorwel Owen. The album was well worth the wait and every bit as good as In Between. More recently, they recorded a session for Adam Walton's excellent Radio Wales show in 2012, which can be heard here.

Fiona and Gorwel have now decided to make In Between available to stream for free, so check it out below and if you like what you hear, maybe buy a physical copy or/and Spring Always Comes from Palas Print, Spillers or Sadwrn.

In Between (Yamoosh! 2002)

1. Miss A
2. Birdcage
3. Passers-By
4. Note Under A Stone
5. Let Me Be Still
6. When It Rained
7. All Things Wish To Fly
8. Black and Gold
9. Always Intending
10. Being Poemed
11. Fire Ballad
12. When We Danced,
13. In Between.

Fiona and Gorwel Owen with guests: Cass Meurig, John Lawrence, Owen Lloyd Evans, Peter Richardson, Megan Childs, Euros Childs, Euros Rowlands, Rob Mackay, Idris Morris Jones.

hear it here

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Alasdair Bouch

photo: Michal Mecner

Alasdair Bouch is not strictly Welsh and indeed is now based in Prague, but he did begin his musical career while in University in Bangor. Not only did Alasdair (affectionately known as Ali B... well before the existence of Ali G) work in the legendary Cob Records, but he was also responsible for turning upper Bangor's Greek Taverna into a music venue back in the early 90s. His tireless promotion of live music in the town created a platform for many of the area's young musicians to showcase their talents (or lack thereof). To this day, the Greek Taverna remains a vibrant venue for upcoming local musicians thanks to the work of Ali B.

Since leaving Bangor and relocating to Prague, Alasdair has released three excellent CD albums, ranging from the alternative folk-blues sound of his debut First Person Singular, via the raw soul power-pop of Second-hand Lullabies to his recent Third Time Lucky which beats in a old-school rhythm 'n' blues vein, shot through with classic drivetime rock and ballads. Over the past few years he has played 457 concerts across Europe!

Whenever Turquoise Coal finds itself in the Czech Republic, we never fail to hook up with the talented troubadour for an evening of pivo and reminiscence, as we did most recently last month.

Here's a great new video for Alasdair's song Bed of Happiness - you can't go wrong with a Trabant in a video... unless, of course you're U2!

Alasdair's three albums are available for sale at concerts, or as downloads from iTunes and other digital outlets.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Mank - Gutta-percha

Following the new Skinflick release that we highlighted a few weeks back, here's another brand new release that we here at Turquoise Coal would like to draw your attention to.

Mank is the ambient electronic project of Ben Powell, based in North Wales.
Ben has been recording as Mank since 1998 releasing “home made” CDs on his Mankymusic label. Influenced by nature and maths the music is computer based, combining field recordings with real and virtual instruments. Ben is known for using some exclusive recording locations - two releases (Isbjorn and Ambergris) were recorded whilst on board a Russian polar research ship at the north pole, most of the Mank albums were born at sea.

Ben says "The majority of this album was written on a Canadian icebreaker on the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska - for my day job I work on ships making oceanographic measurements and as such I spend a lot of time bobbing around at sea near the North Pole. Making music lets me escape to my own world away from the ship but I hope that the beauty of the location comes through in my music, there are a lot of field recordings embedded in the mix."

The full 53'49" album is available free from Ben's SoundCloud site here and comes highly recommended to all fans of Arctic electronica!

1  Cyanosis
2  Heliopolis
3  Precession
4  Rheya
5  Moloch
6  Proteus
7  Cwmorthin
8  Systaltic
9  Eglwyseg
10  Dysthymia
11  Erebus and Terror

Wednesday 24 April 2013

S4C Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack (Volume 1)

This post is a special request for our follower NewPuritan.  (link fixed now)

S4C Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack was a 7" EP that came out in early 1995 on the north Wales based Atol label (serial number ATOL 02). The EP was pressed in a limited run of 500 copies and is subsequently very difficult to find and much sought after, largely due to the subsequent rise to stardom of Catatonia, whose featured track Cariadon Ffôl is unavailable elsewhere. In fact, the only one of the four songs that did subsequently appear again was Rheinallt H. Rowlands' Charles Bukowski, which featured in an extended version as the (sort of) title track of Rheinallt's second LP Bukowski in 1996.

Paladr changed their name to Topper shortly after the release of the EP and went on to release many fine records under that name, although this remains their sole appearance under their original monicker. Ectogram's uncharacteristically gentle Gwagle gained the group record company interest from Radar Records, who soon changed their mind upon checking out the group in concert! The song was re-recorded in a very different arrangement for the group's debut LP I Can't Believe It's Not Reggae! in 1996, the LP version featuring a piano solo from renowned producer Gorwel Owen, while this version has an (uncredited) piano part from Dewi Evans, of Rheinallt H. Rowlands fame.

A second volume appeared in 1996 on the Ankst label, with further contributions from Rheinallt and Topper, alongside tracks by Melys and David Wrench. This second volume is much easier to track down and appeared on both 7" vinyl and CD.

Here's what the NME had to say about the record at the time:

Various: S4C Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack (ATOL)

As a wise old owl noted just the other pint, 'tis a thin line between John Barry and Barry John. The cunningly titled "S4C Makes Me..." is in fact a four track effort from those extremely nice people at Ankst Records in Wales and thus - leaving miracles aside for a second - features four bands singing in the language God tossed upon them.

To wit, the normally boisterous (see drunk) Catatonia are caught in a relaxed, almost choral mode. Ditto for Ectogram, stripped of their rock edge for an eerie, beatless few minutes. Paladr, meanwhile, are all feisty melodies and stumbling enthusiasm in a post Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (good grief!) kind of way, and...

...Shiver the timbers of Sherwood Forest! For then we get one Rheinallt H. Rowlands and his quite insane paean to Charles Bukowski. See the gleaming teeth! Check the beaming bowtie 'n' tuxedo set! Feel the vibe, which is Las Vegas transplanted to North Wales! Charles Bukowski is cheesier than - yes - a mouse's larder and hence exactly what Bryan Ferry should sound like in 1995.

Gwyrthiol, in any language

(N.M.E - Jan 1995)

...Melody Maker were less kind:

Various: S4C Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack (ATOL)

Does Beck ever sit in front of the fire at night and say to himself, "What kind of monster have I spawned?" His MTV double bluff gets appropriated for an EP featuring Catatonia, Ectogram, Paladr and Reinallt H. Rowlands, all flying the flag for that idea someone once had about Welsh bands saving us from spiuritual penury. Catatonia are most convincing with their "Cariadon Ffol", a title that translates - a bit too pointedly for my liking - as "Foolish Lovers".

The other acts, sorry to say, are poo the size of continents. Ectogram even come up with a drumless track called "Void", conclusively proving that Welsh goth ambience isn't any more useful than its English equivalent. I guess ordinariness is a universal language.

(Melody Maker - Jan 1995)

S4C Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack (Volume 1)

1 Catatonia - Cariadon Ffôl
Paladr - Dwi'm yn Gwybod. Pam?
Ectogram - Gwagle
Rheinallt H. Rowlands - Charles Bukowski

get it here

Tuesday 23 April 2013

The Miaow Beasts

Cemaes Bay (photo: Bob Jones)
The small northern Anglesey coastal town of Cemaes Bay is generally more famous for its nuclear power station than for any form of artistic culture. However, for a brief moment in 1981, the town was home to one of the finest cutting edge post-punk combos to emerge from the UK.

Wylfa nuclear power station
The Miaow Beasts seemed to arrive on the scene fully formed - clad in desert-issue army surplus and Tommy Adkins haircuts, quite at odds with the local fashion of the time. Big fans of Can, their songs were sparse and rhythmic, pivoting around drummer Alan Wills' cyclical patterns and his brother Dennis' austere clipped funk basslines. They certainly fitted in alongside such contemporary left field Peel faves as 23 Skidoo, Clock DVA and A Certain Ratio, although front man Tony Byrne's aggressive vocal delivery also had a touch of early Killing Joke to it.

They could be regularly found at Cemaes Bay's long lamented Faraway Club, site of many classic Northern Soul gatherings in the 70s, but would occasionally make it as far as Bangor or Llanedwen's Plas Coch club, where this live performance was captured on 22nd September 1981.

From the start, it was obvious that they were destined for bigger things either collectively or individually, and before long, Alan Wills moved to Liverpool to play drums with The Wild Swans, who were one of the hottest tipped groups in the country at the time. He went on to play with The Lotus Eaters, The Room and Shack and more recently set up Deltasonic Records, where he has brought us a whole new generation of Liverpool groups including The Coral, The Zutons and The Dead 60s. Dennis Wills tragically passed away later in the 80s while Tony Byrne popped up working in the music biz in London a little later. We don't know what happened to the other members - maybe someone out there does?


Tony Byrne - vocals (& trumpet?)
Alan Wills - drums
Dennis Wills - bass
Jeff Turner - guitar
Nelwyn Jones - sax

The Miaow Beasts - Plas Coch, Llanedwen 22nd September 1981

3  All Talk
4  He
5  The Party's Over
6  Tin Pan Alley
7  Crow on a Garage Roof

get it here

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Skinflick - Six Stone Junkie EP

OK... here's something that's not at all archive - in fact it's so up to date that it's only released today! Bangor's industrial rock terrorists are celebrating more than 20 years of making punishing mechanical misanthropic grind-o-throb. We first encountered Skinflick playing in the back room of a Bangor High Street pub back at the very dawn of the 1990s and they stood out as sounding refreshingly like nothing else in the area at the time... and guess what? - they still do!

Their brand new EP 'Six Stone Junkie' is out today as a free download, and we here at Turquoise Coal reckon it's their best yet. No need for us to upload it though - just go to the group's Soundcloud page and grab it for nothing - it's the best bargain you'll get all year!

We hope to dig out some archive goodies from the group in the near future, but in the meantime, where better to start than right here and now?

Thursday 28 February 2013

Tales from the Golden Casket

Between 1990 and 2002 something weird and wonderful happened in north Wales when a series of recordings, 130 in number, descended from the spheres onto a series of cassettes and CDs with titles like Transbluscent, My Sonic Lodge, Yellow Shell and The Gadfly. There were songs about dna and rna, stuff we're not supposed to know, butterflies, lost love, unvarnished desire, vanity and deceit, spiritual quest, molecules, balloon trips, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Ramblin' Jack Elliot, hoo hah!, new philosophy, serotonin, Jesus, trout, Rimbaud and of course Shar Lopez. There were covers of The Electric Prunes, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Webb, Al Bowlly, George Harrison, Jane Bond and Nirvana. There were extended electronic tracks including the psychedelic masterpiece Mantra, Atman Revisited, I Dreamt I was Still In the Rainforest and Santa Fe Epiphany.


These emerged year by year from small studios in the Bangor area and were focussed around the work of an enigmatic character who operated under many different aliases including Cody and the Machine Elves, The Lineman, Cody and Dean and Cody and the Pilgrims of the Sky. In addition to Cody himself, several of the Bangor area's leading underground musicians would often pop up on the recordings - John Cratchley, Sheila Brook, Rob Parry, John Lawrence, Ann Matthews, Dewi Evans and most commonly Alan Holmes are all evident on various recordings.

Now after ten years silence comes a collection drawing from this cornucopia plus the additional bonus track from 1984 recorded in York. These are The Tales From The Golden Casket. This CD's worth of samples provides a mouth watering taster for the full casket itself, rumoured to be scheduled for release in the near future. Draw up a velvet footstool, dim the lamps and light up your world with these 15 songs.

1 Love Song (Shimmering Highway)  1990
2 Becoming Director of Earthly Movies  1993
3 Seven Veils (for Tom Robbins)  1991
4 Primrose Vaulting  1995
5 Butterfly Man  2002
6 Saffron  1995
7 It's All Hurtin'  1990
8 V.M. Workshop  2000
9 Sending Out Love As The Code  1991
10 Halo of Thorns  1995
11 Jelly Man (1971)  1995
12 1898  2002
13 Dream Blues Vol.23  1993
14 Avalon Odessey  (for D.F.)  2000
Bonus Track:
Heart Play  1984

get it here

Thursday 31 January 2013

Alan Holmes sings lesser known songs of The Archies

OK... been a slow start to the year so far, but we've actually had a request for this one, so we'll get one January post in at least! This recording is apparently a big favourite of Pontardawe's foremost cultural commentator and Welsh rock scene legend Gari Melville... so this is for him and Nia.

While on their way to cut the master for their debut LP "Amhersain" in London in 1988, Fflaps suffered an unfortunate accident on the M6, when their trusty tour van's brakes failed and they careered into a tree. Driver and bassist Alan Holmes was subsequently hospitalised with a dislocated hip and was out of action for some months. During his time in hospital, ex-Fay Ray and Hot Water (and subsequently Banda Bacana) drummer and owner of Cob Records Owen Hughes was among his visitors. Rather than add to Alan's growing stockpile of grapes, Owen brought him a songbook featuring the words and music to the debut LP by 60s cartoon bubblegum group The Archies. As with most people, Alan was only really familiar with the group's October 11th 1969 number one hit single 'Sugar, Sugar', but was intrigued by their lesser known songs that featured in the songbook.

Once discharged from hospital, Alan had a lot of time on his hands while recuperating and so decided to record a series of interpretations of The Archies' catalogue... without having actually ever heard any of the songs. Drawing on his very rudimentary understanding of musical notation (having dropped music at school in the 2nd form), he pieced together these recordings using only a guitar and a Yamaha SHS-10 'keytar' from the notation in the songbook and then released the results on cassette, still without having heard any of the originals.

It would be over a decade before Alan actually found a copy of the original LP by the Archies and was able to hear the original versions at long last. He was reported to be very satisfied with the way his 'blind' covers compared with the originals, considering many of his versions to have surpassed the originals!

1 Bicycles, Roller Skates and You
2 Circle of Blue
3 Don't Touch my Guitar
4 Kissin'
5 Catching up on Fun

get it here: