Sometimes you come across a record in a car boot sale or charity shop that just looks right. There is something about the cover that attracts you and you sort of know it will be something you will like. Call it empathy or some low level familiarity, but a cover and the choice of artwork can tell you a lot about the mindset and the kind of music they record.
Never mind then that Toah Dynamic’s cover for their 2000 album Movement was drawn by Chips For The Poor, the brother of Kid Acne (well known still today in the street art movement) doing his GCSE Art (for which he apparently got a D). Maybe its because of that, the naive painting, and the choice to use it, that makes it stand out.
The Toah Dynamic also named their debut album after the same art project, and released Movement to the world on a 1000 copy pressing on vinyl only, really unusual for the time, and in the process created Invisible Spies Records.
There is also something endearing about including a letter from the boys Nan on the sleeve notes – again it is a decision made that reflects creativity and originality. I’ll include the full text of that letter at the end.
So on to the music – I described this album over on mastodon, on first listen, as a cross between Sleaford Mods, Prodigy and Optiganally Yours – eclectic enough but I want to throw Sun City Girls into the mix. Anybody who has listened to the Girls in any depth will know exactly what I mean on the first track on side 1, Crazy Like A Racecar. It has hip hop, discordant recorders and rhythmic experimental beats. Sometimes the hip hop just turns into spoken word, prose like, albeit a bit angry, over the music. It has all of those influences, or at least similarities, but none of them really ping out at you over the others. There is subtlety here, and it would be easy to dismiss the music as amateurish. I actually think you could label it as Jazz (sorry Jazz aficionados) but it makes sense out of the chaos in the same way a great Jazz trio does.
The music is more instrumental after the first track, and I couldn’t help feeling, listening to tracks like Granny Gristle Feeds The Pigeon, that I immediately wanted to go back to school and learn how to direct a film, just so I could have this album as the soundtrack. Life In France is where I heard Prodigy vibes – not so much in the music (but definitely in there) but the heavy breathing, the footsteps, the bottle sampling (actually playing I think – nothing as sophisticated as sampling going on here).
Side 2 starts with Giants Dinner Party and some background shenanigans with the lads laughing and joking, something that always reminds me of youth movement music of the late 70s early 80s, and some very subtle call backs to previous tracks from side 1.
Horse Dentists is the best example of why I included Optiganally Yours as an influence/similarity. The repetitiveness and slightly out of synch out of tune instruments sounds just like an optigan. The Dynamic build and build on this electronic like rhythm on their 4-track recorder. Look Out Boom Boom has lyrics almost sung over (wait for it) a Sergeant Pepper era like organ sound.
We end with a 9 minute 52 seconds experience based around an electric shaver, of course, called Let Me Check My Chin.
I absolutely love this record – I have only played it through twice but I am really impressed. This is avant-garde experimental at its best and it is either a wonderful accident or, as I suspect, these boys know what they are doing all too well. Either way this one is a keeper and I am going to shout it from the rooftops until it gets the attention it deserves.
I have already snagged a copy of their second LP, Cops Hate Our Love, so may well feature that here when it arrives. But if The Herald in Scotland is to be believed I am in for another treat. I quote “It’s the sort of album you’d expect from a music therapy session for anal retentive classical musicians, desperate to miscount beats, play out of tune, and sneakily come in when they’re not supposed to. Buy it, enjoy it; just don’t try to understand it.”
As promised, the full sleeve notes letter from Nan. Enjoy!
“It is now 1.25 and I am in my favourite spot in the window with the sun shining on me; the sky is blue, but there are dark clouds hanging around. I hung out my boil wash first thing this morning and only just got indoors before it started to rain and hail. I hurriedly fetched it in and draped it round the radiators, and there it is going to stay despite the sunshine.
When I got up last Saturday I found my garden shed door wide open, I looked inside but there wasn’t anything missing. However, I heard on Monday that David, over the road, had had his garden shed thieved, all electrical gear missing. There were just garden chairs in mine, plus a mower which would be very heavy, plus the two ceramic ducks which go on my gravel in the summer. Mind you, they are very heavy, but I am only too thankful that they weren’t damaged. Mind you, my squirrel – which was a present last year and which was put underneath my big fur tree on the front lawn, has gone AWOL. Still, it did last almost a year and in this day and age I suppose it is an achievement.”