The Rubber Room
Caravan of Love



Every woman, every man, join the caravan. Except no, don't do that—we're hoping for something of slightly higher quality in this exciting Rubber Room Revival Special. There's a reason for such blatant references to rumbling, trundling homes-on-wheels though; all of these releases are from the claustrophobic toilets and unappealing cooking facilities of the music world's very own Static Caravan.

Yes, it's a shameless “the pile of promotional vinyl is sufficiently tall to write about” spectacular!

The Yellow Moon Band
Entangled / Chimney / Lunadelica (7")
[Static Caravan, 2007]


With a cluster of wild horses stampeding over a rainbow, a track called "Lunadelica" and the moon-related moniker, you could be tempted to form an image of this band in your head before a note is played. You'd probably be half right. It's not quite hippies-a-go-go, but a pioneering union of prog-psychedelia which borrows some 'spaghetti western' riffs from Fields of the Nephilim, ditches the silly goth bits and heads down the warpath. Two intense instrumentals snuggle up close to star of the show "Chimney," which bristles with duelling guitars and pulls out a decidedly un-mellow solo to blast the flowers clean out of your hair. Above, disembodied harmonies discuss the finer points of interior decorating. Stranger than a night of desert soul-searching, but twice as enlightening.

Phelan Sheppard / Niandra Ladies
Games of Position / Casino Lisboa (7")
[Static Caravan, 2007]


A pan-European collaboration between multi-instrumental Phelan Sheppard and the electro-ambient stylings of Niandra Ladies, resulting in a veritably packed palette of sound. "Games of Position" hastily introduces plucked and diving strings and hopes they get along, as a mysterious lady intones various traditional game titles like a rather stern babysitter. She's then ushered away by the flighty vocals of (perhaps) her spirited young charge, whose airy views drift above the sounds of carved pieces being shuffled around a wooden board. On the flip-side, "Casino Lisboa" jams haphazard string sweeps against the stately poise of a French horn—both of which gradually fade in and out of emerging radio chatter. The whole thing should be a confusing mess; but as individual effects vie for attention, the increased demands on concentration slowly create sensory immersion.

Starless & Bible Black
Up With The Orcadian Tide / All In A Day (7")
[Static Caravan, 2007]


Making up for their theft of a Dylan Thomas quote (or maybe a King Crimson album title), Starless & Bible Black present what must be about as close to a unique subject as it's possible to get in the music world; a single ostensibly about the Orkney Islands. It's a contemplative affair—though thoughtful rather than gloomy—reflective in sound but aspirational in tone. Helene Gautier's vocals reach for beachside dreams on an overcast day, overlapped by the splash and swell of electric guitars that move in their own whirling tides. B-side "All In a Day" provides similar ruminations, but this time reaches the sensible conclusion that "I want to live here, surrounded by sea." Few odes to the elements are as convincing as this. By the way, accidentally playing it at 33rpm turns these tunes into even more languid offerings. And poor old Gautier becomes a weary, depressed bloke. You'd have to be some kind of idiot to make that mistake, though. Obviously.

Darren Hayman
Minehead EP
[Static Caravan, 2007]


Whatever happened to the Hefner frontman, eh? Well, he's been steadily putting out holiday-themed EPs, of which this is the last. I've never been to a Butlins Holiday Camp, but if they're anything like the vision of Minehead depicted here then they're desperate places indeed. Hayman recorded these songs on location, which perhaps goes some way to explaining their stripped-back nature. Largely, it's just him and an acoustic—plus the odd drum loop and bout of self-harmonization. Telling a story of sorts, the record appears to be about a couple who hope to rekindle their love by ... going to Butlins. The inevitable sense of doom is already maxed out by the end of "Out of Season," which details the getaway plan in suitably resigned fashion.

By "Say It Ain't So" things are wobbling, and the majority of "The Way It Seems" (which curiously borrows a melody from "Three Blind Mice") has entirely given up hope of reconciliation ("gonna write a song about how you'll feel when I'm gone.") The final piece finds our protagonist immersing himself in friendly nostalgia, listing some well-observed facets of "1976" lifestyle. It neatly encapsulates his failure; a reflection of the belief that his encouraging memories from childhood excursions to Minehead would also invigorate his contemporary relationship. A tragic and thoroughly British take on some serious vacation blues.

John Smith
The Bird And The Worm / No-One Knows (7")
[Static Caravan 2007]


A couple of the above releases have had folk-ish vibes, but this is the real thing. Fingerpicked acoustic tones, a voice which moves through Nick Drake hush on the verses to a coarser, worldly-wise croak on the chorus and a slightly disturbing metaphor for love. What else could one need? This coupling is going to end badly; probably with one half devouring the other. Perhaps literally. The dark underbelly is somewhat disguised, however, by the softness of tune and deftness in delivery. On the other side, a minimalist cover of Queen of the Stone Age's "No-One Knows" is given a similarly ominous performance—with the self-medication, enforced rules and lack of hope sounding as cheery as ever. All of which brings our Caravaning roadshow to a shuddering halt. Did somebody remember to re-pack the turntable?


By: Peter Parrish
Published on: 2007-09-07
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