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Best of 2023

2023 repress. Post-punk, rising like a phoenix during the second half of the 1970s,  was a movement that few could have anticipated or foreseen. Sophisticated, and impossible to nail down, bands like WireP.I.L.The Pop GroupThe FallA Certain RatioPere UbuThrobbing Gristle, and dozens of others, wedded forward thinking radicalism and the focused energy of punk, with revitalized forms of experimentalism that rethought the terms and ownership of the musical avant-garde. Of post-punk’s first wave, few projects were as exciting and visionary as London based trio This Heat, comprising the unique voices of multi-instrumentalists, Charles BullenCharles Hayward, and Gareth Williams. Drawing on a diverse sonorous pallet and experimental approaches that have left a permanent mark on the musical landscape ever since, the group produced a small handful of albums and EPs between 1976 and 1982, before its members followed their own paths; Charles Hayward first within Camberwell Now and then under his own name, Charles Bullen as Lifetones, and Gareth Williams within his duo with Mary CurrieFlaming Tunes, whose lone, self-titled album from 1985, is the latest subject of Superior Viaduct’s loving vinyl initiative to return the rare, ambitious, and often sinfully overlooked artifacts of 20th century music to our hands.

Gareth Williams, like each of the members of This Heat, represented a radical expansion of the notions of what the movements of punk and post-punk were all about, binding its sounds far more closely to the legacies of countercultural and avant-garde musics, rather than envisioning it as a logical, reactionary step within the history of rock and roll. All of his work, regardless of who he was working with, was fueled by a deconstructive spirit that rethought the very notions possibly attached to a given idiom, imbuing it with a deeply personal temperament of emotional and creative authenticity. An avid lover of music and record collector, William’s boundless curiosity let to an extended period of studying Kathakali dance in southern India, following his departure from This Heat, as well as his co-authoring the first Rough Guide to India, and studying Indian religion and music at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies. The fruits of these interests and pursuits, among so many others, lay embedded at the roots of Flaming Tunes, the project started with his childhood friend, Mary Currie, upon his return to London in 1985.

Flaming Tunes’ lone release, originally issued as hand-colored cassette on the tiny imprint, Contagious Tapes - not unlike Charles Hayward’s Camberwell Now and Charles Bullen’s Lifetones - bears the unmistakable imprint of the sonic tapestry that was woven within This Heat, appearing at the elemental level, rather than via any explicit aesthetic connection; stripped and isolated the core of Williams’ pursuits, and then rebuilt into an entirely unique form of experimental pop song.

Recorded in an old Victorian house in South London, the duo, joined by Charles Bullen, Martin Harrison, and Rick Wilson, recorded during the day while Currie's son attended school, before being pushed into final forms during the evenings by Williams’ experimental tape treatments. Among the great artefacts of 80s DIY / 80s home recording, using whatever instruments they had on hand (clarinet, piano, bells, etc.), Flaming Tunes stitched their brand of lo-fi melodies around simple arrangements, oblique rhythms, and a densely layered pallet of natural sounds, culminating as a mesmerizing collage of left-field instrumentalism and sideways pop.

Like almost no other that has been made before or since, not to mention an absolutely stunning and sublime piece of work, Flaming Tunes has sparked a true love affair for almost everyone that has encountered it over the years. We can’t thank Superior Viaduct enough for bringing this one back. Issued in two lovingly produced editions; the limited-edition clear vinyl with colour sleeve, and the black vinyl version, with black and white sleeve. This one can’t be missed and is going to fly.

Cat. number: SV170
Year: 2023

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