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The Bevis Frond
High In A Flat Stuart Huggett , May 19th, 2014 11:21

Psst, wanna buy some records by The Bevis Frond? Or do you wanna buy some records from The Bevis Frond? If it's the former, High In A Flat triggers a major Cherry Red reissue series by Nick Saloman's cult psych band, and compiles many of his best-known, or at least most-covered, songs. If it's the latter, then you'll find him down on the Sussex coast these days, trading part-time in Bexhill's Platform One Records.

Dealing vinyl is a long-running, on-off sideline for an artist whose musical path has strong roots in the record collecting world of the 1980s, in shops like Margate's Funhouse and London's Reckless. This was a period when Record Collector was the only high street magazine to consistently cover the UK psych and industrial underground in any depth. With their parallel interests in esoteric history and altered states, the two scenes were supported by a tight network of fanzines (including the Saloman-published Ptolemaic Terrascope) and collaborations started to occur.

Borrowing its title from an old Bucketful Of Brains flexi (appended to the end of the CD as a sop to collectors), High In A Flat picks its tracks from half a dozen Frond albums, starting with Saloman's home-recorded, private press 1987 debut Miasma and ending with 1990's ambitious double New River Head. By this point the expanding Bevis band was bringing in guests such as Current 93's David Tibet and folk violinist Barry Dransfield and, thanks to Reckless' initial reissue campaign, starting to build the international fanbase that sustains them to this day.

By avoiding Saloman's side-long guitar solos and jams, High In A Flat gets to showcase more of his songwriting skills. While the rapid likes of 'I've Got Eyes In The Back Of My Head' and 'I Can't Get Into Your Scene' are effective but retro psych nuggets, Saloman's more distinctive talent lies in the softer, everyday poetics of 'This Corner Of England' and 'Waving', songs filled with prosaic but vivid images of driving instructors and QPR fans.

Despite his eye for English detail, Saloman was too self-effacing, too sensible and, then into his thirties, too old to get caught up in the coming Britpop shower of parochial revivalism. Nonetheless, his songs still found a broader audience as the 90s unfolded. With its killer descending riff, 'Reflections In A Tall Mirror' was covered by Liverpool psych fiends Walkingseeds for the first 7" in Clawfist's superlative Singles Club (The Bevis Frond returned the favour on the flip). Mary Lou Lord picked two of Saloman's finest, 'Lights Are Changing' and 'He'd Be A Diamond', for her Kill Rock Stars debut, and Teenage Fanclub followed suit with the latter to fill out their 'I Don't Want Control Of You' single. The originals are all here and all worth hearing.

Saloman's DIY approach to his early albums means there are daft spoken word segments, variable sound levels and surprise odds and ends from his record collection peppering these tracks, adding to the charm if not the consistency. The promise of twenty reissues ahead all sounds a bit much, but this mostly excellent sampler is a seductive starter.