Movietone Peel Sessions

Label
Textile
Released
2nd February 2022

Stephen's Pick

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Format Info

LP + CD

“I can’t quite remember when I first heard Movietone but there’s a very good chance it was on the John Peel Show, and it would probably have been their first single, She Smiled Mandarine Like. A few months later we were touring and the Bristol promoter, Richard King, booked them as one of the supports on what was in retrospect, an amazing bill – with Al Larsen and Comet Gain.

It was clear they were Richard’s friends (he was at the time running Planet, their label) and they went out of their way to make sure that everything was right for us – they were friendly, practical and just completely helpful. They were also original – everything about the way they played, and were as people, was slightly different to everything else. I imagined they were maybe into early Rough Trade and reggae and some African music but they transcended influences in a way that was clearly their normal. They were humble, earthy and exciting.

Although Kate Wright was sort of the front person everyone was bringing something great – Rachel with her melodic, lilting bass playing, and Matt Jones, whose every drum hit sounded perfectly placed, and Matt Elliott, who was still in the group at the time, on slightly spaced out guitar. The next day, travelling up to London, we just couldn’t stop talking about them. And then, after that whenever we played we tried to book Movietone too, by now with Matt’s brother Sam on his star-switch-on guitar. They always set a high bar for us but in the gentlest of ways. It was a privilege to play with them, they were one of the very best experimental pop groups around at the time – Stereolab and Broadcast were fantastic of course, but Movietone were their equal. In hindsight they were an essential link between the Canterbury Scene and music of an unknown future – whenever I hear the Tara Clerkin Trio, who I think are excellent, I can’t help but think of Movietone.

These Peel Sessions run across timelines and personnel but Movietone’s easy ways with rhythm and melody, and an odd otherness, are a constant. The BBC’s Maida Vale studios very much suit them and their sound evolves from simple sources into a cascade of different colours in different seasons. Starting with their second single. Mono Valley, it drifts through landscapes and time eventually arriving at Facing West From California’s Shores.

In these sessions they turn their music inside out, make it new again. And in a way that’s what they’ve done with this beautifully realised record which Kate in particular has put so much thought and hard work into. They’re extraordinary, then, now, always.”

Stephen Pastel, Glasgow, 2021

 

Peel Sessions 1994-1997 collects the complete sessions recorded by Movietone for John Peel’s BBC Radio One show, which have all remained unreleased since their original broadcasts.

Movietone were part of the close-knit, innovative and influential Bristol scene of the 1990s that also included Flying Saucer Attack, Third Eye Foundation and Crescent, members of whom also played in Movietone. Having all met in school, Movietone were formed in 1993 by Kate Wright and Rachel Coe (Flying Saucer Attack), and were soon joined by Matt Jones (Crescent) on drums, Matt Elliott (Third Eye Foundation) on guitar, and Ros Walford on clarinet, with Kate Wright being the main songwriter for the band.

In the spring of 1994, the band played their first gig, signed to Planet Records and recorded their first John Peel Session a few weeks after the release if their debut single ‘She Smiled Mandarine Like.’ News of this first session came at last minute, and the band were unable to contact Matt Elliott as he was on a road protest with no form of communication. Luckily he came back to Bristol the day before the session and everything was okay, and the recording engineers at Maida Vale Studios even let them record the sound of smashing glass in Matt Jone’s Bass drum case for ‘Mono Valley’. Songs on this session are early versions of songs that would be appear on their debut self-titled album, recorded later that year and released in 1995. This first session also includes ‘Stone’, a song by Lynda’s Strange Vacation, the pre-Movietone band that consisted of Kate, Rachel and Matt Elliott.

The second Movietone Peel Session, recorded in January 1996, included early versions of songs from their second album, Day and Night, which was released in 1997 on Domino/Drag City. Two songs from this session had different titles to their album counterparts – ‘The Voice Came Out Of The Box And Dropped Into The Ocean’ became ‘Useless Landscape’ and ‘Chocolate Grinder’ became ‘Night Of The Acacias’. ‘Chocolate grinder’ is fairly different to the album version, with Matt Elliott scratching the B-side of the ‘Mono Valley’ 7″, ‘Under the 3000ft Red Ceiling,’ and also playing the Hammond Organ which was available in the studio (along with two pianos and a wurlitzer). This and the next session also feature frequent collaborator Florence Lovegrove on viola.

The third Peel Session was recorded on the 31st August 1997, the day that the BBC announced Princess Diana’s death. It was pouring with rain, and the day had a strange atmosphere to it; the BBC were not sure whether the Peel Session recording would go ahead, but after many phone calls they said it was on, though Movietone only managed to do three songs, rather than their usual four, as they arrived late! The songs recorded on this final session were really early versions of songs from their third album, The Blossom Filled Streets, which would be released in 2000. ‘Facing West from California’s shores’ (which would become ‘In a Marine Light’) and ‘Hydra’ are very different to the album versions, and the session is particularly unique as it includes Matt Elliott, who left the band by the time the album was recorded and released three years later, as well as Sam Jones (Crescent, The Balky Mule), who, at this time, was not yet a permanent member.

None of these sessions exist online, and prior to this album have never been heard by anyone other than those who listened to the original broadcasts! As Movietone are no longer making music as Movietone, these archive recordings are truly special, and a rare treat for both long-time fans and anyone that has recently been hunting for the band’s sought-after records.

LP:

MONO VALLEY

DARKNESS BLUE GLOW

CHOCOLATE GRINDER

SUMMER

THE VOICE CAME OUT OF THE BOX AND DROPPED INTO THE OCEAN

BLANK LIKE SNOW

HYDRA

THE BLOSSOM FILLED STREETS

FACING WEST FROM CALIFORNIA’S SHORES

 

CD (COMES WITH LP):

MONO VALLEY

HEATWAVE PAVEMENT

DARKNESS BLUE GLOW

STONE

THE VOICE CAME OUT OF THE BOX AND DROPPED INTO THE OCEAN

BLANK LIKE SNOW

CHOCOLATE GRINDER

SUMMER

HYDRA

THE BLOSSOM FILLED STREETS

FACING WEST FROM CALIFORNIA’S SHORES

 

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