17 February 2015

Mystery Acetate - Nola - Noises

I'm finding it really hard to buy affordable and interesting second-hand records at the moment. The prices are going through the ceiling. Is this a sign that wealth and prosperity are on the horizon again, and that suddenly people everywhere have lots of reserve cash to buy vinyl? Or symptomatic of the fact that vinyl is becoming a sought-after fashion statement? You guess, or perhaps ask an economist.

This acetate is something I lost a bidding war for on ebay - you can see the original listing here (and no doubt the seller bestfootforward has other stuff to come).

The seller included a clip (reproduced below with his kind permission) which really intrigued me. It's essentially faintly psychedelic pop with a heavy undercurrent of folk, featuring very enthusiastic use of echo in places, as well as some buzzing Meek-ish keyboard noises. The naive lyrical subject matter combined with Nola's touchingly heartfelt vocals creates something which, while not classic, is certainly intriguing.

The production dates it as being an early to mid seventies piece of work, by my reckoning, but that's my best estimate. Writer Tim Worthington suggested to me on Twitter that this may well be by Nola York - I suspect he's got a point, but if so, where did this track of hers come from? A slated then unreleased single, an album track, or something that was demoed (this sounds a bit too rich in detail to be a simple demo)? Please do provide me with your answers if you know them.

Also, over on the marvellous Roots and Traces blog a mystery has been rolling for over six months now - namely, who is behind this brilliant acetate of a slightly krautrocky song presumably entitled "Sylvia" (and it's not Focus, before you ask)? Given the production values and professionalism of the performance, my guess would be that it's not a bunch of unknowns cutting a demo, and what a fantastic, soaring piece of work it is too.

It would be good to resolve these two mysteries if possible. Such things bother me at night. No, really. Make it stop.


Graham Clayton said...

Some more information on "Emidiscs" that I came across:

"Bands/Groups/Artistes would either hire private studios, or be given Record Company studio time, in order to make practice, experimental, or demonstration recordings. The finished recording would be on a 'recording industry standard tape'. This was far too wide for a domestic tape recorder and played at a different speed. The performer(s) would be given the options of purchasing copies of their work on Industry Standard Tape, Domestic Reel to Reel Tape, or Acetate Disc. To the best of my knowledge, the only blank acetates used in the UK were Emidiscs. The recording was not 'pressed' onto the acetate, but individually 'cut' by a machine. This resembled a record player that worked in reverse. Putting it simply, sound was transferred from the Master Tape to a diamond cutter that vibrated, and cut the grooves. This was old technology that dated back to Edison recordings at the beginning of the 20th Century. If six copies of a double sided single were required, you had to wait while the machine performed twelve times. This took time and these demo discs were not cheap! I cannot ever recall any of these acetates being given matrix or run-off numbers. The self-adhesive labels were provided separately so that any info could be typed on them. These were always blank except for the printed Emidisc blurb around the rim. Any catalogue numbers were typed on by the performer’s management and were nothing to do with Emidisc or EMI."

23 Daves said...

Cheers for that, Graham - emidisc acetates crop up all over the place and indeed doesn't necessarily mean that the artist had any direct affiliation (or indeed any affiliation at all) with EMI.