Review by Jim Barker
Rather than write about something I already knew about, I chose this randomly from the Internet Archive, after searching for 'DIY' 'cassette'. I'd not heard of Bat Lenny or Limpid Green before, but now I'm glad I have.
According to the cover, these tracks were recorded between 1977 and 1990, and the cassette was originally released in 1991. Although that's a good while ago, the sound quality on this release is excellent. There are 10 non-chronological tracks, all very entertaining, eclectic and competently delivered.
The approach and sound are quite typical of the more musical end of the mid-to-late 80s, 4-track, electronic home-taping scene. All tracks have a spoken word element, which isn't always wildly successful, but luckily doesn't take itself too seriously. To me, the tone of voice indicated that this was intended as a fun experiment, rather than an exercise in “important art”.
This makes the whole thing quite relaxing; the mix of old school drum machines, synths, reverby guitar and easily-understood voice, offering up a nicely dream-like but non-threatening mix of what you might call 'DIY electronic easy listening', if that isn't too much of a contradiction. It's a bit queasy, but to people who listen to this kind of thing a lot, it's pretty cozy.
'A Dark Room' is a good example. The martial throbbing of the synth, along with the dream-story spoken word, and what sounds like live percussion, combine to give a warm sound with an edge, a very light edge, of menace.
Some tracks, like 'Follow the Road of Steel' or 'Alien Voices' throw in a bit of voice distortion which ups the spooky level a little, but it's certainly not Whitehouse.
'Alien Voices' sounds a bit like a phone conference between various Doctor Who villains. There's also a short track called 'Buzzards', which is very quirky and candidly amusing.
I'm aware that some of this might come across as a criticism: "oh these guys don't scare me! I'm made of sterner stuff", but the fact is that I really like the 'lighter side' of DIY music, and usually prefer it to the angry 'made-to-offend' stuff. It makes a change to not have to keep turning the stereo down, and hope for a bit more structure. So often listening to DIY electronic music can seem like an endurance test. Maybe I'm just getting old, as I don't welcome that as much as I used to. Either way. this is a nice album, and should easily bear repeated listens.
There are a number of other Bat Lenny releases on the Internet Archive, so those who dig this are set for more fun. The download comes complete with a PDF of the J-card that you can print it out if you choose to dub the music to cassette, for the full experience. A nice touch.
I enjoyed this review and it is well put. I am a long time Bat Lenny fan ( and also a fan of Greg Mathieson's other projects) and hearing more than just one tape is instructive I think because their body of work was substantial. It is high quality, well thought out material recorded beautifully. And as you implied, this could have almost come out today because of thew superior sound.
Thanks Don. I liked this tape a lot, and I will definitely listen to more.
Thanks Jim for that great review! I always cringe a little when I listen to our old stuff, but I figure there are probably a select few out there that might appreciate the spirit of experimentation and naive oddness that we put into it.
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