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.
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