One of the lesser-known benefits of the humble turntable is that you can use it to make spin art. The underappreciated art form lends its name to the great New York record label that has just released Fun Trick Noisemaker by The Apples in stereo. I think the legitimate version of spin art involves paint, but you can also do it by poking a paper plate over a record player spindle, turning the player on and dragging markers across the plate. It's just not the same on a CD player, but that hasn't stopped the Apples from making reference to the era of '60s pop on records.
They, like many others in recent years, have taken to putting "stereo" references all over their releases, calling up the days when it was something to make a point out of. (Fans of lo-fi have gone the other way, proudly stating, "Recorded in mono "). So I was thinking the band's style might be easy to pigeonhole, based on the "stereo", and the fact that they thank Odyssey and Oracle by the Zombies and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds on their sleeve. And by the old-fashioned futuristic message at the beginning of the album: "... note the clarity and excellent stereophonic separation between the left and right channels, even after traversing 12,000 miles through space". It was a pleasant surprise to hear them go in an unexpected direction.
A lot is going on in a given song - it sounds as though they have previously orchestrated various sounds to come in at various times. On top of great melodies, something odd and striking usually comes in on the choruses - a jagged guitar line or a dim clarinet, a static whoosh on Tidal Wave or cymbals on She's Just Like Me. Sometimes they sound like My Bloody Valentine flourishes. These sounds might be grating if what was underneath wasn't solid. But the tunes connect, and the lyrics of space, childhood and flying are perfect. On Winter Must Be Cold, in particular, it's like ticking, clockworking systems, domino chains, one sound triggering another. They seem to have mapped it all out, but the fast pace and cheerful demeanor means it's adventurous without being indulgent. It's an album worth looking out for. Also worth noticing is the front cover by Steve Keene. There are actually eight front covers, each in the same interesting style, each taking up a panel of the booklet. From what I can tell, he drew 36 altogether. So keep an eye open for SpinART releases. For that matter, keep an eye open for spin art. The only thing more unjustly forgotten is the Spirograph. - - Kevin Carhart