Monday, May 19, 2008

Data 70/West Norwood Library

I have been checking out Data 70's gorgeous electronica. So far I've only heard the tracks on their myspace site, but it makes me want to track down their Space Loops Volumes One and Two.

They record at their self-styled West Norwood Cassette Library studio, which they describe in a Gutterbreakz interview as being 'located in sunny SE27, London, where the streets have no lightbulbs and the pavements are lined with dog excrement and KFC aftermath. The ‘studio’ itself is a cosy basement with everything we need in one room - if you look carefully, you’ll find boxes of old cassettes waiting to be archived on to microfiche.... Inside it's like a big, orange, womb-like bubble with every creature comfort one could wish for. A home from home - if your home is Saturn'.

Reviewing this at Blissblog, Simon Reynolds mentions that 'West Norwood/West Dulwich was where I lived for about a year when I first moved to London from Oxford. And I recall that the local library's unusually good record section was one of the few redeeming things about the area (at least in 1986; maybe it's improved). That and the excellently serene cemetery'.

Strangely enough I actually worked in that library when I first moved down to London (to Brixton in January 1987) so presumably may have crossed paths with Simon Reynolds. The record collection was indeed excellent thanks largely to a librarian called Tad who was a leading authority on English psychedelia and made sure he ordered lots of obscurities in line with his taste. I remember it was well-stocked with all the Paisley Underground bands (like Green on Red and Rain Parade), Nick Drake etc. As for the original West Norwood cassette library - yes they still had cassettes in libraries in those far off days - I think I've still got a copy somewhere I copied from there of the excellent industrial compilation If you can't please yourself you can't please your soul. In the summer I used to spend my lunchbreaks in West Norwood Cemetery - there really wasn't much else to do. There was a bit of excitement that year when a multi-million pound cocaine dealing operation was found to be operating from there, storing the gear in the catacombs.

I had a couple of weird nights out in West Norwood though - in August 1993 I went to a rave in a gym across the road from the library. Then in 1994/95 I was listening to a South London pirate radio station and they put a call out for a party in West Norwood. I phoned up and got the address (and of course 'a big shout out to Neil and the Brixton massive') and ended up with my girlfriend in the basement of a restaurant on Norwood High Street dancing to garage. Still that Norwood/Croydon scene has kept ticking over the years like a musical micro-climate occasionally erupting into wider London nightlife - with dubstep being the most obvious example.

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