A Year in the Glitterhouse
By Chris Marling

Mudhoney, Flaming Lips, Tad, Boss Hog, The Walkabouts, Screaming Trees, Afghan Whigs, Mark Lanegan, Bitch Magnet, Codeine, 16 Horsepower, Black Lipstick - the Glitterhouse back catalogue puts those of most other labels to shame.

While the likes of Factory, Rough Trade or Mute may be more obviously placed in the music hall of fame, Glitterhouse arguably beats them all for sustained quality and refusal to compromise. Remember this kids - it was Glitterhouse that introduced Subpop, and so Nirvana et al - to Europe.

2004 was a bit special for them too, as they celebrated 20 years of distributing some of the finest alternative music from Europe and the States around the globe - proof that doing it for love and not money can work, even without number one hits or selling out to the man.

Below is a selection of their output from last year, and a few gems that are on the near horizon. Check them out at www.glitterhouse.com - there's a bunch of free downloads and if you can't find something in this lot to whet your appetite, what the hell are you reading R*E*P*E*A*T for? This is where it begins my friend, in the Glitterhouse. And they're German. Go figure.

To celebrate the 20 years they've also released a compilation called Nevermind - 20 Years in the Glitterhouse. It's a cool £7 (yes, seven quid), is a triple CD box set, and contains more than 50 tracks. Yes - fifty. Anyone who doesn't buy one is frankly an idiot - all the bands reviewed in full below are on it too, so if you think its your cup of tea, you'll get a good introduction to them all too.

Now off to the shops with you.

March 2005
Savoy Grand - People and What They Want

I saw this lot in Nottingham when I was at university, got a demo to review and said "this lot will be huge" in our uni paper - eight years on, and they've just put the finishing touches on their debut full-length album. But you can't rush greatness, and greatness this most certainly is. Beautiful minimalist soundscapes, People and What They Want is a lo-fi masterpiece that will see a well-kept secret explode into the nations consciousness. If Low or Codeine are your favourite band, prepare to have them knocked off their perch by Savoy Grand.

Lampshade - Because Trees Can Fly
There is a strange correlation between being mad and lampshades - don't ask me why, but there is. So when the opening strains of this came through my speakers sounding just like Bjork, I though something was afoot. But apparently not. Lampshade are a Danish/Swedish indie band whose vocalist, Rebekka Maria, sounds just like her. Instead of all that arty nonsense the crazy dumpy one insists on wrapping herself in, this is a wispy, whispered sound that manages to rock as well, in a Slowdive kind of way. Ethereal, shoe-gazing stuff at its best.

Rocket Redux - Rocket From the Tombs

Re-recordings of the classic pre-punk tracks from the short-lived band which included David Thomas and Peter Laughner, later of Pere Ubu fame. Dirty garage rock with suicide lyrics and brimming with graphic punk nihilism, this collection polishes the sound on the classics while never losing the freshness of the 1975 originals.

Portrait of David - These Days are Hard to Ignore
Norwegian lo-fi from White Birch frontman Ola Flottum that drips with melancholy. The silences are as important as the sounds, showing an already beautiful album has a depth of craft not often found. The sure sign of the depth of personal feeling here is that I found myself trying not to hear the lyrics - an album that truly looks you in the eye, daring you to turn away.

Friends of Dean Martinez - Random Harvest
Featuring past and present members of Giant Sand, Calexico and Naked Prey, its hardly surprising this is a bit special. You can't beat a good pedal steel, and Bill Elm is certainly the man in that department. Beautiful filmscapes underpinned with a sinister side, this edgy yet laid back collection of instrumentals is stunningly panoramic yet also personal and soft.

David Thomas & Two Pale Boys - 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest
Pere Ubu frontman Thomas doesn't get any easier to listen to with age - his nor mine. Its more of the same from this strange bunch. Crazy murder music that flits like freeform jazz in blender with b-movie sci-fi screeches thrown in for added effect. If I saw these guys live and he didn't play the whole set in darkness with just a torch shining under is chin, I'd be wholly disappointed.

The Creekdippers - Mystic Theatre & Political Manifest
While recording Mystic Theatre, chief Creekdippers Mark Olson (of Jayhawks fame) and wife Victoria Williams decided to write an album about what he describes as "the criminals in the Whitehouse", and Political Manifest was born. Every time I hear an American slagging off Bush it fills me with hope, so getting an album that shouts it from the rooftops was always going to be a good thing. The music is much better on Mystic Theatre, but the sentiment of Manifest makes it worth owning too, and any fan of traditional American music - from country and bluegrass via gospel and blues to Dylan and Joplin gospel - will love it.

Cary Hudson - Cool Breeze
This solo outing from the Blue Mountain frontman sees him in familiar country rock territory, but there's more quality and diversity here than in previous offerings. The old time blues and folk roots still shine through, but this is more accomplished, balanced and consistent than before - a rough and ready blend of styles that is held together by its honesty and musical mastery.

The Walkabouts - Shimmers
Hard to break down fifteen albums and twenty years into a dozen tracks, so Shimmers is, in the words of Chris Eckman, "some of the towns we have visited and some of the roads we have taken" - an apt description of an interesting compilation that succeeds in capturing the essence of the band. The folk/country rock tag doesn't do them justice, as there's so much more to The Walkabouts, but like this it's a good starting point. Dark, warped, beautiful music.

Woven Hand - Consider the Birds
Incredibly moving and emotional solo release from the 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards. With a voice to stop you dead in your tracks and a piano/violin sound or rare intensity, like Nick Cave but without the funny side. Without doubt one of the most powerful albums I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Helldorado - Director's Cut
The Tarantino of alternative music, Helldorado take the epic storytelling Nick Cave, the edginess of 16 Horsepower and the backdrop of Morricone to create an 18-certificate blockbuster with all the swagger, sex and violence you'd expect. From Dusk 'Til Dawn with a blindfold, but from Norway. Hmm.

These sounds can be ordered from Cambridge's Rhythm Records or look at the Glitterhouse Website