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27 December, 2011

Tracks In Snow EP - sold out

Unless any copies turn up unexpectedly having strayed from their allotted boxes (fairly unlikely now), we've sold out of The Wild Swans' Tracks In Snow EP. We'd like to thank everyone who did buy the album, with or without the EP, directly from the Occultation Shop; you've no idea what a difference this makes when running a small label nowadays. Not one of us makes a penny out of Occultation, in fact a number of generous people have put money in with no realistic prospect of seeing it again.

Although the EP is now gone, we do still have copies of all other Occultation releases, including the two earlier singles by The Wild Swans (both are different from the album versions and have non-album 'b' sides), the two Granite Shore singles, the two EPs by The Distractions, the Factory Star album and single and Jonathan Beckett's She's A Vampire EP. We're probably going to have a little New Year sale starting over the next few days, offering special deals... So keep an eye on the Occultation Shop.

Caught In The Carousel

If you visit the excellent US Caught In The Carousel website - as you most certainly should - you'll find their latest issue includes not one, not even two but three pieces on Occultation releases by Dave Cantrell:
1) Factory Star Enter Castle Perilous
A detailed and highly perceptive review of the album together with an interview with Martin Bramah.
2) The Wild Swans The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years
A fine review of the album
3) Factory Star Lucybel / The Granite Shore When Sleep Won't Come
A review of the Christmas single.

We'd like to thank both Dave, who's put a huge amount of work into these pieces, and also editor Alex Green for all their efforts. We can wholeheartedly recommend the site, the standard of the writing is far above so many such sites.

Finally a very Happy New Year from all of us at Occultation Recordings.

03 December, 2011

Crystal Stilts cover Martin Bramah's Low Profile

You wait 20-odd years for a cover of a Martin Bramah song then suddenly two come along all at once...

Brooklyn-based band Crystal Stilts have recorded a version of the Blue Orchids' Low Profile on their new Radiant Door EP. The band are avowed fans of Martin's work and have apparently been performing the song live for a while now, but this is its recorded debut.

Obviously the other Bramah cover currently on release is The Granite Shore's version of Factory Star's When Sleep Won't Come, from this year's trenchant Enter Castle Perilous album, which is available on the 'b' side of the current Factory Star single Lucybel.

It's interesting to note that whereas The Granite Shore's version is a complete reinterpretation of the song Crystal Stilts have stayed very faithful to the Blue Orchids' original, giving both ends of the cover version spectrum.

01 December, 2011

Enter Castle Perilous review on Beatbear

The Italian website "Beatbear" has just reviewed Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album. Below is a very, very rough translation.

"Artist: Factory Star

Album: Enter Castle Perilous

Label: Occultation Recordings

Year: 2011

Download the album:

Enter Castle Perilous - Factory Star

The British label Occultation Recordings are noted for seeking out urgent, rather unfiltered, immediate sounds. If you want proof, try their recent releases, such as the Wild Swans album, and Enter Castle Perilous by Factory Star (released on LP and CD a few months ago) is full confirmation of this.

Factory Star was put together by Martin Bramah, co-founder of the crucial post-punk band The Fall (an institution popular even in Italy) and he also formed the Blue Orchids, an extraordinary band who burned briefly but splendidly with the psychedelic post-punk of The Greatest Hit (released at the time by Rough Trade, a guarantee of quality). Martin founded Factory Star in 2008, looking for a “fresh new start”. The band currently also includes Hop Man Jr, Chris Dutton (bass) and Tom Lewis (drums).

Enter Castle Perilous is an urgent album. Produced by Nick Halliwell, recorded in three days and mixed that same week, every track puts across a live flow of energy which is reminiscent of The Fall, the toughness of punk (in the sense of a direct, free-speaking spirit, like The Clash) and sick blues driven by Hammond and always guitar-oriented sounds.

The opening “Angel Steps” is a fine example of rough indie with a vein of Hammond organ running through it and spoken-word sections propping up the central chorus every now and again. The slow advance of “Big Mill” is made even dirtier by Martin’s stinging vocals. A few tracks are leaps into the past (such as “Cheetham Bill” and its interwoven guitar and organ), others are actually blues with a modern sensibility (such as the anguished “Black Comic Book”), others are post-punk which remind you straightaway of original punk (listen to “The Fall of Great Britain”).

Enter Castle Perilous is an honest, sincere album - it makes no attempt to wheedle or caress. It prefers to be tackled head on, scraping away. Give it a listen if you’re looking for something genuinely pithy.

Luigi Zampi"

25 November, 2011

Factory Star single launch

We've just heard that Factory Star will be playing at Gulliver's in Manchester on 15th December to mark the launch of the new Lucybel Christmas single. More details as we get them.

22 November, 2011

Lucybel 7"s arrived

The Occultation Christmas single, featuring Factory Star's Lucybel with The Granite Shore's version of Martin Bramah's When Sleep Won't Come on the 'b' side, arrived this morning. We will now be posting out advance orders starting today, hopefully. Many thanks to everyone who did pre-order and if you didn't, now's the time, the perfect Christmas present...

21 November, 2011

Vote for The Wild Swans in the Slicing Up Eyeballs Readers' Poll

The Wild Swans' The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is one of the contenders for Slicing Up Eyeballs' "albums of the year" category, so perhaps some of you might like to vote for it? We think the Factory Star album should be on the list too but you can't have everything... You can either click on the image above or else here.

We're enormously proud of both albums we released in 2011 and 2012 will see no let-up with The Distractions set to release their follow-up to 1980's Nobody's Perfect a mere 32 years later - frustratingly no, that's not a record, although it's fairly close. There will also be a Granite Shore album and all sorts of other things...

05 November, 2011

Deck The Halls Of Castle Perilous

We are now accepting advance orders for the first-ever Occultation Christmas single, Factory Star's Lucybel, details here. We expect to have vinyl and CDs in stock in approximately a fortnight but you'll get free MP3s as soon as your orders go through. Although this is a Factory Star release, the 'b' side features a cover version of one of the stand-out tracks from 2011's Enter Castle Perilous album, When Sleep Won't Come, recorded by label-mates The Granite Shore. Both tracks can be previewed on the web page or see earlier posts for other options. We're doing this at a special Christmas introductory price of just £5 and for that you get not just a beautiful 7" single but also a CD (both in full-colour sleeves) featuring the two tracks from the single along with two tracks from the Factory Star album, which we see as one of 2011's most important releases. Bound for glory...

22 October, 2011

When Sleep Won't Come

Here's an equally rough-and-ready (OK, it's the same one) video for The Granite Shore's version of Factory Star's "When Sleep Won't Come", the original of which appears on their Enter Castle Perilous album released earlier this year.


Here's a very rough and ready stills video for the Factory Star Christmas single, using some of the artwork. Will post the Granite Shore track on the 'b' side soon...

10 October, 2011

Factory Star: Lucybel 7" sleeve

Here's the front cover of the new Factory Star single, Lucybel (It's Christmas Time). We can now announce that the 'b' side will feature a version of Factory Star's When Sleep Won't Come recorded by label-mates The Granite Shore. More information to follow over the next few weeks, we expect to have the singles early-mid-November but we'll keep you posted.

02 October, 2011

Factory Star Christmas Single

Occultation Recordings are proud to announce our first ever assault on the coveted Christmas number one slot with the release of Factory Star's Lucybel (It's Christmas Time) - MAB7DB014. More details will follow soon.

01 October, 2011

"More about Liverpool than any other [album] ever recorded."

There's a review of a recent Echo and the Bunnymen gig in Glasgow on the Quietus website and, interestingly, near the end come the two paragraphs below:

"[...] perhaps Sergeant is pondering throwing his lot in with former Bunnymen bassist Les Pattinson. He came out of musical retirement to join a re-ignited version of their early eighties support act, The Wild Swans. Currently knocking them dead in the Philippines, it should be remembered that the sole Wild Swans release during their original, all too brief life-span, was bank-rolled and produced by original Bunnymen drummer, the late Pete de Freitas.
Sergeant has played live with The Wild Swans already in Liverpool, and also features on the band's just-released album, The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years, an album which possibly says more about Liverpool than any other recorded."
We couldn't possibly comment, of course...

29 September, 2011

Italian review of the Wild Swans album

There's a review of the Wild Swans album on the Italian Beatbear site here.

Below is a VERY rough translation into English (my Italian isn't totally fluent so it may be a little free in places and clunky in others...):

"The Wild Swans set off on their journey through the post-punk era in Liverpool in 1980 when Paul Simpson left the Teardrop Explodes (one of the brightest stars in the post-punk firmament). Although they’ve never had a hit in the UK, they’ve become a cult band in various countries over the years and members have left to form bands such as the Lotus Eaters, who produced a kind of dreamy pop which still had links to their origins. The group retained close ties to the Liverpool scene (and its insistence upon rising above pompous London artists) they’ve worked with bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen. Having split up on a number of occasions, Simpson got them playing again in 2009 and this now brings us to The Coldest Winter For a Hundred Years, released by Occultation Recordings and featuring Bunnymen stalwart Will Sergeant.

This is a delicate pearl which is at the same time soft and melancholic, leaning more towards indie folk sounds with electric interludes than the darkness of the post-punk sound, leaving just its decadent attitude. The opening “Falling to Bits” is ravishing, with the gentle arpeggios of the piano accompaniment. The voice is delicate and demands to be heard because “this town is falling to bits, and I don’t like it”. On “Liquid Mercury” an electric sound pushes its way to the fore and the guitars sketch out a folk-rock made up of peaks and troughs; this is a melancholic track which only begins to leave its mark after many listens. “Chloroform”, meanwhile, is a piece of very elegant Brit-pop, the guitars at the beginning give way to Simpson's expressive vocals which are highly reminiscent of Al Stewart - a very beautiful, intense song. The album continues with a series of acoustic and electric ballads; “English Electric Lightning” is particularly striking with its aching nocturnal visions and heart-warming piano. Things only change with a few interludes such as the syncopated “Underwater” which is rockier and weaker than some of the other tracks. Then eventually we come to slow, atmospheric songs such as “Glow in the Dark”, because “there’s not enough time to get what I want in this world”.

All things considered there isn’t a lot of darkness in this comeback, the dominant colours are the pastel shades of melancholy, the sweetness of remembrance and the restraint of the music and vocals, embracing the hints of electric indie folk. We should be grateful to the Wild Swans for this tender magic, offering us an oasis and some respite from the cynicism all around us.

Luigi Zampi

The Wild Swans on Eat Bulaga (again)

There's now a better quality, longer version of the admittedly somewhat surreal Wild Swans appearance on Filipino TV.

28 September, 2011

WILD SWANS LIVE @ eat bulaga

Some footage of the Wild Swans performing "Bringing Home The Ashes" on Filipino TV.

The Wild Swans in the Philippines

The Wild Swans are now in the Philippines preparing for concerts in Cebu and Manila.

15 September, 2011

When Sleep Won't Come

A video by Jim Donnelly in collaboration with Martin Bramah.

14 September, 2011

Wild Swans album review on Popnews French website

There's a fine review of the Wild Swans album on the French Popnews website here. A rough translation follows:

"Could 2010 be The Wild Swans’ year?", we wrote – not without a hint of irony - in the "They’re Back" part of our review of the year in 2009. Back from the limbo in which they’d been floating for years, the Liverpool group had shown signs of being ready to spread their wings again [Translator’s note: there’s a play on words in the French here but it’s untranslatable] a few months earlier in the form of a superb double-sided single, "English Electric Lightning". Though almost obsolete, the format was obviously reminiscent of their main claim to fame, 1982’s "Revolutionary Spirit" which should’ve propelled them into the indie Premier League alongside their fellow-Scousers Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Instead, though, The Wild Swans embarked upon an exemplary non-career, not releasing an album until 1988 and disappearing off the radar a few years later, to near-general indifference. The compilations of their tiny discography include one released by Warner [Translator’s note: this is actually a pirated compilation, not released by the real Warner Bros.] in the Philippines (they were popular over there, strangely enough, and they’re actually going to be playing there soon), so they somehow always seemed very far away.

OK, so we were a year out but that hardly matters with a group that’s been quiet for two decades, especially as The Coldest Winter in a Hundred Years is not of its time in any real sense; far more than a nostalgic record, it’s one which makes nostalgia its main subject matter. The title itself is the same as the ‘b’ side of "English Electric Lightning", a long, magnificent spoken-word track in which Paul Simpson droned out his memories of Liverpool in the early 1980s with a cast including Pete de Freitas of the Bunnymen, Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes, Pete Burns, the future Dead or Alive frontman and more. “Chloroform” features the singer’s grandfather and father, who fought in the First and Second World War respectively. As for “My Town”, the title and the chorus of “It’s over now, it’s over now” speak for themselves.

However, rather than wallowing, Simpson (the founder and only original member of the group) seems to be drawing new strength from these resurgences of the past. The parts of the blend which made “Revolutionary Spirit” such an extraordinary song – in spite of a botched mix – are all there, but it’s as though they’ve settled and become clearer, the haughty rush of youth giving way to the serenity of a man with nothing left to prove. The strong – even quite astonishing - melodies (“Liquid Mercury”, “In Secret”, “English Electric Lightning”, “When Time Stood Still”, etc.), the guitars which are proud and triumphant but somehow still manage to instil a sense of melancholy – as Maurice Deebank used to do with Felt - the backing vocals and airy keyboard parts, all prevent any pathos and bloating. Then obviously there’s Paul Simpson‘s voice, which has now been stripped of any new wave mannerisms, the lyricism more contained, but still just as lived-in, and it has never before been heard to such great effect. He believes that The Wild Swans have finally come up with their masterpiece. We’d certainly agree that, together with Peter Astor and The Feelies, they have certainly given us the worthiest comeback of the year.

12 September, 2011

Factory Star and Wild Swans reviews on Freq

If you care to visit the excellent Freq website, you'll find superb reviews of both Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous and The Wild Swans' The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years.

The Wild Swans album is also reviewed on the always opinionated (which, as its stated aim is criticism, is a compliment) Collapse Board site, you can read that one here. Although we have to say we don't agree with all the points made in this piece - why on earth should Englishmen not write about England? If we had a go at the Scots, Welsh or Irish (either side of the border) on these grounds we'd be accused of all sorts - the piece is well-argued and written and it's good to be made to think about such things. If I get more time I might delve further into this subject... (but don't hold your collective breath...)

01 September, 2011

Enter Castle Perilous review in The Morning Star

Here's a review of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous from The Morning Star.

29 August, 2011

Enter Castle Perilous lyrics

As a number of people have asked us about the lyrics to Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album, we had a word with Mr Bramah who duly obliged. So if you'd like to download a PDF containing the full lyrics to all ten songs on the album you can either visit the album's page or simply click here.

26 August, 2011

Enter Castle Perilous review in Rock De Lux

The new (July-August) edition of the Spanish music magazine Rock De Lux features a rave review of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album by highly-respected journalist Kiko Amat. The original review, in Spanish, is shown above with a rough English translation below.

"Enter Castle Perilous"

VINTAGE POST-PUNK. Occultation is a kamikaze label whose mission in life is to put out all those records that only seem to matter to an incredibly select minority. They’re currently home to The Wild Swans - perhaps the most elegant, legendary (and underground) of all 1980s Liverpool groups but, not content with that, the label has now released the first LP by Factory Star, the new group led by Martin Bramah. You all know who he is and what he does in his spare time: as a founder member of The Fall, together with Una Baines and Mark E. Smith, he was responsible for the way that group sounded, then later went on to lead the astounding Blue Orchids (whose two singles and LP for Rough Trade are essential).

So then, Factory Star sound exactly as you’d hope a group led by someone with that kind of credentials would sound. Sometimes they produce the archetypal Bramah sound, i.e. jinxed, oppressive sixties garage of the "Green Fuzz" or "Born Loser" variety with a post-punk psychopathic Fall feel (listen to "Angel Steps", for instance). At other times things get even darker and end up not a million miles away from the homicidal desolation of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ("Big Mill" or "Cheetham Bill) and at others they go back to the Albion of The Kinks (dogged by bad luck and an air of the Dole queue, as on "Away Dull Care" or "The Fall Of Great Britain). As if this were not enough, Bramah rounds the record out with some pieces which are almost recited and reminiscent of that working men’s club vaudeville which was such a big influence on the likes of Ian Dury and John Cooper Clarke ("Black Comic Book" or "When Sleep Won't Come"). It hardly needs saying that he does this with far more style than all of those other groups who have been imitating The Fall since the day he invented them. Oh, and on top of everything they recorded the whole album in just three days. Buy it.

23 August, 2011

Wild Swans album review in MOJO

The latest issue of MOJO magazine includes an enthusiastic four-star review of the new Wild Swans album which reads as follows:

"The Wild Swans

The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years

Ex-Teardrop Explodes man's first in 20 years.

The De Quincey-like, anti-consumerist visions of modern Liverpool expressed in the withering My Town - "It's limping tired, it's dead, it's over" - might not win Paul Simpson any friends on the city's tourist board, but the founder Teardrop Explodes organist's reactivated Wild Swans, whose mighty 1982 single The Revolutionary Spirit called time on the Zoo label, are hardly concerned with modernity, spiritually residing in a Brian's Diner/Eric's post-punk Liverpol of the mind. Now featuring guitar poltergeist Mike Mooney from Spiritualized, Les Pattinson of the Bunnymen and Ricky Maymi from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, their first album since 1990 is part band memoir, part call for artistic renewal, delivered via chiming rock anthemics with pop appeal and, as on English Electric Lightning and closer The Bluebell Wood, more than a hint of the world beyond where the past still lives. Transporting.

Ian Harrison

13 August, 2011

Factory Star at FAC251

Above is a video of Factory Star performing When Sleep Won't Come, one of the key tracks from their debut album Enter Castle Perilous released on Occultation earlier this year, live in Preston a few weeks ago.

The band will be playing live at FAC251 in Manchester next Saturday, 20th August.

24 July, 2011

Reduced prices on back catalogue for a limited period

For a limited period we're offering specially reduced prices on much of the Occultation back catalogue as we could use the space and also a bit of cash in preparation for the official UK and US release of the Wild Swans album.

So if you'd like to complete your Occultation collection now's the time to visit the Occultation Shop....

Factory Star "New Chemical Light"

Here's some fantastic footage of Factory Star performing New Chemical Light from their album Enter Castle Perilous last weekend in Preston.

16 July, 2011

Reduced Factory Star prices for limited period

Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous is starting to get some of the attention it deserves, Angel Steps appeared on the MOJO playlist last month, we've started to see a lot of posts on social networking sites, the LP made the top 10 bestsellers on Louder Than War... This is a record that we're enormously proud of so, for a limited period, we're offering reduced prices on all versions, though the real bargain remains the LP+CD version at just £15+P&P (that's just one lot of P&P even though it's two items). More details on our ECP page.

Wild Swans in The Guardian

The Guardian newspaper included a piece on Glow In The Dark from the new Wild Swans album click here. The piece was published on the paper's website on Thursday and in the print version yesterday (Friday 15/7/11). It reads:
"The Wild Swans Glow in the Dark The Merseysiders' 1982 Zoo Records single The Revolutionary Spirit was one of the classic singles of the post-punk era. Founder Paul Simpson has spent much of the intervening period trying to get over the band's subsequent implosion and relocate the "original spirit" of the group. From the forthcoming album, The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years, this is stunning, swoonsome guitar pop like they never went away. Dave Simpson" [no relation!]

Tracks In Snow EP - final copies

We're down to the last few copies of the Wild Swans' Tracks In Snow EP. This is a companion piece to the Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years album featuring three songs recorded at the album sessions but which do not appear on it in any form. We've just unearthed a box containing a few more of these but once these are gone that'll be it.

The Bluebell Wood on The Word cover-mount CD

The Bluebell Wood, the glorious call-to-arms which closes the new Wild Swans album The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years, appears on one of the two cover-mount CDs given away with the new (dateline August, street date mid-July) edition of The Word magazine. Click here for details.

07 July, 2011

Factory Star gig with the Monochrome Set

On the night before their Newcastle gig (see previous post), Factory Star will be supporting The Monochrome Set in Preston. More info here.

Factory Star gig in Newcastle

More Occultation-related gig info: Factory Star play the Cumberland Arms Beer Fest in Newcastle on 17th July 2011. More info here.

06 July, 2011

Jonathan Beckett gig

Jonathan Beckett has a gig, with Sarah Thomson & The Beautiful Word, at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on 21/8/11. More details available here.

02 July, 2011

Factory Star in MOJO playlist

The new issue of MOJO magazine has Angel Steps, the opening track from Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album in the Playlist. The piece reads: "Garage rock with H.P. organ from early Fall member Martin Bramah; features that poltergeists-in-the-industrial-estate flava familiar to admirers of Live At The Witch Trials. Find it: Enter Castle Perilous (Occultation)"

15 June, 2011

Factory Star French interview

There's an interview with Martin Bramah of Factory Star on the French Inside Rock webzine here. For anyone amongst you who doesn't speak French, below is a rough-and-ready translation by yours truly of the introduction, then the original interview in English. Whereas Mark E. Smith refuses to promote his new album, The Fall’s co-founder and guitarist, Martin Bramah, was happy to answer my questions. After leaving the group in 1979, he founded Blue Orchids, releasing The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain) in 1982. The group then broke up several times until they released a handful of albums in the 2000s, including the second album The Sleeper, recorded in 1993. After putting out the Battle Of Twisted Heel solo album, Martin Bramah is back with a new group called Factory Star, whose first album, Enter Castle Perilous, is somewhat reminiscent of the lo-fi psychedelic pop of the Blue Orchids. The record, which still has that rudimentary organ dominating the melodies, came out on the Occultation label in April 2011 and obviously it talks about Manchester.

Inside Rock
: First of all, could you talk about your childhood in Manchester, your desire of doing music and The Fall's early years?
Martin Bramah: When I was a child I was completely unaware that I was a child. I was born in Manchester on Sept 18th 1957. As a small child I lived in Droylsden and Openshaw with my grandma during the week and with my great grandma and mother at the weekends. I didn’t know my father, but I was told he was a bass player in a jazz band… I didn’t like music until I heard The Rolling Stones on the TV… When I reached the age of seven my mother married and we moved to Prestwich, to start a new life.
In Prestwich I played in the woods until I reached puberty, then my parents bought a record player and I discovered Marc Bolan and David Bowie and music became the only thing that made sense (or didn’t have to make sense) in my world . As long as I can remember, I had always painted but I began, at this time, to write words and put them to music and I found that this made better pictures in my mind – I had no training.
In my mid-teens I met Mark E. Smith and we became good friends. We shared ideas about music, books and films mostly – and we came to want to start a band, a band that would be as cool as anything from New York, but totally British/Mancunian – I think Lou Reed said something like: “To imbue the pop song with the intelligence of the novel.” That was our starting point. The Fall was a communal thing to start off with. We were as much influenced by the hippy underground as by the punk movement. Our first British tour was a free tour, with “Here And Now”. And so it goes…

Inside Rock: You played with many artists such as Craig Gannon, Phillip Toby Toman, Stephen Garvey, and obviously with some ex-Fall members. It's like Blue Orchids was the mancunian musician nest. What was it like playing in Manchester at this time? What are your best memories? Have you heard of John Cooper Clarke lately?
Yes, I have played with lots of friends who have gone on to do other things. Manchester, although a city, is still small enough to be like a village for the musicians and music scene here, so we all get to know of each other quite quickly, it seems. I’ve know JCC, on and off, for many years now – the latest thing I heard him do is a voice-over for a Dominos Pizza advert!

Inside Rock: You also met Nico. How did you come to play with her?
MB: I was introduced to her by Alan Wise a local music promoter. She wanted to live in Manchester for awhile and was looking for like-minded musicians to play with. I was lucky enough to have my name put forward and we got on very well, so we started to make music together.

Inside Rock
: With hindsight, how do you explain that there is a gap of 20 years between the Blue Orchids two first records?

Well there was only a ten year gap in recording the first and second albums – but I lost interest – so our second album sat on a shelf for a further ten years.

Inside Rock: When and how was Factory Star born?

: Factory Star was born in November 2008. I wanted to make a fresh start and break the old patterns. I saw it as a chance to reassess my music and move forwards with new inspiration.

Inside Rock: How did you compose and record Enter Castle Perilous?

I wrote the songs on Enter Castle Perilous after returning to Manchester from a self-imposed exile in London. It is full of new impressions of the city I grew up in. I played all the songs live for quite some time to help breath some life into them, before attempting to record them. When we finally came to record the songs, I wanted to keep the urgency that we had developed as a band so we worked quickly in the studio, recording the whole album in three days, playing “live” in the studio as if in a club.

Inside Rock: The Blue Orchids sound was very particular, as if you played some short atmospheric songs live, and recorded as it is. Something similar in Enter Castle Perilous can be noticed. Is that important for you to capture that kind of genuine charm?

It is very important for me to capture the moment. I like to hear people interacting with each other. I don’t much like the sound of computers regimenting the human spirit. I love the unintended discords and happy accidents that come from working quickly and trusting your fellow musicians. I enjoy putting people under pressure while keeping the atmosphere light… hopefully!

Inside Rock: Are there any new artists performing these days that you're excited about?
I am very much enjoying The Crystal Stilts at the moment – I like the way they sound as if they’re not trying too hard – a kind of Zen nonchalance maybe?

Inside Rock: What are your hobbies except for music?

Day dreaming… I like to read a lot and I paint sometimes and I have also studied the Japanese art of Aikido for the past twenty years, which has been very important to me in many ways – oh, and I like to walk whenever I can.

01 June, 2011

Tracks In Snow EP now here

We received copies of The Wild Swans' Tracks In Snow EP (DIONE7DB013) today and rather lovely they are too. You don't really get the full effect of the colour in these pictures. They're shrinkwrapped for extra... whatever it is that shrinkwrapping gives more of. We are now starting to ship the very first orders but please bear with us as we've been swamped and it's going to take a while to get them all organised and out. We still have some copies of this pressing of the EP left but we'll probably not have them for much longer. We might re-press... Then again we might not, we don't even know ourselves at this point. So to avoid disappointment, etc. etc.

29 May, 2011

Another Factory Star review

There's another glowing review of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album here.

28 May, 2011

Wild Swans "Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years" CDs

We now have the CDs of the Wild Swans "Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years" album, pictured above. Top to bottom: lyric booklet, inner sleeve and CD, outer sleeve; right: shrinkwrapped CDs.

Once the "Tracks In Snow" EP arrives in about a week we'll start posting them out to everyone who's ordered, earliest orders first. Please be patient as we've had far more orders than expected but you should all have had free MP3s. Incidentally, we've already sold around 2/3 of our initial allocation of EPs so if you want one best get in quickly. There's no guarantee that we'll have any more of these, although the band will have some to buy together with the album at dates on their UK tour starting in a couple of weeks' time.

21 May, 2011

More Factory Star dates

We've just been told that Factory Star will be out playing live in support of their recent Occultation album Enter Castle Perilous in June and July and three dates have been confirmed:

9th June Gullivers, Manchester

16th July Preston (with The Monochrome Set, venue tbc)

17th July Newcastle (venue tbc)

More info - especially venues - to follow when we get it.

20 May, 2011

Advance ordering for The Wild Swans album.

We are now taking orders for the forthcoming Wild Swans album, The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years and the exclusive Tracks In Snow EP. We expect to receive the CDs from our manufacturers over the next week or two and then we'll be posting them out in the order in which people paid for them.

Details on how to order here. They are going very, very fast indeed.

18 May, 2011

When Time Stood Still

Here's another preview from the forthcoming Wild Swans album. Ordering will hopefully start in a few days' time.

17 May, 2011

The Wild Swans: Chloroform

Here's a first sample track from the forthcoming Wild Swans album.

12 May, 2011

Wild Swans "Tracks In Snow" EP details

Above is the sleeve for the Wild Swans Tracks In Snow EP (Occultation DIONE7DB013). This is a companion piece to the forthcoming album The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years (DIONE7DB012).

Here is the tracklist:
1. Dark Times (2:47) 2. Disintegrating (2:58) 3. Poison (2:28)

None of these tracks appear on the album itself.

The EP will only be available to order together with the album from the Occultation Shop and at gigs on the band's UK tour in June - there are no current plans for it to be released separately.

As you can see, the sleeve artwork is a variant on that for the album, again featuring Ged Quinn's painting entitled Camp.

Wild Swans album first details

Above is the sleeve to the forthcoming Wild Swans album, The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years.

Here is the tracklist:

1. Falling To Bits (2:11) 2. Liquid Mercury (album version) (2:58) 3. Chloroform (3:28) 4. In Secret (3:56) 5. English Electric Lightning (album version) (5:53) 6. When Time Stood Still (2:28) 7. Underwater (3:54) 8. Intravenous (2:34) 9. Glow In The Dark (3:42) 10. My Town (3:28) 11. Lost At Sea (3:36) 12. The Bluebell Wood (4:26)

Please note that the versions of English Electric Lightning and Liquid Mercury which appear on the album are not the same as those released on earlier Occultation singles DIONE7D9001 (a completely different mix) and DIONE7D9003 (the album has the full, unedited song). The singles are still available to purchase in the Occultation Shop.

The album is now in production and we're just waiting for the manufacturers to give us a delivery date, once we have that we'll send out an e-mail to everyone on our mailing list and start taking advance orders.

Anyone ordering from us will also have the opportunity to buy a special package featuring both the album and the Tracks In Snow companion EP - more details on that will follow soon but it contains three otherwise unissued songs recorded during the Coldest Winter sessions. It will be available only from Occultation, to buy together with the album, and at gigs on the band's UK tour in June.

We hope to do a vinyl version of the album at a later date but there simply wasn't the time (or resources) to do this in time for the tour so the physical version will be CD-only at least to start with. An MP3 version will also be available from this website only, at least initially.

Once again, sleeve artwork features a painting by original Wild Swans keyboard player Ged Quinn. The CD will be in a similar format to the recent Factory Star album, with both outer and inner sleeves but also a 16-page full-colour lyric booklet.

More news to follow over the next few days, as we build up to the opening of advance ordering which we'd hope will be over the next couple of weeks or so.

07 May, 2011

Vivonzeureux review of "Enter Castle Perilous"

There's an excellent French review of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous on the Vivonzeureux website, if you speak French you can read the original here. If you don't, I'll post my own translation below:

"It all started three or four weeks ago with a really nice e-mail, in French, from the independent label Occultation. After this blog (briefly) mentioned the Blue Orchids, a Rough Trade new wave group of the very early 1980s, they drew my attention to the forthcoming release of the first album by Factory Star, the new project led by Martin Bramah who, together with the organist Una Baines, was one of the founder members of The Fall. In 1979 they were also among the first to jump Mark E. Smith’s turbulent ship to found The Blue Orchids.

A nice letter deserves a friendly reply so, after I’d taken a look at how the record was presented on the Occultation website, I decided that I’d write about a Blue Orchids record sometime soon, and that’d then give me the opportunity to announce the release of the Factory Star album.

Except that in the meantime I thought I might as well download the tracks from the album from the link Occultation had given me and I loved it so much I decided I’d much rather write about this new record rather than an old one!

Like Longest Meow by Bobby Bare Jr, Enter Castle Perilous was recorded and mixed - mainly live in the studio - in just a few days and the two records share the same fresh, energetic qualities. Factory Star’s line-up is basic, with Martin Bramah on vocals and guitar, a bass player, a drummer and an organist. This rather prominent organ provides a direct link to the sound of the Blue Orchids. The singing and the structure of some of the songs also allow a line to be drawn all the way back to The Fall (I reckon Bramah is having a bit of fun when he leaves a long silence after the word "Fall" as he sings "This is a warning to you all, This is the story of the fall — of Great Britain" on The Fall Of Great Britain.

One of the other reference points which came to me on first listen was Jonathan Fire*Eater, and the comparison also holds true with the group that came after it, The Walkmen - except that I recently listened to Lisbon, their latest album, and I find even Factory Star’s weakest tracks (although the more I listen to the record the fewer of these I can find) far more exciting than anything on The Walkmen’s album. I’d be hard-pushed to pick out any favourites from the ten tracks, but if I did then Black Comic Book, New Chemical Light and Angel Steps would surely be among them. The organ on Stone Tumbling Stream and Arise Europa! remind me slightly of The Stranglers.

If I had to pick a fault, the thing I like the least is the group’s name, but when you see it right next to the album’s title it’s almost like a literary way of conjuring up an image of a worker entering his factory, and the fact that there’s a song entitled Big Mill and the line "There used to be a factory there" appears in the next track, Away Dull Care, almost seem to back this interpretation up.

So this was a fantastic surprise and a very fine new release for 2011!

Three songs can be heard on the Occultation website, where the record is on sale as an LP, CD or MP3s."

Thanks to Pol Dodu for the review and permission to translate it.

05 May, 2011

A few snippets...

1) Marc Riley played When Sleep Won't Come from Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album on his BBC6 show on Tuesday evening.

2) All advance orders for the LP and LP+CD versions of the album have now been posted, we just have to catch up on one or two orders which have come in this week, those should be in the post by tomorrow (Friday 6/5/11).

3) We should be able to announce some details of the forthcoming Wild Swans album
The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years fairly soon. Artwork will be posted soon as well...

4) There will also be a Wild Swans EP entitled
Tracks In Snow, a companion piece to the album featuring three exclusive tracks recorded at the same sessions but not included on the final album. This will be available to buy only from The Occultation Shop and from the band on their forthcoming UK tour, there are currently no plans for a retail release of this EP.

More to follow

29 April, 2011

Factory Star at Sounds From The Other City

Just a reminder that Factory Star are headlining the Sounds From The Other City festival at the Crescent in Manchester on Sunday 1st May. Copies of their Occultation debut album Enter Castle Perilous will be available to purchase. The band are expected on-stage at around 10.15 p.m., although the event gets underway in the afternoon.

The first few orders for the LP (and/or LP+CD) version of the album were posted out yesterday afternoon. More will go out over the next few days, although this weekend is a four-day one in the UK as someone or other's getting married today (Friday 29/4) and then Monday's a bank holiday but we'll be getting all remaining orders out as quickly as possible early next week.

28 April, 2011

More pictures of the Enter Castle Perilous vinyl

Yes, they really are rather lovely...

Factory Star Vinyl

This morning we finally took delivery of the vinyl version of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album. The first few orders will go in the post this afternoon. Please note that, as there is a long (four-day) bank holiday weekend in the UK, during which post offices are closed, most orders will go out next week. Someone or other's getting married, apparently.

The vinyl edition is a thing of great beauty. The CDs were lovely but the artwork, especially the gorgeous photos by Jim Donnelly on the front and back, really comes into its own at 12 inches. From next week all orders should be shipping more or less immediately.

19 April, 2011

Factory Star launch gig photos

Thanks to Jim Donnelly (the man responsible for the images on the Enter Castle Perilous sleeve) for some photos of the gig Factory Star played in Manchester last Friday to launch the album. Click here to see more.

14 April, 2011

Factory Star review on Vital Weekly

There's another review of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous, this time from the Dutch Vital Weekly review round-up website. It reads thus:

Listening to music all day is of course a great thing, and obviously something I like to do. But of course playing experimental music of a serious nature all day is not always the most easy task, but thank god for labels like Static Caravan or Occultation, which deliver pop music on my doorstep. Martin Bramah, erstwhile of The Fall and The Blue Orchids, formed in 2008 a new band, Factory Star. A simple line up of Bramah on vocals and guitar, along with bass, drums and keyboards. It sounds like a live recording actually and according to the press release it was more or less recorded without many overdubs. A great record it is of what the biz calls 'urgent' music. Demanding music, uplifting and dark. Especially I like the addition of the organ here. Partly because I like organs in popmusic, and here it reminds me of some of The Doors or The Stranglers, although less persistent with Factory Star, but it gives the music a great drive. Slightly psychedelic but with the urgency of a garage rock band. Excellent counter-point of this week. (FdW)

12 April, 2011

Interview with Martin Bramah of Factory Star on Penny Black Music

There's an interview with Martin Bramah of Factory Star, discussing the band's Occultation debut, Enter Castle Perilous, on the Penny Black Music website here. Just a reminder that the band will be playing at the Salutation, off Oxford Road in Manchester this Friday, 15th April - don't miss it if you're in North-Western England.

07 April, 2011

Factory Star review on Your Heart Out

There's a genuinely excellent review of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous on Kevin Piece's Your Heart Out website here.

02 April, 2011

Factory Star Manchester date

For those of you in North West England, Factory Star are playing at the Salutation, off Oxford Road in Manchester on 15th April, in support of their debut album, Enter Castle Perilous.

The band will also be headlining the Helmets For Men At The Crescent festival in Manchester on Sunday 1st May.

Further dates to be announced.

01 April, 2011

Factory Star Enter Castle Perilous 30-sec excerpts

We've just posted a rough-and-ready video to YouTube featuring the first 30 seconds from each of the ten tracks which make up Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous. Special prices in the Shop for a limited period.

31 March, 2011

Entry to Castle Perilous...

We are now accepting orders for Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album. We'd expected to have both vinyl and CD by now but there's been a hold-up (circumstances beyond our control) on the vinyl, which we're now told will be 2-3 weeks, but possibly sooner. As some small compensation, we're offering reduced pricing on orders for the album, especially the vinyl and vinyl+CD versions, and you will, of course, receive free MP3s as soon as your purchase goes through. We think you'll find the album's worth the wait.

30 March, 2011

Wild Swans Tour and Album


We've had confirmation of the following UK tour dates for The Wild Swans:
June 7th: Glasgow Captains Cabin
June 8th: Manchester Ruby Lounge
June 9th: Bristol Thekla
June 10th: London Bush Hall
June 11th: Liverpool Stanley Theatre

There may be further dates still to be added.
We're now working at a frantic pace to get their album, The Coldest Winter In A Hundred Years, out in at least one format by then. More news on this will follow, the album is being mixed and artwork designed as we write.

20 March, 2011

Factory Star Enter Castle Perilous CDs

We took delivery of the CD edition of Factory Star's Enter Castle Perilous album this weekend, a couple of photos appear above. As you can see, they're in a special Occultation design, heavy-duty outer wallets (350gsm, which is heavier than a lot of vinyl sleeves), with inner sleeves in a lighter gauge so that they slide in and out easily without falling out accidentally. We're currently waiting on a delivery date for the vinyl version but as soon as we get that we'll be able to start taking orders, hopefully next weekend.

23 February, 2011

Factory Star Enter Castle Perilous Album Cover

Above are the front and back covers of the forthcoming Factory Star album. The album's now in production and we hope to have copies by late March. We'll start taking advance orders as soon as we have a likely delivery date from our manufacturers. Watch this space...

07 February, 2011

Factory Star track listing

More details on the Factory Star album are trickling in... We can now announce that Enter Castle Perilous (MAB7DB011) will feature the following tracks:
Side One
1. Angel Steps
2. Big Mill
3. Away Dull Care
4. Cheetham Bill
5. Black Comic Book
Side Two
1. When Sleep Won't Come
2. The Fall Of Great Britain
3. New Chemical Light
4. Stone Tumbling Stream
5. Arise Europa

04 February, 2011

Factory Star at FAC251

Those of you in the Manchester area should make a beeline for the city's FAC251 club tomorrow (Saturday 5/2/11) night as Factory Star will be performing the whole of their forthcoming Occultation album Enter Castle Perilous.

Distractions interview on Penny Black Music

There's an in-depth interview with The Distractions on Penny Black Music. Click here. Messrs Perrin and Finney discuss their classic recordings, recent Occultation releases, plans for the future and much more.

03 February, 2011

Wild Swans download from Caught By The River

We've just been sent this by The Wild Swans:

"Tomorrow’s newsletter from the wonderful Caught By The River website includes a link to a previously unreleased track from the forthcoming Wild Swans album The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years. The epic song "The Bluebell Wood" highlights the threat to Britain’s native woodland from big business and is particularly apt in light of the Public Bodies Bill currently in parliament which, if passed, would give the green light to the Tories' plan to sell off our few remaining forests. The song is only available to those on the Caught By The River mailing list. Subscribe here."

29 January, 2011

Prepare to Enter Castle Perilous

We can now reveal a few advance details about the forthcoming Factory Star LP on Occultation Recordings. It will be entitled Factory Star Enter Castle Perilous and will feature ten tracks recorded in Liverpool in January 2011.

The album's primary format will be vinyl LP, artwork is being designed at the moment and will be uploaded as soon as possible. There will also be a CD release and a special LP+CD package will be available at a significantly-reduced price from the Occultation Shop.

Factory Star are planning live dates to mark the album's release which, if everything goes to plan should be late March/early April. More information will follow as and when it's confirmed.

20 January, 2011

Factory Star LP

Occultation Recordings take enormous pleasure in announcing the forthcoming debut album by Manchester's Factory Star. Details remain to be confirmed but the album is expected in March. It was recorded in Liverpool over three days last weekend and features ten songs written by Fall and Blue Orchids founder member Martin Bramah.

More details will follow soon.

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