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Wednesday 29 November 2023

Stay Down

In all the excitement about the 30th anniversary of Sabresonic the 25th birthday of Stay Down got a bit overlooked. Released in October 1998 Stay Down was Two Lone Swordsmen's follow up to the four sides of vinyl explorations of 1996's The Fifth Mission (Return To The Flightpath Estate) but doesn't sound anything like it. Like all the TLS releases, Stay Down sounds like it exists in a world of its own, it's not a staging post on the journey to another album, it's not part of a progression, it's an album that is in and of itself. It's also the Two Lone Swordsmen album which I think has grown the most since its release, revealing new depths and nuances. 

Stay Down is twelve short tracks, each one a self contained piece of ambient techno. The sound is deep, submerged, subaquatic ambience with drum loops and sub bass, and twinkles, bloops, blurps, stutters, synth stabs, bleeps, strings and samples, Andrew Weatherall and Keith Tenniswood operating like the pair of deep sea divers on the cover, drifting in a world far below/ aprt from the one everyone else was living in in 1998. It's analogue, ambient and noodly but focussed too, one track flowing to the next. The section where We Change The Frequency kicks in is a moment of excitement, a change of pace and tempo, but mainly it flows by, like the slow motion bursts of squid ink and spine bubbles that two of the tracks are named after.

The track titles are themselves a series of cryptic, tantalising Weatherallian clues to be pondered and pursued. Two of them have taken on a poignancy not intended on release, both beautiful, low key ambient moments - Light The Last Flare and album closer As Worldly Pleasures Wave Goodbye... The opening track Hope We Never Surface sets the tone as far as song titles go, a suggestion to stay below, to stay within the grooves of this record, to be present inside it. The Big Clapper, Alpha School and Ivy And Lead all conjure up vivid imagery. Mr Paris's Monsters is a mystery. We Discordians (Must Stick Apart) is named after Discordianism and everything that that entails, the number 23 included (I was told recently that when producing numbered vinyl editions and art prints Andrew always kept number 23 for himself). No Red Stopping was named after Andrew arrived for a DJ gig in a newly liberated nation in the former Yugoslavia and was picked up by a driver to take him to the club, who then sped through every red light at every junction between airport and nightclub. Eventually, knuckles white and tension rising, Andrew asked the driver why he didn't stop for red lights. Snipers, was the reply. 

We Discordians (Must Stick Apart)

There's precious little information on the sleeve other than the track titles and recording details- recorded at Rotter Golf Club, copyright Warp Records, made in England, mastered by 'amidst very unprofessional behaviour' Frank Arkwright- and Andrew's very recognisable handwriting. The only extra is a quote via Primal Scream's Andrew Innes and the source of the record's title, Andrew's advice in what to do in conflict situations- 'sometimes in a fight it's best just to stay down'. 


mr_h said...

I'm puzzled 'cause I think I've never listened to this album. I know the cover, but I can't say the same about the music inside. Thanks to streaming services, I'm on it right now. I love your blog, Adam. It's a shame I didn't about it before meeting you. 🖤⚔️🖤

mr_h said...

*I didn't know about it

Swiss Adam said...

Trying to place you from your name and comment Mr H...