45 45s #15 The Orchids – Thaumaturgy (Sarah Records, 1992)

ThaumaturgyIt’s by no means a complete collection, but I must have more seven inch singles issued by Sarah Records than any other label, give or take Rough Trade.  Right time, right place, and kindred spirits, I suppose.  I talk a lot more about the label here, but given their espousal of the seven inch record as the format of choice for pop music, it only seems fair to say a few words now too.  The releases were hit or miss and freighted with a certain worldview (in both senses) but they captured moments of youthful excitement and confusion and melodic joie de vivre and bottled them, mostly in the form of ninety-odd seven inch singles.  Each came with an insert which personalised the record-buying experience and gave you an insight into the characters of the two people responsible for releasing them.  There were political and economic concerns which were often unfairly overshadowed by the caricaturing of the label as twee and trainspotterish.  Though perhaps Clare and Matt only had themselves to blame, for the labels at the centre of the discs would often have images of trains at local railway stations and a series of records came with single puzzle pieces which collected together would give you the cheerful light red Pennant and creamy Bath stone façade of Temple Meads station in Bristol.  I always saw this interest in transport as something of a trainspotterish play on the nature of obsession, the obsession which drove the label and drove people to purchase every record it released.

There at its inception, the Orchids released a string of great singles for Sarah, but the last of them is the one to get the nod here, both for the erudition of its title and for being a great song.  ‘Thaumaturgy’ means miracle working, and it’s precisely what the Orchids do in the course of four minutes, because it’s very Scottish, very Sarah Records, yet also dubby, free and loose.  The dubbiness they probably owed to producer-keyboardist Ian Carmichael, who was also in club-oriented group One Dove at the time.  But the Orchids were nevertheless one of the more accomplished groups to record for Sarah, and atypically consistent too – subsequent LP Striving for the lazy perfection (the reissue of which gathers up ‘Thaumaturgy’ and its B sides) lived up to the billing of its title. As does this little dose of miracle-working.

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