One of my favorite secret labels of the late 90s was Glasgow-based Vesuvius. Run by Pat Laureate (Melody Dog, Pastels), the label’s releases had a very particular, hand-drawn look —from the rough-hewn logo made to look as if it had been carved using cuneiform wedges to the stylized, colorful illustrative covers, you could always tell a Vesuvius record at thirty paces. Whether vinyl, CD, or cassette, each release came packaged with extra goodies such as zines, comics, or badges, and wrapped in deliriously Surreal Technicolor cartoons (some by in-house illustrator John Bagnall, or —in the case of Spooky Sounds of Now, David Sandlin).
Vesuvius operated mysteriously and under-the-radar, stealthily releasing fantastic records by the likes of The Yummy Fur, Jad Fair, and Lung Leg. They also put out some stellar compilations, which not only offered up a cannily astute snapshot of the Glasgow scene (including bands like Ganger, the aforementioned Yummy Fur and Melody Dog, the Pastels , Pink Kross, and Mount Vernon Arts Lab), but included some fine stateside ensembles, like Yo La Tengo , Two Dollar Guitar (less an ensemble than one guy, but who’s counting?), Dymaxion, and Half Japanese. Their Halloween-themed Spooky Sounds of Now even included a Tim Gane–Pete Kember-Andy Ramsay collaboration and a High Llamas track —for the Stereolab and/or Spacemen 3-obsessed types out there.
I don’t know what happened to Vesuvius. Pat could still be putting out records for all I know, but a quick Google search turned up precious little information (not even a complete discography). So, if anyone has any more info about this unique and beloved tiny dynamo of a label, please let me know!
I’ll leave you with a few goodies —Yummy Fur, Blips (AKA Gane/Kember/Ramsay), and Yo La Tengo tracks from Spooky Sounds of Now, and a PDF of Pamfletti, a one-off (?) zine put together (typed, scrawled, and hand-written) by Tim Gane & Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), Bob Stanley (St. Etienne), Pat Laureate (Vesuvius), Lucy Mackenzie (Ganger), and Stephen & Aggi Pastel (and bought from Stephen himself —sorry, now I’m veering dangerously close to Cahiers du Smarm territory…)
While this short-but-sweet ‘zine is a great read from start to finish, whatever you do, don’t miss Katrina and Tim Gane’s Top Ten Lists. In this era of encyclopedic blog posts and regular nostalgic exhumations of undersung recordings from Cahiers du Smarm (AKA P-fork), most of these are probably old news. But back in 1993 this was pretty revelatory (and very welcome). I don’t think I’d ever heard of ESP Disk before I read Gane’s piece about the Fugs and Patty Waters…
The Yo La song, “3D”, is a shimmery-shimmy little syncopated number that’s feather-light and sun-kissed to a tawny golden. The Yummy Fur track, “Saturday Night Mo-Mo,” has a darker, more conflicted tone, the chintzy plink-plonk of the synths barely deflecting the track’s overall ominousness —here, this very chameleonic group come off like a slightly goofball Suicide. Blips, as befits a Stereolab-Sonic Boom collaboration, has a very Turn On-sort-of immediacy to it –it’s slight but charming. (It may in fact be a Turn On track —I don’t have the CD here with me to check.) I know nothing about Supermalprodelica, except that their name is a tweak in Bobby Glsp’s general direction. The song’s lovely, though.
Pamfletti [PDF Download, ~16 MB]
IMAGES FROM “PAMFLETTI”  & “SPOOKY SOUNDS OF NOW”