Archives for posts with tag: Secret Shine

While we are back in the world of shoegaze… one of the best – and least known – UK shoegaze era bands is Secret Shine. They were released on their Bristol hometown independent label, Sarah Records, which was perhaps better known at the time (inaccurately) as a ‘twee pop’ label. Secret Shine are still releasing classic shoegaze pop in their distinctive style today, 30 years after they started. Here’s their track “Lost in the Middle”, another highlight of the recent essential compilation of contemporary recordings from Sarah Records associated/ derived bands called “Under the Bridge”:

The perfect pairing of the voices of Kathryn Smith (vocals and keyboards) and Jamie Gingell (bass and vocals) with the sonic miasma of guitar from Dean and Scott Purnell provides the basis for this gloriously melodic song with deliberately ambiguous lyrics, they say, as a meditation of sorts “about total absorption in, or totally letting go in, an experience.”

My introduction to Secret Shine came 30 years ago via their track “Take Me Slowly” on a another various artists compilation “Birth of the True” which was released on tiny Liverpool independent label Sugarfrost in 1992. “Take Me Slowly” from that compilation is one of the great obscure classics of early 90s shoegaze.

Secret Shine don’t just release their best music on various artists compilation albums though. As well as their first album on Sarah Records in 1993 there have been further albums released this century. A CD compilation of Secret Shine’s Sarah Records releases (two singles, the “Untouched” album and “Greater Than God” EP) called “After Years” released on US “modern shoegaze” label Clairecords in 2003 which is worth tracking down, although everything on that (and more) is available from Secret Shine on Bandcamp.

The music on the “Under The Bridge” compilation – released on Skep Wax Records, a label set up by Sarah alumni Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey (Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research, Tender Trap and now The Catenary Wires) – retains all the essential elements of what made the Sarah Records catalogue so important in the 90s. As the Skep Wax website explains:

Time has moved on, but this coterie of ex-labelmates is making music that is as pure and as idealistic as ever.  Every track on Under The Bridge is a pop gem. Some are punk rock, some are indiepop, others are dreamy swirls of fuzz.  Some are gentle, some are some are full of rage, but all of them are defiantly sensitive, literate and full of DIY spirit.  The bands on this compilation are flattered, maybe, that people spend serious money bidding for 7” singles of their old songs.  But they are far more excited about the music they are creating today.

SARAH Records

Sarah Records was a record label based in Bristol UK which ran from 1987 to 1995. It is forever associated with ‘twee’ pop – a term intended as an insult by the music press in the UK, who were more fixated on championing various ‘laddish’ genres (who remembers pre-grunge ‘grebo’?) than sensitive guitar pop. Sarah Records was the home to The Orchids, 14 Iced Bears, The Field Mice and Talulah Gosh but also later to Secret Shine, another of my favourite bands in the early 90s. Secret Shine were more ‘shoegaze’ – another UK music press term initially intended as a derogatory insult.

Sarah Records, as with so many of the smaller independent labels operating in the UK at the time was always much more than ‘twee’ pop (whatever that even was). There was a lot more social commentary & politics (often of the personal or gender kind) going on from bands on Sarah than most of the other noisy genres championed by the UK music press at the time.

Labels like Sarah Records (and The Subway Organisation, another small label also based in Bristol at the time, and 53rd & 3rd from Scotland, all of which had releases by some of the same bands) seemed a natural extension of the DIY ethos from labels like Postcard & Creation in Scotland several years earlier and continued music of that spirit.

A Sarah Records Catalogue. This one came with my copy of Sarah 23 (The Orchids) along with a postcard.

A Sarah Records Catalogue. This one came with my copy of Sarah 23 (The Orchids) along with a postcard.

There’s a documentary called “My Secret World. The Story of Sarah Records” which tells the story of the label. Here’s a trailer for it, just released on 1 January 2014:

The film has yet to be premiered and still has a way to go before it is available on DVD or screened widely. But hopefully it will get the support it requires to become available in some format sometime this year.