The Observer Review, July 14 2007
by Simon Reynolds
For more than a decade, 38-year-old Brit Jonny Trunk has trawled charity shops, bargain basements and jumble sales, sifting the dreck for bygone oddities and queer delectables. Chasing down obscure objects of collector desire or stumbling serendipitously on unknown treasures, Trunk has then tracked down the music's elderly creators (invariably languishing in penury) and prised the right-to-reissue from their bony mitts.
Jonny Boy specialises in genres of marginal reputation: never-before-available soundtracks from horror movies such as The Wicker Man, incidental music from kids' TV programmes such as The Tomorrow People, fey folk-pop, library music. His sensibility lies at the exact intersection of Stereolab, Saint Etienne and el Records, but if that sounds too tasteful, you've got to factor in Trunk's penchant for period pornography. Not only did he reissue Mary Millington's spoken-word records, he made a brand new one, Dirty Fan Male, which involved an actor friend, Wisbey, reading out lewd letters sent to Trunk's sister, a soft-porn starlet, and her colleagues. One appears as a hidden track at the end of this excellent compilation: 'I think that my tongue would have to be surgically removed from your mouth-watering botty ...'
There's a serious core behind all this dotty whimsy: Trunk's most crucial excavations have been works by maverick composers such as Basil Kirchin, Delia Derbyshire and Desmond Leslie, pioneers of a peculiarly English form of musique concrete and analogue electronica that often sounds like it was cobbled together in a garden shed. The late Kirchin features with the uncharacteristically wispy femme-pop of 'I Start Counting', while the even later Derbyshire briefly appears with a 37-second synth-interlude. But overall, Now We Are Ten downplays electronics in favour of acoustic instrument-based soundtracks and light-on-the-ear Brit-jazz, resulting in an unusually coherent compilation.
Highlights include the pastel-toned poignancy of 'Dark World' and 'Nature Waltz' by Sven Libaek, the fragrant waft 'n' flutter of Paul Lewis's 'Waiting For Nina' and Trunk's own 'O Zeus' (meta-library music woven out of samples from that incidental music genre typically churned out of Soho studios by moonlighting composers). If the cloying flute of John Cameron's theme from Kes requires the sour bleakness of the movie to offset its sweetness, Vernon Elliott's Clangers music has a stand-alone magic.
Rescuing such figures as Elliott and Kirchin from history's rubbish tip is a valuable feat of cultural archaeology, and Now We Are Ten is the sweet sound of someone giving their own trumpet a well-deserved blow. Fnarr fnarr.
for an art magazine whose name I cannot remember, 2007
by Simon Reynolds
Another recently reissued gem is the library album made by Delia Derbyshire (moonlighting from her Beeb dayjob under the alias Russe) and later used to soundtrack the children’s TV science fiction series The Tomorrow People (1973). The library obsession culminated with an attractive compendium of library sleeves Trunk pulled together for the design book publisher Fuel. Ranging from stark modernist grids to surreal photocollages, from kitschadelic Op Art to bizarrely clumsy drawings that exert a macabre compulsion akin to outsider art, the artwork collected in The Music Library (2005) show how library covers could be as inadvertently avant-garde as the music it packaged. Which isn’t so surprising, given that both were produced in factory conditions where utilitarian practicality and experimental impulses coexisted on a tight budget.
As for sex, that comes into it through his interest in vintage porn, which he claims is all about the period aesthetics rather than any prurient use-value. “You can’t beat a good
As with record collector culture, there are fashions on the vintage skin mag scene: “1980s rude mags, that’s the new hot zone -- all DayGlo knickers and shoulder pads.” Trunk put out Flexi Sex (2003), a collection of the ultra-lewd spoken word flexi-singles porn mags once stuck between their soon-to-be-stuck-together pages. Porn informed one of the label’s few non-reissue releases, Dirty Fan Male (2004), which involved an actor known as Wisbey reading out the filthy fan letters sent to British softcore pornstars, in an assortment of comedic voices. The CD gradually became a cult item, inspiring Trunk to turn it into a stage show, which played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2004 and won the Guardian’s Best Concept award.
Humour: a good-natured whimsy pervades the whole project.
Britishness: nearly everything on the label was made in the UK and there’s an affectionate fascination for all aspects of this country’s post-War popular culture (the label’s website is packed with Anglo curios Trunk has stumbled upon, from an album by Stanley Unwin, the comedian who spoke in an invented gobbledygook language, to a record by the show jumper Harvey Smith).
Keyword #3 is “melancholy”: Now We Are Ten teems with softly sad film music by composers like John Cameron and Sven Libaek.
Cheesy sleaze and sepia-toned melancholy seem unlikely bedfellows at first glance. But in his 1935 travel book Journey Without Maps, Graham Greene put his finger on or near the place where musty and lust meet. He wrote about how "seediness has a very deep appeal ... It seems to satisfy, temporarily, the sense of nostalgia for something lost; it seems to represent a stage further back"
With their aura of wistful reverie and faded decay, the sounds exhumed by Trunk offer a portal into this nation’s cultural unconscious.
see also this very interesting recent chat with Mr Trunk on the story of how he tracked down The Wicker Man soundtrack