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siren songs :: ventricle records profile

there's hard to find and then there's hard to hear about in the first place. the first condition is predicated on the idea that it is possible that somehow, you're going to hear about a piece, either because it has a cult following, or a major label picked it up because they lost a bet, or your cousin used to date someone who was in the band when they first started out. those are the lucky ones. no matter how far below the radar they might have flown, there will remain a group who are constantly seeking them out, keeping the memory of their sound alive.

mauve sideshow album art
that second group is less fortunate. for whatever reason, some artists just don't take root in the soil of the subcultural psyche the way that they should. such is the case with ventricle records, an american label active from the early nineties to early, um, whatever you call that first decade of the century. (i always kind of liked "the noughties" but it never did catch on.)

information on ventricle is sparse, but it is remarkably consistent: "sites and sounds of mysterious female vox" is the phrase on their still-active web site and slight variations of that phrase are just about the only available words on the label or their artists anywhere on the internet. one is tempted to think that any publicity this label received was cribbed from one of their own press sheets and that no one took much initiative to investigate any further.



i first heard about ventricle when one of their artists, mauve sideshow, turned up in a catalogue i ordered music from periodically, back when i was still living in halifax. at that time and in that location, it was pretty difficult to differentiate between obscure and obscure, because very few people seem to have heard of much of the stuff i was increasingly interested in to begin with. the main difference between being little known and unknown seemed to be time. if you'd been around for long enough, chances are that someone would notice you. so, among new artists, there was a certain egalitarianism; no one knew about them, so they could sound like anything.

konkrete kantikle promo image
i have to say that the ventricle-supplied description of mauve sideshow was a little misleading; "gothadelic space collage with a wide range of moods" does not exactly prepare one for the great washes of sound which comprise their self-titled album. there is indeed something psychedelic about the music, which forms a sort of aural kaleidoscope, like a wind carrying ghostly snippets of sound (and, yes, female voices). perhaps it's that ghostliness that the label had in mind when it described the music as "goth". anyone expecting something along the lines of old bat cave sounds, though, would be sorely disappointed. the only reference point that came to mind was the legendary pink dots in their spacier moments. nothing i'd heard- and this was during a period where i was hearing a lot- had sounded like mauve sideshow.

the album remained an isolated little gem for me until years later, when the second radio station where i did a show happened to get a package from ventricle. i'd never actually thought to search around for more information on the label when i first got a taste of them, simply because i assumed they'd gone out of existence or morphed into something else. and i had lots of other things to listen to. but there they were, cds by blessed oblivion, konkrete kantikle and torn curtain, all just as foggy and drifting and just as mysterious in every way as mauve sideshow. in fact, ventricle seemed to go through a burst of energy, releasing the vast bulk of the label's output between 1997 and 2003. sadly, the increase in musical output didn't do anything to increase ventricle's profile.

the personnel behind these bands are as little known as the bands themselves. mauve sideshow, with whom the label seems to have begun, was made up of the team of lee "dusty lee" blair and treva dea. blair's name remains associated with many of the artists on ventricle throughout its short lifespan, but other than that, he seems to have dissolved into ether. his partner in mauve sideshow, treva dea, moved on from music when the couple divorced, but she's somewhat easier to track down. she's currently a visual artist (and i'd venture to guess that it was her art that graced the cover of that first mauve sidesholw album i acquired). you can learn more about her by checking out her blog.

a later collaborator who appears on recordings almost as frequently as dusty lee is kelly thistle, who has likewise vanished in the mists of time. lee and thistle, with a rotating cast of others, were responsible for the six year renaissance of of ventricle that bridged two centuries, but lasted less than a decade.

mistress of strands
the good news is that, from the information on the ventricle web site, all the label's releases are still in print. that's right. almost ten years since their last album, all titles are available and can be ordered direct. perhaps, if you're very cautious in how you approach them, they'll even tell you a little about the dimension to which they've retreated. the world may never learn to appreciate the splendour of ventricle records, but it is at least reassuring to know that they're still there, waiting for us to wash up upon their shores.



[editor's note:: when i clicked on the order page to test it out, i got a message that the connection was untrusted. caveat emptor.]

Comments

Steven Reese said…
I have one cd from Ventricle I found in a thrift store. The band was called Thistle. Turns out the ventricle.com site is home to a marketing/design company now, from what I saw visiting it.
Kate MacDonald said…
I'm sort of sad that they seem to have disappeared, because what they had going was really original. Such are the dangers of enjoying music on the fringes of the fringes...
Ian G Coville said…
You can't go wrong with DJ Zilf (aka Dusty Lee, Kelly Thistle, The Cheshire Nihilist, Roofus Lee King, my cousin) guiding you through the back streets of Pluto! You can catch his show, Music You Need to Hear Before You Die; A Swirling Vortex, With Sprinkles, on Saturday at 6 on KWVA (and streaming).

And he regularly plays Ventricle, e.g.
https://spinitron.com/radio/playlist.php?station=kwva&playlist=11744

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