We are so excited to introduce Straight Outta Caledonia, a compilation of songs by the late songwriter Jackie Leven.
I’ve been running Night School for 10 years this year. It’s been a tumultuous, hugely rewarding thing in my life where the positives massively outweigh the negatives. Maybe I’d have less grey hair without it but I’m learning to live with that.
When I’m announcing a new release, something I’ve worked on for a while with the artists it’s a really anxious time. Often the feeling is akin to being on the edge of a cliff face looking into azure water. I’ve been working on Straight Outta Caledonia, a new compilation on Night School’s subsidiary label School Daze of songs by the artist Jackie Leven, for over 3 years. I first heard his song The Sexual Loneliness Of Jesus Christ in 2016 maybe and it had an instant, powerful, healing, transcendent effect. It reminded me of why I do this. Why I like music in the first place. Since then I’ve made it a kind of personal mission to try and show Leven’s music to as many people as possible and the best way I can do this is by making Straight Outta Caledonia.
I was really lucky to have the author Ian Rankin and singer Molly Nilsson on board to write some liner notes about how much Jackie’s music means to them. I wrote a bit too. I’m really, really nervous because I’ll never meet Jackie Leven (he passed away in 2011) and for some reason I’ve got into the situation where I’m releasing the first vinyl release of his in decades. It’s almost a make or break type affair for the label, I’ve put so much energy and everything else into this. I really, really wish that his music reaches some new people and it helps them as much as its helped me. I really feel like this is one of the most important projects I’ve been involved in to date.
I’m going to paste the liner notes I wrote for the release below but in the meantime, I sincerely wish you all the best time possible with the music on this comp, if you decide to dive in. I haven’t been the same since listening to Jackie Leven
Hey Moon is probably Molly Nilsson‘s most popular song. Originally released in 2008 on her self-released debut album These Things Take Time – a hand-burnt CDr with folded “origami” artwork – it became one of her earliest successes, reaching out to the lonely wherever they heard it. Though it remains one of Nilsson’s most popular songs she never plays it live and has come to distance herself from it. A few years after its release it suddenly became the property of other people, in a sense. Covered, used on television programmes, it slipped from her sphere.
It’s time to reclaim Hey Moon. In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Nilsson’s label Dark Skies Association and Night School are teaming up to release a 7″ of Nilsson’s Hey Moon backed with a rare early song, Silver. All profits for the sale of this digital and physical release will be donated to Black Lives Matter. Hey Moon 7″ will be available direct through Dark Skies Association, Night School Bandcamp and in your favourite local record store soon. We’re anticipating it to be ready by the end of March. We’re thrilled to already have sold so many of these and to be able to donate a sizeable sum.
“In case anyone was wondering, I’m a lifelong supporter of Antifa. Like most of us, I was appalled by what we saw in DC this week and by the people present there. In response to this DSA and Night School Records have decided to release a 7” single of my original song Hey Moon (2008), with ALL PROFITS from the sale donated to BLACK LIVES MATTER worldwide.”
Order the new seafoam green colour vinyl repress of The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits here.
In 2013 I was living in London, working in record shops, cycling two hours a day to save money on public transport and running my small DIY record label at night and on weekends. It was going OK, just about breaking even if you didn’t factor in my time, which I never did. Mostly I released my friends’ music on short runs, often hand-making things and carrying records around town. In 2011 I heard The Space Lady on a mix CD and, I don’t know, it kind of felt like time stood still for a few minutes. It felt like this was music from another dimension, like a loving presence charged with looking after humanity, a benign alien who’d taken the pop music of the 20th century and reimagined it sublime, blissed out, shorn of machismo and ego rendering it as a direct communication between souls. You might find it a bit rich or incredulous to think a 5 minute cover of Peter Schilling’s Major Tom by a woman on a Casio could do this to someone, but then perhaps you’ve never heard Susan “The Space Lady” Deitrich Schneider’s music.
Upon hearing it, I went on a fact finding mission and eventually tracked down an email address for The Space Lady. I found out that The Space Lady had been a busker in Boston and then San Francisco in the 80s, dressing up as a kind of hybrid space age viking angel and instantly becoming part a legend of the Castro during its heyday as an epicentre of gay culture in the USA. She’d set up on the same spot and play for tips to feed her family of three who invariably slept in cars, squats, hollowed out trees and eventually more stable lodgings in San Francisco. She’d recorded all of her repertoire for a CDr she handmade around 1991 and then hung up her blinking helmet and Casiotone to retrain as a nurse. I had an idea to reissue this CDr, to share this special music with people if I could. I just felt more people should hear it.
At the time my label, Night School, had released three 7”s and a couple of tapes so the idea of an album reissue was pretty exciting, if probably a little out of my reach financially. I fired off an email at the tail end of 2011, more as an introduction and exploration than anything. 2 years passed by and while I listened to The Space Lady a lot the idea of releasing her music drifted to the back of my mind. I ended up putting albums out (by Molly Nilsson, Julia Holter plus a few things that were perhaps a little too niche for mass consumption but those are beans I won’t spill right now). At some point in 2013 I got an email reply from The Space Lady – or to be more exact her husband Eric Schneider – saying they were interested in working with the label to reissue The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits. Floored, I arranged a long distance Skype call.
On the phone, Eric explained that around the time I emailed they had been receiving other emails from fans around the world asking when The Space Lady was going to come back. Susan was also on the call, a gentle voice charmingly confounded as to why this guy in London would be interested in her music. Eric said that following all these emails he asked Susan what they were about as she hadn’t spoken about The Space Lady and when she explained it he asked for a performance. So in their living room in Boulder, Colorado Susan dusted off the space helmet, the Wizard of Oz lunch/ tips box, the Casiotone and did her first Space Lady performance in 25 years or so for her husband. It was this performance that prompted them to think maybe there was a point in responding to some of these emails.
What followed was a whirlwind emotional and geographical trip for Night School and, I’m sure, for them also. I wanted to present The Space Lady not as some novelty or curio but as what she was, a brilliant musician with a dry sense of humour, an incredibly intelligent artist with a unique gift to transcend so many boundaries to touch people. Earnest, human, relatable, her takes on these classics are like transcendent messages between souls. It’s a testament to her sense of humour that she wanted to call the album “The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits” because they were, of course, other people’s greatest hits. Personally speaking, I’d take her versions of any of these songs over the originals any day of the week.
On top of this, there were originals on the album written by her first husband Joel Dunsany which are probably my favourite Space Lady songs. I remember her introducing Synthesize Me at an instore in a record shop in San Francisco while their grandson played with toy trucks at her feet. She explained that Joel had become terminally ill around 2012. A life-long collector of pretty much everything – including records – he never got to realise his dream of seeing his songs released on an album as he passed away the month before the release of The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits. Synthesize Me was a love song he’d written about her, for her to sing and then she played it. I’m getting emotional just writing this story down if I’m being honest with you.
It’s my firm belief that music shouldn’t only be accessible courtesy of the expensive music industry PR machine. I wanted and will always want to present the music I believe in as a on a par with “the classics” that get pushed at you day in, day out. This was the ideology behind presenting our release of The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits the way we did, almost like a Numero Records release, with archive photos that captured the jubilant, sometimes down-at-heel reality of life on the streets of San Francisco in the mid 80s, with some liner notes from Susan about her experience. I felt this music was important, too, and deserved to be taken seriously.
It was taken seriously and to heart by so many people. Following the release of The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits, Susan’s music took her on several world tours, releases on other record labels including Castleface, Mississippi Records, TV features, articles in every publication you could care for. Susan had never played a gig before 2014, when we’d arranged a tour of the West Coast USA. I flew over for the occasion and to this day it remains one of the most rich, albeit at times stressful, endeavours I’d ever set out on. In upstate Washington, Susan played her first ever Space Lady “gig” to some noise fans. Hearing Synthesize Me through a large PA for the first time, she said on the microphone “wow, that’s power!” I reckon there’s a lot of stories I could write about that tour but I’ll save them for now.
The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits is, to date, the biggest selling release on Night School. Eventually we licensed it out to sympathetic ears who could help keep it in print when we didn’t have the cash flow. I went out on that first Space Lady tour after quitting my job at the London record store and when I came back from that tour I managed to land a job at the record store I’d always wanted to work in, Monorail Music. Monorail had made The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits their album of the month on its release in 2013 and it’s been a steady seller ever since, whenever we can get a hold of it.
It’s 2020 now and I’m basically doing the same thing I was doing in 2011 when I first heard The Space Lady. Working days in Monorail, writing e-mails like this one, working nights and weekends putting records out that some people buy, some people don’t. That’s the nature of things I suppose. Greatest Hits has been out of print for about a year now so we decided to repress it on a new colour, on a small pressing of 500. We’re anticipating it being ready for November. Hopefully, hopefully, Susan will be able to make it out to play again when the world has healed sufficiently but in the meantime I hope you take the time to listen to The Space Lady’s music beaming out from 1991 to you now, online or on one of these records.
Cucina Povera, Svitlana Nianio + Oleksandr Yurchenko, Manuela Iwansson, Otherworld, Lady Neptune and Special Interest releases are all out now.
It’s fair to say this year has taken many unexpected and warying turns. Though the label has continued to function, we’ve been negligent on our homepage. To apologise, we’re offering some of our back catalogue at reduced prices and have found some out of print releases for loyal supporters.
We’re immensley proud of our 2020 output, not least because of the difficult circumstances these records were relased into and in spite of.
We’re so thrilled to present the debut J.McFarlane’s Reality Guest: Ta Da after an instantly sold out pressing on the Australian label Hobbies Galore.
As a member of the group Twerps, McFarlane has traversed guitar-centric, melodic pop music for some years while honing a highly unique, personal musical language. Ta Da is the first recorded unveiling of McFarlane’s affecting, oblique songwriting panache. Originally released in her native Australia on Hobbies Galore, Ta Da will be released worldwide by Night School in June 2019. Wheezing into view with a troubled reed instrument set against a s of whoozy synth lines, Human Tissue Act is a foggy curtain the listener is invited to peel back. The dissonant notes are left to dance entwined, with clarinet heralding a Harry Partch-esque mallet percussion interlude. It’s a mood. With no resolution in sight, an audience dragged closer into uncertainty is suddenly drenched with the light of inter-weaving wah wah synth and saxophone. I Am A Toy introduces us to McFarlane’s vocal, an effortless and matter-of-fact, accented statement that quietly takes the reins. While McFarlane’s previous work in Twerps might reference 80s UK and antipodean guitar pop, Ta Da showcases a different influences immersed in psychedelic music and synths. It’s a brilliant, deft concoction swimming in Young Marble Giants-type minimalism washed with bare pop and harmony similar to Kevin Ayers making sense of a Melbourne suburb full of faces half-recognised in the blanching sun.
What Has He Bought begins with a Casio-keyboard rhythm pattern, palm-muted guitars and immaculately enunciated vocal give way to a burnt melodica part that elevates the spirits. Simple patterns repeated, like a well-tempered pop song that does what it needs to do and no more, build into the sound of summer leaking orange juice. They’re moments of joy, layered on top of each other like a melting cake. Do You Like What I’m Sayin’ recalls Marine Girls covering a classic ‘66 Garage nugget, organ lines fighting funk with guitar chords played just behind the percussion. “In a talking world, meanings are the same. Words want to hold on to the people they contain. Do you like what I’m sayin’?” We’re in a Beckett play perhaps, obtuse absurdities rendered pretty. Alien Ceremony is a heart-melter, given a melancholic timbre by bowed double bass it’s a tragi-comic piece that almost reeks of Robert Wyatt at his mid-whimsical twisting a fugue completely out of shape. Beneath the layers of harmony and twinkling instrumentation you sense there’s a genuine sadness somewhere even if it remains veiled. Through out Ta Da, McFarlane plays with counterpoint and contrast to sometimes delirious effect. On Your Torturer, a simple, upbeat chord progression is hard panned, underpinning a flute solo which seems out of place, hence making it completely in place on this warmly surreal album. My Enemy is a slowly swinging eulogy to a failed relationship punctuated by analogue synth burbles, with our protagonist simply asking, in the aftermath, “can we be nice?” Here McFarlane’s vocal is straight forward, lyrically conversational but still not completely in focus, a surreal kitchen sink drama filtered through a dream where everything is in the wrong place. It’s a fine precursor to Heartburn, which similarly borrows BBC Radiophonic Workshop-style noise synths and the use of space to carve up the simple “You Will Make My Heart Burn” line. At this point, the listener has been in such close proximity to McFarlane’s show, the reality guest in a performance where they’re the sole audience member, that when Where Are You My Love rises on the horizon as a sleepy, psychedelic send off it’s uplifting. The vocal drifts away into the sunset, simple and direct. It leaves the listener slightly confused, perhaps, but grateful for the gentle surprise.
We’re thrilled to announce the debut album from Patience – aka long-time collaborator and friend Roxanne Clifford. Dizzy Spells will be released on May 3rd on Patience’s own label Winona Records in the U.S.A. and Night School for the rest of the USA.
You can watch the video for the Todd Edwards-produced track The Girls Are Chewing Gum below.
Without a doubt, one of Europe’s premier underground sound artists and musicians, Ela Oleans is a light amongst the grey. An artist we’re proud to have a long history and friendship with, we’re extremely excited to be working on this special collection of Orleans’ pop songs spanning her 20 year career.
Movies for Ears is a personal collection of forlorn but joyous balladry and playful songs full of humour and sadness. It will feature extensive new sleeve notes and unpublished photos.
In the words of Stephen Pastel:
“I love Ela’s music, even though we’re friends I like to think of myself as some kind of ultimate fan battling through inadequate subtitling trying to find the best meaning, understanding the nuances of everything going on, in words, phrase and gesture. If Ela plays pop, which is I think the idea of this incredible collection, I have to say that I’m not sure if it is exactly pop, because pop is about feeling slightly blank, uncrowded. With Ela’s music I feel emotional, engaged, very crowded. I can’t help but feel she’s always looking for a sense of belonging and it seems to inform all the music that she makes. Glasgow must have more of that belonging feeling than most cities because she’s spent the most time here, an exotic bird in a rainy city she maybe finds a lttle bit of comfort in. It’s a pleasure to have her here, in this awful time to be living in Britain, her illuminations feel important and hopeful. A stubborn light; someone making great timeless music out of the humdrum of the everyday.”
“Back in 2011 I was lucky enough to work at a prestigious record store in London, one of my jobs was to listen to self-released records and CDs that artists wanted to stock in the shop. I considered it a privilege and having been in that situation myself for my whole life as a musician I tried to listen to as much as possible. Most of it didn’t stick out, most of it was beholden to the predominant aesthetic of the time (whatever that was). One crisp, hungover morning I got to my desk after a brutal 45 minute cycle to find a neat pile of Cdrs and records on my desk. They were incredibly striking, austere and almost bloody-minded in their uniformity. Although definitely of the DIY ilk – these things screamed of hand-folding and being carried around on carry-on luggage – there was something beguiling about them. I’d never heard of Molly Nilsson until then.
The first record I put on was History, and the rest is history. In my whole time working at that job I’d never had such a eureka moment as when Molly Nilsson’s vocal for In Real Life jumps out following the familiar Skype intro beep. Initially I thought these songs were covers, I couldn’t believe this artist had written these songs and brought them in in tiny quantities for us to trickle out meekly. Everything about the songs was heartfelt, supremely warm in its cold detachment and in Nilsson’s voice there was something instantly recognisable. Recognisable in that it seamed so worn and travelled, like it knew me already, but also terribly romantic. Once I’d gotten to I Hope You Die, the third song on the CD, I opened up an internet browser and discovered a whole world of songs this artist had already written and been praised for. That day I wrote a glowing email to Molly at the address she’d left me to not only fawn over these songs but also offer any help I could possibly give. Many releases, concerts, beers, days and nights later I’m so, so proud to be involved with Molly Nilsson’s music and can’t quite believe I can offer History in its complete form to pick up again in your hands. Like all of Molly’s records, they’re meant to hold and to have. The rest is herstory, mine a little too, but mostly hers.”
Molly Nilsson will be embarking on an extensive North American tour of the south and east coast. Full date are listed below, get in touch, in real life.
MARCH 2nd – Gramps, Miami, FL MARCH 3rd – Wills Pub, Orlando FL(Tickets) MARCH 5th – Caledonia, Athens GA (Tickets) MARCH 6th – 529, Atlanta GA (Tickets) MARCH 7th – The Mothlite, Ashville NC (Tickets) MARCH 8th – Wicked Witch, Raleigh NC (Tickets) MARCH 10th – Union Stage, Washington DC (Tickets) MARCH 12th – PhilaMOca, Philadelphia PA (Tickets) MARCH 13th – Elsewhere Hall, Brooklyn NYC (Tickets) MARCH 15th – Lilypad, Boston MA (Tickets) MARCH 16th – Theatre Fairmount, Montreal QC MARCH 19th – The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON MARCH 20th – The Empty Bottle, Chicago IL MARCH 25th – The Blockhouse, Bloomington IN MARCH 26th – Exit/In, Nashville TN (Tickets) MARCH 27th – Artemisia, Memphis TN MARCH 31st – Gasa Gasa, New Orleans LA