After a bit of down-time, Spacetalk Records returns with something special: a stunning compilation of obscurities, rare cuts and secret weapons compiled by label co-founder Danny McLewin under his Skyrager alias.
Although most widely known as one half of Psychemagik, McLewin has long been regarded as one of the UK’s most decorated crate-diggers – a DJ and record dealer recognised for his ability to unearth slept-on gems, private press obscurities and campfire-friendly curios. He’s already showcased his curatorial skills on a string of acclaimed and now sought-after comps – see Psychemagik’s Magik Cyrkles, Magik Sunrise and Magik Sunset Pt 1 & 2 – but Traces of Illusion marks the first time McLewin has put together a collection as Skyrager.
There’s no grand concept behind Traces of Illusion, though McLewin’s selections are universally tactile, sun-baked and effortlessly summery, evoking images of nights spent camped out in the Californian desert or beneath the vibrant canopy of an English forest at dusk. As you’d expect, there are no well-known anthems or ‘big tunes’ here, just an inspired selection of largely unknown musical nuggets oozing in quality.
There are plenty of highlights to savour amongst the 15 tracks on show, from the blue-eyed soul of Rebozhaze’s 1981 gem ‘Second Movement’ and the echo-laden Balearic boogie of Phil McDonnell’s glassy-eyed ‘America’, to the sublime brilliance of Japanese band Tao’s ‘Makin’ Love’, where sweeping violin lines and fretless bass catch the ear, and the bubbly synth sounds and shuffling drum machine grooves of Daniel Sofer’s Dewdrops’ taken from an Oberheim drum machine promotional 7”..
Everywhere you look across the compilation, you’ll find slept-on treats. There’s the seriously atmospheric, practically unknown leftfield synth-pop of YMA’s ‘Tempted’, the synth solo laden folk soul of Michael’s ‘Bluebird of Heaven’ – a cut originally written to be performed by a ‘contemporary Christian’ group in Texas, but instead released as a solo excursion – and the Terry Callier-esque brilliance of Gregory Paul’s ‘Sun’.
And so it goes on, with McLewin flitting between deep and tactile treats (the jazzy Rhodes solos, immersive chords and relaxed grooves of Teatron’s ‘Swing’), spoken word sporting acoustic Americana (Scott Fraser’s inspired 1998 cut ‘Communique’), undeniably Italo-esque (Brenda Kane’s ‘French Kissing’), sub-heavy dancehall-soul (Noel Stone’s impossible-to-find ‘Girl of My Dreams’), enveloping ambient jazz (Larry Yanez’s incredible ‘Xai Jua Jua’) and dub-flecked, synth-sporting prog rock (Bob Bath Band’s highly sought-after ‘Traces of Illusion’, after which the compilation is named).
It all adds up to an eye-opening, head-soothing journey through the dustiest corners of McLewin’s record collection.
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