The 7″ vinyl record might look small, but it’s a big-hitter.
It might not get as much press (no pun intended) these days as its heftier sibling, the 12″, which has been on a steady rise to sub-cultural dominance since disco, but the truth is that the trusty 45 has for the best part of a century been, and indeed continues to be, the most democratic of physical formats, the lingua franca connecting genres as disparate as dancehall and hardcore punk, indie-pop and dub.
Cheap to manufacture and ship, the 7″ tends to be, more than anything, a repository for strange dreams and mad schemes – it’s perhaps second only to the cassette in terms of attracting lunatics and outsiders. As any digger worth their salt will tell you, if you want to find the most f**ked up and fiercely DIY music in any half-decent record store, forget the racks of 12″s and LPs; head straight for the boxes of 45s they keep behind the counter.
Over the following pages, we’ve chosen the 45 greatest 7″ releases of FACT’s lifetime, though this is perhaps a slightly misleading turn of phrase: because rather than attempting to arrive at a consensus among our staff, we’ve simply asked each of them to nominate a handful of favourites. This method simply seemed the most appropriate for a medium that feels so personal and intimate.
As ever, just toggle between entries by using the left (<-) and right (->) arrows on your keyboard, or clicking the left and right buttons at the top of the post.
ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI
‘ROUND & ROUND’
Ariel Pink’s music seems to be best suited to two very different forms: individual songs, or albums pushed to the limit in terms of length, meandering and changing their mind in the way that real humans do. It’s surprising, then, that he’s released very few 7”s in his time, but the cover art on the classic-sounding ‘Round & Round’ more than makes up for that.
(ONE LITTLE INDIAN, 2007)
Contemporary shoegazers Asobi Seksu have released better music on 7”s, but with its kitschy psychedelic jacket and red vinyl, ‘Strawberries’ simply couldn’t feel more suited to the format.
BROADCAST & THE FOCUS GROUP
‘FAMILIAR SHAPES AND NOISES’
(GHOST BOX, 2010)
Perfectly eerie, eldritch electronics from Broadcast and The Focus Group (aka Ghost Box co-founder Julian House), the dream pairing that would go on to record the even more chilling, challenging Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age before Trish Keenan was tragically taken from us.
MACHINE PARTS +4
(BONE BRIGADE, 2007)
Reissued from a 1996 Deaf American release, this five-tracker captured Dan Lilker’s grindcore unit at their… well, brutal best, pairing studio songs with live recordings.
THE BUG FEAT. DADDY FREDDY
‘CAN’T TAKE THIS NO MORE’
(ACID RAGGA, 2012)
Kevin Martin is about as public as you can get about the debt his music owes to dub, and this year he started a new 7” label to house his blends of gurgling acid, earth-shaking noise and dancehall, each cut to coloured vinyl with sleeves designed by Zeke ‘Skull Disco’ Clough.
(GRAVI-T MUSIC, 2005)
The biggest of Busy Signal’s litany of carnival-smashers, the riddim underpinning ‘Step Out’ is almost avant-garde in its simplicity and relentlessness.
CALL BACK THE GIANTS
‘CALL BACK THE GIANTS’
What happens when Tim Goss, formerly of the Shadow Ring, attempts to make queasy, DIY synth-pop with his teenage stepdaughter? The queasy brilliance of Call Back The Giants (and admittedly a truly horrific sleeve) is what.
CRYSTAL CASTLES / HEALTH
‘MOTHER KNOWS BEST’ / ‘CRIMEWAVE’
(LOVEPUMP UNITED, 2007)
All about the A-side, this one: a squealing two-minute ode to STDs that pissed all over Crystal Castles’ breakthrough single ‘Alice Practice’.
DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO
Eno and Byrne’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today was as bland and uninspiring as it was always likely to be – apart from one song, ‘Strange Overtones’, seemingly a paean to the magical properties of music itself. If ever there was a song begging to be released as a 45, it was this one. So did it get released as a 45? Of course it didn’t. But thankfully Germany’s decided to license it (read: bootleg it) and we were able to welcome in into our record collection while keeping the rest o the LP at bay. Success.
DON PAPA / KAMBO SUPER SOUND
COMING TO MY YARD / KAMBO SUPER DUB
(SEX TAGS AMFIBIA, 2010)
Marvellous aquatic dub excursions on DJ Sotofett’s Sex Tags Mania sub-label, welcome in our yard any day.
‘LION OF JUDAH’
(NOT NOT FUN, 2011)
Dylan Ettinger’s most recent album, Lifetime of Romance, was perplexingly uneven and ill-judged – especially coming after the divine New Age Outlaws and this, a perfectly executed synthesis of minimal wave and dropforge-heavy dub.
‘FOR YOU’ / ‘RADIALITY’
Before Floating Points was a household name – well, in some households, anyway – he announced his arrival with this debut single, closer to jazz and hip-hop than the dusky lovers’ house that he’s become synonymous with.
‘EVERYTHING IS WORKING’
(HIPPOS IN TANKS, 2010)
A perfect piece of underground pop, stillborn in an aquarium and content.
HANNS EISLER / BRÖTZMANN / VAN HOVE / BENNINK
(CIEN FUEGOS, 2012)
Listening to this reissue of a free jazz skronk-out recorded live in Bremen in ’73 is a blast, but you’ll probably be too busy gawping at the sumptuous cover design, a simple inversion of Peter Brötzmann’s original artwork, to even get that far.
HATEBEAK / CANINUS
BIRD SEEDS OF VENGEANGE / WOLFPIG
Hatebeak are a grindcore band with a parrot called Waldo, while Caninus are a Most Precious Blood spin-off with two pitbulls, Budgie and Basil. Both animals take vocals. With that taken on board, you shouldn’t need us to tell you that Bird Seeds of Vengeance – its title a piss-take of black metal nerds Nile’s Black Seeds of Vengeance – is a deeply silly record by grown adults who should know better. Perfect for a cheap 7” then.
THE HEATWAVE FEAT. RIKO DAN
‘MIND HOW YOU A TALK’ (PIANO RIDDIM)
The Roll Deep warlord slowed things down for his version of the London dancehall squad’s undeniable ‘Piano Riddim’. If you know someone who doesn’t like this, delete them off Facebook then arrange a meeting just to de-friend them in real live – they’re that wrong.
HENRY & LOUIS FEAT. PRINCE GEEN
(ZAMZAM SOUNDS, 2012)
Portland’s ZamZam is a label to watch: their beautifully designed 45s are all dub-oriented, but the best thing about them is that they’re focussed on new riddims – whether they be by young American producers (Strategy) or by British dancehall legends (Henry & Louis, Jah Warrior). Heavyweight wax, cut loud as f**k.
(YOUTH ATTACK, 2011)
Forget mp3s, douchebag; for the American hardcore underground, authenticity is paramount, and so it should go without saying that the trusty ol’ 7″ remains the format of choice. The Youth Attack label has been some responsible for some particularly handsome offerings in recent times – for instance this elaborate fold-out package housing a blistering 4-track EP by Hoax.
(ALL CITY, 2008)
Released shortly after his party-starting ‘Oooops!’ EP, ‘Star Crackout’ – the sixth instalment in All City’s 7×7 Beat series – finds Hud Mo on reflective form, making crackly, scratchy ambient. Imagine Kanye and R. Kelly over this.
DO ROIDS AND KILL E’RYTHING
(SECOND LAYER, 2010)
Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s trajectory over the past two years has been impressive, but across their numerous releases they’ve yet to top the compressed, smacked-out power of this superb 7″.
‘NO TIME’ / ‘WHEN YOU WERE SLEEPING’
Released as part of a series of 7”s on Matador (edition limited to 420), ‘No Time’ finds Jay Reatard plugging in and singing from the heart about something anyone in any city can relate to, simply never finding the time to feel at ease. He would die a year later.
LATE OF THE PIER
‘SPACE & THE WOODS’
(WAY OUT WEST, 2007)
Why weren’t Late of the Pier huge? In 2007-2008, they felt like the group that the last five years of UK music – Klaxons, Durrr, red skinny jeans and the rest of it – had been building to, and although they made a couple of missteps, their good moments comfortably outperformed 99% of the competition. ‘Space & The Woods’ is their best.
LEYLAND JAMES KIRBY / COSMIC DENNIS GREENIDGE
(SNUG LIFE, 2012)
The 7″ has always been the outsider artist’s format of choice, and they don’t come much more “outside” than Cosmic Dennis Greenidge, who contributes three f**ked up miniatures to this release. Leyland Kirby takes care of business (ahem) on the A-side.
THE LONG BLONDES
(ANGULAR RECORDING CORPORATION, 2004)
‘Giddy Stratospheres’ is a perfect pop song, at once melancholic and celebratory, dreaming of escape from suburban drudgery but knowing, in the back of its mind, that the buzzing metropolis will only bring new frustrations and resentments.
‘SANTA’S COMING OVER’
(SUB POP, 2008)
In the oddly-rewarding sub-genre of underground Christmas records, Low’s 1999 album Christmas is regarded as one of the best. In 2008, the veteran glum-faces revisited the theme, releasing their most chilling ode to the season yet, in beautiful packaging.
LUKE FOWLER & RICHARD YOUNGS
‘YELLOW GARDENS’ / ‘ENERGY POND’
(FOURTH DIMENSION SINGLES CLUB, 2012)
Subscription-based 7″ singles clubs used to be fairly commonplace in the 70s and 80s, and they seem to be enjoying a slight resurgence of late. One of the more adventurous imprints getting involved is Fourth Dimension, who earlier in 2012 released this fabulous 7″ of throbbing electronics by Richard Youngs and Turner-nominated artist Luke Younger, packaged in a striking riso-printed sleeve.
THE MAYFAIR SET
‘ALREADY WARM’ / ‘DESERT FUN’
(CAPTURED TRACKS, 2009)
The Mayfair Set, a collaboration between Kristin ‘Dum Dum Girls’ Gundred and Mike ‘Blank Dogs’ Sniper didn’t last long enough to achieve its full potential, but at least managed to bequeath us this exemplary two-tracker of heat-warped C86 pastiche.
‘GOLDEN PHONE’ / ‘DO ME WELL’
Not Micachu’s first single, but the one that introduced many to the weird world of one of the UK’s most eccentric and inventive pop musicians, each side showcasing the pint-sized sample freak at her most raucous and touching respectively.
‘WHAT I HAVE LEFT’
(SOCIAL REGISTRY, 2009)
We really have no idea what happened to Mike Bones after the release of his second album A Fool For Everyone, and in truth it wasn’t a record we were hugely into, but this single? A pounding, triumphant piece of indie rock that’s every bit as powerful as The Arcade Fire’s best moments, and later made popular by the trailer for John Lennon film Nowhere Boy.
‘THE FOURTH DAY’
Shufflin’ hip-hop that seems like it’s going to build to an astral climax, before dropping back into a jazz-flecked strut. A single like so many others, but done so damn well.
‘VERSUS THE BBC’
(ONE-HANDED MUSIC, 2009)
As a seasoned crate-digger and library music aficianado, Paul White understands the magic of a rare record. This beauty, limited to 300 copies, hand-stamped and hand-numbered is one of the rarest and most sought-after that he’s ever put his name to, and also one of his best.
WRAPPED IN THE FLAME OF ILLUSION, MASKED IN THE CLAY OF BEHAVIOUR
Utterly dysphoric yet oddly serene noise from Dominick Fernow, spread across a 2×7″ package with suitably warped artwork by Genesis P-Orridge.
Life-affirming instrumental genius from Evan Mast and Michael Stroud, somewhere between kosmische, medievalist prog and Guns ‘N Roses at their most sentimental. More effective than ecstasy, and cheaper too.
RHYTHM & SOUND
(BURIAL MIX, 2005)
As Basic Channel, Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus reinvented techno by applying dub methodology to it; with Rhythm & sound, they reinvented dub by applying techno methodology to it. ‘Truly’, vocal led by Freddy Mellow, is one of their masterpieces.
YES I SMOKE CRACK
Released on white vinyl, Salem’s debut EP sold out before you could say “night bus”, and listening back to Yes I Smoke Crack, it’s uncanny how ahead of its time it was – yes, the group were explicitly and openly in debt to the purple vision of DJ Screw, the drums of Memphis hip-hop and the smoky slow-pop of acts like Cocteau Twins, but whereas those influences are the norm these days, in 2008 it genuinely was rare to hear them put together like this.
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD & PET SHOP BOYS
‘I’M IN LOVE WITH A GERMAN FILM STAR’
(KOMPAKT POP, 2008)
The 7″ is more often than not the realm of the curious, the quirky, the improbable. When Kompakt found themselves gifted with a cover of The Passions’ ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’, sung by artist Sam Taylor-Wood and produced by the Pet Shop Boys, they perhaps understandably got over-excited and released various editions of it, incorporating numerous unnecessary edits and remixes. Of course the only one worth picking up was the hand-numbered 7″ with the radio edit on it.
(MORDANT MUSIC, 2004)
Shack’s debut offering, pre-dating even his Skull Disco gear, continues to represent the quintessence of his paranoid, propulsive sound. Deleted soon after its release, second-hand copies now trade for silly money.
SMITH & MIGHTY
(ANGEL’S EGG, 2003)
Originally recorded in 1985, ‘Brain Scan’ is one of Smith & Mighty’s most powerful productions, but unbelievably it didn’t see release until 2003 when Japanese label Angel’s Egg put it on 7″. The same track is pressed on both sides, as if to reinforce its standalone brilliance.
THE STRANGE BOYS
‘WOE IS YOU AND ME’
(IN THE RED, 2009)
A killer slab of ragged pop from the fantastic In the Red, a label that’s been dedicated to jukebox-ready 7”s since the early ‘90s.
TELEPATHE / SUNNI GEINI
‘CHROME’S ON IT’ / ‘SG MAIN THEME’
(NO PAIN IN POP, 2008)
Leading up to their oh-so-underrated debut album, Dance Mother, ‘Chrome’s On It’ was Brooklyn duo Telepathe’s calling card. Three years on from Dance Mother, it still is.
‘DO U KNOW’
(1965 RECORDS, 2007)
Before he was a regular on Radio 1, ‘Do U Know’ captured Toddla T fresh-faced and straight out of Sheffield. Spread over two 7”s, the riddim featured four different vocalists – our pick of the bunch was Mr. Versatile’s ‘Fill Up Mi Portion’, but we’re also big fans of Ms. Bieneck’s ‘Back Chatter’, featuring a contribution from a young Micachu.
Music from 1965 schlock-fest Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors, which saw screen greats Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee rubbing shoulders with, er, Roy Castle. The film features a legendary “voodoo” jazz number by Brit jazz legend Tubby Hayes, which nearly 50 years later Jonny Trunk found on an old session reel and pressed up in an edition of (natch) 666 copies.
‘NOTORIOUS’ (GHETTO ARC VERSIONS)
King-sized dancehall belter, given a worldwide release by XL with a bleep-heavy Diplo mix.
‘FOUND LOVE IN A GRAVEYARD’
Immaculate indie-pop at once celebrating and poking affectionate fun at those of a gothic disposition, ‘Found Love In A Graveyard’ was eventually licensed to Captured Tracks and found its way onto Veronica Falls’ debut album for Slumberland. But it’s the original, limited pressing with screenprinted sleeve on Trouble Records that you want – naturally.