After Sarah ended, Matt set up SHINKANSEN RECORDINGS. The label, named after the Japanese Bullet Train, went on to release records by former Sarah artistes BLUEBOY, HARVEY WILLIAMS and EAST RIVER PIPE, but its debut 7″ was Abba on the Jukebox by TREMBLING BLUE STARS. Initially a solo project of The Field Mice’s Bobby Wratten, Trembling Blue Stars would, in time, include in its various incarnations Gemma Townley from Blueboy and the aforementioned Mr Williams; Michael Hiscock and Annemari Davies from The Field Mice; and Beth Arzy from Aberdeen and Keris Howard from Brighter. Brighter’s Alex Sharkey, meanwhile, became part of FOSCA, a 4-piece formed by Dickon Edwards from Shelley, while Dickon’s former bandmate Stephen Jefferis went on to become part of CODY. There were also two bands who had absolutely no Sarah connections: MONOGRAPH, who came from New Barnet, wrote aching guitar-pop miniatures and later morphed into PACIFIC RADIO, and TOMPOT BLENNY, who were named after a fish and seemed to move between different locations around the East Midlands with suspicious frequency – I always assumed they were the brains behind the Long Eaton bank job, and didn’t ask too many questions – whilst writing songs that mixed heartbreak and melancholy with something much more unsettling.
Unlike Sarah, which ended with a bang on a boat in Bristol harbour on reaching its hundredth catalogue number, Shinkansen was eventually abandoned in a disused siding just outside Norbury station some months after the release of Trembling Blue Stars’ A Certain Evening Light. Much as I’d like to pretend that it was always my plan to symbolically stop the label at its thirty-ninth release, I’m afraid it wasn’t; I just got a bit waylaid by other things (mainly Smoke: a London Peculiar) and confused by Myspace. One of my big regrets at the time was that plans for a second album by Tompot Blenny had to be dropped; but I consoled myself with the thought that what I’d heard thus far was so utterly fantastic that they’d have no trouble at all finding another label to release it.
Thirteen years later, I had an email from someone claiming to be their
getaway driver drummer, wondering if I had any thoughts on what they should do with what they’d recorded. Which is why, in January 2017, a fortieth Shinkansen release emerged: Sketches From Longhamville. It’s online only, because that’s the way the world is now – and also because Shinkansen doesn’t really exist any more – but is every bit as wonderful as it had promised to be all those years ago.
And its release prompted me to tie up one last loose end. It had always been my intention to release a second Shinkansen compilation – the first, Lights On A Darkening Shore, came out in June 2000 – and we’d actually got as far as mastering it, but then… as I say, other things got in the way. I still had the master, though, so… in November 2017, the very last Shinkansen release – Other Futures Shine Like Stars In Other People’s Eyes – finally saw the light of day. And that really is The End.
If you want to hear what it all sounded like, there are Spotify links to the two compilations on the right. Most of the bands’ individual releases are also online – though, be warned, both Cody and Pacific Radio’s names seem to have been posthumously appropriated by other acts! More excitingly, Tompot Blenny have just released a brand new album, (Heartmaps), which is just as lovely as their Shinkansen recordings. As, of course, were the post-Shinkansen releases by Fosca, East River Pipe and Trembling Blue Stars…