Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cerebral Hemorrhage: Back in 1984 EP

       Astonishingly and inexplicably, this is a record that has flown under the radar of pretty much every minimal synth collector out there - aside from a popsike entry from a few years ago and a couple other mentions of its existence, info on this record is nonexistant. At a recent record fair, the dealer selling this 12" saw me looking it up on discogs on my phone, and told me "unfortunatly that won't help - I made that entry". And since his copy was sealed, he hadn't even been able to hear it firsthand.
Still, it had the signature of an interesting record:
Cool band name (Cerebral Hemorrhage)
Promising title (Back in 1984)
Great label name (Illusion Records)
Intriguing song titles (Let's Modulate, Night Music)
And a strange icon of a stoic face with the caption "Big Brother is watching YOU"
       How could anyone resist that? I certainly couldn't - and when I put the needle on the record and heard 20 seconds of tinny drum machine plink-plonks before falling into a steady stream of pulsating synths, I was immensely satisfied. Through a bit of research I pieced together a few potentially-incorrect factoids about the record and band. It was ostensibly a one-man project by a guy named Dennis Hurley. This record was the third put out under the Cerebral Hemorrhage moniker. Two preceeding albums - an EP from 1981 and a double-LP from 1983 - appear to be almost as scarce than this one. (there might be a fourth record that came out around the same time as Back in 1984 too, but I'm not sure) However, whereas those records apparently incorporated lots of guitar and sound more like Hawkwind-style prog, there is nary a guitar to be found on this record, which appears to be re-recorded all-synth versions of songs from the earlier records.
       The two sides of the record are different animals - the second side is largely ambient and instrumental, and much more experimental. It comes across as highly influenced by Cluster and other 70s-era Krautrock bands. They're good songs, and they have interesting titles, but are not nearly as sonically wonderful as the A-side.
       The two tracks on the first side of the record pack a great one-two punch of electronics and lyrics of Cold War fear. After a minute and a half of synths and drums, the vocals suddenly kick in, singing about 1984's (the year, not the book) alternate history, in which after Reagan's re-election the US descended into nuclear war with the Soviets. The lyrics repeat "where were you?" at the moment world was annihilated. It's a great track that ends with a gurgle of synths before being interrupted by a nuclear explosion, and suddenly the second track begins. Where the first track asked "where were you?" at the world's end, the second track is a repetitive litany of memories from before the destruction: "there were buildings / there were faces / there were cities / there were towers / there was sunlight"... you get the gist. Both tracks are absolutely great for synth nerds, coming across like a crossbreed of League of Nations-ish minimal synth and the bedroom lonerisms of John Bender or Kevin Lazar.
       If anyone has Cerebral Hemorrhage's previous two records  I would love to hear them. Even if they're more prog-rock, I'm interested in seeing the progression toward this undiscovered minimal synth gem. I'd be surprised if this one doesn't end up on quite a few wantlists in the coming years. If anything, this one proves that there are still some diamonds out there - maybe they're just hidden in plain white sleeves with minimal information.

Cerebral Hemorrhage: Back in 1984 12"
1984, Illusion Records
A1 Back In 1984
A2 I Remember
B1 Let's Modulate
B2 The Chilly Dance
B3 Night Music

Click here to listen!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Commercial Music: Volume 4

 Six years. I never would have thought when I started this thing way back in 2007 that I'd still be updating it after a half-dozen years! A lot has happened in the interim - I've even moved across the country from SF to New York - but my love of music has not diminished at all. I still love to share music with others, and as my collection grows, so too does my resources of records and songs to post on this blog. Today, for a sixth anniversary, it seems like a good idea to post another homemade compilation.
This one certainly has a lot of odds and ends within it. There's Hungarian synthpop (KFT and GM49, the latter of whom has reissued most of their catalog on MP3 and is rather enjoyable, if cheesy). There's a rare song from the unreleased second Autumn Cathedral LP. It's the best of the 3 songs I've heard from that album, and it makes me really want to hear the rest of them. There's a cover of Voice Farm's "Modern Things", done by the guitarist from Japanese synthpop band The Plastics, found on a scarce picture disc. There's cheesy synthpop from a band called Press, whose album "The Low Hum of Machines" is not as promising as it sounds, but still has one great track.
Post punk/DIY fans will like the Louder Animal Group song, taken from a one-sided flexi. There's a track from the second Bluenose B 12". Unfortunately the other songs aren't nearly as good as their debut. There's weird dark avant-folk-synth from a guy called Breikreutz, a synthpop smash from Shades of Grey, and a practically unheard-of minimal synth demo from the singer of B-Movie, which sounds similar to early Eyeless In Gaza.
Hopefully there's something that everyone will like. Unless you only like twerk-wave, in which case what are you doing reading this?

PS. I promise that will be the only time I ever mention "twerk", unless twerk-wave becomes a genre.

Click here to twerk listen!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Kalashnikov: Ravaged Mind 7"

For your listening pleasure this week is a little 2-song 7" from 1986 by a Swedish band called Kalashnikov. Similar to their Spanish namesakes from the same era, this band also released a single synth 7" and then disappeared. The A-side of this disc is an enjoyable synth-funk 7" somewhat similar to With Sympathy-era Ministry (except when it suddenly goes into a completely infectious new wavey chorus). It's a fun track, although the indulgent and superfluous guitar solo near the end ruins it a bit for me.
The B side, Wailing Squad, is the superior song, though. With layers of synth and keyboards lines and great vocals (aside from somewhat ill-advised chanting during the chorus). It's a pretty great synth jam, and (if I had owned this 7" back when the Wierd party was still happening) would have made regular appearances in my sets. Alas, it will have to make a regular appearance on my iPod playlists instead.

Kalashnikov: Ravaged Mind 7"
1986, K Rec
A: Ravaged Mind
B: Wailing Squad

Click here to listen!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Show: Enjoy Sensations 12"

I'm back on U.S. soil after traipsing around Europe with my girlfriend for the majority of September. Naturally, we visited many, many record stores, and some gambles with cheap unknown records certainly paid off, I'll be sharing some of those in the coming months, starting with this post punk/darkwave obscurity by The Show.
The Show were a German band who released their sole 12"/7" on a small Spanish label, Pasarela (a label whose only legacy that I knew of was the release of the extremely rare "Untitled" compilation) . The Show's use of synths, great dark guitar hooks, and drum machines
(especially on the excellent track My Sensation) puts them in good company, reminding me of dark post-punk bands like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and BFG. I'm a bit surprised this record has flown under the radar for so long (although the title track has at least found its way to youtube), as it's a pretty great little piece of post-punk.

The Show: Enjoy Sensations 12"
1988, Pasarela Records

A1 My Sensation
A2 Daily Market
B1 Mankind

Click here to listen!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wagner: A Way Of Life EP

When you look at this cover, you just KNOW that it has to be synthpop. Nobody but a synth nerd would dress like a Victorian Michael Jackson conjuring a ring of fire. It certainly did not disappoint me upon first listen. Glorious, cheesy synthpop abounds in this 4-song EP.
 The Third Day of Sorrow and its dance mix are good midtempo synth tracks (although I wish more emphasis was placed on the rhythm...). Visions of You co-opts a synth line from Enola Gay, but in an incredible cheesy manner. And Dust is the true gem on the album - a somber synthpop track that's just perfectly 80s-sounding, somewhat reminscent of Rational Youth. Sometimes it's fun to discover a good old-fashioned synthpop record - and this EP isn't a bad place to start.

Wagner: A Way of Life EP
1986, Novus Records

A1 The Third Day Of Sorrow
A2 Dust
A3 Visions Of You
B The Third Day Of Sorrow (Dance Mix)

Click here to listen!