Monday, January 24, 2011

Various Artists: Commercial Music

I've noticed that several blogs - most notably Systems of romance and Crispy Nuggets - have showcased homemade compilations of obscure and random tracks, and I thought "Wow, I should get in on that!". So, consider this post my getting in on it. This compilation features a huge array of songs ripped from records and CDs of mine. Most of them are from singles, compilations, and private releases on which there was one really good song amidst a bunch of less-interesting tracks.
I figure a quick breakdown of the songs is a good idea:
First up is a song called "Tuesday's Eyes" by a band called The Company. This was featured on an obscure UK compilation that I posted a couple years ago, but was taken down with no explanation. The song is a pretty great dancely electro-pop track. The song "Perfect Leader" by the late Gregory Jones (whose other projects I have previously posted) is a great semi-experimental synthpop song from an album of experimental electronic soundscapes). Next is an atmospheric darkwave song by the original "Christian goth band" Idle Lovell, which is fortunately not overly preachy.
The song by Native Alien is from a 7" that was self-released in 1986, and has a well-produced and very catchy new wave sound that sounds a bit inspired by bands like Flock of Seagulls. Maybe it's a tad pompous at times, but it's a good track. From a 7" on the Himalaya Records label is a song by Where is China?. They have a 7" and an LP, but the song "Mean Words" is probably the only song from them that I really like. The next track, by New Johnny Five, is the first song from their sole album - the rest of the album is standard college rock/AOR fare, but "The Reasoning" is a total synthpop hit that's completely different from anything else on the record.
San Francisco is represented by the unknown and unapologetically poppy synth gem "Watch Me Dance Alone" by a band called Shadow Show. It comes from a self-released 12" that also inexplicably contains a synthpop cover of the Gilligans Islandm theme. Taking things even further into the poppy realm is the ultra lo-fi new wave/synthpop pearl by Teai Benet, 2 O'Clock Love. Teai Benet was a scenester in the Houston punk/new wave scene and self-released this truly enjoyable song on a 7" in 1983. It's cutesy without being precious, and the refrain really digs itself into your brain.
Minimal synth fans will like the song "I'd Rather Not" by Mark, James, and Julie. This is from a 7" from 1981. The five-song 7" that this song can be found on has four straightforward and unspectacular piano and lounge songs, but this song is completely different - it's pure electronics and percussion with sung/spoken male and female vocals. Continuing the minimal synth sound is a song off the only record by Your New Friends, a self-released 12" from 1986. This song is chock-full of lo-fi toy drum machines, warm electronics, and reverbed vocals that sound like they were recorded in a coffee tin. It's an odd track with questionable singing and almost emo-ish lyrics, but I find it very enjoyable, and it appears on eBay every few months for those interested.
Next up is a completely obscure song from a band called Velvascurge. Pure electronics, great vocals, with a sound (at least during the verses) that is occasionally similar to Rational Youth. Next is a song from the (apparently) extremely sought-after 12" by Charlie's Brother, called The Wishing Tree (Megatree Mix). Imagine Robert Smith fronting a first-wave Jamaican ska band covering an ABC song. Yep.
The song by Reverse Heck is a great darkwave song with tape loops and synths and cellos that's on a 1985 compilation called Life Out There. That comp primarily features what I could only describe as Tex-Mex-Polka music. The compilation remains unknown because nobody in their right mind would even bother to listen to that very, very, very niche genre. After that is a song by Jim Whiting, a punk rock kid from the east coast who self-released a four-song 7" in 1983. The record had three quite-good lo-fi powerpop/punk songs - and also "I Fall Around", a completely over-the-top killer gem of pure heavy old-school electro, which is the one I included (obviously)
A more recent song by another San Francisco band, Ssleeping Desiress, is next, from a 2010 demo cd-r. The rest of that CD is also excellent, but I wanted to narrow it down to one song to include on this collection. After undergoing a few incarnations as a duo with live drummers, Ssleeping Desiress is now essentially a one-man band with electronics, detached vocals, and an old-school reel-to-reel. I played this song the first time I DJd the "Wierd" party in NYC and the people on the dancefloor loved it. It reminds me of an old French coldwave song. Following that is a song from a 1986 compilation called The Mad Scene that was put together by Butch Vig. The comp mainly has standard guitar-based 80s indie/college rock fare (the kind that Vig was known for producing before the 90s). But the song by The D'a'ns is pure electronics. It has lots of samples and dirty synth basslines and super-ultra-completely cheesy singing and lyrics, and it sounds like The Short Wave Mystery doing a Detroit techno song. But I can not. Stop. Listening. To it.
Next - and going in a COMPLETELY different direction -is a more guitar-based song, "Counter Circular" by SF band IfThenWhy. It's a short song, a dark, almost gothic college-rock track with a bit of a proto-punk influence. After that is a song that mixes UK post punk, middle eastern themes, darkwave, and synth music to surprisingly excellent effect. "Life in Riyadh" by Riyadh is from the same compilation as the Company song that starts out this compilation.
Next up is a hazy gothic shoegaze masterpiece by And Tears Fell, a band who released a CD or two on the Epithet Records label I have a feeling that this song will prompt a lot of people to seek out their material, which is highly recommended. You can download a lot of their songs from their iLike page here.
Closing out the comp is an epic song from a Swedish band called Pojken Med Grodan I Pannan. For the most part their sole EP wasa mix of prog rock and alt-rock, but this song mixes simplistic drum machines, synths, and vocals that border on choral chanting. Despite some questionable bass meandering in the middle of the song (ugh), it's a pretty good track to end with.
But wait! There's more! A super-secret bonus track by a band called Headthrob! A song about being hung over! From a one-song single that was literally packaged in a barf bag! A song with the line "I think I'm th-, I think I'm th-, I think I'm th-throwing up"!
Please don't hate me for including this song. If you burn the comp to a CD, you'll have to delete this song to make it fit. That was all part of the plan...


A couple months ago I shared the wonderful analog electronic masterpiece "In Tune With Tomorrow" by the Los Angeles robo-trio Android. Here is their debut 7", self-released in 1981, a year before their album. This contains two very different versions of songs from their album. While the LP features very well-produced and almost lush electro-wave sounds, the 7" versions are completely stripped-down versions.
Minimal synth fans will freak out at the version of Ahead of Your Time here, with its stop-start tinny drum programs, bare-bones electronics, and vocodered vocals. It is an absolute lo-fi masterpiece, even better than the LP version. I'd love to find out if these guys ever released anything else. They seemed to have dreams of becoming big Futurist heroes (especially on their LP), but they completely disappeared, leaving precious few copies of their records for minimal synth nerds to salivate over. Big thanks to Christian, who also provided the Kozmonaut LP, for this rip!

Android: A 21st Century Band 7"
1981, AMP Productions
A: Ahead of Your Time
B: Images

DADA Dascography

It's great to have friends who are interested in collecting the same music as you. There's an instant comaraderie; they enlighten you to new music that you're bound to love but have yet to hear, and let's admit it - the conversations about recent records you've found, while they may not seem to amount to more than pissing contests, are extremely engaging. Especially when shouted to each other in a divey club after several drinks.
So when I ran into Frank (nee Frankie Teardrop of the always-excellent Systems of Romance blog) at a record store a mere week after living in New York, I was excited and a tad apprehensive. My initial reaction was purely instictual: I saw a couple records in his hands and I wanted to know WHAT records he found. Were they records I could have found first?!? After this thought passed through my mind in a flash (we both found nothing of interest at the shop), we talked about New York, music, record stores - the general music nerd conversation topics. He had just returned from upstate and we decided to visit a record store he had not been to for a while (and which I, being new to the region, had never even heard of). Neither of us were disappointed. I found inexpensive copies of the No Name 12" and the Computer Haben Herzschmerz by REK - the latter of which I had been looking for for quite a while. He found a couple goodies as well, and I even found a couple for him that I already had (the Lilac Dreams EP from Gothic Girls and the Loveland 12").
But there was one record in particular that I found that looked particularly promising, from a band called Dada. Neither of us had seen it before. I listened to the B side and was a little impressed, and listened to only a second or two of the A side. I put it in a pile of "maybe" records. I had a bunch of records I wanted to listen to, and there was only one record player in the store, so I wanted to be quick. Frankie asked to listen to the Dada record after I was done, and after a few moments he said "if you don't want this, I do".
Which piqued my interest a bit. I listened to the A side again. This time I listened all the way through. How had I not noticed this before? The song, Age of Confusion, was one of the best underground late-80s synthpop songs I had heard. Ever. Long and epic, repetitive but not boring, with a steady danceable beat, layers of warm and cold and wailing synths, an amazing synth refrain, great vocals and lyrics, and New Order-ish guitars (and a title that fused two New Order song names), Age of Confusion was just a flat-out great song. I filed the record in my "buy" pile immediately.
Frank took note of the record and found it right away on eBay for dirt cheap. Since that time, either he or I have played it at the Wierd party almost every week, to a packed dancefloor. The record can still be found very easily online. Sometimes the greatest unknown hits are not rare - they're just plain... well, unknown.
Included in this post - a shared effort by both Frank and myself - is the Age of Confusion 12" from 1987, and their later 4-song EP.

Age of Confusion 12"
1987, A Major recording Label
A Age Of Confusion
B Pursuits Of Happiness

Right Men tell Lies 12"
1988, A Major Recording Label
A1 Discussing Missile Size
A2 As The Sun Races By
B1 Separate Ways
B2 The World They Left Behind

Soft Moon!!!

Okay, if I have to pick one record from 2010 that I've listened to the most in the past year (or at least for the past few months), it is the seltitled effort San Francisco's The Soft Moon. Although I may be biased since the members are friends of mine, the record is truly SOLID. The 8.1 on Pitchfork is well-deserved. Dark, fuzzed vocals and shrieks, subdued electronics, loads of dissonance, and pounding drums make this the perfect 3-way interstection of goth, minimal synth, and Krautrock.

They are making their NYC debut this Wednesday at the weekly Wierd party (which I'll be DJing alongside Frankie Teardrop and Soft Moon member/SF record nerd Justin). It is HIGHLY recommended. In the meantime, check out a couple of their songs below:


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Various Artists: 1994 LP

Well, it is the start of a new year, and what better time than now to come back and start sharing some music again? I have now relocated to New York, and finally have time to resume my blog. I have quite a few records that I ripped over the summer and fall, and although a few of them have been shared in the interim (which I may still post anyway, just to get the music out there to more peoples' ears) there may be a few unknown or underappreciated gems. Starting with this nice little compilation, simply titled "1994", released in 1984 on Etiquette Records in Belgium.
You can find songs by some more well-known bands like Linear Movement (who showcase a decidedly lo-fi synthpop song here) and Die Fabriek, as well as a whole array of unknown minimal synth, new wave, and post-punk bands.
While I like this comp quite a bit, there doesn't seem to be that one KILLER song that many of these private-press compilations have (ie, The Enter's song on the Youngblood compilation, the Curcuit 7 songs of Offering of Isca, the Life song on the Music Biz Showcase compilation, or the Glass Actors song on the Sing As We Go collection). Still, it's consistent in its decent quality, and has that amateurish and DIY aesthetic to it - both musically and graphically - that we all love so much.

PS, I just realized track 4 is mislabelled on the mp3, so you may want to change that...

Various Artists: 1994
1984, Etiquette Records

A1 Linear Movement - The Other Way Around
A2 Harbor City - Y En A Marre
A3 French Painter Dead - The Danger Form
A4 Pink Fungus - Entekaam
A5 Masai, The - Guys And Guys
B1 Day After - Political Games
B2 Low Class - The Alienation Ballade
B3 W - Movin' Up
B4 General Fears - Feel Love
B5 De Fabriek - Future Discover

Human Being Men: Selftitled 12"

Here is a record that I used to have many years ago, but traded away for another gem. Hence, I do not have a photo of the record (it was not issued with a cover anyway). This was a 1981 self-released 12" from a San Francisco duo called Human Being Men. The music ranges quite a bit, and there are a couple duds and a couple true gems. MSP-1 is an okay bouncy instrumental song, but the sax overkill kinda ruins it. Ronnie is probably best ignored, coming across like... ugh... a cheerful Huey Lewis knockoff.
However, don't despair! Human Dub is a standout, a pure instrumental electro-pop workout that reminds me very much of the first 12" from fellow SF minimal synth guru Mrs. Higginbottom. Take Me Back is also a great track, on which the duo seems to throw virtually every early-80s synthesizer sound in a blender and come out with a tasty synthpop smoothie (except for those damn saxes they insist on using in a couple parts).

Human Being Men 12"
1981, self-released
Human Dub
MSP-1 (Falling 5)
Take Me Back