Friday, April 22, 2011

Radio Ghosts: Handfuls of Everything mLP

As I prepare to take a vacation-induced hiaitus, I figured that I would share a couple records since I won't be posting too much for a little while. Here is a gem from that I found recently, by a band called Radio Ghosts. They hailed from the fertile post punk and indie scene in Scotland, and released this 12" mLP on their Grampaphone Records (haha!) label. The album starts off with the most gurgling, ominous, dripping synth sound I've heard in a while before it mixes with wonderful Orange Juice style post punk to perfect effect. While they aren't really a synth band per se, they do incorporate it pretty effectively in several tracks, including the aforementioned title track and the minimalist closing track.
The slow/quiet-loud/fast-slow/quiet style of Run is also quite appealing, although the song is the first place where the sax makes its appearance (mercifully, it's pretty restrained). It's another song that shows a pretty heavy Josef K and Orange Juice influence, betraying its Scottish nature. The first tracks of each side are the absolute highlights. Side 2, track 1 is a full-on rush of post punk that sounds like Artery playing with early A Certain Ratio, and features the densist, heaviest spazz-bass EVER - it's enough to make a quadrapalegic gyrate like James Brown. Even the sax is used in great blaring Blurt-like fashion and adds to the frantic insanity.
I have no idea why this band doesn't have at least SOME appreciation; they seem to be waiting to be rediscovered. Perhaps their lack of widespread pop appeal was in part due to the completely no-frills DIY sound of the album (for example, the sudden volume change about a minute into Reflex Reaction is NOT something I did when ripping it... it's present on the album). I know that some of the members went on to other bands - the singer, Martin Cotter, formed the C86 indiepop band Bachelor Pad a few years after this ablum was released; Paul Quinn, the bassist, later released a few records on (what else?) the Postcard label and released a kinda mundane synthpop single with Vince Clarke before joining bands like Teenage Fanclub and, most notably, The Soup Dragons.
Ultimately, this is an artifact of early-80s post punk that will appeal to fans of all those kinda-pop, kinda-punk, kinda dance bands like Orange Juice and Josef K and Artery and They Must Be Russians (as well as more recent similar bands, most notably debut-LP-era Franz Ferdinand), so click below!

Radio Ghosts: Handfuls of Everything mLP
1982, Grampaphone Records
A1 Handfuls Of Everything
A2 Reflex Reaction
A3 Run
B1 I Won't Tell You Lies
B2 So Cruel
B3 The Big Man Bites The Sidewalk

The Cut: Shadow Talks LP

Here is a record from a pretty obscure Norwegian band called The Cut. Aside from being comped on one of the New Wave Complex cd-rs, and more recently the excellent Maskindans double-CD, this band has remained largely unknown. Perhaps they would have found more mass appeal if they were from the UK or even the US, but instead they were relegated to being "big in Scandinavia" which regrettably did not grant them much reknown, nor does it sound as impressive as being "big in Japan".
Their music, however, will certainly appeal to almost any fan of new wave or synthpop. They combine jerky guitars and some great new wave riffs, washes of synths and electronics and the perfect amount of blasse vocals. They sound like they take their cues from their British counterparts, most notably Gary Numan and Tubeway Army, as well as the eccentricities of the Neue Deutsche Welle scene (one standout song is actually sung in German), with vocals that sometimes recall David Byrne.
This is an album that hits you over and over and over with excellent tracks - from the bouncy "The Crowd" with deceptively macabre lyrics about death, misery, and burning flesh, to the dark new wave synths of the German-sung In Dieser Stadt. It's surprising that such a great album (that was issued twice, on two different labels, and later on CD) STILL has not received much recognition. I can't recommend this one highly enough - if you liked their contribution to the Maskindans CDs, or if a cross between Gary Numan and Surplus Stock appeals to you, then you need to check this record out.

The Cut: Shadow Talks LP
1982, Ultraphone Records
A1 The Crowd
A2 Disguises
A3 I Wish It Was Simple
A4 Atmospheres
A5 From Day To Day
B1 In Dieser Stadt
B2 Television
B3 Supernatural Conspiracy
B4 Break It
B5 This Time

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Great City: Great City LP

On many occasions, I am drawn to buy a record based on the cover alone, and this LP by a band called Great City is a perfect example of that. The cover art immediately drew me in with its ridiculous avant garde design that could ONLY have come from the 80s. The photo of the two band members pushed to the graininess of a pencil drawing; the photo credit on the front cover in case you were wondering who took it (it was "Ava"); the addition of seemingly random cubes and spheres; the inexplicable telephone cord coil in one corner; the band name written twice on the cover for some
strange reason... It was almost too much. The credits did not provide any info about the instruments used so I coudn't really glean what it would sound like, but judging by the cover it had to be some variation of new wave.
In actuality, the record is an odd beast: very simplistic and repetitive drum programs, strong electronic rhythmic backbones, stabs of synthesizers, oddly questionable and funky bass playing, cheesy synth horns a la With
Sympathy-era Minstry, and artfully off-key female vocals. On my favorite songs (the last two tracks of each side) musically sound sort of like the bastard child of SSQ and Ludus, with a little bit of lite gothic flourishes thrown in (and the final song, I Remember, sounds quite similar to the gothic Hi-I LP I uploaded a while back).
The band was from Los Angeles - which I assume is the "Great City" in question, which actually kind of negates any credibility they may have (sorry, LA friends). They released a CD a few years after this but always remained pretty much unknown. Except for a lone discogs entry, there is absolutely no mention of this release anywhere online. It just goes to show that no matter how many 80s gems have been uncovered, there is still a plethora waiting to be unearthed by the patient collector.

Great City: Great City LP
1986, Impressive Records

A1 A Dollar, A Ruble
A2 Impressive
A3 Too Much Thunder
A4 Talk Before
B1 Tell Me I'm Yours
B2 Night Flight To Tangiers
B3 Never Land
B4 I Remember

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Steve Braun's Universe: Out to Play 7"

Before the advent of the analog synthesizer and drum machine, one-man bands tended to almost exclusively be found firmly in folk-rock territory; just a man or a woman and a guitar, vocals, and the occasional harmonica. Synths helped to change that, though, as one person could record an entire album using the vast array of sounds and beats that were programmed on their new devices. Entire albums could be recorded using just a few synthesizers - from the completely raw DIY aesthetic of Transparent Illusion to the tuneful minimalist synthpop of John Foxx.
Steve Braun was one such one-man band. He self-released this 7" on his own Universe Records in 1982 as a demo to send around to labels and record companies, never really distributing more than a few hundred copies. He played virtually everything on this record, which is nearly exclusively electronic (except for a short sax interlude and live drums on side B). Musically, his songs are extremely redolent of early Gary Numan (although his vocals are more similar to Philip Oakley of Human League). If Braun and Numan did not know each other before this 7" was released, this record certainly caught Gary's ear, as the synthpop star and Braun later joined forces to create Numa Records. Braun even released a 12" on that label some years later.
If decidedly lo-fi and minimal one-man synthpop is at all appealing to you, then you'll want to check out this obscurity!

Steve Braun's Universe: Out To Play 7"
1982, Universe Records
A1 Out to Play
B1 Red Light Districts