Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Various Artists: Commercial Music Vol. 2

I have not been posting as much as I’d like to, having been busy with work and exploring my new home city, but here is a compilation I have been working on with various odds and ends and rarities. Most of these songs and artists are underappreciated or virtually unknown, and many have never been widely shared. I consciously made this compilation an exercise in “wave around the world”. Included are artists from the US, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Belgium, the UK, and more. Most are from the 80s, but a handful are from the 90s and 2000s. Enjoy!

The first track is Verdun by Addie Brik (UK, 1984). It’s a downtempo and slightly synthy Siouxsie-esque song. While it doesn’t develop as much as I would like, it has good atmospheric and is a good intro to the comp.

Proxies (Greece, 1982) released an amazing debut LP that recalled Cold War Night Life era Rational Youth. They followed it with a stylistic change toward a more pop-oriented direction on their second LP. This song, the awkwardly-titled Don't Throw Babies (To The Spartans At Kaiadas),is from that second LP, and while it is quite cheesy (admittedly a characteristic of their debut as well), it’s a pretty good synthpop track.

Soviet (NYC, 2000) were unfairly lumped with all the NY electroclash bands during the brief few months that genre was legitimate, but they really were a pure, earnest synthpop band. If they came out now, they would probably be classified as a minimal synth band. They released a couple CDs; this song is a very minimalistic demo version of their song Marbleyzed.

Nohumaneye (UK, 1981) self released one 7” and have been pretty much completely unknown for the past 30 years or so. I happened to find this in a tiny record store in Istanbul, of all places. This song, The Owners Lose A Package, is good lo-fi and synth-heavy new wave that borders on punk with its slightly off-key and shout-y vocals.

Strafe Fur Rebellion (Germany, 1983) has been shared before, but this song off their debut 7”,Mosche Bildt Njet, is a bit hard to find, and is completely unlike their abstract instrumental NDW that they’re more known for. Instead, this song basically sounds like DAF if they were a four-piece band with no electronics. It’s highly rhythmic, repetitive, with tinny jagged stabs of guitars and almost militaristic chanting.

The next song is a completely unknown track by a band called Dancing Bears (Scotland, 1987). The band was from the UK and self-released this 7”, and that may be their only recorded output. This song, Got to Get Out of Here, is a real gem - especially for those of us who love early 80s Scottish post punk. This is a very Josef K-sounding burst of energy

I shared Pinkie Maclure’s previous LP a while back. This track, Garden Of Delights, is taken from her Favourite LP (1995, UK). It finds her still using loads of electronics, but equips her with a new percussive backbone that recalls Krautrock bands like Can or Neu!. Her vocals are a bit more ethereal on this song, which recalls many of the trip-hop and electronic bands at the time (most notably Portishead and Laika).

Akira S + Charlie C (Brazil, 1989) follow with a song called Tokei, a short, synthy dark pop track. Akira S was huge in the underground Brazilian post punk and synthpop scene, and was behind many of the bands on the excellent Nao Wave and Sexual Life of the Savages compilations from a few years ago.

Scatterbrains (Netherlands, 1983) released an ridiculously sought-after mini-LP and disappeared. I have only heard a few songs on the mLP, and this is probably my favorite. Totally amateur and raw analogue synthpop – if anyone has a rip of their full record I’d love to hear it…

Trans Millenia Consort (San Francisco, 1984) is sometimes cited as the first-ever dark ambient band. While that claim may be disputable, there is no arguing this ominously-titled song’s (Blood Celebrants) absolutely haunting atmosphere that recalls a long foggy drive to a haunted house teetering atop a precarious precipice. Oh yeah, and the SF-based woman behind this band was completely BLIND.

Dequina + Zaba (Brazil, 1991) provide a wonderful downtempo (almost ambient) electronic song called Preposicoes, with nearly indecipherable hushed female vocals and layers of restrained percussion and effects.

48 Chairs (UK, 1982) were one of the many UK DIY bands that have been comped on the Messthetics and Homework series. Relentless is taken from their sole (and exceedingly rare) LP, is full of whirling electronics, tinny metronomic drum machines, blasts of sax, and repetitive vocals.

Navastrau (Chicago, 1980) follow up with a totally art-damaged and dark-as-hell post punk song from their self-released 7”, called Looking from an Airplane. A tinny rhythm box holds the beat for layers of synths, out-of-tune guitars, and almost electronic-sounding saxes. The female vocalist sounds simultaneously blasé and paranoid.

MaGita (Germany, 1984) follow with a burst of visceral German post punk. Originally the vocalist and violinist for Abwarts, she released a 12” from which this song, Jones, is culled. This track is replete with blazing guitars, shouted vocals, and a rhythm section that sounds like it’s in a state of repeated collapse

The Aeffect (Florida, 2002) may have been part of the “hipster synthpop” underground scene of the late 90s and early aughts, but like the best bands and albums of that genre – Antarctica, “Danse Macabre” by The Faint – they actually were legitimately good. This song, Burning in the Bed on Fire, is a fast-paced song with intense but simplistic synthesizer lines that recall early OMD or the “Some Bizarre” version of Depeche Mode’s Photographic.

Bedtime for Bonzo (Belgium, 1984) played jokey post punk and dark electro. Some people may be familiar with this controversial track, but it still remains a bit unknown so I figured I’d share it again. It’s called The Bloody Violation of Mickey Mouse’s Virginity on 59th Street. …and that is LITERALLY what this song is about.

Braizen Boiz (US, 1983) had a pretty dumb name (you’d expect them to sound like a hip hop version of Menudo or something), but they did leave their mark on the synthpop underground with this track, Beware. They only released one 12” which featured 3 mixes of the song (this is my favorite, the Space Version). Most copies were destroyed in a flood (isn’t that always the case?) so it’s hard to come across these days.

Maxx Mann (NYC, 1981) self-released one 12” that was an earnest combination of bathhouse disco and synthpop. This song, Like a Killer (True Love Is Always True) is loaded with tinny electronics and disco basslines, with Maxx Mann’s expressive vocals. Of all the people on this comp, he probably went on to the most fame, becoming a broadway actor of some reknown, as well as the singer of the hugely popular Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Kim Ki O (Istanbul, 2008) could be your new favorite synth band. This Turkish girl duo makes some gorgeous synth music that fits right along such contemporaries as Sixth June and Kindest Lines. They have an EP that was recently released on Enfant Terrible; this song I Don’t Relate, is found on one of their earlier self-released demo cd-rs.

Courage of Lassie (Canada, 1986) released several neofolk albums in the 80s and 90s. I’m not a huge fan of most of their work, but this track, Hiroshima, is full of glistening synths and wistful keyboard lines. It’s almost nostalgic-sounding, and I figure it’s a decent way to round out the comp…

Click here to listen...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kissed Air: Kariba & Out of the Night 7”s

Here are the two 7”s from Irish post punk band Kissed Air. They also released a 12” but alas, I do not have that record. Originally a punk band called Known Authority, this Belfast group changed their name and adopted a more post-punk style around 1982. Their style grabbed pretty liberally from the playbook of Joy Division and early A Certain Ratio. The singer’s vocals are reminiscent of Ian Curtis, with a slight Irish accent (as if Curtis mated with Bono, perhaps?). A couple songs put heavy basslines at the forefront – Kariba in particular sounds like it a companion piece to ACR’s Do the Du.

The second single finds them in their most Joy Division-ish sound, as the A side, Out of the Night sounds like it could be a single if Ian Curtis lived to record a third proper album with the band. It’s a bit frantic and danceable and aside from the breakdown near the end, retains a somewhat dark sound to it.

The band’s B sides are sort of let-downs compared to the obverse sides. Their eponymous song from the Kariba single is OK, but its mostly plodding pace completely negates the sense of urgency found on the A side. The B side of their second single, Change of Attention is decent, if your definition of “decent” extends to songs that sound like a castoff from a late-period Shriekback album.

Still, the two A sides here are well worth a listen, and these singles don’t tend to fetch too much cash right now, so it may be a good idea to buy them if you like them.

Kissed Air: Kariba 7:

1982, Kabuki Records

A1: Kariba

B1: Kissed Air

Kissed Air: Out of the Night 7”

1982, Kabuki Records

A1: Out of the Night

B1: Change of Attention

Click here to listen!