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!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Boys Say Go: 7" and 12"

There's an old cliche that says you mustn't judge a book by its cover. Likewise, you often shouldn't judge a band by their name. This, however, is NOT one of those cases. Boys Say Go sound exactly like a band named after an early DM song should sound like. Their music is bouncy electro-pop that is infectious as hell, if sometimes a bit cheesy. You may remember them from the Hit The Floor comp I posted a few years back.
 Their 1984 debut 7", Joey and Maria, is almost impossible to find (I have seen only one copy for sale in about 12 years). The A-side reminds me of Tone Set's "Living in Another Land", both stylistically and thematically. Love is Dangerous is a perfect counterpart to the A-side, with its gurgling synths and imminently catchy songwriting.
Their 12", Humanity, is from the following year, by which time they had adopted a more well-produced electro sound. Despite being their last release, it sounds a bit more dated than their 7", but that might just be a result of my preference for the more lo-fi sound of their debut. Still, Humanity is a fun track, and Holy War is actually a great synthpop dancefloor smash with just a touch of With Sympathy-era Ministry funkiness. The band faded into obscurity after the 12", with their records slowly trickling into the hands of synthpop fans like myself. If you want a perfect dose of well-crafted, fun synthpop, you could certainly do worse than Boys Say Go. Listen and enjoy.

Joey and Maria 7"
1984, Gender Records
A Joey and Maria
B Love is Dangerous

Humanity 12"
1985, Gender Records
A Humanity
B Holy Way (D-D-Dance Mix)

Listen to both here!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Innervoice: Nobody Knows EP

Here's an oddity that has slipped under the radar of most synth and new wave fans. I could say that NOBODY KNOWS about this EP, but that would be stupid. Instead, I'll just say that it's a strange and uneven EP from a trio of French Canadians. I cannot find any info about any of them whatsoever, so it appears this was a self-released effort by people who didn't move on to any other projects. In fact, the only relation to any record that I can find is that this was recorded at the same studio as the Janitors Animated 12" shared by Crispy Nuggets several years ago.
The music on this EP emphasizes rhythm, with little to no melody. It actually slightly reminds me of Iron Curtain in that regard - it's simplistic, repetitive, and groove-oriented synth music. The vocals are a different story though - they are often animated and forceful. The lyrics are sung in broken English, and are rather simplistic (sometimes bordering on silly - sample lyric from Too Direct: "You say I / I'm too direct / just loving and caring and sharing things / touching and glowing and feeling feeling feeling". Despite the obvious shortcomins in the lyrics department and the lack of ambition in the musical composition, it's still somehow a rather enjoyanle record.

Innervoice: Nobody Knows EP
1986, 3rd Wave Coll.

A1 Nobody Knows
A2 Shadows
B1 Too Direct
B2 Don't Go Too Fast

Click here to listen!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Unknown: The Unknown LP

I describe a lot of bands that I post about as "unknown". It's a decent descriptor - many bands are heretofore completely unknown outside of the artists who recorded them and a few friends and collectors. Well, this band from Baltimore is literally unknown - as in The Unknown.
This record is more or less un-googleable since it's by a band called The Unknown, and the album is selftitled. Even their German namesakes are much easier to find online! This post is a joint post with Systems of Romance - this is their debut, and their excellent follow-up album can be found right over here.
I came across this album on a recent trip to that ultimate vacation paradise... Baltimore. The record looked interesting, and the 5 seconds I got to hear in the store was enough for me to buy it. The first time I listened to it in its entirety I was wholly impressed. Tracks on the album sound similar to For Against, Unforgettable Fire-era U2, Sport of Kings, Grapes of Wrath, and other similar melancholy guitar-based post punk bands. Even the weaker songs are only weak relative to the strength of the others, and it was initially hard to choose a favorite song. The record starts off with Eternity, a surf-post-punk sound reminiscent of Abecedarians; The Clock, with its dissonant guitar screeches is certainly impressive, and when the band explodes during the chorus I can imaging it must have been excellent to see live. But the closing track, Songinsee, somehow manages to span 6 minutes and still feel too brief, and it's the one that I found myself listening to on repeat. With several layers of shimmering guitars and lyrics about longing and loneliness, it's pretty much a perfect solemn pop song.
I'm uncertain how it escaped the ears of producers and record company execs and propel the band to stardom. It was 1987, so perhaps they thought The Unknown's sound was dated - it's certainly not as hip as mountains of teased hair, spandex, and novelty songs about cherry pie and girls, girls, girls who're smoking in the boy's room. But hopefully this post will give the song, and the album as a whole, a tiny bit of the recognition it deserves.

The Unknown: The Unknown LP
1987, Fetal Records

A1 Eternity
A2 I Wonder Why
A3 Perfect Ground
A4 The Clock
B1 Dear Mrs. Jones
B2 Slow Song
B3 Salvation
B4 Songinsee

Click here to listen!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sinking Ships: Dream 7"

Here is the rare second 7" from Lincoln, England's Sinking Ships. The band released only a handful of recordings in their brief existence - two 7"s and a couple compilation tracks - so their songwriting never really had a chance to evolve. It's a shame, because each song touches upon a different style. Their first 7", Cinema Clock - which can be found over at Systems of Romance with a brand new, high-quality rip - featured a Wire-esque post punk banger and a more anthemic pub-punk song.

This record features a questionable choice for a B-side: a long live dirge that changes little over its six minutes and could have benefitted from a studio recording and could have been shortened by a few minutes. It renders the B-side rather low in sound quality since it's spread so thin - and it's already a rather cheap pressing.  The A side, Dream, is my favorite song of theirs along with Cinema Clock. It takes the arty atmospherics of early MOdern English, throws in sax a la Psychedelic Furs (perhaps a result of having opened for the Furs on their early tours); the result is a brief, dark DIY post-punk song that could have been a classic.

Sinking Ships: Dream 7"
1980, Recession Records
A: Dream
B: After the Rain (live)

Click here to listen!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Apex Curve: Territory EP

Despite this blog's tendancy to highlight the obscure synthpop, post punk, and new wave records from the 80s, I have a soft spot for 1990s synthpop. When I was in high school and college, Cause and Effect, Celebrate the Nun, Seven Red Seven, Mesh, De/Vision, and the first Iris album were my soundtrack. I bought all the CDs by Red Flag and Anything Box, not just their debuts. Hell, I even had a Red Flag T-shirt at one point. So while that sometimes belittled, often forgotten era of synthpop may be underrepresented on this blog, I suppose this post is a small way to remedy that.
Apex Curve was a synthpop trio from San Jose that featured Steve Smith, founder of the Razormaid-inspired Art of Mix series of DJ-only remix albums. The EP only has 3 songs, although 2 of them have remixes and extended versions (I suppose remixes would be inevitable given the Art of Mix relation). The song "This Time" is a bit of a bland throwaway track. "Treachery" is more interesting; it's an imperfect midtempo synthpop song, but has a nice chorus. There are a couple remixes of the track, too, including a 7" remix - which is weird, because I don't believe Apex Curve released anything aside from this CD. But the real winner is Sunday, a melancholy danceable synthpop smash that sounds like it was recorded after a 24-hour marathon listening session of Violator, Naive Art, and Anything Box's Peace. The Club mix of the song is similar to a lot of the Art of Mix releases (reflecting Steve Smith's input on the band), with its extended intro, slightly muted vocals, and emphasis on the drums and the beat. It's the mixes of this song that make this CD a gem and fetch rather high prices for a CD.

Apex Curve: Territory EP
1991, Art of Music International

1 Sunday
2 Treachery
3 This Time
4 Treachery (Extended Mix)
5 Sunday (Club Mix)
6 Treachery (7" Re-Mix)

Click here to listen!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Famous Rays: Ending Beginning LP

The first time I saw this LP, I knew it had to be by a New York band. Anyone who has been to NYC can be easily confused by the similarly-named-but-not-at-all related pizza places called "Famous Ray's" "Original Ray's", "Famous Original Ray's", or (as Kramer discovered), simply "Ray's Pizza". As it turns out, the band was from the UK originally, but moved to NYC in the late 80s to seek better opportunities.
Famous Rays released this record in 1990, and from what I can find, this is the only thing they ever released.
By most standards, 1990 is a rather late year for a DIY post punk album to be released. You probably know the kind of record I mean - the kind that combines relentless experimentation, amateurishness, and variety of non-punk instruments (synths and sax being especially common). Bands as diverse as 48 Chairs, Beyond the Impload, Vice Versa, Androids of Mu, Desperate Bicycles, and countless thousands others all fell into this "genre". Well, Famous Rays can be counted as a VERY late addition to that DIY group (and indeed, an earlier incarnation of the band, Romford Stompers, was part of the fertile UK DIY scene). Famous Rays carried the lo-fi, avant-garde, synthpop-meets-post-punk-meets-jazzy-noise-meets-goth of their forebears into the neon years of the early 90s.
As with pretty much all of these records, there's a combination of strong and weak tracks. After a brief spoken-word intro the songs start off with the lyrics "I am looking through a synthesizer" on Hard Times. With a somewhat bouncy beat, it's a nice 100% minimal synth track that sounds 10 years too late. The next couple songs on the syn-drums and throw a wall of cascading, noisy guitars into the mix. Then there's a slow dark ambient synth interlude before delving into No Recognition, probably the most poppy song on the album. The song is musically similar to early Cure, but with the keyboards and arty weirdness of early Modern English (it's not as good as either of those bands, of course, but had it been released in 1980 I can guarantee it would have been on many "UK DIY Top Ten" lists.)
The following songs range from sax-and-synth skronk (Deception Island) to dark synth noise with spoken word (Wealthy Not Healthy) to almost deathrock sounding (Move By Dance), which combines syn-drums, heavy and noisy guitars, and sax similar to Ipso Facto. Overall, it's a highly unique album that (at the moment) is readily available very cheaply online. Perhaps others will like what they hear here and decide to pick up a copy. Or perhaps the late release date of this record will turn off people and the album will toil in the cheap bargain bins of obscurity, relegated to a few crackly mp3s that forever float in the aether of the Internet.

Famous Rays: Ending Beginning LP
1990, Blue Dot Records

1 The Sky Belongs To The Sun
2 Hard Times
3 Agents Of Change
4 Absolute Zero
5 Uphill
6 No Recognition
7 Deception Island
8 Black Dress
9 Wealthy Not Healthy
10 Release - For Bitten
11 Blue World
12 Move By Dance
13 The Great Discovery

Note: Many of these songs are only a few seconds long, or blend indistinguishably into one another, so I've combined several songs together in the rip.

Click here to listen!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Providence: Le Feu 7"

At this point I should not be surprised when a good record continues to slip under the radar over a decade after file sharing became the de rigueur way to hear new sounds. But this little 7" from a French band called Providence is certainly a worthy example of why it's sometimes worth taking a chance on an interesting-looking record when you see it for sale.
Providence was a trio that consisted of two members of a cult French prog band called Gutera. Gutera's sole album is somewhat of a legendary and rare LP in that scene; about half a decade after their record was released, the members Didier Geoffrey & Zo Strinati started Providence. It appears that they might have released an album, but I have never seen nor heard that. Until such an album surfaces, enjoy this 7". While the B-side is somewhat generic new wave rock, the A side, Le Feu, is a wonderful coldwave/touching pop song in the vein of contemporaries like Little Nemo, Resistance, Mome Rath, with synths and hooks aplenty. It's a wonderful melancholy pop song that makes you hope that an LP does exist somewhere out there - and that it is full of more songs like Le Feu.

Providence: Le Feu 7"
1987, M.S. Records

Click here to listen!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stranger to Stranger: Darkest Dreams LP

After a hiaitus (again) I realized that I miss writing about and sharing obscure vinyl nuggets (not to be confused with Obscure Vinyl Nugent, the BDSM-themed Ted Nugent cover band). I still have plenty of records to share, starting with this virtually unknown second LP from Philadelphia-based Stranger to Stranger. You can find a fresh, clean rip of their debut on Systems of Romance. While their first LP is a collection of wonderful (if monochromatic) dark synth-based post punk that's high on atmosphere but low on pop sensibility, their follow-up is much janglier, and, well, almost pop-sounding. That's not to say that they've abandoned their darkwave roots; they just became a bit less enigmatic.
There are definitely some gems on the record - Summer Winter starts the album off perfectly, a guitar-heavy post-punk track with some slight hits of Darklands-era JAMC; the title track is a somber, beautiful song that rewards repeat listens; The Only Pleasure and The Freedom Beat are both tuneful tracks layered and sprinked with synths that recall The Sound; Life After Birth is their most aggressive track, approaching the style of early Furs. Where the band's debut LP was stuck in a singular style, the follow-up expands upon myriad influences. Even if the results are sometimes imperfect, if there's one quality that Darkest Dreams has that their debut was lacking, it's stylistic dynamics. Of course, this long-lost Obscure Vinyl Nugent (oops!) is well worth a listen, so get it now...

Stranger to Stranger: Darkest Dreams LP
1989, Strange Productions
Summer Winter
The Darkest Dreams
No More Heroes
The Only Pleasure
The Freedom Beat
Ignore My Heart
Can Time Stand Still
I Will Remember
Life After Birth

Click here to listen