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