Thursday, April 28, 2005

bulletproof indictment

Liberal radio program Air America host Randi Rhodes opened her Monday afternoon radio show with an announcer blasting the president for his Social Security plan: "A spoiled child [Bush] is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he's gonna fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [sound of three shotgun blasts]. The AAARP - the American Association of Armed Retired People [sound of rifle being cocked]. Just try it, you little bastard."

Informed of the bit at a White House press briefing, spokesman Scott McClellan said: "It sounds very inappropriate and over the line." During Dan Quayle's vice-presidency, ex-WABC lefty Lynn Samuels was investigated by the Secret Service for saying "Too bad it can't happen here" while discussing a vice-presidential candidate getting beaten up in South America. Yesterday, on her Sirius Satellite Radio show, Samuels drew the line at shooting: "There are very few things that you absolutely, positively cannot do on the radio," she said, "and pretending to shoot the president is right up there at the top." "It was a bit. It was bad. I apologize a thousand times," Rhodes told listeners yesterday, adding: "I'm not in charge of the bits."

There are ways around these kinds of things and NYC's Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra figured it out last summer on their fantastic third full-length, Who Is This America? Antibalas is a truly multicultural ensemble that has been blazing across the land since around the turn of the millenium, even gaining the attention of beatjunkies like Ninja Tune, who released their first two albums. This band is no Fela Kuti-lite and they prove it in spades. Instead of gun shots just put the setting in court so it is a gavel hammering down. You can't argue with the courts and the law of the land, right?

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra - Indictment

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

return to the earth

Real rock n roll; Jacob Kirkegaard's new collection of inner-earth recordings, Eldfjall (Touch), immediately caused regret for every time I've tossed off organic in describing instruments. Birthed from the ground, this is 9 real-time capsules of reverberations/ resonations of driblets and specks of terrestrial loam. The ultra-amped terra firma quivering betwixt bass-ebb jounce and haunting, dark frost.

So, Kirkegaard spent a winter and summer month in 2004 to make: geothermal recordings of vibrations in the ground around the area of Krisuvik, Geysir and Myvatn in Iceland. The recordings have been carried out using accelerometers, vibration sensor microphones. These are stuck into the earth at various places around the geysers, mapping the sonic aspects of volcanic activity at the surface of the earth. A stick can be attached, to be inserted into - for example - the earth at desired places.

Fully thrilling sound scapes that destroy most rumbling drone albums or crystalic electro-acoustics with its, seemingly, straight field explorations of hot springs and glacial shift. Editing of sorts seems to've fused a few pieces together, but possibly not, as some tumult shifts are earth's own choices. There is some comparison to field-work of Chris Watson, B.J. Nilsen's Hazard, Quin Douglas' underwater ice recording Antarctica. Though, Kirkegaard has his own style (via selections, dynamics, equipment), as it showed through on Soaked, his duo with Philip Jeck from a few yrs back. Dip in:

Jacob Kirkegaard - Gaea
Jacob Kirkegaard - Gerd
Jacob Kirkegaard - Nerthus

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

rio's funky booty beats

This ain't no Nissan commercial, this is the real sound of Brazilian soul in the 21st Century -- the kind of grooves that are going down on soundsystems up in the favelas in Rio, not the hipster bars down at the beaches! There's an unabashed love of American R&B on these tracks -- not classic soul from the 70s, or hipster soul from the underground -- but mainstream grooves from points south, inspired by Miami bass, crunk, crossover house, mainstream hip hop, and even a bit of dancehall. The set's a great overview of the music that currently goes under the name of "funk" in Brazilian culture -- a sound that's very different than the use of the term by American musicians -- and although we've described many of the roots of the music in American terms, there's also some distinctly Brazilian influences that resonate strongly -- and which make for the kind of evolutionary sound that happened when Jamaicans first started trying to recreate American R&B, then took things in a whole new direction.

Essay Recordings has a 12" EP featuring four cuts from the full length CD. "Tire A Camisa" by Dennis DJ & MC Cabo has a tribal meets Skyywalker thang, "O Baile Todo" by Bonde Do Tiagro is the Portugeuse "Who Let the Dogs Out?" except with kickass tiger growls instead. "Popozuda Rock N Roll" by De Falla may have started out as a joke but ended up as Russell Simmons meets Rick Rubin (again, except in Rio) or in terms everyone can understand: Fight for Your Right to Party and "Tapinha" by MC's Naldinho & Beth has the sound of a battle between 50 Cent vs the innocence of a 70s Jacko.

De Falla - Popozuda Rock'n'Roll
MCs Naldinho & Beth - Tapinha
Dennis DJ + MC Cabo - Tire A Camisa
Bonde Do Tiagro - O Baile Todo

Monday, April 25, 2005

online piracy funds terrorism

Everyblogger and their blogmother has been drooling all over Maya Arulpragasam and her fresh Sri Lankan/London music as M.I.A. for months now. Her debut album, Arular, has had its release moved more times than I've been able to keep up with, but it looks like it is finally out in stores for real this time.

XL Recordings is the label that ended up winning her over and is hosting some cool shit as promo for Arular. If you've heard her before you know her sound and if you've seen pictures of her you know she has very much her own fashion and style. One thing that is a big part of her album artwork is stencil graffiti art and XL has some stencils that you can download and cut out and tag around your own town if you dare (although I wish they would be a little cooler like the ones on the actual album and around her website).

The potentially awesome thing that XL is hosting though is the acapella tracks from three songs off the album. As well, they are hosting a remix page where you can upload your remixes and vote on others. No word yet on what any of these may or may not be used for but here is my favorite so far...

M.I.A. - Pull Up The Poor (Temposhark Remix)

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Reading that Sanso-xtro's debut sentimentalist "project[s] hazy echoes of Robert Johnson" in the accompanying Type Records promo material was inticing: fractured delta Delta blues from Australian-expat Melissa Agate via lap-top modulation. I was ready. While the disk was stuck in my work pc for a day last week, it fit the Carolina 72-and-breezey, branch rustling mid-day mood. But there was no Mississippi ghost. S/x, along with lotsa other contemporaries, are tumbling and seeking to extort personalities and real instruments into their laptop world. Agate's minced smothering of ukulele/kalimba is quite pulpy and organic, far from plank-water bore of pure-old laptop noodles. Within my recent listening cache sentimentalist falls musically between Minamo's Shining and Giuseppe Ielasi's Gesine, the former mostly electronic and later acoustic. (Both will be heaved major nods later this week). Though where S/x rises is blending her multi-sound worlds together and side-stepping denseness into a more laxidasical, slumbering scope. Thinking of those aforementioned branches is the best for understand what we have here; the leaves are filtering and fluttering the light while a few wise-ass squirrels are leaping limb-to-limb, breaking twigs along the way. Add in a bass-car passing around a dirt-road corner and sentimentalist begins to seep in, even if you're still waiting for Mr. Johnson.

Sanso-xtro - Blue Signal
Sanso-xtro - The Last Leaf

Friday, April 22, 2005

nomads for love

Gang Gang Dance are yet another in the long line of freaks coming out of NYC these days. And not unlike their peers, they are difficult to pigeonhole. Sonically they come off as kind of an improvised jam of SWANS during the Soundtracks for the Blind era. At times highly structured and at others completely free and open. One moment has you in a percussion loop thats nearly gamelan and the next has a slow drone burning your cortex to blindness. Dubbed out vocals over broken glass, or are the vox the broken glass? Everything in this world is a trip like you've not yet experienced. As soon as you think the sound is familiar it is gone.

GGD's music has been perfected over years of practices and improvisations where everything is recorded at their own Junkyard Audio Salvage studio. The best becomes their releases. Their first was a limited edition CDR that got reissued as 1000 LPs that quickly disappeared from the shelves. Their new album, God's Money was just released on The Social Registry along with a tour only limited CDR.

Anyone familiar to the world of improvisation knows that not everything works all the time, but thats natural. And most of the time GGD has used the CDR as a quick method of distribution for what they are doing and creating at the time. This is great for this type of music because the listeners expectations are lowered to where you aren't expecting a perfect document, but rather a recording of a place and time. The release of a their new album smashes these ideals, but what they have created demands and deserves the greater appreciation of something beyond the world of total underground.

Gang Gang Dance - Egowar
Gang Gang Dance - God's Money V
Gang Gang Dance - Nomad of Love (Cannibal)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

soul brothers and sisters

On March 6, 1971, some of the greatest artists in popular music history traveled from the United States to Ghana, West Africa, to take part in a 14-hour musical celebration, Soul To Soul. Over 100,000 enthusiastic locals gathered for this unique cultural exchange between two continents. This award-winning film combines classic concert performances with scenes documenting the artists getting in touch with their roots as they return to the cultural motherland. Soul to Soul chronicles this historic event and is considered by many to be one of the greatest music films of all time and as good or better than anything found on other concert films from the period, including Wattstax and Woodstock.

This 2-disc DVD set features the 95-minute, full-length feature film, newly remastered and restored from the original 35mm negative by the Grammy Foundation. The second disc features a remastered and expanded original soundtrack (also making its debut on CD), including performances not featured in the film. The only thing missing is the original songs and appearances from Roberta Flack that were in the 70s cut of the film and soundtrack.

Grab the movie from the usual places.

Ike & Tina Turner - Soul to Soul
The Voices Of East Harlem - Run, Shaker Life
Wilson Pickett - Land of 1000 Dances

Monday, April 18, 2005

west coast pop art experimental band

the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band are exactly what their name implies. They came out of Los Angeles, had pure pop songs (not unlike the Byrds or Kinks), but were also more than willing to engage in the psychedelia and experimentation of the late 60s scene, often in the same song (they even cover Zappa's "Help I'm a Rock"). Over the length of their amazing first record they also tackled covering the Van Dyke Parks tune "High Coin" which was originally performed by sunshine-pop outfit Harper's Bizarre. Around this time VDP co-wrote the outstanding and finally fully commercially available SMiLE sessions with Beach Boy Brian Wilson.

Imagine members of the Byrds, Love and Buffalo Springfield high as a kite and let loose in the studio to satisfy their every musical whim, no matter how weird or juvenile. Other than the likes of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, few, if any bands could match the unpredictability in sound of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Loads of very pretty folk songs, stunning pop tunes and melodic rockers; their take on ‘60s psychedelia is at once innocent and concise.

Sundazed Records has made your job of tracking down this band's music and many more so much easier by their always exhaustive and wonderful reissue treatments. Give them your love.

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Shifting Sands
West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Leiyla
West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - High Coin
West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Transparent Day

Friday, April 15, 2005

my city glittered like a breaking wave

There is just something about Luke Sutherland's projects that does it for me. Music A.M. is his latest. In it, he collaborates with Stefan Schneider of To Rococo Rot and Volker Bertelmann.

The mini album 'My City Glittered Like a Breaking Wave' on Quartermass is the latest excursion from the London/Duesseldorf trio and sees Music A.M. in playful and brooding mood. Slo-blo countrified vibes, methadone doo-wop for disco misfits, swan songs for ex-swingers, are set light by deep blue bass chords, whispering whirlpools of guitar and burbling micro funk. Even the surf licks and pop twists have a wistful and wintry abandonment. While the arrangements and minimal rhythms create a mood assuredly warm and embracing, Luke Sutherland's vocals oscillate between earthbound narration and sparkling voyages into the spheres.

You should also be made aware of Luke's previous work for Too Pure in Long Fin Killie and Bows. You may also recognize him from being the frequent violin player for Mogwai. Or perhaps you've read one of his books, Venus as a Boy, Jelly Roll, or Sweetmeat.

Music A.M. - Supercharger, I Adore You
Music A.M. - Elle

Thursday, April 14, 2005

getting tiled with mahjongg

With their first EP, Machinegong, five-member experimental collective Mahjongg mixed Afro-beat with P-Funk, computer-generated blips with cowbell-driven rhythms, infectious dance grooves with tricky time signatures. This was a band that would take sounds from anywhere -- including mic'd up tap shoes on multi-instrumentalist Karyl Czientzar's feet -- and layer them one on the other in complex polyrhythmic raves. But far from being over-intellectualized or precious, the whole thing felt like a party. It was an auspicious beginning for five kids from Missouri, newly relocated to Chicago and freshly signed to Cold Crush, a label run by Pretty Girls Make Graves bassist Derek Fudesco.

"Mahjongg remind me of a moment in time, 1978-1982, when a lot of us whiteass, funkass, bitchass artpunks discovered that we could take funk and make it into a new sound, or at least imagine it as a wonderful life just out of reach, to chase after, potentially anywhere. Not that I want to burden the Mahjonggskyists with my past, since they don't sound old. But given that punkfunk never jelled into the future noise we'd dreamed of, the Mahjonggians raise hopes: new bends and twists. Telegraph keys played like thumb pianos. Circular motion, while the guitars sputter and sparkle in anticipation of a prison breakout. A dance that's different from hip-hop, house, techno, country. A riot of our own." - Village Voice

Mahjongg - the Stubborn Horse
Mahjongg - Hot Lava
Mahjongg - Aluminum

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

liliput says bless you

During the punk rock era of the late '70s, there were three bands comprised of women who made some of the best, most adventurous, exhilarating, and most critically derided music of the time. Two were the English bands the Slits and the Raincoats, and the third band, from Switzerland, was Liliput. Fans of all three bands will argue ad infinitum as to who was the better. But one thing is for certain: Liliput was an amazing band that recorded amazing music, and comparing what they accomplished to that of another band is a useless intellectual exercise. Besides, it detracts from valuable listening time.

Formed in Zurich in 1978 by guitarist Marlene Marder and bassist/vocalist Klaudia Schiff, they began with the name Kleenex until the threat of a lawsuit by corporate giant Kimberly-Clark (who had copyrighted the name Kleenex) forced them to become Liliput in 1980. Recording for the great English indie label Rough Trade, the then-Kleenex produced jumpy, aggressive, clamorous punk-noise that featured Marder's scratchy, semi-melodic guitar and Schiff's yelping vocals. Not punk rock in the fast, loud, economical sense, Liliput were forging a different kind of punk, one that was gleefully anarchic, avant-garde, unrestrained, and suffused with a giddy, almost palpable sense of joy. Listening to this music, one gets the sense that there was a near-rapturous enjoyment that went into these recordings. Their tenure at Rough Trade was short, as was their interest in exploring career options beyond Europe.

By 1982, when they released their first LP, they seemed perfectly happy remaining in Switzerland, running the band as part of numerous other artistic projects (painting, writing, etc.) they pursued. By the end of 1983, Liliput had disbanded, and the music they had recorded quickly achieved legendary, but mostly unheard, status. As for the band, they seemed destined to be relegated to the status of feminist-inspired punk rock footnote. All of this changed in 2001, when Kill Rock Stars re-released a double-disc, 46-track compilation of the entire recorded output of Kleenex/Liliput. Aside from the two Liliput LPs (1982's Liliput and 1983's weaker Some Songs), the compilation includes four singles, one EP, and another LP's worth of intermittent outtakes and unreleased material.

LiLiPUT / Kleenex - Ain't You
LiLiPUT / Kleenex - Etoile

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

strangers in the night

A longtime member of the groundbreaking electronic group Tangerine Dream, keyboardist and composer Peter Baumann was born in Berlin on January 29, 1953. A classically-trained performer, he formed his first rock band at age 14, appearing in a series of short-lived groups before joining Tangerine Dream in 1971; Baumann remained with the project for seven years, during that time greatly expanding the parameters of electronic music through his contributions to landmark records including Zeit, Atem and Phaedra. Although he officially left Tangerine Dream in 1978, Baumann mounted a solo career two years earlier with the release of Romance 76, which heralded a move towards electronic pop structures. In the wake of its 1979 follow-up Trans Harmonic Nights, he relocated from Germany to New York City and began work on 1981's Repeat Repeat, his most club-oriented effort to date.

Upon completing 1983's Strangers in the Night, Baumann formed his own label, Private Music, which later emerged as a major New Age outlet thanks to signings including Yanni, John Tesh and Shadowfax. The label consumed much of his energy for the remainder of the decade, but in 1990 Baumann appeared poised to return to performing as a member of Blue Room alongside Paul Haslinger and John Baxter; after the group's planned debut was scrapped two years later, however, a disheartened Baumann sold his interests in Private Music and retired from the music business altogether.

Strangers in the Night (here in its German version) is truly a work far removed from Tangerine Dream. Fully embracing the new-wave that was so popular at the time, this track could easily fit in next to Ultravox, OMD, Spandau Ballet, or any number of other romantic 80s allstars. Oh and sorry its so quiet... crank it up!

Peter Baumann - Fremde in der Nacht

Monday, April 11, 2005

ceux qui l'ont fait

For the last 15+ years, Double Nelson has performed hundreds of gigs throughout Europe, taken part in the making of european sci-fi films and soundtracks, recorded five or six albums and managed to remain completely unknown on this side of the pond. (perhaps even over there?)

I first ran across them in '97 at the student radio station where I was supposed to review their Le Grand Cornet CD for the airwaves. I am not sure what happened but the CD never went back to the studio. I probably thought it was too bizarre to get any airplay so I pocketed it. The promo sticker on the front still proclaims their blurb:

The experience of listening to this album will fall somewhere between a happy stroll through the park in June and a sleepover at the local abandoned broiler room. This CD reels between the pleasant and the disturbed with a mesmerizing grace. Electronic elements combined with analog noises and eerie french vocals are at times reminiscent of Tortoise, Seefeel, and even Einsturzende Neubauten.

Its not a bad description, certainly some Tortoise, definitely a little early Too Pure-ness and some industrious Neubauten- but they do not sound anything like any of them. Add in some Krautrock. Maybe that's why I never reviewed it, their sound was too confounding. Almost their entire website has been translated into english, which is good because there is not much information available anywhere else, especially in a language that I can understand. Here is the best review I could find after looking for way too long:

The sonic equivalent of the cross-section of a sculpture done entirely in raw meat, dripping, oozing, slimy with congealed fat and laced through with indigestible gristle, Double Nelson recalls the early '80s glory days of Ralph Records - early Yello collaborating with The Residents - dug up as a reanimated corpse.

Overstuffed, Peter-Principled basses, sometimes wobbling jazzward in a distinctively European manner, set off repeated racketing percussion patterns. The overall effect is occasionally reminiscent of post-Margaret Fiedler Moonshake, especially when accompanied by clattering vaguely horn-like samples and heavily processed guitars. "Le Prom'neur" is punctuated by dentists' drills and what sounds a lot like a grotesquely distorted, amplified rubber band. The vocalist mutters and grumbles in French throughout - because of the language, I've no clue what he's on about, but it probably isn't marshmallows and flowers.

The overall murk that characterizes Double Nelson is frequently cut with lugubriously distorted guitars, sounding as if they'd been recorded underwater and kept from collapsing into an indistinguishable mass by the structuring agent of repetition: while each track finds the bass and drums locking into patterns and seldom straying from them, this isn't dancefloor fodder. Not a pleasant record then - but equally innocent of both saccharine and posturing macho nine-inch angst.

Double Nelson - Begon (2003)
Double Nelson - Pece Blues (1999)
Double Nelson - Juan (1997)

Be sure to check out 21 more mp3s at their own website!

hoosier soul beat

It's been in my face for years, but I never dipped fully into Naptown's soul history; too swallowed by the Hoosier punk of the mid-70s and on, I guess. So it seems only right once I leave the state to begin a dig through the R&B funk of the Indianapolis scene -- six or so years before MX-80 and The Gizmos took hold 50 miles south. Jason Yoder's incredible 45 label database and soul discourse Indiana 45s had cemented a slight foundation in my minds-ear. The site is The Source for Indiana's soul music history. The Ebony Rhythm Band are the unsung backing band of the LAMP label and last year's Stone's Throw/Now-Again reissue brings it all together, with richly detailed liners, photos and news clippings.

The final -- and most exciting -- installment in Now Again Records' LAMP reissue series -- a trawl through the funk catalog of Indianapolis's most prolific soul and funk label of the 60s and 70s. The music has been remastered from the analog master tapes and the band's history has been annotated and culled into extensive liner notes. 'Soul Heart Transplant', the title cut of the anthology, is fitting. The Band couldn't help but transplant their Meters-inspired, psychedelic grooves onto not only their original compositions but also onto any funky tunes from the day. As such, groups like The Doors, Blood Sweat and Tears and Cream all receive a heavy fun workout via the Ebony Rhythm Band. This CD runs the gamut from superb, psychedelic funk to backbeat-grounded, heavy funk.

The Ebony Rhythm Band's sole 45 release:

The Ebony Rhythm Band - Soul Heart Transplant
The Ebony Rhythm Band - Drugs Ain't Cool

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

no longer grounded

After an extended stay in London at the height of the acid house phenomenon, Ellen Allien returned home to Berlin and started DJing. By the mid-90s she had spun at a number of important clubs and was making a name for herself. Working at a record shoppe called Delirium and having a radio program only fed her appetite and knowledge of the modern European dance sound. After throwing a number of parties called Bpitch Control, she started a label of the same name and starting producing records as well. Her second LP, Berlinette, was her big crossover hit, at least in my mind.'s the conceptual overlap and idea overflow of the bittersweet "Wish" that resonate strongest -- over a mournful synth line, a quadruple-timed beatbox, and heavily processed acoustic guitar chugs, Allien daydreams herself out of postwar Berlin: "Need a planet without cars and wars...I wish it could be true." Bitingly fierce, technologically adroit, and curiously poppy, Berlinette marks yet another high point in an already superb year for Germanic techno. - AMG

Her third proper album, Thrills, comes out June 7th and oozes sexiness all over the dance floor. Darker and dirtier than Kraftwerk. More timeless than american electro. Crisper and cleaner than the aborted electroclash 'movement'. More interesting and emotional than microhouse (whatever the hell that is). Fragments of the past two decades of dance music are all over the place and I couldn't be happier. The first single is Magma and while I would love to talk about the runaway electro-futurist monorail of this track, Bpitch has done a great job with that already.

Everybody will sweat in this small workout because Magma is like a little steam turbine with which Ellen Allien softly digs up the dance floor so that we can dance at the center of the earth, sweating prufusely in the heat. Whoever doesn't understand that Ellen turns more than just a few knobs is, so to speak, not seeing the forest with all the trees in the way. Ellen Allien, our magical fairy, steers the techno of "Magma" with a baddass rowdy voice, like swinging around a wild red flag in order to push the limits of the tube even further.

Ellen Allien - Magma

Monday, April 04, 2005

mystery polish man

A number of years back a friend played me a cassette tape of tracks by a guy called Little Howling Wolf, from the sound, it seemed to be an unsettling African-American singer taking his Blind Wille-slide blues through a voodoo run-down, utterly wonderous and not of the normal world. I first thought it was Jessie Sanders, Chicago's Little Howlin' Wolf, who I hadn't heard at the time. My pal said it was actually a Polish street musician from Chicago. He was/is(?). Outside of the guitar, he wields some blasting sax, and Dr. John-tempered Orleans vibe. Searching for any recordings or info dug up not much at the time, though musn't gone deep enough.

Next I heard of the Wolf was in 2002/3 via Nautical Almanac, who ended up doing a show(s) with him and are thankfully in the throws of releasing his entire discography on their Heresee label. Vol. 1 is out now. A LP under the name Shadow Drifter (on DeStijl) was talked about a few yrs back, but don't think it ever surfaced. Here's what Heresee has to say:

James Pobiega, a 6'9" Polish-derived man from Chicago's South Side, performed heavily in bars and and to a greater extent on the street of his home turf during the late 70s through the mid 80s under the name Little Howlin Wolf. During that time, self-released 32 45s (that weknow of) and two LPs (compiled from the 7"s) titled The Guardian and The Cool Truth. The LPs show a unique and visionary take on emotive, raw, dissolved blues featuring Wolf on every instrument he could lay his hands on with a wrenching souldfulness and commanding fire-brained intensity to match Albert Ayler. The 45s, though, are where Wolf really stretched out, taking his music to its furthest reaches including stabs at Calypso, gypsy songs, Country-Western and children's songs. This is the first of three volumes of Wolf's complete 7" output (those not compiled on the two scarce and desirable LPs) which we are releasing in collaboration with the True Vine Record Store (Baltimore)

All that is left is to listen...

Little Howling Wolf - Baby Farina
Little Howling Wolf - Oul Nei Piesec; Ostatni Morzu
Little Howling Wolf - E.T. Blues

mystery italo man

Usually on this blog I write about things that I like to think I know a little bit about. If I don't know much about it but I really wanna say something, I research it. That's what great about the internet- pretty much anything you wanna know is available somewhere if you just search long and deep enough.

As an avid thrift shop visiter, there are records that I buy on a whim that look cool. Sometimes they sound great, too. So I start poking around trying to find out something more. And there is nothing. Okay, rarely is there *nothing* in this day and age, but no useful information. There are links to the obligatory dealers who are selling a copy. If its a dance record, there might be a link to discogs with very basic information that at least says, "You can breathe easy, you are not crazy, this record really does exist."

So here is what I know. The artist is Claus V. The song is called Mystery Man. Channel Records put it out. The label is out of Belguim. There is no year anywhere on the record or sleeve. The only name that appears is definitely the biggest hint of all: Bobby Orlando. He was a pretty major name near the end of the 70s disco era and the beginning of the 80s Hi-NRG dance movement. He had quite a few dance hits along the way and eventually even helped break the Pet Shop Boys by producing the first version of West End Girls before they switched to Stephen Hague (New Order, Erasure, OMD) for their debut album mix.

But that's about it. Is Claus V an alias for Bobby Orlando? I have no idea. Does anybody out there know? The song is a pretty great little Italo-disco ditty. Check it out.

Claus V - Mystery Man

Saturday, April 02, 2005

pope disco!

The Prats formed in Inverness, Scotland in late '77. They were all students at St Augustine's Roman Catholic Comprehensive School. They ranged in age from 12 to 15 at the eldest. Lead man Paul McLaughlin is 13. He tells his mum that he is playing tennis, not that he is off practicing in a punk band. They claim the Slits and Mekons as their influences. They had to be driven to their gigs. John Peel once offered his DJing fee from an Edinburgh gig to finance one of the band's releases. Over the next few years they release a few singles, most notably The 1990s Pop EP and General Davis single for Rough Trade in 1980. Gen'l Davis manages to hit number 20 in UK Indie chart that year. They manage to get one gig at the Factory in Manchester. Then the band then breaks up in 1981 and disappears as quickly as they appeared, into obscurity. Thats what happens when the kids graduate and move on.

Flash forward 25 years or so. Paul McLaughlin is 40 years old and is commuting home on the train from another day at the office where he is a senior official with the National Union of Journalists. His moble phone rings and on the other end is a Hollywood director wanting to use one of his songs in his next movie. The director is calling from Paramount, its Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) and the movie is his remake of the '62 classic The Manchurian Candidate, set to star Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. Apparently, Demme was a big import collector of obscure bands like The Desperate Bicycles and They Must Be Russians.

So now, for 43 seconds, the Prats live on during the opening titles of the 2004 summer blockbuster. Demme even liked them so much that he made sure that they were at the world premiere for the film and gushed over them like a teenage groupie. So, obscure nobody bands of the world, keep the faith. Maybe someday, decades from now, you can cash in on Hollywood as well. You can buy this track, along with two CDs worth of other gems on the excellent Rough Trade Shops: Post Punk 01. General Davis, the track used in the movie, has yet to be re-issued anywhere, not even on the soundtrack.

The Prats - Disco Pope

Friday, April 01, 2005

philosophical phunk

In his late teens, Chas Jankel met Ian Dury and became an intergral part of Dury's first band Kilburn & The High Roads. The group morphed into the Blockheads by the mid-1970's. In 1977 Jankel co-wrote Dury's first hit, Sex & Drugs & Rock N Roll. The 1978 album that followed, "New Boots & Panties," gave them a platinum award. The following year saw their first club success with 1979's "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick", where Jankel once again did the arrangements, keyboards and guitar work on the #1 British hit. The first American Stiff tour launched the Blockheads as well as Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello onto our shores.

By 1980 Jankel was primed for a solo career. A self produced album was released by A&M records and spawned his first solo 12" single hit, "Ai No Corrida." Quincy Jones heard the song and was so impressed with it he included it in his 1981 release "The Dude." In 1981 Jankel did double duty by recording with Ian & the Blockheads on the "Lord Upminster" album that produced the wildly successful "Spasticus Autisticus" single. Returning to the studio for his second album "Questionaire" in 1982 Chas had his biggest hit to date. "Glad To Know You" shot to #1 on the club charts in part to a fabulous remix by Disconet. The other 12" hit from the album was "3,000,000 Synths".

Following the death of his friend Ian Dury in 2000, Jankel led an all-star tribute to record "Brand New Boots & Panties" with Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Sinead O'Conner and others. Also in 2001 he released his first new album in over a decade. Out Of The Blue was an acoustical effort with a quintet, the album marked a whole new direction for Jankel who had become an avid jazz fan in the last decade. In 2002 Jankel reunited with the Blockheads and continues to record and tour with them on a regular basis. In 2003, Chas released his second quartet inspired jazz album entitled Zoom.

Chas Jankel - Glad to Know You
Chas Jankel - 3,000,000 Synths
Chas Jankel - Ai No Corrida