Friday, December 26, 2008

Various Artists - Merkin Records Seedy Sampler

Black Pete must have been the only alternative band in Baltimore that wasn't included on this 1989 20-band sampler CD from Merkin Records:
  1. U. Violets - Gade (actually Ultra-Violets, must have been a legal issue that prevented them using the name on this CD)
  2. All Mighty Senators - Wink (band still active)
  3. Lambs Eat Ivy - Serpentine
  4. Bazooka Joe - Insomnia
  5. Dark Carnival - Back to the Factory
  6. Monkeyspank - Dr. Omar
  7. Jade - Line
  8. Lungfish - Return Descender
  9. The Pearl Fishers - Black Box (not the David Scott band)
  10. The Unknown - Empty House of Night
  11. Rise - God Bless the Creeps
  12. Elements of Design - I Love a Man with Rhythm
  13. The Last Picture Show - Destination (led by writer Louis Maistros as Lu Maestro)
  14. Braver Noise - The Smiths Have Gone to Heaven
  15. Seesaw - Rochelle Bridges
  16. Motor Morons - Another Girl (may still be active, though no shows since 2007; imagine Devo songs played by Einstürzende Neubauten)
  17. Mark Harp - The Drill (guitarist for Null Set/Cabal, also of the Beatoes, Motor Morons, Chelsea Graveyard, the Diamondheads, etc.)
  18. Infant Lunch - Cut the Cord
  19. Grey March - Beneath the Sea
  20. Reptile House - Turning Disease
There's quite a variety of musical styles here: punk, gothic, new wave, Springsteenian populist rock, funk, and more. Get the CD rip here or here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Black Pete - Mississippi Queen

In the late 80s industrial dance music was all the rage in alternative circles; labels such as Wax Trax in Chicago, Play It Again Sam in Belgium, and Nettwerk in Canada were putting out tons of releases, with many of the acts making the jump to major labels (Ministry, Skinny Puppy, etc.). But one of the only stabs at this genre from Baltimore that I can recall* was a one-off 12" by Black Pete, the duo of George Hagegeorge and ex-Null Set/Cabal singer Bill Dawson. A bass player was added for live shows, though I don't know if one ever happened. I think the record actually got issued by two labels somehow; here is the Calvert Street Records version. The A-side is a cover of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" (which Ministry would cover in a similar vein 19 years later), and the B-side contains the two original tracks "Vicious" and "Ablaze". It sounds more like heavy metal guys adding a drum machine and sequencer to make industrial music rather than an electro band adding metal guitar, but whatever the case it's good for some retro cyber-headbanging. Hagegeorge is now a photographer; Dawson is now a tattoo artist based in Florida. Get the vinyl rip here or here.

* There was also Glitch. Any more?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Melon - Serious Japanese

Melon, the Japanese synthpop group founded by ex-Plastics Toshio Nakanishi and Chica Sato, released the "Serious Japanese" single in 1985, between their albums Do You Like Japan? and Deep Cut. A couple odd things about the single are that the song title is actually called "Serious Japan", and it did not appear on any of the group's albums. Another interesting fact about the song that I just learned today is that it is a reworking of the Plastics song "Diamond Head"; visit the Picnic Land blog to hear the original version. On the back cover thanks are given to, among others, "Angie for telling me dirty words", and the dirty words abound in this song, with Toshio and Chica rapping lines like "What's happening bitch", "Too much much shit", "Don't be so fucking serious", etc. An earlier version that included a sample from the movie Rumble Fish was recalled, though samples from The World According To Garp ("Don't you dare say 'sperm' in this house") and other films remain. As on Deep Cut, Nakanishi and Sato are joined by Gota Y (EMU-2 operator & rhythm programmer) and Prince Kudo (DJ & keyboard player). The 12" contains two extended versions of "Serious Japan"--Tokyo Mix (by Franswah) and San Francisco Mix (by Joseph Watt)--and a single edit by Franswah. This record is Melon's most fully-realized foray into the electro genre; get the vinyl rip here or here (new links 1/3/2010). And here is a live performance from YouTube (with the dirty words replaced with clean ones):

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Bridge - Love Dance

Before founding UK alternarock band Zerra One, Paul Bell released an electro single called "Love Dance" as The Bridge on the Second Vision label in 1984. It is about as close a copy of New Order's "The Beach" as you can get without being sued. The over-8-minute "Love Mix" (vocal) is on the A-side, with the almost-8-minute "Industrial Mix" (instrumental) on the B-side. The "Industrial Mix" should really have been called the "Dub Mix" or "Instrumental Mix" as there's nothing particularly industrial about it. Apparently there is another version of the 12" that adds a 7" mix and is titled "Industrial Love Dance"; I suppose that was the one for UK release, while this one is labelled "Export Only" on the sleeve (because people outside the UK didn't deserve a shorter version of the song?). You can probably recreate the 7" mix by stopping the Love Mix after about four minutes. All that aside, this really is a great dance record, and if you like "The Beach" but don't necessarily want to hear it again, "Love Dance" should do quite nicely. Get the vinyl rip here or here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Surface Mutants - You Take Me Somewhere Strange

This time the Lost In the Grooves blog has a summary (by Erik of Cult With No Name) upon which I cannot improve so I will simply paste it in here:
smalltime Sheffield combo Surface Mutants only managed one standalone EP, but nonetheless warrant special mention as one of the better obscure bands to record at Cabaret Voltaire’s legendary Western Works’s hard to resist confirming that ‘You Take Me Somewhere Strange (and you leave me there)’ does anything else than just that. the Cabs’ tinny, scratchy production gives the EP a quite pleasant, if decidedly dissonant, ambiance. the simple bass lines, frequent drum fills and taught guitars of ‘Train’ and ‘Help Below’ rely heavily on varying degrees of phaser, delay and reverb, with additional electronics hissing randomly in and out of the mix. the creepy title track, by contrast, abandons the undanceable funk for something that sounds nothing short of the early Cabs attempting to cover ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, complete with anguished, largely indecipherable, vocals. complete with ill-fitting goth cover art to (somewhat) mislead you, this record is certainly far from superficial.
The year of release was 1982. "You Take Me Somewhere Strange" has always reminded me of "Bela Lugosi's Dead," so I'm glad to see someone else feels the same way about it. Band member Pete Mutant replied to the blog entry:
Blimey. Just for verification, Kent had left to join the Chant, Nort [later of Hula] was with us on Drums and noises, Jules had left, Christine Parker was on sax, Angie Birkett on keyboards (and very good too). Richard [Kirk] was responsible for many of the indecipherable vocals.

Another reader found that Angie Birkett (now Holmes) is now active in the band Siiiii. Get the Surface Mutants vinyl rip here or here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Isolation Ward - Absent Heart

Thank goodness for the Internet and its volunteers who fill in information about mysterious records I've owned for years but know virtually nothing about. One such record is the "Absent Heart" 12" by Isolation Ward. Here is the Wikipedia entry for Isolation Ward (as of Dec. 2. 2008):
Isolation Ward is a New Wave/Experimental band from Brussels, Belgium. Founding members are Jean Pierre Everaerts (Bass), Stephane Willocq (Guitar), Thierry Heyndericks (Keyboards, Vocals, Trumpet), and Etienne Vernaeve (Drums). Contributing vocals/guitar included, Nathalie Bourlard (Vocals), Anne Kinna(Nanou) (Vocals: Lamina Christus), Sylvie Honnay (Vocals: Absent Heart, A Request), Niki Mono (Vocals: only for the last concert), Eric Vanhoutte(Guitar), and Jerry WX (Guitar). Formed in 1980, the band released Lamina Christus on 7" Vinyl in 1982(Issued through Radical Records, France Crepuscule Section Francaise/Radical RAD 008 ) and Absent Heart on 12 " Vinyl in 1983 on the Les Disques du Crepuscule label. Both of these releases were produced by Gilles Martin and Peter Principle. The band disbanded in 1983. Isolation Ward's final recordings, Point De Départ and Point Final were released on the Présence label in 1984.
"Lamina Christus" reappears as the third track (of three) on the Absent Heart 12", and it's no wonder they re-used it as it is their strongest song. Like many Crepuscule releases, the sound falls somewhere between Factory gloom and 4A.D. gothicism. Get the Absent Heart vinyl rip here or here.