Reviews By Music/Program Director Brian Turner
BEAUTIFUL SKIN - Everything, All This, and More (GSL)
I always bemoaned the fact that bands like the Stiffs Inc.and Beautiful Skin were in NYC at the wrong time; both added a unique, artful slant to 80's aesthetic in the 1990's, but it was, unfortunately in some ways for them, a decade indie rock was riding high with the ripple effects of alternately-tuned guitars, K, Amphetamine Reptile and Sub Pop in popular corners of underground music. Of course, this doesn't detract at all from the reason these bands should have existed, they were both great and certainly had fans who "got it" regardless of what was hip for the time, it just would have been nice if some of the scene's prejudices towards particular influences didn't hamper more people hearing them. Just as Beautiful Skin busted up in 2001, Interpol hit the scene and really blew the doors open on a revisiting of certain sounds, all of a sudden the Cure, Joy Division, and 80's Wire weren't so off the map in terms of influence again. Formed in 1997 by Nick Forte (who had previously been in punk band Rorschach and the also-predating-a-revival dance punk outfit Computer Cougar) and Brazilian ex-pat Rossano Totino, Beautiful Skin sunk their teeth into both the pop and abstract: the definite Cure/Wire vibe was there, but there were also textural explorations of vintage drum machines and synthscapes that echoed Chrome, SPK, Grauzone and Krautrock in general. When the duo added on Mitch Rackin and Charles Burst, the band locked into a new kind of power, and I have great memories of a 2000 summer show at the Cooler which I think showcased BS at their peak. This new disc digs out some recordings from the quartet period never released, adding on an early demo as a duo and the band's 7".
DANDI WIND - Bait the Traps (Bongo Beat)
And speaking of the Nylon Revival, here's a newbie appropriating some 80's synthblatt with a good sense of invention, danger, Germanic humor and definitely leaning heavily on the substance as well as style. Dandi Wind is actually one half of a duo (Szam Fidelity plays and writes the music), and I don't know about you, but the WFMU mailbox is stuffed daily with a more-than-generous share of Electrobrats making the scene with atonal synths, too much rouge, and the declaration of nothing more than "I am a robot." We know, we know, you are robots, we believe you. No really, calling your band "I Am A Robot" on top of it isn't necessary. So when someone like Dandi comes along totally tossing a bomb full of living/breathing aggro humanity (the bizarro video tacked on to this CD is basically three minutes of her convulsing, screaming and barfing all over a garbageheap in an alley and nothing more, not even music) one knows that they are in for a bit more than a round of regurgitated Siouxsie-isms. Real Audio here from Bill Zurat's show for "Todo O Dia".
MOONDOG - The German Years 1977-1999 (Roof Music)
A beautifully packaged overview of a period in Louis Hardin's grand existance that is unjustly and unfortunately glazed over (though to be fair, competes with quite a preceding saga that is nothing to sneeze at.) It would amaze me to see copies of his final studio work, 1997's Sax Pax for a Sax (Atlantic) floating around in dollar bins all over town while people would be dropping big bucks on various out jazz reissues; it was a stunning document that shouldn't have been discounted for its lateness or mainstream connections, and this collection captures a great snapshot of a still vital legend. First noticed as a blind street musician in New York in 1943, the Viking-garbed, poem-selling Moondog may have been considered an eccentric, but he was quickly taken in by New York's Carnegie musicians, making the scene with Toscanini, Stravinski, and Bernstein and learning orchestration while guest-appearing with ensembles. Alan Freed allegedly swiped Moondog's monicker to promo his rock and roll shows, Jimmy McGriff dedicated songs to him, Charlie Parker was supposedly a fan, and avant-minimalists like Philip Glass and Steve Reich profess that it was indeed Moondog that set them on course. Though he certainly relished his sphere of influence on the Out composers, Hardin was a classicist at heart, but one with high adaptability. He disappeared and reappeared in the 90's at BAM and then in Germany, even gravitating to using samplers (one 1991 show even included a Mouse on Mars member), and this 2CD set really shows Moondog's continuing open ear to adventure while carrying on tradition (with a 44 page book to boot). Hear him trot out the oinkers on the track "Pygmy Pig" played on Ken's show (Real Audio).
VARIOUS - The Answer Tapes (Heresee)
Well-described as "a sociological document of discarded human existance", here is a whole CD-R of found answering machine tapes, collected between 2000 and 2005 in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania by Michael Barker. Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, you get the details of urinary tract infections, someone displaying some extreme bravado over his crabcake-making prowess, assorted personal threats, pleas to have heating oil delivered that segue into profane rants, conversations from the commode, admissions to overfeeding the fishtank, discussions on Britney Spears and more. The ultimate eavesdropping document (at least since the "Cellular Hellular" cassettes and our own Audio Kitchen show). Real Audio excerpt here, more info to be had at sendhelp.org (though at time of this review the server is being changed).
VARIOUS - Can You Jack? Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-95 (Soul Jazz)
One of thee best Soul Jazz releases ever! And there have been some killer ones (Studio One stuff, No New York, New Thing, ESG) without doubt. But getting your brain erased by several hours of that Roland drum machine is pure pleasure indeed. This is without doubt the definitive (of many) comps trailing the history of the Chicago House scene, mainly because it ties such snug knots between the hits and flat-out experimental weirdness that flowed through several waves of artists in this scene. I love this stuff for the same reason I have dug the Baltimore Trax as of late; absurd limitations and one-trick pony items like the TR-808 required a creative mind, and the simple layers of structure on tracks like Marshall Jefferson's "Virgo" or Maurice's "This Is Acid" flick your synapses on and off like a light switch while you totally bug out on the repetition. Originally just dismissed as a cheapo variation on disco, Chicago Acid House quickly was reassessed when it took over clubs (not to mention the UK pop scene), but again, the limitations of the cheap gear and basslines that could only be varied on so much made this a limited genre. Some may get fried out easily on it, but those with a love of gurgling synth beats, and lacking in any of this stuff should just go for it. Here's some Real Audio of Tyree's "Acid Crash".