This is a tape created by my dear friends Mark Ashwill and Julie Spodek in the early 1990s. The tracks were recorded in their Eckford Street loft in Greenpoint, a space loaded with Mark's sculptures, paintings, musical instruments and other creations, a sturdy loft bed and not much else. No doubt some high-cost condominium housing stands there today, as artists without endowments or trust funds can no longer afford lofts in Brooklyn. The cassette, as far as I know, was only dubbed for a few close friends, each copy with a unique handmade insert.
Mark was a drummer, sculptor and founding member in the legendary NYC noise/performance outfit Missing Foundation, whose global reputation and familiar upturned cocktail-glass symbol endure to this day. Despite being a somewhat intense character, Mark was also a total sweetie who could always make me laugh, especially when things were at their most hopeless. His cavalier humor is in high evidence on the Mel Torment cassette, especially in songs like "That Was the Last Cigaret" and "Mighty Fountains of Joy."
The opening piece, "Our Goodnight Song (Goodbye)," is the gem of the collection, a haunting lo-fi spirit procession. Other favorites of mine include "Mighty Fountains..." (with its unsettling pause-button trickery), "What Goes In, Don't Nesecarily Have to Come Out" and the screechy jazz drone of "Shadow Shift."
Our Goodnight Song (Goodbye) | That Was the Last Cigaret | To Boopsie (Baby) | While Your Asleep | Mighty Fountains of Joy | Angel | What Goes In, Don't Nesecarily Have to Come Out | I Don't Even Remember | Time Never Wasted Me | My Burning Eyes | Shadow Shift
After Missing Foundation (and after this tape) Mark achieved iconic status fronting The Spitters, a shifting band of Narcotics Anonymous buddies who, for a few chaotic years, rained Stooges-like mayhem on the Lower East Side. Mark passed away in 2000 and is missed by many; writer Maggie Estep wrote a touching obituary for Mark, which you can read here.
Julie Spodek is a vocalist, a trapeze artist (she performed at my wedding party) and a wonderful woman of many talents. In addition to cooking up the original core concept of The Spitters with Mark Ashwill, Julie was also a founding member of the band The Gamma Rays.