Tony Coulter here, with my ninth post since moving to Portland, OR almost eight months ago. Time certainly does fly -- wish it flew in more than one direction. As always, I'll be bringing you a smattering of musical finds acquired since moving here, as well as some diversions for your eye sockets at the end of the post -- in this case, some prize paperbacks.
Fly forward past the fold -- and then backward too, if you wish.
Eternity Express: Sometimes Only a Song Can Say It Right (Skylite, 1977)
In the beginning was/is a Jesus rock record, from the trio known as Eternity Express -- featuring the Gaub brothers, Nathan (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Dan (guitars), along with an unusually busy and ambitious drummer/percussionist, one Kirk Allen. (Ambitious for the genre, I hasten to add.) The track I've selected, "Someone You Need," is a cover of a tune by one of the heavier, psychier Jesus rock bands, Rainbow Promise. After a moody intro featuring synth, the tune kicks into a "hard & funky" groove that straddles the border between absurd and pretty great. Headbangers for Jesus, unite!
The eternal logo:
Nightmare Alley: Moose and Squirrel Must Die (Daven Records, 1982)
More Jesus next, but from a much more cryptic (and, I'd wager, irreligious) angle. Indeed, Nightmare Alley's entire album -- not just the track I've selected, "Church for Outlaws" -- is a bit cryptic and hard to categorize. Recorded in early 1982 at Noise N.Y. -- a studio I've always associated with Manhattan's avant Downtown scene -- Moose and Squirrel Must Die seems to have little to do with its time and place. Apparently led by bassist/vocalist Frank Ruscitti (judging from the song credits), Nightmare Alley has, to my ears, a late-model psych sound with a bit of a rural twist -- along, on the track I've given you, with a tiny smidgen of Police-ish new wave. The Web is entirely unforthcoming about who these gentleman were, but the prominence of eye-talian names leads me to suspect they were indeed based in the New York area, despite the sound. An interesting mystery.
Let the dominoes fall where they may:
Cible: s/t (S.C.O.P.A., 1978)
Next up, some slightly exploito sounds from a French band from the late '70s. Though probably (inaccurately) aimed at the emerging punk/new wave market, the track I've picked, "Anarchie," has definite echoes of French-style psych and prog -- something I can never get enough of. Incidentally, the S.CO.P.A. label also released some of the all-time classics of French underground rock, by the likes of ZNR, Philippe Doray, Ilitch, and Lucas Trouble. Cible isn't up to those exalted standards, but "Anarchie" is pretty nifty nonetheless, n'est-ce pas?
More of the cover art, by Bazooka:
Rick Cuevas: Symbolism (no label, 1984)
Moving from France back to the dis-United States, let's turn next to a self-released album from 1984, from Bay Area musician Rick Cuevas. I guess what's on hand could be called power pop -- though I'm always a little uncertain about the boundaries of that particular genre. Whatever it is, it's quite good -- well-crafted and sensitively performed (though I could have done without the super-slow drum machine).
By the way, in the interests of accuracy, I should mention that the album's sleeve is simply a blank white cover, signed by Mr. Cuevas in magic marker on the back; I've distorted reality by placing the insert over the front to create a paste-on cover sans paste.
From the back of the insert:
(tribe): Primordial Bop (Wampuum Records, 1987)
(tribe), the perversely named Glenview, Illinois quintet I now offer for your consideration, specialized in a blend of wise-guy new wave jazz and ethnic-flavored neo-psych. I've picked one of the psychier cuts, and also one of the two instrumentals, as the band's vocals are a bit too self-conscious-sounding for my tastes. Wish (tribe) had toned down the smart-aleckiness, as their LP could have been a solid winner -- but "E" is a really nice, trance-inducing cut, so all is forgiven.
The primordial logo:
Blue Nouveaux: Darkness in Me (Black & Blue Records, 1990)
As we press on, we move into some relatively uncharted waters: outsider/real people synth pop/dance music. To be frank, a lot of this album -- a vehicle for vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Celia Hemken -- is pretty awkward and not so great. The track I've picked, "Obscurity," is certainly my favorite: despite a streak of goofiness, it's actually pretty nifty in a deadpan new wavey kind of way way. It may also appeal to minimal synth fans -- despite the "incorrect" vintage of the synths and drum machine.
Anches Doo Too Cool: Nous d'eux (Celluloid, 1981)
Returning to France, I present you next with two cuts from an excellent album by the duo know as Anches Doo Too Cool -- both of whom are saxophonists, and both of whom were also members of the very different-sounding new wave/post-punk band Marquis de Sade. The first cut, featuring guest vocalist Nicole Marteau, sounds remarkably like Stereolab avant la lettre, while the second operates quite convincingly in an aesthetic territory populated by the likes of Etron Fou Leloublan and Albert Marcoeur. Overall, a really great record -- and one I'd been looking for for a long time. Thank you, oh gods of record collectordom (though I did have to pay more than the three-shekel price rudely emblazoned on the front cover).
Daniel Paboeuf and Philippe Herpin are just Anches Doo Too Cool:
Noco Music: Evasion (Editions Roger Siffer, 1983)
We finish the audio portion of this post with one more French LP. Noco Music -- centered on the duo of Philippe Geiss (saxes, bass) and Emmanuel Sejourne (vibraphone, marimba, piano) -- produces a lovely and delicate combination of minimalism and ECM-style euro-jazz, which avoids falling into the sterility and vapidity that often mar such ventures. The clear-voiced (and multi-tracked) vocalist on the cut I've picked, by the way, is one Marie-Anne Thil.
Noco Music takes a meeting:
Finally, as promised, we move on to some paperback purchases, all with eye-catching covers. I'll step out of the way and let you look -- though I will just say that I'm rather confused by the choice offered on the cover of Rita: death, or sex with a teenage girl.
That's it for this time. Next time: cassettes!