Bourbonese Qualk | Laughing AfternoonAll appearing on: Klanggalerie (CD/DL)
Various Artists | The Godfather Of Odd – A Hardy Fox Tribute
Michael Cashmore | The Doctrine Of Transformation Through Love Vol. I
So, this is one of those rare old cult classic records that I’d see on shelves for years but never knew much about. The xerox of a xerox of a xerox cover art is one of those black and white indelible images from the early 80’s – 1983 to be exact. This reissue includes three bonus tracks, making for sixteen in total here. Bourbonese Qualk is a now defunct experimental ensemble active from 1980-2003, and Laughing Afternoon has also recently been re-released on vinyl by Mannequin (which does not include the extras). This is the first time for this industrial record ever to be reissued in those twenty-six years. For this record the players are: Steven Tanza (Drums), Julian Gilbert (Voice, Instruments), Simon Crab (Guitar, Bass, Clarinet, Violin).
OK, well, though I was around for the introduction of this (an impressionable teen of the times), I unfortunately missed it entirely first go, so along with a much younger generation I am able to hear this for the very first time, please mind the gap. I’m thankful that the first words are an iteration of their name and its pronunciation. These guys’ only contemporaries that I can imagine were SPK and Crass (maybe Whitehouse to a lesser extent). It’s great putting them in context with NIN, BiGod 20, Front 242, 808 State, and even Skinny Puppy who would mostly come down the pike at least half a decade later. After hearing this it sounds like a blueprint of fusion that Jack Dangers’ Meat Beat Manifesto would launch in the latter half of the same decade.
I’m digging the grooves here, it’s like a clash of jazz, funk, punk and other. If you remember Was (Not Was) and certain instrumental embellishments and the rootsy island influences in PiL you may experience similar inflections here. I also hear some resonances that lurk in the shadows of work by The Lounge Lizards or Romeo Void, also contemporaries of the time. From the start it’s off to the races. Don’t let the tough cover fool you (it may have me subliminally back in the day), this has a laidback side that’s quite groovy ala 70’s era Miles Davis even. Yeah, these guys are eclectic to say the least, blending in radio transmissions to an otherwise upbeat folky melody at times – developing a split narrative. This may be my favorite record-resurrection this year (by far).
While the vocal dub may have a sinister(ish) tone the inter-meshing with its warbling beat on Blood Orange Bargain Day is infectious. I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t singing its praises in my youth (hey, I also missed Young Marble Giants and Suburban Lawns in the same years), which is what makes this an even more sincere rediscovery. Only word, seminal.
I’ve always enjoyed the colorful allure of Michael Cashmore, and his The Doctrine Of Transformation Through Love I most certainly delights. Though he’s been at it since the latter 80’s he takes his time between projects, making sure to produce works of allusion and grace. His limited output gives you much breath to contemplate his approach here, especially since he hasn’t released solo work since 2007, the glorious The Snow Abides (Durtro). His latest thirteen tracks are as exceptional from both a poetic and conceptual point of view. Let’s explore.
By delectably building a world that embraces both beats and majestic piano playing, a narrator and swirling synths I can see why his collaborative work with Marc Almond was so successful, and perhaps some of that ‘pop life’ rubbed off duly. Oh, dear listeners, I am not saying this is a pop record, not whatsoever, but its understanding of that which we absorb as familiar in and out of the genre is captured quite deliberately on the ripe opener, The Gateway to All Understanding.
This comes off like theme music for a box office thriller on Before the Crown There Lies Thorns, full throttle ahead. The layers are contemporary and fresh in the way in which echo meets shiny synth meets a crushed velvet, dramatic flair. Its far more airy and commercial than his former efforts, thematically the conceptual bent finds these tracks relying on each other in dissertation here ranges from sacred secrets to nature’s wrath and life/death. The saavy inclusion of Lithuanian-born occultist and enigma Shaltmira brings a certain edge that lands between say, Nina Hagen and Miss Kittin. Her spoken word vocals are a narrative foil to the synth swirls around her. But when he cracks the whip on We Are All Responsible, it is an uncertain wake up call that brings back The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight (even if only in my own encrusted mind). If someone outright asked me who produced this I’d maybe wince and say in a squinty voice, Trevor Horn. Yes, it’s that clean, and that just slight left o’ center.
There’s more dance music here than I would have expected, but when the beats are more inquisitive on tracks like The Swallow Flies Free and Formless there is an interesting commercial fusion/synthesis between the underground of yesterday and something far more retrofit for the now. It’s one of growing pains, however, and one of those records that you are not sure you absolutely love, one of those records that grows on your with time. These sort of sounds are complex to devour whole, but individually Cashmore has proven to be a lover of songs – more specifically of torch songs and aliteration, this is blended into the mix with both timing and cadence. Stay for his own Lean Upon The Light vocal, it’s weary and by far the starry night this record needed to cap its delicacies within. Hey, this is only volume one, after all.
Dedicated to (fellow) Texan, Hardy Fox (composer for The Residents) who passed last year, this compilation of fifteen tracks is a heartfelt and unique collection. Somehow I accidentally moved the mouse and lost four paragraphs, like some kind of weird inside joke. In the spirit of the man who influenced the making of this recording, instead of reslogging that whole lot – will save to say that there is not a single dud in this bunch of left-o-center works, touching instrumental and crooned works, the odd-bird genre-defying inclusions, twisted lounge and sound collage, and an otherwise overall brilliant dedication to a man who would likely want to be looking upon listeners in his absence with a big fat cheshire grin. His colleagues have done him proud, and this is a record that you can listen to end from end as the mood shifts with a thoughtful curatorial finesse.
Standout tracks: Paloalto’s El Ralpho, JG Thirwell’s Trouble Adore and Ptose’s twelve minute wonder, The Black Hound Shrine. Also included are Fred Frith as well as some amazing instrumentals by Blaine L. Reininger, Laurie Amat and Carla Fabrizio. Oh, and The Residents’ If Only ends with the sentiment: “If only you knew, if only you knew, if only you knew…how much I loved you“. RIP Mr. Fox.