MIRRORS/ELECTRIC EELS/THE STYRENES Those Were Different Times
I love compilations that dig up all kinds of archival material from a dozen different sources in order to give the listener a glimpse into some completely overlooked music scene from the past. All three of these bands shared many members and were around the Cleveland/Columbus area from 1973 to 1976 and played weird, simple, antagonistic music that nobody wanted to hear. The key is that this was all "pre-punk" and along with Rocket From The Tombs (which sorta became Pere Ubu) and Devo these guys represented a creative bunch of musicians that the general populace could've done without. So what we get here is 29 tracks of live, rehearsal, and studio recordings from these three bands, none of which even exists on the Homestead CD's of a few years back that featured all the bands (and come highly recommended). The live stuff sounds, well, usually pretty murky in a typical way but amazing for what's taking place anyway. The rehearsal stuff is from Paul Marotta's pile of fucked up recording gear and actually has a certain vocal clarity to it that practice tapes from any of my bands never had. These are probably the best source tapes of the bunch, as the studio tracks were obviously recorded by people who were completely baffled by the proceedings, that is, until the Styrenes got rolling, who set up their own home studio, where they were able to play around and get what they wanted. Just think kids, home studios in 1976! Oh yeah, musically, Mirrors were Velvet Underground style simple rock--Electric Eels were more into minimalist confrontationalism--and The Styrenes were (and are) more into prog/pop/space/rock or something. It's all fuckin' awesome and if you don't believe me check out From the Velvets to the Voidoids, an amazing book by Clinton Heylin about American underground rock from the VU through the beginnings of punk rock in NYC. (Scat Recs, 6226 Southwood #3E, St. Louis, MO 63105)
CRUEL, CRUEL MOON
I always kinda hope one of these unknown CD's by some band I've never heard of on a label I've never seen before will become something I listen to all the time and something I can heartily recommend. It rarely happens. Luckily, Cruel, Cruel Moon are right up my alley with their slightly Velvet Underground swagger, Chills-y dreaminess and fine songs. There's male and female lead voices, fine musicianship (simplistic and appropriate), and great songs. Plus, it was recorded by Don Depew at 609 Recording and mastered over at Kingsize Soundlabs in Chicago (who you'll be reading about soon, I swear). (Moonbase Recs, PO Box 11198, Brady Lake, OH 44211)
Reservoir is Jud Ehrbar's (of Space Needle and Varnaline's drummer) side project and Pink Machine is his second record. Whereas the first Reservoir CD was mostly an ambient, instrumental affair, this release is chock full of songs with vocals, sampler work, and some guitars. Some of the tunes have a jazzy feel, others are new wave and kinda silly, but it's all done real tasteful. On the recording side, I believe it was all done on a single ADAT with a sampler, a few drums, a guitar, a mic, and some limited effects. It sounds great; the samples are playful and interesting sounding, in a trip-hop kind of way, and the various instruments and sounds are blended together real well. A treat to listen to. (Zero Hour, 14 W. 23rd St, New York, NY 10010)
THE LORDS OF HOWLING
Altimore Pearl Crescent White Admiral Sister Meadow Painted God Will Visit You
Sometimes you just have to look at a CD to know that it's something special. Packaged in two squares of vinyl, that were cut out of old records, with the band name melted into the front and a hand-sewn hinge binding them together it certainly does look like an artifact of some sort. If you remember Tape Op #4, you'll recall the interview with Dave Costanza of "The Barn" in New Mexico. The Lords of Howling is a band he and his many friends have, and it was all recorded at their studio out in the high...