Roedelius @ The Mothlight, Asheville 3-18-17

Roedelius at The Mothlight – please excuse the low light photo

I had been pretty excited knowing that Hans-Joachim Roedelius was returning to Asheville six years on from his last appearance here at the 2011 Moogfest. I had missed that show but almost immediately regretted doing so. Particularly since in the year following that appearance, I finally had bought a large selection of his music at Harvest Records. When I saw he was coming back to The States for an appearance at the Big Ears Festival, I quickly scanned the horizon for other dates and was immediately rewarded with The Mothlight show. I jumped on tickets and my wife was assured that it was something not to miss. We then got busy with life and found ourselves planning a vacation to start the next day following the show. Staying out late the night before hitting the road was so not like us, but we do what we have to.

Long have I wanted to hear this one…

We drove to The Mothlight after easily finding a parking space practically adjacent to the club in the bustling nightlife of West Asheville. The last time I had seen a show in this district, [on a weeknight, no less] I had to park half a mile away in the grocery store lot and hope there was no evidence of towing when I got back to my car. This parking kindness boded well. We entered the small club and were pleased to see that there were a decent number of seats set up on the floor. The show was to begin at 9, and though we were running late, we were no so late that we couldn’t take advantage of rock club slack. My wife got some water while I took in the merch table, which was dripping with Roedelius material. When the artist has upwards of a hundred albums, the selection for the tour put most discographies to shame. I estimated at least 15-20 different albums for sale on CD and LP. I snapped up the debut album by Harmonia, which I had been needing for many years. Cluster [Roedelius and Dieter Mobius] teamed up with Michael Rother of Neu! – I am chastened that I have not owned this for almost 40 years.

The unnamed DJ playing stuff beforehand, gave way to the opening act Xambuca by 9:30 ish. The experimental ensemble was much more than just the guy with laptop that I was expecting. The artist had also been responsible for managing the tour so he was fully bought in to the event! The band consisted of two gents manning machines with an atmosphere vocalist and a guitarist. Tonight, they were also joined by Meg Mulhearn; a violinist! So they began droning away and the presence of real instruments amid the virtual ones gave it all a depth of feeling that I appreciated. You know that This Monk is all about conventional instruments and synthetics; getting along like a house on fire. The guitarist was in particular strenuously avoiding any taint of rock with the most subtle approach I’d ever seen! The drones were defined in what felt like two movements and may have been largely improvised. It was hard to tell because this was my first exposure to Xambuca.

At a certain point, Roedelius joined the band on his computer rig at the front of the stage. He began adding freeform electronics to the mix as, over time, the members of Xambuca rose and left the stage. Making it all a seamless flow into the headliner’s portion of the evening. Roedelius manned his devices like a scientist of sound; almost oblivious to the assembled crowd, And it was a well attended performance. The venue had become probably full to capacity with all of the chairs taken and many others standing around the seating and bar area. It was good to see that this rare event was not falling on deaf ears, as I once had the distinct pleasure of being one of approximately 50 who ventured out one evening to see a [transcendent] John Cale show in a club with a 1000 capacity.

The electronica portion of the show went on for about 20 minutes after Xambuca had exited the stage. My wife later pointed out that it was a somewhat dry and clinical performance with Roedelius attending to his device settings for a somewhat remote result. To be frank, this was not exactly what I was expecting; having read interviews with Roedelius where he admitted that he was all about playing the piano these days. Much of his later albums I’ve bought rely heavily on his piano playing, and it’s quite lovely. The electronic improv on its own definitely was music for the head, if not the heart.

Then, the artist wrapped up the electronics for a move to piano. His strong sense of melody came immediately to the fore, thought the artist found himself struggling with a sustain pedal that was giving him problems. Chandra Shukla, the prime over in Xambuca, came onstage to help Roedelius who had found another sustain pedal “that had come all the way from Austria,” and it seemed to do the trick. His command of the keyboard now complete, the concert lasted for another euphonious half hour before suddenly, the artist stopped and said his goodnights to the audience. It was just about eleven o’clock, and this event was ending much earlier than I was expecting, but I was happy, since I was going to be driving 500 miles across the state the next morning and appreciated not getting in bed by the 2:00 a.m. hour that I had expected.

I have to say that I wonder if the bifurcated nature of the concert was dictated by having Xambuca as the opening act. I found Roedelius joining the opening act on freeform electronics and then their leaving afterward, one by one, an interesting gambit. Once they had left, however, it resulted in a highly abstract music that was completely aloof. The “piano” [it was actually a synthesizer] portion of Roedelius’ performance was a far more powerful connection with this listener. My wife opined that it was too bad that a full acoustic piano could not have worked for the show, since it would have, for all of its impracticality, elevated the sonics of the event.

With an 82 year old man tooling around a foreign country, the logistics of providing a real piano in each of the dates would have no doubt been beyond the pale, so we’re happy to have gotten what we did. Although, one hopes that his Big Ears set would have had an acoustic piano as benefitted its status as a major cultural event. Between the time that I first discussed this show and now, there has been a number of dates added to the itinerary, with additional ones still to happen now listed below.

Hans-Joachim Roedelius | US Tour Spring 2017 [continued]

  • March 27 | Atlanta, GA | The Mammal Gallery [7 PM]
  • March 29 | Orlando, FL | Timucua white house [10 PM]
  • March 31 | New Orleans, LA | Siberia [10 PM]

Roedelius is playing tonight at the Mammal Gallery art space in Atlanta. I knew about the Orlando, Florida show since the organizers of it, The Civic Minded 5, were kind enough to contact us in the comments on the earlier post on this tour. It looks like one more show in New Orleans, and then it’s back to Europe for Roedelius… at least until that mooted Fall North American tour leg. While we wait for those dates, why not take the effort to see a seminal figure in modern music if he’s in your radius.

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Project [Anti-] Mersh

Screen shot 2017-03-18 at 5.38.04 PM

Gott Im Himmel!!

I just viewed this blog without being logged into Administrator mode for the first time in… years and saw ads posted by the host on the post I was looking at [see above]. I honestly didn’t know! How long has this been going on??!!

Will someone come forth and leave a comment. I just want to know how long this has persisted without me knowing of it due to my always being logged in as Admin.

I will be immediately buying this domain since I am so ashamed that anyone reading my dribblings have had to put up with  [gah!] advertising as well! I am going on vacation in hours [but first, a Roedelius concert], but as soon as I get back, mark my words. This will be taken care of!

Forget it! I just bought the domain right now! is dead! Long live!

 – 30 –

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Record Review: Talking Heads:77 [part 2]

Talking Heads once played in somebody’s living room. See? Proof.

[…continued from previous post]

Side one of the album ended with, what was for me, the key song on the album. “No Compassion” certainly lived up to its title, and if taken at face value, definitely points to Byrne having a lack of empathy common to those with Asperger’s Syndrome. The bracing track seemed to show not just a lack of compassion, but active disdain for the very idea of it. The underlying musical structure of the song began with slow-tempo, almost queasy slide guitar lines that supported the verse structure until the song came to an apparent stop [several times] and the frenetically upbeat chorus structure then took center stage. At the song’s midpoint, it stopped cold for several seconds before the amazing guitar solo by Byrne urged the tune back to life again, reluctantly.

Byrne’s solo here was all the more astonishing because to these ears, it seemed to lay the foundation for much of the tone that Adrian Belew explored during his initial time with King Crimson… four to seven years afterward. Seriously. The solo here was nothing less than a blueprint for the lead lines in “Man With An Open Heart.” When Belew helmed King Crimson’s “Discipline” album of 1981, I think we all noticed his vocal resemblance to Byrne; it was unmistakable. But listen to the guitar playing of Byrne here and Belew all but cops it outright on the later Crimson material cited.

That in 1977 he was playing guitar with Frank Zappa means that I have never heard his earliest recorded work. The next year he was touring with Bowie and the year after that his playing on “Lodger” was probably the first of his body of work I’d heard. By 1979, Talking Heads were getting Robert Fripp to guest on their third album, and the next year Fripp was enlisting Byrne to sing on his. That Belew ended up in Fripp’s next Crimson lineup in 1981 was probably preordained by that point. I maintain that if you scratch Belew; he would bleed Byrne. Not just vocally, but on his main instrument as well.

Side two of the album led off with one of the most unique and creative love song’s I’ve ever heard. “The Book I Read” used clever and unique metaphors to express adoration that were completely free of cliché. He even allowed sensuality to creep into the lyrics yet never descended to the common vernacular. The instrumental chorus here was uncharacteristically blissful. It boggles my mind that Shaun Cassidy [The Justin Bieber of his day?] covered this song on what was his final album, “Wasp,” [see right] as produced by Todd Rundgren. I simply can’t imagine the result.

The rollicking “Don’t Worry About The Government” uses building as state metaphors to explain the singer’s relationship to the body politic; and it with him, in a variety of optimistic ways. For a song written undoubtedly in the last days of Watergate, this was a defiantly contrary tone to take, but the song was unimpeachable in its delightful qualities. Was that a mandolin being picked in the intro? Byrne’s melodic line he sang in the chorus was infectiously upbeat and delightful. The soft Fender Rhodes electric piano chords that Jerry Harrison couched the song in ensured that it had no rough edges to alarm the listener.

This lack of anxiety was extended on the following tune, “First Week/Last Week… Carefree,” which mat have been a medley of two different songs that shared a common, casual vibe. The Latin scratcher percussion with the velvety marimbas of Harrison imbue this tune with the sunniest South of the Border vibe this album had to offer. When insouciant mariachi horns join in it could hardly get more relaxed and indeed… carefree.

When the famously throbbing bass line of the next song began, it signaled an abrupt volte-face back to the abstract anxieties contained in songs like “New Feeling” or “Tentative Decisions,” but “Psycho Killer” staked a much more anti-social claim than those two merely disconnected songs. After all, this was a clinical look into the head of a murderer right in the middle of the David Berkowitz/Son Of Sam era. That bass pull… perhaps the most sinister and insinuating bass line ever by Tina Weymouth; it can repeat in the mind for hours at a time.

The song had its genesis in the unlikely, but commercially leaning, thought that since when they were forming, Alice Cooper was the height of rock success. Therefore, why not do an “Alice Cooper type” song to get a commercial leg up? Except that Alice Cooper did not have songs with verses sung in French.  Or feature guitar solos that sounded like dying chickens. Ironically, the infectious song did manage to scrape the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, so… it worked! It can be argued that this underground hit, in the best sense of the word, paved the way for the Top 40 triumph that occurred with their next album release.

Having explored the edge of madness with a characteristically cold eye, the band closed out their debut album with a straight dose of joyous euphoria. “Pulled Up” featured a deliciously ringing guitar riff that mirrored Byrne’s tale of having been given the boost he needed to overcome his travails. The ebullience of the cut almost effortlessly transcends euphoria near the climax of the song where Byrne sounds like he’s ready to bite through the straps; resorting to animalistic grunts and growls to express his state of mind before the album side reaches a place of no return.

Talking Heads certainly broke a fair share of new ground on this album, which in a musical sense, was not really all that adventurous. Where it entered the realm of the singular largely rested on Byrne’s wiry shoulders. The rhythm section of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz gave accomplished support to these songs, and fourth member Jerry Harrison gave the band a more thorough reach with his secondary guitar, keys, and backing vocals, all seriously augmenting the songs and arrangements. But it was Byrne’s themes, unique artistic point of view, coupled with his fearless and expressive vocals [not to discount his excellent guitar playing which had clearly left an imprint on Mr. Belew] that made this a pioneering album of the New Wave which would leave an imprint on many that were to follow in its wake.

Byrne was mapping rock music to new emotional territories that were not possible earlier in the game; during rock’s primeval birth pangs or rebellious adolescent phase. The songs here reflected a post-adolescent energy, and though the examinations of the states of mind in many of the lyrics were filtered through an almost childlike sense of observation, much of the depth of what they dealt with were strictly adult. There were some love songs here, but they were fabricated from tropes that were far from routine. Byrne managed to put fresh spins on the subject matter that showed how far out he had set his sights even when dealing with most common subject in music. It is telling that each one of the Talking Heads albums to follow until the band’s near split in 1981 relied less and less on the subject matter of amour as grist for their creative mill. In 1977, Talking Heads set the pace for an exciting merger of art rock and pop with other exotic strains entering their music until the point was soon reached where the band sounded not a whit like the fresh-faced explorers who committed “Talking Heads: 77” to tape in the eponymous year of its title.

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Record Review: Talking Heads:77 [part 1]

Sire ‎| US | CD | 1986 | 6036-2

Talking Heads:77 US CD [1986]

  1. Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town
  2. New Feeling
  3. Tentative Decisions
  4. Happy Day
  5. Who Is It?
  6. No Compassion
  7. The Book I Read
  8. Don’t Worry About The Government
  9. First Week / Last Week… Carefree
  10. Psycho Killer
  11. Pulled Up

I lived in Central Florida. It was a really conservative radio market. I didn’t hear Talking Heads until their cover version of “Take Me To The River” managed to reach #26 on the Billboard top 40 chart. I was no longer listening to top 40 radio by then, I had switched to a short-lived dalliance with FM Rock, but the track even managed to sneak into rotation on WDIZ-FM, amongst the Led Zeppelin. I can’t remember exactly, but I might have bought the LP of “Talking Heads:77” before or after their sophomore effort. I can state with some certainty, that I probably listened to chasinvictoria’s copy first. That sounds right.

The album got off to a jaunty start with the single “Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town.” The quirky P.O.V. of writer David Byrne was apparent right out of the box, even though they hedged their bets by starting this sometimes prickly album with an upbeat love song. In fact, there would be several tucked into the fabric of this album before it was over, but always askew from conventionality. The addition of steel drums even managed to hint at the Caribbean Tom Tom Club vibe which rhythm section Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz would explore half a lifetime [it seemed] later. Keyboard player Jerry Harrison’s rhythmic Farfisa stabs keep this one syncopated and moving as singer Byrne explored numerous unique metaphors for the distracting signifiers of love.

“New Feeling” was a more telling indicator of where this album was laying down new aesthetic asphalt for others to colonize planet New Wave. David Byrne’s guitar jangled like nerves as he seemed to be examining rather abstract aspects of his everyday life. The accompanying music was steadfast and driving, but taut and lean. This music stood apart from rock music and its usual concerns, tropes, and methodologies. Byrne’s vocal style was something else entirely. He sang with an almost child-like expressiveness that was completely unconcerned with how it sounded. He used peculiar stresses to impart emphatic power to select phrases that otherwise reeked of banality, but in this new context, served as grist for new contemplation.

The abstract, analytical quality of the previous cut was only a warm up for the inscrutable “Tentative Decisions.” This one actually seemed like a computer trying to understand those wacky primates! It certainly lent credence to Tina Weymouth’s [and even David Byrne’s] belief that Byrne tended to autism or at least Asperger’s Syndrome. The machinelike music in the very abstract intro gave way to military drumming in the chorus and finally a rollicking piano-led boogie by the time of the concluding coda. May I add that this was highly atypical music for its time.

Given that the band began their life as a rethink of their college band “The Artistics” [get it?] in 1975, I would have expected that “Happy Day” might have been one of the older songs in Byrne’s sheath of tunes as they recorded their debut album. The lyrics are a pure Byrne exploration of love from an outsider perspective; they fit right in on the album, but the music is the song here with more throwback factor. It’s practically staid for this adventurous band.

The briefest song in the program is also one of the most infectious. “Who Is It” was a simple, repetitive, minimalist love song that came the closest to conventional sentiment that Byrne would ever go here. It was little more than a jangling rhythm guitar riff with abrupt stopping points where it would rest for a beat before it would continue hopping forward. It was a glimpse of Talking Heads at their most charming. The way they could approach a love song yet hold back from garish sentimentality with their artistic P.O.V. which prevented the band from ever coming close to skidding off the artistic road. This was nothing else but a band who trusted their artistic instincts; and their instincts served them spectacularly well in turn.

Next: …Cold Euphoria

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Unnamed Jo Callis Project Gets Greenlighted!

Jo Callis – possibly the biggest Scot Rock Chameleon next to Midge Ure?

On Saturday, I crossed a line in the sand! In a move that doesn’t happen every day, I obtained the final piece of a special Jo Callis puzzle. I now have everything he’s released outside of The Rezillos and the Human League records that I’ve long since owned. The talented Scotsman first lathered our lobes with the day-glo, sci-fi punk of The Rezillos, then, when that band fissured the Eugene Reynolds/Fay Fife axis became The Revillos. This left Jo Callis a free agent, and he later went on to massive worldwide influence and success as the guy who wrote several huge Human League hits you have certainly heard. Hundreds of times. But that’s not what we’re about today.

Today we are peering into the shadowy margins of Callis’ post-Rezillos career, which was filled with more brilliant pop rock than three other bands could have ever know what to do with. In fact, there were three other bands that Callis contributed to, the first of which was just a sideman gig, but it’s been in the Record Cell for a long time [i.e. >10 years]. First up in 1979 was the Boots For Dancing 7″ of “The Rain Song” [L]. Callis just played guitar on these punk/funk sides, but we aim to curate, so they will be part of this new, unnamed Jo Callis project.

Next up was the Shake 10″ EP on UK Sire; previous home to The Rezillos. Callis teamed up again with Angel  Paterson and Simon [Templar] Bloomfield of “The Rezillos” along with a pre-Teardrop Explodes Troy Tate for these four songs that could have been Rezillos tunes. In fact, on their posthumous live album, The Rezillos did perform “Culture Shock” so it would seem that this was unused Rezillos material given an airing after that group imploded. The “Batman ’66” inspired cover painting showed that not just Eugene and Fay had a lock up on sixties kitsch.

The following year, the next single issued was the deliriously over the top “Invasion Of The Gamma Men” by the now re-branded S.H.A.K.E. Again, the influence of sixties kitsch in the form of Gerry Anderson haunts this record. Live, I would not have put it past the band to have also indulged in the “Thunderbirds” theme song, as did The Rezillos on their live album.

Then, right before getting snagged by manager Bob Last to join the remains of his Human League, Callis released a semi-solo/quasi-S.H.A.K.E. single, relabeled here as The S.H.A.K.E. Project. I like the sound of that. This three track EP was the last of Callis before he got a date with destiny in The Human League, but after that band ran aground, following the highs of “Dare” and the lows of “Hysteria,” there was one more Jo Callis record that needed to be compiled with this mooted REVO edition.

S.W.A.L.K. [gad, Callis must love those acronyms!] were a post-Human League record dating from 1986 wherein he once ahain joined up with timekeeper Angel Paterson [called “Angle” here for reasons unexplained] as well as his former compatriot Doug Barrie from Boots For Dancing on bass and Mike Barclay on b-vox. The resulting 6 track EP is said to be heavy on the glam rock and it sports a superfantastic cover by Callis. I look to be remastering all of these for a compilation in short order! Now that I have everything that Callis had done outside of his two most famous bands…

<SFX: cue needle rip sound>

Wait! There’s more!!

DRO ‎ | SPN | 7″ | 1983 | DRO-034

Nick Fury: Amor Secreto SPN 7″ [1983]

  1. Amor Secreto
  2. Por Fin, Esto Es

Now how much would you pay! This record, which I have just become cognizant of… right now,  features Callis on guitar along with Ian Burden on bass, and production/synthesizer by Phil Oakey…!!?? What, th…!!! Well, that’s on the want list, but seeing as how it’s more of a Human League buried treasure, perhaps it’s not the right record for the unnamed Jo Callis project. Join us soon [hopefully] with the tale to tell of making that.

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Posted in Buried Treasures, Core Collection, Remastering, Scots Rock, Want List | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Wave Fans Go Oenophilic!


This just seen in a local Trader Joes whilst searching for cooking sherry. Does Blondie get any kickbacks on this?

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Record Review: New Order – Touched By The Hand Of God

Factory ‎| UK | CD5 | 1987 | Facd193

New Order: Touched By The Hand Of God UK CD5 [1987]

  1. Touched By The Hand of God [Twelve inch mix] – 7:04
  2. Confusion [Dub 1987] – 5:23
  3. Temptation [Original Mix] – 7:01

This was a single that seemed to come out of nowhere, but the A-side was massively beefed up from the track the New Order had recorded for the Salvation OST, where they sort of split duties with Cabaret Voltaire. I bought this in a store [probably Murmur Records] on its release. The extended A-side was a New Order A-side heavy on the beatbox, but with Arthur Baker mixing, you knew that it would be. The Peter Saville/Trevor Key sleeve was still completely abstract with no cover identification or typography, as was the style for New order releases of the period. So bold and iconic at the time, but Saville could probably not have foreseen a future where all indie rock stole his ideas indiscriminately. If I see a cover that looks like this now I am assured that it’s some exceptionally po’faced indie rock made by someone who was guaranteed to be absolutely miserable.

New Order for me peaked in ’82-’85, but they were far from down for the count in late 1987, when this single was released. I enjoyed Arthur Baker’s dalliances with the band, but preferred the original 12″ of “Confusion” where his patented electro/hip-hop sound was dominant. This track seemed to be a left over from the “Brotherhood” album for every inch of its length. If anything, it could almost be a close relative of “State Of The Nation,” though I actually prefer this song. In its favor, Bernard Sumner’s vocal and lyric was much more intimate and it charmed me in a way that the overbearing “State of the Nation” failed to. New Order records should ideally be intimate; even if they have an expansive sonic palette. To its discredit, 1987 was a shockingly late period to be indulging in the 8-Bit Orchestra Hit, since I had thought that Giorgio Moroder had hammered a thousand nails in its coffin on the Oakey/Moroder album of two years prior.

The second track was a no-one-asked-for-it dub mix of the vastly inferior “Confusion” re-recording made especially for the would-have-been-perfect-if-it-didn’t-have-re-recordings 12″ collection “Substance.” The dub mix here was even more perfunctory and abrupt; making it all sound like some more faceless dance act covering “Confusion” rather than a re-recording by the band who had originally recorded it. The full version of “Confusion [1987]” had been released a few months earlier in the Summer of 1987 on “Substance,” and therein lay a tale of embitterment for me.

I had been excited to learn that all [or so I thought] of New Order’s 12″ mixes and B-sides were planned to be released on CD format that year as “Substance.” In a fit of naive optimism, I traded off many of my New Order 12″ singles since they would be replaced in my heart and listening with the “Substance” set. Imagine my dismay when the purchase was made; many weeks after ditching my beautiful 12″ singles of: “Temptation,” “Thieves Like Us,” and “Murder” in the mistaken believe that they would be accurately replicated on the 2xCD. I held onto “Confusion” since I knew that only two of the four tracks on it were making the digital leap. I soon discovered that the running order of the “Substance” set had inferior new versions of “Temptation” and  “Confusion” replacing the versions that I knew from vinyl.

Ideally, I was all set to forgive the band for having the temerity to record and release on CD an inferior version of their finest song, “Temptation,” when I saw that this CD5 single had what was billed as “Temptation [Original Mix]” as the third track. Unfortunately for us, the version on this CD is the same version of the song on “Substance.” Grrrrrrr. To this day, it seems like the only place where the glorious original 8:54 version of “Temptation” made it to CD was in the sloppy2xCD DLX RM in 2009 of “Movement” and in the “Retro” 4xCD boxed set. Though there seems to be a promo disc of highlights from “Retro” that has the desired track. Maybe, I’ll have to secure a copy of that, because it bothers me terribly that this track has been missing for… [checks] 30 years from the Record Cell!!

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Posted in Core Collection, Designed By Peter Saville, Record Review | Tagged , , | 20 Comments