Record Review: Blaine L. Reininger – Night Air

Another Side | BENELUX | LP | 1984 | SIDE 8406

Blaine L. Reininger: Night Air BENELUX LP [1984]

  1. Night Air
  2. Birthday Song
  3. Beak People
  4. Mystery + Confusion
  5. Intermission
  6. Ash + Bone
  7. L’Entree De L’Hierophant
  8. A Café Au Lait For Mr. Mxyzptlk
  9. Miraculous Absence
  10. El Mensajero Divino

I really can’t exactly pin down how I first encountered Blaine L. Reininger, the former violinist for SF-ex-pats-gone-Continental Tuxedomoon. I had been aware of Tuxedomoon for several years before just flat out buying some of their singles at one point to hear them in the early 80s. It’s hard to believe now, but there used to be no other way to hear music that was never played on the radio. I’m struggling to remember whether this was before or after buying Blaine L. Reininger records.

I must have known he was in Tuxedomoon, but for some reason, I think that I first heard him by buying his 12″ single cover of Barry White’s “Playing Your Game” when it was released in 1983 on the always intriguing Les Disques Du Crépuscule label. When I saw the release in Crunchy Armadillo Records for $2.50 how could I say no? Nagging doubts point me in the direction of having bought that 12″ before any Tuxedomoon material entered my collection. And quite frankly, I always harbored the suspicion that Tuxedomoon was far more than the sum of its parts. Tuxedomoon never quite clicked for me, whereas records by Winston Tong and Reininger were immediately appealing to me.

I was at a record show when this record came out and I found a dealer with all sorts of desirable Europressings so I bought not only this album but a pair of EPs that he also produced around this time. What impressed me about Reininger was not only his mastery of the studio [he does everything on this record apart from bass, sax and some guitar] but also his skill at arrangement and his thematic concerns. Hearing him for the first time really reminded me of Bill Nelson, another musical polymath who could do it all and maintain my high interest.

“Night Air” begins with the evocative title cut, sporting Old World violin juxtaposed next to a loping drum machine rhythm. The chord sequence in the chorus is a killer as Reininger double tracks his vocals an octave down for a powerful effect. “Mystery + Confusion” is flat out one of the classic pieces of synthpop you probably never heard. It unspools a tale of riding The Metro and relating images the future we currently inhabit 25 years later amid the then-current zeitgeist of imminent nuclear annihilation. It asks the question “Why start a war when the future’s just arrived?” It’s like “Two Tribes” with a massive injection of IQ points and some of John Foxx’s “Metamatic” DNA. The Foxx allusion is not too far afield since his engineer Gareth Jones also recorded this album. This song is a buried treasure that should be far more widely known.

One of the most rewarding tracks here is the long “Ash + Bone” with is a heartbreakingly beautiful elegy for his time in Tuxedomoon. I love his singing as he comments on the repainting of his past in with Tuxedomoon in a nostalgic glow. The methodical rhythms seem to suspend time as he looks back fondly and simultaneously recognizes the inaccuracy that such rose tinted glasses have already introduces to his vision just a scant year or two after their split. It’s a very warm and lovingly human song that takes a generous view of all concerned.

Normal | GER | CD | 1988 | NORMAL 57 CD

Blaine L. Reininger: Night Air GER CD [1988]

  1. Night Air
  2. Birthday Song
  3. Beak People
  4. Mystery + Confusion [remix]
  5. Intermission
  6. Ash + Bone
  7. L’Entree De L’Hierophant
  8. A Café Au Lait For Mr. Mxyzptlk
  9. Miraculous Absence
  10. El Mensajero Divino
  11. Bizarre, Bizarre
  12. Paris En Automne

Several years later, the album finally made the transition to CD, but not without some changes. Primarily, the LP mix of “Mystery + Confusion” has been replaced with the single remix version, and the sleeve image of that release now adorns the cover. The single’s B-side was added as a bonus track and there is a hidden track added; a recording of “Paris En Automne” from the EP that he released in 1984 with Alain Goutier. I need to A/B compare the versions with the EP cut to see if they differ any. This was the first version on CD and I was unmoved by the inferior cover design and swap out of the LP mix of “Mystery + Confusion.” Still, it was for years the only way to get this great album on CD.

LTM | UK | CD | 2002 | LTMCD 2339

Blaine L. Reininger: Night Air Plus UK CD [2002]

  1. Night Air
  2. Birthday Song
  3. Beak People
  4. Mystery + Confusion
  5. Intermission
  6. Ash + Bone
  7. L’Entree De L’Hierophant
  8. A Café Au Lait For Mr. Mxyzptlk
  9. Miraculous Absence
  10. El Mensajero Divino
  11. Mystery + Confusion [remix]
  12. Bizarre, Bizarre
  13. Windy Outside
  14. Broken Fingers
  15. Crash
  16. Crash [remix]

It remained until 2002 when our friends at LTM released a definitive version of this great album. While it comes closer to the original great cover [the layout is less interesting] at least the buyer gets both versions of “Mystery + Confusion.” It’s such a great song, I can’t really pick a favorite mix, but having two is much better than just one. The song’s B-side is still there, and a few tracks that I have elsewhere have been appended to the running. “Windy Outside” is a phenomenal vocal track from his “Colorado Suite” Ep he recorded with Mikel Rouse in the same year as “Night Air.” It’s a magnificent high-tech Euro-cowboy ballad with gorgeous “systems music” backing by Rouse and a stellar vocal by Reininger. Really, it’s a show-stopper of genre bending that you really must hear if you’ve not had the pleasure. Only William Orbit’s “Cluny Ann” with its techno-Appalaichian slant comes as close to this at mixing the ultra-traditional with cutting edge technology.

Any version of this album is worth having but for the completist, you can hardly go wrong with the LTM edition. One day I should spring for a copy since I only still have the original LP version of “Mystery + Confusion” on vinyl. The song “Crash” is also an unknown quantity to me. If it’s based on the Ballard novel, then it need to be heard since I enjoy so many other songs based on it.

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Record Review: Blaine L. Reininger – Night Air

  1. I’m less familiar with BLR than you but OMG I love this album, which I once had on vinyl but have since lost. I recently featured this song on one of the COW episodes (which means I probably last played it some 15 years ago!) and rediscovering it was so intensely pleasurable. I’m re-obsessed, and must get the LTM version of the CD!

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      chas_m – Get anything by BLR. Wait until you hear “Wiindy Outside,” one of the bonus tracks. I’ve long had the album and then the CD that’s from. In a word, “wow!” He’s bulletproof as far as I’m concerned. And the LTM version of the CD will surely bring contentment to your life, what with both mixes of “Mystery + Confusion!” I have to admit, I have downloaded all of your podcasts but I’m not really a podcast listener. They don’t particularly fit my lifestyle. True, I have an iPod Touch now but loading music on it, or even podcasts, seems so contrived. And I don’t want to listen to anything on it. But I just listened to the COW episode you were mentioning just the other day. I have come to listen to your podcast while I am slaving away on freelance work, deep into the night and all through the days of my weekends. And guess what? In the last few months, I have blown through your entire backlog of podcasts! That’s how hard I’ve been working!

      Like

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