Shock’s Robert Pereno Crafts A Musical Biography With Logan Sky

[L-R]: Logan Sky + Robert Pereno

I recently got the advance word that the perpetually busy synthesist Logan [Visage] Sky was not merely content to issue albums every few months with his musical partner Steven Jones. He was also linking up with a name from the New Romantic past to craft a new branch of growth on his post-Visage carer tree. Robert Pereno was a member of the mime troupe/recording act [surely some legendary paradox…] Shock. Now he’s collaborated with Sky on a musical biography that saw the actor/promoter/dancer/poet/celebrated polymath approach similar music territory to what Grace Jones achieved on her “Slave To The Rhythm” album. In other words, a life set to music, but it differs in a few key ways.

Etrangers Musique | UK | CD/DL | 2018

Per/Eno: Aftershock UK CD/DL [2o18]

  1. Birth Here
  2. Aftershock
  3. My Name Is. Chaos.
  4. Let Me In [Steve Strange]
  5. Mask
  6. Shadows
  7. She Sings
  8. Don’t Be Too Sure Mother
  9. Dollar Days
  10. Summer
  11. Golden Sand
  12. Still Is
  13. Aftershock [edit]
  14. Mescalina [fragment of time]

When “Birth Here” began, it was hard to shake the feeling that I was not listening to a new Steven Jones + Logan Sky album instead. Robert Pereno was working sprechgesang vocals not entirely dissimilar to the vibe that Jones proffers on some of his Jones + Sky vocal work. The track kept to the abstract side of the fence. Not really gelling into a song, per se.

That couldn’t be stated about the fantastic title track! From all of the music here, this was the cut that came the closest to being the big fat hit single of this somewhat esoteric release. The arrangement was all stately synths of melancholic disposition. The deft music bed suggested that Depeche Mode of 1982 took a peek into next year and linked up with Some Bizzarre Cabaret Voltaire to hit some sort of sweet spot between the two approaches. I put this down to Mr. Sky’s laser-like focus on the last generation of analog synth tech before digital synthesis changed everything, but perhaps he’s simply brooded for years about creating the perfect fusion of “My Secret Garden” and “Just Fascination?” Either way, your ears are the winners.

Mr. Sky’s penchant for John Carpenter synthwave film music manifests early on in “My Name Is. Chaos.” The heavy action cinema beat and Mr. Pereno’s voice over free verse posit some sort of fusion between soundtrack music and performance art. As if Laurie Anderson had more of a dance floor focus than she ever had.

Pereno poses with his work

Mr. Pereno had a storied life that saw him promoting for the club Camden Palace, which brought him further into Steve Strange’s orbit than just releasing New Romantic records in 1981. Strange hosted the club from its rebranding with the Camden Palace name in 1982 for two years. As Pereno set the stage lyrically I appreciated the distant sample of Strange’s distinctive hyena laugh haunting the scene. The dark night synths suggested rain slick streets here as Pereno danced around the events of November 1983 in definitely oblique terms. Something significant happened then, but it’s difficult to parse the free verse lyrics to see the hidden kernels of truth.

Pereno’s mother was a pop singer

The next track, “Mask” was singular for having the first guitar I’ve ever heard on a post-Visage release with music by Mr. Sky. David Nath added a cleanly articulated tone that added a rolling, rhythmic inertia to the song, but the spaced out synth meltdown in the song’s middle eight managed to be more jarring that the string instrument in the context of the song. The dark, clubby edge to much of this material befit a creature of the night like Pereno, but they manage to find space here for a portentous piano ballad in “She Sings” to broaden the scope of this project. The song was a tender look back at the mother who gave Pereno his first exposure to music; singing in both Italian and English to the young boy. Not unusual for a mother, but Pereno’s mother Rica was not just a mother who sang to her young child, but also to the Italian public at large as a pop singer with a recording career.

This album contains the first cover of any of Bowie’s “” material I’ve yet to hear. The powerful “Dollar Days” got a minimal synth makeover here, but the poet Pereno was out of his depth here as he struggled to bring life to the conspicuously verbose and awkward lyrics of the song that Bowie effortlessly gave flight to. A song like this was virtually “cover-proof” since it was written by Bowie for his own performance with no regard as to the viability of the song in another’s mouth. It took a David Bowie to get a song like “Dollar Days” aloft as it was. Mr. Pereno’s attempt just stood out as clumsy, if daring, in its appending of the Pereno penned “Glass/Life” coda that doubled the length of the song. Not just anyone would dare such a move, but at least Pereno fared better with his own free verse.

The album plateaued with “Still Is,” a song adapted from a Charles Bukowski poem that proclaimed “life has been a beautiful fight… still is… still is.” I have to admit that I have never read any of Bukowski’s poetry and would not have recognized it but for Pereno working the phrase “hashtag Bukowski” into the performance, tipping me off in a most novel way. The album had two “bonus tracks” following this. A very tight single edit of “Aftershock” and the abstract, meandering “Mescalina [fragment of time],” an appropriately psychedelic tone poem that was fully impenetrable. Any and all of these tracks may be sampled/purchased below.

The album is for sale today and can be had on CD and DL at the Etrangers Musique Bandcamp page. This one is a different kettle of fish. It’s like a mashup between a spoken word poetry performance, a synthetic film soundtrack, and at times, a technopop album. The biographical aspect here differed strongly from the facts and figures approach of a similar project like “Slave To The Rhythm.”  The latter was much less impressionistic than the more poetic lyrical content of “Aftershock.” Much of Pereno’s lyric content remains tantalizingly opaque, and with all poetry, this allows the reader to bring something of their own to the interpretation. So it becomes biographical in the most ambiguous way possible.

The lyrics and performance of Pereno often plays to the beat of his own drummer; lending the results a skittish, random feel as the meter and rhythm of his delivery occasionally comes into conflict with the steady progress from the synths and drum machines of Logan Sky. There were three or four tracks which become a form of pop music. The rest of it seems to be a poetry reading with music added. A non-integrative exercise that intrigues and fascinates yet ultimately fails to gel into a cohesive whole. Mark this journey as a new shoot branching off of the Logan Sky tree of music which may be the seeds of a new strain or an evolutionary dead end. Right now it’s too early to tell for sure, but buying the DL for the title track alone is well worth the £4.00 asking price.

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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