Want List: The Complete Fontana Mix CD Project

fontana mix colorized
Who was the mysterious Michael Atavar behind Fontana Mix?

It was some time in 1989 when my friend Ron Kane sent me a Japanese CD he ran across in one of his L.A. stores he bought from called “Single Compact.” Ron knew I was a fan of Mari Wilson, and this was a compilation for the Japanese market made after the issuing label, The Compact Organization, had been active in the UK any longer. Yes, it had some Mari Wilson material on it that was new to my ears, so huzzah for that. But the bottom line was that everything on it was stellar. I had known of Virna Lindt and that was about as far as it went past Mari Wilson at the time. I had only been collecting Ms. Wilson’s work for a scant three years by then. It also had late period bands from the always intriguing label that were pretty scarce on the ground where I was.

Wave | JPN | CD | 1989 | EVA 3009

Various: Single Compact – JPN – CD [1989]

  1. The Sound Barrier: Mornington Crescent
  2. Virna Lindt: Excerpt From ‘Attention Stockholm’
  3. Mari Wilson: Baby It’s True
  4. Fontana Mix: Cherry Lips
  5. The Academy Of Fine Popular Music: The Morning After
  6. Floyd: The Seal Song
  7. Bruce Morrison & Rachel Orlane: Eyes Of Suspicion
  8. Mari Wilson: Glamourpuss
  9. Virna Lindt: I Experienced Love
  10. Oceans Eleven: Kissing
  11. Cynthia Scott: Excerpt From ‘The X-Boy’
  12. Mari Wilson: Ain’t That Peculiar
  13. Fontana Mix: Fang
  14. The Academy Of Fine Popular Music: Heart And Soul
  15. Mari Wilson: It’s Happening
  16. The Sound Barrier: Fasten Your Seat-belts, We’re Off To Suburbia
  17. Virna Lindt: Intelligence
  18. The Beautiful Americans: The Beautiful Americans
  19. Floyd: Death On The Wind
  20. Mari Wilson: Love And Learn
  21. Mari Wilson: Would You Dance With A Stranger?
  22. The Sound Barrier: Bank Holiday

One such band was Fontana Mix. They took their name from the John Cage experimental composition but were surprisingly pop-oriented for it. I loved their rollicking song “Fang” on the compilation. And their other one, “Cherry Lips” was a song with a complex melody staggered at intervals that never ceased to worm their way into my cranium. I made a note to buy any Fontana Mix record that I ever came across.

<fast forward 32 years…>

Well, it’s 2021 and I still only have one Fontana Mix record! It was in the late 90s when Ron Kane came to the rescue one more time, among the hundred of such occasions. He sent me the “Teach Yourself Compact” boxed set of 8×7″ers that is one of the more astonishing items in my Record Cell.

teach yourself compact cover art
The Compact Organization | UK | 8×7″ | 1985 | ACT 13

Various Artists: Teach Yourself Compact – 8×7″ – UK [1985]

  1. Virna Lindt: Attention Stockholm
  2. Virna Lindt: Episode 1
  3. Shake Shake!: Shake Shake!
  4. Shake Shake!: Yellow Ditty
  5. Cynthia Scott: The X-Boy
  6. Cynthia Scott: The X-Boy (‘X’ Cert. Perf.)
  7. Fontana Mix: Catwalk
  8. Fontana Mix: Cherry Lips
  9. Virna Lindt: Intelligence
  10. Virna Lindt: Letter To Sergei
  11. Bruce Morrison (3) & Rachel Orlane: Eyes Of Suspicion
  12. Bruce Morrison (3) & Rachel Orlane: Count The Tears
  13. The Sound Barrier: Mornington Crescent
  14. The Sound Barrier: Bank Holiday
  15. Tot Taylor: I Wanna Play The Drums Tonight
  16. Tot Taylor: An Appointment With You
fontana mix catwalk cover art
The Compact Organization | UK \ 7″ | 1983 | ACT 7

Fontana Mix: Catwalk – UK – 7″ [1983]

  1. Catwalk
  2. Cherry Lips

And have I ever played the A-side? As usual, that would be a “no.” What is wrong with me?! Yet, this is the single Fontana Mix record in my Record Cell. There are only two such other records, yet to arrive. There is also the band’s other single, the aforementioned “Fang” which seemed to be a 12″ single, only. But the data on Discogs is as usual, inconclusive. I have no idea if this is the same roughly three minute tune on “Single Compact” or a [gasp] extended version.

fontana mix - fang cover art
The Compact Organization | UK | 12″ | 1983 | ACT X-10

Fontana Mix: Fang – UK – 12 [1983]

  1. Fang
  2. 100,000 Years

,Next came the band’s sole album; the delightfully named “The Noise Spiral.” This was released in 1984 when The Compact Organization was seemingly running out funding to be tabled in the following year. The only hit the label had put into the top 10 in England was Mari Wilson’s effervescent “Just What I Always Wanted” the previous year and from what I can gather, the entire low-budget yet hi-concept project seemed to have been funded by Tot Taylor himself. With licensing finance possibly being afforded by London Records who released them in other markets on the London label. Goodness knows, that’s how the still astonishing US releases of Ms. Wilson happened. One day, I’ll have to write the book on The Compact Organization, but until then all theories will be entertained.

fontana mix - the noise spiral cover art
The Compact organization | UK | LP | 1984 | COMP 5

Fontana Mix: The Noise Spiral – UK – LP [1984]

  1. From A Speeding Car
  2. The Double
  3. Out Of The Shadows
  4. Great Curtain Comes Down
  5. Gold Coin
  6. The Feeling House
  7. Cherry Lips
  8. Opal O
  9. The World Famous Industrialist

So that allows for only 13 songs in total. The following year bought the two further compilations which were among the last of The Compact Organization’s contiguous releases. First up, there’s “Do they Mean Us?” which was a hefty 2xLP sampler with some acts like The Bushmen and Paul Bevoir never got discrete releases.

do they mean us? cover art
The Compact Organization | UK | LP | 1985 | PACT 6

Various Artists: Do They Mean Us? – UK – LP [1985]

  1. Fontana Mix: From A Speeding Car
  2. Floyd: Soul Fever
  3. The Bushmen: Love Like Law
  4. The Sound Barrier: Bank Holiday
  5. Mari Wilson: Let’s Make This Last
  6. The Academy Of Fine Popular Music: Heart And Soul
  7. Virna Lindt: The Windmills Of Your Mind
  8. Paul Bevoir: It’s Gonna Stop Somewhere
  9. Oceans Eleven: Back To Back
  10. Floyd: Mass Production
  11. Virna Lindt: Wild Strawberries
  12. The Bushmen: Grind
  13. Mari Wilson: I’m Happy Just To Dance With You
  14. Fontana Mix: The Feeling House
  15. The Sound Barrier: After The Gymkhana
  16. Mari Wilson With The Wilsations: Let Me Dream
  17. Virna Lindt: Trailers From ‘Shiver’
  18. The Academy Of Fine Popular Music: The Morning After

Then there’s the “Pens, Guns, And Riffs From The Compact Organization” compilation. That has to be one of the best titles ever. It’s another album with at least another artist that never escaped the gravitational pull of the compilation to have a release of their own: The Poptowners. Who I’ll bet were a re-branding of the Popheads from earlier in the Compact Organization’s history.

pens guns and riffs cover art
The Compact Organization | UK | 2xLP | 1985 | PACT 9

Various Artists: Pens, Guns, And Riffs From the Compact Organization – UK – 2xLP [1985]

  1. Floyd: Death On The Wind
  2. The Sound Barrier: ‘Mornington Crescent’
  3. Mari Wilson: Would You Dance With A Stranger
  4. The Bushmen: Love Like Law
  5. Fontana Mix: The Feeling House
  6. Richard Hartley: Fog Theme
  7. The Poptowners: Poptown
  8. Mari Wilson: Let Me Dream
  9. Virna Lindt: Wild Strawberries
  10. Oceans Eleven: Kissing
  11. Paul Bevoir: ‘It’s Gotta Stop Somewhere’
  12. Fontana Mix: Opal-O
  13. Floyd: Soul Fever
  14. The Academy Of Fine Popular Music: The Morning After

That appears to be about it for Fontana Mix, but wait, a thorough investigation has me going down the rabbit hole of alternate releases of the seminal “A Young Person’s Guide To Compact” compilation! I own the original, thrill-packed UK edition with enough tcatchke’s to choke a chinchilla. And I bought the first ever CD version [they all seem to be different] that was released by Wave in Japan in 1989. Yet the German edition seems to have a unique Fontana Mix to its credit.

a young person's guide to compact German edition
The Compact Organization | FR | LP | 1983 | COMP3

Various Artists: A Young Person’s Guide To Compact – FR – LP [1983]

  1. Virna Lindt: Attention Stockholm
  2. The Beautiful Americans: Sparkletones
  3. Cynthia Scott: The X-Boy 12″
  4. Shake/Shake: Shuttle Service
  5. The Popheads: Headpop
  6. Fontana Mix: Cherry Lips
  7. Mari Wilson With The Wilsations: Beat The Beat
  8. Cynthia Scott: Dancing With You
  9. Shake/Shake: Shake Shake!
  10. Virna Lindt: The Dossier On Virna Lindt
  11. Mari Wilson With The Wilsations: Ecstasy
  12. Fontana Mix: Citadel
  13. Virna Lindt: Pillow Talk
  14. The Beautiful Americans: The Beautiful Americans Part 1

Yessssss. A fourteenth track, named “Citadel” appears nowhere else. Well, believe it or not, there are copies for sale in America right now of this French import album, “The Noise Spiral” and “Fang.” So I have to buy them before someone else does. From the two tracks I’ve heard I am expecting a fascinating ride. As near as I can tell, Michael Atavar [which for decades I mis-read as “Michael Avatar”] was Fontana Mix. He now has a career as a consultant who attempts to teach creativity, which seems to be a thing that I think you either have or don’t have. He released an indie 7″ in 1980 that appeared to be fully engaged with the avant-garde roots of Cage in more ways than one. As noted by the label name and catalog number on the release.

michael atavar untitled cover art
Chance Records | UK | 7″ | 1980 | Chance 1

Michael Atavar: Untitled – UK – 7″ [1980]

  1. Cabral-Dynamic
  2. Fire Anchor
  3. Vase Reverse

Now this record is one for the long haul. Minimal synth musik like this is both expensive and highly sought after by the wave of Jonny-come-lately minimal synth collectors that make my life much harder than it was 20 years ago or earlier. Wish me luck on this one and join me in [checks calendar], uh…seven years for a follow up on the intriguing noise of Fontana Mix.

-30-

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Want List: The Complete Fontana Mix CD Project

  1. Echorich says:

    Fontana Mix remind me a lot of Richard Strange. There’s a shared creative, experimental, naiveté that seems to revel in a minimalist sound. There’s a song from their album called The World Famous Industrialist I remember from the mid 80s. I friend put it on a mixtape for me years ago.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Richard Strange? Interesting observation. I see what you are saying. Wow, so your friend actually had a copy of “The Noise Spiral!” I have a feeling that not too many of those late model Compact Records were pressed up. Or maybe they were releases that just got skipped over by record importers for one reason or another. Thee must have been a lot of releases that fell down that particular crack.

      Like

  2. Ade.W says:

    Well, The 7″ Catwalk and Cherry lips is a record I found crate digging. I had never heard of them before. I didn’t realise there was all this other stuff…..that I have to look out for now.

    Like

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