You may have noticed that I’ve been tumbling down the rabbit hole of NYC/No Wave acts who are getting their material reissued on the Sundazed/Modern Harmonic label. First we investigated The Dance being reissued in 2022. Then the precursor to that band, Model Citizens, got the nod a short while ago. Now Post-Model Citizens material by Thomas [Tomek] Lamprecht is coming our way on Friday, May 26th.
Lamprecht emigrated from Warsaw and attended The School For Visual Arts in NYC and upon graduation, gained his citizenship and furthered his matriculation at the graduate level at Columbia University. Where he met like minded students who formed Model Citizens. After that band splintered, he continued pursuing the twin muses of multi-disciplinary visual art and music; releasing the “Tomek”six track EP in 1983 as recorded at Jimmy Miller’s home with the game-changing Fairlight CMI in the mix. Now, that recording has been released as a full album with other material from the sessions that was culled at the time but now awaits our ears. What’s it like, you may ask?
Tomek: Fairlight + Funk – US – CD 
- OK What [Jingle alternate]
- Love Music
- Things Will Come And Pass Like Magic
The buzzing harmonics and cymbal work that opened “Reminder” were deceptively avant garde until the very real sounding drums and bass guitar began pulling in a Funk direction. Yet the insect-like synths and the filtered voice of Tomek himself began reciting the lyrics which brought this into Krautrock territory. His instrumentation and distorted, insinuating vocal redolent of Rough Trade era Cabaret Voltaire. A definite case of Art Rock that was moving adjacent to Funk and relying on dronetrance tools to get there. And if you’re anything like I am, this just might be your favorite thing!
Having heard many of the early Fairlight records, I have to say that this music was avoiding all of the Fairlight clichés we all know like the back of our hands. Absolutely no 8-bit orchestra hit – I think Moroder used them all up on the Phil Oakey album! The vibe was closer to No Wave/Post-Punk as the first track revealed, but “OK What” was a jaunty number based on samples of coughing that was the only cut here that came within spitting distance of Art Of Noise’s distinctive footprint. I wonder if the artist was familiar with The Associates “Q Quarters,” possibly the only other songI can think of to intentionally include coughing? And as a child of the 60s, I had to laugh at the sample of a barking dog set to the melody of “Jingle Bells” that eventually found its way into the densely layered mix!
The pull of No Wave Funk like James Chance and The Contortions on Lamprecht material like “Contract,” cannot be ignored, but the impressive thing here was that save for violin and congas, all of instrumentation was Lamprecht! And the Fairlight was not used as a crutch at all here with most of the music being real instrumentation. Similarly, The nearly binaural guitar work on “Prelude” over the skittery drumming took Funk to its most neurotic extremes. The muscular bass playing was not what you’d associate with a visual artist “slumming” in music. Tomek seemed quite capable of going wherever the music took him.
“Talking” was an unexpected spoken work interlude, adapted from some of his performance art pieces, that served mostly as bridge for the much more synthetic “Love Music.” Minimal synth loops like music from a Philip Glass album of the time were punctuated by what seemed like a woman’s voice [but possibly Tomek falsetto] saying “do you believe in angels?” before his own voice added as a rejoinder with a sardonic “you’re crazy.” This track seemed like it might have been constructed largely on the Fairlight… at least until the guitar right out of the Vini Reilly playbook popped up out of nowhere. I can’t say I’ve ever heard any other player exploring that same kind of tone before.
“Kill” was carried forward by massive, slurred bass and massed vocals chanted in chorus on the Fairlight. It reminded me of New Order’s “Murder” if they had been listening to their A Certain Ratio records to end up in a more musical place. It’s hard to believe that a track like “Things Will Come + Pass Like Magic” missed the cut for the original EP in 1983. The chorused sax on the Fairlight added a little gloss to the irregular drum pattern that felt like falling down a flight of stairs to create a compelling dissonance that was still adjacent to the dance floor. The concluding “Jingle,” was merely the original 19 second excerpt as included on the EP that was allowed full form as “OK, What” earlier.
Tellingly, the album, in spite of its title, was never conceived as a “Fairlight album” at all, and that’s to its benefit! Tomek managed to record some of this material at Jimmy Miller’s RPM studios and it was Miller who has was decked out with the $30K digital synth. So the Fairlight aspect of the record was a happy accident, which can’t be said for the Funk factor here. The album was inspired by the multimedia and performance art that Lamprecht was making at the same time, so the eclecticism of the album ensured that it never got stale or perfunctory.
At the same time, the Funk element was the tie that bound almost all of the material here. Which took a very leftfield path to the dance floor. And the really interesting thing was that he played everything apart from violin on “Reminder” and the congas on “Contract” and “Prelude.” Not many fine artists would be capable of going full-Rundgren on their first solo EP, but Lamprecht was also playing live with a full band at the time, who would accompany him into the studio for his 1984 full length album, “Love And Hate.” Since both of the Tomek releases were on his own ATL Records Company imprint, I would hope that there’s no reason why the “Love And Hate” album wouldn’t also get a reissue from Modern Harmonic. After all, both records are middle two figures so someone besides me wants to hear them!
If you also want to hear this, Modern Harmonic have the release out on the 26th of May and the CD will be $16.98 and the LP is in neon green vinyl at $26.98. But as we’re still in the pre-order window, the price has $2.00 shaved off of both formats at the label links below.
THE SILVER DISC
THE GREEN VINYL DISC
Given that Modern Harmonic are being generous with the issuing of promo vinyl, it must be time for…
Exhibit A: The still not yet in stores neon green vinyl pressing of Tomek’s “Fairlight + Funk” disc. I will be having a drawing for this fine album and all you have to do for a chance to get it is to fill out the contact form below. The contest is open until Sunday, May 21st, 11:59 PM [UTC -5 – New York City] and if you enter more than once, I’m still only putting your name on a slip of paper in the box once anyway, so do your worst. As with the last drawing, only readers in the United States may enter due to the prohibitive costs to mail a record overseas. It’s sad, but here we are in the 21st century. I’m footing the bill for PPM so I get to make the rules. As usual, your privacy is paramount. No entry information will be kept/sold/exploited beyond contacting the winner to get their mailing address. All other info will be purged after the contest. How long do we have for this to play out?
hours minutes seconds
Tomek LP Drawing
Join us on Monday as we announce a winner!
Of course I can only sample the two tracks on Bandcamp, and I have to admit the first track was pretty cool but didn’t really “grab” me. But then came “Kill,” and the curtain on my perception opened more fully. So funky and yet angular as our Eastern European friends can be sometimes! NYC No Wave at its finest.
I’m happy that this is finally released, and that Tomek is still with us to see it through.
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chasinvictoria – Yes! Better to have Tomek involved with his artistic legacy while he’s still around to have an opinion is a huge plus! And I’m impressed with the work that Modern Harmonic is doing with their reissues. They are out of Hillsborough near where The RAHB lives via the Yep Roc label. I’ve walked past their offices many times when visiting there. The CD work is beautifully mastered and… available on CD! The LPs are nicely done and they do NOT shrink wrap them! They used high end resealable poly sleeves like I use for my most precious discs! Mitch of the label is of interest even when outside of the purview of PPM.