LCD Soundsystem debut album turns 15

On January 24th, 2005, James Murphy‘s collective released the eponymous debut studio album through DFA. The record contained nine new compositions and regained the previous non-album singles, among those recorded between 2002 and 2004. The bonus-disc packed two reworks on ‘Yeah,’ giving a historical stand for ‘Losing My Edge/Beat Connection,’ the first that drew attention to the band.
If there are genuine NYC momentums in albums like “The Velvet Underground & Nico” in the ’60s, “Suicide” in the ’70s, “The Message,” “License to Ill, ” and “Pay In Full” in the ’80s, “All Eyez On Me” and “Illmatic” in the ’90s, “LCD Soundsystem” is for the millennial turn. Am I exaggerating? Maybe. But this one is the closest to a musical correlate for the most significant city’s transformation. A retro-call for vanishing realities asking for relocation. Cultural gentrification. A post-modern peak.
James Murphy grew up in New Jersey and crossed way to the city. A young musician involved in different bands from the ’80s through the ’90s, an engineer in charge of the sound setup of Sub Pop band Six Finger Satellite, and a record producer for David Holmes. With fellow Tim Goldsworthy (formerly UNKLE) began djing on the Lower East Side under the stage name Death From Above. Self-considered as “not even an outsider, just sort of a nobody, invisible, sad and kind of shy,” he became a cool DJ for his unexpected sessions, playing records nobody dared to play, picking up from Can, PIL, Mars to The Human League, The Normal, through Lou Reed, The Sonics, The Fall… and all those ready to pull the thread on memory lane. He was moving furtively in a particular direction, a “new way to realize old values.”
With the creation of a label and production house, DFA, LCD Soundsystem was an open collective with the core trio formed by Patrick Mahoney and Nancy Whang. Claiming “I Was There” is more than referential; it is a vivid private archive growing whether lived or not even presumed.
In a narrative style rather than singing, ironically moved, by all means, Murphy places venues disappeared in the map of inner-city chic related to groundbreaking artists as a consulting page on the internet for the new generations. In a sense, the album seems the voice of the absent structure of substitution. The punk no longer surrounds the dirty streets of the Bowery but is the random talk of any Brooklyn coffee shop. The early morning footsteps echoing through abandoned meat warehouses were Suicide in mind ignoring the danger. Now is the rattling keys for a luxury apartment in Tribeca.
With resounds of Brian Eno‘s “Another Green World” and Talking Head‘s “Fear Of Music,” “LCD Soundsystem” engages in the production, strategically flavored with cowbells and rims of the disco era, edging the rhythmic propelling force of walking in a mental talk. Yes, not cohesive, but thought on repeat: different places, the same conclusion. And NYC is repeating: “You’re history, and I’m tapped.”

“Unknown Pleasures” turns 40

This Saturday, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of a landmark in the post-punk era. Joy Division debuted in the long format with “Unknown Pleasures” on June 15, 1979, released through Factory Records. Today, a commemorative limited edition on red vinyl hit the shelves via Mute Records. The nth time re-release is a must for the collectors and completists, by importance and transcendence.

The album is a collection of ten memorable, intense, threatening and oppressive tracks. Not only for Ian Curtis’ harrowed voice and lyrics to the bone but also the Bernard Sumner (then Bernard Albrecht) escalating single notes and dense guitar riffage over the Steven Morris’ obsessed and delayed drums. Peter Hook holds the melody with his distinctive bass line. As personal as to inform The Cure’s introduction to Goth rock.

The proper first and most excellent of Joy Division’s truncated discography forged a new-creational key. Art-rock influences and primitivist archetypes of punk were bound for an intriguing stasis. Unusual methods of recording added became as influential as to shake conventional forms forever.

The Iconic cover artwork by Factory art director and graphic designer Peter Saville relates to the point of no return. That image of radio waves from Pulsar CP 1919 means more than a creative momentum; it is welcoming a new factor in music production, the modern aesthetics: the irruption of technology new devices.

Joy Division installed a blanket new framework. Better to say an ‘Interzone,’ a sizeable open space to be in and explore, between the initial, reclusive Hook’s bass line leading to Curtis’phrasing. His lyricism, repeatedly exposed in terminal keywords, gave a non-empathic but real vision of life as Manchester was crumbling down to the post-industrial decline. The band intoned the dark and gloomy fierce of human suffering, idealism crashing on reality. They scanned the solitary zone of the lost, created by words spinning around like a sucking vortex in the middle of isolated oblivion. They are the sound, edging people for living in a permanent down unconsciously, in sparse and creepy metal. Somehow, Joy Divison’s lead singer and lyricist bridged The Velvet Underground’s obsessive and claustrophobic descriptions into full debauchery and despair. Pure nihilism that captured a time spirit of raw angst, almost in essentialist perspective, as direct and vivid as to move everyone’s mirrored self-perception. No one could do that since Lou Reed.

“Unknown Pleasures” wouldn’t exist without Martin Hannett production. According to the partner and director at Tony Wilson’s Factory Records, “Joy Division was a gift for a producer.” He took that given sound space to fulfill it with amassed devices he called “bluetop echo and delay boxes.” He applied distinctively to Morris’ beating, even recording separately the drums kit elements one by one to better supervision. He incorporated sound effects, the looping technology and some of the new synths in Sumner’s parts. Great and primitive is the intro of “She’s Lost Control,” but still works after four decades. His unorthodox methods were not new, but he well fitted them in a purpose.

Hannett’s visionary production marked a solid step into the acceptance of electronic “arrangments” for a band who grew over the simplicity, speed, and aggression of punk. He did it extensively, giving entity to the electronic artifacts that would change musical aesthetics to nowadays. He experienced with OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark) to sign the path for synth-pop. He broke ambient into post-rock with The Durutti Column. Joy Division is a remarkable stand for the music evolution, only compared with Talking Heads’ “Fear Of Music” amb PIL’s (Public Image Ltd) “Metal Box,” both released in 1979, a propelling year for the new.

‘Talking With Myself’ by Electribe 1.0.1

This Ain’t Chicago

This unique piece of house history was in the making, about to flourish in Spring 1988, now thirty years ago. What it took several months since the Electribe 1.0.1‘s debut track hit the shelves that November, released by Club, a Phonogram sublabel. It became a soulful house favorite for a few, initially underrated and overlooked for the lack of promotion, but an anthem for the British way of saying “This Ain’t Chicago.”

Talking With Myself‘ came as an 8-Track demo hold by Hamburg born composer, and vocalist Billie Ray Martin, who lived in Berlin before to move into London. It was a natural destination traced in the illusions mapping of several German artists since DAF (among others) did the way for capital support back in the early eighties. Billie Ray Martin was another case; she was not on the precursive dark and industrial forefront that gave European personality to the incoming techno from abroad. She was a talented vocalist, composer, and writer on a mission, to provide meaning lyrics and a warm brit response to the early house of Chicago imports. Billy Ray Martin entered in the late 80’s deep house frequency with a sense of modulation saying we can do it another way; we re-style it to our sensibilities. By the time, London raved in the transformation of UK garage into acid and speed house, trainspotting tags in hyper-sensory conditions as the whole UK was on S’Express and Bomb The Bass. She was absorbing influences to create something on her own, the way A Guy Called Gerald and Baby Ford did before, and getting ready for main inspiration on Julian Jonah‘s ‘Jealousy And Lies‘ as she recognized later.

In February 2016, Billy Ray Martin decided to offer ‘Talking With Myself (Original 8-Track Demo)‘ for the fans, with accompanying press note where she explained briefly the story of the making it. It is a precious little time capsule to contrast. She mentions the announcement entitled “Soul Rebel seeks Musicians, genius only” she hired to look for back up on “Melody Maker,” asking to materialize her composition as the soulful house anthem is now in time perspective. You guess how impressive for her was listening to Julian Jonah‘s track through the speakers in a London night rave from Heaven to Wag. As remarkable as to say: “This!” to wrap her original up with the right arrangement. An idea of a sinuous and relentlessly Roland SH-101 sequence built for her narrative voice was in work, and she got the feeling to transmit it to the fab-four from Birmingham, the genius bunch of receiver’s call who did so for good; Brian Nordhoff, Joe Stevens, Les Fleming, and Roberto Cimarosti. The gift Billie Ray Martin gave us is a documentary piece of how similar was the demo compared with the official single released a few months later, without the “Mission Impossible” part she always denied. Electribe 1.0.1 formed as a band and the demo received the OK from Phonogram for signing. The imposed norm of prescriptive rework by the label took place at the studio with arrangements, and new vocal takes that never came out in the final cut or in a fragmentary way as she punctuates. The single had a hard unpromoted run, but white label promo copies had consistent airplay to create fuzz about the band. Who they were was a question only answered for a few. They were a must that summer in the Balearic sets at Café del Mar (Ibiza/Eivissa) and a pick to go by at any of that peculiar British movement called rave, taking crowds from clubs to improvised locations fueled in Ecstasy.

Managed by Tom Watkins of Pete Shop Boys fame, the band signed to upper-level Mercury/Polygram Records. In a long run of a year since Electribe 1.0.1 became noticeable with ‘Tell Me When The Fever Ended,’ released on October 1989 and vindicated with ‘Talking With Myself‘ as Mercury reissue. ‘You’re Walking,’ released on September 1990, was a previous step to the recognition that came fully reviewed with the debut album, “Electribe Memories,” a month later. Summarily this is Electribe 1.0.1‘ story from ‘Talking To Myself‘ beginnings. However, what made Electribe 1.0.1 unique is the attributed clear example of being representative of “This Ain’t Chicago,” referring London and extensively to the UK.

What hides this expression is not a ridiculous comparison between London and the Windy City or, in the broader view, the UK with the USA. No, It is a self-affirmative of Brits capable of doing creative outputs another way. It happened with rock’n’roll and with house music once again. Also happened with techno, and the Detroit pioneers had to deal with the fact that their nucleotide music style took different developments from the basic structural unit, first from the Germans then from the Islanders. Improvement from stolen? Yes, for groove sake!

Chicago built house music from talented DJ individualities, editing R&B classics played differently every night with the enforcement of Roland TRs in diversity stronghold clubs, as well as NYC warehouses were packed up in similarity. It was a sense of community, the expression of the outcast sensibilities in an enclosed space safe. Techno was the postindustrial feeling inside out. Detroit was going on cracked down. No space to cover up. The UK unblocked the club’s emergency exits for expansive freedom run on hedonism, where everybody was embraceable, where house and techno meltdown in a hug. Raving was certificated dangerous movement, but intolerance was running out in a new open space, massively searched. Electribe 1.0.1 belongs to this, specifically ‘Talking With Myself.’ The loving missed Frankie Knuckles agreed with it.

Suicide debut album: December 1977

Rock and electronics clashed forever

It is December, and here is an unforgettable drop in a peculiar Advent calendar for those who believe in synthpop, those who celebrate Kraftwerk divinity and Their sons and daughters on earth. With no intentions of being unrespectful or irreverent, on the December’s unprecise date of 1977, forty years ago, Suicide released their homonymous debut album on Red Star Records. The Holy Trinity hit NYC’s streets, rock and electronic music clashed to hybridize in spirit forever.

Artist/sculptor Alan Vega and free-jazz keyboardist Martin Rev were abrasive in cold speech since the beginning at Mercer Arts Center in the early 70s, inciting people to confrontation and creating a discord feeling between love and hate, an arty controversy for a few and a joke for the most. Vega (Brooklyn June 23, 1938 – July 16, 2016) created ‘situations’ over the gaining and repetitive Rev’s white-noise. The Velvet Underground got an extension in rhythm machines, primitive synthesizers able to produce a two-note drone. Suicide was groundbreaking electronic proto-punk and anticipating the No Wave scene. They were the artist of the freeform, too adventurous for regular venue’s tolerance; they decided a period of hibernation in 1973. Kraftwerk took USA airwaves by surprise in 1975 as well as the Western World fascinated with the futuristic and robotic sound of their amazing Kling Klang Studio productions.

New York City was swallowing the imported pill of The Sex Pistols in 1977 while ignoring local bands like Richard Hell & The Voivoids from whose staging attitudes and musical contents Malcolm McLaren took notes to restyle in London. Everything had moved from SoHo to Bowery, around CBGB. By the time, Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and Patti Smith had signed to major labels. There were a Lower East Side looks walking in stiletto hills, color treated hair, leather jackets, and sunglasses, in as recognizable aesthetics as uniformized, and all were saying it is all chewed up and processed. The city had lost nerve from thunder. It was the right time and the right place for a milestone. Alan Vega‘s Presleyish vocals were ready to transform Suicide from a performance-project into a recording act, with a defining set of songs in a debut album released through Martin Thau‘ imprint, the ex-manager of New York Dolls, and produced by Craig Leon, responsible for launching The Ramones and Blondie’s careers. “Suicide” is still one of the most original avant-garde music that came out from the city in the epitome of a convulsive decade that shook everything up for good.

On the other side of the Atlantic, in the cradle city of Düsseldorf for electronic music, a move was refusing the ‘old gods’ in venues like Ratinger Hof, home of a new generation of punks acts, like D.A.F, Die Krupps, La Düsseldorf and Der Plan. The so-called ‘Neue Deutsche Welle’ had feedback from London where they attempted to grow in the new effervescent scene of post-punk. All of them were aware of Suicide and their bursts of creativity. Some stepped the industrial wave for European Electro and Techno as the new directions, with Detroit and Chicago on the horizon.

One year far from the opening of Mudd Club in Tribeca -the trashy, full of vacant meat warehouses then, the high rated district now-, signs of a creative counteroffensive emerged. No matter what it was but crudity, a confrontational noise served in rare, pure nihilism, from James Chance & The Contortions to Lydia Lunch through Arto Lindsay‘s DNA and Lounge Lizards. Tagged as ‘No Wave’ got preferences in the funk, jazz, blues, avant-garde to Defunkt rock stereotypes.

You can listen to plenty recognition to Suicide contribution by many other artists, but the latest touchy one is in Nicolas Jaar‘s album “Sirens” (Other People, 2016). From the shades of a Manhattan apartment, ‘The Governor’ talks about pleasant Time Square chants to avoid. It is not only a homage to the duo but NYC creative richness in devoted perspective.