Red Mecca is a Cabaret Voltaire album I only picked up a month or so ago. It’s from the early “industrial” phase of the group, which is to say that it’s a mixture of experimental electronic sketches and tense, treble-heavy garage rock submerged in an acid bath of electronic squelch and unusual treatments (this perspective on their sound is also something I picked up only recently). Every so often they managed to float across some well-concealed rocking, too, like “Red Mask”, a droning, insistent and somewhat aimless song that misses being a goth club track mostly due to its compressed, reedy sound and the messy synth blurts and scribbles over the top. The song is constantly on the verge of falling apart, but instead the music and Stephen Mallinder’s near-chanted, surly vocals combine to hold each other together, making for a memorably crabbed and sketchy version of rock and roll.
Talking about my visit to Aquarius reminded me that I’ve already had one shopping trip so far this year. There’s only one store in San Francisco / North America that can really compete for my affections with Aquarius, and that would be Amoeba. I don’t really see them as competing; Aquarius is run by my friends and is a boutique with a high density of specialty items and Amoeba has a huge variety and much better coverage of electronic dance music (such as it is these days). Neither of them has any trouble separating me from large piles of my money.
Anyway, here’s what I picked up at Amoeba last week:
- Akimbo: Harshing Your Mellow (Alternative Tentacles)
- Akimbo: Navigating the Bronze (Alternative Tentacles)
- Cabaret Voltaire: Eight Crepuscule Tracks (Giant)
- Cabaret Voltaire: The Living Legends (Restless / Mute)
- Darkthrone: FOAD (Peaceville)
- Nick Drake: Bryter Later (Island)
- Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (Island)
- Nick Drake: Time of No Return (Hannibal)
- Echospace: The Coldest Season (Modern Love / Baked Goods)
- Fairport Convention: Liege & Lief (Island)
- Fairport Convention: Unhalfbricking (Island)
- Fotheringay: Fotheringay (Fledg’ling)
- Gravenhurst: The Western Lands (Warp)
- PJ Harvey: White Chalk (Island)
- Daniel “belteShazzar” Higgs: Metempsychotic Melodies (Holy Mountain)
- LCD Soundsystem: 45:33 (DFA)
- Gram Parsons with The Flying Burrito Brothers: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 (Amoeba)
- Pylon: Gyrate PLUS (DFA)
- Seefeel: CH-Vox (RePHLeX)
- Six Organs of Admittance: Shelter from the Ash (Drag City)
- Wiley: Eskiboy – The Best of Tunnel Vision (selected by Logan Sama) (Eskibeat)
- Wire: Read & Burn 03 (Pink Flag)
- v/a: Fabric 36 (mixed by Ricardo Villalobos) (Fabric)
I’d say it’d been a while since I’d been shopping, but this happens pretty much every time I go to Amoeba.
If you’re a fan of Joy Division or Devo or ever liked a song by ABC or Human League, you really ought to read Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again. As this blog pretty well reflects, I am a die-hard music snob who’s devoted the majority of his life to stashing useless bits of music trivia into every semi-empty corner of my brain, and I still found it useful as a way of (re-)framing a lot of the music I love. Reading it has considerably enriched my music collection, even if my bank account has shrunk correspondingly.
One of the ways I found it most valuable was the way that it inclusively pulled a lot of my favorite old industrial groups into the context of British post punk. I’ve always liked Cabaret Voltaire, but once Reynolds pointed out that they essentially started as a garage band with some weird electronics (which they are: they cover the Velvet Underground and “Theme from Shaft”), it put them in a whole new, more interesting light. Instead of focusing on their aggression and coldness, now I listen for the weird skeletal rock, funk and dub / reggae that informs a lot of their early material, and that brings out the fact that, at root, they’re as much like early Bauhaus (“Silent Command” almost is a Bauhaus song) or Television as they are like Throbbing Gristle. It adds a whole new dimension to their music. Thanks, Simon.
1: One of these days I will probably be unable to resist blathering on endlessly about the many, many ways in which this term has been abused, but today is not that day.