CHBB – CH-BB, 1981

Compilation of four self-released cassettes (each with 50 copies made), recorded in 1981 from power duo Chrislo Haas (Liasons Dangereuses, Der Plan, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft) and Beate Bartel (Einstürzende Neubauten, Liaisons Dangereuses, Mania D, I have a major crush). The compilation was released unofficially on vinyl in 1998 and to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t been released since. As it’s a compilation, there’s a lot of range–industrial, noise, bouncing new (no?) wave on closer “Go Go Go!”, and the incredible proto-techno “Neger Brauchen Keine Elektronik,” which I still can’t believe happened in 1981. Gritty and very, very good.

Bastion – Bastion, 1984

New wave pop from the Republic of Macedonia (then Yugoslavia). This was their only release, and unlike a lot of things in this vein, it’s great from start to finish. Spronky, bouncing, a little bit of angst and grit. Even the obligatory “slow track”is a strung out wash in the best way, with judicious use of fretless bass. If this is for you, it’s definitely for you.

[RIP] Suicide – Suicide, 1977

We were deeply saddened to learn of Alan Vega’s passing on Saturday. The reach of Suicide’s influence is well-documented, and Vega’s work needs no introduction. Produced by the venerable Craig Leon and allegedly recorded in four hours, Suicide has a permanent slot on every reputable list of the most influential records of all time. It was post punk before punk had actually figured out what punk was, it was true rock and roll because Vega was a teenager in the 50s, and it was two steps ahead of no wave because it evoked something apocalyptic without having to try so damn hard. It’s volatile and degenerate music, both in form and content. It sounds like trying to listen to music through earmuffs. It sounds like heat waves–dirty and shimmering. It sounds like nothing else.
I was lucky enough to see Suicide at Club Europa in 2007. In his signature checker-print skullcap, Vega was so focused and furious that he might have been casting spells, while Martin Rev, slithering around in a slashed tank top and wraparound sunglasses, looked like he belonged in the opening sequence of Blade. It was simultaneously brutal and hypnotic, and with the room soaked in unrelenting red light, it felt like a reminder that the punishment for suicide is hell. It was Disneyland compared to their riot-inducing bloodbath performances of the 70s, but to this day it’s still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Thank you for everything, Alan–you will be missed.

D-Day – Grape Iris, 1986

Deeply weird record. The first four tracks are straightforward enough: dusty-sweet synth pop, toy whirrs and blips, a Joy Division fan on board, pristine vocal harmonies, some half-hearted samba as the amphetamines are wearing off, sulky new wave guitar. Definitely perverse, but somewhere we’ve been before. Things start to get gnarly around track five, “Sweet Sultan,” which sounds like a dirtier Lena Platonos pirated off a broken answering machine. It gets more confusing as new wave decomposes into no wave (“Dead End”) and then into minimal wave (“Dust”), propelled along by what sounds like an 808 that’s been dropped a few times too many. “Ki-Rai-I” is Grape Iris‘s maximum euphoria, with a Sakamoto-inspired marimba loop buried underneath Robin Guthrie-esque guitar warps and more static-scratched telephone-speak, the whole thing sounding like a tape that got left out in the sun. After one last frantic guitar stab (“So That Night”), closer “Float A Bort” returns us to strung-out delirium, slowly submerging itself in water as the sun sets. Keyboards and some production by Yoichiro Yoshikawa, who’s worked with Yas-Kaz and is responsible for the gorgeous Miracle Planet soundtrack (I’ll get there soon). Wowowow.

Bil Vermette – Katha Visions, 1984

An album filled with absolute jammers which range in sound from intimate and solitary to expansive and cosmic. The album traverses genre too: new age, minimal synth, and progressive rock. Bil’s unexpected vocal entrance on the minimal wave-y track Someday Soon is a highlight

buy / download

Chris & Cosey – Songs of Love & Lust, 1984

Ex-Throbbing Gristle members Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti lead you into their bedroom with their signature brand of relentless, game-changing mechanical techno pop, delivering hit after icy hit. A quick google search will tell you much more about this album and C&C, as both it and they are absolutely legendary.
This album is particularly special to me because Jen and I met at a Carter Tutti (another incarnation of Chris & Cosey) show in Brooklyn that I helped set up. It’s also special because the video for “October Love Song” (below) served as my introduction to the world of outsider music. Be forewarned: you might cry.