1. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Saru To Yuki Gami No Kodomo
2. Bill Nelson – Heart and Soul
3. Mori Ra – On the Edge of Flip
4. Leopold Nord & Vous – Les Hippopotamtam
5. Isabelle Antena – La Vie Est Trôp Courte
6. Patrice Rushen – Watch Out!
7. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Steppin’ Into Asia
8. Jah Wobble – Hold Onto Your Dreams
9. Yellow Magic Orchestra – Limbo
10. Blonde Mom – Neverhits 1
11. Pegmo – 10,000 秒の恋
12. Akiko Yano – きょうのわたくし
13. Anne Steel – Sparkling World
So good. Cristina was a Harvard drop-out who was working as a writer for The Village Voice when she met (and eventually married) Michael Zilkha, who was in the process of getting the now-legendary ZE Records off the ground. He encouraged her to record a song called “Disco Clone,” written by a former Harvard classmate of hers, which became ZE’s first release in 1978 and featured John Cale production (and, moreover, is really good).
Cristina (later reissued as Doll in the Box) was the first of her two full-lengths. Short and sweet, it was produced by August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts, and you can hear his signature brassy tropical camp all over it. The heavily textured Latin-jazz percussion brings to mind some of New York no wave’s more polished, dancefloor-ready groups, except it’s fronted by a snarky, jaded Betty Boop. Cristina’s vocals are simultaneously flippant and flirty, often splintering off into multiple personas in dialogue with each other. She leans into that heavy-handed sardonicism even more on her follow-up, Sleep It Off, a grittier piece of electro boasting a proto-Slave to the Rhythm Jean-Paul Goude cover. While Cristina was met with moderate acclaim, Sleep It Off was a commercial flop (so dumb! it’s really good!), leading to Cristina’s musical retirement (though she’s still a writer). Thank you Caroline for putting me onto this!
As the title suggests, this is a record about love, but in typical Bill Nelson fashion, it’s neither saccharine nor sentimental. It’s full-blooded, angsty, and churning, and the song titles are unabashed: “Eros Arriving,” “The Bride Of Christ In Autumn,” “Flesh,” “Flaming Desire,” and my favorite, “The Crystal Escalator In The Palace Of God Department Store.”
This was recorded the same year in which Nelson contributed to both Yukihiro Takahashi‘s What, Me Worry? and Masami Tsuchiya‘s Rice Music (alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto, Hideki Matsutake, and Steve Jansen), and you can really hear the Japanese pop influence on tracks like “Empire of the Senses,” “A Private View,” and “When Your Dream Of Perfect Beauty Comes True”–the dry, playful spronky synth whirr and scritching drum machines feel strongly YMO-esque. Elsewhere, it’s signature Nelson cinematic new wave, and a couple more brooding instrumental tracks (“Portrait Of Jan With Flowers” is a favorite).
As an aside, I’ll be tweeting favorite songs about love, lust, and heartbreak all day, so please unfollow and follow accordingly.
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.
A lot to be excited about here: dense, textural Japanese new wave with heavy funk and no wave influences. Tropical and African textures and a big band brassy sound bring Talking Heads to mind, while the playful cultural splicing and occasionally dubby production feel akin to Yasuaki Shimizu. In particular, “Watashi No Suki Na Kuni,” though much denser and more guitar-driven, suggests the relentless march and weightless, nonchalant vocal float of “Shinzo No Tobira.” While the bombastic and dance-oriented tracks are immediately attractive, I think the record’s hazier, more subdued moments are some of its strongest: the more pared down and moody “Exotic Dance” lets incredibly detailed percussion come to the forefront, and the closer, “Oriental Oriental,” despite acting as the final word on a very raucous record, has all the unhurried silvery chic of an Avalon-era Roxy Music instrumental. Try it; you’ll like it!
Note: though the music has held up very well, this recording is fairly beat up and will not sound good on laptop speakers.
Not for the faint of heart, although I think the cover art should give you a pretty good sense of what you’re in for. Akiko Yano covers a lot of ground here, ranging from bubblegum reggae to pure, high-toned J-pop to the spronky sample relentlessness of new wave contemporaries like Devo, “Little Girls” era Oingo Boingo, and, yep, YMO. The dream team is in full force here: Haruomi Hosono on bass, Yukihiro Takahashi on drums, Ryuichi Sakamoto on synth, programming by Hideki Matsutake (and–bonus round!–Masami Tsuchiya on guitar). In addition to some masterfully psychotic vocals, Akiko Yano is also on piano, marimba, electric piano, production, and arrangement. Tadaima is best known for tracks like synthetic funk-reggae cupcake “Ashkenazy Who?” and the more unhinged classic “Rose Garden,” where you can hear that signature Sakamoto churn in full effect, but I also love the gleefully gnashing opener “I’m Home” (“Tadaima”) and the strung-out experiment “Iranaimon,” in which Yano speak-sings from far away over a non-melodic collage of synth samples and whirrs that open up more generously with every listen. There’s a lot here for fans of Miharu Koshi. Dense, rewarding, and not for laptop speakers.
Really gorgeous, stripped-down new wave and punk-tinged pop rock recorded between 1979 and 1983 and then self-released as a double vinyl in 1984–the trio’s only full-length. Though Dolly Mixture’s sound hits a sweet spot between punk and girl-group pop (unsurprisingly, as the story goes that the band was born from a mutual love of The Undertones and The Shangri-Las), the three actively pushed back against Chrysalis Records’s attempt to market them as a girl group, keeping their sound loose and lo-fi and their songs short and sweet.
This is more rock-centric than what we usually post around here, but that’s what I grew up listening to, and I’ll always love it. Demonstration Tapes has an immediate appeal: swooning harmonies, sophisticated top lines, and a room-tone warmth slightly ahead of The Vaselines and Beat Happening. Disarming in how dry and direct (but still irrefutably pretty) it is. Good for fans of Marine Girls. Kurt Cobain would have loved this. I’m always surprised it doesn’t get tossed around more. Ideal late summer headphones music.
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.
A YouTube forage on a late-night mission to find everything related to early 80’s Telex eventually led me to Alec Mansion. The first track to hit me was “En Volant” (a sublime slice of uplifting disco-boogiefunk and well worth sniffing out) from his first LP Microfilms, but his self-titled follow-up album has an excellent run of dance floor bangers and so gets our attention here today. Instant winners are “Ou Es-Tu,” which gives RIPrince a run for his money in fizzy funk synth territory, and “Laid, Bête, Et Méchant” (roughly “Ugly, Stupid, and Mean”), which snaps harder than a stretched pair of disco knickers.
Impossible to find a hard copy and commanding high prices when it does rear its head in the vinyl market, so I highly suggest you grab this and save yourselves a few months waiting time…and a scramble to find a few hundred clams when it does.
High recommends for fans of Telex and Lio. Repress please!