Geoffrey Landers – Many Hands Make Light, 1987

Guest post by Jonny Garciamons (NTS)

Many Hands Make Light, the last of four releases from the elusive Cauhaus Records, is an un-genrefiable conclusion to the mysterious solo discography of American artist Geoffrey Landers. With design appearing to be an independent family affair–jacket layout and cover artwork done by Kelley Jo and Benjamin Landers respectively–the 8-track album was released exclusively on CD in 1987. Written and recorded solely by Geoffrey Landers during what seems to have been the end of the Cauhaus era, this is the only of his three albums to credit no other collaborative efforts.

Being heavily involved in the Denver industrial/punk/new wave scene, Landers was inspired to create a recording studio “available to artists regardless of their financial circumstances.” He thus opened The Packing House Studio in 1981 at the site of a former slaughterhouse in the Denver stockyards. The analog 8-track recording facility was active until 1984, with the studio releasing recordings from only a few credited artists and groups, most notably Allen Ginsberg. It was during this time that Landers released his first two records, Habitual Features & The Ever Decimal Pulse, as well as his only single, a 7” titled Breedlove.

Cauhaus Records, Landers’s only label, was an “entertainment subsidiary” of Local Anesthetic Records. They appear to be the only two labels to have released music recorded at The Packing House, aside from a small cassette-only label named Endemic Music. Landers is credited with mixing on one of the releases on Local Anesthetic’s releases, which suggests that Landers might have mixed for Local Anesthetic in exchange for production and handling of his imprint Cauhaus (the name of which seems like a nod to the studio’s slaughterhouse history).

The silent years in Geoffrey’s discography span from 1984 to 1987 — with ’84 being the year in which output from the both The Packing House and Local Anesthetic seem to die down. This leaves me wondering what happened in those three years to prompt a final release from such a unique musical trajectory. Was this his final go at production after years running The Packing House? Does this release serve as a demo compilation of tracks from the studio’s golden era? Did this record take three years to make? Why was it only released on CD only? The questions are infinite, but the result is truly a masterpiece.

New wave guitars, voice pads, resonant post-punk bass lines, hip swingin’ drum loops–this thing has it all. The stand-out should-have-been-pop-hits come in “Camella” & “Say You’ll Say So,” the former of which is a unique DJ-friendly new wave infused boogie jam with a HUGE snare drum hit sure to light up any day party. The nostalgic feeling induced by tracks “Body Angel,” “The Alluring Pause,” “1 by 1,” and “Carry Me Off” lead me to believe that Many Hands Make Light is in some way a tribute to the golden years of The Packing House, with the title serving as a humble thank you and tribute to all the many hands making light at the studio and label.

A very special thank you goes out to Flo for introducing me to Geoffrey’s music earlier this year.

“It takes time, I — I know that you know I’ll get to you”

Note that while this is long out of “print,” Music From Memory is about to release a compilation of Landers’s work which includes most of the tracks from Many Hands Make Light, and, if the track they’ve previewed on YouTube is any indication, features some gorgeous remastering. With the hope that you’ll pre-order the compilation, I’ll be removing this mp3 download link after a few days.

buy the compilation

Guest Mix – “Tabby 003”

Guest mix by Poly & Kerf

Tracklist:
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

Cristina – Cristina, 1980

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!

Bill Nelson – The Love That Whirls (Diary Of A Thinking Heart), 1982

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.

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.

20 Favorite Releases of 2016

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share some of my favorite releases of the year. Obviously not exhaustive; just some personal highlights. Let me know if links are broken. Happy holidays!

Arthur Russell – World Of Echo, 1986
buydownload
Bill Nelson – Getting The Holy Ghost Across, 1986
buy / download
Cocteau Twins – Victorialand, 1986
buydownload
Cocteau Twins & Harold Budd – The Moon And The Melodies, 1986
buy / download
Coil – Horse Rotorvator, 1986
download
David Hykes – Harmonic Meetings, 1986
buy / download
Double Fantasy – Universal Ave, 1986
buy / download
The Feelies – The Good Earth, 1986
buy / download
Felt – Forever Breathes The Lonely Word, 1986
buy / download
Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Ecophony Rinne, 1986
buy / download
Hiroshi Yoshimura – Soundscape 1: Surround, 1986
download
Isabelle Antena – En Cavale, 1986
buy / download
Janet Jackson – Control, 1986
buy / download
Just-Ice – Back To The Old School, 1986
buy / download
Linda di Franco – Rise Of The Heart, 1986
download
Nu Shooz – Poolside, 1986
buy / download
Riccardo Sinigaglia – Riflessi, 1986
download
Toshifumi Hinata – Reality In Love, 1986
download
Virginia Astley – Hope In A Darkened Heart, 1986
download
Zavijava Orchestra – Rivers Of Light, 1986
buy / download

Imitation – Muscle And Heat, 1982

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.

Akiko Yano – Tadaima, 1981

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. By this time she had already established herself as a fiercely singular writer, producer, and musician, so it’s all the more exciting to hear her explore even broader musical territory here. 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.

Dolly Mixture – Demonstration Tapes, 1984

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.

[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.