The Coconuts – Don’t Take My Coconuts, 1983

The Coconuts were an offshoot project of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, the brainchild of August Darnell, a Bronx-born composer who’s an absolute genius with big band sounds, Latin jazz textures, and cuttingly clever lyrics. The Coconuts were initially the trio of backing singers in Kid Creole & The Coconuts, but went on to release two full-lengths on their own, with production from Darnell (who was married to Adriana Kaegi, member of The Coconuts and co-founder of the original Kid Creole lineup. Less relatedly, I just excitedly realized that Fonda Rae was at one point a member of the Kid Creole band).

Don’t Take My Coconuts is killer song writing, fully fledged arrangements, and charismatic vocals together in full force. To be clear, the ladies of The Coconuts (Kaegi, Cheryl Poirier, and Taryn Hagey) were creative powerhouses in their own right–their vocal delivery is razor sharp and manages to be seductive even while covering “If I Only Had a Brain” (this is my second Wizard of Oz-related post this week, so make of that what you will). They were incredibly strong performers, able to stay in impeccable character while flawlessly executing fairly complicated choreography in perfect unison. The video for “Did You Have To Love Me Like You Did?” is a showcase of amazing outfits, spot-on choreo, and some, uh, monkeys–it’s embed disabled, so it’s different from the video previewed below, but you can watch it in full here.

I still haven’t found any clear origin story for “Ticket To The Tropics” (no relation to the Gerard Joling song, as far as I can tell), which has a different melody but the same lyrics as the Cristina track of the same name. I can’t find detailed credits for either of the two songs, but given the overlap in sensibilities I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some personnel cross-pollination going on in there somewhere. Enjoy!

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Jimmy Murakawa – Original De-Motion Picture, 1982

Deeply weird and cool record from Mariah vocalist Jimmy Murakawa, featuring Yasuaki Shimizu production. New wavier and more scronky than the usual around here, even veering into no wave on tracks like “Luci’s Small Hotel Part 2.” With an inclination towards cavernous metallic clanging, creeping synth lines, and echoey muttering, there are moments that feel more German industrial than Japanese–particularly on standout “Down? Down, Down! / Stay Outta My World,” except by the song’s end it’s morphed into what sounds very much like an unfinished Notorious B.I.G. track. A few other standout moments, like “Beauty” and “Vaporous Actor,” call to mind sparser and more percussive moments on Sakamoto‘s Left Handed Dream, which came out the same year. There’s a tunneling, cavernous sensibility to this that reminds me of Colored Music. It’s real good. If it’s for you, it’s definitely for you.

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[Mix for NTS Radio] Hosono Day

I’m very, very excited to share a two hour mix I made of Haruomi Hosono‘s work, which was a contribution to NTS Radio’s Hosono Day last weekend (here’s to hoping it becomes an annual tradition). As you might imagine, this was simultaneously a joy and a total nightmare to make, as Hosono has contributed to over 900 releases and has refused to be hampered by genre–so rather than trying to pick one vicinity and stay there, I instead tried to find a through-line between my Hosono favorites all over the map. Happily, this selection also gives proper airtime to his fascination with Indian instrumentation–Bollywood, Indian classical, folk, and everywhere in between. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I found myself moved to tears more than once while working on this, as it’s astounding to be confronted by the weight of his genius and innovation while sifting through his archives.

And–there’s more! The lineup of contributors to Hosono Day include some of my favorite artists, labels, and curators, so it was a real thrill to be included among them and to hear so many different expressions of Hosono–I would encourage you to listen to all of it. Happy listening, and a belated happy Hosono Day! You can download an mp3 version of it here.

Tracklisting:
1. Haruomi Hosono – Hum Ghar Sajan
2. Haruomi Hosono – The Animal’s Opinion
3. Yellow Magic Orchestra – Seoul Music
4. Haruomi Hosono – Luminescent/Hotaru (edit)
5. Susan – Ah! Soka
6. F.O.E. – Total Eclipse
7. Haruomi Hosono – Laugh-Gas (edit)
8. Love, Peace & Trance – Hush – A Mandala Ni Påli
9. Haruomi Hosono – 若紫
10. Haruomi Hosono – Muji Original Background Music
11. Haruomi Hosono – Air-Condition
12. Haruomi Hosono – Sunnyside Of The Water
13. Interior – Luft
14. Inoyama Land – Wässer
15. World Standard – Pasio (edit)
16. Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki & Tatsuro Yamashita – スラック·キー·ルンバ (Slack Key Rhumba)
17. Akiko Yano – Tong Poo
18. Tatsuro Yamashita – Rainy Walk
19. Yukihiro Takahashi – Sea Change
20. Mickey Curtis – Tengoku No Yoru
21. Chiemi Manabe – ねらわれた少女
22. Dark Ducks – Dandy Dandy
23. H.I.S. – Nihon No Hito (Japanese People)
24. Hiroshi Sato – Jo-Do
25. Harry Hosono & The Yellow Magic Band – Worry Beads
26. Pizzicato V – The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
27. Haruomi Hosono – Sports Men
28. Sandii – Zoot Kook
29. Hiroko Yakushimaru – 透明なチューリップ (Transparent Tulip)

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.

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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!

Previously: 2015

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