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

Interior – Interior, 1982

A classic. Interior was first released on Yen Records, then later issued on Windham Hill with two of the more post-punky tracks omitted, and the addition of the excellent “Hot Beach.” Confusingly, both the artist and album title are written as “Interiors” in several of the later pressings, and when you try to purchase the mp3s on Amazon it presents you with an unrelated album by “The Interiors.” Because of the un-googleability of the album title, I’m not actually sure if there’s a current version for sale anywhere–please let me know if you know. The version you can download here includes all tracks from both the Yen and Windham Hill releases. As an aside, the group’s lineup includes Toshifumi Hinata‘s brother, Daisuke Hinata.

Having said all that, holy cow, whadda record. This seems to have one of the stronger cult followings of the Yen catalogue, and with good reason. Still feels bonkers that this came out in 1982. It’s about as icy slick as they come, with a synthetic veneer that steers just clear of being too cheesy. As the name would suggest, it’s particularly evocative of certain spaces: Hyatt lobbies, futuristic elevators, waiting rooms. (The cover art for the Windham Hill pressings seems well aware of that, er, interiority.) There’s enough acoustic guitar and piano to ensure that you can’t forget you’re listening to a Windham Hill release, although I don’t entirely follow the insistent categorization of the record as “new age”–it’s too plump and plastic, too winking and too done up. (All good things.) I can’t really think of anyone who wouldn’t like this. Enjoy!

[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.

New Age Steppers – Action Battlefield, 1981

Second full-length from UK dub supergroup New Age Steppers. Incredible lead vocals from Arianne Foster, aka Ari-Up (The Slits), backing vocals from a teenage Neneh Cherry (The Slits, Rip Rig + Panic, work with the Notorious B.I.G., Youssou N’Dour, and Massive Attack, among others; also Don Cherry’s stepdaughter), bass from Crucial Tony (Dub Syndicate), and production by Adrian Sherwood (founder of On-U Sound, also the only consistent member in the N.A.S. lineup).

About as spacey as production gets, and more vocal-heavy than some of their other work. Mostly covers, including Horace Andy (“Problems”), Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose (“Observe Life”), B.B. Seaton (“My Love”), and the Heptones’ Leroy Sibbles (“Guiding Star”). Summer classic.