29.7.12

CHBB (aka LIAISON DANGEREUSES) : 4 Cassettes (CHBB, 1980)

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CHBB was Chrislo Haas & Beate Bartel, 2 cornerstones of the original Neue Deutsch Welle. Chrislo's reputation was/is built on his pivotal role in Düsseldorf titans D.A.F.'s terrifying Mute-era recordings. Their uncompromising wall of discordant punk-informed proto-E.B.M. can be heard pummeling an unsuspecting London audience into submission on side 2 of their 1980 meisterwerk, Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen, recorded as support to Wire's polarising February '80 Electric Ballroom show (itself partially released on Document & Eyewitness). Beate, meanwhile, was a founder member of both Einstürzende Neubauten & the regrettably short lived Mania D (who, following her departure, evolved into the awe-inspiring Malaria!).

In the 3 decades since their original release, CHBB's recordings have justifiably attained near Holy Grail status, not only within the Cold Wave scene but to anybody with a serious interest in 70s/80s post-punk elektronische musik. Issued as 4 double-sided c-10 cassettes, each packaged with a paucity of information & distributed in a minuscule edition of 50 copies apiece, they're sufficiently sought after nowadays that somebody on the Minimal Wave forum recently promised $1000 to anyone who could provide them with a complete set. Slightly more realistically, a copy of the doppelspaltplatten I've sourced here - actually a 1998 bootleg - is currently on sale on Discogs for £250+! Fortunately, the music thereon still sounds absolutely incredible - a murky, nightmarish vista of urgent sequenced rhythms, distant disembodied voices, & rasping peals of sax, designed for the darkest of dance floors - & it hasn't dated in the slightest. Listening to them as I write, the CHBB cassettes sound like they might've been recorded, in a dingy Berlin basement studio, an hour ago. So, naturally, it baffles me as to why hitherto reliable critics are still queueing up to heap praise upon Factory Floor - whose superficial "metronomic synth-noir" (© The Guardian) offers little more than flagrant homage to the visionary work of Haas, Bartel & their peers - when pioneering outfits like CHBB were doing exactly the same thing, on scavenged &/or circuit bent equipment, & to far more startling ends, THIRTY YEARS AGO. Plans to remaster & reissue these (yes) seminal recordings were announced as far back as 2007, but have seemingly come to nothing. Frustrating.

Immediately after the CHBB tapes were released, the duo recruited French vocalist Krishna Goineau, renamed themselves Liaisons Dangereuses & decamped to Conny Plank's Köln studio to record their benchmark eponymous album, whose "Los Ninos Del Parque" has long been cited as a crucial influence by prominent Chicago & Detroit DJs alike. Briefly touted as another "next big thing" by the British & German music press, Liaisons Dangereuses only operated for a year or so, parting company in 1982 following a poorly attended U.K. tour (their July '82 performance at The Hacienda was issued as a now impossibly scarce Ikon video cassette), & leaving behind one final post-album recording, the so-so "Dancibar", on the NME's Mighty Reel compilation (available by mail order only).

Following the trio's premature dissolution, Chrislo slipped away into long-term hermitude, experimenting with sequencers & tape loops, moonlighting with Crime & The City Solution, & producing a handful of white knuckle techno 12"s for the legendary Berlin label, Tresor. Sadly, he died in 2004. Beate, meanwhile, formed the experimental pop ensemble Matador with Malaria!'s Gudrun Gut, & Manon Duursma, & has also collaborated with The Bad Seeds' drummer Thomas Wylder (previously of Die Haut).

n.b. More seminal Chrislo Haas experiments here.

16.7.12

THE JUNE BRIDES : Between The Moon & The Clouds (2012)

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Back in the mid-80s, when our paths first crossed, The June Brides already seemed peculiarly middle aged - certainly in comparison to the frenetic snakebite-fuelled angular-isms of Big Flame, A Witness, Bogshed & the other bands I was obsessed with at the time - & their predilection for Help The Aged attire & Angry Young Man hairdos suggested a particular type of small-town post-Smiths emotional decorum that I didn't have much use for back then. From my "born & bred" Nottingham perspective, The Brides' ramshackle sound & appearance brought to mind Alan Sillitoe's writing, & of the intelligent & aspirational working class youth of Arthur Seaton's ilk, growing up on the cusp of the 1960s, frustrated by the suffocating conventions of post-war 1950s Britain, quietly rebellious, & desperate to outreach the leaden experiences of their parents' drab ration book lives. A couple of friends owned The Brides' There Are Eight Million Stories... mini-LP, but it's affable provincial-isms, typified by the scratchy sleeve illustration, made only a marginal impact on me at the time. Money was inevitably tight &, personally, I was only really familiar with them c/o their 1st rate Peel session (which, like just about every other band's of the period, I obsessively taped & archived) &, somewhat ironically, Big Flame's jagged molestation of "Every Conversation", the Bride's 2nd single & eventual signature song, also recorded for Peel's show. On reflection, Big Flame's cheerfully anarchic cover provided ample indication of how adroit a songwriter Phil Wilson actually was - despite the doubling of tempo & the guitar's resemblance to a swarm of tetchy wasps, it's simple, contagious melody shone through, undaunted by the Hulmerists' trebly racket. Phil's writing, already as accomplished as that of better known contemporaries such as Lloyd Cole or Paul Heaton, was - I think - rather ill-served by the band's ragged production values, & the augmented fidelity that a visit to the BBC's Maida Vale studios guaranteed hinted further at the capacious scope of his talent. With hindsight, it's surprising that The Brides weren't snapped up by one of the smaller majors (Go! Discs were interested at one point, I believe?) for some flirtatious DAY! TIME! AIR! PLAY! & a top 40 knee-trembler or 2. From the outset, the band admirably refused to play to type - knocking back an appearance on the NME's C-86 compilation for worry of being steered into a "shambling" cul-de-sac &, despite an unexpected NME front cover & a support slot on the Irish leg of The Smiths' Queen Is Dead tour (at Morrissey's behest), they quietly bowed out in 1986.

So, stumbling across them by chance last weekend at Derybshire's compact & bijou Indietracks festival, amid a faintly apocalyptic landscape of abandoned signal boxes, land locked railway carriages, deconsecrated churches & pop-up owl sanctuaries (not unlike a scene from The Bed Sitting Room in fact!), it was genuinely heart warming to see how fondly regarded The Brides still are - by sanguine twee-pop fledglings & harrumphing old farts alike. Having had a couple of decades to really "get their shit together" - though the trumpet still sounded gloriously erratic, of course - their jubilant performance was surprisingly beefy at times* (*insert your own jokes about encroaching middle aged spread here please), though they're not quite the "funk-rock oldies" that certain other reviewers may have confusingly tagged them! Interestingly, the yearning "A January Moon" (from their just-released Between The Moon & The Clouds EP), was rolled out towards the climax of their set, alongside the inevitable "Every Conversation", & was a genuine highlight.

Ah yes, the new June Brides single... It's simple, it's charming, & it reminds me of Sundays (though not The Sundays). The mature nature of their earlier work (exhaustively collated here) means that, 25 years on, The Brides don't have to stomp 'n' grunt 'round the studio in an unsightly attempt to recapture the lean savagery of their disaffected youth (© New Musical Express, probably) - they've grown gracefully into musical middle age &, better still, it suits them. Nowadays, they're the musical equivalent of a well-read Penguin paperback - dog-eared, slightly foxed. shelf-cocked, et al... but still transforming the mundane into something ineffably poetic.

Though I remain a fully paid-up acolyte of the humble 7", the extended 10-song CD edition of Between The Moon & The Clouds is definitely the one to own, comprising 2 versions of the string-laden title track, an acoustic rearrangement of "Every Conversation" (Phil trading lines with Laura Turley), & previously unreleased odds 'n' ends aplenty from Phil's extensive archive (including outtakes from his neglected solo LP, God Bless Jim Kennedy, & collaborations Nick Halliwell's shockingly underrated The Granite Shore). Though, on occasion, it's difficult to ascertain where Phil Wilson ends & The June Brides begin, one hopes that with virtually all of the Brides' original line-up back on board, the band might FINALLY get 'round to recording their bona fide full length debut at last?

n.b. You can hear extracts from The Moon & The Clouds EP over at Occultation Records' site (they released The Granite Shore's stuff as well). Next stop: a couple of Manchester shows with fellow Occultationists Factory Star & The Distractions, to promote the latter's first album in (yikes!) 30 years.