Saturday, March 5, 2016

Slapp Happy - 1980 - Acnalbasac Noom

Slapp Happy
Acnalbasac Noom

01. Casablanca Moon (3:02)
02. Me and Paravati (3:31)
03. Mr. Rainbow (3:50)
04. Michaelangelo (2:40)
05. Drum (3:51)
06. Little Something (3:21)
07. Secret (3:25)
08. Dawn (3:35)
09. Half-Way There (3:08)
10. Charlie 'N Charlie (2:24)
11. Slow Moon's Rose (3:10)

(Bonus Tracks on 1990 reissue)
12. Everybody's Slimmin' (4:10)
13. Blue Eyed William (3:35)
14. Karen (3:19)
15. Messages (2:08)

Line-up / Musicians
- Anthony Moore/ keyboards, guitar
- Peter Blegvad / guitar, vocals
- Dagmar Krause / vocals

Guests (Faust):
- Jean-Hervé Péron / bass guitar
- Zappi Diermaier / drums
- Gunter Wüsthoff / saxophone

A release with an entirely befuddling genesis, Acnalbasac Noom was recorded for Polydor by the core Slapp Happy trio (Dagmar Krause, vocals; Peter Blegvad, guitar; Anthony Moore, keys) with Faust as a backing band in 1973.  The songs were re-recorded for Virgin in 1974 and released as the self-titled Slapp Happy.  The original recordings finally saw release on Recommended Records in 1980 as Slapp Happy or Slapp Happy, then (here comes the really confusing part) reissued again by Recommended as Acnalbasac Noom.  Today, if you want the original Faust version, your best bet is on CD, titled Acnalbasac Noom.

Acnalbasac Noom is pop music with brains--eclectic, jazzy, psychedelic, experimental and intelligent, but never prone to lengthy instrumental passages or songwriting that could be considered "progressive" in the early 70's meaning of the word.  Instead, it's an album that exudes wit; a clever spin on convention that won't assault anyone's expectations but subtle--slightly subversive.  The focus of the show is on Dagmar Krause's vocals singing Blegvad's lyrics.  For those familiar with Krause's later material (Henry Cow, Art Bears etc.), her performances here are much more traditional and even the timbre of her voice sounds quite different.  Here, it's a bit on the nasally side, sweetly but sharply adding an odd sultry edge to much of the lounge-flavored material and occasionally delving deeper into a more technically-proficient Nico-like register.

The real joy comes when you dig past Krause's rather thick but attractive German accent to find Blegvad's adroit way with words.  Take the album-opening words on the spy-themed title track: "He used to wear fedoras/but now he sports a fez/There's Kabbalistic innuendos/in everything he says."   The text of this album is a veritable treasure trove of clever rhyme, boundless vocabulary, humor and wit.  At times, it borders on smarmy, but despite their intelligence Blegvad's songs are blithely unpretentious--a rare combination.  The music is unobtrusively melodic, with pretty standard rock group arrangements with the occasional flittering synthesizer, and in addition to the aforementioned lounge-style pop there's some joyous almost bubblegum pop in "Charlie and Charlie," "Michelangelo," and "The Secret," while "A Little Something" lays down a bossa nova rock groove and "Mr. Rainbow" and "The Drum" tread into demonstrably heavier psychedelic territory.  The CD reissue sports a pretty wicked aerobics-themed bonus track, too, entitled "Everybody's Slimmin'", which is just as awesome as it sounds ("shake your yamma yamma like you're humping a ghost").

If you listen to this and can't stand Dagmar Krause's voice, there's probably little hope you'll enjoy Art Bears or her work with Henry Cow.  On the other hand, if you're already a fan of those, you might find this album a less demanding pleasure.  Either way, you can crawl further down the experimental pop deconstruction rabbit hole with Desperate Straights, Slapp Happy's 1975 collaboration with Henry Cow.

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