Saturday, August 20, 2016

Contact Trio - 1975 - Double Face

Contact Trio 
Double Face

01. Rumpelstielzchen
02. Double Face
03. Engelstanz
04. Sonate

Double Bass, Double Bass [Electric], Electric Bass – Alois Kott
Drums, Tabla [Tablas], Flute, Marimba – Michael Jüllich
Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Evert Brettschneider

Recorded: July 1974 and February 1975 at BTS-Studio, Kirchhellen.

In late 1960s, drummer Michael Jüllich and bassist Alois Kott launched the concept of a trio straddling the “border” erected by the media between the rock and jazz scenes.  Continental Europe had none of the race divisions that were still determinant for the development of separate musical trends on the other side of the Atlantic.  The openly avant-gardish evolution of German rock music in the following years allowed Contact Trio to develop into a tight unit incorporating explorations into jazz improvisation, contemporary composition and ethnic percussion.  Contact Trio really took off when Evert Brettschneider joined on guitar in 1973.

The band’s parsimonious tapestries were an antidote to over-orchestrated pedantry and calculated, aseptic guitar races that began to dominate derivative jazz-rock by that time.  Rather, the members of Contact Trio opted to nourish a mutual intrigue, but always foiling a full-blown arousal.  Their reed-less style, sometimes compared to Giger-Lenz-Marron or to Electric Circus, remained diagrammatic and introspective.  Despite the unquestionable quality of their music, their records never accrued the type of cult following that did many of their contemporaries.

The first sound of Contact Trio is that of a marimba, adroitly handled by Michael Jüllich.  It breaks the ice for a fast ostinato courtesy Alois Kott on acoustic bass.  Kott tees up for Evert Brettschneider on acoustic guitar, but the marimba appears to question this.  The full configuration offers an initial response, but both string instruments will now proceed more cautiously.  As the marimba and acoustic bass tiptoe along, an electric guitar introduces shreds of suspense; first intimate and delicate, then sharp and anguished, leaving us on tenterhooks.  The bass indulges in thorny, crumpled vibrato and the guitar leaches improvisations laid out perfectly within the tonal range of the marimba.  Brettschneider scatters some rugged flashes, but never races ahead.  Even though his guitar does occasionally bring to mind Dzyan’s Eddy Marron, Contact Trio’s arrangements are more transparent and permeable.

Double Face
The title track unfolds slowly with strings scraped along the body of the guitar.  Porous, bowed bass adds another pole of wiry attraction.  The strumming of the guitar could be a sign that the atonal intro is over.  Instead, the guitar sets an irregular time signature, still scraping the end of the notes, chucking them into a deep echo.  From that abyss emerges the flute (Jüllich), organically endearing itself to the bow.  The wind instrument seems to be instantly magnetized by the guitar-stressed bars.  Whereupon, the theme ceases…  In an ambiguous moment of self-doubt, the guitar and bowed bass refuse to meet on the scale, even though they seem to be aware of each other’s meter.  Jüllich’s tabla wakes them up, issuing an invitation to multivector explorations.  This improvised trio is hermetic, but legible, scraggly but sprightly.  Instead of a monsoon, the guitar calls on a whiff of Brazilian breeze.  To the ostinato of acoustic bass ostinato and tabla, Brettschneider spreads his wings, cruising above the multi-metric transom with ease.  His selection of pace, loudness and proportion is impeccable.  After a short melodic interlude from the bass, the tabla is left alone.  Most probably frowned upon by subcontinental purists, this parched, solo meditation bolts forward and perfectly sews into the fabric.

Brettschneider struts in, on a mystical electric guitar, with immanent delay and micro-distortion.  This daring, graphic ode is also our first introduction to electric bass and drums.  When the guitarist switches over to Toto Blanke-like fusion runs, the band is literally wrapped in glimmering cymbal ribbons.  Wah-wah bass blabbers something behind as the guitar mesmerizes us with its vitality.  Back to the illuminative march of the opening seconds, the trio crafts a forgotten classic of tri-modal jazz-rock avant-garde.

A very presto entrée reminds us of some of Association P.C.’s memorable moments.  When the guitar loses its way, the exuberantly sparkling cymbals encourage Brettschneider to pick up speed.  Which he does, but fails to schlep along the rest of the band.  Contrary to naïve expectations, this now appears to be a prehensile improvisation for bipolar guitar and cymbal shimmer.  The second movement is played largo with mallets gently laid on the drums.  A neurotic, psyched-out guitar glides over the dreamlike bass steps.  This highly addictive guitar play is rather unusual in the jazz format (if it is jazz at all, a big ‘IF’).  With a slight echo thrown into the mix, the guitar self-observation gains plenty of transcendental freedom.  The third movement of the Sonata is devoted to repeated striking guitar salvos, always abandoned on a higher note.  The cross-chord technique would several years later be adopted by Henry Kaiser during his flagship atonal period.  Here, Alois Kott’s bubbly bass germinates goofily.  A molar drum solo purports to perform a rondo, but none of this is allowed to linger for too long.  Sharp, incisive cuts from the guitar catalyze the Sonata’s ending.

David Torn - 1986 - Cloud About Mercury

David Torn
Cloud About Mercury


01. Suyafhu Skin... Snapping The Hollow Reed
02. The Mercury Grid d
03. 3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment
04. Previous Man d
05. The Network Of Sparks - A. The Delicate Code
06. B. Egg Learns To Walk ...Suyafhu Seal

David Torn guitars
Mark Isham trumpets, synthesizer
Tony Levin bass
Bill Bruford drums, percussion

Recorded March 1986 at Audio International, London

Guitarist David Torn defines jazz fusion, proving that the genre is more than add and stir. With cloud about mercury he made his most personal statement to date. The album sounds like many things: a sweep of Steve Tibbetts dimensions, a Jon Hassell think piece, a tree with many cultural branches, a spider’s web in sound. Torn roams freely throughout these territories, shouldering a vast load of thematic material. The opening wash of heaven that is “Suyafhu Skin…Snapping The Hollow Reed” condenses much of that material, letting fall a quiet storm of continental activity. Detuned guitars and a bubbling synthesizer part the way for Tony Levin’s grounded bass lines and trumpeter Mark Isham’s sustained flights, while drummer Bill Bruford chases after, somehow keeping pace. Next is “The Mercury Grid,” another engaging rhythm piece that boasts Isham in a Molværian mode. Torn flexes acrobatically here, swinging from every branch of this sonic corridor. The curiously titled “3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment” is a mid-tempo groove that again features soaring guitar. Torn’s fractal precision speckles “Previous Man,” which begins with two guitars before engaging drums and synth bass in staggered syncopations. The likeminded “Network Of Sparks: The Delicate Code” sets off an intriguing chain of electric events, all the more enigmatic for their brevity. Which brings us to “Network Of Sparks: Egg Learns To Walk…Suyafhu Seal,” a warm, gelatinous mosaic that slices the night into ribbons like light through a window blind, rendering empty space into a virtual stairway by curls of cigarette smoke.

Cloud About Mercury represents a pinnacle of Torn’s craft and is must-have for the adventurous.

David Torn & Geoffrey Gordon - 1984 - Best Laid Plans

David Torn & Geoffrey Gordon 
Best Laid Plans

01. Before The Bitter Wind 6:38
02. Best Laid Plans 7:05
03. The Hum Of Its Parts 3:39
04. Removable Tongue 1:52
05. In The Fifth Direction 6:16
06. Two-Face Flash 7:07
07. Angle Of Incidents 8:40

David Torn guitars
Geoffrey Gordon percussion

Recorded July 1984 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo

David Torn is one of the more indefinable guitarists on planet Earth and has left an alluring hatching of marks on ECM’s wall. Vivid among them is this unusual session with percussionist Geoffrey Gordon. Their pastiche navigates a territory that lies somewhere between Elliott Sharp, Steve Tibbetts, Terje Rypdal, and Bill Frisell. Torn’s electric is a storm of spirals and tails, surges and dissolves. The smooth arpeggios and inevitable disruptions of “Before The Bitter Wind” and the title track project a life lived through dreams and nightmares alike. The glow of “The Hum Of Its Parts” unfolds through Torn’s itching and pliant core, dramatized by Gordon’s highly connected tabla. One highlight, if in name only, is “Removable Tongue,” a guitar solo that twists its way around a relatively melodic caduceus and seems to have a good influence on “In The Fifth Direction,” which is perhaps the most unified blend of rhythm and texture on the album. After the sweltering heat rash of “Two Face Flash,” Torn rattles the firmament with “Angle of Incidents,” every grating cry a search for lost questions to extant answers.

Torn’s playing is a unique beast. It is oblique in such a way that, even when fully formed, it remains somehow distant, calling to us as if from the future and gone by the time we catch up. The best we can do is to stand where we are and wait for its evocative disintegration.

Everyman Band - 1985 - Without Warning

Everyman Band -
Without Warning

01. Patterns Which Connect 5:26
02. Talking With Himself 9:16
03. Multibluetonic Blues 6:46
04. Celebration 7 6:08
05. Trick Of The Wool 4:12
06. Huh What He Say 4:54
07. Al Ur 8:35

Marty Fogel tenor, soprano, alto saxophones, clarinet, flute
David Torn guitars, effects
Bruce Yaw electric bass
Michael Suchorsky drums, synthesizer

Recorded December 1984 at Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, New York

After the mind-numbing crunch of the Everyman Band’s self-titled debut, and considering the title of this follow-up, little did I expect the sprightly charm of “Patterns Which Connect.” This smooth opener is as uplifting as heck, due not least to Bruce Yaw’s rubber band bass line Marty Fogel’s soaring tenor. “Talking With Himself,” on the other hand, seems to begin in the middle of a stream of improvisatory energy, but continues with an openness that is nothing if not welcoming. Guitarist David Torn grinds his axe on flint stone and spits plenty of flame, but is content in periodically laying down his torch so as not to obscure Michael Suchorsky’s keen drumming. Like a spoon through porridge, “Multibluetonic Blues” works viscous nourishment into edible consistency, blending the tenor saxophone’s soulful brown sugar crust before the searing heat can burn it black. “Celebration 7” sounds for all like a plugged klezmer tune and shows the band in fine attunement, as does the whimsy of “Trick Of The Wool.” The album’s most appropriate title comes from “Huh What He Say,” which from an initial drawl finds linguistic traction in Fogel’s throwback of a solo. “Al Ur” caps things off with another vibrant sponge that soaks up all of the goodness that surrounds it.

This could easily be described as a killer of an album, were it not for the fact that it gives rather than takes life away. Along with Neighbourhood and Travels, it is among ECM’s more feel-good albums. Like a comedy of manners disguised as a film noir, it titillates behind an artful gloss.

Everyman Band - 1982 - Everyman Band

Everyman Band 
Everyman Band

01. Morals In The Mud 2:39
02. Japan Smiles 4:39
03. Lonely Streets 10:40
04. On The Spot 4:50
05. The Mummy Club 6:43
06. Nuclear Suite 8:09
07. Fatt Blatt 5:27

Michael Suchorsky drums
David Torn guitar
Bruce Yaw bass
Marty Fogel saxophones

Recorded March 1982 at Talent Studio, Oslo

What began as Lou Reed’s backing in the seventies stepped out on its own as Everyman Band, recording this self-titled debut for ECM in 1982. If a group is only as good as its musicians, then the name is a contradiction: not everyone possesses the firepower of Michael Suchorsky on drums, David Torn on guitar, Bruce Yaw on bass, and Marty Fogel on saxophones. The latter brings his idiomatic flair with three originals. Torn steals the show in “Lonely Streets,” a smoldering trek through nocturnal fires and other hidden conflagrations. Fogel spikes this punch with his own choice poisons. Yaw keeps up at every turn of phrase, and keeps us “On the Spot” with a memorable bass line, around which Fogel herds Torn’s flock in tight circuits. “Fatt Blatt” weighs in with a heavy tenor solo before the quartet pulls its best funk off the rack in a monochromatic swing. Yaw has his moment in the sun before diving back into the vamp with a vengeance.

Torn hones in with two clicks of his own. “Morals in the Mud” opens the album with a bang, his Strat popping the bubble of our attention with a neon pin, while “The Mummy Club” gives off an airier vibe. A slap bass distinguishes this wobbly palate-cleanser from the rest, as Fogel surfs Torn’s mighty chordal crashes with finesse. Suchorsky and Yaw churn out one tune apiece. “Japan Smiles” has a deeper, headier sound and features some fantastic bass/sax interaction. “Nuclear Suite,” on the other hand, is less direct, and speaks in tongues over a vast dynamic breadth. The appearance of a soprano sax lightens the load considerably. Playful, jaunty rhythms abound, overturning post-apocalyptic rubble for clues to a hidden past. Torn elbows his way through with an incisive solo. Like a slingshot of light into the evening sky for want of a meteor shower, it trails with unnaturally prolonged fire.

This album is an all-around solid effort brimming with guttural, after-midnight sounds that are iconic of the very era they tear to shreds. The band’s style is both distant and in our faces. The group shot on the back of LP jacket says it all: a relatively clear foreground lights the naked streets against an impossibly distorted backdrop in a single instantaneous image.

(Caveat: This is a rip from my old Cassette tape dating from 1984... so the sound quality ain't super... If you have the LP and are willing to make me/us a rip... I would be really grateful!)

Officer! - 1985 - Cough


01. Anagrams (5:23)
02. Kalenda Maya (5:04)
03. Instructions Not Included (3:11)
04. Telepathy (2:05)
05. I Love You Very Much (3:40)
06. Bone Connections (4:13)
07. Du Boxe (1:00)
08. Nummus (1:46)
09. Boxers vs Wrestlers (2:27)
10. Maria’s Song (2:02)
11. We All Sat Watching The Same Film (4:01)
12. Dogface (2:02)
13. Mick Hobbs Interview (1:05)

Felix Fiedorowicz: bassoon, recorder, flute, voice
Mick Hobbs: bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, voice
Patrick Q. Wright: violin, keyboards
Marie-Jeanne: voice

An Officer! live recording from France, possibly during one of Reims’ avant rock festivals where so many post-RIO bands appeared (and home of A.Y.A.A. label). It seems Mick Hobbs left Great Britain for France in 1984, possibly fed up with harsh Thatcherism (and not because he was banned from England like the Gong leader, Daevid Allen). On ‘Cough’, the Offier! band plays tracks from their A.Y.A.A. LP ‘Ossification’, published the year before. The latter included a shift toward Medieval and Troubadours songs, itself a departure from their first cassette ‘8 New Songs By Mick Hobbs’ (see previous post). Singer Marie-Jeanne take the lead vocals on 2 Medieval songs here (tr.#2 & 10), while the rest is infused by a communal and juggler spirit, so to speak. The set is pure avant-rock pleasure with prominent violin and recorder. Patrick Q. Wright was the violin player in The Legendary Pink Dots. 1985 was a busy year for him, as he took part to various great records, namely Edward Ka-Spel’s ‘Chyekk, China Doll’ (Torso) or Look De Bouk’s ‘Lacrimae Rerum

Officer! - 1984 - Ossification


01. Dynamite
02. Anagrams
03. Air
04. Telepathy
05. Spitter's Hooked (On Love)
06. Dogface
07. Some
08. Boxes v Wrestlers
09. Tunnels
10. Apply
11. Office Occasion
12. Origin
13. Hello
14. Top, Top, Top

Felix Fiedorowicz: voices (1,8,9,10,11,12), bassoon (2,5,6,9,11,12,13,14), vocals (3), further voices (4), recorders (5,6,8,10,11,13,14), percussion (6,10,13), piano (8,9), swanee (8), harmonica (8), toy piano (9), kbds (10), handclaps (14)
Mick Hobbs: dr (2,5,11), piano (2,12), gtr (2,5,8,10,11,13), wind arr. (2), kbds (3,4,6,7,13), recorder (3,5,7,8,12), objects (4), string arr. (4), perc (5,6,7,8,10,11,13,14), vocal (5), bs (7,11), voice (7,8,10,11,12,13,14), org (8), bass (9), tapes (9), handclaps (14)
Judy Carter: vocals (2,5,6,11,13), whistle (13)
Bill Gilonis: bass (2,5,13), clarinet (2), tones (2), kbds (4), objects (4), bs (4), piano (7), perc (7), melodica (7)
Catherine Jauniaux: voice (4,5,7,11,12)
Rick Wilson: perc (1), voice (1), drums (9)
Georgie Born: cello (5,13,14)
Zeena Parkins: harp (2,5,12)
Terry Robson: violin (4,10)
String Quartet (Terry Robson, Christina Wild, Jussi Karel, Anne Stokes) (5,11)
Tim Hodgkinson: alto (7,9), hawaiian gtr (7), clarinet (9), bari sax (9)
Patrick Gundry: violin (9), french horn (11)
Marie-Jeanne: voices (1,5)
Graham Painting: gtrs (3), double bass (3), drums (3)
Andy Bole: gtr (2)
Kevin: vocals (3)
Jussi Karel: viola (12)
Tom Cora: cello (12)
Chorale: chorale (12)

Chorus: Kevin, Kevin, Mary + Tym (2)

Officer! is either Mick Hobbs (The Work, Family Fodder, Half Japanese) alone or Mick Hobbs with friends. Ossification is like an amazing party held at This Heat's Cold Storage Studio, with friends like Felix Fiedorowicz, Tom Cora, Tim Hodgkinson, Bill Gilonis, Zeena Parkins, Patrick Q, and Catherine Jauniaux. The output of this party is one of the most unusual, pleasurable, and character-filled "pop" records anyone has heard. Fourteen songs that contain the spirit of pop, rock, classical, medieval, avant garde, R.I.O., The Work, Family Fodder, This Heat, Look de Bouk, Legendary Pink Dots, Henry Cow, and more. Ossification is a timeless anomaly in the history of recorded music. Limited to 700 copies on 180 gram vinyl with an insert. Remastered by Tim Dimuzio. Recorded in This Heat's Cold Storage Studio in 1984.

Officer! - 1984 - 8 New Songs

8 New Songs

01. Join The AA (0:54)
02. Life At The Water’s Edge (5:11)
03. Dogface (1:48)
04. Tunnels (3:53)
05. Way (3:28)
06. You (2:39)
07. Spooky (3:24)
08. All Reality Is Symbolic (2:43)

Mick Hobbs: bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, turntable, voice
Bill Gilonis: guitar, sax
Tim Hodgkinson: guitar, voice
Terri Robson: violin
Alig Pearce: guitar
Richard Wolfson: keyboards
Felix Fiedorowicz: keyboards, bassoon, recorder, voice
Rick Wilson: drums
Chris Cutler: drums (on Way)
Anna (Stokes?): voice
Judy Carter: voice
Leslie: claquetteisme

When on vacation from The Work (his quatuor with Tim Hodgkinson, Bill Gilonis, and Rick Wilson), Mick Hobbs gathered friends and allies to play music under the Officer! banner. This tape was released on french label AYAA (then called AAA). The label was launched 1982 with the legendary ‘Douze Pour Un’ compilation LP. This cassette is an awesome collection of rock songs, some deeply haunting, some rough at the edges. Songwriting is top-notch, the kind of sad tunes or grotesque anthems that are hard to forget once you’ve heard them. Some songs were recorded at Cold Storage with help from This Heat members who also helped with the production of Officer!’s ‘Ossification’ 1984 LP, also on AYAA. The line-up is varied, contributing to multifarious musical ideas and inventive arrangements. All members of The Work contribute here as well. Hobbs and ex-Family Fodder Alig Pearce formed the duo Lo Yo Yo, releasing an LP in 1985. Additionally, Felix Fiedorowicz was a member of Family Fodder as well (1979-1988, reformed 2002). Richard Wolfson (1955-2005) was the creator of the ambitious 1993 Towering Inferno’s ‘Kaddish’ show and CD to which Hodgkinson and Cutler also contributed.

David Thomas And The Wooden Birds - 1986 - Blame The Messenger

David Thomas And The Wooden Birds
Blame The Messenger

01. My Town 3:20
02. A Fact About Trains 4:20
03. King Knüt 5:30
04. When Love Is Uneven 3:30
05. The Storm Breaks 3:30
06. The Long Rain 4:10
07. Having Time 4:20
08. Friends Of Stone 3:20
09. The Velikovsky 2-Step 6:40

The Wooden Birds
Chris Cutler – drums, production
Jim Jones – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Tony Maimone – electric bass guitar, acoustic bass guitar, backing vocals
Allen Ravenstine – EML synthesizer, piano, backing vocals
David Thomas – lead vocals, accordion

Over the course of five early- to mid-'80s solo albums, Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas indulged his whimsical side, displayed an extreme fascination with nature ("The Birds Are a Good Idea," "Crickets in the Flats," etc.) and offered his theory of "spontaneous simultude" to anybody who was listening, which is to say very few, considering these albums ventured far from the realm of rock -- even rock as Thomas heard it. On Blame the Messenger, Thomas teams with former Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler, fellow Clevelander Jim Jones (guitar), and old bandmates Allen Ravenstine (synths) and Tony Maimone (bass) for an album that is parked firmly in Ubu's avant-garage. As always, the larger-than-life Thomas commands attention, but this album belongs to Jones, who provides Thomas with the anti-guitar heroics he has sorely missed since Tom Herman left the parent band in 1979. In Jones' deft hands, even a lapse into whimsy like "Friends of Stone" works, thanks to a backwards psychedelic solo that would make George Harrison smile. Best of all is the undeniable one-two punch of "King Knüt" and "When Love Is Uneven." Jones' nagging Beefheart-ian riff on the former is followed by the latter's slo-mo verse, climactic chorus, and Ravenstine's brooding synth fills, recalling Ubu's classic "My Dark Ages." Thomas hasn't exorcised all the hokeyness (see "My Town" and "Velikovsky 2-Step") from his system, but, for the most part, Blame the Messenger is a platter that clatters. With the addition of original drummer Scott Krauss, this lineup would be recording as Pere Ubu within the year.

David Thomas & The Peds - 1985 - More Places Forever

David Thomas & The Peds 
More Places Forever

01. Through the Magnifying Glass   2:58
02. Enthusiastic   4:45
03. Whale Head King   5:49
04. Song of the Bailing Man   4:42
05. Big Breezy Day   3:24
06. The Farmer's Wife   4:31
07. New Broom   4:20
08. About True Friends   4:33

Lindsay Cooper – bassoon, oboe, alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone, tuba, piano, organ
Chris Cutler – drums
Tony Maimone – bass guitar, piano (B2)
David Thomas – lead vocals, production

On David Thomas's first two solo albums, the presence of guitar god Richard Thompson tended to temper Thomas' natural inclination toward pastoral loopiness, grounding it in a measure of rock & roll solidity. On More Places Forever, Thomas is accompanied by bassoonist Lindsay Cooper, bassist (and old Pere Ubu hand) Tony Maimone, and drummer Chris Cutler, and the difference in sound is striking. Maimone and Cutler, who are a fearsome rhythm combination, do keep the groove rolling on most of these tunes, but nothing deflates a rockish ambience quite as effectively as a bassoon; as a result there's a certain daintiness to everything on this album. That's not to say it isn't compelling, just that it's compelling in a very different way from Thomas' earlier solo work. "Whale Head King" features insect and bird sounds as well as a strange, distant vocal mix and a lyrical reprise of "Happy to See You" (not to mention musical quotations from "Three Blind Mice" and "Shortnin' Bread"). The plodding, slightly creepy "New Broom" sounds like a Halloween song; the multi-tracked bassoons on "Enthusiastic" alternate between polka-inflected chord chomps and klezmer wails. It's great stuff, but probably of more interest to fans of the Art Bears and Henry Cow than to fans of Pere Ubu.

David Thomas And His Legs - 1983 - Winter Comes Home

David Thomas And His Legs
Winter Comes Home

01. A Day Such As This
02. Winter Comes Home
03. West Side Story
04. Sunset
05. Stormy Weather
06. Poetic License
07. Rhapsody in Pink
08. Dinosaurs Like Me
09. Petrified
10. Bones in Action
11. Contrasted Views of the Archaeopteryx

David Thomas: vocals
Lindsay Cooper: electric bassoon
Chris Cutler: drums

Winter Comes Home was a live album credited to David Thomas and his Legs, released in 1982, in which Thomas was supported by Chris Cutler and Lindsay Cooper. Trouser Press reports that the album "mixes intellectual stand-up comedy with winning performances".The album did not appear in the 1997 anthology Monster, and has never been released on CD, and David Thomas has pronounced the album to have been officially "disappeared":

"If it HAD existed I'd explain the reason to disappear it as follows: that version of the Pedestrians was more of a theatrical experience than a musical one and the intention was always that the release be a limited edition; a limited edition means that it's limited. But the album never existed so there's no reason to explain ANYTHING."

David Thomas And The Pedestrians with Richard Thompson - 1983 - Variations On A Theme

David Thomas And The Pedestrians with Richard Thompson 
Variations On A Theme

01. A Day At The Botanical Gardens 3:43
02. Pedestrian Walk 4:16
03. Bird Town 2:42
04. The Egg & I 2:54
05. Who Is It ? 3:30
06. Song Of Hoe 5:42
07. Hurry Back 3:57
08. The Rain 3:47
09. Semaphore 5:05

The Pedestrians
Anton Fier – drums
Paul Hamann – bass guitar, engineering
Jim Jones – guitar
Jack Monck – guitar
David Thomas – lead vocals
Richard Thompson – guitar

Additional musicians
Lindsay Cooper – bassoon (A5, B3, B4)
Chris Cutler – drums (A5, B3, B4)

Yes, David Thomas is weird, and yes, he's even weirder solo than he is when he's leading Pere Ubu. But if you're not careful, it can be all too easy to let the weirdness distract from the genuine beauty, of which there is quite a bit on this spectacularly good album. Lots of credit is due to Brit-folk guitar hero Richard Thompson, whose presence may seem like a complete artistic non sequitur, but who adds not only chops but also structural complexity and a deep musical grace to Thomas's whinnying falsetto ruminations on birds, plants, and pedestrians. Credit is also due to bassist Jack Monck, who anchors things heroically on this album. There are lots of highlights here, but two of the album's finest moments come on Bird Town, a hysterical 12-bar blues romp that features both a vocal cameo ("Oy kid, what's the name of this town? Is it giraffe town?") and a whole series of brilliant solos by Richard Thompson, and on "A Day at the Botanical Gardens," which is one of the loveliest pieces of music Thomas has ever been responsible for. Highly recommended.

David Thomas & The Pedestrians - 1981 - The Sound Of The Sand And Other Songs Of The Pedestrian

David Thomas & The Pedestrians 
The Sound Of The Sand And Other Songs Of The Pedestrian

01. The Pedestrians The Birds Are Good Ideas 1:55
02. The Pedestrians Yiki Tiki 2:15
03. The Golden Palominos The Crickets In The Flats 4:59
04. The Pedestrians Sound Of The Sand 3:27
05. The Pedestrians The New Atom Mine 5:13
06. The Pedestrians Big Dreams 2:20
07. The Trees Happy To See You 3:30
08. The Golden Palominos Crush This Horn, Pt. 2 1:43
09. The Pedestrians Confuse Did 2:31
10. The Eggs Sloop John B 5:10
11. The Pedestrians Man's Best Friend 4:25

The Pedestrians
Anton Fier – drums and percussion
John Greaves – bass guitar (A5, B4)
Philip Moxham – bass guitar
Allen Ravenstine – synthesizer
David Thomas – lead vocals
Richard Thompson – guitar and dulcimer
Eddie "Tan Tan" Thornton – trumpet
Mayo Thompson – accordion (B6)

The Golden Palominos
Anton Fier – drums and percussion
John Greaves – bass guitar, piano
Richard Thompson – guitar and dulcimer
Eddie "Tan Tan" Thornton – trumpet

The Trees 
Ralph Carney – saxophone and oboe
Alan Greenblatt – guitar
Paul Hamann – bass guitar
Scott Krauss – drums
Allen Ravenstine – synthesizer

The Eggs
Chris Cutler – drums
Eddie "Tan Tan" Thornton – trumpet

With Pere Ubu, singer and songwriter David Thomas sometimes comes across as a slightly loopy misanthrope. But his solo work, while still usually based in rock & roll forms, has tended to be more whimsically pastoral (if no less loopy). This, his first solo album, features songs with titles like "The Birds Are a Good Idea," "Man's Best Friend," and "Crickets in the Flats" and also includes an utterly unattractive deconstruction of the calypso tune "Sloop John B." The backing band includes drummer Anton Fier, a frequent Thomas collaborator, and, rather bizarrely, the great British folk-rock guitarist Richard Thompson. Thompson acquits himself nicely, as you'd expect, but plays as if he's not quite sure what he's doing there -- he contributes an appropriately bouncy chord vamp on the polka-fied "Happy to See You," but doesn't let loose on the bridge where he could have; on "Crush This Horn, Part Two" he's harnessed to an atonal chord progression that doesn't give him any leeway. On the other hand, Allen Ravenstine's overdubbed synth doodles work very nicely on that track. Overall, this is one that Thomas fans will surely love and that will leave everyone else, as Thompson seems to be, wondering what's going on.

Pere Ubu - 1989 - One Man Drives While The Other...

Pere Ubu 
One Man Drives While The Other...

01. Navvy 2:51
02. Street Waves 4:10
03. Heaven 2:56
04. On The Surface 2:27
05. Dub Housing 4:43
06. Caligari's Mirror 3:54
07. Small Was Fast 2:52
08. Misery Goats 2:28
09. Go 3:34
10. Ubu Dance Party 4:09
11. Birdies 2:21
12. Rhapsody In Pink 5:12
13. Codex 2:33

David Thomas: vocals
Mayo Thompson: guitar
Tom Herman: guitar
Allen Ravenstine: EML synthesizers
Tony Maimone: bass
Scott Krauss: drums.

Tracks 1 to 6 were recorded November 28 1978 at the Electric Ballroom, London. The recording was made by a cassette recorder with a direct line from the mixing desk.
Tracks 7 to 11 were recorded 4-track July 1980 at the Mistake, Cleveland.
Tracks 12 & 13 were recorded March 1981 on a cassette recorder with a direct line from the mixing desk at the University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

The second volume in the live Ubu saga, this is sonically better than its predecessor, 390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo. Covering the period from 1978-1981, the tracks on this recording were recorded during the guitarist transition from Tom Herman to Mayo Thompson. And while I prefer Herman's more assertive guitar playing, Thompson acquits himself nicely here, especially on "Birdies" and "(Pa) Ubu Dance Party." Vocalist David Thomas has some extraordinary moments here, as he is less restrained (positively manic) than in the studio. His glee is contagious, and by infusing the songs with such unrestrained joy, the band never sounds too dour and serious. Proof that art-rock can rock.

Pere Ubu - 1989 - Cloudland

Pere Ubu 

01. Breath 3:59
02. Race The Sun 3:25
03. Cry 2:34
04. Why Go It Alone? 2:50
05. Waiting For Mary 3:30
06. Ice Cream Truck 2:49
07. Bus Called Happiness 3:15
08. Monday Night 2:16
09. Love Love Love 3:29
10. Lost Nation Road 2:16
11. Fire 3:46
12. Nevada! 3:21
13. The Wire 3:21
14. Flat 2:23
15. The Waltz 3:31
16. Pushin' 2:27

David Thomas – vocals
Jim Jones – guitar, backing vocals
Allen Ravenstine – EML synthesizers, backing vocals
Tony Maimone – bass, backing vocals
Chris Cutler – drums
Scott Krauss – drums
Additional personnel
Stephen Hague – keyboards

In a press handout that accompanied the original release of Pere Ubu's Cloudland, David Thomas quipped "We'd never been asked to write a pop record before. I guess it never occurred to anyone." Given the sonic Dadaism of much of Pere Ubu's work, what's most startling is not that it took so long for someone to suggest they make a pop record but that they were able to comply so successfully. Stephen Hague, who had previously worked with the Pet Shop Boys, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and New Order, produced these sessions, and Cloudland boasts a glossy surface that was unprecedented for Pere Ubu's work; the drums sounded crisp and tight, the songs included traditional melodies and melodic keyboard lines, Allen Ravenstine's noisy punctuations were pushed to the back of the mix, and the harmonies sounded as if they were performed by actual professionals. However, beneath the hipster friendly production, Cloudland remained a Pere Ubu record -- David Thomas' yelping vocal style was as unrestrained as ever, and while the tunes here lack the sharp angles of Pere Ubu's first era, the lateral sway of the melodies is still cheerfully off kilter. Lyrically, Cloudland finds Ubu moving cautiously from their passionate defense of the Midwest's industrial wastelands to a look at the broad plains that lurked elsewhere, as if they were looking for sunnier climes like many other denizens of the Rust Belt and finding many strange, troubling and wonderful things in their new surroundings. Ultimately, Cloudland showed that however much you dressed up Pere Ubu's music, their heart and soul would show through, and that is a very good thing. [In 2007, Mercury Records reissued Cloudland in a new remastered edition created with the input of the band. The new disc includes two non-LP B-sides, "Wine Dark Sparks" and "Bang the Drum," as well as a live BBC recording of "Bus Called Happiness" and alternate mixes of "Breath" and "Love Love Love." David Stubbs' liner notes describe the circumstances behind the making of the album as well as Thomas' lyrical themes on this material.]

Pere Ubu - 1988 - The Tenement Year

Pere Ubu
The Tenement Year 

01. Something's Gotta' Give 5:13
02. George Had A Hat 4:02
03. Talk To Me 3:28
04. Busman's Honeymoon 4:35
05. Say Goodbye 4:58
06. Universal Vibration 2:43
07. Miss You 4:21
08. Dream The Moon 3:25
09. Rhythm King 4:26
10. The Hollow Earth 4:15
11. We Have The Technology 3:03

David Thomas: vocals, trombone, spike
Jim Jones: guitar, backing vocals
Allen Ravenstine: EML synthesizer, sax, backing vocals
Tony Maimone: bass, backing vocals
Chris Cutler: drums, percussion
Scott Krauss: drums
John Kirkpatrick: Melodeon

In retrospect, The Tenement Year was clearly a transitional album for Pere Ubu. Reuniting with his band after a six-year hiatus, leader David Thomas is still hip-deep in post-industrial weirdness: Whether celebrating the existential dependability of fashion head wear, observing that the zoo is a bad place for bears and penguins, or expressing cautious optimism about technology, Thomas always sounds completely comfortable in his own wholly individual skin. And the band (performing here in its classic lineup with bassist Tony Maimone, drummer Scott Krauss, and synthesist Allen Ravenstine, among others) manages, as always, to stay solidly in the pocket even when pushing the boundaries of song structure and harmonic propriety. But as weird as they get, there are clear portents of the poppier sound to come: "Talk to Me," with its surf guitar bridge and downright singable chorus; the undeniable hook on "Say Goodbye"; and, above all, the sweet-tempered ballad "We Have the Technology" all point to themes and moods that would recur in the following year's Cloudland, an album that yielded not only a borderline hit single but also (gulp) an MTV video. What does it all add up to? The most accessible Ubu album that snobs can enjoy without feeling guilty. And astoundingly, given Thomas' public pronouncements on such matters, there's even a lyric sheet.

Pere Ubu - 1985 - Terminal Tower - An Archival Collection

Pere Ubu 
Terminal Tower - An Archival Collection

01. Heart Of Darkness 4:44
02. 30 Seconds Over Tokyo 6:19
03. Final Solution 4:57
04. Cloud 149 2:37
05. Untitled 3:28
06. My Dark Ages 4:00
07. Heaven 3:05
08. Humor Me 3:01
09. The Book Is On The Table 4:08
10. Not Happy 3:26
11. Lonesome Cowboy Dave 1:53

Tom Herman – guitar, bass
Peter Laughner - guitar, bass
Tim Wright - bass, guitar
Mayo Thompson - guitar
Scott Krauss – drums
Tony Maimone – bass
Allen Ravenstine – EML synthesizers
David Thomas – vocals
Dave Taylor - EML synthesizers, Acetone organ on "Final Solution", "Cloud 149"
Alan Greenblatt - rhythm guitar on "Untitled"

Terminal Tower: An Archival Collection is a compilation of Pere Ubu's early singles and b-sides. It includes the Hearthan singles (recorded with founder Peter Laughner) that were initially compiled on the Datapanik in Year Zero EP, and continues through later sides recorded with Mayo Thompson. The original Rough Trade UK LP was fine, but the American Twin Tone LP and CD both played at slightly slow speed (about a half-tone flat) throughout, had the left and right channels reversed and suffered from generally poor sound compared to the UK LP or the US singles.Most of the compilation was properly remastered for the 'Datapanik In The Year Zero' box set, and all subsequent individual reissues of the compilation have used that corrected master.

At the outset of their career, Pere Ubu released some of the very first independent-label American punk singles on their own Hearthan (later Hearpen) label, which constitute some of their most celebrated and legendary work. Terminal Tower: An Archival Collection gathers 11 tracks, mostly from the crucial Hearthan/Hearpen period (including the entire Datapanik in the Year Zero EP), plus a couple of later U.K. singles. This music's historical importance is undeniable -- not only because of the band's pioneeringly independent status in an area not as celebrated for its punk scene, but also because Pere Ubu was one of the first bands to push their art punk sound into territory later classified as alternative, a testament to their forward-looking approach. None of that would matter if Terminal Tower didn't hold up so well as a listening experience, but Pere Ubu still sounds utterly original. David Thomas' unearthly voice mumbles and sobs the angular melodies over a backdrop of garagey guitars, startling sound effects (from both guitar and synth), and odd dissonances. Moments of jarring, apocalyptic terror ("Heart of Darkness," the creeping, crawling "30 Seconds Over Tokyo") sit next to oddly beautiful introspection, sometimes on the same song (the aching angst and evocative guitar solo of "Final Solution"). Meanwhile, poppier tracks incorporate those avant-garde textures into a gleeful dada bounce. The two tracks unavailable anywhere else, "Not Happy" and "Lonesome Cowboy Dave," are slices of poppy dementia that may make the collection worthwhile for devotees who already own the box, especially since this is such a strong, coherent listen. Terminal Tower stands as the best introduction to the band not only because of its stellar material and relative accessibility, but also because it largely lacks the arty indulgences that popped up even on the group's most consistent albums. Now that it's back in print, it's essential, groundbreaking listening.

Pere Ubu - 1982 - Song Of The Bailing Man

Pere Ubu 
Song Of The Bailing Man

01. The Long Walk Home 2:34
02. Use Of A Dog 3:17
03. Petrified 2:16
04. Stormy Weather 3:20
05. West Side Story 2:46
06. Thoughts That Go By Steam 3:47
07. Big Ed's Used Farms 2:24
08. A Day Such As This 7:17
09. The Vulgar Boatman Bird 2:49
10. My Hat 1:19
11. Horns Are A Dilemma 4:21

David Thomas – vocals
Mayo Thompson – guitar
Allen Ravenstine – EML synthesizers
Tony Maimone – bass
Anton Fier – drums, piano, marimba, percussion

Continuing in the spirit of The Art of Walking, this record marks the departure of drummer Scott Krauss (replaced by ex-Feelies Anton Fier), a fact significant in that when combined with the earlier departure of guitarist Tom Herman, means that at this juncture, Pere Ubu was more art and less rock. Why people were so knocked out by Fier is a mystery; here he lacks aggressiveness, plays behind the beat, and generally speaking, he doesn't push the band as hard as a drummer ought to. That said, Song of the Bailing Man is a fine, occasionally wonderful record that, at its slackest moments, sounds strained and forced, as if it were no fun to make, and it's this seriousness (instead of the usual Ubu silly seriousness) that prevents Song of the Bailing Man from being great. It's no surprise that the band went on a hiatus for six years after the release of this record, returning with 1988's The Tenement Year.