22 May 2009

Daphne's Purple Closet

You don't remember Daphne's Purple Closet. But then, again, you do. Anyone who hung out at the local punk/new wave/goth club, any one who listened to college radio, any one who bought hand-made cassettes from a box labelled "local bands" at the only hip record shop in town, remembers Daphne's Purple Closet, or at very least a band just like them. Part Siouxsie and the Banshees, and part The Cure, the singer never wandered much beyond her three or four note range, but you had a mad crush on her all the same, what with that punky hair and torn up fifties dresses, and too cool for school eye liner. She never spoke to you, probably wouldn't have given you the time of the day even if you had screwed up the courage to ask, but it hardly mattered. You requested the songs. You went to the gigs. You bought the cassette. You remember.

This blast from the hey day of the Canadian New Wave scene of the mid eighties should bring it all back to any one who went to college or played in a band in the post punk era. Daphne's Purple Closet were formed in Toronto around the talents of lead singer Jamie Browning. They established a strong following for a few months in 1984-85, playing clubs in the London-Toronto-Ottawa corridor, and scoring regular airplay on stations like Ryerson's CKLN, and Western's CHRW. On her web site, Browning describes the band as "Gothic sugar punk space-pop," all qualities in ample evidence on this very groovy, six-track cassette, self released by the band in 1984. The production is clean and crisp, and the songs a testament to just how strong so many of the regional post-punk scenes were at the time. If you liked those bands, if you went to those clubs, if you remember that girl, this is for you.

-- Crash the Driver


Daphne's Purple Closet - S/T

01 Open Mind
02 Human Manner
03 Panic Is On
04 Three Piece Suit
05 Nursery Rhyme
06 Cheese and Crackers

Canada Cassette-only Self Released 1984.

10 May 2009

Rarities From A.C. Marias

When it's ebbing for them
it's waving for me.

Since we gave you the fantastic A.C. Marias album One Of Our Girls (Has Gone Missing) we have been hot on the trail of her more obscure items. Now we can offer eight tracks that trace the arc of her musical output from the very origins.

Which means Dome, the Gilbert & Lewis project that came about in 1980 as the first incarnation of Wire broke up. This is the purest art formulation of these musicians' many disguises and is perhaps best appreciated in a gallery setting. Listening to the ebb and flow of the muted sounds from CD can be a tiring experience, although there are joys as well to be found in the four albums they issued in rapid succession on their own Dome label. These have been reissued by the wonderful Mute label with titles two per CD, as Dome 1/2 and Dome 3/4 (although the last album was originally not called Dome 4 but Will You Speak This Word).

The second track on the first Dome record is "Cruel When Complete," written and sung by A.M.C., as she was then credited. All the characteristics of her later work are already in place here. We have included this as her most characteristic contribution to Dome. She cropped up again on Dome 3, which is really one extended riff and never that interesting to me. Their final album was a much superior effort. Give it a try if you think that rarified rumblings and ramblings are your kettle of eels. Just don't expect pop music or guitars.

Shortly after, in 1981, the debut A.C. Marias record was issued as DOM 45.1. Two tracks, "Drop" and "So" initiated her penchant for one word titles. Given how similar these were to her Dome contribution, it would have been reasonable to assume this was a one-off project, yet another zany outing from the Wire boyos.

The not dissimilar "The Whispered Year" found its way onto the obscure Touch cassette "Meridians 1," which I bought in 1983. Touch was in the habit of including postcards, art inserts and all sorts of intriguing design elements into their compilations, which mixed every kind of pop and art music together with phonography and enthological forgeries. These tapes are long out of print and will not be reissued, since the rights cannot be cleared. Nonetheless it is evident from the detailed history on the Touch site that they are appreciated for their place in music culture.

By this time A.C.M. was in the group P'O with Gilbert, Lewis, David Tidball and Peter Price. They issued one album, Whilst Climbing Thieves Vie For Attention, an item so obscure even I didn't own it until WMO (Wire Mail Order) re-issued the CD in 1998. Discogs has a hilarious picture of the lads. They look like a post-punk band or something.

Conway wrote and sang one track on the Bruce Gilbert album The Shivering Man, a collection of work he had done for dance (which is how the two first met, I assume). When the record was combined with This Way to form the CD This Way To The Shivering Man Mute dropped several tracks, including the now rare "Eline Cout II." With its sequenced patternings and insistent rhythm, this was a distinct move into a more palatable sound. In fact it's quite lovely, and a template for what was to follow. As a side note, Conway also provided the cover art for these Gilbert albums.

That same year, 1986, the single "Just Talk" crept out on Mute. Two years later followed "Time Was," the Canned Heat cover you already have as a bonus addition to her one and only album. Here we provide "Some Thing," a great mix of "Sometime" from the album. The production on this solo work is a distinct step up from the low-fi sounds she had previously been dealing with.

Conway's final release was the single "One Of Our Girls Has Gone Missing" which came in an alternate mix. The b-side, "Vicious," is a long and not entirely satisfying cover of the Lou Reed song (from Transformer), with David Rogers on bass and Steve Wright on guitar.

In addition to these entries in the discography, you will definitely want to buy the He Said album Hail, a phenomenal work that includes Angela Conway vocals on "Pump" and "I Fall Into Your Arms."


A.C. Marias Rarities

01 Cruel When Complete [Dome] (3:15)
02 Drop (4:33)
03 So (2:31)
04 The Whispered Year (3:41)
05 Eline Cout II [Bruce Gilbert] (4:42)
06 Some Thing (4:12)
07 One Of Our Girls Has Gone Missing [single version] (3:17)
08 Vicious (8:45)

Thanks to the various sites and sources from which we compiled together this collection.

-- Second Chameleon

02 May 2009

The Art Of Parties EP by Japan

When the ads for Japan's The Art of Parties EP appeared in the Spring of 1981, every New Romantic worth his or her eyeliner took notice. Gentlemen Take Polaroids, their fourth album, and first for new label Virgin, was, after all, a genre-defining event. Mixing the sophistication of late Roxy Music, with the warm ambiances of Eno's solo work, and the sinewy grooves of Chic, GTP had quickly become a touchstone for all connoisseurs of arty dance music, a resounding rejoinder to any critic who claimed the new music was merely a fashion accessory. On songs like "Methods Of Dance," "Taking Islands In Africa" and the Satie-influenced "Nightporter," it was not a matter of form eclipsing content, but of form becoming content, the one wholly a function of the other. I remember setting a friend's speakers in the window of our college residence rooms after the last of our exams, playing this album over and over for all those assembled on the lawn below. As Sylvian's world weary voice floated over the grassy quad, we all passed into a sun-soaked longueur.

What then would The Art Of Parties bring? Well the cover offered a somewhat more casual-looking David Sylvian, a plaid shirt rolled up at the sleeves and over sized glasses peeking out from his teased blond hair. He appeared to be holding headphones up to his one ear, while dreaming of a Chinese boat making its way across some distant river. Not much in the way of clues, then. And the record? The a side featured the band's most richly sumptuous dance track to date, wildly syncopated rhythm guitars and horns bursting across Steve Jansen's cascading drums, and Sylvian offering one his most irresistible choruses. Add in Mick Karn's increasingly baroque fretless bass, Richard Barberi's shimmering oriental synth textures, and some female backing vocals, let the whole thing run for nearly seven minutes, and you needed the three subdued instrumentals that followed just to gather your senses.

This Canada-only EP has suffered a cruel fate in the digital age. Two of its b sides ("The Experience of Swimming" and "The Width of a Room") were used for bonus tracks to the most recent reissue of Gentlemen Take Polaroids. The lavishly-produced box set version of Tin Drum, meanwhile, included the a side and the remaining b side ("Life Without Buildings") on a separate disc, but left off the other b sides in favour of various remixes from the album. So here is The Art Of Parties EP as it first appeared in the stores, with the original b sides restored to their rightful running order. Can you dance to it? Probably not. Is it art? You bet.

-- Crash the Driver


Japan - The Art of Parties EP

01 The Art of Parties (Extended)
02 The Width of a Room
03 Life Without Buildings
04 The Experience of Swimming

D. Sylvian: Vocals, Guitars, Treated Piano, Synthetic Brass
M. Karn: Fretless Bass, Finger Cymbals
S. Jansen: Drums and Percussion
R. Barberi: Synthesizers

Produced by John Punter and Japan

Canada 12" Virgin [VEP 305] 1981