Five songs by the greatest band in history

November 30th, 2018

Foxy Shazam
Born To The Devil
Sky In A Room
Drain You
I’ll Be Home Soon Mother Earth
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
If you’re reading this close to its original “publication,” then you still have a chance to own one of the greatest albums of all-time on vinyl for the first time. Enjoy The Ride records recently released Foxy Shazam’s self-titled album (their third overall and their major label debut) on vinyl. While the colored variant has sold out, some copies of the equally-limited standard black vinyl variation remain.

I really, really (really really really really….really) cannot express in words just how great that album is. When I reviewed that album in 2010 I thought “this will probably be the best album of the decade.” Now, here we are, nearly nine years later, and I’m still standing by that. And here we are, nearly nine years later, and I still can’t find the words to properly describe it. I think the best I came up with at the time was something like “one part screamo, one part Queen, and one part a kick in the genitals.” I guess that’s still the best I can do. But if you don’t like screamo (I sure as hell don’t) still give them a chance. By the time of their third album, that element of the group had definitely been put on the backburner. It was still there, that’s for sure, but the glam and classic rock influences had more than taken over.

Of course, as their self-titled album is in-print (and I’m actively encouraging you to buy it) I can’t share tracks from that. Instead, above are a few of my favorite Foxy rarities, taken from various sources. The first two numbers, “Born To The Devil” and “Sky In A Room” a bonus tracks to the Japanese edition of their second album, the oddly-titled Introducing. “Born To The Devil” sounds a lot like the other tracks on that (awesome) album, a bizarre combination of howling and yelling with a strong piano base, whilst “Sky In A Room” is a solo instrumental number by the keyboardist Sky. Low-key and pretty.

Their bewildering cover of “Drain You” is taken from a 2011 online-only Nevermind tribute album, put out by Spin Magazine. That album is not very good. It has Amanda Palmer butchering “Polly” as only she can, and other ill-advised reworkings of Nirvana classics. Midnight Juggernauts are a good band. Their electropop cover of “Come As You Are” is bad. The only solid tracks on it are The Vaselines’ cover of “Lithium,” EMA’s take on “Endless, Nameless” and this insane reworking of “Drain You” by Foxy, which all but deconstructs the song entirely into something else. If you’re coming to this hoping for a faithful rendition of the Nirvana song, you’ll be let down. But if you’ve ever wondered what Nevemind-era Nirvana would sound like as if sung by Freddie Mercury and with a horn section, then hey, this cover’s got you covered.

The final two tracks are, at least from what I can gather, vinyl only B-sides. “I’ll Be Home…” serving as the B-side to “I Like It,” and “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” the B-side to “Oh Lord.”

“I’ll Be Home Soon Mother Earth” finds Foxy in full classic rock mode. If you told me this was a track by some long-forgotten 70s has-been act that was oddly proto-screamo I’d believe you. It’s a good number, but it pales in comparison to “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” which I still think is secretly Foxy’s best damn song. How the hell this ended up as a vinyl-only B-side will forever remain a mystery to me. Not only should this have been on the album proper, it should’ve have been the lead fucking single. This track is a distillation of everything that made Foxy the powerhouse they were. Amazing vocals as always by Eric, fantastic work on the keys by Sky, a boundless energy that demands you get up on your feet, and absolutely incredible lyrics of self-reflection that rival Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Fuck. This song kills me. If Foxy reformed tomorrow and released this track as the lead-off single, I bet it would chart better than any of their other tunes.

So, if you like anything I’m sharing here tonight, I implore you, with all my heat, buy Foxy Shazam. Buy it on vinyl if you can, but hell, pick it up on iTunes or even on CD if you want. It’s best album by the best band of all-time. And keep on the lookout for Eric Sean Nally’s solo album! He keeps alleging it’ll come soon. I hope it does. Dude made Macklemore sound cool, he can do anything.

 

Stupid band names and stupid business

November 19th, 2018

Magic Marmalade
America (America Tribute Mix)
America (Hot Chill Mix)
This song consists of basically four elements:
1. A vocal sample from “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life”
2. A chorus shouting “go go up the road again”
3. A dude in a heavy German accent scowling “AMERICA!”
4. What sounds like someone having s seizure on synthesizer

And repeat.

So what I’m saying is, it’s pretty good. Strange how a dude yelling “America!” following by a vaguely menacing melody works as a shorthand to describe how I feel about the state of the union in 2018. Funny or sad. Whatever.

I guess I should talk about Magic Marmalade (sigh…that name) but I really don’t know who they are. Discogs’ profile for the group is literally nothing more than “Italian project.” That’s it. Dudes don’t even get a “An.” The four Italians in the group are unknown to me, but I’m sure if I put forth the effort I could Kevin Bacon at least one of them to a Goblin offshoot in less than five steps. From what I can gather, they never put out an actual record, just a series of singles followed by a compilation. If there are any Magic Marmalade (god…that fucking name) superfans out there and you wanna share a deep cut, let me know in the comments. And if anyone from Magic Marmalade (….) is reading this, let me know what the fuck is up with your name. Cuz damn.

 

John Carpenter
The End (J. Anthony Scratch Mix)
Okay, I’m going to use this opportunity to rant about something only tangentally related to this song. I apologize. Okay, not really, it’s my blog after all and no one is forcing you to read it.

The new Halloween movie came out a few weeks ago, any of y’all see it? Was it good? I heard it was good. I, being a die-hard Halloween fan who even owns the one with Busta Rhymes, really wanted to see it. Only one problem, it never came out in theaters here in Japan. Why? No fucking clue. No one knows. My boyfriend even did a bit of digging in Japanese and couldn’t find anything aside from angry Japanese fans wondering the same thing.

Now, you may be thinking “hey, that’s just how international release dates are.” And you’d be right, if it was 1978. It’s 2018. Shit’s changed. Halloween was nearly simultaneously released in about 40 countries. Forty! You know who got to see Halloween the week of Halloween? The Ukrraine! Sri Lanka! Poland! Kuwait! Turkey! Kazakhstan! What the fuck? You’re telling me that the studio had time to negotiate a release and subtitle the movie in…whatever they speak there (sorry) but not do the same in Japan?

Japan isn’t getting the movie until April. What the fuck they gonna do, rename it Easter and play up the whole resurrection angle?

One thing that I’ve really started to notice ever since I moved overseas is that media companies are woefully behind when it comes to adapting their product and sales strategies for an increasingly shrinking/international audience. They create these artificial restrictions and releases for reasons that no doubt make sense to them, probably financial ones. But they fail to realize that the people who really want to see the movie/TV show/whatever that’s being locked away for whatever-the-fuck reason sure as hell are going to find a way to watch it. Legal or not. And all that means is less money for them.

When MST3K announced a new season, I was hella stoked. I didn’t back the Kickstarter, but I figured I’d be able to watch it easily when it came out, especially when Netflix announced that they picked the show up. To this day, the show has never shown up on Netflix here in Japan. And sure, I get that it would probably be hard to translate to a Japanese audience, but they could’ve just put it up as is, with a disclaimer. It’s not like doing that is going to piss anyone off. I wanted to watch it, so I just fucking stole it. Fuck them. I pay for their fucking service. Why the hell should I feel bad when they withhold their own product from me without giving me any option to view it legally. I stole that shit guilt free. And if they do the same with season two I’ll probably swipe that too.

America is probably already facing a brain drain, if not, it will soon. As more and more Americans immigrate abroad to escape dire political oppression/climate hell, they’re still going to want to consume their favorite media once they settle down in their new home. And if they can’t pay to get what they want. They’ll just steal it. Why the fuck shouldn’t they?

Anyways, “The End” is the theme to Carpenter’s classic Assault On Prescient 13. It was kind of a club hit back in the day, no doubt due to its electro sound that made it well-suited for breakdancing. I had never heard this particiular version though, which I found off of an oddly-named 12″ single that featured it, and a terrible track called “Waiting For A Train” by an act called Moonbase as the B-side. I’m not sharing that because it’s really bad. Seriously. I know I share a lot of “bad” music but even I have my limits. And considering I watched Cannonball Run and Congo this weekend, that’s really saying something.

 

Woke MJ

November 15th, 2018


Michael Jackson
Black Or White (The Clivilles & Cole House/Club Mix)
Black Or White (The Clivilles & Cole House/Dub Mix)
Black Or White (The Underground Club Mix)
Black Or White (House With Guitar Radio Mix)
Black Or White (Tribal Beats)
Earth Song (Han’s Radio Experience)
Earth Song (Han’s Around The World Experience)
As much as I lament the lack of protest music in the year 2018, I think the lack of message songs, even ones without an overt political viewpoint, is even worse. Save for the occasional track about suicide, we just don’t get many songs that cover social issues these days. Sure, “We Are The World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” might not be very good, but at least they were trying to raise awareness and support for a serious problem. Where are the songs about civil rights, workers’ rights, the shrinking middle class, the opiod crisis, and so on?

If anyone under the age of 25 is reading this, they might think it’s silly of me to even ask that. But there are plenty of amazing songs that tackle such topics. There’s the entirety of Bruce Springsteen’s back catalog, for starters, not to mention songs from artists as diverse as Phil Collins (“Another Day In Paradise”), Nena (“99 Luftballoons”), Ultravox (“All Fall Down”), and even Frankie Goes To Hollywood (“Two Tribes.”)

Of course, it’s not entirely fair of me to say that artists aren’t making socially-conscious music. They are, it’s just that people aren’t listening to it all that much. Billboard made a list of their favorite protest songs of last year, and the overwhelming majority of those tracks were not hits, save for the Pink song and Jay-Z’s amazing “The Story of OJ.” But it’s hard to say if people don’t want these songs, or of the outlets covering music/the radio aren’t trying hard enough to get these songs out there. Chicken and the egg. I still think that if the song is good enough, or if the artist is big enough, the message can get out there. That’s why it’s a shame that artists like Bruno Mars, Imagine Dragons, and Taylor Swift are fucking up and skirting their responsibilities as some of the biggest artists in the world.

Michael Jackson knew he had the world’s ear, and that’s why he wrote songs like “Man In The Mirror” as these two tracks that I’m featuring tonight. When you’re the biggest star on Earth, you can turn a cry for social justice into a Top 10 single if you try hard enough. “Black Or White” was considered cheesy by some even at the time, but I’m never going to mock a message of peace and racial harmony. It’s a simple song, that’s for sure, ignoring the broader social issues that led to racial divides, but hey, it was a different time. This came out after the Rodney King beating (but before the riots), there were a lot of calls for racial harmony at the time. We were still a decade or so away from more people addressing the larger issues that were keeping that from being a reality. Gotta start somewhere.

“Earth Song” is, duh, a song about the environment, a topic that is crazily barely ever talked about in the media, let alone music, these days. That’s insanity. Literal insanity. The environment should be the number one issue on all of our minds at all times. The world is on the brink of an environmental collapse. Like soon, like, within most of our lifetimes. But you really have to dig deep in the media to even find mention of this, and it’s 100% absent in our pop culture. The pop stars of 2018 could actually help raise awareness about this dire issue. But they aren’t even trying. The world as we know it could end relatively soon. You think someone out there would try to right a fucking song about it.

Can a song literally save the world? I don’t know. But it could at least try.

If Prince really knew about The Future he would’ve warned us

November 4th, 2018

The world ended in 1990.

Prince
The Future (Remix)
Electric Chair (Remix)

These tracks are new to me. The original versions first appeared on the Batman soundtrack, which I still haven’t bothered to pick up, one of the more embarrassing Prince-sized holes in my record collection. I found this single for just a couple hundred yen so I figured why the fuck not.

As I’ve never heard the original versions, I can’t compare these remixes to them. If what I’ve read is any indication though, the mixes are pretty different from the album versions, especially “The Future” which is transformed into a straight-up house track thanks to the remix work of William Orbit. Geez, remember that five minutes when he was the hot shit producer? He did some great stuff with Madonna, but I don’t think his work has aged particularly well, especially his solo stuff. Although to be honest, I think a lot of it wasn’t all that great the first time around. I had a friend who kept a copy of one of his albums for years, specifically because there was a song on it that she thought was so bad that it was hilarious. That’s some cold shit.

Anyways, yeah, Prince. He was cool. Fuck. I sure miss Prince. I was just getting back into his music when he died. Yo, Plectrumelectrum is a damn good record. I really recommend it, especially if you dig this remix of “The Electric Chair,” it really reminds me of that album’s groovy guitar funk. I hope Donna Grantis, the guitar player on that album, goes on to do some more work soon. She fucking slays man.

As much as I dig Prince, I remember that Batman was one of the first times I wasn’t 100% up with what he was putting down. I didn’t really dig the Batman movies as a kid all that much, I guess. I mean, I liked them. But they were a little too dark for my tastes. God, if 10-year-old 1990 me thought that Tim Burton’s Batman was too dark, he probably would’ve pissed his pants and crawled into a fetal position if he had seen any of the Dark Knight movies. Burton’s Batman movies are absolutely day-glo happy fun times compared to those flicks, which I have kind of grown to despise because of their grimdark bullshit wankery And even my 10-year-old self could tell that Prince schilling for Batman wasn’t exactly cool. “Batdance” is a stupid, stupid fucking song. And the video is just as dumb. Holy hell, speaking of shit that didn’t age well.

Come to think of it, Batman kicked off my cold spell on Prince. While I dug “Gett Off” (not understanding what it was about) I didn’t like most of the other tracks off of Diamonds And Pearls, and when Prince went full symbol on us all I (along with most people) dropped off completely. Coming back to a lot of those albums now, I really do enjoy them. But I think they would’ve bored grunge-era teenage me to death. Best I avoided them at the time.

Whilst I was complaining that the Michael Jackson estate hasn’t given the fans what the want, the Prince estate seems to slowly getting their shit together. Did you know that earlier this year they put TWENTY-THREE out-of-print Prince albums on iTunes and various streaming services? Yeah, sure a lot of them aren’t exactly great (although Emancipation is fucking rad as fuck) but hey, at least they’re out there now. Prince’s estate even curated a special digital only best of that encompasses his 1995-2010 work, which has historically been very hard to dive into thanks to its eclectic nature. My next vacation I’m going to have to buy all of this and just spend a week in Prince World.

Prince World is great, everyone. It’s all purple (duh) and all the clothes are custom-made to fit out that day, just as Prince would’ve wanted. And absolutely nothing is on high shelves.

Because Prince was tiny.

Annie’s not okay, and neither am I – Smooth Criminal Remixes

November 3rd, 2018

Last time I posted Madonna. Let’s stay in the 80s for a while longer. It’s safer here.

Michael Jackson
Smooth Criminal (Extended Dance Mix)
Smooth Criminal (Extended Dance Mix Radio Edit)
Smooth Criminal (”Annie” Mix)
Smooth Criminal (Dance Mix – Dub Version)
Smooth Criminal (A Cappella)
I originally posted these nearly a decade ago but if you somehow were reading then and you’re still reading now, well firstly, thanks for not bailing on me like 90% of my audience did. Secondly, you should probably download these versions now. Those old ones were ripped from a scratchy record on a subpar turntable. These are fresh new CD rips, taken from a Japanese single that I scored last week, during the same trip that got me the previously featured Madonna single.

I’ve bought this on vinyl at least twice, and both sounded like shit in the exact same way, even with nearly identical scratches! I can only imagine there was some kind of problem with the original pressing. I’ve had that happen with other singles in the past. No matter how many times I buy “Right By My Side” by the Eurythmics, for example, I have the same problem.

Anyways, that’s a problem no more thanks to the wonders of digital music. CDs are underrated! Seriously! This vinyl boom is getting ridiculous. Why you wanna buy music on vinyl? What’s the point?

I know that sounds funny coming from me, proprietor of Lost Turntable, but I’ve long said that the main reason I got into vinyl wasn’t out of nostalgia, but because a lot of what I buy just isn’t easily available on CD or digitally. Of course, that was much truer when I started this blog 12 years ago than it is now. Truth be told, I buy a hell of a lot more CDs these days. And the vastness of iTunes digital library has literally saved me hundreds of dollars on formerly out-of-print CDs and LPs. Did you know that Prince’s Crystal Ball is on iTunes now?! Thirty songs for twenty bucks! You know how much that fucker goes for on CD? More than twenty bucks, I’ll tell you what.

But these remixes still aren’t on iTunes. Hell, most MJ remixes remain insanely out-of-print. A decision that is just utterly baffling. It’s not like the demand isn’t there. Why they hell are they sitting on these? Are they waiting for another anniversary so they can re-sell us all Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous again? I mean, I’ll buy them, I don’t mind. Assuming the remixes are included and sound good.

“Smooth Criminal” is the best shit. A while back Todd In The Shadows did a hilarious video profiling Alien Ant Farm and their cover of the track. In that video, he posits that, as dopey as that cover is, it helped cement “Smooth Criminal” in the popular lexicon as one of Michael Jackson’s best. He might be right, it certainly gave it a boost. But to me it’s always been one of his best, if not his absolute best, track. Everything about “Smooth Criminal” is just as on-point now as it was all those years ago. Top-notch production, dope AF bassline, and, of course, some of the best vocals that Michael ever graced the world with.

And of course, there’s the video another of MJ’s best. And definitely an early inspiration for my…*ahem*…interest in men in suits. That video just gives me the vapors I say.

All of these remixes are ass-kickular fan-fucking-tastic. Even the dub, which is really just a pure instrumental, is killer. It lets you hear just how dope that bass is. And the “A Cappella,” whilst not really an a cappella mix (it still has the drum beat), serves as an absolutely stellar showcase of MJ’s amazing voice. You put this shit on at a club and people would dance to it. You don’t even need that bassline (dope as it is).

More MJ soon. And some Prince too. Fuck it. Let us worship our fallen 80’s idols so they may be resurrected and save us from our accursed reality.

Madonna’s Hot Seven Inch Record

November 2nd, 2018

Madonna
Burning Up (Japanese 7″ Mix)
Physical Attraction (Japanese 7″ Mix)
This is really why I moved to Japan. Okay, not really, but I’d be lying if “finding Japanese only remixes” wasn’t in my top ten.

Of all Madonna’s early singles, “Burning Up” has the most convoluted release history. The song was originally released in the states as a 12″ single in March of 1983. That version is a 12″ remix, about six minutes long. The album came out a few month later, and featured a 4:48 version that is similar to the 12″ remix. But at some point, there was a switch, and the album version was replaced with a different version that’s 3:45 long and sounds drastically different, with different synthesizer and guitar parts.

But in addition to those versions, there’s also at least one 7″ single version. While America never got a 7″ single for “Burning Up,” other countries did. It’s nearly the same length as the replacement album version, and is actually an edited version of the 12″ single version.

I don’t know how many different 7″ edits/versions there are. According to some, the Japanese single is different than the European one. I have no idea one way or the other, as the Japanese version is the only one I have. I would hazard to say that if there are any differences between the Japanese version and 7″ versions found elsewhere, they’re probably minor.

The story of “Physical Attraction” is a lot more simple. It served as a B-side to the original US 12″ single, but that version was just the album version with no changes. This version is a 7″ version that was exclusive to 7″ singles. Neither of these versions have been made widely available since, save for a massive 40 CD singles collection that came out in Japan a few years back. So finding this single for less than ten bucks was a pretty good score for me.

I almost went an entire calendar year without posting a Madonna remix! Thank god we were able to avoid that.

Shohjo-Tai’s Happy Fun Synthpop Fun

October 21st, 2018

My neck is killing me and my brain is broken but if I don’t write about stupid Japanese synthpop that literally no one on earth cares about, WHO WILL?

Shohjo-Tai
Forever 2001
Flamingo Island
Space Magic
I’ve been working here in Japan for nearly five years now, time flies. But in that time, I’ve rarely had any of my students recommend any music worth a damn to me. Very early on, someone suggested Capsule, and I got way into them. But most of the time, in the rare cases that students do want to talk about Japanese music, they only bother recommending acts like Mr. Children or Yellow Monkey, who are both fine bands I guess, but just sound like bland rock to me: Japanese Coldplays.

But I was teaching an adorable housewife a few weeks ago who knew that I dig older music, and she was all excited to recommend to me this band. She explained to me that her friends who like “techno-pop” all like this group, even though they never registered any major hits. She assumed I would like them too. And she was very much correct.

Shohjo-Tai somehow released eight albums/EPs in just five years. The general consensus seems to be that their best release is From S, a mini-album that features an assist from Haruomi Hosono and Koshi Miharu. Of course, that one’s a bit harder to find so I haven’t picked it up yet. I did find some good stuff though, especially the tracks from this single, which originally came out in 1985. Both “Forever 2001” and “Flamingo Island” are hella fun, bouncy tracks that probably weren’t hits only for the fact that the Japanese singles market was absolutely flooded with tracks like them at the time. The instrumentation is fantastic on both of those tracks, synthesizer saturation all the way, but with some depth as well. “Forever 2001” features some pretty solid guitar, and “Flamingo Island” is booming with dope bass.

This single was produced by Akihiro Shigematsu, a person whose name I had not heard before. According to Discogs, he didn’t do much, but that might just be because his page lacks his full production discography. Hell, he’s not even credited on Discogs with this release. One fairly notable artist he did work with was Junko Ohashi, another lesser-known idol of the 80s whose work has vaulted back into the spotlight thanks to that strange “City Pop” resurgence.

The final track of the three, “Space Magic” is a bit different than the first two. It’s a dance track first and foremost, with the vocals almost secondary. When I first heard it, I was reminded of Koshi Miharu, so I wasn’t surprised to find that she did, in fact, write and arrange the track. It’s a fantastic tune, and could be mistaken for a YMO b-side thanks to its excellent production and electronic arrangements. The girls of Shohjo-Tai are actually barely present on it, just showing up for a smidge of vocals halfway through and then again at the end. It almost sounds like an instrumental remix of another track, but I can’t find one with more vocals anywhere, so I guess this is it.

If you dig this music and want more Shohjo-Tai, check out YouTube, people have uploaded a lot of their best stuff there. And if I can ever get my hand on From S, you bet your butt I’ll be sharing it here. Gimme that Hosono.

Forgotten Synthpop by a Has-Been

October 5th, 2018

Seona Dancing
More To Lose (Extended Version)
You’re On My Side

I can’t believe I found this in a used records bin for 300 yen. This thing goes for close to a $100 online these days.

That’s of course, not because of the song’s quality (which I’ll get to in a bit) but because of the new romantic looking dude on the right. That would be Rick Gervais. As I’m sure many of you know, Seona Dancing was Gervais’ early attempt at stardom, but they only managed to release less than a handful of failed singles before fading into obscurity (save for the Philippines, where they are legendary one-hit-wonders). Do a YouTube search of the group and you’ll uncover countless uploads of their few songs, as well as bits from various talk shows where the hosts drudge out clips from the group in an effort to embarrass Gervais, who has no doubt long gotten sick of the joke by now.

I wonder if any of the talk show hosts who play these clips realize that the few songs that Seona Dancing put out were, actually not that bad? Sure, they’re very dated and not entirely original, but that goes for a lot of fantastic music from that era. You’re going to tell me that “More To Lose” is somehow an embarrassing relic while songs of similar quality by B-tier acts like General Public, Spandau Ballet, or any other act featured on a John Hughes soundtrack are any better?

“More To Lose” should’ve been a hit. It has a fantastic feel of melancholy, the opening piano melody is a hell of a hook, and Gervais’ early-80s Bowie impersonation is spot on. For me, it’s evocative of “Don’t You Forget About Me,” only slightly less epic and far less annoying. (The only people who are more sick of that song than me are Simple Minds.)

“You’re On My Side” isn’t as good, and a far more obvious Bowie knock-off. It’s way too minimal, with zero hooks. It’s just some drum beats, two keys on a keyboard, and Gervais’ howling, which is where the faults in his voice become a bit more glaring. Still though, is it any worse than any other mid-level synthpop song of the time? Not really.

There are dozens of rips of these tracks online, but most are: A) On YouTube and B) sound overly compressed or scratchy. I’m sure I’m not the first person to provide high-quality rips of these online, but I must be the first person in a while, as I can’t find any right now. I doubt that it’s going to get re-released anytime soon. Someone I was talking to on Twitter suggested that Gervais’ is crazy for keeping this out-of-print. But I highly doubt that he owns these tracks. London Records (now part of Universal I believe) probably has better things to do than pull this one out of the cellar, even if they could find the masters, which I doubt. And maybe with Gervais’ recent move to “I’m going to offend you AAAAAH” style of comedy, maybe they just don’t want to deal with any baggage a re-release might entail.

Shame, it’s one of the best things that edgelord asshole ever did.

 

Update: Okay I know yinz mean well by pointing out the other blog that has these songs. And I’m not mad at anyone who did that. But that other blog posts often posts (not so good) rips of legally available music. Additionally, that other blog routinely PLAGIARIZES written content without proper attribution. I refuse to link to them, or name. I hope it burns to the ground.

Zygoat is G.O.A.T.

September 30th, 2018

I’m still waist-deep in my synthesizer/prog kick, and I expect I’ll be swimming in sequencers for quite a long time if I keep discovering lost masterpieces like this.

Zygoat
Side 1
Side 2

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before on this blog, most early synthesizer work was very simplistic because of the limitations of the technology. Early synthesizers were monophonic, they could only create one sound at a time. That means complex, well-arranged releases like Wendy Carlos’ legendary Switched-On Bach were comprised of seemingly endless dubs and layers, a terrifyingly complex process. While Carlos rose above these rather strict limitations, most others did not, leading to some two-dimensional, if still fun, recordings.

This is definitely not the case with Zygoat, a record filled with so many over-the-top and complex arrangements that it’s downright manic. It’s a good example of just how quickly synthesizer technology progressed in the six years between the 1968 release of Switched-On Bach and this record, which came out in 1974.

The sound here is just so unique that it’s hard to describe. There are definitely multiple synths at work here, some providing a fuzzy, distorted sound, while other give a cleaner, more symphonic, presentation. Most of the sounds themselves don’t sound entirely unique, I’m sure I’ve heard other records from the era using most of these settings and configurations. What makes Zygoat really stand out is just the tone of it all. It starts out rather basic, not too far removed from something you might hear from Tomita or even Carlos’ early work, but things escalate quickly, the pace picks up, and the record just explodes. Solos reminiscent of violin concertos (or classical guitar riffs) take dominance, as a barrage of out-of-this-world rhythms and backing harmonies accompany them. Fans of Stardrive might make a comparison with those legendary albums, but while Stardrive was funk, and while this certainly has funk elements, there’s a lot more going on here.

I guess what really gets me about this album is the pace. It has its slow spots, including an extended section where the tones are distorted and drawn out in a way that almost makes the synthesizers sound drunk (it’s pretty odd) the most memorable pieces of this album are the sections that work at a breakneck pace. When this album is firing on all cylinders, it’s just beyond words.

Zygoat is the brainchild of one man, a Burt Alcantara, but it’s nearly impossible to find out anything about him. According to Discogs this is the man’s only real release. The only mentions I find of him online are brief, and there appears to be no interview of him proper. What the hell became of this dude?

One of the few mentions I can find of Burt is in this interview with Brian Hodgson, who also worked on this album to some extent. Hodgson is a name that some of you might recognize, especially if you’re a Dr. Who fan. He was the man behind many of that show’s electronic sounds, including the iconic Daleks. After leaving the BBC, he went on to work on a few pioneering electronic albums, including fantastic works by White Noise and Wavemaker. He’s not credited by name here, but the album was recorded at his Electrophon Studios, so I imagine he was involved somewhat, if only tangentially.

I really wanted to pin down exactly what synthesizers were used in the making of this record, but that proved to be a bit tricky too. The back cover simply states that album was made using “ARP and RSE Synthesizers,” but it doesn’t go into any detail about make or model numbers. And, despite my interest in synthesizers from the era, I’m not very good at identifying them by ear. I would imagine that the ARPs that were used here were some variation of the 2500 though, as that was the big gun in the ARP line-up at the time. There might be an ARP String Ensemble at use here as well, which was one of the first polyphonic synths they produced.

What interests me more is the “RSE synthesizer” part of that credit, as I’ve never heard of that line of synths before. A quick scour through Google doesn’t turn up much either. All I could find was a brief mention in the book Analog Synthesizers, by one Mark Jenkins, where he says that the RSE model was a custom build by someone named Ken Gale, who worked at Electrophon. Other than that, I got zilch on that dude. I wonder what other albums feature these custom units, and if they sound anything like Zygoat.

So we got an unknown by unknown artists featuring unknown technology. I live for this shit and I hope you do too. In a year where I’ve uncovered so many fantastic obscure records (at least, to me they’re fantastic), this one might stand out as the absolute best of the bunch. Damn essential work for any synth fanatic out there.

I really did try to break this one up into individual tracks, but, even the track times of this record are unknown. And since most of the tracks segue together pretty flawlessly, I couldn’t even begin to tell when most of them ended and began. I thought it would be best just to leave them as is. Hope that doesn’t bother anyone.

And, as is always the case with this bafflingly obtuse obscurities, if you know anything about anyone at all who even had a remote connection to it, please let me know! I’m dying to find out more about this one!

The Brain Solution: Part 2

September 23rd, 2018

Last week I covered half of the 1988 Japanese alt-rock compilation The Brain Solution by focusing on the songs from the album by the groups Joy and Bardo Thodol. While not pop acts by any stretch of the imagination, both of them had a sound that was at least partially rooted in the commercial. Joy’s tracks had a groovy psychedelic bent that would’ve fit in totally fine in the British 60s-revival scene of the time, or possibly in the Paisley Underground. And Bardo Thodol was just doing a damn good Cocteau Twins impersonation, and the Cocteau Twins are good so there you go.

These groups are decidedly less commercial in every sense of the word. While I’m bummed that Joy and Bardo Thodol never broke through into any mainstream success or got enough exposure to even warrant a full-length album release, I can get why these bands didn’t make it big. They sound odd, noncommercial and jarring now. I can only imagine how they came across in 1988.

Also, one of them has the worst band name I’ve ever heard, but I’ll get that in a minute.

Gakidou
Voice Of Psychoprogram
(G.K.D.) 0023
I don’t know what to call this type of music. As out-of-my-element that I was when talking about Bardo Thodol, I’m doubly so here. I’m going to go with industrial/goth. These dudes dug Skinny Puppy no doubt.

This is electronic rock music, focusing primarily on loops, drum machines and scary noises. “Voice Of Psychoprogram” has a groove to it. I could imagine myself dancing to that at a club’s goth night. But the second track is just a slog of a slog. The vocalizations literally sound like someone vomiting repeatedly. I don’t know what they were going for. But hey, it’s unique so I’ll give them that much.

According to Discogs, this group has released several independent albums, but I don’t know if I trust that page entirely. It says all their albums came out in 2014 and 2015, nearly 30 years after their first single release. I suspect that this might be a case of there being two bands with the same name accidentally getting lumped into one page. That, or the band never broke up and discovered the joys of independent distribution 30+ years into their career. Stranger things have happened.

Regardless, it’s kind of hard for me to dig into more information into this band, thanks to their incredibly generic name. (Gakidou is a Japanese word for a type of supernatural being.)

Katsurei
電話の悪魔 (Phone Devil)
Gakidou’s name is generic (especially for a goth band) but at least they didn’t go Katsurei’s route.

Katsurei is Japanese for “circumcision.”

Why the fuck would you name your band “circumcision?” Imagine the horrible sentences that band name generated:

“Hey, you guys wanna go see Circumcision tonight?”
“Yo, you should really check out Circumcision!”
“That Circumcision show was amazing!”

And would you want to buy a t-shirt that had “CIRCUMCISION” in a bold typeface?

Shockingly enough, out of all the bands on The Brain Solution, they’re the ones who have seemingly found the greatest success. They released five albums throughout the later half of the 80s and into the 90s. They’re 2010 reunion LP was released by the relatively big Japanese album P-Vine. They apparently are continuing to tour and make new music to this day. Say what you will about Circumcision, they certainly have staying power.

They’re actually not bad (kind of acoustic college rock), but unfortunately I am never going to hear any of their other songs ever. Because there’s no way in hell I’m walking into my local record store and asking for “Circumcision.”

People here already think I’m weird, I don’t need that.