Tuesday, 26 January 2021

The Human League ‎– Dare / Fascination! (2012 Deluxe Edition) (1981)

Style: Synth-Pop, New Wave
Label: Virgin

1-01.   The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
1-02.   Open Your Heart
1-03.   The Sound Of The Crowd
1-04.   Darkness
1-05.   Do Or Die
1-06.   Get Carter
1-07.   I Am The Law
1-08.   Seconds
1-09.   Love Action (I Believe In Love)
1-10.   Don't You Want Me

            Bonus Tracks
1-11.   The Sound Of The Crowd (12" Version)
1-12.   Don't You Want Me (Extended Dance Mix)
1-13.   The Sound Of The Crowd (Instrumental)
1-14.   Open Your Heart / Non-Stop (Instrumentals)
1-15.   Don't You Want Me (Alternative Version)

2-01.   Hard Times / Love Action (I Believe In Love) (Instrumentals)
2-02.   Mirror Man
2-03.   You Remind Me Of Gold
2-04.   (Keep Feeling) Fascination (Extended Version)
2-05.   I Love You Too Much
2-06.   Mirror Man (Extended Version)
2-07.   You Remind Me Of Gold (Instrumental)
2-08.   (Keep Feeling) Fascination (Improvisation)
2-09.   I Love You Too Much (Dub Version)
2-10.   Total Panic

Synthesizer – Ian Burden, Jo Callis , Philip Adrian Wright
Synthesizer, Vocals – Philip Oakey 
Vocals – Joanne Catherall), Susanne Sulley
Producer – Martin Rushent, The Human League

Dare by The Human League resurfaces for another reissue, and whereas the 21st Anniversary re-release in 2002 combined the album with its instrumental remix partner Love And Dancing, this time across two CDs we get Dare and the EP Fascination! with a fair few bonus tracks thrown in for good measure.

The Sheffield band’s 1981 album has long since established its reputation as a synth-pop classic – best known for the transatlantic number one Don’t You Want Me – and it still sounds as fresh, vibrant and essential as it was over 30 years ago. With producer Martin Rushent, The Human League ushered us into an era of vibrant club culture with their pulsing synth constructions and Phil Oakey’s rich booming vocals. Crucially, Dare remained melodic, commercial pop, with your Mum just as likely to be singing along to the likes of Open Your Heart as you were, while you prepared for a Friday night out on the town.

CD one in this package adds twelve-inch versions of The Sound Of The Crowd, Don’t You Want Me to the standard Dare album, as well as instrumentals of Open Your Heart/Non-Stop and The Sound Of The Crowd. This disc ends with an ‘alternative version’ of Don’t You Want Me which sounds like an early mix of the standard album/seven-inch version.

Fascination! was something of a stop-gap between Dare and the follow-up Hysteria. The six tracks from the EP are all repeated here save for the seven-inch of Hard Times. That track does make an appearance, but only as in instrumental form fused to the instrumental of Love Action (I Believe In Love). The Dub version of  I Love You Too Much is included (in addition to the standard version), having been a 2008 bonus track on the digital version of the Fascination! EP. Total Panic at the end sounds like a dub/instrumental mix of an early version Don’t You Know I Love You (a track which ended up on Hysteria).

The Fascination! EP has so many strong tracks – You Remind Me Of Gold, Mirror Man and (Keep Feeling) Fascination (in both extended and ‘improvisation’ versions) that it ultimately works better with Dare than the Love and Dancing remix release, even if the later obviously shares DNA with the album proper.

The reissue is packaged in a ‘lift off lid’ box – this will be familiar if you have bought any of the Duran Duran, Radiohead or David Bowie reissues in the last few years. Inside are the two CDs in card sleeves, plus a series of postcards with single cover art and a disappointing booklet which lacks any real detail about the tracks and could have been more extensive.

This ‘deluxe’ packaging is starting to feel very generic, and we have reservations about these boxes where you have to tip out various bits of content. When a real effort is made with the format, such as the recent glossy Smashing Pumpkins reissues, or the textured, stickered box used for David Bowie’s Live Santa Monica ’72 back in 2008, it works, but for this Dare box there is no spot varnishing, or a gloss finish and ultimately it looks a bit flat and boring.

There is no denying however, that this is the best all-round Dare package released to date. Although it appears something of a hodge-podge of remixes and album/EP tracks, it is, in the end, fairly comprehensive, apart from omitting a few seven-inch versions.
Paul Sinclair / Super Deluxe Edition

Massacre ‎– Killing Time (1981)

Style: Avantgarde, Free Improvisation
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Celluloid, ReR Megacorp, Spittle Records

01.   Legs
02.   Aging With Dignity
03.   Subway Hearts
04    Killing Time
05.   Corridor
06.   Lost Causes
07.   Not The Person We Knew
08.   Bones
09.   Tourism
10.   Surfing
11.   As Is
12.   After
13.   Gate

Bass, Pocket Trumpet – Bill Laswell
Drums, Percussion – Fred Maher
Guitar, Voice, Keyboards – Fred Frith

Formed in 1980 and only in existence for a year or so (till ashortlived reunion in 1998), Massacre would walk away with the gong for 'Best Art Rock Power Trio of All Time', if such an award existed. Comprising English guitar experimentalist Fred Frith and New Yorkers Bill Laswell and Fred Maher on bass and drums respectively, they imagined an unholy union of The Shadows, Captain Beefheart, Derek Bailey and Funkadelic. All of this was delivered with a punkish intensity that was very much of the time (and place - this was Downtown New York).

But this is no mere antique or curio. Now finally issued on CD (and at the right speed), Killing Timereveals Frith at his most hyperactive and unfettered. With Laswell and Maher snapping at his heels,he uses his (literally) stunning technique to completely subvert any conventional notions of guitar heroics; wiry jazz chording, screams, rumbles and scratches woven into strange, hummable melodies. It's an aesthetic that would still give most guitarists nightmares. Genius.
Peter Marsh  / BBC Review
Avant rock in the early 1980s was a very different beast than in the preceeding decade. After punk and new wave, DIY experimentation, electronic music, and a healthy cross-breeding of scenes via all manner of unlikely collaborations and manifestos-- playing six degrees of separation with musicians from the late-70s and early-80s could easily make bedfellows of a pop star and a no wave anti-celebrity-- bands who might've been content to play just prog or free improvisation or deranged blues began throwing everything into a blender and skronking out whatever they could. Predating today's noise-rock scene-- and earlier acts like Boredoms, Ruins and John Zorn's Naked City-- the first wave of 80s experimental rock musicians had few precedents for their brand of noise, but they did have the ability to choose amongst a huge variety of source material to integrate into their cacophonous attack plans. Heads of the class were This Heat, Material, the Work, Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, James Blood Ulmer, Last Exit, and the international trio Massacre.

Massacre formed in New York City in 1980, after British guitarist Fred Frith had moved there following the demise of his former band, Henry Cow. After hooking up with Material bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Fred Maher, the band recorded a single record in 1981 before disbanding. And they totally killed it: The tunes on Killing Time represent one of the greatest possible ends for the concept of a power trio circa early-80s downtown NYC. Taking hints from no wave, Massacre's music had a generally chaotic, breakneck pace, focusing each member's considerable musical abilities on jagged, squealing "melodies" and an angular yet blurred attack. Some of the music sounds improvised (reminiscent of earlier Henry Cow live stuff, or even mid-70s King Crimson), but the pulse never wavers; momentum never falls below a menacing rumble.

"Legs" is a hybrid of early Devo and Discipline-era Crimson, with atonal guitar lines, pointed phrasing and that unmistakable proto-dancepunk pogo beat. Laswell's rubber band punch underneath the head makes an already feverish tune seem all the more ready to burst, and when "Aging With Dignity Takes Over", the trio dives headfirst into apocalypse-beat. Frith sounds like Derek Bailey gone punk, and the primal drums and Laswell's strings being abused are certainly in keeping with the aggressive, primitivist aesthetic. Perhaps that's the strangest thing about Massacre: They sounded as immediate and unsettled as a no wave act, but played everything like rabid musos.

The title track blows everything out of the water, again hitting the hi-speed beats and ultra-dissonant guitar leads, sounding like submarine chase music-- paranoid and destroying anything in its path. ReR's reissue adds several live bonus tracks, including dark ambient pieces like "You Said", "Carrying", and "Know" that predate Frith's Death Ambient project of the 1990s. Conversely, "F.B.I." is something of a metal cowboy song, and reminds me of tracks on the first Naked City record where the band would start out playing a fake television theme only to erupt in splatter noise at seemingly random intervals.

Suffice to say, Massacre are not for the faint (or musically conservative) at heart. After a long layoff, the band did regroup in the late-90s, though working with ex-This Heat drummer Charles Hayward instead of Mayer. The results were interesting, but to my ears, they never matched the focused intensity of Killing Time. Nevertheless, this record belongs in a pretty select group of great, instrumental avant-rock albums, and is one that should find a fan in anyone who doesn't mind a few shards of broken glass mixed in amongst their riffs.
Dominique Leone / Pitchfork

Lejaren Hiller ‎– Computer Music Retrospective (1986)

Style: Modern Classical, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: WERGO

        Expo '85
01.   Circus Piece - A Cadential Process
02.   Transitions - A Hierarchical Process
03.   Toy Harmonium - A Statistical Process
04.   Mix Or Match - A Tune Generating Process (5 Examples)
        Quartet No. 4 "Illiac Suite"
05.   Experiment One (Presto, Andante, Allegro)
06.   Experiment Two (Adagio, Ma Non Troppo Lento)
07.   Experiment Three (Allegro Con Brio)
08.   Experiment Four (Tanto Presto Che Possibile)
        Computer Music
09.   Decisively
10.   Briskly
11.   Lyrically
12.   Allegro
        An Avalanche
13.   Getting Ready For It
14.   The Avalanche
15.   Cleaning Up The Mess

Cello – Lee Duckles
Flute – Robert Dick
Oboe – Nora Pos
Viola – Theodore Lucas 
Violin – David Rosenboom, William Mullen
Percussion – Jan Williams , Robert Rosen 
Performer – Composition String Quartet
Synthesizer, Computer, Electronics – Lejaren Hiller
Vocals [Pitchman] – Royal MacDonald
Vocals [Prima Donna] – Norma Marder 
Composed By – Charles Ames, G. Allan O'Connor, John Myhill, Lejaren Hiller, Leonard Isaacson

Questa raccolta di musiche composte da Lejaren Hiller attraverso un computer, fu pubblicata all’indomani della presentazione da lui presieduta in Giappone per conto della United States Information Agency all’Esposizione Universale di Tsukuba, il cui tema era incentrato proprio sull’uso della tecnologia.

Per questo motivo l’album prodotto dalla Wergo si apre con alcuni brani che furono realizzati in quell’occasione da Lejaren Hiller e il suo gruppo di lavoro, che comprendeva Charles Ames e John Myhill. Va detto che si tratta per lo più di esperimenti finalizzati a dimostrare al grande pubblico dell’Expo i tanti modi in cui il computer poteva essere utilizzato per comporre musica, sia da solo e sia interfacciandolo con altri dispositivi. Hiller tentò di abbracciare stili differenti, dalla musica popular a quella d’avanguardia, al fine di enfatizzare l’intento dimostrativo.

Nella raccolta presentata dalla Wergo, sotto il titolo Expo ’85 (1985) sono presentati in realtà quattro brani, dei quali non tutti firmati da Lejaren Hiller: il primo, tra quelli del compositore americano, è Circus Piece realizzato con un sintetizzatore Kurzweil 250, in cui Hiller ripropone delle procedure di selezione del materiale secondo delle procedure già adottate negli anni Cinquanta per la Illiac Suite.

La seconda traccia, Trasitions, è stata realizzata da Charles Ames con un Oberheim Xpander. In questo lavoro l’uso del computer doveva dimostrare la possibilità di utilizzarlo per la composizione di strutture complesse oltre che per la selezione degli elementi musicali.

A questo segue Toy Harmonium per pianoforte sintetico, il cui titolo è un omaggio ai lavori di James Tenney.

Chiude la serie dell’Expo, un altro brano firmato da Lejaren Hiller, in collaborazione con Charles Ames, Mix or Match. sostanzialmente un programma in grado di generare un numero indefinibile di melodie jazz, basate sulle regole fissate durante la fase di programmazione. Si tratta di una metodologia anche questa ereditata dalla Illiac Suite, con la differenza che in questo caso anche l’esecuzione è affidata al computer, quindi totalmente automatizzata.

Se c’è un brano che non poteva mancare in questa raccolta è senza dubbio la Illiac Suite (1957), non solo perché si tratta delle prima opera musicale realizzata attraverso un computer, ma anche perché il successo di quest’ultima convinse Hiller ad abbandonare la chimica per dedicarsi esclusivamente alla musica.

Per ascoltare tutti e quattro i movimenti vi rimando alla voce Illiac Suite della sezione argomenti.

Le successive tre tracce presentano un lavoro articolato in tre movimenti: Computer music (1968) per nastro magnetico e percussioni. Quest’opera fu realizzata in collaborazione con il compositore americano G. Allan O’Connor, molto più noto per la sua attività didattica. Non è menzionata tra le opere più significative di Hiller, anche perchè Computer Music è un riadattamento delle strofe I, II e IV di Computer Cantata, realizzata con la collaborazione di Robert Baker ma non presente in questa raccolta

Le ultime due tracce sono Persiflage (1977) e An Avalanche (1968). Quest’ultimo è un lavoro che si basa su un testo satirico del commediografo Frank Parman, che svolge un’analisi sulla situazione dell’arte negli Stati Uniti sul finire degli anni Sessanta. Persiflage, invece, è un lavoro strumentale per flauto, oboe e percussioni, la cui partitura fu ottenuta attraverso l’utilizzo del software Phrase.
Alex Di Nunzio / musicainformatica.it