Vol. 1, Issue #18 Sept. 29th - October 12th, 2006

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

Unknowns Reissued

Last year I was at a sneak preview of The Tulsa Record Convention where one dealer had nothing but over-priced imported CDs of and reference books about obscure European psychedelic and progressive rock. As I thumbed through his wares he kept bellowing, “I’ll bet you never heard of that band!” He was right on every occasion, and his redneck smugness made me even less interested in gambling a twenty on an unknown group with dots and slashes through the letters of their names. The next day I was standing outside of the convention and I mentioned to someone that a friend and I had spent around $100 all together. From behind me I heard “You didn’t buy any of my disc!” I turned, saw the progressive dealer and said, “I have never heard of any of your discs.” I’m sure there were great works of music in there somewhere, but the cost of just seeing if I wanted to get into it was too steep.

It’s ironic that even in the media deluge we’re in, more and more information is hitting the web about obscure music, much of which is unavailable or just plain hard to get, that is unless you really like dealing with fly-by-night pirates on eBay.

I heard about a new website that seems like a good idea: Anthology Recordings.com is set to launch in the first week in October. Their goal is to bring obscure and little known cult masterpieces from the experimental side of rock (psychedelic, progressive, post-punk, and dub) and make them available for sale on-line, at domestic prices, along with downloads of the CD artwork. While the concept of downloadable music is hardly new, the fact that Anthology is going into such exclusively obscure territory makes them an interesting experiment to watch. Remember, even the now-monolithic Rhino Records started with two guys in a garage mailing reissues of forgotten surf music to a handful of collectors.

There is a mad brilliance in the concept. I remember the disastrous Scamp Records, which put out beautifully remastered, annotated, two-LPs-on-one-CD reissues of exotica/ space-age / lounge masterpieces. The company lost its shirt due to belief that everybody desired rare recordings that were fetching $100 on vinyl. In fact there were only maybe 100 people were driving the price up on those few items. Once you release 1000 copies, those hundred people get satiated, another hundred take a chance, and you’re stuck eating thousands of leftover CDs.

With Anthology Recordings, there’s no physical product to move or distribute, so the initial cost of buying the rights is really the only overhead, aside from publicity and the website. By going into the super obscure they are supplying a market that is not even readily downloadable from file sharing sites.

I was able to get preview copies of the first wave of releases and they are all very interesting, if you like their respective genres.

The Suicide Commandos were an early band out of the Minneapolis scene, forming in 1974. Their live album from 1979, “The Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert” was originally a limited release of 1000 copies. It’s great punk rock from the day, with original three-chord songs broken up by the occasional cover from the “Nuggets” compilation. It has the free energy of punk before it came with a rulebook, which means assholes that go on about how punk they are will probably not understand it.

Pärson Sound is an experimental group that came out of Sweden in 1967. Their eponymous two-disc set is a tour de force of muscular progressive music – years before the term was even used. The American minimalist composer Terry Riley, who was also the minimalist most closely associated with the John Cage side of experimental music, heavily influenced the band. The music is repetitious, but what is so thunder striking about it is that it’s dense and heavy like The Velvet Underground at the height of their feedback frenzy and like heavy metal, which wouldn’t be invented for another half-decade. Andy Warhol used the band to open his 1968 exhibition at the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art – this is during his Exploding Plastic Inevitable days.

My Solid Ground’s eponymous, and only, album is Krautrock space music at it’s most primordial. It opens with a fourteen minute journey into art rock, which leads to bluesy proto-metal piece, “Flash IV,” then bounces back an forth between the two extreme styles for the rest of the album. Apparently the album had quite a following in Germany, but the band kept falling apart until it’s leader, Bernhard Rendel, gave up and went into academia. The album is not consistent, but it certainly points to something that would have been important if the creators could have held it together.

Hailing out of New York City in 1989, Moondog (not to be confused with the experimental composer and street musician of the same name) is one of the angriest punk bands of its era. The site is offering “Demos,” a fifteen-minute ep of seven searing tracks featuring brutally pissed-off screaming. The band went on to become Quicksand, which had a pretty big name in the East Coast hardcore scene in the early 1990s. It’s good “wake up” music.

China Shop formed in 1979 with drummer Richard Edson, who left before they recorded their debut, then he joined Sonic Youth, which he also left before they recorded their debut. Recorded between 1979 and 1990, “21 Puffs On The Cassette” is sheer no wave indulgence along the same lines as Gang of Four at their most minimal, noise posing as music, ala DNA, and with an influence of West Coast industrialism, especially the playful aspects of The Residents. The band was apparently legendary in the Peppermint Lounge / CBGBs / Maxwell’s circuit, but was noted for self-sabotage through their unusual tunings mixed with mind-altering substances

With a guest spot featuring Jah Wobble and a dub rhythm based around a lecture given by Albert Einstein, African Head Charge’s “Off The Beaten Track” is one of the most interesting dub albums I have heard since…well this was released in 1986. It’s abstract and trippy, but using old school technology, like tape cut with razors. It’s a fascinating artifact from the early days of the worldbeat movement.

I hope Anthology has success. I once checked to see what I could buy legally from iTunes and found their catalogue to be fantastic if I were a 13 year-old girl. Anthology presents downloadable music for the thinking man, and if it works, it will be just one of many companies that will be looking under rocks for forgotten cult masterpieces from rock’s past.

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©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.