Friday, March 30, 2012

SCANIMATE! Codeks, Spectral Displays, Talking Drums & Wild Oscillations

It seems once a year, usually around a spring, I get a hankering to write about Will Powers and/or 80's New York video artist musical outings, and post some mp3s/mixes.  This spring, thanks to a fortuitous run-in with a folder titled downtempo (seriously!) on Soulseek, I came across some tracks I had been actively hunting for quite a while that fit squarely into that weird conceptual BETAcam mind-fuck genre.  I'm too old to have anything but disdain for the downtempo genre, but at its most tolerable and enjoyable, it seems to be full of the oddities that pop up on Late Night Tales/Back to Mine comedown comps.  If anyone wants to offer a more informed take on the downtempo genre or ethos, please, feel free...

So, here we go - the sort of neurotic dubby sounds that an AV tech working the graveyard shift at a middling TV station in might set his knob-twiddlings on a SCANIMATE console to.

I can't find much information about Talking Drums - one blog (now erased - even Trouser Press turns up nothing!) posits that they were an evangalical Christian project of some sort, led by Charlie Irvine and Dot Reid - two Glaswegians who would go onto form a group called Lies Damned Lies.  In light of that, I can almost see Courage as some sort of defiant updating of the Onward Christian Soldiers hymn of days and pews past, albeit with a dash of Siouxsie's vocal stylings with The Creatures, the bottom-heavy post-punk funk of the Slits, some serious Stranglers-esque keyboard leads, and New Musik-like ultra-bright acoustic guitar...  I usually credit my upbringing as a Pentecostal Christian with the ability to suss out based on production cues, but this is throwing me off.  The lyrics are quite a bit more explicitly Christian.

Studio project Spectral Display are familiar to some: It's Takes A Muscle To Fall In Love was sampled by MIA and they're on the soundtrack to Antonio Campos' upcoming film Simon Killer...  There's A Virus Going Round is a later album cut from their self-titled debut, where producer Michel Mulder takes a less dubby, but equally subdued, approach, featuring the anodyne, listless sweet nothings of Lisa Bolay.  The virus she sings of is probably mononucleosis.  (Appropriately enough for writing about music that makes me think of 80s video art, the group's called Spectral Display...)

Of all the songs posted here, Codek's Closer is the most kindred spirit to Will Power's Adventure in Success. The herky-jerky vocals, backing vocals, spirited arpeggios, occasional horn stabs.  I'm particularly keen on the bass guitar punctuating and accentuating like a tom drum.  A French producer by the name of Jean-Marie Salaun (John Marieux) appears to have been the driving force behind the Codek project, and the rest of the , that I strongly, emphatically implore you to seek it out in whatever manner possible.  Tim Toum, in particular, is an electrified faux-tribal freakout that has to be heard...  Salaun-as-Codek seemed to represent a stop-gap of sorts, halfway between his production duties for French punky new-wavers Artefact and Spions Inc and later work as a (from what I can tell) producer on autopilot for some fairly uninspiring crossover reggae/digital dancehall.

I was going to round out this post with two chart-friendly songs from Desireless and Vicious Pink, but after listening again, these 3 songs work perfectly with each other.  I'll save them for an upcoming post on the kitsch-leaden glory of the MAXI Single format and French music.  And not a Metal Urbain song in sight/onsite!

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