Chris & Cosey – “Technø Primitiv” (1985)

I’m clearly becoming infatuated with Cosey Fanni Tutti.  Whether it’s part of Chris & Cosey, or Carter Tutti, or any of the other permutations, I find the blend of Chris Carter’s soundscapes and the dreaminess of her voice to be perfect companions, both to one another as well as to me as I sit and listen.  In fact I’m dangerously close to going down a Cosey rabbit hole and buying up all of her stuff that I can get my hands on, which could be a dangerous proposition given that I’ll be in London in a few weeks time.

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Technø Primitiv was the duo’s fourth full-length album (♠), a somewhat somber dance record, a languid sonic dream sequence that turns the listener back into themselves, Cosey’s voice like a guru’s mantra allowing you to slowly slide into another state of consciousness.  The oddest twist on the album comes at the end of side A.  The second-to-last song is “Haunted Heroes”, a serious ambient number that replaces her vocals with what I believe to be a war veteran describing some of his experiences, his voice distant but clear.  That’s immediately followed by the sugary “Stolen Kisses”, the closest thing on Technø Primitiv to a true pop song.  The contrast between the two is palpable and a bit startling when “Stolen Kisses” first begins.

Technø Primitiv is the kind of good that can cause a paradigm shift in how you think about music.  I’ve been flirting with more and more electronic and dance music recently, and this may just be the gentle shove I needed to jump into the deep end of the pool.

(♠)  As near as I can tell, at least… sometimes with artists that constantly put out albums with name variations it can be difficult to tell.

Coil – “Panic” (1985)

coilpanicThere are three songs on this 12″ from Coil, and all three bring something different to the party.  “Aqua Regis” is the stuff nightmares are made from, and industrial horror show from the deepest recesses of the most primitive parts of the brain.  I mean, just look at the cover of this thing – if that image isn’t nightmare fuel, I don’t know what is.  However, “Panic” is some great industrial dance, metallic beats and more structured than its predecessor, though the vocal interlude is creepy as hell (and it sort of sounds like they sampled some Led Zeppelin era Robert Plant with some of the moaning).  The B side is given over to an industrial cover of “Tainted Love” that will peel the paint off your soul, if you have one.  Even played at 45 rpm you’re left thinking, “wait, is the speed too slow?”  It’s not.  It feels like something being sung by a homicidal stalker.  Meaning it’s pretty great.

The Outfield – “Play Deep” (1985)

It’s a bit odd that a band from the UK would name itself after a section of a baseball field, especially if they weren’t fans of the game to begin with.  The trio originally recorded a demo under the name The Baseball Boys, a reference to the baseball-themed gang in the movie The Warriors (1979), (♠) which makes a bit more sense, and despite recognizing the need for a better name they still ended up with something baseball related.  Why The Outfield in particular?  Well, according to an interview the band did with the Los Angeles Times in 1986 they simply came up with a list of 10 possible names to replace The Baseball Boys, and The Outfield was the one they liked the best.  As fans we’d like to think there was something more to it, but there it is.

The baseball theme continues with the name of The Outfield’s debut album, 1985s Play Deep.  While somewhat of an oversimplification, “playing deep” in the context of the outfield indicates that either (1) the batter at the plate has a reputation for hitting the ball far, and/or (2) that runners are in scoring position and the manager has decided he’s more concerned with preventing a ball from going over the fielders’ heads than he is with one of the baserunners scoring on a single to the outfield.  Does “play deep” have any meaning as it relates to the 10 songs on Play Deep?  I sincerely doubt it as none of the songs appear to have any ties to the game.  The Outfield flirt on and off with the baseball theme in later album titles as well, specifically Diamond Days (1989) and Extra Innings (Unreleased) (1999), plus the comps Playing the Field (1992) and Big Innings (1996), but I don’t think they ever recorded a song that had anything to do with the so-called National Pastime.  Come to think of it, there aren’t a lot of baseball songs out there with the notable exception of John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” and to a lesser extent Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” and Meatloaf’s “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” (the latter is only metaphorically about baseball, though it does include Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto as the play-by-play guy, so bonus points). (♣)

By the time Play Deep came out and “Your Love” made an unsuccessful run for the top of the charts my baseball career, such as it was, had ended.  I played two seasons of Little League for the Fortune Personnel team (named after our corporate sponsor… capitalism digs its claws into you early in the US) in, I believe, 1982 and 1983.  And yes, I played in the outfield.  At the major league level the three outfield positions tend to have consistent profiles and abilities – the center fielder is fast and has a good arm; the right field needs a great arm to make the long throws to third base; and the left fielder… well… the left fielder can hit and is generally not known for his defense.  In fact sometimes he’s a defensive liability.  In the little leagues it’s even more noticeable.  See, when I played, the rule was that every player had to appear in at least two innings if they showed up for the game.  And left field is where you hid the suckiest kids, the ones who couldn’t catch or were slow or ambivalent about being there.  If memory serves, I believe that over the course of my baseball career there was only one game in which all my playing time was spent in left field.  Oh, and I couldn’t hit for shit either.

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Two things strike me about Play Deep.  First, the harmonies are brilliant.  Second, these songs have a certain quality about them that just sounds like The Outfield.  I can’t place it, but there are other bands and performers like this as well.  Bruce Hornsby, for example, has this “thing” he does with the piano that seems to be on every one of his songs that, the second I hear it, I’m like, yup, that’s Bruce Hornsby.  In fact, I got to see Bruce perform once – he played the National Anthem on piano at, ironically, a Seattle Mariners baseball games years and years ago.  And guess what?  He made the National Anthem sound like a Bruce Hornsby song too.

There’s one thing that has always confounded me about “Your Love”.  I get it that the narrator is having a tryst with an old flame.  After all, right at the start we establish that his new lady is out of town.  Josie’s on a vacation far away…  But what I always wondered about is the line, You know I like my girls a little bit older.  Is this him telling the girl he’s inviting over that part of why he’s with Josie is because Josie is a little bit older, or is he still into his nameless ex because she’s a little bit older?  Somehow I feel like this is an important distinction.  One of these ladies is “older”, but which one?  I posed this question to Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane, and she looked at me like, “is this a serious question?”  It is.  But I suspect I’ll never know the answer.  Either way, he’s a dirtbag Josie, and you should leave him.

(♠)  “War-riors… come out to play-ay….”

(♣)  To be fair, there are others, especially if you want to go back to the 1940s and 50s.  There are also plenty of novelty songs dedicated to specific teams or players, and even songs by baseball players themselves, such as my personal favorite “Phillies Fever” (1976).    Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey & The Duke)” (1981) is a classic as well, with the added benefit that Willie (Mays), Mickey (Mantle), and The Duke (Duke Snider) were all outfielders.  See?  It all comes full circle.

DJ Platurn – “Breaking the Ice” CD (2018)

platurnbreakingtheiceI can’t recall how this came up on my radar last year, but somehow it did an for that I’m grateful.  If you’ve read even just a few posts on Life in the Vinyl Lane you know that I buy and review tons of Icelandic releases, both old and new, and I have a strange infatuation with the islands musical history.  What DJ Paturn gives us on Breaking the Ice is a 90-minute DJ set culled from 80+ vintage Icelandic recordings, much of which he was exposed to via his father, radio host Magnus Thordarson.  Sonically the music is all over the board – funk, rock, psych, disco, folk, children’s… you name it, it’s probably on here somewhere.  I only wish there were credits included so I could get a better sense of what’s included – I suspect I have more than a few of these records in my collection, but haven’t played them enough to put two and two together (the one thing that sounded familiar was something with a very Icecross vibe).  The vocals are both in English and Icelandic, but really they aren’t the focus; this thing is more about the feel, and Platurn does a great job in blending disparate songs and styles in a way that’s seamless.

Breaking the Ice was originally released as a 2XDC packaged inside a 14-page hardback book that includes a background on Platurn’s father and his role in opening up Icelandic radio to outside influences in the 1970s.  Per the label website the initial pressing of 1,000 copies is sold out.  However, DJ Platurn still has a handful available on his Bandcamp page HERE, and they come with a bonus cassette single, so get a copy while you can, because at $15 it’s a steal.  If you’ve ever wanted to get a general sense of Icelandic music from the 1960s and 70s, this is a perfect place to start.

DIY Synthesizer Kits #2 – Disintegrated Cracklebox

crackle1Following my successful Atari Punk Console build I had so much confidence that I wanted to tackle a second Rakit DIY synth kit immediately.  After all, I was clearly on a roll and my soldering game was on point.  So I decided to go with what looked like the next easiest kit, the Disintegrated Cracklebox.

My confidence lasted for as long as it took me to lay out all of the individual parts (see below).  Man there’s a lot of stuff in this bag!  Sixteen resistors… shoot, the APC didn’t even have 16 total parts!  And all those different resistor values to differentiate using the tiny color striping had be a bit worried.  Throw in 19 capacitors and a handful of other parts and it was clear that I had a lot of soldering in front of me.  Fortunately the online instructions were very detailed and I’d learned a few lessons in the APC build about the importance of staying organized in how the pieces were installed.  Even with all that prep, though, I still managed to fill a hole I wasn’t working on with solder which required some MacGuyver-ing to resolve, but I managed to get it sorted.

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I’m not entirely sure how long this build took – probably somewhere around 60-90 minutes.  But it fired up right away and I was crackling like a fool.  The Cracklebox is an interesting item – you need to use both hands on it to complete the circuit and create sound, and how you interact with the touch pads creates the sonic variance.  You can rest a finger in one spot, or tap to create a sort of beat, or rub across the surface to make a sort of electro-scratching sound.  There were some combinations that made noise and others that didn’t – I’ll have to play with this a bit more to understand precisely how to use it.

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This kit was more intricate than the APC, but honestly wasn’t any more difficult – it just took more time and patience and maybe a bit more care since those holes are all so close together.  Remember kids, keep the tip of that soldering iron clean as you progress so you don’t drip a molten metal plug where you don’t want one!

So far I’ve been happy with the kits from Rakit (if you’re interested in checking them out for yourself, you can do so HERE).  It’s a few bucks more expensive than the APC, somewhere around $20-25 US, but there’s also quite a bit more to it.  I’m intrigued to see if/how I can use this with some of their other pieces.