Lou Champagne System – “No Visible Means”

Television – Ha Ha Ha Ha
Psychopathic thoughts inside your mind,

Free another’s soul you find,
The television’s on, the television’s on…
— “Don’t Say I’m Here”

Whoa!  Wait, what??

So begins your immersion into the Lou Champagne System.

So what the hell is a Lou Champagne System?  Well, let’s go to the album insert:

The Lou Champagne System is a real time guitar synth solo act that uses a special guitar and hookup invented by Lou.  It allows him to play guitar and sound like a whole band with no tapes!

Well dang.

louchampagnesystem

No Visible Means was originally released back in 1982, when synths were all the rage, and even Lou’s cover photo is spot on for the time.  The copy I have is actually the re-release put out by Seattle’s own Medical Records label in 2011.  I almost bought this record a while ago but didn’t pull the trigger, instead getting the label’s re-release of Gina X Performance’s Nice Mover, and I love the type of stuff they’re putting out – lots of 80s synthy poppy dark weirdness.  Medical puts out a fantastic quality product, and in the case of Lou Champagne that means a nice thick jacket, the insert, and a record on heavy white vinyl (limited release of 1,000 copies… mine is a slightly smudged #0038).  Oddly I came across the copy I ended up buying at a used shop in Philly, a still-sealed copy in with their used new arrivals.  Huh.  Go figure.  Someone else’s loss was my gain.

So what about it?  Well, it’s fantastic, that’s what.  Lou creates some heavy, somewhat dark, dystopianly futuristic (or at least what we thought of as distopianly futuristic in 1982) soundscapes, and his vocals… his vocals… this is stuff that feels like it should have been in Blade Runner or even the Max Headroom TV series.  The opening track, “Don’t Say I’m Here,” is kind of like being in an insane person’s mind, and the lyric sheet even breaks down the lyrics into sections labelled “Fred” and “Narrator,” making it like a crazy one man play.  Things move in a more new wave type direction after that, especially on “Broken Hearts” and “Another Dimension,” the later of which does a lot to display Champagne’s guitar work, which is quite good – he knows when and how to use it, more as a support tool for the synths that drive the song.

Side B opens with Lou’s most punk rock number, “Do Something,” with it’s more aggressive vocal style including a bit of German to open it.  The music on this is more driving, though the beats and bass are still all electronic, while the guitar playing is very hard rock.  “Invisible Prisons” is something like you’d expect to hear on a metal album, that one random song late 70s/early 80s metal bands seemed to sometimes include that was more trippy than heavy, a chance to use more electronic instrumentation.  As for “Machine Muzik”… just wow.  Is this some kind of early industrial electronica, with its sections of twisted, modulated, bizarro vocals?  I don’t know, but it’s pretty crazy.

I’m all about No Visible Means right now.  I’ve played it a half dozen times or so over the last two weeks, and I’ve been putting off writing about it until I felt like I had a better handle on it.  And I do, but I don’t.  There’s a lot of depth here, and I get something a bit different out if it every time I listen.  It’s definitely going to get more plays, and Medical Records is definitely going to get more of my money as I explore their catalog more fully.  You can order it through them right now for just $16.  And yes, you can even get it on iTunes, so go listen to it and go with the format of your choice.  So go get one, dammit!

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