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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Considering this band was a cross-section of Hoboken, NJ, New Orleans and Bloomington, it is right up my alley! Featuring members of MX-80 Sound, this is actually 3 7″s compiled by Gulcher, although originally released by a Gulcher-friendly Hoboken label. -Ian!

Mark Bingham flirted with a number of projects prior to compiling the works of Social Climbers, including production work for MX-80 Sound and collaborations with New York’s Glenn Branca. A. Leroy also worked with Charles Moulton, a choreographer, creating the music for his “Precision Ball Passing” pieces in the early 80s. Social Climbers’ only album was indeed a compilation of three excellent, but poorly pressed 7” flexis put out by the band. Armed with just a couple of guitars, a rhythm box and an organ, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this album may not offer anything special, or that Social Climbers would simply mirror the b-movie aspirations of their New York peers, Comateens (which they do here there, particularly on ‘Western World’). however, Bingham & Co. conjure up a highly original mix of quietly neurotic post-punk restraint. both the organ and rhythm boxes are used highly effectively, thanks to subtle production trickery and clever programming, neatly offset by the geeky garage-band vocals. tracks like ‘Chicken 80’, ‘Chris & Debbie’ and ‘That’s Why’ are shining examples of the very best of post-punk DIY, thanks to both memorable tunes and a cool, if insular, atmosphere of moderate despair. as the album wanders comfortably over the stylistic map, each track in some way hits the spot, and most hit more than one. Every lo-fi collector should get to hear this. and what a tragedy that it was never followed up.


Social Climbers-SOCIAL CLIMBERS (1981)

The Raincoats were one of the most experimental bands that immediately followed the initial burst of punk rock in the late ’70s. With their minimalistic approach to guitar-driven folk-rock, the band developed a distinctive, jagged sound, punctuated by a shrill violin. The Raincoats were also one of the first all-female post-punk bands, which wasn’t common in the late ’70s and early ’80s. When they were recording, the band gained a small cult following in their native England and an even smaller audience in America; they broke up in 1984. Nearly ten years later, the band became a hip name in alternative rock, thanks to Kurt Cobain’s mention of the group in the liner notes to a Nirvana album. Geffen picked up the rights to the Raincoats’ catalog and reissued their albums in late 1993 and 1994. The band reunited and toured with Nirvana in the U.K. before heading out on their own tour of the U.S. in 1994. Two years later, the Raincoats released Looking in the Shadows, which was produced by Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley.

Picking the “best” Raincoats is more an intellectual exercise than it is a work of thoughtful criticism. So, to make it easy for the benighted, all three studio releases are absolutely essential. Their live cassette is wonderful, but not the ideal entry point. Better yet, start with their debut, a soaring, daring, avant-garde-influenced folk-punk record. Don’t let the words “avant-garde” scare you off; the Raincoats are not harsh or unapproachable. In fact, this music, even at its most dissonant, is stunning and captivating. There’s a great cover of the Kinks’ “Lola” that’s so skewed and obtuse, Ray Davies probably never dreamed it could sound this way.

-Stephen Thomas Erlewine,

MOVING (1984)

Do I really need to explain why you need these? New Jersey’s finest. If you don’t know where to start with them you can totally go in chronological order of this selection.

If you want them, I also posted both PAINFUL and ELECTR-O-PURA a couple months back.


I try to steer away from putting stuff on here from the world of new bedroom weirdo punk/blurry music/cassette culture. I feel like there are people way more dedicated to that scene than I am and they should normally point the way or dictate the terms of their hype or whatever.

BUT once a year or so something stands out to the point where I would like to shine my little light on it, and this is such a something. I’ve had a low bitrate rip for a while and was waiting for a better one to pop up and here we are.

Tonstartssbandht-AN WHEN (2009)

As both a solo artist and as a member of groups including Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Schulze emerged among the founding fathers of contemporary electronic music, his epic, meditative soundscapes a key influence on the subsequent rise of the new age aesthetic. Born in Berlin on August 4, 1947, Schulze began his performing career during the 1960s, playing guitar, bass and drums in a variety of local bands; by 1969, he was drumming in Tangerine Dream, appearing a year later on their debut LP Electronic Meditation. The album was Schulze’s lone effort with the group, however, as he soon co-founded Ash Ra Tempel with Manuel Gottsching and Harmut Enke, debuting in 1971 with a self-titled record; again, however, the band format appeared to stifle Schulze, and he mounted a solo career a few months later.

Dedicated to Richard Wagner, Timewind is a 60-minute electronic expedition that is broken up into two half-hour tracks, “Bayreuth Return” and “Wahnfried 1883.” The first 30 minutes involves icy pulsations and lengthy tonal flights that unnoticeably converge into each other. While one rhythm gains momentum, the other one slowly fades into a bubbly electronic bath of bright swirls and meandering keyboard waves. Similar to early Tangerine Dream, the music here rises and falls above a distant sonic horizon, and the effect is truly mesmerizing. One specific flow can last for minutes, while small, detailed noises adhere themselves to the main electronic run. On the second track, more of the same far-off synthesized altering takes place, but the washes of keyboard become inoculated with a sharper, more precise sound. Longer notes build into resilient pieces with the same comforting result. This album will sketch a barren wasteland in the mind through the wispiness of the wind-like effects. Timewind serves as splendid mood music, and the ears are forever kept busy following Schulze’s electronic wandering.

Klaus Schulze is one of the most legendary e-musicians of all time. He is also one of the best and most original. Moondawn is one of the true classics of the genre. For many serious listeners, this was the first and/or most important electronic music purchase. There is good reason for such sentiment — this is a great album. It is definitely hardcore Berlin school electronica and much more. Like his contemporaries, Schulze added some extra flair to his style. This album has loads of ambient atmospheres accompanying the deep sequences. While the original album is an analog creation, it still holds its own with new millennium digitalia and is uniquely old school. This CD bears comparisons only to Schulze’s peers of its era: Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Edgar Froese, T.O.N.T.O.’s Expanding Head Band, and Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company.

-Jason Ankeny, Mike DeGagne, Jim Brenholts,


Get into this stuff along with The Millennium’s BEGIN if you like baroque and sunshine pop so pioneering it sounds like it could have been made last week! -Ian!

Although it only reached number 70 in the national charts, Sagittarius’ 1967 single “My World Fell Down” is one of the great experimental pop-psych gems of the era. Sounding very much like a lost Beach Boys classic from the “Good Vibrations”/Smile era, the record had beautiful California pop harmonies, exquisite symphonic orchestration, and a downright avant-garde middle section of carnival and bullfight noises. It was perhaps too weird to become the Top 40 smash it deserved to be, but in any case, Sagittarius would have had a difficult time launching a successful career, as the group didn’t really exist. It was a studio project of noted producer Gary Usher, who wrote several great Beach Boys songs with Brian Wilson and produced classic albums by the Byrds.

Usher made the recordings that came out under the Sagittarius name in his spare time, with help from such prominent friends as Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and Glen Campbell (who sings lead on the “My World Fell Down” single). The most important of Usher’s associates, however, was fellow songwriter/producer/singer Curt Boettcher, who has a cult following of his own for the sunshiney California pop with a touch of psychedelia that he produced during the era, especially as part of the Millennium. Boettcher wrote and sang much of the material that ended up on Sagittarius’ 1968 Columbia album, Present Tense. Unlike the “My World Fell Down” single (included on the LP in a brutally edited version), the album wasn’t reminiscent of the Beach Boys at their best and most progressive. It was California good-time pop with a mild dab of psychedelia, relentlessly and sometimes annoyingly cheerful, although immaculately crafted and produced, particularly in the layered harmony vocals. Not as commercial as the Association (with whom Boettcher also worked), it still had a lot more in common with the Turtles and the Mamas and the Papas than Pet Sounds or the Byrds. Although it only sold in the neighborhood of 40,000-50,000 copies, the record has a cult following, and was reissued on CD in 1997 with numerous bonus tracks.

All 11 tracks from the 1968 LP, with the addition of seven previously unreleased items and a couple cuts from non-LP singles. Although the production is beautiful and the songwriting melodic, the material is really too cloying to qualify this as a lost classic. When there’s even a bit of a serious or melancholic edge — as on the graceful opening track “Another Time,” or Gary Usher’s strange and stunning slice of psych-pop, “The Truth Is Not Real” — it’s much more memorable. Otherwise, this is kind of like the lesser fairy-tale, sing-songy British psychedelia of the time, but with state-of-the-art L.A. ’60s production. The bonus cuts are similar to the album, highlighted by the gorgeous instrumental “Sister Marie,” although the non-LP single “Hotel Indiscreet” is silly fluff. The version of “My World Fell Down” that appeared on Present Tense was brutally edited, but fear not: one of the bonus cuts is the classic original single version, all of its glory (and avant-garde bridge of found noise) intact.

The second and final album from Sagittarius was the first for the ambitious Together Records in 1969, but the label folded soon afterward, leaving The Blue Marble virtually unheard for over 30 years. Like its predecessor Present Tense, The Blue Marble is producer Gary Usher’s (the Beach Boys, the Byrds) take on the decidedly late-’60s sunshine pop genre, and features members of the Millennium, including the legendary Curt Boettcher. The record opens with an interesting, intermittently discordant version of the Beach Boys’ paean to childhood empowerment, “In My Room” (which Usher co-wrote with Brian Wilson). A new plaything, the Moog synthesizer, is employed on many of the numbers, and the results are distracting, leaving this period music even more dated. It’s as if Usher used Robert Moog’s invention to spruce up the weaker songs, instead of letting the tune carry the track. The country-tinged “Will You Ever See Me” showcases what Sagittarius could do with a strong melody, while the tempo-shifting “Gladys” is an intriguing anomaly of dark psychedelic pop.

Richie Unterberger, Bart Bealmear,


Great expectations killed this album. I (the dork reviewing this) was a teenager when this album was first released in 1970 and can tell you that people wanted a major Beatle-type production from him at that time. Obviously, there was no way he could have lived up to the publics’ expectation. However, ‘McCartney’ is a great album and was not appreciated like it should have been at the time. I like every song on the album, and after recently listening to it again a few times, I find Paul is still very much a “Beatle” on both ‘McCartney’ AND ‘Ram’. While the tracks sound a bit raw and have Linda on background vocals, both ‘McCartney” AND ‘Ram’ have a Beatle feel to them. Very different than his Wings’ sound. I find both Albums interesting for their Beatle-istic sound alone. Basically, if you like the Beatles, you’ll like ‘McCartney’ and ‘Ram’. They both sound great! P.S. I’m not a McCartney fanatic. I believe he began his downslide with his ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound’ album. With the exceptions of of a few tracks on that album, he really hasn’t been the same since.

“McCartney II” was recorded in 1980 right after Paul disbanded Wings. Like his first solo album, “McCartney II” is another stripped down, at home, McCartney-only production, “McCartney II” finds Paul in a rather experimental-possibly drug-induced-state. Paul explores synth-pop here a year before it blew up in the pop-market. Taking a cue from artists like Kraftwerk, Devo and Brian Eno, “McCartney II” has everything from New Wave spaz-outs (“Temporary Secretary”), ambient/folk ballads (“Waterfalls”) and paranoid techno ditties (“Darkroom”). Plus, there is funky and ebullient pop (“Coming Up”). Sadly, “McCartney II” marked the end of the Wings era in the same manner “McCartney” marked the end of The Beatles era. But also like “McCartney”, “McCartney II” is a charmingly oddball album. And even though he was following the path of techno pioneers, McCartney managed, through his raw production and mixing of real instruments, to create an album that’s far less dated than other, colder techno albums from the time-period. It often sounds like the low-fi electronica from 1990s indi-rock acts. Early Stereolab springs to mind. Like two other unsung gems, “Wild Life” and “Back to the Egg”, “McCartney II” was snarled at by the critics. However, there was one cat who praised it in 1980: John Lennon. He even cited the “Coming Up” single as inspiring him out of retirement and to record what would be his final album, “Double Fantasy” (a FAR more conservative recording than “McCartney II”). Overall, “McCartney II” is a great album for those who like funky, witty, homespun, experimental pop-music with a rock & roll edge. Those interested in the album should definitely get the import CD with extra tracks. Especially for the extra track “Secret Friend”: an atmospheric ambient/trance song. It’s such a beautiful piece of music and really shows McCartney’s stylistic range.