Saturday, January 1, 2011

Musique Concret - Bringing Up Baby (1981)

Very little is known about this album or the people who made it. It was released in 1981 on Steven Stapleton's United Dairies label and no one has heard anything from the band since. On the CD reissue, the notes claim that every effort was made to get in touch with the artists and that seem to have simply disappeared off the face of the Earth. The natural question is of course: what sort of music might these elusive people make?

The first half of the record is comprised of a four part suite entitled "Incidents in Rural Places." It's a delightfully pastoral bit of studio work, filled with tape manipulations and delay effects. It's vaguely Krautrocky, vaguely psychedelic and more than a little industrial, but it manages to remain relatively accessible throughout and in places is downright pretty. Vintage electronics are all over the place, although used largely for textures and backdrops rather than in a more traditionally musical context.

Things get even weirder on side two. The seven minute track "Organorgan" contains the only thing on the record that sounds like an actual musical instrument - a Hammond organ. It drones along methodically while more tape loops and sound collage strangeness happen around it. It's easy to see why the group took Musique Concret as their name.

Finally, the fourteen minute freakout "Wreath Pose at Sacrifice" concludes the album in a very raucous way. The first eight or nine minutes consist of increasingly bizarre sound collage material, eschewing even the barest semblance of musicality. Then, in a completely unexpected turn, a drum kit enters the mix playing in tight, psychedelic rhythm. There aren't many records that could make something so conventional seem so surprising. The drums hold down the beat for a while before being overwhelmed by swells of harsh feedback. At this point you'll be reminded of Whitehouse or early Merzbow more than anything else. At last, the track fades out with a sampled record of a female crooner and we're done!

There's no question that this is a strange oddity of a record and a nice addition to a collection, but there's also some great and unique music on it, particularly on side one. Side two has its moments to be sure, but the compositions simply don't feel as coherent or well thought out. This is a good buy for people who like the first few Nurse With Wound records and similarly unpredictable and noisy things.

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