October 15, 2005

the devil and the deep electric blue sea

Album of the day is the Sea Donkeys' Volume 1 (Abduction), an LP that appears to be limited to 300 copies. I applaud the existence in limited form of albums that will make 300 people happy, and I am one of those 300 people in this case. It's sort of nautically themed, from the packaging: song titles include "Sailors," "Castaway," "Crossing the Equator," etc. (The song identified on the track listing as "Jenny" is in fact a verse of Brecht/Weill's "Pirate Jenny," which in my weirder moods lately I've started to think of as the theme song of modernity. And I think "The Anchor Song" may be a devolved version of the Björk song. "Lydia," though, is the nautical-only-by-rhythm-and-cultural-association "Lydia the Tattooed Lady"; the packaging also includes a distorted-by-reproduction photograph of a tattooed lady.)

What the album is, really, seems to be at least one of the Sun City Girls (Charlie Gocher, definitely, given one singer's particular mock-drunken growl) and at least a couple of other people (unless one of the SCGs has turned into an actual girl, or started playing woodwinds), messing around in a room with some kind of cassette recorder with a very cheap condenser mic, collaged into an album ex post facto. The surface vibe--sonically cruddy, OCD-repetitive, acoustic strum-based in a non-rehearsed way, with open-improv passages--brings to mind the first couple of Amon Düül records; the editing and sequencing, though, is more a Faust Tapes kind of experience. I will listen to pretty much any album that's been this enthusiastically edited, and a couple of times I've tried myself to trim a bunch of promising but overlong jams and curlicues into something that doesn't actually get dull. It's surprisingly tough, and I'm always impressed when people can do it.

I've been semi-obsessively listening to David Bowie's Low this week (and reading Hugo Wilcken's 33 1/3 book about it), and admiring the Bowie/Eno ability to get into and out of songs, and to leave space in them where space is warranted--even when they don't start out with space there, as with the absent first verse of "Sound and Vision." (Elvis Costello, on working with Eno on "My Dark Life": "I very much admired his creative use of the 'erase' button.") Tonight I started wondering: the Sea Donkeys made their record under impossibly casual conditions (partly on a boat, if we believe the press release, which I don't think I do), and I love them for it. But what if they'd done it in a catered château and a well-equipped Berlin studio? How would Volume 1 be different--would it be an album you could sink into the way you can sink into Low? Does anyone with access to châteaux and well-equipped studios now make records like this, all textures and crosscuts and half-feigned craziness, with the self-control to hit "erase" when they need to? Do they make them in editions of 300 copies and only give them to their friends?

Posted by Douglas at October 15, 2005 11:08 PM | TrackBack

=if anyone knows hugo wilcken the authors email address please tiell me

Posted by: hriscayhusay on November 27, 2005 3:51 PM
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