Friday, March 2, 2012

Personal Space – Electronic Soul: 1974-1984

(Chocolate Industries) I was a handed a no-frills preview CD of this, sans liner notes or manifesto or explanation, and I have to say, the experience of listening to this (over and over, I literally have played this over 50 times in the last two weeks) is akin to hooking up with a woman way out of your league who doesn’t speak English – you enjoy every second but you sure wish someone could explain what the hell is going on! Apparently the definition of “Electronic Soul” here is either private press records or demos made by black people (“Soul” is not so much a genre here, unless it’s the most vaguely defined genre ever) who recorded at home and used some kind of keyboard or something vaguely electronic, although often the Afro-Futurist vibe is not a result of using low-grade Devo gear, but rather of having an interstellar brain. There are a few tracks here that may sound sort of like actual songs/recordings that exist in the earthly plane of the music industry. Cotillion’s slinky, bass-popping groover “If You Give a Dance” is vaguely akin to that tune in The Wiz that plays while the colors in the Emerald City keep changing. The Makers “Don’t Challenge Me” is a pro-sounding approximation of what you think regular music sounds like when you are super high and super sleepy. And if it wasn’t recorded with nothing but Casio presets, Jeff Phelp’s smooth vocals might convince you “Super Lady” could be a radio song. But almost everything else here is so off-center and one-of-a-kind I can’t really find comparison points. The most impressive thing is how cohesive this audio gumbo is. Jerry Green’s urgent soul (which sounds like it was recorded inside one of those isolation tanks from Altered States) smoothly transitions into the conscious conga rap of Key and Cleary, which sounds fine beside the electro-paranoid passion play that is Spontaneous Overthrow’s “Money.” I could describe all of these weird, wonderful tracks at length, but, again, I don’t know a goddamn thing about them, and though I suspect a lot were found in boxes at thrift stores and warehouse basements and nobody knows much about them, basically the main knowledge you need can only be garnered by hearing these beautiful bizarrities yourself. Don’t go into the future without this!

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