Friday, March 24, 2006

Funky Friday's Mutant Disco

Today's post is inspired by the NYC No Wave scene chapter of Mr. Reynolds' Rip It Up & Start Again. There was a booming post-punk scene in NYC that paralleled the one emerging in the UK. There are several great compilations on the shelves of your local record store that document it very well. It's been fun reading about the genesis of the movement, it's defining songs, and all of the crazy characters.

Ze Records was the most visibly successful purveyor of NYC cool. It's roster was full of the scenes biggest players & characters. Musically it was a slicker, more commercial roster of acts, ranging from the art funk of Was (Not Was) and Material to the disco of August Darnell's Kid Creole and Cristina and his sidekick Coati Mundi - feel the slick vibe and killer one-two punch of Que Pasa / Me No Pop I . The label was pivotal in reshaping the sound of James Chance, taking him from the jazz punk of The Contortions' Contort Yourself to the disco beats of James White & The Blacks' Contort Yourself. The label was also responsible for releasing a couple of my favorite NYC No Wave records - those by Lizzy Mercier Descloux. Originally in the far more raucous Rosa Yemen, she went solo and put out several records of offbeat, leftfield punk funk music. She did a bunch of cool covers too, including this beyotching version of Kool & The Gang's Funky Stuff. Reborn a few years ago, Ze Records has been steadily reissuing the back catalogue, and I recommend investigating it further!

Also worth checking out are the two compilations that the great Soul Jazz Records has compiled. Both volumes are titled New York Noise, and they are sonically a lot more adventurous than the Ze stuff. The sets range from the most severe noise experimentalists like Glenn Branca, DNA and Sonic Youth to the funkier bands like ESG, Konk, Dinosuar L and the great Bush Tetras - Can't Be Funky will have you grooving in no time. The Contortions' version of Contort Yourself above is also from Volume 1.

The most recent of these comps, Volume 2 digs a bit deeper, exposing some of the lesser known names, There are some nice funky gems to be found amid the oddities (Jim Jarmusch on keys with the Del-Byzanteens!). Black Box Disco is a track from the soundtrack to indie film Vortex. A big collaborative effort involving some of Konk, Adele Bertei, John Lurie, Pat Place and Lydia Lunch, it's a wacky, rant-y disco number. Glorious Strangers were Wharton Tiers' band. He was a producer and label boss to many of the scenesters, and Move It Time is an repetitive, edgy Talking Heads-y kind of jam. Cool shit for sure.

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