Monday, March 27, 2006

Mystery Walk

Canadian combo Martha & The Muffins travelled kind of a parallel career trajectory to their American peers the Talking Heads - only without the big chart successes and legendary status. They began as a band in 1977, a bunch of art students and friends, six strong. By '79 they were gigging in NYC where they were noticed by a Virgin Records rep who signed them to a deal. One year later they had an international hit with Echo Beach, a memorable slice of new wave. The success caused some friction, and the band lost two of it's original members. They then added a bass player named Jocelyne Lanois, who had musically inclined brothers named Bob and Daniel. Daniel Lanois became this band's Brian Eno, to whom he was an understudy of sorts. The band recorded a couple of albums (This Is The Ice Age - my favorite - and Danseparc) before a further disassemblage occurred, and then there were two. M+M, Mark Gane and Martha Johnson. Three really, with Daniel's invaluable studio acumen shaping the sound of the duo's 1984 record Mystery Walk. Recorded in NYC with a band of studio musicians, several of whom had been involved in recording Eno and Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (*the remastered and expanded edition of which is reissued tomorrow next Tuesday April 11th!), the album's leadoff single was the sinewy art funk Black Stations/White Stations. The song turned out to be a sizeable hit in the US, almost making it to #1 on the dance charts. The rest of the album is, IMO, much indebted to the sound of Talking Heads' Remain In Light - funky polyrhythmics, lots of ambient texture, dance beats and some fine studio playing make it a winner for me. Instead of going with the hit, which you may or may not know, I'm digging into the album and sharing three of my faves. Come Out And Dance has some tremendous bass riffage and all manner of cool studio trickery, and Martha sings alone - I really feel the spirit of Eno & Byrne here. In Between Sleep And Reason sounds more like the old Muffins. It's a dreamy pop tune built over a super tight rhythm and bass combo, with a lovely melodic streak in the vocals - Mark and Martha both sing - and some nice nice chime-y, jangly guitar. Mark sings/drones alone on Nation Of Followers. A lowkey groove, oodles of synth atmosphere and one hell of a smoking guitar solo make this one a keeper. As far as I know the only CD version available is a reissue from 2000 that pairs it with Danseparc. These recordings presented today were ripped from my LP, so enjoy the little cracks and pops - they add to the experience!

R.I.P. Swell Maps' Nikki Sudden, aged 49.

I see a Brian Eno/David Byrne My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts post in your future... ;-)

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