CHROME / WALKER BROTHERS / RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM / “THE UP ANOTHER OCTAVE TRANSMISSION” / “DARKER SCRATCHER”

CHROME – “RED EXPOSURE (1980)

In the middle of a wild and prolific blitz that lasted from ’76-’83, viagra 60mg Damon Edge and Helios Creed warped rock and roll to its furthest limits as Chrome, a San Francisco-based outfit whose music echoed a lysergic sci-fi future yet to be realized. With intense phasing, fluid melodic lines and vocals filtered and processed to nearly the point of obliteration, Chrome remained a studio project, with only a total of two live gigs in the entirety of their first several years (Edge left California for Germany in ’84, reforming the band with all-new members there. It is unlikely that the band would have ever come close to duplicating the multi-layered album production at a live gig). Never was their vision more fully realized than on 1980′s “Red Exposure”, ten blistering tracks of true psychedelia, no bullshit.

>As Edge legally acquired the Chrome name and catalog in the second half of the ’80s, and died in 1995, the rights to the early Chrome catalog have been in flux, which causes me much aggrevation. “Red Exposure” has never had a CD release of its own in either the U.S. or the U.K., and only eight of its ten tracks appear on the now-majorly-out-of-print “Chrome Box”, a four-disc effort put out by Cleopatra Records a numbers of years ago. It’s absolutely ridiculous that an album like this has to die the quiet, invisible death of obscurity, given how truly original and whacked the music is.

Chrome – “Red Exosure” LP (ZIP file)

WALKER BROTHERS – “NITE FLIGHTS” (1978)

Dense, atmospheric and altogether unsettling, we have “Shutout”, “Nite Flights”, “Fat Mama Kick”; and “The Electrician”, the only four songs worth listening to on the Walker Brothers album “Nite Flights”. I first heard “Shutout” when a friend and co-worker who’s forever been obsessed with all things Walker played me the track after closing one night at my store; I simultaneously instantly fell in love and was repulsed by its its sleek bassline, mutant funk groove, otherworldly sci-fi lyrics and a style of vocal harmonizing I’ve not yet heard duplicated anywhere else. “Nite Flights” is pure Bowie-esque shimmering magic, “Fat Mama Kick” is a diminutive prog nightmare, and “The Electrician” evokes the soundtrack to a non-existant S&M romance Cronenberg should have made years ago (the lyrical outburst one-third of the way into the song haunts me every time I hear it).

The lowdown on Scott Walker: part of a trio of Americans (not actually named Walker, not actually brothers) who hit it big in the UK with a few giant singles right before the Beatles exploded, then struck out on his own with several bizarre, beautiful solo records full of dark, impenetrable material. He reformed the Walker Brothers when later albums were routinely commercially unsuccessful, and in 1978, we have “Nite Flights”, a strange amalgam of the three Brothers’ talents. The first four songs were written by Scott, and suffice to say, they are unlike anything any of the Walkers had done up to that point, or indeed, by anybody else. Comparisons to other post-punk material of the time, except to the Bowie/Eno axis, are irrelevant, since Scott came from a completely different un-rock background.

Rumor has held that when Scott actually did some demo sessions with Eno, he was so dissatisfied with the results that he threw the master tapes in the Thames! This has never been officially clarified, although in a 2001 interview with the British music magazine Q, Eno said: “We recorded the backing tracks for about six songs together. I don’t think that Scott threw the tapes in the river; that sounds like too much of a dramatic flourish for him. He wasn’t in a great state of mind at the time, mind you.”

It’s too bad that Scott didn’t release these four tracks as a solo EP. It would’ve further cemented for him an already spotless reputation.

Walker Brothers – “Nite Flights” (ZIP file)

RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM – “PHANTOM POWER” EP (1999)

My good friend Sean Carnage, who books what is hands-down the best rock party night in Los Angeles (Monday nights at Pehrspace, formerly at Il Corral), was briefly in a thunderous Cleveland band around the turn of the century called Razak Solar System. They had only one self-released EP before winking out, and it deserves to be heard. Too often, local bands will build up a tremendous pressure bubble, as if ready to burst havoc across the country, but sometimes it is just not to be. Sean Carnage himself sez:

In 1999, when I should have been settling quietly into early middle age, I instead found myself underemployed and seething with anger and frustration with my adopted hometown of 13 years, Cleveland, Ohio. The music was sucking, you see. Many of the local bands were undermotivated and soft. All my favorite touring bands of the early and mid-1990s had vanished (bye-bye Dazzling Killmen, Steel Pole Bathtub, Hammerhead) taking all their juicy, messy alive-ness with them. In their wake were these horrid college pop bands masquerading as underground rock bands (“emo”). Even the bands that were trying to do something different seemed elitist (Party of Helicopters, U.S. Maple), geared toward record collectors (Men’s Recovery Project) or, worst of all, from California (the Locust).

So, I joined forces with Lean Steve, singer of the Jap/Thrash-damaged 9 Shocks Terror, and a frizzy haired half-Polish, half-Inuit dude-about-town widely known as ‘The Human Fry Box’ (he went an entire summer eating ONLY Wendy’s Biggie fries for breakfast lunch and dinner) and formed Razak Solar System. Together, we were the perfect rock ‘n roll story come to life: three outcast freaks, angry with the world and just retarded enough to think we could change things. Ha! I’m sure you can already figure how it all turned out.

We created music based on our love of Ruins, Milkmine, Boredoms, early Butthole Surfers, Hawkwind, and Magma. We wrote about things we knew like ‘Employee Theft.’ We used Rickenbacker bass, drums and keys. Later, we went to a keys, drums and more keys configuration. I kept finding Arps, Casios and classic Roland keyboards for $70 bucks at Mayfield Music, so we never ran out. Our first show was opening for the Flying Luttenbachers. We played three songs and barraged the crowd with over 500 empty LP covers. We also tried to blind them with a dear-spotting lamp. Those sickos loved it. We got nominated by a local newsweekly ‘Best Hardcore Band.’ It was absurd. We wrote more songs and recorded a demo. It became sorta popular. We hated this. We played shows behind curtains so no one could see us. Sorta like Pink Floyd. People liked this, too. So, so confusing.

One time time we went to this miserable hippie, er, I mean EMO fest in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and every single band had keys at that point. But they were all keying off the Cure or Bauhaus or something. We were listening to the ‘Peanuts and Sausage’ cassette made by the guy who groped people at the Lakewood Record Exchange where Steve worked. So we were coming at things from a completely different angle. The trendy kids hated us. We covered Roxy&’s ‘Whirlwind’ and pissed on Ted Leo’s coat. Arab On Radar were the only ones impressed. They rewarded our risk-taking performance with some hot (and tender!) anal sex in their van after the show.

Somewhere along the way, Fantomas’ label Ipecac expressed interest in us in a vague yet hopeful way and we attempted to record an album to show them, hey, record dude,s we can do this. But we couldn’t. The Human Frybox had hit the big time and joined Steve in the much more popular 9 Shocks, y’know, galavanting around the U.S. selling dozens of records. He also had dreams of being the next J Mascis. Like we really needed another J Mascis in 2000. But there was no way I was gonna continue without Frybox’s effortlessly cro-magnon, Bonham-esque drumming.

I was at home recording bands and plotting my way out of town, and I finally snapped. I was gonna move to California. Why? Because the Locust told me to. Razak was over. I have assembled a full-length album from live tracks (recorded in-studio) and tracks from our original album and demo sessions. It’s called ‘Puissance’ and if you really love the music, maybe it could come out on your label. -Sean@SeanCarnage.com

Razak Solar System – “Phantom Power” EP (ZIP file)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – “THE UP ANOTHER OCTAVE TRANSMISSION: A COMPILATION OF ORANGE COUNTRY NU MUSIC ARTISTS” (1981)

Before it became KBUE, an all-Spanish language outfit, 105.5fm here in Los Angeles was home to KNAC, one of the country’s leading heavy metal stations. When I was learning how to play bass as a kid in middle school, I would come home from school and listen to KNAC all afternoon, in hopes that they would play one or two Rush songs in-between endless spins stuff from Metallica’s “black” album and what at the time was the new Danzig single, the atrocious “Dirty Black Summer”. Before KNAC was all-metal, however, it was a South Bay competitor to the Pasadena-based KROQ, which heavily played punk and new wave (before it became known for being the country’s leading station for shitty, devoid-of-personality “modern rock”).

I had no idea of KNAC’s pre-metal history until a friend lent me his LP of “The Up Another Octave Transmission”, a KNAC-sponsored compilation featuring one side of synth-pop and cold wave acts, and another side of slightly more accessible power pop. Whenever this pretty rare record gets mentioned on the Internet, it’s usually in reference to it featuring a track by a then-unknown band you might’ve herad of called Berlin, but the real gem on here is “I Can See What’s Happening” by a group I know nothing about called Null and Void. The song is somewhat average, except for its first half, which features some of the greatest and most beautiful bloodcurdling shrieks I’ve ever heard committed to tape.

Various Artists – “The Up Another Octave Transmission” LP (ZIP file)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – “DARKER SKRATCHER” (1980)

I used to have this album back when I was in my fervent LP collecting phase, and I paid something like $30 for it back several years ago; who knows how much original copies these days.

Being active in the Los Angeles underground music scene years ago meant that I would have frequent run-ins with folks who used to be part of the L.A. Free Music Society (LAFMS), a loose collective that built its foundation in the mid-’70s and continued to have its members aligned with each other under that umbrella name for almost a decade. Of LAFMS, Allmusic sez:

The Los Angeles Free Music Society is not one group per se but rather a loose collection of several like-minded noise anarchists from the mid-’70s who found commercial rock too boring, slick, and predictable, and set out to reinvent improvisation and sound experiments with a DIY ethic. Inspired by Zappa, Captain Beefheart, John Cage, the Residents, and free jazz, the LAFMS was an underground avant-rock movement and a record label that presaged everything from punk to plunderphonics, while their utterly unconventional approach denied them any chance of mainstream success. As their movement spread, they became a lightning rod for art-damaged weird-music lovers everywhere.

In the summer of 1973, the threesome of Rick Potts, Joe Potts, and Chip Chapman started to record material under the name Patients in East L.A. These were tape experiments and improvised playing mixed with early sampling from television cartoons as well as Chapman’s extensive record collection. By 1974, they changed their name to the Los Angeles Free Music Society to do the album Ka-Bella-Binski-Bungo, however by the time the album came out, in 1975, it had been renamed Bikini Tennis Shoes and the group was now Le Forte Four with the addition of Tom Potts. Unbeknownst to them, during this time another gang of semi-musicians with a similar experimental bent gathered in the evenings at the Poo-Bah Record Shop in nearby Pasadena. Tom Recchion, who worked at the store, had formed Two Who Do Duets with Harold Schroeder in March of 1975, and later that year the group transformed into the Doo-Dooettes with the addition of Juan Gomez. Others of the Pasadena crowd included Ace Farren Ford and the Professor (who performed as the duo Ace & Duce), Dennis Duck, Richard Snyder, Fredrik Nilson, and Billy Bishop. Members of the avant-rock group Smegma, who had already been around for a couple years, were also part of the Pasadena crowd before they moved to Portland, OR, near the end of 1975. When Recchion arrived one evening with Le Forte Four’s ‘Bikini Tennis Shoes’ LP, the impressed Pasadena contingent realized they were not alone, and immediately joined the LAFMS umbrella as a way to get their own recordings released, and soon Le Forte Four and the Doo-Dooettes were double-billing live.

In 1976, Joe Potts decided to put out a various-artists compilation with an open invitation, selling space on the record at two dollars for every 15 minutes as a way to allow others who couldn’t afford their own record to release material. This compilation, I.D. Art, featuring both LAFMS artists and others, came out later that year. This led to several Blorp Essette compilations set up along similar lines in 1978 and 1980, further widening the LAFMS web and their attitude that anyone should have the right to be on record. New projects were also formed out of the pool of LAFMS compatriots, from Joe Potts’ live noise-overload project Airway, formed in 1977; to John Duncan’s CV Massage a couple years later; and even more groups in the 1980s like Solid Eye, Monique, Human Hands, Dinosaurs With Horns, Foundation Boo; as well as solo efforts by John Duncan, Joe Potts, Tom Recchion, Dennis Duck, Fredrik Nilson, and Chip Chapman. Though nothing has been released on the LAFMS label since the mid-’80s, many of the participants carried the spirit of the movement onward. It can’t be denied that their influence has carried forward through punk in the late ’70s to the cassette-tape trader movement of the ’80s, while much of their own music is still as unsettlingly weird as it was in the mid-’70s.

This compilation, “Darker Skratcher”, contains a meld of the LAFMS aesthetic with more than a dash of the snarly punk rock spirit, with an early appearance by 45 Grave, and a whallop of a footstomper by the legendary early-’80s L.A. band Human Hands. My favorite tracks are the opener, a creepy, squelchy tape collage thing by Boyd Rice and Mute Records founder Daniel Miller called “Cleanliness and Order”, and the Rick Potts Band track called “Platform Swinfins” (which would make a routine appearance years ago when I started doing my college radio show). The one eyebrow-raiser here is the inclusion of Jad Fair, whom to my knowledge was never an L.A. denzien.

Various Artists – “Darker Scratcher” LP (ZIP file)

This entry was posted in Album Sharity. Bookmark the permalink.

1,541 Responses to CHROME / WALKER BROTHERS / RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM / “THE UP ANOTHER OCTAVE TRANSMISSION” / “DARKER SCRATCHER”

  1. Two chrome posts in one week, whats up with that? They just played two shows up here in the bay area last week and it totally ruled. Did they come down to LA as well?

  2. lars says:

    I thank you highly for the Walker Brothers. Just saw the Scott Walk: 30 Century Man documentary and really wanted to track this down, but hated the idea of paying $20 for 4 songs.

  3. Bigdad says:

    Nite Fligths has actually been covered by Bowie on his Black Tie White Noise album in 1993.

  4. swingers says:

    Hello this is best blog ! All greatnews for all people. Thank you.

  5. FuseRed says:

    RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM certainly does deserve to be heard – great stuff… thanks for sharing the noise… if only I was still doing a label…

    Cheers!

  6. This is a wonderful wealth of information. Good Luck!

  7. Stig says:

    Thanks for posting the “THE UP ANOTHER OCTAVE TRANSMISSION” album. You give too much credit to KNAC for the production of the LP. The LP was the brain child of a man who went by the name of “John Lee” (now deceased). He owned and operated the “Up Another Octave” record store in OC, and was able to get a small sponsorship out of KNAC. As I recall the record was sold from his store, and may have gotten shelf space at some tower record stores. In any case distribution was very limited.

  8. @Bigdad, yeah I think Bowie did a good job on that. His singing could have been a bit better (but he’s never really been known for great vocals) but I love his artistry and music choices.
    -Ken

  9. I tried grabbing the RSS Feed to the article and for some reason it ain’t properly displaying in Google Chrome. Any ideas??

  10. ellogoods says:

    Stig- I remember Up Another Octave Records on Beach Blvd and we used to watch bands there– think we may of played there as well- I cannot remember but I heard years ago that the owner of the store passed away. Do you know any of the details.. I hate to say, I don’t even remember his name but he was a cool guy.