Orgasmo – “All F’kd Up / A Cavalcade of Thugs” (1994)

Sometimes the random pickups become the most interesting.

I knew nothing about this when I bought it other than that Discogs had it described as both lo-fi and hip hop, so for three bucks I had to know what that was all about. It only took a few Googles to run across a blog post by artist and former Orgasmo member Prince Charming that gave the whole background on this thing. And in many ways the story is as interesting as the music.

Charming and his Orgasmo partner Slippery were in the process of calling it quits, when this thing came out and what I find most intriguing is the way this record is put together – the “All F’kd Up” side consists of four original Orgasmo tracks, while the “A Cavalcade of Thugs” side is essential a comp of underground performers who influenced them. No permissions were sought, they just put them on the flip side and that was that. You can read the whole thing HERE, and it’s a pretty interesting story.

Musically Orgasmo is some weird stuff. The hip hop is indeed lo-fi, falling outside of the more polished stuff that became commercially viable at the time. However, the last song on the side of originals, “Dutch Wife”, is more of a late 1960s psych-style jam, about as far from hip hop as you can get, replete with guitars and honky-tonkish vocals reminiscent of, of all things, the Velvet Underground. There’s some interesting stuff on the flip side as well, like Ass Toast Nation’s almost Otis-Redding-like delivery and the MC5-ish punk rock of Tom Gemp.

“Midnite Spares” Compilation (2016)

I love me a good comp, especially when it’s devoted to bands from smaller musical outposts and includes weird stuff from the 1980s. Hence how I ended up with a copy of Midnite Spares, a collection of 10 “avant pop and electronic works” by Australian performers during the 1982-92 period.

And there’s some weird stuff on Midnite Spares. Poets of the Machine’s “Arabs” layers Persian instrumentation over top of tribal beats, while the female vocalist (I think it’s Jandy Rainbow) sort of sings/sort of talks over it. And then the beats turn more to dance… and we get a male vocalist… and the whole thing sounds like you’ve been sitting in some corner bazaar inhaling too much second-hand hash smoke. It’s like bizarro version of Blondie’s “Rapture” but, you know, without a guy from Mars eating cars. The instrumental “Hakka Suru” by The Igniters sounds like the music to some kind of Law & Order spinoff, though probably a slower paced one with minimal drama. Mumbo Jumbo’s “Wind It Up” is probably the closest thing to a “classical” mid-1980s pop song on the collection, complete with the obligatory saxophone, but one that’s cool because it isn’t quite as polished as the big radio hits – it sounds more like something that real people wrote and performed (Wind it up / Let it go / From Sydney Harbor / To the Gulf of Mexico). The closing track, Foot and Mouth’s “I Want My Mummy”, gets the gold star for being the most completely whacked out track on the comp, a disturbing tune about mommy, daddy, and divorce with vocals that sound like they were recorded underwater and will undoubtedly creep you out to no end.

Midnite Spares is available on Bandcamp HERE, both for purchase and some free listening. The vinyl includes a download card, which definitely makes it an appealing option.

Savage Republic – “Tragic Figures” (1984)

Somehow I missed the Savage Republic train all these years. Mind you, I doubt I’d have been ready for Tragic Figures when it came out in 1984 since I was more focused on Van Halen, Ratt, and Huey Lewis and the News, but still, somewhere over the course of the subsequent 30+ years I feel like they should have come into my orbit.

Tragic Figures was Savage Republic’s debut album, one that interestingly came out in multiple small batches in 1984/85, presumably due to its growing popularity. I believe each of the five vinyl editions that released during this period were sequentially numbered, with a total of just over 5,000 copies pressed. My copy is mid-4th edition, for whatever that’s worth from a sound quality standpoint.

Reviewers usually comment on Savage Republic’s tribal drum style, and it’s definitely a core feature of their sound. In fact it reminds me a bit of the early Bonemen of Barumba stuff, though the rest of Savage Republic’s feel definitely leans post-punk with the gloomy, alienated vocals. There’s an incessant intensity to their songs, a prime example of which is “Next to Nothing” which bores its way right into your brain. It’s almost like a tribal version of industrial, particularly on the B side, if that makes any sense at all (♠). I’ll definitely be giving this some more spins.

(♠) Note to self – it doesn’t.

Oval – “Oh” (2010)

Any time I see the phrase musique concrète used to describe an artist or album it gives me pause, both intriguing and filling me with unease at the same time. How experimental is it going to be? Will it even be recognizable as “music”? Am I interested in it because I’m legitimately interested or out of some kind of pretentious snobbery? These are the ridiculous thoughts that sometime go through my head when trying to decide whether or not to buy a record. But then I try to remind myself, “dude, you’re just buying a record, not projecting some taste-manifesto out into the world”, which usually results in my buying the record. My id and superego fight inside my head a lot, and sometimes my ego just needs to tell them both to shut the hell up.

Which brings us to Oval’s 2010 EP Oh, the first thing that Markus Popp (the sole member of Oval for most of its existence) put out under the Oval name in almost a decade. It was the precursor to the double album O released the same year. Oh was limited to 1,000 copies on white vinyl with an actual photograph attached to the front, and the entire run sold out during pre-order.

What sets Oh apart from previous Oval releases is its use of actual instruments – previously Oval recorded using various electronic methods including things like the sound of a CD skipping. I’ve seen their earlier work described as “field recordings from inside a computer”, which I have to admit feels both a bit appealing and a bit annoying at the same time.

I can’t speak to those earlier recordings, but what I can tell you is that Oh is definitely equal parts intriguing and enjoyable. It could loosely fall into the ambient category with it’s overall pace. The occasional bursts of instrumentation seeded in among all the electronic sounds are compelling, especially the jazz-like drumming on “oh!” that serves to introduce an element of entropy into the semi-structure imposed by the electronics, a sort of human element injected into the machine world. The same effect exists elsewhere on Oh, like the Spanish guitar on “kasko”, with the instrumentation, while often only quasi-musical in and of itself, adding an organic component to the overall sound.

Described as an EP there’s still a lot of music on Oh, with the record’s 15 tracks running roughly 25 minutes. The four A side songs are arguably the must fully developed and are the longest, while nothing on the B side lasts more than 1:45, and these generally feel more like experiments than they do compositions. While the record itself is no longer available, you can listen to and purchase a download of Oh on Bandcamp HERE.

Reptilicus – “Crusher of Bones” (1990)

Every now and again I manage to snag a vintage Icelandic album on eBay for a decent price (♠). Most recently this happened a few weeks back when I was able to pick up a copy of Reptilicus’ second full-length album, 1990s Crusher of Bones. I have a 7″ of theirs that I wrote about previously and I’ve kept my eyes open for their stuff ever since.

On a quasi-related note, I’m always on the lookout for OG Icelandic releases when I’m out and about digging here in the States, though generally with no luck. A few years back I found a copy of Þeyr’s Mjötviður Mær in Salt Lake City and just about passed out from the shock. Ironically I purchased it and re-patriated it back to a friend in Iceland who had been looking for it for a while. But until this weekend, that was it. And then we went down to Portland, Oregon, and there I found copies of Ornamental’s 12″ as well as this Reptilicus release, which was a mild bummer since I’d just picked it up online. Go figure.

As for Crusher of Bones, this is some decent industrial. I’m sure it would have sounded harder had I heard it when it first came out 28 years ago, but that being said it’s held up well. “Pirates of Paradise” is killer, opening like a sort of classical gothic intro to a Conan movie before the vocals take it in a more disturbing direction. Top to bottom this thing is rock solid, well worth the effort if you’re a fan of Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb, or the like.

(♠) Though more frequently I’m either outbid or the record is one I already have… and paid a lot more for when I bought it!