Elders of Zion
Dawn Refuses to Rise
Drone anthems in the noise pop tradition with titles like "Jerusalem Calling," "#1 in Gaza this Week," and "Rubber Bullet Rock" and sampled political statements from Ram Das, Israeli children fighting, speeches at Berkeley, old activist speeches, etc. Interesting stuff, really -- pretty moody and dark for the most part without being morbid. They seem to have spent a good deal of energy avoiding the usual pitfalls of this type of recording. It sounds "original," for lack of a better word, and the effects aren't worn or hackneyed. The jacket reports that they didn't use any sequencing or MIDI, but accomplished it all through cut and paste. This represents a huge amount of work, and the results reflect the effort. Not for casual listening. (BW)
(Incidental Music -- 3440 25th Street, #501, San Francisco, CA. 94110; http://www.incidentalmusic.com/)
Fanfare in the Garden: An Essential Logic Collection
Part of the joy and misery of being a punk-loving music nerd who reads too much rock criticism comes not only from knowing about certain artists, songs and albums that you've never heard and might never get a chance to hear but from watching them being used as weapons in ideological battles that their creators almost certainly didn't envision. When Robert Christgau praises LiLiPUT in Grown Up All Wrong, he good-naturedly fires a shot across the bow of his colleague Griel Marcus, for whom Essential Logic occupies the same space in his own punk rock cosmology. Both groups have a few similar characteristics, as they were female-fronted (and, in LiLiPUT's case, -comprised) post-punk bands possessed of a distinctly feminine cant, but simply setting them on each other in a sonic turf war ignores the fact that they fundamentally differed in one crucial regard: LiLiPUT (née Kleenex) were bohemians, intellectual and full of artistic curiosity about what they could get away with, whereas Essential Logic was a band whose central figure had already successfully navigated the waters of the first wave of British punk. If LiLiPUT's approach made them fully aware of the boundaries that they were pushing, the more intuitive Essential Logic simply did things they didn't know shouldn't have been possible in the first place and ended up with music that was more than simply an academic exercise in the process.
When Lora Logic, still a teenager, skidded away from X-Ray Spex, where her second-among-equals standing grew problematic, her entire approach in forming and maintaining her new band could be described as enthusiastic naïveté. Logic (who must be played by Samantha Morton whenever the movie is made) certainly wasn't stupid -- it would've been hard to be in a band with a couple of hits, even during the chaos of the British pop charts in 1977 and 1978, without picking up a thing or two about how the machinery works -- but there's a heedlessness to both her approach and her goals for the band she named after the self that she created from the ashes of the former Susan Whitby. There's a sense in listening to the recorded legacy captured on the two CDs of Fanfare In The Garden that Logic just had this noise that she had to get out.
She got it out, all right, although there are times when it seems that it only escaped by the skin of its teeth. The glorious sound blast of "Aerosol Burns," which opens Fanfare, is delivered by a band whose tightness is only two or three degrees separated from the Shaggs, competent enough as individuals but barely held together as a collective. It's one of the few recordings on the collection that could truly be called "punk"; not long after, Essential Logic threw a "post-" in front of that designation and developed an increasingly rhythmic orientation, utilizing aspects of both the punk-sanctioned reggae (sublimated in the first half of "The Order Form," more explicitly in the instrumental "World Friction") and the punk-abhorred disco (in songs like the aptly titled "Music Is A Better Noise" and "Brute Fury"). Still, the cooptation of these styles betrays very little calculation on Logic's part; it would be hard to imagine a pure disco tune featuring the multiple saxophones battling for dominance at the start of "Brute Fury."
Despite its billing and subtitle, Fanfare is more of a career retrospective of all of Lora Logic's work, not just the records recorded under the Essential Logic name. That makes sense, since even though drummer Rich Tee and guitarist Philip Legg stuck around through most of the band's first incarnation, the focus was always unquestionably Logic and her voice, which was one not of beauty but of expression. In her almost theatrical approach to the noises emanating from her throat, Logic comes off as a punk-influenced Kate Bush (especially on the Red Crayola's "Born In Flames"), and she pushed her range as far as she could force it. The result was a vocal style that was dissonant and non-linear in a way similar to but not imitative of Yoko Ono; the saxophone may well have been her instrument of choice simply because it mimicked the blare, honk and squeal of the sounds that were already pouring out of her mouth. Listening to Fanfare, even by the third or fourth time, there's simply no guessing what's going to come out of it next.
As with much of the enthusiasm of both punk and teendom, Logic's full-bore foray into lassoing the music in her head didn't last all that long; retreating (though not exactly retiring) at the ripe old age of 23, she leaves Fanfare with something of a huge gap from 1983 to 1997, a period represented by only two unreleased songs from 1985 and 1991. Tracks 4-11 on the second disc comprise more or less a brand new Logic album (albeit one recorded six years ago), and, ironically enough, it bears many of the standard trappings of new wave and generally subdued vocals. The recordings are something of a revelation, though, showcasing a pop sensibility that didn't rear its head much, if at all, during Logic's first go-round. The tuneful "On The Internet" could have easily followed Blondie on the radio in 1980 (or, for obvious reasons, perhaps not) and there are hints of 'til tuesday-era Aimee Mann in the vocal (but only the vocal) of "Not Me." Fanfare's most gorgeous song, "The Beautiful and the Damned," is a ballad about as far removed from "Aerosol Burns" as you could imagine: measured instead of heedless, serene instead of frenzied, with a saxophone part more lyrical than assaultive and a vocal more empathetic than distanced.
Lord knows if any of this is what Marcus and Christgau are battling over. More to the point, it's impossible to know how the music on Fanfare sounded when it originally spewed from the brain of a hyperactively creative British teenager unless you were there at the time. That makes it much easier to attribute Essential Logic's reputation less to the inherent value of the music they created than to their historical proximity to feminist post-punk's ground zero. As it happens, though, both the band and the woman behind them are lucky enough that the music, for the most part, is compelling enough on its own to back up the legend. (MH)
(Kill Rock Stars -- 120 NE State Ave. PMB 418, Olympia, WA. 98501; http://www.killrockstars.com/)