Posts by Dan Sloan

Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck started making music together as Lucky Dragons in 2000. Since then, they’ve put out close to twenty albums of interesting and beautiful experimental music. Today’s track, “Givers,” comes from their 2008 album Dream Island Laughing Language.

The band is known for their interactive performances, which emphasize collaboration and play among audience members. In their 2011 project “Wrong Spectrum,” audience members were given CD-Rs to hold in front of projected light, effecting changes to the sound being produced. In the ongoing project “Make A Baby,” a rug is outfitted with circuitry, connected to a computer and turned into an instrument that makes sounds based on skin contact between the performers. In one setup, audience members are given rocks to hold in front of an oscillator to change its tone.

Among the duo’s other projects are KCHUNG, a low-power AM radio station in Chinatown, L.A., the drawing collective Sumi Ink Club and the online art shop Glaciers of Nice. A great deal of Lucky Dragons’ music is available on their Bandcamp, so check it out.

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In 1977, Ana da Silva and Gina Birch formed The Raincoats as two art students in London. They were joined the next year by classically-trained violinist Vicky Aspinall and drummer Palmolive (Paloma Romero, who had recently left the all-female punk group The Slits). “No Side To Fall In” comes from their self-titled debut, released on Rough Trade in 1979, which is great end-to-end and includes an amazing cover of The Kinks’ “Lola”. Palmolive left the band soon after the release of The Raincoats and was replaced by Ingrid Weiss, with whom the band went on to release two great studio LPs: Odyshape in 1981 and Moving in 1983. Also in 1983, the group recorded a live album at the famous downtown New York performance space The Kitchen. It’s all essential, so check it out.

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MX-80 Sound formed in the fertile scene of late-’70s Bloomington, IN—also home to other great bands like The Gizmos, Dancing Cigarettes, and The Panics (for those interested, I came across this public access special from the early ‘90s called “The History of Bloomington Music” that has some neat live footage from the era). The band’s first release was the 1976 EP Big Hits: Hard Pop From The Hoosiers, put out by the local label Bar B Q Records. Big Hits attracted the attention of Island Records, for whom MX-80 recorded their debut LP, Hard Attack. That album saw release in 1977, but only in Europe.

Relocation to San Francisco brought the band into contact with The Residents’ Ralph Records, who released 1980’s Out Of The Tunnel and 1981’s Crowd Control, from which today’s track is taken. MX-80 continued to record intermittently throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s—their 1996 tour album Always Leave ‘Em Wanting Less features two tracks recorded during their Airplay set here at WNUR—and their most recent release was 2005’s We’re An American Band. Just about everything is available on the website for MX-80 Sound’s label, Quadruped Media, so check them out.

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Billy Nicholls was just 18 when he took up work as a songwriter for Andrew Oldham’s newly formed Immediate Records in 1967. Nicholls wrote the minor hit “Led Along” for fellow Immediate act Del Shannon before starting his own career as a performer, recording the twelve-track album Would You Believe at the famous Olympic Studios in London. Oldham, who had managed and produced the Rolling Stones between 1963 and 1967, intended the record as the British response to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. While that’s a high bar to set, the record is a success on its own terms, with huge productions by Oldham and instrumentation by The Small Faces’ Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane as well as a host of now-legendary session musicians including Nicky Hopkins and Big Jim Sullivan, not to mention arrangements by John Paul Jones and Arthur Greenslade.

“Daytime Girl” first saw release as the b-side to the album’s single “Would You Believe?” and was put out in January 1968, a release that failed to live up to Oldham’s commercial expectations. The album was due for release in April of that year, but Immediate’s financial problems limited its initial run to only 100 promotional copies. In 1974, Nicholls released the album Love Songs and in 1977 the White Horse self-titled record, which included songs that would later be hits for Leo Sayer and Roger Daltry, but Nicholls’ own recording career never really took off. Would You Believe was eventually reissued in 1999 along with Snapshot, a collection of demos from this period.

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Today’s Track of the Day is Jean Michel Jarre’s “Zoolook,” which comes from his 1984 album of the same name. Jarre, who had studied under Pierre Schaeffer at the famous Groupe de Recherches Musicales, achieved breakout success in 1976 with his home-recorded New Age synth masterpiece Oxygène. On Bastille Day in 1979, he performed selections from that record and its follow-up, Équinoxe, for an audience of over a million people at the Place de la Concord. That concert was the first of many large-scale performances for Jarre, who is now perhaps known as much for the spectacle of his live show as his compositions.

On Zoolook, Jarre made extensive use of the famous Fairlight CMI sampling synthesizer, which can be heard in the lead synth as well as the sampled voices on this track (if you’d like to see a demonstration of the Fairlight, I’d recommend watching Herbie Hancock show it to the kids on Sesame Street here). The record was a relatively poor seller for Jarre, which is a shame because it’s great—Laurie Anderson does vocals on one track, and the whole thing is really a fun and interesting listen.

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