New York City in the late ‘70s
can be viewed through so many prisms it’d make your head spin: no wavers,
funk-punkers, hip hoppers, disco remnants, international playboys, post-Warhol
drag queens, big band brawlers, culture-clashing foreign nationals, Jamaican
guys, early electronic heads, avant-jazz cats, conga kings. French art student
Michel Esteban and British journalist Michael Zilkha attracted them all and
found a way – once they had a label, Ze – of connecting the dots and prefigure
the multicultural zeitgeist.
With the world’s (now)
forgotten boy producer/multi-instrumentalist August Darnell (a.k.a. Kid Creole)
instrumental to most of Ze’s recordings, everything from mad saxophone skronker
James Chance’s “Contort Yourself” Don Armando’s 2nd Avenue Rhumba
Band’s shake-shake-y “Deputy of Love” and robo-chanteuse Christina’s icy
“Things Fall Apart” fell into place. That the hypnotic noise of
avant-godfathers Suicide (“Dream Baby Dream”) and its rockabilly hollerer Alan
Vega (“Jukebox Babe”), Bill Laswell’s molten art-funk Material (“Bustin Out”)
and dinosaur-walking mega-composers Was (Not) Was (“Tell Me That I’m Dreaming”)
were at Ze too made for danceable drama always.
In its attempt to remake
itself, Ze’s new renaissance includes the likes of Scotland’s Michael Dracula. Emily
MacLaren repetitious composition “What Can I Do for You” finds rough hewn
rhythm guitars and Can-like rhythms cohabiting with bits of rockabilly, barroom
piano, garage-a-delic Farfisas and an atonal vocal howl to shake the rafters.
Hey, that sounds just like
old times. Cool.
Standout Tracks: Don Armando’s 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band, “Deputy of Love”;
Suicide, “Dream Baby Dream”; Was (Not) Was, “Tell Me That I’m Dreaming” A.D.