Tag: Blaine L Reininger (Page 1 of 2)

A Not So Short Conversation with CULT WITH NO NAME

With  their two most recent albums ‘Heir Of The Dog’ and ‘Mediaburn’, CULT WITH NO NAME have consolidated their position as “post-punk balladeers”.

The duo comprising the suave figure of crooner Erik Stein and the understated ivory virtuoso of Jon Boux issued their first album ‘Paper Wraps Rock’ in 2007. What CULT WITH NO NAME have never been short of is mood, but their artistic progression has included more expansive and electronic arrangements.

In the middle of writing and recoding the next CULT WITH NO NAME album, Erik Stein took time out to chat with The Electricity Club about their most recent works and also the conundrum of practical packaging for compact discs.

Both ‘Heir Of The Dog’ and ‘Media Burn’ appear to have gained wider traction than previous CULT WITH NO NAME, why do you think that might be?

I guess so. A lot of that will have had to do with the success of ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’, the soundtrack for the David Lynch documentary we recorded with TUXEDOMOON and John Foxx.

The wonderful thing about ‘BVR’ is that it has had at least four lives. Originally, the soundtrack was due to be released alongside the film, but delays to the film meant it was released a whole year beforehand in 2015. So, we had tonnes of press for the soundtrack, followed by another tonne of press for the film when it came out a year later.

The film had a really long life, touring festivals around the world for a year or two. Then, just as that started to fall away, The Criterion Collection reissued ‘Blue Velvet’ on Blu-Ray (inexplicably only Region 1) and included ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ as the main extra at David Lynch’s own request. And then, just as the publicity from that started to fall away, HBO Italy licensed one of the tracks from it (‘Lumberton’) for their series ‘The New Pope’, starring Jude Law and John Malkovich. Spotify plays went through the roof, not that that ever amounts to anything apart from some nice graphs.

All of this has helped keep our profile quite high, which is so important given that we don’t perform live particularly often.

That’s not a conscious decision, by the way, it’s just when faced with spending a day working on music or emailing promoters, I know which I’d choose. Being relentlessly focused on recording has helped us at least be prolific, which also helps.

Would it be fair to say ‘Heir Of The Dog’ and ‘Mediaburn’ are companion albums musically?

Personally, I don’t see them that way, but if people do that’s fine of course. We actually see ‘Heir Of The Dog’ as our ‘Americana’ album. As well as having a wonderful black American singer Sirena Riley perform on it, there are a few nods stylistically. ‘Rosabelle, Believe’ is kind of disco, ‘I Don’t Fear The Reaper (Just Don’t Want To Meet Her)’ is kind of blues, ‘Of California’ is kind of gospel, and ‘All I Have is Yours (Including You)’ is kind of croonerish. All in their peculiar semi-electronic way. As an album, I think the tracks hang together better than any other album we’ve done.

‘Mediaburn’, on the other hand, is a bit more all over the place musically, but is lyrically much more thematic, not that most people pay attention to lyrics. There’s no deliberate link between the two. We tend to treat every single song completely independently from the last, sometimes to a fault. For the next album we’re trying to make more of a conscious effort to use consistent sounds.

I interviewed Paul Humphreys of OMD in his home studio once and I always remember him saying that you should start an album with a palette of sounds to draw from and restrict yourself to it. You can really hear that on OMD albums. Take ‘Junk Culture’ as an example. That album has a sound totally unique to it in terms of OMD’s discography. The problem is, I get very easily distracted. Luckily Jon Boux (the other half of CWNN) is much more consistent with his sound choices although much more freehand in how it applies it (a good thing).

You had the usual supporting cast of Kelli Ali and the guys from TUXEDOMOON on board as well?

I recently sent Kelli Ali the tracks for the next album and she loves it, so will be adding stuff to that too.

She really is like a third member of CWNN now and always so wonderful to hear her say such nice things about us.

I don’t want CWNN’s sound to get too ‘typecast’ but Kelli’s voice really does add something special and we complement each other well. We’ve also been helping with her excellent ‘Ghostdriver’ film and album, including some attempts at acting from yours truly. ‘Ghostdriver’ is genuinely a superb album.

With Steven Brown and Blaine L Reininger from TUXEDOMOON, I’m partly still indulging the musical fantasy of having some of my musical heroes play on our albums. It’s ridiculous really, I mean they’re friends now and we’ve recorded and released a very successful album together. Of course, that’s not to take away the vitally important contributions they make. Blaine’s violin on ‘By Air Or By Sea’ on ‘Mediaburn’ makes that track what it is. It’s funny, I’m so close to the TUXEDOMOON story now that I sometimes forget how amazing and influential their records still are and just how big a fan I was in my 20s.

‘Heir Of The Dog’ contains two distinct types of songs, the CWNN signature piano ballads and more obviously midtempo electronic pop?

We’re just carrying on a tradition from the very first album, although each album has probably got a little more electronic than the last. That’s partly to do with confidence in the technology, if I’m honest.

The piano ‘ballads‘ (none are actual ballads) are still crucially important. It’s all too easy to surrender and make a record of only electronic ‘pop’.

I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, but the extreme restrictions of piano + voice, or whatever you choose, can push you to be more creative. It certainly helps us stand out, in the quietest kind of way. It’s also worth noting that two piano ballads ‘You Know Me Better Than I Know Myself’ and ‘Swept Away’ are in the top five most popular CWNN tracks. A lot of people say ‘Swept Away’ is the best song we’ve ever written.

‘Rosabelle, Believe’ fell into that latter category, how did that come together?

Musically, it’s dead simple. I had the main riff on guitar, transposed that to synths and it went from there. It’s only three chords. Steven Brown’s sax is great on it too. It was an obvious track for him to perform on.

Lyrically, it’s an interesting one. I have quite a big interest in magic. Not occultism (I’ve really tried, but no), but the actual artistry of magic… slight of hand, chopping people in leotards in half, making things disappear, that sort of thing. Harry Houdini famously spent the final few years of his life trying to reveal mediums as fakes. He even offered up rewards for anyone that could demonstrate to him it was real. Then Houdini famously got punched in the stomach, which ultimately lead to his early death.

On his deathbed he made a pact with his wife Bess to carry on this work. He told her that if a medium claimed they were in contact with him in the afterlife during a séance that he would have a code word for her, which was ‘Rosabelle, Believe’ (‘Rosabelle’ being the name of a song they used to sing to each other). And there you have it.

Interestingly, Bess did eventually claim that a medium had successfully contacted Houdini, but it turned out it was an inside job to get and split the reward money. A sad end, really.

What was the idea behind ‘Yves Klein’s Blues’, wasn’t he the guy who did the exhibition ‘The Void’ which was an empty art gallery?

The music for this was a demo that Kelli had developed for her fantastic ‘Bands of Angels’ album, which we co-wrote two songs for. We loved the piece, so took the vocal and created the backing around it. It has a real COCTEAU TWINS feel to it, I think.

The title was me trying to be too clever, as usual. As ‘Heir of the Dog’ was our Americana album, I wanted a track called ‘Something, Something Blues’, like a tongue in cheek reference to Robert Johnson. As the track was just three chords, that fitted nicely with the concept too. Yves Klein did indeed create ‘The Void’ exhibition amongst many other things, but is most famous for patenting ‘International Klein Blue’, his own distinctive blue pigment. Calling the track ‘Yves Klein’s Blues’ was a pun that I just couldn’t resist.

One of the highlights of ‘Heir Of the Dog’ is ‘All I Have Is Yours (Including You)’ which has a real classic pop feel about it, but you still haven’t performed it live yet?

I know, I know. It’s a quite a long track though. For us to perform it would have to be a concert with a longer setlist time. I keep meaning to note down all the CWNN songs we have yet to perform live. There’s a whole lot of them. I’m really pleased you like it. I think it’s quite different to any other song in our catalogue.

From ‘Mediaburn’, ‘Blind Dogs For The Guides’ is a fantastic title for a song…

Thanks. The song title came first. I like it when that happens, and you can see that with bands like SPARKS. I mean, they have some of the greatest song titles in music history. I’m always aiming for that. Jon did some fantastically morose piano on this. Lyrically, it’s simply about not being able to trust what you read online.

No one knows what is real or fake anymore. To believe everything you hear is obviously ridiculous, but to dismiss everything equally dangerous and irresponsible. Is it better to be misinformed or uninformed? Answers on a postcard, please.

There’s more wordplay with ‘Fake Nudes’… despite the internet being a leveller and seemingly connecting more people, over the years it seems to have created some strange isolation bubbles don’t you think?

Absolutely. It’s really a myth that the internet brings people closer together if all it’s used for is to hide reality. People can use it to create whatever image of themselves they want to people to see. And we all do it, let’s face it. People can endlessly post things that make them appear as if they’re an outsider. Or they cannot be on social media altogether… to make themselves appear as if they’re an outsider.

‘Fake Nudes’ isn’t actually about any of that. It’s actually about the fake Melania Trump conspiracy. It’s very entertaining if you’ve not seen it. Some people believe her bodyguard doubles for her at times. I’m not a conspiracy theorist at all, but for a while I thought it might be true. I’m much less certain now though. By the way, the drum sounds on ‘Fake Nudes’ were totally inspired by ‘Scared Heart’ by OMD, which I think is an outstanding B-side.

With ‘Low On High’, you’re sort of going disco, what happened there? 😉

I’ve always thought of ‘Rosabelle, Believe’ as our disco number, but I see what you mean. In many ways these are companion pieces, both have Steven Brown on sax. It had never occurred to me before. The song really is just built around a weird chord progression I played one day on synth. It’s become one of the most popular tracks on the album, which we’d never have predicted. I guess the people want CWNN to go disco! It’s quite epic in places.

It’s another bizarre CWNN lyric, bear with me. I read an article that there was a global shortage of helium gas. It’s just something that would never occur to me as a thing to happen, and most people I imagine. It set off a million puns in my head about party balloons not inflating etc, although helium has very serious medical uses, of course.

There’s more to the story in that the same article talked about huge helium reserves being found in Tanzania. So that in turn set off thoughts about how ghastly Western mining corporations will be marching into the beautiful Tanzanian landscape and completing destroying it to extract their gas. I found an incredible clip of an indigenous Tanzanian tribe reciting the bible in their own language and thought, “that’s it! What could possibly demonstrate the Western colonisation of Africa to steal its resources better than an indigenous tribe reciting the bible?” So, that is the African voice you hear.

Oh, and a song about helium has got to be a party song, right?

Is the arty synth waltz of ‘Mona’ about the lady whose image hangs in in the Louvre?

It is, but in a peculiar way, which I will come on to. The origins of the song actually go back about 10 years. It was called ‘The World is Short Staffed’ at the time (very timely). We made an attempt at it a couple of years ago, but it didn’t really work. So, I completely rewrote the lyrics and we tried again from scratch. Got there in the end.

The lyrics are actually a bit surrealist or absurdist, depending on how you look at it. The Mona Lisa is an oil painting and, as all artists know, oil paintings never quite dry. So, the song proposes that the reason the Mona Lisa’s smile is so enigmatic is because her face is melting. When Da Vinci painted it 500 years ago, she was grinning from ear to ear and in another 500 years it will be a frown. I should add that I’m not seriously proposing this, but I liked it as a totally bonkers notion.

One thing that is peculiar about the ‘Mediaburn’ album is that there are so many songs in triple time; five of them. It’s highly unusual for most bands these days, and in particular electronic ones. I’m quietly a bit proud of that. That’s another reason OMD stand apart. They even had hits with their triple time songs.

The exotic mood of ‘All This Spite (Comes At A Price)’ masks a message that is far more sinister?

We deliberately tried to go ‘electronic Chris Isaak’ on this. I’m very pleased with how it came out and Kelli’s vocals are magnificent. There’s also a bass arpeggiator in it, which reminds me a bit of how Martin Rev from Suicide plays. Another influence.

The lyrics are about people that essentially say outrageous or ridiculous things for cash, Katie Hopkins, Milo Yiannopolous, Ann Coulter, Piers Morgan etc. They have quite literally made a career out of drawing attention to themselves in a way that earns them money. I genuinely don’t think they believe half the stuff they say, but they need to feed the beast.

One thing that The Electricity Club liked was the packaging idea used for ‘Heir Of The Dog’ and ‘Mediaburn’ where the cardboard slipcase contained an alternative insert to put in a plastic jewel cases for those like us who prefer something more practical that doesn’t scratch the CD surface like those horrible vinyl replica sleeves that Mute favour and can fit in CD rack… had this been borne out of personal experience?

We always like to give people options, what can I say? I’m not a huge fan of digipacks, unless they have a nice booklet inside. The single panel digipacks you increasingly see totally sell people short, and having a package that doesn’t fit into a CD rack is highly annoying. I have well over 2000 CDs, I should know. There are some great examples, though. I’ve been massively impressed with Cherry Red’s reissue programme for THE RESIDENTS; double CD digis with a big thick booklet, loads of unseen photos, etc. Selling CDs is hard work these days, so you have to put the effort in, whatever it comes in.

I wouldn’t say that the packaging of our most recent albums is a direct attempt to right some packaging wrongs. In some ways, ours is impractical as it takes a bit of effort to actually get inside. I like packaging that you can pore over and explore. We all have memories as teenagers of buying records or CDs and looking at every detail of the cover while the album plays. I think including lyrics is important, as it’s one of the only incentives left for people to buy physical copies, sadly.

For these last few albums, we’ve been led by the brilliant Leigh from Disc-Phalanx. He really is a packaging genius. The “make your own jewel case” thing was entirely his doing. He’s recently done a whole load reissues for Björk, which speaks for itself. I was also pleased to throw some work his way as he did a bit of package design for the excellent James Nice at LTM.

You’ve been collaborating with TINY MAGNETIC PETS on their new album ‘Point Of Collapse’?

Love TINY MAGNETIC PETS! It was you of course that first introduced me to Sean Quinn. We get on great, though it’s impossible not to get on with them. There is also of course a very real mutual appreciation of the music we both make.

I think TMP really stand apart. I was really happy that they invited me to help write lyrics and melody for a song for their next album. It’s called ‘Cosmonaut’s Lullaby’, a duet with Paula.

I loved the track, so it wasn’t hard to write something and luckily they were very happy with what I did. I’m really looking forward to the album. We’ve done gigs together of course, we keep mentioning about doing a tour together. One day it might even happen. I am genuinely so, so happy to see TMP to achieve the success that they have, they truly deserve it.

You recently did a track with Jochen Oberlack for his EISBERG project called ‘Moby Dick’ which was a bit different?

Again, Jochen asked me and I really liked the track he sent. I really like his music in general, it’s kind of like a harder-edged RHEINGOLD (who I think are an underrated band anyway). Brilliantly produced. The lyrics and melody came quite quickly. He was happy, I was happy. Another great person.

Has the recent spate of collaborations including those with Rusty Egan brought new approaches into CULT WITH NO NAME?

They probably have, but not consciously as such. Rusty continues to be an amazing advocate for CWNN and we’re so grateful to him. I’ve met so many people though him that have also become friends. Rusty also introduced me to Paul Tunkin who has since become our publisher.

We’ve been asked to do a couple of remixes recently, one for Kelli Ali (‘Fear of London’, which has come out) and another for a band I Iove which should be out later in the year. That has been an interesting experience as it’s not something we’ve really done before. In both cases we went massively off track and turned them into something unrecognisable. There’s also another interesting collaboration in the works, but I can’t reveal anything just yet.

How is the new album coming along, will it be part of a trilogy with ‘Heir Of The Dog’ and ‘Mediaburn’ or conceptually something different altogether?

More of the same, but each album is better than the last, right? Not that all bands say that, of course. I would say, as mentioned earlier, that we’ve tried to stick to a few sounds that we use across several tracks, certainly drum sound wise.

Drums always take me the longest anyway, perhaps that’s why we have so many tracks with no drums at all. I’m determined to not overcrowd the tracks, so the production is a little bit more minimal (in an electronic sense). Some tracks on ‘Mediaburn’ nearly tipped me over the edge in terms of endlessly fiddling about and adding on layer upon layer. I was absolutely sick to death of some songs by the end.

With the new album, I’m trying to not overthink it too much…or over listen. It’s working, so far. The more consistent approach to production means that I think the songs are going to hang together conceptually really well. There really are some absolute corkers on this album, even if I do say so myself. There’s dark thumping electro, epic synth ballads, Arabic grooves… something for the whole family to enjoy.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Erik Stein

‘Mediaburn’ is released as a CD and download, available along with the CULT WITH NO NAME back catalogue from https://cultwithnoname.bandcamp.com/

https://www.cultwithnoname.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cwnnofficial/

https://twitter.com/cultwithnoname

https://www.instagram.com/cultwithnoname/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th April 2020

BLAINE L REININGER Commissions 2

Blaine L Reininger is the noted American singer and multi-instrumentalist who crossed the Atlantic with TUXEDOMOON and eventually settled in Europe.

Initially finding a home in post-punk Brussels, he now happily resides in Athens, an environment that has provided him with the freedom to compose genre-crossing works, both solo and with his iconic band.

Casual music observers may know Blaine L Reininger for the TB303 driven cinematic synthpop of ‘Mystery & Confusion’ from 1984.

But his latest collection ‘Commissions 2’ released by Les Disques du Crépuscule gathers soundtrack music made for theatre and dance productions staged between 2015-2019. It follows-up his previous soundtrack anthology from 2014.

These include ‘Angels’, ‘Caligula’, ‘The Kindly Ones’, ‘Reigen’, ‘Master & Margarita’, ‘Picnic With the Devil’ and ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ with the pieces ultilising a variety of textures including synthesizers, piano, guitar, string bass, cimbalom, ukulele, choirs and Reininger’s ever faithful violin.

The works range from atmospheric and eerie to grand and gothic, but despite their experimental nature, are mostly highly listenable in their own right. Opening the package, ‘Im Eiswind’ from ‘The Kindly Ones’ manages to mix all of the attributes afore mentioned, with the violin working well alongside various Mellotron sounds.

‘Atomium Sunrise’ is more ambient in tone while ‘Cold Song’ is appropriately dominated by an ominous synthbass, as is the dramatic ‘Krakenangriff’ from ‘Master & Margarita’,

Meanwhile ‘Alter Ego’ also off ‘Master & Margarita’ unexpectedly brings in vocoder and apes classic DEPECHE MODE.

But ‘Petao, Petao’ plays with arpeggios and haunting choirs while ‘You People Amaze Me’ uses a lot of reverse treatments over a solemn repeated organ.

Beginning disc two which has a more arthouse approach, the Eno-esque ‘Because It’s Me’ from ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ pulses along with soothing understated electronics and vocoder treatments next to slightly detuned chimes which combine for a fabulously spacey effect.

Both ‘Betweenspace’ and ‘Mauthausen Girls’ offer a more acoustic outlook within a uneasy schizophrenic cocoon, but ‘Novvy Kover’ crosses accordion with synths in a manner that is more like an aural collage.

The accordion-laden Terrible Father’ from ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ springs a surprise with a spirited vocal from Reininger, while the self-explanatory ‘Rilke Elegy’ from Reigen’ sets the tone with thoughtful lyrics.

‘Where Did They Take Him?’ from ‘The Kindly Ones’ is understandably sombre in tone, highlighting the more traditional format that dominates disc two, although ‘Happy New Year, Dorothy’ is a lively rhythmic piece with a most beautiful fiddle hook.

A fine collection of accessible soundtrack works with disc two being of a more avant garde bent, those new to the work of Reininger will find a nice entry point in disc one, while TUXEDOMOON fans will relish what is presented on disc two.

‘Commissions 2’ is thus a win-win for anyone with an interest in quality soundtrack compositions .


‘Commissions 2’ is released by Les Disques du Crépuscule as a 2CD set and download, available now from https://lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/commissions_2_twi1246cd.html

https://mundoblaineo.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Blaine-L-Reininger-157948817590987/

https://twitter.com/BlaineReininger

https://tuxedomoonblr.bandcamp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th November 2019

BLAINE L REININGER The Blue Sleep

Blessed Are the Noise-Makers

As a cardinal of the European avant-garde and co-founder of TUXEDOMOON, Blaine L Reininger is both schooled and shrouded in mystery.

Born in a straight-laced part of America, the multi-instrumentalist performer and composer has spent most of his career in the alleyways and shadowy dives of Europe’s lowlands. He currently lives in Greece – ground zero for the continent’s myths and a portal for all things Oriental.

The influence can be seen on his new solo album ‘The Blue Sleep’. Strikingly beautiful, it reveals its secrets like a Japanese puzzle box.

A missing part of the solution is how Blaine L Reininger continues to produce material that draws in the listener so intently; each song unlocking another set of feelings in the winding path to the album’s core.

The opening track ‘Public Transformation’ has the languid beauty and unending reverb of William Orbit’s ‘Strange Cargo’ work. A guitar riff loops while synths bubble and soar; Reininger’s trademark violin darting between them at strategic points like a dolphin through Mediterranean waves. He has always had an intuitive feel for electronic music, and starting the album with a dreamy instrumental is welcome statement of intent.

It’s on the title track that the gravel and gravitas of Reininger’s distinctive voice makes its first appearance. ‘The Blue Street’ is a storming piece of experimental pop: three minutes of club-demolishing intensity with a bass line dripping in sweat. There is an echo of TUXEDOMOON’s ‘Dark Companion’ in the way it curls around your hips, but it is over all too soon – perhaps a 12 inch single version with remixes will satisfy the cheque being written to the dancefloor.

The groove gives way to ‘Lost Ballroom’, which leads with exotic rhythms and phrasing. The song chimes with sensations wafted in from across the Bosphorous, but it quickly glows white from the heat of Reininger’s guitar. The feeling bears some comparison to the best bits of Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ without the thorns and blood.

‘Dry Food’ is a song for a cat. It had better be. Otherwise, the subject who bites Reininger’s foot and is stroked while eating the dry food of the title is stranger than fiction. “I wonder if we are really friends” he muses, and that’s a question no dog owner would ask.

Things get more playful from there. The San Francisco synthesizer style that TUXEDOMOON and the Ralph Records crowd created comes out on ‘Camminando Qui’, dissolving into a kind of unjazz. The next tracks move between mythical tales spun on currents of processed sound and digital synthesizers (NI Absynth, is that you?) hanging in the air like curtains of light.

The album comes to an end with ‘Odi et Amo’, an ode to love and hate lapping the shore like fragments of amber in the tide. Reininger’s style is far from orthodox, but you can take it as an article of faith that ‘The Blue Sleep’ will comfort those who suffer from the want of accessible but intelligent music.


With thanks to James Nice at Les Disques du Crépuscule

‘The Blue Sleep’ is released on 23rd March 2018 by Les Disques du Crépuscule on CD and download, pre-order from http://www.lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/the_blue_sleep_twi1237cd.html

http://www.mundoblaineo.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Blaine-L-Reininger-157948817590987/

https://twitter.com/BlaineReininger


Text by Simon Helm
15th February 2018

CULT WITH NO NAME Heir Of The Dog

Coming up to the release of their eight album, what CULT WITH NO NAME have never been short of is mood.

This made them the ideal curators for the soundtrack to the film ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ which also featured TUXEDOMOON and JOHN FOXX.

Difficult to pigeon-hole, the self-confessed post-punk electronic balladeers have come up with the occasional cracking introspective pop song like ‘Breathing’ from 2010’s ‘Adrenalin’ long player, although generally their well-crafted music rarely rides to a canter.

But ‘Heir Of The Dog’ sees Erik Stein and Jon Boux deliver their most accessible long player of their career. Without doubt, Stein’s two guest vocals on Rusty Egan’s ‘Welcome To the Dancefloor’ project have opened out possibilities as to what CULT WITH NO NAME can achieve without compromising their artistic integrity, resulting in some changeable tempos.

While the opening title track might suggest business as usual with a piano and string instrumental from Boux, ‘Wasted’ springs a surprise with what can only be described as an atmospheric programmed dance number. Another deviation comes with the smooth electro disco of ‘Rosabelle, Believe’; a natural successor to ‘Breathing’, the pulsing synths and metronomic beat are offset by Steve Brown of TUXEDOMOON on woodwinds and some lovely vocals by Kelli Ali.

Kelli Ali features more prominently on the looser spirit of ‘When I Was a Girl’ while on ‘Yves Klein’s Blues’, her voice recalls KID MOXIE’s work with NIKONN; a dreamy impressionistic soundscape of piano and sequencers, it does what it says on the tin and is a fine tribute to the minimalist artist best known for his exhibition ‘The Void’ which comprised of an empty art gallery…

Meanwhile, the delightful ‘All I Have is Yours (Including You)’ is like a grandchild of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Echoing the melancholy of OMD, Stein’s delivery is complimented by an enticing harmony from Sirena Riley. And this is all without mentioning the MOBY-like drum loop assisted adventure of ‘Just Rewards’.

While these pacier numbers show CULT WITH NO NAME’s willingness to experiment within a wider pop palette, their trademark piano numbers are not totally exiled.

‘Of California’ could be seen as a distant cousin of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Little 15’ with a Morricone twist, while ‘Man in a Bag’ is classic CULT WITH NO NAME with references to “wearing nothing but Schrödinger’s clothes”.

The waltzy ‘Fingertips’ laced with the violin of Blaine L Reininger is another in the sparse ivory led vein and ‘Heir Of The Dog’ ends with ‘No News’, the forlorn piano song featuring Luc van Lieshout on harmonica that closed the ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ film and is now available for the first time.

For those who have not found CULT WITH NO NAME appealing before, this album could be the one to alter perceptions. With tempo variation and more expansive arrangements, ‘Heir Of The Dog’ is undoubtedly their most engaging body of work to date.


‘Heir Of The Dog’ is released as a CD and download on 18th September 2017, pre-order from https://cultwithnoname.bandcamp.com/album/heir-of-the-dog

CULT WITH NO NAME play the Electronic Circus Festival on Saturday 30th September 2017 at Detmolder Sommertheater in Detmold alongside MICHAEL ROTHER + KEBU, tickets available from http://www.electronic-circus.net/

https://www.cultwithnoname.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cwnnofficial/

https://twitter.com/cultwithnoname


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st August 2017

Twilight Time: An Interview with JAMES NICE

JamesNice-byPeter StaessensJames Nice is a music publisher and writer whose acclaimed 2010 book ‘Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records’ provided a detailed and objective account of the legendary label. He also worked for the prestigious Belgian label Les Disques du Crépuscule in Brussels between 1987-91.

More recently, James has resurrected Les Disques du Crépuscule along with its sister Factory Benelux offshoot as platforms to reissue a vast catalogue of experimental and artistically driven music, in addition to releasing newer material from acts such as MARSHEAUX, MARNIE and DEUX FILLES. Back in the day, Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux operated as separate entities, although the two labels shared the same premises and staff.

Among Crépuscule’s roster were Blaine L Reininger and Winston Tong from TUXEDOMOON, ASSOCIATES instrumentalist Alan Rankine and former JOSEF K leader Paul Haig. The first music release on Crépuscule came in 1980; ‘From Brussels With Love’ was a carefully curated cassette compilation which included music from John Foxx, Bill Nelson, Harold Budd and Thomas Dolby as well as spoken recordings by Brian Eno and Richard Jobson.

everything's gone green new order FBN12Meanwhile Factory Benelux notably released the 12 inch extended remix of NEW ORDER’s ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ in 1981 and spare recordings from Factory affiliated artists such as A CERTAIN RATIO, SECTION 25, THE WAKE and THE DURUTTI COLUMN.

The latter’s beautiful instrumental ‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of the two labels’ founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. James Nice kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about his various endeavours, past and present.

You wrote the book ‘Shadowplayers’ on the history of Factory Records. There have been several books about the label, what do you think your account gave that hadn’t been provided before?

Well, reliable facts properly researched! I did ‘Shadowplayers’ as a DVD first, in 2006, but I didn’t do the book until after Tony Wilson passed away the following year.

shadowplayers_book_french_edition_450One of the books which influenced the approach I took was an excellent Creation Records history by Dave Cavanagh, which Alan McGee slated as the accountant’s version of Creation when it first appeared (though he changed his mind later).

I feared Tony might say the same thing about a Factory history written by me. He was more into myths and legends than truth.

I also wanted to include all the bands and artists, not just JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER, HAPPY MONDAYS and The Hacienda; THE STOCKHOM MONSTERS have a tale to tell too. The French edition won a prize, actually. They sent me a leather jacket – which was a bit too small.

How do you see the public’s continued fascination with Factory Records?

I just glance at it in passing these days, because ‘Shadowplayers’ came out in 2010 and I’ve long since moved on. The entire story of Factory was hugely dramatic, genuine tragic in places, and populated by larger than life characters. You can’t really say the same of, for example, 4AD or Domino. I’m not sure you’ll see it repeated either, because music no longer produces the kind of revenue stream that would allow radical mavericks like Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton to build another Hacienda, and Peter Saville is a complete one-off.

Factory was a classic example of do the right thing, and the money will follow. Unfortunately, they then blew all the money on big recording projects and ill-judged property investments. Let’s leave it at that.

from brussels with loveFactory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have common roots, but were quite different entities in their original ethos?

Both labels started in 1980. Factory Benelux was intended as an outlet for spare Factory recordings, hence a lot of the early releases like ‘Shack Up’ by ACR, ‘The Plateau Phase’ by CRISPY AMBULANCE and ‘Key of Dreams’ by SECTION 25 were exclusive to FBN. As time went on it became more like a normal licensee.

Crépuscule was something else entirely – a cosmopolitan boutique label, with an international roster and aspirations to kick start some kind of art movement in Brussels. In truth Factory were a little suspicious of Crepuscule early on, although later some Crépuscule albums appeared on Factory in the UK eg Anna Domino and Wim Mertens.

You worked for Les Disques du Crépuscule back in the day and lived in Brussels for five years. What are your particular memories of that time?

Way too many to mention. A couple of days after I quit Crépuscule (an argument about a 23 SKIDOO contract, not that anyone will be interested), I took a train to Amsterdam to meet William S. Burroughs.

He was holding court in a hotel with his manager, James Grauerholz. I took along some books to sign, as well as the Burroughs album I’d released on LTM, ‘The Doctor Is On the Market’. I don’t think WSB had even seen a copy before, but he scribbled “Good Work” on it. There was another guy there who was a Lufthansa pilot by day and wrote experimental cut-up novels in his spare time. I remember thinking at the time, I’d like to be that guy.

What are the aims of Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule under your direction now?

Heritage curation, and new recordings where appropriate. Michel Duval is quite interested again, and we collaborated on the ‘Ni D’Eve, Ni D’Adam’ compilation at the end of 2015.

I really enjoyed that process, as a matter of fact. The new tracks and artists he brought to the project really added to it, and the artwork by Clou was great too.

I do a lot of boring back office stuff as well as making records, chiefly rights administration. You have to have all your ducks in a row when, for instance, Kanye West decides to sample a SECTION 25 track from 1981.

As well as reissues, Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have released new albums by SECTION 25, MARNIE, DEUX FILLES and others. What attracted you to back these recordings?

In the case of new albums by heritage groups like SECTION 25, THE NAMES and CRISPY AMBULANCE, as long as fresh studio projects are financially viable, and the music is good, then of course we want to be involved. Any label can simply recycle back catalogue, but I like to think we’re a little more committed.

The MARNIE album came to Crépuscule because I’m a LADYTRON fan and it was a perfect fit for the label. It worked for her too as she’d successfully funded ‘Crystal World’ via Pledge Music, but was less sure about how to actually deliver the CD version.

It’s important to back new music, and I’m delighted to be releasing ‘Cold Science’ by LES PANTIES later in 2016. They’re a young band from Brussels – terrible name, but great music!

MARSHEAUX-twi1151cdLes Disques du Crépuscule also released ‘Odyssey’ in 2014, a career spanning compilation of MARSHEAUX. What do you find appealing about their music and which are your favourite songs?

I liked MARSHEAUX anyway, even before we began Crépuscule again back in 2013. Like MARNIE, they seemed like a good fit with the label’s heritage, much of which was modern electronic pop music. The focus was on original songs though rather than covers.

The title is a riff on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, and the idea of a chronological story, and of course the old ARP Odyssey analogue synth. I’m quite good at coming up with album titles, if I say so myself. ‘Retrofit’ by SECTION 25 is probably the best – it popped into my head while I was watching a documentary about the making of ‘Blade Runner’. Perfect for a remix / reboot album.

Yes, very clever of you. But what’s your favourite MARSHEAUX song?

Well, the ‘Ghost/Hammer’ mash-up is the one we keep putting on LDDC compilations.

You maintain a close relationship with Paul Haig. Is he one of the unsung heroes of post-punk in your opinion?

I wouldn’t say unsung because Paul’s always attracted a lot of press and remains well liked by music writers, but I suppose he’s ‘unsung’ in the sense that he never had a proper chart hit. Ironically, his most popular album – on reissue anyway – is ‘Rhythm of Life’, which was considered far too mainstream at the time.

Paul Haig RoLPaul just did things his way and wasn’t prepared to jump through all the hoops required of a mainstream pop star. For a start he was – and remains – far too shy.

Since you mention post-punk in the question, I’ll take this opportunity to plug a forthcoming Paul project for later in 2016, which is a 1982-based double archive CD including his early pop material (‘Justice’, ‘Running Away’), the Sinatra-styled ‘Swing In 82’ EP, the experimental electronica cassette ‘Drama’, and loads of odd singles and sessions.

He’d just left JOSEF K but had not yet signed to Island, and I’m not sure anyone else was quite that diverse and experimental at the time. It’ll be called ‘Metamorphosis’ – another Kafka reference. Told you I was clever with titles. Paul’s quite nervous about it, I have to say!

You’ve also worked closely with Alan Rankine in his post-ASSOCIATES career?

Well, not so much me personally. Back in the 1980s, Alan was married to Belinda Pearse, who was a Crépuscule director at the time, and so for a while he pretty much became the in-house producer at the label, working with Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Winston Tong, Ludus and his own solo material.

My time at LDDC in Brussels did overlap with his, but I didn’t work on any of those projects. He did three solo albums under the auspices of Crépuscule, and some of the music is the equal of anything he did with Billy Mackenzie. Unfortunately Alan isn’t quite as good a singer, though he is a brilliant writer, arranger, producer, guitarist and keys player. The instrumentals he did for Crépuscule work best, I think. We’ve spoken a couple of times this year. Once was to return some master tapes to him, and I also suggested him as a producer / collaborator for MARNIE.

FBN112CD_12pp_bookletAnother unsung hero of the era is Mark Reeder and the release of his remix collection ‘Collaborator’ on Factory Benelux was a fitting acknowledgement of that. What was the process like to select the tracklisting?

Hmm. We tried to avoid replicating too many tracks that were on the earlier ‘Five Point One’ collection, and having Bernard Sumner singing on quite a few of the tracks should have made it seem more like an artist album than just a compilation.

Not sure the concept really gelled though. Mark isn’t easy to label – a lot of people think he’s a DJ, which is the one thing he isn’t (but probably should be). ‘Collaborator’ is a great album and should have sold a lot more than it did. In fact Mark regularly reminds me of that!

As a label manager, how do you decide on the formats that releases will be issued in? When do you know one format will be more viable than another, eg some are CD only, others are vinyl only?

Vinyl tends to be reserved for prestige items, and / or where you can fashion an art object from it, like THE DURUTTI COLUMN album with the die-cut glasspaper sleeve, which I’ll talk about later.

JOSEF K It's Kinda FunnyThe recent JOSEF K singles collection ‘It’s Kinda Funny’ was vinyl only because there have been several JOSEF K CD compilations already, and because a 12” matt board sleeve was a great way of exhibiting the original artwork by Jean-François Octave.

I still prefer CDs because the sound is better, you can fit more material on them, plus they are easier to keep in print over a long period of time. In an era of declining physical sales, the increasing fragmentation of formats isn’t too helpful, at least as far as labels are concerned.

Vinyl retains cultural clout though. Releasing albums used to be like publishing books, whereas once the market became saturated with releases, it’s kind of become degraded and often feels as if you’re just publishing magazine articles. But a vinyl album still has the heft of a book.

Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule were both known for tasteful artwork and you have maintained this aesthetic. The vinyl reissue of ‘The Return Of The Durutti Column’ had an interesting genesis?

FACT14With the Benelux reissue in 2013, the original intention was to replicate Fact 14 from 1980, with coarse sandpaper front and back and a flexi-disc.

Back then Tony Wilson was able to source 12-inch square sheets from a local company called Naylors Abrasives in Bredbury, near Stockport. They still exist, but they don’t manufacture sandpaper any more, and when I got in touch in 2012 to explain the project, they clearly thought I was a lunatic.

I’m not sure that glasspaper is even manufactured anywhere in Western Europe now. In the end we had to go to a company in China, whose minimum order was 10,000 sheets. What was a cheap and (relatively) easy package for Factory in 1980 turned out to be pretty much impossible to copy three decades later. It’s probably easier to source glasspaper in lurid colours rather than plain old beige, and the biggest rolls were only 11 inches wide. You can still source flexi-discs from one plant in the States, but they end up costing more per unit than a 12-inch vinyl album. Fortunately, however, not being able to do a straight copy served to liberate the project somewhat, so that we began to think in terms of a new edition which referenced the original, but offered something different.

The flexi became a hard vinyl 7”, which sounds far better, and we were now able to add an inner sleeve with period images and explanatory text. The 11-inch glasspaper squares took about eight months to arrive from China, and while we were twiddling our thumbs the designer, Carl Glover, came up with the idea of seating the glasspaper sheet on the front in a recessed deboss. A bit like a frame, thereby underlining the ‘art’ credentials.

The Return Of The Durutti Column

Somewhat to my surprise the pressing plant in Germany agreed to assemble the finished package from start to finish, which was fortunate since I couldn’t imagine NEW ORDER agreeing to help out. I didn’t much fancy the idea of doing it myself. Like the building trade people we had to go through en route to China, the pressing plant just couldn’t understand why we’d want to release a record in a glasspaper sleeve. Someone suggested a photo of some sandpaper might be better…

Then, when the sheets finally arrived, some of the cutting was pretty rough, and the pressing plant insisted on a 3mm tolerance between each side of the sheet and the deboss. That would just look as though we’d fluffed the measurements, besides which even with a deboss, the glasspaper sheets simply stuck on the cover just didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor.

I spent a few days arguing with the plant about tolerances, and agonising generally, then decided that a die-cut would be just as impressive, with the glasspaper underneath, as if you were seeking it through a window. This scheme also overcame the issues about imperfect size and cutting of the glasspaper.

fbn114insituThe only obvious, practical shape for the die-cut was Peter Saville’s original ‘bar chart’ logo, which appeared on the labels of most Factory releases between 1979 and 1980, Fact 14 included. It just looks right, and is also suggestive of a graphic equalizer, which I suppose is a bit Hannett. The pressing plant had already printed 2000 copies of the original inner bag though, so we had to throw those away. All the problems and changes also mean that the release date was late. Very Factory, I suppose.

The finished package looked even better than anyone dared to imagine, and housed in the polythene bag it has a fantastic 3D quality, plus the glasspaper catches the light beautifully. I was particularly delighted that Vini Reilly liked it. All the various headaches and reverses improved the design no end, and the addition of the die-cut means that you now have this unique Reid/Saville hybrid. Truly a happy accident.

LesDisquesduCrepuscule+FactoryBenelux logosYour CD reissues on Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule are known for their comprehensive sleeve notes which are written by you. What is your philosophy and style regarding this?

I tend to focus on facts, and direct quotation from the people involved.

Creative writing I leave to experts like Paul Morley, Simon Reynolds and Kevin Pierce. My notes tend to be honest rather than gushing or pseudo-academic, and that’s probably why I rarely get commissioned to write liner notes for other releases! I think the last time was an ELECTRONIC retrospective. Johnny Marr just wanted a hagiography in which everything and everyone was, like, amazing and brilliant, all the time. Buyers aren’t stupid and don’t really want that. Then again, I probably have been a bit too glass half empty at times.

What are your thoughts on modern music, particularly the synthpop and electronic variety, having worked with a number of the original pioneers?

I really like EDM, it’s probably my favourite genre for blasting out loud in the car, annoying my daughter etc; RIHANNA, MISS KITTIN, TODD TERJE, electroclash, Xenomania productions.

A lot of what Crépuscule released during the golden years – the 80s, basically – was either very poppy (Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Isabelle Antena, Kid Montana), or pretty abstract (Wim Mertens, Glenn Branca, Gavin Bryars). That’s probably why my taste in music remains similarly schizophrenic.

If you’re asking who my current / recent favourites are then its TEGAN & SARA, ROBYN, M83, some NINE INCH NAILS, and the last NEW ORDER album. That was a spectacular return to form. Hats off to them, and to Mute.

Which have been your favourite reissues or products on Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux over the years?

I can answer that in a heartbeat. My all-time favourite LDDC album is ‘Night Air’ by Blaine L Reininger, which came out in 1984 and was his first proper solo album during the time he was absent from TUXEDOMOON.

Blaine L Reininger Night AirIt’s a magical album about exile in Brussels and was a key influence on my relocating to the city a couple of years later. Expertly recorded and engineered by Gareth Jones, I might add. I’d love him to tour the whole album – maybe there will be an opportunity after TUXEDOMOON are done touring ‘Half Mute’ during 2016.

My favourite FBN reissues would be the glasspaper Durutti, or the pochette 2xCD edition of ‘Always Now’ by SECTION 25. Both presented considerable challenges, and both came off.

Are there any upcoming releases on Factory Benelux or Les Disques du Crépuscule you can tell us about?

I’ve been talking to a group from Brussels called LES PANTIES for a couple of years. I love their music – poised, sophisticated cold wave, with a hint of shoegaze – they have a great aesthetic sense, and Sophie Frison is an excellent singer. We just couldn’t agree about the name though. It might work in a French speaking country, but elsewhere it sounds like a novelty band. Eventually I just gave in and collected all their singles on an album, ‘Cold Science’, which is coming out on Crépuscule in September. It’s a bit of a passion project for me, I suppose. But it’s also one in the eye for people who carp we do nothing but reissues.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to James Nice

http://lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/

http://factorybenelux.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait photo by Peter Staessens
28th May 2016, updated 5th February 2017

« Older posts