Friday, August 12, 2011

SLAPP HAPPY
Let's make it a quick one. The band known as Slapp Happy made one absolutely classic LP in the year 1973 which you should know about. It sounds like no other record made that year, or indeed like any other record made that decade. The band consisted of Englishman Anthony Moore on keyboards, American guitarist Peter Blegvad and German vocalist Dagmar Krause. Blegvad and Moore have released several fruity solo LPs over the years which people keep telling me I should listen to, and Krause later made a name for herself as the vocalist in the ace trio, Art Bears (among other things), alongside Fred Frith and Chris Cutler (I wrote about 'em here). However, unlike Krause's unholy, Germanic screech she bellowed in the Art Bears (something, I'll admit, is an acquired taste), her vocals in Slapp Happy appeared to be drained of all Aryan inflections, instead emitting a sweet, girlish quality not unlike Kate Bush. Along w/ the quality of the songs, it's her voice which makes Noom Acnalbasac such an incredible record. The story behind the record is worthy of noting, although perhaps only for trainspotters. It was originally recorded as Casablanca Moon for the Polydor label in 1973, but was rejected by the company upon completion. It was then re-recorded and released on Virgin in 1974 as Slapp Happy. The band later morphed into a hybrid band with the Limey avant-prog outfit, Henry Cow, and released two albums in the process. And then Henry Cow begat the Art Bears. You taking notes on all this? The two Slapp Happy/Henry Cow discs have their moments of greatness, and I even used to convince myself that Henry Cow were a great band nearly 20 years ago (I listened to them again recently, and they came across like a bunch of joyless, uni-student nonsense. Sorry), but if you want just one brilliantly unique LP by this band, this is the one. Noom Acnalbasac was released years later by Chris Cutler's ReR/Recommended imprint, and it's the original recording the band made for Polydor in 1973. I bought it for a ha'penny back in '94, and it's a purchase I'm mighty glad of. When I said that Noom Acnalbasac (let's call it NA, OK?) doesn't sound like any other record from 1973, I wasn't lying. It isn't noodling avant-prog, nor is it psychedelic cosmic prog a la Faust (despite the fact that two Faust members make up the rhythm section here, and it's produced by Faust svengali, Uwe Nettelbeck). It's mostly simplistic and shambolic slop-pop which sounds like it could easily have been released on the K label back in '91. Either that or the Barrett-damaged punk/pop of the Television Personalitites. I think that Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks would've given this one a spin back in their teen years, too. The arrangements are kept simple and Blegvad never embellishes the songs with needless guitar heroics. I don't know who they thought this album's audience would be, as it falls outside of the boundaries of what was big at the time: glam, heavy metal and prog. I'd be stretching the story too far if I was to imply that this was proto-punk, so you'll just have to take it for what it is: an excellent collection of atypical pop-rock w/ the kind of hooks and melodies which sit in your brain for days. Bongwater covered a track here, "The Drum", on their Too Much Sleep LP, but other than that, I haven't heard too many people sing their praises. I pulled this one out the past week, as I do on an annual basis, and it still hits home.

2 comments:

Jason Odd said...

I'm with you on this subject.. and find much the same flaws with Henry Cow. Cheers - J.

Holly said...

I'd never heard of this, and am totally digging. Thank you!