Friday, April 30, 2004

Friday is No Wave and related day, for at least the next few weeks.

Of the four bands on the No New York compilation that, accurately or not, has come to define the term "No Wave," DNA were the most conceptual and "artsy" and it's not surprising that 2/3 of its original membership went on to "downtown" music careers with a fair amount of success. Singer and guitar player Arto Lindsay's activities are well known and reasonably high-profile, and drummer Ikue Mori [billed as Ikue Ile on the back of No New York because she was in the country illegally at the time] may actually have the most name recognition at this point due to her collaboration with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. The third original member was Robin Crutchfield.

In DNA, he almost functioned as the rhythm section, holding things steady while Arto yelped and skronked and Ikue played patterns on her drum kit. He left the band prior to their one album/ep A Taste of DNA (he was replaced by bassist Tim Wright), and formed a group called Dark Day which focused almost entirely on his machine-like keyboard playing. Fans of No Wave will probably miss the more unruly elements of DNA when listening to Crutchfield's post-DNA band Dark Day. The closest he came to his old band's sound (and it's not very close) was on his debut single, Hands In The Dark, recorded in 1979 with Nina Canal (best known for her bands the Gynecologists and Ut) and Nancy Arlen (who had been in Mars on No New York).

It's not really the kind of music that I usually listen to, but I do like the old keyboard sounds on the first Dark Day full length, Exterminating Angel. On his website, Robin mentions that his favorite songs from the period actually appear on the b-side to a single that accompanied the album. Called the exterminations, these were instrumental tracks from the album remixed and played backwards. Here are two of these: Extermination #1 and #6. They really indicate to me that he probably should have tried to do more in the way of music for films, as that's where I hear his strengths lying.

After Exterminating Angel, he recorded an all-electronic album called Window, which is one of those albums that's very sought after by a very, very small number of people, most of whom seem to be from Europe (esp. Germany). It's interesting to hear Casios and other "dinky" keyboards used in a non-ironic way on tracks like Nudes In The Forest. I also like the fact that this is all played live (rhythm tracks aside), in a heroic effort to mimic sequencing technology that he didn't have access to. If you're one of the small group of people who collect this sort of thing, be aware that two songs from the album don't appear on the Dark Day CD collection that came out some years ago, which is called Collected 1979-1982 on the Daft label out of Belgium.

Robin has kept recording, on and off, as Dark Day. Later incarnations of the group have little to no resemblance to his original sound: info is here on his home page. Regardless of whether you like his music, I really recommend reading his history of Dark Day and his recollections of the early days of No Wave, both of which are pretty interesting. One of his one-time collaborators in particular, Phil Kline, is worth knowing about if you live in New York and enjoy doing strange things during the Christmas season.

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