SOUND OF THE CITY
“HUGS AND KISSES”
The Outbursts of Everett True
This week: Attention shifts to a meticulous German independent label
Damn, Trikont get me every time.
Last year, it was a whole flotilla of scintillating reissues: perhaps not so surprising from Germany’s oldest independent record company (it originally started in 1967 as a left-field book imprint, publishing works such as Ché Guevara’s diaries), renowned for sumptuously packaged compendiums (digi-pak, with a dual language booklet) such as (say) American Yodelling 1911-1946 or The Soul Of The Black Panther Era (Volumes 1 and 2) or Hitler & Hell: American War Songs 1933-1947, but even so. . .
There seems to be no end to the depth of their compiler’s imagination, or beauty of their designer’s vision-the self-explanatory In Prison: Afro-American Prison Music From Blues To Hip Hop (where Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone and The Last Poets nestle up snugly next to 2 Pac); the wildly eclectic John Peel And Sheila: The Pig’s Big 78′s-A Beginner’s Guide, wherein the much-missed British DJ (and his wife) compiled a dementedly schizophrenic CD of vintage sounds ranging from comic football sketches and yodelling to early rock ‘n roll and traditional African and Chinese music; the brilliantly conceptual Queer Noises 1961-1978: From The Closet To The Charts, put together with total love from England’s Dreaming author Jon Savage. . . and so on, through Turkish underground techno, Jewish slipstream and southern soul from the Chitlin’ Circuit. . .
But man, the last few releases I’ve unwrapped the crinkly plastic from with trembling hands.man, oh man. How do these dudes keep getting it so right, every fucking time? It’s so rare that I’ll be salivating as I look through a record company’s catalogue-but, just for the packaging alone I’m hurting when I cruise Trikont’s pages.
First up was German music journalist Martin Büsser’s incisive and dynamic packaging of hybrid and unorthodox folk on Sidewalk Songs & City Stories: New Urban Folk-20 tracks that link together (mostly American) disparate and soulful artists seamlessly: from Calvin Johnson’s mournful modern-day classic ‘Where Hearts Turn Blue’ through wild man Eugene Chadbourne masochistically funny ‘Der Fuhrer’s Face,’ Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis’ sweet sadness (of course) to The Microphones (folk with electronics and free improvisation), The Frogs and Devendra Banhart’s self-eulogizing strut. Sure, this is music extremely close to my heart, but Büsser has been so careful, so meticulous in both his sleeve-notes and his curating, it’s a sheer pleasure to be present and allowed at the table.
But even that is surpassed by the latest Trikont offering to come my way: Doom & Gloom: Early Songs Of Angst And Disaster 1927-1945. Just as I’d been digging on the old school Americana and dispossessed blues of the excellent Dust-to-Digital label, and rediscovering a latent English brand of folksy protest via the excellent Billy Childish-championed folk band the Singing Loins, along comes this. . .
Man, I almost didn’t want to remove this one from the plastic, such was my sweet anticipation: a picture of what is presumably the Hindenburg airship disaster on the sleeve; 24 songs (with none of this crap digital cleaning up of sound; but none of this crap ‘crackles and all’ stuff, either-pristine, in the right way) with titles like ‘When The Atom Bomb Fell’, ‘High Water Everywhere-Part 1,’ ‘Sinking Of The Titanic’ and ‘School House Fire’ by artists like Bessie Smith, Charley Patton, Blind Willie Johnson and Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie. . . how could this even remotely, even possibly fail?. And how could anyone-any fan of music or of human suffering and pain, and furthermore loving a good tale well-spun within a song-resist an album like this once they’d stumbled across it? Don’t bother answering that: if you’re cynical ’bout this, there ain’t no helping you.
Incidentally, ‘When The Atom Bomb Fell,’ courtesy of black humorists Karl And Harty, is a particular favourite with its lyrics “Oh it went up so loud it divided up the clouds/And the houses they vanished away/And a great ball of light filled the Japanese with fright/They must have thought it was their judgment day” Yep, you said it,brothers.
HUGS AND KISSES TOP 5:
Five terrific Trikont tunes
1. LULU BELLE & SCOTTY, “That Crazy War” (from Doom & Gloom: Early
Songs Of Angst And Disaster 1927-1945). They sing it like it is;
deadpan but dead serious.
2. KIMYA DAWSON, “Heroes 2002 (live in Paris)” (from from Sidewalk
Songs & City Stories: New Urban Folk. I’m a sucker for a live sing
along when conducted appropriately. This most certainly is.
3. RAMONES, “53rd And 3rd” (from Queer Noises 1961-1978: From The
Closet To The Charts. Yep. Dee Dee knows the score.
4. ROBERT PETE WILLIAMS, “Pardon Denied Again” (from In Prison:
Afro-American Prison Music From Blues To Hip Hop). The wail of an
incarcerated bluesman never rang so true.
5. Toña LA NEGRA, “Nocturnal” (from Mexican Boleros: Songs Of
Heartbreaking, Passion & Pain 1927-1957). The music that millions of
Latinos fell in love to, found pleasure in and cuckolded others to.