Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Art & Language and the Red Crayola -Black Snakes,LP,1983,UK/USA

The Red Crayola was a psychedelic, avant-garde rock band from Houston, Texas, formed by art students at the University of St. Thomas (Texas) in 1966. The band was led by singer/guitarist and visual artist Mayo Thompson, along with drummer Rick Barthelme (brother of novelist Donald Barthelme) and Steve Cunningham. Their work prefigured punk and the no wave scene in 1980s New York City.
Thompson has continued using the name, in its legally-required permutation The Red Krayola, for his musical projects since.
They make noise rock, psychedelia and occasionally folk/country songs and instrumentals in a DIY-punk fashion, an approach that presaged the lo-fi aesthetic of many 1990s US indie rock groups. Negative reviews have come often during The Red Krayola's history. A critic once wrote, "It's a band that has no idea how to play its instruments. In fact, they don't even know what instruments are, or if the guitarist has the ability to remain conscious long enough to play whatever it is a 'note' might be." He added, "This is a band that was paid ten dollars to stop a performance in Berkeley. If Berkeley's not having it, you know you're in for rough sledding."
In 1966 the band signed to International Artists, home label to fellow psych-rockers The 13th Floor Elevators that was run by Lelan Rogers (brother of country musician Kenny Rogers). In 1967 the label released the psychedelic album, Parable of Arable Land, featuring six songs by the original three members interwoven with a cacophony generated by approximately 100 anonymous followers known as The Familiar Ugly who appear on a number of noise tracks called Free-Form Freak-Outs. The album's title track was a tape loop of electronic sounds with musical improvisations layered on top of it, a sound that foreshadowed the Red Crayola's second recording.
The minimalist music album Coconut Hotel was recorded in 1967 but rejected by International Artists for its lack of commercial potential because of its complete departure from the full-sounding guitar/bass/drums/vocals rock sound of the Red Crayola's first album. Coconut Hotel featured such self-described tracks as "Organ Buildup", "Free Guitar" and a series of atonal "One-Second Pieces" for piano, trumpet and percussion. The album did not see release until 1995. During this period, the band performed a concert in Berkeley, California where they attached a contact microphone to a sheet of aluminium foil that was set under a block of melting ice. The Red Crayola also performed with guitarist John Fahey and recorded an entire studio album of music in collaboration with him, but label head Lelan Rogers demanded possession of the tapes and recorded documentation of those sessions has been missing ever since.
The band's second album to see release (and the first to be released with the new "Krayola" spelling) was 1968's God Bless The Red Krayola And All Who Sail With It. God Bless presented a middle ground between Parable of Arable Land and Coconut Hotel, having veered away from the cacophonous psychedelic approach of their first album, but performing short, minimalist songs on electric guitar, bass and drums (interspersed with occasional a cappella harmonies and piano interludes) to achieve some surprisingly melodic results and even more surprisingly off-kilter lyrics. Hints of the as-of-yet unheard music on Coconut Hotel also revealed themselves (the track "Listen To This" is a one-second piece with spoken introduction) and the album as a whole sounds more like the early post-punk of the late 1970s than the Red Krayola's hippie-era contemporaries. The album was not as well received as the band's first release and the Red Krayola's original lineup disbanded.
In 1969, Thompson recorded a solo album called Corky's Debt to His Father for a small label called Texas Revolution. The album, which has come to be regarded by many as the unheralded jewel of the Crayola catalogue, is devoid of Thompson's usual avant-garde indulgences, and consists instead of ten lyrically-dense but warm-hearted pop songs, in various styles - Dylan-inspired blues-rock, Tex-Mex pop-rock with psychedelic touches, and early country rock not dissimilar to the contemporary work of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Thompson was backed by studio musicians on the album and none of his usual Crayola (or 13th Floor Elevators) cohorts appear.
Mayo Thompson continued to make music, both under his own name and as The Red Krayola. He teamed up with American drummer Jesse Chamberlain and recorded the single 'Wives in Orbit' and the album Soldier Talk both of which could be seen as musical responses to punk rock. His collaborations in the 1970s and 1980s read like a roll call of the avant-garde and experimental artists and musicians of the era. The Red Krayola teamed up with the Conceptual Art collective Art & Language for three LPs: 1976's Corrected Slogans, 1981's Kangaroo? (also featuring The Raincoats' Gina Birch, Lora Logic and Swell Maps' Epic Soundtracks) and 1983's Black Snakes. Thompson joined Pere Ubu for a period in the early 1980s, performing on several releases, and provided soundtrack music for Derek Jarman. Throughout this time he was prolific as a producer for many other seminal experimental and alternative rock acts, including The Fall (1980's Grotesque (After the Gramme)), The Raincoats, Scritti Politti, Blue Orchids, Cabaret Voltaire, Stiff Little Fingers, Kleenex, The Chills and Primal Scream.
The 1990s found The Red Krayola with a new audience, who came to the group via musicians associated with Chicago's Post Rock scene and in particular the Drag City label, who had joined the band's ever-shifting line-up for a number of releases including the LPs Hazel (1996) and Fingerpainting (1999). These were, amongst others, Jim O'Rourke and David Grubbs of Gastr del Sol, the post-Conceptual visual artist Stephen Prina, German painter Albert Oehlen, George Hurley (formerly of The Minutemen and fIREHOSE), Tom Watson of Slovenly, and John McEntire of Tortoise. In 2006 the group issued an album, Introduction and an EP, Red Gold.
In 1995, Drag City released 1967's Coconut Hotel LP and in 1998 issued The Red Crayola Live 1967 with material from the Angry Arts Festival and Berkeley Folk Music Festival including their live collaboration with John Fahey.
Thompson is active as an art critic and currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in California, where he teaches at the Pasadena Art Center College of Design.
British Space Rock group Spacemen 3 recorded a version of "Transparent Radiation" from the Red Crayola's Parable of Arable Land, and the same album's lead track "Hurricane Fighter Plane" was covered by UK deathrock group Alien Sex Fiend in 1986 and by Scottish act Future Pilot AKA in 1996.
From Wikipedia
Although no introduction was needed for this influential band i had typically to place one here.This is a rare LP from 1983,released through Rec Rec in 1983 and rereleased in 1997 from Drag City (both now out of print).Coming out just after Kangaroo this LP is blending the great schizophrenic Mayo Thompson post punkish improvisation assisted by members of Essential Logic and as far as i remember Swell Maps ,mixing post punk ,jazz and psych hints.

as requested, get it here


Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews said...

I'm hoping for the 1976 LP "Corrected Slogans."

Anonymous said...

The first track is corrupted (in its earlier part), only cos' of a piece of another track, perhaps while grabbing .... Could you do something, please ?
Great album !! Thanks a lot !!