HEAR THIS: Looking Back…
While we try to keep the eyes on highlighting new artists, every once in awhile it’s good to take some time to poke in the cracks of history and shine a light on some neglected acts worthy of attention. Since we have a slight surplus of time these days, we’ve thrown together a deluxe Discovery, focusing on three acts from around the globe: OXZ, Malaria!, and Look Blue Go Purple, whose contributions in the 80’s are well worth examining again today.
The Osaka, Japan trio of Hikko, Mika, & Emiko, known collectively as OXZ, made inroads in the ’80’s in a Japanese punk scene that was male-dominated. Captured Tracks has provided a wonderful public service with this year’s compilation of their 3 EP’s and single, plus assorted demos. Along Ago: 1981-1989 is a righteous tribute to their legacy.
Highlights include ”Boy Boy”, showcasing their turn on post-punk melodic grit, while “Vivian” ushers in a tribal stomp. “Touching My Heart” is their lighter-in-the-air moment, giving a brief glimpse of something tender behind the facade, before plowing it under with power chords.
The bonus tracks are a fascinating grab bag, stretching out musically, (piano on “Truth”), and there’s some hidden gems like the almost-Wipers vibe of “Baby Again”, with its commanding bass. While not being together long enough to acheive the international profiile of compatriots Shonen Knife, they helped raise the profile of female punk bands in Japan.
Back in the day, when Berlin was still a city of sectors, a scene that would become known as Neue Deutsche Welle took root in the western portion. Malaria! sprung from the ashes of Mania D, with Gudrun Gut and Bettina Koster joined by Christine Hahn, Manon Duursma, and Susanne Kuhnke rounding out the lineup. Last fall saw the release of Compiled 2.0 on Moabit Musik, a testament to their legacy.
All their signature material is here, including “Thrash Me”, a seething version of which is featured in the film Berlin Super 80, Nest favorite “How Do You Like My New Dog?”, “Geld-Money”, and “Kaltes Klares Wasser”, later covered by Chicks On Speed on tribute LP Versus, becoming a surprise German radio hit.
They made an impact opening for Slits, Raincoats, Birthday Party, John Cale, and Nina Hagen, among others. Stateside heads might remember their live LP, Malaria!-Revisited, released on the cassette label ROIR. Their work has aged well, and if we spun it for you to guess a label: Felte, The Flenser, or Sargent House as guesses would not be out of order.
Remaining active, Gudrun Gut is a fixture in the Berlin arts scene, and her most recent release is last summer’s remix LP of her 2018 solo LP Moments. After years in NYC, Bettina Koster moved back to Berlin. Her most recent solo LP, Kolonel Silvertop, was released in 2017.
Look Blue Go Purple made 3 EP’s in the ’80’s that were much beloved by Flying Nun devotees. The Dunedin, NZ quintet was comprised of Kathy Bull (now Francisca Griffin), Norma O’Malley, Denise Roughan, Kath Webster, and Lesley Paris. In 2017, Captured Tracks/Flying Nun put out the 22 track compilation Still Bewitched, all three of their EP’s and 8 live cuts, supplanting their 1991 self-titled collection.
The instant welcome of chiming guitars in “Safety In Crosswords” lets you know that this is a Flying Nun record, the indie classicism running throughout. It’s all here, including the jangly goodness of “Cactus Cat”, from their 2nd effort, LBGBEP2. Flute and keyboards class up the joint, but it’s the soaring harmonies and interlocking guitars that provide the bedrock.
“Hiawatha” and “Conscious/Unconscious” pursue more esoteric grooves that pay off. “I Don’t Want You Anyway” foreshadows Veronica Falls to a spooky degree. Of the live tracks, “Spike” is a spirited standout, a sparkling “Juxtaposition” threatens to break free from its moorings, and a haunting “Last Breath” are the pick of the litter. Francisca Griffin released a solo LP last year, the spaces between.