Thursday, December 27, 2007
Ron 'Pate's Debonairs, RAUDELUNAS 'PATAPHYSICAL REVUE
Say Day Bew, 1977; reissued by Alcohol Records; available
11 tracks, 47:41
This may be the single strangest album I have ever owned. Coming from someone who has owned everything from Hasil Adkins to Young Marble Giants, that's saying a lot. Everything about this album is wrong, from the fact that it was recorded at the University of Alabama in 1975(!) to the variety-show-as-put-on-by-Dali atmosphere. You read that last line correctly. The Raudelunas 'Pataphysical Revue was the second event put on by the Raudelunas art collective in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Revue featured a science fair explaining Jarry's concept of pataphysics, as well as an art exhibit and the musical performances caught here. Rev. Fred Lane dominates a lot of the disc, whether by telling ridiculous and nonsensical joke monologues ("A guy asked me what time it was, so I bit'im!"), insulting raffle contestants, or singing for Ron 'Pate's Debonairs. The Debonairs are a swing band as visioned by a surrealist. The songs "My Kind Of Town" and "Volare" are approximations, but fun ones, and the solos in "My Kind Of Town" are delightfully woozy (as well as having Lane's priceless commentary). While the cover says "starring Ron 'Pate's Debonairs", the Debonairs per se only contribute these two tracks. Along with the Chuck Oggman introduction and all the Lane monologues, this makes up only seven tracks. Oh, but the OTHER groups! My guess is the cover says the "starring" bit because all the groups featured share members with all the others, but each one is completely unique. The Nubis Oxis Quarum welds free improv to Julius Caesar, and succeeds! This track has an almost uncanny similarity to the Third Ear Band, which is never a bad thing. The Captains Of Industry play household appliances on their self-titled track, and while it's not certain WHAT is being played, this bit of early industrial foresees a lot of dark ambient and experimental music to come. A balls-to-the-wall improvisation by The Blue Denim Deals Without The Arms proves that Americans are every bit as great at free improv as the Europeans. The most structured performance is Anne LeBaron's modern composition "Concerto For Active Frogs". Scored for percussion, tapes, vocals, alto sax, oboe, musette, and "species", the "Concerto" is a wild piece recalling the best of Stockhausen and Cage. Taped frog croaks collide with the "frog chorus" and the instruments, building into a masterpiece of electroacoustic/structured improv fusion (believe it!). The nine minutes aren't nearly enough! Highlights are difficult to gauge for this particular release, as it is best listened to all the way through to maintain the live feel. It's easy to see why this fascinated Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound for those who don't know). As spectacular and mindblowing as this album is, it's hard to recommend it to the average person since they wouldn't be able to appreciate the concept, much less the music. Fans of free improv and modern composition, however, will absolutely love this and wonder how they lived without it.