Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Smegma, GLAMOUR GIRL 1941 + PIGFACE CHANT
Japan Overseas, 1997 (see review for original release details); available
14 tracks, 70:06
Well, it's about time I got around to reviewing Smegma! This handy CD compiles their first two releases, GLAMOUR GIRL 1941 (1979, LAFMS) and PIGFACE CHANT (also 1979 but recorded in '74, Pigface Records) plus four bonus tracks. I'm not gong to type out everyone involved on these releases, but suffice to say Smegma has always had a fairly large and constantly fluctuating lineup and this is no different. PIGFACE CHANT takes up the last four tracks*. These are group vocal improvisations with very little (if any) musical accompaniment. Somewhat along the lines of certain tracks by Cromagnon, they're entertaining but VERY much an acquired taste. The lengthy "The End" (the bonus track) features improvised music along with the chanting, making it probably the most accessible PIGFACE track. The GLAMOUR GIRL material is mostly instrumental and covers a wide musical canvas. The opening "Difference" is fairly straight jazz improv, while lengthy closer "Half A Billion" is a fascinating organ-drenched song(!) that wouldn't sound out of place on a Can album. The brief "Die Wo-Wo" predicts Ju Suk Reet Meate's solo album (reviewed here previously), with its tape manipulations and surreal atmosphere, while "I Am Not Artist" has deranged vocals driving the title home to the accompaniment of another superb krauty jam. The other three tracks are no less intriguing, and they add up to a much more diverse experience than one would expect from a group like this. GLAMOUR GIRL's bonus tracks** are two pieces of plunderphonic/improv fusion (which, not surprisingly, use many of the same samples that Meate's solo album employed) and the epic live blurt "Flashback 79". Smegma are still making music and inspiring countless improvisational and noise bands***, but these two releases show that they were great from the start. Not just a tuneless noisefest, but nowhere near mainstream accessibility, this is the perfect introduction to one of the American avant-garde's true stalwarts. Even though this is a Japanese import, you can find it fairly easily and inexpensively. I heartily recommend that you do (even if most people won't be able to read the thick booklet, since it's entirely in Japanese).
*Well, technically, three tracks off the original single and a bonus track end the CD, but honestly, if Smegma felt the other two tracks were superfluous, I'm not going to argue.
**For the reocrd, tracks 1 through 7 are GLAMOUR GIRL 1941, and tracks 11 to 13 are PIGFACE CHANT. I'm sure you can figure out which ones are the bonus tracks! ;)
***Wolf Eyes in particular have both collaborated with Smegma members and named an album after one (BURNED MIND).