Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Various Artists, New York Noise

“New York Noise” is a collection from Soul Jazz records that highlights two types of music that many will think of as being unrelated – dance music and the No Wave music coming out ny noiseof the avante-art scene in New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  No Wave was named in opposition to New Wave (e.g., Talking Heads, The Eurythmics, Elvis Costello, The Cars etc.) who were rejected as much too pop-oriented for the No Waver’s tastes.  No Wave is usually characterized as stressing dissonance, noise, harsh and atonal confrontation, and performance art with guitars as opposed to melody, harmony, song structure and most things that people would recognize as music.  So what does this have to do with dance music?  Quite a lot, actually.

As amply demonstrated on this collection No Wave musicians were producing a good amount of new, different and appealing dance oriented music.  Some of it, like the selections on “NY Noise” from DNA and Mars, are dissonant and unpleasant noise skronk.  For example, Contort Yourself by the Contortions (featuring James Chance) is a stiff take on James-Brown-style funk characterized by squawking and bleating sax and harsh screamed vocals.  It works as an idea but it isn’t much fun to listen or dance to.  However these are by far the exceptions on a disc that contains a wide variety of rhythmic and compelling dance music from the likes of Liquid Liquid, Dinosaur L, Defunkt, Material, Bush Tetras and many more.  While people can and will dance to just about anything, the dance-oriented nature of much of this music is illustrated by the fact that Konk (whose “Baby Dee” is included) were invited to play at both David Mancuso’s Loft and Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage and the version of Dinosar L’s “Clean on Your Bean #1” included here is the Francois Kevorkian remix.  The music ranges from Glenn Branca’s “Lesson No.1” which captures musical characteristics that would later become strongly associated with electronica-oriented dance music to Rahmelzee Vs K.Rob’s hip hop “Beat Bop”, to Konk’s latin-tinged club music and The Contortions noise funk.  There is a lot of variety here.  Many of the tracks on “NY Noise” are also hard to find.  For example, The Bloods’ “Button Up” was their only single, and The Dance’s “Do Dada” is taken from their first EP released in 1980.

Soul Jazz Records have put out a number of excellent collections documenting various niche musical genres and “New York Noise” lives up to their usual high standards.  A small proportion of the set is noisy and harsh but most of it is experimental dance music of a range and variety you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.  Recommended for listeners with open ears who like rhythm and dance.


08/16/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

1 Comment »

  1. no wave is so dancy, i can’t not think of it as dance music! i think i can even consider james chance as dancy sometimes. just, fyi if you’re into the bush tetras, they’re releasing a new album in late oct.. first time they’ve been in the studio in 10 years!

    Comment by anna | 08/17/2007 | Reply

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