VA: New York Noise Vol. 2
Soul Jazz

Rhys Chatham, Material, Sonic Youth, Arto Lindsay, Patti Smith, Television, Lydia Lunch, Golden Palominos, Richard Hell, Glenn Branca, Laurie Anderson—all key figures within a hugely influential late-70s/early ‘80s NY downtown scene whose collective impact resoundingly reverberates in the music of DFA, James Murphy, The Strokes, and The Rapture. New York Noise Vol. 2: Music from the New York Underground 1977-1984 brings the period into clearer focus by documenting its genre diversity (the label's 2003 collection New York Noise 1978-1982 featured tracks by Liquid Liquid, Defunkt, and Glenn Branca). Of course raw post-punk is here, courtesy of early No Wave band Red Transistor's “Not Bite,” Rhys Chatham's unflinching instrumental “Drastic Classicism,” and The Static's “My Relationship” (its doom-laden heaviosity shouldn't surprise given Glenn Branca's involvement) plus Sonic Youth makes an appearance, even if the slow-motion drift of its “I Dreamed I Dream” hardly registers as a career peak.

What stands out most of all is the disc's stylistic plenitude: Clandestine's “Radio Rhythm (Dub),” machine dub-funk reminiscent of early Material (Memory Serves) that even subtly nods to Kraftwerk's Radioactivity; the exuberant dance cut “Tiger Stripes” by Felix, an Arthur Russell-Nicky Siano collab, integrates elements of soul, jazz, Latin, disco, and funk (its influence heard today in recent cuts like Strategy's “World House”); and Jill Kroesen's “I Am Not Seeing That You Are Here,” what sounds like the warped product of a session between The Lounge Lizards and The B-52s. How refreshing too to hear the musicians' humorous side, as the comical punk-funk of Vortex Ost's “Black Box Disco” makes clear, and to be reminded that all-female groups like Y Pants and Ut were prime movers during the era. Reminiscent of Talking Heads' “I Zimbra,” the (also all-female) big band Pulsallama contributes tribal chants and a stomping groove (“Ungawa Pt. 2”) while Mofungo's “Hunter Gatherer” (taken from a 1983 album issued on Elliot Sharp's Zoar label and featuring Sharp himself) reveals a similar influence.

Perhaps most strikingly, the album title is rather misleading as the collection is hardly the noisefest one might expect, though Vol. 2 does emphasize the avant-garde guitar-punk end of the NY spectrum, with generous room allocated to dance-related genres. And though the range of styles might suggest a lack of album unity, what lends the album cohesiveness is the manic energy and punk spirit with which the artists attack their material.

February 2006