Skip to main content

Most overlooked albums ever- #5



Tie- In typical Libra fashion, I have difficulty making up my mind, even about things like this. So we’ll start the countdown with a tie for fifth place…

Jouissance- Sunlight Penetrates the Crown (1991, Minus Habens)

I thought long and hard about whether or not to include this one. The thinking had chiefly to do with my aim to have only recordings that were influential beyond what they are given credit for and Sunlight Penetrates really can’t claim to have been an influence, even in the realm of obscuria.

For a brief period in the early 1990s, Michael Sefton, the genius behind Jouissance, looked like he was going to carve a niche for himself in the music underground. He had his new album Sunlight Penetrates out on the highly respeated Minus Habens label, he was appearing on compilations, he had word of mouth from the most reputable part of the independent music press. So what happened?

Well, nothing happened. Very precisely nothing, because shortly after launching his career, Michael Sefton fell off the planet Earth and was never heard from again. Who knows?

Whatever happened, this masterpiece of distorted sample mayhem and underplayed keyboard lines stands alone as a beacon in the forest. It’s a difficult listen, alternately harsh and pleasant, but well worth the effort. No one has produced anything truly comparable, before or since.

Novy Svet- Venezia (2002, Junges Wien)

It’s hard to explain to people who claim to love the wave of Neo-folk that’s come out in the last few years that they don’t really like Novy Svet. After all, with only a few releases under their belt, these Austrian mavericks have garnered the sort of cult following that’s normally reserved for bands with ambitions far beyond dominance of the Austrian underground. But I truly believe that most of the people who claim to like them really just get a kick of of liking something so obviously strange and original.

Novy Svet’s appeal lies in their quirkiness. They first garnered attention for their albujm Faccia a Faccia, with its drunken accordion solos and schizophrenic pace. This was furthered when underground Fuhrer of the moment Albin Julius picked up their next release for his then untouchable Hau Ruck! label. The drunken ambiance, emotiveness and originality of Novy Svet found a following. Nowadays, there are bands spending a lot of time trying to cultivate the mood that the couple behind Novy Svet seem to produce as effortlessly as they breathe.

Unfortunately, the undeniably strangeness of their early releases seems to have undercut them. Venezia should have been the album that took them beyond the perception of a gag band who combined modern and traditional in an alcohol-influenced haze. This should have been the album that turned heads. This should have been the album that made everyone aware that Novy Svet were not just funny and enjoyable, but two powerfully talented songwriters, pretty much without parallel anywhere in the musical world.

Instead, the album received a lukewarm reaction (perhaps due to its being a vinyl only release) and faded from memory. Originally intended as a release for Austria’s Hau Ruck! (originally intended as an analogue to the Allerseelen album of the same name), its eventual positioning on an almost invisible imprint without availability on CD could not have helped. Without the backing of Hau Ruck! (who, within the confines of the neo-folk scene, are a pretty powerful force), the band seemed to lose its momentum as quickly as it had come along. Very few judgments in the history of music have been so completely misguided.

Make no mistake: Novy Svet are perhaps the most talented band currently recording music. There are albums that might underline their lovable strangeness to a greater extent, but this is the album that shows them at their finest. They should have been huge.

Comments

Jon said…
Agreed about Novy Svet. But it also doesn't help that only 313 copies of Venezia were produced anyway.

And speaking of falling off planet earth, what happened to ol' Jurgen Weber anyway?

as long as you're here, why not read more?

fun-raising

no, i am not dead, nor have i been lying incapacitated in a ditch somewhere. i've mostly been preparing for our imminent, epic move, which is actually not so terribly epic, because we found a place quite close to where we are now. in addition, i've been the beneficiary of an inordinately large amount of paying work, which does, sadly, take precedence over blogging, even though you know i'd always rather be with you.

indeed, with moving expenses and medical expenses looming on the horizon, more than can be accounted for even with the deepest cuts in the lipstick budget, dom and i recently did something that we've not done before: we asked for help. last week, we launched a fundraising campaign on go fund me. it can be difficult to admit that you need a helping hand, but what's been overwhelming for both of us is how quick to respond so many people we know have been once we asked. it's also shocking to see how quickly things added up.

most of all, though, the ex…

losers?

just a short time ago, i waxed prosaic about trump supporters who felt betrayed by their candidate pursuing in office the exact things that he said he would. short version: i have no sympathy.

today is a bit different. in the wake of america's bombing of a syrian air strip, in response to a chemical weapons attack by the syrian government, my facebook and twitter feeds were peppered with plaintive shades of "we believed you". these are the people who heard trump say that he wanted the united states to step back and focus on defending its own. indeed, trump did say such things, over and over; america cannot be the policeman of the world. even arch-liberal cynics like me had to admit that this was a refreshing argument to hear from someone outside the paul family, and, could easily have been turned into trump's greatest argument against hillary clinton. [he chose to go another way, which also worked.]

trump also said, repeatedly, that america needed to invest heavily …

long division

after the united states election last year, there were the usual calls for the country to unite behind the new president. that never happens anymore, because, since george w. bush scored a victory in 2004, having launched the country into a war in iraq for no reason, the people on the losing side of a presidential election have been pretty bloody angry about it. democrats hated bush 43. republicans really hated obama. democrats really hate trump.

it didn't help that trump didn't make the typical conciliatory gestures like including a couple of members of the opposite party in his cabinet, or encouraging his party to proceed slowly with contentious legislation. barack obama arguably wasted at least two and as many as six years of his tenure as president trying to play peacemaker before he felt sufficiently safe to just say "screw you guys" and start governing around the ridiculous congress he was forced to deal with. not-giving-a-shit obama was the best president in …