RAYMILLAND: RECORDINGS ’79-’81

By Justin Price

In the J.J. Abrams alternate-universe, St. Louis early 80’s post-punk upstarts Raymilland would be set to curate 2010’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in Saint Louis. Thousands of devoted, decades-long fans would flock to the Gateway city wearing their vintage Raymilland t-shirts, clutching their sealed first pressings of their debut album to their chests, waiting with baited breath for the flagship reunion show. They would be equally excited knowing that the band was able to convince the local (and equally legendary) all-female punk band, The Welders, to reunite for a performance at the festival as well. Once again, the world would be reminded of the innovation that bands like this displayed 20+ years before.

Anyone with a marginal interest in new-wave/post-punk/no-wave/late 70’s-early 80’s in general will find Recordings 79’-‘81 a satisfying, and ultimately, rewarding listening.

It’s fascinating to wonder if the fabric of time would’ve been altered if just a few significant details were changed in the band’s past. For instance: If Ian Curtis hadn’t of hung himself before their imminent U.S. tour, and Raymilland could have opened for them in Chicago, how different would things be for them now?  As it stands, that exact scenario that I described took place on a much more modest, yet no less revelatory scale at Off Broadway on December 26th 2009 for the release of Recordings ’79-’81.While I have hard feelings surrounding the event (the main bearings in my 97’ Toyota Avalon went out that night), it stands to say that my mind was sufficiently blown by the depth, quality, and energy that the group displayed for this (for now) one-off reunion show. Within the first few minutes of their opening song, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t reading about this band on Pitchfork’s selections of great music from the 70’s and 80’s. But what I’m left with is this collection of recordings lovingly put together by BDR records, and it stands as a stunning snapshot of an under-championed time in Saint Louis’ musical history.

One thing you’ll notice about this is the disparate nature of the recordings: some of the tracks on the record are demo recordings, rehearsal cassettes, and only a few tracks featured on here were ever officially released (one of them being on Sub Pop’s first cassette release which is running for about $750 on eBay!). My favorite song on the record is “Overheard” (a song so good that if my memory serves me right they played it twice at their show), and it’s easy to see why people are so passionate about the band. The synthesizer effects/guitar that open the song seems to intertwine, mutate, contract and expand with a melody that could’ve been from Chairs Missing, the bass comes in with pulsing beat that  pushes right up against the vocals, and the snare drums rolls double time right over the multi-layered arrangement. It’s all very striking, and with the way the song shifts tempos to accommodate glam rock and kraut-rock sensibilities, I can’t help but wonder what a real studio budget would have done for this track and others. It doesn’t hurt the songs in any way, though; the distorted, hazy production of the recordings are actually quite enveloping. “Unnumbered”, for instance, sounds completely submerged underwater, complete with a sonar-like pulse. After witnessing the piles of vintage gear that they had on display at their show, it’s not a surprise how much atmosphere they were able to evoke in their performance.

“Tronda” is going to be a highlight for many, and that further highlights the aforementioned point. Whereas its rhythmic pulse is very Hook/Morris, it’s interesting how the glam/gothic/spoken word (and samples?) stretch out under the distorted guitar lines and squabbles of feedback. These elements saturate all of the nearly 9 minutes of its running time (Johnny Lyndon, somewhere, just snarked at his this remark while simultaneously wondering if I ever heard his band Public Imaged, LTD. Yes, I have). The record is not available on iTunes as of yet, but I’m sure that digital distribution of this album would garner a healthy response. Anyone with a marginal interest in new-wave/post-punk/no-wave/late 70’s-early 80’s in general will find Recordings 79’-‘81 a satisfying, and ultimately, rewarding listen.

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