The ROIR Label’s Timeless Documents of Underground Music

“If you had a taste for underground music in the ‘80s, you almost certainly had multiple releases on the ROIR (pronounced ‘roar’) label in your collection. The tiny New York label’s output was exclusively available on brightly-colored cassettes, with liner notes by noted rock critics like Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Byron Coley, Kurt Loder, Jon Pareles, and a pre-Yo La Tengo Ira Kaplan. The catalog included releases by proto-punk and punk legends like the MC5, Television, the New York Dolls (and Johnny Thunders), Nico, the Raincoats, the Dictators, and Suicide, as well as hardcore acts like Flipper and GG Allin, compilations like New York Thrash (featuring the Beastie Boys’ earliest recording), and the Bad Brains’ legendary ‘yellow tape.’ They also released noisy, arty music by Glenn Branca, Christian Marclay, Laibach, and Einstürzende Neubauten. And they balanced their loud, aggro side with releases that revealed label founder Neil Cooper’s passion for dub and reggae, with titles by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Big Youth, Niney the Observer, Yellowman, Bill Laswell, and others. …”
bandcamp (Audio)
Guardian – Label of love: ROIR

Music for 18 Musicians – Steve Reich (1976)

Music for 18 Musicians is a work of musical minimalism composed by Steve Reich during 1974–1976. Its world premiere was on April 24, 1976, at The Town Hall in New York City. Following this, a recording of the piece was released by ECM New Series in 1978. In his introduction to the score, Reich mentions that although the piece is named Music for 18 Musicians, it is not necessarily advisable to perform the piece with that few players due to the extensive doubling it requires. The piece is based on a cycle of eleven chords. A small piece of music is based on each chord, and the piece returns to the original cycle at the end. The sections are named ‘Pulses‘, and Section I-XI. This was Reich’s first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of psycho-acoustic effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to ‘explore this idea further’. A prominent factor in this work is the augmentation of the harmonies and melodies and the way that they develop this piece. Another important factor in the piece is the use of human breath, used in the clarinets and voices, which help structure and bring a pulse to the piece. The player plays the pulsing note for as long as he can hold it, while each chord is melodically deconstructed by the ensemble, along with augmentation of the notes held. The metallophone (unplugged vibraphone), is used to cue the ensemble to change patterns or sections. …”
Pitchfork: Steve Reich – The ECM Recordings
NPR: Steve Reich’s ‘Maximum’ Minimalism (Audio)
YouTube: Music for 18 Musicians – FULL PERFORMANCE with eighth blackbird
YouTube: Music for 18 Musicians

Wire – The Peel Sessions (1989)

“In 1978 and 1979, Wire taped three sessions for the John Peel show. Most artists might have taken the opportunity afforded by a coveted Peel session to promote a recent or forthcoming release. Wire did otherwise. Wire often moved swiftly on to new projects once material had been committed to vinyl. Consequently, only one of the numbers chosen by the group for its first BBC session in January 1978 was from the recent debut album, Pink Flag. Even that track (‘106 Beats That’) was treated to a compressed rendition. Nevertheless, the session arrangements of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ and ‘I Am the Fly’ closely resemble the versions that would be released eight months later on Chairs Missing. Wire returned to the BBC studios in September 1978, having spent most of the year touring and giving fans ample opportunity to acquaint themselves with the material released that month on Chairs Missing. True to form, the second session comprised new tracks that would appear on 154, almost a year later. However, a couple of the versions differ from their eventual album incarnations, emphasizing that the object of Wire‘s art was the work in progress, not the finished product. ‘The Other Window,’ for instance, would be a vaguely menacing exercise in dramatic tension on 154; here, it’s a sprightly pop song. When the third Radio 1 session aired in late 1979, 154 was enjoying critical acclaim. Rather than showcase the album, Wire chose to perform Crazy About Love,’ a quarter-hour improvisational oddity spawned in rehearsals. Although The Peel Sessions hints at early Wire‘s weaknesses without regular producer Mike Thorne — who seemed uniquely capable of bringing the group’s sound into focus — the material collected here does nothing to diminish Wire‘s status as the most innovative and influential band of the punk era.”
allmusic (Audio)
W – The Peel Sessions Album
YouTube: Wire Peel Session 17:40

Blondie – Blondie (1976)

Blondie is the eponymous debut studio album by American rock band Blondie, released in December 1976 by Private Stock Records. The first singleX Offender‘ was originally titled ‘Sex Offender’, but since radio stations would not play a song with such a provocative title, the band renamed the song. After disappointing sales and poor publicity, the band ended their contract with Private Stock and signed with Chrysalis Records in 1977. Chrysalis re-released the album in September 1977, along with the single ‘In the Flesh‘. … Through the production of Richard Gottehrer, who had worked with the Angels and other artists of the 1950s and 1960s, much of the music is suffused with the girl group sound of that era. Harry told an interviewer in 1978 that the band never intended to be retro and when some journalists described them that way, it was ‘quite a shock’. Likewise she rejected any attempt to brand the music as pop, insisting that Blondie played new wave music. …”
YouTube: Blondie [Full album : 11/11 songs]

Live Aux Bains Douches – James Chance & the Contortions (1980)

“Originally released via a French label in 1980 soon after its recording, and getting a long overdue domestic issue in 2004 as part of the ZE label’s reactivation, Paris 1980 Live Aux Bains Douches acts as a counterpart to the ROIR Live in New York/White Cannibal set, recorded around the same period. With a different set list to the NYC tape, as well as much clearer sound, Live Aux Bains Douches, recorded at the Paris venue of that name in front of a loudly appreciative crowd, has plenty of snarling passion from Chance and company, but also the same sense of control and skill that makes his early albums so gripping. Blasting off with the astonishing reworking of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ — at once recognizable, danceable and screwed up, especially when Chance takes over on sax towards the end — the show varies between similarly devolved covers and takes on originals. One easily gets the sense of how Chance and his band concentrated on balancing out all elements of their performance — the soft, chanted backing vocals on ‘I Danced With a Zombie’ act as perfect contrast to the clipped, upfront slow funk burn musically, while ‘Put Me Back in My Cage’ builds to a fantastic, triumphant conclusion, a band totally on top of its particular, near-unique game. As on White Cannibal, two James Brown covers give Chance an opportunity to salute a particular hero — ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ gets a downright straightforward performance, with even Chance‘s sax solo not going too far afield, while ‘King Heroin,’ though Chance‘s singing is far different from Brown‘s, similarly keeps a slow, sorrowful mood at its core.”
YouTube: Live Aux Bains Douches 41:34

“Holiday in Cambodia” / “Police Truck” – Dead Kennedys (1980)

“‘Holiday in Cambodia’ is a song by American punk rock band Dead Kennedys. The record was released as the group’s second single in May 1980 on Optional Music with ‘Police Truck‘ as its B-side. The title track was re-recorded for the band’s first album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980); the original recording of the song, as well as the single’s B-side, are available on the rarities album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (1987). The photograph in the front cover of the single was taken from the Thammasat University massacre in Thailand, and depicts a member of the right-wing crowd beating a hanged corpse of a student protester with a metal chair. The song is an attack on a stereotypical, moralizing, privileged American college students. Its lyrics offer a satirical view of young, well-to-do and self-righteous Americans, contrasting such a lifestyle with the genocidal dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot and his Communist Party of Kampuchea (mentioned in the lyrics), which is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of some two million people in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. The re-recording of this song that appears on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is different from the single version, being fifty-five seconds longer, at a higher tempo and featuring an extended, surf-influenced intro, as well as an extended bridge and guitar solo. …”
Rock History 101: The Dead Kennedy’s
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: “Holiday In Cambodia”, Police Truck – (Live at DMPOs on Broadway, SF)

Brian Eno: Taking Manhattan (By Strategy)

“It could be argued that Brian Eno is the most consistently creative figure in rock history, someone whose innovation rate over the decades eclipses even that of his shape-shifting collaborators David Bowie and David Byrne. From his disruptive presence in Roxy Music to his alternately quirky and contemplative solo albums, from inventing ambient music to his recent explorations in ‘generative music,’ it’s a career that has, well, careered, zigzagging from extreme to extreme between pop and antipop, between febrile rhythm and near-immobile tranquility. Then consider his panoply of partnerships with other artists – Devo, Talking Heads, U2 and John Cale, to name just a few – as producer or collaborator/catalyst. Eno is also a musical philosopher, someone whose interviews, critical writings and sundry musings about sound, art and culture deserve to be compiled into a book. …”
Red Bull Music Academy Daily (Video)