Various Artists

New York Noise: Dance Music from the New York Underground,1977-1982

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New York Noise covers roughly the same stretch of time as In the Beginning There Was Rhythm, another compilation from the reliable Soul Jazz label. There aren't any gaping stylistic gulfs between the two discs, but the geographic focus here is completely different. In the Beginning features post-punk groups from England, while this disc highlights the genre-bending and cultural cross-breeding that was taking place in New York City, synchronously, during the late '70s and early '80s. The disc takes in most of the movements that took root in the city during the era, from no wave to mutant disco to hip-hop to art funk and a handful of points in between -- all without overlapping a great deal with other sets that were released just before and just after, like Downtown 81, Rough Trade Post Punk 01, N.Y. No Wave, and a swollen reissue of ZE's Mutant Disco. Mars' "Helen Fordsdale," plucked from the increasingly hard to find No New York, is emblematic of no wave, with lines of screeching guitars, furiously rolling toms, frantic bass, and unintelligible yelps. Lizzy Mercier Descloux's "Wawa," a sparse, brittle instrumental with spindly guitars, could be slipped onto either of Talking Heads' first two albums with little notice. Dinosaur L's "Clean on Your Bean No. 1" isn't nearly as wild as the dub-drenched Latin funk of Fran├žois Kevorkian's "Go Bang" remix, despite having several of the same ingredients, but it's still pleasurably loose-limbed, like an out-there abstraction of Roy Ayers' best dancefloor-oriented moments. Soul Jazz has the tendency to pull out at least one obscurity that even graying hipsters have trouble remembering; in this case it's from the Bloods, who could be more easily placed in the company of ESG and Delta 5 if they had recorded more than one single. Compilations like this are necessary because they document bygone fragments of time and keep them alive for younger generations. Compilations like this are dangerous because they tend to fall in the hands of young bands who spend more time looking behind than ahead. Besides, who's to say that no wave and post-punk won't spawn their own analogs of traditional blues musicians -- if they haven't already? Still, New York Noise is another title demonstrating that the late '70s and early '80s were awesome for music.

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