New York Noise

New York Noise, Vol. 2

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While not quite as essential as its predecessor, New York Noise, Vol. 2 provides an eye and ear-opening introduction to the progenitors, many completely obscure even in their day, of punk, new wave, no wave, and wry art rock. The downtown New York "underground" music scene during 1977-1984 was a hotbed for many styles of indie rock that have influenced all that has come since, both in form and function (the D.I.Y. ethos of art gallery and warehouse performance spaces continues to spawn and support the most truly "independent" artists today). This collection opens with a pair of dispensable yet fun punk-funk workouts from also-rans Pulsallama and Mofungo (nonetheless exposing the reference points of contemporary bands like the Rapture, !!!, and Out Hud), then redeems itself with the blast-furnace agit-punk of Red Transistor (paving the way from Wire to Liars) and the sinister yet dancefloor-friendly "Black Box Disco" from the soundtrack of the indie film Vortex, featuring downtown doyen Lydia Lunch. There are some crucial tracks here such as Rhys Chatham's dissonant juggernaut "Drastic Classicism," an archetypal piece from Glenn Branca's post-Theoretical Girls outfit the Static, and one of Sonic Youth's first known recordings, the dronescape "I Dreamed I Dream," which with Thurston Moore's cracked croons, Kim Gordon's seductive speak-sing, and their trademark twin-guitar hypnotic atonality, perfectly sets the template for the majority of their future work. There are also disposable novelties such as Jim Jarmusch's herky-jerky Del-Byzanteens (stick to the genius film director role!) and Ned Sublette's generic dance-dub Clandestine (A Certain Ratio did it better!). However, the bulk of this compilation, as can be said of most Soul Jazz comps, flows seamlessly with nary a dull moment (OK, maybe the proto-electro-disco of Felix, a lesser Arthur Russell project, could have been omitted for consistency), and conjures the electric eclecticism of one of the most vibrant music scenes ever to spontaneously erupt anywhere, anytime.

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