For those unfamiliar with Tuxedomoon, artsy-lefty-deconstructionist-classicists who 20 years ago declared a Reagan-governed America unlivable and fled to live and work in Europe, this EP of originals and remixes is the ideal starting point.
Steven Brown, Peter Principle, Blaine Reininger and Winston Tong made up one of the most mysterious and intelligent groups of its day. As whimsical and seditious as dadaist Marcel Duchamp, as dark and brooding as English post-punk contemporaries Joy Division (with whom they were scheduled to tour until Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980), Tuxedomoon was as much about rock as it was not, an outsider in an alternative culture-scape it helped create.
“No Tears,” originally released in 1978, is blisteringly paranoid and confrontational; its martial drumming, fuzzed-up guitar-organ interplay and hysterical vocals — “No tears for the creatures of the night/My eyes are dry. … What would happen if I forgot how to cry?” — interpreted the world as an increasingly ridiculous and scary place.
Two years later, “What Use” revealed Tuxedomoon in full existentialist mode, posing big, bitter questions like “What’s the use of feeling betrayed/What’s the use of feeling at all?”
The music had also changed. The song was recorded with mostly electronic equipment, given a motorik overdrive that borrowed from the German band Neu! and anticipated (perhaps influenced) the electro-pop of New Order and (much later) the digitized neo-Marxism of Stereolab.
Those two singles are contained on this 33-minute CD released on DJ Hell’s International Deejay Gigolo record label.
Of even greater interest to Detroit electronic music fans may be the presence of Adult. and Ectomorph, who are among the five artists called upon to remix the two tracks. There was genius in the casting, as they say in the movies, for more perfect interpreters of Tuxedomoon cannot be imagined.
Adult.’s “No Tears” is a cranking version that transports the song to its rightful place: right in the bosom of the man-woman-machine aesthetic held dear by the group’s Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus.
Adult. alters the pace and mood of the song slightly. Where Tuxedomoon’s original is a chillingly manic adrenaline rush from start to finish, a song you’d play to clear out a room, Adult.’s is fat, warm and celebratory: an anthem, menacing and antisocial, but an anthem nonetheless.
What Ectomorph does with “What Use” is even more subtle. The beats are stripped down to molecular fragments and framed within a funky rhythm line that paces the track. All is then pasted atop wicked Detroitish bass vibrations.
Listen carefully and hear house, in miniature, and even the sway of salsa. Ectomorph has crafted an intriguingly machined version of a song in which Tuxedomoon asked: “Give me new noise … strange new toys from another world.”
Two decades later, Detroit gave the members of Tuxedomoon what they had wished for.
Also featured on this CD are Hans Platzgumer, Heinrich Mueller and Continuous Mode, whose main contributor is Andy Mellweg of Berlin’s Porter Ricks.
E-mail Walter Wasacz at firstname.lastname@example.org.