Family Fodder gets the “Director’s Cut” they deserve, Deupree & Fischer work the Buddha Machine
Sunday Girls (Director’s Cut)
Formed in the late ‘70s in the post-punk era by John Pearce, a.k.a. Alig Fodder, Family Fodder is one of those rare bands that is seemingly incapable of making anything that sounds remotely boring. It is an absolutely brilliant yet criminally under-recognized group that this writer wants to force everyone to listen to, after a vigorous shaking.
If pop music supplied a structure, Family Fodder blew it up like a latex glove almost to the breaking point, with injections of gleeful experimentation and sonic madness and genre nods to everything from classical music (Satie, Schubert) to Jamaican dub to new wave contemporaries.
Which brings us to the reissue at hand—it’s the long out-of-print debut mini-album Sunday Girls from 1979, which takes its name from the 1978 Blondie song “Sunday Girl” that is covered twice, book-ending the release.
While the covers follow the original’s recognizable form, they lovingly warp the track, throwing confetti into every crevice, and the closing version features squeaky sped-up chipmunk vocals.
Sunday Girls is the sound of a band that understands that it doesn’t need to follow any rules, so it just goes for it. However, it barely—just barely—stays together, with a fragmented, attention-deficit-ridden, addled style with brief scraps among the longer pieces that will likely be disorienting to most listeners.
“Disco Purge” offers what its title suggests and sounds better than it probably should, taking an easy jab at disco (during the genre’s backlash) but clearly having a lot of fun with it. “Good Times Underwater” is a confusing waltz, with romper-room details like a toy piano and melodica, and early Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett’s “No Man’s Land” is covered with a deep dub vibe.
“Kisses” is a formless poem with chimes, with lines like “Your dirty father made me mow the lawn, and all I really wanted was your kisses,” and perhaps the pinnacle of noodling weirdness is “Grand Méchant Loup” with psych fuzz-guitar licks and a little girl babbling in French.
Newcomers might actually have an easier time with some of the bonus tracks, several of which are essential single tracks, like the irresistible, herky-jerky “Debbie Harry” and the enticing, slithering “Warm,” both of which feature the vocals of Dominique Levillain.
“Playing Golf (With My Flesh Crawling)” offers bizarre and delicious discomfort along the lines of Renaldo & the Loaf, and fans searching for deep cuts will appreciate the inclusion of “Tedium” and “The Story So Far” credited to “Frank Sumatra” from an obscure 12-inch.
If you ever find yourself weary of music, try Family Fodder. You have no excuse now.
Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer
As musician and studio engineer Taylor Deupree explained to the online magazine Headphone Commute, although he has bought and sold a ton of synthesizers and studio gear over the years, he said, “...the best music is created with the most meager of equipment” citing the need for restrictions and concepts to push creativity.
For his collaborative album with Portland musician Marcus Fischer, Twine, the spark turned out to be a single, mono tape loop created by Fischer that was playing that entranced the two as they were starting to relax after a long studio session.
The core template for Twine comes from a simple idea, to tastefully build upon two mono tape loops of different lengths, played on reel-to-reel players, and recorded using microphones in a room with a small selection of instruments, including bells, an electric piano and plucked strings.
Something that immediately comes to mind when listening to the stunning simplicity of Twine, which overlaps the worlds of ambient and electro-acoustic music, is the Buddha Machine, which is a battery-powered device the size of a pack of cigarettes that plays several fixed ambient loops.
Imagine two Buddha Machines playing, gently going in and out of phase with each other, with the modest curiosity of two musicians figuratively walking through dirty snow in a forest in search of serendipitous beauty in the form of improvised tones.
This is not entirely pristine, perfect music, and imperfections are neither magnified nor hidden—the warmth of the tape hiss, along with tiny audio glitches, are oddly comforting for the listener, as a sort of reassurance that this isn’t simply music made by robots.
Twine is one of the most gorgeous ambient albums this writer has heard in recent memory, and it also serves as a reminder to musicians that keeping it simple can be a good strategy and that more often than not, a gear-purchasing addiction is just a crutch for a lack of creativity.