Slowscan 2: Le Forte Four / Fat & Fucked Up C90 (1985?)

cassette coverA kind of oddball release that saw very limited release of two Los Angeles area groups on a Dutch label.  This was kind of the swan song of Le Forte Four – the final recordings heard from them before they dropped off the map never to reappear until their recent reunion concert in London.  This cassette came after their 1981 LP “Spin ‘N Grin” which was a bit of a disaster for them at the time selling very little despite being a wonderful record.  Itself probably an inspiration to wind up L.A.F.M.S.  Given that previous reception, it really should be no surprise that this tape came out in an edition of only 100 and remained available at least through the early 1990’s.  I guess this was a little before people were going ga-ga pouring over the NWW list or knew what to make of their mention on the cover of The Fall’s “Dragnet” LP.  Probably adding to the confusion of whether to invest in this odd item at the time was the inclusion of the downright obscure Fat & Fucked Up on the flipside.  This eye catchingly named ensemble otherwise only had a few appearances on beautifully produced Trance Port Tapes compilations leaving them pretty well unknown to the general record (and cassette) buying public.  However, Fat & Fucked UP did however play live often and I do remember seeing them at Beyond Baroque and X=Art way back in the day.  At least one, if not both, of those bills was shared with What Makes Donna Twirl? and in particular I remember Brad Laner’s amazing guest appearance on drums at the Beyond Baroque gig.  Their side of the cassette was recorded at LACE in May of 1985 – a gig I don’t remember being at, but that was a long time ago now.

Anyhow, as for the music itself  L44 offer up six otherwise unheard tracks (not even included in the “Lowest Form of Music” 10 CD box) recorded in in December of 1984 with the full line up of Potts brothers Rick, Joe and Tom with husband-and-wife pair Chip and Susan Chapman.  These pieces are more electronics heavy and actually rather sparse suggesting that the whole line up didn’t play on every track.  They are playful and experimental, but never get quite as goofy as earlier releases, for better or worse.  Perhaps a touchstone can be taken from the fact that Rick Potts and Joseph Hammer, operating at that time as a duo under the name Dinosaurs With Horns, are credited as engineers, as it is seems the sound is a little closer to the Dinosaurs sound.  However it never quite takes off with the solid pack that the previous year’s self-titled Dinosaurs With Horns cassette delivers.  Overall I still haven’t found these tracks to be quite as essential listening as earlier Le Forte Four recordings.

Fat & Fucked Up provide a suite of pieces under the title “Underscore: Sonic Interactions” which clocks in just under 23 minutes.  Looking back I would say that the cassette lacks some of the oddity of seeing the group perform, as a remember them being being rather visual players, but that could just be vagaries of memories playing tricks on me.   Their grouping is essentially that of a small chamber ensemble with aspects of playing that strike me as freely improvised.  Founders Michael Intriere and Josie Roth play cello and viola respectively with Josie also contributing the group’s striking vocal forays which play a smaller part on this cassette.  Joining them are Jon Huck on double bass and William Huck on tuba.  The tuba in particular is a nice counterpoint to the strings.

Overall it is a nice document of the artier side of what was going on in Los Angeles in the mid-1980’s besides punk and waves of visiting new wave bands from England.  Looking back it seems like there was a lot of that which remains fairly undocumented.  There are certainly plenty of things probably best forgotten, and a few which were briefly captured on a single long out of print release.  But a lot of worthy stuff really slipped between the cracks which is easy to happen in a place like Los Angeles where are there are thousands upon thousands of local and visiting artists vying for attention.

Although dubbed on a chrome C90 cassette, the program is actually short enough to fit on one side of the tape and unfortunately recorded a bit low but never lacks for fidelity.  Packaged rather simply, the black and white j-card actually does look offset printed – kind of a stand out in the cassette culture at that time.  My copy (pictured above) has a few somewhat random rubber stamps applied to the cover (“This is not Art” – anyone remember Art Strike?) which doesn’t seem to be the case with other copies that I have seen pictured online.  Then again my copy is also number 100 of 100.  So maybe it was the end of the line and someone felt like sprucing up the last few.

Slowscan – 2 [note it doesn’t say “Volume 2” anywhere on this]