Modern Harmonic

Model Citizens NYC 1978​–1979 LP

First-time redux of the the MODEL CITIZENS’ one-off 1979 EP (originally released on John Cale’s Spy Records label), now fleshed out as a proper long-player with an additional eight live tracks recorded at the Hurrah and Max’s Kansas City in 1978/1979. The MODEL CITIZENS were part of the constellation of New York weirdos crafting dissonant, danceable, and gleefully asymmetrical sounds in the city’s late ’70s downtown squalor, approaching the music-making process as a conceptual extension of their artistic practices. The four studio cuts all wiggle around the sort of anxious, off-kilter rhythms favored by the best art-school-spawned American post-punk outfits of the era (DEVO, PINK SECTION, etc.)—the delirious, near-wordless shrieks and squeals from vocalists Eugenie Diserio and Gloria Richards that punctuate “Animal Instincts” make them sound like the big city evil twins of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of the B-52’S, backed by some perfectly trashy organ stabs that only reinforce that parallel, and the tightly-wound, violin and marimba-accented minimalist groove and neurotically yelped vocals from one of their male counterparts on “I Am Honest” bests early TALKING HEADS at their own schtick. Some of the unreleased live cuts are especially great (the Eugenie/Gloria new wave from hell call-and-response of “Do It Like It Matters,” or the serpentine, bass-led mutant funk groove of “Foreign Tongue”), foreshadowing what was to come from the projects that the MODEL CITIZENS ultimately splintered into at the end of their brief run (major label new wavers POLYROCK, downtown funk-punk combo the DANCE, the backing band for preteen post-punk queen CHANDRA). Yes art, let’s dance.

The Dance Do Dada LP

When quirky NYC art-wavers the MODEL CITIZENS splintered after a one-and-done 1979 EP, vocalist/organist Eugenie Diserio and guitarist Steve Alexander quickly formed the mutant disco/funky no wave outfit the DANCE, pushing the MODEL CITIZENS’ wonky downtown B-52’S vibe into more debauched corners of the dancefloor. Do Dada is an odds-and-ends adjoiner to the recent reissue of the DANCE’s two proper LPs, starting with the four songs from their 1980 debut 12” Dance for Your Dinner (the release of which coincided with their stint as the backing band for pre-teen post-punk chanteuse CHANDRA), looping in a few tracks from a pair of 1982 singles, and ending with two different mixes of a previously unreleased 1983 track (“Into the Future”) recorded just before the project’s demise; the alpha to the omega. Although the DANCE (inexplicably) never landed on ZE or 99 Records, their early EP material in particular would have fit right in with either label’s early ’80s rosters. Eugenie squeals, chants, and runs through various onomatopoeias over breakneck disco beats and a liquid (LIQUID) bass line on “Do Dada,” “She Likes to Beat” and “Dance for Your Dinner” slip into slinky, secondhand smoke-shrouded late-night rhythms punctuated by skronking sax, clattering cowbell, and retro-trash keyboard warble, and the urgent, body-shaking post-punk funk of “Slippery When Wet” sounds like LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX with a different accent, while later ’82–’83-era cuts like “In Lust” and “Dubbin’ Down” stretch out even further into simmering, extended dance grooves, taking Dance for Your Dinner’s wired abandon and refining it into club-worthy bangers for art school oddballs and the glitterati alike—they weren’t fucking around with that band name.

V/A Instant This / Instant That: NY NY 1978​​–1985 2xLP

A survey of female-forward downtown New York sounds centered on twin sisters Ellen and Lynda Kahn, who skewered material pop culture as the video art/no wave duo TWINART, along with contributions from a handful of like-minded local peers who were also blurring the distinctions between the city’s visual art and underground music scenes in the ’70s and ’80s. Instant This / Instant That starts with (and takes its title from) a one-off recording by the Kahn sisters’ first band TASTE TEST, from a flexi that came with a 1979 issue of the Chicago-based zine Praxis—it’s a delirious collision of busted synth squiggle, primitive Whac-A-Mole beats, and breathless call-and-response chants about polyester, microwaves, and “shiny shit” as they romp through the detritus of the modern convenience lifestyle. As TWINART, the Kahns would venture even further into exploring the possibilities of electronic textures and manipulations, from art-damaged minimal wave (there’s echoes of ALGEBRA SUICIDE in the stark layering of handclaps and spoken word in “Hands On Hands Off”), to skeletal bass/drum machine art-punk clatter (“Trashy Fashions”), while keeping TASTE TEST’s B-52’S-level fixation with consumerist kitsch in place. The snapshot of the TWINART inner circle is fleshed out with the DANCE, who lend the unreleased demo “Dream On” (showcasing them at their most straight new wave) and the 1982 breakneck mutant art-funk B-side “You Got to Know,” with heads of DANCE Eugenie Diserio and Steve Alexander joining TWINART for the retrofuturist synth-wave sleaze of “Double Shot of Love,” plus three tracks from performance artist JILL KROESEN (including her PATTI SMITH-gone-no wave 1980 single “I Really Want to Bomb You”), and two offerings from multimedia artist JULIA HEYWARD (the rhythmic, almost BUSH TETRAS-esque “Gassum,” and the electronic sound poetry drone of “Keep Moving Buddy”). Weird, wild, and wonderful.