Tellus #16 ‘Tango’

Produced by Harvestworks, 1986

  1. Carlos Gardel ‘Melodia De Arrabel’, re1934 (2:44)
  2. David Garland ‘Play Within A Play’ (04:05)
    with Cinnie Cole and Zeena Parkins
  3. Chris DeBlasio ‘Tango: The South Bronx’ (03:33)
    with Chris Berg, piano
  4. Keeler (Keith Keeler Walsh) ‘Undercurrent’ (02:16)
  5. Carlos Gardel ‘Arrabel Amargo’ (02:36)
  6. Brenda Hutchinson & Gerald Lindhal ‘Slow Death on a Thorny Rose’ (02:38)
  7. Alan Tomlinson ‘Floor Polish Tango’ (03:25)
  8. Elodie Lauten ‘Tango’ (03:43)
  9. Jo Basile & Orchestra ‘Jalousie’, re1959 (1:05)
  10. Robert Scheff ‘The More He Sings, The More He Cries, The Better He Feels…’ (06:50)
  11. Molly Elder ‘Tango Urbane’ (04:12)
  12. Matthew Nash ‘Tango En Forme D’une Minuette’ (:56 )
  13. Matthew Nash ‘Tango Too’ (01:05)
  14. Jo Basile & Orchestra ‘La Cumparsita’, re1959 (0:50)
  15. Christopher Berg ‘Tango Meditation’ (04:58)
  16. Fast Forward ‘The Empire State’ (02:39)
  17. Mader ‘Tango from Force of Circumstance’ (02:09)

‘Tango’, #16 in the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine series, offers the unexpected pairing of contemporary downtown NY composers with vintage tango songs. It works though, contributors avoiding mimicry and impersonation, and the essence of tango being retaken by participants as slow, melodramatic songs, with added gusto and drama. Tango is merely a dotted line here, serving as rough guidelines to participants eager to emancipate themselves from any popular format, while seeking the intense, gripping mood of tango. I assume the complex choreography of this dance also appealed to the Tellus team as a kind of stage play, as they had always been interested in music theater, radio plays, radio art, etc. Tango is personified here by the legendary argentinian singer Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) with a couple of 78s from the 1930s, and by the late Jo Basile, aka Joss Baselli, a french bal musette accordion player from Paris 1950s-1960s. The latter got some fame in the US in 1958, when touring the country accompagnying french singer Patachou. His solo LPs on Audio Fidelity label then became big sellers in the US. His accordion playing on side B is typical french musette, though he was born in Italy.

The ‘Tango’ Tellus tape was edited by the Harvestworks board (namely: Claudia Gould, Carol Parkinson & Joseph Nechvatal), but it seems engineer Gerald Lindahl contributed more than technical production and his input might be notable. A member of the Harvestworks organisation, Gerald Lindahl curated several Tellus cassettes (like number 5-6) in the 1980s. A noted singer as well, he regularly performed in NY during the 1980s, and was a member of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in 1991.

Carlos Gardel, Chris DeBlasio, Keith Keeler Walsh,
Brenda Hutchinson, Elodie Lauten, a Jo Basile LP,
Robert Scheff , Matthew Nash, Christopher Berg

Some of the cassette strongest tracks on ‘Tango’ are solo piano recordings, the apt instrument to convey the south-american blue mood. A student of LaMonte Young during the 1980s, Paris-born Elodie Lauten (b1950) writes and improvise microtonal music on real instruments as well as electronics. Her solo piano improvisation ‘Tango’ is build on subtle microtonal chords and a poignant sadness which feels very argentinian to this listener. Another solo piano track is the amazing live recording of Robert Sheff on piano, tape and keyboards. The song start like an ordinary piano melody before morphing into Cassiber-like synth+drum machine avant instrumental duo. For a one man performance, this interplay is quite phenomenal. Robert Scheff (b1945, Texas) is better known as NY just intonation blues composer ‘Blue Gene Tyranny’, also well known for his music reviews, for the All Musics Guide, for instance. And then the Christopher Berg is an extended, paced, semi-detached piano piece in Franz Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage mood, that is Europe late 19th c. romantic era.

Of course, this beautiful piano piece is cued with the superb Fast Forward steel drum extravaganza, a rythmic and exotic affair. The epic track of ubiquitous David Garland ‘Play Within A Play’ is already known to this blog’s readers, since it was also part of 1986 Alchemy Magazine cassette (see previous post), and still an impressive mix of imaginative arrangements and cabaret-like atmosphere, thanks to the lively participation of Cinnie Cole and Zeena Parkins. Molly Elder is an unfamiliar name to me. Her contribution to Tango is an all keyboards track in pre-illbient urban paranoia mood, a kind of surrealist film soundtrack. Matthew Nash contributes two charming keyboard vignettes. The ‘minuette’ is a variation of tango – something to do with french menuet? The Chris DeBlasio is an actual tango for piano and baritone voice. The compilers chosed to cue in the Keeler track (real name Keith Keeler Walsh), a barrage of drum machine and industrial keyboards preset sounds. Quite a shock, especially when what follows is another Carlos Gardel song. Mader concludes with a real tango, complete with spanish guitar.


6 Responses to “Tellus #16 ‘Tango’”

  1. 1 H.C. Earwicker March 4, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    A nice blog you’re having here! Cassette tapes are something like historical relics nowadays, especially those from the tape label era of the 80s. One can find many real gems there, and preserving these treasures by ripping & posting is, IMO, a noble cultural deed. Thanks.

    And thanks for the French night sounds tape, Tony. Listened to it yesterday. Great squeaks and squawks with fantastic landscape acoustics. May I get your permission to post this on “Closet of Curiosities”?

  2. 2 continuo March 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Of course, you can post it on your Curiosities, though it was intended for one of your sparse, awesome HCE mixes. I couldn’t find a way to integrate the tape on Continuo.
    May I disagree with your opinion about cassettes as ‘historical relics’? For me, once I’ve ripped one of these tapes in mp3, they sound as fresh as ever and they speak to me in a very contemporary way.

  3. 3 H.C. Earwicker March 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Of course. You’re right about the contents of cassettes. And even the sound quality is often better than many people may think. I was more referring to the fact that the cassette is no everyday object any more, as are tape decks. And only a few people still use them.

    I remember organizing a concert with David Garland and Shelley Hirsch here in Germany in the mid-80s. David was doing an amazing 40-minute one man show with a collection of strange song-stories. There might even be a chance I still have the tape I recorded that night. Have to take a look in my “archives”…

  4. 4 continuo March 4, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, I obviously would love to hear this.

  5. 5 seila December 23, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Is there any chance you could upload this cassette again? I would love it.

  6. 6 continuo December 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Mp3s for this tape and all other Tellus cassettes are permanently available on Ubuweb.

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