I first encountered this album in January of 2013, in New York City. The moment I heard this album, I knew that it needed to be part of my collection. This album, and all of its magical, whimsical, schizophrenic moments, is constantly on repeat in my house, and truck… even in my head.
New York City, cold as hell for a guy from Miami, Florida. I’m travelling with my brother, this would be technically his second time in the city. The first time, he just drove through with his friend who was moving from Miami to Halifax, Nova Scotia, yep Canada. That’s his story, not mine. So, we were there to catch Quicksand perform at Webster Hall. One of our favorite hardcore bands, excellent excuse to leave Miami for a few days and enjoy the city. The plans included meeting up with my Twitter friend turned texting buddy, Alan. He lives in another state, so his visit was with purpose. Besides meeting up with us, the goal was to buy some cultish, exploit DVDs. I’m telling you, my friends and I have eclectic taste when it comes to things.
The day consisted of regular visitor activities… meeting up at Central Station, walking around, getting the best latte ever (thank you Stumpton!), more walking, eating at The Meat Ball Shoppe. Never been? You should! Absolutely amazing! But before the Shoppe, a quick visit to Kim’s Videos. That’s where the magic begins.
The five of us, two more Twitter friends met up with us and ventured along, walk in and quickly dispersed. Now, I work retail as my day job. Part of me is trained to look in the room, not to memorize who is there but to quickly look to see who is there. Kim’s Videos is packed with CDs, DVDs, vinyl – you name it. Well organized but a lot to take in. The first thing I notice are two hobo-esque people. Both with bags and bags of stuff, some with articles of music, some with clothes. A minimal stench of funk. Crazy hair, both from the head and from the face. Don’t know what they were talking about, but they were there. Attending them was a younger guy and an older guy. The older guy looks like he had a rough night and was obviously in charge of the music that was blaring through the speakers. And it was quite loud, Kim’s is quite a narrow yet long store so sound travels, and it travels quite well.
Anyway, we’re digging through their stuff. Alan finds his DVDs, my brother and I are looking through the records, I have no idea what the other two are doing. As we were doing that, ‘Find Your Way’ is playing. Loudly. Now, I’ve been a fan of electronic music since about 1993. I’ve been into its primitive state to what it is now, advanced, slick, and toned. The sounds blasting from the speakers caught my ear and I became a bit more attentive. And as I shifted from the records to the CDs, the song that infected me and ruined my life (metaphorically speaking) started blasting. ‘Sport et Divertissement’. I felt my spine tingle, my ears were on fire, my eyes were wide open. It was as if I found gold, technically I did. A quick use of the Shazam app and I knew I would be on a quest to own this. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to just ask for it. You see? It ruined my life.
With a little research, I was able to find the record. But until that day happened, I knew I needed to find a copy of this no matter what. I downloaded a copy from iTunes. Yes, iTunes carries a copy of this wonderful masterpiece of what my friend calls “Schizophrenic music.” My coworker calls it “Insane clown music.” Everyone’s a critic. As soon as I downloaded this, it was on repeat. So much so that my dogs became desensitized. At first it drove them crazy. High pitch noises, mechanical rhythms… it’s not for everyone, even the dogs.
Roberto Cacciapaglia is an Italian pianist and composer, who studied orchestration and electronic music. Considered one of Italy’s premier experiemental musicians. The album is somewhat of a concept album, according to its Half Machine Records page. Using the same six notes throughout each song. It’s complimented by American model turned singer, Ann Steel. The two of them met, and Roberto decided to have her sing. Not the best of singers, but sometimes those who don’t have training or skill sound more humble and warm. Especially when the backdrop is a lot of klinks and klanks, repetitive beats, and eventually a guitar (all the way at the end of the record)… at least I think it’s a guitar.
The Ann Steel Album was released in 1979, right before the synthpop boom. Back when most keyboards were fillers and not leads in pop music and not as dominate as in disco . But, it’s very different to Kraftwerk or anything electronic from that period. Steel provides some form of humanity to the cold music. Not cold whereas you don’t want to listen to it ever again, it’s cold to where it’s left you with an easy feeling that you have to listen to it again… and again… and again, because it’s enigmatic soul is something you want to try to understand. The more you hear it and pay attention, the more you hear new sounds, patterns, and rhythms. The vocals makes it comfortable and welcoming, it’s all a trap. Some lyrics are just nonsense, some make you wonder – not philosophically just to try to make sense of it all. But it’s all a trap! By the time you’re done, you start questioning what you just heard. And you play it over again.
I’m a fan. I love musical pieces that don’t make sense, but I like structure. I like to feel safe and then venture out. This album, released 34 years ago, does that. I know that it’s not for everyone, some people will probably worry about you. But if you’re the type of person that goes into a music store and start fiddling with the keyboards, this will probably be of interest. Unfortunately, this album is currently sold out by Half Machine Records, who were the last ones to reprint this album. You can get it on iTunes and probably on eBay. Maybe head over to Kim’s Videos and see if they have a copy.
For a quick reference of what you’re getting yourself into… Sporadic bursts of machine made music with mid range, naive vocals. An overall fun record for those who like to hear different sounds come together.
If anyone knows where Ann Steel is, tell her to please call me.
PAIR THIS ALBUM WITH
Young Meg Pinot Noir [Australia, 2011]
A big and juicy toned, soft bodied pinot noir that is easily compatible with all sorts of foods especially sweets. Due to the content of The Ann Steel Album, I’m suggesting this for a friendly get together. Young Meg is really easy on the palette, and with a soft body, you have to be careful not to over aerate it. It will change its tone, so pair it with something rich like chocolate cake, raspberries, cherries, to maintain it’s taste.
One of my favorite pinot noirs from Australia. Quite reliable as a crowd pleaser, especially with someone who does not drink red wines regularly.
Vinyl & Vino rating: 3 out of 5
TOP 3 FAVORITE TRACKS
Sport et Divertissement
Find Your Way