The next stop in our Red Light Radio x Sonos Liner Notes series is at home, in Amsterdam’s Red Light district, where Young Marco resides. Most of the time he’s somewhere around the world, pleasing crowds with his genre-defying eclecticism, joining the dots between gems coming from all points of the compass. His obsession with the inspired and unusual made him a haunted target for this podcast series.
This mix has become like time travel. A brilliant and otherworldly hybrid of fine pop art with a wide range of esoteric tracks. “The eighties was a magical era in which technology and naivety came together. All kinds of gear became accessible and people just started messing around with it. A lot of timeless stuff was made accidentally. In hindsight the tracks obviously have a defining sound”, he comments.
Young Marco picks a bunch of charming cherries from the eighties and presents them characteristically and imaginative – the mix on its own could tell a million stories. And that is exactly why we weren’t surprised to find out that the facts totally didn’t match our expectations. Let’s dive in and start our trip with a true underground icon.
- Track 1LegbaMalcolm McLaren
Kicking off with an important accelerator of western styles and movements in the seventies and eighties: the Brit Malcolm McLaren. “Legba” is taken from McLaren’s groundbreaking “Duck Rock” album, which captures the vibe of creative New York City in the early eighties. The hits “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch” are both on this album and both tracks are about girls. In “Double Dutch”, NYC high school gals play the rope game in the city streets. The album artwork comes from graffiti kingpin Dondi, graphic designer Nick Egan. With Keith Haring on top, “Duck Rock” brought the classic elements of hip-hop to a new audience.
It’s wouldn’t be surprising if “Legba” refers to Papa Legba, the Haitian voodoo symbol that intermediates with the spirits of New Guinee. Papa Legba facilitates communication, speech and understanding. This reference would make sense, as the album mixes up styles from South Africa, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, and the US, including hip hop, totally amalgamated to a fresh musical language.
It wasn’t the first time that Malcolm McLaren juggled with the ingredients of a new flux - the Brit had a keen eye for trends. He realized that a new protest style was needed for the '70s, and largely initiated the punk movement, for which he supplied fashions from the Chelsea boutique 'SEX', operated with his girlfriend Vivienne Westwood. In mid-1975, McLaren advised SEX-customers and Sex Pistols members Paul Cook and Steve Jones on their musical aspirations and became their manager. In the early eighties, McLaren moved to New York for new adventures.
- Track 2UtanförVidderna
Young Marco takes us from a imperious situation to a local one – “Utanför” is a beautiful dreamy Swedish underground studio track with an exotic and balearic sensation. It is a contemporary track by the Malmo based duo Niklas Tjäder and Markus Clemmedson, who became friends trough their love for post Manchester’s Durutti Column en Vini Reilly punk guitar play and Bryan Ferry’s songwriting. Their short-lived project Vidderna spawned a unique sound fueled by the duos interest in both disco, Swedish prog and the loving use of unusual instruments. Young Marco got this record at Can records in Copenhagen. He explains: “It is an urban legend that they gave up music after this record and started a yoga school. I tried yoga once, it just stressed me out! But this record is pretty relaxing though... There is also a pretty dope Black Sabbath tribute on the same side.”
- Track 3Exotic DanceImitation
It is almost as if the same artists continue with a new track, but that feeling instantly turns around when we hear “Exotic Dance” with a strong Japanese accent. The Japanese group Imitation was formed by former Sadistic Mika Band keyboardist Yu Imai. Talking Heads’ backing singer Dolette McDonald and and Steve Scales were members and the band was supposedly influenced by Talking Heads’ eighties sound. “Exotic Dance” is taken from their second album called “Muscle and Heat”, that appeared in 1982. The group released their first album on US disco giant Casablanca Records and continued in Japan on Kitty Records. “Exotic Dance” wasn’t Marco’s favorite track from the start… “I love how records can flip on you after a while, “Narcissa” was always the track for me and then I got into this one. I love rediscovering stuff on cuts you thought you’d figured out.”
- Track 4Bremen 5 OST – FighterAkira Ito
Young Marco continues with a symphonic, stripped down electronic cult song by Akira Ito, taken from his ninth solo album in only 7 years, the anime soundtrack “Bremen 5”. Ito is a very productive musician who started on keys in the Japanese psy rock Far East Family Band in the mid seventies. After the band quit, he continued solo, creating electronic music in the vein of artists like Klaus Schultze and Edgar Froeze, flirting with the tacky new age sound. “Fighter” is an outsider in Ito’s repertoire, sounding more like a low-fi homemade boogie gem.
- Track 5Communion (Instrumental)Swing Out Sister
Everyone must have heard Swing Out Sister’s biggest, Grammy nominated hit called “Breakout” at least once - probably in a supermarket or at a gasstation. The band is a typical eighties pop outfit, formed as a duo by Andy Connell (keys) and Martin Jackson (drums), and joined by singer Corinne Drewery (vocals) shortly after. Both “Communication” and ”Breakout” are from their debut album, released in 1986. The vocal version of “Communication” is a totally different story from the instrumental version. “I love it when these random versions or b-sides turn out the be the jam. “24 Hours From Culture - Part II” is another example of a favorite of mine... sounding pretty proto Larry Heard, and is just there just to fill up a b-side”, Young Marco explains.
Swing Out Sister lost popularity in the early nineties, but the group continued and is big in Japan as of today. “There is a certain lifestyle aspect in what we do and how the Japanese perceive us,” says Corinne Drewery in an interview with the Huffington Post. “There’s a mutual curiosity going on. I think we do provide some idea of the lifestyle of what they would imagine a Western couple is like.”
- Track 6Biologic MusicHeerlens Percussie Ensemble
This track seems really unfamiliar and exotic, but is made by a group living in our backyard. “I have never been to Heerlen, but oh man, this record is on another level.
Proto Jan Schulte”, Marco comments. Heerlen is a small Dutch city in Limburg, a province in the south of the Netherlands. The people of this region speak their own unofficial language and have strong traditions. Limburg has a vivid brass scene, due to their annual Catholic carnival celebration. In an attempt to learn more about Limburg’s percussion music, the information appears quite hard to find. Even several phone calls to local percussion groups and to Heerlens music school lead to a dead end. “Biologic Music” was made in the mid eighties – a long time ago - so the city probably forgot about the Heerlens Percussie Ensemble.
The song perfectly speaks for Young Marco’s taste, as it is light, otherworldly exotic and organic. Four to the floor as it is, this could be his perfect surprise at a dance.
- Track 7The SongKarate Moves: The Mystical World Of Karate
The into of this track follows soundly after “Biologic Music” and yes… it seems the perfect introduction of a karate soundtrack. Steve Linnegar created the music for this cinematic album together with his Snakeshed band in order to motivate karate students. “This is for sure the most novel record I own, it could be a prop for Napoleon Dymanite or something. I'm pretty sure this guy didn't know shit about karate...” Well, it seems that Young Marco thought wrong…
Linnegar was an accomplished songwriter, musician, painter and martial arts disciple. This legendary character in the South African 60s-70s underground music scene formed Snakeshed in the 70s along with guitar player Martin Kopelowitz. The band released two albums that we know of – “Classic Epics” and “Music For Shogun”. Their first album was a self-release, the second LP was released on the South African Music Team imprint. “Music For Shogun” was inspired by the television mini-series "Shogun", that was based on the James Clavell novel.
- Track 8Sacred TreeCongarilla
“Amazing Dutch band I just got into, lots of good cuts on this record, get it while its hot!”, Young Marco advises. Congarilla was a successful but ephemeral Dutch band, that was founded in the mid eighties. Members were Santana's percussion-section: master percussionist Raul Rekow and timbalero/bongosero Orestes Vilato. Plus the Dutch percussionist Martin Verdonk and Dutch guitar player Lowik van der Velden. Together they have toured all over Europe between 1986 and 1989. Martin Verdonk was born in Curacao, an Caribbean island country. Verdonk became part of the Dutch pop sisters Loïs Lane in 1990, warming up for Prince during his 'Nude Tour'. The defunct American Raul Rekow played in Santana’s band for 37 years. Cuban Orestes Vilato moved to New York at the age of 12. He was also a member of Ray Barretto's band and, later on, leader of Los Kimbos. The band released “Calling the Gods” in the Netherlands in 1988.
- Track 9Hareb Fiallyaly (Runaway at nights)Ahmed Fakroun
We might have heard about Ahmed Fakroun through his recently reissued debut album “Mots D’Amour”, released on the French Celluloid label in 1983.
The singer and songwriter from Benghazi, Libya, is a pioneer of modern Arabic World Music. Ethnomusicologist John Storm Roberts, who writes for AllMusic, wrote that among raï singers, the pop-oriented Ahmed Fakroun stands out on two grounds. “First, he is influenced by Europop and French art rock. Second, he's a multi-instrumentalist in both traditions as well as a singer.”
Young Marco chose a track from one of his cassette releases. هارب في الليالي (Hareb Fiallyaly) is featured on Fakroun his third album, شوارع المدينة (Shawarie Almadina), released in 1987. It is an arabic song that sounds like a typical western eighties pop gem, including the cheesy sax and the reverb audio technique used on the recorded drums.
- Track 10Excesso, AquiBan
In Portugal, the April 1974 revolution caused an explosion of wills, claims and manifestations and that was in favor of the local punk scene. Despite the importance of the revolution, it was difficult for punk to find their way into Portuguese society and their music industry. It took years before the music was officially released. Rock became quite solid in post 1974 modernized Portugal, but the music scene was mostly powered by ephemeral projects from bands as Taxi, Heróis do Mar and Trabalhadores do Comércio. Punk was small, but post-punk was even smaller. The post-punk band Ban released their first single in 1983 as Bananas, and the band’s name became Ban since then. It took a few years before their following vinyl release - their album “Surrealizer” landed in 1988. “Excesso, Aqui” is taken from their second album called “Música Concreta”, released in 1989 on EMI.
- Track 11Sahara SandOtto Mix
This is an absolutely stunning sensual downtempo Italo disco classic. Time to find out whose souls are responsible for this marvelous piece. The Vinsnadi brothers were involved, for keys and drum programming. Paolo and Gianni Visnadi were successful euro-house producers in the 1990s as men behind projects such as Alex Party and Livin' Joy. Gianni Visnadi’s and Paki Zennaro’s obscure, refined and futuristic Paki-Visnadi project recently got shine thanks to the the French Antinote imprint, who reissued the LP in 2015. Eddy De Fanti was percussionist on “Sahara Sand”. He is a fairly unknown musician who worked with John Cage, one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. The song is written by guitar player Renzo Zennaro, a mystery man that made quite some albums in the late eighties, early nineties. “Sahara Sand” was released in 1984 on the mighty Italian Discomagic records.
- Track 12MboutoukouBertrand Mialet
Young Marco wraps his mix up with Bertrand Mialet’s African soul. “Mboutoukou” is taken from his first 7-tack LP called Vol.2 Tsomo. The album was released in 1984 in France and was the sole release on the mysterious Ebassa label.