"Cabin In The Sky"
CD
1. A Home Away
2. Baron Brown
3. Annuncialto
4. Diario Di Un Egoista
5. La Più Bella
6. Cagli Five-0
7. Here 'Til X-mas

After a gap of 16 years, the legendary band from San Francisco returned with this a quasi-cinematographic masterpiece conjuring up simulaneous impressions of Miles Davis, German electronica, Paolo Conte, Radiohead, Debussy, cyber-gypsies, Michael Nymen, The Velvet Unterground and two dozen others, while being first and foremost unmistakably Tuxedomoon.

Cabin in the Sky was the first recording by the band's  reunited original line-up. It found Tuxedomoon in absolute top form, as romantic, rebellious and boundlessly imaginative as they ever were. The album also features contributions by a carefully hans-picked selection of guests such as Tarwater, John McEntire (Tortoise), Aksak Maboul, Marc Collin, Juryman and DJ Hell.

It was around 25 years ago that Tuxedomoon came barrelling out of the electronic music lab of San Francisco City College and began making flirtatious, whimsical, provocative, idiosyncratic music. Music which shapeshifted with beguiling ease yet brimmed with an almost underworld magick and mystical hypnotism.

Controversial but never egregious, their brand of post-punk experimentalism came with impossibly wide parameters no-wave, classical, jazz, funk, tango all heartily consumed and combined into a cerebral mix that gained the band an immediate cult following.

Tuxedomoon's ability to invent and surprise (the band once managed, incredibly, to transform Marvin Gaye's soul classic 'Heard It Through The Grapevine' into their very own song) famously led to an interview in Warhol's 'Interview' magazine and a label deal on Ralph - imprint of Bay Area avant-garde icons The Residents.

Between the early '80s and mid '90s the band lived in Europe, absorbing more influences and sounds from their privileged position in Brussels, then an underground hotbed of theatre, music and art. It was during these years that Tuxedomoon increasingly used multimedia elements such as lighting, film and video to embellish their live shows.

Today the core members are as disparate geographically as they are sonically, with Steven Brown in Mexico, Peter Principle in New York, Blaine Reininger in Greece, while visual/performance man Bruce Geduldig and Dutch trumpet player Luc Van Lieshout (who had joined the band in '83) both still residing in Brussels.

This very global, very post-modern situation perhaps goes some way to explaining the worldliness of 'Cabin In The Sky'. Tuxedomoon have always made music that reflects yet shrugs off musical influences as nonchalantly as a snake sheds its own skin or a duck discards water. Yet this new album still manages to be something of a surprise, as it captures the band in a rarely seen sentimental and reflective mood.

Transfer 'Cabin' onto a canvas and you have Pollock, Bacon, Miro and Dali all rolled into one, with themes of surrealism, whimsy, magic, and earthy ferocity all sharing the same space. Impressionistic strings, wistful flourishes of brass and accordion, languorous electronic scribbles and lyrics sung in English, Italian and French provide unashamedly romantic textures.

Shooting through and around the poignant violins of 'Annuncialto' and woozy sea sounds of 'The Island' are the band's bittersweet abrasions, playful cacophonies, and that ever-present feeling of wilful, wayward freeforming. Still, this record is the most consistently spacious, unhurried, gravity-defying album the band have made; certainly the closest they've ever come to the sentimentalist soundscapes of contemporary electronic bands like Air or the quiet ambient vignettes of Eno or Fripp.

In fact, its subtle textures and melting-pot approach makes the band more relevant than ever. Sensing their evergreen appeal, the ever perspicacious German nightclub veteran DJ Hell put out a record of re-mixes of TM's '78 dance classic "No Tears" back in 2003, before inviting the band for a tour of Germany, playing to their older fans as well as legions of fascinated newcomers.

In a beautifully cyclic move, Hell appears on the new LP, enabling the track "Here 'til Xmas" to ride an electro pulse dug straight up from the deserted beatmine districts of Düsseldorf. Other contemporary artists and switch-doctors feature too: Juryman (Ian Simmonds), Tortoise's John McEntire, Parisian wizard Marc Collin, Aksak Maboul (aka Crammed originators Marc Hollander & Vincent Kenis) and German hipsters Tarwater, who provide the album's dreamy denouement.

'Cabin' could well be Tuxedomoon's first real pop album, if we imagine that pop music has suddenly been allowed to follow a manifesto of creative freedom and write its own destiny instead of being subject to the forces of formula.

With spirits still entrenched firmly in a counter-culture that predated our current over-the-counter culture, Tuxedomoon step forth and confidently deliver messages of defiance and diversity when they are perhaps most needed. -


Paul Sullivan


Releases

TUXEDOMOON - The Vinyl Box
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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Give Me New Noise : Half-Mute Reflected
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TUXEDOMOON - Pink Narcissus LP
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TUXEDOMOON & CULT WITH NO NAME - Blue Velvet Revisited
TUXEDOMOON & CULT WITH NO NAME
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