Bay City is an album of reinvented roots - part salty melancholic blues, part wounded sultry jazz and part jangling swamp rock. Bay City - tales from Philip Marlowe's lost nights in a town affluent and self-contented on the surface, rife with corruption and nepotism just underneath. Blood on the face of the moon. Bones buried in the hills. Double indemnity and dark visions.
On the other side of every desert is... Bay City.
David Thomas and foreigners started life at a concert staged in the middle of the Gefion fountain, in the rain, in Copenhagen in 1996. Jørgen Teller enlisted Mr Thomas along with 2 other Danish musicians, P. O. Jørgens and Per Buhl Acs. The collaboration, recorded on a farm in Denmark between 1996 and 1999, promised a hard-edged reappraisal of American music, the lingua franca of a planet drifting into strangeness. Contrary to all logic, it is a startlingly specific cultural folkwork.
Founder and lead vocalist of legendary out-rock band Pere Ubu, David Thomas has been re-writing the rules of popular music for over 25 years. Formed in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975, Pere Ubu developed a sound which combined traditional rock elements with an array of sounds, synthesizers and of course, Thomas's unmistakable vocals. The band's first release was in 1978, titled The Modern Dance, and since then they have put out a consistent stream of fascinating, highly original albums, the latest being Pennsylvania (1998).
David Thomas, while playing a major role in Pere Ubu's development, has always explored implausible creative configurations, and seemingly arbitrary production methods. His first solo release The Sound of the Sand appeared in 1981 and has been followed by a further 9 releases. Thomas's musical/creative aesthetic is as broad ranging as it is, paradoxically, specific - underscored by an almost visionary awareness of our cultural situation. Indeed his tireless inquiries into the nature of social relations, folk traditions and contemporary culture have led him up some unlikely creative paths, soda stops along Highway 61 to the banks of the Yenisei River. Musically, Thomas's work takes in a range of influences, sometimes bluesy, rocky, folky and downright experimental, but always conceived in a unique way.
David Thomas and foreigners
David Thomas - vocals
P. O. Jørgens - drums, percussion, steel drum & vibraharp
Jørgen Teller - guitars & casio
Per Buhl Acs - clarinet, melodica, slide & bass
Produced and mixed by David Thomas & P. O. Jørgens at Ninth World Studio, August 1999.
Recorded at Ninth World and Hearpen studios.
Mastered at Suma by David Thomas & Paul Hamann.
Package design by John Thompson/idrome
All songs written by (Thomas - Jørgens - Teller - Acs), Hearpen Music.
Thirsty Ear THI 57085.2 (US) Apr 18 2000 cd.
Hearpen/NWM HR111 (UK & Scan.) May 2 2000 cd.
Bomba BOM 22115 (Japan) Apr 23 2000 cd.
jennyt, Tom Waits Bulletin Board
"Fractured, bent, steamy, lyrically gruff and introspective - kind of in the Tom Waits / Capt. Beefheart / Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.) / Shockabilly-Chadbourne vein...you'll just have to check it out for yourself...it left me slightly crippled when it was all over."
Ross Fortune, Time Out
"The most important thing to know is that it is wonderful. A glorious mélange of clattering rhythm, neon and noir, poetry, discord and melodies that skidder and streel. Musically, Thomas is accompanied by PO Jørgens, Per Buhl and Jørgen Teller. Together, they supply a beauteous and lilting cacophony of vibraharp, guitar, melodica and clarinet. Like everything the great man touches, this is different and strange. It is also curiously compelling, irresistibly perverse and artfully profound."
Free Times, 5/2/00, Derek Van Pelt
The musical modes range from crashing three-chord rock to experimental jazz. the overall effect is edgy, feverish, sometimes desperate and altogether unsettling. In addition to film noir and the film scores of Ennio Morricone, I thought at various times of Jack Bruce, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits and Tony Lifetime Williams. You'll come up with your own images and associations as you surrender to these suggestive vignettes with no clear narrative (let alone resolution). Turn up the volume, let your subconscious take over, and you'll get a bracing dose of the ragged glory that rock is still capable of creating.
Billboard, 7/15/00, Barry A. Jeckell
The music within is a sultry and cacophonic paean to the underbelly of the metaphorical city [Bay City]... Thomas plays the part of menacing storyteller, standing behind the fire of a back alley trashcan while his collaborators combine punk and art noise influences in an improvisational setting...The sound of "Bay City" is never cluttered, as Teller, percussionist P.O. Jørgens and multi-instrumentalist Per Buhl Acs contribute only what's necessary-- be it a lone clarinet and light guitar strum, or the crash of drums and the buzz of feedback-- to create the appropriate mood. The result is at times haunting and disturbing, yet sympathetic, like a Real World marriage of Tom Waits and Angelo Badalamenti... While the album plays best as a complete document, there are surprisingly memorable tunes.
New Music Monthly, Richard Walls
They sound, at times, like one of Beefheart's more disciplined bands, their preferred modes of playing being a kind of primitive techno-clang and a looser rubato style... As usual with Thomas, sadness and anxiety peak through the welter of obfuscating words. The guy has to be one of the most soulful abstractionists going, and these three Danish improvisors are as simpatico as any band he's been with.
Consumable Online, June 12, Joann D. Ball
There's something vaguely industrial (without the intensity and beats-per-minute, of course) about the instrumentation, due in part to the atypical percussion that drives the
Intro, June 2000, Rolf Jager
"Rock-Mimikri in beharrlich durchgeschlagenen Zwei-Akkord-Strukturen mit minimal-expressionistischem Schlagwerk und Becken, die klingen, als waren sie aus Wasser. Klangbruchstucke, irritierte Soundscapes, Intensitaten um den Siedepunkt von Sand und immer Songs, Songs, Songs. Und ein "ausserordentlich" motivierter David Thomas."
Mojo, August 2000, Joe Cushley "Yet another deeply affecting set from the front man of out-rock gods Pere Ubu. Working with a trio of Danish musicians might on the surface take David Thomas a little further away from his usual obsessions with the twilight twitchings of the USA that he left long ago. But just look at the title - a nod to the seemingly contented but in reality irredeemable seedy city of Raymond Chandler's fictional detective Phillip Marlowe. The Danes might add a little European avant-garde clatter to the musical settings (a squealing clarinet here, a Krautrockism there) but remember that the Vikings got to America first... That's the kind of irony Thomas revels in. Bay City is littered with equally insightful historical and musical references - from the percussive, native American feel of Clouds Of You, to echoes of I Heard It Through The Grapevine on Black Rain. Superficially Thomas operates in the same territory as Tom Waits, but he often plots the lie of the land far more acutely.
Alternative Press, August 2000, Mitch Myers
It's important to note that the fascinating sounds of Bay City were first conceived during an improv concert held in Copenhagen and that the "Foreigners" all hail from Denmark. Now, if one understands anything about the Danish modern music scene, it's clear that free jazz is a constant wellspring of artistic confluence and inspiration. Flanked by an auspicious trio of multi-instrumentalists with an ear for sonic experimentation, Thomas joyously murmurs, recites, croons and groans an engaging blend of poetry and song. Since P.O. Jørgens, Jørgen Teller and Per Buhl Acs are an empathic group of spontaneous musicians, they easily create a supportive backdrop for Thomas' idiosyncratic wordplay. With squeaking clarinets, angular guitars and marching percussion behind him, Thomas emotes ruthlessly with a brave and eloquent howl. For those of you familiar with Pere Ubu's ground breaking discourse in art and language, this disc will make an easy transition to your stereo. For people less aware of Thomas' many significant contributions, Bay City will be a more startling revelation.
OOR #6, 18 March 2000, Robert Heeg
Already for about a quarter of a century Pere Ubu operates from the darkest crypts of underground rock. Imperturbable, self-willed, capricious, but always characterized by the growling, squeaking and breath-gasping vocals of leader David Thomas. The ever winding path of this [typical?] singer almost inevitably led to a project like Bay City. Based on the dark detective-novels of Raymond Chandler, who confronted this fictional sick city with his detective Philip Marlowe, this has become a suitably gloomy album. The Foreigners here are the Danes P.O. Jørgens (drums, percussion), Jørgen Teller (guitar, casio) and Per Buhl Acs (clarinet, slide-guitar, bass). Thomas met his Danish friends-for-the-occasion in '96, during a one time concert in Copenhagen. On Bay City the jazzy quartet brings Chandler's noir-stories convincingly into life in twelve atmospheric miniatures. High points are the musing bar jazz of White Room, the shrugging Charlotte, the fuss-pot Shaky Hands and the dragging Black Coffee Dawn, in which we can almost hear the rain patter on the pitch-black asphalt. Right next to a growing pool of blood.
The Wire, June 2000, David Keenan
"Bay City comes steeped deep in the desperate gloom and half-light of Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled noir. Thomas takes the genre's associated musical forms (smoking jazz, the primal bay of wounded blues) and eviscerates them. There are huge holes where the solid body of the song should be: tracks echo and clank with absence, with clarinet snaking distantly... Tracks like "Shaky Hands" are pure Beefheart in the way that they rollick and tumble along in the guise of damaged blues before collapsing... Bay City is at its best when generating an air thick with midnight dial tones and slow tailing cars."