Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Slapp Happy - Acnalbasac Noom (1974 us / uk / germany, essential avant garde prog rock, 2005 extra tracks remaster)

In the mid 1960s, so concerned were the Danish-American Blegvad family by the US’ nightmare political mood following the Kennedy assassination and the escalating Vietnam conflict that they upped sticks from prosperous mid-century Connecticut and relocated to sleepy Hertfordshire. It was there, at the fee-paying St Christopher School in Letchworth, that Peter Blegvad formed a band with aspiring musicians Anthony Moore and Neil Murray (who doesn’t appear again in this story but would later play bass for Whitesnake and Black Sabbath.) The teenage band, variously named things like Slap Happy and the Dum-Dums, went their separate ways as teenage bands tend to do. After a stint at a British art school, Anthony Moore moved to Hamburg in 1970. On arriving, two people would change the course of his creative life. One was Dagmar Krause, a Hamburg native who had already been a member of early alternative folk act The City Preachers and recorded the excellent psychedelic avant-rock album I.D. Company in 1970 with vocalist Inga Rumpf. Krause and Moore quickly became an item.

The other was Uwe Nettelbeck, a German leftist intellectual and critic who had begun acting as a middle-man between label PolyGram and the West German avant-garde. Nettelbeck had effectively assembled the membership of Faust and, admirably, convinced the label to finance a new studio for the group in a former schoolhouse in the village of Wümme on the outskirts of Bremen. Meeting Nettelbeck was fortuitous timing. Moore was developing a fierce interest in tape machine experiments, influenced by European avant-garde composers like Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer but also English pop experimentalists such as George Martin and Joe Meek. Through Nettelbeck, Polygram recorded three albums of Moore’s work – 1971’s Pieces From The Cloudland Ballroom and the 1972 releases Secrets Of The Blue Bag and Reed Whistle And Sticks. “It was enough for PolyGram to throw up their hands in despair,” remembered Moore in a 2022 interview with Perfect Sound Forever website, “at that point, Uwe asked me if I couldn’t possibly make something a little more listenable.”

He phoned up his old friend Peter Blegvad, who was bored, lonely and studying in Exeter. Of course he wanted to get on the next plane to make an experimental rock album. His arrival at Wümme minted the three-piece act that would adopt the name of Peter and Anthony’s old school band. “Peter, Dagmar and myself were offered the use of the studio and as we were just a trio,” writes Blegvad in the liner notes to the new reissue, “it seemed a natural choice to ask Faust to become our rhythm section.” Jean-Hervé Péron, the bass player, Gunther Wüsthof, the keyboard and sax player, and Zappi Diermaier, the drummer, became, in effect, Slapp Happy’s rhythm section. 

"Acnalbasac Noom" was their second LP, recorded in 1973, and engineered by Kurt Grauner, in Faust's legendary Wumme studio. Like the first it was produced by Faust's Svengali Uwe Nettelbeck, using Faust as the Slapphappy house band. Unaccountably it was rejected by Virgin Records, who made the group re-record all the material with different musicians and another producer in their own studio. That version is still available through Virgin as 'Casablanca Moon' -- they straightened up the name too. As time has told, it is now universally accepted that Acnalbasac is the definitive version of this material. This rather overdue reissue, taking advantage of significant technological advances, has been completely re-mastered by Bob Drake from the original tapes. The CD also features a handful of extra tracks, including the single 'Everybody's Slimming' released to coincide with a one off concert at the ICA in the '80's." Bonus tracks: "Everybody's Slimming," "Blue Eyed William," "Karen," and "Message." 
by  Fergal Kinney, 15 September 2023
1. Casablanca Moon - 3:05
2. Me And Paravati - 3:31
3. Mr. Rainbow (Peter Blegvad) - 3:50
4. Michelangelo/The Drum - 6:30
5. A Little Something (Peter Blegvad) - 3:17
6. (Silence) - 0:14
7. The Secret - 3:25
8. Dawn - 3:36
9. Half-Way There (Peter Blegvad) - 3:08
10.Charlie 'N Charlie - 2:24
11.Slow Moon's Rose (Anthony Moore) - 3:08
12.(One Minute Silence) - 0:56
13.Everybody's Slimmin' - 4:12
14.Blue Eyed William (Peter Blegvad) - 3:37
15.Karen (Peter Blegvad) - 3:23
16.Messages (Dagmar Krause) - 2:13
All compositions by Anthony Moore, Peter Blegvad except where indicated
Bonus Tracks 13-16

Slapp Happy
*Anthony Moore - Keyboards, guitar
*Peter Blegvad - Guitar, vocals
*Dagmar Krause - Vocals
*Jean-Hervé Péron - Bass guitar
*Werner "Zappi" Diermaier - Drums
*Gunter Wüsthoff - Saxophone