The Fruit of the Original Sin
The second compilation released by the Belgian label Crepescule in the early '80s, and easily the most ambitious of its earliest such efforts, The Fruit of the Original Sin at the time acted as a sprawling catchall that drew together many different strands of what could be called post-punk and art rock from all over Europe and North America. From a distance, it's even more of an astonishing effort, thanks not only to the many bands and performers who appeared and later established strong reputations worldwide, but the sheer, surprising range of who appeared. If there's an exact modern equivalent to a collection that starts with a discordant modern jazz/classical composition (Peter Gordon's martial title track) and includes not only live poetry snippets (William S. Burroughs' "Twilight's Last Gleaming," an often uproarious recording that concluded the original release) but an interpretation of Claude Debussy (Cecile Bruynoghe's "Clair de Lune") and an extended interview with a noted author, in this case French writer Marguerite Duras -- with piano accompaniment after the fact from Virginia Astley, no less -- then it's not received the attention it should. It's all the more impressive given that Crepescule was still just starting out in ways, but if one needed proof of the success of the D.I.Y. ethic well beyond punk crash and bash, it's here. A couple of the contributors who appeared were utterly obscure then and now but the amount of downright legendary folks who had some of their earliest -- or even debut -- recordings here reads like an honor list.
The Durutti Column's elegant entries include "The Eye and the Hand" and "Experiment in Fifth"; DNA's three short pieces show off their moody, understated aggro side well, all scraping guitar and driving bass; Arthur Russell's "Sketch for 'Face of Helen'" is an unsurprisingly captivating take on a gentle drone melody mixed with distant fuzz; and Wim Mertens' minimal string quartet composition "Multiple 12" rivals it for beauty. Paul Haig's "Mad Horses" is an odd number even for him, a minimal slice of motorik funk that later generations would call lo-fi. Meanwhile, the number of artists who barely got beyond one album, if even that, but ended up getting plenty of cult attention as time passed is also striking -- Marine pop up a couple of times, most notably with the skittery funk of "Animal in My Head," while the French Impressionists have a slightly louche ball early on with "Boo Boo's Gone Mambo/My Guardian Angel." Having released various tracks from the album on single-artist compilations and reissues over the years, LTM finally issued a full two-CD re-release of the compilation in 2007, including a further eight bonus tracks from related releases or compilations at the time. Paul Haig reappears with two obscure Rhythm of Life tracks, the Durutti Column's "Weakness and Fever," an alternate recording of "Smile in This Crowd," takes a bow, while Peter Gordon's collaboration with artist Lawrence Weiner, "Deutsche Angst," is as murkily strange a slice of spoken word meets proto-industrial collage as one could ask for. Thorough liner notes and a reproduction of the original inside sleeves complete another solid LTM reissue.