07 April 2009

"Kansas" And "Raintime" By The Wolfgang Press

Somebody here is older
Macbeth times two
A lazy suit
And bloody hands

The history of the English 4AD label has been well documented. My personal understanding of their musical output is represented by four stages: dark & forboding English men; trilling & swooping angels; drum machine pop; gnashing & strumming Americans. Several of these occurred simultaneously and even in the same band, but think of some typical acts and see if it doesn't mostly fit: Bauhaus & Modern English; Cocteau Twins & Dead Can Dance; Colourbox & Frazier Chorus; Pixies & Red House Painters. (4AD continued after that, of course, but my interest waned.)

Somewhere in that history was The Wolfgang Press, who were birthed in the strange fires of Rema Rema and Mass before releasing their own inchoate first album The Burden of Mules. No sense or pattern was to be found in these dark entries. But in 1984 this deviant energy was wedded to the slick programming of Martyn & Steven Young, the expert engineering of John Fryer and Robin Guthrie's dreamscape production. With Scarecrow -- two long songs and an insane cover of "Respect" -- the band gelled.

This isn't to say one could make much sense of tracks like "Ecstacy," which opens with crows cawing over some sort of nightmare soundtrack before dissolving into a swirl of Spanish (?) trumpets and vocal exultations. The difference is that now it sounds as though Mark Cox, Andrew Gray and Michael Allen actually mean to make the sounds they are making. We can no longer assume they are the mistakes of a band new to their instruments and studio recording.

After that I watched attentively for each further release. The EPs Water and Sweatbox appeared in 1985, followed by the album The Legendary Wolfgang Press And Other Tall Stories, which compiled the three EPs (two tracks shortened and two others remixed). The "proper" album Standing Up Straight, released in 1986, showed that TWP were a mature band with their own idiosyncratic direction. If anything 1987's Big Sex EP (with its outstanding cover image of insect parts) was even better. Here were four songs of great power and presence, like some sort of deadlier Talking Heads. Bird Wood Cage was the last astounding album from the group -- not their last album, but the last worth mentioning.

Two singles followed, and it is these we have up on offer today, since they are virtually unavailable. This is astounding to me, since "Kansas" (video link in our last post) shows the band at their pinnacle. As in all their best songs, one can hear funk straining at its limits, draped in buzz-saw guitar, grimy soundtracks and the apparent ravings of a street-corner preacher.

The a-side is an extended workout (produced by Flood) entitled "Assasination K./Kanserous", which starts with hillbilly banjo that turns the song inside out. The version of "Kansas" on the flip side is not the same as the album version or the Flood Mix (as used in the video) found on the compilation Everything Is Beautiful. Then we are gifted two tracks unique to this single, "Scratch" and "Twister", both wonderful. The former seems to concern itself with interior decorating, certain sly insinuations excepted.

that chair's a fake
that chair's out of place
bad choice in kitchenware
bad choice of plates

who reads these books?
and who bought these tapes?
you've got things walking around
that should be put away

get up! get up!
get up! get up!


that chair's a fake
that chair's out of date
the sofa looks like football boots
these shelves aren't straight

and that's a funny tie
that's a funny shape
this wardrobe's wearing thin
it's getting in the way

Yes, it's true; Mick can sing about absolutely anything and I will listen attentively!

The second EP, "Raintime", contains two remixes of the title tune and one of "Bottom Drawer". These are worthwhile additions to the album takes, the latter having a bass sound that absolutely slays! These tracks were issued on CD with "Assasination K./Kanserous". (On that disc "Longtime" is simply an extended version of "Raintime (Remix)" from the 12").

This CD abandoned the b-sides from the previous EP to the vinyl dustbin of history.

Until now!


A01 Assasination K./Kanserous (8:48/7:39)
B01 Kansas [version] (3:29)
B02 Scratch (3:46)
B03 Twister (3:29)
UK EP 4AD [BAD 902] 30 January 1989
US EP Rough Trade [ROUGH US062] 1989

C01 Raintime (Remix) (4:06)
D01 Bottom Drawer (Remix) (5:37)
D02 Slowtime (4:53)
UK EP 4AD [BAD 907] 02 May 1989

E01 Longtime (6:01)
   Bottom Drawer (Remix) (5:37)
   Assasination K./Kanserous (7:39)
   Slowtime (4:53)
UK CD 4AD [BAD 907 CD] 02 May 1989

Produced by Flood and The Wolfgang Press.
A01 and B01 engineered by Hugo Nicolson.
B02 and B03 engineered by Lincoln Fong and Nigel K. Hine.
C01, D01, D02 engineered by Hugo Nicolson and Lincoln Fong.
A01 and B01 backing vocals by Ruby James.
A01 banjo by Martin Pleass.

We've included all the tracks from the two vinyl 12" singles, plus the extended version off the CD. If anyone has the longer version of "Assasination K./Kanserous", please contact us!

Note: These are exclusive vinyl rips... and it's amazing how good these discs sound! If more CDs were mastered this way, we'd be in sonic heaven. No post-processing or noise reduction has been applied, so as not to mess with the frequencies. Only the usual amplitude normalisation and trimming, plus a little tweak here and there.

Now get out there and buy The Legendary Wolfgang Press And Other Tall Stories, Standing Up Straight and Bird Wood Cage (which includes Big Sex). Impress your friends! Scare your friends!

-- Second Chameleon


  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Ive only been waiting for digital versions of the b-sides for a billion years!!! Now all you have to do is complete the cycle from this album and post the King Of Soul ep! Thanks!

  3. Ah yeah, but "King of Soul" is kinda crap. Relatively speaking.

  4. this is a good link:

    peace on fire from one of the 4ad comps is essential!

  5. thanks so much ----this is some of the most timeless and golden music put out in that godforsaken decade

  6. Thanks a bazillion for the Kansas 12 inch mix. I couldn't find it anywhere - iTunes has the second half of it .... it's a revelation hearing a digital copy all these years later, some of the mystery is lost, but it sounds more like they knew what they were doing!

  7. Late to the party here but just wanted to say 'thanks'.
    Tried to rip my vinyls of the same recently but they were scratched to hell.
    I'm elated to see that there are still other TWP fans out there.

  8. BTW any idea where the samples from the beginning of Kansas are from (ie 'They murdered my husband') ?

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. It's Senator Ralph Yarborough, the one who announced Kennedy's death at the hospital. "Excalibur has sunk beneath the waves."

    And here is the proof:

    1. Excelente música, siempre avantgard.
      Muy agradecido desde México.