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The Decayes - Ich bin ein Spiegelei (1978)


The Decayes were a loose collective centered around Ron Kane (bass, guitar, clarinet, kybds) in Southern California. They grew out of premature garage experimentation in the late 1970s and burst into celebrity among isolated fans around the world. Locally, they could never accrue much following, despite an occasional association with Los Angeles Free Music Society.

Their repertoire ranged from primitive, but highly inventive studio experimentation to a more basic, but never commercial song format. Despite the obvious mannerisms of the period, the young musicians were cognizant of the krautrock legacy and Czukay’s studio achievements. For the Decayes, this was work of passion – the tapes were heavily edited, run through feedback devices, spliced and overlaid masterfully, enriching rather than cluttering the musical texture. (sonicasymmetry)


Focusing on the Decayes for the first post, of a few, on groups associated with the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS) probably isn’t the best idea. While there were countless bands affiliated with the cohort, the Decayes came along a bit later during the seventies, but not too late for the group to be included on the Nurse with Wound List.

Regardless of being lauded by some noiseniks, the Decayes were something of an anomalous group seeing as its sound shifted dramatically from album to album or even song to song. Ace Farren Ford, Richard Snyder and Ron Kane began working out an amalgam of experimental sounds, punk and electronics during the last years of the seventies. The group’s efforts resulted in two discs during that decade and several more at the dawn of the eighties. But the significant difference in tone from release to release really does make the Decayes an oddity at large, but even within the LAFMS.

Issued in 1978 on Imgrat Records, Ich Bin Ein Spiegelei was the group’s first recorded effort. Sporting a hand made, spray painted cover, the album even anticipated the recent fervor surrounding small run, individually made, unique tapes. Either way, each side of the record held just one track – and each one was confoundingly different.

The first side of the album, given over to “Deur Muten,” finds the Decayes working in the most ambient of kraut influenced works. There’s not a tremendous distance between this twenty-one minutes of music and Kraftwerk’s third album, Ralph und Florian. The oboe (at least that’s what it sounds like) doesn't go a long way to making that connection - there's that creepy ambience, though. But even if that weren’t the case, as the track moves along, the supplemental sounds injected serve to tie the track to some of the more experimental leaning group’s from the Bay Area’s tape collective that once included the likes of Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley.

Surprisingly, the Decayes move into minimalistic rock stuffs for the second side of the album and its only track, “Ich Bin Ein Spiegelei.” There’s still a good bit of non-musical stuff going on here – dig the warbling tape manipulations (?) mimicking a police siren during the track’s first few minutes. With such obtuse production, the song still maintains a beat and rhythm, again tying the entire affair back to kraut stuff, even if the name of the two tracks here didn’t.

As both halves of Ich Bin Ein Spiegelei were successful within two disparate conceptions of song, the fact that the group’s 1980 album Not Yet! arrives sounding like something from Ralph Records is somehow surprising. But that’s kind of where the punk thing comes in. It’d be ridiculous to pigeonhole the group, but "Shoot 'em in the Head" – both lyrically and musically – takes a bit of a cue from some of the more bizarre post punk groups that were kicking around at the time. The title track functions in much same way.

All of this genre bounding, though, is what experimenting with music is about. And while the Decayes can’t represent LAFMS, its understanding of boundaries does. (alternativemusictalk)

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