Thursday, 28 January 2016

Bourbonese Qualk - 1983-1987 (2014)

It seems strange that I should only ever have knowingly heard one piece of music by Bourbonese Qualk prior to this - something on some compilation or other, a track I can barely remember beyond that it incorporated a loop of someone saying the name of the band. It seems strange because I knew of them well enough to have a couple of their more artistic flyers blu-tacked to my bedroom wall when I was a kid, Recloose Organisation advertising which had come in the mail with someone else's tape, and yet somehow I never got around to actually picking up an album to see what it sounded like. It also seems strange that around the time I was sticking their publicity material to my wall in an effort to impress on my parents that I was weird and yet immensely discerning, Bourbonese Qualk would have been living in the same Camberwell squat as a girl with whom I was eventually romantically entangled. She mentioned having once been acquainted with Steve Tanza of the band. She may even have powdered his nuts for all I know.

Additionally there is my friend and former bandmate Andy who helped run a venue called the Recession Club somewhere in Hackney back in the eighties, and who recalls putting Bourbonese Qualk on with some rancour, claiming they behaved like spoilt rock stars, or words to that effect, although it may have been self-important public school boys - one of those anyway.

Anyway, whilst there have been many occasions of my passing over a Bourbonese Qualk release in order to purchase the work of a recording artist with whom I am better acquainted, it's a different story in the San Antonio branch of CD Exchange where a Bourbonese Qualk disc cannot fail to stand out amongst the oeuvre of Brownsville Station, Michael Bolton, and every album Pat Benatar ever recorded.

I always imagined they would sound more like the Residents for some reason - probably the silly name - or else that they would sound formless and abstract by terms far beyond my powers of prediction, or at least not industrial, which thankfully they aren't. More surprising than anything is that they remind me fairly heavily of Rough Trade era Cabaret Voltaire with touches of 23 Skidoo or even Portion Control; which isn't to say that they lack originality so much as that this material quite clearly belonged to a particular era - distorted vocals, wailing reverb, and a rhythm through digital delay with the repeat time way down and the feedback up high. Had they signed to Factory Records, I don't think anyone would have been too surprised.

This may not seem like much of a recommendation but context is everything, not least when you consider what else was around during the eighties, not least Pat Benatar. Bourbonese Qualk may have trodden a vaguely familiar path but you can still hear them pushing it, trying to break out of the familiar, striving to bring new sounds to the fore, to communicate something; and to be fair, on the strength of this collection, they made a better job of it than Portion Control for the most part; and the more I listen to this one, the more I notice how greatly it differs from that to which it seemed initially quite similar.

As I've said before, better late than never, I guess.

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