Dark Day - Exterminating Angel LP
Label: Dark Entries
Synth punk at its best! Here is the long overdue reissue of Dark Day's homage to the Luis Bunuel film of the same name. Dark Day was the project spearheaded by R.L. Crutchfield who first worked with Arto Lindsay and Ikue Mori in the earliest incarnation of the seminal No Wave band DNA in the mid '70s. By 1979, Crutchfield was striking out on his own as Dark Day; and at first, this band was an intentional reversal of roles within the trad-rock band with two women playing guitars and drums and a man behind the keyboards. The ladies for that incarnation were Nancy Arlen of Mars and Nina Canal of Ut; and they managed a few gigs and one hell of a great single - "Hands In The Dark" - which appeared many years later on a Soul Jazz No Wave compilation and has been covered spectacularly by the Chromatics. Canal and Arlen weren't terribly interested in continuing in the project, leaving Crutchfield to find likeminded folks to work with.
On Exterminating Angel (originally released in 1980 on the Lust/Unlust imprint Infidelity), Crutchfield recruited Phil Kline and Barry Friar to flesh out the Dark Day sound. At the time, Kline was an emerging composer who had worked with Glenn Branca and at least here, he styles himself after Mark Ribot or Arto Lindsay with his expressive shards and bends of guitar melody; and Friar follows the tom-heavy patter that Nancy Arlen brought to Dark Day on the "Hands In The Dark" single. But Dark Day is truly Crutchfield's vision, with his heavily syncopated synth chords, elliptical repetitions, and spiral staircase ascensions in lieu of the traditional verse-chorus song. Crutchfield preferred to keep a very restrictive use of synth tones and filters, all the while crafting a very claustrophobic, horror-laden atmosphere. The inventiveness of his minimalist melodies and twisted lullaby-like structures are all the more impressive, perhaps only matched by Young Marble Giants or Suicide. Motorik yet stumbling, Dark Day's songs are stark and bold in their poetry about freaks, suffocating anxiety, and the toxic life of contemporary society circa 1980. "Trapped" was a strange song to be the single for the album, as it's an epic, spiralling number with those ominous synths and siren-like blurts from a distant saxophone. Many of the other songs on the album were short and condensed, jabbing the grimly simple melodies deep into the ear-canal and then moving on. Like "Trapped" the album's finale - "No, Never, Nothing" - is another lengthy track, appropriating a Moroder like disco-syncopation to a sinister, nihilistic collage of texts taken from a children's book about raising unusual pets such as squirrels and chimpanzees. The more the song spins through it's punchy chords the creepier it becomes.
Exterminating Angel is the high-point of Crutchfield's recorded works, and stands also as one of lost gems of the No Wave era.