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Essential Logic - Fanfare in the Garden

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Artist: Essential Logic

Album: Fanfare in the Garden

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Review date: Jul. 15, 2003

An Essential Reissue

In 2001, Kill Rock Stars began what will hopefully be a lengthy series of reissues. Their release of the Kleenex/LiLiPUT discography allowed the record label that championed riot grrrl to energetically give respect to those who laid the groundwork for women in punk rock. The timing couldn't have been better, as post-punk's resurgence was just gathering momentum then, and continues in full swing right now for their second such venture.

Lora Logic squalled her way into punk as the saxophonist on the feminist anthem, "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" Who knows what other damage she could have done with Poly Styrene and X Ray Spex, but disagreements between the two led Lora to leave the band and form Essential Logic in 1978. She also dug into the fertile post-punk and experimental music scene based around Rough Trade Records, playing with the Stranglers, the Raincoats, Scritti Pollitti, the Swell Maps, and the Red Krayola. Essential Logic disbanded when Lora dropped out to join a Hare Krishna sect, but new music emerged in the late 1990s when she returned to music.

Twenty years later, this music on Fanfare in the Garden has lost none of its originality or potency. Not only did Lora introduce the sax to punk, but her mind-bending voice also continues to make rooms shiver. Lora Logic twists and turns up and down the scale, her vibrato shuddering not as a decorative addition but more as a genetic element of her being. She disarmingly floats above the band and then swoops into her bellowing full voice on a dime. Her vocal gymnastics chart unfamiliar territory with every note. It is startling, strange at first, curious and alluring. On Essential Logic's debut single, "Aerosol Burns," Lora's voice kicks an otherwise funky song into overdrive with her urgent shrieks and yelps. On “Fanfare in the Garden," she utilizes a sweet high voice that swings easily with an almost-disco beat during the addictive hooks. "Moontown" displays the extent of Lora's impressive range as a full-bodied soprano voice effortlessly transforms into shrill, sweet, and bracingly confident versions of itself. At first, these dynamics reminded me most of Azita's vocal fluidity in The Sisscor Girls and Bride of No No, but Bjork's whimper to shriek range is also evident in Lora's performance.

Strong kick drums, funky rolling bass lines, and the lead guitar’s noisy rhythmics place Essential Logic squarely in line with their post-punk peers, such as Gang of Four. Their leanings into disco rhythm sections further emphasize their combination of the dance and the punk, as opposed to the faster/louder attitude of the Sex Pistols or the Damned. An important twist for Lora Logic was the addition of the saxophone for carrying melodies and creating a striking contrast to her vocals. She also shifted into an acoustic guitar lead on "Rat Alley," trumpet lines on "Brute Fury," and even a moody piano lead on the "Born in Flames" collaboration with Red Krayola.

Undoubtedly, this Essential Logic collection points the spotlight on a deserving and underappreciated group. In their noble effort, however, Kill Rock Stars has done some strange cutting and pasting of the band's catalog. With the Kleenex/LiLiPUT reissue, the label gave wider distribution to a complete discography that had already been compiled by Off-Course Records.

Fanfare in the Garden contains the complete Beat Rhythm News album from 1979 that was never sufficiently available in the US. A scattering of singles and some Lora Logic solo tracks fill out the collection including eight songs from 1997 and 1998. Notably missing, however, are the Essential Logic EP on Virgin Records, including a version of "Make Up" that Griel Marcus discusses in the liner notes, as well as singles and songs from the solo album. Particularly strange is the sequencing choice of placing the single "World Friction" in the middle of Beat Rhythm News instead of following its A-Side, "Aerosol Burns." As the songs from the 1990s fall a bit flat for me, I wish the focus remained on older material. They could have dedicated one CD to Beat Rhythm News, another to the EP and singles, and another to Lora Logic's solo album. By mixing and matching with such a high-profile collection, it becomes unlikely that these rare and out-of-print releases will receive their own unedited reissue. LiLiPUT's discography may have fit onto two CDs, as would the Delta 5’s (hopefully they are close on the reissue list), but this smattering of Essential Logic’s music feels inconsistent.

That said, Kill Rock Stars ushers some great music back into the light of day with this collection and hopefully will continue to rescue fast and funky punk women from obscurity.

By Jeff Seelbach

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