February 13, 2004

Blaine L. Reininger "Live In Brussels BIS"

Blaine L. Reininger was the former musical mastermind behind Tuxedomoon, a mysterious and obscure (even in this day of obscure band worship) art-rock collective from the late 70s and early 80s that was based out of San Francisco, even though they were better known in Europe. They recognized no musical genre, opting instead for a joyous plundering of classical, jazz, new wave, no wave, punk, postpunk, industrial and, yes, even goth. They really were a rare breed of band, with very few peers and no equals.

Live in Brussels BIS is taken from a set of solo dates in 1986, and as far as live performance recordings go, this album is perfect. Assisted by a crack backing band, Reininger delivers songs from his then-recent solo albums, as well as a few choice Tuxedomoon classics. When this album was originally issued, it contained six tracks--these numbers are long--and though it was brief, it did capture Reininger at his best. As usual, the music pushes the genre borders, even though the sound is pretty much a pulsing, driving art-rock. At times, such as on the red-hot "Night Air," Reininger sounds a lot like David Bowie. (You should not, however, merely accept that comparison as meaning that Reininger sounds like Bowie; he sounds like nobody else you've heard.) I'm most fond of the epic "Uptown," a fourteen-minute monologue over some pretty stark atmosphere and a really bleak jazz-noir attitude (whatever that means).

The original album was to have been a full set, but problems with the tapes of the shows meant that the album was only six songs long. Since this is a lovingly-reissued album from those selfless folk at LTM, this set has been augmented with five additional songs from the same shows, taken from a 'rough' monitor recording. Oddly, I really don't hear that much of a difference, and these five songs sound just as good as the released album. One of these songs, "Radio Ectoplasm," is an unreleased number. Another song, "Mystery & Confusion," is actually from the following year, and was added simply because it was a great song that LTM wanted us to hear--now that's showing some love for the listeners!

Live In Brussels BIS is a nice little collection and a good little overview of one of the best--and most underrated--talents to come out of the 1980s. This is a great record for all the Tuxedomoon fans out there, who certainly will appreciate this album's reappearance. More than that, though, this is a surprisingly nice starting place for the curious--a rare feat for a live album. Then again, Blaine L. Reininger is a rare talent.

--Joseph Kyle

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