Art-rock legends Pylon have shared the unheard first ever recording ‘Razz Tape’ from their upcoming Box Set. Hear it first on NME below.
Tomorrow (November 6) sees the release of ‘Pylon Box’ – a comprehensive four LP box set of the Athens indie veterans’ studio albums remastered from their original tapes and available on vinyl for the first time in nearly 35 years. Among the 47 track set is the band’s first ever recording, ‘Razz Tape’ – a previously unreleased 13-track session that pre-dates the band’s legendary 1979 debut single ‘Cool’/’Dub’
“Chris Rasmussen aka Chris ‘Razz’ is a close friend of producer Jason NeSmith,” frontwoman Vanessa Briscoe Hay told NME. “Back when Jason and I were gathering tapes together for our reissues, Chris invited Jason to listen to a recording he had made of Pylon before we ever set foot in a formal recording studio. The tape grabbed Jason with both the performance and the audio quality. When he talked to me about it, he compared it to early Modern Lovers. I was like, ‘Get out of here,’ until I heard it.”
She continued: “Initially Jason and I discussed using three to four of these songs as a part of of a rarities and singles double album as part of a box set which would also include our first two albums ‘Gyrate’ and ‘Chomp’, but when our executive producer Brady Brock heard the tape, he wanted us to think about putting the whole tape out.”
“It’s pretty amazing it both exists and survived intact. Thanks Chris Razz.”
Bassist Michael Lachowski also shared his fond memories of making the recording.
“Listening to ‘Razz Tape’, I can put myself back into the actual feeling of being that person, at that time, making those notes on that bass and bass rig, with those other people, each their own distinct contribution to the recording,” he said. “That’s really rare, to be able to somewhat inhabit being in a past performance, in a practice, while recording, on stage. I can recall it from the bass arrangements and sound, the fervent single downward plucking right on top of the pickup, which was all I could do, trying to coax some power or presence out of a wimpy system when in the presence of Curtis’ ungovernable live drumming.”
He added: “And the recording — unadorned, without overdubs or studio effects, but not live, so therefore not propelled by the energy of performing for an audience, and not even truly mixed, with the bass and guitar amps sharing one mic. The elements are so evident, and the earnestness of the pre-studio rendering of the early songs is seen and charming. Thank you to Chris Rasmussen for making this tape, and sharing it in ‘Box’. It’s one of the many treasures of this project, bringing this rarely heard recording forward from that one night in an art and practice studio.”
Fellow Athenians R.E.M. were huge fans of the band, even going as far to cover the track ‘Crazy’ for the B-side of their ‘Driver 8’ single (which included on their 1987 rarities and B-sides collection ‘Dead Letter Office’). Drummer Bill Berry once said of Pylon: “To this day, I still haven’t seen a better live band”. Pylon drummer Curtis Crowe said that it was important that the ‘Razz Tapes’ capture their live energy.
“I think the reason that this tape has an impact now is because of the very raw nature,” said Crowe. “In some ways this is a more true version of who we were simply because of the lack of polish. Performing live was our comfort zone and this is as close as you will get to that during that time.”
‘Pylon Box’ is out November 6. An exhibit showcasing photographs, artefacts, and other ephemera from the Pylon Collection will be displayed in an exhibition at the UGA Special Collections Building from September 18 through December 24.