This is one of the coolest records I've ever set eyes on.
Kendra Smith is one of the "great solitaries" of American "popular" music. She was first in the Dream Syndicate and then in Opal for most of the 1980s, finally leaving Opal in 1988 (?). I don't now know when the 7" with Keith Levene and Hillel Slovak was released (just bought it on Ebay this weekend; I'll do a writeup when it arrives), but the next I heard from her was this little gem, released in 1992 on 10" vinyl and CD. Of course I have both! What kind of a fool do you take me for?!
We'll be focusing on the vinyl here, because it's much cooler than the CD.
So: As I said, it's a 10".
The innersleeve is the scaled-down kind that 10" records often have: The holes in the middle of each side are in the same proportion to the whole thing as are the holes in a 12" innersleeve. These things make wharfinger rub his hands together in delight. The paper of the innersleeve is crisp and heavy.
The label on the B side features radially symmetrical op art, and the label on the A side features a 17th(?) century (or thereabouts) engraving of a galleon at sea, in that very rounded style we all enjoy. There is no type on either label.
There are no messages engraved onto the ungrooved peri-labellar vinyl on either side of the record itself: This is the only flaw in the entire work, but with everything else was so perfect, that might have been overkill. There are of course serial numbers there, as well there should be.
On to the outer sleeve. This is fantastic. This will knock your socks right off, so hold onto your hat. It's made of white lightweight cardboard with black text and some line art on one side. The printed side is glossy and the other side is unfinished. There are no colors other than black, and of course white. There's no glue; it's a flat piece of cardboard, shaped like so:
| A |
+----+ - - - - - +----+
| ' ' |
| B ' E ' D |
| ' (front) ' |
| ' ' |
+----+ - - - - - +----+
| C |
Whoa! The more lightly dotted lines are folds. You fold it like the top of a box. When folded, it looks like so, with the record proper safely nestled into the innersleeve and tucked in beneath the cozy flaps; this view is from the "back", such that the center portion (visible in Fig. 1) is now facing away from us. The same sides of the flaps are visible because they've been folded over. The whole thing has been rotated one hundred and eighty degrees in the plane of its flatness:
| C | |
+--------| B |
| | | |
| D |--------+
| | A |
The front, or "E" section, bears more radially radially symmetrical op art: Thin, alternating black and white wedges or rays extend from the center to the edges. The black rays are about one and a third times as wide as the wite ones. Where the shortest (horizontal) ones hit the edge of the sleeve, the black ones are about three eighths of an inch wide. In the center, about an inch and a half in diameter, is a round medallionish engraving of Icarus making his big mistake. Like the galleon inside, it's not of recent origin.
On the "A" flap, there are credits to the left and a bare track listing to the right. The credits are as follows:
A La Babalon Production
Recorded December 1991 by
The Guild of Temporal Adventurers:
Kendra Smith, Jonah Corey, & A. Philip Uberman.
Engineered by Earl Martin at Kobayashi Records, Hollywood.
All songs mixed by Earl Martin and the Guild except
Waiting in the Rain, mixed by Franz Pusch and the Guild.
Producer: Kendra Smith
Executive Producer: Sunshine
Special thanks to Rita and young Elric.
Greetings to Synthesia D. Homage and Borderlands.
The track listing is in all caps, and below it is the sigil or logo of the record company: Fiasco Records, Los Angeles, California.
The credits and the track listing are positioned so that only the credits are visible when the sleeve is folded as shown in Fig. 2.
On the "D" flap there is a track listing with credits for the A side, and a similar listing and "B" flap for the B side. These are positioned so that they are hidden when the sleeve is folded; what remains visible on those two flaps is a strange symbol: A cross with four limbs of equal length, each limb of which has a smaller crossbar. Lines indicating radiance emit from behind the center of the cross. Superimposed over the center of the cross is an eye. The cross is superimposed over a roughly equilateral triangle. The top limb of the cross extends outside the triangle. At that point, the triangle extends a sort of semicircular pseudopod to contain it. The pseudopod is rimmed with little flamey things.
The "C" flap has the name of the record in large type, positioned to the left, so it's visible when the sleeve is folded as shown in Fig. 2. The righthand side of the "C" flap is ominously blank.
The track listings are as follows. I'm assuming that "Corey" and "Jonah Corey" are the same person, though I lack evidence.
A Side (flap "D")
Stars Are in Your Eyes (Corey/Liqueure) 3:50
Vocals, acoustic [guitar] and bass by Kendra. Electric guitar by Eergott Liqueure. Stick by Franz Pusch, drums by Orson.
Earth Same Breath (Smith) 3:15
Vocals, and acoustic guitar by Kendra. Harmonium and pump organ by Cory [sic] and Uberman.
Waiting in the Rain (Corey/Liqueure) 3:45
Vocals by Kendra and Cory [sic]. Guitar by Eergott Liqueure. Bass by Kendra and Orson on drums.
Interludes side one: Legbone Tibet; Himalayan Bells
B Side (flap "B")
She Brings the Rain (The Can) 4:00
Vocal and bass by Kendra. Lead guitar by Mitch Greenhill. Sub-buzz guitar by Eergott Liqueuere [sic].
Iridescence 31 (Corey, Smith) 3:40
Harmonium and pump organ played by Kendra. Calliope by Corey. Voices by Kendra and Corey.
The Wheel of the Law (Corey, Smith) 4:20
Voices by Kendra and Corey. Guitar by Uberman. Distorgan played by Corey. Bass by Kendra.
Interlude side two: Railroad Mix by J.C. and Bobby Ieon, [sic]
The "Guild of Temporal Adventurers" in the title is borrowed from the science fiction writer Michael Moorcock's End of Time novels. The "Young Elric" in the credits could be anyone, but Michael Moorcock also wrote another series of novels wherein a character named Elric figured prominently. Perhaps Ms. Smith or a friend has named a dear little tyke after Moorcock's red-eyed murderous madman? One can only hope.
Do you want to know what it sounds like? It sounds wonderful. This "Orson" playing "drums" is clearly a joke; it's a poorly-programmed drum machine, which detracts from the joy of the thing. Still, the songs are wonderful, and Smith has that glorious, calm, clear contralto (or whatever you call it). She sounds like she's looking Cthulu in the eye and smiling gently -- and he's getting kinda nervous, too. Now that we've heard Mazzy Star, it's clear what Smith brought to Opal: She was the weird edge. She was the spacey sun, moon and stars nonsense in the lyrics. David Roback was the bluesy and folky stuff; there's none of that here. This record is alternately ominous and sunshiny psychedelia, always with a mad edge and (ironic and/or theatrical, I trust) references to the occult.
"She Brings the Rain" sounds very much like the original Can version, but with better singing.
The "interludes" are brief atmosphere-genic sound doodles; the two on side A are mostly bells, and the one on side B is mostly machinery. On side A, they precede the first and second songs, respectively. The one "interlude" on side B is between the second and third songs. Those familiar with Smith's later Five Ways of Disappearing album will recognize the practice.
Oh, and best of all, it's out of print.