Lizzy Mercier Descloux PRESS COLOR

ALBUM ZE.LP04
Original Release on ZE 1979

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18 Tracks  + 6 Digital Bonus Tracks

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PICHFORK  REVIEW : BEST REISSUE 8.2 
All Music Review by Andy Kellman 4.5 / 5

In 1976, a couple of young French dreamers finagled their way into New York’s punk scene under the auspices of their newly minted magazine, Rock News. Lizzy Mercier Descloux and boyfriend Michel Esteban took full advantage of the Lower East Side’s perpetually open door, scooping ad hoc interviews with the likes of Patti Smith and Television, and became vivid regulars (and Descloux a regular heartbreaker) on the CBGBs circuit. Across the English Channel, they met with the Sex Pistols, and brought stories of nihilists and poets back to France. (France shrugged.) Just a year later, having appeared in Amos Poe and Ivan Kral’s Blank Generation, they had the audacity to declare punk dead, and closed the magazine. Sick of their stuffy city, they moved to New York, and roomed with Smith, Descloux’s Rimbaudian comrade, in a loft propped up by white columns.

As Descloux drifted between simultaneous relationships with Richard Hell and various other artists, she and Esteban split but maintained a close personal and creative bond. She acquired a Fender Jazzmaster, and formed Rosa Yemen with Esteban’s brother, Didier, just around the time of the legendary Artists Space noise series immortalized in Brian Eno’s No New Yorkcompilation. Following unhinged gigs at the Kitchen and the Mudd Club where Descloux would scream herself silly and wrap the mic cable around her throat, the duo (named in honor of European activists like Rosa Luxembourg and the Baader-Meinhof group) consecrated their fractious musical relationship in a 12-inch, Live in N.Y.C. July 1978. It became the fifth release on the nascent ZE Records, which Esteban had founded earlier that year with the British writer Michael Zilkha.

On that 12-inch, only "Decryptated" has any significant percussion, which sounds like it was slapped out on an empty bucket. The record is a clash between two guitars, the lead needling with the intensity of a polygraph test administered by a fascist regime, the loose rhythm taking its cues from dub. It’s beginners’ stuff, very much in the vein of Rosa Yemen’s destructive no wave peers, though the atmosphere is consummately terrifying, fraught with the danger of illicit negotiations on dark street corners. "Herpes Simplex" starts with the sound of gasping and frantic footsteps, and then Descloux comes in, yelping about the STI in fractured hysterics. She shudders the word "metabolisme!" like Dracula rising from his coffin.

There are probably dozens, or maybe even hundreds of records like Rosa Yemen Live in N.Y.C.—gripping if unexceptional also-rans that may find an audience as reissue culture has to dig deeper. Light In The Attic has appended these songs to the first in their Lizzy Mercier Descloux reissue series, which focuses on Press Color, the first album under her own name, and one that warrants the marquee billing. In February 1979, as Sid Vicious was being sprinkled on Nancy Spungen’s grave, Descloux, Didier Esteban, Erik Eliasson (from Marie et les Garçons) and Jimmy Young headed into the third room of Bob Blank’s Blank Tapes studio at 37 West 20th Street for 10 days of intense recording. It was still under construction at the time, but then so was Descloux. Where Parisian studios would have scoffed at this bunch of amateurs, Blank welcomed their naïve creative impulses.

Press Color was originally intended to be a group release, but ZE decided that Descloux’s name and face was a better selling point. At the time they were pushing their "mutant disco" aesthetic on their less fully formed artists. Cristina, Zilkha’s wife, had released "Disco Clone", which sent up the interchangeability of women within the scene. Descloux was working within the label’s prescribed sound, but she emerges here as a unique, instinctive voice, abandoning the harrowed yelps of Rosa Yemen to trill and jabber with glee. Uninterested in the conventions of rock, she pursued her guitar playing just the same way.

As a New York newcomer, the failed '60s dream didn’t oppress Descloux in the same way as it did her new peers: she rose early to browse the fish market, swam in Central Park’s Lasker Pool, and scaled rooftops for the views. Her peers and boyfriends recall her as the only person who wore bright colors in a monochromatic scene. And so Press Color is full of joy and possibility rather than psychic pain and bankruptcy, opening with a shimmying cover of Arthur Brown’s "Fire" that moves at the pace of an enervated woodpecker. Descloux’s strong French accent just adds to the charm: "You’ve been so blind! You fall be’ind!" she explodes amidst the glittering whirl.

There are more covers: a skeletal take on Lalo Shifrin’s "Mission Impossible" theme and "Jim on the Move", where Descloux seems to vocalize every twitch of her tongue. A strain of no wave malevolence lingers in "Torso Corso", "Wawa" (whose tumbling bassline deserves to be fully iconic), and the dubbed-out "Aya Mood", which show off the band’s nimble, minimalist interplay. Her shuffling, splayed redux of Peggy Lee’s "Fever" as "Tumor" has an obvious morbid humor, though it’s the original "No Golden Throat" where her disposition and tastes come through most strongly.

By all accounts, Descloux wasn’t into slogging away in the studio, and resisted Michel Esteban’s attempts to get her to sing properly. "Right now I’m not at all a writer of words," she told New York Rocker in the summer of 1980. "I’m using the words completely for what they sound like, how they fit with the rhythms… What’s beautiful is that I don’t speak perfect English but I can get lost in the dictionary and just discover the words." "Golden Throat" is her protest at being asked to fit any idiom: she repeats the line "I’ll never have a golden throat" a dozen different ways, seducing it, mocking it, playing her voicebox like a plastic slide whistle. Phonetic chatter litters the relaxed reggae guitar, prefiguring the direction she would pursue later in her career as she recorded in Nassau and apartheid-era Soweto. She never met the Slits, but they shared a love of reggae and silliness. European avant-garde artists are often self-serious, or considered to be, but Descloux and Ari Up (along with Palmolive and the Raincoats' Ana da Silva) brought a welcome playful streak to what could be an austere scene.

Compared to 1979’s major punk releases, it’s not hard to see why Press Color didn’t make much of a dent in the U.S., UK, or even France. Next to the likes of Fear of MusicEntertainment!The B-52sTom VerlaineThe RaincoatsThis HeatBroken EnglishMetal BoxLondon CallingCut, and Y, it’s a vivid curio and cool personality splatter rather than a cultural landmark. Descloux would make those later (even if their recognition remains overdue). What Press Color does is distill our collective excitement and unceasing wonder at a scene that’s almost four decades old. New York's no wave and punk’s protagonists were down in the squalor, waging a brutal, draining fight against their city, their country, the commoditization of their sound. As an outsider, Descloux was able to soak up their energy and revolution and use it to fuel the discovery of her own cultural identity and purpose. Press Color isn’t wildly original, but it’s the making of one.

ALL MUSIC REVIEW

Lizzy Mercier Descloux made a significant splash in New York's underground music community with her first solo album for the ZE label, home to equally bent acts like Was (Not Was)Cristinathe Contortions, and Kid Creole & the Coconuts. The French transplant had already established herself as one half of Rosa Yemen, a short-lived no wave combo that released a hastily recorded six-song EP for the same label a year earlier. Along with Rosa Yemen partner DJ Barnes and Garçons' Eric Elliason, she recorded Press Color -- eight tense, terse tunes owing more to disco, funk, and film scores than punk rock -- within the span of two weeks. The lead single, a cover of Arthur Brown's "Fire," couldn't have ripped out Descloux's no wave roots any more violently, all the while changing the original's fire-and-brimstone theatrics into a zippy roller-rink wink. Covers of two Lalo Schifrin compositions -- "Mission: Impossible" and "Jim on the Move" -- are relatively faithful, though Descloux adds something of her own to the latter by repeatedly intoning the title ("Jim...Jim! Jim, Jim, Jim -- on...the move"). The original arrangement of the standard "Fever" is also kept intact, but Descloux replaces every instance of "fever" with "tumor" ("you give me tumor," "tumor when you hold me tight," etc.). The other half of the album is made up of originals, including "Wawa," a bobbing, disco-inspired instrumental full of the spindly guitars that would populate much of her brilliant follow-up, Mambo Nassau. Spirited, fun, and full of luscious basslines, the only thing that prevents Press Color from being as venerated as ESG's early releases is that no rap producer has been keen enough to sample from it. 

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ORIGINAL ALBUM

Tracks 1 > 8: From Original « Press Color » Album
Lyrics : Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Music : DJ Banes / Mercier Descloux / Eliason
Published by ZE Multimedia Music
Except Fire by Crane / Brown Published by  N.F.C
Mission Impossible & Jim On The Move by Lalo Schifrin Published by  Chapell
Tumour (Fever) by Davenport / Cooley Published by Edition Tropicale

MUSICIANSLizzy Mercier Descloux: Lead Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Percussion
D.J. Banes: Guitar, Bass, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Erik Elliasson: Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Drums on  « Wawa »  
Jimmy Young: Drums & Percussion

Guest on « Fire » :
Jack Cavari : Guitars  
Ken Smith : Bass
Bud Maltin : Sax
Chris Wiltshire, Mary-Jo Kaplan, Ramona Brooks : Backing Vocals
Victoria : Percussion  
Allen Wentz : Synthesizer, Sequenzer  
Guest on « Mission Impossible »
Allen Wentz :  Synthesizer, Sequenzer
Guest on « Tumour »
John Rome : Guitars & Backing Vocals

Recorded by Bob Blank & Joe Arlotta at Blank Tapes Studio NYC February 1979
Arranged, Producer & Mixed by Banes, Elliasson, Mercier Descloux
Except « Fire » Mixed by Tom Savarese
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

 

 

BONUS TRACKS

Track 9 • Mission Impossible 2.0  
Lizzy Mercier Descloux : Guitars
Jody Harris : Guitars
Bill Perry : Drums
Lenny : Bass

Recorded at Carnegie Hall Studio NYC 1980

Tracks 10 > 15 • From « ROSA YEMEN »
Lizzy Mercier Descloux : Lead Vocals, Guitars
D.J. Banes : Guitars
Recorded at Blank Tapes Studio NYC July 1978

Lyrics Lizzy Mercier Descloux • Music DJ Banes / Mercier Descloux
Published by ZE Multimedia Music
Producer by Rosa Yemen & Michel Esteban

Tracks 16 & 17Lizzy Mercier Descloux : Lead Vocals, Guitars, Percussions
Charlus de La salle Additional Production
Recorded NYC 1979 • Overdubs & Mixed 2003 South Factory
by Charlus de La salle & Lizzy Mercier Descloux

Lyrics Lizzy Mercier Descloux • Music Michel Bassignani/Mercier Descloux
Published by ZE Multimedia Music

Tracks 18 • « Morning High » « Matinée d’ivresse » • Arthur Rimbaud
Duet with Patti Smith

Lizzy Mercier Descloux : Vocals
Patti Smith : Vocals
Music by Bill Laswell
Guitar Olivier Ray
Recorded NYC 1995

 

SOUND

Original Sound Recording Made by ZE Records © 1978/1979/1980/2003
Executive Producer Michel Esteban

This Selection by Lizzy Mercier Descloux & Michel Esteban
Producer Michel Esteban p & © 2009 ZE Records Mundo Ltda
 

DESIGN

Art Cover Design by Michel Esteban
Photos Credits : Front Cover 12 by Seth Tillet
Booklet Pages 2,8,912,12 by Seth Tillet • Page 5 by Edo •
Pages 6 & 14 by Michel Esteban •
Page 14 : Patti Smith & Lizzy as Isabelle & Arthur Rimbaud
Inspiration : Malevitch « Croix Noire » 1920 • Joseph Beuys « Gesundheitshotel » 1979 • Yves Klein « Monochrome  Bleu » 1980

ROSA YEMEN & PRESS COLOR - NYC 78/79 : THE DIZZY YEARS

Originally from Paris, in 1978 Lizzy Mercier Descloux moved permanently to NY and took a huge empty loft in Soho with friends Michel Esteban & Patti Smith... They used it as a workshop to play guitar, silkscreen materials, drawing and photo studio... In the meantime Lizzy started with DJ Banes a pretty obscure and nervous combo called Rosa Yemen. 

Cryptic homage to Rosa Luxembourg, Isabelle Eberhard and all the Guerilla movements like the one of Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto in Africa... Urban Guerilla too like the Red Brigades, or Baader1s group... Rosa Yemen transcends... All this on a surreal poetic scale, songs are short and tortured like a flintstone, sparkles in the wound... foetus of african high life guitar, chopsticks drumming, screaming and whaling vocals about Dziga Vertov or the misery of Herpes... samplings of Antonin Artaud loosing his mind at a radio show or the death-rattle of a Malian farmer ploughing through dry land of Africa. 

Religiously quiet fans would come and watch Lizzy dressed in Malevitch costumes, banging and screaming til she collapsed. Ephemeral asteroid, vitriolic Happenings Rosa Yemen worked like a molotov cocktail, a wild bull let loose in a garden Party. Pleasure and Autism... Irony and Disaster... Don’t postpone Pleasure ! Don’t procrastinate! Do it! 

This was a time of No Demos, no reality shows pre-fab stars, no concessions with record companies or radio remixing your songs... It was raw fresh Untamed materials. No time to be blase or unsecure, hype or not, it was just as simple as being 20, angry and living frantically in wild and crazy New York City. Excentric sense of Style, everything can happen, best or worst but living close to the bone gives every minute the illusion of a lifetime, the eternity of a first kiss. Internal Riot... Rosa Yemen vanished like a comet tail after a year. 

February 1979 recorded in 10 days « Press Color », Lizzy Mercier Descloux first solo album came out of the blue, like a blind bet one drunken night... Recorded almost Live, late at night at Bob Blank recording studio ( kingdom of the No Wave / Mutant Disco Music). 

Dj Banes and Lizzy Mercier D. added Eric Elliason (from French band Marie & les Garçons) to the gang... « Press Color » works as a disjointed musical stroll, whimsical drift ... it all could be an impro. Disconstructed 60’s soundtracks from Lalo Shiffrin « Mission Impossible » and « Jim on a Move» or how Americana Standard « Fever» of Peggy Lee turns into an apocalyptic « Tumor » version... sensual and scary. 

American dreams seen through a cubist lense... Sparse lyrics, heavy french accent, broken down guitar riffs, autodidact tension with an attitude of insouciance, lightness of the day, derision, soultrainmachine. Let’s gamble and gamble!! This record is fresh weed... pure wit , youth and tease... 

This was also the time of the « Paradise Garage » when Disco was still underground. And the crazed cover of Arthur Brown1s « Fire » remixed by disco Pope Savarese was a vibrant sign of this strange cross-over Disco < Inferno / No wave-Funk that was happening in the city. « Aya Mood 3.5 » is an intriguing slow funk work out with chinese and contorted tendencies, « Torso corso » is funny stunted jungle stumble funk-moronic but cute maybe a cartoon of what Dietrich called « the Foreign Legion of Women». Another Hip Stomp is « Wawa » and « No golden throat » is a great contorted Dixieland Shank fusion island drugstore dub with funny frog-scat vocal » 

Glenn O’ Brien (Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. March 1980). The late 70’s were a real Party time battlefield, a cosmic paradise with no limit! Suprematism of love. Instant , Instinct, rainbow, instinct, fascinating controversial Void. 

Later Lizzy will perform this album with a whole black funky combo except for « almost black » Jodi Harris (ex guitarist of James Chance and the Contortions) in the States and in Europe... Also with this band she will record the frenziest alternative version of « Mission Impossible » at the Carnegie Hall studio. 

Skeletal dynamic of impros, ecstatic vocals, impudent and minimal Press Color stands as a weird object of desire, unfinished, a furtive tatoo in a Nouvelle Vague movie... Clumsy, Crepuscular like « Mouchette » de Bresson but totally Raw in Nature. One can abandon itself to the dream of Anna Magnani kissing Peter Sellers in a cutting edge thriller and you1ll get te flavour of the two never released bonus tracks. « Birdy num-num » a wacko homage to the “mercurial clown” like Blacke Edwards called him and « Hard-boiled babe »... zombiest polaroid of Life in the Hollywood years of Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. In 1995, Bill Laswell approached Lizzy to participate in what he called the « Hashishins project », a record compiling many artists including Iggy Pop, John Cale reading poems of Theophile Gautier, Arthur Rimbaud about these gangs of Nomads who robbed and frightened the desert tribes for their superpowerful chiefs and would be paid not in gold but in Haschich. Lizzy was offered a poem of Rimbaud, « Matinée d’ivresse / Morning high » and decided to ask Patti Smith if she would read with her...They hadn’t seen each others in a decade and the reunion turned into an intense encounter, a wildly moving lamentu. 

Mau Mau Machuki, New York July 2003

LINER NOTES (FRENCH)ROSA YEMEN & PRESS COLOR - NYC 78/79 : IVRES ANNÉES

Originaire de PARIS, Lizzy Mercier Descloux s’installe à New York en 1978 dans un grand loft de Soho qu’elle partage avec ses amis Michel Esteban et Patti Smith..... Sorte d’atelier expérimental, décoré de posters de films de JL Godard où ils font de la photos, peintures, sérigraphies et musique. Parallèlement, Lizzy monte avec DJ Banes un étrange et obscur duo intitulé : Rosa Yemen. Hommage cryptique à Rosa Luxembourg, Isabelle Eberhard et à tous les mouvements indépendantistes guérilléros comme Amilcar Cabral, Agosthino Neto.... Guérillas Urbaines aussi comme les Brigades Rouges ou la Bande à Baader. Rosa Yemen les transcende, les hurle à l’échelle surréaliste, les chansons sont courtes et hachurées comme un silex, étincelles dans la plaie... foetus de riffs de guitares High Life africaines, baguette chinoise comme batterie, cris, exaltation anar, hoquets de panic, sur des images de Dziga Vertov ou la misère de l’ Herpes Simplex, utilisant des samples d¹Antonin Artaud perdant la tête lors d’une émission de radio ou le râle déchirant d’un fermier Malien en train de retourner sa terre calcinée… 

Religieusement calme et silencieux les fans viennent voir Lizzy à la Kitchen, la salle expérimentale du Mercer Arts Center, costumée en toile de Malevich se tordre jusqu’à la chute..... Astre éphémère, Happening au vitriol, Rosa Yemen se cocktail Molotov tout seul, lâche de bêtes sauvages dans une garden-party. Plaisir et autisme... Ironie et désastre. 

N’échappe pas au plaisir ! Pas de midi à 14 heures ! Fonce ! 

C’était une époque sans démos, sans TV stars préfab, pas de concessions avec les maisons de disques ou les radios qui remixent vos chansons. C’était du frais, de brut, musique non-apprivoisable..... Pas le temps d’être blasé ou chichiteux, hype ou pas, c’était aussi simple que d¹avoir 20 ans, enragée et vivant frénétiquement in wild and crazy New York City... Excentrique sens du style, tout peut arriver, le pire ou le meilleur, mais tout est près de l’os, chaque minute donne l’illusion d’une vie entière, l’éternité d’un premier baiser, émeute en plein coeur. Rosa Yemen se désintégrera au bout d’un an… 

Enregistré en 10 jours, en février 1979 « Press Color » est le premier album solo de Lizzy Mercier Descloux, cobaltissime bleu inattendu comme un pari d’ivrogne..... Enregistré quasiment live tard la nuit au Bob Blank Studios ( Chapelle Royale du No wave and Mutant Disco Music), Eric Elliasson (du groupe Marie et les garçons) vient rejoindre Lizzy et Dj Banes..... « Press Color » est une sorte de dérive baladeuse disjointe, improvisée au système D. Déconstruction des musiques de films de Lalo Shiffrin, le cultissime « Mission Impossible » et « Jim on The Move » ou comment un standard yankee crooner comme « Fever » de Peggy Lee se mue en « Tumor » sensuelle et apocalyptique, un clip par JC Averty please!! 

Le Rêve américain vu à la loupe cubiste, brèves de paroles, un accent français dans les règles de l’art, cassures de guitares, autodidacte attitude, tension et insouciance, légèreté de l’être, inspiration, expiration, improvization, on pari tout sur tout ou rien et on regarde « Soultrain » à la télé...... et le « Twilight Zone »... 

Ce disque est pur weed, oiseau de la jeunesse, le cave se rebiffe et c’est la fête jusqu’à plus d’heures... brouillon fulgurant sur un coin de paradis. 

C’était aussi l’époque du Paradise Garage quand la Disco était encore Underground. La reprise déjantée de « Fire » d’Arthur Brown remixé par Disco Pope Savarese est une bombe décoiffante du Disco Inferno, discodélire hybride qui naissait dans la ville. 

« Aya Mood 3.5 » is an intriguing slow funk work out with chinese and contorted tendencies, « Torso corso » is funny stunted jungle stumble funk-moronic but cute maybe a cartoon of what Dietrich called « the Foreign Legion of Women». Another Hip Stomp is « Wawa » and « No golden throat » is a great contorted Dixieland Shank fusion island drugstore dub with funny frog-scat vocal. »  Glenn o’ Brien (Andy Warhol’s Interview. March 1980).

Les années 70 furent un champ de bataille de plaisir en folie, Nirvana cosmic sans limite, suprématisme d’amour, parenthèse enneigée, enguirlandée, free spirited sex drug and rock and roll.... Roulez Jeunesse pas d’Ayatollah anonymes ! Don’t look back comme disait Dylan.  Plus tard Lizzy montera un funky black combo à l’exception de Jody Harris ( the Almost Black, ex-guitarist des Contortions) et partira en tournée américaine et européenne. C’est aussi avec eux qu’elle enregistrera une fougueuse alternative version de « Mission Impossible » au Carnegie Hall Studio. 

Squelettiquement vôtre, impro, extase, effronterie, jeux de mains, jeux de vilains, « less is more », Minimal is beautiful..... « Press Color », étrange objet du désir, furtif tatouage Nouvelle Vague. Maladroit, crépusculaire comme « Mouchette » de Robert Bresson. Iridescente Nature Vive.  On pourra s‘abandonner à rêver d’Anna Magnani embrassant Peter Sellers dans un polar rose in Hollyweird.. Sur les traces de Dashiell Hammett et Lilian Hellman... Parfum des 2 bonus tracks inédits « Birdy num num » et «Hard Boiled babe». 

En 1995 Bill Laswell contacte Lizzy pour participer à son projet sur les « Hashishins », un album ou collaborent entre autres, John Cale, Iggy Pop et William Burrough, autour de la poésie de Rimbaud, Théophile Gautier .... qui célébrèrent ces hordes de pilleurs qui vandalisaient le désert et se faisaient payer en Hashisch par leurs commanditaires... Lizzy choisit « Matinée d’Ivresse » extrait des Illuminations de Rimbaud et demande à Patti Smith si elle veut le lire avec elle. Elles ne s’étaient pas revues depuis 10 ans.... En piste moving lamentu et l’écho déchiré de deux mômes cache-cache. 

Mau Mau Machuki , New York July 2003. ( Aka Lizzy Mercier Descloux )

Track List
  • 1
    Fire
    05:11
  • 2
    Torso Corso
    01:48
  • 3
    Mission Impossible
    02:35
  • 4
    No Golden Throat
    02:38
  • 5
    Jim On The Move
    02:19
  • 6
    Wawa
    02:08
  • 7
    Tumour
    02:45
  • 8
    Aya Mood
    02:50
  • 9
    Mission Impossible 2.0
    02:00
  • 10
    Rosa Vertov
    01:40
  • 11
    Decryptated
    01:19
  • 12
    Herpes Simplex
    02:01
  • 13
    Larousse Baron Bic
    01:33
  • 14
    Tso Xin Yu Xin
    01:20
  • 15
    Nina Con Un Tercer Ojo
    00:55
  • 16
    Birdy Num-Num
    03:33
  • 17
    Hard Boiled Babe
    04:27
  • 18
    Morning High
    03:03
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