An homage to the hypnotic state that arrives when you're sucked into your favorite records
PREVIEW Now two years old, I Put A Record On (Monika Enterprise, 2007) is a record worth lingering over. In addition to being the first solo release from Berlin-based musical gadabout Gudrun Gut, it's remarkable for how unhurried Gut was in getting around to it: she's been appearing on recordings and taking part in bands, including a very early incarnation of industrial pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten, for more than 25 years. Her intervening projects give her the aura of a post-punk Zelig: the all-female punk band Malaria! formed in 1981, toured with the Birthday Party, put out records on Belgian boutique label Les Disques du Crepuscule, and performed with Nina Hagen at Studio 54. That the group's "Kaltes Klares Wasser" would later be covered by Chicks on Speed was a foregone conclusion.
The synthy Matador followed Malaria!'s collapse, but Gut's ear eventually led her, like any good punk, to techno. With typical great timing too: Berlin had just undergone a techno surge, spearheaded by local duo and label Basic Channel. Abandoning the constraints of playing in a rock-derived idiom in favor of more uncharted territory, Gut also had the good fortune to run across Thomas Fehlmann, a producer with post-punk roots who had recently collaborated with Alex Paterson's downtempo pace-setters the Orb. The two founded Ocean Club, producing a weekly genre-stomping radio show as well as parties that paired up the likes of experimental techno producer Thomas Brinkmann and splay-shirted southern gothic aficionado Nick Cave.
None of this is new information, yet all of it is useful in figuring out how something like I Put A Record On came to be. It's beguiling, though free of big emotions a left-field album that functions as an homage to the hypnotic state that arrives when you're sucked into your favorite records. The best indication of its intentions is provided by the sole cover, of Smog's "Rock Bottom Riser." Gut's multitracked delivery, over a pistoning and downtrodden bass drum, is affectless enough to make Bill Callahan's stoic delivery on the original seem fraught. But by the end, she's wracked by giggles, as flecks of color appear like dried spittle around the monochrome production's edges. Gut is not an innovator: both she and Callahan are committed to the old, inexhaustible pleasure of listening, regardless of genre. And this is exactly what allows them to give back to their respective genres, if we care to name them, some missing essence.
FIRST PERSON MAGAZINE BENEFIT PARTY FEATURING GUDRUN GUT with Thomas Fehlmann, Grecco Guggenheit, and Nate Boyce. Fri/24, 10 p.m., $10-$15. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 625-8880. www.firstpersonmag.com/events.htm