When it comes to lost recordings, unpublished novels or newly unearthed art of any sort, receptions tend to be somewhat mixed. This may be because, in many cases, those responsible for these works are usually dead and/or mythologized to a degree, so the expectational ante gets upped accordingly. Also involvedand perhaps more importantis the ability (or inability) to receive them in their proper context years after the fact.
Which is why one of the nicer aspects of Wayne Krantz
's time capsule, Music Room 1985
, is that Krantz (thankfully) is not dead. There is no posthumous third-party scavenging of questionable material here. Krantz himself was the re-discoverer of these thought-to-be- lost recordings, and he not only deemed them worthy of release (he can be tough on this), but is also around to help properly frame them. (See YouTube video below)
The recordings themselves, made solely by Krantz in a garage in California, predate both his arrival on the scene in New York and, by five years, the sessions for his official debut album, Signals
(Enja, 1991). Anyone who was in the thick of the first home studio wave of the mid '80s can sniff out its DIY aroma without much preface but, indeed, any ears steeped in the era's music may even recognize some of the quirkier patinas of the times as familiar, forgivable and actually fun.
As expected, even with a young Krantz at the helm, this is not your run-of-the-mill '80s basement recording found poking out of a box of old cassettes. Drum machines notwithstanding, it is a remarkably well-crafted group of instrumental songs that, despite being home-produced, are just a sonic stone's throw from his work on Signals
. (One could be forgiven for thinking the song "Music Room" on Signals
was a leftover from these garage sessions, the operational motifto say nothing of the titleis so similar). Though he would obviously develop them further, the signature guitar approach and the Krantz rhythmic acuity are here in force. Striking tooespecially next to his immediately preceding release, Write Out Your Head
(Abstract Logix 2020)is how fully-formed Krantz's bespoke harmonic/compositional mind presents on Music Room 1985
Perhaps one of the album's most intriguing aspects is that it is so conceptually focused in its de facto mission statementfinding a new musical space between pop, jazz and rock. Such artistic purposing is a rarity from someone at the very beginning of their career. It shows that even as an unsigned, unknown musician, Krantz was less concerned about how he stacked up against his contemporaries than striving for something unique and personal. In that way, the album is indeed prescient of the career to come.
This may be an album of songs that found a particular stylistic mark over thirty years ago, but it maintains a validity to today's earsespecially when listened to in its proper context. It is homemade yet refined, focused yet still a nice showcase for Krantz's already distinctive abilities. For some, it may be debatable whether a decades-old home studio recording qualifies as a must-have (even from a musician as compelling as Krantz), but Music Room 1985
proves to be more than just an artifact for completionists. It is both an interesting prequel that nicely couches the Krantz catalog, and an unpretentious, enjoyable addition to it.
Cowboy; Fair; Becker; Pilgrim; Nice; Future.
Wayne Krantz: all instruments and programming.