Friday, September 05, 2014

The Randall Wulff-Lewis Mystery

In our social media age, how much mystery is there? Everyone knows a bit too much about each other. There are also things off limits from conversation and soft censorship for acceptable things. There is a little music mystery going on right now, Randy Wulff/Lewis Baloue. My hipster cousin was up to speed on it and explained this to me, causing me to go on an internet search quest. We know way too much about musicians and actors now, so a bit of a black hole is interesting.

Wulff completed at a minimum, two albums back in the '80s. These albums were discovered by the curators at Light in the Attic records and have since been released. It is super '80s synth. The vocals are mediocre, and it is a really weird juxtaposition to hear him plucking an acoustic guitar over a synth background. The second album, Romantic Times, is all synth. In a nutshell, listen to "Bringing You a Rose" (embedded below) and you will grok. It's the soundtrack to every slow motion make out session between a guy in a Don Johnson knock off suit with the sleeves rolled up and a girl in a short dress with some sequins on it, having done a few lines at the club. The light might be spilling in through the blinds, leaving shadows on their bodies. The film wouldn't have to play it in slo-mo as they would be moving in slo-mo. Scratch that. This is the soundtrack to "a deleted sex scene from "Wild Palms". It is totally time-stamped for the '80s, but that is precisely why the hipsters are digging it.






Is it real? it seems too tailor made for the hipsters. The hipsters of course cannot just let it be, and a few tracked the guy down to talk to him. They probably did it to try to verify they are not being fooled. It would not be a first for creating a hoax into a phenomenon by playing on a crowd's tastes and air of sophistication. Jean Shepherd did something similar with I, Libertine, but he was overt in messing with the system. I doubt a hipster friendly music curator would do this to their fan base. It would be a bigger slap in a fan base's collective face than Wall-E.

Still, something feels off about the synth on the first album. The photo to the second album looks like a stock '80s rich guy photo. He has a jet, a Mercedes 450 SL and the white suit with a cigarillo in hand. Does it matter? No. It is a small potatoes, weird music story. The hipsters just don't want to admit that he disappeared from music because he music sucks, therefore what they like sucks.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is fraud. Production is too clean / bass is too clear. Vocal styles owe something to 90s rock. Can't be real

PA said...

Vocal styles owe something to 90s rock.

Yes. Specifically, U2s 1993 album Zooropa. Check out "The First Time" in particular.

The Lewis song is kind of nice though.

PA said...

On a second listen, I'm picking up a lot of early-mid 80s Wham / George Michael in the vocals though.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Pa- I really like the synth. His vocals are fragile. It's a bit weird. My wife downloaded some instrumentals and will use them in her dance classes.

Drunk iIdiot said...

Seems like a pretty obvious hoax. First off, the vocals are laughably bad. They've got to be intended as a joke (kind of reminiscent of Dana Carvey's old SNL bit about the washed up 80s pop star singing about "Choppin' Broccoli").

Second, the drums appear to have been sampled from the intro of Phil Collins' "In the Air." The first samplers were introduced to the market around 1984, but the concept of sampling drums -- or of sampling sources as obvious as an uber-successful Phil Collins record -- didn't really take off until hip hop artists started making use of samplers around 1986-'87.

Also, the synth could easily be a virtual, software synth. There are all kinds of soft synths that emulate classic ''80s synthesizers. Some of them are even available for free (check out the U-He "Diva" soft synth -- probably the most professional of the free soft synths). Often, they sound a bit thin and too clean compared to the original '80s synths they purport to mimic. But their pads are usually pretty tight.

Finally, the production sounds like it was done start to finish in software, as opposed to the '80s standard model of recording -- recording into and mixing in an analog mixing console, and then bouncing the outs from the mixing console to reel to reel tape. The audio characteristics of the vocals (ridiculous though they are) sound especially digital and "DIY." Sounds like somebody sang into a cheap mic and recorded straight into his laptop, then threw some software reverb on it and called it a day.

Any legit '80s recording would have been done in a pro studio with a good mic, and recorded and mixed by a legit recording engineer on an analog mixing board with good mic preamps and EQs. It would sound analog and smooth.

This sounds homemade, digital and brittle -- like somebody recording and mixing on laptop in his bedroom.

peterike said...

Some in the Youtube comments are suggesting this is hipster favorite Devendra Banhart, which seems plausible. He's a distinctly minor artist who occasionally comes up with little gems like "At the Hop," which is just a wonderful little song.

Also, if this were a real 80s act, somebody would remember seeing them perform.

http://youtu.be/4KgudQC3zFo

nikscrit said...

RE: This is fraud. Production is too clean / bass is too clear. Vocal styles owe something to 90s rock. Can't be real

Excuse me, but how could the above assertion make the product in question a 'fraud?' By your lights, fraudulent product could be interchanged with 'standard fare' ------ which may just prove that you're making a far bigger, legitimate point....lol.

nikcrit said...

This sounds homemade, digital and brittle -- like somebody recording and mixing on laptop in his bedroom.

many-upon-many 'legitimately' big hits,of rap and other genres, can and were produced on someone's home laptop..... bedroom, den, maybe even a private perch in the garage. lol..

(psst! not that y'all don't know this already but today's 'pop hits' aren't really a matter of distinction re. the 'content;' it's ALL about the promotion and distribution network, and their hierarchical rank therein.)


peterike said...

Yo Nikcrit. Sort of OT but on the topic of music. Recently been re-discovering Joan Armatrading. Inconsistent, but when she nails it she's incredible. Curious what you think of her. The "Me, Myself, I" album is a joy.

Also, her voice seems to be shot now. But in her younger days it was terrific.

nikcrit said...

@peterike,

IDK much re. Armatrading, beyond her industry place and respect among the pantheon of earnest female folkie troubadours (a genre that never exactly produced an extra bounce in my step).
Her voice has obvious quality; not familiar enough with her songs to offer opinion on them or even just the lyrics; never saw her perform, either. All in all, just some measured second-hand respect, which i guess isn't really much of an opinion. At times, i've sort-of lazily written her off as a tracey chapman inspiration or even progenitor.

nikcrit said...

o.t.@peterike,

if you care to, post a armatrading link to a song or performance that you feel epitomizes her appeal.

nikcrit said...

FWIW, the cumulative effect of SOBL's eassay summoned a 80s pop-nostalgia in me. And when i think of high-school-era pop music and icons, i inevitably return to this --- a fanfare and thematic that's at once cheezy but enticing; sexy ------ but it just don't age well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQDU-2qMre0

Pvt. Jaybird said...

I used to believe I was a little bit hipsterish till I read the comments to this post and realized I'm about as hip as Red Forman.

Recently found this blog, I can't remember how. Enjoying it. Thanks.

Pvt. Jaybird said...

P.S.- The description of this song in the original post was spot on and hilarious.

Pvt. Jaybird said...

http://www.spin.com/articles/lewis-outsider-romantic-times-lamour-dead-found-randall-wulff/

nikcrit said...

I apologize for going, once again, O.T.
But this link on the bottom of the page that Pvt. Jaybird offered the link to in the previous comment was just too good to pass up, IMO.

The mere headline is gold.

http://www.stereogum.com/1693871/kid-rock-subpoenaed-to-produce-glass-dildo-as-evidence-in-insane-clown-posse-lawsuit/news/

Taylor Conrad said...

Looks like it was copyrighted on 07-13-1983. Here is the link for the US Copyright office (http://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?v1=1&ti=1,1&SC=Author&SA=Wulff%2C%20Randall%20A%2E%2C%201954-&PID=87Mht4f9JhkCksiZwHe0whFDf&SEQ=20170222145143&SID=5).

So instead of making idiotic assumptions you could actually research the topic. Additionally, here is a link to a more modern recording of Lewis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcor3spv3cE). Man, this is becoming a pretty elaborate hoax huh? Unless Light in the Attic are in bed with the US government to hatch an elaborate scheme to sell under 5,000 records I would say that this is not a hoax. As for the comments made by "Drunk iIdiot" (that name alone says a lot), the idea that the drums in the above song are sampled from Phil Collin's "In the Air Tonight" is laughable. They are completely different, Lewis' is a drum machine while Collins' sounds like real drums are being used. Again, Light in the Attic would have to credit Collins and pay him royalties (which would be enormous) in order to use it, so who is bankrolling this? There is some comments about how this can't be an analog recording from the era, but the Lewis album has been mastered from vinyl and so obviously there is some additional fidelity from just using modern equipment, but other than that, you can listen to a remastered Bob Dylan album from 1975 and find a comparable amount of freshness to the recording. Again, I'm sure that if you took time to email Light in the Attic they would be more than happy to tell you specifics about how it was mastered and from what source, in fact I emailed them about this very topic. So I'm asking, who is benefiting from this elaborate "hoax"? How much money had to be spent in order to bribe the US Copyright office to forge documents? I'm not sure what you were hoping to achieve with this post, other than to just bitch about something you don't like. I would ask that the next time you try to shit on something you actually research it so you don't look like a moron.

Taylor Conrad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.