17 Pygmies \ Jedda By the Sea + Captured In Ice [LTMCD 2581]
LTM presents a deluxe reissue of the first two albums by Californian experimentalists 17 Pygmies on remastered double CD and digital download.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1983, the first incarnation of 17 Pygmies comprised Jackson Del Rey and Robert Loveless of Savage Republic, along with UCLA art students Debbie Spinelli and Michael Kory. Debut EP Hatikva appeared that same year, followed by their acclaimed cross-cultural album Jedda By the Sea in 1984. 'One of the most charming albums of the year,' said the Los Angeles Times. 'The consistently inventive music borrows from various influences while maintaining a homey simplicity with its lush organ chords, occasional violins and tribal percussion. The kind of gracious music that can fill space without intruding on it.'
The Pygmies followed Jedda with second album Captured In Ice, once again issued on their own Resistance label and selling 2000 copies in just three weeks. Rockpool praised: 'Four giants of musical brilliance with twelve songs of decidedly minimal music, creating an elaborately-embroidered tapestry of visionary sounds. Never does the music get lost in the ozone of extreme esotericism or eccentricity. Instead you have four people approaching pop music in a fresh and excitingly individual light.'
Now available on CD for the first time, this extended 2xCD set also includes all five tracks from Hatikva, plus five previously unreleased outtakes from Jedda and Captured in Ice. Booklet contains archive images and a biographical essay featuring contributions from Jackson Del Rey and Debbie Spinelli.
1. Lawrence of Arabia
2. Child Bride
4. To No Avail
6. Words Never Said
7. Waiting to Arrive
8. Still Waters
9. Moment in Ceylon
11. By the Sea
12. Last Grave at Dimbaza
14. The Living
15. Hollow Lands
16. Tropical Grasslands
1. Suit of Nails
2. I Know
4. A Thousand Lights
9. Autumn Cathedral
10. The Way
11. Home Again
12. The Far Country
13. Piano Song (JBTS outtake)
14. Cheetah Acacia Tree (JBTS outtake)
15. A Thousand Lights (CII outtake)
16. Monday (CII outtake)
17. Shade (CII outtake)
Available on CD and download.
"17 Pygmies come across like a version of the B52s transplanted into the grey surroundings of the early 1980s Liverpool scene, or perhaps conversely a version of Young Marble Giants soaked in California sunshine. The group came into existance when Jackson Del Rey and Robert Loveless felt constrained with what they could achieve in Los Angeles art punks Savage Republic. Their trajectory away from the Republic retained the faux-tribal rhythms and guitars, but added atmospheric keyboards and poppier arrangements. Instrumentals like the jaunty Last Grave At Dimbaza or the ponderous splendour of Jerusalem dominate Jedda By The Sea, but Debbie Spinelli comes into the fore as a reluctant, downbeat vocalist. In the sleevenotes Del Rey and Spinelli take care to distance themselves from second album Captured In Ice, but this undersells the catchiness of tracks like Chameleon or the opener Suit of Nails, a 1980s alternative pop classic" (The Wire, 10/2013)
"The first full-length album by Seventeen Pygmies is an exotic, moody affair. Most of the tracks are instrumentals with Middle Eastern-inspired guitar lines over a background of keyboards and percussion. Given that Phil Drucker and Robert Loveless had both been members of Savage Republic, which dabbled in Middle Eastern moods from time to time, this isn't surprising. What is surprising is the delicacy and muted grandeur throughout Jedda by the Sea, far from the industrial clang of the typical Savage Republic release. The moods evoked are sometimes languid, sometimes taut and tense, in a way that shows some growth from the Hatikva EP, but has continuity of style. Though they are sparingly used, the ethereal, almost ghostly, vocals of Louise Bialik fit this material beautifully. When it was released, this album managed some airplay, despite the fact that less than a thousand copies were originally made. This folk-pop classic is a collector's item due to the high quality of the album and small number of units originally released. If you can get your hands on an authentic copy with the original artwork you are indeed fortunate" (All Music Guide)
"When LA tribal art rockers Savage Republic disbanded, guitarist Jackson Del Rey (Philip Drucker) and keyboardist Robert Loveless turned side project 17 Pygmies (with two members of Radwaste) into their main gig. And when SR reformed without them, it meant two great '80s groups explored a distinctive, mostly instrumental aesthetic. LTM's double reissue begins with the debut five-song 1983 Hatikva EP - notable for it's refracted-surf cover of Maurice Jarre's 1962 Lawrence of Arabia theme, and similar insertions of Middle Eastern/Arabic and Brazilian influences - and appends the still-more-all-over-the-map 1984 first LP, Jedda, half of which began as SR pieces. Here you'll encounter a grand sprawl of sobering soundtrack vistas, including more African/Arabian tribal rhythmic moody melange, and more synth and piano-stroked, or violin-fragrant fields, interrupted by sporadic soft female singing from Debbie Spinelli. The second CD is 1985's lesser, slightly more commercial, yet more minimal, worthy follow-up, Captured In Ice" (The Big Takeover, 05/2013)
"Overall, these two discs are bright and accessible, and full of examples of relaxed experimentation, appealing spontaneity, and intriguing variety. Simple piano figures, brief outbursts of benign tribal percussion, an accidental zen aesthetic, folky restraint, and most of all simplicity. 17 Pygmies have charm, exhibit cross-cultural influences without much pomposity, and display a refreshingly modest approach to creativity" (Brainwashed, 06/2013)
Formed in the early 1980s and sharing personnel with art-punk outfit Savage Republic, L.A. combo 17 Pygmies plough a parallel furrow to the similarly named 23 Skidoo. The amorphous collective bolt African, Arabic and Celtic sounds onto to familiar pop-rock templates - in this case, languid psych-rock and guitar pop. Each of their records takes a different swerve: 1984's Jedda By The Sea offers hypnotic, scented psych-pop, like a zonked Talking Heads working with Julian Lynch; 1985's Captured In Heads is, primarily, a jaunty folk-pop set; and 1988's baton-twirling Welcome offers art-pop framed as a carnival variety show, ringmaster skits and all" (Fact Mag, 06/2013)