Raymilland – Recordings 79-81′ (BDR Records) 2010. Another amazing reissue, this one from my hometown. If you have never heard of Raymilland, that’s probably not too surprising. They were a short-lived Saint Louis post-punk act that existed roughly in the time period defined by the title of this release. Certain to be considered a footnote by globally renowned post-punk historians, Raymilland were remarkably prolific for Saint Louis standards. Case in point, they opened for Magazine and Ultravox locally and Adrian Belew, Chelsea and Tuxedomoon in Chicago. They were also slated to open for Joy Division on their first American tour but we all know how that turned out. They released a 7inch in 1980 and they were also on one of those super-cool Sub Pop cassettes that were released when Bruce Pavitt was still in Illinois. Like I said, remarkably prolific.
They were also ridiculously obscure. I know that sounds contradictory and I guess it is, but to really understand this paradox is to understand the weirdness that is St Louis. See, I grew up with the punk scene in St Louis. I got into it around 82-83 and by that point it was largely cantered around local hardcore bands like Blind Idiot God, Drunks With Guns and White Suburban Youth/Ultraman. There were also some pretty mainstream sounding new wave acts like Be-Vision, The Langrehr Band and The Studebakers that I remember. I remember there being shows at Billy Goat Hill that I could not get into. I remember going to New Values a couple of times. I remember Vintage Vinyl when it was a little hole in the wall. I remember the Varsity Theatre and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I remember buying Jet Lag. You would think that I would have at least one memory of Raymilland.
I mentioned in my post about the Boston based band Christmas, that Boston suffers from collective amnesia largely due to a constantly new population of students. But St Louis’ population is relatively sedentary. So how could a band that almost opened for Joy Division have been so quickly forgotten here? Part of it rests on the fact that Raymilland only played eight shows, which I realize is insane when you consider who they played with and where they played. My old band played about 30 shows in the early 90s and we couldn’t even open for Pale frickin’ Divine. But the lack of live performances is only one contributor to Raymilland’s obscurity. I think to understand the rest of it is to understand the town itself. Books could be written on this, my friends. But not here and not now because this is a gaddurned record review not a cultural analysis.
While the music on Recordings 79-81′ is definitely post-punk, it is also pretty unique for its time. The songs from their Distant View / Talk 7inch are the most classically “post-punk” with screeching guitar and synth noise over a locked in bass/drum motorik groove. Rick Buscher sings immersed in echo and phase. Talk in particular is somewhat reminiscent of a band like Glaxo Babies or something. Very, very cool. A little more surprising are demo tracks like She’s Got Medals and Climate which expose an underlying glam influence on a band that at first pass seem very non-glam. In fact, when taken in this context, Buscher’s vocals are very similar to Brian Eno and you start to realize that Raymilland probably sounds post-punk because they were operating from the same set of influences as other post-punk bands not because they were trying to emulate anything in particular. The third component of the CD is the rehearsal material. Freed from standard song structure, Raymilland had a big jones for space-rock. This is most evident in David Sundberg’s guitar playing and Buscher’s synth noise. This is the weakest part of the CD from a musical perspective but from a historical perspective it sheds further light on the band.
To commemorate the release of this CD, Raymilland re-formed and played one show in St Louis. The label that released this (BDR) has plans to release a number of St Louis punk/wave/post-punk obscurities in the near future which is exciting. The opening act was a band called The Welders and they were a lot of fun. BDR has plans to release their sole 7inch later this year. After the Welders, Raymilland took the stage and proceeded to blow my fucking mind. Walking into the show I was expecting a nostalgic walk through Saint Louis’ punk rock past. Walking out, I was utterly convinced that Raymilland, if they were to start playing shows tomorrow regularly, would be a completely valid and vital art-rock band. There was no hint of nostalgia.
When I listen to this great CD and the bridge hits on the track Overhead, I am instantly transported to hearing Raymilland play it live that night. I was standing right in front of the stage. It was a weird night. My head was all foggy from too many drinks and the huge wall of noise that was Raymilland just about knocked me over. I walked out of the club and looked over at the remains of the Lemp Brewery. It was freezing cold. I got in my car and drove home amazed that I was completely unaware of the existence of this band.
This CD and Raymilland in general is something that St Louisans’ should be very proud of. Everyone (St Louis or not), should buy a copy and enjoy a great example of prime Midwestern weirdness.