The Severed Heads catalogue is strewn with half-forgotten tapes and records, all of which is catnip to reissue labels. Vinyl-On-Demand's 2008 box set remains the most thorough Severed Heads retrospective to date, but this year saw Medical Records and Dark Entries get in on the action. Medical reissued two LPs from the mid-'80s, Since The Accident and City Slab Horror, while Dark Entries put out an extended version of the band's best-known song, "Dead Eyes Opened." Ellard himself remains wary about such revivalism: "People will be bitching about limited editions at my funeral," he said on Twitter recently.
Dark Entries is behind this latest release, The 80s Cheesecake LP, a collection of Ellard's solo recordings that originally appeared on two cassettes: 80s Cheesecake and Snappy Carrion, both of which came out on Ellard's own Terse Tapes label in 1982. Though the music has long been available digitally via Bandcamp, the tapes were hard to track down, and the music had never been pressed to wax.
Of all the Severed Heads-related reissues that have surfaced in 2014, The 80s Cheesecake LP is the most adventurous. Each track is glued together by warped tape loops, samples taken from radio and TV, scrambled electronic signals and primitive drum rhythms. Ever the tinkerer, Ellard used this reissue as an opportunity to remaster the original material and finish off previously unheard sketches from early '80s.
There's a crunchy sweetness to "Anthem 82," whose timeless qualities were recently demonstrated by Joy Orbison on his Essential Mix. The song title "303B The East Is Red" is a reminder that Ellard was using a Roland TB-303 Bassline in 1982, putting on him on par with Charanjit Singh as an acid house precursor. I haven't been able to shake the vocal on "Babies," spoken by an unidentified woman in a soporific voice—a testament to Ellard's knack for sampling. The same machinery is used to toy with EBM ("Hold"), industrial noise ("Our Work For Love At Home") and ritualistic drum tracks ("In Her Hair"). "Strangeness always attracts others," Ellard said in an RA Exchange last year. He's right. The music on The 80s Cheesecake LP may be 32 years old, but its magnetic pull feels as strong as ever.