Uneven Paths: Deviant Pop From Europe 1980-1991 was put together by Music From Memory cofounder Jamie Tiller and the Paris-based digger Raphaël Top-Secret. The compilation spans 11 years and an entire continent, but it has a tight, coherent focus, mostly showcasing songs that are slow-tempo, arty and intimate, often with a folk, jazz-funk or boogie tinge. The two curators find tunes where others likely wouldn't look. Take John Makin, whose solo catalogue contains parody Englishman-abroad songs like "Potverdekke! (It's Great To Be A Belgian)" and "Anglais Franglais," and yet appears on Uneven Paths with an earnest live rendition of a heartbreak song. Miko & Mubare's percussive jam "Komoma Ya-Ya-Ya" shows that it's not all about unearthing rare records. The tune is available on vinyl for cheap—you just have to know where to look.
Much of the music here is understated. Howard Fine is reminiscent of Truman Capote with his poetry reading on "Nomad Song," a collaboration with Ströer Duo. On Nightfall In Camp's "Cada Día," Marie Mandi's voice drifts from the stripped-back arrangement like smoke from a cigarette. And then there's the supreme head-nodder "Minéralité" by Lou Blic, which is so good I can understand why the compilation's scope was extended into 1991. It's followed by Steve Beresford's "Comfortable Gestures," a collaboration with the French fashion designer Anne-Marie Beretta. Though Beresford's vocals grate, it's Uneven Paths's best example of '80s pop's multidisciplinary reach. There are some upbeat moments too, like Sound On Sound's spiky synth pop, and George Vanakos's fuzzy takedown of Athens' glitzy nightclubs.
Uneven Paths's finest moments are tracks that, with a bit more polish, might have had genuine pop appeal. If the musicianship on Monica Rypma's "Hey, Where You Goin!" sounds high quality, that's because it is. Brian Batie, who appears on the record, played bass for Al Green and The Commodores. (It was still a DIY recording, though: Rypma, the liner notes tell us, financed the album by selling ad space on the record's cover.) "Dancing Thru' The Night," credited to Brenda Ray's Brenda And The Beachballs, is a new wave gem. It's impossible to listen to Pete Brandt's Method's "What You Are" and not hear echoes of Arthur Russell. Better still is Violet Eves's "Listen Over The Ocean." The charming vocals were lodged in my head for days after I first heard it. If that's not the sign of a good pop tune, what is?
Thu / 29 Mar 2018
01. Nightfall In Camp - Cada Día
02. Stroer Duo Howard Fine - Nomad Song
03. Tony Hymas - Pictures Of Departure
04. Violet Eves - Listen Over The Ocean
05. Miko & Mubare - Komoma Ya-Ya-Ya
06. Piscine Et Charles - Quart De Tour, Mon Amour
07. John Makin & Friends - No Lie
08. Nonobstant - Jessica
09. Wolfgang Klingler, Thomas Heimes, Hans-Christian Mittag - Nach Dienst
10. Sound On Sound - Depression
11. Pete Brandt's Method - What You Are
12. Lost Gringos - Tambo Machay
13. Vanakos - I Hate Disco.. Not The Dance
14. Brenda And The Beachballs - Dancing Thru' The Night
15. Patrick Forgas - Sex Move
16. Xavier Jouvelet - Oeuf En Clock
17. Lou Blic - Minéralité
18. Steve Beresford - Comfortable Gestures
19. Bill Nelson's Orchestra Arcana - The Whole City Between Us
20. Harte 10 - Happy New Year
21. Monica Rypma - Hey, Where You Goin!