Bernard Szajner - Some Deaths Take Forever
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Long overdue reissue of THE anachronistic 1980 outlier.
Pure electro-prog genius, one of a kind.
Carl Craig recently admitted this is his favourite album of all-time...
1944, Szajner is born in a cave in France, his family hiding from the German occupiers.
Skip forward a quarter century and Bernard is the go-to lighting guy for The Prog Olympiads such as Magma, Gong, Pink Floyd & The Who, eventually inventing & pioneering ultra-naff ‘laser-harp’, later popularised by Jean Michel Jarre.
After watching an Amnesty International documentary in the late 70s, he is galvanised to record his opus in response the barbarity he sees in capital punishment. The resulting ‘Some Deaths Take Forever’ is surely one of the most idiosyncratic LPs of the early 80s.
This was exactly the same time that Szajner was co-producing the eternally on-point proto-chuggin’ masterwerk as The (Hypothetical) Prophets’.
It’s hard to draw comparisons to...almost anything really. Even with the 2020 Retrospect Goggles on, I’m struggling to imagine what he was consuming to end up with this sound. Co-producer Karel Beer provided some eye-opening insight in the sleeve-notes though;
“There’s Shaft, Jeff Beck, Morricone, Weather Report and even Timmy Thomas. A truly eclectic bunch that somehow makes sense of an era. It’s almost as if Szajner is applying these accidental or intentional influences just as an artist would use inks, oils or found forms to a canvas.“
Fair play if you can hear that amongst the madness within. But honestly, on the opener ‘Welcome to Death Row’ my Millennial ears can only hear the familiarity of those ludicrously punchy, necksnap hi-hats to an early-00s Eskibeat. There’s definitely some powerful orgone energy in the air, his drippingly seductive and sensual baritone drawl is a sure inspiration to Bernardino Femminielli. The track goes from straight-up ridiculous to downright insane; psycho-arpeggios dueling with a majestically corny guitar solo, all whilst Detroit-ish piano chords hammer up the melodrama. Quite possibly the most bombastic thing ever recorded. A high-camp pomp-romp (un)classic that an immediate tops-off reappraisal in all good clubs (once this shite is over).
‘Ritual’ is a pitch-black synth-pop dirge. Doomy guitars feeding back over a gnarly synth arp, whilst Bernard does some Vander-lite warbling. At some point, almost everything fades away, revealing just a Spanish guitar and paper-thin drum machine.
‘Execute’ is the other high-point. Dread-filled synth-waves are injected with operatic HOO-HA before an eerie-AF piano riff welcomes our imminent demise. Queue the raddest accident industrial-reggaeton buckbeat of the 80s. Things just get more intense (and loud, love a mid-track volume-boost me) until the levee breaks and all Hell flows from within; swarming triplets, ritual horns, FX’d shouting until a hench wall of noise drowns it all out. There are rumors afloat that a remix album was meant to accompany this re-release, with our Ossia invited to join the revelry. Just imagine what could’ve been...
‘Resurrector’ is a 7min speed-arpeggio wig-out of the highest order; savage axe solo + congas + subtle sax flex = DIGI-PROG CARPENTER-STYLE OPUS. Our man somehow considers himself a ‘non-musician’, but head over to Youtube to hear him expertly performing these tracks live in London in ‘83, backed by the Magma gang. Seems like this would be a nightmare to recreate even four decades later, massive props for taking this project on the road!
‘Suspended Animation’ feels like a late 70s San Fran synth-punk offcut, wonky in that way only Chrome & The Residents can do. ‘A Kind of Freedom’ is far-out in android-jazz-funk territory, completely nailing that Woo-zy bed-sit escapism vibe.
All-in-all, a totally unique document from that tipping point before Electronica truly took hold. One foot in the rave. This expanded version comes with 5 previously-never-heard tracks, as well as further liner notes from bandmate Karel Beer and Wolf Eyes’ Inzane Johnny.
Remastered from the original masters by Gert Van Hoof at Cochlea Mastering. Vinyl cut by D&M Berlin.
1. "Welcome (To Death Row)" (6:12)
2. "Ritual" (4:44)
3. "Execute" (6:30)
1. "Ressurector" (7:09)
2. "Terms Of Reality (Radio Phase)" (1:04)
3. "The Memory" (4:24)
4. "New Body Form (Radio Phase)" (0:42)
5. "Suspended Animation" (3:59)
6. "The Difference Is Not All That Great (Radio Phase)" (0:42)
7. "A Kind Of Freedom" (3:25)
1. "A Single Broken Wing" (7:27)
2. "And Executed" (4:39)
3. "Thol Onsia" (5:17)
1. "Warden Plays" (4:44)
2. "Er Aera" (9:55)
Welcome (To Death Row)