Keeping "No Wave" Alive In The '90s

Lunch records for Atavistic.

atavism; n.

1. The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism

after several generations of absence, usually caused by the chance

recombination of genes. 2. An individual or a part that exhibits atavism. Also

called throwback.

Kurt Kellison, owner of Chicago's Atavistic Records, has

his own spin on the definition of the word. "I saw the word Atavistic some time

ago and I thought it sounded fantastically elegant and organic. To me it means

primordial, but really it means a genetic trait that should have been lost in

the evolutionary process but, somehow, comes up again. That seemed to be right

for what I was doing, which is trying to get at the real thing." Kellison says

the name has served him well in his crusade to re-issue the lion's share of

what he says was the formative influence on his musical youth, the mainly New

York-based "No Wave" movement of the late '70s and early 80s. Since 1988,

Kellison and his wife, Paula Froehle, have single-handedly revived interest in

the genre, whose proponents include guiterrorist Glenn Branca,

actress/personality Lydia Lunch and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Sonic Youth's

Lee Ranaldo, the Swans, MX-80, Elliott Sharp, Crescent and the recently

broken-up contemporary No Wave combo from Chicago, the Scissor Girls, whose

swan-song, We People Space With Phantoms , they released earlier this

year.

Kellison and Froehle started out making videos in 1986 for

then-underground bands at a time when affordable, reliable consumer video

technology and editing tools were just becoming available, allowing him to

document the scene in Columbus, Ohio on tour swings by the likes of Sonic

Youth, Big Black and the Flaming Lips. By the time the pair moved to Chicago in

1988, they had 30 or more videos in print and began concentrating on injecting

a more artistic, filmic energy into them even as they began to license works by

Nick Cave, Thin White Rope, Diamanda Galas and Einstürzende Neubauten. What the

duo quickly realized, though, was that there was a "glass ceiling" in the video

market, with people not returning to it as much as they did for more organic

vinyl or more technological CD's, and usually duping copies for friends or

sharing a single videotape. Thus was born the musical side of

Atavistic.

"When we started the label in the late 80's there weren't nearly

as many indie labels operating...

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