The Plastic People of the Universe: RFD,C/D,S/D

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I like Leading Horses but I don't play it all the time.

sundar subramanian, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I don't know that one. I have "Midnight Mouse" on vinyl, which means I haven't heard it for a while. Not bad, but I'm not sure I would recommend it. There is a track of theirs that I had taped off the radio many years ago, which I now have on CD. I successfully guessed that this was the right CD, without a lot of information to go on. The CD (from a 1978 recording) is "Passion Play" in English (which you don't see until you open it up), or something "Pasijove hry velikonocni" in Czech (minus the diacriticals). The track I like is "Noc Temna," which has a distinctively East European sound to it while working in a free jazz vein. It goes on for just slightly too long, but it's still good. Unfortunately, the rest of the CD does little for me. It has a lot of theatrical recitation in it. I think this is one where not knowing Czech is a big disadvantage. Maybe you could find an MP3 of "Noc Temna." I can't recommend buying an import CD just for the last track. That's about all I know. I would be interested in hearing more of their soley instrumental work myself.

DeRayMi, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I just listened to my favorite track. It sets up a good groove, maintained almost exclusively by the bass. Unusual timbres, good unpredictable percussion touches, and a nice atmosphere, but not much development. I neglected to say that this track too ends with some recitation, but I almost think of it as not being part of the song.

DeRayMi, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Yeah, I have a tape of Passion Play too. I remember it being good but I played the other more frequently. I think PP was more adventurous so maybe I should put it on again.

You don't like the vocals?

I wrote a paper about their oppositional role in Communist Czechoslovakia a couple of years ago.

sundar subramanian, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I don't like the vocals on it, no, at least from what I remember. I haven't given it much of a chance, but there's very little for me to latch onto in the music (with the exception of the final track). The political saga around the Plastic People is quite interesting.

What does Leading Horses sound like?

It looks like you won't be getting many recommendations. There are some threads about them on rec.music.progressive that might help, but maybe you were looking for suggestions from people whose taste you are familiar with.

DeRayMi, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I don't have much to say about this except I have a co-worker who blasts a lot of eastern European stuff from his stash of MP3s, and he has a few Plastic People numbers. He also has an MP3 of a bunch of drunk Russian guys doing a cover version of the theme from Titanic using an accordion, not that that is anything like Plastic People.

Sean Carruthers, Sunday, 3 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I thought everyone would have something to say about East European dissident prog;).

Leading Horses is more song-oriented, not a concept album, and is more driving and rock. In a doomy way. It's really quite noteworthy how they incorporate the reeds and strings with the heavy Czech folk music and modern jazz influences. Sometimes it goes jammy. The vocals are more deadpan than they are in Passion Play. The vocal style sounds like it has a bit of a Czech influence as well. It's a good album. I can definitely find plenty to latch onto in the music, though, like I said, it's not something I play all the time. I'd like to hear Egon Bondy.

sundar subramanian, Monday, 4 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

three weeks pass...
Leading Horses is a pretty good title,but you should get "Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned" or,"Midnight Mouse"...any of the Globus CD titles that are subtitled "Koncerty" are winners too! To buy try out www.tamizdat.com. Their prices are great and they have fast service! The solo Milan(mejla)Hlavsa Cd's are neat in that they update the Plastic's dark sound into an electronic/gothic style. Especially the one that's in tribute to them,the other title includes a cover of Zappa's "Trouble Every Day"!These CD's also seem to point up how much influence the band had on the more modern Resident's releases! This band had a sound that reflected their circumstances...foreboding and dark...but their newer,1990's live and studio recordings have a more forceful,celebratory feeling while still keeping the dark vibe. Go check 'em out!!!

Barry P. Saranchuk, Monday, 25 February 2002 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

five years pass...

Playing in Providence, RI next month!

edb, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 12:42 (fifteen years ago) link

Never too into the studio albs (or Pulnoc, for that matter) but the live disc "1997" is great--intense, riffy, slow-building, tuneful. Saw them last year and they didn't knock me out as much as they had when they toured in the '90s, but that may've just been my mood that night.

Martin Van Burne, Wednesday, 1 August 2007 14:01 (fifteen years ago) link

five years pass...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6g8T0R9mjKM

Tommy McTommy (Tom D.), Saturday, 20 July 2013 12:16 (nine years ago) link

Nice. The DVD that's taken from seems to be Czech-only, or certainly very difficult to find...

emil.y, Saturday, 20 July 2013 13:35 (nine years ago) link

four years pass...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml7mjXP4HKQ

Wewlay Bewlay (Tom D.), Friday, 25 August 2017 09:10 (five years ago) link

five years pass...

Scott Woods posted a mini-documentary on the Plastic People a few weeks ago, tied in with an interview he did with Joe Yanosik:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8py_LW5fMY

I've been coming across their name for decades, but I'd never heard them until watching that. Some of the music caught my ear--especially that "Run Run Run" cover linked to above--so I went onto Amazon and got lucky, finding a CD of Egon Bondy for under $20.

Got through it one-and-a-half times in the car, and it's just not for me. I was hoping for the Velvet Underground side of them and got the skronky, Frank Zappa side instead. I downloaded some Pulnoc, too, and am a little wary that it'll be more of the same.

clemenza, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 03:11 (three weeks ago) link

The Pulnoc album used to be a staple of cutout/clearance bins back in the '90s.

an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 13 September 2022 03:25 (three weeks ago) link

I love the Plastic People but they were an avant-prog/fusion group. They never sounded that much like the VU, at least on any of the records that I know (which is more than when I started this thread; I also listened to them more!)

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Tuesday, 13 September 2022 03:41 (three weeks ago) link

Yeah, I think the VU cover and the Lou Reed connection with Václav Havel probably gave me the wrong idea.

clemenza, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 04:21 (three weeks ago) link

The genesis seed ov their vibe, as I took it from the first one I heard, Egon Bondy's..., was "Venus in Furs," especially what Cale was doing with his viola in that context--extended into a foggy Prague spy movie soundtrack and then some---as I said in a 90s Voice piece about Eastern European rock, they (after growling like the MGM lion and saying, "Metro Goldwyn Mayer") "made the most of recording deep in a castle after midnight." I liked all the ones mentioned here, also said

...three members stepped out to form
Pulnoc. Who evidently came to rock away the barnacles of history,
but initially tended toward endless guitarrr.
By the time they were robustly Live In New York (1989, released on CD in 1996), however, guitar was Pulnoc's sweet mighty trained engine, no longer trying to be
the whole vehicle. Then they split, but left piñata goodies. In "Vidiny," on
Fiction's self-titled 1996 album, Plastic/Pulnoc person Milian Hlavsa just
keeps slo-o-w-ly raising the noize level around a sleepless chantoozie— the sound
doesn't change til it does, and the moon hits all eyes like a flipper.
Stranger-tasting post-Pulnoc goodies may be found on the 1997 Black Point
import The Black Sampler,, which offers illegible titles, P/P vet Joseph Janicek's
Echt!, and a co-op including Plastics Brabenec, Brabec, and Karafiat. Echt!
motorvate a rusty sled to run over wolves from presumptuous Russian fairy tales (there's also a tenderly growled dream sequence or two). Brabenec's crew
float through nightmares and nightcaps like Reed and Cale revisiting an unplugged and
un-Nico'd "It Was a Pleasure Then," trapped on a raft in sweet air.

And yeah they got back together for the excellent 1997.

dow, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 05:10 (three weeks ago) link

"Venus in Furs" x "Light Reflected Off The Oceands of The Moon," or some other Beefheart sax work-out, as starting points.

dow, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 05:12 (three weeks ago) link

Oh yeah, Czech novelist-musician Josef (The Bass Saxophone) Skvorecky's "Hipness At Noon" tells how it all went down, with PPU as hairy bone ov contention between the officially sanctioned Musicians' Union leadership and the upstart Jazz Section: https://newrepublic.com/article/99364/hipness-noon

dow, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 21:53 (three weeks ago) link

I love the Plastic People but they were an avant-prog/fusion group. They never sounded that much like the VU, at least on any of the records that I know (which is more than when I started this thread; I also listened to them more!)

I think they had periods when they sounded more like the Velvets, when they had the Canadian(?) guy singing for them - though I'm not sure any of that period was ever recorded. I suppose you could say they are a bit like Zappa but played with the rawness of the Velvets except they don't really sound that much like Zappa either!

Buckfast At Tiffany's (Tom D.), Tuesday, 13 September 2022 22:19 (three weeks ago) link

Oh I didn't compare their avant-prog/fusion sound to Zappa! If anything, Egon Bondy's... might make me think more of Can but w violin and clarinet.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 00:04 (three weeks ago) link

I mean, ofc they were quite a unique band and had their own sound. There's the obv "Bitches Brew" quote

When I've played them for students, the comparisons that came up were actually Led Zeppelin and the Doors.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 00:07 (three weeks ago) link

Hadn't thought of Led, but the use of folk & blues via acoustic and heavy dynamics fits, and goes with, you know, Bartok and Dvorak times jazz and rock---ditto those jazz-blues-heads the Doors, and I bet the PPU enjoyed the Doors' cover of "Whiskey Bar"---with Ray's Marxophone! That was a big crossroads-gateway track for me. Hadn't thought of Can, but of course, now that you mention it.
(Oh yeah, in that piece I linked, Skvorecky details xpost Paul Wilson's contributions to the People's and other rebel moves---he got deported to Canada, but set up the Boží Mlýn label and I think was involved in getting some of the PPU and other albums out of the Soviet bloc.)
They were assumed to be into Zappa/Mothers because of their name, but FZ's gibe, "Plas-tic pee-pul, oh baby now you're such a drag" was one thing, while they explained that they were thinking more of "plasny," which has to do with adaptation. Of course Zappa did sometimes feature violin and sax and other reeds, but he doesn't seem to haven been one of their faves in particular.

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 01:25 (three weeks ago) link

Despite his re-stated resistance to arena rock, art rock, and most of all what he calls "Yuropean" flavors of those and other, xgau really got and got into PPU and Pulnoc:
https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=The+Plastic+People+of+the+Universe

https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?id=1102&name=Pulnoc

Hope I've still got a copy of the bootleg board tape he christened Live at PS 122, their first NYC show in '89: don't know what generation it is, but really good. hopefully posted somewhere, since I'd have to dig pretty deep for the cassette.

Also---Milan Hlavsa 1951-2001:
https://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/hlavsa-rs.php

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 20:43 (three weeks ago) link

He does hear them as being into Zappa. Well okay (I got off the Z-bus pretty early, so maybe).

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 20:45 (three weeks ago) link

Yes, I think there's a definite Zappa element in there, I don't hear anything like Can though, they're too lumpy and awkward for that. Though they have a lot of later albums which I've never heard, I only really know the 70s stuff.

Buckfast At Tiffany's (Tom D.), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 20:50 (three weeks ago) link

Hope I've still got a copy of the bootleg board tape he christened Live at PS 122, their first NYC show in '89: don't know what generation it is, but really good. hopefully posted somewhere, since I'd have to dig pretty deep for the cassette

lmk if you want i can dropbox it or whatever, dow. i forget who, but someone on the board was kind enough to turn me onto that one many years ago

Half Japanese Breakfast (outdoor_miner), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 22:16 (three weeks ago) link

i always assumed some Zappa love just on account of their name

Half Japanese Breakfast (outdoor_miner), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 22:17 (three weeks ago) link

Tbc I do know they were Zappa fans and took inspiration from him (as did many prog and avant-garde rock bands). I just meant that their often dark and droney music doesn't usually recall for me most of the qualities that I typically associate with Zappa's sound: tight, busy, on-a-dime arrangements; virtuosic rhythmic complexity; cartoonishly jarring stylistic juxtapositions; echoes of 50s rock and roll and doo-wop. There's maybe a couple percentage points more of those than you find in Can tbf. (Xgau did say PPotU make Can and Faust look like wimps in that link!)

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 22:59 (three weeks ago) link

i think i remember hearing via mr. yanosik that the famous PS 122 tape may get an official release. i think they're just haggling about inclusion of the cover song.

Thus Sang Freud, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 23:01 (three weeks ago) link

xxxpost thanks, will keep that in mind, outdoor_miner, but it's high time I get off my duff and excavate the stash incl PS 122. Great to know it may get legit release intact, or at all.
(Xgau did say PPotU make Can and Faust look like wimps in that link!) Ha yeah but he would; they and (Plastics spin-off Pulnoc) and sometimes Henry Cow, and some things by or involving Robert Wyatt, are about all the "Yurrupean art rock" he can digest, like Motorhead and Reign In Blood-era Slayer are about it for him in metal.

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 23:53 (three weeks ago) link

So, stimulated by xpost rockcritics.com coverage of the PPU expert, I've tweaked my archived edition of xpost "Uprostred," written in early '99 about the PPU family tree and some neighbors. It was my maiden Voice voyage as unfrozen caveman hipster, still quite evidently, but now with chiropractic adjustments, as I've become a better re-writer over the years. Informative, anyway, re a lot of good-to-great old music still in no danger of overexposure:https://myvil.blogspot.com/2005/12/uprosted.html

dow, Sunday, 18 September 2022 21:34 (two weeks ago) link


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