Edsel’s fourth and final full album, 1995’s “Techniques of Speed Hypnosis,” will be digitally reissued by Comedy Minus One on October 2, 2012.
As was the case with last year’s re-releases of the Edsel records “The Everlasting Belt Co.” and “Detroit Folly” we’ve once again asked the members of Edsel to provide you with more information on this release, from the history of its recording to stories behind some of these specific songs.
You should also read DCist’s Secret History of this record, which they called “a sprawling, chiming, charging beauty, bursting with inventive sonic slights-of-hand, balancing snarling six-string assaults with impossible-to-ignore melodies.”
We signed our major label contract on April Fool’s Day. The setting was perfect: a fancy Japanese cocktail bar in the East Village. A few drinks in and we’d inked our dance card with the devil. So many bands we knew had made the leap and, since our earlier experiences with independent record labels hadn’t been particularly special, it didn’t strike us as anything but a good idea.
In hindsight, we got off easy. Our luck was certainly not as bad as some folks make such things out to be. All the foolish meetings with baseball bat-wielding radio promotion jocks, middle-aged corporate middlemen trying to convince us they were cool rock’n’roll guys who understood our DIY ethos, and endless arguments with various robots in production about avoiding stickers on our CD proclaiming a “special low price” or “featuring” certain tracks was the stuff of Russian literature. Or perhaps David Sedaris. It’s funny now. It drove us crazy then. But what we got to keep was worth it.
Relativity Records flew us to London, where a quiet gentleman picked us up and drove us three-and-a-half hours to Liverpool for a five week session in a Parr Street Studios, a place partially-owned by Phil Collins. Curiously enough, Phil never made it down. The earlier incarnation of Parr Street, Amazon Studios, had hosted the Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen, and we couldn’t have been more excited to add our band’s name to the list.
We made our record with Anjali Dutt and Andy Wilkinson, who’d previously worked with The Boo Radleys, Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine. It’s an understatement to say that this kind of opportunity had never been on our radar before. To top it off, when we arrived at Parr Street, we were introduced to Ian McCulloch, who was taking a billiards break from recording what became the “Electrafixion” album. Seriously. We were sharing a work space with the guy from Echo & the Bunnymen…for five weeks. Anyone who’s ever made a remotely punk rock record knows that’s A LOT of time.
That’s not to say plenty of that time didn’t slip by. UPS couldn’t manage to deliver our equipment on time, we met new friends at the pub for quiz night, we saw Yo La Tengo and Stereolab play at the local club, we learned about the burgeoning dance culture and boogied the night away with Andrew Weatherall in the DJ booth. It was a good time, and the silver lining to the UPS fiasco was that Ian McCulloch even lent us his band’s bass for a week.
But we also got stuff done. We knew this might be the only chance we’d ever have to record on this scale (true!) and we took as full advantage of this as a band could. We recorded and mixed almost double the number of songs our producer had intended. We kept the engineer and his assistant awake deep into the night, recording us jamming half-baked VU riffs and wandering Hammond organ and Moog lines. Some of these things ended up adding earphone candy to the mix, some were edited into brief interludes between songs, but most went directly into the garbage, as they deserved.
I took a handful of CDs with me as a reference and for inspiration: Fugazi’s “Red Medicine,” DJ Shadow’s “What Does Your Soul Look Like” EP, “Faust IV” and the first Tricky record. They all sounded equally serious, but had their own special sense of humor or appreciation for the absurd.
As a band, we had our own language by this point, so we were drawn to parentheses, asterisks, footnotes and inside jokes. “Techniques of Speed Hypnosis” is dense, filled with guitar overdubs, keyboard layers, clarinet, drum machine and even – hilariously – a tin whistle, a TV set and a rain stick. Strings were all that was missing in the proverbial fairy dust department. But Anjali, our producer, had a different idea and, fortunately for us, she managed to hire the Kick Horns, a brass section regularly employed by The Rolling Stones and The Who. It’s a safe bet Edsel didn’t make the cut on their CV. Lucky for them, they’re on ours.
There’s no particular lyrical theme to this record. There never was. Just the usual kitchen sink of ideas, hoping to sneak something interesting around roughly three minutes of interlocking guitar parts. The first real song on the album is an ode to being earnest (“Glazed By The Cold Front”), followed by a tune about a mentally ill author living in Morocco (“Chester’s Wig”). Later there’s a lyric that references The Church (“Like A Siren”), a song about the 1919 World Series (“Number 5 Recitative”) and an awkward attempt to make sense of the then-recent O.J. Simpson trial (“Skin Of The Bear”).