Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RIP Charles Ball

[from the Rip It Up footnotes blog]

According to No Wave journalist Roy Trakin, who wrote for Soho Weekly News and New York Rocker, “a very important hidden figure, who nurtured the scene and almost singlehandedly championed No Wave back at a time no one else got it, was Charles Ball of Lust/Unlust. He was like an Alan Lomax in the swamps, documenting the scene with field recordings.” Ball had worked alongside Terry Ork at Ork Records, the pioneering New York independent label that put out Television’s first single. Trakin describes Ball as “a real heavy thinker, into French polemical film makers, a real Godard freak”.

Speaking from his home in Florida in (I think) 2003, Charles Ball told me: “I’d spent a year translating Jacques Revet’s film criticism. I was big into French New Wave. I read a lot of Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse. Also the Situationists. And Lacan. Coming from a film and structuralist perspective, I was very familiar with Roland Barthes and all that kind of thing.

The name Lust/Unlust came from this sort of reading. Ball had left to start his own production company, which is really what Lust/Unlust was, more than a label as such. Ultimately he let the artists choose the names for their labels so it looked like he had a whole stable of different record labels to his credit. The first Lust/Unlust release was a Teenage Jesus & the Jerks single; Lunch called her sub-label Migraine. Ball appears to have been a gifted producer, like Martin Hannett, exploring the potential of the first generation of digital reverbs.

Charles Ball: “It allowed you to do things that you could do before like flanging but go much further with it--you could actually designate a room where the reflections would suddenly become being harmonized--a pitch up above what the original was. When I tried to do a mix I tried to make sure something was changing throughout.” On one Mars EP, he used binaural recording, mixed to simulate the spacing of your ears. “I also added on digital delays and reverbs so there was both the exposed physical space if you were to listen on headphones which sounds uncanily like someone’s behind you or placed somewhere in space, and then all these artificial space and unreal space added by the digital delay. Some of the guitar solos I have on that record are just really extraordinary, it would start like it seemed like you were seeing the amplifier and then suddenly you were in some kind of room or chamber that’s psychological.

Some of Lust/Unlust releases: 

Ball also told me he was sitting on an archive of No Wave field recordings, live performances he'd taped.