William S. Burroughs’s rare tape experiments released on vinyl

William S. Burroughs's rare tape experiments released on vinyl

Yes, hello? Yes, hello.

Turns out Naked Lunch author and Beat Generation icon William S. Burroughs was also an experimental musician. Throughout the 50s and 60s, Burroughs worked with tape, cutting up and rearranging recordings of his and others’ voices into dizzying rhythmic collages and unsettling ambient slurries. While it wouldn’t pass for true experimental music today (rearranging recordings, or chopping samples, is maybe the most common method of music production), at the time Burroughs’s method was quite new and radical, maybe even more so than the purely textual “cut-up” technique he made famous in his Nova Trilogy.

So thanks go to Paradigm Discs for reintroducing Curse Go Back to the world through its first vinyl release and first release save 100 CDs in the 90s. (And thanks to The Vinyl Factory for putting us onto this sort of historic happening.) The record is available through Boomkat as of August 16. The vinyl is clear, like this afternoon’s sky, and the cover features a never-before-seen photo of Burroughs during a drug experiment in photographer Harriet Crowder’s apartment. We also get an insert reproduction of Crowder’s contact sheet. Oh yum.

I’d be ashamed to not mention that Burroughs used his talent with tape and recording to engage in some sonic urban warfare. In 1972, Burroughs decided to attack what was London’s first espresso bar, Moka Bar, with sound. Why? Well because he didn’t like the cheesecake and the cashier. To disrupt this supposed nexus of youth culture and radicalism, Burroughs visited everyday with a sound recorder. Eventually, he began to play these audio recordings back, well amplified, inside and outside the bar. The attack seemed potent, or so he believed, and Moka closed later that year. Whether by Burroughs efforts or by rising rent is up for debate…

Read a more thorough analysis of Burroughs’ campaign against Moka Bar here, and try it at your local café! Also take a watch of Burroughs’s and Antony Balch’s short-film “The Cut Ups” below.

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