Saturday, May 21, 2005

Minimal Man

Sex With God LP
Dossier Records, 1985

Short Pithy Description: Pretty Awful Post-Industrial, Non-Dance from San Francisco by way of Berlin

So the erudite hipster may find this record in my collection and nod sagely, stroking his (or her) goatee with that infinitesimal nod of a head and say, "ah yes, Minimal Man - the late Patrick Miller in his post-industrial "Berliner" phase" and while I may find it a bit disagreeable to even have a goateed hipster in my den of iniquity and within spitting distance of my cat (if I had one), I would probably have to laugh, laugh laugh because, hey bub, the joke's on you. Yeah, sure early Minimal Man, back when Pat Wilson was still in San Francisco emoting into microphones with the likes of Z'ev and Factrix in the audience egging him on - maaaaybeeee... but this later stuff is evidence of a decline in Mr. Miller's interest and supposed proclivity towards making optimal aural buzz.

Here we suffer a heavily reverbed voice (in every FRIGGIN' SONG but one I might add), - making a nasal murmur and whine, over mostly synths and drum loops and such about such typical ruminations on sex, alienation, sex while being alienated, alienation caused by sex, alienation caused alienation. Did I mention sex and alienation?

The "point" or concept of the Minimal Man was that the songs were song from the perspective of a person with nothing - a mindset that kind of makes sense when considering industrial music and can potentially lead to making some interesting music - I'm not saying alienation and separateness from society aren't bad topics to be making noise about - just saying that it helps to tackle some other topics. In the first few years of the band, Miller got so into the personna that he reportedly BECAME that person and moved to Europe (reportedly) to snap himself out of it. The downside, I guess, was that the music became less interesting as a result. Might have worked for Stephen Foster but, alas, it didn't seem to be working for Mr. Miller.

Supposedly, Mr. Miller was only "minimally" involved in the making of this wreck of a record and it shows - supposedly he'd show up at the studio with completed tapes and sit back and let the engineer do the mastering and mixing. Quoting engineer Marcus Burak (who liked the source material):
We were alone in the studio and I remember like today, how he was sitting at the rear end of the room on our sofa and most times watching me work. Yes, I was really surprised but his first statement was: Do what you like. This was not the usual tone and therefore I remember this quite well. He let me work on the tape and I went through song by song. He only influenced some things, if I did too much echo or one of the instruments was too much or not loud enough, but basically he let me do it. I mean the original material on the 8 track tape was already very good that I had an easy time to work with it. He had his very clear ideas of what is of importance for him. This was the moment when he said something about how he wanted it. The rest was up to me.

As he came, he went. Just showed up in the studio and vanished afterwards. If I remember correctly, the whole mixing process took two or three days.
Remembering that this blog takes the good with the bad, the old with the new - I'm pushing out perhaps the best cut ("A Better World"), a typically sarcastic song about the non-existent paradise awaiting the minimal man. Its mostly representative of the rest of the cuts (exception being the final cut 'Fuck Me" which is just a different type of cliche) by including a sort of improv keyboard track and some semi-interesting sound effects weaving their way over the uninteresting main thrust of the track.

No doubt the Wayside Music Catalog crew must have been amused when I finally ordered this out of their $3.99 loser bin based on what I now know must have been a pseudo-rave description )in actuality, I don't think I've ever had much in common with most of Wayside's catalog - but it was a place to find 1/2 Japanese and Kraut rock. But in this case the joke was on me and I didn't even have a goatee.

Patrick Miller and Blaise Smith

Band Members:
Minimal Man put out a total of seven records (per Trouser Press). Miller also played in the sprawling band SF-based band Tuxedomoon. Blaise Smith (pictured with Miller played guitar, keyboards and drums (although I only hear a drum machine throughout) and Kristin Oppenheim is credited for vocals and films (I guess this means audio samples). Blaise Smith has gone on to compose for films and children's songs and Oppenheim is a multi-media artist who has been featured in gallery shows.

"A Better World" - Minimal Man from Sex With God

Cuts are put up for fair use discussion. We do not link to or post entire albums. If artists or copyright owners object, we will remove it since it's not really worth the fight.

  • Flux Apparition tribute page to Minimal Man (source of interview with Markus Baruk)
  • Ira Robbins reviews Minimal Man in Trouser Press
  • Short UnSound article on Minimal Man from history of industrial music
  • Note: There is another band called Minimal Man that hails out of Germany
Update (8 Sept 05): Terminal Boredom (Sgt. Slaughter) likes earlier MM but writes off this later stuff as "proto-Wax Trax digi dread"...
Minimal Man was one guy, Patrick Miller, and whomever he brought along for the ride (or not). The 'Shroud Of' LP from 1981, along with the earlier "He Who Falls" 7" from 1980 (self-released), are about as bracing as anything from the early New York No Wave scene (Ah, the West Coast will always have that inferiority complex). The 'group' started out interested in doing strictly soundtrack-type stuff but the aggression and seething angst dripping off of many of these tracks drives them from merely the background of your attention to front and center. There is a live 7" on Sub from '83, '"Two Skeletons", that continues in this vein, but from there on out it's proto-Wax Trax digi dread.

1 comment:

Ian, N.Z. said...

excellent post!
Thanks for gathering this stuff together. I had access to one of the earlier minimal man albums and at the time was struck by only two tracks of it, but what moments: "she was a visitor" &
"loneliness" both songs were great theatre!