dream perhaps too beautiful
Bleed in my bath
Initiative/Attraction To Shame
Floor falling out
Their latest. Perhaps their best. 15 aggressive songs that mark a slightly different direction for Viscera. With a much fuller, less minimal sound WHO IS THIS ONE goes well beyond the edge, into the unknown. The sound here is a kind of extreme, savage psycho-electronic primitivism, evoking visions of your worst nightmares--genocide, nuclear devastation/apocalypse, concentration camp, and total homicidal/suicidal/pathological/psychological obliteration. Titles include "Clipboard Bodies", "Bleed In My Bath", "Floor Falling Out", "Attraction To Shame", "Abortive Attempts", "Dreams Perhaps Too Beautiful", "Sleep Away" and eight others. Liner includes photos by J&M and lyrics. Don't listen to it alone in the dark and/or under the influence of hallucinogens.
- January 1985 Cause And Effect Cassette Distribution Catalog
Below you can read Debbie Jaffe's comments on Who Is This One and view her original paste-up layouts for the mini booklet that came inside the cassette cover. October 19, 2013 - New digital masters added of the two sides of the cassette in continuous format, without track markers, so that you can experience Who Is This One in its original conceptual flow.
Who Is This One, originally released in 1984, was the third full-length cassette release by the duo of Hal McGee and Debbie Jaffe, and the first recorded with a 4-track cassette recorder (a Fostex X-15). Originally released by Cause And Effect. Re-released by Harsh Reality Music in 1990.
"Music for a post-nuclear campfire"
In the Spring of 1984 we bought several pieces of new equipment, probably right after we received our income tax return check. We purchased a Moog Rogue analog synthesizer (new for about $320 from a shop in Noblesville, Indiana), a Fostex 3050 digital delay rack mount unit, and a used set of Pearl Syncussion synthesizer drums.
More significantly, we acquired our first multi-track tape recorder, a Fostex X-15 4-track cassette recorder, for something like $450. The 4-track cassette recorder was a real breakthrough for home recording artists: multi-track recording at a reasonable price. This opened up all kinds of possibilities and newfound freedom to explore new sound dimensions.
I argued with Debbie against buying a 4-track recorder. I can vividly remember sitting with Deb and our friend Toby O'Brien near a fountain at the Lafayette Square shopping mall in Indianapolis. I just kept saying over and over again that getting a 4-track recorder would 'change things'. Up to this point most all of our recordings together as Viscera (our first two tapes In A Foreign Film and A Whole Universe Of Horror Movies) were essentially recorded live direct to tape through a stereo microphone, with both of us playing and vocalizing, at the same time, in the same room. I feared that if we started using a multi-track recorder that the direct, 'real' genuineness of our artistic expression would be compromised. So much of the Viscera sound up to this point had relied on the intuitive interaction between Deb and I as we spontaneously created our songs and sound poems.
This is significant because the pieces on Who Is This One were composed or conceived by one or the other of us. On most of the pieces one of us would record three of four tracks on the 4-track recorder and then ask the other person to add sounds in the fourth track. I'm not sure, but in fact I seem to recall that a few of the pieces were recorded completely by one or the other of us.
So, over the years it has been too easy for me to think of the songs on Who Is This One as being solo tracks with a guest appearance by the other member of Viscera. In retrospect I think that this attitude is maybe a little unfair. I do believe, however, that a case can be made for Who Is This One being the branching off point for our two solo projects - Master/Slave Relationship, and Dog As Master. The 4-track cassette recorder gave both of us the opportunity to conceptualize and carefully build up an audio piece in bits and pieces and layers. This gave both of us a great sense of independence, and stimulated our growth as individual artists.
Indeed, the first side of Who Is This One is in many ways a continuous suite of pieces, the overall structure and concept of which Debbie meticulously designed. We can hear the roots of the Master/Slave Relationship sound in the various introspective, pensive, melancholic, and even sex-obsessed demonism textures and treatments and environments. Deb's vocalizations are much more aggressive, distorted and chorus-layered on Who Is This One, in stark contrast to the warbly sing-song bird little-girl waif personages that she depicted on the first two Viscera tapes.
The opening track, "Clipboard Bodies", is absolutely stunning in its thickly-layered Siren and Wraith -like chant-sung choruses. It's kind of got that black witches' sabbath sound with a steaming cauldron of venom and spew thing going on.
There's this whole sex and death and blood and sweat and cum stew bubbling throughout Side A. But there's more than that. There's also isolation and alienation, wispy fog-shrouded landscapes threaded through with a plaintive reedy horn. Drum machine and electronic percussion provide a surge and scum-muck beat to the pulsing blood of turgid swollen eroticism, hate and despair.
Who Is This One continues with many of the same dark contemplative themes we had already explored, but with less innocence and naivete, and a good deal more calculation for certain effects.
The second side of the tape is full on apocalyptic scenes as humanity gets swallowed up, extinguished by the rending jaws of Hieronymous Bosch Villain Gods and a faceless Dictator sitting on a throne so high you can't see his face as he intones death to the individual as the human cattle are led to the slaughter. Dissolution, complete obliteration of matter and consciousness as the atoms shatter and blister.
"Red Houses", the first track on Side B of the tape, is a surreal story about a bad acid trip. Over a simple synthesizer line, there are three overlapping layers of my voice. It was night time as I wandered through a quiet residential district. Suddenly, all of the houses to the north started glowing blue in color and all those to the south glowed red. I knew that I needed to walk south to get back home, but I feared the red houses. The blue houses to the north reminded me of my brother's eyes, and therefore seemed friendly and safe. I was tormented by this awful conflict and started screaming out my brother's name. Finally, I was so torn up with fear and dread that I got down on the ground and started banging my head on the ground, and knocked myself out. When I woke up I found myself sitting in a ditch in cold water six inches deep, with a policeman's squad car light shining in my eyes.
The broken up decayed sound at the end of the title track was caused by the batteries dying in the Fostex as I mixed the 4-track tape down to a master cassette. It sounded so weird and fucked up, and seemed to fit the theme of the song so well, that I decided to keep it.
Debbie Jaffe wrote October 24, 2013:
remember thinking that Carl Howard's article is Artitude (available in the download) was insightful and that he "got it" way back when it first was published, at a time when so few people "got it" - I was resigned from the beginning to the thought that no one would ever understand it, that it would forever be thought of as "weirdo" nonsense.
I listened to the entire Who Is This One a few days ago and I believe it holds up completely. If anything, I think it sounds better today than when we recorded it. For some reason, I used to think Viscera was primitive and lacking in sound quality, but that isn't true at all, or the sound quality doesn't really matter in this case because the work has a "sense" about it. It has a feel, a mood, and it's very successful in creating that mood. I wouldn't change a thing about it.
I seem to recall I thought our recorded work should sound like Front 242 or something like that (the crisp professional sound that jumps from the speakers, I mean) and that was completely wrong-thinking on my part. The textures were a fluke yet extremely planned out (compared to our previous improv recordings) - things fell into place - and they sounded exactly as they should sound.
Who Is This One is a piece of art, beyond the confines of a recording studio. It works from the first track to the last haunting track with the crippling signal overload in the middle that was intentionally left in because it worked with the piece, it was as if it was supposed to be there, it was supposed to happen. It was performance art.
Yet I don't think either of us could have had a true sense of what we were doing back then. We were too young and inexperienced, and the equipment we used wasn't very good - luckily neither of those factors matter. There really was no way to know how it would hold up, or to be fully aware of what we were honestly doing back then.
That's not to say we weren't aware of what we were trying to do. I just think we didn't realize how close to that vision we were, and how great and complete the vision was. I listen now to it, and it's hard for me to remember details of the recording sessions themselves, but it was the first recorded with the Fostex 4 track cassette machine. I was 100% in favor of going multi-track - to me it would give us more flexibility and more creativity to do more with the tracks. It was like going from painting in just one color, to having an entire range of hues at your fingertips.
Who Is This One was the culmination of Viscera, the continuation of In A Foreign Film and A Whole Universe of Horror Movies - it addressed and answered those 2 previous releases and went miles beyond them. It was also, yes, the beginning of our separate projects and interests too, which I believe would have happened with or without the 4-track recorder.
I agree with Hal that Viscera never got its due, and I also feel that the recordings were and still are significant. Viscera was/is art. Who Is This One is perfect art, in my opinion. It has a specific vision and that vision never strays, from beginning to end.
For additional info on Who Is This One and Cause And Effect