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Ka-Spel, Edward: Laugh China Doll

Legendary Pink Dots front man Edward Ka-Spel first released Laugh China Doll along with Dance China Doll on vinyl back in 1984, which represented his first forays at the time outside of the band, now Beta-lactam Ring Records is getting around to reissuing some of his back catalogue, these 2 releases included. If you consider for a moment the musical climate at the time in which this album was recorded, the alternative scene and a large part of the pop scene was full of post new wave synth nonsense, so this release must have come across as being rather strange and out of place compared with the rest of the music of the times, unless you happened to be already familiar with Ka-Spel's work with the Dots. At the same time it was probably seen as a breath of fresh air, released at a time when the term 'alternative' actually meant something different to what was being offered by the mainstream, not what you'd expect from an artist sporting the alternative tag today. Over twenty years later this CD still seems out of place in many ways, as if frozen in time, yet it still packs an emotional punch that cannot be denied.

Laugh China Doll as a whole is awash in synth minimalism and stripped down beats and while the tracks exude a rather, trippy, hypnotic quality over the listener, so don't be fooled by the sometimes seemingly simplistic nature of things. Underneath it all Ka-Spel's genuinely dark subject matter paints a rather bleak picture of things in his world. Tracks such as "Lilith's Daughter" and "Suicide Pact" stick out for their sheer, black lyrical imagery. Listening to Laugh China Doll in its entirety can prove challenging even to connoisseurs of this style of music, so if this is your first exposure to Ka-Spel's music, best not to dive in all the way. Repeated listens of this disc over a period of time still left me feeling a bit cold and overall this one didn't grab me as his last effort A Long Red Ladder To The Moon did, which was really a stunning piece of work (see my review of this disc in SOT's archive review section). That being said there is beauty to be found even in the darkest perimeters of this disc and its good points far outweigh the lyrical heaviness, but tread carefully. Not recommended for casual listeners of this genre however.

Track Listing
1) Lilith's Daughter
2) Eye Contact
3) Lady Sunshine
4) Find The Lady
5) Requiem
6) Suicide Pact
7) Paradise Then
8) Irrational Anthem
9) Lisa's Funeral / The Glass Moved By Itself
10) Atomic Roses
11) Even Now
12) Dance Of The China Dolls
13) Moments
14) The Fool, With Hammers
15) Suicide Pact (Vienna 1988)

Added: April 30th 2007
Reviewer: Ryan Sparks
Related Link: Beta-lactam Ring Records
Hits: 5167
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ka-Spel, Edward: Laugh China Doll
Posted by Kerry Leimer, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-04-30 15:44:56
My Score:

A time capsule of sorts, containing an approach to music largely reliant on the technology of its day, since largely subsumed by the technology of our day, Laugh China Doll is a "reissue" of Ka-Spel's first solo and profoundly analog effort circa 1984 – a magical date in and of itself. There is a worthwhile and even charming naïveté evident throughout the restless probing of style and technique, more often over substance. Imitations of Deutsche Techno-Pop snuggle up to intimations of just about everything else that was going on then, with varied degrees of success and interest. Connections to later work with the Legendary Pink Dots are readily evident – perhaps it even manages a belated nod to the Tape-Op rigors perfected on The Faust Tapes. Laugh China Doll gets way more right than wrong as an artifact of aural "outsider art". It also gets the "Suicide Pact" right, since at last count Vienna still leads the Western World. Reason enough to own a copy.

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