ZE records was to New York in the late 70s and early 80s what DFA may have been a few years ago at the crest of the Brooklyn electroclash craze. Except back in the days of Warhol, the cultural spheres were so enmeshed that to be at the center of the music world meant to have one's hand in art, film and fashion. And in that cross-pollination, music had the freedom to be weirder. ZE had its hand in both No Wave, a “movement” that rose in large part to the No New York compilation Brian Eno put together of four artists (who all issued releases with ZE), as well as the burgeoning disco scene, with acts like Lizzy Mercier Descloux and James Chance crossing that seemingly inexorable divide between dance and angular noise. ZE shook off its dusty catalog five years ago and continues to release old material while recently signing a new act as well. There's no way of knowing whether a label that epitomized one era can return to do it again for a second, but its at least exciting to have these old releases more easily accessible.
ZE was formed by Michael Zilkha, Oxford graduate and wealthy heir to a large UK retailer, and a French art student and business man named Michel Esteban, who was introduced to Zilkha by John Cale while working for that stalwart of the New York scene at Spy records. While ZE was left to shrivel on the vine in the mid eighties, with Zilkha having long left music (currently he's engaged in the renewable energy business), Esteban revived the legendary label in 2002, initially for the purpose of reissuing old material in France. And while it seems that the label is now looking to fresh talent with the recent signing of Michael Dracula, the reissue parade continues with a curated release I'd call a mixtape if it weren't selected by a little old lady with a flair for flower print Jupes (at a bargain $305!). agnès b. was a mainstay of the fashion world well before she set up her first New York boutique in SoHo in 1981, so she's actually a perfect taste maker for a scene whose cultural colors bled so frequently. Her choices feature two out of the four No New York bands as well as others associated with the scene. It also includes a final track by that aforementioned haunting Scottish act, Michael Dracula.
01 PINI PINI – ARTO / NETO
02 LADY SCARFACE – LYDIA LUNCH
03 TORSO CORSO – LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX
04 OUTLAW –(AUGUST DARNELL REMIX) – ALAN VEGA
05 CONTORT YOURSELF – JAMES CHANCE & THE CONTORTIONS
06 THE CLOSET – TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS
07 I’M AN INDIAN TOO – DON ARMANDO’S 2ND RHUMBA BAND
08 LA POUPÉE QUI FAIT NON – CRISTINA
09 NARCISSIQUE – CAROLINE LOEB
10 FRENCH BOY – GARÇONS
11 WHEEL ME OUT – WAS (NOT WAS)
12 WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU ? – MICHAEL DRACULA