Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ssay Yess to Ess


Barbara Ess "Oblivion Call Me to Ya (Part III)" (5:22), 1982 from Live to Air: Artist's Sound Works

Y Pants - "Magnetic Attraction", 1980, Gail Vachon: ukulele; Barbara Ess: bass; Verge Piersol. drums, Vocals: all. (3:11) from Audio By Visual Artists Tellus 21

Y Pants - "Obvious" from s/t
Y Pants - Discography (!)

Commentary from Meshes of the Afternoon:

In 1979, the Y Pants came together out of a few impromptu jam sessions between filmmaker Gail Vachon and No-Wave mainstay Barbara Ess. Ess had previously played with The Static and Theoretical Girls, while Vachon found herself increasingly distracted by the soundtracks to her films. The two soon enlisted the help of Virginia “Verge” Piersol, who, despite never having played drums, would provide the rhythmic groundwork for all of Y Pants’ music. Vachon played a toy grand piano she found on the street, while Ess brought along a thumb drum and a ukulele. Piersol’s first drums were “a Mickey Mouse kit with paper heads, combined with a regular tom-tom.” The Y Pants were born.

Of course, everyone loved them. With their toy instruments and quotations from Emily Dickinson and Brecht set to music, by December of that year they were opening for Glenn Branca and would soon head to the studio with the No-Wave godfather as their producer. Summer of 1980 saw the release of their debut EP on 99 Records, Y Pants, and the trio was regularly playing clubs like CBGBs, Tier 3 and Irving Plaza. They were also big on the gallery scene: gigs at Franklin Furnace, White Columns, etc. The liner notes to Periodic Document’s 1998 discography collection, long out-of-print and now re-pressed for the first time, is filled with quotes from the likes of Kiki Smith and Dan Graham, confirming the fact that everything I know about punk I learned from art history. Graham even placed their “percussive primitivism and girl vocal teasing playfulness” in the same league as The Slits and The Raincoats. But soon after the release of their sole LP, Beat it Down (Neutral, 1982), the Y Pants broke up and quickly faded to obscurity. They weren’t featured on Eno’s No New York, nor did they morph into a new wave hit machine. They simply came and went, leaving some sixteen songs behind them.

The music is beyond reproach – otherwise I wouldn’t have already written so much.
See also: Radio Guitar / Barbara Ess & Peggy Ahwesh

1 comment:

Matt said...

Y pants is great. I only wish ubu's servers weren't down.