Founded by Eric Jensen & the late Bill DiMichele (RIP), the lifespan of San Francisco based project Batang Frisco (‘San Francisco Kids’ in the Filipino dialect Tagalog) is inimitably distilled on this solitary self-titled record, an outlandish private press pearl of homespun minimal synth music.
Recorded over the course of 1985/6 and self-released in 1986, the one and only Batang Frisco LP was the product of an inconspicuous DIY existence spent in the margins of the Bay Area scene in the 1980s. Consequently, the duo’s defining debut remained an enigmatic article at the time, overlooked by many but admired by the lucky few. A miraculous curio of haywire electronics, crude drum machines, raucous 80s riffage, glistening soundscapes, irreverent, surrealistic lyricism and doctored samples, ‘Batang Frisco’ has since gained well-merited cult recognition.
A story set before the first tech boom, in a San Francisco business district, described by the duo as a spiritual chronicle of Russian esotericism, magic, truth, and transcendence, ‘Batang Frisco’ represents a bizarre harmony of raw experimentation and madcap humour, of bristling, sequenced rhythms, and beguiling, amorphous reverie.
There are oblique anthems that veer into scuffed synth pop (‘Power’), ersatz DIY disco (‘Sewing Machine’), and dystopic industrial (‘6th and Mission’), sinuous collages of austere synthesis and granulated cut-ups (‘Care / Know’), as well as moments of heartfelt songcraft and irradiated, serene ambient (‘Julie’, ‘Myth’). There are anomalies too. ‘The Fourth Way’ is a crooked piece of rudimentary toy-like instrumentation and stark, doleful vocals, and ‘What Is Your Intimate Name’ transitions abruptly between wild atonality and slow, introspective tones. Throughout DiMichele unfurls strange, striking imagery of xerox skies, electric vectors, malignant pressures, infidels, cults, drowned kings, and data floors, displaying a unique perspective and a wicked turn of phrase, amongst broader contentions with urban living, sex, consciousness, and dreams.
Although Batang Frisco may partly evoke the lurid, mutated preset punk of mid-period Chrome / early Damon Edge, as well as the playful, infectious Dadaism of Zru Vogue – something must have been in the water in San Francisco at the time – they remain an original proposition, with a legacy that has only been belatedly acknowledged in recent years. ‘Power’ was featured on the Dark Entries retrospective compilation ‘Bay Area Retrograde Volume 1’, and ‘Sewing Machine’ has become a familiar favourite in the DJ sets of Nosedrip (Stroom) and Interstellar Funk, who featured the track on the Artificial Dance compilation ‘Interstellar Funk Presents: Artificial Dancers – Waves of Synth’.
Yet, back in their own milieu and left to their own devices, the album Batang Frisco threw together for an unsuspecting audience is still the definitive portal into the singular world of these unconventional sons from SF.
The reissue of ‘Batang Frisco’ is out now via B.F.E Records. Available on Limited Edition Vinyl (500 copies) & Digital Formats.
Remastered from the original analogue tapes. Includes insert booklet with liner notes, reviews & photos. Licensed from Numero Group.
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