Less a reissue than an exhumation, Owen Maercks’ lone album as mastermind—originally self-titled to not scare off prospective takers—was initially pressed in a limited run to solicit interest and distribute to radio stations and labels in 1978… sadly, to no avail. With a band led by free / improv guitarist Henry Kaiser and filled with the cream of Bay Area underground avant-jazzers, they created pop-centric avant-garage / psych-punk with wordy, disjointedly poetic, elliptical lyrics—given full consideration via an included lyric sheet—delivered in a manic, clipped vocal style by Maercks.
“Sleeping with Great Works of Art” serves as a perfect introduction—all the more appropriate when you mind the lyrics—erupting with its frenzied, surf riff, followed by a bubbling, minimalist take on the Nightcrawlers’ “Little Black Egg.” That duo illustrates the breadth of the project, deconstructing classic elements of ‘60s rock within a punk era context, filled with disorienting, and highly enjoyable varieties of guitar sounds—threading another stitch in the avant-garage lapel. Across the platter some raw power moves with nods to Williamson (“Nancy Calls Collect”), manic, fevered shrieks and destruction (“60 Cycle Hum”) akin to Pere Ubu—the first stitch—minimalist, molasses rhythms from the Velvets (“Information”) canon with spiraling bits of backwards psychedelic guitar figures, and a post-punk deconstruction of dark SF psych (“Asleep and Awake”) pop up, while spikes of out jazz are weaved throughout, most evident on “!Hoh!.”
Balancing the straight and noise-laced Maercks created an American underground classic sure to appeal to fans of early Eno, Ubu, the Bizarros, and Massachusetts band the Girls (stitch two—who Maercks auditioned for), with a kitchen-sink punk approach similar to UK legends the Homosexuals. American post-punk historian Byron Coley lays out the story in the detailed booklet.
(Album includes free download which adds three tracks by Owen’s later group Lizard Music.)
STREAM "Sleeping With Great Works of Art" and "Asleep and Awake" right here: