EXHUMED: Kenneth Higney 'Attic Demonstration' LP

posted Monday Feb 9th, 2015

Long-regarded as an “outsider” grail, A. Demo finally sees its way to an easily found slab of wax. Named for one of the locations of the two studios it was recorded in, the album was originally released in September of ’76 on Kenneth’s own Kebrutney label as a means to put Higney’s demos in the hands of publishers and artists for use (seeing himself as more songwriter than performer). The thought in mind being a pre-made vinyl product bearing his bearded face would be an easier option than tapes made for every pursued instance. After a time, New York via Jersey native Higney also began selling the album in a few trade papers and received a decent review in Trouser Press—one of few reviews penned contemporaneously—before the release vanished into the collections of avid diggers yearning for the wild and whacked.

Attic Demonstration, musically speaking, isn’t an album so strange and “out” to offend the tastes of listeners not acquainted with a view from the outside, but Higney’s shaky, amelodic vox may not warm right up for some (though, all sounds a-ok to these ears and wears a ‘60s punk gone part mellow vibe). This is an album filled with singer/songwriter isolationist dementia and the sound of “smoke” addled, red-eyed road workers on a weekend bender creating positively damaged rock’n’roll numbers slathered in fuzz—courtesy guitarist Gordon Gaines, who Higney has expressed truly gave the music its “legs”—with a nothing left on the floor feel. Less skeletal, but still rambling on to a ramshackle groove of Indian love chant drums and strummy guitar, “Night Rider” lays Kenny’s rock’n’roll heart on the line establishing the duality on display, quickly followed by the mellow “Children of Sound” carrying heavily masked guitar tones coming off like burbling noise or a jew’s harp behind Higney’s Uncle Lou-esque delivery (Reed, natch) weaving a tale of the world where within all here are kin, the place where God exists as a perfect musical note. Referential to the man’s way of pay at the time “No Heavy Trucking”—appropriately where the set ends— is where mellow and mania all coalesce in a miasmic fireball building steam toward its intended drop, skidding off the rails with near No Wave chugging fuzz and barely contained meter before the whole ride evaporates into the ether. Pure magic… Over nine tracks you receive ear-grabbing ferocious fuzz and a darker, desolate take on the singer/songwriter idiom ranging from tossed off minimalism to maximum proto-punkian meandering towards an intended place in the shine.

Also making its way to the marketplace is Hig’s only flamin’ 45 from 1980, with a more “produced” feel than the demo sessions, making attempts to tap into the hit machine. Living in another world the A-side, “Funky Kinky,” (writ with Grace Jones in mind) could’ve lit up the No Wave/New York post-punk underground, but as it stands is a slice of fragmented, funky disco that could win over even the most anti’s in earshot if they’re open. While B-side, “I Wanna Be the King,” (a tribute to Johnny Thunders) continues the same amelodic vocal style we’ve come to love over a slowed, glammy groove and the phrase “I wanna be the king, I wanna play guitar. I hate the sissy music of John Den-var.” Just wait for this duo to light up the under areas dancefloors…

It’s curious to consider who the A. Demo songs were to be intended for, but with the nods to Thunders (and the Dead Boys) on “King”, one has to wonder if this hirsute fella aimed to pitch in the punk league. The forward, fractal quality of the album stands apart from your standard bedroom demo takes via a cast-off ‘60s disjointed punk jangle and naivety that is hard not to be consumed by. You simply gotta grab these releases with no haste if any of this reportage interested you. Step into a world…

Check out the original review in Ugly Things #34 right here

Check out a couple tracks right here: