Founded in 1998 by musician and journalist Markus Detmer, for nearly three decades the German born, now France based Imprint, Staubgold, has stood at the forefront of radical and forward-thinking music. For most of this long history the label has favored contemporary efforts, bringing forth important albums by artists like Rafael Toral, Oren Ambarchi, Dean Roberts, Pascal Comelade, and numerous others, but every so often they’ve taken a dive into the shadows of history and brought up gems by the likes of Vivien Goldman, Family Fodder, Alternative TV, The Flying Lizards, Die Welttraumforscher, and Faust. Their latest, a brand new and much needed vinyl repress of General Strike’s lone, 1984 full length, “Danger in Paradise”, belongs to this later grouping. A wondrously immersion in pop infused experimental dub by the trio of David Toop, Steve Beresford, and David Cunningham, featuring contributions by Lol Coxhill, Dawn Roberts and Maartje Ten Hoorn, they couldn’t have timed this better. Few records could sound better in the glow of the summer light.
Compared to many of its European and American counterparts, the context of British free improvisation has always stood slightly apart. Radical, principled, and often bound to social and political upheavals of any given moment, the output of this scene - currently spanning more than a half-century of furious activity - includes some of the most singular and visionary gestures within the entire field of experimental sound. It was from this fertile territory that General Strike emerged during the late 1970s. Entirely repurposing what avant-garde music could sound like - infusing experimental tactics with the sounds of dub and pop - this “supergroup” made up of Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack, Terry Day, and David Toop, produced a lone 7" in 1979, before enlisting visionary voices like Lol Coxhill, Dawn Roberts and Maartje Ten Hoorn to produce their only full-length, “Danger in Paradise”, issued on cassette by Touch in 1984. Both of these releases are comprised by Staubgold’s first ever vinyl reissue of “Danger in Paradise”, fully remastered by none other than David Cunningham, making it the definitive document of their work.
General Strike’s activities effectively bookend the same period that both David Toop and Steve Beresford were working within the seminal outfit, Alterations, alongside Peter Cusack and Terry Day, and David Cunningham was leading The Flying Lizards, within which both Toop and Beresford also worked. General Strike took the pop and dub elements encountered within both Alterations and The Flying Lizards to their maximized extreme, producing an experimental music that bears almost none of the expected aesthetic hallmarks of experimentalism. In effect, the project might be understood as doing for avant-garde music what projects like P.I.L., The Slits, and New Age Steppers did for Punk.
“Danger in Paradise” was almost entirely recorded in Brixton in South London, with General Strike laying three tracks to tape at This Heat’s Cold Storage, and the remaining twelve in Cunningham’s studio down the street. From those sessions came a truly glorious and singular sound; one of those rare products of creativity that can’t help but reveal how much fun the artists had. Encountering Steve Beresford and David Toop playing a sprawling array of instruments - Beresford on vocals, bass, piano, Farfisa organ, Prophet 5, trumpet, flugelhorn, euphonium, percussion, glockenspiel, toy piano, melodica, etc., and Toop on vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, flutes, glockenspiel, tapes, etc. - with David Cunningham steering the sessions into uncharted territory through his tape treatments, the trio also invited Dawn Roberts to contribute vocals to the album’s brilliant opener, “My Other Body”, Lol Coxhill to contribute saxophone to two tracks, and Instant Composer Pool veteran, Maartje Ten Hoorn, to play violin on one.
Over the course of its nearly 40 years in existence, “Danger in Paradise” has often been referred to as possessing an otherworldly sound. While this is unquestionably a product of the album’s use of “dub echo” and tape manipulation on the part of Cunningham, it’s furthered by the presence of no less than two Sun Ra covers, “Interplanetary Music” - featuring Hoorn and Coxhill - and “We Travel the Spaceways” - featuring Coxhill - on the first and second sides of the LP. Within the larger body of recordings that make up the album, these sit as wondrous explosions of sonority and expression, entirely rethinking their original forms as dreamy explorations that sit amongst an absolutely stunning series of original compositions that embrace an almost “fourth world” tribalism, blending ambiences and dreamy melodies with clattering experiments and the sounds of the Caribbean.
And absolute marvel that, nearly 40 years down the road, feels as fresh, original, and relevant as it did the day it was first sent into the world, if ever there was a question of the visionary qualities possessed by the British avant-garde, “Danger in Paradise” is a record that tips the scales. Deeply engaging, creatively challenging, and nothing short of a blast to listen to. All hail the trio of David Toop, Steve Beresford, and David Cunningham. Issued as a beautiful, brand new, limited vinyl edition by Staubgold after remaining out of print for more than a decade, this is as essential as summer records come.