2LP + insert. First time vinyl reissue since the original 1980 version. Original remastered album plus second LP with unreleased extra tracks from 'Some Deaths Take Forever' recording sessions. Originally released on Pathé in 1980, the influence and the impact of Some Deaths Take Forever is still vibrating: Carl Craig mentioned it as his all time favorite album in Future Mag, the signature sound of Oneohtrix Point Never feels almost like a not so hidden tribute and the killer sci fi electronics of tracks Ressurector or A Kind Of Freedom resonates through the discography of Air and Daft Punk, to name a few. The album’s first ever vinyl reissue will feature 5 previously unreleased tracks taken from the same recordings sessions, as well as liner notes by Karel Beer and John Olson.
Recording an album about the feelings of two prisoners waiting on death row. As a statement against capital punishment. It was (and even still is nowadays) a delicate and ambitious plan. Bernard Szajner did it, in 1980, after watching an Amnesty International documentary. And stakes were high: at that point in his life Szajner has spent the majority of the 70's doing light and visuals for bands as Magma, Gong, Pink Floyd and The Who. In the meantime he created his own instrument, the 'Syringe', aka the first laser harp, and made his debut as a musician under the Z moniker with 'Visions of Dune'. When listening to 'Some Deaths Take Forever' in 2020 it's hard to believe it was recorded already four decades ago: the melancholic piano theme and the metallic synth riffs of opener 'Welcome to Death Row' set the tone for a mind blowing audio journey which at one moment echoes the vibe of early 80's gloom funk and derailed krautrock drenching into pulsating proto Detroit techno and on the other hand sounds like the blueprint for a futuristic electronic music scene in the years to come.
Excerpt liner notes John Olson: "Szajner's album here sounds different with each listen, a new unnoticed corner blaring aloud to be (re)discovered within any of the ten tracks: strongest mark of a classic if there was any. So buckle in, spray yourself with this electric insecticide and let your shadowy sentence ring out with a "loud clanging noise that turned out be an electronic gavel."
Excerpt liner notes Karel Beer: Now 40 years later when listening to "Some Deaths..." in spite of the uncompromising subject matter and knowing that the written word is his most influential source of inspiration I am struck by the unexpected references that can be heard on the tracks. There's Shaft, Jeff Beck, Morricone, Weather Report and even Timmy Thomas. A truly eclectic bunch that somehow makes sense of an era. It's almost as if Szajner is applying these accidental or intentional influences just as an artist would use inks, oils or found forms to a canvas.
Bernard Szajner’s music is anachronistic in the best possible way. His sound is the equivalent of steampunk in science fiction; where steampunk imagined a 19th century that was already computerized, Szajner’s music is an early 1980s ‘rock’ that already seems to incorporates elements of house, techno and electro. The difference, of course, is that steampunk’s universe was retrospectively dreamt up by writers more than 100 years after the 19th century, whereas Szajner’s alternative ’80s sound world was produced when that decade had barely begun. It’s as if he unravelled the standard sequences of 1970s-into-’80s pop history even before they had properly been established. Take ‘Welcome To Death Row’, the opening track of his recently reissued 1980 LP Some Deaths Take Forever: its frenzied machine-scribbles of arpeggiated synth, languid electric piano chords and lysergic guitar sounds like an acid rock anticipation of the Knight Rider theme as remixed by Derrick May. Elsewhere, you can hear snatches of shortwave radio that prefigure the samples commonplace in pop and dance music later that decade. Yet Some Deaths Take Forever can be heard not only as a pre-echo of what was then the near-future of music, but also as a continuation of prog-rock conceptualism, as the presence of bassist Bernard Paganotti, from French prog band Magma, here suggests. Grenoble-born Szajner wasn’t originally a musician; in fact, he always thought of the music that he did produce as an offshoot of his work as the lighting and visual effects designer for artists such as Gong, The Who and Magma. Szajner’s records are a relic of a never-quite-realized 1970s’ dream of multimedia art, and Some Deaths Take Forever was conceived of as the soundtrack to an Amnesty International film about prisoners on death row. Its precursors were other soundtracks, particularly the angular anxiety of the electronic scores John Carpenter composed for Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Halloween (1978). Like Carpenter – and Gary Numan, who made his breakthrough records in the year preceding the release of Some Deaths… – Szajner disassociated synthesizers from the hygienic purity found in Jean Michel Jarre’s work. (Jarre, incidentally, had made use of Szajner’s invention, the laser harp, which allowed musicians to trigger synthesizers with lasers.) The world evoked by Szajner’s synthesizers is dirty, brutal and broken. It’s psychedelic, but in the urban, paranoid schizophrenic way that Cabaret Voltaire were (and with its hallucinogenic flashes of seagull-squawk simulated brass and sombre, tuba-like synthesizer bass, ‘Suspended Animation’ resembles the Cabs at their most tripped out and remorseless).
There is a kind of serrated beauty here, too, particularly on some of the tracks that didn’t appear on the original vinyl LP. On the final moments of ‘A Single Broken Wing’, a pitiless synth gives way to a sudden stillness that puts me in mind of sunlight reflected in broken glass. The closing track, ‘S-N-O-W-P-R-I-N-T-S’, finishes in this meditative mode, glistening and shimmering like artificial ice.
In 1980, Bernard Szajner composed a short piece of music for Amnesty International's campaign against the death penalty, and then expanded it to a full-length recording. The original art work included the Declaration on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, and Szajner dedicated the album to Amnesty International (he tried to donate all royalties to that organization, but their constitution made it impossible for them to accept them in such fashion). Some Deaths Take Forever is a concept album that is dark, brooding, and futuristic; an inventive album firmly rooted in rock, much like other quirky recordings of the era by Gary Numan, Jean-Michel Jarre, Robert Fripp, and pre-ambient Brian Eno. Szajner's day job as a visual effects artist helped him recruit top-notch musicians from such influential European groups as Magma, Heldon, and Gong, who effectively add color, rhythm, and texture to his robotic and hypnotic keyboard work. The first three tracks, subtitled "First Phase," are somber electro as we follow a condemned prisoner into prison with the brooding "Welcome (To Death Row)," to wait despairingly in his cell until the final execution devolves into fuzzy drones, feedback screams, and whines, building the sense of dread until sudden silence ends side one. The rest of the album, "Phase Deux," probes the dark and dismal reality of lengthy imprisonment, with often reflective, hypnotic, trancey music interrupted sporadically by the inconsequential sounds of a pocket radio, concluding with the sad, elegant "A Kind of Freedom," a paean to man's ability to hope despite seemingly hopeless situations. Most surprisingly, listening to "Some Deaths Take Forever" is not really a gloomy listen, but manages to suggest the strength of human spirit and the values of justice and humanism, despite its dark subject matter. Szajner (somewhat controversially) remixed and re-edited the long out of print album for the 1999 CD release on Spalax, so it is a bit easier to locate a copy. Exploring themes of death and imprisonment, Szajner's Some Deaths Take Forever created an urgent and unsettling minor masterpiece that deserves to be recognized as a classic of '80s French cold Wave and experimental electronica, and as such is highly recommended to all fans of those genres.