Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chrisma - 1977 - Chinese Restaurant LP (IT)

Chrisma - 1977 - Chinese Restaurant LP (IT)
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Chrisma (and later Krisma) were a kind of early Italian incarnation of Moloko. Both are boy/girl combinations making slightly wacky albums, where the focus is more on style and a certain weird cool image rather than being musically very interesting. The band-name is constructed from the first names of Christina Moser and Maurizio Arcieri, who also claim a punk-influence when starting out with the band in 1976. Well, maybe……we'll have to take their word for it, as it certainly doesn't show up in their music, which is more like synth-pop. Which brings us to the Vangelis connection, the nature of which has been a hot topic in Vangelis-related discussions for years.Apparently, Polydor's Italian branch signed the group after which they were contacted by Niko Papathanassiou (Vangelis' older brother, who was employed by Polydor at the time) who proceeded to be involved in their first two projects "Chinese Restaurant" and "Hibernation" as arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Niko persuaded Vangelis to lend them his Nemo studio during the 1977 summer holiday period to record what would become the "Chinese Restaurant" album (although the finishing touches were applied in a Milan studio). Vangelis' regular engineer at the time, Keith Spencer-Allen, helped out technically and computer-narrated the final "Thank You" track, his then girl-friend Veronique Skawinska took the large number of photographs featured on the gatefold-sleeve and Niko was allowed to use his brother's synthesizer set-up. That, in all likelihood, is the whole story, because if indeed Vangelis played some of the music himself, it is inaudible. The only real candidate for this anyway is the track called "Lycee" which at least obviously uses his instruments (slight echoes of "Beaubourg" here). But the actual, rather hesitant-sounding playing on it doesn't bear Vangelis' signature unless, extremely unlikely, he really didn't put his mind to it or something. The other tracks don't sound like they even used the Nemo instruments, or at best only occasionally.Vangelis switched to Polydor himself the next year (continuing the "China" theme for his first project there) and asked Christina and Maurizio to return the favour on his 1980 "See You Later" album, where apparently they provided the Italian lyrics and voices at the end of "Suffocation". Interestingly, that album is almost Chrisma-like in its wackiness, so it could well be a fair guess that, over the course of all those Chinese dinners, they might have talked Vangelis into doing something different on the rather odd "See You Later".At least on that album there's some decent music, which can't really be claimed for "Chinese Restaurant". The whole affair sounds rather bland, neither Christina nor Maurizio (who obviously took a leaf out of the book of Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham) are great vocalists, and the song-material is average at best. "Lola" is a decent song, the mere usage of Vangelis-sounds is enough to inject a bit of atmosphere in "Lycee" and poor Keith Spencer-Allen must have been bribed ("2 Chinese meals for free !") into parodying his contribution to "Albedo 0.39" on the final "Thank You". But this band was always more to do with style than content, and probably succeeded there.
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Review by Ivar de Vries (link)

8 comments:

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This time we present you with a mystery, a riddle yet unsolved... In the second half of 1977 an Italian punk-rock group with the name Chrisma (based on the member names, Christina Moser and Maurizio Arcieri) recorded an album in Vangelis' studios. It is produced by Vangelis' brother Niko Papathanassiou and it has been claimed that Vangelis played on it himself, but this has never been confirmed. One year later they returned with "Hibernation", which is surrounded by the same mysteries.

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