By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
The first Anopheles release I purchased was a 7-inch, Jim Shepard Plays the Songs of Kim Fowley. Shepard, who committed suicide in '98 after a quarter-century of musicmaking, was this visionary lo-fi art-punk from Columbus, Ohio. He was the archetypal outsider musician, and Karl Ikola, founder of the S.F.-based Anopheles imprint, understands this, because Ikola's mission is to unearth and reissue hyperobscure recordings created by outsider musicians active during the post-hippie, pre-new wave years of '74 to '78.
For the uninitiated, outsider music is created by unknown, isolated individuals -- often emotionally volatile and/or stridently weird -- who exist totally outside of all culture, mainstream and underground. Their highly valued records were originally released as private-press affairs, meaning the artist only pressed a few hundred copies, primarily for noncommercial reasons such as handing them out to family and friends.
Anopheles' latest reissue of legendary outsider music is the excellent Jungle Rot LP by George Brigman, who, at the age of 18, recorded this collection of moody, acid-fried blues-punk in Baltimore in '75. Brigman's creepy mumble 'n' moan and howling six-string buzz feel downright robotic, anticipating new wave's mechanical intensity. But the dude's axemanship also wanders off into hazy, reverb-soaked psych-freakery as if the '60s never ended.
An equally idiosyncratic marriage of punk (before punk existed!) and psychedelia can be heard on the Anopheles reissue of Debris' Static Disposal LP, originally released in '76. Each track on this absurdly manic art-rock classic is a mangled structure made of squealing saxes, screaming synths, guttural moans, chirping modulators, and screeching guitars. The musicians in Debris were obviously conceptual smartasses, but they also jammed hard with an in-the-red, garage-rock recklessness betraying their shitkicking Oklahoma City existence.
But the oddest entry in the Anopheles catalog so far has got to be Homestead & Wolfe's Our Times disc, originally released on vinyl in '75. Unlike the wonderfully piss-poor shoestring-budget recordings of Brigman and Debris, Homestead & Wolfe -- a vocal group "based around the United Methodist Good Samaritan church in Cupertino" -- created gloriously white-bread West Coast country-pop, which it recorded in some top-notch Hollywood studio with stellar session musicians, including drummer Hal Blaine (who pounded skins for Elvis). Our Times isn't my fave release from Anopheles, but it does contain sparkling Mamas & Papas-style harmonies reminiscent of overly effusive commercial jingles promoting Christian youth summer camps ... but a bit more stoned, which happens to be the best state of mind to achieve when delving into the strange world of outsider music.