Spike, Orange Cloud Nine

[Golf Channel Recordings]

In the early 1980s, Dutch artist Spike Wolters self-recorded and released a series of LPs via his own Spike Records. Some 30 years later, Phil South, operator of the Golf Channel label, has been working to bring this rare and largely forgotten material to fresh ears. Following on two EPs, Magic Table and New Germany, which saw his music remixed by Thomas Bullock and DJ Nature, Orange Cloud Nine offers the largest compendium of Wolters’ music to date. Despite the label’s and remixers’ dance music affiliations, one should note that Wolters principally dealt in low-key rock grooves, his guitar underscored by drum machine pulses and synthesizer inflections. There always seems to be a wealth of home-recorded relics around, but this record exemplifies how the open expectations of being your own boss can equal special results.

Doing everything yourself also means no one is around to tell you when not to edit, however. Parts of Orange Cloud Nine seem casually dashed off, and a couple of tracks cut out without warning. This, I suppose, is part of its rickety charm. But Wolters’ best moments are those which could feasibly become endlessly repeating loops: the spiraling coda of “Can You See Me,” or the low-slung “The Golden Eye,” with its cryptic voiceover and stargazing melody, for example. Both beg for the repeat button. The collection balances a 1970s burnout feeling with a more forbidding, Cold War one. This is somewhat split between the two sides, with the B made up mostly of the former, and the A the latter. The slack, slightly camp vocal delivery on the bluesy “Crazy Lazy” reminds of Ariel Pink (or any number of his DIY reference points). It sounds like it was plucked out on the couch, probably between bong hits. The gentle advice of the sunny “Your Time Has Come” is capped off with another wonderfully cascading coda. The electronic touches are noticeably limited on this side as well. On the flip, the icy pads that pervade “New Germany” conjure a darkened, comparably urban/industrial unease, while “Magic Table” balances a wispy vocal delivery and weighty guitar licks with eerie synthesizer, the lyrics again mysterious, about not forgetting to leave one’s troubles “on the table.” This balance illustrates Wolters’ appeal. His approach is unpretentious and easy — he definitely has a formula — but he is able to manipulate it in a number of directions.

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