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Three Beats: Deiphago play their first U.S. show at a Chicago metal fest 

Plus: Sally Timms’s bizarre first recordings resurface after three decades, and Johnny Love returns to “reeducate” Chicago partiers

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click to enlarge Sally Timms's Soundtrack of the Film Hangahar
  • Sally Timms's Soundtrack of the Film Hangahar

JAZZ | Peter Margasak

In 1980, five years before she became a member of the Mekons—and almost a decade before the Mekons began to establish their intimate connection to their surrogate hometown of Chicago—Sally Timms was a huge fan of the Buzzcocks, following the band from gig to gig and eventually befriending charismatic leader Pete Shelley. "I would just drive over from Harrogate and turn up at Pete's pretty squalid back-to-back house that he shared with a variety of people," she says. "Everyone would drink multiple cups of tea and stay up all night listening to Roxy Music or Jean Michel Jarre records."

On one visit she mentioned that she and a friend had made up an imaginary language, and that she'd played around with singing it in a faux-operatic voice. On a whim Shelley suggested that they visit a recording studio the next day to get her performance on tape, and before the end of the year he'd released the results on his short-lived Groovy Records label. Billed to Sally Smmit & Her Musicians, Soundtrack of the Film Hangahar—the movie didn't exist—is a wonderfully strange album, mixing abstract alto warbling, squiggly electronics, erratic garage-sale beats, and exploratory electric guitar. It was recently reissued as part of The Total Groovy, a four-CD box set on Drag City that collects the entire output of the label, including Shelley's own Sky Yen, a piercing solo synthesizer recording made in 1974. All four volumes are also available individually on vinyl.

"We set up pots and pans as percussion and took along [Pete's] synths, and he shouted 'Go,' which you hear at the start of the second side," says Timms. Shelley added some effects while mixing the album, but otherwise everything you hear was improvised live. "It was my first experience of recording in a studio, so that in itself was a game changer for me," says Timms. "I had never thought being a 'musician' would be part of my life, or that you could just 'make a record.'"

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