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(TV) The Halal File

So now I'm the happy owner of Jutta Koether's "Tha Halal File", released by Standard Graphik Kvln in 1990. Or should I say the not-too-happy owner?

Never expected this to be a record featuring hitherho unknown Verlaine songs - but perhaps some background playing to some of his fiancie's painting expo's. No such luck.

It's 45 minutes of traffic noise, police car sirens, subway trains, a NYC train driver's brief announcing to passengers, people whistling, birds singing, sounds from an elevator, someone yelling in Spanish, someone's arguing in German, someone playing on a saxophone couple of seconds, sounds of shoes walking on sidewalks, sounds of shoes walking up stairs, a Lisa Satnsfield soul tune on a distant transistor radio, distant Chinese music - perhaps from a Chinese restaurant. It's all divided in one German Version and one English Version. You could tell, because a German woman - Koether, I assume - read sort of an artistic manifesto in those languages through the end of each part. The talking goes like "According to my state the world offers itself to me. According to my state color in space is laughing at me".

The reading is like a poem, interrupted by the word "Halal". Halal to me is the Muslim equivalence to the Jew's Kosher - even though I consider myself to be one of the more literate in this discussion group, I can't count out the possibilty that someone else could be more informed about the meaning of "Halal". But I think it has soemthing to do with purity - maybe it's the purity of art Koether's reaching for? (By the way, I've once visited what was called the world's largest Kosher slaughterhouse, in Iowa of all places. "No cattle killing today", one of the staff informed me prior to our study visit. "Just chicken killing." But we did get a demonstration of the cattle killing - our guide showed us the big, big sharp, sharp knife. A Kosher meat factory is like a bull fighting arena: you shouldn't go unless you're interested; you shouldn't go if you feel sorry for the poor animals, and hope for them to fight back or escape their cruel fate.)

OK, let's move over to the liner notes. Words and music are credited to Koether, with concept and production "with Tom Verlaine". It was made at Sorcerer Studio in NYC, familiar to all of us. One Reni Tinner at Can-Studio, Weilerswist is thanked, as is Peter Cadera. Unfamiliar to me, but a fast Googling says that the former has engineered some Holger Szukay records, and that the latter appear on a Kraftwerk discussion list, seems to do A&R work for some label and could be involved in some "spoken word" business. Standard Graphik Kvln is apparently a art gallery in Kvln, not a record company; the issue number is SG1.

The poem, or whatever it is, is printed in the eight-page booklet, in which red is the only decoration colour. One Hans Nieswandt (according to another Googling, a DJ and an painter) writes an essay about the content; he call it a "bizarre stroll", and he definitely have a point there. It's also a "universal city noise", a "collective improvisation by a gigantic band... even if the individual musicians are not aware of the others and no composer is present". It's also "the opposite of New Age ambient music". And it's "pop and has to be heard pop - loud".

This is an exclusive and obscure effort - and not only because of its non-commercial value but also since it couldn't be manufactured in very many copies. Not unless Koether is some sort of superstar in her home country, a celebrity that could sell just about anything. There's some puzzling mysteries that remains unsolved, too. I ordered it through the German Net record store CyberCD, and their catalogue contains not only "Jutta Koether: The Halal File", but also "Jutta Koether feat. Tom Verlaine: The Halal File". I ordered both, but only got the latter. Just one copy of it - the last one in stock; the not-with Verlaine isn't available at all anymore. But - the one copy I got doesn't say ANYTHING about it being a "feat. Tom Verlaine" item. Could be, but maybe not. One might contemplate over what the content of this record would be in an altered version, with more or less Verlaineian input. My brain just come up with an "error" if I give this thought a thought. There's a possibility too, of course, that there have never existed any other version than the one I've got. Because of... well, I don't know.

So this rarity hardly belongs in the catalogue of Verlaine music. Obviously, he was involved in the shaping of it, but there's no signs of it. None at all. Take my word for it.

Now I feel somewhat robbed. Not that it was too expensive, but it wasn't quite what I'd expected or hoped for. Although some expressed envy from you completists will make me feel a bit happier.

Leif J, Sweden

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