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PAUL MAROTTA (Buy CDs by this artist)
Agit-Prop Piano (Do Speak) 1983
STYRENES
Girl Crazy (Mustard) 1982
HUDSON-STYRENE
A Monster and the Devil (Tinnitus) 1989

On his solo album, Marotta — a very early leading light in the Cleveland underground scene with such bands as the Poli Styrene Jass Band, which also contained future Pere Ubuites Anton Fier and Jim Jones — plays acoustic piano in a thickly overlapping, improvised mesh of ambient sound that can be considered either as serious avant-garde music or a hypnotic drone for trancing out. The two long pieces, much like Glenn Branca's work on guitars, go nowhere, but do something aurally seductive while getting there.

As a fascinating retrospective of a weird old band, the Styrenes' album (Marotta produced, co-wrote, sings and plays piano, guitar and bass with longtime cohort guitarist Jamie Klimek and others) is worth seeking out for its odd combination of styles and sounds. Best of all, it contains the crazed 1975 "Drano in Your Veins," one of America's first independent-label new wave records.

Marotta wrote and organized the brassy noir jazz/rock for A Monster and the Devil, providing a textured and kinetic bed for vocalist Mike Hudson (of Cleveland's legendary Pagans) to rhythmically riff seedy hard-edged stories about drug abusers and assorted losers. Hudson's casual conviction and Marotta's inventive instrumentation gives the mix of words and music a dramatic energy that's utterly riveting. Recommended to fans of Bukowski and Selby.

[Ira Robbins]