Release Date: May 13, 2014
Record label: Light in the Attic Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Experimental Rock, Art Rock, Experimental Ambient, New Wave
The liner notes for Light in the Attic’s new reissue of L’Amour, the only known album by an artist known as Lewis, read more like a murder mystery than a making-of. In 1983, a guy named Randall Wulff showed up at Music Lab studio in Los Angeles with a white Mercedes convertible, a beautiful girlfriend, perfect hair, and a handful of ethereal synth-pop-folk tunes. Wulff then hired photographer Ed Colver, best known for documenting the West Coast punk scene, to shoot the starkly monochromatic album cover.
The problem with reviewing hyperobscure reissues ?like Lewis’s mysterious L’Amour album is that the writer has to spend a great deal of time trudging through backstory and rehashing the press release or liner notes. Still, the scene needs to be set, the context needs to be put in place, and the existence of the record itself needs to be justified. But let’s be clear - no one particularly cared about this album coming out.
Los Angeles, 1983. Randall Wulff, a tall, athletic jock with a perfectly swept mane of blonde hair leaves the Beverley Hills Hotel in a white Mercedes convertible with his beautiful girlfriend in tow. Their destination is the Music Lab studio, where Randy will record an album of quietly devastating love songs under the nom de plume of Lewis before apparently disappearing from the face of the earth, leaving a trail of debt and a minor masterpiece in his wake.
What a strange and singular album this is. Recorded in 1983 by one Randall Wulff – a man who looks like a humanoid from Blade Runner, played the stock market, paid for the sleeve image for his vanity album with a cheque that bounced, and now can't be traced – L'Amour is so private it sounds transgressive, so diaphanous it might echo the sighing of ghosts. Every song comes across as a coded declaration of passion for someone inaccessible and intangible.
It’s very nearly impossible not to be initially drawn in to Light in the Attic’s recent reissue of the obscure vanity press, L’Amour, based solely on its cover image. Against a stark white backdrop, a confident yet enigmatic (almost smug) smile sits on a Romanesque face beneath perfectly sculpted blonde hair, knowing eyes, and shirtless torso, all hallmarks of the time in which the mysterious Lewis (nee Randall Wulff) recorded this strange little album in Los Angeles. But a closer examination begins to reveal the cracks in the façade: the face isn’t nearly as young as an initial glance would indicate, with lines beginning to appear across the forehead and around the eyes and mouth; the hair isn’t quite as blonde as first assumed and, given the darker shades above the ears, could even be the result of a gradual greying; and the seemingly pristine skin carries with it a weathered look that would indicate not a young man, but rather someone perhaps on the cusp of middle age, making a last attempt at a dying dream fueled by a quickly diminishing youth.
Mononymous Canadian crooner Lewis' only known album, 1983's L'Amour (which must certainly have been a cheeky reference to pulpy Western author Louis L'Amour), is an atmospheric, introspective set of almost narcoleptic synth and acoustic pop ballads. Think a mumblecore take on Bryan Ferry or David Bowie singing on Ambien and you'll come close to the sound Lewis achieved on L'Amour. This is chilly, synth-based music featuring long instrumental stretches, punctuated by Lewis' almost unintelligible if not unpleasant singing.