Boomkat Product Review:
Manchester’s legendary, pivotal post-punk unit comprising Linder Sterling and Ian Devine, a.k.a Ludus, are subject of this long overdue anthology from Les Disques Du Crepuscule, collecting all tracks from their early compilation, Nue Au Soleil (Complètement) plus stacks more single, album, Peel Sessions and rare live cuts in the same place, for the first time.
The undoubted locus of Ludus is Linder Sterling; originally an art school student from Wigan who came to study in Manchester, Linder was there at The Sex Pistols 2nd show at The Free Trade Hall where she met Pete Shelley and subsequently became a main muse for Manchester’s punk scene, becoming instrumental to the inception of New Hormones for her definitive collage cover art on the Orgasm Addict 7”, later contributing to Factory with her Menstrual Abacus (Fac 8) and a part in Factory Flick (Fac 9), before her notorious meat-dress made from discarded chicken meat debuted at the Haçienda in 1982 - at the end of the period under review here - decades before Lady Gaga copied her.
But that’s not to discount Ian Devine input to Ludus, too. Moving from Cardiff to Manchester in 1979, he quickly expanded the Ludus remit from punk via the improvised musics of Evan Parker and Derek Bailey, and played foil to Linder’s remarkable vocal range, which variably referenced Meredith Monk, Annette Peacock, Yoko Ono, Urzula Dudziak.
So it may well come as a happy surprise that Ludus don’t really sound like any of the above, at all. As you’ll cop across these 29 songs, they excelled in making a loose yet compact form of avant-pop equally open to punk’s melodic spikiness and the freeform clatter of improvisation, and wherever the feeling takes them - for example, from the mesh of rolling tribal drums and Linder’s soaring operatics in How High Does The Sky Go? or frolicking no wave jazz skronk in Howling Comique, thru to svelte, lilting palm wine guitar and Antenna-like bossa pop in The Escape Artist, to pieces which recall a prototypical Mr. Bungle in Mother’s Hour, or e subversive disco-pop on Little Girls - perhaps most definitely in the Peel Session recording of Vagina Gratitude - with Linder’s always pointed lyrics exhorted and puckered in styles ranging from yelps and shrieks to piercing extended technique and animalistic or orgiastic glossolalia.
It’s maybe baffling that Linder isn’t better known by the generation who followed her, but thanks to the fact her son, Maxwell Sterling, is now making brilliant music of his own, including collaboration between the pair, this anthology will serve a necessary introduction, where needed, to this pioneering, challenging and important artist and her band.