Boomkat Product Review:
Necessary new reissue of Chandra’s cult 80's new wave obscurities, including her sought-after 1980 debut EP plus later recordings, all adding up to the definitive Chandra release.
As the daughter of famed conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim and an equally open-minded mum Phyllis Jalbert, Chandra Oppenheim was born in the midst of ‘70s NYC at a time when punk, mutant disco, hip hop, no wave and Madonna were all emerging. By the age of 9 she had already opened for a Laurie Anderson performance and formed a band with Eugenio Diserio and Steven Alexander of Model Citizens and The Dance. After a year of rehearsals, Chandra’s finely honed improv skills and ahead-of-her-years lyrics would front ‘Transportation’, the group’s first EP of wryly razor sharp guitar, discoid bass and wonky dub-style melodica. It was issued to widespread acclaim from the music and art media - described as “Delta 5 meets the Jackson 5” by David Ma - yet Chandra’s decision to focus on school meant that her 2nd EP recording lay unreleased until 2008.
This record contains both her cult debut and it’s follow-up, plus two bonus songs written during the same period. With few exceptions in the history of music, the collected ‘Transportation EP’s’ frame a unique mesh of ideas that arguably could not have emerged at any other point in musical history. Chandra was effectively the starchild of an era in which cultural, socio-economic and political conditions created the space where a 10 year old could express herself quite like this, with lyrics about climbing up 6 storey buildings and exploring themes of mind control, multiple personalities and missing the train, all set to music comparable with arch examples of the era, from France’s Lizzie Mercier Descloux to Y Pants.
It’s perhaps harder than ever to imagine an artist such as Chandra emerging today. That’s not to say that there aren’t youthlings making interesting music right now (check NON Worldwide’s Safa compilation for starters!), it’s hard to see any adult taking them seriously enough to form a band with them, never mind let them front it and even invite all their wee pals to join. Taking that all into context, the ’Transportation EP’s’ recordings are truly remarkable, and enduringly so, from the evergreen perk of ’Subways’, which was recently sampled on The Avalanches comeback album, to the naturally forward lean of the two bonus songs, recorded in 1983 and full of future popwise promise that still shines over 35 years later.