Sacred Bones Records released the lost album from Alan Vega, entitled Mutator, on April 23rd. Vega’s name is not one I had previously encountered but from what I could gather was creating right up until his passing, whether with protopunk duo Suicide or solo. Obviously this meant that there was a whole host of material that didn’t see the light of day immediately when it was recorded, which came to be known as the Vega Vault. Mutator is the first in a series of archival releases from the Vault that will come out on Sacred Bones Records. It was recorded with his long-time collaborator Liz Lamere and discovered in the vault in 2019 by both Lamere and his close friend and confidante Jared Artaud (The Vacant Lots).
The visual artist, musician, and poet Alan Vega was born in Brooklyn in 1938. He co-founded the massively influential avant-garde band Suicide with Martin Rev in 1970, with whom he performed off and on throughout his life. Suicide’s debut album was included among Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and it was a formative work in the invention of synth-punk, post-punk, art rock, industrial music, and more.
Vega would go on to have a prolific career as a solo artist. His hit song Jukebox Babe led to a contract with Elektra Records, who released two albums including the cult classic Saturn Strip, produced by Ric Ocasek. From there, he went back to exploring sounds in the studio. This era resulted in new solo records coming out consistently throughout the next several decades; starting with Deuce Avenue, continuing through Dujang Prang (on Henry Rollins’ 2.13.61 imprint), and culminating with his masterpiece It. Vega thought the music of this period to more accurately reflect the art and culture that enveloped him.
It was during this time that he began working with Liz Lamere, who became his wife and the most pivotal collaborator of his solo career. Lamere, along with fellow Vega collaborator Jared Artaud, discovered in 2019 the lost Vega album Mutator. Murky yet textural, hinting at universal themes oft difficult to pinpoint due to the industrial noise that fogs the lyrics, Mutator is about 35 minutes of fertile and visceral sounds.
With his ambition to create sound and not records, there was nothing commercial whatsoever about Alan Vega’s approach. Inspired by what was happening in the streets of New York — this includes the sounds of the streets, the traffic noise and industrial ambience of city living. It’s hardly surprising that the album has an overwhelming industrial vibe to it. Lamere and Artaud have been loyal to this intention with these production values. Psalm 68 personally is anxiety inducing with sound that resembles mosquitos amongst the discord and Breathe, despite the title, adds to this feeling of overwhelmingly drowning. Vega creates an evocative and oppressive world through these recordings that Lamere and Artaud have done justice to. Just not entirely sure this world is for me.
Mutator is available now, via Sacred Bones