"the sound of a man whose deepest wish is to erase himself"
August 2, 2014 6:13 PM   Subscribe

In 1983 a man who called himself Lewis recorded and self-released an album called L'amour. No one much noticed at the time but his album was rediscovered in 2007 and slowly became a cult classic. It was rereleased by Light in the Attic Records earlier this year and has been received very well by the music press. When the record label and other people went looking for the artist, a former stockbroker from Calgary whose real name is Randall Aldon Wulff, they drew a blank. Some think he is deceased but others are looking for him all over Canada. And now another Lewis album from 1985 has been found and rereleased, and apparently he recorded many more. The ethereal quality of the music and the attendant mystery compels people to search within the music for some kind of answer to this riddle of a man. posted by Kattullus (29 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
Wow: is that L.A. Review of Books an over the top fantabulation! Otherwise: thanks for the post. Beautiful music, although a little overproduced (that damn sax solo!). A hazy backstory and a seductive photograph does wonders for wondering wandering music journalism.
posted by kozad at 6:26 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's like Patrick Bateman had gotten into Nick Drake instead of Huey Lewis and had picked up an acoustic guitar instead of a hatchet.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:34 PM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Pitchfork formula: 5.1 + Mystery = 8.6
posted by davebush at 6:46 PM on August 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Really interesting stuff.

The story reminds me of Harry Stewart, who rewrote and rearranged a gospel song for the Charlie Sheen vehicle Cadence. The song touched a lot of people and gained a cult following, despite never being released on any soundtrack. A few years ago a YouTube account popped up from someone claiming to be Stewart, and maybe it was, but he disappeared again.

There's a 1991 article by Gary Thompson that fills in a few details. Apparently Stewart met Martin Sheen at a political protest. Stewart was homeless and asked Sheen about work, and Sheen created the role specifically for Stewart. "Sheen said, however, neither Stewart nor anyone else made much up-front money off the low-budget, independent Cadence, and Stewart returned to New York after filming was completed late in 1989."
posted by cribcage at 7:10 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds kinda Blue Nile to me, personally.
posted by jscalzi at 7:18 PM on August 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I love stuff like this, thanks for this post!
posted by starscream at 7:21 PM on August 2, 2014

I've been listening to L'Amour off and on this last week. I like it quite a bit, mostly, I think, for the mood of wee hours of the morning romantic exhaustion that it gives off.

(On preview: yes, very Blue Nile. From a Late Night Train could be track 11 for sure.)
posted by minervous at 7:25 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alternate Pitchfork score formula: 1+(9/(1+popularity))
posted by Yowser at 7:35 PM on August 2, 2014

It's certainly very strange music, especially for its time. He was clearly after something, and not something heard much in the radio in that or any other era (that or he just aimed and missed). I love the idea of people celebrated this oddball years after his disappearance. I only wish I liked it as music.
posted by argybarg at 7:53 PM on August 2, 2014

i can't understand much of what he's singing - did he open his mouth?

and i swear that's a korg poly 61 on cool night in paris - i used to play one of those - i miss it - it had a certain something, and so does lewis

i just wish i could understand what he's singing
posted by pyramid termite at 8:21 PM on August 2, 2014

Needs a shout out to weirdcanada.com where the L'amour album was championed by Aaron Levin and is just a fantastic music site.
posted by zenon at 8:49 PM on August 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I heard this on NPR today, and wondered if it would make it to the blue.
posted by Windopaene at 8:52 PM on August 2, 2014

I love that last link. There is definitely something unsettling about these albums. It was hard for me to pinpoint through the first album, because the whole album is very tentative. But the second one is like the auditory equivalent of the uncanny valley.

And Wulff's strange and uneven backstory makes me want it to not be solved. I'd like to believe this was just some music anomaly vanity project that slipped through time and space without any full explanation.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:57 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Heard about this a few years ago as I know the guy who originally bought the album at a swap meet in Edmonton and started the whole ball rolling. According to the Day6 CBC radio story I heard this morning he may be living in my neck of the woods (British Columbia) so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a forensically aged version of the man. Not my cup of tea, musically speaking, but an interesting mystery. Hope the truth behind it isn't too sad, but I fear it might be.
posted by acroyear at 9:16 PM on August 2, 2014

Sounds like a stoned Gino Vanilli.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:24 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

those who enjoy a little rock-n-roll mystery might like Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:43 PM on August 2, 2014

The tone reminds me of the second disc of Jackson C. Frank's "Blues Run the Game" (my favorite track), but with more synth and hair and less decipherable lyrics. Love this so far.
posted by Corduroy at 5:55 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is also some serious Devendra Banhart style vibrato going on, for example in "It's A New Day".
posted by Corduroy at 5:59 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stoned Gino Vannelli does seem like a plausible inspiration.
posted by mubba at 8:59 AM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's a little like if Jandek were sweetly romantic and also sang in key.
posted by Nelson at 9:05 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love this, thanks for posting.

I have to say, though, that it's pretty gutsy for a label to reissue work it doesn't have the rights to, even with the "we're keeping his royalties in escrow" angle.

At first this made me consider that this was a well-crafted hoax, as it seemed really unlikely that a label would open itself to potential litigation like this. But since it seems that the story checks out then I have to wonder if their investigation turned up a bit more than they're letting on, something that made them feel a bit safer about releasing the albums.

On the other hand, maybe they just DGAF and believe the rewards of releasing the album and getting this great music out there outweighed the risk of being sued by a sixty-something Canadian hermit.

I'm not criticizing Light In The Attic, I just don't want to see a thread like this six months from now, where seemingly all of Metafilter shows up to sneer at what fools they were to release the albums.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:51 AM on August 3, 2014

Didn't come across this until now... you can stream L'Amour in its entirety on Stereogum.
posted by Kattullus at 2:42 PM on August 3, 2014

L'amour sounds to me like the synth string section from Tunnel Of Love got together with an aspiring mumblecore singer. Interesting! But limited.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:16 PM on August 3, 2014

Nice. The indecipherability of the lyrics adds a lot to the charm. As does the Ambien haze of the delivery.
posted by oluckyman at 4:55 PM on August 3, 2014

Nice guitar playing. The Hammond is a bit syrupy, but not too. This would have been released near the exact year music like this was least popular at the leading edge. Punk was the thing then. That's all water under the bridge at this point.
posted by telstar at 4:01 AM on August 4, 2014

Light In The Attic also recently rereleased this private-press LP of outsider electropop best known for its over-the-top Satanic-looking cover photo (which was seen in Johan Kugelberg's book on private-press records, Enjoy The Experience). Unfortunately, on vinyl only and without a download code, so I've only heard the 30-second previews on the page.
posted by acb at 6:19 AM on August 4, 2014

I love this very much
posted by the bricabrac man at 4:52 PM on August 4, 2014

They found him! Randall Wulff is living somewhere in Canada, but Light in the Attic is keeping it a secret. If you're thinking about picking up the album(s), you may have to act fast as Wulff has declined royalties and the label are respecting that decision.
posted by myopicman at 2:26 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

wow, they found him. In plain sight.

A few people commented on the LITA blog post that LITA is faking this but my gut says that LITA is telling the truth. He may simply wish to move on from that time and not wish to conduct interviews for others and perform the songs from that time... but I am a little surprised that Lewis wouldn't accept the check so he must be at least financially comfortable.. (or the check must be negligible).
posted by fizzix at 10:42 AM on August 16, 2014

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