Sounds Visual Radio
Sounds Visual Radio
Episode 112: Wilbur Niles

Quietly released on the Tinkertoo label in late 1979, McNeal & Niles’s cult-classic LP Thrust marked guitarist Wilbur Niles’s first recorded venture. Originally available only in and around the northern Ohio area, the private-press jazz/funk album was partially recorded at Devo’s fledgling Man-Ray Studios in Akron and the LP at once disappeared as quietly as it had first appeared.

As Andrew Schrock wrote on the Soul Strut website, Thrust “… layers laid-back grooves on top of laid-back grooves, redefining sublime. In fact, the whole album is full of odd proto-electro beats, straight-up delivered with just the right tinge of funk. Keyboards provide a languid wash of chords that make you want to go barefoot. These carefully crafted songs also win points for being unabashedly goofy, like a more hip-hop version of Stereolab. The duo’s uncanny sense of repetition is made more palatable by their restrained musicianship. Most of the time there’s nothing more playing than solid 4/4 drums with synthesizer and guitar or bass, which keeps the tone gloriously under-produced. Slap bass and cheesy female vocals threaten to tip the scales into disco territory, but even these dips are unexpectedly left-field: think ‘disco not disco’ like ESG or Arthur Russell. Thrust probably sounded like an out of place sell-out attempt in 1979, but now sounds eerily prescient.” 

Long the domain of only the most ardent record enthusiasts, Chocolate Industries resurrected this lost classic for the world to finally appreciate in 2004. Original copies of the LP have sold for as much as $1600 online.

Niles subsequently went on to record several more albums, and although he may be slightly bewildered at the attention that the lo-fi Thrust LP continues to receive, he now understands that “it was an anomaly…it didn’t sound like anything else at the time.”

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