Patrick Cowley Afternooners Dark Entries / Honey Soundsystem
Patrick Cowley’s chapter in underground folklore is irresistible – as ribald as it is tragic. The man who remixed the 18-minute edit of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love in 1978 and spearheaded his own Hi-NRG genre, yet was dead before he could enjoy the true reverberations of his legacy. Since 2013, San Francisco label Dark Entries have been re-enlivening the most salacious corner of his discography, re-releasing the soundtracks he produced for a number of pornos in the late 70s and early 80s.
Following School Daze and Muscle Up, Afternooners is the last of the Cowley porn soundtrack volumes, and as such is a product of its time. Recorded in 1982, it benefits from technological advancements – the silky squelch of enhanced synthesisers lending a futurist bent to the eroticism. Cowley’s compositions are also more experimental and focused. Cuts like Bore and Stroke truly put the spacious into space disco – combining the heft of bodily pleasure with a galactic dizziness. The Runner is a chugging, slow-motion cruiser, and Take a Little Trip chafes like rubber chaps. One Hot Afternoon evokes a sensuality so lewd it could border on pastiche yet is saved by the sinister bassline, that stalks like a shadow through the track.
Then – and credit to Dark Entries for their curation – the record closes with Love Come Set Me Free, a plodding and strangely romantic balearic boogie that concludes the raunchiness of the record on a note of sweetness. It doesn’t take much to be pulled in your mind’s eye to poolside at Pike’s, or perched on a white sofa at the Cafe Del Mar. It’s a triumphant sunrise, and a perfect closer.
This collection of instrumentals was recorded in May 1982. By November Cowley would have died from AIDS-related illness, aged just 32. His death was early in the history of HIV diagnoses, so neither Cowley nor his doctors understood how grave his situation was until the very end. Appropriately this compilation bears no scars or foreboding – unlike his final album Mind Warp, which deals to some extent with an earthly departure. Afternooners is a super-charged strut through smut and steam. A final testament to a producer who, amongst his other more pioneering accolades, was the carnal incarnate to the very last.