Mechanical Fantasy Box is the title of both a book and a new set of unreleased tunes from the legendary Patrick Cowley. Up until his death from AIDS in 1982 Cowley’s innovations and idiosyncrasies reinvented dance music several times over - in particular the brave new worlds that were forged in his HI-NRG disco productions.
The musical element of Mechanical Fantasy Box presents a baker’s dozen of tracks that had previously lain dormant in Cowley’s vaults. It’s unclear whether Cowley ever intended for this music to see the light of day - some of the entries here were eked out from four-track recordings, for instance - and the record’s 1973-1980 timeframe means that this is a collection of Cowley’s formative work.
This fascinating record is clearly the work of an artist homing in on his aesthetic. While there are a couple of the fevered, ecstatic tunes Cowley would become synonymous with, Mechanical Fantasy Box also includes slow and strutting disco-funk, synthetic ambiences and twinkling electronic experiments in the Vangelis mould.
The literary element of Mechanical Fantasy Box consists largely of Cowley’s journal. Also dating from the period 1973-1980, these writings chronicle Cowley’s career progression and the various sexual escapes he got up to as a gay man in 1970s San Francisco. Mechanical Fantasy Box is also studded with specially-commissioned illustrations and collages by Gwenaël Rattke as well as introductory essays from Josh Cheon, Theresa McGinley and Jorge Socarrás. Proceeds from the sales of Mechanical Fantasy Box will be donated to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Released to coincide with the release of a book of the same name, Mechanical Fantasy Box summates the dazzling early genius of electronic pioneer Patrick Cowley, whose life was cut short by AIDS in 1982. Lifted from deep within Cowley’s vaults, this hard smattering of luscious and curiously erotic pieces harken back to the early ‘70s, when Cowley was a young man looking for fun in San Francisco’s queer underworld. Providing a fascinating insight into the life and process of one of electronic music’s most vital figures.