I was surprised when Matt Sullivan--a collector who, along with Josh Wright, runs the record label Light in the Attic--revealed to me that he was planning to reissue the soundtrack to Lialeh. "Do you know about Lialeh?" he asked. Of course I didn't; I'm not a collector--I prefer researching, a lower order of pleasure. "Lialeh is a black porno film from the mid-'70s," he answered, "and is considered to be the 'the black Deep Throat.' The soundtrack is rare. I have friend who bought a copy of it for 500 bucks."
We are in a small but wood-warm cafe; Sullivan, a 26-year-old self-confessed "music geek" with Mediterranean hair and lips, is sitting across the table from me. He has in his hands a large envelope containing a glossy copy of the cover he'll use for the April reissue of the Lialeh soundtrack. He hands it over. It has several striking images. One features a woman, whose form and mode soul brothers never fail to describe as "brown sugar," dancing around a drummer; another focuses on the brown sugar's face in a moment of profound ecstasy. It's sex with soul; or better yet, soul-to-soul sex. One track is titled "All Pink on the Inside."
I ask Sullivan how he found out about the soundtrack. "Through DJ Sureshot of the Sharpshooters," he says. DJ Sureshot is another collector, and so is his Sharpshooter partner, DJ Supreme--the amount of vinyl he owns is legendary. LITA recently released the Sharpshooters' Twice as Nice, a CD whose music sounds like old and rare funk retrofitted with new and familiar hiphop. "I was hanging out at Jive Time Records in Fremont," says Sullivan, "where DJ Sureshot used to work, and I told him I was releasing the Last Poets [an early-'70s pro-black-power funk group], and he's like, 'Have you heard of this porn movie called Lialeh? You should release it.' So my partner Josh and I spent months trying to find it. Josh finally found out who owned it--it had changed hands so many times! We called them up and licensed it. And we got Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie [the soundtrack's composer] on the phone and he was totally into it. He's going to be interviewed for the liner notes, and Cut Chemist and Egon are also contributing to the liner notes."
Also in Sullivan's envelope was a superbly packaged reissue of two albums from the Last Poets--The Last Poets (1970) and This Is Madness (1971). Released by LITA two years after the label started (2000), the double-album CD comes with liner notes by Saul Williams and Public Enemy's Professor Griff. Sullivan also pulled out of the envelope the album cover for a trippy '60s/'70s band called the Free Design, who he described as a "family pop group" with "a Beach Boy-ish sound." "They are not as obscure as Lialeh," he says. "They are recognized by guys like Beck and Stereolab. But their albums are hard to find, and cost $20 to $40. We got the rights to all of their albums, and are going to reissue their best two, Kites Are Fun and Heaven/Earth."
LITA also promotes and books shows for artists such as Saul Williams and Prefuse 73, and uses its resources to assist new local artists Sullivan and Wright admire, like Young Circle. But of all these activities, the label's defining function is to find and restore the full and former glory of forgotten art/pop objects.