This is one of the more baffling records I have ever come across. It’s a record album from 1965 with the title Tortura: The Sounds of Pain and Pleasure…., subtitle “A Factual Living Record of Discipline and Punishment,” which of course recalls a famous book by Foucault, who, come to think of it, would probably have dug this LP. The label was called Bondage Records.
After learning of the album’s existence (as well as that of a follow-up), it took me a while to find mp3s of it, in which the individual cuts had usefully been concatenated into simply “Side A” and “Side B” files for ease of listening (see below). The album has very little actual music on it. The record contains a series of untitled tracks, perhaps ten per side, featuring the sounds of a whip in use accompanied by the sounds of a human being cooing or whimpering in intense pain/pleasure. I think most of the moaning is coming from men but not all of it. There’s a common paradigm here of the woman being the one who gets to dole out the pain/pleasure, which possibly is being recapitulated here—it’s hard for simple, wordless audio tracks to convey any information about the power relations being depicted. It’s pretty much what you would hear if you put your ear up against the wall in a dungeon of some sort, albeit with no dialogue, no commands or anything like that. Basically it’s just whip/reaction, whip/reaction, over and over again.
To be clear, there’s every reason to believe that these are simulated sounds, by professional actors or Foley artists at work making a product for public consumption; it does not appear to be an actual record of bondage play.
Playing the record is an interesting experience. On both sides, the tracks are mostly interchangeable. Generally the human is exhibiting some kind of intense but stifled response, basically simple moaning, although some of the tracks unmistakably simulate an intense, er, “release” reaction on the part of the human being. On both sides, with a minute or two to go, some piano jazz suddenly materializes to accompany the moaning and the whip strikes.
Jazz music aside, the alternation of whips and moans has a musical quality all its own, which lends the proceedings an amusing quality in a DEVO kind of way, or possibly a Firesign Theatre kind of way. As the sides progress, however, it becomes a little bit challenging to persist with the listening, or at least I found it to be so. Simply put, it is not easy to listen to the sounds of human beings experiencing pain with complete equanimity.
For some reason there is almost no data about this album. It does not appear in the Discogs listings, and its tracks are almost entirely absent from YouTube. Viewed on a browser, the album cover looks (to my eyes) more like a deftly executed mockup of a 1965 album from recent years than the real thing, but further research disabused me of that notion, and eventually I found actual mp3s as well. There was an auction on eBay about a week ago in which the follow-up to this album (subtitle: “An Evening with the Marquis de Sade”) sold for $171 shipped, and there is an auction going on right now where you can buy this album for a base price of $195.
Curiously, one of the first things to cement the idea in my head that this album really existed was that it pops up in a legal case involving the First Amendment in the late 1960s. In the 1969 U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit case United States v. Baranov, we learn that “the matter found to be obscene consisted for the most part of printed booklets containing photographs and illustrations pertaining to nudity, masochism, flagellation, and lesbianism, together with accompanying text material. One count pertained to a phonograph record entitled ‘Tortura, the Sounds of Pain and Pleasure.’”
According to this helpful BDSM wiki, the album was produced by Flag Publishing out of Los Angeles and San Diego, but the writeup suggests that an LP of this type was not typical of Flag’s product line.
If you would like to hear the whole album, this website is helpful.
Here’s the last track of side B:
And here’s another track: