Close To The Noise Floor embark on this invaluable project to highlight and expose the wealth of British Experimental and Avant-Garde Music between 1976-1984. Years in which you had the existence of Fleetwood Mac on one side of the Atlantic, while Duran Duran populated the other. Perhaps what is so cutting about this selection of pieces is how on-edge some of it is – although, perhaps more realistically, it all is. Opening with Trail Of Traps by Alterations is quite frankly on unnerving experience which jolts you when least expected (especially LOUD). The journey through the unexpected is then blissfully realised via the weird and wonderful as experimental sounds and ideas are rigorously developed, ever mutating into another world of riotous potential. What also exists here is an invigorating, breathless combination of hints and persuasions of every colour and rhythm from Classical input, through to dangerous explosions of sound, to free Jazz and more. So much so that its almost hard to take in all in one go. I’m not actually sure, at this stage, whether such a thing as standout tracks do exist as they all play a part in forming a document of the unconventional. But, as life progresses in ever more uncertain ways, releases such as this, play an ever more important role in cataloguing the unorthodox as it now feels entirely normal.
From the minds who compiled the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ series comes this latest collection of music which is based around the creative power of synthesizers rather than the rock posturing of the guitar – although of course a good bit of rock guitar posturing is essential too. I guess if you approach this selection with the word Pop in mind i.e. the use of melody, just as in any other form of music, then this presents itself as a pretty uncomplicated equation by simply replacing the sound of six strings for the world of circuits. But, then comes The Normal – Warm Leatherette, Testcard F’s otherworldly Bandwagon Tango, Chris and Cosey’s October (Love Song), Fad Gadget’s brutal Ricky’s Hand, even ex-Hawkwind vocalist Robert Calvert’s haunting Work Song and so on, spread across four cd’s, which challenged conventional wisdom of how music should sound. If that’s the sort of theory which interests you then there is plenty to satisfy here, just as there is a wealth of Synth-Pop’s origins to discover along the route of history with those punchy keyboard motifs that would become so beloved of the early 1980’s. Interesting to note the sheer breadth of emotion which was created and utilised from the angry strains of Those Attractive Magnets – Nightlife, to the fizzy electrics of Colin Potter, to the chiming drum machines of Pink Industry’s Taddy Up. Contrasted by the more commercially accessible end of things, plus a fine version of T Rex’s Children Of The Revolution by The Fast Set. Some of the music leans towards the dancefloor such as Lori And The Chameleons delightful Lori, while other tracks seek out different things to play with. But whatever form things may take this is an intoxicating, always intriguing look at another side of how music evolved in the UK. And yes The Human League are here too – Circus Of Death.
Release: May 31
If you have already been eagerly consuming with fervour the series including: Close To The Noise Floor, Noise Reduction System and the Third Noise Principle then this collection celebrating each of those individually brilliant compilations, which challenged the mainstreams of boredom and musical conformity, will feel like a conformation of everything you have already thought. Dazzling flashes of genius emerge including Nagamatzu’s spell-binding Faith alongside supremely tempting numbers from the likes of Thomas Leer, D.A.F, The Legendary Pink Dots, along with Richard Bone’s liquid-funk ingenuity of Mambopolis plus a whole lot more. Not only bravely corrupting a sense of music’s decency but underpinning, underlining inspiration for the electronic future that was about to erupt onto the population en masse only a few years later. A lot of these sounds were deliberately defiant and are all the more wonderful in doing so. But perhaps some of the best words are saved for last as the Simulation Stimulation (Edit) by Hunting Lodge completes this six sides of vinyl heaven (or hell) with an almost idealistic, unrepentant intensity to be savoured and relished in glorious, riotous technicolour.
Release: Match 29
Cherry Red add to their sterling series of comprehension genre selections with this fresh rendering of early Independent UK Punk numbers. I’m confessing to personal involvement with the era playing bass in the initial incarnation of The Defects around the time that Belfast’s Good Vibrations records store plus label was in full swing, and it’s timely to hear the inclusions from back then by The Outcasts – Greg Cowan’s crowning glory bassline: Just Another Teenage Rebel – and Rudi’s perfect antidote to what it all became: Big Time. The title of the compilation is gleaned from Alternative TV’s dead-pan yet catchy single of the same name and what’s so breath-taking here is the sheer wealth of energy and intense commitment to some sort of belief in ourselves. In reflection perhaps it may all sound a bit naive, or crass even, through todays more cyclical (self-centred) glance but for anyone who loves this music so many of these songs still strike that chord. Funny, I thought this would all now feel terribly dated but in fact the opposite is true. It sounds even more vital, more real given today’s fantasy society of glitz and false credit. There is of course an obvious parallel to be drawn today between Punk’s picking up a guitar and saying something with it and by contemporary readily available electronics – creating something exciting then sharing the idea. Meanwhile, Action Time Vision provides a fascinating, pointed contrast to the first blaze of synthesizer inspired noises also coming out of the UK in the later seventies via Cherry Red’s equally important compilation: Close To The Noise Floor. I guess that’s all simply down to attitude? And that’s where and when the story got all the more interesting for me as new musical possibilities blended with the thought processes’ offered by Punk.
PS. Kris Needs supplies an excellent, indespensable 64 page spread of all you need to know.
Release: December 9